Guest post by jwhite
Map tips: each color represents a different day. Click a marker to learn more about the spot, and click the star in the map header to save the entire map under Your Places in Google Maps.
Day 1: Reykjavik
Started out with the Reykjavik “Free” Classic City Tour – well worth it. Our tour was hosted by a PhD student from Iceland who studied history. He was wonderful. The tour is free, but you should tip-if you have a small group, you can pay a bit to have a private tour (on the website)
This gave us a good overview of the city and helped us to understand the Icelandic culture. I found it fascinating and loved getting a native’s perspective. We learned so much about the country that we would have missed if not for the tour. You can book your tour in advance here: https://citywalk.is/
After the tour, we paid (tickets sold in shop) to go to the top of the iconic church, Hallgrimskirkja. This offered amazing views of the city and surrounding areas. You take an elevator up and can choose to look out or climb 2 more flights of stairs for more views. No one checked tickets so we went back up a few hours later at sunset for more pictures– also walk into the church to see the simple deco interior. The organ is spectacular, but no one was playing when we were there- I believe you can check ahead to see when someone is- this might be worth it.
Day 2: Golden Circle Tour
- Thingvellir National Park
- Kerid Crater
This day was incredible! It’s such an easy drive and as you make the loop, the attractions are well-marked and easy to see. We visited, all of which were well-worth seeing. We randomly stopped to see Icelandic horses along the way. Kerid Crater was the only natural area we paid to see. I think it cost $15, but was well worth it.
Day 3: Southern Coast Tour
- Reynisfjara Beach
Another amazing day driving the southern coast. Everywhere you look along the drive, there was beauty, and we saw rainbows at every turn! We had to be super careful to not be dangerous drivers, but we were pulling over for pictures frequently. Glaciers, waterfalls, cliffs, volcanoes – this day had it all.
We weren’t planning on stopping at Dyrholaey, but saw a steep (so steep) gravel road to the top of a cliff and thought there were probably great views. We white-knuckled it to the top and were rewarded with amazing views of the beaches and surrounding land.
Day 4: Reykjavik
- Lebowski Bar
- Hið íslenzka reðasafn
- Sun Voyager
- Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre
- Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat
- Ölgerðin Brewery
Spent the day in the city seeing sites and shopping on Laugavegur Street. Stopped at the Lebowski Bar for a fun white Russians (touristy and expensive, but fun if you’re a fan of the movie).
The Phallological Museum is not for the faint of heart, and very small, but definitely fun if you’re with friends and have a sense of humor about the human/animal body.
The Harpa Opera House: – free to enter and absolutely gorgeous views of the architecture and city
– ride elevator to floor 5, then walk down the stairs.
- Blue Lagoon
- Seltún Geothermal Area
Had to head back to the airport and made a few stops on the way.
Blue Lagoon – touristy, but beautiful. definitely worth seeing. We didn’t pay to go in (it’s nearly $100!), but walked through the lodge and café area to get nice views. Had a bit of regret about not going in because it was just such a cool location and experience. The geothermal area STINKS, but is beautiful and fascinating.
We flew WOW airlines from Cleveland- excellent flight. I was told this airline was “no frills”, but it was a very pleasant experience. You pay extra for everything, so we carried on our bags (paid for one extra carry-on) and didn’t have any issues with size or not having bin space. You pay for drinks/snacks, but the seats are comfortable, the plane clean, and the flight attendants were super professional and attentive (and their uniforms were awesome, too!). The flight was overnight and so much shorter than I’d have expected at 5 hours.
Budget Rental Car from the airport was fine and reasonably-priced. They REALLY push the insurance to be ready to say “no” and be firm. The lines were very long so don’t make any plans too soon after landing.
We stayed in a beautiful Airbnb (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/10653356?guests=1&adults=1) or search “Downtown Reykjavik, Parking, Garden, Private” on Airbnb). The apartment was entirely ours and had a parking space, which was wonderful– it comfortably housed the 4 of us, but says it can house up to 6 (if 2 people don’t mind a sofa bed). It was located a block off the main drag Laugavegur– we paid around $200 a night, and split 4 ways, it was extremely affordable.
Best food we had in Reykjavik (we’re vegetarian):
Food is expensive and it can be a challenge when driving to find restaurants. On the road, we ate at a few gas stations- they have nice cafes! and packed snacks to tide us over until we were back in Reykjavik.
– hot cinnamon buns and other pastries at Braud and Co. (we went here every morning)
– soup in bread bowls at Svarta Kaffid
– Belgian fries at Reykjavik Chips
– vegan food at Kaffe Vinyl
– pizza at Hverfisgata 12
In Vik and on the road, we ate at various places, none worth noting
Rick Steves has an Iceland book that was spot-on. I wrote up the itineraries on my own, but his were even better. We tried many of the restaurants he recommended and weren’t disappointed.
Everything is expensive! be prepared for this- stock up on groceries, snacks, etc and don’t plan on doing a ton of shopping
We stayed in Reykjavik, which seemed like the best option, but if I had to do it over, I’d stay at spots along the way to cut down on driving. We would have seen more if we stayed at places along the way. Since we had to drive back each night, we didn’t go out as far as we could have.
Renting a car is really the way to go
We got the international plan on our phones and our maps worked really well
For next trip:
Visit the Pearl, which is a glass-domed restaurant that is free to enter and has great city views
We just missed the puffins- who leave in August. This was disappointing. Next time, I would take a trip to Auckley, Lundey near Reykjavik, or Vestmannaeyjabaer Island on the south-western coast to see them).
Northern lights weren’t visible during our trip as we were at the very beginning of the season. They really start to come out in October-November and through the winter months.
Our weather was great- mostly 40s-50s and sunny, but our last day got very cold and was super windy. I think we just missed the incoming winter weather.
Traveled in September 2018