A Weekend Getaway to Iceland

Last Thanksgiving (end of November for Americans), my family and I took a trip to Iceland for the long weekend/holiday. Like most of my trips, this one was short because my job doesn’t allow me to take much time off. We arrived in Iceland early Thursday morning after a short 5 hour flight from Toronto, and we departed Saturday evening. I don’t think most people realize how close Iceland is from Canada/USA and how doable it is to take a weekend getaway to Iceland. You can find cheap flights from the east coast of the US to Iceland through WOW Air, starting in the $200s off season and $400s peak season, making Iceland an even more feasible destination for a weekend getaway. Hopefully you will feel inspired to book a trip to Iceland, even just for a weekend, after reading about the vast beautiful landscape, adorable Icelandic horses, and unique foods we experienced during our short trip.

Day 1: Tour of the Golden Circle

A Weekend Getaway to Iceland | MVMT Blog

Map of Sights along Golden Circle

After we arrived at Keflavik International Airport, the first thing we did was get our rental car. We knew we wanted to see as much as we could in our short time there and figured having a car would be the most convenient and efficient way of doing so. One tip for first-timers: make sure you specify that you want an automatic transmission car, or else they will give you a manual transmission car by default. We learned this the hard way and ended up wasting a lot of time changing our booking, unloading our belongings, and reloading them into the new car.

READ MORE: Have more time in Iceland? Follow this epic Iceland roadtrip itinerary.

We were originally planning on driving out to Jökulsárlón that day, but there were some snowstorms in the area, so we decided to stay closer to Reykjavik and take a tour of the Golden Circle. As you can see from the map above, our first stop was Þingvellir National Park. Þingvellir translates to “Parliament Plains” – a fitting name as it is the location of the original Alþing general assembly, which was established around 930 and continued to convene until 1798. Today, Þingvellir is a protected national shrine that is by law required to remain the property of the Icelandic nation under the preservation of the Alþing. A fun fact about its physical location is that it is located on the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The day we were there, the weather was blustery and cold, but the snowstorm actually helped us get some pretty cool photos.

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A Weekend getaway to iceland | MVMT Blog

Our next stop on the Golden Circle was Strokkur, a fountain geyser located in a geothermal area. The geyser erupts every 6-10 minutes and typically reaches heights of 15-20 meters, although occasionally it will reach heights of 40 meters or more. There are numerous smaller geysers and geothermal pools in the area, so if you get too cold, feel free to warm up near a geyser. However, be very careful that you do not fall into the geyser or allow it to erupt onto your face or body, as the water is extremely hot and will burn your skin.

READ MORE: 15 Best Places to Visit in Iceland

When we first arrived at Strokkur, it was blizzarding, so we decided to go inside the information center/store and wait for the storm to pass. Five minutes later, the skies had cleared up and we had a lovely time walking around the geysers outside. That was my first time experiencing the famous Icelandic saying: If you don’t like the weather in Iceland, just wait five minutes. 

A weekend getaway to iceland | mvmt blog

Strokkur erupting

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT Blog

Warming up… but be careful not to burn yourself!

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT Blog

All-day sunsets/sunrises make for great photos

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT Blog

Peace and calm before the eruption

After we finally got over our amazement at the geysers, we headed out to Gulfoss, which was just a short drive away. Gulfoss is a waterfall located in a canyon, and it is quite a sight to behold. At this point, I think my family and I were all getting a bit too cold, so we just made a quick stop for some photos and continued on our way.

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT Blog

A family photo at Gulfoss

Our final stop along the Golden Circle was Kerið Crater, a volcanic crater in South Iceland that is composed of red volcanic rock. It is around 55 meters deep, 170 meters wide, and 270 meters across. You can see from the photos below just how large this crater is. This crater was once a cone volcano that erupted and emptied its magma, which caused the cone to collapse into an empty magma chamber that is now filled with water. The lake itself is fairly shallow, but the opaque blue color offers a striking contrast to the red volcanic rocks.

READ MORE: Want to see more stunning landscapes? Check out these 17 best hidden gems and unique landscapes in Europe
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Before concluding our tour of the Golden Circle, we received a nice little surprise from the most adorable, pleasant-mannered, miniature-sized horses. As we were driving, we saw some travelers on the side of the road petting these little guys, and my sister and I immediately ordered the driver (our dad) to pull over. At first, we were a bit apprehensive about approaching the horses as we did not know whether these wild horses were accustomed to or comfortable with human interaction. However, it turns out that these miniature Icelandic horses love to be petted and have perfect manners.

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT Blog

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT Blog

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT Blog

READ MORE: 8 Reminders for Your Weekend Getaway to Iceland

Back in Reykjavik, we had a nice dinner of shark and puffin, a couple of local dishes, at 3 Frakkar. The puffin tasted similar to sashimi but had a slightly firmer texture. I can’t say I’d go out of my way to eat this again, but it wasn’t bad. The shark meat, on the other hand, had such a foul taste and smell that the four of us could barely finish a small bowl of bite-sized chunks of shark meat. We should have listened to our waitress when she forewarned us about its repulsive taste and advised that it is a dish that locals either love or hate, with most people falling in the latter category. This is a tough one even for the adventurous eaters out there.

Day 2: Jökulsárlón, Dyrholaey, Seljalandsfoss

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT BLog

On the second day of our weekend getaway to Iceland, we drove along the southern coast of Iceland to the most scenic spot of our trip, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. The lagoon is a recent formation, resulting from the earth’s warmer temperatures. The surface of the lagoon sits at sea level, and sea water flows into the lagoon at high tide. Although the lagoon is not very wide, it reaches up to 250 meters deep in certain areas, which makes it the deepest lake in Iceland. Large chunks of ice are constantly breaking off the glacier and left floating in the lagoon, creating these breathtaking views.

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT BLog

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT BLog

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT BLog

Across the highway, you will find a black sand beach with chunks of ice scattered across. Some of these ice chunks looked like ice sculptures, and others were large enough for people to slide across.

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT BLog

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT BLog

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT BLog

Even though the drive to Jökulsárlón was a rather long one, it was completely worth it. On our drive back to Reykjavik, we stopped to see two more sights. The first was Dyrholaey, a 120 meter high promontory, or small peninsula, near Vik, the southernmost village in Iceland. Dyrholaey translates to “door hole,” which makes sense given the massive arch that was formed in the rock by erosion from the sea. Although I’ve been informed that people actually surf here, I would not dare to even wade in the water given the strong riptides we witnessed. Despite arriving on a blustery day with the weather obstructing most of our views, what we were able to see was still beautiful.

READ MORE: Road Tripping Around the Icelandic Westfjords

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT Blog

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT Blog

Our final stop before arriving back in Reykjavik was Seljalandsfoss, one of the best known waterfalls in Iceland. The waterfall drops 60 meters, and visitors can walk behind the waterfall into a small cave. The sun had started to set at this point of our trip, and the temperatures had dropped, so we decided to make a quick stop and take some photos without walking into the cave behind the waterfall.

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT Blog

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT Blog

That evening, we checked out the marina in Reykjavik and grabbed a quick bite at Saegreifinn, a small restaurant on the marina. This restaurant has a huge selection of seafood, and the lobster bisque was exceptionally tasty, especially on a cold November evening. You order at the counter a la carte, and the restaurant staff will bring out your food as it is ready. I would highly recommend this restaurant.

After dinner, we boarded a cruise out of Reykjavik to try and see the Northern Lights. Unfortunately, the weather was too overcast that day, and no northern lights were seen. However, we did get to sport these awesome red jumpsuits that kept us warm and stylish on the boat ride. My sister and I also got to witness a proposal on the top deck of the boat during this tour, which we may or may not have walked into unintentionally. Hopefully we didn’t ruin their private moment.

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT Blog

Day 3: Reykjavik & Blue Lagoon (Attempt)

As our weekend getaway to Iceland was coming to a close, we decided to have a relaxing final day by exploring Reykjavik and taking a soak in the Blue Lagoon. First, we went to Hallgrímskirkja, an Evangelical-Lutheran church in Reykjavik. Church service is still held at Hallgrímskirkja and typically takes place on Sundays at 11am. The architecture of the church is meant to reflect the Icelandic landscape, and I think it does a good job of that. The church is open to visitors every day, and admission to the church is free. There is also the option to ascend to the tower, which costs ISK 900 (approximately $8 USD). However, we chose not to go to the tower since we were anxious to get to the Blue Lagoon.  

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT Blog

It’s very hard to miss this large, eye-catching building if you’re anywhere in Reykjavik

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT Blog

Inside of Hallgrimskirkja

We were very excited to spend our last few hours in Iceland relaxing in the Blue Lagoon before sitting on a plane for five hours. We drove to the Blue Lagoon with our bags packed and swimsuits ready but received bad news upon arrival that the Blue Lagoon was completely booked for the day. We made the mistake of not pre-booking a ticket online, which you must do as the Blue Lagoon has been gaining popularity in recent years. We did manage to sneak a peek inside and get some photos outside. We saw a huge resort-like lagoon, fully stacked with a swim-up bar, massages, and other amenities. The Blue Lagoon is top on my list for my next visit to Iceland.

A weekend getaway to Iceland | MVMT Blog

If you are considering taking a weekend getaway to Iceland, we hope this guide gave you the last boost of encouragement you need to book your flight. We hope this guide serves as a helpful resource to you as you plan for your trip and that you enjoy your trip as much as we did ours. If you’re looking for other destinations to get in touch with nature, check out this list of top destinations for a truly wild experience.

Have you taken a weekend getaway to Iceland? What was your experience? Are there any sights you’d recommend including on this list that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

MVMT Blog

A Weekend Getaway to Iceland | MVMT Blog

Author: Diana Chen

Recently left my job as an attorney to pursue the work-from-anywhere/travel-everywhere life. I blog about traveling the world with a full time job, confronting your travel addiction, and pursuing your passions without going broke. Traveled to 21 countries on 4 continents since March 2017 and 48 countries total. Next big adventure is hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro in February 2018.

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44 thoughts on “A Weekend Getaway to Iceland

  1. This is an incredibly helpful post! My boyfriend and I are heading to Iceland in October, but I’ll be there for 4 days by myself beforehand and he’ll be there a long weekend. We were trying to pick itineraries/things to do in a short amount of time for him and this is PERFECT! Awesome post. 🙂

  2. I am so jealous. I love that you’ve added route maps to this post its a great touch. I’ve always wanted to visit Iceland and its high up on my bucket list, Your photos look amazing too!

    I’,m sad you didn’t get to see the northern lights, but yeah the jumpsuits are fab!

  3. This looks like my kind of trip! I’m totally into the shorter weekend getaways and am so glad to see that Iceland is yet another destination good for that. You definitely did a lot in those few days!

  4. I went there in Feb 15 and had a similar experience, but I did go to the Blue Lagoon. I didn’t get to see the lovely Icelandic horses though – that must have been a lovely experience!

  5. Aah what memories! I just got back from Iceland a few weeks ago and still can’t stop dreaming about it ! Your post brought back such happy memories!
    We had over a week so we drove around the entire ring road, but I agree if you only have a weekend, then your suggested itinerary is perfect!

  6. I wish that I was near enough to Iceland to go there for the weekend. The Northern Lights are near the top of my bucket list – although I’m not sure if I’ll be able to handle the cold as I tend to feel cold very quickly.

  7. Even though you didn’t have much time, it seems like you were able to pack some fantastic highlights into your weekend getaway. I had a similar amount of time when I visited Iceland and, though I would have loved more time, felt totally satisfied with a day around the Golden Circle and one along the South Coast.

    Iceland looks beautiful in the winter. I’d love to return and try to see the northern lights. Hope you have better luck seeing them if you choose to return!

  8. I definitely need to visit. I debate about what time of year is best to visit though. I lean towards summer but you seemed to have a great time in the winter.

    1. I think there is a certain beauty about Iceland in the winter that you won’t find in the summer. In the summer you probably have more options for outdoor activities like hikes or camping, but in the winter you can go glacier hiking or ice climbing, which are activities you probably don’t normally get to do. And there is just something to be said about seeing Iceland covered in ice – “ice” is part of its name, after all. (:

  9. I’ve been hearing so much about people heading to Iceland recently and I was wondering what all the fuss was about! What a cool experience! We love outdoors stuff and would so love to see the northern lights. What an interesting trip. I’m adding it to the list now!

    1. We love outdoors stuff as well, and there are so many opportunities for outdoor activities in Iceland whether you go in the summer or winter. In the summer, you can hike to your heart’s content as there are mountains everywhere. In the winter, there are a lot of tour groups that will take you glacier hiking and ice climbing. Most of these tours take a full day, so you’ll want to plan a longer stay in Iceland if you’d like to check out some of these tours.

  10. Your post has definitively convinced me that the time is “now”to visit Iceland. I’ve been reading so much about Iceland lately and can’t wait to experience it. Good tip about booking the Blue Lagoon prior. Your pictures are absolutely gorgeous. You certainly packed a lot in!!

    1. Thank you! I would agree now is the time before it gets even more commercialized. There are also some alternative options to the Blue Lagoon such as the Secret Lagoon, which are less commercialized and cheaper.

  11. I didn’t realise it was so close to Toronto! I would love to do a weekend in Iceland, especially at those prices! Sadly it’s a bit far from Sydney to make it possible. Like you I tend to do shirt trips because of work commitments. From Sydney that means to lots of Aussie destinations as well as NZ and SE Asia. You fit so much in such a short time. Amazing!

    1. I completely know what you mean. You could try to make it part of a longer trip to the UK/Ireland or Scandinavia, or even to North America if you have the opportunity to take a longer time off from work. I hope you can visit there one day!

  12. This looks like such a great trip, and so nice to do it with your family! Iceland is only a three-hour flight from London and I’ve been for work a few times but never managed to see any of this! I keep plotting a trip back to explore, maybe finally next year 🙂

  13. Ahh Iceland is amazing. What a great place for a weekend escape! I went back in April and it was a brutally stormy day when I went to Seljalandsfoss so it didn’t look anything like your photos… but wow this post makes me want to go back ASAP.

  14. I love Iceland, I was there last year, I did most of what you did, though I didn’t make it to the Glacier Lagoon, thats on my list for next time. Have to say the Blue Lagoon was amazing, I did love it there. Did you see the Northern Lights, I was so lucky to see them 🙂

    1. We loved Iceland, too! Unfortunately, we did not get to see the Northern Lights. We went out on a boat tour hoping to see the Northern Lights on our last night there, but the sky was too overcast. Hopefully when we go back in March we can see them. Did you hear about how they turned off all the street lights in Reykjavik last night from 10-11pm so residents could see the Northern Lights? That would’ve been so awesome to experience.

  15. Wow you did so much in such a short amount of time! Love it. I love the horses and especially the light in November. Makes for sweet soft light in the afternoon. I’ll consider Iceland for a short get-a-way because it is also not far from Europe.

    1. The perpetual sunrise/sunset made for the best photos! You would love the Icelandic horses – they are the most calm, gentle, and well-mannered animals I’ve seen. I hope you get to visit there soon!

    1. We were able to find street parking at night for free. During the day I believe you have to pay for street parking, but we were mostly gone during the day. Some hotels will provide free parking, so that’s something to look for when booking a hotel. We stayed right by the square in the city centre so none of the hotels around there had parking. Overall I’d say the convenience of having a car to drive elsewhere in Iceland outweighed any inconvenience/expense of having to find parking in the city.

    1. Thanks so much, Justine! Definitely look for the horses when you’re there (you won’t have to look too hard) and don’t be afraid to approach them. They are extremely gentle and well mannered. You are going to have a blast! 🙂

  16. We went to Iceland last spring, it was really amazing! Thank so much for your info! It was my second time i have visited Iceland but after reading your inspiration and want to jump on the plane again.

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