Summer long weekends are all about backyard barbecues, creekside camping trips, and seaside cottages, right? Well, that doesn’t have to be the case. It can instead be jaw dropping landscapes, geothermal pools and all the skyr yogurt you can get your hands on, because Iceland is just a short-ish hop across the pond.
Before you think, “Iceland, that’s far!!” hear us out. With Icelandair’s Stopover program, and WOW Air now offering affordable direct flights from a few North American cities, a three day weekend in Iceland is not only achievable, but 100% worth it. It’s really no crazier than traveling across the country for say, your college roomie’s bachelorette. Of course, with only three days to play, time is of the essence so you’ll want to plan ahead—figure out your itinerary, book your accommodation and hire a car. Not sure where to start?
Well, we’ve got you covered, because this is how we’d do a long weekend in Iceland:
Day 1: Keflavik > Vik
With a “not long enough to properly sleep” overnight flight, you’re going to land early, be cranky, and possibly very hungry. Push the crankiness aside, nibble on your pre-packed snacks (because traveling with snacks is how we roll), and hit the ground running.
From Keflavik, hop in your rental car (preferably a 4x4) and head east towards Vik. Along the way, stop at Seljalandsfoss. Be sure to tuck in behind the waterfall (wear your rain gear to avoid soggy clothing for the rest of the day), and then walk further down the path to Gljúfurárfoss, a waterfall within a cave.
Next stop, Skógafoss—another waterfall, but equally gorgeous. We’d suggest climbing the steps to the right of the fall, not only for the view, but to help yourself re-energize—after all, you may not have slept on the plane. A short 20 minute drive later, you’ll find the turn off for Reynisfjara (Reynisdrangar). Park by the water and take a stroll along the black sand beach flanked with basalt columns. (Think the last minute of Bon Iver’s Holocene music video).
By now your lack of food, and sleep, will be setting in. Continue onwards to Vik. Once in Vik, pop into the diner attached to the N1 gas station and devour a bowl of lamb goulash before checking in to your hotel and taking a much needed nap. We’d recommend Icelandair Hotel Vik with its chic minimalist Scandinavian inspired design.
Post nap, get back in the car and head towards the Dyrhólaey Peninsula, for some dramatic views back onto the black sand beaches. The wind may be fierce, dress warmly.
Day 2 : Vik > Reykjavik
Ugh, jet lag. You’ll want to stay in bed, but do your best to get an early start on the day. Head west, back the way you came, towards Reykjavik. Today’s adventure involves seeking out Seljavallalaug—a hidden geo-thermal pool built in 1923. Follow directions to the “Welcome Guesthouse,” but then stay on the 242 until it turns to a dirt road. Continue along the dirt road until you spot 2 small wood building. Leave your car there and continue walking, towards the base of the mountain in the distance. You’ll think you’ve gone the wrong way, but just keep on. The white concrete changing rooms will eventually appear. Hop into the hot water for a well-deserved soak (oh, and pack a garbage bag to stand on, the changing rooms are a little rough around the edges).
Post swim, continue on to Reykjavik. Enjoy the fish skewers at Saegreifinn or the fish and chips at Icelandic Fish+Chips for lunch. Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring Reykjavik—get wowed by the architecture at the Harpa Concert Hall; take the elevator up the Church of Hallgrimur, for a spectacular view of the town; stroll along Laugavegur Street, being sure not to miss the donuts from Bakari Sandholt or the oh so trendy home store Hrim.
If you feel yourself getting sleepy, grab a coffee from Reykjavik Roasters, or take a nap—in the summer, the sun barely sets, leaving you tons of daylight for explorations! Pre-dinner, we’d suggest grabbing a seat at KOL’s bar, and treating yourself to a snazzy cocktail—their Donkey cocktail alone is worth traveling to Iceland for.
For dinner, head to one of the many restaurants in town—we like Forrettabarinn, which is slightly more affordable and has a delicious local lamb dish. End your evening at Mikeller and Friends, a charming bar serving dozens of beers.
Day 3 : Reykjavik > Keflavik
If your flight itinerary is similar to ours, you’ll be flying home (or onto your next destination), early afternoon, leaving you one final morning to literally soak up Iceland. Head to the Blue Lagoon, conveniently located en route to the airport, and spend the morning floating around the milky blue water, in pure relaxation mode. If swanky spas aren’t your thing, try one of Reykjavik’s several local pools, where you can soak, socialize, and hopefully not miss your flight.