Reykjavík, Iceland Gay Travel
Gay life thrives in Reykjavík, a city surrounded by unearthly landscapes. Explore geothermal hotspots by day and peruse gay bars by night with tips in this Iceland gay travel guide.
The Gay Travel Experience: Reykjavík, Iceland
The gay locals of Reykjavík warmly welcomed me and my friends. A comical encounter with a gay guy in a small Reykjavík gay club opened the door to insight about Reykjavík’s gay community.
Iceland is a very accepting place Reykjavík is extremely gay-friendly with gay-specific venues tucked away in the snow-covered city.
The people of Reykjavík are a very happy bunch. Iceland ranks very high on lists of the happiest countries in the world. All the more reason to visit. There is lots to do in Iceland, so get ready to explore the stunning landscapes and local gay spots!
Gay Iceland: Where to Stay
Before discussing where to stay in Reykjavík, it is important to note that the airport for international arrivals is actually in Keflavik, farther west.
The Reykjavík airport is only for domestic flights. All international flights will land in Keflavik and then you must arrange transportation to Reykjavík.
Arriving to Reykjavík
Keflavik International Airport is about a 30 to 40-minute drive from Reykjavík, so plan ahead for this. There are bus services available, as ride shares or taxis can be quite expensive, although they are also available.
When I visited Iceland, I rented a sport utility vehicle with two friends. I highly recommend renting a car, as you’ll be able to explore much more of the beautiful lands outside Reykjavík city. Having the vehicle allowed us to wander into the Icelandic wilderness and stop wherever we wanted.
Make sure to check out car rentals in Iceland before you head out on your journey. If you cannot drive, look for guided tours with transportation while planning your trip.
Reykjavík Neighborhoods: Where to Stay
First of all, the city of Reykjavík has ten main districts. Most explorers will opt for Miðbær, or the city center area. Unless you are specifically looking to only explore the countryside, this location is ideal.
If you’re looking for accommodations outside the main city area, but not too far away, check out Laugardalur, which is farther to the north. Laugardalur is the best area to stay if your visit is mainly for sporty activities and you’re not too keen on staying in the city center.
Kópavoguris another option with a dense suburban feel. Here you will have quick access to beautiful scenery without having to drive too far. Finally, for those looking for more of a “cabin in the woods” vibe, I would suggest searching for an Airbnb closer to Geysir (the physical area where the geysers are located).
Where to Stay in Iceland Based on Trip Length
My recommendation is to stay in Reykjavík the entire time if your visit is short. This way you will be able to get to know the local gay spots and can plan a day trip from the city.
If you have more freedom with time, I recommend splitting up your trip. Spend your weekend(s) in Reykjavík and then head out to the countryside during the week. You’ll find a beautiful, rural feel close to stunning scenery out there. With more time, you can travel farther to the eastern half of the country.
Iceland Experiences for the Gay Traveler
First, I will talk about experiences within the city center of Reykjavík. Farther below I will go more into depth on the countryside activities.
Gay Reykjavík: City Experiences
Perfect for after you settle in from your flight, Svarta Kaffið has an amazing bread bowl soup. Each day they offer a different soup including a vegetarian option. Well worth the price, this cozy restaurant was friendly and delicious.
A five-minute walk away from Svarta Kaffið is Hallgrimskirkja, the largest Icelandic church. Inside you can grab a lift to the top to see the wonderful views of Reykjavík. Hallgrimskirkja is such a stunning building. It’s an amazing place to take some photos.
Also, nearby is the Sun Voyager sculpture. Located on the waterfront, spend 15 minutes or so taking in some beautiful cityside views of the deep blue water. This area is particularly beautiful at sunset.
If you’re in the mood for a snack or some coffee nearby, stop over at Emilie and the Cool Kids, an adorable café with a modern seating area in the back.
As you explore the city, you will surely see Epal Harpa in the distance, a beautiful modern concert hall and cultural center with a glass façade. I recommend at least stopping through to see the architecture. There are a few shops here too.
After the sun sets, join the locals at the open-air hot baths at Sundhöll Reykjavíkur. This place is calm and relaxing, perfect for an evening alone or with friends.
Gay guys looking for a sauna in Reykjavik will have a good chance at making some friends at Sundhöll Reykjavíkur. Keep in mind though, this is a co-ed sauna meant for relaxing and socializing.
There are several hot pools of varying temperatures, a full size indoor and outdoor swimming pool with diving board, a steam room and cold pool. You can visit year-round and when I was there, I ran into a my local gay friend that I had met at the bar the night before!
Activities Outside of Reykjavík
Now for some true adventure! Most of us are really wondering: where are the hot springs?! Gay travel to Iceland isn’t complete without a hot spring picture! So, there are several spots to find surface geothermal activity.
The Blue Lagoon is the main tourist attraction that you should experience. It’s more like a spa, with the building and facilities built into the naturally geothermal area. Even though it’s a famous tourist location where locals are not usually found, I still had a great time and found it to be stunning.
Iceland Geothermal Areas
Apart from the Blue Lagoon, you will need to drive about an hour and thirty minutes outside of Reykjavík to find geothermal spots.
The Secret Lagoon is a natural hot pool, popular with tourists and locals alike. This lagoon is less of a “spa experience” and is more authentic. Laugarvatn Fontana is another option offering a more spa-like feel.
On your way to the geothermal areas of Iceland, I’d suggest visiting the geysers. Watch these natural beauties erupt every five minutes or so, sending boiling water hundreds of feet into the air!
Note that the actual place is called “Geysir.” There is a café with snacks and coffee inside the building next to the park.
Iceland Gay Travel: Hikes
If you are a gay traveler who loves a good hike, drive over to Þingvellir National park. Here you can walk between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.
There are various trails along which you will find waterfalls, rock formations and stellar views. We bundles up, go our hike on, and of course took some great selfies!
Plan one day to drive to the southern region. Driving along Highway 1 will make you feel like being on another planet. Þorláksvöllur is a must-see, an area with out-of-this-world landscapes and black sand (basalt) beaches. When I visited, there were even ice blocks along the shore!
How to Get to South Iceland
To get there from Reykjavík take Highway 1 to Highway 39 to Highway 38. Off of Highway 38, head east on Highway 34 and along this road there will be places to park so you can walk down to the beach. Again, that’s roads 1-39-38-34. Be sure to pack some food and water, as there are not many places to buy food out here.
Reykjavík Gay Bars
Reykjavík has a few establishments that are primarily gay, however you will notice that crowds can become mixed.
We started our night at Kiki Queer bar, a welcoming Reykjavík gay bar with a rainbow-painted façade. Pop music and Eurovision favorites played all evening amongst happily dancing locals.
As the night grew later, we headed to Paloma nightclub. Popular with locals, Paloma is a smaller-venue gay nightclub in Reykjavík with a vaulted wooden ceiling upstairs. The DJ played techno music until the early morning.
The people at Paloma were so friendly and I even made a friend who is a local yoga instructor! He introduced me and my friends to his circle of friends and we chatted for hours out on the covered terrace.
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Iceland Gay Travel Tips
Come prepared with a sizeable amount of spending money because Iceland is very expensive!
The Euro and Dollar do not go that far in this island nation, understandably given their remote location. Alcohol is quite expensive as well, so if you like to mix yourself some cocktails now and then, buy some at Duty Free in the airport.
Iceland proudly does not have many chain establishments. You will not find McDonald’s or Starbucks here. Reykjavík will put your local coffee shop and restaurant search skills to the test! Or of course, you can follow the recommendations in this wolfyy guide!
Depending on the time of year that you visit, check the number of hours you will have daylight. I visited in winter, so the sun was only up for five hours or so each day.
If visiting in the winter season, bundle up! It can be very cold and windy, so be sure to have insulated boots and gloved. Weather is also beautifully unpredictable. I found it so cool to have a 20-minute blizzard followed by cloudless sunshine!
Getting around Iceland: Renting A Vehicle is Best
Iceland LGBT Rights
One of the coolest things about gay-friendly Iceland is that the country has the first openly LGBT head of government (In Iceland that would be Prime Minister)! Her name is Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir.
The majority of people in Iceland support the LGBT community. Iceland boasts a wealth of LGBT protections. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal for ages, since 1940. In 1996, same-sex partner registrations became available.
The government unanimously approved same-sex marriage back in 2010. If only more countries could be so sure of something so necessary!
More recently in 2014, Iceland revised anti-discrimination laws to include gender identity. In 2018, further protections included anti-discrimination protection based on gender expression and sex characteristics.
The next step for Iceland, as of 2019, is to repeal the ban on MSM’s donating blood. Looking forward to another win for Iceland!
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