I just got back from my third trip to Iceland, and I'm already planning my fourth. Everyone seems to be traveling to Iceland these days, and it has to make you wonder what is the draw to this small Northern country? I can tell you it's not just the cheap flights. For me, I love Iceland for the landscape and culture. Iceland is not only beautiful, but the people are alight with an appreciation for literature, music, and art. This light shines through to every aspect of life on this small Nordic isle.
Where to Stay in Reykjavik
When it comes to accommodations all I have to say is: the third time's the charm. I've stayed in a couple of great Airbnbs in different parts of Reykjavik. However, this past trip I had the pleasure of staying at Kex Hostel.
My time at Kex was nothing short of incredible! I opted for a private room with shared bathroom. The room was clean, comfortable, and had the most fantastic view of Mt Esja. Each morning I had breakfast at Kex before heading out to explore. The whole breakfast spread was great, but the homemade jam with freshly baked bread was definitely the highlight.
One of the best parts about staying at Kex was the opportunity to meet fellow travelers and locals at the Kex bar (Saemundur Gastro Pub). We met several friendly locals and a few nomads who we were able to ponder the meaning of life with over a few pints.
PSA: Beer in Iceland is very expensive (around 15 USD) so I was happy to find that Saemundur Gastro Pub offers great happy hour special of select brews for 650 ISK (6.47 USD). Needless to say next time I'm in Reykjavik, I will 100% be staying at Kex.
What to do in Iceland
Ok so I know EVERYONE sees the Golden Circle, but trust me when I say the crowds are not worth it. There are endless beautiful places in Iceland and vacation time is limited, so I recommend seeing something a little different. Instead of driving the Golden Circle head to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula or the south coast. The south coast has been growing in popularity, but there are still some hidden gems.
If one thing is worth splurging on in Iceland, it is going somewhere remote. Many of the more remote places in Iceland are only accessible by off-roading vehicles, so I recommend splurging on a tour in a super jeep. Thórsmörk on the south coast is incredible and easily a day trip from Reykjavik via super Jeep. This past time in Iceland I used Iceland GO Tours to see some of the lesser-known spots along the South Coast. The peak of our day trip was hiking through a canyon occupied by Icelandic horses to a waterfall.
Spend the time to get to know the locals
Iceland has changed a lot since the first time I visited in 2015. There are countless new hotels in Reykjavik, new restaurants, new bars, and way more tourists. The surge of tourism is excellent for Iceland's economy, but it's also easier now to stick to the tourist hot spots and not meet actual Icelandic people. To get the most out of your trip to Iceland, talk to locals at a bar, go to a local swimming pool (and follow the local customs), and most importantly - get out of your comfort zone!