Travel Guide: Iceland for a Long Weekend

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The Best 4-Day Iceland Itinerary

All you need to know for your upcoming trip to Iceland!

My sisters and I wanted to go on a trip together for labour day weekend. We’ve relaxed in Florida, we’ve partied in Vegas, and we wanted something….different. My eldest sister suggested Iceland. I thought she was crazy – ICELAND? For 4 days? After lots of research and the realization that Iceland is only a 4 hour flight from Montreal – it was settled – labour day 2017 would be spent in Iceland!

I arrived in Iceland with very low expectations, which led me to appreciate every waterfall, crater, and volcano even more. The landscape in Iceland is otherworldly, and the sights are simply stunning. The food (especially the seafood), though quite expensive, is delicious. Many restaurants are farm to table and use only local and organic ingredients. Surprisingly, September’s weather was not as cold as we expected. In fact, the temperature in Reykjavik was almost the same as the temperature at home that weekend!

Of course there is a lot more of Iceland to see than what can be covered in 4-days, but with inexpensive and short roundtrip flights from Wow Air I would definitely recommend making the trip for a long weekend!

So if you are considering visiting Iceland for 4-days, check out our itinerary, restaurant recommendations, and travel tips below!

 

Day 1: Arrival in Reykjavik – Settle In and Explore the City

Pick-up rental car:

We decided to do two day trips ourselves. Though I am sure organized tours are amazing, we wanted to be able to go at our own pace and stop on the side of the road for photo-ops whenever our hearts desired. We rented our car from Green Motion for a relatively inexpensive price and picked up our car at 6:30 am upon arrival. It was then about a 40 minute drive from the airport to Reykjavik.

Check-in to Hotel & Explore Reykjavik by Foot:

Hotel: We stayed at the Black Pearl Finest Apartments. Not only were the apartments beautiful and spacious, but the location was perfect. We were a 5-10 minute walk from all of the best spots in Reykjavik City Center.

Breakfast: We grabbed an early breakfast at the nearby Laundromat Café – a breakfast spot that doubles as a laundromat! Side note – their carrot cake looked incredible.

Hallgrimskirkja Church: On our way to Hallgrimskirkja Church – one of the most famous landmarks in Reykjavik, we stopped at tons of little shops. Everything in Iceland is quite expensive, but it was fun to browse and window shop. We admired the church from the outside and then took the elevator up to get a view of Reykjavik from the Church Tower.

Cinnamon Rolls: Don’t miss out on grabbing an Icelandic cinnamon roll at well-known Sandholt Bakery or Braud & Co (theirs are only available after 11:00am)

Shop Around: There are two main shopping streets with a mix of tourist shops and clothing boutiques: Laugavegur & Skolavoroustigur.

Check out the Old Harbour: The Old Harbour is home to some cute restaurants right by the water. It is so beautiful to walk along the water and pass by the modern Opera house. Just passed the Opera House lies the famous hot dog stand where Bill Clinton and the Kardashians themselves had a hot dog – Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. Was this the best hot dog I’ve ever had? No. In my opinion it didn’t compare to a Montreal steamer – but it was the perfect afternoon snack!

Hallgrimskirkja Church
View of Reykjavik from the tower of Hallgrimskirkja
Inside Hallgrimskirkja

Opera House by the Harbour
Baejarins Beztu Pylsur Famous Hot Dog

Day 2: The Golden Circle

Breakfast in Reykjavik:

We made sure to have a big breakfast in Reykjavik before hitting the road. Our favourite spot was Café Paris – so good we even ate their twice!

Driving The Golden Circle:

Fuel Up Before the Long Day: Literally – fill up with gas and grab a big breakfast, because there are not many stops with food or gas stations on the Golden Circle drive. The only gas station we found was at the Geysir and it did not have a working pump!

Thingvellir National Park: For all of the Game of Thrones fans out there – this is one of their filming destinations! Aside from that, it is also where you could stand between the North American and European tectonic plates. For the more adventurous, you could put on a dry suit and literally swim between the European and North American tectonic plates in crystal clear water.

Geysir: My personal favourite stop of the day was this one. There are two active Geysirs – Strokkur and Geysir. Strokkur erupted about every 5 minutes, sometimes even erupting twice within seconds. Geysir erupted much less often. It is such a cool phenomenon to witness live. If you walk up the path passed the Geysirs you will also find two incredible natural hot springs. One has glowing blue water because of the algae and minerals and the other is crystal clear – they literally look fake and you can’t help but to stare in amazement. This stop also has a cute restaurant and café!

Gulfoss Waterfalls: Gulfoss waterfalls are extremely powerful and beautiful. You could get a view of these two-tiered falls from above by walking up some stairs, or walk right up to the left of them to watch their fury up close. If you’re lucky and get a sunny day, you will probably see a rainbow!

Frioheimar Farm: Frioheimar Farm grows several types of tomatoes year-round in a challenging climate. The amount of tomatoes they grow in a year is simply incredible. They heat the Greenhouse by harnessing energy from geothermal water. Pest-control is also done naturally using flies imported from the Netherlands. This really is a special place that I recommend visiting for a unique and tomato-filled lunch experience. If you decide to stop at Frioheimar Farm for lunch on your drive – be sure to reserve in advance!

Kerid Crater Lake: This was another one of my favourite stops on the Golden Circle. It is a little bit off the route, but 100% worth it. The red and green crater filled with bright blue water is stunning and apparently the acoustics here are so great that Bjork has used it as a concert venue! Note that there is an entrance fee of 400ISK.

Icelandic Horses: Make sure to pull over at some point and visit the Icelandic horses. There are tons behind fences right off the road. They are smaller than regular horses and have the most adorable side bangs!

Thingvellir National Park – Standing between the tectonic plates of North America and Europe
Gulfoss Waterfall
Strokkur about to erupt
Hot Springs near the Geysir
Frioheimar Tomato Farm
Kerid Crater Lake
Icelandic Horses by the Side of the Road

Day 3: South Coast

Breakfast in Reykjavik:

We had breakfast at Café Paris once again. I highly recommend any dish with smoked salmon here and their chocolate croissant and coffee were also great.

Driving The South Coast Towards Vik:

Solheimajokull: On our drive towards this glacier we kept questioning where it could possibly be. You are driving through moss covered rocks and farm land, so it is even more amazing to turn down a winding paved road and pull up to a massive glacier atop a volcano. Even crazier – this glacier sits atop Katla – a volcano set to erupt any day now. I don’t know how keen we would have been on visiting this spot had we known this beforehand, but I am so glad we went. The glacier is shrinking and recedes more and more every year. If you do have more time, I’m sure the glacier climb would be awesome, but you need to be equipped with a tour guide and proper gear.

Dyrholaey: This is supposed to be a beautiful arch and cliff where you could spot puffins and other birds in the summer months. However, when we visited it was so foggy that we couldn’t even see past the hood of our car! In order to visit this stop, you must be comfortable driving up a winding dirt road on a cliff.

Reynisfjara beach & Reynisdrangar Cliffs: This black sand beach has the coolest backdrop – the Reynisdrangar Cliffs (pictured below). Be aware of sneaker waves – dangerous waves that come out of no where. Never turn your back to the Ocean!

Skogafoss & Seljalandsfoss: We saved Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss for the way back in order to break up the drive back to Reykjavik. They could easily be done on the drive towards Vik as well. Both are beautiful waterfalls. Usually you could walk behind the Seljalandsfoss falls, but this was closed due to falling rocks. At Skogafoss, don’t miss the fish and chips at the little fish and chips stand!

Solheimajokull Glacier
Reynisdrangar Cliffs
Skogafoss
Seljalandsfoss

Day 4: Blue Lagoon & Departure from Reykjavik

Check-out, Coffee & Pastries:

We checked-out of our hotel and said goodbye to Reykjavik before heading to the famous Blue Lagoon. On our way, we grabbed a coffee from the well-known Reykjavik Roasters and a cinnamon croissant and danish from Braud & Co just across the street.

Blue Lagoon:

I would recommend booking the Blue Lagoon on your way to the airport. There is a place to store your luggage as well as locker rooms with showers, and blow driers. We booked the Comfort Package which came with lockers, algae masks, and a free drink. We booked massages in advance which came with a bath robe. The massages are on floating beds in a private area of the lagoon. Highly recommended. Time really passes quickly while you’re in the lagoon, so be sure to leave yourself several hours to enjoy it when booking your time slot and make sure to book in advance.

We had lunch at Lava with a view of the lagoon. The food is definitely pricey, but delicious. And try to get a table by the window – the view is unbeatable.

NOTE: put tons of conditioner in your hair, otherwise it will feel like straw for several days after due to the high levels of silica in the water!

The airport is 15 minutes from the Blue Lagoon, so you just need to give yourself enough time to arrive at the airport 2 hours before your flight.

Restaurants & Cafés:

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Baejarins Beztu PylsurFamous hot dog stand where Bill Clinton and the Kardashians had a hot dog!

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Reykjavik Roasters: Located in Reykjavik’s City Center, this small and busy café is well-known for their coffee.

Braud & Co: This bakery in Reykjavik City Center is famous for their cinnamon buns, which are only available after 11am

Café Babalu: A café located in Reykjavik City Center. You must try their New York or Nutella Cheesecake

$$$

Lava: Located at the Blue Lagoon, this unique restaurant gives you the opportunity to dine surrounded by lava rock and with a beautiful view of the lagoon.

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Grillmarkadurin: A stunning farm to table restaurant in Reykjavik’s City Center with a great cocktail menu, and  known for their charcoal grill. The ribeye steak is amazing and the chocolate dome dessert is beautiful.

Kopar: This little restaurant by the Old Harbour serves fresh seafood. Don’t miss the crab cakes and grilled langoustine.

Fish Company: A seafood restaurant in Reykjavik City Center. The arctic char and sushi platter cannot be missed.

Travel Tips

Getting there:

There are nonstop roundtrip flights run by Wow Air to Keflavik International Airport from Montreal that are inexpensive depending on the time of year!

Hotel:

We stayed at the Black Pearl Finest Apartments. We could not have been happier with our stay. The apartments were spacious, comfortable, gorgeous, and perfectly located.

It is located right in Reykjavik City Center and is walking distance from just about everything – the Old Harbour, the shopping streets, the Opera House and the Church. It made for the perfect home base for our day trips too!

Currency:

Credit cards are accepted just about everywhere! However, their currency is the Icelandic Krona (ISK).

Outlets:

European sockets – don’t forget your adapters!

Time Zone: 

Greenwich Mean Time Zone (4 hours ahead of Montreal Eastern Time)

Rental Car vs. Tours:

We enjoyed having a rental car and going at our own pace. It was approximately $400 for a Jeep Patriot for 4 days. We looked into a few tours beforehand and they seemed very pricey. With the right planning and a driver who is comfortable in the sometimes rainy and foggy road conditions, renting a car is a great option. Whether with a tour or on your own, you will have an amazing time.

Phone:

My phone is unlocked, so I purchased a SIM card at the duty free shop at Keflavik airport. It was $34USD for 10GB of data and unlimited text and talk. This is definitely worth it. We used Google Maps to get everywhere.

Comment if you have visited or plan on visiting Iceland and have additions or questions for this travel guide!

Mind,Taste,Lifestyle MM

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