There’s so much to do in Iceland. We’ve focused our top 11 things to do around a short break in Reykjavik, but there’s so much to explore on the rest of the island.
1. Take a selfie by the Sun Voyager
This longboat shaped sculpture in Reykjavik is one of the city’s most famous landmarks. No matter what time you visit, there’s usually a short queue of people waiting to get their photos taken next to it. Get in line and snap away. On a clear day, you get great views across the bay too.
2. Spot some whales
Whether you brave the elements on a boat trip, or see life-sized, hand painted ones at the Whales of Iceland museum, Iceland is a great place to learn more about these giants of the ocean and maybe even spot one in real life. The Whales of Iceland exhibition has 23 life sized whale models, all species that can be found around the Icelandic coastline.
3. See a glacier
Probably the easiest glacier to see is Solheimajökull, as it’s fairly close to Reykjavik and ideally located on the way to or from a tour of the south coast. You can book a trip to walk onto the glacier, or you can walk to the edge of the glacier and touch the icy blue formation all covered in ash from various volcanic eruptions.
4. Try the local delicacies
Traditional Icelandic food consist of lots of lamb and fish, alongside small game such as puffin, goose and mallard. We ordered a selection of mini burgers from Grillmarkadurinn, which came with whale, puffin and lobster. It was a great way to try different meats without ordering it as a full meal. We also tried Harðfiskur, or dried fish, which was, erm, interesting.
Away from meat, you should try hot spring rye bread, a weirdly sweet tasting rye usually served with lashings of butter and smoked lamb or fish. If you’re popping to the shop to grab some Icelandic delicacies, you MUST try Hraun, or Lava Bites. These are scrummy wafers topped with rice crispy style puffs and all covered chocolate.
Alcohol is expensive in Iceland. But if you’re splashing out anyway, why not try Brennivín, Iceland’s signature distilled schnapps, also known as Black Death. But don’t let that put you off too much, this is Iceland’s answer to vodka. Black death and coke anyone?
5. Bathe in the Blue Lagoon
An obvious choice when in Iceland. Yes it’s expensive and touristy, but hey, when in Iceland! Plus it’s a crazy sensation when it’s -5 outside and you’re bobbing around in a hot geothermal giant bath. If you want to try something different, there’s plenty of other hot springs dotted around the country, but not all have great facilities. Check out some more on the Guide to Iceland website.
6. Hike to the Perlan for awesome views across Reykjavik
It’s a steep walk up to the top of the city’s glass-domed observatory but the jaw dropping views across the bay are 100% worth it. Don’t fancy the hike? The tourist bus stops at the top too.
7. Feel the spray of a waterfall
There’s so many waterfalls to see in Iceland, the most famous being Skogafoss toward to south coast and the “Queen of the Icelandic waterfalls”, Gullfoss on the golden circle route.
8. Walk between continents
Thingvellir is the best place to see the mid-Atlantic ridge, without having to grab a snorkel. Here the Eurasian and American tectonic plates, rise above the water surface. You can literally walk between continents! It’s also here where the first parliament of Iceland was founded in 930 A.D and is a beautiful place to explore for a few hours.
9. Feel the black sand between your toes, or walking boots
What’s more atmospheric than a beach on a cold, crisp day? A beach covered in black sand of course. One of the most famous is Reynisfjara Beach, just up from Vik. There’s also interesting cliffs of basalt columns and caves along this part of coastline. Folktales say that they were three trolls who lived here and pulled ships onto the shore. But after being caught by the rising sun, they were turned into the needles of rock you see out to sea.
10. Time a perfect photo of a geysir
Iceland’s famous Strokkur geysir on the golden circel route spouts steam and boiling water almost 30 meters into the air. It happens around every 5 minutes but you’ll need to be quick on the trigger to catch that Insta-perfect photo.
11. See how the early Icelanders lived
See Iceland’s oldest man-made structures at the Settlement Exhibition. The foundations of the viking longhouse dates from around 930AD and the museum surrounding it tells the story of Iceland’s early settlers. If you prefer a bit more life in your history, Arbaer Open Air museum lets you step back in time to see traditional homes and crafts with costumed guides.
For many Reykjavik is the base for a short break to this spectacular destination. We had one day to explore Reykjavik and see what the world’s most northerly capital has to offer.