Iceland’s popularity grew up dramatically in the past few years but I only got the chance to visit recently. The land of fire and ice is absolutely stunning and definitely needs time exploring! Whilst many stay there for over a week, many others choose to stick with a city-break. As I am limited with time, I went for a city-break in Reykjavik. As a base, Reykjavik is ideal to make great discoveries around Iceland and see some highlights like the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon.
City: Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik City Break
To start with, Reykjavik is the capital and biggest city of Iceland. Two thirds of Icelandic people live there making up a population of around 200,000. Looking at these numbers, it sounds like the city is very small but in reality it is very large. Driving in Reykjavik comes with a rush hour traffic and long drives as the city is very spread out! There is space between buildings and lot of emptiness in between houses. Expect long walks and drives if you are not staying in the city centre.
Reykjavik is an ideal hub for a short Iceland city break. I spent 3 nights there from Friday to Monday. On Friday evening, I went out for dinner in the city centre. On Saturday, I did a full-day tour of the Golden Circle and the evening at the Secret Lagoon. On Sunday, I went to the Blue Lagoon. Finally, on Monday before my flight, I had the opportunity to discover Reykjavik’s highlights. On the program was a Northern Lights tour but I didn’t get any chance to see the auroras.
The city is well connected with buses travelling to points of interest with many tour companies proposing pick-ups and drop-offs. I used a combination of many tour companies like Sterna Travel (my favourite!), Gray Line and Reykjavik Excursions (my least favourite). Overall, I enjoyed my base in Reykjavik and went out exploring what Iceland has to offer from within a 100 miles radius of the capital city.
Golden Circle: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir and Gullfoss.
The Golden Circle Tour is the most popular day trip from Reykjavik. The tour visits highlights from Iceland’s top attractions. I went with Sterna Travel, it was a very well organised tour company with a very nice and fun guide. I forgot his name but he said to call him Wall-E if I can’t pronounce his Icelandic name. The tour takes only a small group of 20 people and includes a stop at the Secret Lagoon after the Golden Circle.
The first stop was Thingvellir National Park. It is where the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia meet. It is a very interesting stop as it tells more about the geology of the island and its distant future history as both plates are expected to shift apart. For now, go visit Iceland before it becomes two islands!
The next stop of the tour was Geysir, it’s a famous geothermal area in Iceland where boiling water from the ground splashes jets of water into the sky, reaching heights of up to 40 meters. It is a great show as tourists in the area wait patiently (with their cameras and selfie sticks of course) to cheer up when the jets of water appears. I had the opportunity to see it twice during our stop there. I also had a buffet lunch at the restaurant in the area, it was priced at £30, for all-you-can-eat. I think it’s a bargain for Iceland prices… The night before in Reykjavik, I had a simple chicken pasta for £20 without any drinks or desserts!
The final stop of the Golden Circle is the Gullfoss Waterfall. It is also known as the Golden Waterfall. The day I visited, weather conditions were not very favourable as it was during a snowstorm and visibility was minimal, so I didn’t see the waterfall properly in all its glory. The snow was hiding it but I could hear the water splashing down.
That’s it for the Golden Circle but I took an extension for the evening with a visit of the Secret Lagoon. It’s a small and intimate lagoon, known as the oldest swimming pool in Iceland. Very warm water, so warm I couldn’t stay over 30 minutes inside! But very relaxing after!
Sunrise swim at the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is honestly one of the reasons why I went to Iceland. I saw all these photos and videos online from people who went. I was so happy to see it in front of my eyes… UNFILTERED! I can assure you that it is as great as it looks on fancy brochures and high profile Instagramer’s pictures.
The Blue Lagoon requires prior booking from their official website, they offer 1 hour time slots for arrivals but you can stay as long as you wish. These time slots gets filled up very quickly due to the popularity of this attraction. I wanted Sunday at 10 am but it was booked days ago, luckily, I learnt that sometimes people cancel their visits so slots become available. I checked every now and then until I found the 10 am slot.
Why 10 am slot? I wanted to see sunrise! In winter, sun rises at around 11 am in Iceland. It was perfect time to be in the Blue Lagoon. It was a windy and cloudy day but I still enjoyed the warm blue waters. I highly recommend and I think it’s a perfect stop on any Reykjavik city breaks!
Have you ever been to Iceland?