One of the things we do here at I Heart Reykjavík is helping our guests maximize their stay in Iceland, whether they want to make the most of their limited time or stretch their budget to cover more ground.
There are currently 1062 tour operators working in Iceland with a license from the Icelandic tourist board, not to mention the travel agencies and the booking offices (and those working without a licence who should be avoided at all costs), so there’s no wonder that people feel that finding the right tour is more like navigating a treacherous jungle than an enjoyable buffet of options. Like on any expedition in foreign lands it helps to have someone leading the way, pointing out things you didn’t know existed and helping you avoid landmines. And that’s where we come in.
We don’t pretend to know everything about every tour in Iceland, that’s impossible, but we do know a lot and almost certainly know considerably more than a first-time visitor. We also believe in quality over quantity so we don’t work with every single one of those 1062 tour operators. We try to look to partners that offer our guests good value for money and that care about the safety and well-being of our guests and Iceland as a tourist destination.
I’ve always done this, even when it was just me and I hadn’t even started my business yet, but now that we have joined Vakinn (the official quality system for tourism in Iceland) we do this even more systematically. You should see our employee handbook – Monica Geller would be proud!
Recently, I was helping someone put together a plan for their stay in Reykjavík and the requirements I got were the following: Comfortable day hikes, lots of hot springs, solo-traveler-friendly and maybe most importantly: affordability.
As I put together the plan (the guest ended up booking most of what I suggested, with some alterations) I was reminded that you can come to Reykjavík and do affordable day tours out of the city that offer something different than just the standard Golden Circle and South Coast fare. So I thought to myself – why not share this plan with everyone?
You don’t have to book this plan as-is – you can just pick and choose some options and weave it into your own awesome itinerary. At least now you know that these tours exist!
Hiking and hot springs – a five-day summer adventure that won’t break the bank
This itinerary is great for
Solo travelers or friends and couples that want to meet new friends
Those who enjoy a good day hike but are not necessarily experienced hikers
Those who enjoy dipping into a good hot spring
Those looking for a “different take” on Iceland’s hot spots
Those who are in good general health
Day 1 – Arrival and exploring Reykjavík
Like usual, I’m going to assume that you’re arriving with a transatlantic flight from North-America. You can also follow this plan if you’re arriving from Europe but you may have to make some alterations to the first and the last day.
6:00 am – Arrival at Keflavík Airport
Most flights from the US and Canada arrive either around 5 am or 6 am, depending on whether you’re flying with Icelandair, Wow or Delta. Some Delta flights arrive later and I know some WOW fligts from LAX, for example, land in the early afternoon.
The airport can be very busy in the morning but it there’s nothing out of the ordinary going on it will take you about 30-60 minutes from when you land until you’re out of the airport.
7:00 am – Flybus to Reykjavík
If you arrive at 4:30 you would obviously take the bus a little earlier and if you arrive at 6:30 a little later. Whenever you arrive, if you plan to use the Flybus I would recommend you have your ticket ready in advance so you don’t have to stand in line at the airport to buy one. That way you can just grab your bags and jump on the next bus and hopefully be on your way within 20 minutes or so.
If you are running late and you see on the way that you won’t be able to go to your hotel and drop of your luggage before the next part of your plan, you can always store your luggage at the BSÍ and walk or take a taxi from there.
Book your Flybus ticket here
10:00 – The I Heart Reykjavík Walking Tour
In my opinion, and this is of course just my opinion, it strange to visit a city and stay there for a few days without learning a little bit about it. Of course, you can wander on your own and snap some Instagram-worthy photos but if you want to know what it’s like to live in Reykjavík and where you can get yummy food and fresh brews – our Reykjavík walking tour is a great first stop. Because of the small group size and our casual approach, our tour is also a great way for solo travelers to break the ice and meet other travelers at the start of their journey. Amazing friendships have started on our tour and we’re still waiting for a thank-you note in the mail from someone who met their significant other on the tour. The day will come – I’m sure!
If your flight arrives much later than 6:30 it’s probably a good idea to book our tour for 13:00 instead of 10:00, just to be on the safe side. If you need ideas about what to do between arrival and our afternoon tour, just holler and we’ll hook you up.
If our walking tour doesn’t sound like your jam, you could also look into doing the Reykjavík food walk for some local tastes. It’s quite different from our tour, you won’t learn as much about the city itself and life in Iceland, but you’d enjoy some good local food with a friendly guide and hopefully fun fellow travelers.
Book the I Heart Reykjavík walking tour here
It’s our experience, from meeting a lot of people that are comings straight from the airport on our walking tours, that people greatly over-estimate their ability to handle red-eye flights and time difference. People tend to be much more tired than they thought and sometimes even ask us to help them reschedule whatever they had going on for the afternoon.
So my advice is always to keep the afternoon open or do something like our walking tour that is not too demanding. If you feel I’m being a worrying-Wendy for no reason there are plenty of half day activities on offer that you could do after our walking tour and many of them (like the whale watching or horseback riding) can be booked on short notice once you know better how you are feeling.
True to the hot spring theme, a visit to one our local pools might also be in order
Day 2 – Ice and Fire: Glacier hike and hot river
08:30 – Walk through ice and fire
Since the theme of this itinerary is hiking and hot springs, this tour is a perfect fit.
On the Walk through Ice and Fire tour, you will travel to the Hengill geothermal area from where you take an easy hike past a series of beautiful hot springs until you reach Reykjadalur valley. Apart from beautiful views, Reykjadalur valley is known for a hot river that runs through it that you can (and will get time to) bathe in.
From Reykjadalur you will continue on towards the south coast where you’ll visit Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls before you put on your crampons for a glacier walk in Sólheimajökull.
Hike✔️ – Hot spring ✔️ – Beautiful waterfalls as an added bonus ✔️
Book the Walk through Ice and Fire tour here
Day 3 – A taste of the Icelandic highlands
07:00 – Landmannalaugar hiking tour
Landmannalaugar is one of Iceland’s most beautiful areas and it’s particularly popular among hikers. It’s the start of the famous Laugavegur hike (4 days) but the area also offers great opportunities for shorter day hikes.
You will get a transfer from Reykjavík, taking you through some beautiful areas not covered on your other tours, to Landmannalaugar where you’ll do a 4-hour hike around the area. The total distance is 8-10 kilometers and it’s rated 2 out of 5 (moderate) in difficulty. After the hike, you’ll have time to bathe in the natural hot spring the area is famous for.
This is a long day tour (13 hours) but you will get to see a part of Iceland that you don’t see if you only do bus tours around the Golden Circle and South Coast. This tour is also available without the transfer from Reykjavík if you make your own way to Landmannalaugar.
Book the Landmannalaugar hiking tour here
Day 4- Iceland’s highest waterfall and the Golden Circle under the midnight sun
8:30 – Glymur waterfall hiking tour
You will find your way to one of the approved pick up points (don’t worry, we’ll help you choose the right one) and from there you will drive to the beautiful Hvalfjörður or Whale Fjord.
The hike itself will take 2-3 hour and will take you through canyons, birch forests and lava fields. Glymur waterfall, at 198 meters tall, is the highest waterfall in Iceland and this hike is popular with locals and travelers alike.
After the hike, you’ll return to Reykjavík where you’ll get a couple of hours to chill before your next adventure.
Book the Glymur Waterfall hiking tour here
18:00 – Midnight Sun Hot Golden Circle
The Hot Golden Circle is one of our most popular partner tours and in June and July you can book a special midnight sun edition of it. On the tour, you will visit all the main Golden Circle sights: Þingvellir national park, Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir Geothermal area with an additional stop at the Secret Lagoon.
The brilliance of doing it in the evening is that it’s still bright (beacause of the midnight sun) but the attractions tend to have fewer people around. The midnight sun also often offers amazing photo opertunities, with less harsh light than in the middle of the day, so you’re photos will be even better. Good weather cannot be guaranteed though.
Book the Midnight Sun Hot Golden Circle tour here
Day 5: The last hot spring and departure from Iceland
09:00 (or 10:00) – Bus transfer to the Blue Lagoon
I always recommend people to do the Blue Lagoon last because it’s so nice to soak in the warm water after trip full of long travel days. It’s also located on the way to the airport and people tend to not use the last day for anything in particular so you may as well leave the Blue Lagoon till last.
The exact timing of the visit depends on how long you want to stay in the lagoon and when your flight leaves but a 09:00 or 10:00 departure from Reykjavík should be good for those flying out around 17:00 or so. If you book the transfer at 09:00 you’ll book your Blue Lagoon ticket at 10:00 or an hour after the transfer departure.
We recommend the standard package at the Blue Lagoon which includes a towel so you don’t have to carry your wet one with you home. Please remember that your Blue Lagoon ticket is not included with the transfer.
Once you’ve got enough of the Blue Lagoon you’ll simply take the next available bus to the airport which is included in your Blue Lagoon transfer. Please just remember that you need to be at the airport no later than two hours before departure.
Book your Blue Lagoon transfer here
If you enjoy this sample itinerary (or the blog in general) I hope you will consider booking these tours through us. We make a small commission of everything you book through us but you don’t pay anything extra. This small commission allows us to carry on providing excellent, relevant and free travel advice for you and everyone else traveling to Iceland.
If you want us to take care of your booking for you (which is super easy and convenient for you because we take care of everything) you can also send us an e-mail and we’ll get to it ASAP.