Odds are that you’re here for the Iceland Airwaves festival—but you just can’t come to Iceland without venturing outside of Reykjavík. So we have compiled a short list of great things to do, while keeping the following in mind: You have limited time, you prefer not to miss any of the one million bands playing in Reykjavík, and you probably partied pretty hard last night (in other words, there are no strenuous hikes or whale watching trips on the list).
1. The Golden Circle
This is a golden oldie. Everyone who has been to Iceland knows the golden circle. The three main attractions on this trip just never get old. The first stop is Þingvellir—a natural and historical phenomenon. There are few places where you can walk between the North American and Eurasian continental plates and this is one of them. It was also once home to Europe’s oldest parliament, Alþingi. The second stop is Gullfoss— a beautiful waterfall, enough said. The last stop is Geysir—a geyser. The original Geysir actually doesn’t do much anymore, but Strokkur is full throttle. Don’t stand too close! The water is hot! By the way, the word, geysir, is one of two Icelandic words that have been adopted by other languages (the other is jökulhlaup).
2. Horseback riding
Admittedly this can be a rough ride and you might have to endure a sore bottom for a couple days. Still, do it! Icelandic horses are one of a kind. As Icelanders are a very proud nation, you’ll probably hear that about a number of things, but it is really true about the horses. Although they are a little bit smaller than the average horse (careful not to call them ‘ponies’), they can do more than just walk, trot, canter and gallop. They can also tölt, and if they are real superstars, they can skeið as well. Horseback riding is also a fantastic opportunity to get out into Iceland’s nature.
This is a little bit more off the beaten track. Hveragerði is a small town about thirty minutes southeast of Reykjavík. The town itself is not exciting per se, but just above town there is a path that takes you on a forty minute walk up a mountain to some natural hot springs. And, this is exciting. Remember to bring a towel and warm clothes because it’s cold when you get out of the water. If Iceland’s protestors haven’t cleaned out all the eggs from the grocery stores, you might want to pick some up so that you can make hard boiled eggs up there. Please don’t burn yourself though!
4. The Blue Lagoon
Let’s face it, you wanted to do the whole hike up Hveragerði to bathe in all-natural hot springs and eat hard boiled eggs, but you’re not feeling up to it. The Blue Lagoon is an alternative way to sit in Iceland’s famous geothermal waters. It’s nice and relaxing and you can cover yourself with the silica-rich mud, which is supposed to be good for your skin, but always seems to have a bad effect on your hair. Do not be deceived though, the Blue Lagoon is actually man-made even if it is geothermal. In fact, most swimming pools and houses in Iceland are heated by geothermal energy. Also, note that there’s an official Airwaves event going on there during the festival, so you can combine your love for music with your love for uh… hot water.
5. Snorkelling in Silfra
If you are up for a little more action, you should go snorkelling. It’s incredible. Glacial water flows through this crevice called Silfra before emptying into Þingvellir Lake. You’re not going to see any fish, but you are going to see some of the Earth’s youngest rock while you float above the Mid-Atlantic Rift. And if you’re tall enough, you can even touch two continents at the same time. If you are thinking that glacial water sounds far too cold, you’re right! But the trade-off is that you get exceptionally clear water and high visibility. And don’t worry, you will be wearing a warm jumpsuit and a dry suit, so won’t even really get wet.
You can do some of these trips on your own by bus or car (The Golden Circle, Hveragerði, The Blue Laggon). Otherwise you can book transportation/tours through Reykjavík Excursions, Iceland Excursions or Arctic Adventures.