Iceland for many is a bucket list location and you're not wrong to have it on there. Also known as the land of fire and ice, Iceland offers polar opposites which draw in a crowd year after year. With northern light hunting, volcano exploring, snowmobiling on glaciers and relaxing in thermal waters, it's a destination that offers you it all.
So if you're reading this you've finally bit the bullet (or your very close to and need that little bit of a push) and booked your dream trip to Iceland and now you're tasked with deciding what to do during your stay? Look no further, here I will lay out a day by day itinerary that you can adjust to suit your trip. Of course the seasons impact certain tours so make sure you go at the time that suits the activities you have in mind.
The day you arrive - Northern Lights Tour
13.00 - This is the best time to get your bearings and figure out the area around where you're staying. (A hotel recommendation if you're looking to stay in the centre would be Skuggi hotel, this is where I stayed and thought it was lovely and in such an ideal location that most places weren't hard to get to) At this point you're probably hungry so I'd suggest heading out to find something to eat so that you're ready for your first evenings activity.
21.00 - 00.00 - Northern Lights Tour
I'd highly recommend booking this for the evening you arrive as if you see them, tours often offer you a second attempt at no extra cost. This is one of the main things visitors come to Iceland to see so let me inform you on the best times to visit to see this phenomenon. Of course you will need to visit in the months with longer nights, this starts from September up until March.
During the summer, Iceland can experience daylight all day long (midnight sun) and this makes it very hard to see the northern lights so winter it is! If you're staying in Reykjavik you could be taken to Thingvellir National Park, which is about an hour drive from the city. However the location is often decided on the day for best results. If you're serious about capturing them bring a camera and tripod or a very good quality mobile phone as because its so dark, you'll need to use a long exposure to catch them on camera.
Day one - Golden Circle Tour, Reykjavik Exploration
10am - Golden Circle Tour -
This tour is roughly six hours, with a lunch included and takes you around the infamous golden circle, this route is comprised of three of iceland's most visited attractions. Of course, if you are renting a car you can still do this trip yourself and it will probably still take the same amount of time. The three stops are Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall and Geothermal Geysir area.
The Geothermal Geysir area is a hot spring sanctuary. It is home to the famous Geysir which in fact is the reason all other geysirs have been given this name. However this Geysir is currently inactive but the attraction is not let down by that as another Geysir by the name of Strokkur erupts every 5-10 minutes. It sends a column of boiling water into the air reaching up to 40 metres 131 feet.
Gullfoss Waterfall is separated into two tiers, the falls are a whopping 32 metres or 105 feet and this flows into river Hvítá.
Thingvellir National Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site) is set in a rift valley that is home to the Eurasian and north american tectonic plates, this is one of the few places in the world where you can walk between the continents . In the "warmer" months when the water isn't frozen over, you have the opportunity to snorkel or scuba dive between the two of them, in the spring water called Silfra and it is an experience that you can not have anywhere else.
16.00 - Once you're back in the city, head out for something to eat. If you're looking for a sweet treat there are plenty of ice cream parlours, there is a greek doughnut place called Lookoomas and a waffle restaurant with all you can eat waffles and yummy toppings called Saeta Husid.
17.00 - Head to Hallgrímskirkja, one of the tallest structures in Iceland. This church has the highest 360 viewing point of the city.
19.30 - Dinner (Option - Reykjavik Fish and chips)
Day two - Lava tunnel excursion, Food hall, Museums
10am - Another early start but this time for a lava tunnel excursion, this typically is a three hour tour including the journey to and from Reykjavik. A fun and unique experience exploring a tunnel created by volcanic eruption. It had a magical feel to the entrance due to it snowing.
14.00 - Lunch time (some recommendations are Mandi - middle eastern, Devitos Pizza, Grandi Matholl (food hall in the old harbour), Reykjavik Chips and Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur for the best hot dogs in Reykjavik)
15.30 - Explore Reykjavik, visit a couple museums (some options below)
Icelandic Phallological Museum
Reykjavik Maritime Museum
Whales of Iceland
Perlan Museum (Wonders of Iceland)
20.00 - Dinner (Option - Vietnamese restaurant -Pho)
Day three - Blue Lagoon, Fridheimar Greenhouse, Harpa Concert Hall, Shopping
11.00 - Spend some time soaking at Blue Lagoon, I'd recommend sunrise to midday for a reservation. There is also the option to add a lunch to your booking, if you want to make a full day of it. If you want to try a different lagoon there is Sky Lagoon, which I'd recommend in the evening, as it is only a few minutes drive from Reykjavik city centre.
14.30 - For lunch, if you have your own vehicle head out Fridheimar, this is a restaurant set in a tomato greenhouse, with the menu offering all things tomato. So if you love tomatoes this is for you. They have tomato soup, ravioli, tomato ice cream, tomato beer and more. Definitely book a table in advance to avoid disappointment.
16.30 - Do a spot of shopping for gifts on Laugavegur. There are various tourist shops as well as independent businesses offering all sorts of goods. Deffo worth a look even if you're not looking to bring anything back. Also gives you a brief break from the cold.
18.00 - Visit Harpa concert hall, there is free admission. You can have a guided tour around the concert hall and also stop for a meal at Hnoss, the restaurant located inside.
20.00 - Dinner (options - Hard Rock Cafe, Gaia)
Below are images from the meals I had whilst in Reykjavik. Restaurants are Reykjavik Fish and Chips, Devito's Pizza, Mandi, Pho Vietnamese, Lookoomas, Saetahusid and Pastagerðin.
If you visit in February (Winter light festival in the evening)
If you visit in June (Reykjavik arts festival)
If you visit in September (Reykjavik International film festival)
If you visit in November (Iceland Airwaves music festival)
List of alternate activities -
(to replace the already suggested or as additional activities if you have a longer stay)
South shore tour
Explore a Glacier and snowmobiling
Whale watching (summer months)
Black beach atv tour
List of alternate hotels -
(to replace the already suggested hotel)
Hotel Leifur Eiriksson
Hotel Reykjavik Centrum
Canopy by Hilton
ION City Hotel