A Guide to Living Like a Local in Iceland

Iceland has earned a reputation as one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and it’s easy to see why when you visit the country yourself. The natural surroundings are breathtaking, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by geysers, waterfalls, and natural hot springs on nearly every hike you take. However, if you want to truly live like a local in Iceland, there are some things you’ll want to do that will really get into the culture and learn how Icelanders live in their own country.

A Guide to Living Like a Local in Iceland

Visit the Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is a ge othermal spa

and the most popular tourist attraction in Iceland. The water is rich in silica and has a temperature of 37-39°C (98-102°F). It originates from the nearby hot springs, mixes with waterfalls, and goes through several filters before ending up in this magnificent pool. There are plenty of other facilities available at the Blue Lagoon including massages, restaurants, and various shops. Admission includes use of all facilities so you can spend as much time as you like soaking in the warm waters.

Explore Reykjavik by Foot

You can find great accommodation in Iceland if you aim to visit Reykjavik. However, make sure it’s in the city centre so you can explore it by foot or bike. The best way to see Reykjavik is by foot. This can take a couple of days, depending on your speed and how much time you want to spend exploring. The city is fairly compact so it’s easy enough just to wander the streets with no destination in mind. You’ll often find the street name written out on little postboxes near intersections or on buildings that are facing the street. Keep an eye out for these as they will be helpful for navigating. Another way to orient yourself is by looking at church steeples. They’re usually taller than anything else around them and their heights correspond with different parts of town. While visiting, don’t miss the chance to tour at least one of its famous museums like the Reykjavik Art Museum or The Nordic House Museum. 

Try Icelandic Cuisine

It is hard not to notice the omnipresence of fish, pork, potatoes, and dairy products when you are touring around Iceland. Next time you are hungry for lunch or dinner, try these Icelandic delicacies hangikjöt (smoked lamb), hákarl (rotten shark), hrútspungar (frozen sheep’s testicles) or sviðsblað (beef liver). The most popular dish is definitely pylsa; local street food similar to a hot dog with ketchup, raw onions, and sweet mustard sauce. Keep an eye out for the numerous restaurants which can be found all through the cities. They serve hearty soups and grilled sandwiches as well as delicious desserts like cinnamon buns, ice cream sundaes and apple pies.

Visit museums, art galleries, and cultural attractions

Museums, art galleries, and cultural attractions offer an interesting insight into Icelandic culture. One option is the Reykjavik Art Museum with its rotating exhibitions showcasing national and international artists. Some others include Kjarvalsstaðir Folk Museum, the Icelandic National Gallery of Arts and the Nordic House Gallery. A trip to one of these museums or galleries provides an opportunity for visitors to explore their country’s history and artistic culture.

Hike through Nature

As the world’s second largest island, it may seem like all of Iceland would be covered with ice, fjords, glaciers, and mountains. However, you’ll find that there are beautiful natural hikes that showcase what living like a local is really about. If you’re feeling adventurous, take on Mount Esja which towers over Reykjavik at 1,000 metres above sea level. The hike will take around three hours round trip and you’ll get to see some incredible views for those who enjoy hiking up steep hillsides.

Sleep under the Stars

Plan on staying outside the Reykjavik city centre and you’ll have a chance to sleep under the stars. What’s more, it’ll be that much closer if you want to stargaze or visit two near-by world-class destinations like, Landmannalaugar and Skaftafell National Park, as part of your trip. 

See Northern Lights in winter

Many tourists take the Northern Lights Express from Iceland to see the aurora borealis, a short drive from Akureyri. Take a ferry ride and spend some time exploring places like Reynisfjara black sand beach or Snæfellsnes coast.