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How to Get Around Iceland Without a Car

How to Get Around Iceland Without a Car?

Car is by far the most popular way to get around in Iceland. Public transport options are more limited than in most other countries and there are no trains. But where there is will, there is a way, and there are several options you could use apart from cars to get around the country. Below, we cover these.

Take the Bus

Straeto, the national bus company, operates routes around the country, encircling the entire country and connecting major towns. Beyond the ring road, local bus companies such as SVA in Akureyri (taking the bus is free of charge within Akureyri) and Árborgarstrætó in the South serve local areas. If you decide to travel around Iceland by bus, make sure to plan well ahead, because bus schedules can be limited, especially outside the summer season (June-August). Factor in extra travel time and research routes thoroughly.

Note: The Westfjords are well worth visiting but are not considered part of the Ring Road in Iceland. The public bus routes, no. 61 and 62, are only available in summer.

Multi-Day Tours and Day Tours

Immerse yourself in Iceland’s diverse landscape with multi-day tours. These tours usually include transportation, accommodation, and activities, taking the guesswork out of your itinerary. Going on tried and tested tours is a way to avoid disappointments that may be more likely when we plan our whole itinerary on our own. It can also save you a ton of research in looking for places to explore, accommodation etc.

Day tours are another way to explore the various highlights of the country, including the Golden Circle, Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon and The Diamond Circle. The biggest variety of day tours, you will find departing from Reykjavík, but you can also find tours in the North (from Akureyri), Westfjords and East. The South and West are mostly reachable by day tours from the capital but the further you go, there is of course more driving. For example, the drive from Reykjavík to Jökulsárlón takes five hours (excluding stops) as it is almost 400 km away from Reykjavík. Most of the day tours scheduled to Jökulsárlón from the capital take 12 to 14 hours.

Shorter day tours from the capital include Snæfellsnes, The Golden Circle and The South Coast.

Explore on Foot and Bike

Reykjavik is relatively compact and easily walkable. Explore its colourful streets, museums, and harbour at your own pace. Walking from one end of the city to another can take around 1.5 hours (e.g. from downtown to the valley of Elliðaárdalur). At the top of Elliðaárdalur, you can find a public swimming pool called Árbæjarlaug with a nice view over the valley and parts of the city. Another tranquil valley to walk in is Kópavogsdalur in the neighbouring town of Kópavogur, that is part of the capital area and attached to Reykjavík nowadays. That walk could take you 1.5 to 2 hours. You could also walk further to Garðabær, and find a nice walking route alongside its coast, which would take you around two hours to reach by foot from downtown Reykjavík. Grafarvogur is another possible destination, the nicest walking route there is around the bay, starting from Gullinbrú bridge and heading east towards Grafarholt. It is a green area with rich birdlife around the bay.

Hafnarfjörður
Hafnarfjörður

Feeling like even more walking? Head to Hafnarfjörður, where you can find lava fields by the sea and a charming harbour area. Walking there from downtown Reykjavík could take you close to three hours. After a long walk, it can be nice to sit down at e.g. Brikk bakery by the harbour or Fjörukráin, renowned for their pastries, and food and Viking atmosphere respectively.

A long walk in another direction in the capital area could take you to Mosfellsbær, approximately four hours. Among the nicest walking routes in Mosfellsbær is from an old hospital called Reykjalundur alongside a small creek through a forestry area down towards the coast.

From all these locations, you could take a public bus back to Reykjavík and in most cases, you could also rent an e-scooter from Hopp to get back and forth. Hopp e-scooters are available in 26 locations around Iceland, including Akureyri, Akranes, The Westman Islands, Egilsstaðir and Ísafjörður.

Electric Scooter in Reykjavík
Electric Scooter in Reykjavík

Biking could of course get you to those places faster and there are a few companies in Reykjavík where you can rent a bike, e.g. Borgarhjól on Hverfisgata downtown, Reykjavik Bike Tours by the old harbour and Bike Rental in Faxafen 8.

Some people go around Iceland by bike. If you want to do that, be ready to make adjustments to your travel plans based on weather conditions and allow for plenty of time. In the summer, some people also go hitchhiking in Iceland, which we can’t recommend though, as this requires plenty of time and is not exactly reliable.

Fly

Another option to get around Iceland is domestic flights. With Icelandair, you can get from Reykjavík to Akureyri, Egilsstaðir and Ísafjörður. Eagle Air offers year-round flights to Westman Islands, Höfn in East Iceland and Húsavík in the north.

For an unforgettable experience, splurge on a scenic helicopter tour, offering a bird’s-eye view of glaciers, volcanoes, and waterfalls.

Sail

Being an island, Iceland has various opportunities to get around by boats and ships. The best-known ferries are run by the state: Herjólfur, to Westman Islands from Þorlákshöfn and Landeyjahöfn; Sævar from Árskógsströnd to the island of Hrísey; Sæfari from Dalvík to the islands of Hrísey and Grímsey; and Baldur between Stykkishólmur, Flatey (island) and Brjánslækur.

Whale Watching Boat leaving Reykjavik Harbour - Whale Watching TourOnce a week, Norröna sails from Seyðisfjörður in East Iceland to Tórshavn in the Faroe Islands and Hirtshals in Denmark.

Boat trips are also widely available around the country, e.g. to get from Reykjavík to Viðey island and Faxaflói Bay for Northern Lights or Puffin Watching.

For birdwatching, you can also take a boat from Sauðárkrókur to the island of Drangey.

The Quickest Way -> FlyOver Iceland

In the age of virtual reality, you can also get a sneak peak of the country by experiencing it in virtual reality, including scenery, smell (e.g. newly cut grass) and the drizzle from waterfalls as you fly over them. Then look no further than FlyOver Iceland in the Grandi Harbour area in walking distance from downtown Reykjavík.

Final Remarks

Base yourself in towns with good public transport connections or tour options.

Be prepared for unpredictable weather, including delays and cancellations. Pack accordingly and factor in extra time.

Iceland, with its awe-inspiring beauty, welcomes all kinds of explorers. So, ditch the car keys and embrace alternative options.

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