A Mini Guide to Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

Adam’s Christmas present last year was a four day trip to Iceland – more specifically the Reykjavik area. Iceland is a country we’ve wanted to visit for a while with a few things there on the bucket list that we wanted to tick off. We wanted to explore the Golden Circle and see the Northen Lights which is why we chose to visit in March.

Getting there

I booked our holiday through Expedia who offered a discount when booking our flights and hotel together. We travelled to Iceland using Icelandair from London Gatwick (although we flew back into London Heathrow) and flew into Keflavik Airport.

Icelandair flight to Reykjavik

As we weren’t hiring a car, I booked a transfer from Keflavik Airport to our hotel in Reykjavik with Gray Line Iceland which costs £60 return for the two if us. Again, I booked this through Expedia. I can’t fault Grayline. You’re picked up by a coach and taken to their bus station in Reykjavik. From there, you’re then placed onto smaller minibuses so you don’t have to wait as long for your stop. Our coach was full but as we were split into 4 mini buses, it didn’t take long to get to our hotel at all. The same thing happened on the way home but in reverse. I would highly recommend booking with Gray Line as it took the stress out of getting to the hotel/ airport and not having to worry about taxies. Also while we’re on the subject of taxi’s – they’re expensive and forget Uber, it doesn’t exist in Reykjavik!

Where to Stay in Reykjavik

I’ll be completely honest here and admit I probably made a small error when booking our hotel. I booked us into Hotel Island which turned out to be a little further out of the centre of Reykjavik than I would have liked. HOWEVER this should not take away from the hotel itself which did the job pretty well. While not modern, the rooms are clean and comfortable and have the most wonderful view. We could see mountains, the sea and on clear nights you can sometimes see the Northen Lights (so I’ve heard!)

Food wise, we did eat in the restaurant at the hotel called Nu Restaurant and I have to say, there are no complaints from me. The food was good – I had the fish and chips and Adam had the steak sandwich. I’ve reviewed the food we ate in Iceland in this post here.

One of the reasons I chose Hotel Island was the small spa they have. I thought it would be perfect for our last morning before our bus picked us up for our flight home. I wasn’t wrong. It was lovely to spend a morning in the warm waters of the hot pool and take a swim in the swimming pool. which while not big still allowed you to move around in there. There’s also a sauna – but I should warn you that they’re part of the changing areas so unless you’re the same sex, you’ll have to do that seperatly.

When to Visit Reykjavik

If you’re looking for the Northern Lights while in Reykjavik, you’ll need to plan your trip between October and April but the closer you can do it to the middle of the season the better. If you are visiting in winter be sure to pack your thermals and insulated gloves… it can get very cold, especially when you’re Northern Lights hunting – we were out until 1am. If you visit in the summer (June specifically) you’ll get the change to see the long day – where the sun sets just after midnight and rises again at 3am!

Things to Do in Reykjavik

The Golden Circle Tour

One of our favourite parts of our trip to Iceland was the Goldern Circle tour. There are many excursion companies that offer Golden Circle Tours. I would advise doing your research as each tour can be slightly different. You’ll also need to book in advance. Our tour bus was pretty full so there was no chance of anybody joining us on the day.

We booked our tour through Viator with Bustravel Iceland (ad- affiliate link). The tour started at 9am and we were picked up from our hotel just after 8am and taken to the coach that would be our home for the day. The golden circle tour is obviously very popular but what I loved about our tour is that we seemed to arrive either before or after a lot of other tours and we avoided the rush. While there were a few tours at each location, it didn’t feel overly busy and we were given enough time to appreciate the sights.

After a brief stop at a supermarket to stock up on snacks and use their bathrooms (they lack on the tour), we started off at the Kerið crater lake where – fun fact – Byork once has a concert in the middle on a boat and everybody watched from around the crater.

The Crater, Golden Circle Tour - Reykjavik, Iceland

After the crater we were due to head to the Gulfoss waterfall but our driver decided to take a bit of a detour as another waterfall’s viewing platform has just reopened after bad weather and he thought we should stop and see it. This was the Faxi Waterfall which was a pretty cool. I’ll admit I did an Instagram story saying it was the coolest waterfall I’d ever seen – but honestly, I should have waited until our next stop which was the Gulfoss waterfall.

This was seriously impressive and our guide Iris filled us in on the story of the waterfall and a local woman who back in the day, saved the waterfall from becoming a powerstation and having the surrounding landscape ruined. The views were breathtaking but be prepared, you’ll get soaked here as the wind blows the water in every direction.

Gullfoss Waterfall, Golden Circle Tour - Reykjavik, Iceland
Gullfoss Waterfall, Golden Circle Tour - Reykjavik, Iceland

Adam said a lot of the sights in Iceland reminded him of Windows backgrounds. I think that was his way of saying he was impressed with them.

Geysir, golden circle tour, Iceland

After Gulfoss, we headed to the Geysir – a geothermal pool that shoots water up to 30 metres in the air (and soaks you in sulphur water if you’re standing downwind – see Adam in the vlog!) Warning – it smells like rotten eggs the whole time but seeing the Geysir shoot up every 5 minutes was pretty cool. We stopped for lunch at the Geysir which has a varied selection but can get busy so be prepared.

Geysir, golden circle tour, Iceland

The final stop of the tour was the UNESCO-listed Thingvellir National Park which is where the North American Tectonic plate has been moving apart from the Eurasian plate and the national park has developed in between the two at a rate of 2cm per year. The bus drops you at the bottom of the park and picks you up at the end of a small hike (just a walk up the hill) and the views are spectacular.

Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
 Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

If you’re not planning on driving yourself around the Golden Circle, I’d thoroughly recommend Bustravel Iceland and their tour. The Golden Circle was definitely a highlight from our time in Iceland.

The Northern Lights

One of the main reasons we wanted to go to Iceland in March was to get a chance to see the Northern Lights. The lights are not guaranteed as you need a really clear night to be able to see them. We booked tickets through Viator (ad- affiliate link) and it turned out to be Gray Line Iceland who were the operator.

Our first night was cancelled as it was raining which of course brings a lot of cloud. When booking your Northen Lights tour, be sure to choose an operator that not only reschedules you when it’s too cloudy to go out but also rebooks you if you go out and don’t see them.

On our second night we were successful in our quest albeit very loosely. We did see the lights but barely – Adam calls it the light version. Gray line said we hadn’t seen them well enough and rebooked us for the next night (our last night in Iceland). Unfortunatly that was cancelled due to cloud cover so I guess we’re lucky we saw something on the second night.

So while we did see them, they were a bit lacklustre but not unexpected and we were prepared to walk away slightly disappointed.

My top tip for Northen Lights hunting is to stay warm. Make sure you’re wearing thermals and have gloves and a hat as you can be standing outside for quite a large amount of time.

Blue Lagoon - Reykjavik, Iceland

Blue Lagoon

After much umming and ahhing, we decided to book tickets to Blue Lagoon. It was a tough decision between this and the Secret Lagoon which is said to be more popular with the locals and is currently, less of a tourist trap. However I’m really glad we made the decision to ignore the advice and book Blue Lagoon.

We decided to book the 5pm slot as we wanted to see Blue Lagoon in daylight, twilight and night. We booked our trip through Reykjavik Excursions which included transport from the BSI Bus Terminal which is near the centre of Reykjavik.

We booked the Comfort Package which included a towel and had a drink from the bar included in the entrance fee. We looked at booking the the premium package but didn’t think the slippers, robe and extra mask were worth the increase in price.

The first thing I will say about Blue Lagoon is that our time slot was sold out so you’ll need to book in advance. But here’s the thing; yes it was busy but it just didn’t feel busy in the lagoon itself. The changing rooms were a bit pressed for space but Adam and I both commented that the lagoon itself felt quiet. I’m not sure if it’s because the steam hides everybody but there were times where we could only see one or two others.

Sunset at Blue Lagoon was unreal – probably one of the best sunsets I’ve seen in my life. Everybody was mesmorised by it and it was a real highlight in our trip. It was lovely just sit there in the warm water and watch the sun set,

My biggest tip for Blue Lagoon (apart from booking for sunset) is to make sure you put conditioner in your hair and leave it in there when you head into the lagoon. The rising steam, sulpher and the cold can do nasty things to your hair and leave it feeling like straw when you come out. By conditioning it, you’ll protect it from that.

Exploring Reykjavik

We spent a Sunday afternoon exploring Reykjavik town centre and there’s certainly some points of interest to add to your list.

Hallgrimskirkja is the huge church in the centre of Reykjavik. At first, Adam and I thought it was designed to look like an organ – of which there is a 15ft one inside but it’s actually designed to look like a Geysir exploding. If that’s not inspiration goals I don’t know what is. You can go up the Hallgrimskirkja (except on Sundays) and take in the views of Reykjavik – I’m so sad we didn’t get to do this!

Hallgrimskirkja church - Reykjavik, Iceland
Tjörnin Pond, Reykjavik, Iceland

Another place to add to your list is Tjörnin – the lake located in the town centre. In the winter when the temperatures are low enough, people skate across it. The ice was slightly thawed on our visit but it was lovely to watch the birds and swans standing on one leg and bathing in the waters.

Another thing I noticed about Reykjavik was the vast amount of street art. It seemed to be on every corner and even on the pavements. This was my favourite piece that we stumbled upon – just a random, colourful path painted onto the pavement.

Street Art - Reykjavik, Iceland

Places to Eat in Reykjavik

Before coming to Iceland, I had heard about how expensive food could be here. I read a lot of blog posts from others who said they took a lot of their own food and ate a big breakfast or lunch to avoid expensive dinners. That’s not how we like to travel so we prepared for the worst when it came to expensive food. We were neither surprised nor horrified by the prices as we’d read enough online to tell us exactly how it is in Iceland.

We ate out twice while in Iceland. if you’re looking for good places to eat, I’d recommend heading down to the harbour as there are some excellent choices down there. Our taxi driver commented that we’d come to the right place as he dropped us off on our first night.

The first night we ate at a place called Kaffivagninn which is the oldest restaurant in Iceland. it overlooks the harbour and had a warm cosy feeling. I had a lovely piece of cod lion served with prawns, a bechamal sauce and new potatos. It was incredibly tasty and it was clear to see why people had been recommending this place to us.

Steak and eggs at The Coocoo's Nest brunch, Reykjavik

The other restaurant we ate at (besides our hotel one) was called The CooCoo’s Nest which turned out to be a cool little bruch spot on a Sunday morning. Adam had the most wonderful vegetarian breakfast burrito and I was kind of jealous! I went for steak and eggs and while it was tasty, I totally forgot about the price factor and of course, it was the most expensive thing on the menu.

Overall we really enjoyed our time in Reykjavik. I think it’s safe to say that this was one of our more chilled weekend breaks which made for a nice change. The highlights for us were the Golden Circle tour and the time we spent at Blue Lagoon. Would I go back? Yes – but I’m in no rush if I’m completely honest as I feel like there are more places we’d like to explore and we didn’t miss enough to need to return.

One other thing that we did LOVE about Reykjavik and Iceland as a whole, which I feel deserves a mention, is the fresh air and the fresh water. I’ve never tasted water that tasted so clean and breathing in the Icelandic air felt like a reset for my lungs. I’ve missed both since coming home to London.

As I’ve mentioned, it is incredibly expensive (which we knew in advance) but I felt like we ticked the stuff we really wanted to do off the list. If we do go back, I’d really like to go whale watching or do some of the snow sports but for now, we’re happy with our trip and ready to try new places.

Reykjavick… tick!

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