Nordic Whirlwind: 72 Hours in Iceland

With several airlines now offering stopovers in Reykjavík, Iceland, tourists are quickly discovering this wondrous country. Here’s how to make the most of a short visit.

A Jeep ride through Snæfellsjökull National Park | Photo by Bart Pro, Alamy Stock Photo

Day One: Speed Up, Then Slow Down

Pick up a car at the airport and hit the road—you’re only 90 minutes from Brilliant ATV Tours and your first Icelandic adventure. Dress in hiking boots and outdoorsy clothing, but don’t worry about getting wet; they’ll outfit you in coveralls before you race your four-wheeler along the rugged terrain around the lake coastlines, over rivers and into the woods. Before you leave, though, put your bathing suit on under those clothes; there’s nowhere to change at Krosslaug, a 42°C natural hot spring the size of a hot tub. Soak your cares away, then head to hip hostel The Freezer, which hosts summertime theatre performances such as Hero, a one-man comedy based on local sagas.

Expect bright and seasonal ingredients at Hotel Budir | Photo by Kat Tancock

Day Two: Fill Your Camera

Today, let the pros do the driving. Wild West Tours will pick you up for a standard or customized day tour in one of their oversize SuperJeeps. The Snæfellsnes Circle Tour covers the cute fishing villages of Hellnar and Arnarstapi as well as Snæfellsjökull National Park and its namesake glacier, an active volcano that was the setting for Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. (Optional tour add-ons include horseback riding and caving.) End your day at Hotel Budir’s acclaimed restaurant, which features locally sourced ingredients like Arctic trout, crowberries and blueberries, and even seasonal reindeer or sea cucumber.

A full house at the Kex Hostel's lively gastro pub | Photo by Benjamin Hardman

Day Three: Embark On An Urban Adventure

In Reykjavík, tour the National Museum of Iceland then explore the boutiques along the two main shopping streets, Laugavegur and Skólavörustígur, for everything from local handicrafts and quirky souvenirs to high-end fashion and art. Fuel up with a hot dog (the world’s best, some say) at Bæjarins Beztu before making your way to the Blue Lagoon, where you can smear your face with a silica mud mask while soaking in the turquoise waters or splurge on an in-water massage. Finish your day at Kex Hostel’s gastro pub, where you can enjoy craft beer and hearty meals while sharing your tales of adventure with other travellers.

The Blue Lagoon gets its cool colour from silica and sunlight | Photo courtesy of Blue Lagoon