A Guide to Reykjavík Airport

Reykjavík Airport.

Although Iceland is not the biggest country in terms of surface area, travelling between the south, west, north, and east can take a deceivingly long time. This is mostly due to the endless fjords and peninsulas you’ll weave through on the way. While these are quite often a sight for sore eyes, sometimes, you just don’t have the time or ability to make the journey. In these cases, domestic flights are a lifesaver, and, as luck would have it, there’s a domestic flight airport smack dab in the middle of Reykjavík: Reykjavík Airport. It’s been a topic of much debate due to its close proximity to residential areas, but for now, it’s here to help you explore Iceland in the quickest way possible. 

 

Airlines, destinations, and pricing

Three airlines fly from Reykjavík Airport, each to different towns and villages in Iceland. Icelandair flies to Akureyri in the north, Egilsstaðir in the east, Ísafjörður on the Westfjords, and Vestmannaeyjar islands in the south. Eagle Air (look for Flugfélagið Ernir on search engines) flies to Höfn in Hornafjörður in the southeast, and Norlandair flies to Bíldurdalur and Gjögur on the Westfjords, as well as Nerlerit Inaat in Greenland. Additionally, should none of the flight times or destinations meet your needs, Mýflug Air offers charter flights tailored to your plans.

This wide range of destinations allows a full and free exploration of Iceland for those who don’t have the time, desire, or capability to drive between the different parts of the country. Keep in mind that, as with most things in Iceland, airline tickets are probably quite a bit more expensive than what you’re used to. Prices for a one-way ticket range anywhere from ISK 14,000 [$99, €92] to 60,000 [$424, €395], depending on demand and location. To avoid the highest prices, book your tickets well in advance.

A group of people coming off an aeroplane at Akureyri Airport.
Photo: Golli. A group of people coming off an aeroplane at Akureyri Airport.

How to get to Reykjavík Airport

There are several ways to get to the airport. Firstly, with a walking distance of about 30 minutes from the city centre, there’s the option of going on foot. On a nice day, it’s a beautiful walk that will take you past Vatnsmýrin Nature Reserve, a small, protected moorland with 83 different plant species and plenty of birds. It’s equally pretty in winter as it is in summer, with the colder temperatures luring mystical-looking steam from the water.

If you don’t have a lot of luggage, you could also rent an e-scooter from Hopp. This is a great way to travel quickly and easily between locations while also enjoying the city. They have a pay-per-minute system, so depending on how far away you are, it might even be cheaper than taking the bus. Simply download the Hopp app, rent a scooter, and ride to the airport. Once you get there, you can park the scooter on the edge of the sidewalk and leave it for somebody else. 

A third option is to use Strætó, the public transport system which will take you almost to the door of the airport. Bus number 15 stops in a one-minute walking distance from the airport. If you haven’t been using Strætó, the best thing to do is download Klappið app, where you can purchase a single fair. For up-to-date pricing, see Strætó’s official pricing page. It is also possible to pay with cash, but as the drivers don’t have any change, you’ll have to have the exact amount to avoid paying more than you’re supposed to. 

Buses number 6, 4, and 15 at Hlemmur bus stop.
Buses number 6, 4, and 15 at Hlemmur bus stop.

If you have a rental car that you’re not dropping off before your flight, you can park it by the airport for a fee. The parking system uses automatic number plate recognition, which means that the system will calculate how much you owe based on the time you entered and exited the parking lot. To pay, you’ll need to create an account with Autopay. You should do this within 48 hours of exiting, or a late fee of ISK 1.490 [$10, €10] will be added to your charge. 

Lastly, there’s the option of taking a taxi. This is the most hassle-free way, allowing you to enjoy your journey without having to make any additional transportation plans, but note that taking a taxi in Iceland is very expensive. A 5 km trip within the city during the daytime will likely cost at least ISK 2,666 [$19, €18], or about four times the amount you would pay for a bus ticket.

How much luggage can you bring?

As for many international flights, on domestic flights in Iceland, 20 kg is a common maximum weight for checked-in bags and 6 kg for handbags. This will, of course, depend on the airline you’re flying with, so make sure to familiarize yourself with their rules. Security restrictions on what is allowed in hand luggage are similar to international flights, meaning that firearms, clubs, sharp tools, and anything else that could be considered a weapon are not allowed. However, you are allowed to travel with liquids. For a full list of restricted items, visit Isavia’s baggage information page

How long before departure should you arrive?

Seeing that the airport is a fraction of the size of Keflavík Airport, arriving to check in about 60 minutes before your departure is sufficient. The aeroplanes used to fly domestic flights are smaller than those used for international flights, and the amount of flights taking off and landing is far smaller than at Keflavík. This means that there are fewer people going through, leading to a less busy airport. There are also just two terminals, so you there’s no chance of getting lost and missing your flight. 

Reykjavík Airport from above.
Photo: Golli. Reykjavík Airport from above.

Are there food and beverages at Reykjavík Airport?

At the time of writing, the airport’s cafeteria is temporarily closed. However, there are a few vending machines where you can purchase food and coffee. Domestic flights generally do not offer food and beverages aboard, but if you think you might get hungry on the way, bringing your own refreshments – food and drink – is perfectly fine.  

Special assistance and hidden disabilities

Should you require a wheelchair or special assistance, please contact the airline you’re travelling with beforehand. This will allow them to plan ahead and make any necessary arrangements for your arrival. 

If you have a hidden disability, you can opt to wear the sunflower lanyard to make the journey as comfortable as possible. Airport staff are aware that passengers wearing them might need more time, patience, and understanding, and they will be happy to help you make your journey easier. If you don’t already have one, lanyards are available at the check-in desks in the departure hall and at the information desk in the arrival hall. 

Private flights

In addition to domestic flights flights and flights to Greenland, Reykjavík Airport is a common stopover for private jets. Due to Iceland’s convenient location in the middle of the Atlantic, it’s the ideal place to refuel your plane or divide up the journey between Europe and the United States. With its close proximity to Reykjavík city centre, it’s easy to hop off for a few hours to explore the attractions of the city or grab a bite at one of its exceptional restaurants before heading off again. 

Where to Stay in North Iceland

With dramatic landscapes, lush farmlands, and charming villages, North Iceland has much to offer travellers. It’s fantastic for outdoor activities, culinary experiences, and cultural exploration and in terms of lodgings, it’s most definitely not lacking. But with a myriad of enticing options, finding a place to stay in North Iceland can be a challenging quest. But don’t worry – whether you’re after the cottagecore vibe or a city stay, family-friendly, luxury or budget, we’ve got you covered. 

In Akureyri

Staying in Akureyri is a great option for those who want a city break or are going skiing in Hlíðarfjall mountain. Due to how easy it is to get there without a car, it’s also excellent for those who want to explore the North without having to drive. You can simply take the bus or go by plane, and book North Iceland day-trips that leave from Akureyri. Northern lights, geothermal baths, whale watching and major attractions are all on the table. You can even book a tour tailor-made for you!

For a classic city stay, Hótel Akureyri ($$ – $$$) has three fabulous central locations in town. First, there’s Dynheimar, housed in what used to be Iceland’s firts movie theatre. It’s a quaint hotel on Akureyri’s main street, perfect for those who want something modern and eclectic. For a more classic and sophisticated design, go for Skjaldborg (use Hótel Akureyri when searching). The house was built in 1924 by the sobrietry social group Good Templars and later transformed into a printing factory. Lastly, there’s Akurinn Residence, a stately villa with the same classic design as Skjaldborg that can house up to 17 people. 

Ideal for skiers, Hótel Hálönd ($$) is situated at the base of Hlíðarfjall mountain, only a five-minute drive – or a 40-minute walk if you want a warm-up – from Akureyri’s skiing area. You’ll have access to a hot tub after your adventures on the slopes and a chic, modern room to rest up in. There’s no restaurant at the hotel, but the city centre is only an eight-minute drive away.

People skiing on a sunny day in Hlíðarfjall, Akureyri.
Photo: Golli. People skiing on a sunny day in Hlíðarfjall, Akureyri.

On a budget

It must be said that finding cheap accommodation in Iceland is not an easy task. With a high cost of living, hotels and guesthouses tend to be on the more expensive side. On the bright side, the standard of accommodations in Iceland is relatively high, so in most cases, you’ll be getting your money’s worth. Even so, some lodgings have a below-average price tag whilst also keeping up the good ratings. 

Guesthouse Svínavatn ($) by Svínavatn lake is a small and friendly shoreside accommodation offering rooms with shared or private bathrooms. The lake is popular for fishing, an activity guests can enjoy free of charge. The guesthouse is also conveniently located within an hour’s drive from popular attractions such as Kolufossar waterfalls in Kolugljúfur, Kattarauga pond, and the historic Glaumbær turf house.

A 15-minute ferry ride or a short flight away from the mainland, you’ll find Syðstibær Guesthouse ($) on Hrísey Island, also known as the Pearl of Eyjafjörður. It has a retro vibe and a fantastic location, which allows you to experience the island life. You can take a stroll around the island on four different trails or book a sightseeing tour by tractor. Hrísey also has a bring-you-own-discs disc golf course, a sport that has taken Iceland by storm in the past few years, a small swimming pool and a museum (open by appointment; email [email protected] for inquiries).

The Hrísey lighthouse during summer.
Photo: Páll Stefánsson. The Hrísey lighthouse during summer.

Salt Guesthouse ($) in Siglufjörður is simple, comfy, central, and has historical roots. The house was built as a hotel during the boom of the herring era, and the name ‘Salt’ pays tribute to that history. It’s within five minutes’ walk from the bakery, grocery shop, pharmacy, information centre, and several bars and restaurants. Guests on Booking have noted that the guesthouse is not clearly marked on the outside. Look for a flag hanging above the entrance and the marking ‘Hvanneyri 1935’. This is the name of the house and the year it was built.

Right in the centre of Akureyri, there’s Hafnarstræti Hostel ($-$$), which offers a unique, spaceship-like capsule experience, and Akureyri Backpackers ($), a more typical hostel with a slightly cheaper nightly rate and a sauna. These are great if you want a budget accomodation in the town centre, or if you just really enjoy the more social hostel life. 

For families and groups

With tons of family-friendly adventures, North Iceland is a fantastic place to bring your family! From horseback riding and nature exploring to interesting museums and swimming pools, there’s a lot to discover. Finding suitable lodgings for the whole family might be the hardest part, but following are some that accommodate up to seven people and have nearby activities for kids. These are also ideal for groups that don’t want to split themselves up in hotel rooms. 

Brimnes Bungalows ($-$$$), located by Lake Ólafsfjörður, are classic family cottages that sleep up to seven people. They are fully equipped with a kitchen and bathroom, as well as a hot tub on the veranda. Guests also have access to boats to row on the lake, a great activity for the whole family. Ólafsfjörður Swimming Pool, which has a waterslide, is only a six-minute walk away. The price per person depends on the number of guests, as there is a flat rate for the cottages.

Stóra-Ásgeirsá Horse Farm Stay ($-$$$) offers guests a true Icelandic farm experience. As Brimnes, it accommodates up to seven people, making it perfect for family vacations. The kids can run around the fields, interact with the friendly farm animals, and even take part in farm chores. It’s also possible to book horseback riding, an activity that most children love. At Mjólkurhúsið pub, you can buy drinks and traditional Icelandic meat soup, a hearty dish that will fuel you up after a long day. The price per person for this accommodation depends on the number of guests, as there is a flat rate for the rooms.

Hotel Kjarnalundur ($) in Kjarnaskógur forest, one of the relatively few in Iceland, offers accommodation for up to six and is located in an area that is immensely popular with families. It stretches across 800 hectares of land and is filled with fun trails, playgrounds, volleyball courts, covered grill areas, sledge slopes (during winter), and more. You might even spot some rabbits hopping around. It’s a superb area for family adventures and picnics.

Cottagecore

If hotel rooms and apartments are not your vibe, and you want something a bit more country, perhaps the numerous cottages available in North Iceland sound more attractive.

For nature lovers, Hestasport Cottages ($-$$$) in Varmahlíð, surrounded by fields of grass and mountainscapes, perfectly capture the countryside feeling. They offer a serene atmosphere and an excellent opportunity to experience both the magnificent winter sky and bright summer nights. The price per person depends on the number of guests, as there is a flat rate for the cottages.

There is also Vegamót Cottages ($-$$) in Dalvík, which has an old-fashioned village feel to it. You can choose between a small cottage with a private toilet (no shower) and kitchenette or a slightly bigger cottage with a private bathroom, full kitchen and living room. It does have a three-night minimum stay, but if you’re not in a hurry, it’s a good base location for day trips to Siglufjörður, Akureyri, Grímsey, Húsavík, and more. The price per person depends on the number of guests, as there is a flat rate for the cottages.

Romantic and luxurious

There’s also plenty to pick from on the other end of the spectrum. If you’re on the hunt for romance or luxury, North Iceland will certainly not disappoint you. Whether it’s to get the ultimate relaxation, celebrate an anniversary, pop the question, or just to treat yourself, you won’t have any trouble finding the right accommodation. 

Brimslóð Atelier ($$) is situated in the oldest part of Blönduós village. A small, farmhouse-style hotel right by the sea, it’s well suited for a couple’s getaway. Breakfast is included, and those interested in a Nordic culinary experience can dine at the in-house restaurant, which serves “Icelandic heritage food with a modern twist” from locally sourced and natural ingredients. They also offer a cooking workshop where participants learn about Nordic nature and cuisine.

For something striking a balance between nature and city, try Sigló Hótel ($$$), an outstanding hotel located by Siglufjörður’s harbour. Its classy, romantic design, paired with the marina hot tub and sauna, is perfect for a romantic stay or relaxing after a tiring day. A continental breakfast is included in the price. The hotel also runs three restaurants, offering guests dinner and lunch options ranging from fine dining to burgers and pizza. 

Three people enjoying the view of a snow-covered Siglufjörður from the marina hot tub at Sigló Hotel.
Photo: Golli. Three people enjoying the view of a snow-covered Siglufjörður from the marina hot tub at Sigló Hotel.

For those wanting the best of the best, Deplar Farm ($$$$$) is a remote hideout that offers a highly luxurious experience of the Icelandic wilderness. Surrounded by mountains, fields, and rivers, with nothing else in sight for miles, it’s ideal for recharging. It has a Nordic and minimalist style and offers a range of activities, both in summer and winter. With nightly rates starting at around ISK 600.000 [$ 4.500, €4.100] and a minimum stay of three nights, it is one of the most – if not the most – expensive hotels you can book in Iceland. However, it’s also one of the most exquisite, making the 2023 Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List as one of the “Best Hotels in the World”. 

One with nature

If you’re going to North Iceland to breathe in the exquisite nature, you can enhance your experience by choosing the right place to stay. Although a great deal of the available accommodations in North Iceland are, in fact, surrounded by nature , there are several that really stand out from the crowd in regards to location or design.

Fosshótel at Lake Mývatn ($$$), designed with nature in mind and in perfect harmony with its surroundings, is an excellent choice for those wanting to immerse themselves in Iceland’s beautiful landscapes. Sitting in the magnificent lava fields of Mývatn and facing the lake, the enormous dining hall windows offer an unobstructed view of nature. The hotel has a first-class continental breakfast and an in-house restaurant perfect for those wanting to try the famous Icelandic lamb or fish

Sky sighting Iglúhús ($$) takes the closeness to nature one step further. With cosy and rustic, dome-style cabins that have windows across the roof, you’ll have an unrestricted view of the night sky while you lie in bed. This is a unique way to experience the midnight sun of summer and the northern lights of winter. Located in Árskógarsandur, it’s in the same area as The Beer Spa, quite literally offering their guests to bathe in beer whilst also drinking beer. A cheaper alternative is Hauganes beach baths, where you can refresh yourself with some sea swimming and relax in the ocean-view tubs. If you’re easily disturbed by light while you sleep, this is a place you should visit in fall, winter, or early spring while the sun isn’t up half the night. Note that there are no showers at the accommodation.

Iceland Yurt ($$ – $$$) takes camping to the next level, offering guests a traditional Mongolian wool-insulated and wood-fired yurt. Wake up to the birds singing or the sound of raindrops on the tent and connect with nature in a new way. Five minutes from camp is the Gaia god/dess temple, where you can book conscious movement and dance sessions, as well as deep relaxation. The tents accommodate up to five people, and included in the price is a yummy breakfast stored in cute little cooler boxes.

Camping and campervans

Should you be travelling in a camper van or with a tent, you need to find an established campsite ($) or get a landowner’s written permission to camp on their property. You should be able to locate a campsite easily, as plenty of them are around, but here are some of our favourites. 

People setting up camp.
Photo: Golli/Morgunblaðið. People setting up camp.

Hamrar in Kjarnaskógur, the same one mentioned above, is one of the most family-friendly campsites in Iceland. The campsite, situated in a woodland area just outside the city, is large and offers amenities such as picnic tables, playgrounds, volleyball courts, a bring-you-own-discs disc golf court, mountain bike trails, and covered barbecue facilities. There are also 12 km [7.5 miles] of gravel tracks to walk on, as well as ungravelled trails and tracks.

Ásbyrgi, located in one of Iceland’s national parks, is a curiously shaped glacier valley and a popular attraction. It has strong ties to Old Norse Mythology, which states that the horseshoe-shaped canyon was formed by Sleipnir, Óðin‘s eight-legged horse. The campsite is an ideal base for nature exploring, as there are several trails of various lengths in the area, which will lead you to a handful of natural attractions. If you have the time, you can even plan a multi-day hiking adventure. On the campsite, you’ll have access to electricity, a washing machine and dryer, toilets, showers, and a playground.

Situated in a small forest, Hólar in Hjaltadal has plenty of quiet and secluded corners and beautiful meadows, described by a Google reviewer as “one of the best campsites”. If you want a true old-school camping experience, this might be the place for you. At the Hólar campsite, there is no electricity, bad internet connection, and limited amenities, all of which are part of the attraction for those wanting a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. There are bathrooms and sinks with (mostly) cold water but no showers. 

Mánárbakki is the ideal place for a romantic camping experience. Situated on the Tjörnes peninsula, right by the sea, you’ll have an amazing view of the sunset right from your tent. The campsite, which offers washing and cooking facilities, toilets, showers, and electricity, has an exceptionally good rating of 4.8, based on 791 reviews.

Although it is possible to book some campsites in advance, you generally don’t need to. Most campsites are open from sometime in May into September, but this is different for each place, so be sure to look into that beforehand. If you need help finding a campsite or general information about them, Tjalda.is has a list and map of all campsites in Iceland. 

 

Fimmvörðuháls: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide

A group of people by Skógafoss.

If you’re planning on a hike in the Highland while you’re in Iceland, Fimmvörðuháls is a great option. It’s one of the most popular day hikes in Iceland and for a good reason. Taking you past more than 20 waterfalls, through barren landscape, between two glaciers, and down into the lush natural paradise of Þórsmörk, it’s one of the most diverse routes you can take in the Icelandic wilderness within a day. This guide to hiking Fimmvörðuháls will tell you everything you need to know about how to get there, what to expect on the way, whether it’s suitable for children, and much more.

When can you make the Fimmvörðuháls hike?

Technically, Fimmvörðuháls is open all year round, but mid-June to the end of August is the ideal time, especially if you’re going without a guide. It’s the time you’ll be most likely to get decent weather and good trail conditions, which will make your journey both more enjoyable and safe. During the off-season, conditions can be difficult due to storms and heavy snow on the ground, and planning transportation to and from the trail will be hard. You should only hike Fimmvörðuháls during the off-season if you’re an experienced hiker or with a guide. The video below will give you an idea of what the conditions are like during the hiking season.

Guided or unguided

During the hiking season, the Fimmvörðuháls hike can be done on your own. This might be the better option for photographers wanting to capture the unique Icelandic landscape or those who just want to take some extra time to enjoy the Highland, as it allows you complete freedom of speed. If you choose to go unguided, make sure to familiarize yourself with the trail beforehand and bring a GPS device and/or a map and a compass.

For less experienced hikers, those who don’t feel confident making the trip on their own, or social butterflies who want to hike with a larger group, there are plenty of guided tours available from May to September.

What to wear on your hike

Don’t underestimate the weather. Even if the forecast is great for Skógar and Þórsmörk, your starting and ending points, the conditions can be completely different and rapidly changing once you’re higher up.

To maximize your safety and comfort, it’s recommended to wear three layers on your journey:

  • A base layer of wool or synthetic thermal underwear.
  • A middle layer for insulation, wool or synthetics.
  • A wind and water-resistant, but breathable, outer layer.

Leave your cotton clothes at home. They won’t keep you warm when they get moist from sweat or wet from snow and rain. If you tend to get easily cold, or if the forecast is particularly grim, an extra sweater in the backpack is a good idea.

Additionally, you should have thermal gloves and headwear, socks made from wool or synthetics, and waterproof hiking boots, such as those on the image below. These are crucial, as there will be snow on the way. If you don’t have the proper equipment or space in your luggage to bring it, you can make use of a hiking and camping equipment rental.

Sturdy hiking boots.
Photo: Matti Blume, Wikimedia. Sturdy hiking boots.

What to bring – and what to leave on the bus

Although Iceland is known for its many rivers, there are none for a good deal of the Fimmvörðuháls trail. This means that you’ll have to bring water for the whole day in your backpack. It’s also a good idea to have hot water, hot chocolate, coffee or tea.

Assuming you’ve already had breakfast, you should bring lunch, dinner and plenty of snacks. An example of food for the day would be as follows:

  • Snacks – a pack of biscuits, a bag of nuts, raisins and chocolate, a granola bar, an apple, and a package of Icelandic fish jerky.
  • Lunch – a sandwich or two with hummus and vegetables or ham and cheese, a package of instant soup, and a snack.
  • Dinner – pasta with cream sauce or a package of freeze-dried food, a hot drink, and a snack.

Other than food, you should bring:

  • A first-aid kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Sunglasses
  • An extra pair of socks
  • Blister plasters or tape
  • A GPS and/or map and compass.

Those planning to stay the night in Þórsmörk do not have to carry additional things with them on the hike. You can leave your tents, sleeping bags and anything else you won’t need during the day on the bus, and the driver will drop them off at your accommodations. To do this, you’ll just have to make sure that the bus you choose is actually going there, have your things clearly labelled, and let the driver know.

Which direction to hike in

Since the hike is a point-to-point, there are, of course, two ways to do it. The most popular way is to start from Skógar and make your way into Þórsmörk. That means you’ll be facing the 20-plus waterfalls of the hike on the way up, have a slow but long inclination and the beautiful sight of Þórsmörk coming down. However, it’s entirely possible to do it the other way around. Many mountain runners prefer that, for example, as starting from Þórsmörk gives you a steeper but shorter inclination.

A group of people by Skógafoss waterfall in Skógar.
A group of people by Skógafoss waterfall in Skógar.

What to expect on the hike

While the hike is not the most difficult you can take, it is challenging and not suitable for those with poor physical health. Be sure to get some training in if you’re not used to hiking.

The trail itself is 24 km [15 miles] from Skógar to Básar (or the other way around) and has about 1000 metres [0.6 miles] ascent. On average, it takes eight to ten hours to complete. However, this is highly dependent on your physical form, how often and long you stop to admire the surrounding nature, and whether you struggle with heights. Some people take less than seven hours, while others take 14. Where you’re going to sleep once you get down to Þórsmörk is also a factor, but we’ll get to that further down in the guide.

There are several places where you’ll need to swallow your fear of heights if you have it. There are a couple of steep hills to climb up and down and some places where the path gets very narrow. For a few meters, you’ll have to hold on to a rope to get across a ledge.

There will be snow – maybe even a lot – and the importance of wearing proper hiking boots cannot be stressed enough. Don’t head off wearing sandals or trainers. You’ll end up with wet shoes, cold feet, and a far less enjoyable journey.

Fimmvörðuháls during summer, covered in snow.
Photo: Erik Pomrenke. Fimmvörðuháls during summer, covered in snow.

If you’re starting from Skógar, you’ll head into the barren landscape after you pass the last stretch of the waterfalls and river. This part can feel rather tedious compared to the first, but we promise it will all be well and truly worth it. The views coming down into Þórsmörk in the last leg of the journey are beyond this world.

Should you spend the night in Þórsmörk?

Many people drive out, do the hike, and head back on the same day, but if you have time, Þórsmörk is an amazing place to spend it in. You should also keep in mind that you’re most likely dependent on the highland bus to get out of Þórsmörk. This means that if you don’t spend the night, the bus schedule will restrict your time for things going wrong on the way or exploring the area once you’re down. The last bus usually leaves at 8 PM, and assuming you took the bus to Skógar, you will have started the hike around 11 AM, giving you just about nine hours to complete it. Having sleeping arrangements allows you to take your time on the hike without having to worry about missing the bus.

You can book a sleeping space in a cabin in Básar, Langidalur or Húsadalur, or you could bring a tent. For those wanting a bit of luxury or romance after a long and tiring day, there’s also glamping available, but beware that this is located in Húsadalur. Of the three places you can sleep in, Húsadalur is the furthest away from the end of the hiking trail and getting there will add about 2-3 hours to your journey. Básar is the nearest and, thus, the most popular amongst hikers. Langidalur lies in between the two, adding two kilometres [1.2 miles] to your trip. These all have their unique characteristics, and should you want to experience all of them, you can always plan to stay a few days. Keep in mind that there are limited sleeping spaces, so book yours in advance!

The view from Valahnúkur mountain in Þórsmörk, a popular hike amongst those staying there.
Photo: Erik Pomrenke. The view from Valahnúkur mountain in Þórsmörk, a popular hike amongst those staying there.

If 24 km [15 miles] in a day is not your jam, you can make the hike into a two-day trip and stay a night in either Fimmvörðuskáli or Baldvinsskáli. They are conveniently situated about midway through. You can also choose to hike the trail for a few kilometres and turn back the same way, making it a round-trip of any length you desire. From either end of it, you’ll have epic scenery along the way: the long trail of waterfalls alongside the path from Skógar or the breathtaking view of Þórsmörk below as you hike up the trail and back down again. You could even bring a blanket and some food and set up a picnic along the way. Lastly, there’s the option of seeing Fimmvörðuháls from above on a helecopter tour, in case you’re not able to or don’t want to hike.

Is Fimmvörðuháls suitable for children?

It depends on their hiking experience, physical capability, and enthusiasm. Most companies offering guided tours require a minimum age of 12 or 13 years. This is also a good guideline for families going on their own, but of course, you know your child/children best and will be able to assess their ability based on previous experiences. If you’ve never hiked with them before, doing a test hike is a good idea, and keep in mind that Fimmvörðuháls will probably be a bit more challenging. If you’re worried about it being too hard for them, the suggestions above, making it a two-day hike or only doing part of it, are excellent options.

On the last stretch of the waterfall part of Fimmvörðuháls.
Photo: Erik Pomrenke. On the last stretch of the waterfall part of Fimmvörðuháls.

Getting to and from Fimmvörðuháls

Since the Fimmvörðuháls trail is a point-to-point hike, not a circle, and because of how the highland buses are scheduled, this will probably be the trickiest part of your planning. The fact that you need a 4×4 and experience with river crossing to get in and out of Þórsmörk also restricts your options somewhat. There are several ways you can do this.

  • The most hassle-free option is to book a guided tour that includes transportation. You will need to make no other arrangements than getting to the meeting point. This might be particularly enticing for families with children, but it is also one of the more expensive ways.
  • If you don’t want a guided tour, the next best option would be to have a designated driver who drops you off at the starting point and picks you up at the end. This is a great solution if only part of the group you’re travelling with is doing the hike, and it’s by far the cheapest one. You’ll only need to buy a ticket to or from Þórsmörk to Brú Base Camp, Seljalandsfoss, or Hvolsvöllur, depending on the bus company.
  • A similar situation can be worked out if you have two cars. This will allow you to leave one car at Skógar and one at whichever bus stop you choose to get on/off the bus to or from Þórsmörk. This means that you can drive all the way to Skógar in the morning, hike to Þórsmörk, take the bus to a chosen bus stop and drive back to Skógar to pick up the second car (or the other way around).
  • A fourth option is to get a ticket with one of the highland buses from Reykjavík: A one-way ticket to your starting point, Skógar or Básar (if you’re starting in Þórsmörk, don’t choose Langidalur or Húsadalur!), and a one-way ticket back to Reykjavík from your ending point. Make sure that if your ending point is Þórsmörk, you pick the correct hut for pick-up: Básar, Langidalur or Húsadalur. Each bus company only goes to one or two of the three. If your ticket just says ‘Þórsmörk’, check with the company you bought it from. Those staying the night in Þórsmörk don’t have to worry too much about the timetable, but if you’re planning a one-day trip, make sure that a) you book your ticket back from Básar and b) you know the time you have to be down by.
  • Similarly, if you’re already on the South Coast and got there by car, you can hop on the bus somewhere along the way between Reykjavík and your starting point. This could be in Selfoss, Hella, or Hvolsvöllur, but the stops will be slightly different between bus companies. Just make sure that the bus you take on your way back stops at the same place you left your car. Note that there is no bus that runs from Þórsmörk to Skógar, so leaving your car there at the start of your hike is not a great option. If you do this, you’ll have to take a taxi once you’re out of Þórsmörk to get back to it, which will be very expensive.

A Quick Guide to Hiking in Iceland

A group of people hiking in Landmannalaugar.

With endless mountains, natural wonders, and out-of-this-world sceneries, Iceland was made for hiking. No matter where in the country you are, a great hike is waiting for you just around the corner. Some are short and sweet, others are long and adventurous, but they all offer a serene experience of the magnificent Icelandic nature. If you’re headed to the mountains or Highland for an adventure, our guide to hiking in Iceland is here to help make the journey as safe and enjoyable as possible. 

Before you go

Never leave for a hike without telling someone where you’re going and for how long. Submit your travel plans to Safe Travel so that authorities can provide you with assistance as quickly as possible in emergencies. Make sure to have the Icelandic emergency service number written down and a phone to call them. To minimize the chances of getting caught in extreme weather, check the forecast on vedur.is before you leave for your hike and be on the lookout for weather warnings.

Get the lay of the land. How long is the hike? What’s the expected elevation? What’s the terrain like? Do some basic research online or get yourself a book about hiking routes in Iceland. That way, you’ll know what to expect and whether the hike is suitable for you. To ensure safety and protect the ecosystem, always follow a marked trail.

If you want to go glacier hiking, book a tour. While incredible places to hike, the glaciers can be extremely dangerous if you don’t know your way around them, so having a guide is imperative. The tour office will also provide you with the necessary equipment.

Hikers getting ready for Sólheimajökull glacier hike.
Photo: Golli. Hikers getting ready for Sólheimajökull glacier hike.

How to dress for hiking in Iceland

Dressing for hiking in Iceland can be tricky, as you never really know what the weather has in store for you. It’s always ready to catch you off guard with strong gusts of wind and unexpected rain, especially up in the mountains. The combined power of precipitation, wind, and cold temperatures is frequently underestimated, which can lead to hypothermia. 

In the Icelandic climate, layers are your best friend. They will allow you to adapt to changing conditions and be prepared for the unexpected. Wear:

  • A base layer of wool or synthetic thermal underwear.
  • A middle layer for insulation, wool or synthetics. 
  • A wind and water-resistant, but breathable, outer layer.

Leave your cotton clothes at home. They won’t keep you warm when they get moist from sweat or wet from snow and rain. Additionally, you should have thermal gloves, headwear, and hiking socks made from wool or synthetics. Even when the weather is great, bring the layers along in your backpack. 

On a good summer day, short hikes on well-kept trails, such as trails leading up to popular waterfalls, can be made in your average trainers. For longer hikes or hikes made in cold or wet conditions, sturdy hiking boots are essential. 

A person looking over a valley on Laugavegur trail, one of the longer hikes in Iceland.
Photo: Berglind. A person looking over a valley on Laugavegur trail, one of the longer hikes in Iceland.

What to have in your backpack

In addition to having the appropriate attire, there are several things you should have in your backpack:

  • Should there be snow, bring crampons. 
  • A GPS device, map, and compass. Even on well-marked trails, you might get caught in a snowstorm or heavy fog and lose your sense of direction. If you get lost and can’t situate yourself with the help of your equipment, call for help, sit down and wait. When using a map on your phone, make sure to download it.
  • A charging bank so the phone won’t run out of battery.
  • A first aid kit for minor accidents and emergencies.
  • Liquids and food, even for short hikes – you never know what might happen. 
  • If you’re headed out on a multi-day hike, don’t forget your camping equipment and extra clothes!

If you don’t have all the equipment you need or the luggage space to bring it, you can rent anything you might need, from gloves and boots to tents and GPS devices.

People hiking in fog on Hornstrandir.
Photo: Golli. People hiking in fog on Hornstrandir.

Crossing rivers

Having to cross rivers while hiking is common in Iceland. They vary hugely in size and current strength, so it‘s important to assess each river carefully before crossing. If your trail has a large river that you can‘t wade without getting your hiking shoes soaked, bring wading shoes, sandals or trainers. These will be better for crossing than going barefoot. 

Make sure that you don‘t have anything tied tightly to you, and loosen the straps on your backpack. If you fall into a river that is deep or has a strong current, it‘s better to be able to quickly let go of your things. 

The best place to cross is often where the water is more spread out, as narrower parts are usually deeper and have a stronger current. Don‘t follow the same path as a jeep without making sure it‘s a good place to cross on foot – it might not be. After finding a suitable path, it‘s advised to make the crossing three or four together, with arms clasped at the elbows. 

RIFF – Reykjavík International Film Festival

Swim-in screening of The Truman Show.

The Reykjavík International Film Festival, or RIFF for short, is an 11-day annual film festival that has been running since 2004. It was founded by a mixed group of film professionals and enthusiasts who wanted to present fresh and progressive cinematic experiences to the Icelandic cultural scene. Each year, they offer a wide range of international and independent films as well as highly unique screenings and special events. Taking place all over Reykjavík, with an occasional event even happening out in nature, RIFF might just be the perfect way for film lovers to get to know Iceland. 

When and where does RIFF take place?

The festival takes place in the fall, but the dates vary somewhat between years. This year, 2024, it takes off on 26 September and ends on 6 October. The main venues will be Háskólabíó cinema and The Nordic House, both located within walking distance from Reykjavík city centre. However, other festival venues are usually spread out across the city, with past locations including the Reykjavík City Hall, Bíó Paradís cinema, city libraries, nursing homes and prisons. The festival is also known for screenings in curious and unexpected locations, offering a completely new view of the films being shown. At previous festivals, guests could, for example, enjoy Life of Pi in a swimming pool, horror movies in a cave, and a documentary about Greenland’s melting ice sheet inside Iceland’s second-largest glacier, Langjökull.

Films and other events

During the festival, you’ll be able to see a diverse collection of international dramas and non-fiction films, where independent and up-and-coming filmmakers take centre stage. The films are divided into several categories, including New Visions, Documentaries, and A Different Tomorrow. The screenings are often followed by a director Q&A where festival guests get a chance to chat with directors about the film and gain a unique insight into their work. 

The festival also offers special events, such as the aforementioned swimming pool and cave screenings, virtual reality experiences, cinematic culinary experiences, pub quizzes, and scavenger hunts. Additionally, guests can attend panels, lectures, and workshops, concerts, and exhibitions. Programme brochures for upcoming festivals can be accessed here when they have been made available.

How to get tickets for RIFF

Tickets to individual screenings, special events, and other events usually go on sale a week or two before the festival starts, but 8 ticket clip cards and full festival passes can be bought in advance online. These are valid for all films shown at the festival but not special events. Up-to-date information about ticket sales and prices can be found on the official RIFF website.

How to Book a Mountain Cabin

A person sitting in the snow outside a mountain hut in Kerlingafjöll.

The Icelandic Highland is the place to go if you’re looking for an escape from reality. With no paved roads or lampposts, serene wilderness that goes on forever, and dramatic scenery that will give you the feel of a movie-worthy adventure, it’s perfect for leaving the outside world behind for a bit. While truly magical, the Highlands are no exception to the typical Icelandic weather conditions, so if you’re spending the night there, you might want to opt for a mountain cabin rather than a tent.

Finding and booking mountain cabins

You can book guided tours in the Highland where cabin accommodations are included, but they’re also fairly easy to book on your own. The highland cabins are run by several companies, each with its own website. On ferdalag.is, you can find a comprehensive list of nearly all available cabins. You can browse through the list or use their map to view them by location. By clicking on each cabin, you’ll get some practical information and images, as well as contact details and a link to the service provider’s official website or Facebook page. 

Some huts have a booking system you can book through, but others require sending an email inquiry or call. In some cases, it’s possible to arrive without a booking, but we strongly recommend avoiding that unless you have a tent with you as a backup. You never know how many people will be in the area. 

What to expect

Much like in a hostel, what you’ll usually get when staying in a mountain cabin is a bed in a shared sleeping space and access to a kitchen and bathroom. However, facilities will be different in each hut. For instance, they don’t all have running water throughout the year, and sometimes, you’ll have to bring your own toilet paper. Details about this will be available on the service provider’s official webpage. The types of sleeping arrangements vary between locations as well. There are cabins with regular single bunk beds or freestanding beds, and there are cabins with large mattresses where you’ll be sleeping beside others. Usually, you’ll need to bring your own sleeping bag. 

Icelandic Wool and Lopapeysur

Two farmers herding sheep. The one on the right is wearing a lopapeysa.

If you’ve travelled around Iceland during spring and summer, you’ll no doubt have noticed that sheep can be spotted nearly everywhere in the countryside. While the weather is at its best, they roam mostly free and are often seen alongside roads. Their wool, a product of enduring harsh conditions for centuries, is one of the things that made Iceland livable before modern-day housing and heating came along. In the present day, it might not be the key to survival, but it’s still a big part of the Icelandic culture. A great example of that is the iconic Icelandic lopapeysa, which received protected status in 2020 and is a staple in most locals’ closets.

History of the Icelandic wool

Brought along by the first Viking settlers, the Icelandic sheep have been with the nation for more than 1200 years, providing us with necessary warmth in harsh weather conditions. For the longest time, wool was the only fibre used for textile production in Iceland, a job done by men, women and children alike. These textiles were not solely made for personal use. A coarse wool fabric called vaðmál was, for example, the most common currency used in the period 930 to 1262, and in the 17th and 18th centuries, knitted wool textiles were one of Iceland’s biggest exports. 

Unique properties 

The wool of the Icelandic sheep has been shaped by the country’s challenging conditions. With isolation, cold weather and extreme natural conditions, it developed into a unique combination of inner and outer fibres. The inner layer, called þel, is soft and short with outstanding insulating qualities, while the outer layer, called tog, is coarse, long and water-resistant. This combination is what gives the wool its highly unique natural protection qualities. The yarn made from the wool is called lopi, and in addition to providing excellent shielding from cold weather, rain and snow, it’s also highly durable, lightweight and breathable. 

Lopapeysur and other wool products

The wool market experienced a steep decline in the 90s, after a 20-year period of blooming business, but wool producers are now reporting a significant increase in wool demand. With fashion labels like Varma, Magnea, and Katla producing and selling Icelandic knitwear, you could say that Icelandic wool is back in style. Several companies have also started experimenting with using wool in ways other than traditional knitwear. Among available products are Lopi Draumur wool duvets, Icewear jackets with wool fill, and Kormákur og Skjöldur’s Icelandic tweed clothes

The rising popularity of the traditional Icelandic lopapeysa is also a part of the growth. It’s a hand-knitted sweater made from lopi, with a circular pattern across the chest and upper back called bekkur. The collection of patterns is ever-growing, and although a few have become classics, such as the eight-petalled rose, there are no rules about what should or should not be done. The sweaters are made in all sorts of colours and styles, but the most typical ones are closed in the front and made in natural sheep colours—brown, grey, black, and white.

Three lopapeysur, each with different colours and patterns.
Photo: Golli. Three lopapeysur, each with different colours and patterns.

Although Icelanders have been knitting for centuries, the tradition of knitting what is known as the traditional lopapeysa only started in the mid-20th century. The sweaters have become a hallmark of Icelandic culture, which most locals consider a necessity in one’s wardrobe. During fall, winter, and spring, it keeps you warm and toasty, but it also comes in handy for cool summer days (or nights if you’re chasing the midnight sun). No matter the time of year, a lopapeysa is a great item to have on your travels around Iceland, and due to its popularity with tourists, you can easily find it both in the capital area and the countryside.

The Icelandic Culture: An Insight into Holidays and Customs

Five children dressed up as elves on Þrettándinn.

Iceland is a country of many holidays and customs. Throughout the year, there are multiple occasions to celebrate, and as elsewhere, these are opportunities to gather friends or family, be social, and eat both traditional and festive food. The following list of holidays and customs is not exhaustive but will give you some insight into the Icelandic culture. 

January

January 1: New Year’s Day

New Year’s Day is a day of rest in Iceland. Most things will be closed on this day, but if you’re in need of a little action, head down to Nauthólsvík Beach in Reykjavík and tag along for the increasingly popular tradition of New Year’s wild swimming

Winter sea bathing in Nauthólsvík.
Photo: Golli. Winter sea bathing in Nauthólsvík.

January 6: Þrettándinn

On the thirteenth and last day of Christmas, families and friends come together to say farewell to Christmas with fireworks and bonfires. According to folklore, this is a time of magic, with mythical creatures out and about trying to lure humans into their magical world. 

End of January: Bóndadagurinn and sun celebrations

Bóndadagurinn, Husband’s Day, is a day where male spouses are celebrated. The day marks the beginning of Þorrinn, which, according to the old Icelandic calendar, was the fourth month of winter. During this time, it is customary to eat Þorramatur, which constitutes traditional Icelandic food such as ram’s balls, lamb’s heads, shark, and rutabaga mash. The end of January is also the time of year when many communities celebrate the sun’s rising above the mountains after a period of darkness.

Traditional Icelandic þorramatur.
Traditional Icelandic þorramatur.

February

End of February: Konudagurinn

Konudagurinn, Wife’s Day, is a day to celebrate wives, fiancés, and girlfriends. It also marks the start of Góa, the fifth month of winter in the old Icelandic calendar. Old beliefs have it that bad weather during Góa is a sign of a good summer to come.

February 4 to March 10: Bolludagur, sprengidagur and öskudagur

In the seventh week before Easter, the Icelandic people celebrate this trio of days that comes with an overload of food. Bolludagur, Bun Day, features cream buns of various sorts, and on Sprengidagur, Bursting Day, Icelanders load up on salted lamb meat and split pea soup. On Öskudagur, Ash Wednesday, children dress up in costumes and walk between stores to sing in exchange for candy.

March and April

March 22 to April 25: Easter

Easter is celebrated in Iceland, with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Day, and the Second Day of Easter marked as official holidays. On Easter Sunday, it’s customary to indulge in chocolate easter eggs filled with candy and idioms. Whitsun, the seventh Sunday after easter and the following Monday are national holidays as well.

A broken Icelandic easter egg and the candy inside it.
Photo: Golli. A broken Icelandic easter egg and the candy inside it.

End of April – First day of summer

The first day of summer is celebrated on the first Thursday after April 18. According to Icelandic folklore, if winter and summer ‘freeze together’, the coming summer will be good. This is a day off for most people, and you can attend outdoor festivities all over the country. Traditionally, Icelandic children get a summer gift on the first day of summer.

May

May 1: Labour Day

Like many other countries, Iceland celebrates Labour Day. A day off for most, you’ll find crowds of people attending parades, speeches, and union coffees all over the country.

June

First Sunday of June: Sjómannadagurinn

At its core, the Icelandic people are a fishing nation, and we have a holiday to testify to that. Sjómannadagurinn, Fishermen’s Day, dates back to 1938 and is celebrated with various festivities in honour of fishermen all over Iceland. 

Children playing games in the Reykjavík harbour on Sjómanndadagurinn.
Photo: Golli. Children playing games in the Reykjavík harbour on Sjómanndadagurinn.

June 17: The Icelandic National Holiday

On June 17, 1944, Iceland became a republic after centuries of Norwegian and Danish rule. Since then, the day has been the Icelandic National Holiday, a day of parades, family fun, cake buffets, and other lively activities. On Austurvöllur Square, Fjallkonan, the embodiment of Iceland, appears in traditional Icelandic dress and reads a poem for the nation. 

August

Beginning of August: Verslunarmannahelgin

Verslunarmannahelgin, Tradesmens’ Weekend, is one of the biggest travelling weekends of the year in Iceland, with various outdoor festivals taking place all over the country. Amongst the bigger ones are Þjóðhátíð in Vestmannaeyjar Islands and Neistaflug in Neskaupsstaður. The following Monday is called Trademen’s’ Day, and it is an official holiday. It was established in 1894 through a joint effort from all the major shop owners in Reykjavík. 

Early August: Reykjavík Pride

Reykjavík Pride has been a stable part of the Icelandic culture since 1999. It started out as a weekend event but has now become a full week of celebration. 

September

Whole of September

September is the time of réttir in Iceland, a tradition of farmers, landowners and communities herding the country’s free ranging sheep back to their farms for winter. Réttir is usually accompanied by loads of baked goods, coffee, alcohol and singing.

Réttir in North Iceland.
Photo: Golli. Réttir in North Iceland.

November

November 16: The Day of the Icelandic Tongue 

To commemorate the Icelandic language, a national day for celebration was established in 1996. The day chosen was poet Jónas Hallgrímsson‘s birthday (b. 1807, d. 1845), but he contributed to the Icelandic language more than 200 new and uniquely Icelandic words. Among them are the Icelandic words for ‘adverb’, ‘property of a nation’ and ‘the peacefulness of the countryside’: ‘lýsingarorð’, ‘þjóðareign’ and ‘sveitasæla’.

December

December 1: Sovereignty Day

In 1918, an agreement was made between Iceland and its Danish rulers, in which Denmark acknowledged Iceland’s sovereignty. Replaced by the National Holiday in 1944, Sovereignty Day is no longer an official holiday, but nevertheless, you’ll see flags hoisted all over the country.

Throughout December: The Advent and Yulelads

Although the average Icelander is not highly religious, they go all in on the holiday season. Taking place in the darkest time of the year when the daylight hours are as few as 3 hours, they have plenty of traditions and activities to lighten their spirits. The last four Sundays before Christmas are called Advent Sundays, and on each, a candle is lit in so-called advent wreaths. Many families and friends meet for Christmas activities on these days, such as Christmas baking or the making of Laufabrauð, a traditional fried and decorated wafer. Then there are the Yulelads, 13 brothers who make their way down from the mountains from December 12, one at a time. They place small gifts in children’s shoes up until December 24.

Yulelads in downtown Reykjavík.
Photo: Golli. Yulelads in downtown Reykjavík.

December 23: Þorláksmessa

On Þorláksmessa, Icelanders come together to eat fermented skate. This stems from an old tradition of eating low-quality fish before indulging in the festive foods of Christmas. To get rid of the horrid smell, it is recommended to boil hangikjöt, traditionally smoked lamb. 

December 24: Christmas Eve

Most people work only half a day on Christmas Eve, and at 6 PM, the church bells ring in Christmas. Families gather around a festive meal, wearing their finest clothes, and after dinner, Christmas gifts are opened. 

December 25 and 26: Christmas Day and Second Day of Christmas

These are days off for most people and are often regarded as days to stay in pyjamas, play games, read, or watch movies. They are also common days for the extended family to gather, often to eat the hangikjöt boiled on Þorláksmessa. It is eaten with canned peas, fermented red cabbage, and boiled potatoes in a béchamel type sauce. 

December 31: New Year’s Eve

The Icelandic people, well and truly wild about fireworks, celebrate New Year with a bang. With parties kicking off with a festive dinner, the spectacles start around eight or nine and go on long past midnight, with only a brief pause between 10:30 and 11:30 PM – the airing time of the yearly áramótaskaup, a comedy review of the year.

Fireworks on New Year's Eve.
Photo: Golli. Fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

Secondhand and Thrift Shopping in Reykjavík

Kolaportið second hand market.

As the secondhand movement grows around the globe, so does the thrifting market in Reykjavík. It’s not big on a metropolis scale, with a shop on every corner, but there are, nevertheless, several excellent options to choose from. Whether you’re on a quest for something one-of-a-kind, a piece of top-notch design or simply a bargain, Reykjavík’s diverse mix of secondhand shops will cater to your every need. 

Charity shops in Reykjavík

When looking for secondhand clothes on a budget, Rauði Krossinn Secondhand Market and Nytjamarkaður ABC are the shops to look in. Nytjamarkaður ABC has one shop in Reykjavík, located on Laugavegur street, and Rauði Krossinn has four: Two on Laugavegur street, one in Kringlan shopping centre, and one in Mjóddin shopping centre. There is also Góði hirðirinn on Köllunarklettsvegur road. It’s not in the city centre, but it’s great for finding things such as household goods, books, and suitcases. All profits from sold items in these stores go towards humanitarian efforts

Direct from seller

In the past six years, stores where you can sell your old clothes have become increasingly popular and trendy in Iceland. In Reykjavík, you can find three such stores: Barnaloppan, Verzlanahöllin, and Hringekjan. Barnaloppan, the place that got the ball rolling in 2018, exclusively sells secondhand children’s clothing and items. Located outside the city centre, it might not be within a short walking distance from your hotel, but it’s well worth a trip on the bus if you’re on the hunt for secondhand children’s products. The other two are located downtown, on Laugavegur street and Þórunnartún street, respectively. Then there is Kolaportið, a flea market by the Reykjavík harbour which has been around since 1989. It’s a popular weekend attraction, but sadly, it might not be there for much longer, as Reykjavík authorities are looking to move it. Hopefully it will manage to live on in a new location! The prices in these places range from very low to moderate, depending on both quality and each individual seller. 

Reykjavík vintage stores 

If you want something truly vintage, Wasteland on Ingólfsstræti street and Spúútnik on Laugavegur street and in Kringlan shopping centre are the places to go. 1940s Hollywood glam? All-denim like Britney and Timberlake? A bit of Who’s That Girl spunk? Offering clothes from every decade, you can find practically any style you desire there. You can also check out Gyllti kötturinn on Austurstræti street, which sells both vintage and new clothes. The prices in these stores tend to be on the higher side, but they do have some true gems to offer. 

Spúútnik vintage clothing store.
Photo: Golli. Spúútnik vintage clothing store.

High-end shopping

Looking for some killer Jimmy Choos or a Louis Vuitton tote bag? Attikk on Laugavegur street has your high-end secondhand fashion needs covered. For the past three years, the store has provided its customers with quality-checked and authenticated pre-loved designer clothing and accessories. Although the store is relatively small, you can find anything from sunglasses to cocktail dresses to polo shirts, from almost 40 well known designers. These do, of course, come with a big price tag, but you’ll save considerable sums compared to buying the items new. 

Sea Swimming in Iceland

Two people in the sea at Nauthólsvík Beach.

You might have heard about the Icelandic swimming pool culture, but have you heard about the Icelandic sea swimming culture? In recent years, swimming in the sea has become increasingly popular amongst the people of Iceland, so much so that more than a dozen sea swimming societies have popped up all over the country. You might be thinking this is a joke, but we assure you, it’s not. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of emerging yourself in the cold, salty water of the sea. Your legs might ache, and your breath might catch, and for a moment, you’ll probably wonder why in the world you decided to do this, but there is also a unique connection to the Earth and ourselves to be found in the water. A few minutes of no thoughts, no feelings except the cold, and when you emerge from the sea, a sense of achievement and gleefulness. If you can do this, then surely you can do anything.

Our favourite places for sea swimming in Iceland

You can swim in the ocean nearly anywhere around Iceland, but there are a few locations that are better suited for it than others and some that just have an irresistible wow factor. 

Nauthólsvík Beach, located in Reykjavík, is a highly popular area amongst people living in and around the capital. It offers the unique feature of a small, enclosed lagoon where hot water runs into the cold sea, making it a few degrees warmer than the surrounding water. It, therefore, makes for an excellent place for first-time sea swimmers. Additionally, you can pay for access to changing rooms, showers, a hot tub, and a steam room. 

Five people on their way into the ocean at Nauthólsvík beach in winter.
Photo: Golli. Five people on their way into the ocean at Nauthólsvík beach in winter.

Langisandur on Akranes is a beautiful, 1 km [0.6 mi] long sand beach. Amongst locals, Akranes is often called by the nickname ‘Flórídaskaginn’, the Florida peninsula, and Langisandur probably has something to do with that. It does, indeed, remind one of someplace other than Iceland, especially on a sunny day. By the beach, you can pay for access to Guðlaug, a hot tub with a phenomenal view, perfect for warming up after a swim in the sea. There are also changing facilities and an outdoor shower.

Hauganes is a part of Ásskógarströnd coastal area near Akureyri. There, you can find a cosy, south-facing black beach sheltered from northern winds. The sea is shallow, which, in combination with the placement and the black sand, works as a heating mechanism for the usually cold water on sunny summer days. Like in Nauthólsvík and Langisandur, you can pay to get access to hot tubs by the beach, as well as changing facilities and a shower.

Hauganes hot tubs on a sunny day.
Photo: Auðunn. Hauganes hot tubs on a sunny day.

Holt Beach in Önundarfjörður Fjord is a stunning place to go for a swim. Sun or rain, the Önundarfjörður Pier will provide you with a picturesque scene superb for your socials (or just to enjoy without anyone knowing).  

Hesteyri, a charming and secluded former village in Hornstrandir nature reserve, might be the number one place in Iceland to bathe in the sea. With a small sandy beach beneath its nine quaint houses, crystal-clear waters, and mountains with flourishing nature everywhere you look, it’s a true gem that can hardly be described with words. 

Good advice before diving in

Before stripping down and running into the cold Icelandic ocean, here are a few helpful guidelines:

  • Don’t swim alone, and keep an eye out for your partner.
  • Use a brightly coloured swimming cap or hat so that others can easily spot you.
  • Go in slow and allow your body to adapt to the cold. 
  • Aim for calm breaths, and don’t start swimming before your breathing has become normal.
  • Stay close to the shore.
  • If there’s ice, don’t swim under it!
  • Listen to your body’s signals of hypothermia and exhaustion. A good rule of thumb is to regularly check if you can touch your thumbs with other fingers of the same hand. If you can’t, leave the water immediately. 
  • In case of hypothermia, call 112, the Icelandic emergency service.

Please keep in mind that there are some places in Iceland that are extremely dangerous to swim in due to strong currents and sneaky waves. Reynisfjara Beach on the South Coast and Brimketill Lagoon on the Reykjanes peninsula are two such places, and you should not, under any circumstances, get in the water there. Please familiarise yourself with conditions anywhere you want to swim.