A First-Timer’s Guide to Iceland

Last week I fell in love with Iceland. This was a country that had been on my travel bucket list for a while, and it more than lived up to expectations. Me and my friend Cindy spent just over 3 days exploring this beautiful place and I was genuinely gutted when it was time to fly home.

We managed to fit a lot into those few short days including The Blue Lagoon, a Game of Thrones Tour, a Northern Lights tour and a Golden Circle tour. If you’re thinking about a trip to Reykjavik, here’s a quick overview of where we stayed and my top recommendations for things to do in Iceland if you’re visiting for the first time.

Guesthouse SummerDay Reykjavik Iceland

Where to stay

We stayed at the SummerDay Guesthouse in Reykjavik, which is around a 20-30 minute walk from the city centre. We were expecting to share a kitchen and bathroom, but when we arrived it turned out we were the only people booked to stay there for the whole of our trip, so it was basically like having a giant apartment to ourselves!

Considering we paid less than £200 each for 4 nights it was a proper bargain. Plus our flights from Gatwick were only £88 per person through WOW Air (no I hadn’t heard of them either ha). If you’re looking to stay more central then look out for hotels along the street Laugavegur (where most of the bars and restaurants are) or near to the Hallgrimskirkja church.

Reykjavik Chips Iceland Food

Where to Eat

It’s a good job our accommodation and flights were so cheap, because we soon found out everything else in Iceland is very expensive. On the one tour I paid the equivalent of £1.50 to go to the loo! Certain bars and restaurants have Happy Hours in the early evening, but otherwise you’re looking at £7+ for a glass of wine or pint of beer.

Where possible we tried to cook and eat our main meals at the Guesthouse. We did however visit a lovely vegan cafe called Gló on our first night in Iceland, which I’d recommend if you’re looking for a healthier option. On our last night we treated ourselves to a meal at The Laundromat Cafe, which was nice, but expensive for what it was. We also grabbed lunch at a place called Reykjavik Chips which was AMAZING. I had a large cone of chips with the vegan satay sauce and it was so good I still have dreams about it now (no joke).

Things to do in Reykjavik

One thing you must do in Reykjavik is visit Hallgrímskirkja Church. It’s around 900kr (just over £6) to take the lift to the top, but the stunning 360° views of the city below are definitely worth it. The harbour area is also lovely to walk around if it’s not too chilly.

The Blue Lagoon at Night Iceland

The Blue Lagoon

We went to The Blue Lagoon on our second evening in Iceland and it was a perfect way to relax after a busy day of exploring Reykjavik. We booked a tour with transport as it’s around a 45 minute drive from Reykjavik and we hadn’t hired a car. If you’ve got your heart set on visiting The Blue Lagoon it’s really important to book your tickets in advance, as they have limited time slots available which sell out quite quickly (even in winter!)

We visited in January so the outside air was bitterly cold, but the water is naturally heated to around 40°C. It basically felt like we were in a giant bath under the stars! You can help yourself to free silica mud face masks, and there’s also a steam room and sauna which are included with standard admission.

Game of Thrones Tour Iceland

The Game of Thrones Tour

Me and Cindy are huge Game of Thrones fans, so it’s no surprise this was top of our to-do list! We set off into the snowy wilderness to explore some of the real filming locations from the TV series. The spots we visited included The Bloody Gate (aka the entrance to the Eyrie),  one of the Wildling Camps (where you first meet The Thenns) and Olly’s Village, which was attacked by the Wildings in season 4.

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our side that day. It was FREEZING and it snowed pretty much all morning, so it was hard for us to take any pictures without risking losing a finger to frostbite. We were also unable to visit one of the locations as the road to get there was completely blocked by snow. Bit disappointing, but you can’t help the weather!

northern lights iceland

The Northern Lights

The best time to see the Northern Lights is during the winter (November to March). We booked a Northern Lights tour for our first night in Iceland but unfortunately it was cancelled due to poor weather. The sky has to be reasonably clear for a chance to see them, so it’s worth knowing most tour operators will decide on the day whether to go ahead, otherwise they’ll let you book onto another night for free.

We were actually lucky enough to see the Lights twice during our trip – the first time at The Blue Lagoon and the second on an organised tour. I didn’t manage to get any good photos as I had the wrong type of camera lens with me. If you’re planning to take photos, make sure you bring a tripod!

Þingvellir national park iceland sunrise

The Golden Circle

If you’re visiting Iceland for a short time and only have time to do one tour, I would 100% recommend The Golden Circle. It was the best thing we did all holiday! We watched the sunrise over Þingvellir National Park, visited the beautiful Gullfoss waterfall and saw the famous Strokkur Geyser shooting fountains of water up in the air. You can read my full review here!



  1. February 12, 2017 / 3:00 pm

    You are very lucky! I had no idea that Iceland was so expensive either and I am planning a trip there, so useful info!

  2. February 12, 2017 / 4:15 pm

    I’m going to Iceland in March and can’t wait. We are doing the Blue Lagoon and also the Golden Circle. How did you find the cost of living?

    • February 12, 2017 / 9:37 pm

      Ah hope you have an amazing time! We found it pretty expensive to eat and drink over there. We had a kitchen at our guesthouse so we were able to save a few £s by cooking meals there.
      The one proper meal we had out (at the Laundromat Cafe in Reykjavik) cost us just over £50 for the 2 of us. I had a burger and chips and my friend had meatballs, then we had a beer each. Back home I probably would have expected to pay around £10-15 for the same meal.
      Taxis were also very expensive so we tried to walk wherever we could.
      Hope that helps!

  3. Rachel
    February 12, 2017 / 8:53 pm

    Ahh I want to visit Iceland so badly, it looks amazing! You are so lucky to have seen the Northern Lights! xo

  4. February 12, 2017 / 10:01 pm

    I’ve always wanted to visit Iceland – especially to see the Northern Lights – they just seem so magical don’t they?

  5. February 13, 2017 / 9:09 am

    I haven’t visited but it’s been on my to go to list for absolute ages, I am hoping to go over New Year next year so I’d love to hear more about how and where you booked things x

  6. February 14, 2017 / 11:22 pm

    It all looks so beautiful! I’ve been really wanting to go to iceland recently, think I’m definitely going to have to go!

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