A Solo Traveler's Guide to Iceland
You couldn’t pick a safer place to travel on your own than this friendly nation with an extremely low crime rate, at least when it comes to the cities. Beyond them, solo travel in Iceland’s extreme landscape does need to be approached with some precautions – such as hiring a guide – if you’re planning anything extensive such as a glacier hike. There are plenty of activities to keep you occupied, as well as great places for contemplation, and beautiful vistas to make your solo journey a meaningful one. Whether you stay in Reykjavik, take day trips out, or go on an extended trip to the countryside, your trip to Iceland will stay with you forever.
Renting a car is simple and a great way to explore on your own. Just be sure to let someone know of your plans and check the road and weather conditions beforehand. There are guided day trips and overnight trips where you can travel with other tourists, but if meandering in your own time is more your thing, then renting a car is a good option. Read our guide to scenic drives around Iceland to get an idea of the possibilities.
If you drive to Snæfellsnes Peninsula, north of Reykjavík, there are plenty of interesting geologic features and cultural offerings dotting the peninsula, not to mention the majestic glacier towards its tip. Check out the Volcano Museum and the weird and wonderful Library of Water in Stykkishólmur.
If you’re driving, we recommend eating at Bjargarsteinn Mathús in Grundarfjörður, a new establishment with cozy dining and beautiful views of the fjord. The menu focuses on fresh seafood and has a great dessert menu. Another great option is Rif, a cafe run by two fishermen’s wives serving delicious fish soup and other traditional snacks.
In terms of accommodation, there are a few great options. For a luxury night on your own in one of the most charming boutique hotels in Iceland, stay at Hotel Búðir, located in a lava field close to the ocean on the south coast of the peninsula. For a cozy night in Stykkishólmur, check out Hotel Egilsen, located in a historic building dating back to 1867, where you can enjoy the ocean views and shared lounge area. Tradir Guesthouse on the south shore of Snæfellsnes is another cozy option, which has horse riding on site and offers fishing licenses.
In Reykjavík, there are many art galleries and cultural museums for you to visit. Take a walk along the seaside and enjoy the view of Mount Esja, or take a short bus ride there for a moderate hike with beautiful views. A visit to one of the city pools is a must: choose either the neighborhood Vesturbæjarlaug, Sundhöllin downtown, or Laugardalslaug.
If you’d like to catch some live music, check out what is on the schedule at the excellent Harpa Concert Hall (and have yourself a cocktail at the bar on the top floor) or enjoy something more low-key and folksy at Cafe Rosenberg, or metal at Gaukurinn.
If lounging in cafes is your thing, then here are a few key options. Bismút Cafe is a one-room cafe offering excellent minimal decor, superlative coffee, and carefully curated art exhibits. For coffee that has been roasted on the spot, check out Reykjavík Roasters. If you want to play chess with locals or sink yourself into some velvet sofas in low light while eating some memorable cheesecake, check out Stófan.
For dining options that are a little heartier, try the excellent vegan restaurant Gló in downtown Reykjavík – definitely one of the best places to eat vegetables. If you’d like to pick up something delicious to enjoy while you wander the streets (or if you find yourself in need of nourishment in the wee morning hours), try a falafel or kebab at the Syrian Mandi grill or Habibi grill. On the harbor, try Icelandic Fish and Chips for a twist on the classic British dish, where organic spelt batter is used and the chips are roasted, not fried.
There are many options for accommodation in Reykjavík. The best place to meet up with like-minded travelers over a beer is at Kex Hostel, which has very tasteful vintage decor, live Jazz every Tuesday evening, and an excellent restaurant and bar with ocean views. To treat yourself to some solo luxury, stay in the Art Deco style Hotel Borg, situated on Austurvöllur square, next to the parliament building. Alternatively, try 101 Hotel for an onsite spa and wellness center, plush minimal interior decor, and a great location.