Family Adventure to Iceland in Winter

  Family of 4 adults and 1 child visited Iceland in March 2017

“We are an adventurous family, 2 adults, children ages 20, 17 and 13. We definitely would like photo opportunies for the northern lights with dSLR. We definitely would like to experience the blue lagoon or a similar bathing hot spring. Very interested in seeing waterfalls, natural ice and rock formations and hot springs. A jeep adventure is great. Not opposed to hiking.”


Chris McCarty, a local specialist from Iceland, helped this traveler put together a customized itinerary based on Iceland in Winter: How to make the most of limited daylight.

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Trip planning highlights

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Highlights of the South Coast

Day 1: Arrival and Downtown Reykjavik (Optional Golden Circle Loop)
Day 2: Daughter Arrives, South Coast highlights to Vik
Day 3: Skaftafell, Svartifoss, Hof, Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Day 4: Blue Lagoon, Departure

Trip planning conversation

Chris

Hi, welcome to kimkim! I'll work with you to create a custom trip plan for your time in Iceland.

Chris

Based on your preferences, here's what I would recommend:

Day 1: Land, and explore part of the south coast toward Vik (black sand beaches, cliffs, waterfalls)
Day 2: Hiking in Skaftafell to Svartifoss waterfall, Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and Diamond beach, seeing glaciers (or even a glacier walk or ice cave tour).
Day 3: back along south coast towards Reykjavik (you can see anything you skipped on day 1), and then stay outside of Reykjavik along the Golden Circle route where you can soak in the Secret lagoon and have a better opportunity for northern lights away from the city lights
Day 4: Golden Circle, into Reykjavik for a bit, or blue lagoon on the way to the airport.

Chris

One Day 3 we could also organize a super jeep tour of the Thorsmork area

Traveler

Actually on Thurs, Mar 16-it will be just 2 people at first and we plan to stay in the capital for that day. The rest of the family is coming late Thurs night and then 1 daughter comes Friday am into the airport. From there we would like the excursion to begin, ending at the airport on Sunday the 19th in late afternoon. How does your custom trip plan work? Thanks for getting back to me.

Chris

Got it, we can arrange it so that you are all able to meet up on those days.

Chris

You would basically need to choose between Skaftafell and the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, or the Golden Circle. I don't think you can fit both in with the entire family.

Chris

I think the Glacier Lagoon is a more unique experience, but it will be a little more driving overall.

Chris

For the custom trip, I work with you to offer suggestions and recommendations for your time (activities, and restaurants too) and with your feedback we will settle on a final trip plan, and I can provide quotes for car rental, accommodations, and any other activities (like ice cave tour, glacier walk, snowmobile, etc). Then we ask for payment of the kimkim service fee as a down payment, and we will make all arrangements for you and put together a detailed packet for you about all the areas you will go past, best places to stop and see, recommended restaurants, etc.

Traveler

So one chooses the south coast of skaftafell and the glacier lagoon area for our 3 days excursion with the car, ending in the capital area with a blue lagoon dip on the same day we fly out. How is the Golden Circle a different trip? What is the secret lagoon-how different from blue lagoon? If we choose the glacier lagoon area with skaftafell-would there be an opportunity to see the NOrthern LIghts, granted the atmospheric conditions are good enough?

Chris

The Golden Circle loop consists of Thingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss Waterfall. Its probably the most popular driving route in Iceland, so it can also be pretty packed. You could also consider driving that part with those of you who arrive earlier the first day.

The secret lagoon is much smaller than the blue lagoon, but also much less crowded. The Blue lagoon is more of a spa, while the secret lagoon more of a geothermal hot springs area (looks like a shallow pool, with water coming in from the rocks).

The Northern lights is never guaranteed, but one of the best things you can do is to stay outside of Reykjavik, which you will be doing on the south coast. You could also join a northern lights hunt from Reykjavik where a small van will take you out of the city to a few different areas.

Traveler

So you think that my family should stay along the south coast and do the 'less travelled' things there for2 whole days before heading back toward the capital? What is realistic for us to do-one person would like dogsledding, my husband would love the jeep-off roading (bec we do 4 wheeling here in states, but then again if you feel that it is doing the same thing like one does in the states but just different scenery)-would you recommend foregoing that given limited time? I am totally into photography for years and of course would want to capture the dramatic scenery and northern lights (if lucky enough). Ice caves with blue light (tour?) or ice formations on diamond beach or similar near Vik area? We are all rather very fit people so are game for doing as much as possible; and having a 'vacation' after this long weekend. My children will be home for Thanksgiving break from college so the more we present to them, then we can get a better idea what is realistic for us. My daughter and I, on the first day will be alone. I am not opposed to venturing out with a car to see some spectacular things to photograph or do with her. I can drive a 4 wheel drive manual. We would like to save the 'best' for the whole family to enjoy. Thanks for your time.

Chris

In that case I think you should do the South coast, I can find a hotel for you on Saturday night so that you can have the option to see more along the south coast on your drive back, or get an earlier start and go to the golden circle on your last day depending on how you feel. I'll find some options for ice caves, dogsledding, and 4WD as well. There are also ATV tours if that is something you are interested in, but quite different from super jeeps.

Traveler

We would need Thurs, Fri, and Sat accomodations. We have never been on AWD, not opposed to it-do we need to bring our ski goggles for this?

Chris

For ATV they will supply all necessary gear.

I'll put together a quote for Accommodation for 4 on Thursday in Reykjavik, and 5 on Friday and Saturday along the south coast, and for a rental car for 5 people.

I will also list a few activities you can do and quote for all of them so that you can decide which ones you want to do the most.

What time are are the flight arrivals and what time do you fly out on Sunday?

Traveler

2 of us fly in from JFK on Thurs , 2 fly in from London at night on Thurs, 1 flies in from Montreal the next morning. Our earliest flight on Sunday is at 3:30pm . The rental car should be a 4 wheel drive (manual is ok if needs be).

Chris

Ok, thanks. For your hotel in Reykjavik. Are you ok with a guesthouse downtown that has shared bathrooms between some of the rooms? (only 1 person at a time in the bathroom). Also, would you prefer 2 separate rooms that night so that the 2 of you are not woken up when the other party arrives late at night? There's an option for a single room with 4 twins, or 2 rooms 1 with a queen and one with 2 twins.

Chris

Then I will send over some information on the areas you will visit and other optional activities, stops, and detours. I will include quotes for accommodation, rental, and activity options as well.

Traveler

What are the prices? We would prefer private bathroom. IS there an option of 2 double beds in 1 room to have 4 people? The other nights when there are 5 of us. If we can't fit into one room with private baths, then my husband and I can be in 1 room and the 3 girls in another room.

Chris

I found a better deal for a 2-room apartment that is very central for $151. It has 1 room with a queen bed, and another room with 2 twins. For the second night near Vik I found a hotel with 2 rooms, 1 double and 1 triple. And for the third night a private cottage with several rooms in it. I will send all information shortly

Chris

Hi, I put together all information including pickup times (and options), highlights of each day, and other activities you may be interested in (see the link to the PDF above). The quote is included in there as well for accommodations, car rental, and service fee (and any of the activities that you decide on).

Traveler

This looks great! How much time does one need at airport for departure-assume 2 hrs, is that enough? We also want to make sure the accommodations are well rated for we are not on a strict budget. Intriguing- one can go scuba diving in March in a fissure (I assume drysuit)? Is there much to see? We are all PADI certified and 2 of my daughters are certified rescue divers... We are leaning toward dog sledding. Would this be done on the day when we are near Vik? We are also very interested ice cave tour and if we can fit in the 30min boat tour. Would this all fit on the 3rd day-hike to the waterfall, ice cave, boat tour and see diamond beach and follow that river under the bridge to see the small icebergs on the beach?

Chris

The boat tours of Jokulsarlon don't start up again until May. In Winter the water is colder and there is a lot more ice in the water making it harder (and more dangerous) to navigate. That said, you can still appreciate a lot from the shore, and by climbing the hill near the parking lot. You will still be able to walk along Diamond Beach.

You can scuba (or snorkel) at Silfra Fissure year round. It's a pretty famous place because the visibility is great, and you can touch both the European and North American tectonic plates at the same time. There are tours at 11am each day 39,990 ISK ($353 USD)/person, and you go for 2 dives, roughly 30 min each. It would be a little hard to fit into the existing itinerary. It may be cutting it a bit close on Sunday, and if you did it on Friday you wouldn't be able get to the other sights along the southern coast until later in the day. If you were set on it, You could spend the morning of Friday seeing the Golden Circle, do the dive, and then go along the south coast to Vik and get into Vik on the later side. Anything you skipped you could see again on Sunday on your drive back.

2 hours at the airport should be fine for your departure.

For Dogsledding, it's done at a Ski resort about 45 min outside of Reykjavik at 2pm, so again the only option for that tour would probably be Friday (or Thursday for just the 2 of you). If you wanted to do it on Friday it would be a similar case as the Scuba option where it would cut a fair amount into the south shore sights that day, but you could see some of them on the way back. I think it would be too tight to try to do both the Scuba and the Dogsled that day, even though they are about a 25-minute drive away.

Traveler

Ok- if they 30min dive X2- pretty cold then and breathing hard. We will skip for another time in future perhaps. Dogsledding sounds like only option for 2 of us on Thurs. That Thurs am would we be able to fit in the golden falls and the like before heading off to ski resort for dogsledding? Also would we be able to fit in the secret lagoon on the last day before heading to the capital or would this be fit on the day when we are near Vik?

Traveler

Very important to my husband to have well rated accommodations. THanks.

Chris

On Thursday you should be able to see Gullfoss and Geysir before the dog sled. It's about 90min drive from Reykjavik to Gullfoss, and about 80 minutes from Gullfoss to the ski resort where the dog sledding is. You'll probably want some more time to see Gullfoss, the Geysir Geothermal area, and maybe walk around Thingvellir a bit, but that should all be possible that day.

Chris

On your last day, it would be about 1 hour of extra driving to go to the Secret Lagoon on the way back (4.5hr total that day). It's about 2.5 hours from your accommodation Saturday night to Secret lagoon, so if you leave in the morning and don't have many other stops on the south coast then you could do it. You could also go to the Blue Lagoon that day which is on the way to the airport, but it's quite a bit more crowded.

Chris

If you like, I can make the reservations for refundable locations so that we can make a change if you and your husband prefer somewhere else. Given the tight schedule, in some of the well-positioned areas there are limited options, but they are all well-rated. I opted for well-rated places that were more cost effective than the highest rated place in the area, but if you like I can list both the options for you.

Traveler

What do you think about staying at the hotel at Vik for 2 nights so that we have a shorter drive on Sunday am? Is it possible to drive further east to areas near diamond beach and then drive back that evening to the same hotel so that we can leave bags in one place?

Chris

Yes, that could work. It's just over 2 hours between Vik and Jokulsarlon, so it would be about 4.5 hours driving that day, broken up with several stops.

The hotel I had you at before doesn't have the same rooms available for Saturday night, so if you wanted 2 nights it would be more expensive rooms.

Alternatively, here are 2 other options for those nights:
- 3 bedroom house (all rooms have 2 twin): $634 / 2 nights
- Hotel with 2 rooms: 1 king, 3 twin for $814 / 2 nights

Traveler

What is the cost of the original hotel you had in mind for the 2 nights of more expensive rooms? It would be less wear and tear if we stayed 2 nights in one place.

Chris

The previous room was $400 for the night, but only available on Friday.

Traveler

Either is fine - the 3 bedroom house or the hotel with 2 rooms. Which ever you think you think would be nicer. Only plus for house would be "hang out area". I see that Iceladair Vik HOtel that has Family Room with shower that can has 2 twins and a full bed.

Chris

Yes, Icelandair Vik Hotel was the one I had you in for Friday night, but the family room only has beds for 4 people.

Chris

On Friday they have a double room and a triple room available.

Traveler

Yes-do that with option of free cancellation. Book that for the 2 nights. We have a 36ft downeaster that we travel for 2-3 weeks at a time in New England plus 2 english springer spaniels. That space would be palatial.

Chris

Perfect.

Chris

I'll send you a link to add your payment information to kimkim, which I will use to pay the kimkim service fee and to reserve this room. I can also use it for the activities once you decide on the final ones you want.

Chris

Thanks, I'll get started with the reservations

Chris

Ok, it's all yours. You will probably get a confirmation email. I will add all confirmation numbers and details to the final packet I send you so that you have it together in one place.

Chris

You were comfortable with the manual 4WD SUV, right? If so I'll reserve it now for you and your daughter to pick up at the airport when you land.

Traveler

We will add the excursions-dogsledding and ice cave tour later. We would definitely do the ice cave tour. Dog sledding would probably be only with my youngest daughter. Manual SUV should be fine. Is there a big difference in cost for manual versus automatic? Is there any time that we should be in low or high gears? Is it a full time 4wd or a 'real' 4wd that is 2wd that you put into 4wd with low and high.

Chris

I can check on the price difference compared to an automatic SUV. For your route there is very little up/down hill to worry about, maybe a little bit near the ski resort where the dogsledding is. I'll check the car model the rental agency listed and let you know the 4WD options available.

Traveler

Thanks

Chris

I am going to create a "proposal" for the outstanding items. For now, I will only charge the kimkim service fee, and when you are ready to add on the other activities I will update it with that information and make the reservations for you.

When I create it you will see it here in the conversation, but you don't need to do anything, I'll use the information you provided to fill it out. Once updated, you will see it listed as "Booked".

Traveler

Please just make sure that the accommodations are secure for now.

Chris

Ok, I will book the other hotel in Reykjavik before the car rental.

Traveler

If those are the pix for the exact apartment in mind, that is great! Book that one.

Chris

Ok, I will. They may be "representative photos", but all of similar quality.

Traveler

That is fine. Is the Icelandair Hotel Vik family room with private bath already reserved for those 2 nights?

Chris

Yes, the one in Vik is reserved.

Chris

Here's the confirmation for the one in Reykjavik.

Traveler

Thanks. We are very excited and my daughters will be thrilled once we discuss during their minibreak from school over Thanksgiving.

Chris

Is this a surprise for them? or do they already know about the trip?

Traveler

They know. One is in college, One is a senior, and the 3rd girl (13yo )l is making/calling most of the shots, standing near me.

Chris

I see, well I hope the boss is happy :)

Traveler

Thanks for all your help. Going to sign off for now until we digest the itinerary and finalize what we would like to accomplish as a group realistically speaking. Either go full out commando style or really take in the sights...

Traveler

Oldest gets in late tomorrow and we can discuss more on Wed.

Traveler

If you need home address and contact info, ppl info, etc. - just let me know.

Chris

You're welcome. I'll send you the information on the various rental options, and you let me know which you prefer and when you have decided on any other activities.

In the final packet, I'll include some restaurant recommendations for your day in Reykjavik and nights in Vik.

Talk to you soon,
-Chris

Chris

Good morning, here are some rental options for you:

- $287 for Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4x4 (5 seats, 3 large bags) (automatic)
- $295 "Generic Economy SUV" (listed as 5 people, 2 large bags) - manual
- $310 for Generic Intermediate SUV (like a Ford Escape), (listed as 5 people, 5 bags) - manual

Traveler

We will do the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk.

Traveler

Was doing some research for cave tours and I came across the tour by Arctic Adventures which visits the crystal ice cave that departs from Jokularion. The tour is about 2-3hrs long. Is this tour venue good? The first tour leaves at 9:15am. or did you have another tour in mind?

Traveler

Glacierguides.is also appears to have the same depart times as above mentioned.

Chris

I can make the arrangements for the Ice tour for you.

GlacierGuides and ArcticAdventures are sister companies. 9:15, 11:45, 14:30 are the times available that day. It's just a bit over 2 hours to the glacier lagoon fro Vik, so the 11:45 could be a good time, and you can see part of Jokulsarlon or Diamond beach if you get there earlier, or you can see that afterwards as well as Skaftafell before you drive back to Vik that night.

Traveler

Great- we will do that then at 11:45!

Chris

Ok. I will make the reservations. Would you like me to reserve the dog sledding for you and your daughter on the first day as well?

Traveler

Still will discuss with family.

Traveler

Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving weekend! Yes- my daughter and I will do the dog sledding that Thursday when we arrive. Will be out of the ski resort near Skalafell with Dogsledding Iceland?

Chris

Yes it will be. I'll make those reservations and send you confirmations for that and the ice cave.

Traveler

Were you able to book a 4X 4 already?

Chris

Hi, I have booked the Jeep, you should receive an email with details (I will also include the details in your final packet).

Chris

I have reserved the 5 tickets to the Crystal Ice Cave for your time close to Vik.

Chris

Enjoy your trip, you're going to have a great time exploring Iceland. Please let me know if you have any other questions or if there is any more that I can do for you.

Safe travels,
-Chris

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Traveler Review

Chris was very helpful and insightful. Always repsonded promptly.

Loved his suggestions and his possible itineraries he laid out for us. There were options and comments to help us gauge how we can cover all that we intended to see.