My first trip to Iceland was far from ideal. First, it was just a 52 hour layover and second, it was in December. Don’t get me wrong, there are many positives about visiting Iceland during this time including fewer tourists seeing the rolling hills and waterfalls frozen in a winter wonderland.
Unfortunately, December is also the month when Iceland is freezing and there is only 4-5 hours of sunlight a day! Luckily, the roads are well lit so you can safely drive in the dark even if it is snowing. But it does take some planning around to make your trip worthwhile.
First of all, you need to keep in mind that when the sun doesn’t rise until 11-12 am, neither do the locals. We landed at 8 am and tried to get something to eat and drink. We ended up in a grocery store because everything else was closed including bars and cafes.
It took a lot of driving around for us to find a hotel by the port where we could warm up (it was unpleasant to spend more than 10 minutes outside). Unfortunately the tiny coffees were overpriced much like everything in the touristy areas of Iceland, but at least we had a place to wait for the city to wake up.
For the two days that we were there, we had to schedule our sightseeing around the darkness. To visit to Golden Circle, we got up early to drive 3 hours from the city to arrive right when the sun started to rise. We had to rush a little but we had enough time to see all three sights – the two waterfalls and the geyser – with some time to spare for lunch before heading over to the Blue Lagoons.
Due to our lack of time, we had to visit the Blue Lagoons during the evening and made an appointment for two hours before closing. We were worried that this wouldn’t be enough time, but it was hard for us to stay there too long because you start feeling faint after just 20 minutes in the water. It would have been cool to see the place during daylight, but it was magical at night too.
The biggest perk of visiting in the winer was definitely the lack of tourists. There were handfuls here and there, but the parking lots that were normally overcrowded were empty and we got to enjoy the sights in peace. So I definitely recommend a short trip to Iceland in December, however, I’m dying to return when it’s warmer and sunnier for a completely different experience!