Explore the best of the west and south with this 7-9 day itinerary. Hike through lava fields, along cliffs, and up volcanoes in Snaefellsnes. Walk behind waterfalls, on black sand beaches, and on glaciers in the south, and finish with a tour of the famous Golden Circle with tips to avoid the big crowds.

This itinerary will take you to all the highlights within close reach of Reykjavik. Start your trip away from the crowds with a couple days exploring the West at Glymur falls and Borgarnes with its Settlement Center. Spend 2 days exploring the volcanic Snaefellsnes Peninsula, often referred to as "little Iceland" because it has a little bit of everything. Drive down the coast to quaint Vik, stopping at waterfalls, black sand beaches, canyons, and interesting cliffs along the way. Continue along Route 1 and hike to Svartifoss ("Black falls") in Skaftafell before you marvel at the icebergs in Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and on Diamond Beach. Join a glacier walk or ice cave tour before driving back west to the famous Golden Circle where you can end the day at the Secret lagoon. Get an early start on your last day to beat the tour groups arriving at Gullfoss ("Golden falls") and Geysir geothermal area before you end your trip enjoying the restaurants and nightlife in Reykjavik.

Here are the highlights, day-by-day: 

Day 1: Land at KEF, explore Reykjavik

View over Reykjavik from the tower at Hallgrimskirkja 

You’ll likely arrive early in the morning. Take an airport transfer to your hotel to drop your bags (and sleep a little more if you like) before hitting the town. Choose from a selection of great cafes for breakfast and spend the day walking the colorful streets, visiting the Sólfarið Sun Voyager sculpture, and examining the interesting architecture at the Harpa cultural center on the water.

Ride the elevator to the tower at Hallgrimskirkja church for the best views over the city and north across the water.  Learn more about Icelandic history at the national museum or Settlement Exhibition.

End the day with a great meal and enjoy the nightlife scene, but get your rest because you have a busy week ahead.

Spend the night in Reykjavik

Day 2: North to Glymur Falls, small towns, and Borgarnes

Glymur falls, Iceland's tallest waterfall, pours into a narrow canyon below (photo by Chris McCarty)

Leave the big city of Reykjavik behind (we’ll see it again in a week) and drive north.

Hike an hour along the canyon to Glymur Falls, Iceland’s tallest waterfall, with many pretty views along the trail looking back in the valley. Tour the small villages of Reykholt and Hvanneyri and spend the afternoon Borgarnes in a pretty setting along the water. Learn the history of this significant area at The Settlement Center.

Stay in Borgarnes (or continue to Snaefellsnes if you skip the hike or the small towns)

Days 3-4: Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Coastlines and Volcanoes

Beautiful Snaefellsnes peninsula at sunset(photo by Chris McCarty)

It’s hard to believe you’re less than 2 hours from Reykjavik. Enjoy these few days exploring rocky cliffs, lava fields, towering basalt columns, waterfalls, shipwrecks, black sand beaches, craters, secret gorges, and caves. There’s something to see every couple of minutes as you drive along the coast.

Read more about all the best sights and stops of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Stay one night along Snaefellsnes Peninsula, second night around Selfoss area to get an early start on activities for tomorrow.

Day 5: Southern Highlights to Vik: Waterfalls, Cliffs, Beaches

Explore the Reynisdrangar basalt columns at Reynisfjara Beach(photo by Chris McCarty)

Spend today enjoying the popular highlights of the south. You will see more tourists in this area compared to the rest of the trip; leave the crowds behind by hiking further on the trails away from the parking lots.

Highlights include Seljalandsfoss waterfall (you can walk behind it), Skogafoss Waterfall (continue along the Fimmvörðuháls Trail a ways to see more waterfalls along the canyon and leave the crowds behind), the Crashed DC-3 Plane on the black sand beach, Dyrholaey Arch and Cliffs, the Reynisdrangar Columns at Reynisfjara Beach, and the black beaches of Vik.

To learn more, read about the top sights between Selfoss and Vik

Spend the night around Vik

Day 6: Vik to Glacier Lagoon: Skaftafell hiking, Svartifoss Waterfall, Glaciers

Icy waters of Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Complete your highlight tour of the south with some glaciers and another waterfall. Continuing east you will come to Skaftafell where you can join a glacier hike or ice climb tour. Or, stick to the trails and hike to Svartifoss waterfall with basalt cliffs on either side. Make a quick stop in Hof to see the turf-covered church before joining a boat tour of the icebergs at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. After the tour, head down to Diamond Beach to see more icebergs beached on the black sand glistening in the sunlight.

To learn more, read about the top sights between Vik and Egilsstaðir in the east

Spend the night around Hof area

Day 7: Hof to Secret Lagoon:

Deep blue late inside Kerid Crater, at the gateway to the Golden Circle

Drive back along route 1 in the south, stopping at anything you may have missing on your drive out. Hike around Kerid Crater with its blue lake at the bottom, or relax in the hot geothermal pool of the Secret Lagoon (much less crowded compared to the Blue Lagoon).

Spend the night around Skaholt / Gulfoss area away from the traffic and lights of Reykjavik.

Day 8: Golden Circle away from the crowds

Frozen waters of Gullfoss in the winter

See the Golden Circle before the big tours start to arrive. Start with Gullfoss waterfall, then walk around the geothermal mud pools, blue hot pools, and see Strokkur geyser shoot into the sky every 5-10 minutes.

Finally, explore Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park and learn about the traditions of the old Icelandic Parliament that met each summer at Law Rock. Hike between the giant rock fissure or around some of the hiking trails in the area.

If you like, join another activity in the area:

Horseback riding: For a different experience, join a horse riding tour to explore Gullfoss and Geysir. This unique adventure will take you away from the roads with the cars and tourists to experience the area in a simpler way.

Snorkeling: You can snorkel or dive at Silfra fissure, where you can see where the North American and European tectonic plates meet below the crystal clear glacial water (don’t worry, you wear a drysuit and will not freeze).

Snowmobile (winter): In winter months you can join a snowmobile tour leaving from Gullfoss to ride up on the neighboring glaciers. Feel the crisp air on your face and adrenaline in your body.

Spend the night in Reykjavik

Day 9: Morning in Reykjavik, Blue Lagoon, Fly home

Take it easy on your last day in Iceland and enjoy a slow breakfast and stroll around town. Finish up the last of your shopping and hop on a transfer to KEF airport. If you like, stop for a couple hours at the Blue Lagoon as you leave.

Map

Map of Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Southern Highlights, and Golden Circle: 7-9 day Itinerary
Map of Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Southern Highlights, and Golden Circle: 7-9 day Itinerary

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Chris had very good suggestions and advice during the planning stages of the trip. His experience was very valuable in customizing the trip. Everything went on smoothly. We had no trouble finding accommodations. The places were comfortable and as cheap as one could get in Iceland. The places were also located strategically such that we could get to the attractions reasonably quickly and before it got completely mobbed.

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