Thanks to the many excursions from Reykjavik, it’s totally possible to travel around Iceland without a car and visit the most important areas of the country from the capital. Being a very touristy city, Reykjavik offers easy access to the main points of interest on the island, so there is no excuse for not enjoying this incredible country.
Although we usually rent a car, we have booked tours in Reykjavik during some of our trips to Iceland, and the experience has always been fantastic. What’s more, by having a guide, we discovered things about the country and the places we visited that were impossible to learn if we were traveling on our own.
To help you plan your route if you have no intention of renting a car in Iceland, this guide will reveal the 15 best excursions in Reykjavik. All you have to do is hire this transfer that connects from Keflavík International Airport to Reykjavik and then book the tours you want to take during your trip. Also, if you want to explore free tours in Reykjavik, I recommend getting the City Card for unlimited access to public transportation. Who said that you can’t travel through Iceland without a car?
1. The Blue Lagoon, the most popular excursion from Reykjavik
As we mention in our guide on the Blue Lagoon of Iceland, this spa’s waters have a high mineral content that has been associated with the healing of some skin ailments. However, most tourists do not come here for health reasons, but rather to enjoy a relaxing bath in its milky blue waters. Furthermore, as the water temperature ranges between 98 and 106 ºF (37 and 41 ºC), this is one of the most ideal day trips from Reykjavik in winter to say goodbye to the cold of Iceland. What’s more, it’s worth bathing in these waters during the winter season since you can simultaneously enjoy a spectacular snowy landscape.
If you want to visit the Blue Lagoon from Reykjavik and you don’t have a car, you can hire round-trip transportation from the capital. However, from my experience, I’ll say that the tickets usually sell out immediately and if you don’t purchase in advance, you will run out of luck. So, I suggest booking your Reykjavik tour ticket together with the transportation here. This excursion includes shuttle service, the Comfort ticket and a drink, as well as a towel and a silica mask.
There are also other options, such as booking this tour that includes the Golden Circle Iceland tour and shuttle service to the Blue Lagoon, all in one day. This way you will be able to make the most of your time on the island. It is without a doubt one of the nicest day trips in Reykjavik.
Moreover, if you plan to visit the Blue Lagoon and take an excursion from Reykjavik to see the Northern Lights, this excursion is also available. It includes a relaxing bath followed by an expert-led Reykjavik tour to see the spectacular Aurora Borealis.
2. Golden Circle, one of the best day trips in Reykjavik
The Golden Circle in Iceland is one of the most popular routes in the country. There are endless excursions from Reykjavik that take this route because the capital city is the ideal starting point.
The route is a total of 190 miles and runs through a very touristy area located inland where you will pass through all kinds of places: volcanic craters, waterfalls, geysers, thermal lakes, and much more. In fact, if you are going to be there for a short time, taking a Golden Circle Iceland tour will give you a general idea of what this country is like. Hence it is one of the best tours in Reykjavik.
Although you can check in this other guide the can’t-miss stops along Iceland’s Golden Circle, if you want a day trip from Reykjavík that includes all the basic things to see in the area, this is the best option. It lasts approximately 8 hours and you will visit the four essential places along the route. These are the Geysir geothermal area, the Gullfoss waterfall, the Thingvellir National Park, and the Kerid crater.
Again, there is also the option to purchase the excursion from Reykjavík that combines the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. This is a good choice if you want to relax in this beautiful lagoon after visiting some of the most iconic places along the route. Alternatively, you can choose the Reykjavik tour that combines the Golden Circle with the Secret Lagoon. It’s less touristy but has equally incredible thermal baths.
Another one of the best excursions in Reykjavík is this tour, which combines the basic Golden Circle route plus a tour to see the northern lights. Or, consider this excursion in which you can take a whale watching tour before starting your route through the Golden Circle.
3. South Iceland, one of the top-rated tours in Reykjavík
The landscapes of southern Iceland are incredible, so it’s not surprising that it is one of the most popular regions in Iceland. Although it’s difficult to see everything with an excursion from Reykjavik, the south has many things to experience, so you can get an idea of its unique landscapes while visiting some of the most memorable natural tourist attractions.
Without a doubt, this is one of the best day trips from Reykjavík to southern Iceland that you can take. You will visit the charming village of Hvolsvöllur, walk behind the popular Seljalandsfoss waterfall, and discover the famous Skógafoss waterfall, the Sólheimajökull glacier, and the southern city of Vík, famous for its black sand beach. Certainly, this day tour in Reykjavik is one of the best options if you want to get an idea of what the southern part of the country is like and you’re short on time.
However, if you do have time, I recommend booking this 2-day tour with accommodation included. It will allow you to enjoy other worthwhile attractions that I consider essential, such as the Skaftafell National Park and the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.
4. Northern Lights tour in Reykjavik
A northern lights tour is one of the best activities in Reykjavik, especially if you have never seen this fascinating phenomenon before. Fortunately, there are several excursions from Reykjavik to see the northern lights, so you can enjoy the aurora borealis however you please.
Although this guide includes my recommendation for the best Northern Lights tours from Reykjavik, this is the best basic tour. Accompanied by a Northern Lights expert, you will go to an area with prime viewing opportunities that night. If you opt for this Reykjavik tour, I suggest taking it during the first few days of your trip since you can repeat it for free if you don’t see any auroras. This is definitely one of the best excursions in Reykjavík if you want to witness this spectacle.
You can also take this same tour in a small group if you want a more laid-back pace. Alternatively, you can exclude the hotel pick-up if you prefer cheap tours. Just keep in mind that you can only repeat the tour once if you don‘t see the northern lights the first night.
In addition to the options I’ve mentioned, which are usually the most common, you can also see the northern lights by boat. Or, you could combine the activity with one of the most popular tours from Reykjavik, such as a whale watching tour, the South route with a walk on the Sólheimajökull glacier, a tour of the Golden Circle, or a visit to the Blue Lagoon.
5. Whale and puffin tours in Reykjavik
Reykjavik, together with Husavik, it’s one of the best places for whale watching tours in Iceland. The best thing about doing a whale watching excursion in Reykjavík is that it doesn’t matter what time of year you travel because there are always possibilities to see them, even in winter. Of course, if you do it in summer, you’ll also be able to see puffins.
Of all the tours from Reykjavik to see whales, this is undoubtedly the best one since they allow you to repeat it if you don’t see any whales. Keep in mind that although the odds are high, they are wild animals that can sometimes act unpredictably, so you might not always see them. For this reason, I suggest not leaving this tour for the last day of your trip, in case you have to repeat it. To be fair, we have always seen them the first time, but you never know.
If you travel between May 15 and August 15, you can take a whale and puffin tour like this one. Or, if you travel during the summer solstice, at the end of June, you can combine whale watching with a midnight sun tour by booking this tour.
6. Horseback riding in Iceland, one of the best activities in Reykjavik
If you want to experience Iceland from another perspective, a horseback riding from Reykjavik is ideal. I highly recommend this tour because the horses are very well cared for and the facilities are clean and maintained.
You will be able to enjoy incredible landscapes that range from lava fields covered with green moss in summer to snowy landscapes in winter. This is an activity I wholeheartedly recommend if you want to have a relaxing experience riding through Iceland on horseback while enjoying the beautiful landscapes of the island.
The activity begins in the Íshestar stables in Hafnarfjörður, 10 minutes by car from the capital, but the tour I’ve already recommended includes the shuttle from Reykjavik, as well as warm clothes, raincoats, riding boots, and a helmet.
7. Snæfellsnes, an excursion in Reykjavik that you shouldn’t miss
The Snæfellsnes peninsula is considered the best of Iceland where you’ll find some of the most incredible natural landscapes. In fact, they say Snæfellsnes has everything that represents the country, so I suggest booking a day to enjoy this excursion from Reykjavík.
On this tour you will be able to discover beautiful natural landscapes full of volcanic peaks, cliffs, beaches, fjords, waterfalls, and basaltic columns. You’ll also journey to some of the top Icelandic fishing villages, such as Hellnar, Grundarfjordur, and Arnarstapi. You can also visit Kirkjufell, the volcanic mountain located in Grundarfjörður that became world famous for appearing in the Game of Thrones series. This day tour in Reykjavik will also take you to the volcanic fissures of Ljósufjöll, the cliffs of Arnarstapi, and the black beach of Djúpalónssandur. This is one of the few day trips in Reykjavik that includes views of the impressive lava fields.
If you decide to take this excursion from Reykjavik, you will see that words really don’t do the spectacular landscapes justice. There is no doubt that it’s one of the best excursions from Reykjavík.
8. Landmannalaugar, one of the best excursions from Reykjavik
Visiting Landmannalaugar is one of the best excursions from Reykjavík you can take. This mountainous area in the middle of the Highlands of Iceland is a true paradise. It remains one of the last virgin areas of Iceland, thanks to being difficult to access. Therefore, you can imagine what it’s like to visit this pristine place, which has one of the beloved hiking and walking tours of Reykjavik. I sincerely hope that it will continue to be like this for a long time.
Here you can enjoy beautiful colored rhyolite mountains and swim in natural hot springs. The landscape of this place seems to be from another world.
If you want to see it with your own eyes, I highly recommend this excursion to Landmannalaugar. Just a few hours outside Reykjavik, you will get to witness the colorful mountains of Landmannalaugar, which were formed centuries ago due to volcanic activity. Afterwards, enjoy a relaxing bath in the local hot springs; I assure you it’s an incredible experience. You can also check out the Hekla volcano, which is the most famous and active volcano in Iceland. As you can see, this excursion from Reykjavik is completely worth it.
9. Kerlingarfjöll, one of the best day tours in Reykjavik
If Landmannalaugar seemed remote to you, Kerlingarfjöll is even more remote. Still, it’s one of the top Reykjavik day trips I recommend. What’s more, the landscapes are beautiful, with mountains that offer a wide variety of landscapes, such as valleys, glaciers, and natural geothermal pools.
To safely travel to the Kerlingarfjöll area, I recommend this tour that goes through the most inaccessible area of the Highlands followed by the main attractions of the Golden Circle in Iceland. Tours to this area are limited to 6 participants, so if you want to take advantage of this adrenaline-fueled tour from Reykjavik, you must book in advance.
You will ride along the legendary Kjölur route in a 4×4, exploring one of the last deserts in Europe. During the trip, you will pass through glaciers and lakes surrounded by volcanic mountains with spectacular colors. Afterwards, you will discover some of the most iconic places of the Golden Circle, such as the Thingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, and the Geysir hot springs. I can guarantee that you will be totally amazed by the landscapes.
10. Katla ice cave, one of the most original excursions from Reykjavik
I admit that visiting the Katla Ice Cave isn’t usually one of the things travelers choose as their first option. This is understandable since there are so many day trips in Reykjavík. However, this is one of the most unique tours that you can take and, at the same time, this ice cave is super impressive.
You can visit the Katla Ice Cave any time of the year, making it the only cave of this type that can be visited in the summer. The cave is located at the foot of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, specifically on the Kötlujökull glacier tongue. The glacier’s colors range between whites, blues, and grays. You’ll start by hiking through the glacier and once into the cave, you can feel the aura of centuries gone by. For me, it’s one of the most fascinating feelings.
If you decide to purchase this tour, you will go with a specialized guide who will give you everything you need to stay safe and see it all.
11. South coast & glacier hike, one of the most popular day trips in Reykjavik
Walking on a glacier is quite an experience, especially since you don’t always have the opportunity to visit spectacular icy landscapes. However, this activity is one of the best of Iceland, and there are several day trips in Reykjavik focused on this area. In my opinion, there is none like this south coast tour in which you will explore the Sólheimajökull Glacier.
In addition to touring the glacial tongue surrounded by lush views, this tour from Reykjavík will teach you how glaciers were formed and why they are melting. Along the way, you will also visit some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. These include Seljalandsfoss, which you can walk behind, and the impressive Skógafoss waterfall. You will also visit Reynisfjara, Iceland’s black sand beach, whose basalt columns will be full of puffins if you visit it between June and August.
It is undoubtedly one of the best excursions from Reykjavik if you’re looking for a South coast Iceland tour.
12. Raufarhólshellir lava tunnel, one of the best family-friendly tours from Reykjavik
The Raufarhólshellir lava tunnel is located about 30 minutes from the capital, making it a perfect half-day excursion from Reykjavik.
It’s 0.9 miles long, 32 feet high, and 100 feet wide, making it one of the most extensive lava tunnels in Iceland. This tunnel was formed during the eruption of the Leitahraun volcano, 5,200 years ago.
Unfortunately, when it became a very touristy place, some spotlights were installed, which changed the temperature inside and caused the stalactites to disappear. That said, the eye-catching reddish colors remain, so it’s still worth visiting.
Curiously, inside the tunnel, you won’t find any type of animal or insect because they find the interior temperature uncomfortable.
Walking the tunnel is very easy and not dangerous at all, so you can even go with kids. So, if you’re looking for a family-friendly excursion from Reykjavik, I would definitely recommend visiting this lava tunnel.
13. Thorsmork, the best small group tour from Reykjavik
Thorsmork, or the Thor Valley, is a beautiful mountain range in southern Iceland, ideal for enjoying the island’s nature. Here you can find some of the best Iceland hiking trails.
If you want to visit this natural paradise and enjoy its landscapes, I recommend this Jeep & Hiking tour. After visiting the famous Seljalandsfoss waterfall and the Gígjökull glacier lagoon, you will arrive in Thorsmork, a place so remote that even with a 4×4 car, you can’t visit it on your own. Instead, you will need to arrive in a Jeep, prepared to cross huge rivers.
In this inaccessible area, you will find one of the most demanding but rewarding hiking trails in the country, the Fimmvörðuháls. The route is quite long and uneven, so it usually takes two days.
With this tour from Reykjavik you will hike the first part of the trail, which is fascinating on its own. During this 10-mile route, you will pass through some of the most interesting spots, such as the Eyjafjallajokull volcano and the Magni and Modi craters. Without a doubt, if you like hiking and you’re fit enough, this is a must-do excursion from Reykjavík.
14. Thrihnukagigur volcano, a fascinating tour from Reykjavik
Seeing several intriguing volcanoes, you may want to explore some in-depth, so I highly recommend the excursion from Reykjavik that will take you inside the dormant volcano Thrihnukagigur. I assure you that it’s one of the most impressive Reykjavik day tours.
This volcano wasn’t always open to visitors. It opened to the public in 2012, at which time tours like this began being offered.
The volcano occupies 8 acres and is 700 feet deep, although you can only descend to the first 400 feet. Still, you’re sure to get a good enough idea of what the inside of a volcano is like. I never imagined that I would like this tour so much! And before entering the crater, you will have to walk through stunning lava fields for 40 minutes, which makes this tour from Reykjavik very worthwhile.
15. Reykjanes peninsula, another excursion from Reykjavik that you shouldn’t miss
The Reykjanes peninsula is in southwest Iceland, very close to the capital city, which is why it’s one of the best excursions from Reykjavík that you can take.
This volcanic peninsula boasts awesome geothermal activity, so you will find countless fumaroles, craters, lava fields, and thermal pools, one of which is the famous Blue Lagoon.
If you visit this area of Iceland, I suggest booking this panoramic tour by Jeep. You will be able to see all the peninsula’s attractions over the course of 6 hours, including the Krýsuvík geothermal area and the Flagg house, the oldest house in Grindavik, among other points of interest. The tour stops at the Blue Lagoon, but if you want to enter there, you will have to book a ticket on your own a few days in advance.
In summary, these are the best excursions from Reykjavík that you can take if you aren’t renting a car during your trip. As you can see, there are a lot of things to do in Iceland, and if you only visit Reykjavík, you won’t be able to truly experience this country. Don’t worry though, because traveling without a car in Iceland is not an issue thanks to the variety of tours from Reykjavik.
If you prefer, there are also plenty of Iceland vacation packages that let you see the entire island without having to return to Reykjavik every night. I highly recommend looking into these options if you want to optimize your time on the island but prefer not driving or planning your own route.
If you want to plan it your way, then you just have to choose your hotel in Reykjavik, book the transfer from the airport to the city center, and choose which tours from Reykjavik to book. It’s a difficult decision, but I’m sure that whichever ones you choose, you will enjoy them to the fullest.