Itinerary For First Time Visitors & Those Staying In Reykjavík
Planning a weekend in Iceland? This 2 day itinerary is perfect for first time visitors to Iceland and for those staying in Reykjavík. In this itinerary, we're going to explore the city of Reykjavík, relax in the milky blue waters of the Blue Lagoon and admire the natural beauty of Iceland on the Golden Circle.
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Grab Breakfast At Sandholt
We're going to start our 2 days in Iceland by exploring Reykjavík. Begin by heading to Sandholt and grabbing some delicious pastries and a cup of coffee for breakfast. Sandholt is popular with both locals and tourists, so expect a queue in the mornings.
Location: Laugavegur 36, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Admire Two Of Reykjavík's Cultural Highlights
After enjoying breakfast, take a 15 minute stroll to the old harbour and admire two of Reykjavik's cultural highlights: Sun Voyager and Harpa Concert Hall.
Sun Voyager is a notable steel sculpture that was unveiled on the city's anniversary in August 1990. The sculpture was designed by Jon Gunnar Arnason and is his interpretation of a dreamboat, an ode to the sun. It's prominent position along the water's edge makes this a popular spot, attracting crowds throughout the day.
Location: Sæbraut, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
How To Get Here: A 15 minute walk from Sandholt
A stones throw away from Sun Voyager is the award-winning Harpa Concert Hall. This unique building is the cultural centre of Reykjavík, hosting concerts, exhibitions and events throughout the year. Even if you don't manage to catch a show whilst in the city, Harpa is worth a visit to admire it's impressive glass panelled façade up close.
Location: Austurbakki 2, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
How To Get Here: A short walk from Sun Voyager
Take In The Views From Hallgrímskirkja
Let's continue our tour of Reykjavík's architectural highlights with a trip to Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran church designed by architect Guðjón Samúelsson. Samúelsson is said to have drawn his inspiration from the natural beauty of Iceland, which shows in this building's unique design. Construction was completed in 1986 and since then it has become a central place of worship and popular spot for tourists to visit.
You can admire this impressive religious building from the outside, or for a small fee (about £7) you can climb it's tower for a fantastic view over the colourful houses of Reykjavík.
Location: Bergþórugata 10 101, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
How To Get Here: A 15 minute walk from Harpa
Explore The Colourful Streets Of Reykjavík & Have Some Lunch
Take some time to explore this fascinating city. Spend some time wandering around Reykjavík's colourful streets, admiring the street art and picking up some souvenirs as you go.
After a morning of sight seeing, it's time for some lunch. There's so much incredible food here in Reykjavík that we couldn't recommend just one spot. These picks are very popular with tourists and locals, so be prepared to queue - but the wait will certainly be worth it!
• If you're looking to try some traditional Icelandic food, we recommend Cafe Loki. Rye bread, herring, fermented shark and skyr are all on the menu here, as well as Loki's famous rye bread ice cream. (Location: Lokastígur 28, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland )
• Try a bowl of the delicious lobster soup and a tasty fish skewer at the quirky Seabaron. If it's a nice day when you visit, why not take your soup and skewer to go and enjoy it in the harbour? (Location: Geirsgata 4a, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland)
• Fish and Chips Vagninn offers the British classic but with fresh Icelandic fish - a match made in heaven. Make sure to try the dips that accompany this delicious fish. This location is only open at certain times of the year, so be sure to check their website for opening times. (Location: Hlésgata, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland)
• If you're not a fan of seafood, grab yourself a hot dog from the famous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, popular with locals since it's opening in 1937! Make sure to try all the toppings and sauces for the full experience. (Location: Tryggvagata 1, 101 Reykjavík.)
Relax At The Blue Lagoon
After filling up on some delicious food, take a drive out of the city to the world-famous Blue Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon is an outdoor, geothermal spa, located about 50km out of Reykjavík. It's warm waters are rich in silica and sulphur, leaving the skin soft and feeling hydrated.
Spend as long as you like here, relax in the milky blue waters, apply a silica face mask and grab a drink from the swim up bar. This really is the perfect way to spend a relaxing afternoon. If you'd like an extra special treat, book an in-water massage or treatment.
(You've likely read that you'll be forced to shower naked in public. This nearly deterred us from visiting, but this wasn't our experience. There are attendants making sure guests shower before they enter the water, but there are shower cubicles for privacy)
TIP: The Blue Lagoon is very popular and booking in advance is essential to guarantee entry. Book your tickets via the official website.
Location: Norðurljósavegur 9, 240 Grindavík, Iceland
How To Get Here: A 50km drive outside of Reykjavík.
Enjoy An Evening Meal At One Of The Blue Lagoon's Restaurants
After a wonderfully relaxing afternoon, enjoy a gourmet meal at one of Blue Lagoon's restaurants. LAVA restaurant is a popular choice for most visitors, serving beautifully presented, traditional Icelandic dishes with beautiful views over the lagoon. If you have a bigger budget, try the multi-course set menu at the Michelin recommended, Moss restaurant.
Today, we're going explore some of Iceland's natural beauty spots, visiting the Golden Circle and Kerið.
The sites on the Golden Circle route are spaced out, so be prepared for a lot of driving today. This is something we didn't realise until we started planning our first trip to Iceland. (Find out what else we learnt, make sure to read our post 16 Things To Know Before Your Next Trip To Iceland here.) As the golden circle route is about an hour's drive out of Reykjavík, we recommend setting off as early as possible and make the most of your last day.
We personally prefer to hire a car and drive ourselves, but if you want someone to do the driving for you, there are plenty of tour groups to choose from. When deciding which tour group to book, always read the latest reviews and make sure these popular spots are on the tour itinerary.
Walk In The Steps Of Vikings At Thingvellir National Park
After grabbing another delicious breakfast from Sandholt, drive out of the city to Thingvellir.
Thingvellir is a National Park rich in history and stunning natural beauty, making it one of the most visited locations in Iceland. It sits between two tectonic plates which continue to pull away from each other, creating a unique landscape of cracks and ravines. Thingvellir was the site of the Icelandic parliament from the 10th century to the late 18th century and was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.
There are plenty of places to park in Thingvellir, but for this itinerary we're going to park at the car park P3 (shown below) After parking the car, follow the sign-posted path and take the 15 minute walk to Öxarárfoss.
Öxarárfoss is one of the smaller waterfalls in Iceland, standing at about 20m high. However, this waterfall is one of the most beautiful to watch, the water cascading down the rocks into the stream below.
The walk to Öxarárfoss from car park P3 takes you down through impressive canyons. TV fans will recognise these canyons from Game of Thrones. Make sure to stop and read the information boards as you make your way to Öxarárfoss and learn about this areas dark history.
Location: "Öxarárfoss P3 Parking Trailhead" on Google Maps (on an unnamed road, see below for exact location)
How To Get Here: 50 minute drive from Reykjavík
Take A Swim Between 2 Continents
The Silfra fissure stands out from the other fissures and ravines in Thingvellir as it's filled with crystal clear water. The fresh water comes from a glacier and is filtered underground as it makes it's way to Silfra. Diving (or snorkelling) between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates is a truly unique experience and should be booked in advance as it is a popular activity on many people's bucket lists.
Location: "Þingvellir Parking P5" on Google Maps (on an unnamed road, see below for exact location)
How To Get Here: 7 minute drive from P3 car park to P5
Stop For Lunch At A Tomato Farm
After exploring Thingvellir, drive out of the national park and make your way over to Friðheimar for lunch. Friðheimar is a tomato farm which serves tomato based dishes in the greenhouse itself. Choose from dishes such as their popular tomato soup, green tomato and apple pie and even tomato beer! Booking is recommended here as it's a popular spot for lunch.
Location: Friðheimar, Reykholt, Iceland
How To Get Here: 50 minute drive from Thingvellir
Watch Iceland's Most Active Geyser Erupt
After lunch, take a 20 minute drive to the Geysir geothermal area and visit the powerful Strokkur Geyser. Watching a geyser erupt is a unique sight. Strokkur is the most active geyser in Iceland, erupting approximately every 4-10 minutes and is a popular stop on the Golden Circle route. Surrounded by bubbling mud pits and hot springs, visiting Strokkur is otherworldly and something not to be missed.
Location: Haukadalur, 35, Iceland
How To Get Here: 20 minute drive from Friðheimar
Visit The Beautiful Golden Falls
Whilst you'll have to share Gullfoss, also known as Golden Falls, with plenty of other tourists, it's definitely worth it. Gullfoss is separated into two levels, the second being a powerful drop into a deep gorge, making this one of the most dramatic waterfalls in Iceland. There are a number of different viewing areas, some up high and when the paths aren't slippy, there is a walkway down to get a closer look.
Location: Gullfoss, 35, Iceland
How To Get Here: 10 minute drive from Strokkur
Step Inside A Colourful Volcanic Crater
On the journey back to Reykjavik, make sure to stop at Kerið, a beautiful volcanic crater lake. Despite it's close proximity to the other sites along the Golden Circle route, Kerið is often overlooked by travellers. That may be due to having to pay a 400 ISK (approx £2.50) entry fee. Even though Iceland is full of free to visit locations, we would say it's worth paying the small entry fee to have the chance of experiencing a bit of natural beauty with very few tourists.
The crater's stunning red sides slope down to it's milky aquamarine waters, making this a visually striking sight. You can walk around the top of the crater, or take the steps down to the lake for a better view. It's a fantastic place to end your day of sight-seeing in Iceland.
Location: Kerið, Klausturholar, Iceland
How To Get Here: 50 minute drive from Gullfoss
Grab A Casual Dinner In Reykjavik
After a busy 2 days of sight-seeing you might not be up for a big evening out.
If you didn't try Fish and Chips Vagninn for lunch, we recommend grabbing some fish & chips from here (or a hotdog from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur) finding a place to sit along the harbour and enjoying your casual dinner with a beautiful view!
We hope you enjoy reading our 2 day itinerary for Iceland. We will be putting some more Iceland itineraries together soon and sharing them with you. In the meantime, why not check out some of our other Iceland planning posts:
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