Are you ready to experience the Icelandic capital in an exciting and unique way? This article guides you through the 10 best eco-friendly things to do in Reykjavík and the top green places to visit, so you can make the most of your weekend getaway or day trip whilst minimising your environmental impact.
Whether it is your first time in Reykjavík or you have been before, I am sure you will have a fantastic time! This stunning city will bring you up close to nature with its many outdoor activities.
From swimming in geothermal hot springs, watching the Northern Lights on a sailing boat and eating bread baked using geothermal activity, there is something for everyone in this fascinating city, whether you are a solo traveller, a family with children or a couple on a romantic escape.
So, join us as we dive into 10 fun and sustainable activities in Reykjavík! For all the nature lovers, photo enthusiasts and adventure seekers out there, I promise you will have a great time – without harming our planet 🌍
My Iceland experience: Duration 9 Days & 6 Days When April & January Season Spring & Winter
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- Overview: green things to do in Reykjavík
- Places to visit in Reykjavík – Map
- 10 sustainable things to do in Reykjavík
- What to do in Reykjavík in winter
- Top day trips from Reykjavík
- Tips for reducing your eco-impact in Reykjavík
- Reykjavík travel planning guide
- Reykjavík, Iceland – FAQ
Overview: green things to do in Reykjavík
- Choose a green hotel for your stay
- Wander the city on foot
- Swim in the hot springs of Iceland
- Eat green and get the Gló
- Visit a geothermal bakery
- Witness the Northern Lights
- Go whale watching
- Shop local souvenirs
- Explore on two wheels
- Enjoy a picnic in a city green space
Planning an epic Iceland road trip? Check out this article:
9 Perfect Days in Iceland: Ring Road Itinerary
Places to visit in Reykjavík – Map
Click on the top left of the map to display the list of stops and locations.
10 sustainable things to do in Reykjavík
From watching the spectacular Northern Lights to taking a dip in a geothermal pool and joining a whale-watching expedition, Reykjavík has something for every traveller.
Here are our 10 favourite ways to discover the Icelandic capital any time of the year whilst reducing your environmental impact:
1- Choose a green hotel for your stay
When planning your trip to Iceland, one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to choose a green hotel for your stay.
Iceland strives to become a world leader in sustainable tourism, and you will not have to look too far to find environmentally conscious places to rest your head. From luxury hotels to eco campsites and responsible boutique guesthouses, there is something for every type of traveller.
For example, take a look at Eyja Guldsmeden, an urban retreat set in the downtown area of Reykjavík, perfect for a stylish stay, whilst the Hilton Reykjavík Nordica has gained international status as an award-winning sustainable hotel. And for something a little unique, book a stay at Reykjavík Campsite to enjoy an eco-conscious and back-to-basics holiday in the stunning Icelandic landscapes.
2- Wander the city on foot
There is no better way to explore a new city than on foot, and the popular 2-hour CityWalk Reykjavík walking tour is the perfect way to learn more about this unique city in a sustainable and healthy way.
Delivered by experienced guides, the tour offers informative and humorous facts about a variety of famous landmarks and spots. You will see some of the most interesting sights in the city, such as the City Hall, Hallgrimskirkja, Harpa Concert Hall and more, and discover stories about Icelandic culture, folklore, nightlife, food and even Vikings!
The walking tour is completely free, but a tip at the end is always welcome to thank these knowledgeable guides for their time. There are also options to book VIP and private tour groups if you want that extra exclusive service.
OTHER WALKING TOURS I RECOMMEND
3- Swim in the hot springs of Iceland
The unique and fascinating geothermic landscape of Iceland lends its thermal waters to all of the municipal swimming pools within the Reykjavík region, allowing you to enjoy a nature-powered day out that is both eco-friendly and fun.
There are 17 geothermic swimming pools in Reykjavík, many of which contain hot tubs, steam rooms, water slides and more. The pools are heated entirely by geothermic hot springs, meaning they are fully powered by green energy!
One of the most popular swimming pools in the city is the Laugardalslaug Pool. Featuring a 50m outdoor pool, waterslides, hot tubs, kids pool, massage tub, indoor tub, cool tub and more, this is a fantastic sustainable day out for the whole family.
Another great way to experience the geothermic activity of Iceland is to spend a day at the iconic Blue Lagoon. This breathtaking thermal spa is set in the otherworldly volcanic landscape for which Iceland is famous for. Soak in the steamy waters and benefit from the healing properties of naturally heated springs at one of the top tourist spots in Iceland, awarded the Icelandic Environment Company of the Year for 2021.
4- Eat green and get the Gló
One of the best ways to enjoy an eco-friendly experience when travelling to Reykjavík is to visit a sustainable restaurant, and Gló is one of the best places in the city to add to your bucket list.
Gló was one of the first healthy and eco-friendly restaurants in the capital to offer nutritious and delicious bowls, salads, soups and wraps. They have paved the way in terms of values and ethos, and they were one of the first restaurants in Iceland to specialise in raw foods.
They place a high priority on producing food with as little waste as possible, and all takeaway packaging is made from biodegradable plant-based plastic, bamboo or paper.
With two restaurants to choose from and an array of healthy food options, vegans and vegetarians will be spoiled for choice. They also serve meat dishes, so you will find something for everyone at this fantastic dining spot.
5- Visit a geothermal bakery
For any budding bakers or those who simply like to try something different, do not miss the chance to savour a bread loaf baked in the incredible geothermic conditions bubbling beneath the Icelandic landscape.
At Laugarvatn Fontana, you can witness the process of bread making using the geothermal activity of the black sands. Baked for 24 hours, you will see a freshly baked loaf dug up out of the sand and get to sample hot from-the-ground rye bread with delicious Icelandic butter. A fascinating eco-experience that combines food and the fascinating geothermal energy of Iceland.
6- Witness the Northern Lights
For many travellers, a trip to Iceland is to tick off a bucket list experience like no other: witnessing the mind-blowing natural phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis, more commonly known as the Northern Lights.
Between October and April, you will have the opportunity to see the sky come to life in a cacophony of colour. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many and one that is incredibly eco-friendly too!
You can choose to take part in a guided Northern Lights tour, where experienced and knowledgeable guides head to the best spots to see the swirl of colours in all its glory.
Otherwise, head to the north of the city for the best chance of catching them. The Seltjarnarnes Peninsula is a fantastic place to visit, with the Grótta Lighthouse as a backdrop for some breathtaking photo opportunities!
NORTHERN LIGHT TOURS I RECOMMEND
7- Go whale watching
Whaling remains a problem in Iceland, with tourists among the biggest culprits of whale meat consumption. However, Icelanders have increasingly chosen not to offer this service to tourists and instead invite them to witness these incredible creatures up close on an epic whale-watching tour.
Icelandic waters are home to 20 different types of whales, including minke, blue, orca, humpback and sperm, and dolphins, just to name a few. You can see these magnificent creatures in spring and summer, and observing them is a truly unique experience for all ages.
Take a look at Arctic Adventures, an adventure tour company specialising in responsible and sustainable whale watching. They are proud members of IceWhale, a sustainable code of conduct for travel companies in Iceland, and they are serious about promoting responsible ways to observe these beautiful animals. They offer a multitude of wildlife-watching tours and other Icelandic adventures, so you will be in safe green hands, no matter what you choose to experience.
8- Shop local souvenirs
If you are looking to pick up some handmade and eco-friendly souvenirs to remember your trip, then do not miss a visit to The Handknitting Association of Iceland, where you can buy lovingly made jumpers and other garments made from unique Icelandic wool.
And if you are looking to thrift second-hand items, then Hringekjan is the place to be. Awarded the title of ‘Best Second-Hand Store’ in Reykjavík in 2022, shoppers are constantly delighted with the collection of clothing and accessories in the store, which ranges from Icelandic to international designers.
9- Explore on two wheels
One of the best and most eco-friendly ways to explore Reykjavík is on two wheels! You can rent a bike and explore at your own pace or take part in one of the many guided bike tours that will show you the highlights of the city in a fun and healthy way.
Reykjavík Bike Tours offers a variety of thrilling cycling adventures to choose from, including city centre tours and bike and van combination day tours, where you can explore some of the most fascinating attractions of Iceland.
A private tour of the Golden Circle is also possible, where you can discover the Gullfoss Waterfall, the Geyser geothermal area and the Parliament Plains as well as plenty more surrounding places.
In addition, they offer segway tours for a unique experience of zipping around the city soaking up the best scenery of Reykjavík.
Finally, another sustainable way to get around the city, if you do not fancy walking, is to use one of the numerous electric scooters dotted around the streets. Simply download the app, choose your payment plan and head off! A great way to reduce using motorised transport to get around.
10- Enjoy a picnic in a city green space
Laugardalur Valley is a fantastic green space located within the city. Boasting the largest and most popular municipal thermal pool in Reykjavík, the valley is also home to a fantastic botanical garden and the Family Park and Zoo, perfect for keeping little ones entertained.
Stroll through the beautiful floral displays of the botanical garden and head to the popular Café Floran for delicious locally-grown food and drinks, surrounded by the fragrant floral canopy. A wonderful eco-friendly day out in one of the green spaces of Reykjavík.
What to do in Reykjavík in winter
Visiting Reykjavík in winter is a fun and unforgettable experience, especially in December! Here are some extra sustainable activities and eco-friendly things to do if you plan to visit the Icelandic capital this season:
- Join a Northern Lights sailing tour on an electric boat
- Soak up the holiday atmosphere at the Christmas markets
- Take a dip in the geothermal waters of the Sky Lagoon
- Organised a guided day trip to the Golden Circle
- Go skiing at the nearby Bláfjöll Ski Resort
READ MORE: 5 Days in Iceland: Epic Winter Itinerary.
Want to stay warm and dry on your winter vacation? Check out this article:
10 Best Ethical Coats for Iceland in Winter
Shop the printable travel itinerary
Plan your perfect Icelandic city break & live a unique green experience.
Top day trips from Reykjavík
Tips for reducing your eco-impact in Reykjavík
Sustainable travel means exploring the world whilst being aware of your surroundings and having a positive social, environmental and economic impact on the places you visit.
Being a responsible traveller in Reykjavík is possible – and necessary, as Iceland has become over popular the past few years! Here are some eco-friendly travel tips for reducing your carbon footprint:
- Book direct flights (which require less fuel than indirect flights) and offset your carbon footprint. But, do not use carbon offsetting as a complete solution. Combine it with other sustainable practices, like avoiding single-use plastic on the plane and mindfully packing your suitcase for your green holiday.
- Visit the island off-season (spring and autumn), on a month when visitor numbers are lower (which is rare, I know). And try to avoid crowded places. For example, visiting the Golden Circle is an incredible experience, but you will also find hidden gems and less visited places along the way. Check out this article: Iceland’s Golden Circle Guide: 13 Epic Stops.
- Select an eco-friendly accommodation. It is not always easy to determine whether a hotel has eco-conscious practices, but try to look on their website for green credentials and ask questions. You can also use Bookdifferent or Ecobnb to help you decide.
- Walk as much as possible. Reykjavík is a compact city easily accessible on foot, and you will not produce any emissions. And if walking is too tiring, use an electric bike! The Icelandic capital is ideal for cycling around at your own pace.
- Treat the landscapes and wildlife with respect. Iceland has such a fragile environment, so always pay attention to where you drive, park your car and walk. In addition, stick to official routes – a rugged landscape of lava or ice is so fragile that the wheels of a recklessly driven 4×4 can leave scars for decades.
- Join eco-conscious tours with a local company, such as North Sailing. I worked with them on a project and loved their sustainable initiatives. Also, try to travel on a small group tour, which is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and protect the vulnerability of the surroundings.
- Eat at local restaurants that use produce from the area and emphasise organic and sustainability. It will contribute to the local economy and reduce your carbon footprint by supporting places where food does not come from long distances.
- Always respect the local heritage. Treat people and their surroundings with respect. Sustainable travel is not only about the environment but also about the local communities. So, always be respectful, smile and learn a few Icelandic words 🙂
Additionally, to help you prepare for your sustainable adventure and choose your tour operators, check out Vakinn. It is an official quality and environmental certification for Icelandic tourism, run by the Icelandic Tourist Board. It will help you find businesses that operate ethically and sustainably.
More inspiration for your green adventures:
- Best Travel Apps for Exploring Sustainably
- 15 Travel Books to Inspire Your Next Eco-Adventure
- Best Ecotourism Activities Around the World
Eco-friendly gear you might love:
- 10 Best Sustainable Backpacks for Travel & Hiking
- 10 Best Reusable & Eco-Friendly Travel Mugs
- 8 Best Filtered Water Bottles for Travel & Hiking
Check out this page for more inspiration on eco-friendly products & gear.
Reykjavík travel planning guide
Yes, buying insurance is always valuable when travelling abroad. Enjoy your green city break in Reykjavík stress-free with one of my favourite providers, Nomad Insurance.
Yes, tap water is safe to drink in Reykjavík unless advised otherwise. However, I also recommend travelling with the UltraPress Purifier Bottle, a lightweight filtered water bottle perfect for reducing plastic and staying hydrated.
Yes, renting a car in Reykjavík is easy and is a great way to explore the country freely (such as the Golden Circle). I recommend booking yours with Rentalcars.com – they offer a variety of operators for all budgets.
The best way to book your accommodation in Reykjavík is with Booking.com – my favourite platform to compare and reserve places to stay each night, from affordable guesthouses to luxury resorts.
I recommend booking your plane with Skyscanner. It has been my favourite platform for years, as it allows me to book the cheapest flights whilst lowering my carbon emissions.
Reykjavík, Iceland – FAQ
3 days will give you a great amount of time to experience the best of Reykjavik. You will be able to discover its top attractions and highlights and soak up the local culture – without rushing. But, of course, allowing more time in the Icelandic capital is always a good idea, as there are so many things to do and see, especially if you want to join a guided tour or rent a car and explore the Golden Circle.
Yes, Reykjavik (and Iceland in general) is one of the most expensive cities I have ever visited! But it is still possible to explore the Icelandic capital on a budget. Plan your itinerary accordingly, be mindful of your expenses, walk as much as possible and stay in a guesthouse.
Yes, Reykjavik is a walkable city and a great place to wander around. You will have no problem exploring the capital on foot, as it is compact and its main attractions are not far from each other. And if you need an extra boost, rent an electric bike!
Generally, the best time to visit Reykjavik (and Iceland) is summer, between June and August, when the weather is pleasant and you can enjoy outdoor activities. But if you wish to see Reykjavik in the snow and catch the Northern Lights, plan your visit between September and March.
And you, what is your favourite eco-friendly thing to do in Reykjavík?
Let me know in the comments below!