While a road trip in Iceland is always a good idea there are going to be some days during your trip where spending a good chunk of your day in a car will not be too appealing. And while you aren’t feeling up for a lot of driving time you also don’t want to waste any time while in Iceland and still want to see some amazing sights.
For those days when you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the car or deal with large crowds, but still want to get some type of adventure in, we have the locations for you!
These 5 locations take an hour or less to reach, meaning you can go there, explore for a bit, and be back in the city all in just a few hours. An added bonus, these locations are not ones you typically find on the “where to visit in Iceland” lists, which means you will get to explore and enjoy the beauty of these locations with few others around.
So whether you are interested in visiting a black sand beach or exploring a geothermal area you will find an adventure of interest on the list below.
Kleifarvatn and Krýsuvík
Distance from Reykjavik: 36km, 40 minutes
If you are looking for a little adventure, but not in the mood for spending a long time out and about, this trip is perfect for you. Only 40 minutes outside of downtown Reykjavik, Kleifarvatn and Krýsuvík are two locations that many pass over visiting for more well-known locations, but they are more than deserving of a trip. Located on the Reykjanes peninsula just a few minutes apart from each other, Kleifarvatn is the largest lake on the Reykjanes peninsula, and Krýsuvík is a geothermal area covered in bubbling water and unique colors.
Views on the road out to Kleifarvatn and Krýsuvík
The first stop you will come to is Kleifarvatn, a lake that is 97 meters deep, making it one of the deepest lakes in Iceland. The depth and clear water visibility makes Kleifarvatn a popular location for scuba divers to practice so don’t be surprised if you see some people swimming around the lake. When you arrive at Kleifarvatn be sure to head down to the large black sand beach for a walk and to take in the views of the volcanic landscape surrounding the lake. This location is popular with photographers and you will quickly see why, so be sure to have your camera with you!
Less than 5 kilometers up the road from Kleifarvatn you will come to the geothermal area of Krýsuvík. Here you will find a well-mainted area with a wooden pathway taking you around the boiling water so you can safely take in the stunning views of this location. Make sure to walk the pathway up the hillside where you will end at a platform with a view overlooking the geothermal area and the surrounding mountains. And for those wanting to move a bit more there are several hiking trails in this area that you can explore.
Þorlákshöfn and Hellisheiði Power Plant
Distance from Reykjavik: 46 km, 40 minutes
This day trip combines visiting a small fishing town with a trip to the third-largest geothermal plant station in the world, the makings for an exciting adventure out of Reykjavik! Start the trip with a visit to Þorlákshöfn, a charming fishing town that packs a lot of beautiful nature into its small size. Here you will find everything from a black sand beach to unique lava formations, cliffs, caves and a geothermal area, there is a lot to explore in this family-friendly town.
If you happen to be traveling with small children be sure to pack your bathing suits, Þorlákshöfn has a newly renovated indoor pool that is one of the best for young children to enjoy. Top off the adventure with a cafe stop and a walk along the black sand beach (which you will likely have to yourself, or maybe a local or two) before leaving the town.
As you make your way back to Reykjavik continue the adventure with a stop at Hellisheiði power plant for a unique look at one of Iceland’s most important resources, geothermal energy. Surrounded by moss-covered lava and mountains the landscape around Hellisheiði is a sight to be seen, especially with the several areas of hot steam you will see coming up from the ground.
If you are interested in learning even more about geothermal energy and how it is produced in Iceland be sure to stop at the geothermal exhibition at Hellisheiði. Enjoy a tour of the power plant and learn all there is to know about geothermal energy presented in an interactive exhibition. An educational experience that will be fun for all in your group and will certainly be a memorable experience to have in Iceland.
Distance from Reykjavik: 52 km, 42 minutes
Grindavik is one of the few towns in Iceland that has a harbor at its coast, and a busy harbor it is with 40% of Iceland’s salt fish production happening here. Spend some time learning more about the history of fishing in Grindavik with a drive around Hópneshringur Circle where you will find ruins of several shipwrecks along with the stories behind them. The circle ends at the Grindavik lighthouse, a bright orange lighthouse in the midst of the lava field. The pop of color in the middle of the lava field is a sight to be seen.
While Grindavik is known as a fishing town there are endless adventures to be had in the area that don’t involve fishing. The stunning nature in this area provides for a variety of outdoor activities, from hiking to bird watching at the seaside cliffs, taking an ATV tour or enjoying the golf course, if you are looking to have a bit more action while in Grindavik there is most definitely an activity for you.
Shipwreck on the Hópneshringur Circle
If you want to keep exploring there are two additional stops located outside of Grindavik that are worth a visit, Gunnuhver Geothermal Area and the Bridge Between the Two Continents.
Gunnuhver Geothermal Area
Located 16 kilometers outside of Grindavik, has the largest mud pot in Iceland and some pretty massive steam clouds coming from the bubbling water. Add in the colorful minerals that cover this area and the unique story behind how this location got its name and you have a geothermal area that really stands out from the others around Iceland.
Bridge Between the Two Continents
Another 35 kilometers up the road will take you to the Bridge Between the Two Continents, which is exactly as it sounds, a bridge across two continents. Walk across the bridge that connects the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates and say you visited two continents in just a few minutes time! An extra stop that is worth the longer drive, it isn’t every day you can visit two continents in just a few seconds.
Note: These locations are all located in the Reykjanes Peninsula very close to Keflavik International Airport. If you have a few hours to spend before taking your flight these locations are a great way to fill the time with one last adventure as they are a short drive from the airport.
Akranes and Hvalfjörður
Distance from Reykjavik: 49 km, 50 minutes
Want to experience driving under the water while in Iceland? A visit to the town of Akranes will give you that chance as you drive into Hvalfjörður tunnel where for almost 6 kilometers you will be driving under the Hvalfjörður fjord, going as far as 165 meters below sea level. While this is an experience in itself, once you have reached Akranes we recommend heading to Langasandur beach where you can enjoy a swim in the newly opened geothermal pools that are right on the beach with beautiful views of the ocean. If you are feeling courageous you can brave the chilly sea for some sea swimming like the locals do!
Before leaving this small town take a stroll around the area, you will find several little shops selling local products and crafts as well as some cozy cafes that are perfect for warming up with some hot drinks and treats.
Interested in adding more to the day’s adventure?
Instead of taking the Hvalfjörður tunnel back to Reykjavik opt for the longer drive home around the Hvalfjörður fjord. The drive around the fjord will add about an hour to your journey, but with plenty of stops to check out along the way and some pretty incredible landscapes, it will be an hour well spent.
A few stops to check out while driving through the fjord:
● Meðalfellsvatn - a lake with picturesque views, this would make the perfect stop for a picnic or snack break.
● Hvítanes - an abandoned military base that the British occupied in World War Two, if you enjoy visiting these types of structures you will enjoy this stop.
● Glymur Waterfall - if you are interested in getting a hiking adventure in for the day Glymur is a great option for you. This hike takes anywhere from 3-4 hours round trip with the trail going back to Glymur waterfall, the second-highest waterfall in Iceland.
Glymur Waterfall - Photo Source
Helgufoss and Þórufoss
Distance from Reykjavik: 40 km, 38 minutes
If hiking and waterfalls are the kind of adventure you are looking for this day trip out of Reykjavik is the option for you.
Kick off the day with a visit to Laxness hiking trail, also known as the Poet’s Path. The trail starts at the home of the well known Nobel prize author, the late Halldor Kiljan Laxness. It is said that Laxness got his creativity on his daily walks along the trail behind his house which takes you along the Kaldá river and back to the waterfall Helgufoss.
With so much beautiful nature in the area, you will quickly how a place like this could inspire your creativity. The walk along this trail is fairly easy making it great for groups of all ages. The trail ends back at Helgufoss Waterfall and will take anywhere from under an hour, to a couple of hours round trip depending on how quickly you walk the trail.
Looking to fit in another waterfall before heading back to Reykjavik?
From Laxness hiking trail drive 18 kilometers further to reach a second, even bigger waterfall, Þórufoss. As you drive down the gravel road that takes you to Þórufoss keep a lookout for a sign that marks the parking area for the waterfall. From here you will walk just a few minutes across a field covered in lava rocks to the edge of the clearly visible canyon. As you reach the edge you will see the river running through the area, and the powerful Þórufoss crashing down into the river water.
Fun fact: this waterfall has been used in several movies/TV shows such as Game of Thrones, so it is a Hollywood famous stop as well.
Use caution while taking in the views of Þórufoss as you will be up quite high above and don’t want anyone to fall down the steep edge. Thankfully you can still get some impressive views of Þórufoss from this location, and with nothing blocking the view of the waterfall it makes for a great photography spot.
Icelandic road trip in the Autumn
These five-day trips out of Reykjavik have proven one important thing, you don’t have to go far to have an amazing adventure in Iceland! For more Iceland road trip ideas head to our blog and be sure to add some of these songs to your Iceland road trip playlist.