Travel Guide: Iceland

I realize Iceland is a country not a city, but it threw off my title of “City Guides” so I’m calling this one a travel guide instead. :)



+ Buy a paper map. Everybody speaks English, but all of the signs are in Icelandic and impossible to read. A paper map is a game changer! Also, download the app HandPicked Iceland— it has everything cool plus a map that works offline. :)

+ Buy groceries. Bonus is a relatively reasonable grocery store. Food in Iceland is super expensive and while we felt like it was worth it in Rekjavik (because the food is so good), we didn’t feel like it was worth it once we left the city (weird food like Shark and Puffin), so stocking up on groceries for at least one meal a day was a game changer for us.

+ Rent a car. You don’t need one in the city, but the countryside of Iceland is way too cool not to explore. We rented from Sixt and had a decent experience. Things to think about: 1) Make sure you rent a car at the correct airport. Most people fly into KEF, but there is also a smaller airport, so if you’re planning to pick up at the airport, just make sure it’s the right one. You can also rent from a car rental agency in town and take an airport transfer on the FlyBus into the city to get your car. 2) Make sure you select an Automatic car unless you confidently know how to drive manual. 3) Decide if you want to drive on F-roads. F-roads are gravel/dirt/mud roads that go through the Highlands— more intense areas in the center of the country that require 4x4, gravel protection, and often snow tires. If you rent a car that isn’t cleared for F-roads, there’s no going back, so make sure to plan your car rental around your itinerary.

+ Plan your trip (at least loosely). I’m not one for planning— I’d much rather book a flight and figure things out when I get to my destination; however, because there are SO many things to see both on and off the beaten path and because Icelandic signs are impossible to understand, we found that having a loose itinerary for our drive around the island helped us to maximize our time.


I’ve linked each item below to their main website, but I’d also suggest looking them up on your Apple Maps or Trip Advisor for a more English friendly version. :)


+ Nudluskalin — delicious Ramen noodle bowls and one of the cheapest meals we ate in the city

+ Lemon — Juice bar and vegan food

+ Joylato — Coolest ice cream that they make fresh by the order

+ Rio Reykjavik — Trendy South American food and bar

+ Hornid — Quant Italian restaurant with delicious pizza

+ Joe & the Juice — European coffee & juice bar chain

+ Icelandic Fish & Chips — This one is self-explanatory :) Go at lunch if you don’t want to break the bank!

Things to Do

+ Kex Hostel — KEX is built in an old biscuit factory and is a great place to stay with traditional bunk rooms and private room options. Even if you’re not staying there, the bar is worth a stop with live music many nights of the week. Kex also offers unique excursions across the country and is a trustworthy source for booking Northern light tours, glacier hikes, and more.

+ Bio Paradis — A tiny art film movie theatre

+ Harpa — Beautiful concert hall. Walk through it even if you’re not interested in the concerts!

+ The Sun Voyager — incredible Viking ship statue overlooking the coast


Organized in order from Reykjavik counterclockwise and directly on or immediately off Highway 1 unless otherwise indicated. :)

+ Thingvellir National Park (North of Highway 1)

+ Blue Lagoon (South of Highway 1) — Expensive, but worth it. Makes the most sense to go via FlyBus on the way into Iceland from the airport! Go in the morning to avoid touristy crowds.

+ Geothermal Park — Hot springs and an incredible geyser

+ Secret Lagoon (North of Highway 1) — Similar to the Blue Lagoon, but less touristy.

+ Urriafoss Waterfall

+ Gljufrabui Waterfall

+ Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

+ Seljavallalaug — The oldest swimming pool in Iceland. And it’s free!

+ Skogafoss Waterfall

+ Solheimajokulsvegur — The smaller of the glaciers in Iceland. Many options for easy glacier walks!

+ Solheimsandur Plane Wreck — Right before you get to Vik. About a 2 mile walk down the beach to the coast, but worth bracing the wind.

+ Reynisdrangar Beach — also known as “Black Sand Beach”, home to unique volcanic rock structures and a Game of Thrones film location. The waves can be incredibly dangerous and unexpected— watch out!

Vik i Mydral

+ Puffin Hostel

+ Halldorskaffi — Traditional Icelandic food

+ The Soup Company — Reasonably priced (for Iceland) soups and salads and beer

+ Smidjan Brugghus — Burgers and beer

+ Drangar Restaurant — Brand new upscale Scandinavian restaurant and bar inside Hotel Kria

+ Reyniskirkja Church

+ Svartifoss Waterfall (Slightly north of Highway 1)

+ Foss a Sidu Waterfall

+ Jokulsarlon (Glacier Lagoon) — Go on an Ice Cave Tour or glacier hike.

+ Diamond Beach

Hofn (South of Highway 1)

+ Hotpot Hoffellsjokull — Random hot tubs in the middle of nowhere. Free!

+ Hofn Hostel

+ Osinn Restaurant — Seafood at Hotel Hofn

+ Z Bistro — Traditional Icelandic food and seafood

+ Ishusid Pizzeria

+ Hafnarbudin — Burgers and seafood

+ Viking Cafe — traditional Icelandic food and campsite

+ Stokksnes Beach (South of Highway 1)


+ Icelandair Hotel Herad

+ Lyngas Guesthouse

+ Salt Cafe & Bistro

Seydisfjordur (East of Highway 1)

+ Gufufoss Waterfall

+ Vesteurhorn Mountain

+ Seydisfjordur HI Hostel Hafaldan

+ Campsite Seydisfjordur — Clean campsite with showers and within walking distance of restaurants

+ Blaa Kirkjan — Beautiful blue church and the location of the rainbow road. If you’re traveling in the summer months, they have an outdoor concert series!

+ Bistro Skaftafell — Pizza & beer

+ Kaffi Lara (El Grillo Bar) — Barbecue

+ Nord Austur — Sushi

Have any South Coast faves that we missed out on? Send us an email and let us know. :)


TravelLydia Kerr