36 hours in Reykjavik

Iceland was a country I’d aspired to visit for some time having read Kaelene’s blog Unlocking Kiki for several years.

When I spent 36 hours in Reykjavik in August there was close to 18 hours of daylight per day, but the temperatures in Reykjavik, were similar to those in Wellington in the same month – the difference being that it was Winter in Wellington. I can’t imagine how cold it must be living here in Winter!

How to spend 36 hours Reykjavik

Wandering around Reykjavik we checked out Hallgrimskirkja, a modern church which is probably the capital city’s most famous landmark,  Tjörnin, the small lake in the centre of town, and many statues and sculptures.

Exterior of famous Hallgrimskirkja church during 36 hours reykjavik.
Looking across Lake Tjörnin in Reykjavik on cloudy day
Statue of man holding briefcase with rock on his head on lake front in Reykjavik Iceland. Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat.

One thing I will say for Iceland’s tourism industry is that they do tours well so if you want to see a bit of Iceland while basing yourself in the capital they’re efficient, well organised and regular.

Renee and I didn’t really shop around, we just went with Reykjavik Excursions as they operated the airport bus (for a little more you can get dropped to or collected from your hotel rather than the bus station), as well as offering tours to The Blue Lagoon and around The Golden Circle – all perfect Reykjavik day trips.

The Blue Lagoon

It cost us about $185NZ for each of us including entry, transfers to and from the blue lagoon, a towel, a couple of face masks and our first drink.

At 1450 Krona (about $18.66 NZ) for a glass of Presecco, it was our only drink. One of our tour guides told us that the the Icelandic Krona has devalued by 15% against the Euro in the past three months, but it is a really expensive country.

On Instagram the Blue Lagoon tends to look blue, natural and rocky,  with minimal human construction. In reality the water was green in colour and there was building extension construction work on one side of the lagoon, diggers and a power plant on the other.

It’s one of those places that you know is a tourist trap but you have to visit anyway and we had a great day relaxing there. I’ve seen some beautiful photos of less touristy hot springs elsewhere in the country if you want something less populated, more authentic and cheaper.

The Golden Circle

Growing Tomatoes

Friðheimar Greenhouse Cultivation Centre was an interesting first stop on our tour of The Golden Circle.

My parents often fail to grow tomatoes in their backyard in Wellington as it gets too cold. But apparently they can be grown successfully extremely close to the Artic Circle where there is hardly any natural daylight most of the year.

These tomatoes are pesticide-free and the business uses the geothermal heat, the pure Icelandic cold water (you can drink straight out of the rivers here) and a type of bee which is harder working and less aggressive.

The tomatoes are distributed and sold within Iceland making up a large proportion of the country’s tomato consumption. The cafe on site makes a mean tomato soup and apple and tomato pie if you’re hungry.

Growing tomatoes in Iceland


The Stokkur Geyser was the key attraction at our second stop. It’s one of the most active geysers in the world and erupts approximately every five minutes, shooting water up to 30 metres in the air.
The area also has a number of hot springs and a beautiful, natural and rugged environment.

Stokkur Geyser spurts water high into the air

Having visited the geothermal Rotorua on a number of occasions, I’d been around hot pools and geysers before so it was concerning to see the number of tourists who were testing the 80-100 degree Celsius water with their hands. One parent was even encouraging his small child to do the same.

Stokkur Geyser pool of water
Stokkur Geyser in Iceland

Gullfoss Waterfall

I was pretty excited about seeing my first Icelandic waterfall at our third stop. Gullfoss is a massive, 32 metre high waterfall and there are various places to observe it and take photos from.

The sound and volume of the falls was awesome and the spray from the force of the falls was far reaching, hitting us even standing a fair distance back and above the falls.

Gullfoss Waterfall Golden Circle Iceland

Þingvellir National Park

Our final stop was at Þingvellir National Park which is a UNESCO site which straddles two continents. It is also the site of the world’s oldest parliament.

The Eurasian and North American techtonic plates separate by around 2.5cm per year. We drove through the rift valley which falls between the two continents and walked the route between two carparks, checking out the scenery.

Iceland National Park Reykjavik day trips

Picturesque Iceland – the calm after chasing waterfalls on The Golden Circle.

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Þingvellir National Park Iceland Reykjavik day trips

If you go to Iceland, soaking in the hot springs and taking a tour of the Golden Circle are definitely attractions to visit. Iceland is also one of the best places to see the Northern Lights but I wasn’t there at the right time of the year to catch them.

While I found the country expensive, it’s such a distance from New Zealand that I figure it’s unlikely I will return and wanted to see as much as possible while only staying 36 hours in Reykjavik . The memories are certainly worth the price tag.

statue of viking holding sword vertically in Reykjavik Iceland

Have you been to Iceland? Done any day trips from Reykjavik? Were you as blown away as I was? Pin this post to your travel board for Iceland inspiration later!

Iceland Reykjavik day trips pinterest


  1. Laura Sellwood
    September 18, 2017 / 11:23 pm

    Ah I absolutely love Iceland. I really want to go back in the summer too. Such an amazing country!

    • September 20, 2017 / 1:46 pm

      SUCH an amazing country! It must be quite a different experience travelling there in Winter, would be awesome to experience both times of year.

  2. Bri - Wondering & Wandering
    September 17, 2017 / 10:28 am

    I wanna visit Iceland so bad! I can’t stop pinning posts all about it haha

  3. gab_gone_dutch
    September 16, 2017 / 7:50 pm

    I visited Iceland in August as well and I was also completely blown away! i didn’t visit the Blue Lagoon though, maybe next time… it seemed too expensive, so I’m glad that you validated my thoughts!

    • September 17, 2017 / 1:29 pm

      Yeah I certainly don’t think you missed too much by skipping the Blue Lagoon. Did you visit any other geothermal pools in Iceland? If I ever get the chance to go back I want to explore Northern Iceland!

  4. Taryn
    September 16, 2017 / 5:46 pm

    I totally agree about the Blue Lagoon. On my second trip to Iceland I skipped it and went to The Secret Lagoon instead (it’s on the Golden Circle but it just opened in 2016). Sooo much better (no beautiful blue water though). That greenhouse looks really cool – it’s on my list for my next visit to Iceland… I’ve already been twice and I know I’ll go again 🙂

  5. Danielle Hu
    September 16, 2017 / 1:13 pm

    Had the exact thoughts about blue lagoon, and figured most of the photos I’ve seen prior had been photoshopped! And then did the same to make my blue lagoon pictures to look like the other ones haha. Didn’t get to go to the tomato cultivation center but that looks so interesting!

  6. September 11, 2017 / 10:09 am

    So glad you got to visit Iceland! Thankfully it doesn’t actually get that cold here during the winter, never below freezing at least, but I am a big fan of the geothermal heating that keeps the homes nice and warm all the time:) Hope you had a great time on your trip!

    • September 15, 2017 / 2:02 pm

      Ah true the geothermal heating would be brilliant! I had such a great time – you certainly made a beautiful choice in country to live in 🙂

  7. Rachel @ STCL
    September 10, 2017 / 6:15 am

    This sounds amazing! I’m hoping to get to Iceland soon!

    • September 11, 2017 / 3:32 pm

      I hope you get there soon Rachel! It’s a fabulous country to explore 🙂