Although Reykjavik is a small city, it is the proud capital city of Iceland and is a place filled with natural wonder and excitement all year round. The city is located on steaming hot springs that actually earned it its name, which translates to Smoky Bay in Old Norse. Since the city is volcanically active it uses the energy produced in the geothermal hot springs to power nearly 90% of the heating and hot water of the whole nation. That's pretty cool! Reykjavik also has an outstanding culture and heritage as well as a very impressive literary history that inspired it to be a UNESCO City of Literature.
One thing is for sure, there is no place like Reykjavik. This city is sure to keep you occupied with its incredible world-class museums and natural sights, but there are plenty of incredible places found just outside of town that you can explore as well. You can make the most of your time in Iceland by taking a day trip from Reykjavik and exploring somewhere else in the nearby area. Before heading out on your adventure, check your bags into a suitcase locker in Reykjavik; the process is simple and safe. The area surrounding the city is incredible – travel hands free and light to see as much as you can.
How to get out of Reykjavik
When you are exploring central Reykjavik, walking is the easiest option. The city does not have a very extensive public transportation system, although there are buses that travel between some of the key areas as well as within Downtown Reykjavik. If you don't mind spending a bit more money, taxis are also an effective means of travel.
Unfortunately, Iceland does not have an intercity railroad, meaning that you will have to drive to most of your Reykjavik day trips unless the buses can get you there. There are bus tours and other private tour companies that can take you on excursions, but if you want full freedom then renting your own car is the best way to travel.
From Reykjavik to Thingvellir National Park
Located in the Golden Circle, Thingvellir National Park, or Þingvellir National Park as it is known in Icelandic, is one of the best places to go on a day trip from Reykjavik. It was actually Iceland's first National Park and is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are plenty of things that make it an important place, including the fact that it is the site of the first parliament of Iceland and has been a significant meeting point since back in 938. If you want to learn more about it there is a fantastic museum on site at the Visitor's Center.
One thing that you will learn if you visit Thingvellir National Park is that the volcanic and tectonic activity is very prominent here, which has resulted in cracks and fissures opening up in the ground. One of the largest is called the Silfra Fissure which is filled with clear meltwater creating natural springs that you can actually go scuba diving or snorkeling in if you are accompanied by an experienced guide. Nearby you will also find a waterfall that can be easily reached by a short walk.
How to get to Thingvellir National Park
The beautiful Thingvellir National Park should be on everyone's Iceland bucket list. Some people choose to take an entire Golden Circle tour which also includes areas like the Geysir geothermal area, the Gullfoss waterfall, also known as the Golden Falls, and Kerid Crater which has its own crater lake. You can visit the park on your own if you wish and if you want to drive yourself, it is a simple route that will take under an hour.
From Reykjavik to South Coast
When looking for day trips from Reykjavik you should definitely consider a visit to the stunning South Coast. You will be captivated by the incredible natural beauty of the area during the entire trip and there are so many magical places for you to visit. It is an absolute must for nature lovers since the magnificent waterfalls and incredible landscapes will take your breath away. The coast stretches on for quite a while and you cannot see everything in just a few hours, which is why you should pick and choose the places that you want to visit or consider making the trip even longer than a day.
One of the top sights along Iceland's South Coast is the Seljalandsfoss waterfall which is an incredible sixty meters high, and you can even walk behind it! Continue along the coast and you will find a gorgeous black sand beach complete with columns of basalt at Reynisfjara beach. It is located next to a quaint town called Vik and if you continue just a little further on you will find the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. You will also want to check out the Skogafoss waterfall, the Svartifoss waterfall and the Svínafellsjökull Glacier as well. On your journey, you might even spot wild ponies in the fields and valleys.
How to get to South Coast
When exploring the coast of south Iceland you will have the choice of taking a guided tour which can be a good way to explore as much of the area as possible stress-free. If you choose to drive yourself around you will be able to reach the southern coast in under two hours, but driving along the whole route can take up to five (without any stops).
From Reykjavik to Snaefellsnes Peninsula
If you journey over to the west coast instead, then you will find yourself at the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. This area can introduce you to the paradise that is coastal life in Iceland. Here you will find several adorable villages that look like they've come straight out of a fairytale, like Arnarstapi which has stone archways and bridges passing along the cliffs. You will also want to stop by Stykkishólmer; this lovely town has a certain historical personality and is just a nice place to walk around.
During your time in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, you will spot more beautiful black sand beaches. The one at Djúpalónssandur is sure to amaze you so don't miss a chance to check it out. You will also want to include a stop at the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall which, with the Kirkjufell mountain in its backdrop, is a truly spectacular sight. If you feel adventurous, we encourage you to see the Snæfellsjökull glacier; if the conditions are right you can even try your hand at glacier hiking! Lastly, make a stop by Ytri-Tunga beach, you may spot frolicking seals.
How to get to Snaefellsnes Peninsula
You can easily drive yourself to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. The entire journey, leaving Reykjavik, takes just under two hours by car.
From Reykjavik to Faxaflói
Faxaflói is the name of the bay located just outside of Reykjavik. It is a beautiful spot but most people come here to go whale watching! It is one of the best Iceland day trips for animal lovers since you will be able to see some of the local wildlife. Puffins, dolphins, whales and porpoises are common in the lands and waters around Reykjavik, and you might be able to spot some if you sign up for a whale watching cruise.
You won't have trouble finding a tour company that offers whale watching tours around Faxaflói. On your trip, you will have the chance to see different kinds of whales, with the most common being humpback and minke. There are also orcas and blue whales although they are rare. Your guide will be telling you educational facts about the whales during the tour so you will get to learn something new at the same time.
How to get to Faxaflói
Faxaflói bay is right next to Reykjavik so you won't have to travel anywhere to go on your whale watching tour. Check out the different day tours available from the city and head out onto the water to see these majestic creatures!
From Reykjavik to Landmannalaugar
Landmannalaugar is one of the best Iceland day trips and if you check it out you will realize why. Located in the Highlands of southern Iceland, Landmannalaugar will make you feel as though you are in a different place and the beautiful landscapes will be hard to forget. You will love to explore the hot springs, volcanic deserts, and the lava field that give the land a really unique color.
The many visitors that venture to this part of Iceland often go trekking and there are lots of hiking trails for you to discover. The area is chilly, even in the summer months, so dress appropriately. You should also check out "The People's Pools" which is the name of the water pools found in this area. They are heated naturally and swimming in them is the perfect way to unwind after a day full of hiking!
How to get to Landmannalaugar
Landmannalaugar is a little ways away from Reykjavik and will take a bit over three hours to reach. The public transportation systems don't reach here so you will need to drive yourself, but be aware that the terrain is difficult and you will need a four wheel drive vehicle to reach it safely. This is why this day trip might not be possible for everyone, depending on what kind of rental car you have.
From Reykjavik to Langjökull Glacier
Calling all outdoor activity enthusiasts! The Langjökull Glacier is a great spot for adventurous travelers and is actually the second largest glacier on the entire island. Here you can go on a glacier hike and will even get to walk through an incredible ice cave! The tunnel was man-made back in 2015 and spans 500 meters. Although it will not look the same as naturally formed ice caves, it is still a beautiful place to see.
This is a great experience for everyone who is visiting Iceland. You will need to be accompanied by tour operators to explore the cave since a special Jeep vehicle is required to reach it. Sit back and take in the dramatic landscapes as your guide drives you across one of the most amazing wonders of Iceland!
How to get to Langjökull Glacier
The best way to visit the glacier is by following a tour, which will take about an hour not counting travel time. If you choose to go see the glacier on your own you will need to drive and the trip takes about two and a half hours.
From Reykjavik to Blue Lagoon
The famous Blue Lagoon is another wonder found in the Golden Circle and deserves its own day trip as it is one of the most visited sights in all of Iceland. It is a geothermal spa with pleasantly warm mineral waters and, although it is man-made, it is the perfect spot to sit back and relax.
You will be surrounded by amazing landscapes with volcanic rocks and steam rising off of the vibrant blue waters of the lagoon. The silica in the water is what causes the color of the Blue Lagoon, and you will also find mud pots that will do wonders for your skin. Swim up bars are located on site as well as restaurants and spa facilities for all of your needs. Keep in mind that this is no secret lagoon and it can get very busy, especially during peak season. For this reason, you will have to book your visit in advance.
How to get to Blue Lagoon
You can sign up for a day tour to visit the Blue Lagoon or you can drive yourself there. It is a quick drive that will only take 45 minutes, making it a very doable round trip in a day.
Exploring Outside of Reykjavik
As Iceland's capital, Reykjavik has plenty to do in terms of attractions and entertainment. However, some of Iceland's top landmarks and natural wonders are located just outside of the city, making it the perfect starting point for a day trip. With lava fields, natural hot springs and massive ice glaciers, you will definitely not want to miss out on seeing the beauty that this part of the world has to offer.