Iceland has become a great stopover country on your journey from U.S. Icelandair offers free layover extensions so you can explore their beautiful country with ease. Here I will highlight my 2 days in Iceland itinerary to help you explore the most important landmarks to see.
2 Days in Iceland: A Guide to Explore and See Everything
Iceland has become a hot tourist destination in the past decade. It is surprisingly affordable to fly to Reykjavik from several U.S. cities and the country boasts a great mix of rugged, natural beauty and cosmopolitan life.
Did you know that the largest glacier in Europe is located in Iceland? Consider these other facts about Iceland before you start your planning journey.
Here, adventure-seekers can bathe in an azure pool and swim between continental plates.
Planning a trip to Iceland can feel overwhelming as you are exploring an entire country. The island is relatively small so you can see a ton, including varying landscapes.
Let’s dive into our Iceland itinerary.
Day One in Iceland: Check Out the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is a short 20-minute drive from the Keflavik International Airport and about 50 minutes away from Reykjavik. One of the most visited and Instagrammed places in Iceland is the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa with water so blue it seems unnatural.
The Blue Lagoon is a man-made pool created when the geothermal power plant, Svartsengi, was built over a natural vent from an underground lava flow.
The lava heats water that runs the turbines in the power plant and the steam heats the municipal water heating system. Afterward, the water drains into the lagoon where visitors enjoy the warmth of the water despite the cold Icelandic air.
The stunning turquoise water of the Blue Lagoon is a bit of an illusion. The water contains silica, algae, and other minerals that make the water an opaque white. If you were to scoop out a glass of the water, it would look like watered-down milk.
The Blue Lagoon Color
The tranquil blue color that makes the Blue Lagoon so wonderful to photograph is just an illusion caused by sunlight reflecting off the silica in the water. But what a spectacular illusion it creates! Blue Lagoon selfies are bucket-list popular because of the surreal color.
A note of caution, however; although you might be tempted to visit the Blue Lagoon early in the morning or after dusk to avoid the large crowds of people, without the sunlight, the pool doesn’t look the mesmerizing blue that makes it so appealing.
The silica in the water, along with sulfur and other minerals are said to give the pool curative properties. People with skin ailments, such as psoriasis, and joint pain, like arthritis, often find relief in the warm waters of the Blue Lagoon. The temperature hovers around 100-degrees Fahrenheit year-round so it is akin to a hot tub experience, only better.
The entrance fees to bathe in the Blue Lagoon range from $50 to $100, and higher if you want the deluxe treatment. Tickets sell out quickly, especially during the summer months so you will want to reserve your visit as early as possible. For add-on fees, you can rent a locker to store your belongings, and rent towels and swimsuits.
One thing you must purchase before you visit the Blue Lagoon is a waterproof case for your cell phone so you can take your Instagram pics. You are allowed to bring your DSLR camera into water…if you want to risk it getting wet or already have a GoPro.
One suggestion is that you take your photos as soon as get to the Blue Lagoon, then lock your camera or phone in your locker while you enjoy a worry-free swim.
Iceland offers the only place on earth where visitors can snorkel between tectonic plates. The Silfra fissure is an underwater rift between the Eurasian and North American continental plates that widens at the rate of about two centimeters per year.
Scuba divers and snorkelers to the Silfra fissure enjoy some of the most crystal-clear water on earth. That’s because the water, which flows into the crack from the melting Landjokull glacier, is really cold, between 36 and 39-degrees.
Additionally, the glacial water filters through the porous volcanic rock for more than thirty years before it enters the fissure so it is pure and clear, ideal for underwater photography.
If you don’t want to risk diving with your cell phone in a waterproof case and you don’t have a waterproof DSRL camera, check with your diving outfitter or snorkeling guide. Many have underwater cameras available for rent so you can take bucket list-worthy pics between the continents.
Day Two: Explore Reykjavik and Experience Iceland Culture
Traveling will always have a special place in my heart. Exploring places, learning about their history, meeting new people, and experiencing things my mind imagine without being there—everything can be so exhilarating.
But going places isn’t easy work. If you’re constantly googling and looking for an adventure, look no further. Our Iceland itinerary will let you explore its largest city, Reykjavik. There’s a ton of things to know about Iceland and we have you covered with Iceland’s largest city.
Where is Reykjavík?
Reykjavík is the capital city of Iceland. The abundance of geographical wonders in the country is astounding. There are around 130 volcanoes in Iceland, and 30 of them can be found directly under the island.
9:00 a.m. – Hallgrímskirkja Church
The first stop on this trip is the Hallgrímskirkja Church, which stands at 240 feet and is the city’s main landmark. The entire structure took 40 years to construct, with a tower that can be seen from almost anywhere in Reykjavik.
The Lutheran church’s tower doubles as an observatory, where you can find a great view of both Reykjavík and the surrounding mountains.
Hallgrímskirkja opens every day at 9 a.m. and closes at 9.pm. during the summer. It closes earlier at around 5 p.m. in the winter. Entrance only costs 900 Icelandic króna, which translates to roughly 8 USD.
11:00 a.m. – The Settlement Exhibition (Landnámssýningin)
Only 15-20 minutes away on foot is Landnámssýningin, or the Settlement Exhibition. The exhibit is based on an open archeological excavation and features bits and pieces of Iceland’s Viking history, with findings from the ruin of one of Iceland’s first houses and other excavations.
The museum is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day and all year-round. It’s great for tours during rainy days and wintertime, and you can get guided tours in foreign languages.
2:00 p.m. – National Museum of Iceland (Þjóðminjasafn Íslands)
After lunch, it’s time to see the National Museum of Iceland. The museum often features different exhibits throughout the year, but the main exhibit caries over 2,000 artifacts.
The Valthjófsstadur door, considered the pièce de résistance of the museum, tells the tale of Yvain, the legendary 12th century Knight of the Lion (Le Chevalier au Lion) in elaborate engravings.
The museum is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. during summer. The museum is closed on Mondays during wintertime.
3:00 p.m. – Perlan Museum
Cap off the day and get to know Iceland even more with a visit to a world-class museum, the Perlan, which literally means “pearl”. This large structure on top of Öskjuhlíð hill has a glass dome and observation deck that allows visitors to enjoy a 360-degree view of Reykjavík.
The museum also has a restaurant, a planetarium, and the Áróra, the first 8K planetarium show featuring a lovely story about the northern lights. It is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Exploring Iceland doesn’t have to be stressful or pricey. Affordable city cards are available as options for tourists who want to roam the city for 24, 36 or 72 hours.
Other Stops to Consider
The Reykjavic City Museum says that columns of steam from the country’s hot springs made such an impression on the first settlers in Iceland, that they named the peninsula Reykjavik or smoky bay in Icelandic.
The best of Iceland’s hot springs may be hours from Reykjavik, but past visitors say the city’s town atmosphere will leave you feeling just as warm inside.
See Related: Most Breathtaking Iceland Attractions
Urban graffiti, wall murals, and colorful store fronts line up Laugavegur Street, the city’s main shopping street. It’s full of cafes, bars, and stores where you can shop for souvenirs.
Drinks and food are pricey in Reykjavik. English language magazine “Reykjavik’s Grapevine” suggests visitors get hold of the Appy Hour mobile app for alerts on the best deals at the city’s bars.
Located on a hill by the side of Laugavegur stands Hallgrimskirja church, the most iconic structure in Reykjavik. The city doesn’t have high-rise buildings so the 244-foot tall, 74-year-old church towers over everything in the city. State architect Gudjon Samuelsson designed it, and it’s said to represent the basalt rock columns found in Iceland’s beaches.
Past visitors recommend taking the pay lift to the top of the church to enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of the city from an observation deck.
Harpa Concert Hall
Three-dimensional glass panels make up the concert hall, which became an added attraction to the city’s waterfront when it opened in 2011. Natural light from the sea and sky make the building sparkle during the day while artificial lights brighten it up at night.
Saving Money in Reykjavik
These tips will help you maintain a budget while you’re enjoying your trip.
- Check for low-cost long-haul flights with a free stopover in Iceland via Icelandair or Wow Air.
- Pack coffee, instant soup, and other food essentials. If you need to shop for food in Reykjavik, reviews suggest buying products at Bonus stores. Also go for street hotdogs, which sell for around USD4. They’re cheaper than most sandwiches at around USD18 each.
- Bring a metal/thermal refillable bottle. Bottled water costs around USD5.
- Buy alcoholic beverages at a duty-free shop. A glass of wine can cost some USD14 at local bars.