Visiting Iceland is a guaranteed adventure full of iconic marvels like steaming natural hot springs and colossal glaciers. The combination of climate and the isolated geographic location has made the landscape alluring and untouched for centuries. This has also kept the total population low with roughly 350,000 citizens. The population density is by far the lowest in Europe. However, we still have some amazing towns here! check the best cities in Iceland to visit.
Therefore the cities, cozy villages, and small towns are not as large as other countries. But the best cities in Iceland to visit all have memorable features and are full of kind locals. They also provide a nice contrast to the majestic and sprawling terrain.
What is the Best City to Stay in Iceland?
One of the first questions travelers have is, what is the best city to stay in Iceland? Reykjavík is the capital city of Iceland and it is also the largest city with a population of about 200,000 people. A trip to Iceland would not be complete without exploring the entertainment Reykjavík has to offer.
Reykjavík has bursts of color spread throughout the capital because of various art installations and approved graffiti. The underpass of Hlíðargöngin (Miklabraut Road) is where local artists without contracts can share their work. It’s a great spot to take unique photos of Icelandic graffiti. Reykjavík is the ideal location for the art enthusiast with five museums and many chic art galleries.
Downtown Reykjavík showcases the iconic landscape and Atlantic Ocean. Highlighting the contrast of urban city and nature. Inside the capital, there is a lush nature reserve called “Hiking Haven” or Heiðmörk. There are peaceful walking trails, greenery, and more. If you are passionate about bird watching look no further than Reykjavík Botanical gardens or even a nearby island. Reykjavík also has areas of the city ideal for seeing the wondrous Northern Lights at night.
Reykjavík, of course, has dynamic nightlife and entertainment going at any time of the year. The locals are very friendly so it is safe to explore even if you are a solo traveler. Laugavegur is the hub for fun pubs and bars with themed nights such as live jazz. Icelanders also host yearly music festivals.
Best Cities in Iceland – Famous Churches
When you start your road trip and drive through towns in Iceland you will undoubtedly see multiple churches. Iceland boasts roughly 400 churches with the majority of denominations as Lutheran. The many churches were built out of necessity to accommodate the need to travel short distances in freezing temperatures. But towns and cities also took pride in their churches. Visiting the famous churches is a wonderful excursion to appreciate the brilliant architectural design.
The Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavík is the largest church in Iceland and mimics the shape of natural basalt columns. The Akureyrarkirkja church is located in Akureyri and looks similar to Hallgrimskirkja because Guðjón Samúelsson designed both churches. Also, the Víkurkirkja church in Vík is famed for its striking red roof and easy access to the ring road.
Taste the Local Cuisine
When you travel to Iceland you must taste the local cuisine. Reykjavík has many chic restaurants, warm coffee shops, microbreweries, and eclectic stores perfect for the curious traveler. If you want a quick snack try fish jerky or Harðfiskur (Dried fish) from the local grocery store. It has a signature taste you will not forget. Traditional dishes are made with quality ingredients and influenced by what was available in the harsh environment. Therefore, fresh-caught seafood such as Atlantic Cod and domestic animals comprise most of the dishes. Be sure to try the rich lamb stews, Icelandic hotdogs, and seafood plates. Many restaurants in Reykjavík also have healthy foods for specific diets like vegan or vegetarian.
The infamous foods you can try include ram’s testicles, Atlantic Puffins, fermented shark, whale and sheep’s head. You will have a memorable meal and a new story to tell. After you have finished exploring you can head out to the Golden Circle located in the Southwest of Iceland.
Important Cities in Iceland
When planning road trips there are a number of important cities in Iceland you need to add to your list. A few notable cities are Akureyri in the North and Vík in the South Coast of Iceland. Akureyri is aptly known as “Capital of North Iceland” because it is the second-largest city. The features of this city are the fertile temperatures for agriculture and the harbor. Be sure to visit Hafnarstraet road, which has a host of restaurants serving flavorful food. There is also a rich Botanical Garden full of local plants and flowers. The entertainment includes skiing, various museums, concerts, and spirited music festivals.
Akureyri is also located near Gásir, the medieval trading post archeological site. Falcons and other goods were sold and traded here. In July there is a yearly re-enactment to honor this piece of history.
Then drive on the ring road to reach the South Coast. Vík is a known village in Iceland with a luxurious black sand beach called Reynisfjara. There are several excursions such as visit an old Viking tomb and reserve ice cave and glacier walk tours. In the summer you can go bird watching by the intriguing Dyrhólaey Sea Arch. The surrounding mountains you can hike include the imposing Myrdalsjokull Glacier and Reynisfjall Mountain.
Reykjanes peninsula has the Keflavík International Airport and five cozy villages. Grindavík is the fishing village where the rejuvenating Blue Lagoon spa is located. You can get facials, enjoy champagne, and bathe in the mineral-rich waters. It’s the perfect escape after arriving from the airport. You can also dip into the swimming pools. Other popular attractions include fishing, museums, delicious food, and art galleries.
Another notable peninsula is the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. You can travel to the Grundarfjörður village and reserve a whale watching tour. Some popular sea-life includes dolphins, Minke whales, Orca whales, and Humpbacks. If you want to snap a picture of a mountain featured in Game of Thrones look no further than Kirkjufell Mountain. This mountain has almost perfect symmetry and is shaped like an arrowhead.
Atlantic Puffins are so loved people consider them to be the national bird of Iceland. If these friendly birds fascinate you, travel to the Westman Islands. This island has the largest colony of Atlantic Puffins in the world and the best season is roughly April to September. If you want to extend your trip, go to Heimaey, which is the only inhabited island in the Westman Islands.
Overall, you’ll have a fantastic time exploring the cities in Iceland while marveling at the sheer natural beauty of the land.