Since getting back to the States, people have been asking me if I had any recommendations for Iceland. And I do! I love Iceland. It’s a small town city with lots to do. Within the city, you can ride your bike everywhere while feeling safe and secure. Outside the city, you can drive in any direction for 1-2 hours and have plenty of activities to do.
Top Recommendations From yours Truly
Places to eat
Fiskmarkaðurinn (Fish Market) or Grillmarkaðurinn (Grill market). These are the top fancy places to eat and get the tasting menu. On average be prepared to spend about $100 per person.
Affordable places to eat
Icelandic Fish and Chips. This is not your typical English fish and chip. The Icelandic version is to have it light and crispy. I would recommend getting all the tasting dippings. This meal will probably run you about $24 per person.
N1 hot dog. Its about $5 and comes with fried onions, raw onions, two types of mustard, ketchup, remoulade, and a toasty bun. Bill Clinton had one of these bad boys while in Iceland. Its a MUST!
Don’t try Fermented Shark. Locals don’t eat it. It tastes gross and most people tell you to try it because it funny to see tourists eat something yucky. (Eat Harðfiskur instead)
Don’t eat Whale. Most Icelanders that I have met don’t eat whale. They really don’t care. The only reason its still being served is because Tourists request it. Quite sad really.
“Meh” Places – Sægreifinn aka Sea Barron. I found a lot of the guides I worked with would recommend this place even though they hadn’t tried it. I went and tried the kebabs and soup. Wasn’t impressed. I don’t get why people rate this place so high.
You can’t come to Iceland and not do a tour. Its expensive, and you might not think its worth it, but think again. These people know the area, they know little stories you won’t find in your crappy lonely planet guide book. How many times are you going to Iceland? Spend the extra money and enjoy your time. You can always save and earn money later.
That being said, everyone does the “Golden Circle” tour. You can self drive this, but you miss out on all the information people tell about the areas. I have no idea how much Dive.Is charges, but its an easy option to add onto for a snorkel or dive tour. The snorkel tour will run about $120, scuba will be $340 for two dives. The whole snorkel experience takes about 3 hours, so that less than $40 an hour. A good price when you think about all the gear and prep work going into the tour. The drysuit alone costs over $1500. Its an experience you will never do anywhere else. With a combo tour, you get about 5-6 hours of someone driving you around telling you everything there is to know about Iceland, then to finish the day, you jump into some nice cold water. What could be better, right?
Laxness Horse Riding
These horses are LEGIT! Each horse has a different personality and know the drill. So don’t be worried you are going to fall off or get some wild animal. They know where to go everyday and work hard. I love these horses. I’ve been on tours with Freia, Darkness, and Bella. These Icelandic horses love being in the front. My only warning is that the next day you might have stiffness in your back.
ATV tour, Glacial Hike on Sólheimajökull and Dogsledding
Not that worth it
The Puffin tours in Reykjavik (puffins are far away and hard to photograph), Into the Glacier on Langjökull (Hours and Hours of driving for a 30min experience you could of gotten during a hike on a glacier), Seljavallalaug Pool (algae ridden pool with dirty changing rooms), and Blue Lagoon (murky muddy water with every other person you saw at the airport).
If you can get away from the city center, I would recommend renting a car and driving around the island. My top cities are: Stykkiholmer, Akureyri, and Seyðisfjörður. Of course there are tons of other places to check out, but these are my favorites.
This town has about 1000 residents and is situated in the north west bay before the West Fjords. You can take the ferry to the West Fjords but it books up months in advance. Here you can book a tour and see puffins up close (Way better than the one in Reykjavik).
5 hours away from Reykjavik and the next largest city, many people stop here just because they have more hotels. I haven’t gone on the whale watching tour, but there are definitely more whale up here than in Reykjavik. My favorite thing was diving at Strytan, the only geothermal cone you can dive in the world.
Seyðisfjörður- East side of Iceland and the famous scene where Walter mitty goes when the Volcano explodes. This small city is home to El Grillo, a sunken oil tanker. The small town has some nice bars, and good sushi.
Off the beaten Path stuff
Everyone goes to the Jökulsárlón (Glacial Lagoon) and Blue Lagoon. Thats given. But what else is there to do? Any public pool in the city (Vesturbaejarlaug orSeltjarnarnes Sundlaug). For about $8 (fraction of the cost of blue lagoon) you can relax with all the other locals. Since Iceland’s water is geothermally powered, its really economic to have these heated pools. I wish there were these pools in America. There are many hot pots ranging from somewhat relaxing bath water, to extra hot and even extra cold. The Seltjarnarnes pool has a salt water pool and a steam room. If you sign up for a day pass at World Class downstairs from this pool, you can try out the sauna (I prefer sauna to steam).
Seltun is a geothermal area about 1 hour away from the city center. You can hike up a hill and get great views of kleifervatn lake. It really reminds me of the mudpits in New Zealand. The ones in NZ aren’t free- so another perk for being in Iceland!
Hot River Hike
The Hot River Hike is pretty popular and free. I actually think its better than the Blue Lagoon. Just drive to the city Hveragerdi and go till it ends. You will see some cafe called Hot River Cafe.