Hidden Iceland get a lot of queries from cruise ship passengers who are docking in Reykjavik and looking to make the most of their short time while on land. We’ve found that it can be quite tricky to plan these short tours. Whether it’s pre-cruise, post-cruise or if you just have a day or two to spare while docked in Reykjavik this post will offer some great hints and tips.

You definitely don’t want to miss your cruise ship departure! But you also don’t want to join a big bus tour either. Cruise ship friendly tour options are hard to make sense of as your needs are often very specific. If you are one of these people, well then this blog post was made just for you!

Why are Cruise ship passengers different from others?

Cruise ship passengers have lots of different needs but we find that the following three criteria are a common theme, so we’ve kept these in mind when developing some hints and tips:

  1. You need to make sure you’re back on the cruise ship on time. No matter what!

  2. You don’t want to be shepherded around on a big bus tour.

  3. You would like to be picked up and dropped off directly at the ship harbour.

Secret Lagoon | Golden Circle: Platinum Tour | Hidden Iceland | Photo by Kat Craats
Secret Lagoon | Golden Circle: Platinum Tour | Hidden Iceland | Photo by Kat Craats

When should I start planning? Is it too late if I’m already on the Cruise ship?

No, it’s never too late! We get queries from cruise ship passengers in all different forms. It could be a year in advance, or the day before. That could be a solo traveller, or a group of 20. Our previous cruise ship passengers would often find out about us on Cruise Critic or TripAdvisor and are keen to join us, but often don’t know where to start. This blog post will hopefully give you a good understanding of what you can do in such a short space of time.

The earlier the better though.

However, we generally work best with lots of time in advance to come up with something truly special. This is especially important if you want a private tour planned. But last minute requests are our bread and butter so read on if you fall into that category too.

Topics of interest in the article:

If you are keen to skip to the section that best applies to you then scroll down to the appropriate heading. Make sure to read all the way to the bottom for an insider tip about tour sharing.

  1. Last minute requests for day tours

  2. Less than a day in Iceland

  3. A couple of days off the cruise ship (before, during or after)

  4. Tour sharing – INSIDER TIP

1. Last minute requests for day tours

While we can definitely cater for single day travellers, we also love to have you for as long as possible. This next section is designed for cruise ship passengers who have at least 1 full day (and night) in Reykjavik. Of course the more days the better.

If you arrive before 7am on the day our trips are scheduled to leave, it’s still possible to join.

Furthermore, if you only discovered this blog post last minute, don’t fret. You can join one of our scheduled day tours that leave from Reykjavik. Simply click on the links below and book on our website to see what last minute availability we have. We can even pick you up and drop you off at the harbour. Just make sure to choose the right pick up spot when booking.

Keeping costs down.

Most noteworthy, joining our small group tours is a great way to keep your costs down. Many solo travellers prefer this option as it gives them a chance to meet new people. Don’t worry about the ‘big bus effect’ on these tours as our maximum group size is 12 people. Our chatty and passionate guides will treat you more like friends than customers. So make sure to ask lots of questions. We love it!

Types of scheduled tours

There are two types of tours that leave on many days of the week with Hidden Iceland:

Easygoing – returns to Reykjavik before 6:30pm
1. Golden Circle: Platinum Tour
2. Reykjanes & Lava Tunnel Tour
3. South Coast: Fire and Ice | includes a walk to the front of a glacier & entry to the Icelandic Lava Show

Slightly more adventurous – returns to Reykjavik before 8:00pm (latest 8:30pm, generally):
1. Volcanic Westman Islands | includes a short hike to the top of a volcano
2. Snaefellsnes Peninsula | more scenic but includes some short walks

***Only our Golden Circle: Platinum and South Coast: Fire and Ice tour run most days. All other day tours come with a 4 person minimum and run slightly less frequently. Check the dates and minimum numbers before booking. Get in touch if you have any questions.

2. Less than a day in Iceland 

However, we do get a lot of cruise ship passengers who sometimes only have 7 or 8 hours in total. Maybe you’re arriving at 8:00 AM and need to be back on the ship by 4:00 or 5:00 PM? These are the hardest tours for guests to really stretch their legs. Many passengers end up opting for an expensive taxi into Reykjavik to wander the streets aimlessly. Or worse, they end up joining a big bus tour that was planned by the cruise ship (no fun in our opinion).

The best tours for micro trips to Iceland

We have 3 suggestions if this is your time constraints:

1. Private version of the Golden Circle: Platinum
This tour can fit nicely into this time scale if we rejig it a little. We’ll always set the return time at least 1-1.5 hours prior to departure time just in case. Whatever you decide to do make sure to try the scrumptious tomato soup when dining at Friðheimar Tomato Farm. And don’t forget to pet the Icelandic horses before you leave too.

2. Private version of the Reykjanes Peninsula & LAVA Tunnel
The Lava tunnel tour only takes an hour and the other sites along this less travelled part of the country are never more than 2 hours from the harbour. An ideal trip if you want to stay close to the port. You can even combine it with a trip to the Blue Lagoon if you have the time.

3. Icelandic Taxi Tours and/or Reykjavik Food Walk
Use Icelandic Taxi Tours to get you into downtown Reykjavik. Opt to include their mini tour of the city in the back of the cab to learn a little more. Once you arrive in the city if you are keen to try Iceland’s weird and wonderful culinary delights then join our friends at Reykjavik Food Walk to try out 5 different local delicacies as you walk the streets of Reykjavik. This tour last around 3 hours so you’ll get back to the port with lots of spare time.

3. A couple of days off the cruise ship (pre- or post-cruise)

Planning to spend a few days in Iceland before or after your cruise? Fantastic! Getting to spend time outside of Reykjavik is a must. And staying overnight in a secluded place away from the more popular tourist spots is a great addition.

You have two options here. You can join onto one of our multi-day scheduled tours. Or create a private multi-day tour package. We’ll take care of everything from the hotel bookings, to the comfortable vehicle and expert guide.

The multi-day options

1. Join our scheduled small group two day Glacier Lagoon tour.
This trip runs twice a week from April to November. Perfect timing for Cruise ship seasons. But be aware that this trip includes an extended glacier hike for around 3-4 hours on day 2. It’s an incredible experience. To read more about what this entails you can read our Glacier Hike Guide. If you don’t want to join the hike you can choose a more tranquil morning while the rest of the group are on the ice if you like.

2. Plan a private tour with an overnight stay.
Have a looking through our private tour options. We’ve come up with quite a few suggested itineraries but we’re happy to plan something with you from scratch if you want. Something tells me you’ll be excited to spend a relaxing few days up in Snaefellsnes while re-reading Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. If you come at the end of the summer you might even spot the northern lights.


4. Tour Sharing : Plan your very own private tour. Then promote it to other passengers to bring the price down!

Finally, you have created the perfect trip with Hidden Iceland that fits into your Cruise Ship timetable! But you have friends on the cruise you think might also be interested? Rather than having them pay for a separate but similar private tour, why not ask them to join along?

Most importantly, it will reduce the per person cost quite a bit. Having you and your 4 friends join forces with another group of 4 can drastically reduce the cost since you’ll be sharing the same vehicle and guide for the day.

Perhaps it goes without saying but this type of tour needs to be planned further in advance to help us prepare. This tip was actually a brain child of a recent customer. And we were happy to oblige.

How to arrange this with Hidden Iceland

The plan goes a little something like this:

  1. Create a magical Private tour with Hidden Iceland for your group.

  2. Ask Hidden Iceland for the change in ‘per person cost’ if you find extra people to join.

  3. Promote the tour to your friends on the cruise ship and save money. The more people you get to join the tour, the cheaper the private tour becomes for you.

***Our tours, guides and vehicles are always designed with a maximum of 12 people per tour. If you wish for more than that it may affect the dynamic of the trip a little.

Phew, I hope that doesn’t look too complicated when written down. It’s really simple in reality!

Plan a private trip with us. And if your friends get envious and want to join too then let us know and we’ll amend the price accordingly. Easy peasy!

Get in touch and ask us

Hopefully all the tips above were helpful. If you know your docking dates on the cruise ship please do get in touch and we’ll make sure we help you get as much from your time on land as you can.

And don’t worry, we’ll get you back to the ship on time!

Click here for the contact form or just drop us an email at

Ryan Connolly | Marketing Manager, Guide, Co - Owner | Hidden Iceland
Ryan Connolly |

Hi, I am Ryan Connolly; Co-Founder and Marketing Manager of Hidden Iceland.

I’ve guided in multiple countries around the world and stepped foot on all 7 continents. My passion for the outdoors, science, nature, glaciers and volcanoes has led me to study and write about many aspects of my adopted home, Iceland. I have been interviewed by ForbesConde Nast Traveller and Travel Pulse on various subjects such as over tourism, climate change and sustainable tourism.

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