Where to go
Things to do in Reykjavik
Reykjavik is the world’s most northerly capital, and it’s the beating heart of culture and life for Icelanders. And, despite its small size, it delivers. From cafés and restaurants to quirky shops, geothermal pools and museums, this city has it all. While there are plenty of things to do within the city itself, its location enables easy daytrips to Iceland’s most famous attractions and natural wonders, such as the Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle. Top six things to do in Reykjavik 1. Marvel at the Northern Lights The Northern Lights are a truly spectacular natural phenomenon. The dancing colours of the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are caused by electronically charged particles from the sun entering the earth’s magnetic field. The best time to see them in Iceland is from late August to early April. And although they are sometimes visible from Reykjavik, a professional tour away from the city is recommended to fully appreciate them in all their glory – your options range from 4x4 tours to boat trips. 2. Take a dip in the Blue Lagoon Located under an hour’s drive from Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most popular attractions. The steamy, milky-blue thermal water nestling in a volcanic basin creates an otherworldly setting. Supplied by water used in the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power station, the lagoon’s temperatures average between 37°C and 39°C, meaning it’s warm enough for a dip at any time of the year. The waters are said to have regenerative qualities because they are rich in silica and sulphur. For the full experience, put on a facemask of silica mud, available at the sides of the pool. 3. Try out wild whale-watching Reykjavik is one of the best places in Iceland to see wild whales. Although whale-watching tours are offered all year round, the best time for sightings is between April and October. Over 20 species are found in the seas around Iceland. While minke whales, humpback whales and the harbour porpoises are the most commonly spotted species, you might be lucky enough to see white-beaked dolphins, orcas, fin whales and blue whales. Most whale-watching trips depart from Reykjavik’s Old Harbour. 4. Explore the city While it’s tempting to fill your holiday with excursions out of the city, Reykjavik has a lot to offer and it’s definitely worth spending a day or two exploring the city. The National Museum of Iceland provides an insight into the country’s history and culture, while the Reykjavik Maritime Museum focuses on its naval history. If art is your cup of tea, then you can't miss the National Gallery of Iceland. And, landmark buildings shape the skyline of the city, including the hemispherical Perlan, the Harpa, which is reflected in the water, as well as the Hallgrímskirkja – this church’s design was inspired by volcanic basalt columns. 5. Tour the Golden Circle The Golden Circle is a 300-kilometre-long route, looping from Reykjavik into the southern uplands and back. The first stop is Thingvellir National Park, best known for its continental divide where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. Hiking trails and scuba diving in Lake Silfra are popular activities here. Next up is the geothermal area in Haukadalur, which contains the Strokku geysers. You can watch them erupt every 5 to 10 minutes. The final stop is the gushing Gullfoss waterfall. Admire the thundering two-tiered falls from above as they seemingly disappear into the earth. 6. Go on a trip to Jökulsárlón The glacial lagoon of Jökulsárlón is in the south of Vatnajokull National Park. Way back when, it formed into a lake when the surrounding glaciers started receding from the edge of the Atlantic. During the summer months, you can get up close and personal with the glaciers by taking a boat tour of the lake, and in the winter, there are ice cave tours. Across from the lake, you’ll find Diamond Beach. This stretch of black volcanic sand got its name from the small pieces of glacier that wash up on the shore and glisten in the sun. Despite being almost five hours’ drive away, there are many day tours which depart from Reykjavik to Jökulsárlón, and incorporate a scenic drive along the beautiful south coast.