A Weekend in Reykjavík, Iceland
Ever wondered if a weekend in Iceland is worthwhile? Written by Alice, who is based in London, this piece will give you a better idea of what is possible in just a few days:
Iceland is a small Nordic country, which has less than 400,000 people in the whole country (!) with the majority living in the capital (Reykjavík). However, while sparsely populated, it is massively rich and diverse in terms of landscape and culture. The people are warm, friendly and helpful and the nature is like something from a movie!
There is so much to do in Iceland that you could easily spend weeks exploring at a slow place. We visited for a long weekend (3 days) and loved every minute.
Reykjavík is an adorable little city which mainly runs on geothermal power. It has brilliant restaurants, landscape and is the gateway to exploring the incredible nature that Iceland has to offer (geothermal pools, glaciers and the famous northern lights – to name just a few!).
Visiting Iceland for us was a real escape from urban life, allowing us to really re-connect with nature. With the added bonus of experiencing the Northern Lights, it is a trip I will never forget.
We took a direct flight with WowAir from London. If you book these far enough in advance, they can be similar price-wise to flying within Europe. However, this trip will not be a cheap weekend away as Iceland is quite a pricey place and, in particular, we found eating out was more expensive than London (which is saying something as London is not cheap!).
We rented a car in advance and picked it up at Reykjavík airport which turned out to be the best decision we made as it gave us a lot of freedom for the weekend (e.g. driving to the excursions we mention in this post). The rented cars will be fitted with snow tires depending on the season so you don’t have to worry about that, although they do drive on the right hand side of the road!
Where to stay
As it was a special weekend away, we stayed in a lovely little hotel on the outskirts of Reykjavík called the Eyja Guldsmeden Hotel which was quiet and beautifully decorated in Nordic style. It was also a short walk away from the centre of the town and had free parking.
However, there are lots of different accommodation options in Reykjavík for all budgets. Staying in Reykjavík as your base is useful and then you can do your day trips from Reykjavík.
What to pack
The weather in Iceland is relatively cold no matter when you visit! We visited in late October and it was really quite chilly. Therefore we would recommend packing warm clothes. Here is a rough guide of what we brought:
- A good winter coat and winter clothes - including hat, gloves, scarves – all necessities;
- Casual active wear – useful for exploring but also we took a jog around the city one day which was lovely;
- Waterproof jackets/poncho - which we needed as it was rainy when we went jogging but also the weather generally can be quite wet so useful to have;
- Backpack for day trips – we brought our backpack as our carry-on luggage and then re-packed it smaller for our day trips. We would recommend bringing snacks also as some of the car journeys can be long with few places to stop;
- Swimming togs/bikini – for that must-do trip to the blue lagoon!
Things to do
There are so many natural wonders to explore in Iceland. As we only had limited time, we focussed on the two things we really wanted to do which was to visit the blue lagoon and see the Northern Lights. Our recommendations are:
- Try to see the Northern Lights - There are various tours you can do whereby you book a slot at night time to go via a tour bus with others to hunt for the Northern lights. These tours can be a good way to meet people but are expensive and give you little freedom. We found it much more fun to just go hunting for the lights with our rental car. The Hotel gave us advice on where to go but basically we just drove north of the city of Reykjavík and once we escaped the light pollution, the sky was ablaze with the most magical colours – we got very lucky
- Blue Lagoon - The Blue Lagoon is one of Reykjavík’s most famous attractions. It is a series of geo-thermal pools where you can relax for the afternoon and give yourself a silica based face mask outdoors in a steaming pool – it even has a bar in the middle! You need to book in advance of your trip as it is very popular (we booked approx. 3 or 4 weeks before travelling). The spa is about a 45 minute drive from Reykjavík and near the international airport. Luckily we had hired a car but there are tours that can take you there from Reykjavík. Highly recommend an afternoon here, it is so relaxing.
- Silfra Diving - Iceland straddles the mid-atlantic ridge and there is the opportunity to go surface snorkelling between tectonic plates. We didn’t have enough time to try this out but it is on our list for our next trip for sure.
- Explore the town of Reykjavík - Reykjavík is a small and walkable little city with lovely little boutiques and craft shops. It also has delicious food (particularly seafood) which we were pleasantly surprised with. We loved the Hlemmur Food Hall for lunch which is Reykjavík’s first food hall. We also had a celebratory dinner (for my partner’s birthday) at The Fish Company on the Saturday night which was quite expensive but worth it. The fish soup in particular was stand out – what a treat after a long day of walking around exploring!
We cannot recommend Reykjavík enough and can’t wait to return to explore more of Iceland in the future!