Published: January, 2018

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!).

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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