Iceland / Reykjavik

19 Best Day Trips from Reykjavík to Explore Iceland’s Natural Wonders

Updated January 10, 2024

You really can’t go to Iceland without capturing as many waterfall photos as your camera will allow and marveling at massive glaciers, but if you’re basing yourself in Reykjavík, you might be worried about what is possible. 

Worry no more! 

While Reykjavík offers an abundance of culture and adventure, there are many other amazing things you should see and explore — all within a day from Reykjavík! Even if your time is limited in Iceland, don’t miss one or two of these fantastic day trips!  

From soaking in geothermal pools to hiking across a frozen glacier, this guide features the best Reykjavik day trips that have been experienced by seasoned travel writers!

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reykjavik taken from the water with white and colorful town buildings in the background and a single swan in the foreground

The Best Day Trips from Reykjavík to Add to Your Itinerary

#1 Discover the Golden Circle

When you only have time to explore some of Iceland’s natural wonders, The Golden Circle is a great place to go and one of the most popular day trips from Reykjavík. 

This 300-km (186-mile) loop takes you to Iceland’s big three — a bursting geyser, a powerful waterfall, and a National Park where you can walk between the tectonic plates that separate North America from Europe. 

Depending on which way you start, your first stop will either be Thingvellir National Park (home of the tectonic plates) or the Geysir Geothermal Area — there’s no wrong way to start! The Thingvellir National Park is situated in a rift valley formed by the separation of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. The diverging plates have created deep cracks and fissures (you can snorkel in the Silfra Fissure), resulting in stunning landscapes, including cliffs, canyons, and the picturesque Lake Thingvallavatn.

The Geysir Geothermal Area is known for its geothermal activity, including geysers, hot springs, and bubbling mud pots. Here you can witness the Strokkur Geyser erupting every few minutes! 

Just a short drive from the Geysir Geothermal Area is the beautiful Gullfoss waterfall, also known as the “Golden Falls.” The name comes from the sediment in the water that gives a brown tint that can be seen on sunny days. Although it’s not the largest waterfall in Iceland, its power is still mesmerizing — no matter the season. 

You can explore the Golden Circle in two ways — on an organized tour from Reykjavík or a self-driving adventure. Thingvellir National Park is only 47 km (25 miles) from Reykjavík, and although it’s not far in the distance, you should still plan for an all-day adventure. 

the powerful gulfoss waterfall with high water spray on a cloudy day in iceland

#2 Snorkel Between Two Continents 

Snorkeling in Silfra (located in the Thingvellir National Park) is an experience like no other. It’s absolutely worth going on a day trip from Reykjavík because it’s the only place in the world where you can snorkel between two continents. The water is crystal clear, and the visibility is incredible; you are only limited in visibility by your own sight, not because of water clarity. The water is so pure that you can even drink it! At least, this is what they say, but I’m not sure I would.

If possible, you should try to go during the summer when you have a better chance of sun; the visibility is even better. The underwater world of Silfra is simply breathtaking. You’ll see colorful algae and fascinating rock formations, but don’t expect exotic fish or a coral reef. The water temperature stays around 2°C all year round, but don’t worry; you’ll be provided a dry suit to keep you warm. 

The drive from Reykjavík to Silfra takes around one hour, and you’ll be surrounded by stunning Icelandic scenery along the way. Snorkeling in Silfra is an unforgettable experience you won’t want to miss during your visit to Iceland — there’s nothing like this anywhere else in the world!
Recommended by Honest Travel Stories

snorkeling in the silfra fissure in icelands national park on a day trip from Reykjavik

#3 Explore the Blue Diamond Circle in Reykjanes Peninsula

The Blue Diamond Circle is a driving route on Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula filled with natural wonders and cultural sites. Located southwest of Reykjavík, this circular route spans approximately 180 kilometers and showcases the region’s unique landscapes. It includes the area around Keflavík Airport and the Blue Lagoon, making it a great extension when traveling in this area.

The Blue Diamond Circle allows you to see the dynamic forces of nature at work and includes geothermal areas similar to the much larger areas in the north of the country. Gunnuhver geothermal area, known for its steam vents and boiling hot springs, is located close to Reykjanesviti lighthouse, perched on the rugged coastline, offering panoramic views. The route also features volcanic craters, steaming new lava fields, and the famous Blue Lagoon. It is also possible to cross the Bridge Between the Continents, where you can cross the Mid-Atlantic ridge, one of the few places where it is not underwater.

The Blue Diamond Circle is easily accessible from Reykjavík, with a starting point roughly 50 kilometers southwest of the capital. Allowing a full day for the Blue Diamond Circle is recommended to thoroughly appreciate the attractions and experiences along the route. This ensures enough time for leisurely walks, exploration, and soaking up the unique sights. If you don’t have a car, check out this private tour which includes the active Fagradalsfjall volcano!
Recommended by Meandering Wild 

a bright orange light house in the middle of iceland's desolate landscape on a cloudy day

#4 Get Up Close to Massive Icebergs at The Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

If you’ve never had the chance to get up close to massive icebergs, this is it! The Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most popular and deepest lagoons (lakes).

The lagoon is formed by the melting of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, which is part of the larger Vatnajökull glacier. As the glacier retreats, chunks of ice break off and float in the lagoon, creating a mesmerizing landscape of icy blue, white, and black-streaked icebergs of various sizes and shapes. The vivid blue color of the icebergs, particularly under sunlight, adds to the lagoon’s beauty and allure.

The best way to experience Jökulsárlón is on a Zodiac or Amphibian boat ride. The Zodiac excursion is longer, and because the boat is smaller, you can get much closer to the icebergs than the Amphibian boat. The boat rides are offered from April – October and range in time from 30 minutes – 1 hour and 15 minutes. Boat tours are 6300 ISK – 13900 ISK ($46 – $101 US).

Adjacent to Jökulsárlón is the Diamond Beach. This black volcanic sand beach is strewn with glistening ice chunks and icebergs that have washed ashore from the lagoon. The contrasting colors of the sparkling ice against the black sand make it a photographer’s paradise and a must-visit spot.

You can explore this area on an organized tour or on your own. The drive from Reykjavík will take just under 4 hours one way. On your way to Jökulsárlón, there are quite a few other gorgeous stops that you might want to make that include Reynisfjara Beach and the beautiful Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls, along with many others (tours generally make stops along the way too). 

the jokulsarlon glacier lagoon filled with icebergs and a person standing at the waters edge in iceland

#5 Hike Múlagljúfur Canyon

Múlagljúfur Canyon is one of the most underrated day trips from Reykjavík! It is one of the best trails in Iceland and a must on any Iceland Ring Road Trip. You can’t beat the stunning views of glaciers, mountains, and the sea. This hike is 2.8 miles round trip and is difficult, but it is well worth it! The trail takes you up the canyon with gorgeous panoramic views. At the end of the trail is a fantastic view of Hangandifoss Falls. Hangandifoss is one of the tallest waterfalls in Iceland, and it pours into the canyon, feeding the river. Looking further down the canyon, you can see a volcano in the distance.

The canyon is located near Jökulsárlón Lagoon and Diamond Beach and is about a 5-hour drive from Reykjavík. To get to Múlagljúfur Canyon trailhead, you will turn off Route 1 and drive down an unmarked gravel road for about 2 miles. This spot is not well marked, so save it on your maps ahead of time. 
Recommended by Voyages with Val

the Múlagljúfur Canyon with a river running through it on a hazy day at sunset in iceland

#6 Explore the South Coast 

Whether you’re headed to Jökulsárlón or just making a road trip through Iceland’s South Coast, there is so much to see — you could honestly spend multiple days exploring. Along Route 1, you’ll find stunning coastline, black sand beaches, towering cliffs, and picturesque villages. Don’t miss the chance to visit the famous Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls and the otherworldly landscape of the Sólheimajökull glacier. 

Exploring the South Coast is one of the best day trips from Reykjavík, and here are some of the best stops to check out:

#7 Reynisfjara Beach

This black sand beach has been honored as one of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world, but it’s also incredibly dangerous. The dramatic beach is famous for its dramatic scenery — towering cliffs of hexagonal basalt columns and large basalt sea stacks called Reynisdrangar. According to local folklore, the stacks are said to be trolls who were turned to stone when caught by the rising sun.

A visit to this beach is solely to enjoy the scenery, never to swim, even if you’re an Olympic swimmer. The area is well-known for unpredictable currents (waves up to 120 feet have been measured), including Sneaker Waves, which are larger and stronger waves that can come ashore unexpectedly. Multiple tourist deaths have occurred over the years because they didn’t exercise caution. 

When arriving at the beach, you’ll see a giant yellow sign with a flashing green, yellow, or red light. The colored zones change depending on the weather conditions and tell visitors if it is advisable to continue. It is important to note that the beach is not monitored, so you must manage all safety precautions.  

The Reynisfjara Beach is approximately two and a half hours from Reykjavík via Route 1 and only 10 minutes from the small town of Vik. 

the dangerous Reynisfjara Beach on a cloudy and windy day in iceland on a day trip from Reykjavik

#8 Skógafoss Waterfall

Skógafoss is the prettiest waterfall in Iceland, and that is a bold statement in a country famous for its waterfalls. 

As you walk up to Skógafoss, the 60-meter drop over the cliff is spectacular. To the right of the waterfall is a series of steps taking you to the top for a different perspective. You can watch the water flow over the edge from here. A hiking trail also follows the Skógá River for approximately 8 km (5 miles) one-way and features more stunning scenery peppered with waterfalls. 

The drive time from Reykjavík is about 2 hours and 15 minutes each way. There is no entrance fee, and the parking is free. Conveniently there are also free toilets next to the car park. There are a couple of places to eat in the area; the best is Freya Café in Skogar (they have a few vegan options).

Depending on the wind, you might want to pack waterproof gear, as the spray from the waterfall can be intense. 
Recommended by Kristin from Scotland Less Explored

Short on Time? Or Just Can’t Decide?
Check out These Popular & Highly Rated Day Trips from Reykjavík!

Golden Circle, Volcano Crater & Blue Lagoon Small Group Tour
Snaefellsnes and Kirkjufell Full-Day Tour from Reykjavik
South Coast Full Day Tour from Reykjavik

All of these spots are also highlighted below incase you need more information! Also, don’t forget to book your ticket with FlyBus before you head to Iceland! It’s the most affordable ground transfer option from the airport to Reykjavik.

#9 Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Checking out the Seljalandsfoss waterfall is one of the best things to do in Iceland. The waterfall is part of the river Seljalandsá, which originates underneath the glacier Eyjafjallajökull. The cataract falls from a 60-meter-high cliff and features a wide cave behind the waterfall. There are circular trails that allow you to circle the waterfall and observe it from behind. 

Bring a raincoat to avoid getting completely soaked if you plan to go behind the waterfall! Seljalandsfoss is the most photographed waterfall in Iceland. Use a wide-angle lens to get a full view of the waterfall and cave from behind. 

Seljalandsfoss is located 130 Km from Reykjavik, and you can visit it on a self-driving or join a terrific tour that explores the area, including this gem.
Recommended by Travel the World Pages

the beautiful Seljalandsfoss waterfall taken from along a hiking trail that leads behind the waterfall in iceland

#10 Gljúfrabúi Waterfall 

If you’re scouting for a secret spot in South Iceland, Gljúfrabúi Waterfall, or “Gljúfrafoss,” is where you need to go. It’s tucked away in a canyon, making it the chill cousin of the famous, nearby Seljalandsfoss. 

The name Gljúfrabúi means “canyon dweller,” and boy, does it live up to that! It’s like this secret hideout surrounded by nature, as the waterfall is hidden behind cliffs and drops down about 40 meters. The mist it kicks up gives it a truly magical vibe.

To get there, you’ll hike a short trail and then wade through a stream to get into the canyon. It’s like your own mini–Indiana Jones adventure. Be ready to get wet, and make sure your shoes have a good grip.

And camera buffs, listen up! This place is a goldmine for amazing shots — make sure you climb up the right side of the waterfall for an epic view of it pouring into the canyon.

Getting to Gljúfrabúi is easy — take Route 1 from Reykjavík, follow signs for Seljalandsfoss, and park there. Gljúfrabúi is a 500-meter walk north of Seljalandsfoss. This place is a jackpot for anyone looking for a serene escape with a dash of adventure.
Recommended by  Seek Scandinavia

the gljufrabui waterfall taken from the base of the waterfall looking up to the sky on a day trip from Reykjavik

#11 Check out the DC-3 Plane Wreck

One of the best day trips from Reykjavík is visiting the DC-3 plane wreck in southern Iceland. Located approximately 160 kilometers from Reykjavík, the plane wreck is a captivating destination that attracts visitors worldwide. 

To reach the DC-3 plane wreck, you embark on a scenic road trip from Reykjavík via rental car or with a group tour. The route along the Ring Road (Route 1) takes you through Iceland’s stunning countryside, with breathtaking views of mountains, glaciers, and lava fields. 

Once you arrive at the Sólheimasandur black sand beach, you’ll need to walk approximately 4 kilometers to reach the plane wreck. The walk offers an opportunity to immerse yourself in Iceland’s raw and untouched nature; it truly feels like you’re on another planet. As you approach the site, the eerie sight of the abandoned aircraft against the stark landscape creates a surreal atmosphere, making it a must-see for photography enthusiasts and adventure seekers.

The plane crashed on the beach in 1973, and officials determined removing the aircraft was too much of a hassle. Miraculously, everyone on board survived. The plane has sat on the beach for 50 years! It’s important to note that climbing or touching the wreckage is prohibited to preserve its historical significance and for your safety.
Recommended by The Directionally Challenged Traveler

the old and deserted plane wreckage from the dc 3 plane crash on a black sand beach in iceland

#12 Hike the Sólheimajökull Glacier

Sólheimajökull glacier, located 2 hours from Reykjavík, is an absolute must-visit destination in Iceland. Whether you plan to take a day trip from the city or add it to a comprehensive exploration of the South Coast, this glacier offers an unforgettable experience.

Hiking Sólheimajökull is a unique experience — the stark contrast between the white ice and the black volcanic ash is mesmerizing. As you traverse the glacier, you’ll see awe-inspiring landscapes, including striking ice formations that are constantly changing and deep crevasses where melting glacier water flows beneath you.

For your safety, you should never attempt to hike the glacier alone; you should always go with an experienced guide. There are hiking tours that include a guide and all the necessary equipment (hiking boots, crampons, and a helmet).

Also, take a refillable water bottle with you and enjoy the refreshing coolness of pure glacier water. It’s a refreshing way to connect with nature and savor a unique Iceland delight.

It’s important to note that the Sólheimajökull glacier is facing a concerning reality. This glacier is rapidly shrinking; experts predict it may be gone entirely within a few decades. Seizing the chance to experience this while you still can is crucial.
Recommended by Our Vacationing Life 

the white, icy blue and black streaked Solheimajokull glacier looking down into the glacier lagoon in iceland on a day trip from Reykjavik

#13 Explore the Dramatic Landscapes in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula 

For a day trip from Reykjavík lined with stunning landscapes, minus the typical crowds of the Golden Circle, head to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Located in Iceland’s West, the 90 km long peninsula features only one major town (with 6,500 inhabitants) and is an absolute natural gem.

You won’t want to miss the Snæfellsjökull National Park, which features an active volcano — even Jules Verne was fascinated by it. At the Þúfubjarg cliffs, you can observe various types of birds and also get a first glimpse of the uniquely shaped Lóndrangar cliffs. You can even walk down to the black sand beach near them and admire the cliffs up close.

Next up is Church Mountain, with its specific cone-like shape and beautiful little waterfalls nearby. Capturing both in one frame makes for a stunning shot!

All these natural wonders are located close to the main road. It’s easy to hop out of the car or hike for a few hours. The shortest drive between Stykkishólmur and Reykjavík takes around 2 hours. You can also take a few detours and extend the trip.

If you’d rather not drive, check out this highly-rated day tour from Reykjavík.
Recommended by Travel Geekery 

the natural black stone and green moss covered stone bridge in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula  in iceland

#14 Relax in The Blue Lagoon

One of the best day trips from Reykjavík is a visit to the world-famous Blue Lagoon. In fact, this place is so incredible that it was named one of the 25 “wonders of the world” by National Geographic. 

Here you can bathe in the natural hot spring and spa’s milky blue, mineral-filled waters. Additionally, you’ll love that the Blue Lagoon is a short 45-minute drive from Reykjavík and a 15-minute drive from the airport (there are transportation options available from the airport if you don’t have a car). 

However, you might not know that the Blue Lagoon is not natural. Instead, it was created accidentally by the Svartsengi Power Plant in 1972. And the stunning color of the 102 (F) degrees water is from a combination of sun, silica, algae, silica, and minerals.

Now, depending on the type of ticket you purchase, you can enjoy a wide array of luxury services, like facials and massages.

Just be sure to make a reservation in advance (reservations are required), and time slots fill up quickly. 
Recommended by Iceland Trippers

#15 Check out The Lava Falls (Hraunfossar)

Hraunfossar, or “Lava Falls,” is an incredible natural wonder in the west of Iceland. It is a series of waterfalls formed by rivulets streaming out of a lava field into river Hvítá. The spectacular site has been created over time from the slow erosion of volcanic rock, and it is a sight that will take your breath away.

The array of colors created by the mix of rocks, green moss, blue sky, and white rapids make for a truly unique experience. The lava mounds, jagged rocks, and naturally occurring steam vents enhance the landscape and create a dramatic setting.

Hraunfossar is an excellent alternative to add to your itinerary instead of the popular waterfalls on Iceland’s south coast. 

From Reykjavík, it is about an hour and 40 minutes, and there are several car parks nearby. If you don’t have a car, there are day tours that include checking out the Lava Falls.

The falls are open year-round, although some areas may be closed off during periods of extreme weather. Due to the landscape, it is recommended that you wear proper shoes and pack hiking gear
Recommended by BeyOfTravel

waterfalls cascading over lava rock called the lava falls in iceland on a partly cloudy day

#16 Enjoy the Beauty of Húsafell Canyon (West Iceland)

Located on the Silver Circle in Iceland is the stunning Húsafell Canyon, known for its rugged landscape, hiking trails, and offbeat bathing experiences — a gorgeous place you won’t want to miss.

If you’re interested in a geothermal bath experience, check out the Canyon Baths. It is a unique, private experience; reservations are required. In addition to the baths, there are hiking trails, waterfalls, and a resort. Hotel Húsafell provides accommodation and can offer a private guide and driver to take you to the Canyon or Krauma Baths (the hotel also offers other activities). 

The beauty of Húsafell Canyon is truly breathtaking. As you stand at the bottom of the canyon, you’ll be able to look up and admire its sheer size and beauty while soaking in the warm waters. 

There are several ways to explore Húsafell Canyon. The most popular is following hiking trails that lead through the canyon and around the perimeter. This gives hikers a great view of the canyon walls and allows them to appreciate its beauty from all angles. 

The Langifoss (a two-tiered) waterfall is also located by the Canyon Baths.

Additionally, there are lava-caving tours nearby. From Reykjavík, it is about a 2-hour drive. Roads are accessible by private vehicles and tours. Here is a day tour that includes sightseeing in the Húsafell area. 
Recommended by ToSomePlaceNew

geothermal pools in the Húsafell Canyon in iceland

#17 Hike the Vatnajokull Glacier

Visiting the Vatnajokull Glacier from Reykjavik is a long day trip, but it’s also one of the most epic things you can do in Iceland. Vatnajokull National Park, where the glacier is located, is about a 4-hour drive from Reykjavik. 

The Vatnajokull glacier covers 8% of Iceland and is the largest in Europe. While hiking the Vatnajokull glacier in Iceland, you’ll have the chance to hike ice crags, admire the blue-ish tinted ice, climb through ice canyons, discover the little caves, fissures, and streams in the ice, and marvel at the massive ice fall that towers over you higher on the glacier. 

Iceland is known as a land of fire and ice. While you can’t control the fire part – as volcanoes erupt when they want to – you should take the chance to experience the ice. The glaciers of Iceland are such a dominant feature of the country and create an otherworldly landscape that you need to explore. 

When you go, bring good hiking boots or rent them from your guide/company. Wear layers as you will alternate from being chilly to warm from the exercise. And if given the chance, take the opportunity to drink the water flowing fresh off the glacier; it’s delicious.
Recommended by The Unknown Enthusiast 

hiking the white and icy blue vatnajokull glacier in iceland with a person in a yellow jacket standing at the base

#18 Go for a Soak at The Sky Lagoon

Outdoor bathing is a big part of Icelandic culture. Locals love visiting hot springs and heated pools to relax and socialize. Visitors to Iceland shouldn’t miss this activity, and when you’re in Reykjavik, Sky Lagoon isn’t far. Sky Lagoon was created at the edge of land overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and while the lagoon is man-made, it’s heated naturally with geothermal heat from the ground.

Sky Lagoon allows guests to feel like they’re one with nature. You’ll soak in the crystal-clear water with rocks built up around you, helping you detach from the “real world.” Another unique offering at Sky Lagoon is The Ritual. It is a seven-step process that honors the Icelandic heath practice of shocking your body with cold and hot sensations.

There are three different pass options, two include the seven-step Ritual, and one doesn’t. The other main difference is that the Pure Passes have male and female community changing rooms, and the Sky Pass offers guests a co-ed locker room with private changing and bathing rooms.

A few tips include visiting during the off-season or early in the morning to avoid crowds. Summer months and mid-day are peak visiting hours. You’ll also want to book in advance as passes are timed entry and often sell out. You can reach the Sky Lagoon via taxi from Reykjavik city center in about 15 minutes or pre-book the pass with transportation.
Recommended by Stuffed Suitcase

#19 Explore the Largest Ice Tunnel in Iceland

If you’re looking for an extra memorable day trip from Reykjavik, consider a tour through the largest ice tunnel in Iceland! You can book an Into the Glacier tour from Reykjavik or make the short (less than 2-hour) drive and start your tour from the Húsafell base camp. 

To get to the ice tunnel, you’ll ride in a modified glacier vehicle like a super truck! The ride itself is fantastic and is worth the trip. You’ll also get to stop at Klaki Basecamp for other-worldly pictures before finishing the drive to the tunnel.

Once you finally get to the ice tunnel, your guides will provide crampons for your safety while exploring inside — it is impressive! The tunnel is over 1,800 feet long and over 130 feet underneath the glacier’s surface at the deepest point. Another great thing about this tour is that it’s available year-round!

Even though the tours typically last only 3-4 hours from start to finish, weather and other determining factors can make it last up to 5-6 hours, so this should be your only planned excursion for the day. Make sure to dress appropriately with warm, water-proof layers and insulated hiking boots. 
Recommended by Adventures With TuckNae

into the glacier ice tunnel on a day trip from reykjavik

Where to Stay in Reykjavik

If you’re looking for places to stay that are centrally located, check out these two terrific spots. One note, breakfast is included at The Storm Hotel but isn’t at Eyja Guldsmeden.

Eyja Guldsmeden Hotel

Brautarholt 10, 105 Reykjavík, Iceland
4-star hotel

Book Your Stay

Storm Hotel

4 Þórunnartún, 105 Reykjavík, Iceland
3-star hotel

Book Your Stay
About Author

Rebecca is the founder of the vegan travel company Veggies Abroad. In 2021, she bid her 15-year career goodbye and ventured into the world of ethical business with the launch of a vegan travel blog (the one you’re reading!). As the blog flourished, Rebecca expanded her vision to encompass personalized travel planning services and launched Veggies Abroad's inaugural vegan tour to Thailand, marking the beginning of many more eco-conscious, plant-powered adventures to come. Follow her adventures on Instagram or Facebook @veggiesabroad