Iceland is for you if your dream of a winter getaway involves more ice and snow than sun and sand. Even with five days, you can enjoy its highlights on a road trip around Reykjavík and along the famous Golden Circle to waterfalls and geothermal areas. You can also stop to see full-size replicas of Viking ships, embark on mountain hikes, visit museums, and glimpse the unforgettable northern lights.


  • Step back into the Viking Age on a museum tour to see ancient ships
  • Travel the Golden Circle route and visit waterfalls and geysers
  • Go whale watching and spot the northern lights in Reykjavík 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Reykjavík, Viking World, Drive to Borganes Borgarnes
Day 2 Beaches, Waterfalls & Fishing Towns Arnarstapi
Day 3 The Golden Circle & Secret Lagoon Golden Circle
Day 4 Explore Reykjavík: Whale Watching & Northern Lights Reykjavik
Day 5 Drive to Keflavík, Depart Iceland  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Reykjavík, Viking World, Drive to Borgarnes

Winter in Reykjavík

Welcome to Iceland! This northern volcanic island 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 drive 45 minutes east to the capital of Reykjavík. On the way, stop at the Viking Museum to glean some of the country's rich Nordic history. It features a spectacular full-size replica of "Islendingur" (the Icelander), a Viking ship that dates to 870 and was excavated in Norway in 1880. 

After the Viking Museum, continue north of Reykjavík along the coast to the port town of Akranes, where you'll uncover more fascinating history at the Akranes Folk Museum. Established in 1959, it consists of an open-air museum featuring 19th-century buildings and Icelandic boats. The permanent exhibition reflects living conditions both on land and sea during this time period.

Plan your trip to Iceland
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Then, you can visit other nearby landmarks, such as a lighthouse that features a photography exhibition. For some exercise, spend a couple of hours hiking up nearby 1,820-foot (555 m) Akrafjall. This mountain looks across Faxaflói bay and offers panoramic views from Reykjanes to Snæfellsjökull glacier. Another option is to explore the coast. Sandy Langisandur Beach is a great destination, as it's one of only three Blue Flag beaches in Iceland—plus, there are rock-pool hot springs here. Afterward, continue north to Borgarnes, a town that sits on the Borgarfjörður fjord, to check into your hotel.

Day 2: Beaches, Waterfalls & Fishing Towns

The Kirkjufellsfoss falls, with Mount Kirkjufell in the background

If you didn't get a chance to visit the beaches yesterday, you can start this morning with a walk along the sand in Borgarnes. Afterward, you'll visit the Settlement Center. Housed in two of Borgarnes's oldest buildings, this cultural center charts Iceland's earliest days from the Age of Settlement to the establishment of the world's first parliamentary system in the Middle Ages. There is also a nice restaurant here, which serves up delicious cakes.

Then it's time to head north to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and stroll the rugged seaside cliffs between the ancient fishing villages of Arnarstapi and Hellnar. Next, stop at the Lóndrangar lava rock towers, which overlook the ocean and make a great photo opportunity. Nearby is Djúpalónssandur, an otherworldly black-sand beach with jagged lava rock formations and debris from a shipwreck. Once a prominent fishing village, today, there remain four stones of various sizes that were used by sea captains to test the strength of potential sailors.

Near the western end of the peninsula is the Saxhóll crater. A walk up some stairs to the rim reveals excellent views of the surrounding area. Continue to the north side and end at Kirkjufellsfoss, whose three waterfalls are complimented by the rounded point of Mount Kirkjufell in the background. You can spend the night in Grundarfjörður, near the waterfall, or continue to the larger town of Stykkishólmur. On the way, stop at the Shark Museum and taste hákarl (fermented shark), an Icelandic staple. Or, for something less adventurous, enjoy dinner at one of the cozy restaurants in the area. 

Day 3: The Golden Circle & Secret Lagoon

 See the spectacular geysers of the Haukadalur Valley

In the morning, embark on a drive along the famous Golden Circle. This 190-mile (300-km) route features some of southern Iceland's most popular natural attractions. First up is Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park, home to the historic Law Rock. It was at this outcropping during the Middle Ages that chieftains met once a year to recite new laws and air grievances. Also in the park is 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 snorkel or scuba 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. The geyser is rarely active these days but can reach up to 230 feet (70 m) when it does erupt. However, the area, which covers much of the Haukadalur Valley, is also home to the Strokkur Geyser, which erupts like clockwork every 5-10 minutes and can reach up to 130 feet (40 m).

Then it's on to Gullfoss, one of Iceland's most impressive waterfalls. You can follow trails to the top of the falls or view them above the canyon's edge. Another highlight is Kerið Kerið, a 180-foot (55 m) volcanic crater lake whose steep circular slopes resemble an ancient amphitheater. Cap the day 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 enjoying the lagoon, head to your hotel to rest up for tomorrow's adventures.

Day 4: Explore Reykjavík: Whale Watching & Northern Lights

Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavík

Set off early this morning for Reykjavík, the metropolitan heart of Iceland. Make a beeline for the compact downtown area and check out the unique street art, boutiques, pubs, and hip cafés. You can also walk to the waterfront and snap photos of the Sun Voyager dreamboat sculpture or head to Harpa Concert Hall, whose shimmering glass facade was inspired by the northern lights. Don't miss the iconic Lutheran church of Hallgrimskirkja, which sits on a hill overlooking downtown. 

If you get a chance, stop at one of the city's fine museums. Reykjavík is famous for its devotion to the arts and culture, and despite its relatively petite size, it's actually home to more than 60 museums and galleries. Some top options that showcase Iceland's history and culture include the National Museum, the Settlement Exhibition (focusing on the settlement of Reykjavík), the Maritime Museum, the Northern Lights Center, the Saga Museum, and the Whales of Iceland Exhibition.

After lunch, you'll join a whale watching boat tour that leaves from the Old Harbour in Reykjavík and heads out on Faxaflói bay. The most common species seen during winter here are minke whales, dolphins, and humpback whales. After witnessing the incredible marine life, return to shore and have the rest of the day free. Then, after dinner, you'll hop aboard another bay cruise, this time to witness the awe-inspiring spectacle known as the aurora borealis or the northern lights. 

Day 5: Drive to Keflavík, Depart Iceland

Take a walk through the Gunnuhver Hot Springs on your way to Keflavík

Unfortunately, your time in Iceland is drawing to a close. After breakfast, you'll drive from Reykjavík to Keflavík International 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!

More Great Iceland Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Iceland? Check out these other Iceland itineraries, explore more ways to spend five days in Iceland, and learn about the best time of year to visit Iceland.


Map of Iceland Winter Holiday: In the Footsteps of Vikings - 5 Days
Map of Iceland Winter Holiday: In the Footsteps of Vikings - 5 Days