Reykjavik Travel Guide
To start off your trip to Iceland, you’ve got to visit the most Northerly capital in the world. Though remarkably small, Reykjavík is a cosmopolitan city and the influx of tourism is helping it to grow incredibly fast. Reykjavík packs quite a punch with contemporary art, top class restaurants, colorful buildings, and a vibrant nightlife featuring funky clubs and unique music.
Most of the Icelandic population lives in Reykjavík and therefore it is the best place to explore the culture and get to know Icelanders.
Reykjavík is close to a number of top attractions such as the blue lagoon, making it the perfect place to explore Iceland. There are many travel companies in the city, hosting a plethora of activities. In the winter months it is possible to see the northern light within the city. The proximity to Atlantic Ocean also gives you the opportunity to go whale and dolphin watching!
Discover everything you need to know about the Icelandic capital with our Reykjavik Travel Guide!
Where to Stay
There are number of hostels available, though it should be mentioned that due to the massive number of tourists, these hostels are rather expensive and not always worth the money you pay. However, they are still cheaper than some other options. You should book in advance, because the hostels sell out quickly.
This hostel/hotel is clean, spacious, and strategically located near nice restaurants and bars. As with most hostels in Reykjavík, the price is steep. However, this seems to be the best option close to the center, because many other hostels in the area are even more pricy. One night in a 10 bed dorm costs $21 here, whereas a 4 bed dorm costs $31. A double room costs $100.
This is another decent option, although it’s quite far from the center of town. The hostel makes it up with comfortable, well-furnishes rooms and a great atmosphere. A night in an 8 bed dorm costs $29, whereas a 4 bed dorm costs $36.
Top Things to See in Reykjavík
Hallgrímskirkja. This is the iconic church of Iceland and the most prominent building in Reykjavík. It is often rated as one of the most unique and beautiful churches in the world and is a must visit when you travel to Reykjavik. You can get a good view of the city from the top for 1000 ISK.
Harpa. Harpa is truly dazzling, being the most modern building in Iceland. Made in 2011, Harpa is a concert hall and conference center that hosts many orchestras and festivals. Harpa has a café, restaurant, and a shop. You can even see a 15-minute, 360-degree movie about the natural wonders of Iceland.
National Museum of Iceland. This is the best place to learn about more than 1000 years of Icelandic history. The museum has many artifacts dating from the 9th century to the present day and has well written information. The entrance fee is 2000 ISK. The Settlement Museum is also quite nice and talks about the first Viking settlement in the city. Another museum that you could visit is the Saga Museum, which depicts all the hardships faced by the city since settlement, like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Visit Videy Island. Only a short boat ride away, Videy Island is a great outing from Reykjavík. The island has some nice hiking trails and some unique birds can be found here.
Downtown. The heartbeat of the city, here you will find everything from unique shops selling volcanic rock pottery to restaurants serving all kinds of cuisines. Be sure to check out the beautiful street art while walking. Also, visit 66 Degrees North if you are planning to go on an adventure in Iceland.
Places to See Around Reykjavík
Located just 30 miles outside the city, relaxing at the lagoon is a nice way to end the trip. The lagoon is about 39c year-round and the water contains rich nutrients like silica that help your skin. The lagoon has a restaurant, spa, massage facilities, and rooms as well. Located only 15 mins away from the airport, many people choose to go here before leaving Iceland.
It was named as one of top 25 wonders of the world as well as one of the top 10 spas! You must book your spot in advanced before you travel to Reykjavik. Along with your booking, you can also book for transfers that will pick you up from your hotel/location and can drop you back or to the airport if you are heading there.
Despite its popularity, I found the Blue Lagoon to be overrated and expensive. The lagoon is manmade and not natural, contrary to what many people think. There are many geothermal pools and natural springs around Iceland and some of them are 1/10th the price. The only positive about the lagoon was the electric blue color of the water which was surrounded by black lava field and grey moss – certainly a beautiful sight!
- Entry to the lagoon costs 35 euros and a larger package including a face mask, one free drink, a towel, and a robe costs 65 euros.
I have gone whale watching a few times around the world, but I have to say that none of those experiences come close to this. I was lucky enough to see all of the species, including mink whales, white-beaked Dolphins, harbor porpoises and the incredible humpback whales. The tour lasts about 3 hours and for the majority of the tour I saw whales or dolphins. Words cannot describe the experience of seeing them so close to you, especially the humpback whales. The tour starts from the downtown harbor in Reykjavík and most tours cost about 11000 ISK. I recommend going with Elding.
Golden Circle (Central Iceland)
A perfect daytrip to visit some of Iceland’s most stunning sites. The Golden Circle is a 300km journey that starts and ends at Reykjavík. The top sights of the golden circle are the following:
- Þingvellir National Park
- Fissures. The Eurasian and North American plates are slowly splitting apart, causing deep fissures in the ground. These fissures and the separated mass of land are a sight to behold.
- Parliament. Home to Iceland’s first democratic parliament, which was made in AD 970, making it one of the first parliaments in the world.
- Silfra. Silfra is a fissure that opened up after an earthquake in 1789 and has one of the most beautiful snorkeling and diving experiences. Silfra has glacial waters coming from the second largest glacier in Iceland. These waters are considered to be some of the clearest. Even though there are no fish, diving in Silfra is breath-taking simply because of the clarity. How cool is it to dive between two shifting continental plates?! One of the best companies providing this experience is Dive Silfra. The rate is very steep and will set you back 35000 ISK for diving and 22000 for snorkeling. You can check here for other information.
- Gulfoss Waterfall. Another impressive location in the golden circle that you must visit on you Reykjavik travel is the Gulfoss Waterfall. This stunning waterfall cascades down 20m into a deep gorge with amazing power. In the winter it is possible to see the entire waterfall freezing.
- Geysir Geothermal Area. Home to hot springs, mud pots, fumaroles, and two incredible geysers. Unfortunately, one of the geysers is now dormant. The second one is still active and erupts every 10 minutes, sometimes reaching an impressive height of 100ft. This sight is must see on your Reykjavik travel.
- Kerid Crater. Kerid crater is located close to the city and it’s a worthy stop. The dark green colour of the lake and the surrounding red mud gives the crater a beautiful look.
How to See the Golden Circle
There are only two ways to see the Golden Circle. Either you drive yourself or take a tour, since public transport will not go to all the sites. Driving is by far the better option. All the entrances are free and hence driving is much cheaper than taking a tour. Additionally, at some of the places you may want to spend more time or even take detours and visit some of the other sites, which is not possible with a tour.
The price of the complete tour starts at $55 and can go up to $100. I recommend going with Iceland on the Web. You can find more Information on Iceland’s Golden Circle.