Published: January, 2018
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Reykjavik, Iceland

All dinners in Iceland are $$$$ so you may as well go all out!
— Megan Hughs
  • More about your oliver guide:
  • Trip type: Adult, City, Mountains
  • Activity level: moderate
  • Ideal length of trip: If you're just doing Reykjavik, and the nearby surroundings, 5 days is plenty. If you're doing the ring road, shoot for two weeks. You want to take your time at each stop without feeling rushed.

to & from

  • Fly there then rent a car. Iceland was our only destination because we stayed for 2 weeks, but many people do the extended layover which is a great option if you only want to stay a couple days. Renting a car once you're there is a MUST. You don't want to be at the whim of obnoxious tour buses. (People drive on the right side of the road there so it's really easy).

Where to Stay

In Reykjavik and Akureyri there are a number of decent hotels (they’re building the first four star hotel in Reykjavik now). If you’re road tripping around the island like we did, I’d definitely recommend staying in an AirBNB. They’ll likely be nicer and more comfortable than the hotels in smaller towns (many of which have shared bathrooms – yikes!).

  • In Reykjavik, definitely recommend Hotel Odinsve. If you can score a room on the top floor, you'll have a balcony with an amazing view of the city. It's walking distance to everything and the staff is wonderful.
  • In Akureyri, stay at the Hotel Kea. It's definitely the nicest hotel in Akureyri - walking distance to everything and has a great hotel bar with a balcony right in the heart of the city.

Where to Eat and Drink

All dinners in Iceland are $$$$ so you may as well go all out!

  • Apotek (right downtown on the main strip in Reykjavik) Do the tasting menu to try a myriad of foods you've never tried before.
  • ROK (right across from the Hallgrimskirkja).  Order a bunch of small plates to share so you can try everything.
  • Definitely make time for brunch at Laundromat Cafe - there's a laundromat in the basement hence the name and both the atmosphere and the food are amazing.
  • For a truly cool and unforgettable lunch/experience drive about an hour outside the city to Fridheimar. It's a family-owned greenhouse that grows tomatoes year-round. They have a restaurant (reservation needed ahead of time) right in the middle of the greenhouse that serves everything tomato-based - pasta, pizza, soup... even ice cream! It sounds kitschy, but it's not - do it.
  • If you make it outside of Reykjavik, get Langoustine in Hofn. Langoustine = Icelandic lobster and it's their local specialty.
  • For a quick breakfast stop at Brauo & Co for the best cinnamon roll you've ever had.

What to Do

  • Drive the Golden Circle. It's a day trip (with stops, it takes about 6-7 hours) and you encounter Þingvellir National Park, Geysers At Haukadalur and the truly incredible Gulfoss waterfall.
  • Drive through Snaefellsjoekull National Park. It's another day trip you'll want plenty of time to stop, take pictures and hike. You'll be blown away by thousands of waterfalls, lava fields and terrifying cliffs covered in birds
  • In the city, do a "City Walk" tour. It's free with a recommended donation and all tours are conducted by charming and enthusiastic Icelandic history students.
  • Check out the Viking museum for a quick and interesting look at Iceland's settlers (very kid friendly).
  • Go whale watching - there are a ton of companies to go through in Reykjavik, but if you make it outside the city and are staying for a longer period of time, go whale watching in Akureyri - it' what they're known for.
  • Go to the Harpa Concert hall to take in the incredible architecture and views of the water. Stop at the cafe for a drink.
  • (Ring Road)Past Blonduos, drive to Glaumbaer for the very cool 18th century turf-farm museum.
  • Past Akureyri, drive to Godafoss waterfall then to Myvatn for the incredible hot springs and geothermal landscape, making sure to stop at Dettifoss waterfall on the way out
  • On your way to Hofn, make a detour to Seydisfjordur, an adorable coastal town with multicolored wooden houses and hiking trails.
  • After Jokulsarlon, stop by Skaftafell/Vatnajokull National Park for incredible hiking
  • Once you make it to Vik, stop by Reynisdrangur Beach to walk along the gorgeous black sands - there's also potential for puffin-watching along the nearby cliffs
  • Leaving Hofn and heading to Vik, stop by Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon - there is walking trail on the western part of the lake with parking that is less touristy than the other side.

inside scoop

  • Food in Iceland is incredibly expensive. Save your dollars for breakfast and dinner and head to local groceries to pack your own lunch/snacks. My husband and I stopped for lunch early on our road trip and ended up paying $70 for two frozen chicken sandwiches (the kind you had in your school lunches growing up).

skip it

  • The Solheimasandur airplane crash! It's a 1.5 mile freezing, windy walk to the crash and once you're there it's swarmed with people trying to take pictures. All of the mystery is gone with the days when the plane sat on it's own. The real cruelty is in the 1.5 mile walk back (it feels like 5 miles in the freezing wind!).


See Emily West’s Oliver Guide to Iceland here.

Reykjavik, Iceland - Suggestions from the Oliver Community

  • Amy Lowery Says

    Get there on Wow Airlines – direct from SFO and 10 other major cities in the US. We upgraded to a “Big Seat” and it was well worth it. The base fare is very inexpensive. You pay for everything on the flight including water, and definitely bring your own food. The experience was great.

    Stayed in Reykjavik at Eleven Experience Purple House. One of two properties they have available to rent. Gorgeous, cozy 4 bedroom house 10 mins walking to downtown Reykjavik. We spent 2 days and one night in Reykjavik and walked the whole city.

    Visit the Blue Lagoon outside of Reykjavik. It is touristy (you will see billboards advertising the gorgeous blue water in the airport) and very popular, but definitely worth it! Bring your bathing suit and plan to spend 1-2 hours in the natural hot springs pool naturally formed in volcanic rock. A Silica mask and one drink is included in the admission.

    Have drinks at Kaldi bar before or after dinner. Great decor and locally brewed beer. Ask about the beer spa while you are there!

    We had lunch at Nudluskalin – delicious fresh noodle shop.

    Brunch or afternoon beer at Rok – very cool black farmhouse with grass thatch roof.

    Dinners are expensive (it is an island)! Mainly 3-6 course meals. I would recommend Kopar, fantastic food with an emphasis on local produce. It is on the harbor with great views.

    Shop at Geysir boutique, great women’s clothing

    Visit Hallgrimskirkja Church and take elevator to the top for a birds-eye view of Reykjavik, the surrounding water and snow-capped mountains.

    We flew to north Akureyri out of local regional airport that is 5 minutes from downtown. It is an easy 50 min flight on Iceland Connect. You can also drive there in 4-5 hours and get a great feeling for the landscape.

    For a truly unforgettable experience and a splurge, visit Deplar Farm – a boutique lodge owned by Eleven Experience. It is a 2 hour drive from Akureyri, through 3 mountains via 1 way tunnels where you end up in a gorgeous remote valley at the end of a fjord. We went for heli-skiing that was absolutely incredible. The skiing season is March – May. Other activities include fishing, hiking, whale-watching, mountain biking, cross country skiing, hot springs tours and of course getting a glimpse of the Northern lights (winter months).

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Published: May, 2018
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Reykjavik (and surrounding area), Iceland

An incredible family adventure. There is no other place like it on Earth. A must see!
— Emily West
  • More about your oliver guide:
  • Trip type: Family, City, Mountains
  • Activity level: moderate
  • Ideal length of trip: 5 days

to & from

From the East coast, take the red eye – and don’t plan anything for the day you get there so you can rest, recoup and get on local time (5 hours ahead). Icelandair has direct and easy flights from EWR and JFK.

Where to Stay

We stayed in a regular hotel about 10 mins from downtown. While there was more room there, I suggest staying right in Old Town – this hotel is great: Radisson Blu 1919 Hotel Reykjavik 
Many people who we ran in to stayed in apartments and AirBnBs so I think that is a great way to go as well.

Where to Eat and Drink

If you want to be adventurous, there is food for you in Iceland. Anything from whale to shark and all the stuff in between. Just be aware that food is super expensive in Iceland. We ended up going to the supermarket to buy lunch (cheese, pepperoni, crackers) for a few days and that was a great option. Unless your kids are super foodie adventurers, you will probably stick to the more “American” restaurants in town – there are many. Do not expect service like NYC – they take their time. And that is ok – because you are on vacation!

What to Do

There is SO much to do in Iceland and no way to do it in 5 days – but you can certainly hit the highlights. If you can go for longer, rent a car and drive the Ring Road that goes all the way around the island (only in the summer).

Þingvellir National Park (pronounced THINK-valleer)
That is where the two tectonic plates come together – the North American and Eurasian plates – and is only the second place in the world where it is above land. Pretty cool.

The Golden Circle Tour covers the park, Gulfoss (waterfall), Guysir (original geyser) and a few other things. It is a day long and a good way to see a lot in a short time.

The boys LOVED riding the Icelandic Horses. I planned that on a whim the day we got there and it was one of the best things we did. We rode them here: Laxnes Horse Farm. They were awesome – family owned – and they pick you right up at your hotel. A bunch of their horses are extras in GoT and Lord of the Rings (geek-out alert).

The Blue Lagoon is a must – super touristy for good reason. It is an experience for sure. Just buy your tickets now as it will be PACKED. And even if you have an advance ticket, you still have to wait in line. You have to book a car/shuttle to take you to and from. That doesn’t include the ticket into the Lagoon so make sure you have both. Don’t forget to condition your hair before you get in (they tell you that and provide conditioner) – and try not to put your head under the water.

We went through this company for most of the tours: Get Your Guide. They were great.

There is also an amazing crepe shop right off of the main shopping street – Laugavegur – its called Eldur og Ís – Ice cream and crepes. You will all love it. Always packed.

  • Totally different country in winter (Northern Lights if you're lucky!) and Summer (24 hours of daylight).

inside scoop

There is a saying in Iceland: “There is no bad weather, just bad gear”. It is a pretty cold country – even in the summer (doesn’t get much above 60 degrees F) but the temperature is not the issue – it is all about the WIND. Iceland is the third windiest place in the world and will shift the temps like that. We had a blizzard and a crystal clear sunny 40 degree day all within the 5 days we were there. Be prepared. Bring all your gear – you will wear it all. Wool for base layers. You MUST have a warm, waterproof jacket. I swear by this one and it was perfect for this trip.

We wore ski pants and long underwear every day – we were there in April – but it can still get cold no matter what time of year it is. Don’t skimp on gear. Wear it all and you will be happy. You can always shed layers! This is especially important for the kids.

The Icelandic people are super nice – even the cabbies – maybe the most friendly.

The country itself is astronomically expensive. The food and taxis especially so just be prepared.


See Megan Hughs’ Oliver Guide to Iceland here.

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