You can experience some of the best of Iceland in a mere five days. This brief itinerary maximizes sightseeing by putting you on a road trip around the waterfalls, national parks, and geothermal areas along the famous Golden Circle route. Along the way, you'll see the northern lights, fly over glaciers, and take a well-deserved soak in the legendary Blue Lagoon.


  • Travel the Golden Circle and visit waterfalls and geysers
  • Stroll volcanic beaches and soak in natural hot springs
  • Soar over the Skaftafell Glacier on an airplane tour

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Keflavík, Drive the Golden Circle & See the Northern Lights Golden Circle
Day 2 South Coast Waterfalls & Seljavallalaug Pool South Coast
Day 3 Glaciers, Diamond Beach & Skaftafell Airplane Tour Kirkjubæjarklaustur
Day 4 South Coast Return Drive & Blue Lagoon Reykjanes Peninsula
Day 5 Drive to Keflavík via the Reykjanes Peninsula & Depart   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Keflavík, Drive the Golden Circle & See the Northern Lights

Gullfoss, on the Golden Circle

Welcome to Iceland! This volcanic island just south of the Arctic Circle is a hotbed of geological wonders whose settlement dates back over 1,000 years to the Viking Age. After arriving at Keflavík International Airport, you'll pick up your rental car and embark on the famous Golden Circle. This 190-mile (300 km) route begins near Reykjavík and features some of southern Iceland's most popular natural attractions.

The first stop is at Þingvellir National Park and historic Law Rock. It was at this site during the Middle Ages that chieftains met annually to air grievances and recite new laws, thus becoming the first parliamentary system in the world. Also in the park is the Silfra fissure, a rift located in a crystalline lake on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It's the only place in the world where you can dive between two continents.

Next is the Geysir geothermal area, located about 65 miles (106 km) east of Reykjavík. With bubbling mud pits, steam vents, and erupting geysers, the area is one of the most impressive geothermal zones in the country. Then it's on to Gullfoss, perhaps Iceland's most famous waterfall. End the day's drive with a visit to the Secret Lagoon. Created in 1891 in the geothermal area of Hverahólmi, this is the oldest man-made swimming pool in Iceland. The water here is between 86-104°F (38-40°C) year-round and is fed by a nearby geyser.

After the Secret Lagoon, you'll check in to your hotel. However, the activities don't stop there. When the sun goes down in Iceland, the sky often lights up with the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights. If conditions are ideal, you'll embark on a five-hour photography tour in which you'll travel to a remote area free of light pollution. Here, under the clear sky, you'll marvel at this spectacle caused by solar storms interacting with the earth's magnetic field to create wavy curtains of light.

Day 2: South Coast Waterfalls & Seljavallalaug Pool

Snowfall over Skogáfoss
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Get ready for a scenic drive on Route 1 (Ring Road) down the southern coast of Iceland. One of the first highlights you'll pass is Urriðafoss, a waterfall on Iceland's longest river of Þjórsá. The falls here aren't large, but they do cascade at high speeds over rugged lava rocks. You can also stretch your legs at Kvernufoss, a small canyon near Seljalandsfoss, a romantic waterfall that plunges 200 feet (60 m) into a lagoon.

Next up is Skógarfoss. Located barely a mile outside the town of Skógar, this thundering waterfall cascades 200 feet (60 m) over a cliff into the Skógá River. Then, near the southernmost tip of Iceland, you'll pass the town of Vík, known for its scenic coastal cliffs and volcanic beaches. Nearby is Dyrhólaey, a 393-foot (120 m) rock promontory whose name derives from its massive natural arch (Dyrhólaey translates to "door-hole"). After enjoying the views, you can stroll the black sands of Reynisfjara Beach, whose jagged rock formations lend it an otherworldly quality.

Capping the day is a visit to Seljavallalaug Pool, located just west of Skógar. This 82-foot (25 m) public pool was built in 1923, making it one of the oldest in the country. Situated next to a river and nestled between sloping hills, it's a great place to take a dip, relax, and enjoy the geothermal waters, which remain at 68-86°F (20-35°C). Afterward, you'll drive to your hotel.

Day 3: Glaciers, Diamond Beach & Skaftafell Airplane Tour

Glacial ice on Diamond Beach

In the morning, leave Vík and drive east on Route 1 to Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon on the coast. The drive takes 2.5 hours, but you can stop on the way to visit natural attractions. One option is to enjoy the viewpoints and unique rock formations of the Fjaðrárgljúfur river canyon. There are a couple of famous waterfalls on the way, including Skaftafell and Svartifoss. The latter plunges 65 feet (20 m) over basalt cliffs and is accessible via a scenic 3-mile (5 km) trail.

Eventually, you'll arrive at Jökulsárlón. At 656 feet (200 m), this is the deepest lake in Iceland. The icebergs floating on its surface are over 1,000 years old, and if you're lucky, you might spot seals and small whales in the water. Then, follow the lagoon to the shores of the adjacent Diamond Beach. This black-sand beach is famous for the iceberg fragments that drift ashore from the lagoon and which gleam like gemstones in the sunlight.

Afterward, drive southwest to the nearby Skaftafell Terminal. Here, you'll board an airplane for a scenic 75-minute ride over Vatnajökull, Iceland's largest glacier at 3,050 sq miles (7,900 sq km). As you soar over and around this massive ice cap, you'll fly over landmarks like Grímsvötn (an active volcano located under the glacier), the Skaftafell nature reserve, otherworldly lava fields, and the Morsárdalur glacial valley. You might also fly over Langisjór, a 12-mile (20 km) highland lake 2,198 feet 670 m) above sea level. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 4: South Coast Return Drive & Blue Lagoon

Soak in the thermal waters of the Blue Lagoon

Hop in the car this morning and hit the road for the return drive back up the southern coast to the Reykjanes Peninsula, where you arrived. Just like the previous days, there will be plenty of places you can stop and enjoy the scenery. One unique landmark is Hjörleifshöfði. Known as the "Yoda cave," the entrance to this mountain cavern is actually shaped like the diminutive character from "Star Wars." 

You can also stop at Eldhraun lava field, an enormous field of moss-covered lava rocks resulting from a fissure eruption in 1783. If you missed them the first time around, you can also detour to some impressive waterfalls like Urriðafoss and Kvernufoss. At the latter, there's a museum where you can learn about the area's history and how people traversed the glacial rivers before they were bridged.

Once back at the Reykjanes Peninsula, you'll stop for a three-hour visit to Iceland's most famous hot spring: the Blue Lagoon. The location itself is incredible, as the springs are surrounded by lunar lava fields, and hovering above the pools is a diaphanous blanket of steam and mist. The waters here get their vivid electric-blue coloring from the rich mineral content as well as algae and silica. This benefits your skin and is also great for rejuvenation. So relax, enjoy the soak, swim under the man-made waterfall, and maybe treat yourself to a white-mud facial at the luxurious day spa on site.

Day 5: Drive to Keflavík via the Reykjanes Peninsula & Depart 

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

It's time to bid a fond farewell to Iceland. After breakfast, you'll drive to the airport, but the adventure isn't over yet. Depending on your departure time, you can stop and enjoy some highlights of the southern peninsula, like its charming fishing villages, lava fields, and the Reykjanes Geopark.

One such highlight is Krýsuvík. This geothermal area is situated on Iceland's tectonic plates and thus is filled with hot springs, steam vents, and mud pots. Similarly, you can visit the bubbling and steaming mud cauldrons at Gunnuhver Hot Springs, named after a female ghost who was supposedly trapped here by a priest about 400 years ago. Temperatures at these mud springs are a balmy 572°F (300°C), so be sure to stay well within the marked pathways.

There are also some amazing views along the nearby cliffs. Here, you'll find Reykjanesviti, the oldest lighthouse in Iceland, which dates to 1878. Nearby is the Bridge Between Continents, a footbridge over a fissure separating the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Feel free to stop and take a quick stroll between two continents before heading to the airport, dropping off your rental car, and boarding your flight home. Safe travels!

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