Located a mere two degrees south of the Arctic Circle lies the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik. The flight from New York City to Reykjavik is less than six hours, but as soon as you touch the ground, it’s clear you’re in a different world.
With a modest population of 120,000 Reykjavik is not a whirlwind metropolis by any means. You will hardly see a skyscraper in the city and the streets are peaceful. Don’t let this fool you! Reykjavik is a city full of energy, excitement with plenty to do. Here are 8 of my favourite things to do in and around Reykjavik.
Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre
Since opening in 2011, the Harpa has become one of Reykjavik’s greatest landmarks and the cultural and social center of the city. The waterfront home was designed by Olafur Eliasson, Henning Larsen Architects, and Batteríið Architects and racked up numerous architectural accolades. Inside the Harpa, you will see stunning views of the ocean side and surrounding mountains.
Towering over the Reykjavik skyline is Hallgrimskirkja. Standing 73 meters high, it is the largest church in Iceland. Its stepped concrete facade is an ode to modernism and a reminder of the Icelandic landscape. The tower can be seen from almost everywhere in the city giving you stunning views from the top. Admission is IDK 900 and well worth every dollar.
If there is one thing to put on your itinerary you have to visit in Reykjavik, it’s the Blue Lagoon. The geothermal water has many benefits featuring three active ingredients silica, algae and minerals. There are a number of amenities the spa offers to help you relax but just floating in the lagoon is enough. It’s quite a distance from Reykjavik so if you haven’t rented a car, you’ll need to book a transfer with a tour company.
The Gullfoss (Golden Falls) waterfall takes its name from the fact that on sunny days the water really does look golden. Located in South Iceland the Hvítá river plummets down 32 meters in two stages into a rugged canyon, which walls reach up to 70 meters in height. When you first approach Gullfoss, it looks like the river simply vanishes into the earth before reaching the edge of the gorge. It’s an epic sight, looking just as good from close up as it does from the viewing spot overlooking the falls.
Geysers At Haukadalur
Haukadalur is a geothermal area formed at the end of the Ice Age. Two famous geysers, ‘Geysir’ and ‘Strokkur’ sit here. Geysir no longer erupts but Strokkur erupts up to 30 meters every few minutes. The video I took is a wonderful explanation of the Geyser and does a much better job of explaining than I can do.
National Museum of Iceland
The museum offers a superb display of artefacts from settlement to the modern age, giving an excellent overview of Iceland history and culture. If you like history, this is the place for you. You can easily spend a few hours here. Admission to the museum is 2000ISK.
Thingvellir National Park
The Thingvellir National Park is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. It is a unique geological area and national shrine. Thingvellir National Park where the Althing, an open-air assembly representing the whole of Iceland, was established in 930 and continued to meet until 1798. The park itself sits in a rift valley caused by the separation of 2 tectonic plates, so when you walk through Thingvellir you will clearly see the continental drift between the North American and Eurasian plates in the cracks and faults that traverse.
Drive around the Golden Circle on the Ring Road
Iceland has some of the dreamiest landscapes. One of the best things to do when visiting Reykjavik is to drive around the Golden Circle route to see the scenery for yourself. The Golden Circle is a popular route looping from Reykjavik into the southern uplands of Iceland and back. It contains many places to stop along the way including Geysir, Thingvellir National Park and Gullfoss. If driving the Golden Circle isn’t on your bucket list, it really should be