There’s a reason why many people consider Iceland to be the most beautiful country in the world. This untouched outdoor wonderland is full of natural beauty, from the mighty glaciers to the volcanic lava fields. And while most people choose to base themselves in Reykjavik, leaving the capital to explore the country’s landscape is an absolute must. While it’s possible to explore some of these sights on your own, I recommend going with a tour group to make the most of your trip. Some of these destinations are off-the-beaten-path and, therefore, hard to reach, so they’re best explored with a knowledgeable guide.
What is the Best Day Trip from Reykjavik
If it’s your first time in Iceland, then consider traveling the Golden Circle, a 190-mile loop that stops at Thingvellir National Park, Gulfoss Waterfall, and Haukadalur. The Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Langjökull Glacier are also popular places for those wanting to see more of Iceland’s natural attractions.
And if you’re looking to immerse yourself in Icelandic culture, then you can visit one of the nearby towns, like the Viking village of Hafnarfjörður.
However, these are just a handful of places that can be seen on a day trip to Reykjavik. Read on to discover more fantastic destinations waiting for you to explore!
Thingvellir National Park
Located in southwest Iceland, just 25 miles from Reykjavik, Thingvellir National Park has played a vital role in Icelandic history.
From 930 CE until 1798, the land was where the annual meeting of the parliament took place, which eventually led to the formation of Iceland as a country.
But Thingvellir National Park is more than a historical landmark. It’s also a geological wonder, as it’s one of the only places where the European and North American tectonic plates meet.
It’s also home to Iceland’s largest lake (Lake Thingvellir), cascading waterfalls (Öxarárfoss), and even a 19th-century church (Thingvellir Church).
Besides hiking and sightseeing, more adventurous travelers can also go diving in the Silfa crack between the two continents.
While Iceland is home to many different types of waterfalls, none of them can compare to Gullfoss.
The force of its plummet is beyond powerful, with two separate drops (one 36 feet and one 69 feet) as it rushes across the cliffs of the Gullfossgjúfur canyon.
It’s 1 hour and 45 minutes away by car and a popular day trip for those on the Golden Circle route.
The waterfall is at its most powerful in the summer, pushing out 5,000 cubic feet of water per second.
And while that rate is cut in half during the winter, it doesn’t completely freeze like other waterfalls in the country.
With sturdy boots and a waterproof coat, you can still admire the snow-covered Gullfoss roaring down the canyon walls.
A couple of minutes from the Gullfoss Waterfall is Haukadalur, a geothermal valley famous for its erupting geysers.
In fact, the word geyser originates here, as it’s named after one of the largest geysers here – the Great Geysir.
While the Great Geysir’s eruptions are infrequent, they can shoot up more than 230 feet in the air.
Strokkur is one of the very few geysers at Haukadalur that reliably erupts throughout the day. It usually happens every six to ten minutes and can reach up to 140 feet high.
Other interesting sights you can see nearby include hot springs, mud pools, and boiling fumaroles.
The Blue Lagoon
If you’re craving a relaxing spa day, then don’t miss out on the Blue Lagoon. The milky blue waters are high in silica, algae, and salts, all of which are believed to help treat chronic skin care conditions.
Plus, it’s like swimming in a giant hot tub, as the waters are consistently between 99–102 °F.
The Blue Lagoon also has an on-site spa and hotel (it’s 20 minutes from the airport and 50 minutes from downtown Reykjavik).
There is also an in-water bar where you can order smoothies, soft drinks, or wine and beer while you swim.
If you’re feeling hungry, you can also choose between three different gourmet restaurants for lunch or dinner.
If you want to see another city besides Reykjavik, then head 20 minutes south to Hafnarfjörður.
With 30,000 residents, Hafnarfjörður is the third largest city in Iceland, although it feels more like a small village with charming cafes, handicraft shops, and family-run restaurants.
The whole city is very walkable and perfect for a little getaway.
Hafnarfjörður is known for its rich Viking heritage, which you can see in summer during the Viking Festival.
If visiting during the other seasons, you can also get your fix at the Viking Village, a themed hotel and restaurant where you can feast on traditional Icelandic dishes.
This uninhabited island in the middle of Faxaflói Bay is home to one of Icelandic’s most adorable creatures.
Several hundred puffins can be found living on the island. While the best time to spot them is from March to August during breeding season, it is possible to see them throughout the year.
While you’re here, puffins aren’t the only birds you’ll see. The entire island is also home to thousands of other seabirds, including black guillemots, fulmars, and Arctic terns.
To visit, you will need to book a puffin tour from Reykjavik Harbor.
There are few places in the world that are as magical as the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Dominated by the picturesque Kirkjufell mountain, this region is home to some of the most dramatic landscapes in all of Iceland.
You’ll find coastal cliffs, black sand beaches, icy glaciers, and even volcanic craters. Not to mention the peninsula is also dotted with colorful fishing villages where you can get a taste of authentic Icelandic life.
Although the drive is long (~3 hours) and the sights are seemingly endless, there are a few must-see destinations you won’t want to miss during your visit.
Of course, you’ll want to visit Kirkjufell mountain along with the Kirkjufellfoss waterfall.
Then make a stopover at the Arnarstapi Cliffs for beautiful seaside views.
Over 10% of the country is covered in glacial ice, which means that glacier day trips are very popular among tourists.
Langjökull is not the largest glacier (that’s Vatnajökull which is located 200 miles from Reykjavik), but it is one of the most easily accessible ones.
And because it’s 31 miles long and nearly 2,000 feet deep, it’s still an impressive sight for those who make the 2-hour journey up north.
The area is a popular spot for snowmobiling, although it also attracts adventurous skiers and hikers.
If you’re traveling with a tour group (which is highly recommended due to the difficult terrain), you will likely visit the man-made ice tunnel as well.
This 1,650-foot-long cave allows you to enter the glacier and admire the glowing blue ice formations unlike anywhere else in the world.
While Reykjavik is by far the biggest and most popular tourist spot in Iceland, it would be a shame if you came here without exploring the nearby natural attractions.
Every inch of this majestic country is awe-inspiring, and the memories you make here are guaranteed to last for a lifetime.