Iceland’s geographical location makes it the perfect place for a short layover when travelling between Europe and America. Many people worry that they won’t be able to see any of the sights on a short stop in the country, but fear not! Iceland’s variety and ever-changing nature means that you can experience a lot in just 48 hours in Iceland. Let us show you how!
Arrive early in the morning in order to make the most of the day. The airport is located a 35 minute drive outside of the capital of Reykjavík, on the beautiful Reykjanes Peninsula. Close to the airport is the world-famous Blue Lagoon so take advantage of the quiet morning hours and go for a relaxing soak in its milky blue waters and “wash off the travel dust“ as we say in Iceland. If you‘re feeling peckish after your swim, the Blue Lagoon café has some very nice breakfast options. Hop on the bus from the Blue Lagoon to Reykjavík (there are frequent departures) where you can check into your hotel and get ready to explore the world’s northernmost capital. Reykjavík has many fantastic landmarks and the best way to get an overview of the city is to head up to the Perlan in Öskjuhlíð. This glass dome built on top of four water tanks is one of the city’s most recognisable sights. Its newly refurbished restaurant has some seriously tempting treats for lunch and offers stunning views over the city and the nearby Mt. Esja. Perlan museum just opened up a breathtaking exhibition on glaciers and the geography of Iceland. You’ll learn about how Iceland was formed and can even walk through a glacial tunnel all year round!
Now that you’ve gotten a good view of the city from up high, it’s time to really get to know its heart. Downtown Reykjavík is a charming area with its distinctive colourful houses and proximity to the ocean lending it a lovely mix of a quaint fishing village feel and the cosmopolitan bustle of a big city. You can visit the many Icelandic design boutiques that line the main street and walk around the old harbour area, that’s recently become alive with restaurants and shops. For those interested in Iceland’s maritime history, Reykjavik’s Maritime Museum has an excellent exhibition on our seafaring nation’s history. If you’d rather learn more about the city itself, a city walking tour is both informative and a great way to familiarise yourself with its streets. The Harpa concert hall is a must, for both its interesting architecture and lovely ocean view.
By now it’s late afternoon and you’ve probably started to feel a bit hungry again. In recent years, Iceland’s culinary scene has exploded and the city is teeming with fantastic restaurants that work with fresh, Icelandic ingredients. Fish Company has food to die for (beyond seafood) and the newly opened Nostra offers Icelandic fine dining at its best. After dinner, it’s time to check out the infamous Icelandic nightlife. The downtown area has a great variety of pubs and bars to suit every mood. Check out the hipster vibes at Kex hostel, a super cosy local favourite with a great beer selection that often has live music. Or if you’re feeling fancy, try the fantastically named Pablo Discobar for some tasty exotic cocktails. And before you head home to bed you absolutely must stop at the Bæjarins Beztu hot dog stand for an Icelandic hot dog, Icelanders’ favourite fast food. Trust me, you’ll get hooked.
After a full day of exploring Reykjavík it is now time to head out of the city. But first, breakfast! Iceland is known for great bakeries full of sweet and savoury pastries that will get your morning off to a great start. Try a kleina, an Icelandic doughnut, at Sandholt bakery and wash it down with a cup of their fantastic coffee. Once you’re fully awake and refreshed it’s time for the day’s tour. The Golden Circle is one of Iceland’s must-see sights and as it is conveniently located close to the city, it’s a perfect way to get a well-rounded Iceland experience in a short time. The first stop is the legendary national park of Þingvellir, the site of the Alþingi, the world’s first democratic parliament. It’s also the site of the rift valley between the North American tectonic plate and the Eurasian, so you can be on two continents at once! After a stop at the Friðheimar greenhouse where you can sample their home-grown tomato soup, you’ll head to the Geysir hot spring area, where the active geyser Strokkur erupts every ten minutes or so. Onwards to the beautiful Gullfoss waterfall, a great reminder of the pure, unbridled power of nature. You’ll finish the day with a dip in the Fontana Spa and two course dinner at Lindin Bistro. If you’re visiting in the winter, you can even go out after dinner and hunt for the ever elusive northern lights before heading back to your hotel in Reykjavík.
Oh no it’s your last day already! But after your activity-filled two days you’ll still feel like you’ve gotten to experience the best the country has to offer and have had a real glimpse into the Icelandic lifestyle. Transfer to Keflavik airport by bus or private transfer and enjoy the sight of the moon-like black and green lava fields on your way to the airport. Once you’re there, get in some duty-free shopping of Icelandic design and delicacies. Bid Iceland farewell as you step onto your plane, for now at least. We know you’ll be back soon!
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