The top 10 things everyone should do in Iceland
Here are the top 10 things everyone should do when visiting Iceland, now that I've visited 'The Land of Ice and Fire' twice:
If you're looking for a boutique travel agency to book an epic trip to Iceland, I highly recommend booking with NOMOON Travel. They'll help coordinate transportation, activities, eats, etc.
1. Soak in The Blue Lagoon: After visiting twice, this is still my favorite thing to do in Iceland. Trust me, just go. It sounds touristy and overrated, but it's 100% not. It's one of the most magical things you'll ever experience.
If you're trying to go on the cheap, bring a towel with you from your hotel or Airbnb, and go with the 'Comfort Package.' The access is the same for all packages.
If you're trying to go bougie, upgrade to the 'Premium Package,' which includes a robe, slippers, and one drink of your choice. In addition, you can also book a massage, make a dinner reservation at LAVA, or even book a room (again, depending on how bougie you're trying to go) at the Silica Hotel or The Retreat.
Pro photogs, good news! You can bring your professional camera down to the Lagoon, then lock it in your locker once you've got the shots you wanted. You'll be given a wristband that easily allows you lock and unlock your personal locker, plus buy drinks and food once you're in the lagoon.
- Bring a waterproof iPhone case (this one on Amazon works great and is only $7.99)
- Wear a pop of color on your lips (get a nice lip stain that lasts a few hours)
- If you're going on a weekend, go early to beat the crowds
- I'd suggest booking your ticket in advance, to ensure your time slot is available. You can buy bus tickets from Blue Lagoon to Reykjavík with a credit card at the Blue Lagoon as you're boarding (half past each hour). I'd suggest doing this, as you don't know how long you'll want to stay (I usually stay 5-6 hours), and don't want to feel rushed or committed to a departure time.
2. Cruise with champagne through the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon: Known as Iceland's 'Crown Jewel,' this natural wonder is a must visit on your next trip to Iceland. It is, by far, one of the most incredible life experiences I've ever had. You'll even get an opportunity to taste 'one of the oldest things you'll ever taste,' a real glacier. You'll also learn a bit about the history of glaciers, and why some are more blue, more black, or more clear than others.
- After you go through customs in Iceland, stop by the Duty-Free store, buy a bottle of Veuve, and bring it and a few glasses along with you to sip while you cruise through the glaciers. You will never forget it.
3. Take photos inside Harpa Concert Hall: If you want to go "inside Iceland," this indoor haven is the spot. It has some of the most beautiful architecture, plus free WIFI and outlets, and heat to give you a break from the cold. It might not look like much on the outside, but the best views are actually inside. Gray Malin, one of my favorite photographers, even recently discovered this gem and shot this photo. Here's the photo I shot on my first visit to Iceland in 2017. No admission required, though it looks like guided tours are available to bring you inside additional areas not open to the public (~$15 USD).
4. Go to the top of Hallsgrímskirkja Church: This is Reykjavík's main landmark and its tower can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. This is a must if you want the best aerial view of Reykjavík. It's the tallest church, located in the heart of downtown, easily accessible from some of the city's best cafés and shops. No need to book tickets in advance, but do check the hours on the website before going. Admission is ~$10 USD.
5. EAT your way through Reykjavík:
Best coffee: Reykjavík Roasters // Best coffee in the city, you can even play your favorite record on an old school vinyl player.
Best bakery: Braud & Co // The best bakery in all of Reykjaviík. Watch the locals make cinnamon rolls, blueberry rolls, and pastries as you wait. They're especially known for their cinnamon rolls, which are more like the size of your face. They also sell local jams and fresh bread baguettes, that would make for an awesome afternoon snack or picnic lunch.
Best brunch: Café Paris // Icelandic pancakes, mimosas, cappucinos, fresh berries
Best afternoon snack: Kaffi Vinyl // Yummy vegan eats, good vibes, vinyl record player
Best hot dog: Bæjarins Betzu Pylsur // Icelandic hot dog stand that's been around for 60+ years
Best spot for authentic Icelandic eats // Café Loki // Try fermented shark, followed by a shot of Black Death
Best bar: Kaldi // Get a local Icelandic beer or ask for an Aperol Spritz
Best dinner + vibes: Rok // Order the vegetarian casserole dish, the asparagus, and the avocado salad
Best nightlife: B5 // One of the city's most notorius spots for dancing and nightlife
5. Go crater rim walking: Whether it's this crater, or another, reach out to NOMOON or your travel agency to find one for you to walk along your journey. It's a breathtaking experience and makes you feel like you're truly on another planet.
6. Chase waterfalls: Whether it's this waterfall, or another, reach out to NOMOON or your travel agency to find one for you to chase and embrace along your adventures.
7. Geyser hop: Go geyser hopping from one to the next. There are plenty of these and natural geothermal hot springs sprinkled throughout Iceland.
8. Pet Icelandic horses: Be on the lookout throughout your trek across Iceland for these small, pony-sized horses. When you see a herd of them, kindly ask your driver (or pull over, if you've braved it up to rent a car and drive manually) to pull over, so you can pet them and see these beauties.
9. Visit the Snæfellsnes Peninsula: This historic peninsula, located in West Iceland, was one of the most magical stops I visited. It's riddled with stories of folklore, elves, and trolls, and gives you a super quaint, localized view into Icelandic culture. A few of the main attractions here include: Gerðuberg basalt columns, Bjarnarfoss waterfall, Búðakirkja church (the little black church), Rauðfeldsgjá gorge, and Gatklettur, the Arch Rock at Arnarstapi among many others. If you're an adventure seeker, explorer, and love to hike to natural wonders, this area is so for you.
10. Stay overnight in the charming town of Stykkishólmur: If you're looking for a romantic fishing town to stay in, this is it. During the day, head to the local bakery (marked with a pretzel sign), grab a cappucino and fresh biscotti at the pink coffee shop, check out the local museums, and walk the streets among the locals (I doubt you'll find any tour buses here). It's like a storybook, and unassuming, yet remarkably charming.
Additional Pro Tips:
- Pack pops of color! The Icelandic landscape can photograph dull, grey, and gloomy. Be the pop of color with your colorful jacket, beanie, or lip color that stands out.
- AT&T and Verizon have a new plan that enables you to get international voice and data for only $10/day. No more need to get SIM cards at the airport or constantly connect to WiFi at every café. Simply turn on your data and reply with "YES" to their automated message.
- Lots of layers. This is key. Be sure to bring lots of layers from head to toe, from beanies, to gloves, to scarves, long underwear, wool socks, even hand and toe warmers. You'll be a happier camper because of it!
- Pack lightly. If you lay out your outfits ahead of time, plus wear your heaviest coats and layers on the plane, you can get away with a backpack and carry-on roller suitcase. This comes in handy, as you'll be trekking all over Iceland, and Wow Airlines is strict about weight limits and the bags you bring!