Reykjavík Basics: Comfortable day tours from Reykjavík

As much as I love my city and all that it offers I also know that most people come to Iceland for the nature. What is so great about Reykjavík though is how close and connected to nature it is. You don’t have to leave the city limits to catch a glimpse of a waterfall or even go fishing but you can do both at Elliðaárdalur valley. If that’s not enough for you and you want something a bit more spectacular,  there are plenty of good routes around Reykjavík that are greatt choices for day excursions out of the city.

Personally I would rent a car for these excursions because I hate being told how much time I can spend in each place, especially if I want to take some photos. The boyfriend can vouch that I take my time. However, most of these tours are also available with tour companies and there of course you have the added benefit of having someone telling you what it is that you are actually looking at. It all depends on what you like. I must admit that I haven’t done a lot of organized bus tours (went once with Reykjavík Excursions to Landmannalaugar, which was actually quite nice) so if you think I’m not doing them justice, feel free to leave me a comment below.

The Golden Circle

A photo of geysir in Haukadalur


The golden circle is the visitor’s mecca in Iceland with amazing waterfalls, geysers, a hint of glaciers and more. The reason it’s so popular is the fact that all those amazing places like Þingvellir, Gullfoss, Geysir and Kerið can be found in a relatively concentrated area – which makes it very convenient to visit if you are short for time. People sometimes ask me whether it worth doing, because it’s “so” touristy, and my answer is always yes. Just don’t expect to be the only one there.

If you want to do something different while driving the Golden Circle, check out the often overlooked Faxi waterfall on the way from Gullfoss to Kerið or enjoy the steam baths at Fontana Spa. Also check out the delicious lobster at the Við Fjöruborið restaurant on the way back.

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The South Coast

Another popular route in the south of Iceland is the south coast. It takes you from Reykjavík all the way to Vík and back, which is roughly 400 km. That seems like a lot of driving but most people are happy to do it because on the way you will find Seljalandsfoss, Skógarfoss, Skógar Folk Museum, Sólheimajökull glacier, Reynisfjara beach and the view from Vík of the wonderful Reynisdrangar. Like always, if you have more time I recommend you take it slower as this is a full 10-12 hour trip.

If you have the time you might want to go glacier hiking or do a snowmobile tour.

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Snæfellsjökull glacier seen from Djúpalónssandur

Snæfellsjökull glacier seen from Djúpalónssandur

Snæfellsnes peninsula is one of my two favorite peninsulas around Reykjavík ( I know, I know, there are only two) and I recommend it to anyone who asks me for a good day tour out of Reykjavík. It doesn’t have any big waterfalls but it has amazing beaches, a mystical glacier, nice hikes and picturesque villages. Take a walk from Arnarstapi to Hellnar and feast on the world famous fish soup at Fjöruhúsið in Hellnar or discover the little waterfall inside Rauðfeldsgjá.

Driving around Snæfellsnes is a full day activity and I really only recommend it on a good day. There are a lot of nice little harbors around Snæfellsnes so if you get one of those gas station fishing poles you might not have to pay for dinner.

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The second one of my two favorite peninsulas is the Reykjanes peninsula. Most people only look at it as the home of the Blue Lagoon and Keflavík Airport but it really is so much more. You can for example stand on a bridge between the two continents or enjoy gorgeous mud pools in Seltún in Krýsuvík. The great Reykjanesviti is always fun to visit and of course Power Plant Earth for the kids. If you are tired after the driving you can always visit the Blue Lagoon on the way back.

I recommend an evening drive to Reykjanes in the early or late summer as it will give you some interesting light to photograph in without it ever getting too dark to enjoy everything. You can decide how long this tour takes by picking and choosing what you want to see along the way.

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Langjökull glacier

Langjökull glacier

Last but not least I must tell you to go visit Borgarfjörður, not only because the boyfriend would kill me if I don’t (he’s from Borgarnes) but also because it’s actually a nice area to visit. Taking the Hvalfjörður route to Borgarfjörður you have an opportunity to take a hike to Iceland’s highest waterfall Glymur and in case that’s not enough waterfalls for you this route also offers Barnafoss and Hraunfossar. Deildartunguhver is the most powerful hot spring in Europe and the Ástapungar in the Geirabakarí bakery in Borgarnes are to die for. You could even go further than the map suggests and drive towards Langjökull glacier or further north towards Bifröst to see Grábrók and Glanni waterfall.

If you are travelling with children, Bjössaróló playground is a must visit and I would also recommend you stop in Borgarnes and take a look around rather than just driving through it. Langisandur in Akranes is also a great stop in summer but it’s a beautiful black sand beach where the brave can go for a swim in the ocean.

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Finally you can also drive all the way to Jökulsárlón in a day but I can’t in good conscience recommend it as a day excursion. It’s doable, and we had a blast doing it, but it’s such a long drive that you  should really try to stretch it for two days at least to really enjoy everything this route offers.

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14 thoughts on “Reykjavík Basics: Comfortable day tours from Reykjavík”

  1. azaffon says:

    Daiily trip: Snæfellsnes or the Golden Circle?

    1. mm Auður says:

      I prefer Snæfellsnes on a good day but I have seen Gullfoss and Geysir a 1000 times.

  2. Lina says:

    We are three Girls and we are in Reykjavik for 6 days. We don’t have a car (we are 18 years old) so we wanted to do everything with busses. Without guide tour if it’s possible, is it possible to do one of the tour you propose with those conditions ?

    Thanks 🙂

  3. Majbritt says:

    My boyfriend and I have a rent car from then we landing at the airport 5 pm the 21 july to 5 pm 23 july there we have to deliver it at Reykjavik Airport. We have already an apartment in Reykjavik for our whole trip from the 21 july to the 26 july. My question is what will you suggest for our 2 ½ day with car?
    I was thinking we take a tour around the Reykjanes peninsula them we are going from the Keflavik Airport to our apartment in Reykjavik. I have also think that on of the other full day should be the golden circle, but should it be the day which has to stop 5 pm and what would you suggest for the other day?

    1. mm Auður says:

      I would recommend the South shore, the Golden circle, the Reykjanes peninsula, West Iceland and Snæfellsnes peninsula. These areas all have something to offer and it really depends on what you are looking for which is best for you. Since you are not bound by accommodation or anything you might also want to wait with deciding and base your decisions on the weather.

  4. Heather says:

    Love the info you have given on day trips from Reykjavik. My husband and I will be there for a week nov 22 to 27. As it is winter then, do you think these routes are still doable. We are from Canada and used to winter driving. Appreciate your advice.

    1. mm Auður says:

      Yeah most of these should be completely doable – some of the roads in Reykjarnes are not maintained very well (like the road to Kleifarvatn) but unless there’s a lot of snow or lot of ice on the roads you should be fine. I’ve been there once when the roads were very ice and even though I’m somewhat used to it I felt a little uneasy in spots.

  5. Marta says:

    Hello Audur!

    Thank you very much for your blog! I have been reading you since last year and just came back from Iceland last October. It is difficult to describe with words your country… it is just amazing!!!!

    We did a tour you recommended with Icelandic Mountain Guides, they were great. I also did a tour to Landmannalaugar with Landmannalaugar Tours ( and I can say it was the highlight of my trip, it is such an amazing place!!!!!

    I just wanted to thank you, your blog has helped a lot!

    (barcelona, spain)

  6. Celeste says:

    Hi there. Thanks so much for all of the information! I’d love to hear more about Landmannalaugar. We’ve planned on going (but can change) and would love to know your thoughts on including it while we’re in Iceland for 5 days… Thanks so much!

  7. Bethany says:

    Are these generally doable last week of March and beginning of April without a 4×4? Thanks!

    1. mm Auður says:

      You can usually do most of these without having to rent a 4×4 all year but of course you might feel more comfortable having one if you are not used to conditions like ours. There’s no way to know what kind of weather you’ll have around this time – it’s still winter though and this winter has been one of the coldest and snow heavy in a while so maybe that’s something to keep in mind too.

  8. Jennifer Joh says:

    Coming to Iceland with my hubby and 2 and 4 year old daughters for one week in August. We are staying the whole time in Reykjavik but rented a car for day trips. What are the better day trips to take? Thanks!

    1. mm Auður says:

      I thought I just answered that with this post 🙂

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