Alternative Reykjavik, Iceland
First Day’s Tour
Start with a morning pastry at Braud & Co on Frakkastigur then head north, toward Borgarfjordur. Stop at Deildartunguhver Hot Spring – the most powerful in Iceland. Watch the water bubble, sputter and steam as it’s channelled off in pipes to nearby towns. Next up is the village of Reykholt, once home to the poet and saga-writer Snorri Sturluson. Here you can see old and new buildings side by side and pay a visit to its 19th-century church.
Head to Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls. The former translates as lava Falls’ and is made up of a series of creeks and waterways that spill out over the lava bed for around 900m. The latter means ‘Children’s Fall’, so-called because of a folktale about two kids who fell in while crossing one of the stone arches that span it, so their mother destroyed the bridge.
Afterwards, head for a bistro lunch at nearby Hotel Husafell to fuel up in preparation for a subterranean adventure in the Vidgelmir lava tunnel. Only recently launched, The Cave’ is an experience that sees you descend into the longest and largest cave in Iceland.
On the way back to Reykjavik, detour to Krosslaug natural pool. Seating two people comfortably, its relaxing waters are around 42°C and free to use. End your stopover with a meal back in the capital at Fishmarket and its rather modern take on fish and chips.
Where to Stay
Top end: The brand new Canopy hotel in Reykjavik’s centre, just behind the Laugavegur shopping street, offers modern rooms inside six traditional connected houses. Each room is decorated with local artwork, while free bike rental is included, so you can head out exploring on two wheels.
Mid-range: Reykjavik Residence Hotel is an apartment hotel lying in the heart of the old town, in a building that dates from 1918. Each apartment has a private kitchenette for self-catering.
Budget: The Oddsson Hotel/Hostel has a yoga room, hot tubs on the roof, a karaoke room and a mix of low-cost options, ranging from simple hotel rooms and bunks in shared dorms to private ‘pods’.
Stay or Go?
Stay. There are plenty more uncrowded places to discover around Reykjavik if you choose to linger longer than a day. Enroute to Hraunfossar at Borgarnes, be sure to detour to Hvalfjordur for a 3 hour hike to Iceland’s highest waterfall, Glymur (198m).
From there, head even further north for a true sense of isolation, towards the Westfjords. Here you will find not black but red sand beaches at Raudisandur. Go further north and you’ll reach the end of the road at Krossnes, from where it takes a week to walk to Hornstrandir. At the end of this wild trek, a nature reserve complete with Arctic foxes awaits. Of course, you could simply take the boat from Isafjordur, but either way you’ll need to be completely self-sufficient.
Elsewhere, for walking fans who have already done the famous Laugavegur trail, there’s an alternative – the three-day trek from Sveinstindur to Eldgja, volcanic landscapes minus the other hikers…