I am a dedicated planner and had some intense and detailed trip plans. If anyone is looking to make a trip to Iceland, I hope this helps! As a heads up, we rented a car so that we could explore Reykjavik and the great outdoors.
If you are flying in from the US, you will likely land around 6 or 7am. We only had a few days in Iceland, so we didn’t want to waste any time… But also didn’t want to exhaust ourselves with an aggressive itinerary.
We started the day off with a relaxing dip in the hot springs of Blue Lagoon. The spa is actually closer to the airport than to the city of Reykjavik so we were able to make good use of time and also relax. By the time we picked up our rental car and drove over, the spa was just opening up. Make sure you buy your tickets online in advance! We paid for the Comfort package and thought it was more than enough. This provided us with entrance, two masks, a towel, and one free drink.
Fun fact: the Blue Lagoon is not a natural phenomenon (as I had thought). The water is not naturally heated, but, in fact, is the result of runoff from the neighboring geothermal plant. I’ll share more fun facts and my experiences in my next post.
We hung out in the water until our skin was all prune-y, but there’s more to the spa than sitting in the thermal pools. We tried out the different masks, explored the steam bath, and sat in the saunas. After we had our fill, we showered and ate lunch at the Blue Lagoon restaurant. It was our first taste of Icelandic food and it was pretty good! I’m not a big fan of lamb, but even I enjoyed the lamb chops.
After our relaxing soak, we intended to drive through the Golden Circle before making our way into Reykjavik. This part of the itinerary was fairly flexible being our first day, so we didn’t go all the way through the Golden Circle and only hit Kerið.
Kerið is a volcano crater estimated to be about 3000 years old. This used to be a volcano but the top has since collapsed into itself since the magma chambers were empty. As a result, today you can take a short hike all the way around the volcanic crater. The soil is interestingly bright red and the water inside the crater is a deep blue. The whole trek around the crater took 30 minutes and we’re slow walkers. The cater is 55m deep and 270m across. This was a very peaceful mini-hike, but it also makes you wonder about the power of the volcano to create this type of landmark.
We spent the day exploring Reykjavik by foot. We ate breakfast at Reykjavik Roasters and spent some time wandering around the neighborhood.
We then drove to the Kolaportið fleamarket. This is the biggest flea market in Iceland. While it was fun to wander and check out all the stalls, I was under the perception there would be plenty of food stalls here for lunch. There were a few places that sold food but the stalls sold great souvenir gifts (flavored sea salt, Icelandic chocolates, cod liver etc.). We ended up pretty hungry after the flea market and went to Baejarins Beztu Pylsur for hot dogs. We had the Icelandic “works” that included ketchup, sweet mustard, raw and fried onions, and remoulade. This hot dog stand is pretty famous and famous patrons include Bill Clinton. The hot dog was just a primer and we grabbed lunch at Sægreifinn, famous for their hot lobster soup. The weather was cold but manageable, and we even walked along the Old Harbor.
Before sunset, we went walked up the hill to the landmark Hallgrimskirkja church. You can take an elevator up to the top of the church for the best view of the city. The architecture of the church resembles the basalt lava rocks of the country.
We capped off the day with dinner at Icelandic Fish and Chips. Even though the Brits invented fish and chips, I think Icelanders perfected it. The steady supply of fresh fresh makes the Icelandic fish and chips taste even better!
Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to visit the Harpa, the beautiful concert hall. We couldn’t get reservations in time, but in my research, everyone strongly recommended taking the walking tour with Auður, who runs the blog I Heart Reykjavík.
We decided to keep trekking the Golden Circle and started our drive to Þingvellir. Þingvellir is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the country’s first national park. I learned that back in 930 AD, the Vikings established the world’s first democratic parliament at Þingvellir, hence the name, which means “parliament plains.”
It’s a short walk to the Öxarárfoss waterfall. As you’re walking towards the waterfall, you’ll walk among two walls of rocks. This is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. The path is created by the plates splitting apart. The Öxarárfoss waterfall is beautiful and the color of the water is a beautiful blue. I read somewhere that the waterfall actually isn’t natural and was created to divert drinking water. Regardless, it’s all very pretty!
Brief interlude: we were extremely extremely lost. We purchased a GPS with our rental car but turns out there were multiple geysir addresses in the area… It took us over 2 hours to arrive when the drive is typically 50 minutes. It was a bumpy and rough ride!
The original geysir is no longer active, but you can see Strokkur Geysir shoot up every 10 minutes or so. It smells a bit like rotten eggs but it’s exciting if you manage to catch the geysir shoot up.
Iceland is a fairly large country and we wanted to see as much of it as possible, while staying in Reykjavik. We decided to take a tour with Go Ecco so we could traverse down south and a little further east. We were also a little wary of driving in Iceland in November, especially because of the rainy conditions during our trip.
This is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a rainbow from the spray of the waterfall. Legend has it that Vikings hid a treasure chest behind the waterfall.
Since we were on the tour, we couldn’t take a short drive to a few other locations. If you get a chance, Seljalandsfoss is a beautiful waterfall as is Gljufrafoss and Fjadrargljufur Canyon.
Vic is the southern most point of Iceland and is known for its black sand beach. You can stroll across the beach and look out to the Atlantic Ocean, but please be careful! The waves are very strong and have been known to carry out careless tourists!
You’ll also find the basalt columns here. The famous church in Reykjavik is modeled after these rocky mountains.
This magical place looks like there should be gnomes and dwarves popping up all over the place. Eldhraun translates to fire lava. This area used to be a barren field after a volcano erupted. The entire area is now covered in moss and is considered to be quite a miracle!
One of the more famous Iceland stops was the glacier lagoon. It’s quite amazing to see these glaciers sitting in a huge lake. This lake is considered one of the natural wonders of Iceland. This is a good spot to hang out and sit but you’re there purely to see the glaciers. We may or may not have enacted some Titanic scenes here.
The highlight of the day trip was our expedition into a glacier. The glacier cave allows you to explore inside a glacier. It was really fun and quite an adventure!
We tried to go see the Northern Lights three nights in a row, but unfortunately weather was not on our side. It was at least drizzly the entire time we were in Iceland, and clear skies are conducive to seeing the Northern Lights. This just means we’ll have to go back another time!
Iceland was such a fun adventure and if you’re interested in outdoorsy activities, there’s so much to do in Iceland. We barely covered a quarter of what’s available.
What do you think? Does this spur your wanderlust for Iceland? Let me know your thoughts below or reach out to me if you have questions about the itinerary!