Five Things You Should Totally Do During Your First Trip To Iceland

09 May, 2017
Five Things You Should Totally Do During Your First Trip To Iceland

If you follow me on the 'gram, you'll have seen that at the start of April I travelled to Iceland for a five-day break with James. The trip was actually part of my birthday present from him (extra boyfriend points to him), and it was honestly one of the most wonderful adventures I've had to this day. I've never quite had another holiday like it and it's a trip that will stay close to my heart for the rest of my life.

As a first time-timer, it can be a little overwhelming when it comes to planning what to do and see in Iceland, especially when there is just so darn much to see and do! I thought I'd put a little guide together based on my trip and what I would recommend you prioritise on your itinerary.

1.) Experience the Golden Circle tour with Grayline Iceland

Five Things You Should Totally Do During Your First Trip To Iceland: Gullfoss Waterfall

Before we headed to Iceland, I asked around some pals, both IRL and on Twitter, what should be the one absolute must see for our first trip. The first answer from most people was the tour of Iceland's miraculous Golden Circle,  which consists of the Gullfoss waterfall, the Strokkur geyser hot spring area and the meeting of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates at Þingvellir National Park. We were offered a complimentary Classic Golden Circle tour (priced from £69 per person) by Grayline Iceland, but we also happened to book our Northern Lights Mystery tour (from £49 per person) and Reykjavik airport transfers (from £17 per person each way) through them too.

The tour itself is around 8 hours long from your hotel pick-up in the morning until you're dropped off in the evening, which means you certainly get your money's worth from the tour. Our particular guide, Símon, was an incredible host throughout the day and kept us throughly entertained throughout some of the longer driving intervals by reciting to us facts of the island (e.g. Did you know there are around three times as many sheep in Iceland compared to people?!) and pointing out worthwhile sights we passed on the drive. Whilst there are lengthy intervals between some stops, it's worth mentioning that these absolutely fly by as the bus journey takes you via some incredibly scenic routes, although in all honesty all of Iceland is rather scenic!

Five Things You Should Totally Do During Your First Trip To Iceland: Golden Circle Tour

Although you can browse through photos and videos online of the Golden Circle's natural phenomenons, nothing can honestly prepare you for the experience in person. The Gullfoss waterfall omits such a powerful energy as you watch the never-ending stream of water plummet thirty metres below you into the depths of the Earth, and you could easily find yourself falling under its spell and just watching it for hours; it's absolutely enchanting.

You cannot comprehend the overwhelming feeling of walking through the Almannagjá canyon formed of two tectonic plates that are slowly drifting apart year after year. It is quite literally everything you learned from your Geography GCSE lessons brought to life! The Þingvellir National Park is also the national shrine of Iceland as the oldest existing parliament in the world was formed there back in 930 AD.

The lively Strokkur geyser, which blasts out hot water and steam on an average of every 4 - 8 minutes up to a height of 40 metres is definitely something to marvel at. It's also rather entertaining watching everyone poise to get that perfect photo of the eruption, and usually failing on the first few attempts until they've worked out the Strokkur's routine.

The Golden Circle Classic tour allowed us sixty to ninety minutes at each of the stops, which meant we could take our time capturing photos and strolling at a leisurely pace. Grayline do offer an Golden Circle Express tour for the more impatient folk, where you are given around 30 - 45 minutes at each stop. From my own experience, I would say it's worth opting for the the Classic tour as you really will not want to feel rushed on this tour, but will appreciate the extra time to take it all in.

2.) Explore Reykjavik by foot

Five Things You Should Totally Do During Your First Trip To Iceland: Explore Reykjavik

I'm pretty certain that in all of my travel posts I recommend exploring by foot, and Reykjavik is no different. The capital city is actually rather small and very easy to navigate as the main area, Downtown, runs along one main street. By opting for exploring by foot over public transport, you'll not only save yourself some much needed cash (bus trips cost 440 ISK per journey and you cannot buy any sort of travel card, nor do the buses give change so you have to pay the exact amount or more), but you'll chance across sights you may not have discovered otherwise. It was thanks to our decision to wander around the city by foot that we chanced across a little local bar with beer at just 590 ISK per pint, which is pretty much like stumbling across a gold mine in Iceland! If you haven't heard already, Iceland is very, very expensive in comparison to the UK, so watching your pennies whilst you're there can help you out during your trip.

By walking, you'll also have a chance to admire the street art that paints this colourful little city. Wandering down tiny side streets that aren't necessarily accessible by vehicle could lead you to discover incredible murals and pieces of artwork you may not have chanced upon otherwise. You'll also discover little independent boutiques and hidden cafes tucked away from the main tourist dominated areas.

3.) Eat a warm cinnamon bun from Brauð & Co.

Five Things You Should Totally Do During Your First Trip To Iceland: Braud & Co Cinnamon Bun

If you do decide to travel by foot around Reykjavik, you certainly won't miss the bold and brightly coloured Brauð & Co. bakery on your way up the hill to admire the Hallgrímskirkja church. You can smell the waft of cinnamon as you stroll down the street, which should be more than enough to persuade you to venture inside. This was honestly the best cinnamon bun I've ever tasted, and believe me, I've had a lot of cinnamon buns in my time!

It's a small, humble little bakery with little seating, so it's best to be prepared to grab a sweet treat for the road or to take back to your hotel. Although I can't remember the pricing exactly, it was fairly reasonable and is a cheap place to stop for a bite to eat when in the city.

 4.) Spend a day in the Blue Lagoon

Five Things You Should Totally Do During Your First Trip To Iceland: Blue Lagoon

Yes, it's one of the most touristy spots in Iceland, but don't let that stop you from experiencing Iceland's Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa. Although it's nice to stumble off the beaten track now and again, it's also important to remember some things are popular for a good reason. We were actually close to skipping the Blue Lagoon during our trip, because it can be pretty pricey (prices are subjected to the time of day & different packages), however I am so glad that we splashed out the cash for this one. 

We did book this extremely last minute and a few days before our trip meaning our options were limited because it does get booked up very quickly. Originally we planned to stop off at the Blue Lagoon straight after we landed as it's actually located closer to the airport than Reykjavik where we were staying, and it would have saved us a heap of money in transfer costs. But being the disorganised pair that we are, we booked so late that the times after we landed weren't available so we ended up having to pay for an extra transfer to and from Reykjavik to the Blue Lagoon later on in the week. Learn from our mistakes and make sure you book as early as possible if you're planning on taking a bus transfer to the site.

During our visit the weather wasn't exactly what we had hoped for, because as we arrived we were greeted with a torrential downpour of rain and snow. The last thing that seemed appealing was stripped down to our swimwear and bathing outdoors. However, despite the weather we managed to spend over four hours at the Blue Lagoon floating around, drinking beer and getting lost in the mist. Due to the cloud coverage the water wasn't as blue as it usually is in the sunlight, but instead we were surrounded by a magical mist as the steam rose off the water. I would recommend not to let the weather stop you from booking a trip to the Blue Lagoon, but in all honesty we found Iceland is most unpredictable when it comes to the weather anyway.

I found Erica's blog post on the Blue Lagoon thoroughly helpful before planning my trip, especially the tip about taking your own towels, so do check that out before you book!

5.) Stay with a local via Airbnb

Five Things You Should Totally Do During Your First Trip To Iceland: Reykjavik Airbnb Icelandic Sheepdog

You might be wondering why I used a photo of a cute doggo underneath my 5th and final tip for your first trip to Iceland. Well, this adorable little one, an Icelandic sheepdog who is ironically terrified of sheep (!!), was actually our housemate whilst we stayed in Reykjavik! We pretty much based our booking on the fact that there would be a dog there, which is pretty much how we decide upon most of our Airbnb bookings nowadays.

Admittedly I absolutely love booking through Airbnb, but when it's my first time visiting a city I will always try and stay with a host. Although it's nice to have your own space and apartment, it does tend to be a little more expensive than lodging alongside a host, especially when travelling solo or as a couple. Sharing with your host also comes with the added benefit of having someone to ask advice, directions and anything you may need to know during your stay. More importantly, it's an easy way to make a form friendship and experience the true culture of the city that you're visiting. A cute pet is also a very welcome added bonus. 

If you've not booked with Airbnb before, you can save £30 off your first trip of £55 or more by clicking here.



  1. I am desperate to go to Iceland it looks incredible. Also totally with you on staying with Airbnb hosts we did it all over america and got some amazing tips of local places to check out

  2. Iceland is one of the places I've always wanted to go, the golden circle tour sounds amazing I would probably not be able to do it because my chronic illness but you've made me want to! Your pictures on instagram look absolutely breath-taking xx

  3. Iceland looks bloody incredible but for some ridiculous reason I still haven't been. Definitely on the cards for next year!


    1. I've been saying it should be top of everyone's bucket lists - it's absolutely out of this world! ♥

  4. We booked our Airbnb in Amsterdam last year solely because they had a cat! Iceland is high up my list of places to visit. It looks incredible!

    1. Yes! An Airbnb pet is very persuasive, isn't it?!

  5. Iceland is one of the unique holiday destinations in the world. The best vacation I have ever had was the beautiful time I spent in Iceland last year. To be honest, I have never had such a fun and memorable vacation in my entire life. That was possible because of Discover Iceland Tours. We did three tours with this agency at a very suitable price. Really, we enjoyed a lot.

    1. I haven't heard of Discover Iceland, but I really recommend Grayline Iceland to anyone who is thinking of visiting as they were ever so friendly and well-organised! I'll definitely be using them again when I go back to visit Iceland.


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