The Best Things to Do Near Reykjavik

The Best Things to Do Near Reykjavik

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The Strokkur geyser erupts in the Geysir geothermal area near ReykjavikWhat are the best things to do and places to see within easy reach of Iceland's capital, Reykjavik? Explore the top attractions you can discover on a day trip from Reykjavik. Book the best Reykjavik tours that take you to famous sights on the Golden Circle, South Coast, and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula from the capital.

Many travelers spend a whole holiday in Iceland based in Reykjavik. There is plenty to do in the city itself. You can explore Reykjavik in one day with a city card, which includes entry to museums, galleries, and the capital's geothermal pools at the lowest price. You could also choose from many day trips from Reykjavik which will return you back to the city in the evening.

Most, however, come to Iceland seeking its nature. Thankfully, Reykjavik is on the doorstep of many incredible regions, and whether you plan on booking guided tours or renting a car in Iceland, you can easily witness the beautiful wilderness on day trips.

Read on for the best recommendations of places to visit and things to do near Reykjavik.

The Grotta lighthouse near Reykjavik at sunset

The Golden Circle and Golden Circle Activities 

The Golden Circle is a sightseeing route near Reykjavik covering Thingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, and the Geysir geothermal area. The Golden Circle is the most frequented sightseeing route in all of Iceland, and you can easily visit its attractions in one day.

The Golden Circle focuses on interior landmarks rather than Iceland's coastal attractions. During the winter season, these roads are well-maintained and some of the easiest to travel during snowy months.

As such, there are a great variety of Golden Circle tours that appeal to different travelers. An afternoon tour of the Golden Circle allows you to fit a visit around other plans. More extended trips will enable you to see bonus sites, like this tour featuring a bonus excursion to Kerid, a volcanic crater lake.

Adventure enthusiasts can even combine the sightseeing route with exciting excursions, such as this exciting Golden Circle and snowmobiling tour and this Golden Circle and horseback riding tour.

Gullfoss waterfall is one of three Golden Circle attractions near Rekjavik

Things To Do Near Reykjavik Along the Golden Circle

Thingvellir National Park is the closest major attraction to Reykjavik on the Golden Circle and a great tourist stop. Visitors can walk between two tectonic plates in this beautiful and geologically significant location.

Discover canyons, rivers, rock formations, and impressive attractions like the Silfra fissure

This particular feature is world-famous for its snorkeling. A Silfra snorkeling tour provides an unforgettable experience of swimming through crystal clear, vivid blue waters while staying warm in a dry suit.

Thingvellir also appeals to history buffs. The Althingi, Iceland's parliament, was based here in the 10th and 18th centuries, making this a culturally and historically significant attraction. The Althingi is one of the longest-running ongoing parliaments in the world.

Thingvellir National Park on the Golden Circle route near Reykjavik during fallThingvellir is 29 miles (47 kilometers) from the capital. 

The Geysir geothermal area is the second site on the Golden Circle, a further 37 miles (59 kilometers) along the route. Here you can witness the power of geothermal energy in the Haukadalur valley, including the incredible Strokkur geyser. 

This attraction erupts every five to ten minutes and can reach heights of 20 meters (66 feet). The Great Geyser, which gave its name to all similar features in the English language, sits beside Strokkur but is currently inactive.

The Geysir geothermal area is one of three attractions on Iceland's Golden Circle driving route.Gullfoss waterfall, also known as the Golden Falls, is the third and final attraction on the Golden Circle, just six miles (10 kilometers) further. This 105-foot (32-meter) tall waterfall is jaw-dropping whether you visit during summer or winter.

The cascade is broken into two tiers, and the rising spray can create beautiful rainbows in the sun.

If you are driving the Golden Circle but still want to snowmobile, book a tour from Gullfoss and travel along the beautiful slopes of Langjokull glacier.

The powerful Gullfoss waterfall is part of the Golden Circle route near Reykjavik

Best Golden Circle Detours

The Kerid crater lake is one of two popular detours that aren't official stops along the Golden Circle. The stark contrast of red rock against bright blue water makes for outstanding year-round photo opportunities.

Faxi waterfall is one of the more off-the-beaten-path destinations along the Golden Circle. Falling from 23 feet (seven meters), this isn't one of Iceland's tallest waterfalls, but it stretches 262 feet (80 meters) wide across the Tungufljot river.

Other hidden gems and fun things to do while traveling the Golden Circle include visiting the Secret Lagoon or booking a scuba diving tour of Silfra.

The Silfra fissure in Thingvellir National Park has perfect clear water for snorkeling and diving

The South Coast and South Coast Activities 

The South Coast of Iceland features beautiful views of Iceland's waterfalls, mountains, black sand beaches, and lush valleys. It's easily accessible from Reykjavik along the Ring Road

To get to the top destinations in the south of Iceland, you'll need to rent a car or book from a wide range of South Coast tours. You can visit many destinations on day trips from Reykjavik or see them on your way to attractions in East Iceland as you encircle the country.

A full-day South Iceland tour from Reykjavik or a 12-hour trip with glacier hiking lets you explore the region and check off multiple destinations for an affordable price. If you want a full day out, try a day tour, including the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon.

The aurora borealis lights up the night sky over Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon

Things To Do Near Reykjavik in South Iceland

The South Coast of Iceland is a great place to find fun things to do. Whether searching for scenic spots to take photos or looking for the best hiking, ATV, or paragliding tours, there are options for every type of travel style. 

Waterfalls, Beaches, and Quaint Villages of South Iceland

Take a shuttle ride to the Solheimasandur plane wreck, where in the early 1970s, a US Navy plane crashed onto the black sand beach. In 2016, Justin Beiber shot a music video on top of the aircraft, bringing it global recognition. 

However, the rusted metal is sharp, and the attraction is remote, so you are not recommended to climb on it.

Solheimasandur, the DC plane wreck is a famous attraction on Iceland's South Coast.Seljalandsfoss waterfall is a must-visit if you're looking for fun things to do near Reykjavik. While Iceland has many waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss is a waterfall you can walk behind. The small cave behind the waterfall keeps you relatively dry as you snap photos from the other side of the rushing water. 

Just 546 yards (500 meters) down the road from Seljalandsfoss waterfall is the impressive but lesser-visited Gljufrabui waterfall

These sites are around 80 miles (128 kilometers) from Reykjavik.

You can walk behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall on Iceland's South Coast for a unique perspective of the pristine falls.Skogafoss waterfall is a further 19 miles (30 kilometers) along the South Coast and is a bucket list spot for many travelers. This waterfall on the South Coast of Iceland is nearly 200 feet (60 meters) tall.

Visitors can enjoy snapping photos of the beautiful scenery from the waterfall's baser or hike up the staircase and see the top of the falls and panoramas of the surrounding landscapes.

Reynisfjara black sand beach on Iceland's South Coast

Reynisfjara beach is a black sand beach worth visiting when sightseeing along South Iceland's coast. This famous beach has natural rock formations called the Reynisdrangar sea stacks, which are said to be frozen trolls in folklore.

This beautiful beach in Southern Iceland has been a backdrop for famous movies and shows like Star Wars and Game of Thrones.

Reynisfjara beach is 116 miles (187 kilometers) from Reykjavik, so it can easily be visited in a day. 

Near Reynisfjara Beach is the village of Vik, which is worth a stop for its convenient location and beautiful surroundings. It's a lovely place to spend the night in between adventurous days exploring.

Jokulsarlon is a great attraction in Iceland's south.Travel further along the South Coast from Vik, and you'll reach two more incredible destinations, the Skaftafell Nature Reserve and the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. However, these destinations are not particularly 'near Reykjavik' but can be reached and returned from in a day by ambitious travelers. 

Skaftafell is a hiker's paradise, surrounded by spectacular glaciers and filled with woodlands, lava fields, and rivers. This reserve is 203 miles (326 kilometers) from the capital. Meanwhile, Jokulsarlon is a vast lake filled with enormous icebergs, a further 25 miles (57 kilometers) from Skaftafell.

Both these features are part of Iceland's largest national park, Vatnajokull, which is named after the Vatnajokull glacier, the biggest ice cap in Europe.

Skaftafellsjokull glacier is one of South Iceland's many natural treasures.

Puffin Watching in South Iceland During Summer

Dyrholaey is the southernmost point of mainland Iceland and is one of the best places to go puffin-watching in Iceland. In the summer, puffins roost here in large numbers along the Dyrholaey cliffs. 

Visit the Dyrholaey lighthouse for an impressive lookout point over the ocean and the sweeping landscapes. The Dyrholaey lava rock arch is a prominent feature here that tourists can walk along if they are brave enough. 

A picturesque vista of the Dyrholaey lava rock arch in South Iceland

Glaciers, Ice Caves, and More

Solheimajokull glacier is one of the most popular glaciers in Iceland. Check it out if you're looking for fun things to do near Reykjavik on a day tour from the city. Those who travel further along the South Coast may prefer to climb the glaciers in the spectacular Skaftafell Nature Reserve.

The former ice cap has better views of the South Coast in clear weather and is closer to Reykjavik, while the latter usually has more interesting formations.

The mighty Vatnajokull glacier is home to several outlet glaciers and a prime spot for adventurous activities, such as glacier hiking and ice caving.The ice caves above Katla volcano in South Iceland are one of the best places to go ice caving in Iceland. Although they don't have blue ice, they're accessible year-round, unlike many other ice caves you can only visit during winter. 

Don't miss an ice-caving excursion at the Myrdalsjokull glacier, such as this three-hour Super Jeep tour exploring the glacier and an ice cave.

The crystal blue ice caves mentioned above are found near Jokulsarlon, so they can be accessed from Reykjavik by those willing to spend most of the day on the road.

The Myrdalsjokull glacier is the perfect place for an ice caving excursion in South IcelandIf you don't want to spend hours traveling in a car from Reykjavik, then drive just 31 miles (51 kilometers) to the Reykjadalur valley in South Iceland. This area is most famous for its geothermal river that you can bathe in.

You can take a scenic horseback riding tour to this area or book a rejuvenating hiking and hot spring tour with a transfer from Reykjavik. 

Visitors to Iceland can go on a horse riding tour of the countryside to get to know these friendly animals.

The Snaefellsnes Peninsula and Snaefellsnes Activities 

The Snaefellsnes peninsula is one of the best places to explore if you're starting in Reykjavik and want to see more amazing attractions and some Game of Thrones filming locations.

The Snaefellsnes peninsula is northwest of Reykjavik and is nicknamed Iceland in miniature because of its diversity. You can witness stunning diverse landscapes as you learn more about Icelandic culture in this region alone.

You can drive the route in a day or two or book from a range of Snaefellsnes tours.

Explore the Snaefellsnes peninsula on a small group day tour with Reykjavik transfer, or book a two-day excursion including lava caving.

The lava fields of the Snaefellsnes peninsula near Reykjavik

Things To Do Near Reykjavik in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

The Snaefellsnes peninsula is best known for the Snaefellsjokull National Park and its many attractions, including the famous Snaefellsjokull glacier. The Snaefellsjokull National Park is one of the best national parks in Iceland.

Inside the Snaefellsjokull National Park are Hellnar village, the Songhellir cave, Arnarstapi village, the Londrangar sea stacks, and the Vatnshellir cave. These natural wonders and panoramic viewpoints make Snaefellsjokull an unmissable destination close to Reykjavik.

The park is approximately 122 miles (197 kilometers) from the capital and is the most distant destination of the peninsula.

The black houses in Hellnar village on the Snaefellsnes peninsula produce a striking contrast against the colorful sky.

The Snaefellsjokull Glacier

The Snaefellsjokull glacier is the same glacier found in the 1864 science fiction novel "A Journey to the Center of the Earth" by Jules Verne. This 700,000-year-old glacier is actually atop a volcano, which is part of why Iceland is called the land of fire and ice. 

If you're adventurous, enjoy a snowcat glacier tour and explore the breathtaking scenery of Iceland from a 4x4 Jeep. 

Mount Kirkjufell

Mount Kirkjufell is one of the most photographed mountains in Iceland because it has a unique cone shape and is close to picturesque waterfalls. The mountain is adorned with lush greenery in the summer seasons, while it is covered in snow for striking photographs in the winter. 

Kirkjufell mountain on the Snaefellsnes peninsula near Reykjavik is a much-loved photography locationMount Kirkjufell's peak is 1519 feet (463 meters) high. Visitors can enjoy it on a private jeep or kayaking tour. Mount Kirkjufell became more popular as a tourist destination after Season seven of Game of Thrones used it as a filming location. 

Gorgeous Churches and Villages

Photographing Budir Church is one of the top things to do on the Snaefellsnes peninsula for anyone who enjoys photography. The Budir church is a black church boasting a moody mountain backdrop touched by fog.

Budir church is a stunning photography location on the Snaefellsnes peninsula, especially with the vibrant northern lights shining above.Located on the southern side of the peninsula, this is a quick but must-visit stop for professional and amateur photographers alike. 

Arnarstapi is a village set at the foot of Mount Stapafell. The settlement and surrounding area offer some of the most awe-inspiring coastal walks. 

The rugged moss-covered coastline at Arnastapi harbor on the Snaefellsnes peninsula.

Beaches and More

Ytri Tunga beach is unique among Iceland's beaches. Instead of the typical black sand, Ytri Tunga is one of Iceland's few golden sand beaches. Aside from the golden sand, this beach also hosts a colony of seals that can be seen year-round.

Ytri Tunga beach is one of the best seal-watching beaches near Reykjavik. 

Other fun things on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula include whale and seal-watching tours. Take a whale-watching trip from Olafsvik or a puffin-watching excursion from Stykkisholmur.

Londrangar cliffs on the Snaefellsnes peninsula in West Iceland

West Iceland 

West Iceland is a somewhat off-the-beaten-track travel destination because most travelers prioritize exploring the Snaefellsnes peninsula. With fewer tourists, you can discover some of Iceland's hidden gems as you learn about the history of Iceland.

Rent a car and explore yourself, or enjoy the company of a guide on a small group tour from Reykjavik.

Things To Do Near Reykjavik in West Iceland

West Iceland boasts impressive sites worth checking out near the capital city. Because this region is so close to Reykjavik, you'll be able to tick more impressive sites off your bucket list by traveling less far.

A rushing river at Husafell in West Iceland, a lesser-visited, yet stunning part of the country.Borgarnes is a small coastal town and historic settlement north of Reykjavik. This picturesque town has ocean and mountain views and colorful houses lined along the scenic shores. The Settlement Center in town features stories about Iceland's early settlement, perfect for history buffs. 

Borgarnes is 47 miles (76 kilometers) from Reykjavik.

Hraunfossar waterfall and Barnafoss waterfall, about 37 miles (59 kilometers) further, are within walking distance of one another yet are nothing like twin waterfalls.

Hraunfossar waterfall features several cascades that stream down the lava rocks into a serene river. Meanwhile, the Barnafoss waterfall powerfully tumbles into a raging river surrounded by jagged lava rocks. 

Hraunfossar waterfall cascades down lava rocks in West Iceland

Deildartunguhver hot spring is the highest-flowing hot spring in Europe and an impressive example of what geothermal energy can do. Nearby is the Krauma geothermal spa, where visitors can enjoy soaking in the warm water.

If experiencing luxury in Iceland sounds like your style, choose a tour of West Iceland that includes the entrance fee to the Krauma spa. 

Some other best things to do near Reykjavik in West Iceland include lava caving, exploring the Langjokull glacier, and visiting Reykholt village.

West Iceland boasts a unique volcanic landscape where you can explore underground on a lava caving adventure.Check out this family-friendly one-hour lava caving tour or discover a fascinating ice tunnel inside Langjokull on a 2.5-hour tour. This ice tunnel is the only one of its kind in the world, constructed by hand and machine to provide insight into the glaciers.

The Reykjanes Peninsula 

The Reykjanes peninsula looks like a barren lunar landscape but is brimming with natural wonders and top attractions. If you want to see volcanoes in Iceland and visit the country's most famous geothermal spa, Reykjanes is the place to be! 

Luckily, it is the closest sightseeing route to Reykjavik, beginning on the city's outskirts, and there are plenty of Reykjanes tours to choose from.

Explore the volcanic landscapes of the Reykjanes peninsula on different volcano tours, a Blue Lagoon spa tour, or a private Reykjanes peninsula guided tour from Reykjavik

A moss-covered volcanic landscape on the Reykjanes peninsula near Reykjavik

Things To Do Near Reykjavik in the Reykjanes Peninsula

The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is one of the most sought-out things to do near Reykjavik in the Reykjanes peninsula. Even celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, and Jay Z have enjoyed geothermal bathing at this luxury spa.

The Blue Lagoon is 31 miles (50 kilometers) southwest of Reykjavik. Visitors can enjoy facials with silica masks, soothing natural hot spring water, steam rooms, and saunas at this luxury geothermal spa. 

You can do Blue Lagoon tours to or from the airport. Or add them to a tour of the Reykjanes peninsula.

The luxury Blue Lagoon geothermal spa on the Reykjanes peninsula is one of Iceland's top attractions

Visit The Fagradalsfjall Volcano and Litli-Hrutur Eruption Site

The 2023 Litli-Hrutur eruption site is another must-visit location on the Reykjanes peninsula. The eruption started on July 10th and lasted for about a month, but in that short time, it drastically changed its surrounding landscape with a new lava field and volcanic crater. There was another eruption later that year at Sundhnukagigar volcano, which lasted for three days, but it has been followed by regular but short volcanic eruptions in the same area.

It's located next to the Fagradalsfjall volcano, which was active in 2021 and 2022, grabbing international attention with its beautiful plumes of lava. The 2021 eruption in Iceland took place in the Geldingadalur valley, about half a mile (one kilometer) from the site of the 2022 eruption in Meradalir.

Be aware that because of constantly changing conditions in the area, access may be closed off for short periods for public safety. Make sure to check the SafeTravel website before starting your trip. Always respect the safety closures and plan your trip for another day if needed.

If the area is open, you can hike to the volcano or choose a guided tour for optimal safety. Tour options around the Litli-Hrutur and Fagradalsfjall volcanos include a hiking tour with Blue Lagoon admission or a guided bus tour from Reykjavik. You can also get a birds-eye view of the eruption site with a helicopter tour of the volcano area.

Fagradallsfjall is an active volcano on the Reykjanes peninsula near Reykjavik

Fascinating Landmarks and Geothermal Areas

The Bridge Between the Continents is another noteworthy landmark on the Reykjanes Peninsula. The North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are connected via a bridge backdropped by lava landscapes. 

The Gunnuhver geothermal area is in the southwest Reykjanes peninsula and features various fumaroles and mud pools. Krysuvik is another geothermal area near Reykjavik with several mud pots, steaming vents, and hot springs to explore.

West Iceland is home to several geothermal areas, with boiling mud pits and steaming fumaroles.Lake Kleifarvatn is a scenic lake on the Reykjanes peninsula. It's close to Reykjavik, so it's worth checking out if you have the time. Lake Kleifarvatn is the largest lake in this region and is an excellent spot for panoramic photos of mountains and water. 

You'll know you've reached the southernmost tip of the Reykjanes peninsula when you see the Reykjanesviti lighthouse. This white lighthouse guarding the land of ice and fire is the country's oldest. 

All these sites are within 43 miles (69 kilometers) of Reykjavik.

A picturesque road in Iceland with a church and mountains in the distance, and purple flowers lining the road.

The Northern Lights outside Reykjavik

Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland, and though you can see the northern lights from the city, the best views are away from the light pollution. Booking one of the many northern lights tours available is one of the best things to do near Reykjavik if spotting this spectacular phenomenon in the sky is on your travel bucket list. 

Seeing the northern lights is one of the top things do do near Reykjavik in winterThe northern lights in Iceland are one of the significant reasons travelers flock to the country during the winter season. The aurora borealis in Iceland can appear between September and March whenever the sky falls dark.

During June and July, the sun is out for 24 hours, so there is no chance to see the northern lights. April, May, and August are often too bright to see them too. Winter in Iceland may bring snow and below-freezing temperatures, but it is the only time to go northern lights hunting from Reykjavik. 

The breathtaking northern lights are a bucket list attraction for winter travelers to Iceland.Northern lights tours depart from Reykjavik regularly. Since these beautiful lights dancing in the sky are unpredictable, tour schedules have no set agenda. When the northern lights are out, tours bring you away from Reykjavik's light pollution so you can enjoy the view. 

Enjoy winter in Reykjavik with an affordable northern lights tour, a private northern lights tour, or a northern lights cruise

If you want to better your chances of witnessing the aurora borealis, embark on a multi-day northern lights tour. You can see them dance over impressive landmarks by pairing top attractions near Reykjavik with a northern lights tour. 

Reykjanes sea cliffs under the northern lights during winter

Things to do Near Reykjavik | In Conclusion

There are endless attractions to visit with easy access from Reykjavik. Whether you take day trips from the capital city or embark on a multi-day adventure near Reykjavik, you won't run out of things to do. The Snaefellsnes peninsula, West Iceland, South Iceland, and the Reykjanes peninsula all offer a wealth of things to do near Reykjavik.

Book your holiday to experience the opportunities today.

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