48 Hours in Reykjavík: Top Things to Do
48 hours in Reykjavík might not seem like a lot, but with the right itinerary, some advanced planning and a good pair of walking shoes you’ll get to enjoy all the best things the city has to offer.
Sometimes a mere couple of days is all we can spare for our international adventures. We’ve compiled the ultimate 48-hour adventure guide to Iceland.
Commitments and responsibilities sometimes mean that 48 hours is the maximum amount of time we have available to explore the world. And with so much to do in Iceland, it’s sometimes hard to know where to start - especially if your time is so limited.
Whether you’re on a stopover or enjoying a fleeting visit to Iceland, it’s still possible to pack in some great adventure activities such as visiting the biggest glacier in Europe! While much of Iceland is spread across remote villages and naturally formed geological oddities, there is plenty to get up to in a short period of time.
One option that many choose to go for is to spend 48 hours in Reykjavik. The capital, located near Keflavik International Airport, has plenty to see and do to fill 2 days.
Breakfast is always considered the most important meal of the day, especially when you plan on pushing your body and undertaking some extreme adventures. You’ll need every ounce of energy to make sure you complete your activities and also explore Iceland as best as you can in your limited time there.
Luckily, we have numerous articles on the best places to eat in Reykjavík, as well as along The Golden Circle and throughout Iceland. If you’re based in Reykjavík, make sure to check out Grái Kotturinn. This quaint restaurant is situated in a basement in the center of the city, and serves up a wholesome, filling breakfast. And the best thing about this particular eatery is that it opens at 7:30 am, giving you plenty of time to grab breakfast and join your 9 am tour!
Adventure tours are the ideal way to pack as much into your 48 hours in Iceland as humanly possible. There’s no doubt that you’ll want to see as much as possible, which is why it’s important to pick your tours wisely! Luckily for visitors to Iceland, Arctic Adventures offers a wide range of day tours, which combine a number of different activities to suit every interest.
Whether you want to combine snowmobiling with ice caving or hike some of Iceland’s highest peaks while enjoying spectacular views of the country’s waterfalls, there’s a myriad of combination tours for you to choose from.
With so much choice, we thought we’d highlight one of our favorite combination tours for those time-poor visitors to the country. Our Golden Circle and Snorkelling tour lets you experience Iceland from above and below. The full-day tour starts at 9:00 am and arrives back in Reykjavík at 18:00, so that you have plenty of time to enjoy the nightlife of the capital.
While on the tour, you’ll visit some of The Golden Circle’s most famous natural attractions and UNESCO world heritage sites, such as the Great Geysir, Gullfoss Waterfall and Thingvellir National Park.
The national park holds a special place in the hearts and minds of many Icelanders. The park is closely associated with the Althing, the national parliament of Iceland, which was established at the site in 930 AD. In fact, Iceland’s parliament continued to hold sessions there until 1798.
Aside from its historical significance, the park boasts spectacular views and is well worth a visit. It’s also the point where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates separate.
Snorkeling between two tectonic plates is a unique and unforgettable experience, which can’t be rivaled anywhere else in the world. Iceland’s Silfra Fissure is one of the best diving locations, thanks to the water’s clear visibility and low temperature.
While swimming between two tectonic plates, you’ll get to explore four of Silfra’s main sections including Silfra Deep Crack, Silfra Hall, Silfra Cathedral and Silfra Lagoon. Participants will experience a cacophony of colors with countless shades of blue and green on display.
After your day exploring the best that The Golden Circle has to offer, as well as snorkeling between tectonic plates, it’s time to relax with a well-earned dinner and some drinks. Those staying in Reykjavík are spoilt for choice when it comes to dinner options.
For some hearty options, we recommend The Coocoo’s Nest on Grandi. Famed for their weekly themed nights like “Taco Tuesday” and “Sourdough Pizza Nights”, the restaurant is ideal for travelers in need of some comfort food.
It goes without saying that Reykjavik is not the only location worth visiting in Iceland - but when you’re low on time, the capital is the obvious choice. Reykjavik has a huge range of eateries and accommodation options to choose from, not to mention that countless adventure tours offer pick-up and drop-off in several locations around the city.
From your hotel, hostel or Airbnb in Iceland’s capital, you can tick off a lot of your holiday bucket list while being within easy reach of the international airport. If you’re keen to stay further afield, check out our recommendations for the top 10 best hotels in the country.
It’s your last morning in Iceland, so that means treating yourself to another amazing Icelandic breakfast. For this breakfast, we recommend Braud and Co. The authentic bakery is one of the best cafes in Reykjavík and its cinnamon swirls are mouth-wateringly delicious.
After savoring your fill of homemade bread, tasty pastries, and freshly brewed coffee, it’s time to move on to your final adventure.
For your final Icelandic tour, we recommend ice caving as it’s sure to get your blood pumping. Your experienced tour guide will provide all the education you need, as well as all the equipment, for your incredible trip. The tour only lasts three hours, which gives you plenty of time for one last adrenaline rush before you catch your flight.
Once you’ve booked your ice caving tour, you’ll be collected in Reykjavík and brought to Vik, which is approximately two and a half hours away. Once you arrive at the designated meeting point, you’ll travel by Super Jeep to the foot of the amazing Kötlujökull Glacier.
From here, your guide will give you a brief history of the glacier, ice cave, and surrounding area, before you make your way through an ice tunnel to the center of the glacier. Visitors can enjoy all the wondrous blue colors on display, and see the dramatic hole in the glacier’s roof, which lets an abundance of natural sunlight shine in.
After taking enough pictures to fill a photo album, your guide will check to see if any of the nearby smaller ice caves are accessible. If not, you’ll return to the Super Jeep and travel back to the meeting point near Vik.
Your drive home is almost as beautiful as the glacier and ice cave itself. In winter, the sun sets behind the mountains, creating a magical winter atmosphere.
If ice caving isn't adventure enough for you, try glacier hiking & ice climbing on our combo tour for an extreme thrill on the ice.
It’s your final evening in Iceland, you’ve had the adventure of a lifetime and, despite the short time frame, you’ve packed a whole lot in. Depending on your itinerary, you might have to catch a flight back home or, with any luck, you may have a couple of hours to yourself.
If time is on your side, we recommend enjoying an authentic Icelandic dining and drinking experience at Kaffi Loki. The cheap and cheerful eatery is the ideal location to toast your Arctic adventure. If you’re feeling brave enough, order a shot of Brennivín, Iceland’s local schnapps!
Arctic Adventures offers a wide range of combination and day tours to suit all of your adventure travel needs. If you're looking for a more intimate, bespoke experience, our private tours may be more suitable. Find the tour to suit you.