How you choose to make your first trip to Iceland can vary a lot. You can fly into Reykjavik, spend a couple of days there relaxing, maybe visit the Blue Lagoon spa.
You can go for a bit longer and take advantage of one of the day tours from the city – visiting sights such as the ‘Golden Circle’, watch a geyser, see an immense waterfall, see evidence of the volcanic nature of the island with volcano cones close to the city and fault lines from the tectonic plates Iceland is situated on which are slowly drifting apart.
The longer you are there, the further into the country you will want to go. Many people will want to do the Ring Road loop – an 800 mile road trip around the circumference of the island. You can hire your own vehicle or travel around on guided bus. In theory it can be driven in 24 hours, but in practice you would want to spend much longer to see the fantastic locations on route.
Or you may want to visit one area of the island such as the Westfjords, with the knowledge that you will come back to visit other areas on later trips.
There are many music and arts festivals you can base a trip around. Two of the big ones are Secret Solstice and Iceland Airwaves, but there are smaller festivals also.
While Reykjavik has by far the largest population, smaller towns also have much to offer. Akureyri on the north coast is a beautiful town set on the Eyjafjörður fjord with plenty to keep you in the area for a few days. It has its own tours to places like the Goðafoss waterfall and the volcanic region around Lake Mývatn.
Getting to Iceland can be by direct flight or by transatlantic flights which stopover in Iceland. There are currently over twenty airlines flying into Iceland. Once there you can fly on to other cities in Iceland by internal flight.
There are two airports serving Reykjavik, most international flights will come into Keflavik airport 30 miles south west of Reykjavik. You can catch a bus from there into the city. The second airport is for domestic flights and is situated in the city, a short taxi ride away. You may fly from here to locations such as Akureyri.
A walking tour of Reykjavík can take in highlights such the Hallgrímskirkja church perched on a hill in the city; the Harpa concert hall down at the waterfront which hosts a range of cultural events; the Tjörnin lake is pleasant to walk around; the harbour is interesting and there are whale and puffin watching trips from there. There is a botantic garden, a zoo and Old Reykjavík has a number of historic buildings.
There are several thermal swimming pools in the city which is where Icelanders relax in their spare time. These include Sundhöll Reykjavíkur, Vesturbæjarlaug, Sundlaug Seltjarnarness and Laugardalslaug which is close to the youth hostel. You can also bathe at the geothermal Nauthólsvík Beach where a lagoon with sea walls allow cold sea and hot geothermal water to fuse together for higher temperature water.
There are many museums and art galleries in the city, some of these are: the National Museum for a range of artifacts, the Saga museum for Icelandic history, several Reykjavík Art Museums, the National Gallery of Iceland for paintings, the Reykjavík Museum of Photography has a gallery of good photography exhibitions, and last but not least the Icelandic Phallological Museum.
Laugavegur is the main shopping street, and you should walk up and down here at least once. There are many cool shops, bars and restaurants to check out. On a weekend evening the street becomes a line of honking Icelanders cars coming into the city to party. The party starts late and goes on to the early hours of the morning.
Read about Iceland in Winter