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. 

A guide to the Pools of Reykjavík City

Sundhöllin swimming pool in Reykjavík.

With Iceland’s abundance of geothermal energy, over 90% of the country’s hot water is heated up by geothermal sources. Hot water is therefore very accessible in Iceland and is, amongst other, used to heat up most of the swimming pools of Reykjavík and the country’s pools as a whole.

In Iceland there are over 160 pools, with 18 of them being located in Reykjavík. By visiting one of the many pools in Iceland, you can explore the country’s bathing culture which is ingrained in most Icelanders, where locals visit the pools all year around. See here Iceland Review’s a deep dive into Icelandic bathing culture.

Below you can see our guide to the swimming pools of Reykjavík, located in the city centre or around.

Pools in Reykjavík City

 

Sundhöll Reykjavíkur Swimming Pool

Sundhöll Reykjavíkur, is the oldest purpose-built public pool in Iceland, built in 1937. It is furthermore the only public pool located in downtown Reykjavík, located at Barónsstígur street. The pool consists of an indoor and outdoor pool, hot tubs, a children’s pool, a cold tub and a sauna, where people can escape the city in the midst of the city’s centre. 

Admission: ISK 1,330. Youth 16-17: ISK 210. Free for seniors and children under 16.

People in sundhöll reykjavíkur swimming pool
Photo: Golli – Sundhöll Reykjavíkur swimming pool

 

Vesturbæjarlaug Swimming Pool

Vesturbæjarlaug pool is located in the old town in western Reykjavík, at Hofsvallagata street and is one of the most popular swimming pools of Reykjavík. The pool is made up of hot tubs, a cold tub, children’s pool, a large swimming pool, sauna and a steam room. The surrounding area is quite a nice one, where you can for example pay a visit to Kaffihús Vesturbæjar, or the Cafe of Vesturbær, which is located across the street from the pool. 

Admission: ISK 1,330. Youth 16-17: ISK 210. Free for seniors and children under 16.

 

Laugardalslaug Swimming Pool

Laugardalslaug is the city’s largest pool and is located in Laugardalur valley, about a 5 minute drive from the city centre. It consists of two large swimming pools, inside and outside, a children’s pool, a slide, cold tub, steam room and multiple hot tubs, with one of them being a salt water hot tub. In the Laugardalur valley, close to the pool, you can also find the city’s petting zoo called Húsdýragarðurinn, and the ice skating arena, Skautahöllin. 

Admission: ISK 1,210. Youth 16-17: ISK 195. Free for seniors and children under 16.

Laugardalslaug swimming pool in Reykjavík
Photo: Golli. Laugardalslaug swimming pool in Reykjavík

Árbæjarlaug Swimming Pool

Árbæjarlaug is located in the Árbær district, about 10 minutes driving distance from the city centre. The pool consists of children’s pools, inside and outside, hot tubs, a cold tub, two slides, one for the younger children, a large swimming pool and a steam room. The pool is located near one of the Reykjavík City Museum exhibitions, the Árbær Open Air Museum. 

Admission: ISK 1,330. Youth 16-17: ISK 210. Free for seniors and children under 16.

 

Dalslaug Swimming Pool

Dalslaug is Reykjavík’s most recent pool as it opened in December 2021. The pool is quite modern in design and is located at Úlfarsbraut street, about 15 minutes driving distance from the city centre. Dalslaug consists of two pools, inside and outside, hot tubs, a cold tub and sauna. Near the pool is Úlfarsfell mountain, which is a popular hiking spot amongst locals and tourists. 

Admission: ISK 1,210. Youth 16-17: ISK 195. Free for seniors and children under 16.

Úlfarsárdalur swimming pool Dagur B. Eggertsson mayor trying out the pool after opening
Photo: Former Reykjavík Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson trying out Dalslaug

 

Pools Near Reykjavík City

 

Lágafellslaug Swimming Pool

Lágafellslaug pool is located in the town of Mosfellsbær, and is the perfect stop before leaving the city via Route 1, or the Ring Road. The pool is quite a recent one and presents a modern look. The pool includes hot tubs, a cold tub, inside and outside swimming pools, a children’s pool and not one, but three slides. In addition to that there is a steam room and an infrared sauna where guests can relax tired muscles.  

Admission: ISK 1,100. Children 11-17: ISK 195. Free for seniors and children under 11.

 

Kópavogslaug Swimming Pool

Kópavogslaug is one of the largest pools in Iceland and is located in the town of Kópavogur. There are two large swimming pools, inside and outside, hot tubs, a children’s pool, cold tub, steam room and three slides. 

Admission: ISK 1,130. Free for seniors and children under 18.

 

Álftaneslaug Swimming Pool

The Álftaneslaug pool is located in the town of Álftanes, almost next door to the presidential house at Bessastaðir. Surrounding the pool is beautiful nature and the pool’s design is quite modern. It consists of an outside and inside pool, a children’s pool, hot tubs, a slide, steam room and a sauna. Álftaneslaug also possesses a wave pool, which is furthermore Iceland’s first and only wave pool. 

Admission: ISK 830. Free for seniors and children under 18.

Reykjavík City Pond to Get Four More Islands

Tjörnin Reykjavík Pond

The Reykjavik City Planning and Environmental Council introduced proposed changes to the Reykjavík City Pond (Tjörnin) yesterday, June 22, which include the construction of four new islands.

Proposals for renovating the existing islands and constructing new islands in Tjörnin were presented at the Reykjavik City Planning and Environmental Council this week. It is currently planned to build four new islands in the pond. Currently, Tjörnin has two islets. The larger, northern islet is more visible from downtown. It is around the smaller, southern islet that the proposed new islands will be clustered.

The larger island will also be enlarged and renovated with new gravel, as it has shrunk due to erosion. The changes are intended to benefit bird life in the pond.

Tjörnin is a part of a larger wetland area, consisting of the pools and ponds stemming from the Vatnsmýri marshlands. A stream initially connected Tjörnin to the sea, and this was mostly left untouched as Reykjavík grew in the later part of the 18th century and into the 19th century. In 1911, the city was built over the stream, using it instead as a sewer system.

The latest planned additions to the city pond will not be the only modifications made to it. Over the years, city planners took steps to turn the pond into the modern Tjörnin. In 1913, locks were installed in the pond’s outlet to prevent seawater from surging into the pond. A pedestrian bridge was erected in 1920, cutting the pond in two. The bridge was widened and reinforced to support vehicles during the Second World War.

The project is still in its planning stage. More information can be found at the Reykjavík City website.

City Planners Let Parks Grow Wild

city park reykjavík

Plans to reduce maintenance of certain green areas have proven successful, reports the City of Reykjavík.

Þórólfur Jónsson, the director of the Environment and Planning Department, introduced the matter at a departmental meeting this week and proposed new areas that would be suitable for conversion. Under the plan, areas that have previously been mown would be allowed to grow wild, both beautifying the city and increasing the diversity of plant life. The new measures could also lead to budgetary savings as well.

According to Þórólfur, promising areas for such urban rewilding include medians and sides of roads, areas with thin soil and sparse grass, and also area with pre-existing natural features, such as ponds and lakes.

City planners hope that such measures will support ecosystems within the city, potentially acting as new habitats for birds and other animals.

In addition to ceasing mowing, city planners have also discussed more active rewilding measures, such as planting more trees and wildflowers.

Such measures were first introduced in 2016. Since then, some 14 hectares within the City of Reykjavík have undergone rewilding, with plans for more to follow. Where possible, new nature areas are being connected and turned into larger park areas.

Reykjavík City Lowers Speed Limit on More than 150 Streets

Aerial view of Reykjavík city traffic during winter

The 50 km/h speed limit common on many Reykjavík city streets will soon be a thing of the past, as speed limits throughout the city are to be lowered.

New speed limits will be either 30 or 40 km/h on many roads throughout the capital region.

See also: Reykjavík to Cap Speed Limits

The changes which are to be implemented were agreed upon in April of this year. However, the changes are expected to take much of the coming year, so Reykjavík motorists will have some time to adjust.

Notably, however, the changes will not apply to roads that are operated by authorities other than Reykjavík city. Many major arterial roads, such as Sæbraut, Kringlumýrarbraut, Miklabraut, Hringbraut, and Reykjanesbraut are administered by the Icelandic Road Administration, and will not be affected by the new, lower, limits.

The goal of the reduced speed limits is to promote road safety within the city.

For a complete overview of the affected streets, see RÚV.

Efling Strike: Classrooms Close Due to Unsanitary Conditions

Borgarfjörður eystri

Around 1,850 City of Reykjavík employees who are members of the Efling Union began an indefinite strike on Monday, January 17. The strike has already had a considerable impact on several Reykjavík schools, Vísir reports.

Efling expects an extended strike

A strike among Reykjavík City employees who are members of the Efling Union began last Monday. Union chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir expects the strike to be a long one. The strike will affect preschools, elementary schools, welfare services, and waste management services in the city.

Efling turned down a proposal from the City of Reykjavík last Tuesday, February 19, saying that, “once again, the City of Reykjavík had struck the conciliatory hand of low-wage workers.”

Unsanitary conditions

The strike has begun impacting Reykjavík schools. A group of students in Grandaskóli stayed home today as a section of the school had been closed due to unsanitary conditions. Réttarholtsskóli was also closed yesterday, as the school’s janitorial staff is currently on strike. Conditions were especially dire in the school’s bathrooms.

17 Classrooms Closed

Conditions are comparable in other schools, with many schools being unable to receive all students, as school administrators are planning to close parts of their buildings. Grandaskóli is one of those schools: roughly 140 students, of 365, were able to attend school today.

“It’s the cleaning that’s having the biggest impact,” Örn Halldórsson, principal of Grandaskóli stated. “We needed to close that part of the school that hasn’t been cleaned. It puts the worst strain on the halls and the desks where the kids eat their packed meals in the morning. The state of the desks is unacceptable.”

Grandaskóli has closed 17 classrooms while continuing to teach in seven. Örn hopes for a speedy resolution to the wage negotiations, as strikes have a negative impact on the education and wellbeing of children. “It’s absurd. Children need their routine. Uncertainty of this kind affects them negatively, just like us adults.”

It remains uncertain when the next wage negotiations will occur as the State Mediator has yet to call a new meeting.

Skateboarding in Reykjavík: What Are the Rules?

Skateboarding in Reykjavík

Recently, Iceland Review sent an email to the City of Reykjavík inquiring – on behalf of one of our readers – whether there were any, “explicit rules governing the sport of skateboarding in Reykjavík?” While the responding official did not address the question directly, he did mention that Reykjavík offers a few designated skate areas, including outdoor ramps and two skate parks.

A Skateboarding Task Force

The aforementioned skateboarding areas are outlined in a recent report submitted by a Reykjavík city task force, established to assess the state of skateboarding in Reykjavík.

Formed on November 9, 2017, by Mayor of Reykjavík Dagur B. Eggertsson, the task force was assembled to generate proposals regarding the city of Reykjavík’s policy on skateboarding. The task force convened a total of ten times – meeting with representatives of the Reykjavík Skateboarding Association (Brettafélag Reykjavíkur), the Jaðar Association, and others – before finally submitting its report in April 2018.

According to the report, the state of indoor and outdoor skateboarding facilities in the Greater Reykjavík Area is “far from being acceptable,” and not on a par with what is required for extreme sports in Iceland to thrive, as they do in many places abroad.

The report broadly outlines the main places to skate in Reykjavík, which includes indoor parks, outdoor ramps, and popular places within the city. 

Indoor Parks:

*Organised practices are scheduled in both skateparks, along with open houses for different kinds of extreme sports.

Outdoor Ramps*:

  • Laugardalur
  • Gufunesbær 
  • Jafnasel
  • A moveable pump track that is relocated to different places in Reykjavík
  • Ársel
  • Mosfellsbær

* The condition of the abovementioned ramps varies greatly.

Popular Places in the City:

  • Ingólfstorg Square
  • Harpa Concert Hall

Authors of the report propose the construction of a new skatepark somewhere in central Reykjavík. As far as we know, no such skatepark is currently under construction.

An Insightful BA Essay

In a BA essay published in 2013, Anton Svanur Guðmundsson – a then student of the Department of Design and Architecture at the Iceland University of the Arts – traces the origins of skateboarding in Iceland to the late 1970s. The essay also sheds some light on the rules of skateboarding in Reykjavík, vis-a-vis a paragraph on Ingólfstorg square: “The police cannot interfere with the activity of the skaters as the square belongs to the city of Reykjavík, and as there are no laws that forbid skateboarders to skate on or around the square, just as there are no laws that forbid them from skating in other public spaces in the city. Police regulations state, however, that skateboarders should not skateboard in or around streets in a manner hazardous to pedestrians or motorists.”

For further information on skateboarding in Reykjavík, you can also review this article from Grapevine published in 2012.