No. 1 recommendation for visiting Iceland: Get out of the city! Iceland is about nature. One of the great things about visiting Reykjavík is that there are numerous day trips available from the city. So even though you don’t want to rent a car and self drive, you can still get to experience a whole lot of beautiful nature.
Snæfellsnes Peninsula is one of a lot of the guides’ favorite day trips from Reykjavík. The stops on the trip are far less crowded than on tours that take you to the south coast and the landscape of the Snæfellsnes peninsula is very representable of Iceland.
On this trip you get to see a Djúpalónssandur black beach, the traditional Icelandic church Búðakirkja, the fishing village Arnarstapi, Kirkjufell mountain and Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, Icelandic coastline with magnificent cliffs and a lot more.
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula trip is a good choice if you wish to experience various aspects of Icelandic nature, but don’t necessarily want to go on to the most famous black sand beach or see the most famous waterfalls. The sights on this trip are absolutely stunning. Instagram is just less flooded with images of the locations (except Kirkjufell mountain, which is probably one of the most famous mountains in Iceland).
Snæfellsnes Peninsula, like many other trips, is best on a day with good visibility.
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula tour was experienced in July 2018.
South Shore Adventure
The South shore is one of the very popular day trips from Reykjavík, but it is like that for a reason. It shows you a little bit of everything that Iceland has to offer – except a geysir. For that you have to take the Golden Circle trip instead.
On the South shore you will find two of Iceland’s most popular waterfalls; Seljalandsfoss, which you can walk behind, and Skógafoss which you can walk all the way up to. Besides this you get to see the basalt rock formations Reynisdrangar on the famous black sand beach Reynisfjara. You also get to visit have a small lunch stop in the town of Vík and take a peak at the glacier Sólheimajökull.
This trip is definitely popular for a reason and one of the day trips from Reykjavík that is worth considering for first time visitors of Iceland. If you love waterfalls this is the perfect trip for you. Make sure to pack waterproof outerwear if you wish to fully enjoy Seljalandsfoss.
The South Shore Adventure was experienced in July 2018.
The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is by far the most popular place to go for a geothermal swim in Iceland. It is touristy and expensive compared to other places you can get a geothermal swim, but it is also great fun and a fantastic and unique experience. There is definitely a reason that it is so popular.
If you are interested in visiting The Blue Lagoon it can be recommended to book your ticket right away as it allows you to choose between more time slots. You can book it as one of the day trips from Reykjavík including transportation or you can just buy a ticket and self-drive.
A good place for souvenir shopping
If your are looking to spoil yourself or someone at home with a little home spa experience from Iceland then The Blue Lagoon gift shop at the location can be recommended. The Blue Lagoon products are also available in Keflavík airport and on Laugavegur in Reykjavík.
Want to read more about where you can get a geothermal swim while in Iceland? Read this article about some of the places where you can go for a hot dip.
The Blue Lagoon has been experienced both in July 2018 and July 2019.
The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is probably the most popular one of all the day trips from Reykjavík. It is highly convenient as it combines various aspects of Icelandic nature into one day trip. This makes it similar to South Shore Adventure and Snæfellsnes Peninsula. However, on The Golden Circle trip you don’t really get up close or in depth with any of it. And it is very touristy.
On The Golden Circle tour you get to see the national park of Þingvellir, where you can walk down a canyon between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plate and see the waterfall Öxarárfoss, which is one of many famous locations from The Game of Thrones. It is gorgeous – there is no denying that.
You also get to experience Gullfoss “The Golden Waterfall”, which is one of the largest waterfalls in Southern Iceland. It is impressive, but you can’t get up close to the bottom of the fall. For this you should pick the South Shore Adventure instead. This trip allows you to get really close to two smaller waterfalls: Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss.
If you choose an extended version of the Golden Circle tour you can also see the volcanic crater Kerið.
The only day trip that includes the geysir Strokkur
The most unique part about The Golden Circle is that you get to experience the geysir Strokkur. It is extraordinary! Strokkur alone is reason to choose The Golden Circle trip.
The Golden Circle + Kerið trip was experienced in June 2019.
Jökulsárlon and Diamond Beach
Jökulsárlon, known as “The Glacier Lagoon”, and the nearby Diamond Beach is the perfect tour for looking at icebergs.
Beware that the amount of icebergs in the lagoon and on the beach depends highly on conditions up to the day of your tour. Sometimes you are in luck and the areas are filled with ice. Other times there is almost no ice to be found on the beach and only few icebergs in the lagoon.
Rumor has it that it is best to go after a few days with rain and lots of wind. These are the best condition for the glacier to melt and icebergs to fall off and into the water. At the same time a lot of wind will ensure that a lots of ice has been carried in onto the Diamond Beach by the waves.
Combine with boat ride
It can be recommended to combine the trip with a boat ride in the glacier lagoon. Otherwise it is a very long bus ride (4-5 hours from Reykjavík) just to stand on the shore of the lagoon and go for a walk on the beach.
A plus of this tour is that on the way back from the lagoon you get to stop by Seljalandsfoss (and maybe Skógafoss if you have time). However, if you have already seen these two waterfalls then this tour is a long drive just to view icebergs.
Be aware that this tour is also very popular with tourists.
The Jökulsárlon and Diamond Beach trip was experienced in June 2019.
Landmannalaugar is an absolute jewel in Icelandic highland. A true hiker’s paradise! The area has amazing landscapes and hiking routes for various levels of fitness and duration.
Don’t miss the hot spring at base camp! It can be recommend to go back after your hike in plenty of time before the bus leaves. You can easily spend at least an hour to enjoy the hot spring and relax on top of your day of hiking.
Be aware that Landmannalaugar is a self guided hiking trip. You take the bus from Reykjavík and have approx. 6 hours to spend at Landmannalaugar before the bus heads back to Reykjavík again. No worries though! The paths in the area are clearly marked and you can get a map at the base camp to be certain that you won’t get lost.
Requires physical fitness to make the most of it
Compared to many other day trips in the South, Landmannalaugar is definitely one of the less touristy ones. It can be highly recommended, but it requires a certain level of physical fitness to get the most out of it.
Landmannalaugar was experienced in June 2019.
The landscapes in Þórsmörk are absolutely stunning. Like nothing you have ever seen. Dramatic mountains, glaciers and lush fields everywhere.
Also, it’s a pretty cool drive to get there as you have to cross rivers. The drive is not very long compared to other day trips – for instance it is shorter than to get to Landmannalaugar. If you’re in luck and the bus is on time you even get to stop at Seljalandsfoss and take in the view of this amazing waterfall.
On the plus side, Þórsmörk is even less touristy than Landmannalaugar. However, to finish you day of hiking with a relaxing geothermal soak you must pay a small fee to use the facilities at the Volcano Huts base camp.
Be aware that compared to Landmannalaugar this area is a bit harder to navigate as the trails are less marked. However, nature is absolutely priceless in this area.
Best if you are in shape
Þórsmörk can be highly recommend. However, it requires a certain level of physical fitness to get the most out for the experience.
Þórsmörk was experienced in June 2019.
Icelandic Horse Back Riding
You can go horse back riding on Icelandic horses tons of places in Iceland. Booking one of the basic day trips from Reykjavík usually gives you 1,5-2 hours in the saddle, which is sufficient time for your butt to get sore if you’re not used to horse back riding.
The surroundings for the ride are nothing special. The ride takes you through fields with some lava formations just outside of Reykjavík. Therefore, it can mostly be recommended to go on this type of trip if you are there for the horses. If you want to see Icelandic nature and take in breathtaking views there are other tours more suitable for this.
However, Icelandic horses are indeed great and gentle creatures and it is a lovely way to spend an afternoon if you are an animal lover.
Icelandic horse back riding was experienced with Viking Horses (the Lava tour) in June 2019.
Glacier hiking and ice climbing
Glaciers are amazing sceneries and an absolutely fascinating aspect of nature. Unfortunately they are getting smaller and smaller with each passing year. All the more reason to go for an up close adventure on a glacier while you can. Hiking on a glacier is a totally different experience than just observing it from a distance.
Sólheimajökull is the easiest available glacier if you’re based in Reykjavík. It is quite black and very beautiful as it has a lot of ash in the ice.
Add ice climbing to your glacier hiking trip
If you are physically fit, have no severe fear of heights and are the adventurous type you should definitely consider going on a trip that combines glacier hiking with ice climbing. It is a really cool experience!
It is advisable to you rent boots from your trip provider even though you probably have good hiking shoes. The boots required for ice climbing need to be very hard and sturdy.
As an extra plus to this trip, you get to try a sip of Icelandic water straight from the glacier. It is probably the best water you will ever taste.
Glacier hiking and ice climbing was experienced on the Blue Ice trip provided by Arctic Adventures in June 2019.
Reykjadalur: Hot Spring hike
First of all, the hot spring river in Reykjadalur is amazing. The surroundings are very serene and taking a dip in the river is certainly a much more natural geothermal experience than going to The Blue Lagoon. If you go further up the river you can check out some more geothermal activity, which is pretty cool too.
A downside to this trip is that it is very, very popular. Thus, it is very touristy and the river can get crowded. Therefore, it can be highly recommend to go as early as possible in the morning or late afternoon/evening in the summer, where there is plenty of sunlight. You can also try to move a bit downstream and away from everybody else. However, the water gets cooler the further downstream you go. This is why people tend to all want to be in the same area, where the water temperature is pleasant. And why you should go early.
Reykjadalur is not much of a hike even though tour companies like to call it that. It is more like a steep uphill walk that takes approx. 45 minutes – depending on your physical shape. If you enjoy hiking then the lack of a real hike is a downside. However, if you don’t like hiking then this is of course a huge upside to this trip.
The Reykjadalur Hot Spring hiking trip was experienced in July 2019.
Snorkeling in a rift between two tectonic plates is an adventure only available to you in Iceland. It is a very unique experience and can be highly recommended if you are looking for something different from other day trips from Reykjavík.
When you feel like you’ve experienced plenty of waterfalls, glaciers, black sand beaches and lava fields then snorekling in Silfra is the perfect trip for you.
You don’t need to have tried snorkeling before to do it in Silfra.
If you are on a tight schedule you can combine snorkeling in the Silfra fissure with other Golden Circle sights.
If your interested in more about this particular experience check out this article that’s all about snorkeling in the Silfra fissure.
Snorkeling in the Silfra fissure was experienced in July 2019.
Inside the Volcano
If you are interested in geology and fascinated by volcanos this is the perfect tour for you. Nearby Reykjavík this trip takes you down one of the volcanic craters of Þríhnúkagígur. The volcanic crater is 120 meters deep and it is a very unique experience to be inside “the belly of the beast”.
To get to the volcano you go on a short hike/walk that takes approx. 45 minutes. A raincoat is supplied to you if you need it.
At the Þríhnúkagígur base camp you are given a short safety briefing before going to the crater in small groups of 5-6 people. From the top of the crater you are lowered down into the deep in a lift. Going in small groups is great and makes the experience much more peaceful and less touristy.
You have approx. 30 minutes in the crater and can walk around on your own. Be aware that this trip cannot be recommended for people with balance problems as it is very uneven inside the crater and you have to do a little bit of climbing on the rocks. It is cold inside the volcano so make sure to dress warm. The temperature is approx. 5 degrees celsius.
A hot meal after exploring the volcano
After exploring the volcanic crater you are served a lovely bowl of hot soup at the base camp before heading back to the bus.
I highly recommend this trip if you find volcanos fascinating and are looking for an in-depth experience. However, if you don’t find geology interesting this might not be the best tour for you to choose.
I got extra lucky and got to combine the volcano with greeting an arctic fox cub, who at the moment were living close to the base camp and being re-introduced to the wild. This definitely added a lot to the day.
The Inside the Volcano tour was experienced in July 2019.
The Silver Circle (aka. Borgarfjörður in West Iceland)
This is another one of the highly recommendable day trips from Reykjavík for those looking to experience a little bit of all that Icelandic nature has to offer.
There are variations of the exact itinerary, but you will most likely see volcanic craters, waterfalls, visit a lava cave and go for a dip at a geothermal swimmingpool.
One clear advantage of this trip is that it is far less famous than The Golden Circle. Thus it is less crowded. Also, the waterfalls you get to see on this trip (Hraunfossar and Barnafoss) are very unique (though smaller than Gullfoss on the The Golden Circle Gullfoss).
Don’t miss the lava cave!
It can be recommended to book a Silver Circle tour that includes a guided tour of the lava cave, Víðgelmir, as this tour gives you an in depth experience with Icelandic geology. Also, make sure to end the trip with a relaxing geothermal swim at Krauma. It is a perfect way to end a long day of taking in all the beautiful aspects of Icelandic nature.
The only thing that you will miss by choosing this tour instead of a Golden Circle tour is the geysir Strokkur. This can only be seen on The Golden Circle and is admittedly a spectacular sight.
The Silver Circle (aka. Borgarfjörður in West Iceland) trip was experienced in September 2019.
Glymur waterfall hike
Until 2011 Glymur was the highest waterfall in Iceland. It is an absolutely wonderful hike not far from Reykjavík. The scenery is magnificent and filled with rivers, creeks and forest. Just go – you won’t regret it. Glymur is one of the less popular day trips from Reykjavík, because it is more demanding than bus tours, but it is not to be underestimated.
The hike itself takes about 2 hours to the waterfall and 2 hours back.
The drive to get there is approx. 1 hour and a lot of it is along a very beautiful fjord. The short drive to get there is a clear advantage of this hike (in comparison to Þórsmörk and Landmannalaugar) if you are looking to get absolutely most out of your time while you are in Reykjavík.
A bit more demanding than most other day trips
The hike is intermediate. What does this mean? Make sure that you have to right gear to go on this trip and that you are physically fit to climb and balance on some of the steep parts. Hiking poles are not required, but make sure you wear hiking trousers, waterproof shoes, layers and a wind and waterproof jacket. This is not a place for sneakers and jeans.
Be sure to wear waterproof hiking boots as you will have to cross a river, by balancing on a log, to get to Glymur. Sometimes the water is not that high and other times (after days with a lot of rain) you will have to take off your shoes and get in knee-high water – which is a really cool experience!
The Glymur waterfall hike was experienced in September 2019.
All of the tours in this article have been experienced personally. There are many more day trips, multiple day trips and combined trips available from various tour providers. The tour selection varies depending on which season you visit Iceland. Check out whatson.is for a quick overview of the possibilities available to you.