Top 10 things you must experience in and around Reykjavik

1. Discover the golden circle

    • Gullfoss

Gullfoss, or “Gold-waterfall”, is a magnificent and enormous natural waterfall with a rich history. It’s not made of gold as far as we know.

    • Geysir

Geysir National Park is a geothermally active area with many natural hot springs, some of them erupting. The largest two largest erupting geysers are Strokkur, which erupts to a height of 20 meters roughly every 15 minutes, and Geysir, from whom all geysers take their name, which erupts to a height of 70 meters, but only sporadically. Although the park is no doubt full of vacationing geezers, the name Geysir actually refers to the erupting nature of the hot spring, and can most appropriately be translated “Gushie”.

    • Þingvellir

Tempting as it may be to think of them as the “thing-wells” – Thingvellir which is a National park actually means “parliament fields” – referring to the fact that this was the site of the ancient viking parliament from about 930 AD until 1798. One of the oldest democracies in the world, viking chiefs from across the country would congregate here and hear the law spoken from the “law-rock”. (Yeah, that’s a thing). It also happens to be located along the rift of the European and American tectonic plates. Among other things, you can learn about the incredibly rich history and geology of the place, and dive in one of the natural underwater fissures.

2. Swim in the Blue Lagoon

This iconic spa resort the Blue Lagoon started in 1976 as a place to pour off excess water from a geothermal construction project. Gradually, the construction workers and passers-by started bathing there (despite the fact that raw geothermal water can vary dangerously in temperature). Since then it’s been renovated and turned into a luxurious spa resort, and the water temperature is moderated so it is perfectly safe. It is conveniently only 40 minutes from Reykjavík, and only 20 minutes from Keflavík airport.

3. See the Northern lights

Among the amazing things you can experience in Iceland is the Northern lights, the famous green celestial laser show that can be seen on clear winter nights. There are several tour operators that specialize in finding the right spot, either by bus or by boat.

4. Explore a Glacier

It is a common joke that Iceland should be called Greenland and vice versa. While it is true that Iceland is greener than Greenland, that’s not really saying much. Iceland is home to the largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull, and a host of others, all in all covering about 11% of the country’s surface. There are a number of ways to explore them, including hiking or riding a snowmobile on them, if so inclined.

5. Ride the unique Icelandic horse

Iceland is home to a unique breed, the Icelandic horse. It is unusual in size, the size of a pony, and yet amazingly strong and sure-footed. It has two gaits in addition to the most usual walk, trot and gallop, known as tölt and skeið. Icelanders are protective of this breed, so it is illegal to import foreign breeds to Iceland, and once and Icelandic horse leaves the country, it can never return. Riding is a usual pastime for Icelanders, whether they own their own horses, as is common, or they simply rent a horse for a day now and again in the summertime. You can find a horse riding tour in any part of the country.

6. Whale watching

There are 23 different breeds of whale that populate the ocean around Iceland. You can go on a boat tour from a number of ports, or even see them from land in some places. There are a number of operators offering rides and the best time to see whales is between May and September. Remember to wear a hat though, since sailing the ocean can be quite cold, even in summer!

7. Visit Perlan, the Pearl

The Pearl is a landmark building in Reykjavík, with its glass dome, observation deck and revolving restaurant. It sits atop tanks of geothermally heated water and is situated in Öskjuhlíð, a forested outdoor area with many walking paths and remnants of the US occupation of Iceland in the second world war.

8. View the historic site of Höfði

Höfði is a house with an interesting history. It is best known as the place where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the heads of the US and USSR respectively, had their famous negotiations in 1986. Built in 1909 as a french consulate and long time residence of famous Icelandic entrepreneur and poetEinar Benediktsson, it is now owned by the authorities and used to host parties and receptions.

9. Go Diving or Snorkeling

Iceland is probably not the first place you think of when you think of snorkeling. But between the sub-oceanic hot water outlets and the various geological fissures, there is a lot to see.

10. See the view from Hallgrímskirkja belltower

Hallgrímskirkja church is one of the tallest buildings in Iceland. Its beautiful architecture is inspired by the basalt lava columns found in Icelandic nature and on the square outside its main entrance you can see a statue of Leifur Eiríksson, who sailed to America long before it was discovered by Christopher Columbus. It is located near the center of Reykjavík and you can ride the elevator right to the top to see the view.

5 best coffeehouse experiences of Reykjavik

Icelanders, like most of the worlds population drink coffee, in fact we drink a lot of it!

The appeal of coffeehouses is twofold for most Icelanders, we want good coffee but more importantly, we want a nice place to drink our coffee. Below is a list, in no particular order, of the five best coffeehouses to visit while you are in town, enjoy!


Mokka is historically the most significant coffeehouse in the country. In 1958 Guðmundur Baldvinsson and Guðný Guðjónsdóttir opened their doors, serving the first espressos to a population who until then had only tasted brewed coffee. At the time Icelanders didn’t really understand the concept of a coffeehouse and found it ridiculous and strange to pay so much for one cup of coffee. Soon, however, it became the place to be for artists, writers and philosophers looking for a good cup and a place to ponder and discuss ideas. Going to Mokka is like stepping back in time; today the place looks almost identical to the way it did when it opnened with its simple art deco style. The smell of coffee, chocolate and waffles that greet you when walking in are enough to make your mouth water, sometimes you can even smell it half way up Skólavörðustígur.

Skólavörðustígur 3a

Kaffitár Bankastræti

Another important stepping stone in the evolution of coffee culture in Iceland, Kaffitár, introduced high quality coffee which was ethically sourced and roasted in Iceland. The owner, Aðalheiður Héðinsdóttir was intrumental in kick starting the specialty coffee culture both through her own efforts and thanks to several baristas who were trained in Kaffitár and later on have become influential in the coffee world and opened their own coffeehouses in Reykjavík. The coffee is well made, by Baristas who are friendly and well trained. There are also plenty of sandwhiches, breads, cakes and sweats to eat with your cup. This particular outpost of the Kaffitár chain is colorful and vibrant. This is a particularly popular place with many regulars and can sometimes be difficult to find a table, especially in the morning rush hour. Still though, there is plenty of seating in a comfortable open space that has large windows facing Bankastræti, a great place to people watch and plan your day.

Bankastræti 8

Reykjavík Roasters / Kaffismiðja Íslands

Formerly known as Kaffismiðja Íslands, Reykjavík Roasters offers the highest quality specialty coffee in town. Since it opened in 2008 it has attracted legions of regulars who swear by the superiority of their coffee over others. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, a combination of raw and cozy permeates this small space filled with old chairs and tables, and the sounds of a record playing and coffee roasting.

The coffee is roasted on location and the coffee itself is bought directly from the farmers, predominantly from Colombia, however recently they have introduced coffee from Nicaragua as well. Don’t be afraid to try any of the alternatives to an espresso-based cup. The hand brewed coffee available is expertly made and you can choose between three different brewing methods, all of which bring out something unique from the coffee.
Kárastígur 1

Litli Bóndabærinn

This adorable take-away-hole-in-the-wall was a welcome change to the coffeehouse flora of the city. The principle of its foundation was based on providing a product that is locally sourced and preferably organic as well. The friendly owner, David is often there baking his own creations from scratch, which include favorites like pasties filled with lamb and sweet potatoe or veggie sausage rolls which are heavenly. The coffee is always organic and always tasty.

Laugavegur 41


The name Stofan literally means the living room. When walking into its warm atmosphere you will in fact find what looks like several living room spaces with plush couches and sitting chairs inviting you to stay and read a book, knit or have a good conversation with your friends and aquaintances. Like many coffeehouses in Iceland they offer Chaqwa which doesn’t qualify as specialty coffee but tastes good none the less. There is a great assortment of teas to choose from, as well as home made cakes and other snacks. One thing that separates Stofan from the others on this list is the possibility of having a beer or any other alcoholic beverage. At night this cozy coffeehouse turns into a cozy bar with killer Irish coffee and a very good selection of local beers.

Aðalstræti 7by Marissa Sigrún Pinal