72 Hours in Iceland
Here’s a contrarian view: Iceland is better in the winter. With the Northern Lights firing, sparse off-season crowds, and roundtrip flights for as little as $300, winter is the perfect time to escape to the Land of Fire and Ice.
Read on for the Huckberry team's recommendations for a 72-hour self-guided driving tour packed with glacial hikes, tectonic plate snorkeling, and a few hot springs thrown in for good measure. We hope it’ll inspire a new adventure of your own.
What to Know Before You Go
‣ Rent a Land Rover Defender through Geysir. We’ve got you covered with an insider hookup—choose the fax/phone-in payment option and reply to the confirmation email with “Huckberry x Geysir” for 10% off a Defender rental and 15% off any other vehicle from November through January.
Kristján of Kontiki Kayaking showed the Huckberry team around Iceland during our 72-hour adventure.
‣ Use the website Hot Pot Iceland to find natural hot springs on your driving route.
‣ Ask for the Northern Lights wake up call at hotels. 9:30pm-1am is the sweet spot.
‣ Despite its reputation, Iceland is often less cold than much of the U.S. during the winter because of its position in the gulf stream.
‣ The winter days are short—sunrise is around 11am and sunset is around 4pm. But since the sun never reaches a high position in the sky, the light during these hours casts a warm glow over the entire country—an absolute dream for any photographer.
‣ Book lodging well in advance (so, now)—rooms fill up fast, even in the winter. We’ve got suggestions for you below.
‣ Check out this map—used by Icelandic locals—for night-to-night auroral activity scouting.
‣ Pro tip: Google still has a lot of incorrect information in some places in Iceland so use map.is to cross-check what Google Maps tells you.
‣ There’s no AAA in Iceland so drive with caution in the winter. Use vedur.is to search for weather conditions and road closures before you head out each day (click the English option on the top of the page).
Ok, enough with the logistics. Let’s get you to Iceland.
Day 1: Arrive in Reykjavík
‣ Pick up your Defender from Geysir (use “Huckberry x Geysir” for 10% off) and drive to 101 Hotel Reykjavík where you’ll be staying tonight.
‣ Climb the stairs to the top of Hallgrímskirkja Church for a great view of the city.
‣ Snorkel the crystal clear water between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates at Silfra in Thingvellir National Park—the only place in the world where you can snorkel in between two continents. Sure, it’s cold, but you’ll rent a wetsuit.
‣ Head to Mikkeller Brewery and hoist the Huckberry x Mikkeller collab beer, The Blue Hour.
‣ Enjoy a traditional Icelandic meal of puffin and fermented whale shark at Grillmarkaðurinn. Wash it all down with a shot of Iceland’s official liquor, Brennivín, nicknamed “black death.” Don’t let that scare you.
‣ Once it’s nice and dark, head to the Grotta Lighthouse for the best view of the Northern Lights in all of Reykjavík. The lighthouse is part of a nature reserve in the northwesternmost part of the city, keeping it secluded from light pollution. There’s even a geothermally heated pool you can warm your feet in while you wait for the sky to light up. Check out this guide to photographing the Northern Lights from the Grotta Lighthouse.
Photo: Siggeir M. Hafsteinsson
Day 2: Explore The Southern Coast
‣ Beat the jet lag and run out to the stunning Harpa Concert Hall where hometown favorites Sigur Rós and Björk have played. Head all the way out to the lighthouse at the end of the pier.
‣ Warm your bones at Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool, the oldest heated swimming pool in Iceland. It’s a 15-minute hike in followed by however long you feel like floating around in hot water. Pro tip: there are heated swimming pools in almost every village and town in Iceland. Check out this map for more natural hot springs and pools along your route.
Huckberry team members Ben and Mark visited Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool and Skógafoss Waterfall during their 72 hours in Iceland.
‣ Check out the 60 meter tall Skógafoss Waterfall for an unreal sensory overload. If you’re lucky and it’s a bright day, catch a single or double rainbow in front of the fall.
‣ Walk the black sand beach, rated one of the top ten non-tropical beaches in the world, along the stunning geometric Reynisdrangar Basalt Rocks.
‣ Still feeling that jet lag? Make a stop in Vik and grab a coffee at Lava Cafe.
‣ Chow down on some langoustine tails and lamb & wild goose at Pakkhús Restaurant in Höfn. It’s a three-hour drive from Vik to so you’ll want to start heading up in the afternoon to make it in time for dinner. It’s worth it—trust us.
‣ Check into Milk Factory, an old—you guessed it—milk factory-turned-boutique hotel just down the road from dinner. Look out your window for a nighttime view of Vatnajökull glacier, the largest glacier in Europe, and cross your fingers that the Northern Lights are visible tonight.
Day 3: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and… Home
‣ Head to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon for an otherworldly walk amongst massive, thousand-year-old shards of glacier. And if you do happen to visit in the warmer months, don’t miss the boat tours.
Photo: Demerson Sabino
‣ Bundle up and hike the knee-knocking yet stunningly beautiful Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon.
Photo: Tom Morgan
‣ Use the website Hot Pot Iceland to plot your return to Reykjavík and enjoy some natural hot springs along the way.
‣ Make a quick pit stop in Reykjavík harbor to hit Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, the most famous hot dog stand in the world. You’re going to want to recreate this delicious dog once you get home, and we’ve got the recipe right here.
‣ Get a good night’s sleep back at 101 Hotel—you deserve it after that epic adventure— and fly out of Reykjavík in the morning.
What to Watch and Read Before You Go
‣ Now’s the perfect time to re-watch Game of Thrones, filmed in spots all over Iceland including Vik, Thingvellir National Park, and Vatnajökull—three places you’ll be on your trip.
‣ Directed by Huckberry Ambassador Chris Burkard, Under an Arctic Sky follows six surfers as they battle Iceland’s worst storm in 25 years in pursuit of the perfect wave.
Photo: Chris Burkard
‣ The 2011 season of Frozen Planet takes you straight into the Arctic including, of course, an up-close look at the wildlife and natural beauty of Iceland.
‣ Into the Inferno, directed by iconic filmmaker Werner Herzog, investigates the epic geological and cultural phenomenon of Icelandic volcanoes.
‣ Inspiring and thought-provoking, Innsaei explores the Icelandic concept of the same name which enables people to connect with each other through the power of intuition.
‣ John Krakauer’s Iceland: Land of Sagas celebrates the history and immense natural beauty of “one of the last ‘undiscovered’ countries of Europe.”
‣ A collection of stories from the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries, The Sagas of Icelanders is to Iceland what The Iliad is to Greece.
Spotify Now Playing: Iceland Edition
We’ve gathered our favorite tracks from Icelandic artists (and a few songs about Iceland) to get you into gear.
Icelanders to Follow on Instagram
Get stoked on Iceland (and maybe learn a thing or two) before your trip by following these five Icelandic Instagram accounts.
Photo: Gunnar Freyr
‣ Self-taught photographer Gunnar Freyr quit his corporate job in Denmark to explore his Icelandic roots in 2014, and—judging by his incredible feed—we think he made the right choice.
‣ When the Huckberry team visited Iceland, we let Arctic Extreme show us around, and we’re pretty sure their photos will make you want to do the same.
‣ Don’t be alarmed if your bucket list of Iceland activities expands dramatically when you follow Reykjavík-based blogger Auður.
‣ Every Single Word in Icelandic is a can’t-miss account for anyone trying to pick up a few phrases before their trip.
‣ Iceland Air’s Instagram feed is an undeniably effective sales pitch for a one-way ticket to the Land of Fire and Ice—and we’re not mad about it.