Sam Bentley. Travel + Social Media Entrepreneur Forbes 30 Under 30 / Co-Founder of UNILAD

Things To Do In Iceland In The Winter

Firstly, before I even start this, when you get to Iceland everything is expensive af. I literally ran to Tesco before my flight to get some oats and dried fruit as I was scared of the prices for food that waited for me on the other side. Be sure to take this into consideration when you’re budgeting and maybe take a few things over with you, and also plan to eat in little more often than you would on your average trip away.

Grab A Rental Car

Realistically, you're going to need a car if you want to explore Iceland. There's a shuttle bus from Keflavik airport that takes you to a bunch of car rentals places a short walk from the arrivals building. I got a Toyota Yaris with Orange Car Rentals and it did the job! With a pretty basic car though, you'll only be able to explore the south of Iceland during winter due to the road conditions further north, so I'm just going to be covering activities in the south here.

Spend A Day Exploring Reykjavík

Reykjavík is the capital of Iceland and in comparison to a lot of European capitals, it’s very small. Here I visited Hallgrímskirkja, the largest church in Iceland and one of the tallest structures in the country. I didn’t get a chance to go, but the Phallological Museum sounded very interesting. Essentially it contains the world's largest display of penises and penile parts. I think it’s worth a day exploring the capital but you probably don’t me need much longer than this here.

Bruarfoss Waterfall

I was so happy when I saw this waterfall. I don't know why, I just had a huge smile on my face. There's a lot of amazing waterfalls in Iceland, (a few of which are going to be coming up next!) but this one was probably my fave. It's about a 30 minute walk from the car park and that manages to put off a few tourists too!

Skógafoss

One of Iceland’s biggest and most beautiful waterfalls, it's probably the one I came across most during my research for this trip, but whilst it is very touristy, you can find enough space to get photos and take in this beast of a waterfall.

Seljalandsfoss

In summer you can walk behind the waterfall and get a stunning shot like the photo above, but in winter it's closed off (presumably because the path is too slippy and they're trying to avoid people sliding off into, what i'm guessing is, dreadfully cold water. It's still definitely worth it (and the £7 car park fee you need to pay to park up by it). Especially when a short walk away is this next waterfall..

Gljúfrafoss

You can see how this place looks in winter in my Instagram story here. It's unreal. It's only a short walk from Seljalandsfoss, and in my opinion, a much cooler waterfall. You'll need some waterproof shoes to walk to get to it and waterproof trousers are a bonus.

Gullfoss Falls

Bring good gloves too. This waterfall just reminded me. I remember being here thinking "Wow this would be incredible if my fingers literally didn't feel like they were about to fall off". Gullfoss is on the Golden Circle Route which is one of Iceland's most popular tourist routes. It's also just down the road from..

Geyser Hot Spring

There's a geyser here called Strokkur that goes off every 5 minutes-ish, blasting water 20-40m high. Honestly, it's a cool place and it's cool to see the water blast a couple of times but unless you're fascinated with geysers I think 20 minutes here is all you need.

Thingvellir National Park

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Iceland is divided by the Mid-Atlantic Rift; some parts of it are on the North American tectonic plate, while others are on the Eurasian plate. Iceland is the only place in the world where this rift is above sea-level, and nowhere can you see the edges of both plates as clearly as in Þingvellir National Park . . . . . #4dutchtravelgirls #thingvellir #þingvellir #thingvellirnationalpark #þingvellirnationalpark #iceland #discovericeland #traveliceland #icelandtravel #icelandroadtrip #icelandicnature #icelandscape #iceland🇮🇸 #icelandnature #icelandadventure #icelandsecret #iceland_tourist #icelandphotography #igiceland #loves_iceland #wonderlusticeland #southiceland #igersiceland #inspiredbyiceland #icelandexplored #travelinbetween #sidewalkerdaily #traveldreamseekers #thetraveltag

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The weather was TERRIBLE when we came here. As it's the type of place in nice weather I'd have really loved to spend the day walking around, but Icelandic weather in winter is crazy. Also the sun rises around 10.30am and sets around 3.30pm so you're very limited with the amount of adventure time you have. Thingvellir National park is not only Iceland's only UNESCO World Heritage site, it's also the only place in the world you can see the North American and Eurasian tectonic plate above sea level! So once side of you is North America, and one side is Europe and Asia!

Reynisfjara Beach

First bit of advice with this beach is please don't get too close to the waves. They are crazy powerful, they come further out to the beach than you'd expect, meaning they can potentially drag you into the sea, and when I went it was insanely windy so I saw many hats fly in too. Once you're all safe, feel free to take in Iceland's most famous black sand beach. There are a couple of little caves you can get shelter from the rain or wind too and some really cool rock formations.

Sólheimasandur Plane Crash

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I’m going to attempt to make an analogy about this plane crash, bare with me. In 1973, this US Plane crashed on a beach in the south of Iceland. The farmers who owned the land must have been pretty annoyed about it at the time. (Everyone survived the crash btw) Fast forward to the future, and they’re making thousands every day from tourists who pay to use a shuttle bus to go and visit it. It’s £20 for a return trip or something mad. We walked obviously. The analogy I’ve attempted to make is that maybe, like the farmer, there’s a metaphorical crashed plane in our life atm which we’re really frustrated or upset by, but through time we’ll come to understand that it’s actually a blessing in disguise.

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This United States Navy DC plane crashed onto this beach in Iceland in 1973. Luckily everyone survived, and now the plane has turned into a bit of a tourist attraction, probably also due to the fact Bieber made an appearance there not too long ago for a music video. There's a shuttle bus that can take you there and back, but it's around £20. I decided to walk with my friend which took around 40 minutes in pretty brutal winds. Remember to dress appropriately especially in winter when it can get very cold and dark very quickly. A little bit further from the plane is a black beach too. Most people make it to the plane and head back, but this is a short detour that in my opinion is definitely worth it if you don't have time to go to Reynisfjara Beach.

Solheimajokull Glacier

I only quickly stopped here as I'd never seen a glacier before, it's basically the other side of the ride from the abandoned plane, but I believe there are tours where you can hike across it that look pretty awesome!

Blue Lagoon

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Keep swiping until the end. You’ll thank me. ⠀ I guess it’s fair to say we had a great day today with my man and bro (who seem to be getting on just a liiiitttlle bit too well 😉). ⠀ Comment 🐳 if you want to go to the Blue Lagoon or💧if you’ve already been! ⠀ This incredible pool of beauty and relaxation is the number one item on millennials bucket lists! Ain’t surprised since it’s one of the 25 wonders of the world. ⠀ I’ve been to the Blue Lagoon many times before, but never like this. I was invited to experience the @retreat.bluelagoon which is a very private space and a separate section of the Lagoon. Together with a range of face and full body treatments such as silicate and algae, 100/10 restaurant, a little fireplace nook and other relaxation areas, I’m certainly pampered like I’ve never been pampered before. ⠀ Thank you @retreat.bluelagoon for having us! ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ #Iceland #BlueLagoon #Rebels #TravelMore #SeeMore #DoMore #OrDontImNotYourMum

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I visited the Blue Lagoon on my way back to the airport as it's only a 20 minute drive from there. It felt like a relaxing way to end the trip and whilst I initially thought it would be full of tourists, which it was, it was still a cool place to check out! It feels like one of those things you just have to do if you're in Iceland. If you're thinking of going, be sure to book in advance.

Stay At The Bubble Hotel

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Have you ever slept in a bubble hotel? Neither have I. On my last night in Iceland I planned to stay in one, thanks to the guys at @bubbleiceland who kindly offered me a bubble. But Iceland had another ideas. After I'd finished shooting some quick videos and photos, the worst storm I've experienced decided to make an appearance which was so bad it caused all flights in and out of Iceland to be cancelled until it stopped. As I had planned to fly back to England on an airplane, and not fly back in a bubble during a storm, I decided it was probably a wise move to head back and stay at my friend's place for the last night. So an evening of falling asleep under the stars was replaced with fighting vicious winds home in a Toyota Yaris. It’s all part of the adventure though!

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I actually didn't get to stay in one of these (The story of my 'stay' here can be found in my Instagram caption!) BUT I definitely want to. Can you imagine how cool it'd be if you managed to catch the Northern lights during the night too?! It's probably more of a couples thing, and you can find more information about The 5 Million Star Hotel here. They have two locations in Iceland and also offer tours as part of the package. Even if you don't see the Northern lights it still seems like a unique experience!

Jökulsárlón

And I thought I'd finish my list with things I wish I did but didn't have time to. Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon and the things my friends recommended as the best thing to see in Iceland. Its blue waters are dotted with icebergs from the surrounding Glacier, and you can take boat tours out and sail amongst them. Its reviews are insanely good and it just feels like that something that is so rare to see, it's definitely worth doing if you can make it out that way.

Diamond Beach

Opposite the glacier lagoon is the Diamond Beach. Here you will find the icebergs from Jökulsárlón that have washed up on shore, sitting on the beautiful black sand beach. A dream for photographers and nature lovers. It's also apparently one of the best spots to see orcas from the shore.

Iceland is going to be more expensive than you think and colder than you think, but it's also going to be more beautiful than you can ever imagine.

Follow my insta for more adventures! @sambentley