3 Days in Iceland - What to do?

Apr 26th, 2006, 06:59 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 10
3 Days in Iceland - What to do?

We are arriving in Reykjavik on a Saturday morning and staying at a Room with a View. We depart Tuesday around 4:00 in the afternoon.

It just seems overwhelming with so much to see in so little time.

Saturday we figured we'd spend exploring the city.

Monday we figured we'd do the Golden Circle.

That leaves Sunday and Tuesday morning open.

We want to do the Blue Lagoon and would also really like to do some type of boat trip to see birds and/or whales.

After reading other reviews on here, I'd really like to take a drive along southern coast to Skaftafell.

How much can we realistically squeeze in without wearing ourselves out? Would it be possible to do blue lagoon and a boat trip in the morning on Tuesday before getting to the airport or is that best scheduled on Sunday? Is driving to Skaftafell so far that we won't have much time to enjoy it in a day if we did that on Sunday instead?

I don't mind renting a car and doing a bit of driving myself. I'd much prefer that than organized tours where possible.

The way I'm looking at this, its a trip to get our feet wet to go back again later, so don't want to overdo it, but at the same time, we still want to enjoy what we can.

franklin81 is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 07:47 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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I was in Iceland for a week (about 10 years ago already - time flies!). At the time, we weren't sure about driving and so took a few tours instead - one of the only times I have ever done so.

We did the Golden Circle, which is good because it packs in all the major sites inland from the Ring Road. And we took the tour south to Vik (not all the way to Skaftafell). The south coast was really beautiful and the tour took us up to the edge of a glacier so we could walk along it for a bit. I thought this tour was better than GC because it was a smaller group, and our tour guide was terrific. Of course they do the prerequisite stop at a wool shop, but other than that there wasn't any pandering to the souvenir shoppers... I don't remember how long it was, but probably the better part of a day, with time back in Reykjavik for dinner. That said, driving in Iceland did not appear to be difficult as long as you have a guide to the street signs, and I would definitely rent a car the next time.

Blue Lagoon is quite close to the airport (which is actually in Keflavik, about 1/2 hour drive outside of Reykjavik). We visited on our last day and then went to the airport (I don't remember how we did this transportation). Great to be so relaxed before the return flight! (There are showers etc there so you're not on the plane covered in mineral salts. )

Reykjavik itself is very cute. It's fun to wander around the center and look in the shops. When I was there, seeing the town took us about 1/2 day, but I'm sure it's grown a bit since then - I think there are more people visiting now than then... I remember on a different day we also visited their national art museum, but I wouldn't say that's a particular draw... Nice to see, but my feeling was that the most creative stuff we saw was how ingenious the Icelanders have been in order to transform their landscape into hospitable terrain (that and of course the great music and performing arts scene).

Have a great trip! I have wanted to return to Iceland and see more, especially in the far north (too far on our vacation). The closest I get is to fly Icelandair, which I'm doing again in 2 weeks to go to France. The airfares are less expensive, and they cleverly space the connecting flights to give you enough time in their gift shops - love those Icelandic dairy products and salmon and shrimp!!
ggreen is offline  
May 9th, 2006, 06:47 PM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 61
We had a slightly longer version of the same problem (only it was April, so some of the things we wanted to do weren't even open....). We did three day trips from Reykjavik -- Golden Circle, south coast past Vik to the beginning of the black sands, and Snaefelsness. Each was remarkable, but I'd say that the Golden Circle was the least remarkable of the three and the one I'd first give up (though it is probably mandatory....). That's not to say that you won't enjoy it if you do it -- it is beautiful! -- but I liked the coast and the waterfalls and the varying terrain on the south coast, and the Snaefelsness trip was amazing in so many ways....I'm sure that those who have done the full ring road will say that I saw so little of Iceland, and I'm equally sure that they're right.

We did this with a rental car -- not a 4WD, just a little thing, as the mountain roads basically weren't open in April -- and it was perfectly fine. I had wanted to go to Skaftafell but was talked out of it because it would have been too far, and the truth is that it would have meant giving up too many stops along the way.....

Bottom line: You will have to pick and choose, but there are many magnificent things to see within easy day trips of Reykjavik. And I agree with ggreen about Reykjavik being charming. Oh, and definitely do the Blue Lagoon en route to or from the airport!!

Have a great trip.
brie is offline  
Jun 4th, 2006, 10:24 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 19
ggreen, which tour operator did you use for Vik? I am going to be in Iceland for 4 days at the end of June. There are 6 people in our party and we are looking to hire a private tour operator who can take us around on our own schedule. Does anyone have any recommendations. We are staying in Reykjavik. Thanks.
mkg12 is offline  
Jun 5th, 2006, 09:40 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,521
I would highly recommend Highlander Adventures (http://www.highlander.is). They are a very small (one or two vans) family-owned operation that will customize their tours to whatever your needs are. Oli Schram, the owner, is a fantastic low-key tour guide with a huge store of knowledge and experience. He took six of us on a one-day trip along the south coast, that was a highlight of our time in Iceland. They are not cheap, but for six people, I think that you will find the price to be similar to what would be charged for six people to go on one of the big tour busses.
ALF is offline  
Jun 6th, 2006, 04:24 AM
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Here's another suggestion fora private tour operator


We had a wonderful time with Gudrun - here's a link to my Iceland trip report:

Elizabeth_S is offline  
Jun 6th, 2006, 08:30 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
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We recently returned from 3 days in Iceland, as a stopover on our way home from Denmark - I just got hte leg of our Stockholm trip posted, but am still plowing thru my notes on Denmark and Iceland before I post those: but..

we did the Golden Circle Tour - we don't usually like "tours" but it fit in with our short time there and we found it quite enjoyable - we saw a lot in one day - the geysers, waterfall, divide, crater, etc - I would recommend it where you also have a short time.

One comment on the Golden Circle Tour, when you arrive at the geysers, they give you about 90 minutes to enjoy the area and eat - there are two options, a 'nicer' restaurant where you can either sit down or eat buffet style or a lighter fare cafeteria style (pizza, wraps, soup) - if you want the nicer meal, I would do that first and then see the geyser - people on our tour who tried to do the reverse, found they didn't have enough time to eat in the nicer restaurant as most people had seemed to choose to leave the eating till the end - it doesn't take that long to see the geyser - about 15 minutes - you can scope it out when they drop you off.

You might consider doing the Blue Lagoon either in the evening or they also offer one on the 'way to the airport' - however, I must tell you I was an absolute noodle after our trip to the Blue Lagoon it is so incredibly relaxing I could hardly move - so I was happy we did it at night. We took the tour bus, which picked us up at our hotel, left around 6pm, arrived at the Lagoon, had plenty of time to enjoy the waters followed by a surprisingly lovely dinner overlooking the Lagoon (you need rezzies) and the bus picked us back up around 9pm, but I was soooo relaxed I took a hot shower, we had a nightcap, read a bit and fell asleep and we both had the most amazing nights sleep - I don't think I moved all night long !

Here are some links for tour info that I have on brochures I brought home. I also got a lot of my info when planning from the Iceland Air web site -
and prebooked our tours through them.


for whales: www.elding.is

We had a great meal at Argentina - (again, I'd make rezzies) - but it was fabulous - what I liked is while I love steak, often steak restaurants place such a huge slab on my plate I lose my appetite before I begin eating - this restaurant had many 'size' choices so I was very happy with a 6 oz and wonderful accompaniments - great wine and nice atmosphere - a cozy bar too. It's right downtown .

We did our day of the city/shops/etc on the day we were leaving, and for us that was plenty of time to explore there.

So if you got settled in on Saturday, did the city during the day, you might consider doing the Blue Lagoon that night, which would really relax you after traveling and walking and give you an incredibly good nights sleep.

Then Sunday you'd be ready to go for either your drive along the coast/whales etc and eat in the city that night when you return.

Monday you have your Golden Circle Tour which returns around dinner time to the city.

Then Tuesday I am assuming you will have to be at the airport by 1pm (and when we left the lines were loooong and few of the automatic check in kiosks were working and those that were were not acknowledging everyone's confirmation numbers so there was a long line for personal check in -
if you ahve to be at the airport at 1 or 2pm, you will likely have to leave your hotel by noon or 1pm, so I would consider leaving that day as a 'finishing the city' day and anything local.

Also: regarding Blue Lagoon: here is what I brought:
an extra towel from hotel (they give you one, but nice to have an extra as that one gets wet being wrapped around you when you exit the lagoon and if you want a dry towel for after your shower, I'd bring an extra or a terry robe if your hotel has those. - Aside from your bathing suit, just your personal shower stuff - and you might want to bring some type of flip flop or shower shoe if you mind being barefoot in a shower/gym type place -

for your hair: you need to take a shower before going into the lagoon- rinse your hair and put in your conditioner - and if your hair is long, ponytail it and clip it up - the waters make your hair a big grungy and the conditioner protects it (unless you want to wear a shower cap, which you can also snag from the hotel) - then when you wash your hair afterwards it is fine.

escargot is offline  
Jun 6th, 2006, 11:00 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 5,206
finally got my complete trip report up if you want to take a look and see if it will help you decide things the tiny url link to my Fodors report is:

escargot is offline  
Jun 7th, 2006, 08:52 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 19
Thank you all so much for your help. I have since been in touch with Oli and he is extremely helpful. I will update you all after my trip!
mkg12 is offline  
Jul 30th, 2006, 09:13 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 19
I am a bit late with my post but I wanted to say the Oli at Highlander Tours (email is [email protected]) is the greatest. Our two day tour with him was the highlight of our trip. He is extremely knowledgeable, flexible,and has a great sense of humor. If you unsure of exactly what you want to do, leave yourself in Oli's capable hands. You will not be disappointed!!! Another tip. We returned to Reykjavik each night because of the shortness of our stay (4 nights). Oli recommends staying out in the country during the duration of your tour with him. I would do so the next time around. It's a lot of backtracking to go to Reykjavik each night.

Please feel free to ask me any further questions about our trip.

mkg12 is offline  

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