Iceland is one of the most amazing countries I’ve ever visited. Incredible landscapes, quirky cultural experiences and magical ponies make you feel like you’ve entered a fantasy world. Reykjavik is a great stopover and base for exploring Iceland, especially if you’re travelling between the USA and Europe (or vice versa).
While I travelled there in winter, a lot of these adventures can be done all year round, with the exception of seeing the Northern Lights. Although Iceland is easy to drive around in summer, in winter or bad weather, it’s much better to go with a tour that has experience with driving in snow. We went with Grayline Iceland to see the Golden Circle, and they also do Northern Lights Tours.
Things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland
The Perlan and Saga Museum
The Perlan is both a museum and cultural centre, which also houses the Saga Museum. You might not think visiting a museum is very exciting, but just wait until you see the Viking wax sculptures. It’s great, and kinda violent. The Perlan itself runs exhibitions on Iceland, plus the view of Reykjavik from the top is incredible.
Hallgrimskirkja is an iconic church in the centre of Reykjavik. It’s hard to miss this cathedral with its striking architecture. The inside is just as stunning as the outside. Minimalist stone walls rise in huge arches above. You can also climb to the top of the tower.
See the Sun Voyager
The Sun Voyager is a steel sculpture right on the water’s edge by Jón Gunnar Árnason. I remember it well, because it’s where I slipped and whacked my butt on the ice in winter… but you should still visit it!
Watch the northern lights (seasonal)
Watching the northern lights is on the bucket list for many travellers. And you can in Iceland! While they’re not visible in summer, you can try your luck at spotting the Aurora Borealis in the shoulder seasons and winter. You’ll need to get out of town for the best visibility. If you’re going with a tour, make sure you book the first day you get into town, as you might not be able to see it depending on the weather. That way you can reschedule to maximize your chances of catching the lights.
Tour the golden circle
You can’t not tour the golden circle when you’re in Reykjavik. It’s a full day tour from town which takes in three incredible landscapes: Geysir, Þingvellir National Park (pronounced Thingvellir) and Gullfoss Waterfall along a 300 kilometre loop of road. These are still some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen in my life, so I highly recommend visiting them.
At Haukadalur, you’ll see the enormous Geysir and other geothermal features. Despite the landscape often being cold, these are extremely hot!
Þingvellir National Park is notable not only for its landscapes, but as the home of the national parliament of Iceland, first held in 930AD. Hint: it’s not a building that you’re looking for, but an epic meeting place at a rocky embankment.
You might recognise the grand waterfall Gullfoss from the film Prometheus. It is truly a spectacular sight – the gushing water running lengthwise along the Hvita River.
For a more peaceful water view, Tjornin lake is located in the middle of Reykjavik, and is home to geese and ducks. It’s especially beautiful in winter when the water freezes over.
Go horse riding
Icelandic ponies are basically magic, and what better way to live out your Game of Thrones fantasies than going horse riding across the remote Icelandic wilderness?
Two companies that run horseriding adventures out of Reykjavik are:
Soak in the Blue Lagoon
After all that running around and horseriding, rest your tired body in the Blue Lagoon Spa. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa, so while it might be cold outside, it’s While I didn’t make it here on my last trip, it’s high on my list if I ever go back to Iceland. You’ll need to pre-book due to its popularity. It’s around 40 kilometres from Reykjavik and close to the airport, making it a good stop on your way in and out of Iceland.
Blue Lagoon Iceland – Tickets from 54 Euros