This fast-paced itinerary combines popular Icelandic highlights with off-the-beaten-path gems for a fun road-trip adventure. After a day in Reykjavik, you'll head west for hiking, lava fields, and small fishing towns along the rugged and remote Snaefellsnes Peninsula (called "Iceland in miniature"). You'll then hit the blockbuster sights of the Golden Circle before finishing with your choice of lesser-known natural attractions on your way to the airport.

Highlights

  • Check out Iceland's capital with great museums, restaurants, and nightlife
  • Hike to the top of Glymur Falls (Iceland's tallest) for outstanding views 
  • Visit "The Great Geysir"—a historic geyser that erupts every 10 minutes
  • Take a relaxing soak with a drink in the Blue Lagoon before boarding your flight

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Reykjavik, Explore Downtown Reykjavik
Day 2 Glymur Falls, Borgarnes & Snæfellsnes Peninsula Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day 3 Volcanic Snaefellsnes Peninsula Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day 4 Snæfellsnes Peninsula to Golden Circle Golden Circle
Day 5 Reykjanes Peninsula, Blue Lagoon, Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Reykjavik, Explore Downtown

Plenty of cool discoveries in Iceland's growing capital
Plenty of cool discoveries in Iceland's growing capital

Welcome to Iceland! Upon arrival at Keflavík International Airport, you'll pick up your rental car and drive 30 minutes into Reykjavik. Since many international flights land in the early morning hours, you'll likely want to start your adventure with a hearty breakfast. There are several options in the city center that open early. 

From here, you'll have the rest of the day to explore Europe's most northernly capital. 

Things to do in Reykjavik: 

  • Walk through Reykjavik’s compact downtown area and check out the unique street art scene.
  • Head to the waterfront to see the Sun Voyager Sculpture and Harpa Concert Hall with its cool glass architecture.
  • Visit Hallgrimskirkja church on the hill and take the elevator to the tower for panoramic views of the area.
  • To escape inclement weather, consider visiting a few museums such as the Northern Lights Center, the Saga Museum, the Marine Museum, or the Whales of Iceland Exhibition. You can also join a whale watching tour from the Reykjavik harbor, and snack on a world-famous hot dog at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur.

In the evening, enjoy a variety of top-tier fish restaurants and Reykjavik’s nightlife. 

Day 2: Glymur Falls, Borgarnes & Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Hike up to Glymur Falls for these views
Hike up to Glymur Falls for these views

After breakfast in Reykjavik, you'll pack up the rental car and head north to experience Iceland's west coast and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Both of these areas see fewer visitors compared to the Golden Circle and south coast and will provide you with a bit more time to take in the sites at your own pace.

First, drive north and hike to Glymur Falls, Iceland's tallest waterfall (2 hours out and back). You’ll hike beside a narrow canyon which makes for some great photographs. 

Continue on your drive to the peninsula and stop in Borgarnes and learn about the Settlement age of Iceland at the Settlement Center, or simply walk along the shore path near the water. If you have extra time, make some stops at the other quaint historical towns like Reykholt and Hvanneyri

If you had an early start and it’s not yet late afternoon, stop by Hraunfossar (“Lava Falls”) and Barnafoss (children's waterfall), regarded as some of the most unique and spectacular waterfalls in Iceland, where clear subterranean water seeps through the lava fields, pouring out of the rocks.

Once you get to the peninsula, head for the Gerðuberg Basalt Cliffs, where strange basalt columns rise up out of the earth. Park the car and walk around exploring and getting a closer look. Next, walk through the start of the Budhahraun lava fields on the coast, covered in moss or snow depending on the season.

Keep driving until you get to the village of Hellnar where you can stop for dinner at the small café near the water to taste their delicious fish soup and enjoy the setting.

Day 3: Volcanic Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Kirkjufell mountain
Kirkjufell mountain

Today, you'll continue your peninsula explorations with the cliff-side trails at Arnarstapi where you can get up close to some great views, lava formations, and arches in the rocks. In fact, you can follow the trail all the way to Arnarstapi from Hellnar, starting from either direction. 

Then, head for the Londrangar lava formations, which you can view from afar or up close (about 15 minutes by foot). A little further along the road is the Visitor Center for the peninsula where you can learn more about the volcanic system and the area.

If the weather is dry, take a stroll along Djúpalónssandur black sand beach with debris from a shipwreck (tip: photograph the rusted mangled metal pieces on the black sand). Here you will find four stones of different sizes, which were used by sea captains to test the strength of people wanting to join their crew. While facing the water, look for a small trail on the right-side cliffs that leads to the site of a major fishing operation. 

As you near the westernmost point of the peninsula, look for signs for Saxholl crater. It's worth a quick stop to walk up the stairs that take you to the top with nice views of the surrounding area. 

Continue your drive around the other side of the peninsula and end your day with a visit to Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall with Kirkjufell mountain in the background (one of Iceland's most photographed).

You can either spend the night in Grundarfjordur near the mountain and waterfall or continue to the larger town of Stykkishólmur. On the way, you can stop at the Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum and taste some Hakarl, or fermented shark

Day 4: Snæfellsnes Peninsula to Golden Circle

Gullfoss waterfall and frequent rainbows
Gullfoss waterfall and frequent rainbows

This morning, you'll finish exploring the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and drive south toward Reykjavik. As you make your way, head into the Berserkjahraun Lava Fields, or drive to Stykkishólmur and stop by the Volcano Museum. 

Next, you'll enter Iceland's famous Golden Circle. Start with Thingvellir National Park, where the tectonic plates meet. Visit historical Law Rock where chieftains from all over the country met once a year to discuss laws and issues. While at Thingvellir, you can join a snorkel tour where you dive between the tectonic plates at the Silfra Fissure

Next visit the Geysir geothermal area, with bubbling mud pits and steam vents. The Geyser erupts like clockwork every 10 minutes so you're bound to get some good photos. Continue from here to Gullfoss (“Golden Falls”)—a massive waterfall that is sure to impress. Finish your day at a secret lagoon where you can soak in the geothermal waters and perhaps get a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

Day 5: Reykjanes Peninsula, Blue Lagoon, Departure

The Blue Lagoon is a great way to spend your last few hours in Iceland
The Blue Lagoon is a great way to spend your last few hours in Iceland

It's time to say farewell to Iceland! Spend your last day exploring more of the Golden Circle or see some highlights around the Reykjanes Peninsula. This area is often missed by travelers quickly heading between Reykjavik and KEF airport. With a bit more time, you can explore lava fields, geothermal area, lighthouses, and small fishing towns. Here are a few ideas to consider: 

Blue Lagoon: Enjoy a geothermal soak in the iconic Blue Lagoon before you fly home (great for all ages).

Gardur Lighthouse: Two lighthouses are located near the airport: one on the coast (older and not as stable), and a second a bit further inland. This can be a nice area to walk around and stretch your legs before your flight, and the coastal views are beautiful.

Krýsuvík geothermal area: While you can walk around the area near the parking lot in five minutes, take your time to see the steam vents and hot pools up close. There’s a short, steep trail up the hill which can offer great views of the surrounding multicolored hills on a clear day.

Gunnuhver hot springs: Here you can find a couple of bubbling and steaming mud pools, and you can smell it from quite a distance away. Gunnuhver is named after a female ghost who was trapped in the hot springs over 400 years ago. Temperatures are extremely hot, so stick to the walkways and viewing areas.

Map

Map of Iceland West Coast & Golden Circle - 5 Days
Map of Iceland West Coast & Golden Circle - 5 Days

Recent traveler photos