Reykjavik: One-Week Itinerary
This is a one-week itinerary including the Golden Circle. For those of you who are interested in seeing more of the island, check out Iceland: Two-Week Itinerary.
Arrive at Keflavik International Airport. From here you can take a Gray Line bus to Reykjavik (buy bus tickets ahead of time for about $22/ person on this website. The bus ride is about 45 minutes and there’s free WiFi). Once in Reykjavik, make your way to Sixt Rental Car; we rented with them and had a great experience. There are car rentals available at the airport, but the more affordable option is renting in Reykjavik.
Before you take off fill up on gas. Note that many gas stations around the country are unmanned and you can only pay with a chip and pin card. At the N1 gas stations you can buy prepaid gas cards, so if you don’t have a chip and pin card get a few gas cards before you start.
Another helpful tool to have is a WiFi hotspot (rent ahead of time). Pick up and drop off is very convenient; you can chose to pick up the hotspot at a local N1 gas station and return it by mail, but there are other options available.
After all of this is done head out to drive around the Golden Circle. Here are the spots you will hit on Day 1:
Þingvellir National Park (or Thingvelling for better google searches in English): Þingvellir is beautiful and it will take about two hours to walk all of the main trail. The park is in a rift valley where you find the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Do you remember your geology class from college? *Note: It's just a couple of dollars but you have to pay for parking and bathrooms (you can use credit cards for both).
Geysir: This is a quick and fun stop. Take a short walk to the Great Geysir and wait for it to erupt. We had to wait about 6 minutes in between eruptions. Everyone huddles around the geyser and waits with their cameras ready, so of course, you should too.
Gullfoss waterfall: The pictures of this place DO NOT do it justice. The waterfall is massive, beautiful, jaw dropping, cool and all the other good adjectives in the world. Spend about 30 minutes at this stop, taking in the view and taking pictures.
Kerid Crater: Just a warning: there are no bathrooms there!
After Kerid Crater go to your lodging in Reykjavik. Check in and go grab a quick bite to eat. If you are in the area go to Reykjavik Chips and have fries for dinner, because that is always a good idea. Then it is time for bed.
Drink your morning cup of coffee and then head to the DC-3 plane crash site at Solheimassandur beach. It is not a short walk from the parking lot to the beach so bring food and water with you. It ends up being a 4km hike one way, so about 45 minutes. The plane site is great and if you are lucky you will get to see it without anyone there. Then drive to Dyrholaey Arch (beautiful) and hike down to Reynisfjara black sand cliffs. You can also drive to Reynifsjara if you do not want to hike.
Spend the last few days exploring the city. At this point, return the car because the city is pretty small and you can likely walk everywhere. Speaking of walking, start the day with a Free Walking Tour. The tour is pretty nice and you will see the Parliament building, Harpa, some cool statues, the oldest neighborhood and oldest high school in Reykjavik, the pond, city hall, and some other things we are probably forgetting. Next, go to the Settlement Exhibition 871+/-2 and learn about Iceland’s history. If you like museums, do it. If you don’t like museums, definitely skip this. Have dinner at Vinyl Café (vegan); if you are into that sort of food you will love it. At night, and if it’s in season, go hunting for the northern lights again.
If you need a break from any inclement weather stay indoors and do some window-shopping at Kringlan Mall and Smaralind Mall. They are both about the same in size and what shops they have. FYI…shopping is expensive in Iceland. Then drive to Harpa, walk around inside and then meet your guide for the Reykjavik Food Walk. The tour is fun and you will eat tons of different and delicious things! They like to keep the restaurants and foods a surprise so we will not ruin it for you! After you’re stuffed, walk around and explore downtown Reykjavik.
Today sleep in and mosie on to brunch at Laundromat Café (yes, you can do your laundry here). Window shop on Laugavegur street and try to find the perfect Icelandic wool sweater. They are not cheap, but are worth the investment if you can use a warm, woolly sweater back home. If you need a good souvenir, go buy Icelandic chocolate bars at Bonus to bring back home for friends and family (and keep some for yourself). Then go up to the top of the beautiful Hallgrimskirja church, which is home to the largest organ in the world. The organ is actually inside the church, not the building structure, despite its appearance. Next, go on a barhop and check out Kaldi Bar, Skuli Bar, Sæta Svinid, and Micro Bar; all really great. End the night with a wonderful dinner at Dill (make reservations way ahead of time).
Be flexible with your days here to go whale watching. Bad weather and ocean conditions are unpredictable. If today is your day, go ahead and purchase tickets with Special Tours. Get in the boat, gear up in your weatherproof onesie they provide, and off you go! Three hours later, hopefully after seeing some dolphins and whales, the tour is over. You get to try again the next day for free if you don’t see any whales on your first. You could plan this for one of the previous days in Reykjavik for this reason. After that fun experience is over, have lunch at THE BEST Nepalese restaurant: Nepalese Kitchen. Dinner is at Íslenski Barinn where they have an amazing lamb soup. End the night with ice cream at Isbud Vesturbæjar (have the milk ice cream, not creamy if you want to eat all of it and not be full after three bites). The next day pack up and head to the airport.