For our first week, we chose a hotel outside of Reykjavik. In the first place for tranquility, but if you take an apartment or hotel outside the center, you will save a lot on your travel budget! Our eye fell on hotel Kriunes, located on a small lake in a quiet neighborhood a fifteen minute drive from the center of Reykjavik. There were barely any guests during our stay. Breakfast was the best! We booked on Booking.com, but we got a discount from the hotel on the Booking.com prize.
You can use the boats of the hotel to kayak on the lake or use their bikes to explore the neighborhood.
There is always water, tea and coffee for free at any hour of the day.
Day 2: Reykjavik
It is best to plan two days to visit this colorful city.
The world's northernmost capital is nothing like other capitals. The center is quite small and high-rise buildings are lacking, which gives you the feeling that you are walking around in a cozy village. So you can easily explore the city by foot. Recently a system of electric scooter sharing (HOPP) is been introduced, you just have to download the app and then scan the QR code on the scooter and you are on your way. Especially the inhabitants themselves can be seen on these scooters everywhere!
Places you can't skip in Reykjavik:
The famous Hallgrimskirkja. A beautiful building, located on a hill, 74 meters high, towers high above the city. The architecture is stunning. Entering the church is free, if you want to enter the tower, you have to pay an entrance fee.
Stroll around on the Laugavegur...
This is probably one of the most colorful and cozy shopping streets in the world. If the weather is good you can stroll around here or enjoy a drink on a terrace. Don't forget to look around, you will notice great murals!
Day 3: Golden circle
These are a couple of highlights you can easily visit in one day when you're staying in Reykjavik.
You take the ring road (N1) to Mosfellsbaer, turn to the right on 36 and follow this road untill you reach Pingvellir, one of the three national parks you find in Iceland and Unesco world heritage. Þingvellir is a site of historical, cultural, and geological significance, and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland, it can get busy here! The park lies in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. To its south lies Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland. It's possible to go diving in this cold water, but we skipped that, way to cold for us!!
When you drive on and take the 365 on your left, continue on the 37 and then take the 35 you will arrive at the second stop of the Golden Circle: Geysir. No problem if you find this description a bit confusing, there are already signs to this place at Pingvellir!
There are many geothermal areas in Iceland. Haukadalur is one of the best known. Here is the iconic 'Geysir' (the English word geyser (a periodically spouting hot spring) derives from Geysir), which unfortunately has cooled down a bit, but there are other geysers here such as Strokkur that spouts hot water about 20 meters in height every 10 minutes (approximately). We spent a lot of time here, the kids couldn't get enough of watching the geyser! Across the road there is a large shop, restaurant, gas station ... this place is prepared for large numbers of tourists!
... and there is even more natural beauty to admire in this neighborhood. If you follow the road further, you will arrive at Gullfoss not much later. This is a waterfall located in the canyon of the Hvítá river. From the parking spot you go to the waterfall via a hiking trail . This one is breathtakingly beautiful! Take your time to enjoy this one, when the sun is shining you can see rainbows all over the place!
We drove back to Reykjavik via the 35 connecting to the ring road just after Selfoss. The landscape is beautiful to drive through!
Day 4: Whale watching
We were a bit hesitant to do this. We had already seen whales in South Africa, and of course it remains quite expensive. We were also not sure whether the tours would continue because of the corona. After some research, it turned out that there were still two tours a day instead of 4. And because of his age, Ruben was still allowed to get a ticket on half the price, so it turned out to be a 'yes'. The boat leaves from the old harbor in Reykjavik just behind the Harpa building. It was not necessary to book in advance now, but in a normal corona-free summer this is a necessity! The 3-hour trip eventually turned into 4 hours. Despite the good weather it was freezing cold on the boat, but we didn't got disappoited: whales close to the boat, very impressive ... and hunderds of puffins!
And if you got hungry from an afternoon in the fresh sea air: near the departure point of the boat is a good and very cheap burger restaurant (Hamborgarabulla Tomasar) with a waiter who looks very much like Ed Sheeran ;).
Day 5: West Iceland
The west of the island is also well worth a visit. A regular day trip from Reykjavik gives you a lot of time to explore all the beauty here. North of Reykjavik you can use a tunnel under the Hvalfjördur fjord and thus limit your travel time. We chose to take the tunnel in the morning but drive around the fjord on the way back, which was a good choice. The views are breathtaking!
We drove to Borgarnes. A small village where, according to our travel guides, there is not much to see here. But we found it very quiet here and there is a beautiful coastline. You can take beautiful walks here and there is one tiny museum about the history of Iceland that is definitely worth a visit. The museum has a cozy restaurant where you can join the buffet at very reasonable prices. During our lunch, the American ambassador also stopped here for a visit, which resulted in a nice selfie for my daughter with an interesting background :)
We took road 50 back to Reykjavik, through the inland. Not easy to always find our way here, but even when we didn't know where we were anymore, the view was 'wow'! Along this road near Borgarbyggo there is a real troll path, including a giant chair, a troll pot and some funny statues. The whole troll walk is only a few kilometers and certainly fun to do with children! In Saurbaer we reached the fjord again and we followed road 36 around the fjord. When you have the time a stop at Glymur is a great chance to witness one of the highest waterfalls of Iceland.
A visit to the power plant of Hellisheidi. It is a flash steam combined heat and power plant (CHP) located at Hengill in south-west Iceland and it is the third-largest geothermal power station in the world. The plant is located close to the ringway so easy to reach. The exhibition is quite spectacular, you can expore it on your own or take a guided tour.
When you follow the ring road from the power plant in the direction of Vik, you will pass the little village of Hveragerdi. The whole region is a geothermal hotspot. Everywhere you see plumes of smoke rising. A walk to Reykjadalur, a hot spring, starts 4 kilometers outside the village. The walk is only 3 kilometers, but the way up is almost completely uphill (the way back is fun and easy!), so you have to take some time here. The hot springs themselves are wonderful to enjoy, nothing better than relaxing in the wonderful warm water in the middle of nature!
There are no changing rooms at the springs themselves, so bring a large towel if you want privacy!
We also saw tours that did the hike by horse. To us it seemed a bit scary to sit on a horse that has some difficulty with the steep slopes with sometimes a deep ravine along the side. But it is also a possibility.