Iceland has been one of my top bucket list destinations ever since I moved to London. I figured I may not fly 10+ hours from the states to see it, but being only 2.5 hours from London, it’s a must. That said, visiting Iceland was above and beyond anything that I had imagined. The scenery is BEAUTIFUL, the drives — breathtaking, the waterfalls — truly mesmerizing, and the glaciers, worth the trip in and of themselves. If you love nature and the outdoors, you MUST go here, especially if you’re based in London and looking for a trip to take over a bank Holiday. I’ve heard October is ideal although we went over Easter break in April and still loved it! Even with some rain the scenery truly couldn’t have been more magical. 10/10 I would recommend Iceland to anyone who appreciates the outdoors, road trips, and nature. I went with my two roommates (driving here *in the right season* is completely unintimidating so don’t let it hold you back from coming with girl friends), but would also be great for couples, families, or any small groups!
I pulled together TONS of recs and articles ahead of time spending hours on end researching Iceland. One of the most helpful and time consuming aspects of planning this trip was not only determining what all to see, but planning the best order in which to see everything to maximize time. Overall, our trip was 4 days, 3 nights — what we found to be the ideal amount of time and truly the perfect balance of driving, activities, and down time. We skipped a few things to enjoy more of the journey vs. feeling like we were on an intense time-sensitive mission. If you’re the type of person who wants to do, see, and eat it all, I’ve included our exact itineraries day by day (you can download each one!!), + a few extra stops, broken down day by day to maximize every second of your Iceland trip! Diving right in, here’s everything from Day 1!
DAY 1: BLUE LAGOON & REYKJAVIK
Getting here from London is an easy 2.5 hour flight. If you’re visiting over a bank holiday weekend, I recommend taking an early morning flight. We flew EasyJet out of Luton, at 6:30am. Yes, the 3:30am wake up call is bit painful, but you can sleep on the flight and getting here early is essential to fit everything into a long weekend trip.
When booking, fly into KEF ( Keflavik Airport) — Iceland has a few different airports and this is separate from Reykjavik Domestic airport and Reykjavik International Airport, which can be confusing. If flying budget-style, keep in mind most budget-friendly airlines only allow 1 carry-on suitcase, not even a purse so plan ahead when packing (ICELAND PACKING LIST HERE)
When visiting Iceland, a rental car is essential. We kept saying the entire trip how grateful we were to not be crammed on a tour bus. One of the best parts is just driving the open roads, blaring your favorite playlists, and fully indulging in all of your favorite road trip snacks. I’ve heard horror stories about the conditions being awful, but we visited end of April and had zero issues driving. The roads are extremely easy to drive on – there’s mostly roundabouts near towns, and two lane open roads in between. We rented our car from AVIS, but there are several companies to choose from. When renting a car be sure you book your reservation 1. In advanced and 2. From KEF International Airport — again, this is different from Reykjavik domestic airport to not have any issues. Be sure to book unlimited miles and 100% pay for a portable wifi device. My phone was on airplane mode the entire time, and as long as you have this with you, you’ll be able to access google maps/iphone maps which got us everywhere! To be on the safe side, I’d pay the additional $$ to get all the insurance you can — Most of the roads we drove on were paved, but we did have some gravel make a small crack in our windshield, and from everything I’ve read it’s best to be safe than sorry. Covering all the bases, we chose to “return our car empty” — you’ll know what I mean when you get there. We only filled up 1.5 times the whole trip, and returning the car empty was the most cost effective.
***If you’re in dyer need of caffeine, there’s a Joe and the Juice right next to the rental car desks! The Joe and The Juices inside are for departures only!
Now that you have all the logistics out of the way, first stop on the list in the Blue Lagoon! This is definitely best to do first as it’s not too far from the airport (25-45 min), and the best way to start the trip on a high note! Before arriving to Iceland be sure to book your Blue Lagoon Tickets in advanced (HERE). They are pretty flexible on timing. We got here around 10:30 for our 11am booking and ended up spending a total of about 2 hours in the Lagoon. Even if the weather doesn’t cooperate, the lagoon is stunning!! The water reminded me of Lake Louise, chalky blue — so hot and soothing, you could feel your skin being healed. We stuck to the basic ticket which includes a towel, locker, mud mask, and free drink + access to the lagoon. We had prepared for it to be flooded with tourists, and yes there were lots of people, but nothing as dramatic as what I had read online.
You’ll obviously need a swimsuit, (More on what to pack HERE), then I’d leave everything else in the car with the exception of any toiletry items you want to bring (hairbrush, makeup, skin products). There are lockers, showers, and hairdryer areas, for you to get ready in afterwards, and they provide soap and conditioner, NOT shampoo.
If you want to take pictures, they sell waterproof phone pouches for about $25 there. I’d get your gram, but also put your phone away and just soak in the beauty of the lagoon! The locker rooms are easy to go in an out of.
LUNCH AT GLÓ
After soaking in the Blue Lagoon I’d skip the touristy ($$) scene of the Lagoon restaurant and head to Reyjavik for lunch! We parked at our Hotel (Reykjavik Residence Hotel) and b-lined to Gló, a delicious casual vegan cafe, only 5 minutes walking distance, from the hotel. We ordered the sweet potato fries, Veggie Burger (Our favorite), Mexican Bowl, and bowl with Falafel and pumpkin. Everything was REALLY good, like all of the food we had in Iceland, despite what everyone had said about the food being bad!
Crashing a bit from the early start, we popped into Kaffibrennslan cafe, just across the street from Gló for cappuccinos and cookies. Everyone here was super friendly, they’re famous for their waffles if you’re up for that, serve oat milk if you need dairy free options, and also serve alcohol in the evenings if you’re after a boozier trip!
After lunch/coffee we strolled the streets and took in Reyjavik. Thankfully, the town is quite small so you can get a good grasp of it in a short period of time. We walked up to Hallgrímskirkja church, one of the most unique churches I’ve ever seen. If you’re feeling touristy, you can buy tickets to the bell tower and see views of Reyjavik from the top. Loosing steam, we skipped the vantage point, stopped in a local market to pick up a few snacks, and stopped in a few stores en route to our hotel.
CHECK INTO HOTEL — Reykjavik Residence Hotel | Walk Around
After wondering around a bit we all wanted to get checked into our hotel, shower, and just relax. I 100% would recommend staying here — Check in was super easy, and the rooms quite big. It felt like a little apartment for the 3 of us. The bathrooms had L’Occitane Products, the bedrooms were decorated with Tom Dixon touches. Perfect place to relax and enjoy Reyjavik before an adventurous next few days. We all got cosy and watched a movie before dinner. If you want more of a scene, they offer drinks/appetizers in their bar, from 4-7.
DINNER AT MAT BAR
Another Amazing find steps from our hotel. The decor was super cool and the menu delicious. Everything is tapas style, great for small groups/sharing. I also remember the music being really cool and a lot of the locals being quite trendy. We didn’t have a reservation, but maybe book ahead online depending on the season!
Post dinner we were all beat, but friends have told us Rejavik has quite the going out scene! If that’s what you’re after I’d do a bit more research, alternatively here are a few more recommendations picked up from friends:
OTHER RECS FOR Reykjavík
|Northern Lights Bar in ION Hotel (Farther and Modern but great “northern lights viewpoint” (55 minutes from hotel )
Kaffibarrin (Our guy friend recommended)
Paloma Bar (Our guy friend recommended) – more of a night club
Mat Bar – Where we ate, highly recommend
Grillmarket (Our guy friend recommended)
Eyja Guldsmeden Hotel —*** looks like a cool restaurant on telegraph, vegan options
ROK – Looked like a really cool restaurant near the church, great for dates!
COFFEE & CARBS
Kaffibrennslan – Where we went
– Reykjavik Roasters. Brautarholt 2, Reykjavík, Iceland — Right next to the church
– Braud & Co – We were so full from lunch but the cinnamon rolls here looked amazing for a sweet treat
Reykjavik Residence Hotel – Where we stayed, highly recommend
Canopy – Passed by this and the design/decor looked really cool!