9 Best Day Trips from Reykjavik

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The Icelandic capital of Reykjavik is the best place in the country to base yourself in order to explore all that this incredible land has to offer. The capital is the country’s largest city, found in a beautiful location on the southwest coastline, overlooking the stormy ocean and surrounded by otherworldly landscapes.

It is the center of life in Iceland, where culture, history, and local traditions are just waiting to be discovered, but more importantly, where just a short drive away from the center, you can find endless day trip opportunities.

The warm, relaxing, geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon are located nearby, while epic, thundering waterfalls, and unreal landscapes are awaiting you whichever direction you choose to travel away from the city.

Take on a snorkeling trip between two tectonic plates at the Thingvellir National Park, self drive between hot springs and icy glaciers or jump on an organized tour to see all that you can in a day.

The black sand beaches and dramatic cliffs of the south coast are just a short journey away from Reykjavik, while to the northwest awaits the wild, windswept peaks of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.

To help you plan your trip to the Icelandic capital, here’s our list of the best day trips from Reykjavik.

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Iceland (Travel Guide)

9 Best Day Trips from Reykjavik

Best Day Trips from Reykjavik - Blue Lagoon

1. Relax in the Geothermal Waters of the Blue Lagoon

A trip to the Blue Lagoon is one of the best day trips from Reykjavik that you can make while visiting the city. This blue lake of geothermal mineral water is found around a one hour drive from the city, and in fact, it’s actually very close to the Keflavik International Airport.

This makes it a great option for those looking to wind down before or after their flight into Iceland.

Icelanders have a long history of outdoor bathing in hot springs, however, the Blue Lagoon isn’t one of the traditional or even natural spots. It’s fed from the runoff from a geothermal power plant, and although that might sound toxic, it’s actually perfectly safe and healthy.

The Blue Lagoon then is more a man-made continuation of a centuries-old tradition, and it’s a fantastic spa experience. You can sit back in the warm, blue waters, enjoy a cold beverage or even a cocktail and hit the saunas and steam room for the ultimate relaxation day.  

** Be sure to book tickets in advance as spots and time slots are extremely limited given how popular it has become in recent years. **

Our recommended tours of the Blue Lagoon:

Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

2. Explore the Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is Reykjavik’s premier tourist trail, because this loop takes you outside of the city and past the incredible, nearby, natural attractions. It is one of the best day trips from Reykjavik because for one, the Icelandic wilderness is so accessible here, and two, it’s like nothing you will have ever seen before visiting the country.

The traditional Golden Circle route takes you out of the city, and first to Thingvellir National Park, the site of Iceland’s first historic parliament meeting hundreds of years ago and a place of raw beauty where the European and North American tectonic plates are slowly drifting apart from one another.

The second stop is the mighty and powerful Gullfoss Waterfall, an extraordinary sight that will awe you to the core as you watch the water tumbling violently over the edge of the falls.

The final traditional stop on the route is the geothermal Geysers that continually explode high into the air. By no means though, does this have to be the final stop, as in the Golden Circle area there are volcanic craters, glaciers and thermal spas to discover too.

Our recommended tours of the Golden Circle:

Iceland Silfra Fissure

3. Snorkel Between Tectonic Plates at the Silfra Fissure

Snorkel in Iceland? Yes. You read that correctly! At the Silfra Fissure in the Thingvellir National Park, it’s possible to snorkel or dive in the pure glacial water.

The Silfra Fissure is an unusual geological formation, a huge crack in the earth’s surface that is slowly widening as two tectonic plates drift away from each other by a few centimeters each year.

This fissure has filled with pure, clear, glacial water, and offers one of the most exhilarating snorkeling experiences in the world. The water is a constant temperature all year round, and in summer, you can even snorkel under the midnight sun.

Tour companies will provide dry suits and equipment to keep you warm, but depending on the time of year, you may, in fact, find that the water is warmer than the outside air.

Although there is no marine life in the fissure, the water is incredibly pure and incredibly clear – you can even drink it – and it offers a surreal and vibrant experience as you float past the colorful and strange rock formations, between two continents.

Our recommended tours of the Silfra Fissure:

Hiking at Landmannalaugar, Iceland

3. Hike the Volcanic Landscapes of Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar is a beautiful valley in the highlands to the west of Reykjavik. It’s one of the best places to hike in summer, with many trails winding through the mountains and across unreal landscapes.

There are many mountains to climb or to simply marvel at from a distance, while the area has a number of unusual volcanic lava fields that look like something that has been transplanted from another planet entirely.

This is an area of untouched natural beauty, and the roads aren’t great, particularly outside of summer, so it may be best to join a highland tour on a day trip – or even, a multi-day trip if you have the time! – to really experience this spectacular land.

Our recommended tours of Landmannalaugar:

Black sand beach in Vik, Iceland

4. Visit the Black Sand Beaches and Waterfalls of Southern Iceland

The south coast of Iceland is one of the most dramatic places to visit in the country, and it’s just a day trip away from the city. Route 1 leads out of the city and follows the coast, and all along the route south, you will find an array of amazing natural sights.

The powerful Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls are literally on the side of the road, while you will always be traveling in the shadow of the infamous Eyjafjallajokull volcano which last erupted in 2010, and grounded most air traffic around the world for weeks.

The coast here is formed of black sand beaches, the product of thousands of years of volcanic ash building upon the shores, while there are remote islands and small Icelandic communities to explore too.

Our recommended tours of Southern Iceland:

Jökulsarlon Glacial Lagoon, Iceland

5. Be Enthralled by the Icebergs of the Jökulsarlon Glacial Lagoon

To the south-east of Reykjavik can be found the breathtaking vistas of the Jökulsarlon Glacial Lagoon. It makes for a long day trip from the capital, but the drive here will take you along the spectacular southern coastline, and past the small community of Vik, before bringing you to this spectacular lagoon.

Jökulsarlon is found right on the very edge of a huge glacier, and the lagoon is quite literally filled with icebergs that have broken off, to float along the water until they come to rest in the lagoon, before eventually being forced out onto the open ocean.

It’s a strangely majestic scene of floating, creaking and slowly drifting icebergs, that stretch as far as the eye can see. The best way to experience this spectacle is to take a boat tour through the mass of ice and water.

Our recommended tours of Jökulsarlon:

Wild Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

6. Take a Trip to the Wild Snaefellsnes Peninsula

To the north and then to the west of Reykjavik can be found the wild Snaefellsnes Peninsula. This is one of the best day trips from Reykjavik because waiting at the end of this long peninsula is the rugged Snaefellsnes National Park.

A place famed and much photographed for its distinctive volcanic peaks. The most well known is the Church Mountain, a conical peak that rises abruptly from the coast, while Snaefellsjokull, a volcano covered in a huge glacier that gives the area its name, is one of the most iconic peaks in the country.

Here you can hike, climb, explore ice caves and lava tubes, and enjoy one of Iceland’s most spectacular areas.

Our recommended tours of Snaefellsnes:

Divergent Travelers at Langjökull Glacier, Iceland

7. Get Icy at the Langjökull Glacier

Langjökull is one of the largest glaciers in Iceland, and it’s found sprawling across the western highlands. This is a place to truly begin to appreciate the vast forces of nature that hold Iceland in its sway, as beneath this huge ice cap lay several active volcanoes.

There are plenty of opportunities to explore parts of Langjökull, with ice climbing and glacier hiking being firm favorites amongst the adventurous. If that’s not for you, then even just witnessing this huge ice field from afar is an excellent experience in itself.

Our recommended tours of Langjökull Glacier:

Leiðarendi Lava Tunnel in Iceland

8. Enter the Darkness of the Leiðarendi Lava Tunnel

Leiðarendi Lava Tunnel is found just a short drive away from the city and makes for an unusual day trip from Reykjavik that takes you deep into the heart of the mountains.

Visiting the lava tunnel is an unusual experience to undertake, as you are in the remnants of previous volcanic eruptions, that shaped the very land you are standing on. It’s a strange experience, but a must-do to appreciate the geological forces at play in the country.

Book: Caving in Leiðarendi Cave tour

Humpback Whale Tail

9. Go Whale Watching Out on the Open Ocean

Whales are spotted throughout the year along the coast of Iceland, however, visit in summer to almost guarantee the chance of spotting these majestic sea creatures on the open ocean.

Many different species cruise past the shores of Reykjavik, and a whale watching trip will help you to spot these mammoth animals in the cold waters of Iceland. You can also combine a whale watching trip with Puffin viewing, truly making this experience one of the best day trips from Reykjavik.

Our recommended tours for Whale Watching:

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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA

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