Planning Your Trip to Ireland
For a vacation in Ireland that covers a few or more of the island’s 32 counties (26 in the Republic of Ireland; 6 in Northern Ireland), plan on a 10-day trip. This provides enough time to visit two different cities and a number of natural attractions by car for those who prefer road trips. And thanks to the island’s compact nature—roughly the size of the US state of Indiana—as well as lack of immigration control points, driving between the two countries is ideal for getting around, especially given the peaceful Irish roads or boreens, quaint villages, and breathtaking scenery (remember, they drive on the left).
With 10 days, you could spend a few days getting to know Dublin before heading north to Belfast (less than two hours by car) where you’ll experience Northern Ireland’s attractions, like the ancient coastal rock formation Giant’s Causeway, before circling back around through County Donegal. Make your way south and take your pick between scenic stops on the Wild Atlantic Way, a 1,500-mile-long coastal route. When you get to County Clare, visit the Cliffs of Moher overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and spend a few days exploring the Burren region's glacial-era limestone rocks and cliffs.
For a holiday that spans less than a week, focus on one major city, like Dublin, and then head west to visit any number of pretty counties, including County Cork where you can take a walking tour and sample seafood in Kinsale, with one of the best dining scenes in Ireland. Or, focus on County Kerry for an outdoorsy spin around the famous Ring of Kerry road with short hiking routes against some of the island's highest peaks, followed by pub stops.
You don't need a car to have a fantastic Irish adventure and can take advantage of other modes of transportation with planes, trains, buses, and guided tours to choose from. Some travelers may decide against renting a car if they plan on a simple week-long itinerary between cities that adds a few day trips to nearby excursions. Or maybe you plan on taking a two-week long-distance hiking trip in the Dingle Peninsula or a two-week cycling trip across Northern Ireland—no car needed.
Ireland in 5 to 6 Days
You can have a fantastic Irish experience in less than a week, from a quick trip that covers more ground to a focused walking stint using a single town as a base to a few spots in Northern Ireland.
You'll arrive in Dublin, where you can get your feet wet, perhaps with a visit to the Guinness Storehouse. The following day, pick up a rental car and head west with this classic 5-day road trip that makes an impressive loop in a short amount of time. You'll first drive to the famous Blarney Stone in County Cork for a good-luck kiss. Continue to County Kerry to hike through Killarney National Park followed by tea at a 19th-century mansion. On your fourth day, visit the Cliffs of Moher overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, followed by a night in Galway, known for its thriving live music scene.
For a slower-paced trip, you can opt for this self-guided 6-day walk of the Dingle Peninsula. Beginning and ending in Tralee, you'll hike a trail starting from that meanders an ancient landscape, inhabited for 6,000 years, full of history and archaeological monuments with frequent views of the Atlantic Ocean—the Cliffs of Moher! Your base will be the charming town of Dingle, with seafood restaurants and friendly pubs offering Irish music sessions.
It's also possible to focus on Northern Ireland with this lesser-visited 5-day itinerary. Arriving in Belfast, spend some time exploring the capital, like Titanic Belfast (Belfast, after all, is where the infamous ship was designed, built, and launched!) before driving to the Glens of Antrim for a horseback riding lesson. Then, ride the ferry to Rathlin Island and learn about nearby shipwrecks. On the last full day of the trip, you'll visit more coastal highlights like Dunluce Castle and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and finish with a whiskey tasting at Bushmills Distillery.
Check out more 5-day and 6-day itineraries.
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Ireland in 7 to 9 Days
An entire week in Ireland is a common length of time for visitors and is highly recommended so that you can see a few different areas of the island.
This classic 7-day Ireland adventure is an excellent choice for first-time visitors. It starts in Dublin, where you can spend an afternoon kayaking on the River Liffey, making fun stops along the way. From here, travel west by heading through Ireland's prettiest village, Adare, lined with traditional straw-roofed cottages. Then, take your time and travel along the famous Ring of Kerry road and make as many stops as you'd like to enjoy day hikes and beaches. From here, you'll head north toward County Mayo and spend a night in luxury at Ashford Castle, an 800-year-old restored castle set on 350 acres of land.
Cyclists can consider a week-long self-guided itinerary across County Kerry where you'll pedal in the foothills of Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrantuohill, and make stops at the Molls Gap and Three Lakes of Killarney. Starting and ending in Killarney National Park, the journey traces the coastline of the Iveragh Peninsula, taking you through picturesque villages and natural wonders along inland and coastal backroads. It won't be entirely about nature, though, and you'll be able to stop for traditional meals and pints along the way.
This fast-paced 8-day road trip starts in Dublin and heads north to Belfast, where you can visit the Titanic Belfast, Peace Wall, and Cave Hill Country Park for stunning views of the city. Next is a trip to the UNESCO-listed Giant's Causeway, an iconic rock formation consisting of roughly 40,000 basalt columns from a volcanic eruption nearly 60 million years ago. The journey continues to County Donegal and the stunning Inishowen Peninsula—a particularly beautiful section of the 1,500-mile-long (2,414-km) Wild Atlantic Way—as you make your way to Galway, passing through national parks and a walled garden.
Check out more 7-day, 8-day, and 9-day itineraries.
Ireland in 11 to 12 Days
Have a little more than a week? There are several good options in this time frame for different types of travelers.
You don't need a rental car for this 11-day self-guided hiking itinerary, which starts in Killarney and gets you around the Ring of Kerry at your own pace. You'll follow the trail between some of Ireland's most charming towns, crossing a variety of terrains at sites like Kenmare Bay and the Beara Peninsula. You'll even take a boat trip to the uninhabited Skellig Islands, which you may recognize as Luke Skywalker's dwelling in the "Star Wars" films. The itinerary also includes a night in the village of Waterville, where Charlie Chaplin used to fish (look for his statue near the beach).
This 12-day Wild Atlantic adventure skips the tourist haunts and covers some of Ireland's quietest and least-visited sites in the west and northwest, including the town of Sligo, with several excursions for hiking, boating, kayaking, and learning history. You'll also visit Ballycroy National Park and then take one of Ireland's best coastal hikes, between 3-6 miles (5-10 km). Evenings will include authentic live music sessions and a trip to an internationally-accredited Dark Sky Reserve for some stargazing.
Check out more 10-day and 11-to-12-day itineraries.
Ireland in 2 Weeks
Having this much time to spend in Ireland is ideal if you prefer a slow and relaxing journey with the freedom to experience attractions, activities, and villages across several unique counties at your own pace. Here are some itinerary ideas to help you make the most of your two weeks or more.
This self-drive 2-week adventure will do the trick if you want to take a slower-paced loop around the island. Starting in Dublin, you'll head south to explore highlights like the Rock of Cashel, an impressive group of medieval buildings on limestone that were once home to the High Kings of Ireland. While in County Cork, you'll visit the seaside town of Cobh—famous as the Titanic's last port of call in 1912. Then continue to the Ring of Kerry, Cliffs of Moher, and windswept Aran Islands. The route continues to Northern Ireland, where you'll visit a range of sights in Belfast and along the stunning coast.
Avid bikers will love this unique cycling itinerary that explores Northern Ireland's highlights on two wheels. Routes range from 15 to 32 miles (24-51 km) a day along country roads that benefit from frequent sea breezes. The journey begins in lively Donegal, where you can explore the town's music-filled pubs and castle ruins before making your way down the Atlantic coast and then back to Northern Ireland. You'll stop for picturesque attractions like Assarancagh Waterfall, Doon Lough Fort, and Glenveagh National Park, along with welcoming towns like Letterkenny to break up the journey.
For something unusual, there's this hiking adventure through Dingle Way and Slea Head where you can explore truly breathtaking scenery by day while relaxing in local pubs by night. The trip starts from Tralee, a transportation hub of County Kerry with easy bus and train connections. You'll then set off on an epic journey passing through grassy bogs, thick forests, rocky coastlines, and empty beaches as you enjoy views of mountain ranges and vivid blue lakes. You'll also take a speedboat to Great Blasket Island where you can look for whales, dolphins, porpoises, and sea birds. If lucky, you may even see a puffin or two.
Check out this link for more 2-week itineraries.
More Great Ireland and Northern Ireland Itineraries
Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland? Check out these other Ireland and Northern Ireland itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights.