Who else has the Northern Lights on their bucket list?
I had them on for such a long time...
If you’ve been thinking about visiting Iceland and seeing the Aurora then let me tell you what my 6 days there were like and how you can make the best out of it.
Setting off I had the Aurora Borealis as a must-see to tick off my wishlist, and the Blue Lagoon of course. When I arrived I was astonished at how much the country has to offer aside from those two attractions. It’s a place that’s definitely worth visiting as a solo traveler, a family, or a bigger group.
When to go to Iceland?
Summer months – June through to August are the best obviously for outdoor activities. You’ll get the most out of nature, plenty of hikes to do and beaches to visit.
Peak times for the Northern Lights will be over the winter months of September till March, the best times however are from November till February. As with any other natural phenomena seeing the lights can not be guaranteed but those are the best times to optimize your chances to see the dazzling nature curated light show.
Even if you don’t get to see the lights during your visit, I assure you the country has a lot to offer and you will not be disappointed.
Booking local experiences
I personally think if you’re wanting to be independent during your trip, then the summer months are best for you to visit. You can rent a car, download a guidebook, have a backup map, and set off with a tent, hike, and camp to your heart’s content, or book some of their lovely hotels, B and B, or cottages.
The winter months are more challenging to venture out on your own especially when you’re solo traveling or have a young family. The roads would be very icy, the weather can be harshly cold and challenging to get to destinations especially if a storm comes on. So, you’re better off with an organized trip with a tour guide or simply driver to ensure you get the most out of your visit.
I stayed there for 6 days/5 nights which were full of activities, I was a solo traveler, I booked myself on an organized tour with an excellent tour guide. We went all along the south coast and we were lucky to have been mesmerized by the Northern Lights twice.
Another option is to book day tours before you set off and/or when you are there, but best to book prior to going if you’re there for a short period of time to ensure availability. There are fly and drive holidays that you can book as well. If you want to know more, get in touch and I can help with your bookings and offer ideas.
Where to stay?
If you’re traveling to Iceland, I’m guessing you want to see nature, so there’s little point in staying in the city, Reykjavik, although there are many attractions in the city that are nice to explore but do try and get out of it and explore the many villages and towns offering lovely accommodation in guest houses and B and Bs.
The accommodation was all prearranged as part of the holiday I have booked. I stayed at 22 Hill Hotel on my first night which was a pleasant hotel, it had a massive barista coffee machine on each floor with a setting area so the guest could enjoy a brew and a chat if they liked, that was pre-covid times. The breakfast was hearty and the staff very helpful.
The next night I spent it at Smáratún Guesthouse in Hvolsvollur, warm and welcoming accommodation with a massive dining room, lovely postcards free to take, and a thoughtful gesture of having a basket of different chargers and leads put in the reception hall for guests to use. (Photos of the view outside the property).
On our third night, we had to take a detour due to an incoming storm from the east side of the island (see that’s why in the winter you’d need the help of a travel agent to sort your bookings and arrange for a tour) and found Hunkubakker Guesthouse a lovely serene family-run guest house with a surrounding sheep farm, located nearby Kirkjubæjarklaustur.
Our fourth night was at Solheimar Eco Village, which creates a sustainable, artistic, and ecological atmosphere encouraging the growth and development of man and nature. The guest house was lovely, functional, and with plenty of natural light, there are facilities to cook food yourself and to socialize. Unfortunately on this visit, I didn’t have the time to interact with the surrounding Eco community but it definitely catered for plenty of interaction between us as a group.
The trip, on the whole, was a very social one and really good for anyone wanting to travel but don’t have travel mates (like me, a solo female traveler). I was quite fortunate to have met the group of lovely people I traveled with and to share stories and get enriched by their experiences. I’m privileged to have made new friends from different parts of the world.
On our fifth and last night, we stayed at a Klettur hotel in Reykjavik which is an upscale city hotel with high-quality amenities.
You can have a look at this guide for a more in-depth review of different places to stay in Iceland depending on the nature of your visit and the activities planned.
What to see in Iceland?
Our trip started from Reykjavik and continued along the South coast towards the East of Iceland ending again in the city.
Day 1 Reykjavik
I arrived late in the city and headed straight to the hotel.
My tip to you is, take a shuttle from the airport straight to the blue lagoon. It’s on the way to the city and they have luggage storage there. Spend a couple of hours washing away your jet lag and then head to your hotel refreshed and feeling brand new!
Day 2 Golden Circle – Thingvellir National Park, Strokkur Geysir, and Gullfoss Waterfall
Here are some photos for you
Tectonic plate (Eurasian tectonic plate and the North American tectonic plate. Spanning the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland emerged as a result of the divergent, spreading, boundary between these two plates and the activity of Iceland’s own hotspot or mantle plume).
Day 3 South Coast – Skogafoss Waterfall
The giant of Icelandic waterfalls 25m wide with a 60m drop Skogafoss waterfall was a true natural beauty. A trail on the side of the waterfall takes up to the top, the incline is gentle and the view is worth the effort.
Jokulsarlon – Glacier Lagoon, and the diamond beach. Diamonds are forever but the ones on this beach change every day yet still look precious and stunning.
On the evening of day 3, where the storm came in from the East and we had to change our direction back to the West to avoid being caught in the bad weather. Our guide was a talented driver and knew his way around so we ended up in a lovely restaurant in Kirkjubæjarklaustur (read as Kirkubayakluster – the only Icelandic word I can pronounce after Reyjavivk!) for a lovely dinner and then found the charming Hankubakker Guesthouse to stay the night. The drive to the Guesthouse felt a bit like one of those American movies where someone would be driving in the middle of nowhere in pitch dark and then a chainsaw murderer comes out of the dark. Not going to lie, I did feel a bit anxious about where we were going and how it’s all going to turn out, but it turned out fine at the end, and we enjoyed watching the Northern Lights for the first time there. If it didn’t I wouldn’t be here writing about it (LOL).
The Northern Lights are very tricky to photograph, I used Google Pixel 2 phone camera with night vision.
Day 4 Vatnajokull and Reynisfjara beach
Vatnajokull – Glacier Walk was on the itinerary but due to the weather conditions and it being unsafe, I couldn’t do the glacier walk.
We ended up watching the sunrise from a viewing point at Fjaðrárgljúfur.
We stopped by Reynisfjara beach in Vík in the afternoon, if you’re lucky you’ll see plenty of puffins there.
Late at night outside the Solheimar Guesthouse, we got to enjoy the bright green Northern Lights for the second time (all the Northern Lights photos are filter-free).
Day 5 Seljalandsfoss Waterfall and the Blue Lagoon
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall; one of the most famous, most picturesque, and most photographed waterfalls of the country due to its beauty and also its proximity to the golden circle road.
My photos don’t do it justice.
Blue Lagoon; I managed to squeeze in an afternoon at the natural thermal spas. It was heavenly. I wished I had more time to spend there, depending on the package that you buy from the lagoon you get certain amenities included.
The contrast between the freezing cold weather and the hot waters was so refreshing. You can get a face mask included in the entrance fee, and you’ll find a “poolside bar” for refreshments. Click on their link here and check out the packages and facilities.
A top tip is to book early or utilize the day of arrival or departure to spend there as it’s on the way to the airport and has luggage storage facilities.
Early morning departure.
Other activities you can do:
Reykjavik – Silfra Fissure Snorkelling Day Trip
Reykjavik – Lava Tunnel Tour
Reykjavik – Settlement Exhibition
Reykjavik – Saga Museum
Reykjavik – Whales of Iceland Museum
Reykjavik – Maritime Museum
Reykjavik – Harpa Concert Hall – Free
Reykjavik – Volcano House
Reykjavik – Perlan Museum
Fludir – Secret Lagoon
Keflavik – Blue Lagoon
Laugarvatn – Fontana Geothermal Baths
Nauthólsvík – Thermal Beach – Free
What to pack?
I will soon upload a packing guide and lists for you to download free and use for any trip type.
What I wish I knew and done differently
– Booked an earlier or later flight, the cost was going to be slightly higher but the value of seeing more of Iceland in my mind would have been a fair trade.
– Go to the Blue Lagoon straight from the airport. I waited till I was in Iceland to book my Lagoon experience, which meant the remaining time slots were scarce and at a higher price. Now knowing that I can use their storage for my luggage I can easily dive in and out on my way to and from the airport.
– Have decent shoe grips!
Top tip: you can conveniently book airport and Blue Lagoon transport with Reykjavik excursions
So there you have it, me as a solo traveler exploring Iceland with a group of travelers from different parts of the world, what an experience!
Need helping planning and booking?
Get in touch and we’ll sort it out for you
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