By Brendan McKee
All photos by Brendan McKee
How to get around
You can undoubtedly spend weeks driving Iceland’s famous Ring Road (1491km/926mi); however, if you can’t go on holiday for weeks, you can still experience some of the best this Nordic island nation has to offer. In fact, you can visit the Blue Lagoon, tour Central Reykjavik, drive the Golden Circle, and see the Northern Lights all in one weekend, without hiring/renting a car.
Pre-book airport transfer and day-tours through Iceland Travel or Viator.com and you’ll have everything set before arrival. We’ve put together the below sample itinerary to show you just how easy it is! (Of course, itineraries would vary based on your time of arrival, number of days)
The below itinerary is based off of an early morning arrival.
Arrive at Keflavík International Airport (KEF) and transfer to Reykjavik. Make a reservation for the Blue Lagoon and book a Blue Lagoon transfer to visit this geothermal spa en route to your hotel/apartment (also available when departing). In the afternoon, take advantage of the free city tour to explore the heart of Reykjavik while learning the history of Iceland and evolution of the city. Now that you have your bearings, use the rest of the day to explore, shop and have dinner at one of the many restaurants along Laugavegur Street, the main shopping street .
Food and Drinks
For food, we would suggest Sumac. “This is where Lebanese food meets Icelandic veggies meets fish”, as my Icelandic friend Thorunn says.
Also for the vegans out there, you can try the small yet dependable restaurant, Gardurinn.
A great bar is Slippbarinn, where the locals frequent and ideally located near the harbour. They have live music and great cocktails.
Take the Golden Circle Tour, which departs at 09:00 (9:00am) and returns to Reykjavik ~1700 (5:00pm). After a few hours break, you can take the Northern Lights Tour going by bus (available September to April) departing at 21:30 (9:30pm). It is a 3-4 hour tour to take you outside the city and to locations where you can see the Northern Lights.
Depart Reykjavik to Keflavík International Airport for an afternoon flight (stop by the Blue Lagoon if you didn’t on arrival).
Longer than a weekend…
If you have a few extra days for holiday, explore your options! We highly recommend hiring/renting a car for an overnight trip to Skaftafell in Vatnajökull National Park where you can visit Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Diamond Beach and the Ice Caves at Vatnajökull Glacier. Tours are also available to these destinations, through Iceland Travel, if you don’t want to drive yourself.
Assuming the above itinerary, logistics are simple; everything from airport transfers to tours are easily bookable. Reserve a hotel/apartment close to Laugavegur Street and you’ll be in the center of action and nightlife in Reykjavik. We stayed at Central Premium Luxury Apartments. This centrally located accommodation made it easy to navigate to key tourist sites and tour pick-up/drop off locations.
Iceland is not an inexpensive country, but credit cards are widely accepted. Budget conscious travelers can save cash by staying at a hotel/apartment with a kitchen or kitchenette (bookable through www.Airbnb.com , www.Hotels.com) and buying groceries from one of the supermarkets ….Bonus Supermarket (Laugavegur 59) if you’re staying close to Laugavegur Street. If you’re keen on a traditional hotel experience with an international name, then Radisson Blu 1919 is a great option. Otherwise check out the Alda Hotel, which is great modern hotel centrally located on Reykjavik’s main shopping street, Laugavegur.