Two Days In Iceland
March 9, 2017 7:17 AM   Subscribe

Our summer vacation this year is taking us to Amsterdam by way of Iceland thanks to the cheap airfare packages Icelandair runs out of Logan Airport. We will have two days to spend in Iceland before continuing on to our final destination. Help us figure out what we can realistically fit in to that all-too-brief window.

We will be arriving in Iceland very late on the night of Friday June 16 or wee hours of the morning Saturday June 17 and leaving early Monday morning. So, we will be in Reykjavik for Iceland National Day (unintentionally) on the 17th. How will that impact what we can see and do?

I've read some of the other travel threads about going to Iceland, so have a fair idea about things to do while we're there, mostly just wondering about the scheduling, the impact of the holiday, and what is/is not feasible in a short visit.

Our fuzzy scheme right now is to rent a car and go do the Golden Circle drive one day and check out Reykjavik the other. But which day to do which? We realize there won't be a lot of time to take it all in, so how do we maximize what we can cover.
posted by briank to Travel & Transportation around Iceland (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: We're doing the same thing! We're leaving in 3 weeks. Our plan is to do the Blue Lagoon, some walking and eating and drinking around downtown on the first day, then do the Golden Circle by rental car on the second day. I'll try and report back any tips upon our return.
posted by soplerfo at 7:31 AM on March 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Have been to Iceland a multitude of times, and you can do some nice "taster" things in two days.

Your plan of doing Reykjavik in a day sounds very reasonable. I would do that your first day, assuming that is when jetlag will hit. You can do Reykjavik, and then try to get an early nights sleep. LOTS of fantastic restaurants in Reykjavik. I am a huge fan of Fish Company.

However, I highly recommend being flexible with your schedule depending on the weather. Go on the Golden Circle tour on a day when the weather will be nicer.

The Blue Lagoon is nice, but unless you really love the bathing experience, you can always do it in the future.
posted by troytroy at 7:40 AM on March 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I want to highly recommend the Meet the Natives experience at the Tin Can Factory if you can fit it in for your evening meal. It was the most immersive and impactful thing I did during my trip.
posted by rabidsegue at 7:41 AM on March 9, 2017

We had 4 days, and did the Blue Lagoon and walking around the city the first day, and then a whale watching tour the second. The Whale watching is not recommended. Rough seas, and not many creatures to see. We had much better luck with that in Newfoundland. The Golden Circle is a good day trip. Lots to see. The waterfalls were the highlight, but all the stops are great. (We did this with a 4 year old, so we were slower than we might have done it otherwise.)

The sun will set after midnight that week, so the length of your day trip will be mostly based on stamina.

I can't help with the issue of National Day. Be prepared for the expense of food and alcohol. We cooked in our AirBnB and skipped wine until we got to Paris. (Did the Iceland stopover on the way to Europe, like you. A+, would do again.)
posted by thenormshow at 7:47 AM on March 9, 2017

Best answer: We were in Reykjavik for Iceland National Day last year, also by accident. It dramatically raised hotel prices so I would book early. Iceland Nation Day itself is worth spending an entire day on, we were really glad it was happening.
posted by adventureloop at 7:48 AM on March 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

On your drive, consider stopping at:
FriĆ°heimar for a greenhouse tour and a meal including their phenomenal tomato soup
Fontana day spa, for their geothermally-baked rye bread
Efsti-dalur Farm Hotel for phenomenal ice cream
posted by emelenjr at 8:42 AM on March 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've visited Iceland twice for short trips and my favorite day was a day tour to Snaefellesnes with Goecco.
posted by mskyle at 9:31 AM on March 9, 2017

Re: weather. You can't plan ahead. Just go along with it. The joke in Icelandic is that if you don't like the weather, just wait 15 minutes. I did the Golden Circle last year and encountered sun and hail within the same hour. Just let go of expectations and enjoy whatever comes along.
posted by monologish at 9:40 AM on March 9, 2017

I would like to point out the that the city pools in Reykjavik are amazing. Obviously check on holiday hours, but you should definitely consider going swimming at one of the (regular, public) swimming pools in the city - we went to a couple different ones, and it was my surprise favorite part of our visit to Reykjavik. I actually liked this one better than the Blue Lagoon (which was also lovely); since it's mostly locals who go there, it lacked the pretentious aspects that fancy tourist spots have. And swimming in an outdoor pool is also particularly good if you're jet-lagged!

Note that if you go to a public swimming pool, the staff and signage will make it crystal clear that you're expected to shower without your bathing suit. I felt slightly awkward since I'm not used to that, but it was well worth it to swim in the chlorine-free pools!

Also on your day in Reykjavik, the City Card is great: free buses, many free museums, free access to public swimming pools, and lots of discounts.
posted by MangoNews at 12:44 PM on March 9, 2017

Yes to visiting Reykjavik on the first day. The city is walkable you don't really need your car.

However on the second day, venture away from the tourist hordes. Stay away from the Golden Circle. Get up very early and take your car to Jokulsarlon. It's four hours away on the ring road, but you will stop at remarkable sites along the way -waterfalls, a memorial site from the volcano explosion of 2010, vast lava fields, and the extraordinary and beautiful iceberg pond at the end of your journey. And then turn around and mosey back to the capital, in time for dinner.

I have been to Iceland several times and recommend giving the Golden Circle a pass.
posted by seawallrunner at 6:05 PM on March 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

On top of the 40 min drive from the airport to Reykjavik that would make for 11 hours spent in a car on a 48 hour stay. For a first trip the golden circle is fine.

Hang around Reykjavik on the Saturday and see some of the national day events?
Strongest Man in Iceland competition in Reykjavik
? Sounds fun!
posted by biffa at 2:20 AM on March 10, 2017

Best answer: Hey I am on that same trip right now! (Except we are doing Iceland on the tail end). We did a Northern Lights tour last night but it will be wrong time of year for you; I liked the tour group, though ( in case you'd rather someone else did the driving.
We are doing a "free" walking tour of Reykjavik today (it's a pay-what-you-want), it's only 2 hours.
Can update on Sun when I am home.
posted by maryrussell at 2:37 AM on March 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

We recently spent 3 days way east along the southern coast, and the came back towards Reykjavik for a couple days. We found the golden circle sights to be depressingly crowded and meh, relatively speaking. Seawallrunner has the right advice.
posted by chr1sb0y at 4:18 AM on March 10, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks. I might reach out to some of you via MeFiMail for further info.
posted by briank at 12:25 PM on March 10, 2017

The Hot River was a highlight for me, but only if you're up for a decent hike.
Personally, I would skip the Blue Lagoon in favor of that or the City Pools that MangoNews mentioned.
If you're in Reykjavik, DO NOT MISS the Einar Jonsson Museum.
posted by TheCoug at 8:07 AM on March 11, 2017

Reporting back to say that our trip was a blast. The Golden Circle drive was the highlight for me. Very cool to see the geyser blasting. Hitting the Blue Lagoon right as it opened directly off our flight was also an incredible treat.
posted by soplerfo at 6:21 AM on April 10, 2017

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