Reykjavik Destination Guide
Clean, green and captivating, the colourful port of Reykjavik is one of Europe's most enchanting cities.
The world's northernmost national capital offers stunning views, a thriving arts scene and a warm welcome that belies its subarctic climate. A beautiful skyline, dramatic coast and rich cultural heritage come together in a city that also makes an ideal gateway to Iceland's glaciers, geysers and lava fields.
Swim in a geothermal pool
No trip to Iceland is complete without a swim in an outdoor geothermal pool. Reykjavik has over a dozen naturally heated baths to choose from, including Vesturbæjarlaug, Laugardalslaug and Arbaejarlaug. Swimming is an important social activity in Iceland, so this is a great way to mix with the locals while getting some exercise.
Go skiing at Bláfjöll
At the other end of the temperature scale, you can go skiing on a trip to Reykjavik. The volcanic resort of Bláfjöll (aka the Blue Mountains Country Park) has some of the best slopes in Iceland, with 16 lifts, as well as cross country skiing trails. It's just a 30-minute drive southeast of the city.
Climb Mount Esja
Around six miles (10km) north of the capital lies the imposing Mount Esja range, a favourite hiking destination with locals and visitors alike. You can take one of several trails up into the volcanic mountains, including well-trodden routes to Þverfellshorn and Kerhólakambur. All give you a good look at some fascinating geology, flora and fauna.
Visit Elliðaárdalur valley
The reforested Elliðaárdalur valley is a significant recreational spot within the city borders. As well as walking and cycling, you can swim, go horse-riding and take a ride on the ski lift. Anglers take note – the river Elliðaár is one of the top salmon fishing rivers in the country.
Ice skate on Tjörnin
The cold winter temperatures in Reykjavik mean the Pond very often freezes over, creating a shimmering natural ice rink in the centre of the city. Ice skating is a popular activity here, and less risky than you might think – the average water depth is under two feet at 57cm.
Marvel at Gullfoss and Haukadalur
The stunning Gullfoss waterfall, a 90-minute drive east of Reykjavik, is one of Iceland's greatest natural sights – and that's saying something in the land of fire and ice. The 105ft (32m) cascade consists of two drop sections, the largest of which is 69ft (21m) in height. Combine a trip to the falls with a visit to nearby Haukadalur to see two of Iceland's most spectacular geysers. Strokkur and Geysir are the largest and best-known in this area – the latter is so remarkable it's where we get the word geyser from.
Explore Iceland's south coast
Iceland has stunning coastal landscapes, shaped over millions of years by plate tectonics and the power of the sea. The south coast, with its imposing cliffs, sleepy villages and rolling lava fields, is one of the more scenic stretches. Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls are within a two-hour drive of the capital, with the eerie Reynisdrangar sea stacks and Reynisfjara black sand beach also nearby.
Learn about Viking history
To learn about Norse history, visit Viking World in Njarðvík, a 40-minute drive west of Reykjavik along Route 41. The museum's permanent and temporary exhibitions shed light on the early, brutal days of Icelandic settlement. The attraction's centrepiece is the Íslendingur, a replica of the mighty Gokstad Viking ship recovered from a Norwegian burial mound in 1880. To make a full day of it, you can combine a trip to the museum with a wider exploration of the rocky Reykjanes Peninsula.