Useful travel tips for visiting Reykjavik and Iceland. What should you consider when planning your vacation in Reykjavik?
Before you leave with your city trip Reykjavik it is good to be aware of some practicalities in Iceland. With these travel tips, you can make the trip the way you want and make the most of the Reykjavik sightseeing. For example, it is good to take into account the climate and the high and low season. With these handy Reykjavik tips you will not be surprised:
1. Best time to visit Reykjavik
The low season is in the months of January, February, April, May and November. During these months there are fewer tourists in Iceland and it will therefore be quieter, but also colder, wetter and longer dark. The absolute high season with many tourists are the months of June to August. It is then busy because many activities can be done (including whale watching), the weather is pleasant and the entire island is easily accessible. If you want to sit just outside the high season, choose the months of May or September. In the month of December, tourism in Reykjavik also sees a small revival for snow lovers in a magical atmosphere.
Due to the climate in Iceland, the temperature rarely exceeds 15 degrees. It is a cold maritime climate because Iceland is almost against the Arctic Circle. From June to September it is regularly cool and unfortunately there is also regular precipitation. In winter, Iceland only gets 4.5 hours of light a day (the best chance of the Northern Lights) and in summer even more than 21 hours a day. This varies a lot and the light hours also determine how much time you have for activities in Reykjavik and your chance to spot the Northern Lights. You can visit Reykjavik all year round, but some parts of Iceland are barely accessible in winter; the southwestern part of Iceland where Reykjavik is located is great to visit in winter (this part of Iceland still benefits from the warmer Gulf Stream).
|minimum (°C)||- 4||- 4||- 3||0||3||7||9||8||6||2||- 1||- 4|
|hours of sunshine / day||1||2||3||4||6||5||6||5||4||2||1||0|
2. Currency of Iceland
A different currency is used in Iceland. This is the Icelandic krona (ISK) and is available in 500, 1000, 2000, 5000 and 10,000 notes. In addition, 1 dollar of euro is approximately equal to 140 Icelandic kroner. There are plenty of ATMs in the capital and also at the airport where you can use your bank card. Credit and debit cards are also accepted in many places on the island.
The prices in Iceland are a lot higher than in the rest of Europe, count on for example that prices of restaurants and hotels will be at least fifty percent higher and supermarkets even double that (most products have to be imported). The prices of alcoholic drinks are even slightly higher due to the high taxes (a beer easily costs 10 dollar/euro). Petrol prices are only slightly more expensive compared to the rest of Europe. Admission to a (small) museum often costs around 20 dollar/euro and tours in the reykjavik area cost on average between 60 and 120 dollar/euro. Furthermore, there is no tipping culture in Iceland; of course a tip will be appreciated, but in principle this is included in the bill of a restaurant.
3. To and from Reykjavik airport
Travel Tip: It is highly recommended that you pre-book your airport transfer to your hotel in Reykjavik. When you take a taxi to your hotel at the airport, you will soon pay around 140 dollar/euro, as the airport is 50 kilometers outside the center of Reykjavik. An airport bus transfer is much cheaper, but we recommend that you book it in advance. In this article we tell you everything about the transport options between the airport and the center.
4. Spotting the Northern Lights
The best chance of seeing the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) is between October and March. This could even be done in September and April. The best chance is in the middle of winter, because the nights are longer and less water vapor is clouding the sky due to the icy cold. Also in the months of October and April there is often a lot of activity. In the summer it is briefly dark at night, so the chance of seeing the Northern Lights is small. It is even said that in Reykjavik you could see the Northern Lights 280 days a year.
Tip: On the websites auroraforecast.is you can see forecasts of Northern Lights activity and at vedur.is the forecasts for the cloud cover (confusing: green on this website means a lot of clouds). It is not only important that there is a lot of 'activity', but also the 'cloud cover' should not cause too much nuisance. Furthermore, the Northern Lights are less visible with a lot of light pollution of the city, so you can get the best with this Northern Lights tour. These Northern Lights spotters know exactly where the most activity is, there are holes in the cloud cover and they take you to remote places outside the city.
Note: A good portion of luck also plays a role with the Northern Lights tours and if the prospects are bad, tours will be moved to the next day. Schedule this Northern Lights tour therefore as early as possible during your trip, so that you can also join a possible resit.
5. Reykjavik City Card
When you are going to do a city trip Reykjavik the Reykjavik City Card is very interesting. Get the most out of your Reykjavik vacation with this convenient city pass. A handy card including public transport and numerous museums, which provides a lot of convenience and can save money.
With the Reykjavik City Card you have the choice of a 24, 48 or 72 hour pass and includes the following:
- Access to public city buses in downtown Reykjavik
- Ferry to Viðey Island
- Entrance to Reykjavík City's Thermal Baths
- Access to Reykjavík Zoo and Family Park
- Free entrance to many museums such as the various branches of the Reykjavik City Museum (including the Settlement Exhibition and maritime museum), 3 branches of the Reykjavik Art Museum, Culture House, National Gallery of Island, the popular National Museum of Iceland and the Árbær Open Air Museum
- Discounts at many other attractions such as the Saga Museum, Aurora Reykjavik and Whales of Iceland
- More info and reservation Reykjavik City Card
6. Festivals and Holidays in Reykjavik
Reykjavik is a lively city where many festivals take place. In the schedule below and on this website you will find more information about all festivals and public holidays in the capital:
|January 1||New Year's Day; most in town is closed|
|February||3-day Winter Lights Festival to cheer up the dark days.|
|April||Reykjavik Blues Festival (website)|
|Easter||The Icelanders have a 5-day weekend with many businesses and shops closed.|
|1st Thursday after April 18||Celebrating the first day of summer|
|May 1||Day off due to Labor Day|
|Early June||Fishermen's Day, national event honoring everyone who earns their money around fishing and sea. Various activities in the old port.|
|June||The Reykjavik Art Festival for over two weeks with various activities throughout the city (website).|
|2nd weekend of June||Viking Festival in the nearby town of Hafnarfjordur. The oldest and largest festival of its kind in Iceland.|
|June 17||Important National Day of Iceland, where the independence of Denmark is celebrated with parades and concerts.|
|Late of June||Reykjavik Fringe; city-wide festival featuring theatre, dance, circus and comedy (website).|
|1st weekend of August||The first Monday of August is a public holiday in honor of Icelandic traders and most Icelanders have a long weekend off here, which means many festivals take place all over Iceland this weekend.|
|Early August||Reykjavik Gay Pride (website).|
|Mid August||Reykjavik Jazz Festival (website).|
|3rd weekend of August||Both the Marathon and Reykjavik Cultural Night (website) an event with many activities in museums and on the street and with a final of large fireworks in the harbour.|
|Early October||Reykjavik Film Festival (website).|
|October 9||The Imagine Peace Tower on Videy Island is lit on John Lennon's birthday|
|December 1||Independence Day: Iceland was officially declared independent on this day in 1918|
|December 21||The shortest day of the year with just over 3 hours of daylight|
|December 25||Christmas, mainly celebrated at home with family|
|December 31||New Year's Eve, traditionally celebrated with lots of fireworks|
7. How many days of vacation in Reykjavik?
A frequently asked question is how many days we advise for a visit to Reykjavik. In order to be able to visit the main Reykjavik attractions it is recommended to spend at least two full days in the city of Reykjavik, so you will have a good impression of the capital. If you choose Reykjavik as your only destination (a city trip), we definitely recommend that you add three or four extra days on top of these two days for excursions in the beautiful Reykjavik area. The capital is the perfect base for day trips to, for example, the Golden Circle, the beautiful southern part of the island, the Blue Lagoon or for a visit to the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Read more about the 12 best excursions from Reykjavik.More excursions from Reykjavik
8. Tips for visiting Iceland with a (rental) car
Would you like to discover more of Iceland from Reykjavik with a rental car? Then it is best to rent a car at the Reykjavik airport. We have very positive experiences with car rental at the airport through Easyterra. Easily compare different rental companies via the search engine below, so that you can find the most advantageous price:
- The weather in Iceland can be very extreme, partly due to the huge wind gusts and snowfall. If you are going to drive around with a car, it is wise to download the 'Safe Travel App' on safetravel.is. The app gives you up-to-date information about road conditions, weather alarms and useful tips for safely traveling around Iceland by car. Another useful website about road conditions is road.is.
- In Iceland it is mandatory that your car lights are always on while driving.
- Watch out for stray sheep along or on the road, these have been given complete freedom to graze in many places in Iceland.
- A short summary of the most important traffic rules can be found in this flyer.
- Watch the fun video below 'Driving with Elfis' with travel tips about driving in Iceland: