Icelandic 101: Learn Basic Phrases and Sayings in Icelandic

Icelandic language education course

Iceland is the home of a language as unique as its natural wonders: Icelandic. The Icelandic language is rooted in the Old Norse and has a strong literary heritage. It has changed little from the country’s settlement in the ninth and tenth centuries, maintaining its linguistic purity and is therefore considered a cultural treasure. 

Icelandic has a reputation for being an especially difficult language to learn, with challenging grammar and linguistic complexity, which does, however, add a poetic depth to the language. A few words and phrases can go a long way for tourists travelling to Iceland, as locals greatly appreciate the effort. Although, there is no need to worry as most Icelanders understand and speak English.

Nevertheless, below, you will find a crash course in the language to help you learn basic phrases and sayings in Icelandic.

 

Learn basic words in Icelandic

 

Thank you/Thanks: Takk fyrir/Takk

Yes:

No: Nei

Please: Vinsamlegast

Little: Lítið

A lot: Mikið 

Cheers: Skál

Good: Gott

Help: Hjálp

 

English Word

Thank you/Thanks

Yes

No

Please

Little

A lot

Cheers

Good

Help

Icelandic Word

Takk fyrir/Takk

Nei

Vinsamlegast

Lítið

Mikið

Skál

Gott

Hjálp

Icelandic Pronunciation

Tah-k fih-r-ih-r / Tah-k

Y-ow

Ney

Veen-sam-leh-gahst

Lee-tith

Mih-kith

Sk-eow-l

Goh-t

H-eow-lp

Learn basic phrases in Icelandic

 

Excuse me: Afsakið 

My name is: Ég heiti

Nice to meet you: Gaman að kynnast þér.

How are you: Hvernig hefur þú það?

I’m good thank you: Ég hef það gott, takk.

How much does this cost: Hvað kostar þetta?

I’m sorry: Fyrirgefðu 

I’m looking for: Ég er að leita að 

Can you help me: Getur þú hjálpað mér

I don’t understand: Ég skil ekki

English Words

Excuse Me

My name is

Nice to meet you
 

How are you?

I’m good, thank you

How much does this cost

I’m sorry

I’m looking for

Can you help me

I don’t understand

Icelandic Words

Afsakið

Ég heiti

Gaman að kynnast þér

Hvernig hefur þú það?

Ég hef það gott, takk

Hvað kostar þetta

Fyrirgefðu

Ég er að leita að 

Getur þú hjálpað mér

Ég skil ekki

Icelandic Pronunciation

Af-sah-kith

Yeh-gh hey-tih

Gham-ahn ah-th kihn-ah-st th-yeh-r

kveh-r-nih-gh heh-f-ih-r th-uh th-ah-th

Yeh-gh heh-f th-ah-th goh-t, tah-k

Kv-ah-th coh-stah-r theh-tah

Fih-r-ih-r-gef-thu

Yeh-gh eh-r ah-th lay-t-ah ah-th

Gay-th-ur th-uh h-eow-lp-ah-th m-yeh-r

Yeh-gh skee-hl eh-k-ee

Learn basic greetings in Icelandic

Hello: Halló  

Hi: 

Good morning: Góðan daginn

Good evening: Gott kvöld 

Goodbye: Bless

Bye: Bæ 

English Word

Hello

Hi

Good morning

Good evening

Goodbye

Bye

Icelandic Word

Halló

Góðan daginn

Gott kvöld

Bless

Icelandic Pronunciation

Hah-low

Hi

Go-thah-n die-in

Goh-t kv-eu-ld

Bleh-s

Bi

What language is closest to Icelandic?

Icelandic is a North Germanic language, meaning it’s related to languages like Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Faroese. Icelandic is further rooted in the Old Norse and remains closest to Norwegian and Faroese.

Are there Apps or Websites that Can Help Me Learn Icelandic?

Whether you reside in Iceland, plan to visit, or simply hold an interest in the Icelandic language, numerous online resources are accessible to aid your learning journey. Here you can find a list of resources to help you learn Icelandic.

 

A summary of the Icelandic language

Overall, the Icelandic language is unique, with a rich cultural history and background. The preservation of the language is a point of pride for Icelandic people, and despite it being challenging to learn, many foreigners have been able to grasp it. The above words provide a good starting point for learning the language. Still, to fully immerse yourself in learning Icelandic, many schools offer classes, such as Mímir language school and The University of Iceland.  

Golden Circle Driving Itinerary

Gullfoss waterfall Iceland

One of Iceland’s top-rated and most popular attractions is the Golden Circle. As the name implies, it is a journey that takes visitors on a circle from and to Reykjavík, stopping at three locations along the way. 

These three stops are Þingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall. Each location has its own wow factor, whether due to its rich history or captivating nature. 

The whole route is just over 230 km [145 mi], which can be driven in about 3.5 hours without stops. Needless to say, each location should be enjoyed and explored, taking in nature’s beauty, making it the perfect full-day trip from Reykjavík city. 

 

First Stop: Þingvellir National Park

The journey’s first stop is Þingvellir National Park, a captivating sight, rich in Icelandic history ranging beginning in the 10th century. 

The drive from Reykjavík’s centre to the National Park is about 45 km [28 mi], taking approximately one hour to drive. 

The National Park’s historical richness comes from the general assembly, or Alþingi, established there around 930, which continued to convene until 1798.

Þingvellir National Park is also an incredible natural sight, standing on the continental divide between North America and Eurasia. Therefore, the area is divided between the two continents, and visitors can easily walk between them. This divide is due to Iceland sitting on two tectonic plates, leading to a crack forming between the continents, creating a no-man’s land in a way not belonging to either continent. This crack formed Silfra fissure, a spectacular sight and a popular diving and snorkelling spot. 

 

How Much Time Do I Need at Þingvellir National Park?

In order to explore Þingvellir National Park’s main sights, 1 to 2 hours is recommended. That way, visitors can walk around, explore the fissure and the park and soak in its history. 

 

Second Stop: Geysir Geothermal Area

The second stop is the famous Geysir geothermal area. The drive from Þingvellir National Park to there is just over 45 km [28 mi], which also takes about one hour to drive. 

The famous Geysir belongs to the geothermal area, which is also the home to its more active counterpart, Strokkur. Strokkur usually erupts every 6 to 10 minutes, and its height can reach 40 metres. However, it usually goes up around 15 to 20 metres. 

The area’s erupting geysers and bubbling mud pots create an environment so unique it resembles another planet but is, in fact, just one of Iceland’s unparalleled locations. 

 

How Much Time Do I Need at Geysir Geothermal Area?

The geothermal area in itself is not very large, so walking around the main sights takes little time. However, as the geyser eruptions are a fascinating experience, visitors might want to stick around and see the hot water explosion a few times. Therefore, spending around one hour at the Geysir geothermal area is recommended.

Strokkur geysir erupting in the geysir geothermal area Iceland
Photo: Golli. Strokkur erupting

 

Third Stop: Gullfoss Waterfall

The journey’s last but certainly not least stop is the Gullfoss waterfall. The drive from Geysir geothermal area to Gullfoss is a short one as it is only 10 km [6 mi], which takes about 15 minutes. 

The waterfall cascades down two tiers, where its upper waterfall has a drop of 11 metres [36 ft] and the lower one 21 metres [69 ft]. Gullfoss derives from Hvítá river and plunges into a deep canyon. The waterfall’s name means golden waterfall, describing the golden-toned mist that can often be seen glazing over the water. 

From the car park, a short path leads visitors to a viewing platform, allowing them to enjoy the view over the breathtaking waterfall. The glory of Iceland’s second-largest glacier, Langjökull, can also be enjoyed from the viewing point. 

 

How Much Time Do I Need at Gullfoss Waterfall?

To enjoy the breathtaking views of Gullfoss waterfall, factor in about 30 minutes up to one hour. 

Gullfoss waterfall in the Golden Circle by summer
Photo: Golli – Gullfoss waterfall

 

Other Golden Circle Activities

Besides the three main Golden Circle stops, many attractions and activities are around.

Laugarvatn Fontana and the Secret Lagoon offer a spa-like experience for visitors to enjoy Iceland’s warm, geothermally heated water. Laugarvatn Fontana is located by Laugarvatn lake where visitors can also jump into the cold water before enjoying a warm sauna. The Secret Lagoon is located in Flúðir village and is Iceland’s oldest swimming pool. Either lagoon is perfect to include in the itinerary, possibly at the journey’s end, before heading back to Reykjavík.

 

Skálholt is a historical place in Iceland, a former school, monastery, cathedral and dormitory for over 700 years. Today, it serves as a Lutheran church and an education and information centre for the Church of Iceland.

 

Kerið is a stunning volcanic crater lake and is truly a hidden gem. The crater is one of Iceland’s youngest volcanic craters, only 6.500 years old, formed by a collapsed volcano. 

Kerið Crater seen from above
Photo: Golli. Kerið Crater

 

Where to Eat When Driving the Golden Circle

When driving the Golden Circle, there are many spots to enjoy a good meal along the way. 

Geysir Restaurant is located in Geysir geothermal area in Hotel Geysir. The hotel and the restaurant were designed to blend the building into the environment by using materials reflecting the surrounding nature. The restaurant offers a wide variety of dishes, ranging from lighter dishes to Icelandic seafood and international dishes with ingredients sourced directly from regional farmers.

 

Located in the Bláskógabyggð region is Friðheimar, a restaurant and tomato farm. Friðheimar is a family-run business that grows delicious tomatoes year-round and serves guests tomato soup with freshly baked bread. Stopping at Friðheimar would be convenient after visiting Þingvellir before heading to Geysir.

 

Efstidalur is a farm, cafe and restaurant offering a variety of products straight from the farm, such as ice cream, skyr and feta cheese. The restaurant also offers beef from the farm and other local food. Eftidalur is conveniently located on the way from Þingvellir to Geysir, making it a perfect stop on the way.

 

Farmers Bistro is located in Flúðir village and is Iceland’s only mushroom farm. It also encompasses a restaurant serving food made from ingredients grown on the farm. The restaurant is located by the Secret Lagoon, so visitors can conveniently combine the two at the journey’s end before heading back to Reykjavík.

 

How Long Does the Golden Circle Take?

Driving the Golden Circle takes about 3.5 hours in total, without stops. Therefore, including stops at each location, visitors should factor in at least 6 to 7 hours to get the full experience. More time should be factored in if other activities are added to the tour, such as visiting the Secret Lagoon or others.

 

Can I drive the Golden Circle on My Own?

Yes, travellers can undoubtedly do the Golden Circle route in their own car. It should always be kept in mind that driving conditions can vary depending on time of year and weather, so driving with caution is essential. 

However, many Golden Circle tours are offered where visitors can enjoy the convenience of experienced guides and a driver, taking the group to the main attractions. Many tours combine other activities, such as snorkelling in Silfra fissure, visiting Friðheimar tomato farm, entering the Blue Lagoon or others. 

Available Golden Circle tours can be seen here.  

The Icelandic Glacier Guide: Ice Caving, Snowmobiling and Glacier Hiking

A man rides a snowmobile across a glacier in Iceland

In Iceland, there are numerous glaciers all over the country, perhaps explaining the country’s descriptive name. There are approximately 269 glaciers in Iceland, which cover about 11% of the country’s surface.

The Icelandic glaciers are not solely a stunning work of art for the naked eye, but they also provide a glimpse into the effects of climate change and how it has shaped nature in Iceland. Like many glaciers worldwide, the glaciers in Iceland are receding rapidly, leading to changing landscapes and rising sea levels.

Despite this, the Icelandic glaciers have been a symbol of the country’s stunning nature, with visitors from around the world getting drawn to them. Glacier-related activities have, therefore, become a key part of visiting Iceland with activities such as glacier hiking, snowmobiling and ice caving. 

People hiking in Skaftafell glacier
Photo: Skaftafell Glacier Hike

 

Glacier Hiking in Iceland 

Hiking on a glacier in Iceland is truly an unforgettable experience, allowing visitors to explore the mesmerizing icy landscapes of the country’s glaciers up close. Several glacier hikes are available in Vatnajökull, Sólheimajökull and Skaftafell glaciers.

 

Sólheimajökull Glacier Hiking and Walking

Hikes and walks on Sólheimajökull glacier have become immensely popular attractions in Iceland. The experiences range from relaxed glacier walks to more strenuous hikes.

 

Sólheimajökull Glacier Hike

The Sólheimajökull Hike is moderately difficult, lasting for about 3 hours. The tour is comprehensive, and guides will lead you through the experience, explaining the natural wonder of the Icelandic glaciers. Sólheimajökull glacier is part of Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which is one of the largest in Europe. Once the ice is reached, hikers get to bask in the beautiful views, which might reach the famous Eyjafjallajökull glacier on a clear day. Participants can also gaze deep into the glacier moulin, a vertical ice cave which can lead all the way to the glacier’s bottom.

 

Sólheimajökull Glacier Discovery Tour

The Glacier Discovery Tour is an easy walk on Sólheimajökull glacier’s tongue. The walk is family-friendly, and everyone from the age of 10 can participate. The walk lasts for about 2.5 hours, with plenty of stops and photo opportunities on the way. The guides will educate the group on the glaciers and their ever-changing landscapes.

 

Glacier Hike, Waterfall and Black Sand Beach

The Glacier Hike, Waterfall and Black Sand Beach Tour is a whole-day trip that takes participants to see the top attractions on the south coast of Iceland. The main sights of the trip are the well-known Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, Reynisfjara black sand beach and finally, a glacier hike at Sólheimajökull glacier. The hike offers the opportunity to gain an understanding of the glacier’s formation and its movements and changes, along with exploring glacial features.

 

South Coast and Glacier Hike

The full-day Small South Coast and Glacier Hike Tour takes a smaller group of a maximum of six people on an excursion of Iceland’s south coast, visiting two of the country’s most famous waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss and to Reynisfjara black sand beach. The tour then ends with a glacier hike on Sólheimajökull glacier. The tour is more intimate as it is meant for a small group.

People hiking on sólheimajökull Glacier
Photo: Golli – Sólheimajökull Glacier Hike

 

Vatnajökull Glacier Walk

Vatnajökull is one of Iceland’s most spectacular sights and a unique phenomenon to experience as it is not only Iceland’s largest glacier but also Europe’s largest glacier by volume. 

During the Vatnajökull Glacier Walk, participants explore a piece of Vatnajökull National Park, Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, which extends from Vatnajökull. During the walk, participants will explore the icy world of the glacier with sights such as small caves, waterfalls, tunnels, and other stunning ice-related matters.

 

Ice Climbing and Glacier Hikes

If only hiking on a glacier is not enough, various tours offer additional challenges, such as ice climbing. 

The Skaftafell Glacier Hike and Ice Climbing Tour and the Sólheimajökull Ice Climbing and Glacier Hike Tour take participants to another level. After hiking on the glacier, the guides will set up a climbing rope where the group will be taught how to ascend a vertical wall using ice axes and crampons. So, having the skill to flaunt ice axes isn’t just a cool party trick; it’s the secret to unlocking the frozen wonders of Iceland’s glaciers.

 

Zipline and Glacier Hike

To add even more adventure into a glacier hike, doing a Zipline and Glacier Hike Tour is possible, giving it a bit more zest. The tour takes participants on a hike on Vatnajökull glacier. Afterwards, tired hikers have the opportunity to slide across the glacier over a vertical ice cave and enjoy the breathtaking views as they swing across. The experience is quite unique as it is the first and only glacier zipline in the world. 

 

Ice Caving Tours in Iceland

Visiting ice caves in Iceland is a multisensory experience, truly immersing visitors in the raw beauty of the country’s nature. It is an experience that could be described as stepping into a giant, frozen disco ball where the beats come into existence with the echo of the footsteps. The adventure offers a glimpse into the unfiltered beauty of natural formations found countrywide in Iceland. 

 

Enter an Ice cave on Vatnajökull Glacier

The Vatnajökull Ice Cave Tour lets visitors enter an ice cave on Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. The ice cave comprises the ice’s blue crystal colours, creating a fantastic opportunity to catch the perfect image. The glacier tour takes about three to four hours and is an unforgettable experience in nature’s icy disco ball. The ice caves are formed naturally, letting Mother Nature decide their shape and location.

 

Visit the South Coast and Enter a Volcano Ice Cave

The South Coast and Katla Ice Cave tour is an immensely special one as participants get to enter an ice cave located on one of Iceland’s largest volcanoes, Katla. 

After visiting the ice cave, the group will visit two of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls, Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. The group will then drive and walk on a black sand beach where sand derives from the Katla volcano.

 

Visit the Golden Circle and an Ice Cave in a Monster Truck

The Golden Circle and Ice Cave Tour combines two enjoyable adventures in Iceland, the famous Golden Circle and a visit to an ice cave in Langjökull Glacier. The tour takes participants on a journey to Iceland’s most popular attractions, Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir geothermal area. Afterwards, the journey leads to another world, inside an ice cave on Langiökull’s glacier. Not only that, but participants get to embark on this adventure in no other than a monster truck.

A man inside an Icelandic ice cave
Photo: Ice Caving and Glacier Hiking

 

Glacier Snowmobiling Tours in Iceland

Taking part in a snowmobiling adventure in Iceland is both an adrenaline-filled experience and an opportunity for participants to connect with the unique nature and, nonetheless, on top of a glacier.

 

Snowmobile Adventure on Mýrdalsjökull Glacier

The Mýrdalsjökull Glacier Snowmobile Tour is an adrenaline-fueled adventure on Mýrdalsjökull glacier on Katla volcano. The tour starts with a glacier truck taking participants up the mountain. Afterwards, the true fun begins roaming the glacier and rejoicing in the breathtaking scenery.

 

Hot Spring and Snowmobiling on Langjökull Glacier

The Hot Spring and Langjökull Snowmobiling Tour is a contrasted experience between hot and cold, tranquillity and thrill. The tour brings participants to Iceland’s second-largest glacier, Langjökull, for a fun adventure riding on the ever-changing landscape. After the snowmobiling, participants can relax and rejuvenate in the hot geothermal water of the Secret Lagoon.

 

Snowmobile Adventure on Europe’s Largest Glacier Vatnajökull 

The Vatnajökull Snowmobile Tour gives participants the opportunity to tell their loved ones back home that they have ridden a snowmobile on Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. The journey starts with a jeep drive towards the glacier, and subsequently, the snowmobiling begins on the famous glacier.

Snowmobilers in Iceland pose in front of the Northern Lights
Photo: Snowmobiling adventure

 

Other Glacier Adventures in Iceland 

There exists an ocean of extraordinary glacier trips and tours in Iceland: hikes, climbs, helicopter tours, snowmobiling, jeep tours, ice caving and much more. These activities can be taken independently or combined with other classic Iceland tours. 

Iceland’s stunning glaciers offer calm, breathtaking and thrilling adventures, depending on what participants want, need and dare to. The Icelandic glaciers represent a complex interplay of nature, climate and human connection, making them a cornerstone of Icelandic tourism and identity. 

Here, you can see all available glacier adventures.

 

What to Wear on a Glacier in Iceland?

When glacier hiking, snowmobiling or ice caving in Iceland it is important to prepare well. With Iceland’s unpredictable weather, it is essential to dress in layers with long wool underwear, wool or fleece thermal mid layers and water- and windproof external layers. A warm hat or a balaclava, warm gloves and socks are also a must, where wool is a good option. 

It is also a must to wear proper winter shoes and quality hiking shoes for glacier hikes and walks. 

When needed, tours provide items such as crampons and helmets.

 

What is the Largest Glacier in Iceland?

Iceland’s largest glacier is Vatnajökull, located in the country’s southeast, covering over 8% of the country. The glacier is not only Iceland’s largest but also Europe’s largest glacier, with a size of 8,100 km². 

 

Is it Safe to Hike on a Glacier in Iceland?

All tours have specially trained guides who are well-educated and experienced in exploring and navigating these complex landscapes. Therefore glacier hiking, snowmobiling and ice caving in Iceland is a safe option when done with a guide. Nonetheless, participants should always remain cautious and alert, stay with the group and listen to instructions. 

Exploring the Off-Road Landscape of Iceland: ATV and Buggy Tour Guide

Off Road ATV Vehicle

Exploring Iceland’s unique and beautiful nature is truly special, with its lava fields, black sand beaches and geothermal areas. Many areas are rugged and often can only be experienced on vehicles designed to handle such landscapes, which is where the ATV and Buggy tours come in.  

Taking an ATV or a Buggy Tour in Iceland lets participants experience beautiful panoramic views and explore areas often inaccessible otherwise. It also gets the heart pumping and adrenaline flowing on an adventurous excursion. 

Below, you will see more details about the many ATV and Buggy tours in Iceland.

 

ATV Tours in Iceland 

The rugged lava fields, lush valleys and sandy beaches make Iceland the perfect destination for ATV adventures. The tours take participants on a journey exploring what feels like a no-man’s land with open areas and panoramic views, in addition to scouting some of the country’s must-visit attractions. 

Person Drifting on an ATV
Photo: Pixabay

 

Reykjavík Peak ATV Tour

The Reykjavík peak tour takes participants on an excursion, viewing some of Iceland’s most beautiful mountain ranges and mountain tops. The tour begins at the base camp, where you get suited and geared up for the adventure. Everything needed is provided, such as overalls, helmets, balaclavas and gloves, but participants need to make sure they are wearing weather-appropriate shoes. The ATVs are all simple to use, and the tour is beginner-friendly. 

The journey starts with a tour along Hafravatn, a beautiful secluded lake which is popular for fishing and surrounded by picturesque landscapes. The journey then heads upwards until you reach the top of Hafrafell mountain. From the mountain top, you will get to admire the views over the Hengill mountain range, Bláfjöll mountain range, and Esja mountain. 

The tour’s base is located only 15 minutes from Reykjavík’s centre. 

Duration: 1.5 hours

For more information and booking of the Reykjavík Peak ATV Tour, click here

 

Black Beach ATV Safari and Plane Wreck Exploring

The tour starts at the base in Vík í Mýrdal village on Iceland’s south coast. There, participants are geared up before starting the drive. Insulated overalls, helmets and balaclavas are provided, but it is recommended to bring a warm first layer, such as a warm sweater and weather-appropriate shoes. 

Participants will drive through small rivers and streams before arriving at the black sand beach, naturally created with sand deriving from the nearby Katla volcano. There is no need to fear Katla, as the volcano has been dormant since its last eruption in 1918. 

After riding through the beautiful black sand beach, the journey is headed to the famous DC3 plane wreck, a US Navy aircraft that crashed into Sólheimasandur beach in 1973. After taking in the unique sight, the journey leads back towards Jökulsá river and back along the mountains towards the base. 

Duration: 2 hours

For more information and to book the Black Beach and Plane Wreck ATV Tour, click here

 

Midnight Sun ATV Tour 

Many visitors come to Iceland to experience the breathtaking midnight sun. The longest days in Iceland are during the summer, from May to August, and in June, they are exceptionally bright, and the sun is visible almost 24 hours a day. The phenomenon of the special midnight sun is due to Iceland’s high latitude, where Iceland gets to bathe in the golden glow.  

Taking an ATV tour is a unique and adrenaline-filled way of enjoying the midnight sun. The Midnight Sun ATV Tour takes participants to Reykjavík’s highest mountain peaks to see the show from the best possible viewing point. The mountains that participants cruise up are Hafrafell and Úlfarsfell, both offering incredible views over the capital area and, of course, the glorious midnight sun. 

The tour includes all gear: overalls, helmets, balaclavas, and gloves. Pick-up and drop-off can be added for an extra fee. 

Duration: 2.5 hours

For more information and to book the Midnight Sun ATV Tour, click here

 

Volcano ATV Tour 

For a truly one-of-a-kind experience in Iceland, the volcano ATV tour on Heimaey islands, part of Vestmannaeyjar islands, is indispensable. The island is off Iceland’s south coast, where the ferry Herjólfur leaves from Landeyjahöfn harbour. 

The tour takes participants around the volcanic area. The journey leads to Eldfell volcano, which became well-known around the globe after its eruption in 1973. The tour will, amongst others, take participants to the scene where Guðlaugur Friðþórsson climbed up rugged cliffs after battling the cold Atlantic Ocean following the Hellisey ship sinking in May 1984. 

Therefore, the volcano ATV tour is not only adrenaline-fueled but also informative and interesting. 

Duration: 1 hours

For more information and to book the Volcano ATV Tour, click here

 

More ATV Tours in Iceland 

A number of interesting, fun and scenic ATV tours are offered in Iceland, and participants can also choose to combine them with other excursions. Combined tours include, for instance, the ATV and Golden Circle Tour, the ATV and Whale Watching Tour and the ATV and Blue Lagoon Tour. So, if pressed with time, there is no need to worry as you can mix the adrenaline ATV adventures with some of the Icelandic classics. 

To see all available ATV tours in Iceland, click here

 

Buggy Tours in Iceland 

The buggy adventures in Iceland offer a thrilling experience similar to that of the ATVs. However, the buggies are larger and more car-like, with two seats alongside each other. Therefore, two people can join the adventure side-by-side, but it is also possible to ride the buggy solo. 

 

Buggy Safari Tour

The buggy safari is a fun, thrilling ride exploring stunning landscapes and riding through rugged roads, only 15 minutes from Reykjavík’s centre. 

The tour begins with a journey alongside Hafravatn lake before heading up the mountain towering over the area, Hafrafell mountain. When reaching the peak of Hafrafell mountain, participants get to enjoy the incredible views. The views are over the nearby mountain ranges such as Bláfjöll and Esja mountain ranges. 

All gear, such as insulated overalls, helmets and balaclavas, are included.

Duration: 1 hours

For more information and to book the Buggy Safari, click here

Buggy Vechicle
Photo: Istock Photo

 

Family Buggy Glacier Experience 

The family buggy tour is meant for groups as the buggies are special six-seater ones, fitting the whole family. The adventure takes the group to Mýrdalsjökull Glacier in the southern part of the Icelandic highlands. The experience is unlike any other, where participants get to enjoy the view from the glacier’s edge, looking over the contrast of black sand deserts and the glacier’s radiant ice cap. 

Participants over the age of 5 can join the fun. All gear, such as insulated overalls, helmets and balaclavas, are included. 

Duration: 2 hours

For more information and to book the Family Buggy Glacier Experience, click here

 

Buggy Adventure from Geysir Geothermal Area

The tour’s base is located in the middle of the Golden Circle area, between Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir geothermal area. 

The tour begins with an excursion of Haukadalur valley and further towards the highlands of Iceland. The views over Langiökull glacier and Skjlandbreið volcano can be admired from there. Throughout the tour, participants drive through rugged landscapes, cross rivers and ride through rocky paths, so a Mario Kart practice might be a brilliant idea before entering the tour. 

Duration: 2 hours

For more information and to book the Buggy Adventure from Geysir Area, click here

 

More Buggy Tours in Iceland 

In addition to the buggy tours discussed above, many other options are available. Tours can be combined with other excursions such as the Buggy and Whale Watching Tour, Buggy and Natural Baths in Reykjadalur Tour and Buggy and Golden Circle Tour. 

To see all available buggy tours in Iceland, click here

 

Do You Need a Licence to Drive an ATV or Buggy in Iceland?

Yes, everyone driving an ATV or a Buggy in Iceland is required to show a valid driving licence before embarking on a tour. 

 

Can I drive an ATV or buggy in Iceland with a foreign licence?

In Iceland, foreign driving licences are accepted in English or if they are in Roman letters, such as Spanish, Italian, Polish and others. Driving licences written in a different alphabet, such as Arabic or Korean, are not accepted. 

 

What is Important to Keep in Mind Before Going on an ATV or Buggy Tour?

It is important to dress according to the weather. As the weather in Iceland can be quite unpredictable, make sure to wear warm layers and weather-appropriate shoes. All tours provide guests with insulated overalls, gloves and balaclavas, but it is good to wear warm layers underneath. 

It is also important to keep in mind that all tours are designed to be flexible in case unforeseeable events occur or weather conditions change. The tours can, therefore, be changed or cancelled, with participants’ safety as a priority. 

 

Is Pick-Up and Drop-Off Included in the ATV and Buggy Tours?

Most tours offer pick-up and drop-off services for an extra fee. However, it is rarely included in the original price. So make sure to carefully read what is included in each tour, as it might vary. 

A City Guide to Akureyri, the Capital of North Iceland

Akureyri party-goers

Akureyri is located in the North of Iceland. It is often called the Capital of the North as it is Iceland’s second-largest city with a population of about 20,000. The city is small but stands out as a charming, vibrant city that captivates visitors. With its unique blend of culture and beautiful nature, Akureyri offers travellers countless attractions, activities and culinary experiences.

Below, we will delve into the many options of sights and activities to experience in Akureyri, along with listing where it is best to stay and where it is best to eat to give the taste buds a delightful time.

 

What to see in Akureyri

Akureyri in itself is a stunning sight, with breathtaking landscapes, such as tall mountains surrounding the city. If basking in the city’s beauty is not enough, there are endless other sights to encounter.

 

Kjarnaskógur 

Kjarnaskógur forest is the most popular outdoor area in Akureyri. Since the beginning of forestry there, over 1,5 million plants have been planted in the forest, making it a lush outdoor area. Kjarnaskógur forest has children’s play areas, walking paths, volleyball areas, and barbeque spots. In addition, people can mountain bike in the summer or cross-country ski in the winter, making it an attractive place for outdoor enthusiasts. 

 

Church of Akureyri 

Elegantly overlooking the city is the Akureyri Church, a noteworthy architectural landmark which has become the city’s symbol. It is a Lutheran church that was designed by the famous architect Guðjón Samúelsson and consecrated in 1940. 

The church is situated on a hill, providing stunning panoramic views over the town, where the steps leading up to it have become a popular photo spot for visitors and an exercise spot for locals. 

Akureyri Church by evening
Photo: Akureyri Church

 

Lystigarður Botanical gardens

Lystigarðurinn is a lush botanical garden situated at Eyrarlandsvegur street in the city of Akureyri. The garden was officially opened in 1912 and was Iceland’s first public park, making Lystigarðurinn a historically special one. The Akureyri Park Society was in charge of its design and was entirely composed of women, which was unusual at the time. 

Lystigarðurinn Botanical Garden is a true haven for plant enthusiasts with its diverse collection of Icelandic and foreign flora. It has a unique, peaceful atmosphere and has become an attractive spot for leisurely strolls, and at times, wedding receptions have been held in the garden’s cafe. 

 

Nonnahús – Nonni’s House 

Nonnahús, or Nonni’s house, is a museum dedicated to the works of the author Jón Ásgeirsson. The museum provides insight into his life and the cultural heritage of Iceland. The house itself is a special one, a dark wooden house from the 1840s, and was the famous author’s childhood home, making it a unique sight for visitors. 

 

What to Do in Akureyri

There are not only numerous things to see in Akureyri, although its beauty is truly captivating, but there are also endless things to do and experience.

 

Akureyri Whale Watching

The elegant creatures of the ocean can be gazed at during a whale-watching experience in Akureyri. The tour brings visitors to the beautiful Eyjafjörður fjord on a high-speed whale-watching ship to view the incredible Humpback whales in their natural habitat. 

The specially trained guides will educate tour participants on the whales, and they are able to answer just about any question you might have. They are also experts at spotting the whales and analysing their behaviour, which they will also educate the group on. 

A classic whale-watching tour can be booked here

Admission: ISK 12,990. Children 7-15: ISK 6,495, free for children under 7.

A mother Sei Whale and it's calf.
Photo: Christin Khan – Whale mother and calf.

 

Visit the Christmas House 

One of the most popular attractions in the Akureyri area is Jólahúsið or the Christmas House. As counterintuitive as it may sound, the Christmas House is open all year round and not only around Christmas time. Entering the house, you become transported to the land of Christmas, with decorations, candies and the scent of the holidays setting you in the right mood. The house’s exterior also looks like a giant gingerbread house, truly getting visitors into the holiday spirit, no matter the season. In the Christmas House’s garden, there is also a market offering beautiful handcrafted products from locals. 

 

Take a dip in Akureyri’s Swimming Pool

A popular destination for tourists and locals alike is the swimming pool of Akureyri. The pool is located centrally in the city and offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and Eyjafjörður fjord. The pool has become one of Iceland’s most grand water parks for visitors of all ages. It consists of two large outdoor pools, five hot tubs, a children’s pool, a steam room and a cold tub. To top it all, the pool also comprises three waterslides, one of them being the longest waterslide in Iceland. 

Admission: ISK 1,200. Seniors: ISK 300. Children 6-17: ISK 290, free for children under 6.

 

Icelandic Aviation Museum

The Aviation Museum is located at Akureyri Airport at the city’s brim. The museum exhibits and explains Iceland’s aviation history with the help of photographs, videos, models and historic aircrafts. Some of the museum’s aircrafts are in mint condition and are flown at the city’s air show held each year in June. 

The museum’s exhibition lets visitors explore how aircrafts and airlines have developed from the year 1919 up until now. Some aircrafts allow access for visitors to observe the interior and learn more about its operations. 

Admission: ISK 1,500. Seniors and Students: ISK 1,000. Free for children under 18 accompanying adults.

 

Forest Lagoon 

Right outside of Akureyri city is the geothermal spa Forest Lagoon. The lagoon is located in Vaðlaskógur forest, right outside the city, making it accessible from the centre. The experience is the perfect way to rewind in the midst of a birch and pine forest, overlooking the longest fjord in Iceland, Eyjafjörður. 

Forest Lagoon consists of two large warm pools overlooking the ocean with a swim-up bar, a traditional Finnish dry sauna and a cold pool. The location also offers guests a high-quality dining experience at Forest Lagoon’s restaurant, Forest Bistro. 

Entrance to the Forest Lagoon can be purchased here

Admission: ISK 6,590. Seniors: ISK 4,990. Children 6-15: ISK 3,290, free for children under 6.

Skógarböðin Akureyri
Photo: Skógarböðin Akureyri

 

Hof Cultural and Conference Center 

Located in the heart of Akureyri is Hof, a cultural and conference centre. Hof is a notable and visually appealing venue which plays a vital role in promoting cultural activities in Akureyri. The building opened in 2010, and its design encompasses contemporary elements and top-tier facilities optimal for conferences, meetings, parties and exhibitions. 

The cultural centre hosts various events such as concerts, art exhibitions, theatre events and more. 

To see upcoming events hosted at Hof, visit Akureyri Cultural Company’s website here

 

Where to stay in Akureyri 

In Akureyri, a large variety of accommodation options are available, including hotels, guesthouses and apartments, catering to the different needs and preferences of visitors. 

 

Hotel Kea 

Hotel Kea is located centrally in the heart of Akureyri and has become an important landmark in the city. The hotel’s design is in a classical style, reflecting the hotel’s history. Around Hotel Kea are several shops, museums and restaurants in addition to the city’s swimming pool. 

 

Hotel Akureyri

Hotel Akureyri is a unique and modern hotel situated in the city’s centre. The hotel’s concept is a micro-hotel split into four buildings, inspired by locale, history and culture. The hotel is unconventional but provides guests with modern comfort and timeless experiences. Hotel Akureyri also has an eccentric restaurant named North, inspired by the Icelandic landscape. 

 

Sæluhús Apartments & Houses

Sæluhús Apartments & Houses is a popular accommodation option for locals and visitors in Iceland. The houses are located within walking distance of the city’s centre but still manage to offer tranquillity in a family-friendly environment. Located overlooking the city of Akureyri, Sæluhús Apartments & Houses provide superb views over the city and the Eyjafjörður fjord. Many options are available, ranging from small studio apartments to larger houses. 

 

Berjaya Akureyri Hotel 

Berjaya Akureyri Hotel is a bright and beautiful hotel located centrally. The hotel has been certified as a Green Hotel, where environmental performance has become a priority, along with providing guests with an exceptional level of service. Berjaya Akureyri Hotel is situated in a renovated historical building, exhibiting a very chic and modern design. 

 

Apótek Guesthouse

The guesthouse offers visitors a mix of Akureyri’s historic charm and modern comfort. In the past, the building housed a pharmacy, adding its historical uniqueness. Apótek Guesthouse is located in the heart of Akureyri, making it a convenient spot to get around the city’s centre on foot. 

 

What are the best places to eat in Akureyri?

With Akureyri being a vibrant and cultural city, there are endless options for cafes and restaurants. Below, we will discuss some of the best places to eat in Akureyri. 

 

Rub23 Restaurant

Rub23 is one of the most popular restaurants in the North of Iceland and for a good reason. The restaurant offers seafood, with a large selection of fish species and sushi dishes mixed with some meat options. Rub23 is a vibrant spot where the atmosphere is top-tier every day of the week. On Thursdays and Fridays, the restaurant also serves lunch.

 

Strikið Restaurant

Strikið restaurant is located on the 5th floor in the heart of Akureyri, letting guests enjoy a beautiful view over the Eyjafjörður fjord and Hof Cultural and Conference Center. In addition to the panoramic view, they have a wide range of delicious dishes and a friendly atmosphere, creating a special dining experience for all guests.

 

Lyst Cafe

Kaffi Lyst, or Lyst Cafe, is a unique cafe located in the midst of Lystigarðurinn botanical garden. The cafe is bright with large windows overlooking the garden and has a large outdoor seating area. Lyst Cafe is a casual spot, but with the blend of its beautiful interior, stunning surroundings and quality food and drinks, it’s a unique visit for all.

Food being served at Cafe Lyst in Lystigarðurinn, Akureyri
Photo: Cafe Lyst in Lystigarðurinn

 

Eyja Wine Bar & Bistro 

Eyja is a high-quality wine bar and bistro specialising in high-quality wines from around the world. The food selection is mouth-watering as they serve small dishes such as beef carpaccio, bacon-wrapped dates and cheese plates, to name a few, along with larger fish of the day. It is also possible to choose a special three-course dinner and pair it with one of the Eyja’s exquisite wines.

 

Pylsuvagninn – Akureyri Hot Dog Stand

When visiting Akureyri, you can’t miss out on a classic Icelandic hot dog from the city’s hot dog stand or Pylsuvagninn. The Akureyri-style hot dog is served with red cabbage, making it a unique one. 

 

How do I get around in Akureyri?

The central area of Akureyri is relatively compact, making it convenient to go around on foot. For instance, Akureyri Airport and the city harbour are only about 5 minutes from the city centre. However, several options are available to get around in Akureyri.

 

Getting Around by Bus 

Within the city of Akureyri, public buses are free of charge, making it a very feasible option. During the weekdays, the bus runs from 6:28 am until 10:36 pm, and on the weekends, it runs from 12:18 until 6:55 pm. The buses all drive in a loop, beginning and ending at the city centre’s main stop. For more information on the full bus schedule, click here.

 

Getting Around by Taxi

The only taxi station in Akureyri is BSO, located in the city’s centre by Hof Cultural and Conference Centre. It operates 24 hours a day, offering service to its customers. To contact the taxi service by telephone, BSO’s phone number is (+354) 461-1010.

 

Getting Around by Private Car: Parking 

In the city of Akureyri, there are two parking zones, P1 and P2. The simplest way to pay for parking is to do so by mobile app EasyPark (www.easypark.is) and Parka (www.parka.is). However, several pay stations are located in the city’s centre. See here for more information on parking in Akureyri.  

 

How much time do I need in Akureyri?

As Akureyri is quite a charming city full of activities to fill out the days, spending a lifetime there wouldn’t be atrocious. However, spending around 2 to 3 days in the city would be enough time to explore the main attractions and enjoy the best cuisine. 

When travelling in North of Iceland, Akureyri could also serve as the base while exploring nearby towns and areas. Therefore, spending longer there would also be a great option. 

 

Can You Walk Around Akureyri?

The short answer is yes. The city of Akureyri is quite small and compact so within the city’s centre going around by foot is very easy. Main attractions, restaurants and cultural events are most within walking distance. 

People walking around Akureyri city
Photo: Akureyri City

 

Is it Colder in Akureyri than in Reykjavík?

The average temperature in Akureyri is slightly lower than in Reykjavík, though the difference is not substantial. 

During peak summer the average high is 12°C [54°F]  in Reykjavík and 13°C [55°F] in Akureyri and average low is  8°C [46°F] in Reykjavík and 7°C [44°F] in Akureyri. 

During peak winter the average high is 3°C [37°F] in both Reykjavík and Akureyri and average low is  -2°C [28°F] in Reykjavík and -3°C [26°F] in Akureyri.

The Best Day Trips and Tours in and Near Reykjavík City

Geysir Strokkur erupting Golden Circle Iceland

Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, nested by the North Atlantic Ocean, is known for its vibrant culture, friendly locals and stunning nature all around. The capital can serve as an excellent base for exploring the surrounding natural wonders of Iceland, where visitors don’t need to go too far to explore breathtaking landscapes. The best day tours in Reykjavík range from whale watching, horseback riding, snorkelling, city exploring and more. 

An extensive array of amusing trips and tours can be experienced both in Reykjavík city and nearby areas, which will be discussed below.

 

Best Day Tours in Reykjavík City 

Reykjavík is a small but vibrant city and home to about 140,000 people. The city is full of beautiful sights and tours to be experienced, so finding activities won’t be challenging for visitors in Reykjavík. To see the complete guide to Reykjavík city, click here.

 

Viðey Island Tour

Viðey Island is located just outside Reykjavík, where a ferry is taken just off the city’s centre. The island offers a lot of lovely experiences for visitors, such as hikes and a visit to one of the Reykjavík City Museum’s exhibitions. 

One of the most popular tours on the island is the Imagine Peace Tower walk, where participants get to explore the tower created by Yoko Ono as a memorial to John Lennon. The tour begins with a whale-watching experience where guides will shed light on the incredible creatures, learning more about the wonders of whales and seabirds. 

After arriving at the island, a guided walk will be taken where the rich history and unmatched nature of Viðey will be explained. Lastly, participants arrive at the incredible monument of the famous John Lennon, which was first lit in 2007. Since then, it has been lit every year on his day of birth, October 9, and remains lit throughout the winter season.  

For more information and to book the Imagine Peace Tower and Whales tour, click here

Admission: ISK 22,400. Children 7-15: ISK 11,200, free for children under 7.

 

Reykjavík Whale Watching

The waters of Iceland are rich with marine life, making whale watching a popular activity just outside Reykjavík’s centre. Embarking on a whale-watching tour, you will learn more about Iceland’s incredible wildlife with the guidance of expert crew and trained marine biologists. Not only will you learn about this underwater world, but you will also get the opportunity to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures within reach of Reykjavík’s centre. 

Many whale-watching tours are offered, where you can choose to go on a classic, comfortable whale-watching boat or on a RIB express tour to get more speed and get even closer to the magical creatures of the ocean. You can also combine whale watching with other tours, such as visiting the whale museum in Reykjavík, Viðey Island, or others. 

The tours leave from the Old Harbour in Reykjavík city. 

See all available whale-watching tours here

Whale Watching in Reykjavík
Photo: Golli – Whale Watching in Reykjavík

 

See Real Flowing Lava: Lava Show in Reykjavík 

Those who want to experience real flowing lava in a close-up and safe environment can visit the Lava Show in Reykjavík. 

Lava, the Iceland Volcano & Earthquake Centre, opened first in Iceland in 2017 in Hvolfsvöllur town in the South of Iceland and exhibited the only lava show in the world. The show opened its doors in Reykjavík’s city centre in 2022 and has since then provided the city with a recreation of a miniature volcanic eruption where visitors get to see red hot flowing lava right within arms reach. 

The Lava Show Reykjavík experience can be booked here.

Reykjavík Walking Tours 

In Reykjavík, there is a lot to see and experience, so taking a guided walking tour might be an option for you. By taking a walking tour, you can discover the city’s culture, try Icelandic food and drinks, view the street art, or just get to know the city better. 

Many tours are available, such as a food tour, a classic Reykjavík walking tour, a Viking walking tour, a folklore tour and many more. This could be the perfect crash course when it comes to Iceland, where you get to learn the history of Iceland, visit famous landmarks, and perhaps even learn a few Icelandic words. 

See available walking tours in Reykjavík here

 

Experience Reykjavík from Above on a Helicopter Tour

For those who want to see a bit more of Iceland without having to walk, it is also possible to jump on board a helicopter and see the country and its landscapes from above. 

Many options are available, such as viewing Reykjavík’s city from the comfort of your own helicopter. From there, you could even try to spot those doing a walking tour around the city. Other helicopter sightseeing experiences are also offered, such as flying over glaciers, waterfalls, the Icelandic highland, or volcanic areas. 

The tours leave from Reykjavík Airport in the city’s centre. 

See available helicopter tours in Reykjavík here.

An aerial view of Icelandic landscapes seen from a helicopter above
Photo: Helicopter Tour from Reykjavik, landscapes seen from above

 

 

Best Day Tours Near Reykjavík 

In Reykjavík’s surrounding areas and towns, there are a number of activities to do and tours to embark on. So regardless of whether visitors choose to stay in Reykjavík city during their time in Iceland or not, there are still loads of activities to be explored not too far from the city. 

 

Golden Circle Tours

One of Iceland’s must-visit attractions is the well-known Golden Circle. The whole journey takes travellers to three breathtaking destinations and some of the country’s most extraordinary historical landmarks. Those three areas are Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir geothermal area. 

The adventure is conveniently accessible from Reykjavík and offers a day-long adventure that combines the beauty of Icelands’ geological wonders and its rich cultural heritage and history. 

Golden Circle tours can be combined with other activities, such as a trip to the Blue Lagoon, snorkelling in Silfra fissure, horse riding, and more. 

See the many available tours to the Golden Circle here. 

 

Relax in the Blue Lagoon 

The Blue Lagoon, named one of the 25 wonders of the world by National Geographic, is a unique experience and one of the most popular attractions in Iceland. The lagoon is conveniently located only about 40 minutes from Reykjavík and about 20 minutes from Keflavík airport. 

Entering the Blue Lagoon, visitors are brought into another world, where the unique spa experience even has healing powers. The powers of the geothermal seawater come from its primary elements, silica, algae and minerals, which can be highly beneficial for the skin. In addition to being a healing and relaxing experience, visitors can see the extraordinary surrounding lava landscapes and bathe in the beautifully blue geothermal water. 

See available Blue Lagoon tours here. 

 

Experience Icelandic Bathing Culture in Sky Lagoon 

Sky Lagoon is located in the capital area, in the town of Kópavogur, only about a 10-minute driving distance from Reykjavík’s centre. The lagoon offers a stunning spa experience with breathtaking views over the Atlantic Ocean. Sky Lagoon offers a large heated infinity pool overlooking the ocean, a pool bar, a cold tub and saunas. During the visit, you can experience a seven-step bathing ritual to fully immerse yourself in Icelandic bathing culture. 

Yout trip to Sky Lagoon can be combined with other tours, such as Silfra fissure snorkelling, horseback riding or the Golden Circle, or taken on its own.  

See available tours to Sky Lagoon here. 

Sky Lagoon Iceland
Photo: Signe – Sky Lagoon

 

Snorkel or Dive Between Two Continents in Silfra Fissure

The Silfra fissure is nested in the historical Þingvellir National Park, both a UNESCO World Heritage site and a beautiful scenic place to visit. The park sits on tectonic plates that divide it between two continents, North America and Eurasia. Silfra started forming in 1789 following the movement of the tectonic plates, forming a rift. Melted ice from Langijökull glacier fills the crack up with crystal clear water as it gets filtered through lava capillaries on the way, making it fresh, cold and not only perfect to swim in but also very drinkable. 

This has made the Silfra fissure a unique place to snorkel or dive in, which National Geographic has described it as one of the top dive sites in the world. 

Dive and snorkel tours let participants visit the world below the surface, exploring the colourful underwater landscape, marine life and geological formations. The fissure has become a mecca for scuba diving and snorkelling, where underwater enthusiasts around the world visit for the unique experience. 

All gear needed for the tours is provided, such as a drysuit. At the tour’s end, you get to enjoy hot coffee or chocolate to warm up, and subsequently, you will receive pictures from the experience. Many options are available, such as combining it with other experiences or choosing transportation from and to Reykjavík city. 

See available Silfra fissure diving and snorkelling tours here. 

Two people scuba diving in Silfra Fissure
Photo: Ants Stern and Jóna Kolbrún Sigurjónsdóttir – Diving in Silfra Fissure

 

ATV and Buggy Tours Adventures

For those seeking an adrenaline-fueled adventure in an awe-inspiring landscape, taking an ATV or buggy tour is the ultimate off-road experience in Iceland. The tours let participants experience the rugged and remote corners of the country, from black sand beaches to moss-covered lava fields to geothermal areas, offering panoramic scenic views wherever you go. 

Many ATV and buggy tours are available within reach of Reykjavík city. Tours range from midnight sun expeditions, volcanic tours, caving area tours and black sand beach adventures. The ATVs and buggies navigate effortlessly through rough landscapes, allowing participants to explore areas often inaccessible otherwise. 

See available ATV and buggy tours here. 

 

Ride the Majestic Icelandic Horse 

Horseback riding tours in Iceland offer a journey where participants explore the beautiful Icelandic scenery, connecting riders with the country’s history, the unique nature and the majestic Icelandic horse. It’s an experience for both skilled horseback riders and beginners, creating an unforgettable adventure for all. 

Multiple horseback riding tours are available near Reykjavík, where specially trained guides take participants on a ride through contrasted landscapes, such as green hillsides and lava fields. The tours also provide participants with the opportunity to learn more about the beautiful and friendly creatures and to familiarise themselves with the history of the Icelandic horse. 

See available horseback riding tours here. 

Icelandic horse in the nature
Photo: Ian Funk – The Icelandic Horse

 

Chasing the Dancing Northern Lights in Iceland

With its dark winter nights and remote landscapes, Iceland offers visitors front-row seats to one of nature’s most breathtaking sights, the northern lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. The northern lights are created when energised particles from the sun hit Earth’s upper atmosphere at high speeds, giving off energy leading to the atmosphere’s fluorescence.  

The dark Icelandic winters, therefore, reward locals and visitors with the stunning sight of colourful dancing skies. The northern lights are the most active between September and March. However, the chance of seeing the northern lights improves during mid-winter, where more darkness provides the optimal circumstances. 

Many northern lights tours are available, where guides take participants to the best possible locations to hunt for the magnificent light show. Tours such as the Reykjavík Northern Lights Cruise offer excellent conditions with a panoramic view of the sky and surroundings. Other tours, such as Northern Lights Hunting Tour and Northern Lights Bus Tour, are also feasible options, where guides bring participants to remote and peaceful locations in the hopes of hunting for the unique Aurora Borealis.

See all Northern Lights tours here. 

Exploring the Wilderness of Iceland in a Day: The Best Day Hikes Near Reykjavík

Landmannalaugar tourist

Iceland, with its dramatic landscapes and untouched wilderness, is the perfect spot for outdoor and hiking enthusiasts to visit. The land is known for glaciers, volcanoes, captivating cliff sides and breathtaking panoramic sceneries, making it an ideal destination for those seeking the perfect hiking experience. Hiking in Reykjavík and around the capital could be the perfect option for those wanting to explore the wilderness in close proximity. 

Though Icelandic nature is packed with hiking trails and treks countrywide, there is no need to go far, as many stunning day-hikes can be enjoyed in and near Reykjavík. So, for those with limited time or those who want to spend their time enjoying the vicinity of the capital area, there are numerous possibilities to explore the raw nature of Iceland within reach. 

Below, we will delve into hiking in Reykjavík and the best day hikes in and near the city. 

Glymur Waterfall Iceland hiking near Reykjavík
Photo: Berglind – Glymur Waterfall

 

Best day hikes in Reykjavík city

Hiking in Reykjavík is a popular attraction for travellers and locals. Hikers and explorers can find trails to journey over and find a bit of nature’s peace and quiet within the hustle and bustle of the city.

 

Úlfarsfell Mountain Hike Reykjavík

Úlfarsfell Mountain is in Reykjavík, located about 15-minute drive from the city’s centre making it a perfect hiking adventure in Reykjavík. The hike is relatively easy, with ascent only about 160 m [524 ft]. The total trail is a loop, about 3.9 km [2.4 mil] long and takes about an average of 1.5 hours to complete. The Úlfarsfell mountain trail is open all year and is very popular, where visitors can choose to hike, bike or run.

Below you can find the parking lot for Úlfarsfell mountain.

 

Viðey Island Hike in Reykjavík

The cultural and historically rich island of Viðey is located just off the coast of Reykjavík’s centre, only about a 5-20 minute boat ride away. The island is only about 1.7 km² [0.65 mi²] large but is a popular destination for travellers and locals due to its combination of art, history and nature.

On the island, there are several hiking trails, each of them well-marked, where visitors can enjoy the rugged and beautiful landscape of Viðey. Different difficulty levels are available, ranging from slower, easier walks to more challenging hikes. However, hikers should be able to tread most of the paths easily. 

On Viðey Island is the Imagine Peace Tower, created by Yoko Ono as a memorial to John Lennon, first lit in 2007. One of the island’s most popular hiking trails is the one leading to the Peace Tower memorial site. Hikers walk through beautiful scenic landscapes and get to learn more about the island’s history and the story of the peace tower. 

The Reykjavík Imagine Peace Tower Tour can be booked here

To hike at Viðey Island, you can take the ferry that drives from the Old Harbour over the summer months but from the Skarfabakki Pier over the winter months. You can see the full ferry schedule here. 

The Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland by night - Hiking Reykjavík
Photo: Golli. The Imagine Peace Tower hike Reykjavík

 

Elliðaárdalur Valley Hiking in Reykjavík

Elliðaárdalur valley is located just at Reykjavík’s edge and offers lovely walking and biking paths. You can find forested areas, slow rivers, waterfalls, and even a cafe in the valley. Elliðaárdalur is the perfect spot for a calm nature walk near the city. You can end the trip with a hot cup of coffee at the cafe Á Bistro or walk to Árbæjarlaug swimming pool for a dip in the hot tub while overlooking the valley. 

Below you can find parking in Elliðárdalur valley. It is also possible to park in front of Á Bistro.

 

Best day hikes near Reykjavík city

Near Reykjavík, there are several breathtaking hikes, which can be accessed easily by car and some by public transport.

 

Helgafell Mountain

Helgafell Mountain is located in Hafnarfjörður on the Reykjanes peninsula. The hike is generally considered a moderately challenging one with an elevation gain of about 292 m [958 ft] and is approximately 6.1 km [3.8 mil] long. In Iceland, other mountains possess the same name, as Helgafell is directly translated to “Holy Mountain”, so do not get confused with Helgafell, located on the Snæfellsnes peninsula as it is a bit further from Reykjavík. 

The hike usually takes about 2 hours to finish, and hikers walk through gorgeous, rugged landscapes with a mix of flora and fauna. Hikers can, for instance, see moss-covered lava rocks and experience Icelandic bird life. Once reaching the summit, the panoramic views of Hafnarfjörður reward tired hikers, making the experience worth the challenge.

Below you can find the parking lot for Helgafell Mountain.

 

Esja Mountain 

Located about 10 km [6.2 mil] from Reykjavík’s centre is Esja mountain, a very popular hike, especially in the summertime. The trail’s total length is about 7.7 km [4.8 mil] with 731 m [2400 ft] elevation gain and is usually considered a challenging route. However, most people only walk up to what is called “Steinn”, which means rock, where you reach 600 m [1970 ft] in elevation gain. The route up to there is considered a moderate one, where people of all ages hike up. 

Hiking up to Esja Mountain is an experience characterised by the contrasts of volcanic rocks, lush flora and panoramic views. The trail can be quite uneven at points, so wearing sturdy hiking boots is recommended. 

The mountain’s proximity to the capital makes it an accessible and rewarding destination for both locals and tourists.

Below you can find the parking lot for Esja Mountain.

Esja mountain hike seen from Reykjavík
Photo: Golli – Esja mountain seen from Reykjavík

 

Heiðmörk 

Heiðmörk is a national forest and a municipal conservation area offering multiple hiking routes for visitors. Situated just east of Reykjavík is the vast nature reserve that displays diverse nature, such as lava fields, woodlands and calm lakes. 

One of the most popular routes in Heiðmörk is the Brandskriki Loop, a 4 km [2.5 mil] route with 76 m [250 ft] elevation, making it an excellent running or walking path. 

Another popular hike in Heiðmörk is Búrfell volcano. The hike is a moderately easy one, about 6.6 km [4.1 mil] and has about 127 m [416 ft] elevation gain. The average time it takes to finish the hike is about 1.5 hours, depending on which route is chosen. The final destination offers stunning views from the top of the volcano’s crater over the beautiful surrounding area. 

Below you can find parking lot in Heiðmörk.

 

Vífilsfell Mountain

Vífilsfell mountain is an easy but beautiful hike, situated just outside of Reykjavík, in the Kópavogur district. The hike is 3.1 km [1.9 mil] long and has about 474 m [1555 ft] elevation gain. The views from the top display the panoramic scenery over the capital area and the nearby Bláfjöll mountains, which is a popular skiing destination during the winter. 

Below you can find parking lot for Vífilsfell Mountain.

 

Reykjadalur Valley Hot Springs

The hike in Reykjadalur Valley offers a different reward for hikers, apart from the scenic views, due to the hot springs situated at the trail’s end. The hike is located close to the town of Hveragerði, 50 km [31 mil] from Reykjavík, about a 45-minute drive. Therefore, hikers should remember to pack their most flattering bathing suit and a towel so they can lie and bathe in the hot thermal river water. 

The hike is about 8 km [5 mil] long with 340 m [1115 ft] elevation, but is considered a moderately easy hike suitable for most levels.

Below you can find parking lot for the Reykjadalur hot spring hike.

Two people enjoying Reykjadalur hot river in Iceland's winter, hiking near Reykjavík
Photo: Reykjadalur Hot Spring

 

Go inside of Þríhnúkagígur Volcano 

As Iceland is a volcanic island, many volcanoes are found there. However, not many of them offer the possibility of actually walking inside a volcano! In fact, Þríhnúkagígur Volcano is the only place on earth where you can descend into a gigantic lava crater and explore the magic. 

The tour to Þríhnúkagígur Volcano starts with a moderately easy hike for about 45-50 minutes, offering breathtaking sceneries of the surrounding area. Subsequently, hikers are descended about 120 m [400 ft] into the volcano in an open cable lift. This is truly a unique experience unlike any other, as it quite literally can not be done anywhere else in the world. 

The hiking tour can only be booked during the summer season. 

The tour to Þríhnúkagígur Volcano can be booked here.

 

Glymur waterfall

The hike to Glymur waterfall is a beautiful one, about 6.6 km [4.1 mil] with 340 m [1270 ft] elevation gain located in Hvalfjörður fjord. It is usually considered a moderately challenging one, whereas hikers should expect to spend half a day on the hike, but it takes about 3-4 hours on average. 

The hiking adventure takes you through beautiful landscapes where parts of the route can be quite challenging. As you approach the waterfall, hikers must go over rocks and cross a narrow log bridge over a river canyon. As you arrive, you are treated with the sight of the second-highest waterfall in Iceland: Glymur. 

Note that the hike can be very dangerous and should be undertaken with caution and appropriate hiking gear. The hike is best to embark on during the summer due to the pathway turning icy and slippery during winter.

Below you can find parking lot for the Glymur waterfall hike.

 

What Do I Need to Keep in Mind when Hiking in Iceland?

Timing can be a crucial factor when planning a hiking adventure in Iceland. The summer period from June to September offers the best conditions for hiking as the days are longer and the weather conditions are better. Nonetheless, the unpredictableness of the Icelandic weather is part of the charm, so hikers should be prepared for changes. 

So when hiking in Reykjavík, whether during summer or winter, being prepared for the weather is crucial. Hikers should dress in layers, wear solid footwear and bring appropriate hiking gear.

Another thing to keep in mind is to bring enough water and food to keep the energy up whilst exploring the astonishing views of Icelandic nature. 

Lastly, hikers should be mindful of the environment and leave no trace when visiting hiking sites. Respecting nature is crucial for preserving the beauty and the raw wilderness of Iceland.

 

What is the closest mountain to Reykjavík?

The closest mountain to hike in Reykjavík is Esja Mountain, which elegantly hovers over the city. The drive from Reykjavík’s centre is about 25 minutes, making it an accessible and attractive day hike option.

 

Is it safe to hike alone in Iceland?

Hiking in Reykjavík or Iceland alone is generally considered a safe option. However, hikers must keep in mind to have appropriate hiking gear, such as proper hiking boots, layering clothes, and to have enough water and food at hand. When hiking alone, it is also recommended to hike during the longest daylight hours, between June to September. 

Scuba Diving and Snorkelling in Silfra fissure

Two people scuba diving in Silfra Fissure

Nested in the heart of Iceland’s unique landscape, more specifically in Þingvellir National Park, is Silfra fissure. Þingvellir National Park is a remarkable sight on its own as it has a rich history and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Further, the national park’s area is divided between two continents, North America and Eurasia, letting visitors check two continents off the list. Scuba diving and snorkelling in Silfra fissure has become a popular tourist activity, where visitors can swim between the two continents. 

 

How did Silfra fissure form?

The rift of the Silfra fissure was formed in 1789 when earthquakes accompanied the movement of the tectonic plates, forming a crack between the two. As the ice from Langijökull glacier melts during the summertime, it flows down towards Silfra and gets filtered through the lava field on the way. By the time the water from Langijökull glacier reaches Silfra, it has been travelling for about 70-100 years. The fissure only keeps getting bigger and better, as it grows about 2 cm each year with the tectonic plates drifting apart. 

People snorkelling in Silfra fissure taken from above
Photo: Silfra fissure snorkelling

 

Plunging into the crystal clear water of Silfra

In addition to being able to easily walk between two continents, it is also possible to swim between the two. Silfra has become a mecca for scuba diving and snorkelling enthusiasts around the globe and is an extraordinary experience unlike any other. Visitors can choose to either dive or snorkel in the fissure, which is possible during both winter and summer. 

Taking a dive into the crystal-clear glacial water of Silfra, divers and snorkelers can expect to see captivating underwater landscapes with visibility exceeding 100 metres [328ft].

 

Snorkelling in Silfra 

Snorkelling between the two tectonic plates is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Anyone above the age of 12 can participate and therefore there is no need to have any sort of certifications. The only thing needed is to fill out a medical form online before arrival. 

Clad in drysuits to make the experience less chilly, snorkelers float effortlessly on the water’s surface, taking in the breathtaking underwater world beneath. The slow glide through the Silfra Fissure allows participants to enjoy the sight of the colourful underwater landscape, marine life, and geological formations. Snorkelers can even drink the water as it is filtered through lava field capillaries, making it a refreshing drink at around 2°C – 4°C [25-35°F] year-round. 

 

How long is the Silfra Snorkel experience?

The snorkel trip is about 2.5 hours from the meetup at the diving spot. If participants choose to add the pickup and drop off from Reykjavík’s centre, the total trip is around 6 hours. Participants are in the water for about 30 minutes. 

 

What’s included in the Silfra Snorkelling?

The Silfra snorkel experience is for those who can swim and want to embark on a unique adventure. Participants are provided with a dry or wet suit, full snorkel gear and an introduction to the fissure and Þingvellir National Park’s history. The experienced guides explain the wonders of the lagoon and take you on a journey through the main Silfra Big Crack, Silfra Hall, Silfra Cathedral, and Silfra Lagoon. 

Some tours include a pickup from Reykjavík’s centre for an additional fee; however, choosing a tour with meetup on the spot is also available. 

At the end of the tour, participants receive images from the snorkel adventure, which the guide will snap on a GoPro underwater. So make sure to bring your largest smile and smile through the coldness.

See the Silfra snorkel tours available here.

A snorkeller at Silfra Fissure in Iceland
Photo: Golden Circle and Silfra Snorkelling Tour

 

Scuba Diving in Silfra 

For certified scuba divers, Silfra offers a unique opportunity to explore a unique geological underwater wonder with unmatched visibility of over 100 metres [328ft].

National Geographic has described Silfra fissure as one of the top dive sites in the world. Therefore, Silfra is  a must-visit for divers. 

The underwater landscape is a blend of deep crevices, caves and fascinating rock formations. The environment below thus resembles another world. Divers exploring Silfra can navigate the four main parts of the fissure. Those are the big crack, Silfra hall, Silfra Cathedral and the Silfra Lagoon.

The maximum depth of the dive is 18 metres [59 feet], but the average is around 5 metres [16 feet].

 

How long is the Silfra Dive experience?

The total trip is about 3 hours from meetup at the diving spot. If participants choose to add the pickup and drop off from Reykjavík’s centre, the whole trip is around 5 hours. 

 

What’s included in the Silfra Scuba Diving?

The experience is for those holding a scuba dive certification, PADI Open Water or an equivalent one, and a dry suit certification. Upon arrival, divers are equipped with drysuits to withstand the cold glacier water, ensuring a comfortable and safe experience. 

Before heading in for the dive, participants get an introduction to the unique history of the Silfra fissure and the national park before getting briefed on the dive site. The guide will provide you with all needed diving equipment before exploring the unique wonders of the fissure. 

Some tours include a pickup from Reykjavík’s centre for an additional fee. However, tours with meetups on the spot are also available. 

The surreal beauty, the geological significance, and the sense of exploration make diving in Silfra an unforgettable adventure.

See the Silfra Scuba Diving tours available here

A photo of Ants Stern and Jóna Kolbrún Sigurjónsdóttir diving in Silfra fissure in Þingvellir national park Iceland
Photo: Ants Stern and Jóna Kolbrún Sigurjónsdóttir – Diving in Silfra

 

The Diving and Snorkelling Experience

The Silfra Fissure brings about an adventure that lets participants step into a unique world where boundaries between continents blur. Whether snorkelling or scuba diving, the Silfra experience is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and testament to Iceland’s eccentric and contrasting landscape. Despite the chilly glacier water, the experiences’ rewards outweigh the challenges when participants get to explore the magic of Silfra. 

 

How do I get to Silfra Fissure in Þingvellir National Park?

Þingvellir National Park is located about 45 km [28 mi] from Reykjavík’s city centre. Driving to the National Park by car takes about 50 minutes via Þingvallavegur road. 

Once arriving to Þingvellir National Park visitors will need to park their car at parking lot P5. From the parking lot the cars and huts market with diving and snorkelling should be visible.

Many tours to the Silfra fissure do offer transportation from Reykjavík such as Silfra Snorkel Tour with Transfer and Golden Circle and Snorkeling Tour

Here is a map of the car park in Þingvellir National Park to get to the Silfra meeting point.

 

Tours to Þingvellir National Park and Silfra Fissure

For those wanting to explore Þingvellir National Park and the Silfra fissure, many tours can be embarked on. 

The Silfra Snorkel Tour with Transfer is a tour to Silfra fissure including drive from Reykjavík, a guided explanation of the national park, all equipment and the snorkel tour itself.

 

The Hot and Cold Snorkeling and Spa Tour combines the Silfra snorkelling with an Icelandic spa experience. After snorkelling between the two tectonic plates, participants can warm up in Laugarvatn Fontana geothermal spa.

 

The Hot and Cold Diving and Spa Tour is a scuba diving tour in the Silfra fissure combined with an Icelandic spa experience at Laugarvatn Fontana geothermal spa.

 

The Private Silfra Snorkeling Tour lets a private group snorkel between the two tectonic plates for a more intimate and immersive experience.

 

For those wanting to visit Þingvellir National Park and exploring the Silfra fissure without diving or snorkelling, Golden Circle Tours are a great option. The tours take participants on a journey to the three locations, Þingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area and Gullfoss waterfall.

 

Golden Circle and Snorkelling in Silfra can also be combined with the Golden Circle and Snorkeling Tour

Exploring Icelandic Cuisine: An Icelandic Food Guide

A Plate of food in Reykjavík city, vegan food

Iceland is the land of fire and ice and breathtaking landscapes. Nonetheless, the country is not only a paradise for nature explorers but also the perfect destination for food enthusiasts with the wide range of Icelandic food.

The culinary scene is as diverse and contrasted as the unique nature of Iceland. The country is packed with different cuisines worldwide, with a swarm of global influences. Nevertheless, the local culinary traditions and authentic Icelandic food instil a deep sense of pride and familiarity. Many restaurants offer a unique mix where an international touch is intertwined with local flavours.

From the lively Reykjavík to the calm countryside, the culinary scene in Iceland is sure to leave a lasting impression on any food enthusiast. Below, you will read more about Icelandic food culture, must-visit restaurants in Iceland and explore traditional Icelandic foods.

A delicious dish of Icelandic cuisine
Photo: The Reykjavík Food Walk

 

Popular traditional foods in Iceland

The traditional foods in Iceland are quite diverse, and ingredients are often sourced locally from surrounding landscapes. Among other popular ingredients in Icelandic dishes are lamb and fish, and locally grown vegetables are often used to complement the dish.

Many have heard of the traditional foods in Iceland that are not so much loved by all, such as fermented shark, which were commonly eaten centuries ago. Those foods will be discussed further below. However, many traditional Icelandic foods are very popular in modern-day society today and can be purchased widely.

 

Harðfiskur – Dried Fish

Harðfiskur, or dried fish, might not sound like a delicacy, but it has been a popular snack amongst Icelanders for centuries. The dried fish is usually cod, haddock or wolffish and is full of protein and nutrients. It is often enjoyed with a pinch of butter on top to make it incredibly delicious. Harðfiskur can be purchased in most supermarkets and corner stores countrywide.

 

Flatkökur – Flat Bread

Flatkaka, or flatbread, is a type of Icelandic bread made from rye flour. The flatbread became an Icelandic staple over a century ago, at a time when rye flour was the only affordable flour available. Now, it is an Icelandic classic, often enjoyed with butter and cheese, smoked lamb or smoked Salmon. Read here Icelandic Review’s article on Brynja and Tóta, the Icelandic mother-daughter duo that have been making flatkökur together for over 30 years.

A photo of flatkökur being prepared on a stove
Photo: Preparing flatkökur

 

Rúgbrauð – Sweet Rye Bread

Rúgbrauð is Icelandic rye bread, originating from Denmark over a century ago; however, it is vastly different from Danish rye bread. The Icelandic rye bread tastes very sweet and might taste like cake to some. The rye bread is more often than not enjoyed with cheese and butter, and around the holiday season, many choose to eat it with herring on top, creating a Danish-style open sandwich.

 

Kleinur – Twisted Doughnut

Kleina, often referred to as a twisted doughnut, is a national classic. Inviting guests for “Kaffi og Kleinur”, or coffee and twisted doughnuts, is a widespread phenomenon and still a prevalent saying today, even though no kleinur might be in sight. Although locals classify it as a traditional Icelandic food, kleinur may originate from Germany and they are known by different names throughout the Nordic countries. Even so, they are still an Icelandic classic and are enjoyed by all ages.

 

Smoked and Cured Salmon 

Icelandic fish is a high-quality product processed to the highest standards and enjoyed by people worldwide, including salmon. Smoked or cured salmon has become a delicacy in Iceland as it is one of the best in the world. The cured salmon is most often enjoyed over the holiday season and is usually eaten on toast with dill sauce.

 

Icelandic Lamb 

For centuries, Icelandic lamb has been a staple of Icelandic food culture and is enjoyed in many shapes or forms. The most popular ones are the leg of lamb, smoked lamb and lamb soup.

 

Lambalæri – Leg of Lamb

Icelandic lambalæri, or leg of lamb, is the typical Icelandic Sunday roast enjoyed by locals and visitors of all ages. The leg of lamb is often prepared using locally sourced herbs and served with gravy and potatoes. 

 

Hangikjöt – Smoked Lamb

Hangikjöt, directly translated as hung meat, is a popular traditional delight in Iceland. The curing method of the meat originates from the Viking era in Iceland. At that time, meat was preserved by hanging it up in smokehouses. Hence the name hung meat. Over the holiday season, the smoked lamb is served with a variation of bechamel sauce, green peas and red cabbage. However, the smoked lamb can also be enjoyed as a bread topping, and placing it on top of the Icelandic flatbread has become one of the classics of Icelandic foods.

A photo of smoked lamb, or hangikjöt, on a plate
Photo: Hangikjöt

 

Kjötsúpa – Lamb Soup 

The Icelandic kjötsúpa, or lamb soup, is a common way of serving lamb. The soup is prepared using lamb shanks boiled with vegetables and herbs, which is the perfect warm meal on a cold Icelandic winter day.

 

Skyr

Skyr is a traditional Icelandic dairy product. While it’s technically a fresh, cultured cheese, it’s eaten much like yoghurt and is a very common and popular food in Iceland. It has a thick and creamy texture and can be used for smoothies and desserts or enjoyed on its own. Skyr can be found in most supermarkets and convenience stores in Iceland.

 

Unusual Traditional Icelandic Food 

As mentioned, other traditional Icelandic foods, such as fermented shark, have been available for centuries but, to this day, are certainly not loved by all. 

Many of these traditional foods were in the past meant to be eaten through the late winter and were therefore preserved in fermented whey, or mysa in Icelandic. Most of the below-mentioned foods have an acquired taste and could be more appealing to the eye. 

A midwinter feast called Þorrablót is held in late January, celebrating unusual traditional foods. There, smoked, fermented, salted, and dried meats are found on the buffet along with the Icelandic brennivín, or black death, used to wash down the unique assortment of foods. 

See here Iceland Review’s recent article on Þorrablót. 

 

Hákarl – Fermented Shark 

Hákarl, the infamous fermented shark, is native to Icelandic cuisine and is loved by some but hated by most. Preparing hákarl involves a complex process to make the shark meat edible. After catching the shark, the meat is buried in a shallow pit, allowing it to ferment. Afterwards, the meat is hung to dry and cut into bite-sized pieces. The taste is an exceptionally acquired one, with a strong ammonia-like scent, but it is more easily washed down with Icelandic brennivín. 

 

Svið – Sheep’s Head

As odd as it may sound to many, svið is a type of Icelandic traditional food using the sheep’s head. It originates from a time when farmers couldn’t let any part of the animal go to waste, so the head was boiled and served with mashed turnips or potatoes. Svið is not a typical food in Iceland today; however, it is one of the foods some enjoy at the midwinter feast Þorrablót. 

 

Skata

Another ammonia-like scented food, skata, is usually enjoyed only one day a year on December 23. Skata is a type of fermented flat fish called Skate and is an Icelandic Christmas tradition, leaving the city smelling of ammonia. The story behind eating the stinky fish Skate the day before Christmas Eve comes from people not eating meat the days leading up to it. Therefore, the Skate was a perfect option with its natural preservative, similar to the fermented shark, and consequently, the tradition of eating it on December 23 was born. 

Many restaurants serve Skate in the month of December, such as Messinn, Þrír Frakkar and The Fish Market. Many hotels also offer a buffet in December, serving Skate and other Icelandic delicacies worth trying. 

A plate with the fermented fish Skata, turnips and potatoes
Photo: A plate with Skata, turnips and potatoes

 

Lifrarpylsa – Liver Sausage

Lifrarpylsa, a traditional Icelandic liver sausage, is a classic reflecting the country’s dedication to utilising every part of the animal in the past. The liver sausage is made from a lamb or sheep’s innards and is crafted from a blend of liver and other organ meats, such as heart and fat. The liver sausage can either be served warm or cold, and it is common to enjoy as a side to rice pudding. 

 

Hrútspungar – Sour Ram’s Testicles

Hrútspungar, or sour ram’s testicles, does most likely not sound appetising to the majority and is not a common or popular type of food in Iceland. This unique type of food is also a testament to Icelanders utilisation of the whole animal in the old days. The testicles undergo a fermentation process often involving a combination of whey, brine and herbs, giving it a unique sour taste. Some supermarkets sell sour ram’s testicles. However, you are more likely to find them at one of the Þorrablót feasts. 

 

What are the Must-Visit Restaurants in Iceland?

The Icelandic culinary scene not only brings about a number of fermented and smoked meats but also offers a wide range of cuisines filled with different flavours and preparation methods. The restaurant scene in Iceland has grown and evolved a great deal in the last decade, and today, there is an abundance of high-quality restaurants both in and outside Reykjavík city.

 

Slippurinn 

Slippurinn Restaurant was opened in 2012 and is an exceptional restaurant located on Heimaey, one of the Vestmannaeyjar Islands. The restaurant is housed in an old machine workshop used to service old shipyards but hadn’t been used for 40 years before being taken over by Slippurinn. The restaurant is family-run, and they opt to support the local community by sourcing ingredients from local fishermen, small producers, and farmers. Slippurin’s menu changes from week to week as they make sure to source the freshest ingredients available at each time. An interview with the restaurant’s chef and owner, Gísli Matt, can be read in Iceland Review’s magazine here.

 

Dill 

Dill restaurant offers guests a unique fine dining experience with eccentric dishes and cooking methods inspired by the Icelandic landscape. In 2017, Dill restaurant won its first Michelin Star, which was, moreover, the first one awarded in Iceland. The restaurant’s chefs prepare the dishes according to the New Nordic cooking philosophy and dedicate themselves to sourcing the freshest ingredients.

 

Rok 

Rok Restaurant was opened in Reykjavík in 2016 and offers guests a wide selection of small dishes in a fine casual style. The restaurant’s design was one of the focal points, along with getting the best possible ingredients for the dishes. The high-quality dishes and the restaurant’s interior make it a fun dining experience in a relaxed environment.

 

Messinn

Messinn is a seafood restaurant located both in Reykjavík centre and in Selfoss town in southern Iceland. The restaurant’s name, Messinn, is the Icelandic name for the food hall on fishing vessels, where the chef onboard cooks for the fishermen. The menu is quite simple, and their speciality is to serve freshly cooked Icelandic fish pans, which are perfect for sharing, although other seafood options are also available.

 

Friðheimar

Visiting Friðheimar is a unique experience as the space combines a tomato greenhouse with a restaurant specialising in creating delicious dishes made from, you guessed it, tomatoes. Friðheimar is a family-run business where you can get a tour of the facilities and learn how the process of growing tomatoes works. Afterwards, you can enjoy a lovely tomato soup with freshly baked bread. Friðheimar is located near the town of Selfoss, in Bláskógabyggð area. 

People visiting Friðheimar tomato farm
Photo: Visitors travelling the Golden Circle, visiting Friðheimar tomato farm.

 

Vegetarian and Vegan Food in Iceland

Though traditional Icelandic food is mainly known for fermenting, smoking, and curing different kinds of meats, there is no shortage of vegetarian and vegan options. 

Many greenhouses can be found around the country where different fruits and vegetables are grown all year round, making Iceland self-sufficient for many species. The Icelandic natural spring water and the country’s abundance of geothermal energy have made this possible despite harsh climates. Therefore, many restaurants cook from fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables.

 

Most restaurants offer vegetarian or vegan options, as in recent years, it has become a prerequisite for restaurants, with a growing number of people opting for plant-based alternatives. 

Many cafes and restaurants offer an entirely plant-based menu, mainly in the capital area, such as the ones named below.

 

Chickpea 

Chickpea is a family-owned street-food-style restaurant specialising in vegan and vegetarian food, where the main ingredients are chickpeas. The restaurant is at Hallveigarstígur Street in Reykjavík.

 

Garðurinn Cafe 

Garðurinn Cafe is both a lunch restaurant and a cafe located at Klapparstígur Street in Reykjavík. The cafe serves homemade vegan and vegetarian dishes and cakes.

 

Mama Restaurant

Mama is a plant-based restaurant and a wellness space in the centre of Reykjavík. The restaurant is dedicated to creating a healthy and vibrant space for people to nurture their minds and souls, along with supporting the community and protecting the environment. The space not only serves delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes but also offers music and art gatherings for visitors.

 

Sónó Restaurant and Cafe

Sónó is a vegan and vegetarian restaurant and cafe serving different dishes depending on the freshest available ingredients. They procure Icelandic herbs from the wild nature of Vestfirðir fjords and grow them in the restaurant’s garden and greenhouse. 

 

What are the Best Sweets to Try Out in Iceland

Besides being an intriguing experience for food lovers, Iceland is also a paradise for the sweet tooth. Every supermarket and convenience store offers an extensive selection of Icelandic candy, most of it being chocolate, where candy enthusiasts can bring delicious pieces of Iceland’s sweetness home. 

Icelandic candy combines the indulgent nature of Icelanders together with creativity, craftsmanship and the high quality of the food and sweets culture. But what are the must-try-out candies in Iceland? Most of Iceland’s most popular and well-known candies are crafted from chocolate, liquorice, or a combination of the two. 

 

Nóa Kropp 

One of Icelanders’ favourite candies is Nóa Kropp, small crispy corn centres covered with delicious milk chocolate. The candy is made by Iceland’s oldest candy producers, founded in 1920 and has since then provided locals and visitors with irresistible candy and other confectionery.

 

Icelandic Liquorice 

The Icelandic liquorice should not go past anyone visiting the country as it comes in all shapes and forms and can be found nearly anywhere. The liquorice in Iceland is unlike those in other countries. Therefore, many of those who usually are not liquorice lovers would go to the ends of the earth for the Icelandic one. 

The most common type of liquorice is Appolo lakkrís, which can be found in liquorice and marzipan bites, rolled-up liquorice, liquorice laces and more.

Licorice also often tends to be combined with chocolate, which is a national favourite. There amongst is Þristur,  a candy that contains a unique filling of soft caramel and liquorice bits covered in chocolate. Another chocolate-covered liquorice delight is Eitt Sett, a milk chocolate bar and a liquorice ribbon combined.

 

Omnom 

The chocolate company Omnom Chocolate is Iceland’s only bean-to-bar chocolate maker and has won multiple awards for its craftsmanship. Omnom has prioritised creating chocolate delicacies using the highest quality ingredients possible, with cocoa beans originating from Madagascar, Tanzania and Nicaragua. The chocolate bars can be found in most stores in Iceland and in their own chocolate and ice cream shop located at Hólmaslóð Street in the centre of Reykjavík.

 

What is Iceland’s National Dish?

The national dish of Iceland is hákarl, or fermented shark, which has long been an important source of energy and protein for Icelanders. The processing methods of the shark are quite eccentric as it’s fermented for months in the ground and afterwards hung up to dry, making the process a waiting game. The rich cultural and historical sides of the fermented shark and its unique processing method have made it an important cornerstone of Icelandic food culture. 

After months of waiting for the national delicacy to be all set for tasting, the result leaves you with a strong-smelling treat with an acquired taste. But fear not, as the fermented shark is often served with sweet Icelandic rye bread and a shot of brennivín, the Icelandic schnapps, taking you on a rollercoaster of unique flavours. 

 

Are there any Food Tours in Iceland?

Yes, you can definitely take food tours in Iceland! These tours offer a fantastic opportunity to explore the unique and delicious cuisine of Iceland while also learning about the country’s culture and history.

 

The Reykjavík Food Walk Tour participants explore downtown Reykjavík through local cuisines that you might not have come across normally. The walk takes participants on a stroll around the city, visiting six unique restaurants with a fun and knowledgeable local guide.

The Reykjavik Food Lovers Tour is an entertaining and educational food tour of Iceland’s traditional foods. The tour lets participants get a sense of Iceland’s history while eating exciting and delicious food.

The Reykjavik Beer and Booze Tour brings participants on a journey of the fun history of beer and alcohol in Iceland. On top of that you will enjoy a sit down and drink with the locals of Reykjavík.

The Icelandic Sweet Tooth Tour is as sweet as the name implies, as participants are taken on a journey and sampling ofIceland’s most popular and beloved sweet treats such as pastries, sweets and more.

 

Whether you’re a food enthusiast looking to expand your palate or simply curious about Icelandic cuisine, a food tour can be a delightful and informative experience during your visit to Iceland. See all available food tours in Iceland here. 

A City Guide to Reykjavík, Iceland

Miðborg Reykjavíkur - tekið úr byggingakrana

The capital of Iceland, Reykjavík, is a colourful and booming city, filled with culture and vibrant street art and home to just about 140.000 people. Over the past decade, the city has become a popular tourist destination as it hosts a lot of exciting sights and offers a great variety of restaurants and bars. 

To help you get the best out of your trip to Reykjavík, check out our guide below so you can best navigate what to do, see, eat or where to stay in the city.

 

What to See in Reykjavík

 

Iceland’s Tallest Church Hallgrímskirkja

The country’s largest church is located in Reykjavík’s centre and towers over the city. The church’s architecture is inspired by basalt columns found in Iceland’s natural landscape as the architect, Guðjón Samúelsson, was fascinated by the shapes that form from cool lava. The church is now one of Iceland’s landmark symbols and adds a touch of the country’s unique geological features to the city. Admission is free; however, tickets are available in the church shop once you enter to go up the church’s tower. 

Admission: ISK 1,400. Children 7-16: ISK 100, free for children under 7.

Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavík, Iceland
Photo: Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavík, Iceland

 

Reykjavík’ Concert Hall Harpa

Harpa is a cultural and social centre right by the Reykjavík harbour, known for its grand events and concerts. Harpa was opened in 2011 and has since received numerous awards for its architecture and as a concert and conference centre. 

See the upcoming events at Harpa here.

 

Perlan: A panoramic view over Reykjavík 

Perlan is a well-known landmark featuring a panoramic observation deck. However, its main attractions are a nature museum, glacier experience and interactive exhibits. The unique structure of the building sits on top of six water tanks and houses a cafe and a revolving restaurant on its top floor. 

Admission: ISK 5,390. Children 6-17: ISK 3,390, free for children under 6. Family Ticket: ISK 14,990.

 

Reykjavík’s main street Laugavegur

Laugavegur is the main street of Reykjavík, offering a large variety of shops, bars, restaurants, bookstores, art galleries and more. Strolling around the surrounding streets, you can also discover a great variety of all the above, which can make a pleasant day.

 

Reykjavík Rainbow Street: Skólavörðustígur

In 2015, in honour of Reykjavík Pride, the street was painted in vibrant colours and has since then become a popular attraction. The Rainbow Street is located in a street called Skólavörðustígur, directly connected to Laugavegur.

People in the rain on Skólavörðustígur street, Reykjavík.
Photo: Golli. Rainbow Street, Skólavörðustígur, Reykjavík.

 

See the Reykjavík pond – Tjörnin

The Reykjavík pond, Tjörnin, is a central point of Reykjavík where you can discover birdlife with species such as swans, ducks and more. Many cultural hotspots are located all around, such as the Iðnó culture house or Tjarnarbíó theatre.

 

See the Street Art of Reykjavík 

Making the city a more colourful and vibrant one, street artists have added their touch to the sides of buildings throughout Reykjavík. Walk through the city streets and notice the beauty and colours all around.  

 

What to Do in Reykjavík

 

Visit the Reykjavík City Museum

The Reykjavík City Museum takes visitors on a journey through the city’s history and diversity in an interesting and dynamic way. The museum consists of five different exhibitions in and around the city centre. The exhibitions are at Aðalstræti, Viðey Island, the Reykjavík Maritime Museum, Reykjavík Museum of Photography and Árbær Open Air Museum. Each one has a different story to tell about the city’s history and culture.

 

Explore Whales during Reykjavík Whale Watching

Embark on a voyage and explore the world of whales in Iceland with excellent guidance and insight from expert crew and specially trained naturalists. Marine biologists will bring you expert guidance and teach you all about the incredible wildlife of Iceland. 

Read more about available whale-watching tours and purchase tickets here. 

 

Fly Over Iceland

Centrally located near the fishing harbour is Fly Over Iceland, a simulated flight ride that allows you to enjoy Iceland’s most breathtaking scenery and natural wonders in only 20 minutes. During the experience, you will hang suspended with feet dangling before a 20-metre curved screen while the film takes you on a journey over Iceland. 

Admission: ISK 5,690. Children under 12: ISK 3,690.

Read more about Fly Over Iceland and purchase tickets here.

 

Visit the Icelandic Phallological Museum

The Icelandic Phallological Museum is, in fact, the world’s only penis museum and is dedicated to collecting, studying and presenting to guests real phalluses and all things related. The museum hosts phalluses from different species, with donations from all over the globe, even including one from a human! 

Admission: ISK 3,000.

 

Sky Lagoon 

Soak in a luxurious thermal bath and breathe in Sky Lagoon’s fresh Atlantic Ocean air. Located oceanside, only about ten minutes from Reykjavík’s city centre, the lagoon offers a unique spa experience, including a seven-step bathing ritual. The lagoon offers the option of buying a ticket, including shuttle transfer, for an additional fee.

Admission: ISK 6,790.

Read more about available tours to the Sky Lagoon and purchase tickets here.

Sky Lagoon Iceland
Photo: Signe – Sky Lagoon

 

Take a Ferry to Viðey Island

Located just off the coast of Reykjavík is the historical island Viðey. The island is only about 1.7 km² [0.65 mi²] but is a popular destination due to its combination of art, history and nature. One of Reykjavík’s City Museum exhibitions is located on Viðey, as well as the Imagine Peace Tower, an outdoor work of art by Yoko Ono in memory of John Lennon. The ferry sails from the Old Harbour over the summer months but from the Skarfabakki pier over the winter months. 

You can see the full ferry schedule here

Ferry admission: ISK 2,100. Children 7-17: ISK 1,050, free for children under 7.

A view of Viðey Island with Esja mountain in background
Photo: Golli – Viðey Island

 

Visit Reykjavík’s Flea Market Kolaportið 

Kolaportið is Iceland’s largest flea market and is located indoors in the city’s centre. The flea market is open every Saturday and Sunday and offers various second-hand clothing, jewellery, food and more. 

 

Explore the Nightlife in Reykjavík 

The nightlife scene in Reykjavík is quite vibrant, attracting travellers from around the world. Many of the city’s bars and clubs are located in Laugavegur and its surrounding streets, making bar hopping and nightlife exploring relatively easy. Some of Reykjavík’s popular bars include Tipsý Cocktail Bar, Jungle, English Bar, and Kiki.

 

Relax in the Geothermal Pools 

Experience authentic Icelandic bathing culture in one of the many geothermal pools in Reykjavík. Sundhöll Reykjavíkur is the oldest public pool in Iceland and is, furthermore, the only public pool located in downtown Reykjavík. The pool consists of hot tubs, a large swimming pool, a cold tub and a sauna, making it a relaxing experience in the busy city centre.

Sundhöll swimming pool Reykjavík
Photo: Golli – Sundhöll Reykjavíkur/Swimming Pool of Reykjavík

 

Where to stay in Reykjavík

When staying in Reykjavík, the city centre, Miðborg Reykjavíkur, offers the most extensive variety of hotels, hostels and Airbnb’s. When staying in the city centre, most of the main attractions of Reykjavík are easily accessible by foot, in addition to the city’s restaurants, bars and cultural centres being located all around, making it a convenient option to stay. Below are a few popular hotels located in Miðborg Reykjavíkur.

 

Canopy by Hilton

The concept behind the Canopy Hotel is about living like a local through design, food and beverage, art and knowledge. The hotel is located at Smiðjustígur, by the main street of Laugavegur.

 

Center Hotels Laugavegur

A modern, urban, and cosy hotel located very centrally at Reykjavík’s main street, Laugavegur.  Highly recommended for travellers who want to be right in the middle of things!

 

Reykjavík Marina

The Reykjavík Marina Hotel is situated next to a historical dry-dock called Slippur in a renovated four-story building that has become a landmark in Iceland.

 

What are the Best Places to Eat in Reykjavík

Reykjavík offers a wide variety of cafes and restaurants where anyone can find something to their liking, whether it be fish, vegetarian food, Italian food, or the ever-rising New Nordic style cuisine.

 

The food halls of Reykjavík 

The popularity of food halls has been increasing vastly in recent years, with Hlemmur Food Hall becoming the first one to open in Reykjavík in 2017. Amongst other food halls in Reykjavík’s city centre are Grandi Food Hall, Pósthús Food Hall and Hafnartorg Gallery. Each of them offers a good variety of different cuisines and a sizeable sharing-style table setting. 

Read more about the food halls of Reykjavík here.

 

Dill

A fine dining experience offering unique dishes and cooking methods inspired by the Icelandic landscape. The restaurant was awarded Iceland’s first Michelin star in 2017 and has since continued to bring eccentric and delicious dishes to its guests.

 

The Fish Market: Fiskmarkaðurinn 

Founded in 2007, The Fish Market serves New Style Seafood Cuisine and is located in the heart of Reykjavík. The restaurant’s unique atmosphere and tasty seafood dishes have made it one of the most popular dining destinations in Reykjavík.

 

Rok 

Rok Restaurant, located on Frakkarstígur, offers a wide selection of small dishes in a fine-casual style. The restaurant offers a fun food experience in a relaxed environment.

 

Ítalía restaurant

Ítalía Restaurant, or Restaurant Italy, is one of the longest-standing restaurants in Reykjavík, founded in 1991. As the name implies, the restaurant offers classic Italian dishes for a fair price.

 

Bæjarins Bestu Hot Dogs 

Bæjarins Bestu, or the town’s best, are Iceland’s famous hot dogs and is one of the oldest operating companies in Iceland. As the name states, the hot dogs are claimed to be the town’s best and have had many well-known visitors, such as Bill Clinton and Kim Kardashian. 

Bæjarins Bestu hot dog stand in Reykjavík.
Photo: Bæjarins Bestu hot dog stand in Reykjavík.

 

How do I get around in Reykjavík?

Getting around in Reykjavík is a topic many wonder about. When staying in central Reykjavík, you might realise how small and compact the city centre is, making it easy to get around on foot. However, other options are available, for instance, during the cold winter months or when going longer distances, where you can choose from buses, taxis or Hopp scooters. 

Read more about how to get around in Reykjavík here.

 

How much time do I need in Reykjavík?

As seen further up in the article, Reykjavík offers multiple exciting sights and experiences. Depending on the total length of your stay and the traveller’s preferences, about three days would be enough to explore the city’s main sights without rushing. However, many travellers prefer to stay in Reykjavík, keeping that as their base and taking day tours from there, which is a viable option.