24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland

Post originally Published March 18, 2024 || Last Updated March 19, 2024

See how everyone can now afford to fly Business Class and book 5 Star Hotels with Mighty Travels Premium! Get started for free.

24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland - Take a Dip in the Blue Lagoon

24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland

No trip to Iceland is complete without a soak in the famous Blue Lagoon. Located in a lava field near Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula, this geothermal spa is one of Iceland's most visited attractions. The milky blue waters are rich in minerals like silica and sulfur which give the lagoon its distinctive bright color. With temperatures around 100°F, it's the perfect spot to relax after a long flight or adventurous day exploring Iceland's natural wonders.

The first thing you'll notice when entering the Blue Lagoon is the steam rising up from the ethereal blue water. The lagoon is man-made, fed by water output from the nearby geothermal power plant Svartsengi. But don't let its origins fool you - once you sink into the warm, mineral-rich water, you'll feel like you're bathing in a natural hot spring. Apply the silica mud mask (provided free of charge) to give your skin an extra nourishing treatment.

For the ultimate Blue Lagoon experience, book a package that includes entrance to the lagoon, use of a robe and towel, a drink at the swim-up bar (yes, there is a swim-up bar!), and access to the sauna and steam room. The packages start around $100 per person but are well worth it. You can also add on spa treatments like massages and facials for the ultimate indulgence.
The scenery surrounding the lagoon only adds to its mystical allure. The steam rising against a backdrop of black lava rock dotted with moss makes it easy to feel transported to another world. On sunny days, the Blue Lagoon takes on an extra vibrant, Caribbean-blue appearance. Or visit at night to see it lit up by torchlight - a truly unforgettable sight.

Insider tip: beat the crowds by visiting the Blue Lagoon in the morning, shortly after it opens at 8am. Not only will you avoid long lines, you'll have the magic blue waters all to yourself for a little while. The lagoon does get crowded later in the day.
Visiting Iceland in the winter? Don't fret - the Blue Lagoon is just as enjoyable when surrounded by snow. Standing in 100°F water while snow falls gently around you is an experience like no other. The contrast of hot and cold is exhilarating.

What else is in this post?

  1. 24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland - Take a Dip in the Blue Lagoon
  2. 24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland - Hike Up Skógafoss Waterfall
  3. 24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland - Marvel at the Black Sand Beaches
  4. 24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland - Explore the Golden Circle
  5. 24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland - See the Northern Lights (or Midnight Sun)
  6. 24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland - Tour Reykjavik by Free Walking Tour
  7. 24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland - Drive the Golden Circle Route
  8. 24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland - Relax at Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths
  9. 24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland - Savor Icelandic Cuisine in Reykjavik

24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland - Hike Up Skógafoss Waterfall

Of Iceland’s many magnificent waterfalls, Skógafoss stands out for its sheer size, plummeting nearly 200 feet into the Skógá river below. Located just off the Ring Road about two hours southeast of Reykjavik, this dramatic cascade is a must-see for any first-timer to the Land of Fire and Ice.

Unlike some of Iceland’s more remote falls, the mighty Skógafoss can be easily accessed just off the main road. A paved path leads right up to the base of the falls, where you’ll be drenched in sea spray as millions of gallons of water come thundering down the cliffside. Prepare to get wet—the mist from Skógafoss carries a long way!

One of the best parts of visiting Skógafoss is hiking the staircase right alongside the raging waters. Climbing the steep steps gets your blood pumping and leads to several viewing platforms above the falls. At the top, glimpses down over the dramatic cliffs above Skógafoss will take your breath away. The views just get better and better as you climb higher.

For even more perspective, keep hiking up the trail above the falls as it winds through green hills dotted with grazing sheep. In about a mile, you’ll reach the top of the 60-foot cliff, looking down in awe at Skógafoss and the river below. Listen closely and you might even hear the thunderous roar echo through the valley.

The panoramic views from the clifftop lookout are simply stunning on a clear day, showcasing Iceland’s diverse landscape of mountains, glaciers, farmland, and ocean. For a unique perspective, visit at sunrise or sunset when the setting sun paints the falls in dazzling light. Or come after heavy rains when Skógafoss rages with even greater power.
No trip to the south coast is complete without hiking up mighty Skógafoss. While it’s impressive viewed from below, the experience is taken to another level as you ascend alongside the cascading waters. Brave the climb up the steep staircase, fighting the chilly spray, until you emerge at the clifftop viewing platform high above it all. Here, witnessing Skógafoss from above in all its thundering glory will make the challenging hike well worth the effort. Just watch your step on those slippery stairs!

24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland - Marvel at the Black Sand Beaches

Nothing prepares you for that first glimpse of Iceland’s mysterious black sand beaches. The inky sands seem to absorb all light, creating an otherworldly landscape unlike anywhere else on earth. Along the South Coast, sites like Reynisfjara Beach showcase this unique geological phenomenon that occurs when eroded lava meets the pummeling force of the North Atlantic.

Approaching Reynisfjara, you’ll spot the stark black sand against Iceland’s rough cliffs long before your feet touch the beach. Up close, it’s an even stranger sight. The sand glitters not with the sparkle of quartz but with particles of volcanic basalt. And it’s not just black—the sands swirl with deep charcoal grays and purples where the minerals meet the surf.

The power of the Atlantic is on full display at Reynisfjara and Iceland’s other black sand beaches. Massive waves crash against the shore with thunderous force. You’ll want to admire this raw display of nature’s power from a safe distance. Rogue waves have swept unsuspecting visitors out to sea here.
Yet there is a serene beauty to be found contrasted against this rugged backdrop. Puffins and gannets nest in the cliffside crags from April to September, adding delightful splashes of color. Keep an eye out for seals playing in the crashing surf as well. And when the skies clear, the beams of the midnight sun transform the mystical black sands into a photographer’s delight.

For a truly unique black sand experience, head to the beach near Vík í Mýrdal in the shadow of Reynisdrangar’s iconic sea stacks. Here the cliff towers are said to be petrified trolls, frozen in place when they tried to drag a ship to shore. At low tide, you can spot glittering basalt columns and even venture into mysterious ice caves carved by the tumultuous waves.
Dark volcanic sands swirl around geothermal hot pots at Stokksnes further east. Hike up the hillside for an unforgettable view down over the black beach meeting the mighty Vatnajökull glacier in the distance. Or for a remote black beachescape, take a 4WD to Breiðamerkursandur’s windswept dunes andslowly flowing icebergs calved from the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland - Explore the Golden Circle

No first-time visit to Iceland is complete without exploring the beloved Golden Circle route. This popular driving loop showcases some of Iceland’s most stunning natural wonders all within easy reach of Reykjavik. Witnessing the sheer power of the landscape here will leave you awestruck.

Kicking off the Golden Circle is the one-of-a-kind experience of seeing the mighty Gullfoss waterfall up close. This massive two-tiered cascade thunders 105 feet into the Hvítá river gorge below. As you approach on foot, the roar is almost deafening. Clouds of mist swirl up around you, rainbows dancing in the sunbeams. Standing right at the cliff's edge feels dangerously close as millions of gallons of water plummet past in a hypnotic display of nature’s raw force.

Just moments down the road lies the fascinating geothermal area known as the Geysir Hot Springs. Here the superheated earth bubbles and belches, with hot springs dotting the strange colorful landscape. Watch in awe as the Strokkur geyser blasts a towering column of water 100 feet into the air every few minutes. Smaller fumaroles hiss and sputter as well, plumes of steam rising eerily from the volcanic terrain. The pungent smell of sulfur serves as a reminder you’re walking over a thin crust of earth atop boiling geothermal activity.
Capping your Golden Circle adventure is a visit to Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s nothing short of mythical in Iceland’s history. Walk between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates in the rift valley, witnessing with your own eyes how the continents are quite literally being torn apart. Gaze out over the site of Iceland's first parliament and the towering cliffs where criminals were once banished into exile. This breathtaking valley overloaded with history and natural wonder serves as the perfect finale for the Golden Circle’s highlights reel.

24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland - See the Northern Lights (or Midnight Sun)

Gazing up at the magical dance of the Aurora Borealis is an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime. Iceland's remote northern location makes it one of the best places on earth to witness this celestial wonder. While catching the Northern Lights involves some luck and good timing, the payoff of seeing that emerald glow shimmer across the night sky is well worth the effort.

Iceland’s long winter nights offer prime viewing opportunities from September through March. However, the lights are most active during the winter solstice months of December and January. Dedicated “Aurora hunters” know that persistence and planning pays off to catch that dream shot of the Northern Lights in motion. The best way to maximize your chances is to stay for several nights somewhere with minimal light pollution like the scenic Snæfellsnes Peninsula in west Iceland.

Of course, fair weather and clear skies are also key factors. Frequent Icelandic storms mean viewing the Northern Lights requires patience. Locals say the longer you’re kept waiting, the greater the light show will be when those clouds finally part! Having a few nights in a row to try your luck improves the odds of catching the elusive Aurora at her dazzling best.

When that green glow does begin swirling across the night sky, it’s an exhilarating moment. Veteran travelers and locals alike still get giddy at the first shimmer of lights. Dancing and shape-shifting in real time, no two sightings of the Aurora Borealis are ever quite the same. Greens and pinks blend and stream across the heavens, mixed with sudden bursts of purple, white, and blue. This natural phenomenon has captivated people for millennia and continues to feel straight out of myth.

For an extra special experience, travelers can opt for a Northern Lights cruise or snowmobile tour. Departing from Reykjavik or Akureyri, these excursions take you away from city lights into prime viewing areas. Knowledgeable guides help maximize your photo ops when colors begin to appear. And a hot drink always helps take the chill off an evening spent gazing skyward in awe.

24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland - Tour Reykjavik by Free Walking Tour

A free walking tour is one of the best ways to get your bearings in Iceland's charming capital. Local guides fill you in on Reykjavik's history and culture while showing off top attractions like Hallgrimskirkja church, the Sun Voyager sculpture, and the Old Harbor area known for its Harpa Concert Hall views.

While it may seem counterintuitive to not have to pay, rest assured these tours really are complimentary and run only on tips. Expert guides are passionate about giving you a great overview of their hometown. Tours meet daily at 11 AM and 2 PM in the off-season or more frequently in summer. Most last 2-3 hours and cover about 2 miles at an easy pace, sticking to the flat downtown area.
I'm a big fan of the CityWalk tour run by a pair of enthusiastic locals, Gísli and Helga. Starting at the iconic Sun Voyager sculpture, they really help Reykjavik's history and culture come alive with anecdotes ranging from Viking lore to funny neighborhood stories. We learn how massive aluminum panels that clad Hallgrimskirkja church were designed to resemble volcanic basalt columns, befitting Reykjavik's rocky setting.

Strolling the charming side streets, funky street art murals splash color onto corrugated metal siding. Our guides point out where world-famous Icelandic musicians like Björk and Sigur Rós once lived as starving artists before making it big. We even pop into the oldest house in Reykjavik, now a folk museum offering a glimpse of early 20th century life.
The easy walking pace provides a perfect taste of Reykjavik between top photo spots like the ultra-colorful houses of the Old Harbor district, where we learn residents petitioned to preserve the character of the funky corrugated facades. After grabbing an obligatory selfie with the rainbow-colored Harpa Concert Hall in the background, we finish up back at the Sun Voyager just as the first tour had started.

24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland - Drive the Golden Circle Route

No road trip around Iceland is complete without a drive along the beloved Golden Circle. This roughly 300 km (186 mile) loop takes you past some of Iceland's most iconic natural wonders all easily reached in a day from Reykjavik. Driving the route yourself allows you to take it at your own pace, stopping to explore as you please. Having your own set of wheels also means freedom to venture onto exciting detours and extended hikes many bus tours skip.

Kicking off your Golden Circle drive is Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of immense natural beauty and historic significance. Walk between the separating North American and Eurasian tectonic plates in the rift valley for a powerful firsthand glimpse of the continents literally splitting apart. Gaze out over the site of Iceland's original open-air parliament and spot where outlaws were once forced into exile over the cliffside ridges.

Further around the loop, roaring Gullfoss waterfall thunders majestically into its steep river gorge. Experience its raw power from cliffside overlooks and walking paths that bring you daringly close to the edge. Continue just down the road to the fascinating geothermal area of Geysir, where mineral-rich hot springs bubble and burst. Watch in awe as the geyser Strokkur erupts dramatically every few minutes, shooting water 100 feet into the steamy air.
Cap your Golden Circle driving tour at the one-of-a-kind Kerið volcanic crater lake. Formed from a collapsed magma chamber, vivid red volcanic rock now encircles the ethereal milky blue water depths. Hike the easy path around the rim taking in views down into the otherworldly crater from all angles. The reds and blues make it one of Iceland's most photogenic sites.
Driving the route over two or three days allows time to turn off onto exciting detours. Many head up to Snæfellsjökull glacier, said to be one of earth’s seven great energy centers. Thousands hike up Skógafoss waterfall each year for unrivaled clifftop views over the plunging cascade. The challenging Fimmvörðuháls trail crosses between glaciers while passing through still-steaming lava fields from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption.

Or take a dip in the famed Blue Lagoon geothermal spa near Grindavík along the Reykjanes Peninsula. Its steaming turquoise waters and silica mud treatments leave you feeling refreshed. Nearby Gunnuhver hot springs and Reykjanesviti lighthouse beg to be explored as well. With your own car, the possibilities along the Golden Circle are endless.

24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland - Relax at Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths

Tucked away on the shores of Lake Laugarvatn along Iceland’s Golden Circle route lies a hidden geothermal oasis—the Fontana baths. Unlike the tourist-packed Blue Lagoon, Fontana offers a more authentic and intimate experience to soak in the healing powers of Iceland’s natural hot springs. This local favorite should be on every visitor’s Golden Circle itinerary.

The steamy thermal baths at Fontana open directly onto the picturesque Laugarvatn lakefront. You can alternate between soaking in the natural geothermal pools, getting your blood flowing with a dip in the brisk lake waters, and unwinding in the dry Finnish-style sauna. This variety of hot and cold exposure gets your circulation going and leaves you feeling invigorated.
Three outdoor geothermal pools offer relaxing 35°C–39°C soaks, getting their azure waters directly from the Laugarvatn hot spring onsite. Let any road trip soreness and tension melt away as you gaze across mist rising from the pools to the lake and mountains beyond. The pools’ mineral-rich waters are especially soothing for skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.

Inside, Fontana’s steam room immerses you in rejuvenating hot vapors pumped directly in from underground. Sweat out any toxins as the natural steam detoxifies your skin and clears your airways. Splash cool water on your face from the indoor and outdoor natural springs between steam sessions to maximize the benefit.

Fontana also offers small extras that enhance the experience, like silica mud masks made from minerals found in Iceland’s own soil. Slather on the rich mud and relax as it draws impurities from your skin. There’s even an ice cave carved into the Laugarvatn lakefront hillside to roll around in between steams and soaks—quite the contrast!

What visitors love most about the Fontana spa experience is the location, directly on the lakeshore immersed in nature. The steam literally rises off the azure thermal waters right before your eyes. The scene looks plucked from a fairytale, with lush green hills rising behind and not a single manmade element in sight aside from the pools themselves.

After a rejuvenating soak, grab a drink from the lakeside café and unwind on Adirondack chairs overlooking the water. Sip an Icelandic beer or coffee as ducks play on the lake, the very picture of relaxation. The slow pace gives you time to chat with fellow bathers from around the world, sharing travel stories in between dips.

24 Hours of Adventure and Affordable Excursions in Iceland - Savor Icelandic Cuisine in Reykjavik

With its remote North Atlantic location and rugged landscape, Iceland has developed a unique culinary tradition centered around fresh seafood and lamb. And while Reykjavik may be small, its restaurant scene has exploded in recent years, garnering buzz for creative chefs putting modern twists on traditional Icelandic fare. Foodies won’t want to miss experiencing the vibrant cuisine firsthand during a visit to the island’s cosmopolitan capital.

Seafood features prominently on Reykjavik’s menus, from just-caught cod to succulent langoustines plucked from frigid coastal waters that same morning. Dishes showcase fish simply prepared to highlight exceptional freshness, like raw arctic char gravlax cured in aquavit or pan-seared salmon with foraged angelica stalks. More adventurous epicureans can sample Iceland’s unique delicacies like harðfiskur (dried fish jerky) or fermented shark called hákarl, an acquired taste loved by locals.
Lamb also holds an esteemed place, with Icelandic sheep grazed on wild grasses and herbs said to impart a wonderfully mild, sweet flavor to the meat. Tender rack of lamb seared medium-rare or slow-braised lamb shank served with buttery potatoes let diners savor this specialty. Taking cues from the old days, some eateries even cook lamb soups or stews in the ground using geothermal heat for hours of low and slow simmering.

While Iceland has never had much agriculture, the island’s hot springs enable greenhouses to grow vegetables and barley used in craft beers. Foraged wild ingredients like crowberries, angelica, and birch add seasonal touches to plates. Rye breads baked daily provide the base for open-faced sandwiches topped with local lamb, shrimp, or smoked trout.
To sample Reykjavik’s culinary creativity, foodies suggest heading to upstart eateries along the harbor in Grandi like Farmer’s & Friends or casual, seafood-centric Bergsson Mathús overlooking the water. At Matur og Drykkur, chef Gísli Matthías Auðunsson earns raves for his contemporary elevated take on traditional Icelandic ingredients. Michelin-starred Dill Restaurant creatively pairs local flavors like Arctic char, dulse seaweed, birch, and yogurt whey.

See how everyone can now afford to fly Business Class and book 5 Star Hotels with Mighty Travels Premium! Get started for free.