Pack your short trip to Iceland with adventures away from the crowds while still experiencing the most popular sights. This itinerary is perfect for travelers who have lots of energy and want to make the most of a short visit to Iceland.

Set up a “home base” outside of Reykjavik and you can experience Iceland’s quiet nature with a head start each day avoiding larger crowds and tour groups. Since each of the daily itineraries starts from the same area, you can rearrange them based on weather conditions or how you feel each day.

Day 1: Arrival, Reykjanes Peninsula

Blue lake inside Kerid crater

Arrive at Keflavik Airport, about 1 hour southwest of Reykjavik. Most visitors head straight to Reykjavik or the Blue Lagoon, but you will skip the crowds and explore more of the Reykjanes peninsula on your way towards the Golden Circle area to set up your home base.

Hike around the crater rim at Kerid Crater and walk down to the blue lake at the bottom of the crater.

End your day in the warm natural pools of the Secret Lagoon, with only a fraction of the people at the Blue Lagoon. Watch as hot mineral water flows in from the rocks and a mini geyser erupts every couple minutes.

Spend the evening around Selfoss / Skaholt area to get an early start on the rest of the crowds.

The following couple of days can be rearranged in any order you like:

Day 2: Þórsmörk Volcanic Glaciers, Hiking, and offroading

River through a narrow canyon in Þórsmörk

See the breathtaking scenery Iceland is famous for. Hike around the dramatic landscape of Þórsmörk, surrounded by volcanic glaciers of Mýrdalsjökull, Tindfjallajökull, and Eyjafjallajökull which erupted in 2010 and halted European air traffic.

This area is only accessible by 4WD as there are unbridged river crossings and unpaved roads. The best way to experience the area is to join a modified super jeep tour--these jeeps can reach places no other vehicles can and you will get the see the best that this area has to offer.

Day 3: South coast waterfalls, black beaches, and glacier walking

Roaring water over the edge at Skogafoss

Spend the day in the south where you can walk behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall, up to the Reynisdrangar basalt columns at Reynisfjara Beach, see Dyrholaey Arch, and climb to the top of Skogafoss Waterfall at the start of the Fimmvörðuháls Hike. Ice hike over a glacier for a genuinely “cool” experience.

Optional Extension

With more time, add 1-2 days to explore further including an overnight at Vik with more black sand beaches and cliffs, the turf church at Hof, hiking and glacier walking at Skaftafell, a hike to Svartifoss waterfall between towering basalt cliffs, and an unforgettable boat tour of the icebergs at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.

Day 4: Explore the Golden Circle in Unique Ways

White water thunders over Gullfoss falls along the Golden Circle

You have a head start on the rest of the tour groups since you’re already close to Gullfoss and Geysir. Enjoy this magnificent waterfall and the hot pools and Geysir in the morning when you have it to yourself.

Walk around Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park and learn about the traditions of the old Icelandic Parliament that met each summer at Law Rock. Hike between the giant rock fissure or around some of the hiking trails in the area.

If you like, join another activity in the area:

Horseback riding: Join a riding tour of the farmlands to Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir geothermal area. This unique adventure will take you away from the roads with the cars and tourists to experience the area in a simpler way.

Snorkeling: Jump in the freezing water at Silfra fissure between two continents, where the North American and European tectonic plates meet (don’t worry, you’ll wear a drysuit and stay warm). The glacial water here is unbelievably clear and you can see the cool formations in all their underwater glory.

Snowmobile (winter): In winter months you can join a snowmobile tour leaving from Gullfoss to ride up on the neighboring glaciers. Feel the crisp air on your face and adrenaline in your body.

Spend the evening in Reykjavik to enjoy the restaurant scene and nightlife.

Day 5: Hot Springs Hike, Helicopter Tour, or a day in Reykjavik

Ride a helicopter over the highlands to remote places like Landmannalaugar

On your final day choose from a few different activities:

Hot Springs Hike and Geothermal Lunch: Drive to Hveragerði, a town in the middle of a geothermal area. Take a 7km / 4mi hike Reykjadalur (“Steam valley”) where you can bathe in the relaxing warm waters in the middle of nature. Enjoy a delicious lunch, cooked with the help of geothermal steam.

Helicopter Tour of Highlands or Snaefellsnes: see the colorful highlands and Þórsmörk with a tour from the sky. Land on Eyjafjallajökull volcano, which famously erupted in 2010. If you want to try something different, consider a trip north of Reykjavik to the Snæfellsnes peninsula with beautiful coastlines, lava fields, and the volcano that was the entrance in “Journey to the center of the Earth”.

Exploring Reykjavik: If you prefer a less active day, explore the cute streets of Reykjavik. Shop or people watch along Lauvagegur, Reykjavik’s main drag. Stop by the beautifully designed Harpa culture center, the notable Hallgrimskirkja church, or learn more about Iceland at the National Museum or The Settlement Exhibition. Spend your town time in one of the many cozy coffee shops and don’t miss the hot dogs at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, some of the best you’ll ever have.

Day 6: Morning in Reykjavik, optional Blue Lagoon, Fly home

Walk the colorful streets of downtown Reykjavik before heading home

Spend your final morning taking it easy in Reykjavik over a nice breakfast. Walk around the town and finishing up any shopping before catching your transfer to the airport.

If you want one last geothermal treatment, stop a couple hours at the Blue Lagoon on your way out.