This post will give you information on how to experience Iceland from Reykjavik, we did not stay anywhere else.
Iceland, where to begin? This country is nothing like you would imagine it to be, while the pictures show landscapes unimaginable, it’s the barren land and sharp edges that will really resonate with anyone who visits this country.
How To Get There & Where to Stay
When it comes to looking for a place to stay, I would recommend an airbnb. It’s cheap and because once you’re there, Iceland is expensive, having a place to make lunches for the car ride and breakfast in the morning really helps with your expenses.
The beauty of Iceland is that there are direct flights there from a lot of places on the East Coast of the U.S. and for relatively cheap prices, especially during off season (Fall/Winter). We took an overnight direct flight with Icelandair from Boston and arrived at Keflavik Airport early on a Monday morning. Since the airport is smaller than say Heathrow, we got through security and to our car relatively quickly and were on the road within an hour and a half of arriving.
If you’re looking to save some money and you’re traveling with a group of people, I would recommend a car. We figured that a car a day for the 4 of us was roughly $46 dollars a day — which is ridiculously cheap when tours average $75-100 a day per person.
Day 1: Öxarárfoss Trailhead & Golden Circle
Immediately leaving the airport (since you’ll probably get in ridiculously early), head to The Golden Circle and Öxarárfoss Trailhead, you will get your first glimpse of the awe inspiring landscape on this short(er) drive. Öxarárfoss Trailhead has everything you could want — a waterfall, land that looks like Lord of The Rings or Game of Thrones and a view that will leave your mouth literally open.
This was one of two of of my favorite spots of the day. I felt like such a wildling at first (though no one with me understood why). Then you walk up the trailhead a bit to a gorgeous landscape which again was even better because of the sunrise, so again — go first thing in the morning to see this light!
After, we headed to the Golden Circle. While everyone was at Gullfoss Waterfall, my favorite spot was Faxi Waterfall (two of two on the day) –it’s a must see by everyone going to the Golden Circle, I am begging you not to miss it.
PS: All of these activities on the first day (except for Kerid Crater – 400kr) are free.
Day 2: Snaefellsnes Pennisula
I hadn’t even heard of this Pennisula until my friend stated she wanted to head there for a day. This is one of those places that you can definitely get the gist of in one day and one of those places that will have you stopping on the side of the road to take pictures. The Volcanic ruins were really cool and the coast is gorgeous, something completely different from any other location we saw in Iceland but the day also dragged because the landscape never changed.
The one thing I would tell you not to do of this day trip would be to go to Kirkjufell — what a waste, this is one of those places where the picture online is definitely not real life (which was disappointing). Places to go include : anywhere that you think looks cool for a picture (I’m serious, just drive around here), and Djúpalónssandur Beach
Day 3: In and Around Reykjavik/Reykjanes
Make sure you have at least one day and stay around Reykjavik — there’s a lot to see and do there, including buying an Iceland Activities Card so that you can go to museums and art studios. But before you head to the city where you can relax and get some authentic Icelandic food, head around the area and visit Kleifvartn Lake (free), Krysuvik (free), and Blue Lagoon.
Be prepared when you head to Krysuvik to smell a lot of sulfur, in fact, the most sulfur anywhere. This was definitely an oops stop but it was still cool to go and see these Geothermals and since it was on the way to Kleifarvatn Lake it seemed appropriate to stop. If you’re going to do a trip like this, or if you’re headed to the Blue Lagoon (more on that in a second) please stop at the lake to take in the breathtaking views.
We only stopped at the Blue Lagoon for lunch so I don’t have any pictures but I would say this is all you really need to do. The Blue Lagoon is expensive and touristy. There seems to be a lot of other places you can go to soak that’s cheaper and more intimate.
After your journey around, stop in at Cafe Loki for dessert and walk around Reykjavik, shopping at the cute stores that can provide you with handmade gifts or going on tours through the card — FYI: you do need to pay for parking all over the city, it takes cards and coins, the perfect way to get rid of Icelandic coins if you have any!
Day 4: Southern Coast
The Southern Coast is as popular as the Golden Circle and once you’re there, you will totally understand why. Roughly 2 and a half hours away from Reykjavik, this is another perfect day trip of hunting black sand beaches and waterfalls. Every “attraction” here is also free.
Vik was definitely my favorite little spot of the Southern Coast. You’re also going to see a lot of waterfalls on this trip. In fact, I kept thinking to myself how the locals must think we’re all crazy for driving around chasing waterfalls that are in their backyard. Skogafoss was my favorite but only because there were less people there. While Reynisfjara Beach had the coolest rocks to climb on!
However Seljalandsfoss was cool because you can walk behind it, yes! You read that right! Behind it! How cool is that? All you Lord of The Rings Fans out there, make sure you head to Drangshlíð , it reminded me so much of the Hobbit!
Day 5: Last Day
I’m going to keep this open to all of you! It’s your choice what you would want to do but here’s some suggestions:
- Into The Volcano Tour
- Glacier Tour
- Jokulsarlon (this is far, I only recommend this if you’re in Iceland during the summer when there is a lot of sunlight)
- Reykjavik Touring (again): including food and drink tours
- Try a Lagoon (like the Secret Lagoon)
If you want to do something else different that’s relatively cheap, try a tour (about $60) of a Volcano with Inside The Volcano. It’s about an hr long and while it’s informative on things (such as it’s 5,000 years old and that’s considered young!) It also brings you below the surface of Iceland, what could be cooler than that?
If you’re planning to head there soon, I hope this will help you think of places to go. If you go November – March you have a better chance of seeing the Northern Lights but you will have limited sunlight compared to going in the Spring and Summer. It’s a lot of driving if you’re staying in the Reykjavik area so please be aware of that.
Iceland is definitely a country with a landscape I’ve never seen before. It was rugged, gorgeous and brutal all at the same time. The endless land of previous volcanoes was insane. If you’re a hiker or a waterfall lover, this is a country for you. However because of the driving I don’t know if I would go back, or if I did, I wouldn’t do day trips every day out of Reykjavik but maybe stay other towns (more on that in a later post) along the way to break up the driving .
PS : While I went in November and it was still early in the “winter” season, the roads are really well maintained (we only hit snow one night driving) but there are some sharp turns so be prepared. If you’re from New York like me the weather shouldn’t bother you too much, even on windy days it was still warmer than the day I’m writing this post. In fact, on the day I left Iceland it was 50-degrees while in New York it was about 28 degrees — you will be fine my Northeast friends!