Word is getting around that Iceland is great for casual 3- or 4-day escapes. The basic components of an Iceland long weekend are Reykjavík, and excursions from Reykjavík; and more often than not, the Blue Lagoon spa. Every night of this itinerary is spent in Reykjavík. In high season, make sure to call a few days ahead for dinner reservations (and for in-water massages at the Blue Lagoon).
Day 1: Reykjavík
If you're out and about before 9am, head to Grái Kötturinn for pancakes, bacon, and strong Icelandic coffee. Begin the sightseeing stage at the Tourist Information Center, where you can pick up maps and brochures, and arrange tours and car rentals if necessary. Nearby are three compelling sites -- the 871±2 Settlement Museum, the City Cathedral (Dómkirkjan) in Austurvöllur Square, and the Harbor House Museum (Hafnarhús), dedicated to contemporary art. All three open at 10am.
For a casual lunch, visit Sægreifinn for lobster soup and a seafood kebab. After lunch, head to the eastern half of the city and survey Reykjavík’s two main shopping streets, Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur. Nearby is the Culture House, with a wonderful exhibit of medieval manuscripts. To recharge, drop into the city’s oldest cafe, Mokka Kaffi and try its famous waffles.
Skólavörðustígur leads uphill to Reykjavík's most iconic landmark, Hallgrímskirkja, where you can ascend the elevator for a panoramic view. Don't miss the Einar Jónsson Museum next door, dedicated to Iceland's most renowned sculptor; weekend hours are 2 to 5pm. From here it's a half-hour walk to the National Museum south of Tjörnin Pond. If you're too pooped, catch bus 14 to Laugardalslaug for a rejuvenating taste of Iceland's geothermal bathing culture, and ply your hot tub companions for travel advice. (Be prepared for the ubiquitous question "How do you like Iceland?")
Enjoy an unforgettable dinner at Skal!, followed by nightclub-hopping into the wee hours—but keep in mind that Reykjavík’s night scene hardly begins until the wee hours—and a 2am hotdog with “the lot” at Bæjarins Bestu.
Day 2: The Golden Circle
An enormous wealth of day excursions depart from Reykjavík, but the most popular is the "Golden Circle" tour to Tþingvellir, the historic rift valley where the Icelandic parliament first convened in 930; Geysir, the geothermal hot spot that lent its name to all geysers; and the majestic Gullfoss waterfall. Sign up for an 8-hour bus tour, or for more flexibility, rent a car.
Day 3: Hot Springs Tour
The geothermal hot springs of Reykjadalur Valley, tucked inside the scenic Mt. Hengill hiking area, near Hveragerði, are a bather’s delight. The most memorable way to reach Reyjkadalur is on horseback; Eldhestar offers a 9-hour tour from Reykjavík, with 5 or 6 hours in the saddle. (The small, manageable, good-natured Icelandic horse is great for beginners.) Alternatively, rent a car for the day and hike the route, or sign up for a group hike. The drive is less than an hour one-way, and the hike can be accomplished in as little as 2.5 hours round-trip. Don’t forget your swimsuit.
Day 4: The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon spa -- built around a blue-green geothermal lake within a jet-black expanse of black lava -- is Iceland's most popular visitor destination. Sign up with tour company Reykjavík Excursions for transportation to the lagoon on the way to the airport, then bathe and exfoliate to your heart’s content until it’s time to catch your flight home. Allow 2 hours at the lagoon, more if you plan on spa treatments or eating at the restaurant.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.