We invited our Icelandic guides to share their recommendations for special places to visit and things to do where you won’t find yourself surrounded by crowds. Here are their tips.
Off the Beaten Track in Iceland
Watch the Ground Boiling in the Reykjanes peninsula
Bjorn says: The charismatic and rugged landscape of the Reykjanes peninsula never ceases to amaze me. There you can witness nature in its wildest form and in this geopark you can literally watch the ground boiling. It's a true nature gem close to Reykjavik and I urge people not to miss it when in Iceland.
Skip the Blue Lagoon
Vilhjalmur says: You should not miss the smaller outdoor swimming pools in Reykjavik, with geothermal water and saunas. At 7am in the hot tubs is where you get the local gossip.
Visit Hafnarfjörður, the Elf Town of Iceland
Erla Ruth says: In Hafnarfjordur, town of the hidden people (who some call “elves”), you´ll find the beautiful nature reserve Ástjorn pond, a truly natural phenomenon, were the Horned Grebe and 44 other species lay their eggs. If you climb up the nearby hill Ásfjall you will not only find a beautiful old cairn on top, but you will also have an astonishing 360° mountain range view, the best one in the Reykjavik area. On Ásfjall there is believed to be a yellow arch of force which connects it with four other mountains and is a sacred connection to the hidden people.
Explore a Secluded Valley in the Middle of Reykjavik
Erla Ruth also suggests: Right in the middle of Reykjavik City we have a beautiful gem called Elliðaárdalur Valley. Take a lovely walk in the valley, where the smell of the pines in the forest along with the sound of Elliðaá river makes you feel like you are in a secluded area, not in the middle of the Capital City of Iceland. You will most likely run into rabbits, might catch a sight of fresh water Salmon if you’re there in the summer, and for sure you will see a beautiful waterfall, likely more than one.
Swim in the Atlantic and Spot a Meteorite near the Beach
Guðrún Helga says: Take a quick dip into the cold Atlantic in geothermal beach Nauthólsvík together with the locals but please be very careful; the Atlantic is extremely cold and you can get hypothermia if you go too far. If the water is too cold, then you can go to the warm or lukewarm water on the geothermal beach. Afterwards it is ideal to go into the hot tub, chat with the locals and get some warmth into your body before showering and dressing. The best time is at lunch time on week days. Close to the beach is the University of Reykjavik where you can see a piece of a meterorite that fell down to earth 4000 years ago.
Eat Lunch in a Greenhouse
Birkir says: Top the Golden Circle tour with a lunch stop at Friðheimar tomato farm. A unique food experience in a greenhouse where the food is served among the tomato plants. Make sure to bring empty bottles to fill with fresh, ice cold glacier water right from rivers and waterfalls along the way.
Photograph an Other-Worldly Landscape
Fred says: Approximately 30 minutes drive from Reykjavik is Seltún, where you will find one of the most interesting hot spring areas in Iceland. There I spend many hours every year, all seasons to photograph and video the unusual surroundings. The colours and mystique with the steam and bubbling clay puddles give you a sense of "another world". In the winter, the steam falls as crystals around, showing true wonders for the eyes and the camera.
Listen to Live Music in A Reykjavik Pub
Fred also suggests: One of my special places to listen (and sometimes participate) to live music is placed on the middle Laugarvegur (the shopping street of Reykjavik), called Dillon Whiskey bar. There you join locals and visitors alike in a very old house and rugged bar on the top floor. There's a nice bar on the second floor and a good hamburger joint on the ground level. I often play there myself with my blues band, The Lame Dudes.
Visit the Spot Where a Viking Parliament First Met
Stefan says: Thingvellir National Park is my favourite place outside of Reykjavik. Less than an hour's drive from the city, the national park is on the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its cultural significance. This is the place where the ancient Viking-Age Parliament convened for the first time in the year 930 (now the oldest still-existing parliament in the world.) The park nestles in a rift valley, which is 3 miles wide, and where two tectonic plates meet. The American plate is on the western side and the Eurasian plate on the eastern side.
Get a 360 degree view of Reykjavik
Stefan also suggests: Hallgrimskirkja Memorial Church is my favourite building in Reykjavik. It is without question the most impressive landmark in Reykjavik. Although the building is visited by half a million visitors every year, only a fraction of them find their way to the top of the tower which affords amazing views of Reykjavik. To get there simply pay for a ticket in the church office and use the elevator. Once upstairs you need to walk up one flight of stairs to get to the viewing platform with a great view in every direction from the church.