Our Iceland travel advice
These are our personal favourites and advice we give to friends, what to do and what not to do!
This page has our personal guide that we give friends visiting Iceland. We decided to include it here also for Lækur guests and hope it can be of use. These notes are not professionally edited or complete, we encourage you to explore more also :)
Our cafe is called or Kaffi Laugalækur (Kaffi Laekur), its address is Laugarnesvegur 74a, 105 Reykjavík. Its about 2 km from city centre. Our accommodation is called Lækur Hostel (beds in shared dorm) and Lækur Guesthouse (private rooms)
Please check safetravel.is regularly for travel conditions. Weather can change very quickly and be dangerous, even in the summer. This page also has info on how to drive in Iceland, it can be very tricky to drive in winter or on gravel roads
Reykjavík - the capital city
Reykjanes - peninsula which has the Keflavík international airport and many geothermal hotspots
South - the most popular area outside of Reykjavík with waterfalls, geysers, volcanos, natural parks, glaciers and more
Westfjords - the most isolated and arctic part of Iceland, we love this place
West - very accessible and scenic region with many activities
North - has some of the most beautiful places in Iceland
East - fantastic region but takes at least 8 hours to drive there or you can fly with domestic airline
Ring road #1 - direction of travel when going around Iceland
If possible i would decide direction depending on weather forecast close to departure. It is often the opposite weather in north and south so ideally you go first where weather is better.
Ring road is nice but takes a while to drive the 1500 km and usually means you dont have time to do some of the most interesting areas like Westfjords or Ásbyrgi or Snæfellsnes
Day trip South short
Golden circle - most popular route of tourists
Þingvellir (big lake)
Must see tectonic plates Europe and America by the river Öxará
Optional do diving in the lake
Can skip this if short on time
This popular excursion introduces you to some of the best-known natural phenomena in Iceland (geyser´s, Gullfoss waterfall and Þingvellir national park where one of worlds oldest operating parliaments). If you take bus, beware of which company you go with because some do long pit stops to try to encourage you to buy souvenirs. Best way is to rent a car and drive. If you only have time to see one of these then go to Þingvellir national park. In South of Iceland there are many places to stop on the way such as at Laugarvatn http://www.fontana.is or at http://kerid.is
Flúðir town - Secret Lagoon
Flúðir greenhouses and restaurants
Optional Þjórsárdalur valley - Hjálparfoss waterfall and Stöng viking farm and waterfall Gjáin and waterfall Háifoss
Optional Kerið volcanic crater lake
Optional Laugavatn geothermal lake - spa and rye bread making by lake Laugavatn
Optional Lava tunnel cave
Optional Eyrarbakki or Þorlákshöfn fresh lobster restaurants by the beach on South coast
Day trip South longer
Seljalandsfoss waterfall - top five most popular destination
Reynisfjara black beach - top five most popular destination
Fjaðrárgljúfur - beautiful canyon - top ten most popular destination
Optional - Airplane wreckage - https://expertvagabond.com/airplane-crash-wreckage-iceland
Optional - Ölvisholt micro brewery
Optional - Hiking on Fimmvörðuháls for a spectactular one day of hike, can end in the amazing Þórsmörk natural park and camp over night. Just be aware the rivers in and out are only for big cars and are dangerous, you can try get a ride with bus company http://www.re.is/IcelandOnYourOwn/ScheduledBusTours/9ReykjavikThorsmork/. A bit further inland is the legendary Landmannalaugar with natural outdoor geothermal pools.
Optional - Reykjadalur valley by Hveragerði town - hot river you can bath in out in nature - top ten most popular destination
Long drive/boat option
Jökulsárlón. Longer drive to here but very nice to visit
Glacier iceberg lagoon - see eg http://www.grapevine.is/default.aspx?show=paper&part=fullstory&id=1402 or http://www.grapevine.is/default.aspx?show=paper&part=fullstory&id=511. On the way you will see a few glaciers such as Myrdalsjokull and Vatnajokull (Europe largest). A bit further there is a national park Skaftafell where you can do some exotic hiking.
Vestmannaeyjar - Westman Islands - need to take a ferry to here
Day trip West Coast
Sæfellsjökull glacier - with a tunnel to the center of the earth!
Hellnar cafe on the beach and rock on beach with big hole in it
A very beautiful glacier on a long and beautiful peninsula - about 1.5 hour drive. Go to small town of Arnarstapi.
Kirkjufell mountain - instagram heaven "the Mt Fuji of Europe" - keep an eye out for the White Tailed Eagles that live in this area
Lýsuhólslaug - slime pool :) healthy natural water
Optional - Rauðafeldsgjá - nice short walk into canyon close to Snæfellsjökull
Optional - Hótel Búðir - yellow sand beach, cafe etc
Optional - Steðji micro brewery (close to Barnafossar and swimming pool Hreppslaug)
Optional - Barnafossar and Húsafell - waterfall that come out of lava
Optional - Flatey - longer distance is ferry from town Stykkishólmur to island Flatey
Optional - Glymur waterfall in Hvalfjörður (whale fjord)
Optional - Glanni waterfall
Optional - Erpsstaðir organic farm
Optional - Neðri háls organic farm in Hvalfjörður (whale fjord)
Day trips North
Ásbyrgi and Mývatn are among best in Iceland. Ideally stay one night at each of them. Ásbyrgi is a bit of drive from main road but worth it if you have time
Mývatn is the best. See Dimmuborgir, Nature Baths, Bird Museum. I stayed at Hlíð campsite but Geiteyjarströnd also good option for a cottage. http://www.dimmuborgir.is/new/area.htm
Dettifoss. Dettifoss takes time to drive and walk to it but worth it
Goðafoss - very nice waterfall (foss means waterfall) and easy to see next to main road
Hofsós is a good stop for a nice infinity swimming pool
Siglufjörður on the Troll Peninsula (Tröllaskagi) is great if you got time. Can stop in Kaldi beer bath on the way to there
Roads less travelled - Westfjords, Highland and East + Greenland and Faroe Islands
Westfjords is an amazing part of the country, similar in landscape to Greenland. It has huge bird cliffs Látrabjarg and Hornbjarg. National park Hornstrandir. Waterfalls and much more.
If you have time, go to Westfjords, then contact Vesturferdir for boattrips to Hornstrandir - this is one of the most remote areas in Iceland and gives a true flavour of the arctic. See tour operator http://www.vesturferdir.is/index.php?lang=en
Highland - if you have a good car, 4x4 wheel drive, then you can drive through the highlands in the middle of summar. The landscape is like on the moon.
East you can do if you have more time, its really a stretch to do if you got a week or less.
Fly to Greenland or Faroe Islands for a day or more with Air Iceland http://www.airiceland.is/. Costs few hundred euros but well worth it if you have time.
Glacier trip with a guide / travel agent. Glacier ice cave or walk on the glacier, snowmobile etc
Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa www.bluelagoon.com You can take a coach from a few places in Reykjavik to the Bule Lagoon see www.re.is. Close to Keflavik airport.
Warm outdoor swimmingpools in Reykjavik, Laugardalslaug is the biggest but you can go to any of them: http://www.rvk.is/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-2626/ . Hang out in the out the sauna's and hot pots (jacuzzi) and make sure you chat to locals on the weather, politics or anything that comes to mind
Reykjavík Main things to do
* Hallgrimskirkja church tower should be one of the first stops in the city centre. It gives a good overview of the city, take the elevator up to the tower. Walk down Skolavordustigur which is a street that stretches from Hallgrimskirkja to Laugavegur (the main street in the city centre). On this street you can buy lopapeysa (traditional wool jumper).
* Historical museum - National Museum of Iceland - www.natmus.is - Þjóðminjasafnið for history of Iceland.
* Art museums include
Kjarvalsstaðir - It offers a permanent exhibition of key works by one of Iceland’s most beloved landscape painters www.listasafnreykjavikur.is
Hafnarhus - New developments in art are explored through diverse exhibitions of Icelandic and international artists www.listasafnreykjavikur.is
National Gallery of Iceland - The NG is a national museum and the main emphasis of the collection is on 19th and 20th century Icelandic art. http://www.listasafn.is
Nýlistasafnið - modern art http://www.nylo.is/
* Harpa - the new concert hall house by the harbour. Have a coffee or go see some events. http://en.harpa.is/
* Pubs in Reykjavik centre. For example Boston on Laugavegur or Skúli Craftbar. Locals stay in home parties to start the evening, so pubs can be a bit empty until 23 or 1 am and then it goes on all night. Just walk around town and follow the flow, you will be sure to find some good bars.
* Adventure in the nature such as rafting, climbing, hiking, diving, caving trip etc - see our page trips
* Fish shack Sægreifinn - The Sea Baron a little fish shack by the small boat harbour in Reykjavik especially famous for its lobster soup and whale BBQ http://www.reykjavik.com/underpage.aspx?id=Eating&article=2006111140124
* You can go whale watching from Reykjavik harbour but can be a bit of a lottery whether you see a whale or not. However, they usually allow you to go again for free if you don’t see a whale on your trip.
* Sea angling where you can catch big cod, haddock, mackerel etc http://elding.is/tolbar/sea_angling/
* Book shops - Icelanders love to write and read. Buy for example one of the classic viking stories such as Njáls saga, Grettis saga, or modern Nobel winning novel of Sjálfstætt fólk (independent people) which captures the spirit of the Icelandic people. For nordic religion and philosophy try Völuspá, Snorra Edda.
Other things to do if you have time in Reykjavík
* Arbær Museum - Árbæjarsafn was established by the City of Reykjavík in 1957 as an open- air museum to preserve and show selected old houses. The aim was to give the public an idea of the architecture and the lifestyle of the past. You need to take a bus or drive from the centr
From City Centre take Bus nr. 19 from Hlemmur Bus stop. The bus stops at Strengur which is just a few moments walk from the Museum. (See map). Further buses that stop close to the museum are nr. 12 and nr. 22, which stop at Árbæjarsafn bus station. The Musuem is visable from that stop. Further buses from the City Centre can also be reached from Ártún bus stop. For more information about public transport see: bus.is
Visit the president for pancakes, send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask if he is available
Best time depends on what you want to do
Music - Iceland Airwaves in autumn, or for specific bands check their schedules. Secret Solstice festival is in mid June
Hiking - July and August are main months, but other months also possible, most remote areas only easily accessible in July August though
Night life - all year around (Friday and Saturdays). Also weekend camping festivals in summer
Northern lights (Aurora Borealis) - winter from August/September to December best months but is visible until March/April
Skiing is mainly from November to May
Cycling is from March to November
Fishing for salmon and trout and char is mainly from May to September
In summer sun shines almost 24 hours, in winter it is only visible 3 hours or so, in some villages with mountains they don’t see the sun at all in December.
Weather is less predictable in winter but average temperature do not go far below zero in winter. In summer average temperatures are 10, 15 or max 20 celcius.
During winter remember to check out Aurora Borealis (northern lights) on cool clear sky evenings - best views outside of city
Some outdoor activities you can do all year around, such as diving, snow mobile on glaciers, climbing etc but surroundings will change depending on month.
Take the flybus from the airport, it should include a dropoff directly to your accommodation and cost around 2000 ISK whereas a taxi costs around 10000 ISK or more. Other alternative is taking rental car from airport. Flybus may offer 'stop-over' visits to he Blue Lagoon.
* You must bring swimwear!
* For clothing in summer just take with you something rainproof and then you should be ok. It will not get very cold in the daytime.
* In winter bring with you: Warm outdoor clothing, waterproof jacket and pants and gloves are recommended. Good hiking shoes are recommended if you are going out of town but waterproof in the city is ok! Fleece or wool sweater and pants don´t hurt either.
* If you wear hiking gear when going out for drinks on Friday or Saturday in town you will stand a bit out as a tourist!
* If you plan to go hiking then hiking shoes are needed, waterproof breathable jacket and trousers, do not wear any cotton for hiking. Long johns to be on the safe side. Fleece or wool jumper. Always prepare for the unexpected! Ask locals for more advice on weather etc.
* Renting a car is a very good way to explore Iceland, but be very very very careful when driving. Graval roads are very tricky to navigate so go slow and whatever you do don´t hit the brakes in panic because then your car will slide off the road. The roads can have 'invisible' thin ice although air temperature is above zero. Maximum speed is normally 90 km/hour outside of Reykjavik. Reed car rental advise carefully. Don´t break suddenly on gravel or icy roads
For road and traffic conditions check http://www.vegagerdin.is/english
Local food trail
* If you go to a grocery store and bakery, try some of these Icelandic specialities. Local vegetables mostly grown in greenhouses.
Flatkökur (flat rye bread)
Skyr - with our without added sugar (strained yogurt)
Pylsa - local very popular hot dog, best served by the tiny outlet of Bæjarins Bestu
Kleinur (similar to doughnuts)
Lummur (small pancakes)
Hangikjöt (smoked meat, goes well on top of flatkökur)
Lifrakæfa (lamb pate)
Harðfiskur (dried fish)
Graflax with the special mustard sauce, please make sure to buy from land farm or wild or closed ocean farm because open pens in sea harm the nature
Söl (sea weed)
Lýsi (fish liver oil), healthy supplement
Slátur (similar to haggis)
Sviðasulta (lamb jam) - if you are feeling adventurous
Brennivín (burned wine) - akvavit, the classic alcohol is government made
Munntóbak (sniff in noise or put in a ball under lip) - the government tobacco you can find at every local shop and gas stations
Snúður (rolled pastry) - classic offering that goes well with milk from the bakeries that are reasonably good for bread and pastries
* Múlakaffi - if you want the most traditional food such as sheep heads and the rest, http://tourinfo.is/yellowpages.asp?cat_id=281&element_id=463
* Fjorukrain a Viking resturant if you dare to taste some traditional food such as shark. There waiters are dressed in viking clothes and sing old folksongs during your dinner. www.fjorukrain.is/en/viking%5Frestaurant. This restaurant is in a fishing town suburb of Reykjavík so you need to take a bus - route 1 goes right next to the restaurant.
* For the best lobster in original settings on the beach, two hour drive on the south coast takes you to Fjöruborðið in the small town of Stokkseyri. http://www.fjorubordid.is/
http://www.grillmarkadurinn.is Mixed type of cuisine with local ingredients
http://www.dillrestaurant.is Fine dining Nordic cuisine. This restaurant was nominated the best Nordic restaurant recently (2013)