The Complete Reykjavik Travel Guide

I knew, from the moment my plane began to descend into Iceland, that this was something special. The sky itself was otherworldly- clotted with perfectly symmetrical clouds as far as the eye could see. The terrain was equally surreal, reddish-brown and covered with impossibly purple flowers, as if from another planet. There are few countries I’ve fallen in love with as hopelessly and effortlessly as Iceland, and it’s capital Reykjavik- a tiny, colourful, coastal city- will always have my heart. Here’s my guide on everything I’ve seen, done and learned in this city.

The Basics

How To Get There – Iceland’s Keflavik Airport, which is forty minutes away from the capital, is well-connected to most European capitals. Like most things in this country, the cab rides can get exorbitantly expensive; a ride from the airport to Reykjavik can set you back around 150 euros! Instead, opt for airport transport shuttles by Flybus or Airport Direct that start from 29 euros. I personally chose the former as it accommodates for flight delays and drops off at most of the popular hotels.

Best Time To Visit – If it weren’t obvious enough from the name, Iceland can get incredibly cold, so the summer months are the best time to travel. July and August are peak tourist months, so expect a lot of crowds. I went in early June, when it was marginally less crowded and the weather was still decent. However, if you’re hoping to catch the Northern Lights, it’s best to visit between September and October or February and March.

Currency – Króna (1 euro = 142 króna). Most places in Iceland will accept card, so only convert a small amount, if at all.

Getting Around – Reykjavik has a great bus system that you can use within the city limits, and companies like Arctic Adventures arrange tours from the capital to other tourist destinations across the country. However, if you’re travelling in a group and prefer to move about at your own pace, renting a car might be a better choice. Be aware of gas prices though- filling a tank of petrol can cost around 7000 to 8000 ISK.

Iceland travel guide

Where To Stay

Due to some last-minute planning-gone-wrong, we ended up staying at three different hotels in the city during our visit. Reykjavik has plenty of budget Guesthouses to choose form that are very clean and decently priced.

Eric The Red – Named after the famous Norse explorer, this was by far my favourite place to stay in the city. Located right next to the Hallgrimskirkja church and barely a minute away from the bus stop, this quirky little building has all the amenities you require- clean rooms, a free breakfast buffet, free laundry and a central location. It was also the cheapest guesthouse we stayed at.

Guesthouse Aurora – Located in the same district next to Hallgrimskirkja church, Guesthouse Arora is perfect for student travellers.

Eyja Guldsmeden Hotel – If you’re looking for something on the pricier end, this centrally-located hotel boasts gorgeous interiors and a great view. The hotel also includes its own restaurant, bar and fitness centre.

What To Do

As is the case with most of my favourite cities, the best thing to do in Reykjavik is to simply walk around and discover places for yourself.

Visit the Phallological Museum – If you’re into fermented whale penises. (But even if not, it’s a fun place to visit.)

Hallgrimskirkja church – For the best view of the city.

National Museum of Iceland – A must-see for history buffs.

Harpa – Gorgeous architecture aside, keep an eye out for the many concerts that happen here.

Reykjavik Maritime Museum – A former fish factory turned museum, this is one of the most fun ways to learn about the country’s history and fishing industry.

Laugavegur – Wandering about the capital’s main shopping street is one of the many ways to discover Iceland’s vibrant culture. Visit their many minimalist shops, stroll into some of the pubs of excellent Icelandic beer, or simply grab a table outdoors and enjoy the atmosphere.

Tjörnin – This gorgeous pond in central Reykjavik is perfect for an evening stroll or some bird watching.

Reykjavik travel guide

Where To Eat

Seafood is a huge part of the Icelandic cuisine. Their seafood soup that’s served in a bowl of bread is a must-try, as is the fish & chips. Chocolate is another big thing there; while walking around the city you’ll spot many small boutique chocolate shops, all of which are lovely. If you’re feeling experimental, you can also opt for a horse or whale meat dish. And if you’re unsure about which places to try near your guesthouse, just asked the owner! Local recommendations never go wrong.

Icelandic Street Food – For an authentic experience.

Cafe Gardurinn – For hearty soups and vegan options.

Gandhi Restaurant – You’d be surprised by how popular Indian food is in Iceland. Don’t leave this place without trying their dal.

Cafe Loki – Delicious food with a great view of the Hallgrímskirkja church.

Icelandic Fish & Chips – You can’t go wrong with this one.

Reykjavik travel guide

Around Reykjavik

Given Iceland’s dramatic and unique landscape, there are countless excursions you can do from the capital. While self-driving is the most popular option, there are many companies that organise group tours all across the country. I opted for Arctic Adventures, one of the biggest tour operators there, and I had a fairly pleasant experience with them. Some of their best day tours that includes pick-up and drop off from Reykjavik are:

Horse Riding & Snorkelling | 8 hours | $247

South Coast, Jorkulsaron & Diamond Beach | 14-16 hours | $146

Lava Caving & Blue Lagoon | 9 hours | $114

Whale Watching from Reykjavik | 2 hours | $162

Before You Go

Budget. Budget. Budget. – Visiting Iceland can get very expensive very quickly, so make sure you plan your expenses in advance and include even the smaller expenses like food, bus tickets, gas prices, etc.

Be Careful While Driving – If you’re planning on renting a car to drive around Iceland, make sure to follow their rules and steer clear of stray animals. Driving there is incredibly easy but it can also get dangerous if you venture off the road and don’t follow safety rules.

Fresh Water – Thanks to its proximity to many glaciers, Iceland has some of the freshest water you will ever taste. Don’t waste money on bottled water and opt for their excellent tap water instead.

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