Explore Iceland's Natural Wonders Near Reykjavik

Emily Draper
(Updated: )
10 min read

It would be easy to spend a month or two road-tripping around Iceland, but did you know you can visit so many of its best bits in just a few days with the help of a hire car?

That's right. The Blue Lagoon, Silfra Fissure, Langjökull glacier, and the basalt cliffs of Reynisfjara Beach are just a few of the iconic Iceland destinations within a 2.5-hour drive from the capital of Reykjavik. This means that you won't have to miss out on the country's biggest highlights even if you are only visiting for three or four days.

Read on to discover more of the top things to do near Reykjavik from a 45-minute and 2.5-hour drive and see just how much of the island you can explore on your short Iceland break.


Quick Summary

  1. The Blue Lagoon, a natural hot spring with ice-blue pools, is located 50 km (30 miles) from Reykjavik and can be reached in about 45 minutes by car.

  2. Thingvellir National Park, which offers a variety of scenic hiking trails, is located 47 km (29 miles) from Reykjavik and can be reached in about 45 minutes by car.

  3. The Great Geysir, an impressive geyser that shoots boiling hot water up to 70 meters into the air, is located 106 km (66 miles) from Reykjavik and can be reached in about 1.5 hours by car.

  4. Gulfoss Waterfall, a cascading waterfall that falls 21 meters into a canyon, is located 116 km (72 miles) from Reykjavik and can be reached in about 1 hour and 45 minutes by car.

  5. Kerid Crater, a beautiful crater formed by a volcanic eruption, is located 69 km (43 miles) from Reykjavik and can be reached in about 1 hour by car.

  6. Renting a car is a convenient way to visit many of Iceland's popular destinations within a short drive from Reykjavik. The Blue Lagoon, Thingvellir National Park, The Great Geysir, Gulfoss Waterfall, Kerid Crater, Langjökull glacier, and the basalt cliffs of Reynisfjara Beach are all within a 2.5-hour drive from the city and offer a variety of natural wonders to explore. By renting a car, you can easily visit these destinations and make the most of your trip to Iceland.


Blue Lagoon

Distance from Reykjavik: 50 km (30 miles)

Travel time: 45 minutes

Whether you are planning a week-long holiday or just a long weekend stay in the Land of Fire and Ice, the Blue Lagoon hot springs are a must-visit Iceland attraction for any visitor. While the viral photos of its steaming ice-blue pools have certainly spurred its popularity, there is much more to the Blue Lagoon than its image. Its natural hot springs are an even more beautiful sight to see in real life.

Image of the blue lagoon's blue water and beautiful natural lava rocks
Blue Lagoon is a must visit in Iceland

The greatest appeal, however, is the sense of awe followed by a deepened connection with our natural world as you sink into the lagoon and allow its natural healing properties to bring you vitality.

Thingvellir National Park

Distance from Reykjavik: 47 km (29 miles)

Travel time: 45 minutes

Thingvellir National Park is one of the very best destinations to visit in Iceland if you want to see a wide range of natural wonders in a short space of time. Several scenic hiking trails, including the Oxarafoss Trail and the Lögberg ? Drekkingarhylur Trail, show off the park's best landscapes, waterfalls, rock formations, lakes, and more. However, the park is most famous for its Almannagja Trail which runs along a deep canyon caused by the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates collide.

Image of the trail in Almannagja in Iceland
Almannagja Trail in Iceland

If you only have time for one hike on your Iceland trip, make it this one because nowhere else in the world can you walk along the meeting point of two continents!

The Great Geysir

Distance from Reykjavik: 106 km (66 miles)

Travel time: 1.5 hours

Geysir is one of the three geological highlights of Iceland's famous Golden Circle route, a 250 km (155 mile) circular sightseeing route from Reykjavik. As its name suggests, The Great Geysir is one of the most epic geysers you'll ever set eyes on. The stream of boiling hot water spurts up to 70 metres into the air with impressive force from an underground hot spring.

Image of the geysir in Iceland spouting hot thermal water in the air
Geysir - A Powerful Geothermal Wonder

Since there are only around 1000 geysers found around the world, most of which are protected by national parks, there's something very poignant about witnessing this unique natural phenomenon for yourself.

Gulfoss Waterfall

Distance from Reykjavik: 116 km (72 miles)

Travel time: 1 hour 45 minutes

It is often joked that Iceland has more waterfalls than people and so no visit is complete without witnessing at least one. If you're only in Iceland for a few days, we recommend seeing the Gulfoss Waterfall. Not only is the Gulfoss Waterfall one of the top three highlights of Iceland's easy-going Golden Circle driving route from Reykjavik, but it is also one of the most iconic waterfalls in the country.

Image of Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland
Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland

The waterfall begins with an 11-metre drop along the Hvítá River before cascading 21 metres into the Gullfossgjúfur canyon just moments later, creating an incredible misty and magical Icelandic landscape.

Kerid Crater

Distance from Reykjavik: 69 km (43 miles)

Travel time: 1 hour

Iceland is nicknamed the ?Land of Fire and Ice' because while it's known for its cold climate, its land was largely formed by volcanoes. There are few active volcanoes in Iceland today, but several craters scar the surface as a reminder of its fiery past ? and the Kerid Crater is one of its most beautiful. At the mouth of the volcano (measuring 270 metres across at its widest point), you'll find a mossy green and burnt sienna caldera flooded with a deep turquoise lake.

An aerial image of kerid in Iceland
Kerid in Iceland

Conveniently positioned along the Golden Circle route, Kerid Crater is another sensational spot to visit within a short drive from Reykjavik.

Reynisfjara Beach

Distance from Reykjavik: 187 km (116 miles)

Travel time: 2.5 hours

While few have heard the name ?Reynisfjara Beach', most have seen images of its striking hexagonal basalt rock formations towering from the black sands of a moody shoreline to the far reaches of a surrounding clifftop. After all, it is one of Iceland's most remarkable and unforgettable landscapes.

An aerial view of Reynisfjara Beach in Iceland.
Aerial view of Reynisfjara Beach.

The Hallgrímskirkja, home to the Church of Iceland, was even built in its image. The beach is located near Vik, a fishing village on the southernmost part of Iceland's Atlantic Coast. Many tourists don't consider putting Reynisfjara on their itinerary if their visit is short, but Iceland is surprisingly small and the beach is doable on a day trip.

Vik

Distance from Reykjavik: 187 km (116 miles)

Travel time: 2.5 hours

Vik is a charming fishing village of 300 residents on the south coast of Iceland. It's just a few kilometres away from the famous Reynisfjara Beach and Skogafoss waterfall which makes it an ideal point from which to visit some of the south coast's most spectacular natural wonders.

Image of a town in Iceland called Vik. Beautiful sunny day.
Vik on the South Coast of Iceland

Since the population is so small, there isn't much to do in Vik itself, but it offers a realistic insight into life in the more remote parts of Iceland. We recommend visiting the village for a local Icelandic lunch or staying for the night while exploring the south coast.

Snorkelling in Silfra

Distance from Reykjavik: 54 km (34 miles)

Travel time: 50 minutes

There are many ways to explore Iceland's incredible landscapes, but none are quite as exciting as snorkelling in Silfra, the fissure between two continents. Over millennia, glacier water has filled the cracks formed in the surface of Iceland created by the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates known as the Mid-Atlantic ridge.

Image of people snorkeling in Silfra located in Iceland
Snorkeling in Silfra

Today, you can swim within it and see the fissure's cool rock formations and spot its lurking marine life. At some points, the fissure is so narrow you can almost touch both sides at once! Nowhere else in the world offers a snorkelling experience as unique as this.

Secret Lagoon

Distance from Reykjavik: 105 km (65 miles)

Travel time: 1.5 hours

The Blue Lagoon may be the most famous hot spring in Iceland, but is it the best? Well, it's icy blue pools are certainly striking, but it also gets much more crowded than many others in Iceland. If you would like to experience Iceland's generous geothermal benefits without the crowds, you might prefer the Secret Lagoon instead. It may not be as impressive as the Blue Lagoon, but it is much more affordable.

Image of people bathing in the Secret Lagoon in Iceland
Secret Lagoon in Iceland

Located just 30 minutes from the famous Gulfoss waterfall, it's a convenient stop on the drive back to Reykjavik too.

Langjökull

Distance from Reykjavik: 150 km (93 miles)

Travel time: 2 hours 20 minutes

Witnessing the intimidating grandeur of a glacier is a must on a trip to the Land of Fire and Ice and luckily, the Langjökull glacier is easily reachable from Reykjavik. Measuring 50 km (31 miles) long and 15 to 20 km (9 to 12 miles) wide, Langjökull is the second-largest glacier in the country.

Image of people standing inside Langjokull Glacier on a tour with a guide.
A Glacier Tour inside Langjokull Glacier

Not only can you walk upon the glacier and see its vast white ice sheet beneath your feet, but you can also walk beneath the ice sheet on an ?Into the Glacier' tour through a man-made glacier tunnel. This rare and unique opportunity to stand inside a glacier is so humbling, it will undoubtedly be remembered as one of your Iceland trip highlights.

Northern Lights

The Northern Lights can technically be seen from almost everywhere in Iceland during the dark winter months. However, your ability to see them is dependent upon the amount of surrounding light pollution. Therefore, you're unlikely to see them if you're based in the capital, Reykjavik. For the best chance of seeing the spectacle on a short trip to Iceland, it's best to rent a car to escape the bright lights of the city.

Image of a person sitting on the crashed DC-30 aircraft in Iceland while witnessing the Northern Lights.
Northern Lights in Iceland are special.

You can simply drive 30 minutes outside of the city and find a safe place to park for viewing, or you can increase your chances by driving a little further to known viewing spots like Vik on the south coast or Thingvellir National Park.

Secure car hire in Iceland for your adventurous mini-break

Since most of Iceland's highlights are within a 2.5-hour drive from Reykjavik, the country is best explored by car ? especially if you're limited by time! Speak to Northbound to secure your hire car today by contacting us on (insert info) and browse our selection of vehicles here. From spacious SUVs to swanky sports cars, our range of hire cars suits all kinds of driving needs.

Secure your hired vehicle right here!

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