Upon arriving in Iceland, I chose to rent a car and go on a continuous road trip. I started in Reykjavik, the country’s capital, and moved into the south and all the way to the opposite coast and back. This isn’t a must for seeing some of Iceland’s most stunning sights though. If you are under a time constraint, on a stopover, or would just prefer to have a home base, there are a lot of amazing day trips within a two hour drive or less of Reykjavik. I would rent a car, if possible, and do these on my own versus going with a tour group. Some of these are located along the Golden Circle route, a loop of some of Iceland’s most popular attractions, and can be combined as part of the same day trip.
The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa and is a great way to start or end your Icelandic vacation. It’s fairly close to the airport and is a nice way to relax after getting off a long flight. The man-made lagoon is full warm water, rich in silica and sulfur, known for their amazing effects on the skin. Be sure to try the silica mud mask! I would recommend booking the comfort or premium packages. The latter, only if you are planning on eating at their restaurant, Lava, which was quite tasty. These packages are also great if you plan on enjoying a drink or two, since purchasing drinks outside of the package can be really pricey. Full spa services are also offered at an additional charge. The packages can seem a little high-priced, but in my opinion, totally worth it. Make sure you book everything in advance, including your admission. It does get busy and sells out. Packages start at $58.
Gullfoss Waterfall and the Geysir Geothermal Area
The Gullfoss Waterfall is located along the Golden Circle loop. Gullfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland and for good reason. Its size and the amount of water rushing through it is incredible. The waterfall is supplied with water from Iceland’s largest glacier Langjökull, which flows from the Hvítá river. Gullfoss is made up of two separate drops totaling 32 meters and the waters are so powerful that you can actually feel and hear their roar.
In the nearby Geysir geothermal area, many hot springs and boiling mud pits can be found, including the famous Geysir and Strokkur. The area has been active for over 1,000 years. Geysir, is the first hot spring ever written about, giving the name to hot springs everywhere. Although it is mostly dormant now, it is said to have reached heights of 170 meters. Strokkur, Iceland’s most active hot spring, erupts about every five to ten minutes. Water from Strokkur can sprout up to thirty meters high. It’s really amazing to watch. There is also a visitor center, restaurant, cafe and some shopping on site.
The Secret Lagoon
You can find the the Secret Lagoon near the small village of Fluðir. It’s located about an hour and fifteen minutes from Reykjavik and thirty minutes from the Golden Circle area. Although it’s not exactly a secret, this lagoon definitely does not get the attention of the Blue Lagoon. It’s small but incredibly relaxing and its outdoor setting is beautiful. The lagoon, was Iceland’s first swimming pool and was originally built in 1891. It reopened to the public in 2005 and now provides a shower area, a bar and some food items. I really enjoyed visiting in the evening. It was a great way to end to the day. Although I didn’t make one, a reservation is recommended. The entrance fee is $27. Additional information can be found at http://secretlagoon.is/.
Kerið Crater Lake
Kerið Crater Lake is just under an hour drive from Reykjavík and can be combined with other sights in this post as part of the Golden Circle loop. Kerið is a volcanic crater lake that is approximately 3,000 years old. What makes Kerið special is that the volcano’s caldera is in still intact and is covered in bright red volcanic rock. Blue water fills the center, creating a beautiful and vibrant contrast. Make sure you walk down to the waters edge. The views from below are just as great as the views from above. Entrance fee is $3.
The Reykjanes Peninsula can be found between Reykjavík and Keflavík International Airport, this is also where the Blue Lagoon is located. The Peninsula is a gorgeous landscape full of lava fields, hot springs, and mud pools. Make sure you head down to the harbor and visit the Hópsnes Lighthouse and Grindavík shipwrecks. The Hópsnes Lighthouse was built in 1928. It’s small but I really loved the pop of its bright orange exterior against the rather dark lava fields. There are also the remnants of multiple shipwrecks throughout the area. The larger remains belong to the 103 Hrafn Sveinbjarnarson III GK-11, which was abandoned after the crew was rescued in 1988. You will also see lots of adorable sheep and Icelandic horses roaming the fields.
Silfra is a rift formed between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates within Þingvellir Lake. It is the only place in the world that one can snorkel between two continental plates. It is also some of the world’s clearest water and very cold, at 36 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t worry, you are given a dry suit to protect your body from the chilly waters. Snorkeling this rift was an amazing experience that I’m so glad I partook in. This is the only activity that you will need to book as a tour. I used DIVE.IS. They give you the option of meeting at the lake or transportation from Reykjavik. If you would like to read more about my experience at Silfra, check out my post here.
If you would like to try your luck at seeing the Northern Lights, I recommend staying near Þingvellir National Park and venturing out when the skies are dark and clear. The park is beautiful and away from the city lights. We got an amazing deal at the nearby Golden Circle Apartments. Although we didn’t end up seeing the lights due to the excessively cloudy skies, I enjoyed just being away from everything for a night.
I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy some of these day trips from Reykjavik. I found them all to be incredible. Let me know what your favorites are!