Many visitors to Iceland choose to base themselves out of Reykjavik for the duration of their stay. If you’re on a smaller budget and don’t want to rent a car, if you have only a few days in the country, or if your visit coincides with the darkest days of winter and you just don’t want to hassle with driving on snowy roads, this is a great option. And luckily, there is still a ton to see and do just outside of Reykjavik, and dozens of tour companies tomake all the arrangements for you. Here are just a few of the great options for day tours from Reykjavik.
There are dozens of horseback riding farms in the greater Reykjavik area, and for a small fee, most will pick you up and transport you to the farm for an hour or a half/full day of riding all year round. No experience is required, and they’ll provide all the gear. All you need to do is wear long pants and sturdy shoes, preferably with a heel. Many tour agencies, like Reykjavik Excursions, also offer combined tours that feature a ride on an Icelandic horse with some sightseeing or a stop at the Blue Lagoon.
The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle encompasses three of Iceland’s most famous natural wonders – Thingveller, Geysir, and Gulfoss. You can make the drive yourself of join an organized tour. And there are plenty to choose from. You can see all three, two of the three, or combine one of the sights of the Golden Circle with other activities like visiting the Blue Lagoon, horseback riding, or snowmobiling. Most tours of the Golden Circle take 6-9 hours (though some “express” tours are offered) and may or may not include lunch and additional stops. Prices range from 9,000 to 11,000 ISK and the tours are offered year round.
The Blue Lagoon
Iceland’s most iconic tourist attraction, the Blue Lagoon is usually a must-stop on any visitor’s itinerary. If you’re staying in Reykjavik, you’ll find no shortage of options for getting to the Blue Lagoon. You can go out for a few hours, stay overnight, or arrange for a stop on your way to or from the nearby Keflavik International Airport.
See the other-worldlyLandmannalaugar Valley, wander the lava fields and see the bird cliffs of the Reykjanes peninsula, drive along the south shore to Vik, or (in summer only) journey to the Snæfellsnes peninsula to see the Snaefellsjökull glacier, cruise through Breiðafjörður bay, and see the charming fishing villages of the area.
This is Ice-land after all, so of course, walking or even snowmobiling on a glacier is one of the outdoor adventure options. Various tour operators will take guests to the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, Sólheimajökull glacier, or Langjökull glacier. Many of these tours can be combined with ice-climbing or with Super Jeep tours of the Golden Circle. Prices quoted are generally for two adults per snowmobile (single ride costs extra) and you must have a valid driver’s license to ride the snowmobile.
Though the dancing Northern Lights are occasionally visible from Reykjavik on exceptionally clear winter days, you’re best bet for seeing them is to get away from the city. You can drive yourself into Thingvellir National Park, or hire a guide company to take you to a prime viewing spot. Though there’s no guarantee you’ll actually see the lights on a given night, many companies offer extras like lobster dinner with the tour, so the evening won’t be a complete wash.
Snorkeling at Silfra
Silfra lake, in Thingvellir National Park, holds some of the clearest water in the world. It runs off a glacier and then filters through volcanic ash to arrive in the lake, which sits over the Mid-Atlantic rift that runs through the country. Divers get to go into the crack, but snorkelers still get an incredible sight as they float above. No snorkeling experience is required and all gear – including dry suits to keep you warm and mostly dry in the freezing water – are provided. Many snorkel tours can be combined with snowmobiling or cave explorations.
ATV and Super Jeep tours
Ride ATVs in the Josefsdalur valley (about 30 minutes from Reykjavik) or over the Úlfarsfell and Hafrafell mountains (less than 10 minutes from the city) or even learn how to drive a Super Jeep over Iceland’s rugged landscape. Most are offered year round and require no previous skill, only a driver’s license.
During summer months only, visitors can go rafting on Hvita or on Iceland’s class 4 river, the Holmsa, both of which are less than an hour from Reykjavik. Tour operators pick up and drop off and provide all the gear and training. First-timers are welcome, though you must be 12 years or older to participate.
The Sagas tell the story of the settlement and early days of Iceland and, to this day, are an important part of life of Iceland. Dig a little deeper into the Icelandic culture with a tour concentrated on the Icelandic sagas. Reykjavik Excursions offers one that visits the site of Borgarfjordur, the Icelandic Settlement centre exhibition in Borgarnes, and Reykholt, the home of Noridc poet and historian Snorri Sturluson.
You can also learn a but more about Iceland’s drinking culture with a brewery tour from Gray Line Iceland. Visit Iceland’s oldest brewery and taste several varieties of Icelandic beer, along with the local liquor, Brennivin.
Air Iceland tours
Air Iceland also makes it possible for you to see a completely different side of Iceland in one day. The carrier offers one-day tours to the Westman Islands, Akureyri, Isafjordur and more. Most tours take 8-12 hours and include the short flights to and from Reykjavik.
Ever since Eyjafjallyokull began erupting in late March, volcano tours have risen in popularity in Iceland. The country is home to dozens of active volcanoes, though it’s most famous – and very hard to pronounce – seems to be the star attraction. There are plenty of our operators who will bring up close to the volcano.