Discover two sides of Iceland on this 10-day trip. Begin in the Golden Circle, home to Þingvellir National Park, where the tectonic plates meet and go snorkeling in a fissure. Then, explore the waterfalls, black-sand beaches, and cliffs along the South Coast, followed by a day surrounded by stunning glaciers. Next, visit a few notable sites on the way back to Reykjavik, before hopping a bus to embark on the Laugavegur Trek for the next few days. Hike around the landscapes rich with volcanoes, mountains, scenic lakes, and deserts before reaching the iconic Thorsmork Valley. Return to the capital for one last night, and soak in the Blue Lagoon before departure.

Highlights

  • Visit Þingvellir National Park in the Golden Circle and snorkel in a fissure
  • Discover the South Coast's black-sand beaches, waterfalls, cliffs, and glaciers
  • Take the Laugavegur Trek through volcanoes, desserts, mountains, and more
  • Enjoy the dining and nightlife scene in Reykjavik and soak in the Blue Lagoon

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival & Drive to Þingvellir, Geysir, & Gullfoss in the Golden Circle Golden Circle
Day 2 Drive to the South Coast & Explore Waterfalls, Black-Sand Beaches, & Cliffs Kirkjubæjarklaustur
Day 3 Discover Skaftafell, Svartifoss, & Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Kirkjubæjarklaustur
Day 4 Drive & Explore South Coast Back to Reykjavik Reykjavik
Day 5 Landmannalaugar Mountain & Volcano Trekking Landmannalaugar
Day 6 Rhyolite Mountains Trek - Hrafntinnusker to Lake Álftavatn Lake Alftavatn
Day 7 Cross the Emstrur Desert & View Hattafell Emstrur-Botnar Hut
Day 8 Explore Þórsmörk (Thorsmork) Valley Thorsmork
Day 9 Final Hike in Thorsmork & Return to Reykjavík Reykjavik
Day 10 Visit the Blue Lagoon & Depart From Reykjavík  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival and drive to Þingvellir, Geysir, and Gullfoss in the Golden Circle

Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir National Park

Welcome to Iceland! Arrive at Keflavík Airport (KEF) in the morning, and pick up your rental car. Stop in Reykjavík for breakfast, or just head straight out to explore the highlights of the Golden Circle, Iceland's most popular area.

Start with a tour of Þingvellir 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, some traveling up to 17 days each way on foot or horseback. Þingvellir is also home to the Silfra Fissure, where you can join a snorkel or scuba tour, and dive between tectonic plates in crystal-clear water.

Next, visit the Geysir geothermal area, with bubbling mud pits and steam vents—the Strokkur geyser erupts like clockwork every 10 minutes—followed by a trip to Gullfoss (“Golden Falls”), a massive waterfall that is sure to impress.

Finish your day at Secret Lagoon in Flúðir. Enjoy a relaxing soak in the geothermal waters and a possible glimpse of the Northern Lights (from September-April, depending on the weather).

Day 2: Drive to the South Coast and explore the waterfalls, black-sand beaches, and cliffs

A view of Seljalandsfoss from behind the waterfall
A view of Seljalandsfoss from behind the waterfall

After breakfast, hit the road and spend today enjoying the popular highlights of the south.

Your first stop is Seljalandsfoss waterfall, with access from behind just a few minutes from the parking lot. Note that the ground is uneven in a few places, and there are stairs on one side. Standing in a cave under the cliff, witness the water come roaring down 20-30 feet in front of you. Pay attention to the direction of the wind or wear a rain jacket (or both). When viewed from behind, spot two, smaller waterfalls to the right, as well.

Next, along Route 1, locate the powerful Skógafoss Waterfall. Skógafoss marks the beginning of the 16-mile Fimmvörðuháls Trail, which ends in Thórsmörk. Admire the waterfall from the bottom, just a 2-minute walk from the parking lot, or if you are up for it, find the stairs to the right and climb up for a different perspective. At the top, walk along the canyon for a bit to see more waterfalls along “Waterfall Way” before turning around.
Note: Depending on snow conditions, this may not be possible.

Then, make your way to the Dyrhólaey arch and cliffs. At Dyrhólaey, there are two parking lots where you can see the famous arch. (The one high on the hill offers the better view.) Take the bumpy, dirt road to your right as you enter. From the top, spot a lighthouse and great views looking further west, along a black-sand beach that reaches as far as you can see. Look for birds flying around; they nest along the cliffside.

As you near Vík, along Route 1, look for the turnoff to Reynisfjara Beach, past a pretty church, as you drive toward the water. This black-rock beach (not as fine-grain as the one in Vík) is most famous for the Reynisdrangar Columns—huge, hexagonal basalt columns rising up out of the sand. Walk 1-2 minutes around the cliffs to the left, as you face the ocean, to find a couple of large caves, as well.  

Next, reach Vík. While the town itself is fairly small, its proximity to several great sights more than makes up for it. You can even explore the area in the evening, after the large crowds dissipate, or before the crowds arrive the next day. Toward the water, look for a black-sand beach with high cliffs on the right side, often filled with soaring and nesting birds.

Continue about 50 minutes further along Route 1 to the town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. If you have more time, just a short drive away is Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, where the rock formations look like they’re from another world. There is a trail less than 1 mile from the parking lot, along the ridge of the canyon, that is home to some amazing viewpoints—where the river curves around these strange rock cliffs. Admire the views along the way, and venture as far as you like.

Day 3: Discover Skaftafell, Svartifoss, and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Today, explore Iceland's glaciers, ending at the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon (which is just under 2 hours from Kirkjubæjarklaustur, or 3.5 hours roundtrip). You can also continue to Höfn, where there is a great visitor center on the glacier and nearby area, and several restaurants serving very fresh seafood—langoustine and lobster are the specialties.

Depending on your preference, and where you spend the night, consider the below stops along the way.

Visit Skaftafell, where you could spend many days hiking the trails all around. If short on time, the most popular hike leads to Svartifoss, a thin waterfall surrounded by columns of basalt. The 3-mile hike offers great views alongside the river and toward the ocean in the distance. For further exploration, feel free to join an ice cave tour, a glacier walk, or embark on an ice climbing excursion.

Next, a quick trip off the main road will bring you into Hof, where you can check out Hofskirkja, the turf church. The act of covering the roof with turf dates back to medieval times, and was practiced throughout Europe to offer protection from harsh weather.

Just a few minutes before Jökulsárlón Glacier, you will find another glacier lagoon about 10 minutes from the parking lot—Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Here, you are much closer to the glacier than at Jökulsárlón, and you’ll have better views of all the cracks and crevices.

Next, visit Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, with the chance to witness one of the most unique sights in Iceland: icebergs floating out to sea, and beached on the black sand. Climb the hill for a better view of the entire area.

Follow the river under the bridge to the ocean, and find many smaller icebergs along the black, sandy shores of "Diamond Beach," where the waves crash, creating a memorable sight. You may be fortunate to see seals, porpoises, or small whales that sometimes hang out in the lagoon or near the shore.

Following the active day, relax and unwind with another night in Kirkjubæjarklaustur.

Day 4: Drive and explore the South Coast on the way back to Reykjavík

Sunrise at Reykjadalur hot spring river
Sunrise at Reykjadalur hot spring river

Today, drive along the South Coast toward Reykjavík—around 2-2.5 hours—to return your rental car before heading out on the Laugavegur Trek, which is the second leg of your trip. Some sights you can visit include the below:

  • Reykjadalur hot spring river (just after Selfoss): Reykjadalur (“Smoky Valley") is home to an active, geothermal area and hot springs. Hike from the trailhead north to Reykjadalur for less than an hour before you arrive at a hot river coursing through the valley. The water temperature can vary by location, so find a spot that's right for you.
  • Seljavallalaug pool: A short distance after Skógafoss, make a detour to Seljavallalaug, one of the oldest swimming pools in the country, built in 1923. Look for the small sign to Seljavellir. A short, scenic hike will take you to the relaxing pool.
  • Urriðafoss: As you reach the end of your South Coast drive, consider one last waterfall sighting. While Urriðafoss may not be considered as stunning as Skógafoss or Seljalandsfoss, it makes up for it in other ways. Urriðafoss is the largest-volume waterfall in Iceland, both very wide and very loud. It’s only a short trip from the Ring Road and a great finale to exploring the south.
  • Kerið Crater: Just a quick detour from Route 1 on your way back to Reykjavík, hike around the top of Kerið Crater, and enjoy views of its blue lake at the bottom.

Once you arrive in the capital, return your rental car (you will be traveling by bus tomorrow) and enjoy the popular sights.  Walk through compact downtown to check out the unique street art scene. Head to the water for the Sun Voyager Sculpture and the Harpa Concert Hall, with its unique, glass architecture. Visit Hallgrímskirkja, a church on the hill, and take the elevator to the top of the tower for a great view of the city below and panoramic views of the area.

Then, plan for a nice meal. Some dinner recommendations include the below:

  • Messinn
  • Sea Barron
  • Kol Restaurant
  • The Coocoo's Nest
  • Café Loki

If you are interested in checking out Reykjavík’s nightlife scene, visit the following bars:

  • Craft Cocktails
  • Mikkeller & Friends
  • Skúli Craft Bar
  • KEX Hostel Bar (live music on weekends)
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Day 5: Landmannalaugar mountain and volcano trekking

The landscapes of Landmannalaugar
The landscapes of Landmannalaugar

This morning, board a bus to the multi-colored massif of Landmannalaugar, located in the heart of the beautiful Fjallabak Nature Reserve.

Take the famous Dómadalur route and stop to marvel at Hekla, one of Iceland's most active volcanoes. Set up camp, and depending on the conditions and motivations, walk to Ljótipollur or climb Bláhnúkur. Ljótipollur means "Ugly Puddle," but contrary to its name, it is a stunning crater lake famous for its bright colors and visible lava layers. Bláhnúkur translates to "Blue Peak," and is an impressive volcano with views of five glaciers in good conditions.

In the evening, dip your feet and relax or swim in Landmannalaugar's warm river before bed.

Trekking Duration: 3 hours

Day 6: Rhyolite Mountains trek - Hrafntinnusker to Lake Álftavatn

Lake Alftavatn
Lake Alftavatn

Today, trek through the beautiful Rhyolite Mountains in one of the most active geothermal areas on the planet. Explore the glacier-topped volcano of Hrafntinnusker and venture into the heart of its vast, collapsed caldera.

The day's hike heads through a series of small, hidden valleys at the foot of the Tindfjöll Glacier. Tonight, camp near the stunning Lake Alftavatn.

Trek Distance: 15 miles 
Trek Duration: 7-8 hours

Day 7: Cross the Emstrur Desert and view Hattafell

The view of Hattafell in the Emstrur Desert
The view of Hattafell in the Emstrur Desert

Today, cross the Emstrur Desert, a vast landscape of black sand, which is periodically interrupted by impressive, bright-green mountains. These lonely, imposing mountains jump out of their monochrome surroundings, creating truly unique views.

Explore the impressive Hattafell cone before arriving at your campsite.

Trek Distance: 10 miles
Trek Duration: 5 hours

Day 8: Explore Þórsmörk (Thorsmork) Valley

The lush greenery of Thorsmörk
The lush greenery of Thorsmörk

Þórsmörk, or Thorsmörk to use the English spelling, is known as "The Woods of Thor," and is named after the God of Thunder.  Discover the lush area—vastly different from yesterday's desert landscapes.

As you descend into Þórsmörk Valley, little by little, the harsh landscape softens into an alpine area of green slopes and gullies. 

Trek Distance: 10 miles
Trek Duration: 5 hours

Day 9: Final hike in Thorsmork and return to Reykjavík

An aerial view of Reykjavik
An aerial view of Reykjavik

Today, enjoy a final, half-day of hiking for 3-5 hours in Valanukhur Mountain, a beautiful finale viewpoint to take in at the end of the trek. 

Then, board the bus back to Reykjavík. If you would like to explore more of the capital city, stroll around Reykjavík Harbour or join a whale-watching tour. Spend some time learning about Iceland’s history at the Settlement Exhibition or the National Museum of Iceland. Snack on a world-famous hot dog at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, or hop between cafés.

Revisit the suggestions for dining and nightlife options from day four, and enjoy the final evening of the trip in Reykjavík at your leisure.

Day 10: Visit the Blue Lagoon and depart from Reykjavík

Blue Lagoon
Blue Lagoon

Wake up and enjoy a hearty, local breakfast in Reykjavík. Some suggestions include the following:

  • Bergsson Mathús (opens at 7 am)
  • Sandholt (also opens at 7 am)
  • Reykjavík Roasters (for great coffee)
  • Brauð & Co. (if you like bread and pastries)

After breakfast, a travel representative will meet you at your hotel to collect your trekking equipment. Enjoy more time in the capital, visiting sights you may have missed upon arrival or yesterday.  

Stop by the Blue Lagoon on your drive to the airport, where you can enjoy a geothermal soak before you fly home.

Map

Map of South Coast & Laugavegur Trek - 10 Days
Map of South Coast & Laugavegur Trek - 10 Days