As you step off your ship and onto Icelandic soil, get ready to immerse yourself in a captivating adventure. In this blog on tips & tricks for Cruise Ship Travelers in Iceland, we’ll provide essential tips and tricks to ensure you make the most of your time exploring Reykjavík and its awe-inspiring surroundings.
Join us as we uncover the must-see attractions in Reykjavík, from the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church to the vibrant streets of Laugavegur. Discover the city’s cultural treasures, delve into its art scene, and savor its innovative cuisine. And when you’re ready to venture into nature, we’ll guide you through unforgettable day trips to nearby wonders like the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon.
You’ll also find practical advice on transportation options, ensuring you can easily navigate Reykjavík and beyond. We’ll cover tips for responsible travel, respecting the environment, and embracing local customs. Plus, we’ll provide insights into logistics, currency exchange, and staying connected during your Icelandic exploration.
So, fellow adventurers, whether you’re a seasoned cruiser or embarking on your first voyage, get ready to be enchanted by Reykjavík’s allure. Let’s dive into our collection of essential tips and tricks for cruise travelers disembarking in Iceland’s enchanting capital.
What to do in a Day in Reykjavik
When arriving at the port in Reykjavik, you have a few options depending on how much time you have in the city. Some might just want to explore Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland, while others might want to make the most of their time and join a day tour out of the city.
Explore the Colorful Streets of Reykjavik
One of the easiest things you can do is to take a leisurely stroll through the charming streets of Reykjavik, particularly the vibrant Laugavegur, and Skólavörðustígur. Admire the colorful houses, browse local shops, and soak in the lively atmosphere. For a more structured stroll, we recommend you check out our Walk with a Viking Tour, designed to help you get your bearings in our capital city and make the most of your stay in Iceland. We recommend this as your first stop in Reykjavik!
Hallgrímskirkja church is Iceland’s largest church. The 244-ft (74.37-meter) high tower can be seen from almost everywhere in Reykjavik. The tower offers stunning panoramic views of the city from its observation deck. Remember to snap a photo of its unique architectural design.
Visit a Museum
Visit one of Reykjavik’s many museums. Despite its small size, Reykjavik offers many museums and galleries you can visit. The one and only Phallological Museum is in Reykjavik’s center, as is the National Gallery, Reykjavik Art Gallery, The Punk Museum, The National Museum of Iceland, The Settlement Exhibition, and Reykjavik…The Story Continues and Reykjavik Photography Museum. For more ideas, check out our blogs on the Best Museums in Downtown Reykjavik and The Best Museums Outside Reykjavik’s Center.
Sample Icelandic Cuisine
Indulge in Icelandic delicacies at local restaurants and cafes. Try the traditional dish of fermented shark (hákarl), hearty lamb soup, Icelandic fish stew, or a sweet treat like kleinur (fried pastries). We recommend you join our Reykjavik Food Tour for the best experience, where you can sample the best of Iceland’s unique cuisine.
Go on a Whale Watching Tour
Embark on a thrilling whale-watching excursion from Reykjavik Harbor. Cruise through Faxaflói Bay and spot majestic whales, dolphins, and seabirds in their natural habitat. If you would also like to explore the city, we recommend you check out our Whale Watching and City Walk combo tour. If you are in Iceland during the summer, you can join a puffin-watching tour from Reykjavik Harbour.
Head to Perlan, a futuristic landmark located on Öskjuhlíð Hill. Enjoy panoramic views of Reykjavik, learn about the Wonders of Iceland through interactive exhibits, and dine at the revolving restaurant for a memorable culinary experience.
If you arrive during the weekend, you might want to check out the quaint Kolaportið flea market by Reykjavik Harbour. You can find everything from healing crystals, nick knacks, samples of Icelandic food and candy, people selling their things in rented booths, and small antique stores with everything from house numbers to ceiling lights.
The Domestic Zoo in Reykjavik is the city’s only zoo. This compact zoo in Laugardalur Valley showcases native Icelandic animals, offering an up-close encounter with the country’s wildlife. From the iconic Icelandic horse to the captivating Arctic fox, the zoo provides an immersive experience that educates and entertains visitors of all ages.
Day tours from Reykjavik
For those who want to explore Iceland’s nature a bit more, there are a few day tours you might want to check out.
The Golden Circle
This is a classic day trip from Reykjavik that covers three great sites: Thingvellir National Park, where you can walk between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates; the mighty Gullfoss waterfall; and the geothermal area of Geysir, home to the famous Strokkur geyser that erupts every few minutes. Some tours have additional stops at Friðheimar Tomato Farm, Kerið, and Secret Lagoon. A private bespoke Golden Circle tour will ensure you will see a little bit of everything Iceland has to offer!
Relax at the Blue Lagoon
Indulge in a rejuvenating experience at the world-famous Blue Lagoon. Soak in the geothermal waters, enjoy a silica mud mask, and embrace the tranquil surroundings. It is possible to book transfers from Reykjavik’s center and private transfers.
South Coast Adventure
Explore the breathtaking landscapes of Iceland’s South Coast on a day trip. Visit the awe-inspiring waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, walk on the black sand beach of Reynisfjara, and witness the charming village of Vík. This tour is possibly best to do as a private tour, as the pre-planned ones might be too long for your stay. Your Friend in Reykjavik also offers private tours of the South Coast with a driver guide.
Take a trip to the Reykjanes Peninsula, known for its otherworldly landscapes and geothermal areas. Visit the dramatic cliffs of Reykjanesviti, walk between the bubbling mud pots at Gunnuhver, and marvel at the unique beauty of the Blue Lagoon’s volcanic surroundings. This is a perfect tour to do with a dip in the Blue Lagoon. Just know that you must pre-book your visit to the Blue Lagoon.
Visit Raufarhólshellir Lava Tunnel
For an extraordinary experience, consider a visit to Raufarhólshellir Lava Tunnel. You can buy a tour voucher which includes a transfer. It allows you to explore the tunnel easily and enjoyably. The tunnel is covered in large rocks and is difficult to pass in many places. A footbridge and several paths have been built over the roughest terrain making the standard tour accessible. Impressive lighting in this part of the tunnel highlights the changing colors and shows the powerful volcanic activity that formed the tunnel.
How to Get Around in Iceland
Reykjavik is a compact and pedestrian-friendly city, making walking an excellent way to explore its attractions. From the cruise port, you can stroll along the waterfront or through the city center to reach various landmarks, shops, restaurants, and cultural sites. If you arrive in Sundahöfn, it takes about 40-50 minutes to walk downtown. If your ship docks at Reykjavik Harbour, then you are in the center when you disembark.
From Sundahöfn, you can take Route 16 all the way downtown. You can either pay with cash (a ticket costs 550ISK and is valid for 90 minutes) or pay with their app Klappið, which is easy to set up and use. Just note that bus drivers do not give change.
Taxis are readily available in Reykjavik, including at the cruise port. They operate on a metered fare system, and it’s recommended to confirm the approximate cost before starting your journey. Taxi stands can be found near popular tourist areas, or you can hail one on the street. You can also use the Hreyfill taxi app or call Hreyfill at 5-88-5522 or Bæjarleiðir at 5-61-0000. Taxis are fairly expensive in Iceland, but it is possible to book private tours through Hreyfill at a fixed price.
If you prefer the flexibility of exploring at your own pace, you can rent a car in Reykjavik. Several car rental agencies have offices in the city, and it is often possible to get a transfer to the car rental from the cruise terminal. Be sure to check local traffic rules, road conditions, and parking options before driving. This could be a viable option if you are staying for a whole day in Iceland.
Many tour operators offer guided day trips and excursions from Reykjavik, allowing you to explore the surrounding areas and popular attractions. These tours typically include transportation and knowledgeable guides, making them a convenient option for cruise ship travelers. The tour operators often offer specially designed day tours for cruise ship travelers, which your cruise liner can help you with. But we, of course, recommend you come on a walking tour with us. You can choose from Reykjavik Food Lovers Tour, Reykjavik Folklore Tour, Beer & Booze Tour, Icelandic Sweet Tooth Tour, Reykjavik CatWalk Tour and more. All those tours are also available as private tours. Be sure to check out our website for further information. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.
You might have noticed the complete lack of mentioning trains, but there’s a reason for that. There simply aren’t any. About 120 years ago, two locomotives were bought to help with the building of the Reykjavik Harbour area, and then there have been plans of making train-rides possible in Iceland but it has never come to fruition.
We hope this guide has provided valuable insights and practical tips for making the most of your time in Reykjavik. From exploring the colorful streets to encountering native Icelandic wildlife at the Domestic Zoo, Reykjavik offers a blend of cultural treasures and natural wonders that will leave a lasting impression.
Whether you wander through the vibrant city center, embark on thrilling day trips to iconic sites like the Golden Circle or the Blue Lagoon, or simply immerse yourself in the local cuisine and culture, Reykjavik has something for every visitor.