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Discover the magic of Iceland with our expertly crafted weekend itinerary. From stunning landscapes to vibrant culture, this guide will ensure you make the most of your short stay in this enchanting country.
Written by:
Julia Hammond
Content Writer
13 Jun 2024

If you’re keen to get the most out of your Reykjavik city break, take a look at this suggested itinerary which will help you maximise your time over a weekend. Our activity-packed guide covers a mix of natural wonders, cultural experiences and relaxation opportunities for travellers planning a short trip to Iceland. We also include practical advice on getting around as well as packing tips.

A Suggested Itinerary for Your Weekend in Reykjavík: Friday

Visit a geothermal spa

The majority of international flights to Iceland land at Keflavík International Airport on the Reykjanes peninsula. From there, it’s about a 45 minute drive to downtown Reykjavik, but many people like to break the journey at the Blue Lagoon. This luxurious geothermal lagoon has been welcoming tourists for over thirty years, drawn in part by the gorgeous juxtaposition of mineral-rich blue water against a backdrop of charcoal grey lava.

But it’s also a fabulous place to wallow in warm water and soak away the tensions and stresses of a long flight. If you’re wondering what you’d do with your luggage, know that they’re geared up for those who’ve come straight from the airport too, with spacious lockers, showers, fluffy towels and hairdryers. Pre-booking is advisable.

Alternatively, when the Blue Lagoon is closed due to volcanic activity nearby, Sky Lagoon and Hvammsvík offer just as unique an experience as their older sister, each with their own distinctive charm and breathtaking views.

Iceland's geothermal waters are nature's gift, offering warmth and rejuvenation from the heart of the earth.

Learn about Iceland’s unique geography at Perlan

Alternatively, if you’re keen to drive straight to Reykjavik, why not begin at Perlan? This exceptional interactive museum perches on Öskjuhlíð, a small hill overlooking the city. Its captivating exhibits include a walk-through manmade ice cave which is kept cold enough to be as similar as you could get to the real thing.

An interactive display about the processes that cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions helps to explain why Iceland experiences so many of both and also why their monitoring systems are among the most effective on the planet. Take the weight off your feet for a while as you settle in to your seat to watch the Áróra show, an immersive production that demonstrates why the Northern Lights are such a magical and wonderful sight.

Sample Icelandic cuisine

Head upstairs afterwards to visit Perlan’s outdoor terrace, which is the ideal spot to get acquainted with the geography of Reykjavik and the bay and mountains beyond. Inside, take the opportunity to grab an ice cream, a perennial favourite of Icelanders no matter how cold it is outside.

Now that you’ve seen the layout of the city, you’ll want to get a closer look. Sign up for the Reykjavik Food Walk: a great way to get your bearings, learn a little about what makes Icelanders tick and of course taste some uniquely Icelandic dishes in the process. Tours typically last a few hours, the last departing late afternoon, so you’ll have time afterwards to explore on your own.

A geyser eruption with water painted in pink hues at the Geysir geothermal area in Iceland.

Perlan provides exhibits on the natural wonders of Iceland and offers breathtaking panoramic views of Reykjavík and beyond

Tick off Reykjavík’s most famous sights

If you haven’t already done so, take a look at iconic Hallgrimskirkja. It’s the tallest church in the country and easily recognised from its design, which resembles the basalt columns that litter the countryside and coast. Stroll through the shopping areas of downtown Reykjavik and grab a selfie in front of Tjörnin lake or on pedestrianised Skólavörðustígur, better known to travellers as Rainbow Street.

Also on the must-see list are the Sun Voyager sculpture on the waterfront and nearby, the striking facade of Harpa Concert Hall, an architectural gem. You might be feeling peckish by now. If so, try Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur at its landmark Tryggvagata location; it’s been serving tasty hot dogs since 1937.

Across the street, you’ll see the Hotel Edition, a swanky five-star hotel with a stylish rooftop bar and outdoor terrace. Depending on the time of year, you might see the green ribbons of the Aurora Borealis dance across the heavens or the rays of the Midnight Sun warm the late evening sky.

Reykjavik pulses with a vibrant blend of ancient sagas and modern creativity, where every corner whispers tales of resilience and innovation, inviting you to experience the heart and soul of Iceland.

A Suggested Itinerary for Your Weekend in Reykjavík: Saturday

Experience Iceland’s famous Golden Circle

Fuel up at your hotel’s breakfast buffet or at a local bakery such as Brauð & Co before setting off on a Golden Circle tour. As your time Is limited, opt for an express tour which packs the key sights into around six or seven hours, leaving you time to add in a second activity. It’s also possible to extend the Golden Circle tour with a snowmobiling ride on Langjökull, Iceland’s second largest glacier – thrilling and fun in equal measure.

The Golden Circle is a scenic route that connects a trio of Iceland’s most remarkable natural landforms passing some of the country’s prettiest scenery along the way. The volume of water that cascades over the stepped rock to form Gullfoss makes this one of the country’s most impressive waterfalls.

Down the road at Geysir, Strokkur geyser erupts reliably every few minutes, sending a jet of superheated water and steam high into the air to gasps from a delighted crowd.

Finally Thingvellir National Park offers the chance for visitors to see Iceland’s dramatic plate boundary close up. Nature meets cultural heritage here: you’ll wander through the steep-sided Almannagjá canyon to the site of the Alþing where the country’s lawmakers once met many centuries ago.

A white Reykjavik Excursions tour bus, marked as carbon neutral, travels through a lush green landscape on a sunny day.

Icelandia tours are carbon neutral, ensuring our operations do not contribute to carbon emissions. We offset any remaining emissions by investing in renewable energy projects, making our tours a responsible choice for eco-conscious travelers.

Board a boat for an unforgettable whale watching adventure

Iceland is one of the best countries in the world for whale watching. Many well-known species are commonly spotted in the waters surrounding the country and whale watching boats depart regularly from Reykjavik’s Old Harbour. For example, you might catch sight of humpback whales breaching the water of Faxaflói Bay or perhaps an orca, minke whales or pod of dolphins.

While you’re onboard, a knowledgeable guide will provide you with information about the species you might see as well as answer any questions you might have. And of course, as you return to the shore, you’ll enjoy magnificent views of the Reykjavik cityscape, so be sure to keep your camera handy.

Experience an Icelandic horse’s famous tölt

If you prefer to stay on land, or your whale watching trip is postponed due to inclement weather, then you might consider horse riding from a local stables, a fun add-on to your Golden Circle tour.

Icelandic horses are easy to ride, even if you’re a complete novice, and are usually gentle-natured and willing to do as you ask. Typically, a group tour lasts around two hours, sufficient time for you to explore the surrounding meadows and lava fields or even ford a stream. You might also get to try the tölt, a unique fifth gait that this particular breed employs which is as fast as a canter but a whole lot smoother.

Group of people riding Icelandic horses on a scenic trail, showcasing an outdoor adventure in Iceland.

Icelandic horses, with their sturdy build and gentle spirit, embody the rugged beauty and untamed essence of Iceland.

Get tickets for a show at Harpa

While Harpa Concert Hall’s award-winning architecture is a draw in itself, it’s even better if you can get tickets for a play, concert or performance of some kind. Throughout the year, there’s a varied programme, but tourists might be especially keen to appreciate the comic insights that make “How to Become Icelandic in 60 Minutes” such a treat. You’ll also find plenty of dining options in this area, including restaurants that look out over the Old Harbour and nearby food halls such as Grandi, Pósthús and Hafnartorg Gallery.

Complete your trip with Sky Lagoon’s seven-step ritual

Before you depart for home, you deserve a little pampering and where better to enjoy a little down time than at Sky Lagoon? This upscale spa is positioned close to Reykjavik city centre on the water’s edge, and its infinity pool makes it feel like there’s nothing between you and the ocean.

Most visitors choose to sign up for the Sky Lagoon’s seven-step ritual, a spa programme that will leave your skin feeling rejuvenated and your body ready for the flight home. Even if you already visited the Blue Lagoon, these two places offer such different experiences that you’ll be pleased you booked them both.

While the Blue Lagoon is known for its milky-blue waters and therapeutic silica mud, Sky Lagoon provides a more intimate and serene atmosphere, with its dramatic ocean views and holistic rituals. Embrace the opportunity to indulge in both, enhancing your Icelandic adventure with unforgettable moments of relaxation and luxury.

Woman in a black swimsuit standing in a wooden sauna with ocean view at Sky Lagoon, Reykjavík.

Sky Lagoon features Iceland's finest sauna, boasting the largest window in the country and offering a breathtaking view over the bay below.

A Suggested Itinerary for Your Weekend in Reykjavík: Sunday

Explore further afield in Reykjavík

Perhaps you’ll choose to round off your Reykjavik city break with a lazy brunch, or one of the options you didn’t manage to fit in yesterday after your Golden Circle tour. Maybe you’re keen to see more of the Icelandic capital itself with a circuit on the Hop on, Hop off bus.

It’s a good way of reaching out of town attractions such as Árbær Open Air Museum. Through its relocated historic buildings and re-enactments, it paints a picture of what life would once have been like in 19th and 20th century Iceland. Note that in low season, it’s open during the afternoon only.

Reykjavík fuses urban life with nature, offering breathtaking paths and vistas that reveal Iceland's striking contrasts.

A Northern Alternative: Book a Winter Weekend in Akureyri

The main focus of this article is on Reykjavik, the most popular destination for tourists planning a weekend break in Iceland. However, expect developing interest in Akureyri from European travellers as winter schedules expand at this delightful town from destinations such as London.

After you touch down in Akureyri, consider a stroll along the fjord or book a soak at dreamy Forest Lagoon. Beyond the city, you could go husky sledding on snow or explore pretty Goðafoss waterfall and the Mývatn area. If the aurora makes an appearance, consider that the icing on an already rather lovely cake.

Questions and Answers

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