In the summer, Iceland’s capital city Reykjavík can become overwhelmed with visitors. While the city itself is growing, sometimes planning for experiences outside of Reykjavík is the best way to spend a day! Many day tours and excursions can be pre-booked and planned for in our many Iceland itinerary suggestions. There are options for those who are hoping to have a very active, experience based trip and those who are most interested in sightseeing and photography opportunities. There are options for large group, small group, or private tours for most of these offerings as well. All tours offer pick up at bus stops within the city, which are typically no more than a 5 minute walk from accommodations.
Reykjavík: If you would like to spend some time with a local guide getting to know the city, a guided tour is a great way to do so. Join a bicycle tour to cover more ground on your tour, traveling from the wonder that is Harpa Concert Hall, along the bay and past the Sun Voyager statue all the way to the Hallgrímskirkja church and Leif Eriksson statue. For a little slower pace, take a food tour and experience the city through its marvelous cuisine, while also passing the most important sights of the city. Bus tours for a more general overview of the city and its history are great for those who are on a shorter stopover and have a long to-see list! If you would like to see Reykjavík from the water but also enjoy dinner, perhaps join a sea angling tour, where you will actually be able to barbecue your catch on the boat and enjoy it right away.
Golden Circle: The most popular tourist route in Iceland is known as the Golden Circle. This is not an actual road or attraction, but is instead a combination of major “hot” spots in southwest Iceland. The three most common sights are Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park, Gullfoss “Golden” Waterfall, and the geysers Strokkur and Geysir, as well as the hot springs and mud pools in the geothermal area surrounding them. All three of these sights are very tourist friendly with warming houses, gift shops, restrooms, and cafes available. While at Þingvellir, snorkeling or diving in the Silfra Fissure, the rift between tectonic plates, is a great option for those who are very adventurous. Depending on the length of your tour and the time of year, Golden Circle tours may also visit the famous Friðheimar (Fridheimar) Greenhouse, Kerið (Kerid) Crater, Faxi Waterfall, Lake Laugaravatn, and more in the area.
South Coast: Join a tour of Iceland’s south coast. Traveling primarily along Iceland’s Route 1, you will go through the geothermally active village of Hveragerði (Hveragerdi), and to see Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls. Seljalandsfoss is a waterfall where is it possible to walk behind the tumbling waters. To the southeast are the famous black sand beaches, Reynisfjara, and the basalt columns, Reynisdrangar. A stop in the charming village of Vík for some shopping at a local wool shop and a snack is a great addition to any south coast trip. Depending on the tour, you may also stop at Sólheimajökull for a short walk on the glacier tongue. If the weather is clear, your guide will likely point out Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that caused all of the trouble in 2010 when it erupted.
Glacier Experience: Iceland has many glaciers, over 10% of the land is covered with them. There are a few that are most often visited from Reykjavík, with many options available for activities once there. At Langjökull Glacier, one can go Inside the Glacier in a manmade cave, or snowmobile on the glacier for a more thrilling experience. If you are hoping for a more active experience, glacier hikes are very popular. It is dangerous to travel on glaciers alone, so joining a guided hike where they provide expert guiding and all safety equipment is highly recommended. For the more experienced, ice climbing is an option on many glaciers as well. A visit to a glacier lagoon is an amazing experience. Seeing the icebergs floating and the ice glittering in the black sand is on many visitor’s bucket list. The best lagoon is Jökulsárlón, accessible form Reykjavík on a long day tour, or an overnight tour. The naturally formed glacier ice caves are beautiful but are only accessible during the winter months.
Volcanoes: As Iceland is situated directly on top of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the connecting point between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, there is a lot of volcanic and geothermal activity rumbling just beneath the surface. You can explore hot spots created by this activity all over southern Iceland. If you would like to go straight to the source, it is possible to actually take a tour that leads you into the magma chamber of an inactive volcano. If you are interested in the hot springs that dot the countryside, perhaps join a hot spring hike. Bathing suits are recommended as you will be stopping and enjoying the waters of nearby streams heated by the hot springs along the hike. Another option for exploring this volcanic history is in a lava tube, caves created by lava flows from thousands of years ago. As they can be difficult to find on your own, going with a guide on a tour is a great way to experience these.
Nature and Wildlife Viewing: The nature and wildlife are the biggest draws of Iceland, and there are many day tours that offer up close explorations of Iceland’s most popular attractions. If you are interested in large marine life, a whale watching tour from Reykjavík is a great option. From May through August it is possible to see puffins on the sea cliffs near Reykjavík. Both whale and puffin watching tours are available on the larger converted fishing vessels, or you can join a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) Safari for a more up close experience with the wildlife. For the most intimate experience with the marine and bird life around Reykjavík join a sea kayaking excursion, suitable for beginners up to experienced kayakers.
Unique Experiences: If you are hoping to come home from your vacation in Iceland having experienced some uniquely Icelandic things, there are many options available to you. Perhaps join a cooking class where you will have the chance to learn how to make a traditional Icelandic meal, usually featuring fish and lamb, with a professional chef. The classic mode of transport in Iceland is the Super Jeep, souped-up vehicles with huge wheels and professional drivers who will take you off-roading and through rivers in these hardy vehicles. Most day tours like Golden Circle and the South Coast are bookable as Super Jeep tours. Icelanders are incredibly proud of their purebred horses, often incorrectly referred to as ponies. The Icelandic Horse is a stocky breed originally brought by the Viking settlers. They have not had much exposure to other horse breeds since then, and Icelanders are intent on keeping it that way. Try a horseback riding tour while visiting and experience the unique gait, tölt, of these amazing creatures.
Blue Lagoon: The Blue Lagoon is probably one of the most ubiquitous Iceland experiences, but it is so for a reason. The milky blue waters are truly amazing to float through, all while looking out over the lava fields surrounding you. In-water massages are available to be pre-booked and cannot be recommended highly enough. If you are interested in visiting one of Iceland’s many geothermally heated pools, but want to skip the crowds at Blue Lagoon, we can recommend Laugaravatn Fontana Steam Baths, the Secret Lagoon, and Krauma Spa, all easily accessible from Reykjavík.
Winter: Many of the above activities are available in the winter as well. The most important difference between summer and winter day tours from Reykjavík, is that in the winter there are Northern Lights tours available. It is easy to combine a Northern Lights hunt with one of the above day tours, or head out in a car rental on your own to search for the elusive but amazing natural phenomenon.