Like I mentioned in the overview of our Iceland vacation, we spent 3 days in Reykjavik on the front end of our vacation (and then another day and a half on the back end before we went home). To be honest, I wasn’t prepared to fall in love with this Icelandic town, but let me tell you – I did. Today I’m sharing a little bit more about how we spent our first three days in Reykjavik — what we did, what we saw, what we ate and what we loved and could have done without. Let’s get going…!
3 Days In Reykjavik
We arrived in country around 5AM and our first order of business was the duty free store before we left the airport. We picked up some alcohol (bourbon, beer and wine), as well as some OM NOM chocolate and headed on our way to pick up our rental car. (OM NOM is sold pretty much everywhere and for good reason – it’s tasty! We found the best prices to be at the duty free store for $9/bar).
This is a good time to mention that absolutely nothing was open at this hour and the handful of coffee places were for departing passengers only. It seemed really weird, but we were denied buying coffee at every single one. Kind of annoying!
Anyway, it was pouring down rain, so we made a run for it outside to grab a shuttle bus over to the car rental facility nearby. We rented a small SUV from Iceland Car Rental (though we also considered Reykjavik Cars) and it was great for the 4 of us, because none of us had a ton of stuff. Had we packed just a little bit more, we would have definitely needed to go with a larger vehicle due to luggage and coats.
From the car rental place, we were all in desperate need of a coffee and pulled into the first place we saw. Ironically it was a Dunkin’ Donuts, but they were only selling donuts, not coffee?! Thankfully, the kind man working there directed us to a bakery around the corner where we loaded up on coffee, had our first taste of free wifi (plentiful everywhere in Iceland) and headed off to the Blue Lagoon.
Pulling up to the Blue Lagoon seemed kind of strange, because it just appeared like a parking lot from the outside, but once you walk inside and take a peek at the lagoon itself, it truly is a sight to behold. I mean, the water is just so blue.
We had booked the PREMIUM package, which included robes, slippers, extra facial masks, drinks and a lunch reservation at their restaurant on property, Lava. We were all pretty glad we did this and it was our first experience with erratic weather patterns. It went from sunny to snowing, then sunny again, followed by hail. It freaking hurt! We huddled under a bridge to wait for it to pass and enjoyed the specialty lava scrub and cocktails that were included. Note: the warmest spots in the lagoon are near the trashcans! Seems odd, but it’s totally true.
Also, make sure you coat your hair with conditioner before getting into the Lagoon, otherwise you risk having some hair troubles when you get out. We heard horror stories about women having their hair turn to a straw-like texture post-Lagoon. We covered ours in conditioner and then pulled it up, making sure not to get it wet at all.
The changing rooms at the Blue Lagoon are kind of a clusterfuck, because so many people are trying to rinse off and change, but there are lockers you can use to store your purse/phone/camera and everything was pretty clean, albeit kind of smelly.
Our lunch was delicious and we all enjoyed it in our robes after showering off from our Lagoon soak. There are several different things you can order, but we all went with the two course pairings and I enjoyed a beet salad with a cauliflower steak. It had such great flavor!
We spent a good chunk of our day at the Blue Lagoon, but it was well timed given that we had flown overnight and were all pretty exhausted. We drove into Reykjavik and checked into the Centerhotel Midgardur property. Centerhotels has a handful of affordable properties in Reykjavik, but this one included breakfast and seemed like it had a central location, so that’s why we chose it. It also cost slightly less than the Hilton and Marriott properties we looked at. I believe it was around $250 per night.
The plan was to check in, clean up, get some rest and then head out to dinner, but after I took a shower, I felt incredibly nauseous. I’m not sure if it was the cold weather, coupled with the in-and-out of the thermal spa, but each time I sat up in bed, the room was spinning and I felt sweaty then freezing. Thankfully, a good night’s sleep and lots of water finally had me feeling better!
We woke up the next day pretty early, so Dane and I headed out to Reykjavik and walked a big circle around the city. We felt extremely safe even though it was still dark out and it was nice to see everything when everyone was still asleep. At this point we felt pretty happy that our hotel included breakfast, because we were beginning to realize that not much opened up before 9-10AM.
Dane and I walked back to our hotel and met Casey and Eric for breakfast. We were packed up and on the road to do the Golden Circle by 8AM. It seems like the Golden Circle is a complete blur, because we were in and out of the car so much, but it is truly beautiful. We saw so many beautiful waterfalls, rolling hills covered with moss, lava rock, craters, churches, mountains and more. The ever-changing landscapes are what truly hooks you, because around every corner is something more beautiful than the last.
Before we checked out the Great Geysir, we stopped at a delicious vegetarian soup place where I ate a soup called “Tex Mex” that had corn chips crumbled on top. It was hearty and filling!
Around 5PM, we ventured back to Reykjavik in hopes of doing a little bit of shopping at some of the stores we had seen earlier, but were slightly disappointed to see that everything was closed. Despite the hours listed on the door of most places stating they were open, they were very much locked and closed, LOL! We would later learn this was not a fluke, but a habit of restaurants and stores. Casey lovingly referred to it as Russian roulette – you never know when the door might be locked or unlocked when you go to step inside. HA!
We ate dinner at Fish + Chips (it was okay, nothing spectacular) and walked back to our hotel along the water.
My body had no idea what time it was, so I woke up early again the next day and decided I would get in a quick workout before we got on the road again for the day. I found out the hotel charged guests 25 euros per day to use the gym (no thanks), so I did an interval workout in a stairwell and called it good. Admittedly, I was annoyed, but it’s a good tip to know before booking this specific hotel.
We all ate breakfast before checking out of the hotel and heading off toward Vík and the eastern region of Iceland. En route to our home rental property, we stopped at so many beautiful places I can’t wait to share with you.
On the back end of our trip, we had an additional day in Reykjavik that allowed us time to shop (when the stores were actually open!), discovering a delicious coffee shop with the best apple cake and coffee Casey and I have ever eaten, Dane finally eating a hot dog and more.