With Wow Air and Iceland Air now serving the USA, it has opened a whole new door for cheap transatlantic flights to Europe (and therefore England)! Whether you’re going to Iceland to explore the country or just to use it as a stopover for an onward flight, here are some practical tips that I picked up during my trip to Iceland in April.
Visiting Iceland in April
If visiting Iceland in April you’re pretty much going to get the most ‘normal’ day/night light ratio, with the sun rising at 6.30am and sunset around 8.30pm. In the winter months Iceland experiences around only 3-4 hours of daylight and in the summer they have nearly 21 hours of daylight as the sun only sets for 3 hours!
Temperatures average 4c/39f. During my visit I had 4 days of constant cloud cover and a lot of drizzle and a temperature somewhere around zero. Flying in on a budget airline, I was only travelling hand luggage so these were tricky conditions to pack for in just a backpack.
My biggest tip would be to wear layers and MAKE SURE your coat is actually waterproof before you leave (turns out my ‘showerproof’ coat wasn’t actually very waterproof!). I’ll talk more about the places I visited further down, but by being in layers it meant that while driving around the island, I could strip down the wet outer layers and attempt to dry them by hanging them up in the car while driving to the next stop. It made the journey a little more comfortable!
Driving conditions around Iceland in April
I can’t speak for all the roads around Iceland but during my trip we drove the roads between Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik, southbound on Route 1 between Reykjavik and Vik and then part of the ‘Golden Circle’ route. All these roads were in perfect condition, free of ice and snow during my trip to Iceland in April. The only patch where we encountered tricky driving conditions, was southbound on Route 1. Just outside of Reykjavik the road passes through some mountains, every time we drove this particular stretch it was near white out conditions due to the fog…if you don’t believe me you can see for yourself in the picture below…!
Some of the road signs also had snow drifts over them too! We ended up buying a very detailed (and expensive) road map from a petrol station but its worth was invaluable (and probably still worked out cheaper than a GPS rental).
When you hire a car, one thing we were told to do is completely go over the car with a fine tooth comb. If there are any dents, stone chips, body work problems, point them out to the hire company and have them counter sign the rental sheet (we were even given outline pictures of the car where we could mark things on it). We were warned that the winds can sometimes get strong. WHENEVER you get IN or OUT of the car, hold on to the doors!! One thing that the rental company looks for on return, is when the door get ‘blown backwards’. It damages the door hinges and body work and then it’s your fault and you have to pay the insurance premium even though you haven’t hit anything or anyone.
Visiting Iceland’s ‘natural’ attractions in April
Of course a huge draw to Iceland is the incredible landscape and nature experiences. These are my tips for visiting these places in Iceland in April!
The Blue Lagoon – Visiting over the Easter Weekend, it was very busy and there were a LOT of large groups of students on school trips (it’s definitely worth buying tickets in advance). The lagoon was big enough to be able to find a quiet spot to be able to lose them in the steam! It did provide us with entertainment though, watching the kids take their un-waterproofed iPhones into the water with them and subsequently then destroy them.
The changing rooms are very clean & despite the signs you can get away without having to remove all your clothes! However there are lots of people that obviously have a lot more body confidence than us conservative Brits because there were a lot of boobs and bottoms hanging out.
The water wasn’t as hot as I expected it to be, you had to hunt for the REALLY hot patches…and once you found them, they were lovely! Saying this though, considering the outside temperature was somewhere around freezing point, I didn’t feel cold, I was just expecting it to feel more like a hot tub temperature!
You can enter and exit the Lagoon from a pool INSIDE the building. The first time my Dad visited, he didn’t realise and ended up taking a cold dash outside!
Quick tip: go up to the outside observation deck up on the roof! It gives you a better vantage point to see just how big the Lagoon really is! Plus, drown your hair in the free conditioner BEFORE you go in…don’t rinse it off, just leave it slimy. I even went under a waterfall, used the conditioner again when I got out & my hair didn’t dry out at all! The silica is meant to be good for your skin but it certainly isn’t good for your hair! I hear lots of people saying their hair was a tangled mess when they came out!
Vik – My FAVOURITE place that I visited in Iceland was the Black Sands Beach at Vik. The sand was jet black, there are basalt columns (and a cave!) that are really interesting to look at and the waves are like nothing I’ve ever seen before, they were HUGE and the noise was incredible. There are warnings not to go near the waves because they are THAT powerful! Fun Fact: If you stand on the beach and look straight forward, there is nothing but sea between that beach and the South Pole!
Solheimajokull Glacier – Not really surprising considering it’s a glacier, but this was the worst area that we encountered when it came to exploring. The path most of the way to the glacier was a sheet of ice, making it really hard to walk at any speed faster than a snails pace. If you brave the trip, it’s kinda cool to see. Even from afar it looks like a giant ice cube (unlike the glacier I climbed in Canada which was covered in snow and the Hintertux glacier in Austria which was actually underground!)
Gulfoss Waterfall (Golden Circle) – I’m pairing Gulfoss and Solheimajokull Glacier together, despite being on different routes, these were the most challenging to visit during my trip to Iceland in April. A lot of the paths around Gulfoss Waterfall were covered in ice too, some sections being completely roped off for safety. Even with the restrictions, there are still places where you can get a good view of it.
Skogafoss Waterfall – Just like the 2 above, I’m pairing Skogafoss and Strokkur together. Skogafoss is on the same route as the Solheimajokull Glacier and yet it was completely fine to visit, not a slippery path in sight! I even managed to climb a ridiculous amount of steps to get to the top of the waterfall, which was actually really high and by the time I got back to the bottom my legs felt like jelly! You can’t really see the waterfall from the top but it’s a pretty good view from up there!
Strokkur Geyser (Golden Circle) – Again, not snow or ice in sight, that could be due to the crazy amount of thermal activity in this area! The Geyser is AMAZING to see! The power of the water shooting out of the earth is CRAZY. Well worth going to see if you’ve never seen a geyser before! Strokkur ‘erupts’ every 8 – 10 minutes so it’s quite reliable, you can even hang around and watch it a couple of times!
My biggest concern before travelling to Iceland over Easter weekend was if places were going to be open on a ‘public holiday’ (I’ve seen gift shops shut in Europe on Sundays, even in the busy tourist season). There was nothing to worry about, plenty of places were still open! Wrap up warm and have a wander round, it’s a very walkable city with lots of free things to see! You can see the ducks at Tjörnin Lake in the city centre and enjoy a whole range of street art…just look at the size of this piece!
Apparently the paths and roads are heated in Reykjavik because of pipe work that runs underneath them but I can’t confirm how true that is! They use volcanic grit on the paths to keep them free of ice! Messy but resourceful!
Hallgrimskirkja Church is well worth visiting. Construction on the church started in 1945 and it was finished in 1986. The architecture of the church looks similar to the ballast columns you can see at Vik beach! If there are no services going on, go into the actual church area and look at the organ, it’s HUGE. Of course most people visit to go up the tower to the observation deck at the top which gives great views over the city. Lots of the roofs of the buildings in the city are coloured which you can’t see from ground height!
The harbour is great to visit. You can stop on route at ‘Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur‘ a little hut serving AMAZING hotdogs. There’s only outdoor seating but it’s open even on cold, rainy days in April and is worth a stop at! The Harpa Concert Hall is good to see day or night, another great piece of architecture in Reykjavik! Lean over the rails on the left hand side of the building and look down into the water of the harbour, during my visit there were LOADS of starfish! Along the harbour wall walk there’s a hidden geocache (which I found completely by accident), ‘library benches’ where you can scan a QR code and sit and listen to Icelandic literatures and the ‘Sun Voyager‘ a boat sculpture that caught the light amazingly well even on a cloudy day!
Where to eat in Reykjavik
Iceland’s landscape wouldn’t look out of place on the moon (plus there’s always a funky smell thanks to the sulphur!). Despite the land being volcanic, Iceland is surprisingly green! More like moss than anything else! Even though the country can only grow and produce food with the help of giant greenhouses, we never once had a bad meal, every thing we ate was lovely! Here are my recommendations:
Our hotel (Hotel Orkin) recommended ‘Potturinn go Pannan’, it was a couple minutes walk away & we had a discount voucher from the hotel so had nothing to lose! It was quiet but the food was lovely (plus they had good music playing)!
‘Icelandic Fish and Chips’ – VERY popular and for good reason, their cod is SO fresh!
‘Grillhusid’ – American style restaurant & good quality food
Iceland also produces it’s own chocolate, Noi Sirius, who make AMAZING Icelandic Easter Eggs (perfect timing as Easter usually falls in April)!
Where to stay in Reykjavik
(Disclosure: The following link is a booking.com affiliate, if you make a reservation through my link, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you!)
I stayed at the Hotel Orkin that was a little way from the city centre (we only walked into the centre once, the rest of the time we drove) but then the price reflected this walk, making it a cheaper option. It included free breakfast and the part that we loved the most was that they have 4 person rooms where 2 beds are upstairs in a loft, giving you a private space if sharing with other family members or friends!
Looking for something unique to do in Iceland? How about Icelandic Hill Climbing?! That was an awesome adrenaline experience! If you have any other questions about visiting Iceland in April, or travelling with just hand luggage etc, feel free to drop me a message in the comments!