Iceland from Reykjavik
Your guide to navigating day trips in western Iceland from Reykjavik by car without a commitment to camping.
59 Places • 6 Saves • ago
Free

Iceland was a dream destination for me for a long time, but the cool summer temperatures and frequent rain meant camping or glamping was completely out of the question. I love nature, but I have no desire to sleep on soggy ground and that's okay. If you are like me, here is your guide to exploring Reykjavik, the South Coast, and the Thingvellir National Park.

This guide focuses mostly on the western part of Iceland and balances the unique art and food culture in Reykjavik with the otherworldly landscape around western Iceland.

Many people who visit Iceland opt for moving around the Ring Road that covers the entire island, but unpacking, repacking, and spending most days in the car was not the way I wanted to experience Iceland. 

Reykjavik

Dining

Lava Restaurant
@kathleennorton
Located at the Blue Lagoon
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Details
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
@kathleennorton
Iconic hot dog stand that is worth the hype! Try the hot dog with everything
Add to
Details
Vínstúkan Tíu sopar / Wine Bar
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Brauð & Co
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
101 Reykjavik Street Food
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Grandi Mathöll
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Lamb street food
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Mama Reykjavik
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Add to
Details
Add to
Details
Foodcellar
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details

Drinking

The Irishman Pub
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Einstök Bar
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Add to
Details
Hús máls og menningar
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details

Shopping

Rainbow Street
@kathleennorton
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Details
Laugavegur
@kathleennorton
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Details
Spúútnik
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Add to
Details
The Icelandic Phallological Museum (Hið Íslenzka Reðasafn)
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Reykjavík Art Museum Hafnarhús
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Sun Voyager
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details

Hiking

Add to
Details
Esjurætur - Hiking Center
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details

Relaxing

Blue Lagoon
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Sky Lagoon
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details

Staying

Eyja Guldsmeden Hotel
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details

South Coast

Raufarhólshellir
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Add to
Details
The Old Dairy Food Hall - Mjólkurbúið Mathöll
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Caves of Hella
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Seljalandsfoss
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Gljufrabui
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Fimmvorduhals Trailhead
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Skógafoss
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Kvernufoss
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Sólheimajökull
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Ingólfsskáli Viking Restaurant
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Add to
Details
Black Sand Beach Reynisfjara
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Hálsanefshellir Cave
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
The Soup Company
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Katla Ice Cave
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Add to
Details
Mossy Lava Fields
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details

Thingvellir

Thingvellir National Park
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Öxarárfoss
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Troll Expeditions Silfra
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Add to
Details
Brúarhlöð
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Tungufellsdalur
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Friðheimar
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Gullfoss Nature Reserve
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Gullfoss Waterfall lookout
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Add to
Details
Secret Lagoon Iceland
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Hrunalaug Hot Spring
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Brúará Trail
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Glymur Waterfall
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details

Sample 7 day Itinerary

Day 1: Get acclimated

The best way to recover from an international flight is taking the Blue Lagoon airport bus straight to the hot spring and spa. The Blue Lagoon is on the way from the Keflavik airport to Reykjavik center and has the Lava Restaurant for a hot meal after relaxing.

Walk around, see the city, see which restaurants and museums look interesting, but take the day easy to set yourself up for a week of activities.

Day 2: Reykjavik & Mt. Esja

The food, shopping, and art in Reykjavik is worth spending the time to see. There are many popular vegan restaurants, but my favorite meal was the famous Icelandic hot dog. 

There are many puffin and whale watching tours that leave from Reykjavik's harbor to interact with the wildlife.

Mt. Esja is a 45 minute drive from Reykjavik center and a fantastic place to stretch your legs. Hike uphill for views of the ocean and mountainside streams.

Day 3: South Coast

Iceland's iconic black sand beaches are breathtaking, and the variety of waterfalls and hiking trails on the way make for an activity-packed day.

Head towards Vik with ith optional stops at the Caves of Hella, Seljalandsfoss, Gljufrabui, Skogafoss, and Kvernufoss waterfalls.

Next head to Sólheimajökull to see the iconic glacier with option to hike it.

Vik is the city where some of the black sand beaches are, and make sure to stop at the Hálsanefshellir Cave to admire the natural grandeur. Vik is a great place to stop for lunch with restaurant options like The Soup Company. 

After Vik, you can either head back towards Reykjavik or continue on to see the moss covered lava fields 45 minutes from Vik. From the Eldhraun lava fields, you are about 2.5 hours from Selfoss and 3 hours from Reykjavik. Stop in Selfoss on your way back from Vik for dinner at The Old Dairy Food Hall for a casual dinner.

Day 4: Spa relaxation

The Sky Lagoon near Reykjavik is a wonderful way to break up hiking and outdoors experiences. It is possible to book through the spa including transportation from Reykjavik to avoid driving.

Day 5: Thingvellir National Park

The Thingvellir is a fantastic place to stroll, and you can hike or snorkel the glacial Silfra fissure between two tectonic plates!

Head towards the Brúarhlöð river gorge along the road for a beautiful road-side stop.   

The Fridheimar hydroponic tomato farm was a complete highlight to this trip. Dine inside of the family-run greenhouse with incredible service and guaranteed the best tomatoes. Their bottomless tomato soup and bread table is the best sustenance in between hikes. Reservation recommended.

Head to Gulfoss waterfall for a majestic walk along the powerful waterfall. If you are ready for more activity, hike the Brúará Trail--a long flat trail following an unreal turquoise river. 

After that, I recommend relaxing at either the Secret Lagoon or the Hrunalaug Hot Spring based on how rustic you want the afternoon to be--Secret Lagoon is more organized while Hrunalaug does not have changing rooms or showers, but the experience is incredible. As I was enjoying the warm water, wild sheep ran by into the surrounding fields. 

Day 6: Flexible Day

Flexibility is the name of the game in Iceland! Have a day that can be the reschedule day if weather changes some of your plans.

Day 7: Departure

Become one with the elements

Being surrounded by extreme geological sites and incredible topography comes at the cost of unpredictable weather. Prepare for rain, prepare for wind, be alert to the conditions around you while you are there. Earthquakes, volcanoes, and geothermal activity is humbling to be around, and it is important to do it safely for yourself and the environment. 

That being said, there is the potential for surprise volcano viewings as well. When I took off from New York, news broke that a volcano was beginning to erupt north of Reykjavik which meant my group was able to hike 8 miles with a tour group to watch the sun set over a live volcano. That is not something I imagined being able to experience, and it is why Iceland is such a unique destination. The sublime is alive and everpresent in Iceland.

Prepare for the unexpected

Some advice that I was given that was very valuable during our trip was to make sure your itinerary is flexible. Because heavy winds and rain can make day trips dangerous or unpleasant, having an itinerary that can easily be moved around based on the weather will help you avoid 1) disappointment and 2) danger.

I would recommend having some days with no restaurant reservations or group tours if possible so that you move things around as needed. Also keep in mind many tour groups and reserved outdoor activities will try to accommodate rescheduling if weather keeps you from your excursion as originally planned. 

* * *
CURATED BY
I am a part-time English teacher, part-time traveler currently based in Northern Spain. As I am in my second year living in Spain, I am attempting to see as much as possible with a focus on budget-friendly, outdoor destinations. My guides are built for anyone looking to fill a long weekend in Western Europe with a balance of good food and great views!
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Iceland from Reykjavik
Your guide to navigating day trips in western Iceland from Reykjavik by car without a commitment to camping.
59 Places • 6 Saves • ago
Free

Iceland was a dream destination for me for a long time, but the cool summer temperatures and frequent rain meant camping or glamping was completely out of the question. I love nature, but I have no desire to sleep on soggy ground and that's okay. If you are like me, here is your guide to exploring Reykjavik, the South Coast, and the Thingvellir National Park.

This guide focuses mostly on the western part of Iceland and balances the unique art and food culture in Reykjavik with the otherworldly landscape around western Iceland.

Many people who visit Iceland opt for moving around the Ring Road that covers the entire island, but unpacking, repacking, and spending most days in the car was not the way I wanted to experience Iceland. 

Reykjavik

Dining

Lava Restaurant
@kathleennorton
Located at the Blue Lagoon
Add to
Details
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
@kathleennorton
Iconic hot dog stand that is worth the hype! Try the hot dog with everything
Add to
Details
Vínstúkan Tíu sopar / Wine Bar
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Brauð & Co
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
101 Reykjavik Street Food
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Grandi Mathöll
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Lamb street food
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Mama Reykjavik
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Add to
Details
Add to
Details
Foodcellar
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details

Drinking

The Irishman Pub
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Einstök Bar
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Add to
Details
Hús máls og menningar
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details

Shopping

Rainbow Street
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Laugavegur
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Spúútnik
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Add to
Details
The Icelandic Phallological Museum (Hið Íslenzka Reðasafn)
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Reykjavík Art Museum Hafnarhús
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Sun Voyager
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details

Hiking

Add to
Details
Esjurætur - Hiking Center
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details

Relaxing

Blue Lagoon
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Sky Lagoon
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details

Staying

Eyja Guldsmeden Hotel
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details

South Coast

Raufarhólshellir
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Add to
Details
The Old Dairy Food Hall - Mjólkurbúið Mathöll
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Caves of Hella
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Seljalandsfoss
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Gljufrabui
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Fimmvorduhals Trailhead
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Skógafoss
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Kvernufoss
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Sólheimajökull
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Ingólfsskáli Viking Restaurant
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Add to
Details
Black Sand Beach Reynisfjara
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Hálsanefshellir Cave
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
The Soup Company
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Katla Ice Cave
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Add to
Details
Mossy Lava Fields
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details

Thingvellir

Thingvellir National Park
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Öxarárfoss
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Troll Expeditions Silfra
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Add to
Details
Brúarhlöð
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Tungufellsdalur
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Friðheimar
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Gullfoss Nature Reserve
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Gullfoss Waterfall lookout
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Add to
Details
Secret Lagoon Iceland
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Hrunalaug Hot Spring
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Brúará Trail
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details
Glymur Waterfall
@kathleennorton
Add to
Details

Sample 7 day Itinerary

Day 1: Get acclimated

The best way to recover from an international flight is taking the Blue Lagoon airport bus straight to the hot spring and spa. The Blue Lagoon is on the way from the Keflavik airport to Reykjavik center and has the Lava Restaurant for a hot meal after relaxing.

Walk around, see the city, see which restaurants and museums look interesting, but take the day easy to set yourself up for a week of activities.

Day 2: Reykjavik & Mt. Esja

The food, shopping, and art in Reykjavik is worth spending the time to see. There are many popular vegan restaurants, but my favorite meal was the famous Icelandic hot dog. 

There are many puffin and whale watching tours that leave from Reykjavik's harbor to interact with the wildlife.

Mt. Esja is a 45 minute drive from Reykjavik center and a fantastic place to stretch your legs. Hike uphill for views of the ocean and mountainside streams.

Day 3: South Coast

Iceland's iconic black sand beaches are breathtaking, and the variety of waterfalls and hiking trails on the way make for an activity-packed day.

Head towards Vik with ith optional stops at the Caves of Hella, Seljalandsfoss, Gljufrabui, Skogafoss, and Kvernufoss waterfalls.

Next head to Sólheimajökull to see the iconic glacier with option to hike it.

Vik is the city where some of the black sand beaches are, and make sure to stop at the Hálsanefshellir Cave to admire the natural grandeur. Vik is a great place to stop for lunch with restaurant options like The Soup Company. 

After Vik, you can either head back towards Reykjavik or continue on to see the moss covered lava fields 45 minutes from Vik. From the Eldhraun lava fields, you are about 2.5 hours from Selfoss and 3 hours from Reykjavik. Stop in Selfoss on your way back from Vik for dinner at The Old Dairy Food Hall for a casual dinner.

Day 4: Spa relaxation

The Sky Lagoon near Reykjavik is a wonderful way to break up hiking and outdoors experiences. It is possible to book through the spa including transportation from Reykjavik to avoid driving.

Day 5: Thingvellir National Park

The Thingvellir is a fantastic place to stroll, and you can hike or snorkel the glacial Silfra fissure between two tectonic plates!

Head towards the Brúarhlöð river gorge along the road for a beautiful road-side stop.   

The Fridheimar hydroponic tomato farm was a complete highlight to this trip. Dine inside of the family-run greenhouse with incredible service and guaranteed the best tomatoes. Their bottomless tomato soup and bread table is the best sustenance in between hikes. Reservation recommended.

Head to Gulfoss waterfall for a majestic walk along the powerful waterfall. If you are ready for more activity, hike the Brúará Trail--a long flat trail following an unreal turquoise river. 

After that, I recommend relaxing at either the Secret Lagoon or the Hrunalaug Hot Spring based on how rustic you want the afternoon to be--Secret Lagoon is more organized while Hrunalaug does not have changing rooms or showers, but the experience is incredible. As I was enjoying the warm water, wild sheep ran by into the surrounding fields. 

Day 6: Flexible Day

Flexibility is the name of the game in Iceland! Have a day that can be the reschedule day if weather changes some of your plans.

Day 7: Departure

Become one with the elements

Being surrounded by extreme geological sites and incredible topography comes at the cost of unpredictable weather. Prepare for rain, prepare for wind, be alert to the conditions around you while you are there. Earthquakes, volcanoes, and geothermal activity is humbling to be around, and it is important to do it safely for yourself and the environment. 

That being said, there is the potential for surprise volcano viewings as well. When I took off from New York, news broke that a volcano was beginning to erupt north of Reykjavik which meant my group was able to hike 8 miles with a tour group to watch the sun set over a live volcano. That is not something I imagined being able to experience, and it is why Iceland is such a unique destination. The sublime is alive and everpresent in Iceland.

Prepare for the unexpected

Some advice that I was given that was very valuable during our trip was to make sure your itinerary is flexible. Because heavy winds and rain can make day trips dangerous or unpleasant, having an itinerary that can easily be moved around based on the weather will help you avoid 1) disappointment and 2) danger.

I would recommend having some days with no restaurant reservations or group tours if possible so that you move things around as needed. Also keep in mind many tour groups and reserved outdoor activities will try to accommodate rescheduling if weather keeps you from your excursion as originally planned. 

* * *
CURATED BY
I am a part-time English teacher, part-time traveler currently based in Northern Spain. As I am in my second year living in Spain, I am attempting to see as much as possible with a focus on budget-friendly, outdoor destinations. My guides are built for anyone looking to fill a long weekend in Western Europe with a balance of good food and great views!
Send A Tip
Support Kathleen Norton’s work.
Select your tip amount
$5
$10
$20
$50
Or type in other amount
Powered by Thatch
The home for unique & authentic travel
Powered by Thatch: Where great trips are made.
© Kathleen Norton Privacy Terms