Iceland is a country that will take your breath away. Quaint cities, extraordinary landscapes, and natural landscapes will have you enthralled. If you are into adventure travel – soft or more extreme – then this country has to be near the top of your travel wish list.
While I’d recommend taking a multi-week Iceland road trip, not everyone has the time to do it. So, if you prefer to rest your head in the same hotel every night, or only visiting the country for a short stopover, then consider taking one of these incredible day trips.
6 Unforgettable Day Trips from Reykjavik
Going Inside a Volcano
Volcanoes are usually feared, but there is one place where you can climb into the belly of the beast. That place is Iceland.
Thrihnukagigur volcano is a dormant volcano that last erupted over 4,000 years ago. During the summer season, you can descend 120 metres into its magma chamber. See the mineralised colours from metals in the rock that streak the walls, learn about the geography of the volcano, and discover why Thrihnukagigur is believed to be the only volcano you can safely descend into.
While on the hike you’ll walk through magma fields, enjoy a hearty Icelandic stew for lunch, and maybe see some of the local wildlife, including one Arctic Fox that seems to enjoy the extra attention the Inside the Volcano folks give him.
It was, by far, the best tour I took in Iceland but is not for the faint of heart as it does require hiking (unless you prefer to get a helicopter ride out to base camp!) That being said, bookings need to be made in advance as there is only a short window each year (during summer) when tours are run and places are limited.
Exploring the Golden Circle
If you’ve done any research on Iceland, I’m sure you will have encountered tours for the Golden Circle – the ultimate day trip from Reykjavik.
The Golden Circle is a circular touring route that allows visitors to see some of Iceland’s most stunning sights. Starting with the Geysir geothermal area, home to the Strokkur geyser that shoots water up to 30 metres into the air every 4-8 minutes. The road continues to Gullfoss (Golden Falls) waterfall, a dramatic three-step “staircase” that falls 32m (105 feet).
The journey culminates at World Heritage listed Þingvellir (Thingvellir), a historical, cultural, and geologically significant area in Iceland due to it being the site of the Alþingi, the Icelandic Parliament, from 930 til 1798.
A tour of the Golden Circle is perfect for those who only have a short stopover planned, or those wanting to get a taste of Iceland’s incredible landscapes, history, and culture.
Horse riding through Magma Fields
Did you know Iceland has their own breed of horse? While small in size, these friendly horses are strong and hardy. A great way to meet these horses while also experiencing the gorgeous Icelandic countryside. Cross lava fields and mountainous hillside, see art hidden amongst the lava coated rocks, and maybe even a hideaway amongst the fields.
While you’re riding, be sure to experience their fifth gait, the tölt, something unique to the Icelandic horses.
Venture into the Ice Caves
Located at the foot of Vatnajökull glacier, the biggest glacier outside of the polar regions, Skaftafell is the gateway to the largest national park in Europe, Vatnajökull National Park.
One must do experience is exploring the Skaftafell ice caves. Ice caves are usually formed at the edge of glaciers and formed from hundreds of years of snow compressing together. As such, the structures can be delicate and it’s advised to go only during the winter season (August – May) when the glacial river retract and the waters freeze. If you make the trek the view inside the cave is incredible, with the cave tinged blue as the light passes through the glacier ice.
For the adventurous, there’s glacier hiking, ice climbing, and boat trips among the icebergs, all located in Skaftafell!
Ice Cold Snorkelling
Float between two continental plates in the incredible underwater world of Silfra. As you snorkel through the fissure, located in Thingvellir National Park, you’ll be in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, swimming between the two tectonic plates for Eurasia and North America.The most amazing part of the snorkel tour is just how clear the water is, with visibility of over 100 metres due to the melting of
The most amazing part of the snorkel tour is just how clear the water is, with visibility of over 100 metres due to the melting of Lángjökull Glacier. That being said, the water is extremely cold, averaging at just 2 degrees Celsius, or just above freezing. You’ll be well insulated as you will be provided with a teddy bear suit (to keep you warm), a wetsuit with rubber seals around the neck and wrists, neoprene hood and gloves, and goggles.
For the more experienced, there’s also the opportunity to scuba dive between the tectonic plates as well.
Relax in the Natural Hot Springs
One of the most famous sights of Iceland has to be the milky waters of the Blue Lagoon. While every bit as relaxing as people calm, and a great spot to visit en route to the airport, it’s also one of the most crowded, and also most expensive, hot springs in Iceland.
Located in the southern Iceland city of Laugarvatn, just an hour from Reykjavik, Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal baths offers a more authentic traditional Icelandic bathing experience. With four baths of varying sizes, depths, and temperature, as well as several steam rooms and Laugarvatn Lake, it’s the perfect stop while touring the Golden Circle.
While it’s not free to enter like some hot springs, the fee is well worth it! Combine in a package with a geothermal bakery tour, a Northern Light experience, or another exclusive package, it’s the perfect way to end a day of sightseeing in Iceland.
Let me know in the comments
Which day trip from Reykjavik would you choose?
Have you been to Iceland? What day trips would you add to this list?
How to get to Iceland: Iceland’s main international airport is Keflavik Airport, located just outside of the countries capital, Reykjavik.
The airport has a variety of international destinations in North America, Europe, Scandinavia, and domestically to Akureyri. There are 26 airlines that fly to Iceland, among the most reputable are Air Canada, British Airways, Delta, Lufthansa, easyJet, Finnair, Icelandair, Norwegian, SAS and WOWair.
I flew on two different airlines when travelling to Iceland: the national full-service carrier Icelandair and new budget airline WOWair. Both offered very different service styles, and I would highly recommend both.
Getting to/from Keflavik Airport:
Keflavik Airport is a 40-minute drive from downtown Reykjavik.
I found taxies to be really expensive when travelling to/from the airport, so I highly recommend booking a shuttle transfer. I used the Flybus which can either arrange to pick you up from the downtown bus terminal or a hotel transfer for around $41. Buses leave every 30minutes and there’s free WiFi onboard!
Where to stay in Reykjavik:
In Reykjavik, I highly recommend staying at Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina. A boutique, design-focused hotel along the waterfront, it’s a short distance (10-minute walk) to the city centre. Rooms are on the smaller size but very comfortable and have a nautical theme, fitting perfectly with the surrounding water and shipyards!
For those who prefer a city centre location, the Radisson Blu 1919 is a stunning luxury hotel. A short walk from Harpa and opposite the famous (?) hot dog stall, the hotel is a short walk from the cities most famous sites, awarded restaurants, and most tours meeting points.
If you are looking for a budget option, I’ve been told by a number of friends that KEX Hostel is a fun, luxury hostel that is very comfortable and affordable.