When you fly Icelandair across the Atlantic, you can stopover in Iceland for up to seven days at no additional charge. So naturally on our way over to Ireland we stopped in Reykjavik for 24 hours. Arriving at 6:30 am was perfect for packing in the max amount of adventures into our limited time and limited daylight hours. We ended up driving over 6 hours during our brief stay but didn’t feel like we were rushing from one stop to the next.
We debated between driving the Golden Circle or driving to Vik (and back) and settled on the latter mostly due to my desire to see the Black Sand Beach. The three main sights along the Golden Circle are: Pingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall. The main sights on the way to Vik are: Skogafoss waterfall, Black Sand Beach, and Vik i Myrdal Church. Best of all, either route will likely take you by Icelandic horses (so cute).
What To Do
The Blue Lagoon: this was by far was the most “touristy” activity on our itinerary but it was a bucket list item for me. 8:00 am was the earliest reservation time available and the timing worked perfectly for landing at 6:30 am, getting through baggage claim, customs, rental car setup and making the drive from the airport. All in all, I am glad we tried it because:
- The lagoon has showers and locker rooms for when you’re done and after traveling 12 hours but not being able to check-in to our Airbnb yet, this was the perfect work-around.
- The lagoon is fun! The water is super warm, there is a swim up bar (one drink is included with your ticket), and there is a swim up algae mask station — perfect for spending an hour soaking your muscles after the long flight.
Real reality: it was rain/snowing sideways and freezing outside. We snapped a few pics for the memories but spent most of our time ducking into the water so we were covered up to our necks and wading through the warm water to find shelter from the sleeting weather. Still worth the visit, though.
Skogafoss Waterfall: this was the first stop on our way to Vik and it did not disappoint. Hike right up to the waterfall for a photo (just be sure to remember your rain gear) and if you’re feeling up to it, take the stairs to the right of the falls up to the top of the hillside. We read mixed reviews about the stairs but are so glad we ventured up, the views are beyond worth the quick workout.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach: famous for it’s towering basalt stacks, crashing Atlantic waves, and volcanic black sand. The beach has a parking lot and cafe at the entrance, it’s a great spot to hide from the wind or to warm up (they serve beer and wine) after exploring the beach.
Vik i Myrdal Church: this iconic church is located in the southernmost village in Iceland, Vik. Perched on a hill overlooking the village and coastline, the church makes for a killer vantage point and even better photo.
Where To Stay
We kept to South Iceland and stayed at an Airbnb overnight in Reykjavik but if you have more time, you can totally explore more of Iceland. The Iceland tourism site does a great job of breaking down the different regions and what to expect in each. Check out their site and other blogs that I found helpful:
- The Blonde Abroad: she has a ton of posts from Iceland but her post with tips for protecting your hair in the Blue Lagoon was a game-changer
- The Traveling Spud: she’s a friend of mine and did the whole Ring Road and has some great tips in these posts
- Find Us Lost: they breakdown itinerary for every section of the island in this post
Where to Eat and Drink
If we could do it over again, we would have stopped at the grocery store in the morning to make sandwiches and grab snacks for the road. Instead we ate out every meal, which was fine but insanely expensive (and in my opinion, not my favorite cuisine).
We ventured from the Blue Lagoon to Vik to Reykjavik and ate at cafes and restaurants along the way, trying the local Icelandic fare. We didn’t feel brave enough to try the dried fish snacks but if you’re feeling crazy while you’re there, they carry them everywhere — gas stations, gift shops, you name it.
Cafe Bryggjan – Grindavik: Honestly, we thought a local cafe would be a great spot to get some brunch about they only had options like open-faced sandwiches with hardboiled eggs and salmon and a killer (and somewhat famous) lobster soup. It wasn’t the breakfast that we were looking for but it was enough to tide us over until lunch.
Surf and Turf – Selfoss: We didn’t have set plans for where to stop for food so we ended up stopping in Selfoss for fish and chips and a beer. This was a great halfway point from the Blue Lagoon to our first stop, Skogafoss Waterfall.
Icewear – Vik: One thing we read in blogs and articles prior to visiting was that Iceland is expensive – it’s true. This was an order at the counter-type place (connected to the Icewear and other tourism stores in one complex) with pretty good local fare but was roughly $50 for two meals, one bottle of water, and one dessert.
No matter what you do, you’re bound to have an epic time. Iceland is just one of those destinations. We already have a bucket list for our next visit and best of all, we can tie it into a full Europe itinerary through Icelandair Stopover.