VISITING ICELAND: comprehensive ITINERARIES FOR THE LAND OF fire and ICE
Posted: 2/1/2020 | February 1st, 2020
Windswept volcanoes. Black sand beaches nuzzled against rugged coastlines. secret hot springs hidden in misty valleys while majestic waterfalls cascade from every hill.
Welcome to Iceland.
It’s a destination unlike any other in Europe. Its distinct landscapes and natural wonders perfectly complement the modern capital of Reykjavik with its café culture and boozy, rambunctious nightlife.
Iceland is known as both the Land of Elves and the Land of fire and Ice. It’s a country where you’ll find smoldering active volcanoes and vibrant blue glaciers side by side. Horses and sheep dot the countryside, colorful puffins flock along the cliffs, and whales breach the choppy Atlantic waters that envelop this tiny island.
It’s easy to see why Iceland has become such a popular destination in recent years (all those cheap stopover flights have helped greatly too).
And, while it’s not the most budget-friendly country in the world, there are still ways to see the sights without breaking the bank!
If you’re planning a weekend trip or want to drive the entirety of the island, this list of Iceland itineraries will guarantee that you see the best the country has to offer!
One weekend in Reykjavik
Four Days in the South
Four Days in the North
One Week: golden Circle and southern Iceland
Two Weeks: exploring the ring Road
One Month: Everything!
What to See and do in Iceland: One weekend in Reykjavik
Take a trip of the city
I always like to start my trips with a totally free walking tour. They’re a fantastic way to see a destination, learn about its history and culture, and get all your questions answered by someone who knows what they’re talking about. City walk and totally free walking trip Reykjavik both offer great totally free trips of the city. They’ll help you get a sense of Reykjavik so you can decide what you want to revisit later. The trips are donation based, so just make sure to suggestion your guide!
When you’re in need of a coffee or snack, opt for a stroll down Laugavegur, a shop- and café-lined street in the center of the city. This is the oldest (and coolest) street in Iceland, and you’ll find everything from expensive couture to dollar stores here. Be sure to stop in a bakery for a pastry or a coffee. My personal favorite is Mokka Kaffi.
After that, make your way to the national museum of Iceland, where you will learn everything you need to know about this tiny Nordic nation. the most well-known piece in the collection is the Valþjófsstaður door, a piece carved in the middle Ages that illustrates the saga of the lion and the knight. The museum does a fantastic job of giving you a robust history of the country without being boring.
If you’d rather visit a much more unconventional museum, consider a visit to the Icelandic Phallological museum instead. Colloquially known as the Penis Museum, this small institution is home to the world’s largest collection of penises and penis-themed art. Yes, you read that right! There are practically 300 items in the museum, including whale penises and (allegedly) troll penises! It’s a small museum, but it’s actually extremely informative — if you’re not too shy!
National Museum: Suðurgata 41, +354 530-2200, thjodminjasafn.is. open daily 10am-5pm (closed on Mondays in the winter). Admission is 2,000 ISK (1,000 ISK for students/seniors).
Icelandic Phallological Museum: Laugavegur 116, +354 561-6663, phallus.is/en. open daily 10am-6pm. Admission is 1,700 ISK per person.
Once you’ve gotten exhausted of walking, opt for a refreshing swim in the Laugardalslaug Geothermal Pool. Swimming and saunas are how locals unwind and unwind after work. It’s essentially a national pastime. This pool is Iceland’s largest and was built in 1968. It’s actually a whole complex with hot tubs, a thermal steam bath, a waterslide, and even small golf! If you have extra time, check out the nearby garden and zoo too.
Sundlaugavegur 105, +354 411-5100, reykjavik.is/stadir/laugardalslaug. open weekdays 6:30am-10pm and weekends 8am-10pm. Admission is 625 ISK, though if you have the Reykjavik City Card, it’s free!
Take in the nightlife
End your day enjoying the city’s well-known nightlife back around Laugavegur. This is one of the best party cities in the world, so there’s something for everyone. just make sure to go during pleased hour so you don’t blow your budget (alcohol in Iceland is not cheap!). here are a couple of my favorite hotspots in Reykjavik:
Kaffibarinn – This café transforms into a dance club on the weekend, and it’s a great place to party. The space is divided into three different sections (bar, dance floor, and lounge), so you can find a section for however you want to spend your night out. It’s small, so seats can fill up quickly. Bergstaðastræti 1, +354 551-1588, kaffibarinn.is.
Lebowski Bar – Yes, this is a big Lebowski–themed bar. The inside looks like a vintage American diner and bowling alley. And, because The Dude drinks a lot of White Russians, its menu includes a broad variety of different ones. Its signature Lebowski cheeseburger is pretty good too. spin the prize wheel to win up to 10 totally free beers! objective for pleased hour, which is held daily 4pm–7pm, as drinks are less expensive then. Laugavegur 20b, +354 552-2300, lebowskibar.is.
Slippbarinn — This is the first proper cocktail bar in the city and boasts live music and DJs several nights a week. pleased hour is daily 3pm-6pm. Myragata 2, +354 560 8080, slippbarinn.is.
Where to stay in Reykjavik: Hlemmur Square – If you’re wanting to splash out, this is both a comfortable hotel and an upscale hostel, so you have options for your type of stay. There’s a great bar here, plus conventional Icelandic communal dinners several times a week.
For a much more standard hostel, stay at Kex Hostel. It has a café and bar with an awesome pleased hour, a comfy lounge, and a heated patio.
Explore the golden Circle
The golden Circle — comprising the Gullfoss waterfall, the Strokkur geyser, and Þingvellir national Park — is the most significant traveler draw in Iceland, so you’ll want to start your second day early and head out of town in a rental car (or on a traveler bus). As tourism booms in Iceland, these sites can get a little crowded, so make sure you get there early (especially in the summer and on weekends).
The round-trip journey is around 250km, so plan accordingly when it concerns food and fuel (if you’re driving). If you’re driving, you’ll also be able to stop regularly to see the numerous Icelandic horses that you’ll pass by.
Experience the well-known Blue Lagoon
This is one of the most renowned destinations in Iceland. The pools are quite large, and the whole area is steamy, with the water a spectacular milky-blue color that is rather photogenic (which is why the lagoon is so popular on social media). It’s a beautiful and luxurious way to end the day, and a great place to unwind best before you depart.
Personally, I think the place is a bit overhyped, as there are tons of free, secluded hot springs all around the country. Of course, if you’re short on schedule and don’t plan on leaving the city, then it’s the ideal way to end your trip!
Fun fact: the blue Lagoon is simply runoff from the nearby geothermal plant. Icelanders just found a way to monetize it for tourists! thank you, Instagram? חום!
Norðurljósavegur 9, +354 420-8800, bluelagoon.com. open daily, but hours vary, so check the site for an up-to-date schedule. Admission starts at 9,990 ISK per person, but it can be less expensive if you go during certain hours.
READ MORE: how to save money in Reykjavik
What to See and do in Iceland: four Days in the South
In addition to the schedule above, here are some activities you’ll want to add if you plan on getting even more outside of Reykjavik to explore the southern region of Iceland.
Head southeast on the ring road from Reykjavík to scout out some waterfalls. Be prepared and bring swimsuits, towels, a waterproof camera, and a jacket.
Reykjadalur – stop in the town of Hveragerði to visit the Reykjadalur hot spring (or hot pot, as they are known locally). It provides a beautiful backdrop of rolling hills and mountains, and it’s totally free to enjoy. You’ll need to hike a bit to get there (30-40 minutes), but it’s worth it! keep in mind that there’s not a private changing area here, so you may want to wear your swimsuit under your clothes.
Seljalandsfoss – continuing on the ring Road, you’ll come to the picturesque Seljalandsfoss waterfall. It has a drop of 60m and is another highly photographed spot in Iceland, so try to get there early before the traveler buses. You have to pay for parking, but, otherwise, it’s free. If you’re hungry, there’s a food vendor that sells delicious lamb stew (among other things).
Skógafoss – another epic waterfall is Skógafoss. legend says that you can find a treasure chest behind this massive waterfall. This is also the starting point for a long, multi-day hike, but you can also just climb to the top and walk for as long as you’d like before returning. There’s a small museum nearby as well if you want to learn much more about the history of the waterfall.
Seljavallalaug – This hot pot is located a short walk off the ring Road. It’s not very hot, and the change room has seen better days, but it’s secluded and it’s worth it just for the scenery, as it’s located at the bottom of a deep valley.
Make Your way to Vík
Head to the lovely little town of Vík and spend the night there. Vík is a seaside village with a glacier that covers the Katla volcano. It’s also home to some remarkable black sand beaches and a DC-3 plane wreck in Sólheimasandur (located on the coast between Skógafoss and Vík).
Where to stay in Vík: Vík HI Hostel – This lovely hostel has a café/bar, a female-only dorm, rooms for families, and a kitchen so you can cook your own food if you’re on a budget.
Chill at the beach
Wake up in Vík and opt for a stroll on the otherworldly Reynisfjara black sand beach. There are some offshore rock formations you can see from the shore and from the cliffs above if you feel like a hike. If you’re here from may through August, you may even get to see some puffins!
Take in the view
If there’s time, head up the hill to see the small Vík i Myrdal Church. It overlooks the town and gives a complete view of Vík and the ocean. get a coffee at a local café and delight in the beautiful vista.
Head for home
Head back to Reykjavik. See much more sights, chill in much more cafés. Do whatever you want before you head home! (עָצוּב)
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What to See and do in Iceland: four Days in the North
If you want to get away from the crowds, go north. northern Iceland is one of the least-visited regions of the country and has a lot to offer the intrepid adventurer, including majestic hikes, much more varied landscapes, whale watching, fewer people, and a better chance to see the northern Lights!
Travel north to Akureyri
Start your adventure off by flying north to Akureyri from Reykjavik. If you don’t want to fly, it’s a 5-6-hour drive from Reykjavik up the west coast, which can easily be done in a day. You’ll just want to element in a few stops along the way to sightsee!
Take a self-guided trip of the town, visit the Akureyri Botanical Gardens, get an espresso from the picturesque Laut Café, hop in the local swimming pool, or just explore the relatively small town and sip on some kaffi (coffee) and “happy marriage cake” (rhubarb jam–filled pastry with a buttery oat crust) from Kristjánsbakarí. soak up local life as much as you can before you go!
Where to stay in Akureyri: Akureyri Backpackers – This is a laid-back hostel with a cool bar, great staff, and really hot showers!
Visit the waterfall of the Gods
Make your way to Goðafoss, the waterfall of the Gods. It’s a majestic semicircular waterfall that’s close to Akureyri on the ring Road. The waterfall is over 12m tall and 30m wide, and (not surprisingly) is highly photogenic! delight in the view before heading onward to Mývatn.
Head to Mývatn
Spend the day in Mývatn, starting off with a hike around Lake Mývatn. There is an easy trail you can follow that lets you stretch your legs and delight in the natural charm of the region. You can easily hike the lake in a few hours if you go at a leisurely pace. then head to the Mývatn Nature Baths geothermal pool, which is much quieter (and cheaper) than the blue Lagoon.
There’s not much else to do here. It’s a quiet town for relaxing, but the lack of lights makes it a fantastic place to see the northern lights!
Spend the night in Mývatn at one of the numerous Airbnbs, guesthouses, or farm stays in the region.
Pretend you’re on Mars
Next, you’ll want to head toward the coastal town of Húsavík. On your way there, stop at Hverir and Krafla, two geothermal areas with Martian-like craters and lakes. Steaming sulfur fills the air, giving this whole area an otherworldly ambience. You can just stop to take photos or opt for another hike.
Next, head to Dettifoss, Europe’s many powerful waterfall. ה