Things do to in Iceland, by Travelzoo experts

23 Apr 2016

Iceland might be a small country, but don't be deceived - there is a lot to see and do. You probably know about the Blue Lagoon and the seemingly endless volcanoes and glaciers, but there's more to it than that. Where to begin? Well, this is as good a place as any. Below, a team of Travelzoo deal experts (many of whom have visited numerous times) reveal their favourite things to do in Iceland. 

Got a recommendation you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Before you go

Cash: Demand for the Icelandic krona has soared over the last few years. Travelzoo associate producer Claire recommends ordering your currency in advance as it can be hard to purchase last minute in the UK.

Clothes: Make sure you have the right gear - temperatures in winter can drop to -10°C on average and autumn can see a lot of rain. Thermals, waterproofs and a decent pair of gloves are essential for navigating Iceland’s amazing scenery during the low season and if you’re cold or wet, you won’t enjoy yourself.

Camera: Producer Krystina also recommends investing in a good camera and learning how to work the shutter speed ahead of your trip. The Northern Lights will remain elusive if you try and capture them on your phone.

Restaurant bookings: If you're planning to eat at one of Reykjavik’s most popular restaurants, consider booking before you leave the UK - you may be disappointed to find them at full capacity if you just turn up on the night. See below for our top choices.

Eating and drinking

The Fish Market (a restaurant rather than an actual market) near Reykjavik’s marina is a favourite among our deal experts. Several of the Travelzoo team recommend the tasting menu with matching wines – it’s not cheap, but we think it’s fantastic value as you get to sample a huge range of the restaurant’s best dishes.

The Grillmarkadurinn is another pick for Icelandic specialities and a really warm atmosphere. You’ll find an exceptional range of meat and fish platters, plus the restaurant’s famous whale (below), puffin and langoustine mini burgers to start. Wash your meal down with an impressive selection of wines or pints of Viking ale.

A "Star Wars"-themed bathroom, delicious cakes and an outdoor terrace – what’s not to like about Café Babalu? Assistant producer Niki also recommends this cheap eat for its great selection of vegetarian dishes.

Looking to save a few pennies on a meal? Although Iceland’s not exactly a budget-friendly destination, it is possible to fill your belly and have plenty of change for an extra tour. Our deal experts agree that Saegreifinn on the harbour is the best place for a steaming bowl of lobster soup (below) with chunky buttery bread for dipping. Plus, you also get free coffee.


A photo posted by Chris Rudyj (@scythiangrrl) on

Producers Felicity and Claire recommend seeking out a few happy hours. Different bars will have different offers available so it’s worth doing some research to save up to 50% on drinks.


Northern Lights
This tops many people's to-do lists, but don’t make it the be-all and end-all of your trip (especially if the weather isn’t looking fantastic), as there are so many other excursions you can pack in.


A photo posted by Endeavour Lux (@endeavourlux) on

Associate producer Katie recommends booking a tour for the first night so that if you don’t see any activity, you’re entitled to another free excursion the following day. Associate producer Claire also thinks it’s worth considering a private tour if you’re short on time - as brilliant as the group excursions are, there can be a lot of waiting around, so you might want to consider booking something that is tailored to your needs.

Walking tours
Reykjavik City Library offers a number of free literary walking tours of downtown Reykjavik during the summer months that assistant producer Niki recommends. Booking isn’t required and they’re all led by expert English-speaking guides.

Alternatively, how about a guided walking tour of Reykjavik with the founder of I Heart Reykjavik blog/travel guide? Read our interview with Audur Ösp and find out more about her tours. 

Alternative tours
Don’t confine yourself to seeing Iceland’s scenery solely on land. There are some incredible experiences to be had, including underground glacier tours, helicopter rides over volcanic landscapes and even diving between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. Visit the Tourist Information Centre in Reykjavik on Adalstraeti.


Blue Lagoon
This geothermal pool is a must-see for first-timers to Iceland. Producer Vicky recommends visiting on the way to or from the airport as it will save on transfer costs and time, while associate producer Claire noticed it was a lot quieter between the hours of 2pm and 4pm, making for a more relaxing experience. Many of our deal experts also recommended the packages for value for money – the experience comes with a drink and a 3-course lunch.

For a more authentic Icelandic experience, consider one of the more rustic pools among the multi-coloured mountains of Landmannalaugar (below). Even in the middle of winter, the pools stay at a skin-tingling 36-40°C.

Many visitors to Iceland rarely stray from Reykjavik and the Golden Circle, but there’s so much more to do within a 3-hour drive of the capital. Associate producer Laura recommends a trip to the small town of Vik on the south coast. Not only is this an excellent base from which to explore some of the island’s most impressive volcanoes and glaciers, but it’s also home to its own natural wonder – the bleak-yet-beautiful black-sand beach and its basalt columns. 

Want more? Check out Travelzoo's Iceland destination guide. Alternatively, see below for a selection of our favourite hotels in Reykjavik...

3 Hotels We Love in Reykjavik 

Hlemmur Square

Trendy budget hotel on Reykjavik's main shopping street and just three blocks from the waterfront. Bedrooms are on the fifth floor, with great city views.

Click here for rates and availability.

Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina

Deluxe property by the Old Harbour in downtown Reykjavik. City-centre museums and restaurants are within walking distance and there’s a small gym and even a climbing wall on site.

Click here for rates and availability.

CenterHotel Thingholt

Stylish boutique hotel close to Reykjavik’s main shopping street, with a fine-dining restaurant, a gym and spa.

Click here for rates and availability.

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