By Soren Rivero
Iceland's capital city Reykjavik is bursting with exciting outdoor activities all made possible by its consistent clear skies and fairly cool temperatures. From hiking tall mountains to exploring ice caverns, Reykjavik's got everything you could want.
Whether you want to go whale watching or gaze at the celestial northern lights, there are tons of outdoor adventures in Reykjavik.
Embark on a Snowmobile Journey
Did you know that over 10% of Iceland's entire landmass is covered in glaciers? The majority of Iceland also gets blanketed in a veil of pure white snow during the colder months – which makes it perfect for this first activity.
Reykjavik has dozens of ideal spots for snowmobiling scattered throughout the city and its surrounding areas. You’ll find the best places to snowmobile on the northern tip of Reykjavik, right near the divide between the city and island of Videy. This area has one of the highest variety of snowmobiling spots near Reykjavik, making it easy to find a spot that works for you.
Enjoy Whale Watching
Reykjavik especially sees a large crowd of whales, as the city is located right near Faxaflói, which is a huge bay just off the coast of southwestern Iceland. It's nutrient dense and fairly shallow waters are a fantastic spot for whales to foster their offspring away from harm. Minke whales in particular make this their lifetime home.
Similar to snowmobiling, there are a handful of whale watching tours in Iceland that can take you to see whales almost anytime throughout the year. April through October is the best time to catch these wonderful creatures (peak season). You might even get the chance to be up close and personal with whales if you put on some scuba diving gear. Plunging yourself deep into the great blue waters will also help you meet other animal life such as dolphins, other fish, and puffins.
Experience the Golden Circle
One of Reykjavik's most prized possessions is the Golden Circle. This iconic landmark combines three of Reykjavik's most popular attractions: the Gulfoss Waterfall, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Þingvellir National Park.
Iceland's Golden Circle is a route that spreads across 300 km and technically can be finished in under three hours – but you'll be missing out on the fun if you do so. Instead, take your time when you visit each attraction. Regardless of how long you take visiting, the whole route can still be finished in one day!
Iceland's landscape provides plenty of access to hikeable terrain, and the great thing about Reykavik's hiking spots is that they're tremendously diverse. There are trails for those who want to tread in the snow to push their limits or alternatively, there are other trails for those who prefer the more mild and semi-rocky terrains.
We recommend visiting Reykjadaulr to start off your hiking adventure in Reykjavik. Simple yet satisfying, hikers of all experience levels will enjoy this hike with picturesque views. The entire hike takes about three hours to complete. Reykjadaulr's real treat rests at the end of the trail: a hot spring river where you can finish off your hike with a relaxing bath.
If you're interested in a more challenging hike, consider Móskarðshnjúkar. Located just about twenty minutes from Reykjavik, this charming trail is a subsection of the enormous volcanic mountain range named Mt. Esjan. This mountain range is popular as is for hiking, but Móskarðshnjúkar is what one may call a 'local secret.' The challenge of this hike comes from having to maneuver around small lava fields and extreme dips in terrain. Be warned that this hike takes some real athleticism, but the 360 views of the landscape from the top can't be beaten.
Wander in an Ice Cave
Reykjavik (and Iceland in general) hosts numerous ice caves that are definitely worth exploring. These natural constructions look like they came straight out of a fantasy movie and are truly an unforgettable experience to see, as the crystalline blue walls and frozen ponds held within are sights you cannot see anywhere else.
Start off your Ice Cave adventures by taking part in the Langjokull Ice Cave Tour. This tour is located on the Langjokull Glacier and is unique for its intricately-designed man-made ice tunnels.
Take Pictures of National Icons/Landmarks
You can't leave Reykjavik without recording some of your memories in this great city! Here are some of the best photo spots in Reykjavik that will have you looking back in the future and asking "when can I visit Reykjavik again?"
- Blue Lagoon Hot Spring in Reykjavik
- Skarfagarðs Lighthouse
- Perlan (Glass dome restaurant)
- Höfði House
But for the best views and pictures, you'll want to see our last exciting outdoor adventure in Reykjavik.
See the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights (or aurora borealis) are a natural phenomenon that are only visible in some parts of the Earth, specifically those that are high-latitude with clear skies. During this enticing natural occurrence, dynamic patterns of light radiate in the night sky like an otherworldly magic show.
Some of the top places to see the Northern Lights in Reykjavik are the Reykjavik's Grótta Island Lighthouse and the very northern tip of Grótta Island, as they're far away from light pollution.
Which of these thrilling activities will you enjoy when you travel to Reykjavik?