I am sure there are millions of ways to spend a perfect day in Iceland.
Iceland doesn’t just have a vast variety of gorgeous landscapes and natural wonders. There are also lots of activities that are unique to Iceland.
I spent two weeks in there last winter and have probably checked off most the “must see and do” things. If you’re planning on visiting Icelandic soon, check out this one day Iceland itinerary fully packed with the things that you really can’t miss.
This itinerary includes
– Viking horse riding (read more about it here)
– Blue Lagoon
– Whale watching
– A Northern Lights Tour (how to see the Northern Lights)
The typical, traditional breakfast in Iceland consists of Hafragrautur– oatmeal mixed with water or milk, sprinkled with brown sugar, raisins or butter. There is also Skyr, a yogurt-like, fat-free dairy product which I personally love! But if that all sounds a bit too plain, there are of course more interesting breakfast options. Reykjavik is full of great restaurants and if you’re looking to save money but don’t want to refrain from eating at restaurants, I recommend going out for breakfast, brunch or lunch. Restaurant prices in Iceland tend to skyrocket in the evening.
The Laundromat is not only one of the cheaper restaurants in Reykjavik, it also one of the more interesting looking ones. It’s a coffee shop/ restaurant with great brunch options, a counter made out of books and of course real laundromats! Get your laundry done while enjoying their “Dirty Brunch” and a hot cafe Mocha.
Where?The Laundromat, Austurstræti 9, Reykjavik
How much? Breakfast from 10£, full breakfast meal approx. 20£, Brunch from 20£
Opening times: Sun- Sat 9am- 1 am
First trip of the day- Viking horse riding
The Icelandic viking horse can almost only be found in Iceland. It’s one of the purest breeds in the world as Icelandic law prevents other breeds from entering the country. It is probably most famous for its 5 gaits, its gentle and easygoing nature and smooth gait tolt.
I think, going on an horseback riding trip in Iceland is an experience no one should miss.
An average horseback riding tour takes around 2 hours and will lead you through the rocky, volcanic landscapes of Iceland. If you go in winter, make sure to wear warm enough clothing especially on your legs and feet.
Most tour-providers will offer free pick-up and drop-off from the hotel as their horse farms are usually on the outskirts of Reykjavik or Hafnarfjörður. Even if you don’t have any previous riding experience, the tour providers usually offer quick inductions and help you with the horses to make sure everything goes smoothly during the trip.
There are all sorts of horseback riding tours available and if you want to find out about a horseback riding tour in more detail check out this post.
Where? Ishestar Riding Tours. They are located on the outskirts of Hafnafjordurand. They provide hotel pick-up for all their tours.
How much? 11.400 ISK/ 85 pounds/ 111 Dollar (they do offer discounts occasionally so look out for that)
Can’t miss- Soak and relax in the Blue Lagoon
Another thing you definitely can’t miss when visiting Iceland? The Blue Lagoon! The man-made lagoon is among one of National Geographic’s list of 25 Wonders of the World. The Blue Lagoon is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland and that’s for a good reason. It not only is amazing to look at and super relaxing, the warm waters are also rich in minerals like silica and sulfur and the water is reputed to help with skin diseases such as psoriasis and also has anti-ageing properties.
Pre-booking is required and while not the cheapest attraction, there are different packages available depending on how much of a spa day you want to have.
A fun face mask is usually included in the price and I would recommend to book a visit together with a hotel pick-up and drop-off as the Blue Lagoon lies quite a bit outside of Reykjavik.
Where? Blue Lagoon, 240 Grindavík, Iceland
How much? From (Standard) 45£ to (Luxury) 350£
Again, there are tons of companies who offer great whale watching tours around Reykjavik. If you like boat tours, I totally recommend this. Obviously it’s not guaranteed that you will see whales during the trip and it’s something they stress a lot. Personally I think just the boat trip is worth it though.
Most commonly seen whale species in Iceland include minke, fin, blue, humpback, sperm and killer whales. There are more than 20 different species though and the best time for whale watching is known to be from July- August.
We didn’t see any whales during our trip which might have been Karma for trying a Mink Whale steak the day before…
Most tour providers offer free vouchers for another trip in case you didn’t manage to see any whales the first time around. Unfortunately our trip was on our last day in Iceland so we couldn’t use it but the voucher is valid for up to two years so I guess I will keep it for the next trip 😉
Where? Elding, Catch a boat at Reykjavik harbor (for example)
How much? Around 80£ for a 3h whale watching tour
Get enchanted by the Northern Lights
Iceland is one of the 10 best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. But just like with whale watching, it’s not guaranteed that you will see them during your visit.
We went in October and the sky was full of clouds during our whole trip, making it nearly impossible to spot an Aurora. We got to see a faint hint of the Northern Lights on our first evening during a short walk through Hafnarfjörður which was an amazing experience nevertheless.
When and where to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?
While there is no evidence that suggests a particular month is the best to spot the Northern Lights, there is a higher chance to see them between September to Mid-April due to longer and darker nights. In fact, complete darkness is the most important factor to see them. Checking the weather forecast regularly is also important as clouds and bad weather can be your biggest enemy in your quest of seeing the Northern Lights. Beside the weather forecast, there are also special Northern lights forecasts that can help in predicting when and where the next Aurora will be visible.
To get a clear view of this natural phenomenon it is also recommended to drive outside of Reykjavik and avoid areas with light pollution. Just like with the whale watching, most Northern light tour providers offer vouchers for another tour in case the Norther Lights weren’t visible on the first one.
What I recommend for the perfect holiday in Iceland
Make sure you’re in Iceland for long enough (people usually recommend a stay of at least seven nights for higher chances to see the Northern Lights).
Research what time of the year you’re most likely to encounter what you want to see and try and plan trips such as whale watching early on into your holidays. In case you miss out on seeing whales or the Northern Lights you can repeat your tours (most of the time for free) at least once and have a higher chance of actually seeing what you came to see.