If you’re busy planning your first trip to Iceland and are wondering where to stay, then we’ve got you covered with this useful guide all about where to stay in Iceland for first time visitors.
You’ll learn about three popular areas in Iceland: Reykjavik, the Golden Circle and Vik, including what there is to do in each area and top Iceland hotels to consider.
We hope you find it useful – but most importantly, we hope you enjoy your trip!
If it’s dramatic landscapes, towering waterfalls, interesting culture and the Northern Lights that you’re after then we can think of nowhere better. Iceland is one of our favourite countries, and as we got engaged there, it holds such a deep place within both our hearts.
We hope you’ll make just as many magical memories during your own trip and we’re thrilled to be able to share some of our Iceland travel tips and inspiration with you to help you do so.
Let’s get cracking!
Jump to your destination:
Jump to your destination:
At-A-Glance: Where To Stay In Iceland For First Time Visitors
Reykjavik is Iceland’s capital. It’s a small city, which means you can easily see the top sights in just one or two days before moving on to see the rest of Iceland like the Golden Circle, Ring Road, South Coast and beyond.
Although the city has an airport, you’re likely flying into Keflavik Airport, which is actually about an hour south of Reykjavik. So it’s recommended to hire a car if you can to make things easier.
But Reykjavik is a very walkable city, so once you’ve arrived and parked up, you shouldn’t feel the need to use your car again unless going further afield or grocery store shopping.
If you’re heading out on a Northern Lights group tour, then Reykjavik is also convenient for most hotel pickups.
Don’t Miss In Reykjavik
Whether you’re here for just one night or two (or longer), here are the top must-sees when staying in Reykjavik:
- Hallgrimskirkja: The largest church in Iceland with a 360 degree viewing platform
- Harpa Concert Hall: An iconic Iceland landmark and home to the Iceland Symphony Orchestra
- Sólfarið (Sun Voyager Sculpture): Famous artwork overlooking the ocean to commemorate Reykjavik’s 200th anniversary
- Street Art: Reykjavik is one of the most famous cities in the world for street art
- Northern Lights Tours: Get picked up from your hotel in Reykjavik and follow the professionals in search of the elusive Aurora Borealis
Where To Stay In Reykjavik
Despite being a small city, there are several different areas you can stay in.
Most of our Reykjavik hotel selections are in and around Hlemmur. In 2017, this area of the city underwent a major overhaul and rejuvenation, bringing with it a vibrant community full of restaurants, bars, hotels, shops and museums.
As this area isn’t smack bang in the middle of Reykjavik, it’s comparatively cheaper. Yet it’s still within a short walking distance of most top sights in Reykjavik and with easy bus links to take you further out.
We’ve indicated next to each hotel how far it is to walk to popular tourist sights in Reykjavik so you can gauge for yourself how convenient the location is.
Other than walking distance, price and reviews, we have also focused on hotels that offer free parking and breakfast for both convenience and to help with costs.
Top Reykjavik Hotels
So… with all that said, here are our top picks of Reykjavik hotels.
Center Hotels Plaza – in Reykjavik’s center, 10 minutes from Harpa Concert Hall
Center Hotels Plaza is a 3-star hotel within Reykjavik’s city centre and is just a ten minute walk from Harpa Concert Hall. The rooms are modern, light and airy while the hotel has a good-sized bar and lounge.
Skuggi Hotel by Keahotels – near Hlemmur, 10 minutes Sun Voyager and Hallgrimskirkja
Skuggi Hotel is a 3-star hotel and is part of the Keahotels chain. It’s near the bustling area of Hlemmur so is close to a myriad of bars, restaurants and shops, as well as popular tourist spots in Reykjavik. The rooms are simple, modern and classic while the hotel has a huge bar/lounge area.
Tower Suites Reykjavik – near Hlemmur and Tún, 15 minutes from Sun Voyager
Tower Suites Reykjavik is a luxury 4.5-star hotel in between the Hlemmur and Tún districts. Although a little further out than some of the other hotels mentioned, it’s still within walking distance to top tourist sights in the city. The luxurious suites have a mixture of city and sea views while some rooms have freestanding baths with yet more superb views.
Hotel Orkin – in Holt, 20 minutes from Hallgrimskirkja
Hotel Orkin is a charming 3-star hotel in Holt and is just a 20 minute walk from Hallgrimskirkja. The rooms are simple but comfortable and cosy while there’s access to a free continental breakfast every morning in the spacious downstairs lobby.
22 Hill Hotel – in Holt, 20 minutes from Hallgrimskirkja
22 Hill Hotel is a lovely 3-star hotel in Holt and is also a 20 minute walk from Hallgrimskirkja. While slightly further out of the city than other hotels, you’ll massively save on cost for a comfortable stay. The downstairs lobby is tastefully decorated and full of cosy reading nooks and seating areas.
Hotel Lotus – in Háaleiti N, 30 minutes from Hallgrimskirkja
Hotel Lotus is a small 3.5-star hotel in Háaleiti N. While much further out than the above hotels, it’s still only a 30 minute walk from Hallgrimskirkja and convenient for buses into the city centre. The rooms are simple but clean and comfortable, while the hotel has a good-sized dining area downstairs, which serves a free continental breakfast each morning.
Reykjavik Lights by Keahotels – in Laugardalur, 20 minutes from the Icelandic Phallological Museum
Reykjavik Lights is another 3-star hotel from the Keahotels chain. It’s the furthest out of all our Reykjavik hotel recommendations but is convenient for buses and for those of you who only plan on being in Reykjavik for a couple of nights before seeing more of Iceland. The rooms are bright, modern and airy, while the hotel has a spacious and rather chic lobby downstairs.
The Golden Circle
And where can most of this dramatic scenery be found? Why within the Golden Circle of course!
The Golden Circle is also where you’ll find many iconic Iceland landmarks, and because of the small amounts of light pollution, it’s one of the most perfect areas in Iceland for Northern Lights hunting.
And because you’ll be staying within the Golden Circle itself, you’ve already just increased your chances of seeing the Northern Lights ten-fold.
Don’t Miss In The Golden Circle
There are so many highlights of the Golden Circle. Here are the ones you positively can’t miss:
- Gullfoss: One of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland and where the Golden Circle gets its name (Gullfoss = “Golden Falls”)
- Geysir Hot Spring Area: Boiling hot springs at every turn and home to the almighty Strokkur Geysir (aka The Churn), which erupts every few minutes and by over 20 metres each time
- Thingvellir National Park: Home to stunning walking routes including the chance to walk through two tectonic plates and see yet more waterfalls and glistening lakes
- Secret Lagoon: Completely natural hot spring you can bathe in; cheaper and less busy than the Blue Lagoon
- Kerid Crater: A deep volcanic crater that is filled with bright blue water
Where To Stay In The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle stretches for some 155 miles, so it can be tricky to know where is best to stay in the Golden Circle.
Truth be told, you can’t really get it wrong. Just as long as you find somewhere free from light pollution and not too far from the top Golden Circle attractions then you should be happy with your choice.
But there’s another absolute must when it comes to staying in the Golden Circle – renting your own cabin!
Staying in your own private cabin (some even come with hot tubs!) out in the depths of the Golden Circle is one of the major reasons why you would venture out this way.
Top Golden Circle Cabins
So without further adieu, here are our favourite Golden Circle cabins to stay in:
Icelandic Cottages – near Selfoss
The Icelandic Cottages are a group of luxurious 4-star cabins in between Selfoss and Flúðir (where the Secret Lagoon is). Although they’re about an hour away from Gullfoss, the cottages are conveniently located for those of you who want to see the highlights of both the Golden Circle and the South Coast. The cottages themselves are spacious, modern, fully equipped and ideal for those of you travelling in a small group or as a family.
Austurey Cottages – near Laugarvatn
The Austurey Cottages are another set of charming cabins, this time 3-star ones and close to the hot springs of Laugarvatn. The cabins are spacious and bright with small kitchenettes and patios for cosy nights in.
Blue View Cabins – near Reykholt
Although smaller than the two cabin groups mentioned above, the 3-star Blue View Cabins are right in the heart of the Golden Circle and are ideal for those of you on a budget. The cabins are simple yet comfortable and cosy – and even come with private hot tubs outside for romantic nights under the Northern Lights.
Hekla Cabins – near Hella
The Hekla Cabins are a group of comfortable 3-star cabins close to Hella. This makes them perfectly situated for both Golden Circle and South Coast itineraries. The cabins are simple but comfortable and have large windows overlooking the surrounding countryside.
Heima Holiday Homes – near Selfoss
The Heima Holiday Homes are a group of modern 3-star cabins, which have tons of room inside and are surprisingly cheap considering the quality of accommodation you’re getting. These cabins are also in between Selfoss and Flúðir for seeing the best of Iceland’s scenery.
Found along Iceland’s South Coast, Vik (aka Vík í Mýrdal) is a remote seafront village.
Its most famous claim to fame is its black sand beaches that are home to ancient rock formations akin to what you’ll see at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.
But it’s also a convenient place to stay if you want to embark on a South Coast Iceland itinerary to see stunning waterfalls and yet more black sand beaches.
If you’re after a more low-key Icelandic experience while still having access to a few local shops and restaurants on your doorstep then Vik is one of the best places to stay in South Iceland.
Don’t Miss In Vik
When staying in Vik, you simply cannot miss seeing:
- Vik Black Sand Beach: Home to black sand and ancient rock formations
- Vík í Mýrdal Church: Iconic Iceland landmark with stunning views across Vik
- Icelandic Lava Show: Where you can see a simulation volcanic eruption and take home a piece of lava rock as a souvenir
- Solheimasandur Plane Wreck: Black sand beach home to a plane wreck from the 1970s (it’s a 20 minute drive from Vik)
- Skógafoss: Famous waterfall on the South Coast with viewing platform (it’s a 30 minute drive from Vik)
Top Vik Hotels
As Vik is a small village, there’s not a huge amount of choice on where to stay. However, our pick of Vik hotels are beautiful and come highly rated by other guests.
Icelandair Hotel Vik
Icelandair Hotel Vik is a beautiful 3.5-star Art Deco hotel with bright and airy rooms; most come with stunning views of Vik and the surrounding countryside. The lobby downstairs continues the bright and airy theme while there’s also a gym onsite.
The Vik Apartments are a group of large self-contained 3.5-star apartments, which all have balconies or patios. These apartments are perfect for those of you travelling in a group or as a family.
Hotel Kria is a beautiful 3-star hotel close to Vik. Although it’s a little outside of the main village, the views across the countryside are unparalleled. There’s a large restaurant onsite, as well as various bar and lobby areas, while the rooms are chic and modern.
Plan Your Trip To Iceland
Now you know where to stay in Iceland, take a look at our other Iceland travel blogs to help with the rest of your Iceland travel plans:
- Iceland Travel Tips & Important Things To Know Before Visiting
- Easy 5 Day Iceland Road Trip Itinerary
- Iceland Food Packing List
- Spectacular Highlights of the Golden Circle
- A Beginner’s Guide to Iceland Photography
- Hiking in Thingvellir National Park
- Incredible Iceland Waterfalls
- Things To Avoid In Iceland (and what to do instead!)
- Must Read Books About Iceland
- Authentic Souvenirs From Iceland