What does come to your mind when you think of Iceland? Let me guess… geysirs, waterfalls, volcanos? Yes, it’s true. However, this frosty country with total population compared to cities like Cleveland, Belfast, Canberra or Florence offers much more than natural wonders. You will experience an unique atmosphere there, which you won’t find anywhere else. See our What To Do In Iceland – Travel Guide and visit this as wonderful as expensive country.
How To Get In Iceland
The cheapest flights to Iceland from Europe you can find from Poland (Gdansk, Warsaw, Katowice, Wroclaw), Hungary (Budapest), Lithuania (Vilnius), Latvia (Riga) and Czech Republic (Prague) all operated by Wizz Air. A bit more expensive, but still good deals can be found with Norwegian (from Spain, Norway) or Easy Jet (from UK). US travelers can also consider Icelandic budget airline WOW air, which connects Iceland with many American cities.
Don’t confuse Keflavik airport (KEF) with Reykjavik airport (RKV). Keflavik airport is the main airport in Iceland, operating international flights and is located 50 km out of the capital. Reykjavik airport is this one, which serves only domestic flights and routes to Greenland or Faroe Islands. RKV is located in the area of the capital.
Gdansk – Keflavik – Gdansk (Wizz Air, $57 RT)
FROM AIRPORT TO THE CITY
Keflavik airport – Reykjavik BSI Bus terminal – Keflavik airport (Flybus of Reykjavik Excursions company, costs 2500 ISK OW (approx. $23) or 4000 ISK RT (approx. $36), departures of buses are related with each flight, takes 45 minutes)
The alternative route for those who want to smoothly visit Blue Lagoon and have late afternoon/evening way back flight. (We picked this one and recommend):
Keflavik airport – Reykjavik BSI Bus terminal – Blue Lagoon – Keflavik airport (Reykjavik Excursion bus company, first part of the route costs 2500 ISK (approx. $23), second and third part can be bought together as a specific return ticket for 4200 ISK (approx. $38). In total: 6700 ISK (approx. $61).
If your flight is delayed, a Flybus of Reykjavik Excursion company will wait for you. If you pay a bit more for a ticket (3000 ISK/OW, 5500 ISK/RT), you will get off in front of your hotel.
An alternative company for bus transfers is Grey Line with similar prices to these in Reykjavik Excursions. They have their pick-up point in different place in the capital city than their main competitor.
There is also a cheaper option to get to Reykjavik from Keflavik airport (public bus no. 55), but it can be more difficult to use by foreigners and the ride takes much longer (80-90 minutes).
How To Get Around Iceland
In Reykjavik the best is solution is walking. Reykjavik despite being the capital of the country, is basically just a town with only 120 thousands dwellers. All interesting places of Reykjavik are in walk-able distance and can be seen in one day. Buses are not cheap – 420 ISK (approx. $4) / single ride or 1500 ISK (approx. $13.50)/ 1 day card, so maybe let’s not talk about taxis…
If you want to go outside of Reykjavik to see the famous Icelandic nature, you have 3 options to choose:
a) renting a car:
+ possibility to see Iceland more detailedly
+ traveling in your own pace
+ great option to share costs between passengers
– some parts of the country are destined for more experienced drivers
– slippy tarmac in winters
– only for credit card holders
b) attending in a organized group excursion:
+ you don’t have to care about lots of staff (e.g. petrol, weather condition, organizing routes)
+ suitable for short-time visitors
+ local guide
– generally pricy
– definitely too short time scheduled for each attraction
– you need to adjust to strict itinerary of your trip
c) using public buses or private transfers (not recommended option):
+ more freedom for a traveler
+ easy way to cover long distances
– still very pricey, bad value for money
– few departures a day (or even only one)
– you don’t arrive directly where the attractions are, so then you need to arrange another transport to reach them
What To Do In Iceland
Entrance to all natural wonders in Iceland is free of charge. The only exception from this rule is a fee of 400 ISK (approx. $4) to enter Kerid Volcano Crater for individual tourists. For a tour participants the fee is generally included in a price of the tour.
A route which involves all three places described below (Geysir, Gullfoss and Thingvellir) is called Golden Circle and as a tour is the most popular among tourists visiting Iceland. Sometimes it’s combined with sightseeing Kerið Volcanic Crater and Faxi Waterfall. The price of similar tour may vary between companies from 9000 ISK to 10500 ISK (approx. $81-$95).
GEYSIR HOT SPRINGS
Geothermal area where you can see two main geysers and lots of smaller hot springs. First of these two is The Great Geysir. This is the old one, which was great in the past, but now is ”retired”. For many centuries it used to jet its superheat water to 80 meters. Now it shoots rarely and it’s not so spectacular anymore. Second geyser is called Strokkur. It’s an active one, which shoots every 4-8 minutes to a height of 15-20 meters, but if you’re lucky you can see a jet even to 30 meters! We managed to shot it while erupting. CHECK OUT OUR VIDEO BELOW!
It’s a wide, 2-cascade waterfall on the Hvita river and one of the most visited place in Iceland. You can see it from a path just next to waterfalls or from above with a panoramic view of the whole river.
ÞINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK
This place is the boundary between 2 tectonic plates (North American and Eurasian), which meet right there. The best thing what you can experience in Thingvellir is a walk between two continents through the huge crack called Almannagja. There’s also a historical issue related with this park – one of the world’s oldest parliament (called Althing) was established there. It was in 930! What’s more, Althing works to this day. However, it not in Thingvellir anymore, but was moved to Reykjavik.
KERIÐ VOLCANIC CRATER
It’s a huge volcanic lake in the crater of the extinct volcano Grimsnes. It’s a colorful place in summer, but when we visited it in winter, everything was covered by the snow and the lake was frozen. The view of the crater was impressive and this white color around made that moment magical and unforgettable.
Small falls on the Golden Circle route. Nice place to stop for a while between more famous spots.
It’s a geothermal spa where you can take a bath in milky-blue, hot water of the swimming area surrounded by black volcanic rocks. The color of the water is unbelievable and the temperature of the lagoon is set to extreme 37-39 ºC. Also the water in Blue Lagoon is rich in many minerals and it’s known that can make positive effects on your skin. The cheapest entry goes for €50 (approx. $53) in summer and for €40 (approx. $43) in off-season. This ticket includes only the entrance so don’t forget to take your own towel and slippers. Another attraction of the Blue Lagoon is a possibility of applying a white silica mud mask on your face. It’s available for free and you need to ”fish it out” with a spoon from a bucket situated on the edge of the pool.
Tip: A good idea to involve Blue Lagoon in your trip schedule is to plan visiting it on the last day, if you have a late afternoon/ evening way back flight or on the first day if you arrive in Iceland in the morning. Blue Lagoon is located between the Keflavik airport and Reykjavik, so naturally it’s smart to go there on the way and not to waste another day for it.
Also there’s a popular route, which includes attractions of southern Iceland (Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Skogafoss Waterfall, Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, Solheimajokull Glacier and Vik village). Similar trip costs in tour companies about 13000-14000 ISK (approx. $117-$126).
It’s a 60 meters-high breathtaking natural wonder. What’s interesting, you can go behind this waterfall to watch water dropping from the small cave.
It’s a 60 meters-high and 25 meters-wide amazing and massive waterfall. The nicest thing of it is that sometimes Skogafoss produces a single or double rainbow, which can be seen on sunny days.
REYNISFJARA BLACK SAND BEACH
This amazing beach with black sand and basalt columns is the same beautiful as dangerous. Waves there are unpredictable and fierce. They regularly take unwary travelers’ lifes. Be there extremely careful.
It’s a glacier tongue that is a part of the great Myrdalsjokull glacier. If you want to have a professional trek on the Solheimajokull you can invest in a glacier tour or have a short walk on the ice as a part of certain southern Iceland tours.
Actually it’s “Vik and Myrdal” – a small, peaceful village on the south of Iceland with only 300 habitants. It’s close to best southern attractions.
JOKULSARLON GLACIER LAGOON
It’s the largest and deepest glacier lagoon in Iceland, where you can explore magnificent glaciers and see floating icebergs. Jokulsarlon is located further than other south-Iceland spots, but can be done together with some of them as one tour.
Important: Of course, there are LOTS OF other interesting places and activities in Iceland like watching other waterfalls and volcanos, whales-watching tours, exploring caves, canyons or rock formations, checking out natural geothermal pools and many, many more. We showed only those, which are easily reached from Reykjavik for an average tourist and can be done on a reasonable budget.But there’s one thing that is our dream destination and is located in the far north-east Iceland and is called:
There are also nice places in Reykjavik. It’s often underestimated destination. However it’s different from any other capital cities in the world and for sure deserves more attention. Here you are the best spots of Reykjavik:
Lutheran church with a unique, but really weird architecture. There’s also a narrow floor at the top where you can get by elevator to see the panorama of Reykjavik. This capital looks from above much different from any other city. The first thing that paid our attention is a wide palette of colors of houses’ roofs. They are so lovely and we’ve never seen anything similar before. Entry to the tower: 900 ISK (approx. $8)
It’s a concert hall and conference center of Reykjavik, which impressed us by its modernity. Also a good place to rest a bit on big comfy cushions during sightseeing and get warm, if it’s cold outside.
BÆJARINS BEZTU PYLSUR
Small hot dog booth, which was selected by The Guardian as the best hot dog stand in Europe – we strongly agree with that. These hot dogs were the best we’ve ever tried. They are served with ketchup, sweet mustard, remoulade, crisp fried onion and row onion – you can pick which ingredients you want to have in your roll. No matter what you choose, one portion costs always 420 ISK (approx. $4). Every time there are tourists stowing away their lamb sausages next to the booth. However, not only people love hot dogs from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. Big and definitely overweight sparrows go around customers and wait for pieces of hot dogs that people leave to them. A fat sparrow was a very funny view for us and we decided to feed them too! :)
Also as a bit of gossip – this place is visited by many famous personalities arriving in Reykjavik e.g. Bill Clinton and Charlie Sheen.
ICELANDIC PHALLOLOGICAL MUSEUM (ICELAND’S PENIS MUSEUM)
Really quirky museum and the only one in the world where you can see a collection of animals’ penises and genitals pickled in tubes and jars. On display there are extremely big ones and some of them are so tiny :) What’s more: there are a few units of men ones! But, they looks weird too and without a description we couldn’t realize that they are taken from a human. Penis museum is a specific place, but it’s better to treat it as a joke and have fun :) The entrance fee is 1500 ISK (approx. $14).
Sleeping, Eating, Safety and Other Tips
Finding a place to sleep like everything you do in Iceland is pretty expensive. Double rooms start from 7000-8000 ISK (approx. $63-$72) and beds in dorms from 2500-3000 ISK (approx. $23-$27). Because of so high prices we decided to rent an accommodation on Airbnb. It’s a platform where local people rent their private rooms, flats or even houses for travelers. Often it’s much cheaper to use it to find better deals than traditional hotels offer. The same it was in our case. We found a whole flat on Airbnb and paid for it only $106 for 3 days. A whole flat with a big double bed for $35 a day! :)
To get this price we also used a $27 discount for the first booking on Airbnb. But don’t worry – you can use it too! Just sing up to Airbnb with our link and get $27 off your first reservation!
It turned out that hot dog is probably the most popular dish in Iceland. Icelanders are crazy about them and they are served in many many places in this county. We loved them too and ate them every day. We’ve already written about best hot dog both Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (if you missed it, check out a note about it above).
However we also recommend a budget restaurant called Fljott Og Gott located at BSI Bus terminal. You will easily find it as the station is really tiny. Apart from hot dogs (which by the way are slightly cheaper than in the famous booth) you can also try there some national Icelandic dishes. The speciality of this place is a sheep’s head! (in Icelandic: Svið ) We didn’t try it, but it can be a good idea for a freak foodie. A half of a sheep’s head is served there for 1990 ISK (approx. $18).
To buy food for breakfasts and suppers there is only one brand, which we can recommend. This is a supermarket chain – Bonus. It’s famous for its funny logo – the pink piggy bank and low prices. Products are much cheaper than in other shops, sometimes even a few times cheaper. We were shocked that prices are lower there than in supermarkets in western Europe. If you buy in Bonus all products you need for your staying in Iceland, you will save a fortune. There’s a few Bonus supermarkets in Reykjavik and a couple of them in other places in Iceland. Probably the most accessible will be this one in the center of the capital.
In Iceland you must try Skyr. It’s a traditional Icelandic diary product similar to yoghurt. It tastes great, but its flavor is much milder than a standard yogurt has. In addition skyr is very healthy, cause is rich in nutrients. You can buy it in many shops e.g. in mentioned Bonus supermarket.
Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world as a crime rate is very low. What’s interesting is that 5 of 6 prisons in Iceland are open ones, so prisoners can freely go to the city and have to come back every evening. They are mostly petty criminals or bankers, which were imprisoned due to fraud during financial crisis in 2008. Look at the photo of Mt Kirkjufell. Next to the mountain there’s the Kviabryggja prison. It’s wonderfully located close to the hill between the ocean and lava fields.
More dangerous than people in Iceland is the unpredictable weather. The wind can be really strong there. In our case once it was so fierce that we weren’t able to go straight. The sensible temperature is always lower than showed in a forecast. In winter expect much snow and ice on roads and sidewalks. Winter days are short – in December the sun is up only for 4 hours! During our trip (the end of November) we had to wait for the sunrise to 10 am and the sunset started at 4 pm. To visit Iceland don’t forget to pack warm clothes and comfy boots and don’t underestimate the Icelandic weather.
On the other hand, the weather can be spectacular. Do you know what I mean? If not, look at the photos below:
There are a few big tour companies like Reykjavik Excursions and Grey Line, which strongly advertise themselves on the internet. They organize tours for big groups on their coaches. To find better offers we made a deeper research and found a smaller company called BusTravel Iceland. They have minibuses in their fleet to run tours for groups of 10-12 passengers. Their prices are slightly lower than other companies have. Due to smaller groups and smaller vehicles their Golden Circle day tours can move faster and that’s why includes additional stops at Kerid Volcano Crater and Faxi Waterfall. We decided to give this less known company a chance and we were satisfied. We can recommend you BusTravel Iceland for sure. You can easily book your tour with them online.
Tap water in Iceland is very clear. You can drink it straight from the tap, so buying a water in supermarkets has no sense at all. However, remember this concerns only cold water. Hot water contains sulfur and that’s why smells horribly.
Iceland is a heaven for those who love paying by card. Cards are accepted everywhere, literally everywhere. We paid by card even for a toilet at Thingvellir National Park. We didn’t have to use notes or coins anytime.
How Much Does It Cost ? (per person)
flights RT: $57
transport (airport-Reykjavik-Blue Lagoon-airport): 2500 ISK + 4200 ISK (approx. $60)
accommodation (3 nights): $110 /2 persons = $55
Golden Circle tour: 9000 ISK (approx. $81)
Hallgrimskirkja tower: 900 ISK (approx. $8)
Icelandic Phallological Museum: 1500 ISK (approx. $14)
Blue Lagoon old price: €30 (approx. $32)
TOTAL for the whole trip (3 days): $375
Spending for 1 day in Reykjavik (food + accommodation, no public transport needed): $42
Thanks for reading our Travel Guide – What To Do in Iceland! Write in a comment your favourite place in this country and when you are going there!