60 Hours in Reykjavik

29 Jan

Iceland is amazing and you will totally fall in love with it like I did. I’m going to tell you why and how to do it for slightly less than usual, because a trip to this country is nearly as expensive as pilot school…

Day 1

Take the earliest flight out to Keflavik as possible. Location wise, Keflavik Airport is 50 minute drive or so from Reykjavik town centre. There’s way more going on in Reykjavik and it’s much closer to the Golden Circle so this would be my suggested place to lodge for a few nights. We saved nearly £150 each on extra accommodation by taking the early flight from London and the latest flight home, so if you can push through that tiredness barrier, this is a great way to do it. A hearty airport breakfast and a last minute meal deal from London saw us through until dinner. We rented a car online & picked it up easily from arrivals. A hire car is something I’d 100% recommend. Keep in mind the season though because there were a few times our tiny i20 struggled in very wintery weather, so this is something I’d maybe pay more for next time. It saved us from spending loads of wonga on guided tours which always seem make me feel super restricted anyway, because we got to explore at our own pace. Parking in the town centre was free all day Sunday, and Friday and Saturday evenings from 6pm until 10am which worked perfectly with our schedules.

We arrived at our hotel, (any BA pals definitely Hotline this as you can save like a third), which was perfectly situated in the marina in Reykjavik. If we had planned this better, we’d have driven direct from the airport to the Blue Lagoon, to save us the hassle of going back on ourselves, but we were tired and wanted to get to know the roads and the area before dark. The lighting is verrrrry strange in Icelandic winter! The sun rises after 10.30am and sets around 5pm so you have to cram everything to into those daylight hours! Arriving at the Lagoon at 3pm gave us time to enjoy the beautifully hot waters and a cheeky beer before the sun set over the mountains. The perfect start to our Icelandic adventure. Head back to town to clean up for dinner. We chose an easy evening meal right next to our hotel. Tommi’s Burger Joint serves super tasty basket burgers in a totally relaxed atmosphere. A chilled night ready for the most jam-packed day you’ve ever undertaken tomorrow.

 

Day 2

Breakfast time! East like you have never eaten before to save you paying for lunch in the most expensive place ever. Book a hotel with a full breakfast included. We took loads of spare liquids’ bags from the airport and snuck the sandwiches we made from the buffet into a backpack every morning. They had loads of fruit and cakey/biscuity snacks too, which are great for today’s car journeys and keeping your energy up in freezing weather.

Our route around some of the highlights of The Golden Circle took us near to 8 hours. Reykjavik to Þingvellir is about a 50 minute drive. It’s a national park which has loads of trails, all beginning at the visitor centre which is the home to a massive fissure which has opened up between the North Atlantic & Eurasian tectonic plates. You can even walk straight down the middle of it. Parking is about £5 and is paid for on card in the centre itself. Follow the trail to Öxarárfoss which is a beautiful waterfall.

Next up is Geysir, a village another hour down the road. It’s full of geysers and super magical to see. Parking is free here, and totally worth a stop off to watch the whole area bubble and steam from the ground. A huge central geyser explodes every 5-10 minutes providing a pretty cool show in the air. The gift shop is super cute here too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 minutes further in the car and you arrive at Gullfoss, a ginormous series of powerful waterfalls. Whilst there’s not a whole lot here apart from spectating, it was a nice location for our little picnic. It can get pretty windy here, and we hit -13°C, so just as well it was a quick visit.

Another long car journey as you begin to loop back round the underneath side of the Circle. The Kerið is the site of an old volcanic explosion which was so brutal that the area imploded creating a crater which you can walk around. In summer you can wander along the verge of the water inside the crater, but it was completely iced over and treacherous to reach so we stayed at a safe height and admired the mountains and the sunset. Entrance is about £4 per person and you can pay on card at a little booth by the car park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For dinner we chose another local restaurant back in Reykjavik called Salt. The evening set menus are really good value, and come with deserts which are super yummy. We took a short drive out of the city after our meal and headed East along the Þingvellir road again. Stopping in a lay-by and turning off our engine we even managed to see the Northern Lights! A fantastically serene ending to the busiest day, swiftly followed by digging another tourist’s car out of a snowdrift in holey skinny jeans in -16°C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3

Time to explore Reykjavik. You’ll have seen lots of little bits of it driving about, but it’s best experienced on foot (bring your ugliest, grippiest footwear). Begin your day walking over the frozen lakes at Tjornin. Not a lot here but there are some cute views of the town and it’s pretty peaceful out there in the snow.

A short 10 minutes away uphill is Hallgrimskirkja. A fully working church with services, but also an 8th floor viewing area behind the faces of the clocks. Such beautiful views of every angle of the town and the surrounding mountains. You are right in line with the flight path to Reykjavik Airport here too which is pretty cool to watch for a few minutes.

Heading back towards the marina, the long, main shopping street appears parallel to the water. Laugavegur is a mixture of niche Icelandic shops, touristy rubbish and cute coffee and restaurant spots. We stopped off for a (£9!) hot chocolate at Te and Kaffi to warm up before some shopping and an early dinner to fill us up before our flight. We went cheap, carby and cheerful with pizza, but there is so much choice. Stock up on plane snacks at the local Bonus supermarket too, as KEF is extortionate.

One final pre-airport stop and we chose The Volcano House. Nothing extra special, but a cute volcanic themed gift shop with a small theatre attached showing videos of the 2010 and 1973 eruptions – really interesting for geography nerds like me. There’s a small entrance fee but it’s so informative, and there are discounts for students etc.

And that was us! Off to the airport after our whistle stop tour.

My last top tips:

  • Layers are key, I’m talking tights under jeans even
  • Wear good shoes or you will always have soggy socks like me
  • Currency is Icelandic Króna (not the euro as I though whoops), but we didn’t use any cash anyway
  • GoPro and good cameras are a must
  • The sun never gets high in the sky (in winter at least), so you need good sunnies or prepare to be forever blinded

Enjoy my new favourite place!

 

 

 

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