Weekend in Reykjavik, Iceland
Iceland is known as both the Land of Elves and the Land of Fire and Ice. Within a few short hours from the city center, you can find yourself exploring firey volcanoes, frozen glaciers, black sand beaches and stunning waterfalls. Icelandic horses and sheep roam the vast countryside, while colorful puffins flock along the cliffs and whales breach the choppy waters that envelop this tiny island.
I never thought that work would take me to Iceland, but luckily it did this past July (2019) and I’m happy to share some of my #TarasTravelTips for this popular destination!
The supremely photogenic country welcomes millions of tourists/influencers each year because it’s truly a destination unlike any other in Europe. The island is full of unique landscapes and natural wonders that complement the modern capital of Reykjavik. I’d suggest visiting Iceland for at least a week if not two, but if all you have is a weekend - you can get a good taste of what Iceland has to offer!
Pack a reusable water bottle. No need to buy bottled water in Iceland - you can drink straight from the tap. Icelandic water tastes super fresh!
Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall - I’d suggest packing layers. There are times that you can cruise the streets in a t-shirt, but the evenings tend to get chilly. A warm fleece at night will be your best friend.
Melatonin and a Sleep Mask - this is most necessary during the summer months when the sun barely sets. Most hotels have black-out shades, but I needed more help to get restful zzz’s.
Waterproof Clothes - jacket, boots and if you’re exploring waterfalls - bring waterproof pants too. You can get up close and personal with these waterfalls to the point of standing behind the crashing water so be prepared to get wet.
Where to STAY in Reykjavik:
I stayed at a tiny hotel called Exeter. This hotel is nothing to write home about, but it is conveniently located in the city of Reykjavik, only minutes away from the famous Harpa Concert Hall, whale watching boats and the popular hot dog stand that Anthony Bourdain made famous. The hotel bed was rather comfortable, the water pressure was satisfactory, but the room gets stuffy! As soon as you check in - ask for a fan, you can thank me later :)
The program I worked on consisted of 800 executives - not a small crowd! My colleague/team sourced several hotels in Reykjavik that could accommodate the group size and maintain a certain standard that our team would expect.
Other Recommended Hotels:
One hotel not on our list is the relatively new Ion Hotel in Reykjavik. If I were to return, I would stay there.
Where to EAT in Reykjavik:
Reykjavik is home to several restaurants and bars. I received a solid list from our fantastic production partner at Discover TrueNorth. If you want to level up your vacation - they create Icelandic experiences you’ll never forget.
Sumac - Moroccan / South American
Apotek - Icelandic and European
Essensia - Italian/ Mediterranean
Matur og drykkur - Traditional Icelandic
Messinn - Fresh Seafood
Drykkir - Indian, our final team dinner was here and it was fantastic!
Hlemmur Food Hall - European food halls. Here, 10 vendors provide a sample of the best food Iceland has to offer.
Baejarins Beztu Pylsur - the most famous hot dog stand around. This grab and go stand was made famous by Anthony Bourdain himself. I’m not a huge hot dog fan, gasp, but I have to say - the sauces surprised me!
The sun barely sets during the summer nights, which is perfect for Reykjavik’s café culture and boozy, rambunctious nightlife.
What to EXPLORE:
Experience the famous Blue Lagoon:
This is one of the most iconic destinations in Iceland. The pools are quite large and the whole area is steamy with the water a stunning milky-blue color that is rather photogenic. It’s a beautiful and luxurious way to end the day, and a great place to relax right before you depart or after you land since it’s only minutes from the airport.
There are two ways to experience the Blue Lagoon. Open from 7:00am - midnight.
Pony up the $636 for 2 people and experience the Private Retreat Spa. Personally, I think the spa is a bit overhyped, but it is however the most exclusive way to experience the blue lagoon. You receive your own private shower and dressing room, a complimentary beverage and multiple healing masks. Downside - they don’t let you take pictures with your phone or camera. The staff onsite will take your picture with their phone and send it to you, but if you’re main goal is a pic for Insta - you need to book option 2. AND for the amount of money - I’d like to stay as long as I want, but they restrict your time to 4 hours. Believe me, that time will fly by.
General Package - Pricing ranges from $56-77 USD. You get a silica mud mask, unlimited time, you can take as many pictures, and one complimentary drink. I would recommend the premium general package which also gives you a bathrobe, slippers, 2 masks, reservation at the restaurant and sparkling wine.
You can also opt out of the blue lagoon all together, as there are tons of free, secluded hot springs all around the country. But if you are short for time - the blue lagoon is a perfect way to get your geothermal fix.
Icelandic South Coast Must Sees:
Potentially you could see all of these awe-inspiring spots in one day if you start at the crack of dawn and explore until the midnight sun sets. OR you can break it into two day weekend adventure and take your time soaking in the beauty.
Uriddafossi Waterfall - provides 50% of Icelands electricity
Stop on the side of the road during your road trip & pet or feed Icelandic horses.
Vik Village / Beach
Harpa Concert Hall - designed after a honeycomb and inspired by the basalt landscape of Iceland. This building is home to Iceland's symphony orchestra and opera.
Activities in and around Reykjavik:
I didn't partake in half of these activities, but there are loads of fun things to do in and outside of the city. My friends at Discover TrueNorth helped our group, but you can also book tours and activities through your hotel.
Lava tunnel tours
Explore inside a volcano
City bike tours
Kayaking (not in the ocean)
Whale Watching - Elding
There are several circles you can explore depending on your time. Golden, Silver and Diamond tours are all options. The most popular being the Golden Circle, closest to Reykavik.
The Golden Circle — comprising the Gullfoss waterfall, the Strokkur geyser, and Þingvellir National Park — is the biggest tourist draw in Iceland, so you’ll want to start your day early and head out of town in a rental car (or on a tourist bus). As tourism booms in Iceland, these sites can get a little crowded, so make sure you get there early (especially in the summer and on weekends).
The round-trip journey is around 250km, so plan accordingly when it comes to food and fuel (if you’re driving). If you’re driving, you’ll also be able to stop regularly to see the many Icelandic horses that you’ll pass by.
Between work and play, my love for Iceland grew each day as I was treated to bewildering landscapes and helpful locals. I only scratched the surface - I can’t wait to return with my family and explore more of what the island has to offer!
“If there is a problem with Iceland, it’s that the spectacular becomes everyday.”