Iceland is a land of vast otherworldly landscapes, active volcanoes, epic glaciers and more waterfalls than you can count on your fingers and toes. Whether you’re travelling in the winter hoping to spot the northern lights or planning a trip in the summer to enjoy the midnight sun, you’ll need to make sure you plan your time wisely. And that’s why I’ve put together this useful travel guide to Iceland.
This is going to be quite a long post, with lots of details to help you make the most of travelling to Iceland. So, grab a blanket, make yourself a hot beverage and prepare for 1600 words of Icelandic fun!
The complete travel guide to Iceland
Getting to Iceland from the UK
We flew from London Gatwick airport to Keflavik airport, the only international airport in Iceland. The flight time is 3 hours. I searched for my flights through Skyscanner and booked through easyJet. Our return flights cost £40.
How to get from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik
It’s important to note that the airport is not in Reykjavik itself and is in fact quite far away from the city – around a 45 minute drive. We hired a car at Keflavik Airport so didn’t have to book any transfers. But before we decided to hire a car, I did research the best transfers from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik. Bear in mind, though, that this is not a comprehensive guide to Iceland airport transfers, just a summary of my research.
Flybus Iceland offers coach transfers from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik. They transfer to most hotels in Reykjavik with the Flybus+ package, enabling you to choose your hotel from the dropdown list. If you’re staying in an Airbnb, you can select the nearest hotel to your accommodation and walk the rest of the way. Flybus coaches enjoy free wifi onboard and the journey take approximately 45 minutes. Buses depart 35-40 minutes after each flight arrival, so there should always be a Flybus available for you to book. Return tickets cost 5499 ISK which, in Jan 2019, is about £35.
Gray Line Airport Express
As well as northern lights and day tours, Gray Line offer reasonably-priced airport transfers from Keflavik to Reykjavik. You’ll find a variety of Iceland airport transfer options ranging from £15-20 to be taken to the Gray Line bus terminal to £150+ for a private car transfer to your accommodation. It’s worth noting that Reykjavik is a big city and is very spread out so unless your accommodation is near to the bus terminal, it would be much easier to pay the extra cash to go directly to your hotel.
Get Your Guide
Alternatively, you’ll find a variety of Iceland airport transfers on the popular tour website Get Your Guide. Depending on your budget, you can choose from cheap airport transfers from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik on a coach, or the more expensive option of a minibus. To be honest, there really isn’t a lot of difference between the airport transfer options – they all average out at roughly £35 for a return ticket.
Hiring a car in Iceland
As we were travelling in January, hiring a car in Iceland was a huge decision for us. I heard mixed reviews on winter driving in Iceland which initially put me off, but after speaking to several people about their experience, we decided to go for it. Hiring a car in Iceland gives you so much more flexibility and it’s a lot cheaper than paying for tours every day.
We hired a 4 wheel drive from Nordic Car Rental through Northbound.
The service we received was great and the staff were very friendly, providing lots of local tips and advice. Quite honestly, the 4×4 saved us and made it so much easier to get around when we were hit by a huge snowstorm half way through the week. I’d have been much more nervous driving had we opted for a smaller 2WD.
Things to do in Iceland
I’ll be writing a much more comprehensive guide on the best places to see in the south of Iceland but in this guide to iceland I’ll run down some of the best things to see and do in the land of fire and ice.
Reykjavik is unlike any other city I’ve ever been to. I can’t quite put my finger on why it feels so different, but I think perhaps it has something to do with how huge it feels compared to what I was expecting. I don’t think I expected it to be so modern and spread out over such a large area.
Saying that, downtown Reykjavik is actually quite small. Unless you’re a serious museum buff, I’d say that one day is enough to see all the main sites in downtown Reykjavik.
Head to Laugavegur for some shopping, cafe hopping and people watching. Admire the beauty of Harpa, Reykjavik’s very own opera house. Enjoy the view from the top of Hallgrimskirkja, the largest church in Iceland. Learn something new about Iceland’s landscape and history at the Perlan Museum. Take a free walking tour to learn more about the city.
Yes, the Golden Circle may be a well-worn tourist trail but, some places are famous for a reason! The Golden Circle consists of a route just outside of Reykjavik which takes you past soaring mountain ranges, bubbling geothermal pools and geysers, ravines between tectonic plates and epic waterfalls.
Walk between two tectonic plates at Oxarafoss in Thingvellir National Park. Watch the erupting Strokkur Geysir and smell the sulphur in the air. Gaze in awe at the three-tiered Gullfoss waterfall and gawp at the stunning mountains surrounding you.
The South Coast
The day we spent exploring the south coast of Iceland was one of my favourites. From jaw-droppingly beautiful landscapes to huge cascading waterfalls, black sands and a cool plane wreck, there’s so much to see.
Make sure to start your journey with Seljalandsfoss before heading on to Skogafoss. Climb to the top of Skogafoss and behind Seljalandsfoss for epic views and a different perspective. Next, head to the fishing village of Vik, the gateway to the world-famous Reynisfjara beach where you can see enormous basalt stacks and eerie black sand. Finally, trek out to the awesome plane wreck at Sólheimasandur.
Perhaps one of the lesser known regions in Iceland, Reykjanes feels a little more off the beaten path. I only stumbled across one blog article that mentioned this area which is near to the airport and I’m so glad I did because the scenery here is simply stunning.
We visited Reykjanes Geopark a couple of days after heavy snowfall and, as such, the area was draped in a beautiful vale of untouched snow.
The Geopark is the only place in the world where the mid-Atlantic ridge is visible above sea level and that in itself should be a reason to visit!
If you like hiking, head to Krysuvik for interesting hiking paths and geothermal pools (too hot to swim!). Drive around the epic Kleifarvatn Lake. Explore the Leiðarendi Lava Tunnel. Head to the Instagram-famous Blue Lagoon for an afternoon of relaxation. And admire the rugged coastline at Reykjanesta.
Unfortunately, the snowstorm and icy roads prevented us from visiting the Snaefellsnes Peninsula during our trip which was disappointing because I’d heard how beautiful it is!
Located about a two hour drive north of Reykjavik, you’ll find breath-taking scenery and epic lava fields, as well as a glacier topped volcano and quaint fishing villages a plenty. Head to the iconic Kirkjufell and snap some long-exposure shots of the pretty waterfalls and cone shaped mountain. Hike around Eldborg Crater. Enjoy the heat of Landbrotalaug Pool, a tiny geothermal pool which enjoys temperatures of 36-40 C. Marvel at the impressive Snæfellsjökull Glacier. Or spot seals at Yrti Tunga Beach.
Swim in geothermal pools
There are countless geothermal pools you can swim in throughout Iceland, some paid and some free. If you truly want to enjoy the geothermal spa experience, head to the Blue Lagoon, Krauma Spa, Laugarvatn Fontana or the Secret Lagoon. Or, if you want a more natural and, let’s be honest, free experience, head to Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River or Seljavellir Geothermal Pool and enjoy the outstanding mountain views while chilling in a hot spring.
Hike on a glacier
Talk about a major bucket list item, right!? Unfortunately, I didn’t get to do this in Iceland but there are tons of tours available and it’s definitely something I’ll do on my next trip. I can’t recommend any personally but Extreme Iceland offers a variety of glacier adventures, ice climbing and ice caving tours. You’ll also find tours with Guide to Iceland and Arctic Adventures.
It seems a week in Iceland is definitely not long enough to enjoy everything Iceland has to offer. This travel guide to Iceland is intended to give a brief overview of things to see and do in Iceland and how to plan a trip to Iceland. I’ll be writing a selection of much more in-depth Iceland travel guides, so watch this space.
I hope you enjoyed my quick travel guide to Iceland. If you have any questions about planning a trip to Iceland, leave a comment below and I’d be happy to give you my own personal experience.