Rich in wildlife and even richer in geological diversity, Iceland is the perfect spot to spend two weeks. You'll climb glaciers, view waterfalls from all angles, swim in natural geothermal pools, tour underground caves, and hike to your heart's content.
One of the best and most efficient ways to see the country is to rent a car, and these itineraries assume you'll be driving. Road tripping is generally a great option for travelers, though you should always consider weather and road conditions. If you'd rather not get behind the wheel, there are also tours that provide transportation to and from Reykjavik.
Both options below pack in a lot for a two-week trip—you'll want to choose the sights and activities that appeal to you most and include rest time if you anticipate you'll need it. It's also worth noting that the itineraries assume you're visiting in warmer months. If you do plan to go during winter, there's still plenty to do and see (not to mention the chance to view the Northern Lights, worth the trip in itself). For suggestions on winter travel in Iceland, this article is worth a read. Otherwise, let's begin.
Itinerary #1: The Highlights Tour
Week One: Reykjavik to the Eastfjords
Your starting point is likely going to be Reykjavik, Iceland's capital. Once you're rested, ready to go, and have experienced the capital city, head toward the Snaefellsnes peninsula. Two hours into your drive north, you'll reach Deildartunguhver, Europe’s most powerful hot spring. The hot water emerges at more than 200°F—it's enough to provide central heating for two small towns in the area.
Dedicate the next couple of days to exploring the peninsula, which locals call “a mini version of Iceland” thanks to its landscape diversity. Some first-day highlights include Barnafoss and Hraunfossar waterfalls, Ytri-Tunga beach (a favorite spot of seals in the spring and summer), the rock formations at Hellnar, Sönghellir (the "Song Cave") named for its echoes, and the fishing village of Arnarstapi. All of these are located within a thirty-minute drive of each other.
Head to the north side of the peninsula on Day 2, where you'll find Kirkjufell mountain, one of the most photographed spots in the country. Take an afternoon hike in Snæfellsjökull National Park, and make a pit stop in Grundarfjordur or Stykkisholmur, colorful small towns where you can grab a bite or spend the night.
On Day 3, drive further north to the Vatnsnes peninsula, about three hours from Stykkisholmur, to check out a curious seal colony. On your way there, stop by Eiriksstadir, a Viking museum housed in a traditional turf house. You can spend the afternoon here learning about the culture and history of Iceland's first inhabitants.
Afterward, head to the Húnathing Vestra region along the Húnaflói gulf to spend the night, in preparation for seal-watching on Day 4. Start your morning adventure from the Icelandic Seal Center which, aside from its permanent exhibition dedicated to seals, offers a variety of tours around the area and awesome seal-watching boat trips.
Spend two days exploring around Akureyri, the north’s biggest town. Definitely scope out Hrisey Island in Eyjafjordur—a must-see for bird-lovers—only a short ferry ride from Arskogssandur, a pleasant village north of Akureyri. If time allows, consider Öxnadalur as well, a valley situated in the same fjord with great options for short hikes.
The crown jewel of the North is the Lake Myvatn area. Besides the lake itself (one of Iceland's biggest), hot springs, craters, and lava formations are some of the highlights here. Try horseback riding and hiking around Krafla, one of Iceland's most active volcanic sites, on Day 6. (For a detailed 5-day itinerary of the Myvatn and Akureyri region, check out this article.)
Next up? Two of the most remote and least-visited areas of Iceland: the North East and the Eastfjords, a true hiker’s paradise. The Raudanes peninsula has a super-scenic coastline, and it's home to tons of seabirds and puffins. For a complete guide to Iceland’s Northeast region, take a peek at this article.
You'll soon hit the Eastfjords, where there's very little foot traffic even in summer. Explore Bakkagerdi—the “elf and puffin capital of Iceland”—in the morning, hike the beautiful Dyrfjoll mountain range in the afternoon, and stay overnight at Egilsstadir, the largest town in East Iceland. This article provides even more information and highlights of the area.
Finally, make your way to the famous Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon and Diamond Beach in the southeast — Jokulsarlon is part of Vatnajokull National Park, the biggest national park in the country. Take a boat tour of the lagoon to see the icebergs up close, and then head to Skaftafell. It's a scenic area (with a lot of hiking trails) that makes for a nice escape from the crowded Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon area.
Week 2: South Coast and the Golden Circle
You'll often hear people describe Iceland as "otherworldly;" if you haven’t gotten enough proof of that yet, head to Skeidararsandur, an expansive sand plain (the largest one in the world) where the sandy soil will make you feel like you’ve stepped on another planet.
Drive 20 minutes west to reach another geological beauty: Lomagnupur mountain. If you're into photography, Lake Thorutjorn and the nearby Foss a Sidu waterfall are only 15 miles away, and they're both total eye-catchers. Kirkjubaejarklaustur, a village of about 150 inhabitants is a good area pit stop, and the area around it also has a few must-see spots — namely the Laki craters, the Eldgjá volcano and canyon, and Kirkjugólf, or the "church floor," an 860 square-foot plain of hexagonal basalt stone slabs that look like tiles, similar to the Giant's Causeway in Ireland. After such an eventful Day 10, you'll want to get some sleep. For unique accommodation ideas in Iceland, let this article inspire you.
Next up, you'll spend famous South Coast and its many waterfalls, Dyrhólaey peninsula, and the Black Sand Beach of Vik. (Vik, by the way, is the perfect spot to spend the night—check out this article for a full guide to the area.) A few notable mentions here that you may not find in the guidebooks are the Fjadrárgljúfur canyon (great for a hike), the green-moss-covered Eldhraun lava field, and Mýrdalssandur, a desert plain made from black volcanic sand.
Finish your epic journey on Day 13 with the Golden Circle: Gullfoss waterfall, the Geysir hot springs area, and Thingvellir National Park are some of the most visited sights in the country for a reason. Along the way, stop and take a dip at Fludir, known as the Secret Lagoon. If you’re traveling with kids, spend a couple of hours at Slakki, a farm and petting zoo home to rabbits, foxes, puppies, and goats (here's more on family travel in Iceland).
If you have an additional day to spare, take in the impressive cultural and dining scene of Reykjavik. Here are a few suggestions on what to do and see there.
Itinerary #2: Beyond the Basics
Week 1: Snaefellsness Peninsula, Westfjords, and Akureyri
If this isn't your first time in Iceland and you’ve already seen the popular sights, consider an active two-week vacation filled with experiences like glacier-climbing, whale watching, horseback riding, and lots of hiking and camping. You'll get to see just as many beautiful sights while being a bit more off the beaten path.
Start off your trip on Snaefellsnes peninsula, a two-hour drive northwest of Reykjavik, and head to Snaefellsjokull National Park. There are amazing 360° views of the park at Saxholl crater, which last erupted 3,000 years ago, and it’s only a short 15-minute climb to the top. The park is also home to Snaefellsjokull glacier — hiking it makes for another great afternoon trip, though hiring an experienced guide to accompany you is obligatory. The staff at the Visitor Center can give you more information about marked trails and paths and things to do, too.
If you spend all day at the park, the nearby small village of Arnarstapi is a good option to stay overnight. Then, after breakfast on the next day, you can drive to Vatnshellir Cave. It's an 8,000-year-old lava tube 656 feet long that goes 114 feet underground, and it's only about seven miles west of Arnarstapi.
Next up? The Westfjords — it's one of the most remote and scenic regions in Iceland, likely because there are no roads to disrupt its natural way of life. The best way to explore this area is by hiking, camping, kayaking, and taking the occasional boat from fjord to fjord (which is sometimes much faster than driving).
There is so much to see and do here that you could spend up to a week enjoying the stunning nature of this region; however, you've got an itinerary to stick to! On day three of your trip, drive to Arnarfjordur and hike the Tjaldanes Valley — it's a six-hour trek, so make sure you come prepared with lunch and water. If you have some strength left in you, spend a couple of hours before dinner kayaking in the clear, fish-filled waters of the fjords. And for more day hikes in the Westfjords, check out this article.
Save exploring the magnificent Kubbi trail for the morning of day four. After this three-hour hike, take a break for lunch, and then climb to the top of the Sauratindar peak in Isafjordur. If you need something a bit calmer, head straight to the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. It's known as the "land of the Arctic fox," and here, these animals are protected. Expect to see puffins, snowy owls, sea eagles, and whales and seals, too, especially in the summer. You'll reach this area by boat from Isafjordur, and if you love camping, bring your gear — sleeping under the stars here can't be beat. To preserve the fragile ecosystem, though, avoid setting up your tent outside of the designated camping sites.
After driving from Isafjordut to Akureyri (about six hours), you likely won't have much time left, so take the rest of the day to enjoy Iceland's second-largest city. The next day, head to the Glerárdalur valley, southwest of Akureyri — it’s surrounded by the region's highest peaks as well as a few glaciers. You'll probably spend the entire day here, so look into spending the night in an on-site cabin. The Touring Club of Akureyri owns one called "Lambi"; contact the club prior to your visit for booking information and details on trails in the area.
Week 2: Eastfjords to Thorsmark
A solid week into your trip, it's time to take a whale-watching tour, either from Hauganes, Dalvík, or Husavik — the latter is known as the whale watching capital of Iceland. If you take it in the morning, by afternoon you could be horseback riding on an Icelandic horse or taking to the skies on a helicopter tour of the North (read: no need to rub elbows with fellow tourists). Or for a super-cheap-but-still-incredible option, just picnic next to Dettifoss waterfall.
On Day 9, continue your journey to the Eastfjords, the least-visited region in the country, and visit the small, artsy town of Seydisfjordur. Walk to the troll church, just outside of town, or head to the north side of the fjord for a more challenging hike and magnificent views. For more hiking suggestions, take a peek at this article.
Let's keep rolling. Skaftafell, one of the most hiker-friendly and picturesque areas in Iceland, is in Vatnajökull National Park near Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon and Diamond Beach. After the drive, hang out at the lagoon, snap photos, and take it easy. Day 11 brings an (optional) challenge for strong hikers: climbing the highest peak in Iceland, Hvannadalshnjúkur. It'll take you the entire day (at least 12 hours) provided you start at Skaftafell Visitor Center.
You'll either take a day to recover or head to Landmannalaugar in the Highlands. You could probably spend a few days just roaming lava valleys, climbing peaks, and enjoying the colorful rhyolite landscape of this region. By this time, you'll either be on Day 12 or 13 of your trip, so decide if you'd like to stay here overnight or just go for a long day tour. To tempt you into spending some extra time, here's some info on the area's fabulous Volcanic Trails.
Spend your last day in Iceland touring Thorsmork — the Valley of Thor — in a Super Jeep. Explore the area around Eyjafjallajökull volcano, hike Reykjadalur valley and dip into its hot springs, and take one last ice walk on Sólheimajökull Glacier before you head back to Reykjavik.