January 29, 2016

Things to do in Iceland ...

... when you are not in a conference center

It is clear that many attendees at the IIPC GA and web archiving conference in Reykjavík next April (details) plan to extend their stay. Several have contacted me for advice on what not to miss. So, I figured I'd write something up for all to see.

The following is far from exhaustive or authoritative. It largely reflects my personal taste and may have glaring omissions. It also probably reflects my memory as well!


Downtown Reykjavík has many interesting sights, museums and attractions. Not to mention shops, bars and restaurants. Of particular note is Hallgrímskirkja which rises up over the heart of city and right outside it is the statue of Leif Eriksson. The Pearl dominates the skyline a bit further south, there are stunning views to be had from its observation deck. In the heart of the city you'll find Alþingishúsið (Parliment building), city hall, the old harbor, Harpa (concert hall) and many other notable buildings and sights.

A bit further afield you'll find Höfði and the Sólfar sculpture. Sólfarið is without a question my favorite public sculpture, anywhere.

There are a large number of museums in Reykjavík. Ranging from the what-you'd-expect to the downright-weird.

Thanks to abundant geothermal energy, you'll find heated, open air, public swimming pools open year round. I highly recommend a visit to one of them. Reykjavík's most prominent public pool is Laugardalslaug.

Lastly, the most famous eatery in Iceland is in the heart of the city, and worth a visit, Bæjarins Beztu.

Out of Reykjavík

Just south of Reykjavík (15 minutes), in my hometown of Hafnarfjörður, you'll find a Viking Village!

A bit further there is the Blue Lagoon. I highly recommend everyone try it at least once. Do note that you may need to book in advance!

And just a bit further still, you'll find the Bridge Between Continents! Okay, so the last one is a bit overwrought, but still a fun visit if you're at all into plate tectonics.

Whale watching tours are operated out of Reykjavík, even in April. You'll want some warm clothes if you go on one of those!

Probably the most popular (for good reasons) day tour out of Reykjavík is the Golden Circle. It covers Geysir, Gullfoss (Iceland's largest waterfall) and Þingvellir (the site of the original Icelandic parliament, formed in 930, it is a UNESCO World Heritrage Site). You can do the circle in a rented car and there are also numerous tour operators offering this tip and variations on it.

Driving along the southern coast on highway 1, you'll also come across many interesting town and sights. It is possible to drive as far as Jökulsárlón and back in a single day. Stopping at places like Selfoss, Vík í Mýrdal, Seljalandsfoss, Skógarfoss and Skaftafell National Park. It may be better to plan an overnight stop, however. This is an ideal route for a modest excursion as there are so many interesting sights right by the highway.

Further afield

For longer trips outside of the capitol there are too many options to count. You could go to Vestmannaeyjar, just off the south coast, or to Akureyri, the capitol of the north. A popular trip is to take highway 1 around the country (it loops around). Such a trip can be done in 3-4 days, but you'd need closer to a week to fully appreciate all the sights along the way.


  1. Hi Kris

    Thank you for you blog and advise.

    I will have only one day for sightseeing, and if I want to see Gullfoss it seems that there are only pre-arranged tours that take all day and goes a lot of places. (I would like to stay a while at Gullfoss instead).

    I don't drive myself (in Denmark you can get a long way with buses, trains and taxis), so - is there any way to get go Gullfoss other than alle the pre-arranged tours?

    Best, Asger visiting IIPC from Denmark

    1. Not to my knowledge, no. Gullfoss is a bit off the beaten track except for tourism, so no public transport.