Planning Your Ultimate Trip to Iceland
There are many great reasons that Iceland is trending as one of the world’s hottest destinations. From natural grandeur to sensational dining, and adventures from glacier hiking to whale-watching, Iceland is hard to beat. Start with our core 5-day itinerary, and use our recommendations to add more regions and activities if you have the time.
Our recommendation for a five-day itinerary is to focus on the classic Golden Circle self-drive. Our sample itinerary has you soaking in the world-famous Blue Lagoon in the Krýsuvík geothermal area, as well as oohing! and aahing! at the Strokkur geyser and Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Plus, you’ll walk black-sand Reynisfjara Beach, be awed by the majesty of the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, hike around Skaftafell, and experience the best of Reykjavík, including the National Museum of Iceland. For more 5-day itineraries, see this article.
It’s easy to then build on this foundation. With a full week in Iceland, you can add the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, with its iconic pinnacles, dramatic cliffs, and quaint fishing villages. For more 7-day itineraries, see this article.
If you have an additional three days, you can add Iceland's north coast, thus making a complete circuit via the famous Ring Road for a 10-day drive that includes whale-watching at Husavik. For more 10-day itineraries, see this article.
And with a full two weeks to explore, you can slow down. Enjoy extra time for hiking, kayaking, and other adventure activities, while adding the remote Westfjord Peninsula to your itinerary. For alternate itineraries, see this article.
In 5 Days: Golden Circle, South Coast, & Reykjavik
- A perfect recipe of natural splendor, adventure, and Icelandic culture
- Combine visits to glaciers, geysers, waterfalls and black-sand beaches
- Add whale-watching, museums, and the cultural highlights of Reykjavik
- Enjoy scenic drives, soaks in geothermal lagoons, and gourmet meals
The highlights of this thrilling five-day self-drive tour include some of Iceland’s most popular sites, including the geysers and waterfalls of the Golden Circle, the Skaftafell and Jökulsárlón glaciers, a divine soak in the Blue Lagoon, and the key sites of Reykjavik.
Arrive Reykjavik on day one, pick up your rental car, and head straight to Þingvellir National Park, site of Iceland’s original parliament and the rift of the Atlantic and Eurasian tectonic plates. You might even dive in the water-filled Silfra Fissure! Continue to the Geysir geothermal area, where the Strokkur geyser erupts like clockwork; and the staggering waterfall at Gullfoss. Finally, soak in the geothermal waters of the Secret Lagoon in Flúðir.
On day two, continue east to Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, the stunning sea arch of Dyrhólaey, and the black-sand beach at Reynisfjara, with its cliff of hexagonal basalt columns and its spooky stacks rising from the sea like witches’ fingers. Further geological wonders await at Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Overnight nearby in the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur.
Next day, take your pick of glaciers! Begin with a hike at Skaftafell to Svartifoss waterfall, enclosed in an amphitheater of basalt columns. Or explore an ice cave, walk a glacier walk, or go ice-climbing. Continue to the glacial lagoons of Fjallsárlón and Jökulsárlón, with their floating icebergs. And check out the picturesque Hofskirkja “turf church” before returning to Kirkjubæjarklaustur.
Day four, drive back toward Reykjavík, perhaps with a stop at Reykjadalur hot spring for a soothing dip; at the Kerið Crater, filled with a jade-colored lake. Back in the capital, stroll Reykjavík Harbour (and perhaps take a whale-watching tour), and don’t miss the National Museum of Iceland.
Depart Iceland on day five… time permitting, with a stop to steep in the geothermal Blue Lagoon on your drive to the airport. If you have a late afternoon or evening flight, take in more highlights around the Reykjanes Peninsula—setting for the international airport. Learn more.
In 7 days: Add the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
- Mix in the fishing villages and natural enchantments of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
- A chill cocktail of geological wonders plus traditional and contemporary culture
- Combine glaciers, geysers, geothermal lakes, waterfalls and coastal marvels
- Thrill to scenic drives, active adventures, and the best of Reykavik’s gourmet treats
You’ll arrive Reykavik, pick up your rental car, and head to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. There’s heaps to see enroute, including an optional hike to Glymur Falls and a visit to the Settlement Center in Borgarnes. Arriving in Snæfellsnes you’ll have time to marvel at the Gerðuberg basalt cliffs, explore the lava fields, and be awed by the formations at Budhahraun and cliffside Arnarstapi.
Then, a full day circuit of the peninsula begins with a coastal hike between the hamlets of Arnarstapi and Hellnar; a visit to the Lóndrangar lava formations, the black-sand beach at Djúpalónssandur, and the Saxhóll crater. End your day with a visit to the stunningly beautiful Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, backed by the Kirkjufell peak.
Day 3, stop by the Volcano Museum in Stykkishólmur before driving south to the famous Golden Circle area. Here, follow the program outlined on days one, two and three of the 5-day itinerary above.
On day 6, you might mix up your drive back to Reykjavik by stopping to explore Raufarhólshellir lava tunnel, tour the Hellisheiðarvirkjun geothermal power plant, and/or go glacier hiking on the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier: Spend the balance of the day exploring Reykjavik, being sure to include such superb museums as the Northern Lights Center, Saga Museum, Marine Museum, and Whales of Iceland Exhibition.
Depart Iceland on day 7… time permitting, with a stop to steep in the geothermal Blue Lagoon on your drive to the airport. If you have a late afternoon or evening flight, take in more highlights around the Reykjanes Peninsula—setting for the international airport. Learn more.
In 10 days: Add the North Coast for a Complete Ring Road Adventure
- Circle the island along the 828-mile (1332 km) Route 1, or "Ring Road"
- Explore Reykjavik’s fantastic museums, cultural venues and culinary hotspots
- Take a whale-watching cruise from Husavik, the best spot to do so in the country
- Delight in magnificent scenery, cool activities, and classic culinary dishes
Arriving Reykavik on day one, spend the rest of the day exploring the world’s most northerly capital city, including such not-to-miss sites as the Sun Voyager Sculpture, plus the Northern Lights Center, Saga Museum, Marine Museum, and Whales of Iceland Exhibition. You might even thrill to a whale watching tour from the harbor.
Day two, pick up your rental car and head to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula via Glymur Falls (with time for a hike), the spectacular Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls, the Gerðuberg basalt cliffs, and the Budhahraun coastal lava fields. After marveling at Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, overnight in the hamlet of Hellnar.
Next day explore the Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum, then join the Ring Road heading clockwise along the North Coast. Highlights include the seal colonies and Icelandic Seal Center at Hvammstangi, and the turf-roof houses of Varmahlíð. You’ll overnight in vibrant Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest city. Spend next morning exploring Akureyri, then head to Godafoss—the “Waterfall of the Gods”—and then Husavik, the whale- watching capital of Iceland. Time permitting, take a whale-watching cruise before continuing to Dettifoss and Selfoss, together Europe’s most powerful waterfalls. End with a soothing soak in the hot mineral waters of Myvatn Nature Baths.
The Lake Myvatn area boasts Iceland’s highest concentration of volcanic and geothermal sights. Spend day 5 exploring its geological marvels, including crater walks, the Hverarond mud pits & steam vents, and the Leirhnjúkur lava fields & geothermal area. Then, on day six, follow the East Fjords coastline, with time for waterfall hikes and even for kayaking through the fjord at Seydisfjordur, your picture-perfect base for the night.
From here you’ll follow the 5-day itinerary (above) in reverse, beginning at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, then spectacular Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, and more on day 7; then the hexagonal basalt columns of Reynisfjara Beach plus the magical Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls as highlights on day 8; and the Geysir geothermal area, the old parliament site at Thingvellir National Park, and a walk around the rim of Kerid Crater on day 9. End back in Reykjavik, then depart Iceland on day 10, with optional activities per the 5- and 7-day itineraries above. Learn more.
In 2 Weeks: Slow Down & Add Time in the Remote Westfjords
- A grand tour of Iceland, including its remote and less-visited Westfjords
- Slow down and add detours you wouldn't otherwise have time for
- Explore Reykjavik’s fantastic museums, cultural venues and culinary hotspots
- Be awed by iconic scenery, exhilarating activities, and great seafood
Arriving Reykjavik on day one, follow the 10-day itinerary above as your guide for exploring Iceland’s compact capital city. Then drive north to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula following the route for day 2 in the 10-day itinerary. Linger for day 3 to explore the huge Londrangar lava formations, Djúpalónssandur black sand beach, and Saxholl Crater before continuing via the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall and Berserkjahraun lava field. Allow 3 hours this afternoon to drive or take the ferry from Stykkishólmur to Flókalundur in Westfjords.
Days 4, 5, and 6 are given to exploring the remote and rugged Westfjords Peninsula. Highlights on day 4 include the Látrabjarg cliffs, flocked by puffins, and Gardar BA 64 Shipwreck, before arriving in Isafjordur, the region’s largest town. Isafjordur is your base while exploring next day: perhaps visit the Isafjordur Maritime Museum, kayak the calm coastal waters, go mountain biking or horseback riding, or hike amid the untouched beauty of Hornstrandir Nature Preserve.
On day 7, hike up to “Trolls Seat” for a view over Isafjordur before driving east along the fjords to Holmavik, with its Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft Museum. Then join the Ring Road and continue to Akureyri, Iceland’s second city. Days 8 and 9 echo days 4 and 5 described in the 10-day itinerary above, with a possible whale-watching cruise from Husavik, visits to Dettifoss and Selfoss waterfalls, and a full-day exploring the lava fields and other geological draws around Lake Myvatn.
Days 10-11 are dedicated to the remote and little-visited East Fjords coastline, with time for waterfall hikes and even for kayaking through the fjord at Seydisfjordur, plus visits to the Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss waterfalls, and even a boat tour to Papey Island to view the seal and puffin colonies up close.
From here, you’ll follow the route outlined in the 10-day itinerary above, with three days exploring the South Coast and Golden Circle, beginning at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and ending back in Reykjavik. Learn more.