If you love everything about nature and cannot have enough of the scenic landscapes, Reykjavik in Iceland is the place to be. This city is in the southwestern part of Iceland. From breathtaking landscapes to scenic vistas, Reykjavik is a must-visit. There are thermal pools, Viking-history-rich spots, and many modern cityscapes to give you a holistic outdoor time.
Did I forget the northern lights or the presence of waterfalls and other such natural charms to transport you to an ideal Game of Thrones backdrop?
Let me help you draft your 3 days itinerary and list the places you must-see in Reykjavik in 3 days. Below is a list of the things to do, specialties to try, and local travel tips for your day tours across Reykjavik. Our stay in the city before heading out to explore the rest of Iceland in a camper van involved a stay right on the seafront where we experienced midnight sunsets and had late night walks where were felt as if we had the city to ourselves. The city is just beautiful and a real must see.
The Detailed 3-Day Reykjavik Itinerary
To start with, you are never going to have enough of Reykjavik. With abundant natural and historically significant spots across the city and beyond, you may want not to leave the city at all! However, this is where this little handy itinerary can be your best travel guide and make you breeze through the most important places without missing any. The itinerary includes all the places to visit in Reykjavik in 3-days as well as a day by day guided plan to help you not to miss any of the must-sees. Moreover, if you happen to visit towards the end of the year, you can also add watching the Aurora Borealis to your itinerary.
Additionally, what is traveling without experiencing the best local culinary delights? Hence, we list out the best dishes to dig into when you are traveling through Reykjavik. To ensure you do not miss any festival or event unique to Reykjavik, we also help you get a heads up on what to check out.
Day 1 – Golden Circle, Kerid Volcanic Crater Day Trip
Let us begin the Iceland trip with the exploration of the most scenic landscapes in the southwest of Iceland. Full of waterfalls, geothermal pools, and other such natural spots, this Golden Circle is worth your time in Reykjavik. This first day, the Golden Circle tour is going to be anything between 7 and 11 hours. So, get ready for a lot of outdoor fun so wear a comfortable pair of shoes to walk down the slopes of craters and rugged landscape.
Thingvellir National Park
The trip begins as you leave the hotel and go on an hour’s journey to Thingvellir National Park. It is 45 km northeast of Reykjavik. There is no entrance fee to the park, but you have to pay a parking fee for your car of 500 ISK approximately. Wildlife photographers and naturalists love the vast vista here comprising of dense forests, lakes, and rivers all around. It earned the UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2004.
The geological tectonic plates here move 2 centimeters apart every year, creating a widening Thingvellir Rift Valley. This place also holds Althingi, the world’s oldest parliament that the 10th century Viking settlers held here. Likewise, the lake Thingvallavatn has been the largest natural lake in Iceland formed from lava fissures, where people go fishing trout and more. The pine and birch trees add to the beauty of the forest and landscape here.
After the Thingvellir National Park, head off to the next prominent spot in the day tour. The Geysir geothermal field is surely a stunning revelation, and a spot people of all age groups love. The Geysir Hot Spring Area has bursting geysers that draw scores of tourists. Strokkur is another area where you see water steaming out as high as 100 feet in the air now and then.
The area became active over 1000 years ago and since then has been world-renowned. Take time to visit the Haukadalur area where you find more such geysers, and you can try the ‘Hot Spring Bread’ made underground along with boiled eggs that you can make by assisting a chef here. There is no entrance fee, and this falls on the Golden Circle route.
Whichever season you decide to tour the Golden Circle, Gullfoss Waterfall is sure to enamor you. In summer, you get to see multiple rainbows over the two-tiered waterfall. In winter, there are sections of this waterfall freezing midway. The fall cascades down with great force and causes heavy mist while diving deep into a 32-meter deep crevice.
There are marked trails all around, and yet travelers are often told to be cautious while traveling with children. The site is one of the most beautiful Instagram-worthy destinations, which only becomes more magnificent while sighting Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights.
Another destination worth your time in the southern part of Iceland has to be the Kerið Crater. This is in the Grimsnes area, and to visit it, you have to pay an entrance fee of 400 ISK, which goes to the preservation of this naturally formed scenic volcanic crater. The red slopes are rich in iron deposits, and the blue crater lake is a perfect contrast nature brings to you. Make sure to carry your camera as you head to the edge of the crater. The lake formed with the rainfall in the crater that the once-active volcanic eruption.
Pro Tip: You can actually do the Golden Circle tour yourself without a guide, simply rent a car and collect from Reykjavik airport on in the city and off you go!
Day 2 – Reykjavik City Tour
As the first day was a long day exploring nature outside the beautiful city, the second day should be a tour of the city. There is a lot to discover and enjoy on foot right in the center of the town. So, here we go sorting out the best things to do in Reykjavik in 3 days. Its up to you how you choose to explore; either opt for the Hop on Hop Off guided tours or else take the car on rent or simply hire a cab and drive around at your own pace. Although you really don’t need a car for the city, you can actually walk most of it.
I have also included Blue Lagoon in this day tour because it would be a sin to miss out on one of the famous geothermal pools when you are in Reykjavik. Though it is slightly far from the city center, it is nevertheless gorgeous. If you are keen to explore something of a geothermal pool in the city itself, do not worry. The city has 7 geothermal pools with indoor pools and even sauna spa facilities. Check the ones of Nautholsvik or Kvilka. I have also linked to my post with tips on the Blue Lagoon and how to get there.
One of the landmark spots in the entire Reykjavik has to be the stunning church with amazing architecture to wow you! If this is not enough, a massive 25-ton organ inside the church also draws tourists and pilgrims alike. It took 40 years to construct this church, and it is dedicated to the hero of the country, Leifur Eriksson. Just pay a nominal fee of 900 ISK for adults and 100 ISK for children between 7 and 14 years to go up to the tower and get a panoramic view of the city.
From the roof, you can get a view of the Perlan, and other famous landmarks in the city. This church is open daily, but the tower may be closed if a concert is going inside or service going on at that time.
The Capital Area of Reykjavik has this shopping district of Laugavegur. Eat out at Hlemmur Mathōll or try some fine dining at Dill or other such famed eateries. This is one of the oldest shopping streets, and one can shop, dine, and drink for all they want.
There are boutiques of popular elite brands on both sides of the street, most of which are local Icelandic labels. Then, there are stores and malls like the Smarlind and Kringlan for those who seek some fashion and relaxation. There are even some stores selling affordable clothing and pieces of jewelry. This is where you can grab yourself an Icelandic souvenir. While Iceland may be known for being expensive, I have shared tips on the cheap places to eat in Reykjavik.
Whales of Iceland
Whales of Iceland is one of the biggest exhibitions of whales. The exhibition is open daily all year round except on December 25 from 11 am to 3 pm. The entry fee for each child aged between 7 and 15 years is 1500 ISK. The entry fee per adult is 2,900 ISK, and families are 5,800 ISK. The Whales of Iceland gets an audio-guided app for you to explore the exhibition and spot 23 humanmade life-size models of the whales local to the Icelandic waters. The guided tour takes approximately 30 minutes.
Located close to the shopping center of Laugavegur is Old Harbor. You can look at the things on sale at the local flea market in Kolaportid as you reach the harbor. Here, at the Reykjavik’s old harbor, you can treat yourself to the fresh catch of the day, including shellfish. Do not miss tasting the local beer from Bryggen Brewery. This is a quaint neighborhood offering a beautiful view of the harbor and the boats sailing away. The area has some of the best street graffiti and restaurants for you to relax after walking. Boats are going on Whale watching that depart from here too.
From the Old Harbor or Reykjavik Harbor, you can get tours for watching whales like the Blue Whale or Beaked Whales. Besides these, you can also chance across other local special whales that inhabit these waters. The whale watching boats sail to the Faxaflói Bay, from where you can get to watch the schools of whales swarming the waters. There are special summer Puffin watching tours to add on to your trips. Find one of the local whale watching tours all year round. You can read about our whale watching tour on the blog too.
Located close to Reykjavik, Blue Lagoon is a must-visit spot on any itinerary, however short or long. Be there in either the morning or just when the sun sets, to enjoy nature at its best! Moreover, if your stay is near the airport, have this place on your itinerary due to its proximity. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa/lagoon where you can relax and give yourself a royal treat. There is no fixed ticket price since it is dynamic, depending on the season of your visit.
Many tourists drive here or come by bus directly from the airport. Hence, they can use the luggage storage facilities at this Blue Lagoon for a charge, of course. Take a sip of one of the drinks on the bar as you enjoy a dip in the geothermal pools. Remember to watch the temperature of the water and the temperature outside and take care. Children below 2 years of age are not allowed here. See tips for visiting Blue Lagoon on my blog post.
Day 3 – South Coast: Lava and Black Sand Beach Tour
One of the first things that come to mind when you look for what to do in Reykjavik in 3 days is the beauty of nature. Reykjavik indeed has an abundant culture or historical sites worth visiting, but the presence of naturally breathtaking spots makes it even more enticing. On the last day of your stay in Reykjavik, go on a tour to the southern coast of Reykjavik. Here, you get to see much diversity from glaciers to black lava beaches.
Begin your trip to the South Coast from the Lava Centre. It takes one hour approximately to reach this interactive exhibition about volcanoes and lava in Iceland. Volcanoes are integral geological features of Iceland. Hence, a visit to this museum is a great once-in-a-lifetime experience. Spend as much as one hour touring this exhibition. The tickets for an adult for a complete tour of Lava Centre costs 3,590 Kr/ adult. The explainer movie costs 1,400Kr/ adult. There is also a separate tariff for families. The center is open from 9 am until 7 pm. There is a restaurant, café, and a gift shop here.
The tour moves further south to the glacier, where you can easily spend 3 hours. The Solheimajokull glacier is open all year. If you want to take the chance to go on a separate 3-hour walk, go ahead with the same. Get a separate set of clothes or warm clothes and wear sturdy hiking boots. If you are going on the three-hour walk tour, you can expect an experienced guide to take you through the crevasses and on a never-seen-before landscape. For my inspiration check out our exploration of Svinafellskokull Glacier.
Reynisfjora Black Sand Beach
Not very far from the glacial lands, you head off to the Reynisfjara black sand beach which is located in Vik. This type of diversity is only possible to witness here in Iceland. The sand is black because of the volcanic rocks getting corrosion. The rocks on enduring massive corrosion have turned the sand black. Further, there are basalt columns along the beach that are as unique and worth your visit here. Completely mesmerizing, this black sand beach looks something straight off a fantasy film! If you have more time in Iceland, I hope posted about things to do in Vik, in addition, look out for my post on beautiful black sand beaches not to miss in Iceland.
Iceland is surely a heaven for nature enthusiasts, and your tour across the South coast will be incomplete if you ignore this Skogafoss waterfall. This is one of the biggest waterfalls here, and you can go quite close to it to relish its beauty. Make sure to carry waterproof gear to save your camera and phone from the spray. There is local folklore about the hidden treasure chest behind these falls that remains a mystery to date. On the other hand, the lucky ones get to see the formation of rainbows near this waterfall. For more on unmissable waterfalls in Iceland read my post on the blog.
Another waterfall that reminds you of desktop wallpaper is this Seijalandsfoss. The fall with 200 feet drop is close to the Ring Road. What stands out is the way you can walk all around the falls. In winters, the water freezes making this fall look ethereal. The pathway around the fall is slippery. So, it is recommended that you wear waterproof gear and hiking shoes.
There are beautiful lights all around, so do not worry, even if you reach here by sunset. You can get a different view of the falls that are ideal to charm you in any season. Justin Beiber’s video of ‘I’ll show you’ features this waterfall. This fall is because it is from the river Seljalands, which originates from the volcanic glacier in the Eyjafjallajökull.
Pro Tip: For the third day as well, I would recommend renting or keeping the rental car I mentioned above. You kick yourself if you don’t. There are so many gems you will want to stop for like the Glacier Lagoon, and the car allows you the freedom to do that as you drive along the Ring Road.
Getting Around in the Reyjavik
Ask anyone visiting or who has visited Reykjavik, and they speak volumes about the benefits of Reykjavik City Card. This card is available for purchase directly from the official site of Iceland tourism. You buy it for the number of days of your choice and use it across the city and every other place. Whether you are using public transport or eating out at one of the restaurants in the Capital area, simply use this card.
Moreover, use this on the day you plan to visit museums or tourist spots where there are tickets on the entrance. Likewise, make sure to check the places where you can use this to get discounts on purchases. Walking around Reykjavik is easy, especially if you rely on guide apps or Google Maps.
Minibus and regular bus tours are operating across the length and breadth of Reykjavik. As a local, you may hop on it, but only if you are familiar with the app. It is easy to walk around the entire city at any time of the day. A strange thing you will notice on your trip to the city will be the absence of any train service. Yellow buses are resembling a school bus, but that’s that!
Nevertheless, there are cabs available for you to travel around the city and beyond. Plenty of day tours and city tour services are on offer across registered agencies in the city. During Christmas, the entire town has concerts and music festivals that extend all holiday season. This is a peak time to visit the city and hence, make places to visit in Reykjavik in 3 day plans well in advance.
Where to Stay Reykjavik
You may be going to Reykjavik as a budget traveler solo or with family or even as a small group of friends. Whatever you opt for, your accommodation should not break your bank. However, you cannot afford to stay just anywhere and would need basic amenities. Many hotels are available across the city and beyond for the tourists who visit Reykjavik. In addition to tips, below, I also shared tips on best areas to stay in Reykavik.
Make sure to check their amenities before booking any. I would recommend you stay anywhere near the city center for better accessibility. There are all budget range hotels and accommodation available for solo backpackers to families. There are even service apartments, guest houses, and dorms besides the hotels. Below is a list to some of the best available hostels if you are happy to stay in dorms. This are among some of the most unique places to stay in Iceland.
Galaxy Pod Hostel: The first budget hostel on our list is the futuristic-looking galaxy pod hostel. You get to stay in comfy pods, located in the shopping street of Laugavegur. Hence, you are always near one or the other eatery and hangout spots. The capsules have their own safe, a flat-screen TV, and a fan. The pods offer complete privacy with curtains and doors, and there are shared accommodation facilities available. You get to share the bathroom. The highlight is the access to a VIP game arcade for the guests to entertain themselves. Likewise, the kitchen facility is for those who want to make their food. The Hallgrim church and Reykjavik Art museum are just a little over a kilometer away from the pod.
Reykjavik Hostel Village: The hostel has rooms and apartment-style accommodation with each apartment getting its own kitchen space. The guests can use mini-bar and access a shared bathroom. There is an option to order food from outside and play in the community garden. The public swimming pool is just a few minutes’ walk from the hostel.
Laekur Hostel: Located a little away from the Halligrimskirkja Church in the center of the city is Lekur Hostel. It offers a shared bathroom, shower, and kitchen facility. Free Wi-Fi is offered to the users to entertain and work. Moreover, you can even opt for airport shuttle amenities.
The city also has accommodation for those willing to spend just a little more than staying in dorms. So, we checked out a few handy options for the families or couples looking to spend their quality time at Reykjavik.
Guesthouse Pavi: It is just 3 minutes away from the Hiemmur bus station and the Laugardalslaug Geothermal Pool. The rooms are neat, and there are both private and shared accommodation facilities available. There is Wi-Fi in all the rooms, and the guests can park their cars for free.
Hallgrims Guesthouse: The Hallgrims Guesthouse is in the most accessible point from where most of the iconic museums, Harpa concert halls, and even the Old Harbor is nearby. There is a shared bathroom facility, free wi-fi, and parking for the guests. The rooms get beautiful and simple yet functional décor.
If your idea of traveling is always staying in luxury hotels, we have a decent assortment of star hotels.
Black Pearl Apartment Hotel: The most beautiful and sprawling complex of the hotel is hard to miss by since it is around 350 meters from the Old Harbor. The hotel has heated marble floors, large windows, flat-screen TV, and the guests can enjoy free tea and Nespresso coffee. You can treat yourself to continental breakfast.
Radisson Blu 1919 Hotel: The hotel is beautiful, and guests can treat themselves to swim in the whirlpool bath. The bathrooms have rain showers, and each room has flat-screen TVs. The guests can expect continental breakfast and free high-speed Wi-fi.
Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Centre: With room service and free Wi-Fi, the guests cannot have enough of the gorgeous rooms at this hotel. There is a buffet spread for breakfast in the hotel restaurant. There is also a fitness center for those who wish to use the same.
Best Time to Visit Reykjavik
Reykjavik is open to all through the year since there are geothermal pools, volcanoes, glaciers, and beaches, and they have their beauty in each season. Nevertheless, our recommendation would be to visit from June to August. I have also shared why summer is the best time to visit Iceland. If you wish to view the Northern Lights phenomena, this is when you get 21 hours of sunlight. It is also the peak tourist season and hence, book in advance for each of the day tour or camping programs for viewing Aurora Borealis.
September, October, is when you get to see Northern lights without much crowd. From November to mid-March, you have wintered here. This is also the holiday season, and you have all the popular music festivals like the Winter Lights Festival and Iceland Airwaves. The hotel rates are low during this time, and hence, you can expect the crowd. Check for air tickets to Reykjavik and make the right choice as per the season. Make sure to carry plenty of warm clothes since it remains very cold all through the year.
Lover Iceland? Also Read:
- Guide To The Best Campsites In Iceland
- Sleeping Next To Waterfalls
- How To Get The Cheapest Campervan In Iceland
- What To Wear In Iceland
- Guide To The Best Thermals For Your Trip To Iceland
- Essential Outwear For Iceland
- What To Pack For A Trip To Europe
- Why You Shouldn’t Miss Out On Moss Covered Lave Fields
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