Travel Guide: Reykjavik, Iceland (without a car)

IMG_5173Hey everyone! I just returned from an amazing trip to Iceland and Norway with my mom and wanted to share my recommendations with you all for Iceland! Typically when people travel there, they rent a car and drive the Ring Road around the country but we didn’t do this (you can check out Julia Engel’s amazing post about their trip that they rented a car for). Instead, we spent half of our 4 day trip in the city of Reyjavik and then the other half on day-long tours so that we could still venture out into the scenic areas. (Note, these tours didn’t involve hiking.) Read on to see what we did!

What I learned:

  • Iceland is super expensive.
  • Most restaurants were $$$ so if you’re looking to save money on food, I’d recommend:
    • Looking for lodging which has breakfast included
    • Making a cheap meal from the grocery store (I previously did this in Zurich which is also super pricey) or getting a meal at hot dog stands which were cheap (~$5).
    • Some restaurants offer 3 course meals. My mom and I typically ordered one of these and then also got an appetizer and just shared everything. It was filling, saved us money, and was great for trying a lot of dishes.
    • If you’re looking to do one nice meal a day, dine out for lunch instead of dinner since it’s usually cheaper.
  • Don’t take a taxi from the airport- As soon as we landed we made this mistake and racked up a $150+ taxi bill (still smh). I’d recommend using as it’s ~$30 one way with round trip options and hotel drop offs as well.
  • Iceland is really safe and has one of the lowest crime rates- walking around never felt worrisome. I think it’d be a great country to travel alone to too.
  • If you want to see the Northern Lights, visit between September and April and go to areas with no light pollution.


Where we stayed:

  • Fosshotel Reykjavik- This was a 4-star hotel which was great and just about a 7 minute walk from the start of the main street. Our rate had a breakfast buffet & coffee included as well which was tasty. We were right next to Bus stop 12 which was great for being picked up for tours and for the airport shuttle. The bus stops are super clear to see as they have signs that are blue and highlighter pink.
  • Next time, I’d prefer to stay near the Hallgrimska Church which was more in the city center/ middle of the main streets.
  • Iceland offers a variety of hostels if you’re looking for a cheap option (I’ve stayed in multiple in other cities and basically always enjoyed it).

What sites we visited:

IMG_2176Blue Lagoon– (pictured above and below)- This is a pricey spot but worth it in my opinion. It is one of Iceland’s most famous spots and was a unique experience! We got the comfort ticket and it included entry, a face mask, and a drink! I was happily surprised that the bottom of the lagoon is not muddy and instead felt like a swimming pool with sand. Before and after you enter the lagoon, you go through a locker room area to shower and to store your stuff. We spent 2 hours at the lagoon and then were ready to head back to the hotel on the Blue Lagoon shuttle we paid for with our tickets. (Blue Lagoon is about 25 mins closer to the KEF airport than the capital so if you want to save time, you could go straight to Blue Lagoon when you land as they also have places to store luggage.)

Hallgrimskirkja– This church was so unique and perfect for getting a full view of Reykjavik! It was a small price to go to the top with an elevator (didn’t see an option to walk it).


Southern Iceland– This is the first day-long tour we did and you can find the link here. Here are the spots we visited:



Mýrdalsjökull Glaciers


Reynisfjara black sand beach with Basalt Columns


Seljalandsfoss – you can walk behind this waterfall as shown below!


Golden Circle- We also did this tour through Viator and you can find the link here. Check out below for what our tour included:




Kerio Crater


Gulfoss- I believe it is Iceland’s most visited waterfall!

Strokkur Geysir- blows every 6-10 minutes!


Thingvellir National Park- where you can walk between two continents!

One site we didn’t get to see that I wish we could’ve was Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in southeastern Iceland. Will definitely add to my list for next time!

Where we ate in Reykjavik:

Matwerk Kitchen– This restaurant was so cozy & served quality dishes. We ordered a 3-course meal & an appetizer & just shared the whole thing. My favorite was the lamb!


Saegriffin– This was recommended online & by our hotel concierge. It was by the harbor & the food was so great! They have combos of lobster soup & skewers so my mom got the scallop skewer & I got the monkfish one!IMG_5056IMG_5058

Braud & Co– This bakery is in the cutest, colorful building and has amazing cinnamon rolls! I wish I had brought 3 home with me!

Baejarins Betzu Pylsur– This is the oldest hot dog stand in Iceland (established in 1937) and I got a hotdog with everything on it. A lot of people love this stand, I’d personally give it a 6 out of 10.

Sæta Svínið Gastropub– Great restaurant in the center of Reykjavik! Regretted not getting the lamb burger since others got it and it’d looked amazing!

Sandholt Bakery– My mom and I got desserts here and though they were great! Andrew Zimmern loves the sourdough bread and sandwiches from this spot too!

Café Paris– This is the perfect spot to take a break and get a latte!

Foods to try in Iceland:

Lamb/ Meat Soup
Skyrr Yogurt
Einstok White Ale

IMG_5412Hope you all found this post helpful! Thanks to my mom for helping me take a lot of these photos!
❤ Emily

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