🌎Currency: Icelandic króna (ISK)
🌎Zone: 0 GMT
🌎Phone Code: +354
🌎Best time to visit: May-Sept (countryside and city tourism). Dec-Feb (Northern lights and snow scenery).
🌎Must eat: Sea food soup / Hot Dog / Skyr
🌎Must drink: Icelandic Beer
🌎Don't miss: Blue lagoon / Catching the Nothern Lights!
🗺 Menu of Contents: Iceland
|🛬 Getting there and transportation|
|⛅️ Climate and Temperature|
|🍴 Food and Drink|
|📝 Author's Comment|
|🏰 What to see and do|
|⛰️ Places of interest out of Reykjavik|
|🌟 The Northen Lights|
Due to it's location in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and Iceland being an island, it's a natural choice to fly there. Icelandair is the official airline of the country and provides a very good connection in Iceland between North American and Europe. Other airlines when flying on a budget also offer good flights to it's capital, Reykjavik, for example Wow Air (Iceland's low cost airline), easyJet, or Wizz Air offer cheaper flights when booked online in advance. Also it's worth to mention that Air Iceland Connect, is another airline based in Iceland and offers domestic flights as well as flights to the UK and Greenland.
Once in the country travelling around Iceland is done mainly by road, the infrastructure, the terrain, the weather and the amount of people in the country is not enough to establish a viable transport system by train. Domestic flights are a popular way to travel if you have limited time in the country, although they can be expensive. It's not a surprise then, that people are very self-efficient in Iceland, most own a car and independently travel at their leisure.
However for visitors and travelers, the limitation of public transport means that's its only possible to travel around Iceland either driving, by selected buses (see map below) or by taking a tour. (the most practical and common way to see the country). In the big cities buses are the main form of public transport, they are punctual and not at all crowded, but most have limited timetables.
Despite it's name, Iceland, is not always "ice cold". However, it's mostly cool, located north of the Atlantic Ocean, thanks to the warm Gulf Stream. Summers are short but bright and the best time to visit is late May to early September to enjoy most of the sunlight and experience cooler temperatures around 15-20C! Though coastal areas can be around 10-15C. Average daily sunshine in July and August is 5-6 hours and during the summer months even the nights are bright. On clear days you can have 24 hours of daylight and even see the midnight sun near the Arctic Circle. However, the weather is extremely changeable and unpredictable so you should always be prepared for the unexpected.
If you are looking to see the Northern Lights, the time to visit is from September through to March. Icelandic winters are not as cold as you might expect and the winter is in many ways a more interesting time to visit Iceland. Winter's in Iceland are not "polar" so don't expect extreme weather. Average temperatures generally don't go below -10C, when in fact most of the time it is only below zero. In recent years, with global warming, it's possible to be in Iceland with around 2 or 3C in January! If you visit Iceland in the winter, dress for snow, wind and rain, you will need a good coat, hat, gloves, rain proof gear and comfortable shoes for trekking.
Icelandic cuisine owes much to Scandinavian and European influences. The star product on every table is fresh fish, it can be had all year round. Icelanders eat mostly haddock, cod, plaice, halibut, herring and shrimp, but Icelandic salmon, lobster and Arctic char are also very good. The lamb, which is reared locally, is free range, organic and extremely tasty. Home-grown vegetables are typically reared in greenhouses heated by the natural steam from geysers. It’s one reason why food can be more expensive than you would expect. Fresh, is key in Iceland, and many products are locally produced or manufactured. Dairy products are also very common, skyr being the most renowned item consumed by the locals every day. Hot drinks are also popular in Iceland, specially coffee to start the day and face the colder temperatures outside. Beer and spirits are also common and many are locally brewed. Below you can see the most iconic dishes or specialties in Iceland:
Other dishes popular in iceland are: Fermented Shark: Known by the locals as hakarl, it is still the national dish of Iceland. While not widely consumed by locals, it is just one of those things you need to taste in order to proclaim that you experienced Iceland to the fullest.Hakarl is made by fermenting and drying the meat of a Greeland shark or a sleeper shark for months. It has a strong smell of ammonia, but the taste is milder than the smell, albeit still a bit fishy. Commonly served with a shot of a local spirit known as brennivin. Puffin: A national dish of the Westman Islands, Puffin, like hakarl, is not widely consumed, yet it is often associated with Icelandic cuisine. For preparation, this seabird is usually smoked or boiled in milk, in order to remove excess oil. It is regarded as a delicacy and is on menus throughout the country. Fish stew: or plokkfiskur, is a traditional Icelandic dish usually made from boiled cod or haddock mashed together with a white sauce, onions, and potatoes. The fish consumed on this island nation is always fresh, and this popular stew is no exception. To try this dish, visit either the Saegreifinn restaurant or the Fish and More restaurant, which are both located in Reykjavik. Fish stew is generally served with traditional rye bread and butter.
As for drinks the most common drinks are: Brennivin, a local Icelandic spirit similar to unsweetened schnapps. It is widely considered to be the country’s national alcoholic beverage. It has a taste comparable to vodka and is the quintessential celebration or special occasion shot. Beers, by law, beverages in Iceland could only contain up to 2.25-percent alcohol until 1989. Because of this, light beer became a popular beverage choice. While prohibition in Iceland no longer exists, stronger beers are now more popular and can be found at many bars and restaurants. But it is still harder to find higher grade in many grocery stores. A popular Icelandic beer is Egils Gull.
Food and drink source: blog.go-today.com
The world’s most northerly capital, Reykjavík, has a sense of space and calm that comes as a breath of fresh air to travellers accustomed to the hassle and bustle of the traffic-clogged streets in Europe’s other major cities. Although small for a capital, Reykjavík is a large metropolis compared with Iceland’s other built-up areas. Reykjavik has a bustling port, an important gateway to the country. The city is centre for culture and places to see with its highbrow museums and a buzzing nightlife. It is well prepared for the many visitors that come to the city as the starting point for discovering the country's nature, glaciers and the famous northern lights. Now tourism is one of the main sources of income to many companies in the city and iceland. With numerous flights and new hotels, Reykjavik is a great place to start your holiday in Iceland!
When arriving to Reykjavik by air, there are two airports which cause confusion and should not be mistaken. There are quite close to each other but they each serve very different destinations.
1-The best transport is the Flybus express service, which offers a quick and punctual service linking the airport to the city centre's main terminal at Umferðarmiðstöðin Bus Terminal (BSÍ). Tickets cost €20 one way and can be bought online at Flybus. If you then require a drop off service to nearby your hotel there is an extra 950 ISK to pay. (€7 approx).
2-The Airport Direct service company is a cheaper option, for €15 one way, AirportDirect, drops you off at their terminal, which is 1.1 KM away from the main city centre terminal (BSI). If you need to connect to a "drop off bus" service, you will have to pay 950 ISK more, (€7 approximately).
3-The third company offering services to Reyjkvik city is GreyLine. The express transfer is quicker at only 45 minutes for €18 to €20 one way. The GreyLine terminal is located at Viðey Ferry Terminal, which is 4.5 KM away from the city centre. Then you need to transfer to a drop of bus which takes you to Safnahúsið / The Culture House - Bus stop 6, located in the city centre. As well they offer Hotel drop off's for an additional cost. (€6 more).
4-There are also public busses which run from the airport to the city's centre bus station, Umferðarmiðstöðin (BSÍ), taking around 75 minutes. Route 55 runs Monday to Friday for 1840 ISK, with departures at limited times (early morning and afternoon till 18.42 only). On weekends and public holidays you need to take bus 55 to the final stop Fjörður and change to bus 1 (In direction to Hlemmur), which runs every 30 minutes and goes as well directly into the city centre. (timetables for the busses from Keflavik airport are provided below).
Attention! There are several companies offering shuttles services from/to the airport. Some of these services don't finish at the main city terminal (BSI). When buying tickets (online or in person) you will get a bus transfer from the airport to the bus terminal and if you want a drop off service closer to your accommodation, you will need to pay 950 ISK (€7 approx) extra for this transfer from any of the bus terminals. It's recommended you get the Flybus service for easier connections, as their terminal is closer to the city centre. Also purchasing a return trip will save you 10% normally from any express bus company.
Public transport in the city centre is mainly by bus. There are many routes and services connecting the city centre to the outskirts of Reykjavik. However busses don't run so frequently, as other European capitals, so it's a good idea to check timetables before you travel. The single fare in Reykjavik is 460 ISK, one day pass is 1.700 ISK and a 3 day pass is 4.000 ISK for the Reykjavik city area. (one zone). Single tickets are valid for 75 minutes from activation.
TIP: Use the Strætó App: It's the mobile application for Reykjavik's public bus system and it gives you the facilities to check timetables, real time bus information and buy tickets from your smartphone device. For more information on the public transport in Reykjavik check this link.
Reykjavik, offers a surprising variety of cultural and social happenings as well as an abundance of trendy restaurants, cafes and bars. There are also numerous museums and galleries throughout the city, with presentations ranging from Viking relics to modern art exhibitions.As with the country in general, the city of Reykjavík is one of contrasts, with charming historical buildings of stone and wood mingling with imaginative modern architecture. Being one of Europe’s smallest capitals, downtown Reykjavík is safe and easy to travel around and walk. The vast majority of restaurants, clubs, cafés and bars in Reykjavík are located on or around the main shopping street Laugavegur, so no one has to search far to find a venue. The Reykjavík nightlife has a unique feel, as its reputation for liveliness is well deserved, especially during the endless summer light nights.
Below you will find detailed information of the highlights of what to see during your stay in Reykjavik:
TIP: You will need to purchase the bus tickets and the Blue Lagoon entrance in advance, at least 2 weeks before, as it gets very busy and they don't sell on the spot normally. You can buy both tickets here on the Blue Lagoon website. Prices start from €50 entrance fee plus €35 transport cost. Don't forget to take your swimsuit, but a towel and a face mask is provided.
There are number of natural attractions and beautiful locations across Iceland which are only between one and two hours drive from Reykjavik city. Some of nature's most greatest creations like impressive volcanoes, geysers, waterfalls and glaciers are all in Iceland! They all are popular destinations to see by tour, and form part of daily activities which you can get as a combined packet. However, if you are driving, it will also be part of your trip to reach these places of interest to take pictures and admire these spectacular natural wonders.
TIP: Book a tour, there are numerous tours and trips that can take you around Iceland and sample what the incredible Island has to offer from incredible scenery, the famous northern lights, iced caves, lagoons or hiking tours. There is a wide range of activities ranging from easy to more adventurous and sporty. You can choose from hiking, Iceland glacier tours, snowmobiling & ATVs, whale watching in Reykjavik, river rafting, snorkelling, diving, ice cave Iceland tours, horse riding, biking & quad bikes or bird watching... amongst some of the many activities offered by the tour companies. To see more info on all the activities click this link. Booking the most popular tours, should be done in advance. Reykjavik Excursions is the the most popular tour company and offer great combination packages and have good flexibility when it comes to changing dates or cancellations. They also offer pickup/drop off services from selected hotels and bus stops within the city so it's an easy start to the tour.
Some of the "must see" places of interest include:
Thingvellir National Park
Gullfoss Waterfall and Gorge
Reynisfjara black sand beach
Any visit to Reykjavik can't be complete until you have seen the northern lights, or at least tried to! It is a matter of luck and to have the right conditions and weather factors to be able to see the colourful lights glittering over the darkness of the land. it is a magic spectacle, incredible to watch and one that will blow you away. The northern lights can be seen from the cities, parks, forests, in fact, all over Iceland. But the darker you can get out of any urban lights and the more isolated you can be from any other distractions the more you will be able to make this natural phenomenal experience a life-time memory for all the right reasons. To know more about the Northern lights and how to see it, click on our dedicated page on the Northern lights via the link.
Iceland is one of the most expensive countries when it comes to cost of living. Everything is higher in comparison to other European countries, American or even Asian. Food, transport and naturally accommodation. Hotels in the city centre are budget Hotels are still expensive ranging around €70 per night. Hostels and guesthouses offer more reasonable accommodation if you don't mind sharing. Private accommodation via Airbnb or booking.com is limited, but expensive. Also make sure to stay near to the city centre if you don't drive, public transport is available but has limited hours.If you are on a tight budget, and don't want to pay for expensive breakfasts at hotels/hostels, we recommend you take your own food or buy from supermarkets.
One recommended hotel, 3 min walk to the city centre and within easy access to pick up/drop off services is Metropolitan Hotel. This 2.5 star (in rating) hotel features free WIFI, easy check-in/out and private rooms with bathroom. Breakfast is not included on discounted rates. But there are plenty of shops around and the main street is only a few minutes walk from the hotel.
Visiting Reykjavik is often made in conjunction with other trips, tours and activities. The city is very small compared to other European capitals, so it doesn’t take long to explore the whole city on foot in a day or two. There are a few museums and places of culture if you are interested in knowing more about the history and the origins of Reykjavik. However they all generally have admission charges and because Iceland is an expensive country, museums are not busy. Instead, most tourists and visitors travel to the capital as a starting point for the many tours which depart from Reykjavik. Every tour takes around half day to one whole day, so depending how many tours you will want to make (and money willing to spend) you can decide upon the duration. The most important things, including the Northern Lights, Golden Circle, Blue Lagoon and City tour will require a minimum of 3 nights.