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My personal recommendations for REYKJAVIK and ICELAND:
Written in January 2015.
Ask me to send this by e-mail after you book since Airbnb messes with all the links.
RESTAURANTS I like, in Reykjavik:
All located downtown Reykjavik, within 10min walking distance of one another.
Fiskmakaðurinn: (website hidden)
(seafood, sushi, great interior)
Snaps bar: (website hidden)
(trendy, inexpensive, popular among locals in the weekends)
Public house: (website hidden)
(trendy, fusion, street food style)
Kol: (website hidden)
(new since spring 2014, trendy, popular)
Kopar: (website hidden)
(New since spring 2013, good, trendy)
Glo: (website hidden) (the one downtown, on Laugavegur)
(good health food, raw, vegan, chicken, organic, self service, close 9pm)
OTHER few restaurants, popular, well reviewed:
Fiskfélagið: (website hidden)_FishCompany
Matur og Drykkur: (website hidden)
Verbud 11: (website hidden)
Sjávargrillið: (website hidden)
Rub 23: (website hidden)
Also, in the area where you have Kopar and Slippbarinn, by the harbor, there are many small restaurants.. The Burger joint is a famous one, also Cafe Haiti, and Sægreifinn.
Finally, for more on restaurants in Reykjavik see Tripadvisor:
BARS I like, in Reykjavik
All located downtown Reykjavik, within 15min walking distance of one another.
Kaldi Bar: (website hidden)
Kaffibarinn: (website hidden)
(The best bar and nightlife/club in Reykjavik for the weekends. Voted one of the best clubs in Europe by Guardian: (website hidden))
Slippbarinn: (website hidden)
Snaps bar/Hótel Óðinsvé: (website hidden)
CAFES I like, in Reykjavik
Stofan Cafe: (website hidden)
Te og Kaffi Adalstaeti: (website hidden)
Te og Kaffi Skólavörðustíg: (website hidden) (bookstore and cafe)
Babalú Cafe: (website hidden)_Review-g189970-d(phone number hidden)-Reviews-Cafe_Babalu-Reykjavik_Capital_Region.html
MORE for Reykjavik
Reykjavik downtown area is small. It consists of Laugavegur shopping strip, Skolavorðustigur shopping strip (leading up to the big church Hallgrimskirkja), Austurvollur main town square, the pond, the harbor and the surrounding areas. It's a cultural place with abundance of restaurants, bars, cozy little cafes and design shops, museums, exhibitions and nightlife.
Here is a pretty good guide to Reykjavik with more than just the conventional stuff - 25 cool things to do in Reykjavik, written FEB 2015:
And here is one from the Wall Street Journal, written in MAY 2015:
I strongly recommend the swimming pool complexes in Reykjavik. There are a total of 18 big swimming pool complexes with a combination of one or more big pools for lap swimming, several different heated hot tubs (outside), steam rooms and saunas. Entrance fee is normally about 6 Euros. I like them all but I mostly use Vesturbæjarlaug, Laugardalslaug and Arbæjarlaug.
Here is a link to all the swimming pool complexes
And Laugardalslaug also has a large gym with more expensive spa (website hidden)_default.aspx
The Blue Lagoon is about 40min drive from Reykjavik on the way to KEF airport. I would recommend going there. It is very touristic but also very unique. Their website lists which times of the day are better than other to avoid traffic. As of September 2015 the base entrance fee is 35 Euros and in summer it is 50 Euros.
Traveling in or around ICELAND:
First of all make sure to try out as many geothermal swimming pools as you can, use it as your shower that day. They are very popular. I am referring to two types of pools. The man made swimming pools inside towns and villages around Iceland. These often have geothermal water and they are similar to the ones in Reykjavik but often smaller. Then there are the natural hot springs and pools right in nature where you can go and bathe. Ask locals for directions to such pools as you drive around.
Here is a link to 5 good natural hot springs to bathe in: (website hidden)
Here is a link to 11 interesting pools, either geothermal or located right by the sea:
Here is a link to about 10 non-commercial pools/hot springs (this is in Icelandic but you can google the names and they also have GPS location next to each pool)
And here is a link to a new site (as of September 2015) called TripCreator which has won awards for planning trips in Iceland:
The following suggestions assume you have 2-3 WEEKS FOR A ROUND-TRIP around Iceland - but you can also pick and choose for smaller time periods:
Starting from REYKJAVIK
Drive around REYKJANES and stop in the BLUE LAGOON. Then drive through Grindavík - Krýsuvík (nice geothermal fenced area with great colors in the ground) and continue to Hveragerdi (nice swimming pool there with natural sulfur smelling steam bath). Then drive on and right before Selfoss turn left and make a detour (from the round-trip):
That concludes REYKJANES.
The detour is called "The Golden Circle". It takes you to Thingvellir (must see, UNESCO National park and the first parliament in the world) –from there drive through Lyngdalsheiði to Laugavatn - then GEYSIR (one of the fountain geysers there Strokkur erupts every 10min or so) - then GULLFOSS which is a beautiful waterfall (must see both of these).
Then from Gullfoss drive back down to the shore for example through Selfoss, from there continue to the round-trip:
Start SOUTH ICELAND
Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, Thorsmork and Westman Islands - must see all of these, the first two are waterfalls, Thorsmork is one of my favorite places with beautiful landscape. You can stay in a cabin in Básar or Langidalur as an example (through Ferdafelagid or Utivist tour companies). But note there is problem getting all the way to Thorsmork unless you have a big wheel jeep, take a bus or get a lift. There are big rivers to cross. Thorsmork is a home to Eyjafjallajökull the famous volcanic eruption of 2010 which stopped all air traffic in large parts of Europe. Close by Thorsmork is Westman Island, quite a picturesque and interesting place in my opinion. In 1974 they had a volcano erupt and the whole village had to evacuate in an instant but nobody got hurt. You take a ferry to get there.
I really like a DETOUR here into the wilder area of the country. You might be able to do it on your car depending how you do it but it's best to have a 4 wheeler. Basically it means going Fjallabaksleid Nyrdri and sleep in Landmannalaugar which is a really nice wild area with natural geothermal pool to bathe in and a cabin house to sleep in. You can also go to Landmanalaugar through Fjallabak Sydri which is an even nicer route with colors in the ground from geothermal activities but for that route you need a very big wheel jeep. Landmannalaugar really is a unique place. This incredible photo is taken in Brennisteinsalda which is a mountain very close to Landnmannalaugar and is clearly shows the colors and the landscape you can expect on a good day there: (website hidden)
The Thorsmork area is almost a part of this detour, but it can also be done separately.
UPDATE May 2015: My friend is driving tourists on these inland routes in the summer 2015, he has a large wheel Hummer that takes 5 passengers and he charges 100 thousand ISK per day. Feel free to call him at (phone number hidden) or let me know if you want me to connect you or help you with the planning of the trip.
The other inland DETOUR you could do is book a trip from Myvatn in the north of Iceland and go to Herdubreid area and Viti (I haven't done this trip but many like it).
But on with the ROUND-TRIP. Assuming you just finished the Landmannalaugar detour you will now end up somewhere on the shore again. Continue driving east. Places to stop on the way could be Kirkjubaejarklaustur (they should have good camping). Then Vik i Myrdal which has Reynisfjara, Reynisdrangar and Dyrholaey. These are all quite nice and it does not take that long to see them.
Then drive to Skaftafell. They have good camping. Must do a walk from the camping ground towards the glacier Skaftafellsjokull, you should be able to hear the glacier move once you are there, it's not a very long walk. Then close by Skaftarfell is Jokulsarlon one of Iceland's most famous places with big glaciers floating around. James Bond was filmed there once.
That concludes SOUTH ICELAND.
Then drive towards the East Fjords. Höfn í Hornafirði, Egilsstaðir, Hallormsstaðarskógur and Atlavík are all good places to see. Also some of the villages in the fjords such as Seydisfjordur where Norræna ferry stops. You can bring your car from mainland Europe, rental cars are very expensive in Iceland.
That concludes EAST FJORDS.
From Seyðisfjörður drive counterclockwise, the first important things to see:
Asbyrgi, Hljodaklettar and Dettifoss. Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. The beginning of the movie Prometheus was filmed there, and by Gullfoss waterfall. Must see all three of these (Ásbyrgi has good camping)
Then drive to Mývatn (should have good camping) - go bath in (website hidden). Also there are very nice colors in the ground near the geothermal activity close to Myvatn called Krafla area. Also go walk a bit in Dimmuborgir.
Then drive to Eyjafjörður - stay in Akureyri which is Iceland's 2nd largest town, but quite still small. Visit Laufás old church place opposite Akureyri.
Then drive through Dalvík, Ólafsfjörður and Siglufjörður.
That concludes NORTH ICELAND.
Then you have option to go to Vestfirðir which are best characterized by very big mountains and no trees. You can for example drive from Blönduós to Isafjordur. It's a long drive. Once there you can sail to Vigur island, half hour. Then drive through Bildudalur - Talknafjordur - Patreksfjordur (small fishery villages). Close to there is Látrabjarg the westernmost part of Europe with big cliffs and white sandy beaches - then drive to Brjanslaekur.
That concludes VESTFIRDIR.
Take the ferry from Brjanslaekur to Stykkishólmur (pretty little town with old well kept houses) - now you are in SNAEFELLSNES a very nice peninsula which you can drive around in a few hours. Drive to Grundafjordur - Olafsvik and around the Snaefellsnes Glacier. There you land in Hellnar. I remember a nice little restaurant by the sea in a nice environment. Then either walk or drive to Arnarstapi a very picturesque place with high cliffs towards the sea and beautiful view towards the Glacier. They also have good camping. Close by is Budir with a pretty little church and an upscale hotel. From there you can drive up to the glacier and get rides on a snow scooter on the glacier if you like.
That concludes SNAEFELLSNES.
Concluding the round trip around Iceland drive from Budir, through Borgarnes and end in Reykjavik again. You can either drive through the tunnel or take Hvalfjordur (1-2 hrs longer but nice) and then you end up in Reykjavik again.
Places where you could sleep on the round trip:
Laugarvatn (on way back from they Geysir and Gullfoss)
Landmannalaugar (or Westman Island)
Vik i Myrdal
Remember to do a Google Image search for the names of the places I mention above so you can see what they look like and make a decision what you want to prioritize.
Hope you have an excellent time in Iceland!