Updated: Feb 13, 2022
Reykjavik & Southern Iceland
I am sitting... in a river. There is snow on the ground and the air is crisp and cold. I can see my breath mixing with the steam rising off the shallow river. We hiked along the rocky mountain side and past the steaming pools surrounded by lush green grass. After almost an hour we finally arrived at the river. The steam was rising and we could see people scattered along the banks and in the water. A wooden boardwalk snakes its way up the river. It's hard to imagine a warm river flowing in an area with snow on the ground. But it's real and it's amazing. We strip off our clothes on the side of the water and do our best to find a deep spot so we can hide our skin from the cold wind blowing by.
Northern Lights -- Glacier and Ice Cave Hike -- Snorkeling between tectonic plates
This map shows a collection of things to Eat/ Drink, Do, See, or Stay. Each collection is in it's own group layer in the map to make it easy for you to explore by location or by topic. Click on a point to see the Map Happy Travel comments and get links to websites, google directions, and more!
Yellow points are the Map Happy Travel Favorites. These special spots are considered the Musts for your adventure. They are explained in greater detail below.
Map Happy Travel Guides
For this adventure we rented a car for a long weekend and did our best to see some of the most famous sites but also get off the beaten path. Here's a list of some of the favorites:
Kolaportið in Reykjavík
Iceland's only flea market. It takes place indoors close to the harbor of the capital city, Reykjavík. Goods sold include second-hand records, licorice and fermented shark. It’s a great place to try a sample of what I can honestly say was one of the worst things I have ever had in my mouth. It’s kinda like you ate some bad fish tacos and then drank some vinegar and then threw up and chewed it and swallowed again. You gotta try it!
Kolaportið is open only during weekends.
Yeah yeah I know it’s a huge tourist trap, and while I do like to keep off the beaten path, sometimes places are famous for a reason. I highly recommend visiting the Blue Lagoon (as if you weren’t already planning on it). Here’s some pro tips that can hopefully make your visit a little more enjoyable:
They have showers, plastic bags, and other amenities so you could visit upon arrival to REK or stop in just before departure. 3-ways-to-get-the-blue-lagoon-from-reykjavik
Must purchase tickets before arrival
Free Parking on site
Bus/ entrance tour
12600 ISK (Compared to 14490 price if booking directly w/ the lagoon)
One of the oldest pools in Iceland and it’s well worth taking the approximately 20minute walk to go see it. They have rustic changing rooms, but no shower.
Map of Pool Parking Lot Location
From REK, turn left onto 242 off rt 1
Rt 242 will make a sharp right. Follow straight. Will turn into dirt road
Keep right at folk to follow sign for Seljavellir
Small parking lot with 2 wooden structures.
Park and continue straight on foot, keeping the river on your right.
Will need to cross section of stream that feeds into main river
Reykjadalur Valley - Hot Spring River
Really unique hike to a geothermically heated river. This area is so colourful; green grass, blue river, steam, hot pots, springs, greyish blue mud pools, patches of silicon and sulphur - all blending in with nature.
New boardwalk pathways have been put around the most popular bathing spots in the river. The further up the valley you choose a spot, the hotter the river is. There are no facilities here so be sure to bring your towel, a change of clothes for the walk back and plenty of drinking water.
We rented a car through lagooncarrental.is
Here are some websites we found useful when considering renting a car
When you look at the map you will see roads with a F before the number. These roads require 4WD and sometimes require a permit. If you are renting a car, you might want to consider avoiding these roads so you don't have to pay the extra insurance or risk damaging the vehicle.
Some gas stations do not accept US cards and many of them have restricted hours. You can purchase gas using a gas card if a station is closed. We purchased a gas card in REK from an N1 gas station. This allowed us to gas outside of the city at any N1 Station.
The roads can be difficult to navigate simply because of the language. You should consider getting the GPS for the car or if you’re feeling more adventurous I highly recommend the HERE We Go app from HERE maps.
Install the app and download the entire country of Iceland before you leave home. Then, once in the country, you can use the GPS on your phone for navigation. Because the map is downloaded, it doesn't use any data! I had my phone on airplane mode the whole time with no issues.
Arrival and Departure
The airport is very small and easy to navigate.
To get to Reykjavík from the airport you can either take the Airport Express or the Flybus.
We rented a car.
You will have to go through Immigration (passport control) when you leave. The airport is small so arriving 2 hours before your flight should be plenty of time.
Upon arrival in the US we had to go through both Immigration and Customs.
Tips and Tricks
It is recommended that you buy your Alcohol at the International Airport upon arrival. Not only will this save you money, but also alcohol is only sold at specific liquor stores with limited opening hours. We got a bag of wine that treated us very nicely for the days we were there.
Brennivín is a must try! This Icelandic spirit is made from grains/potatoes commonly compared to gin, but typically boasts caraway and dill as opposed to juniper berries.
It is safe to drink tap water. 95% of all water in Iceland comes from springs.
Tread lightly and do not litter.
Do not buy plastic water bottles, just bring your own and fill from the tap!
forbes.com: Dos and Don'ts according to the locals
Quick audio tutorial, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxzhWkMD3co
Yes – Já
No – Nei
Thank you – Takk
Thank you very much – Takk fyrir
Hello – Halló/Góðan daginn
Goodbye – Bless bless
Nice to meet you – Gaman að kynnast þér
There is no Icelandic word for “please”.
Great blog posts with some good tips
misstourist.com: Road Trip Around Iceland in 14 Days
fanofblank: Iceland Reykjavik and More
You can’t do it all. Nor should you! Make sure you take some time to enjoy where you are and what you are experiencing before rushing to check the next thing off your list. I always leave a place not seeing or doing something that was on my list, but at the same time, I always leave a place with new and amazing experiences that I never expected to receive! Here’s a few things still on my list for the next visit:
Drive the entire Ring Road
Mývatn Lake Area
Katie’s Visit Info
Tuesday, March 6th to Sunday, March 11th
BOS to REK Nonstop on Iceland Air
Mark and Corie