TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN ICELAND

Iceland was that hot 2017 destination but why? Some people want to catch a glimpse of the northern lights, enjoy a relax day at the Blue Lagoon or eat at the famous hot dog stand that President Clinton and Kim Kardashian raved about. Here are my top things to do in Iceland and what I learned:

10. Northern Lights

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Check the aurora forecast daily at Aurora Forecast. The sky needs to be dark, cloud-free, and a minimum aurora activity of 3 to see the northern lights. Prepare to chase it from midnight to 2 AM.

Rating: NA/10.0

What Have I Learned: Check the weather, map, schedule, EVERYTHING because it’s not guaranteed to see the Northern Lights! It’s best to sign up for a tour guide since they will take you out to areas where the Northern Lights are most active. Sign up the first day you’re there because the will take you the next day if you don’t get to see it.

Tour I wanted to join: Reykjavik Excursions Northern Lights Tour (Check their Facebook page to see if the tour will be canceled that evening)

Cost: 6900 ISK (~50 USD)

Departures: (3-hour tour)
26 August – 15 October & 15 March – 15 April – 22:00
16 October – 14 March – 21:00
16 October – 28 February – 19:30

9. Jökulsárlón (Jokulsarlon Glacier Ice Lagoon)

It’s a large glacier lake where you will find icebergs on the beach. I didn’t get to go here during my Iceland trip, but my friends mentioned that this was one of the highlights of their trip to Iceland.

Rating: NA/10.0

What Have I Learned: This is a 43-minutes drive from the Skaftafell Ice Cave, so if you go to Skaftafell Ice Cave, make sure to drive the extra 43-minutes to see the icebergs (4 hour 32 minutes from Reykjavík).

Cost: FREE

Hours: Open 24 hours

8. Kerið (Kerid Crater)

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Kerid Crater is a volcanic crater lake along the Golden Circle. There’s a staircase that leads to the bottom of the lake. The different contrast of colors from the sapphire water and red volcanic rock makes this worth seeing for a small admission cost.

Rating: 7.0/10.0

What Have I Learned: It will only take about 20 minutes to walk around the crater, and you get different angles for your pictures

Cost: 400 ISK (~3 USD)

Hours: Open 24 hours

7. Reykjavík

This is the largest city and the capital of Iceland. It’s 40 minutes from the airport if you’re looking to grab a bite or do some shopping during a long layover. There’s a lot of small shops where you can buy Icelandic sweaters, Brennivin liquor, Rís Buff candy, and more. You can also try puffin, fermented shark, and whale at Íslenski barinn.

Rating: 7.0/10.0

What Have I Learned:  There’s a free walking tour that talks about how Iceland first came to be. It’s well worth it, all you have to do is to tip the tour guide at the end.

6. Reynisfjara

This famous black sand beach is known for its strong waves. There’s also a giant cliff with interlocking basalt columns similar to the Giant Causeway in Ireland. If you’re interested in seeing Sólheimasandur Plane Crash, it’s between Skogafoss waterfall and the southern outpost town of Vik.

Rating: 7.0/10.0

What Have I Learned:  We came here after the hike at Skaftafell, so it was almost dark by the time we got there. It’s best to arrive before sunset.

Cost: FREE

Hours: Open 24 hours

Iceland was a great trip overall. We missed out on the Northern Lights, but we had fun driving through Iceland (must rent a car). We also saw stunning landscapes and rock formations. It’s truly a place like nowhere else.

5. Blue Lagoon

After taking a red-eye flight, normally everyone would want to get some rest but for us, we picked up a rental car and drove straight to the Blue Lagoon. If you have a layover in Iceland, Blue Lagoon is a 21-minute drive from Keflavík International Airport. Pre-book your entrance ticket at least a month prior to Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon water is a man-made lagoon powered by a geothermal power plant but its rich mineral is known to help skin diseases.

Rating: 7.0/10.0

What Have I Learned: Everyone gets the silica mud mask but with the comfort package, they also provide a towel for you to use, an alcoholic/non-alcoholic drink and algae mask.

Entrance Ticket

  • Comfort (Include Entrance to Blue Lagoon, Silica Mud Mask, Use of Towel, 1st Drink of your choice & Silica Mud Mask) – 57 USD
  • Premium (Include Entrance to Blue Lagoon, Silica Mud Mask, Use of Towel, 1st Drink of your choice, Second Mask of choice, Use of Bathrobe, Slippers, Reservation at Lava (optional) & Sparkling wine if dining at Lava) – 78 USD
  • Luxury (Include Entrance to Blue Lagoon and Retreat Lagoon, 4 hours at the Retreat Spa, private changing suite, and Blue Lagoon skincare amenities) – 564 USD
SeasonOpening hours
1 Jan – 18 Jun8:00 – 21:00
30 Jun – 20 Aug (Mon-Fri)12:00 – 22:00
30 Jun – 20 Aug (Sat-Sun)10:00 – 22:00
1 Sep – 31 Dec8:00 – 21:00
*3 Aug10:00 – 22:00
*24 Dec8:00 – 15:00

4. Seljavallalaug

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Seljavallalaug is an outdoor geothermal pool built in 1923. You can swim in this pool even during the wintertime. The hot water falling down the rock wall is from a natural hot spring nearby.

Rating: 8.0/10.0

What Have I Learned: This pool is only a short 15 to 20 minutes walk from the car park. There are no showers but there are three communal changing rooms.

Cost: FREE

Hours: Open 24 hours

3. Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

One of the many famous Iceland waterfalls is Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. It is also one of the only ones where there is a footpath behind the waterfall, which will give you every angle of the waterfall.

Rating: 8.0/10.0

What Have I Learned: You may get extremely wet if it’s windy, so wear proper clothing. There are several other waterfalls if you walk to the left of Seljalandsfoss. Gljúfrabúi is the last waterfall where you can walk through the opening of the cliff and walk right up to the waterfall.

Cost: FREE

Hours: Open 24 hours

2. Skaftafell Ice Cave

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There are many places to hike around the world, but how many places can you go glacier hiking and see the inside of an ice cave? The Virkisjökull Glacier is known for its crevasses, ice caves, and waterfalls.

Rating: 9.00/10.00

What Have I Learned: This is a 4-hour drive from Reykjavík. If you plan to do the glacier tour, stay at a place nearby the night before to avoid the long drive before the hike. Also, the ice starts to melt when it’s warm. It makes it dangerous to go inside the cave because it can collapse. Double-check the temperature a few weeks in advance and plan accordingly. Call your tour guide a week before to confirm.

Tour I Joined: Viator 5-Hour Glacier Hike in Skaftafell National Park (Check out Viator for other tours)

Cost: 162.73 USD (Rakuten can save you 2 – 4.5% back if you click through their link. If you don’t have a Rakuten account, sign up here.)

Tour start time options: 9:15AM, 11:30AM & 1:00PM

1. Fiskmarkadurinn – The Fish Market

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Their tasting menu included king crab legs, slices of whale, lobster bisque soup, scallop sushi, and much more. The king crab legs was the best dish but I also love their dessert platter where you have everything from chocolate cake to raspberry mousse to sorbet.

Rating: 9.5/10.0

What Have I learned: Make a reservation and come with an empty stomach.

Cost: Tasting Menu – 11,400 ISK (~83 USD) per person.

Hours:

Sun to Thurs: 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM

Fri to Sat: 6:00 PM to 10:30 PM

Holiday Closing:

24 Dec  – Closed
25 Dec  – Closed
31 Dec  – Closed

FAQ

How many days do you need in Iceland? 4 Days

What is your main transportation in Iceland? Car (Drove about 3 to 4 hours daily but it depends where you stay)

How long was your flight? A direct flight from Newark (EWR) to Reykjavik (KEF) is about 6hr 15 min.

Where did you stay? We rented an Airbnb in Selfloss which is about 45 minutes from Reykjavik. It is close to the Golden Circle.

Is Iceland expensive? It is one of the more expensive countries I have been to. Eating out cost about 15 USD for a cheap meal.

When did you go to Iceland? Feb 2017.It’s normally really cold this time of the year but it was warm the week we were there. However, there was a crazy snowstorm 2 weeks later so the weather is unpredictable.

If you want more information about Iceland, feel free to reach out to me. Here’s the Iceland Google Map schedule I created.

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