Have only 5 days to explore Iceland? Most people stay in and around Reykjavik and do day trips, While there are plenty of great things to see and do in that area, staying near Reykjavik will have you experience Iceland along with all the crowds and tour buses.

There are many better ways to uncover Iceland’s nature, beauty, and power.  Our network of travel experts and local operators have designed these unique 5-day itineraries that take you off the beaten path to let you see Iceland in a way that few travelers do.

Expert tips to plan your trip:

In order to make the most of your 5-day trip to Iceland, we have developed a few effective strategies that help you beat the crowds and see Iceland from a unique perspective:

  • Upon arrival, skip Reykjavik and drive north to Snaefellsnes or follow the South Coast, then explore for a few days before making your way back to Reykjavik for the end of your trip.
  • Combine a one-way domestic flight to get to a more remote location with a drive back to Reykjavik (the views over Iceland are incredible!).
  • Use a return flight to one of Iceland’s remote airports to maximize time in a region away from the crowds while minimizing driving.

Below are 7 itineraries that use a combination of these strategies, which will help you enjoy Iceland like few people do.

Option #1: Volcanic Highlights away from the Crowds: Snaefellsnes, Akureyri, Lake Myvatn

See the best of the volcanic and geothermal wonders of Iceland without the large tour groups of the south coast and Golden Circle. Start with a 2-day tour of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula filled with lava fields, beaches, cliffs, waterfalls, caves, and craters all along the beautiful coastline. Next head north to Iceland’s second city, Akureyri and spend time at Husavik, the whale watching capital, see the spectacular waterfalls of Godafoss (“Waterfall of the Gods”), Selfoss, and Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful, and finish with Lake Myvatn, a geothermal and volcanic wonderland complete with a relaxing nature bath. Save time by flying from Akureyri back to Reykjavik.

  • Day 1: Reykjavik to Snæfellsnes Peninsula (Glymur Falls, Settlement Center at Borgarnes, Gerðuberg Basalt Cliffs)
  • Day 2: Snæfellsnes Peninsula (Búðakirkja and Budhahraun Lava Fields, Arnarstapi and Hellnar, Snæfellsjökull National Park, Londrangar Cliffs, Djúpalónssandur Black Sand Beach, Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall and Kirkjufell Mountain)   
  • Day 3: Drive to Akureyri (4.5hr), explore Akureyri
  • Day 4-5: Lake Myvatn, Husavik, Godafoss, Dettifoss, Fly back (waterfalls, lava fields, rock formations, mud pools, craters, nature baths)

Read more in our detailed 5-day Itinerary to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and Akureyri.

Driving: 1000km, 13hr

Option #2: Northern Highlights: Akureyri, Lake Myvatn, Waterfalls, and Geothermal Hotspots

For a unique Iceland experience, avoid the crowds of the south completely. This Trip has it all: volcanoes, waterfalls, hot springs, nature baths, whale watching, fjords and more. Below are 2 great ways to experience to north: all the highlights with only a fraction of the people. You can maximize your time by taking a domestic flight over the beautiful highlands of the interior to Akureyri, or you can drive one way and fly from Akureyri back to Reykjavik.

  • Day 1: Reykjavik (Laugavegur street, Hallgrimskirkja, Harpa Culture Center, Sun Voyager Sculpture, Harbor)
  • Day 2: Drive to Akureyri (4.5 hours)
  • Day 3: Godafoss, Husavik, Ásbyrgi Canyon, Dettifoss. Stay in Myvatn
  • Day 4: Lake Myvatn, evening in Akureyri: waterfalls, lava fields, rock formations, mud pools, craters, nature baths)
  • Day 5: Back to Reykjavik (or 45 min domestic flight)

Read more in our detailed 5-Day Self-Drive to Akureyri, Myvatn, and Waterfalls of the North.

Driving: 350 km, 5hr with flights from Reykjavik to Akureyri

Driving: 1120 km, 14hr if driving from Reykjavik and back. (4.5hr each day)

Option #3: Snaefellsnes, Westfjords, fly back

Explore the west coast of Iceland with a few days in the Volcanic Snaefellsnes Peninsula before taking a car ferry past Flatey island to the remote Westfjords, home to some of the most dramatic landscapes in all of Iceland. There you can hike along the jagged cliffs at Londrangar, home to some of the most active bird light, see black, golden, and red sand beaches, and visit the powerful Dynjandi Waterfall with several other waterfalls below. Spend a couple nights in Isafjordur, a great base for hiking, kayaking, and day trips across the fjord to the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve only accessible by boat and trail. Make the most of your time with a one-way domestic flight from Isafjordur back to Reykjavik.

  • Day 1: Reykjavik to Snæfellsnes Peninsula (Glymur Falls, Settlement Center at Borgarnes, Gerðuberg Basalt Cliffs)
  • Day 2: Snæfellsnes Peninsula (Búðakirkja and Budhahraun Lava Fields, Arnarstapi and Hellnar, Snæfellsjökull National Park, Londrangar Cliffs, Djúpalónssandur Black Sand Beach, Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall and Kirkjufell Mountain)  
  • Day 3: Southern Westfjords: (Ferry to Westfjords, Látrabjarg Bird Cliffs, Rauðasandur Red sand beach, Breiðavík Golden Beach, Patreksfjörður)
  • Day 4: Dynjandi Waterfall, Ísafjörður
  • Day 5: Explore Ísafjörður: (Kayaking, Hiking, sail/hike in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve)

Follow this itinerary in more detail in our guide to 7 days exploring the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Westfjords, and Golden Circle.

Ferry Schedule (Stykkishólmur to Brjánslækur)

Off Season

  • 15:00-17:30, no trips on Saturdays.
  • 4,230 ISK adults ($37); 4,230 ISK cars (book in advance)

High-Season

  • 09:00-11:30 and 15:45-18:15
  • 5,760 ISK adults ($50); 5,760 ISK cars (book in advance)

Option #4: Escape to the remote Westfjords

To really explore off the beaten path, fly to Isafjordur in the Westfjords and the crowds will almost disappear. Set up a home base in Isafjordur and seek out hikes and dramatic landscapes on day trips.

  • Southern Westfjords: Látrabjarg Bird Cliffs, Rauðasandur Red sand beach, Breiðavík Golden Beach, Dynjandi Waterfall (could spend a night in Patreksfjordur)
  • Hiking around Hornstrandir Nature Reserve
  • Kayaking around the fjords or to Vigur island to see the birdlife
  • Hiking around the mountains above Isafjordur

Option #5: A Taste of Everything: Snaefellsnes Peninsula, South Coast, Golden Circle

Cover a bit of everything during your time in Iceland: Lava fields, craters, cliffs, and caves along the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, black beaches, arches, waterfalls and canyons in the south, and Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir geothermal area, and Thingvellir national park along the Golden Circle. This tour sticks to more of the popular sights (which means more people), but it gives you a taste of the top sights only a few hours from Reykjavik.

  • Day 1: Reykjavik to Snæfellsnes Peninsula (Glymur Falls, Settlement Center at Borgarnes, Gerðuberg Basalt Cliffs)
  • Day 2: Snæfellsnes Peninsula (Búðakirkja and Budhahraun Lava Fields, Arnarstapi and Hellnar, Snæfellsjökull National Park, Londrangar Cliffs, Djúpalónssandur Black Sand Beach, Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall and Kirkjufell Mountain)   
  • Day 3: Golden Circle (Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss Waterfall, Secret Lagoon)
  • Day 4: Gullfoss to Vik (Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Skogafoss Waterfall and Fimmvörðuháls Hike, Dyrholaey Arch and Cliffs, Reynisfjara Beach, Vik Beaches)
  • Day 5: Vik back to Reykjavik

If you have a few more days, consider our 7-day self-drive tour of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Golden Circle, and South Coast.

Total driving: 880km, 11.5hrs

Option #6: One-way tour of the south: Egilsstadir, Glacier Lagoon, Vik, Golden Circle

Make the most of your limited time by driving one way from Egilsstadir to Vik to Reykjavik without retracing your steps. You’ll pay a bit more for a domestic flight and one-way car rental, but you get a chance to see the dramatic landscapes of the eastern fjords and get more time seeing new places rather than doubling back.

  • Day 1: Domestic Flight to Egilsstadir (Seydisfjordur Fjord, Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss waterfalls)
  • Day 2: Eastern Fjords to Hofn (Majestic Fjords, Djúpivogur Fishing village and Lighthouse, Hvalnes Nature Reserve)
  • Day 3: Hofn to Vik: (Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, Diamond Beach, Hof, Skaftafell and Svartifoss, Fjadrargljufur Canyon)
  • Day 4: Vik to Golden Circle:(Reynisfjara Beach, Dyrholaey Arch and Cliffs, Skogafoss Waterfall and Fimmvörðuháls Hike, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Secret Lagoon)
  • Day 5: Golden Circle and Reykjavik (Gullfoss Waterfall, Geysir Geothermal Area, Thingvellir National Park)

Read more in our detailed 5-day itinerary of highlights from east to west.

Total Driving: 800km, 10hrs

Option #7: South Coast Drive to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

If you want to see the sights along the south while sticking a tighter budget, you can drive out and back. You won’t be able to make it past the Glacier Lagoon (no Hofn, or pretty fjords of the east), but you will save by not buying a one-way domestic flight and paying extra for a one-direction car rental.

  • Day 1: KEF to Vik
  • Day 2: Vik to Glacier Lagoon / Hof Area
  • Day 3: Hof to Skaholt / Golden Circle
  • Day 4: Golden Circle to Reykjavik
  • Day 5: Reykjavik

Total Driving: 850km, 10.5hr

Conclusion: Make the most of your short stay in Iceland

If you only have a week or less for your visit to Iceland you can make the most of your time without the crowds by using some more creative itineraries listed above. We would be delighted to help you put together your trip by connecting you to a trusted Iceland-based operator in our network.  

 

Map

Map of Explore Iceland in 5 days - Seven Optimized Itineraries to help you make the most of your Short Trip to Iceland
Map of Explore Iceland in 5 days - Seven Optimized Itineraries to help you make the most of your Short Trip to Iceland

Recent Trip Reviews

Related trips planned by kimkim specialists

Explore iceland in 5 days - seven optimized itineraries to help you make the most of your short trip to iceland , Iceland - Sep 3 - Sep 8, 2018

Traveler: Terri C. - Local specialist: Christina Degener

Fantastic, couldn’t have asked for better planning or customer service. Thank you so much for all your great recommendations and we can’t wait to get back to Iceland! We will certainly be a returning customer.

Explore iceland in 5 days - seven optimized itineraries to help you make the most of your short trip to iceland , Iceland - Sep 3 - Sep 8, 2018

Traveler: Lauren C. - Local specialist: Christina Degener

Our trip to Iceland was excellent! Christina made a wonderful itinerary for us and the entire experience was seamless. We felt like we received a great value for the price. Thanks! LC

Explore iceland in 5 days - seven optimized itineraries to help you make the most of your short trip to iceland , Iceland - Aug 8 - Aug 13, 2018

Traveler: Lesley A. - Local specialist: Preeti Bhide

We really enjoyed the itinerary and the hotels that were selected. Would have appreciated a bit more detail and tips. For example the day trip to the waterfall, where there was no opportunity to get lunch, a note suggesting to take a picnic lunch would have been helpful. Also some detail on the timing of activities would help plan the day better - seal colony viewing duration, whale watching duration etc.

Eneken

Explore iceland in 5 days - seven optimized itineraries to help you make the most of your short trip to iceland , Iceland - Aug 1 - Aug 6, 2018

Traveler: Eneken M. - Local specialist: Zeynep Sidal Snævarr

Thank you Zeynep and kimkim, we had the most wonderful days in Iceland!!!
Everything was so well organized and worked as swizz clock that we had to worry about nothing, just make sure we will get to next place in time.
We had asked for budget accommodation, but were amazed how great and cozy all hostels, gueshouses and hotels were - Sunna’s guesthouse in Reykjavik had the best location! Guesthouse Lambastaðir was so cozy, just like somebodys home and the late night hot tub was brilliant. Same... read more

Thank you Zeynep and kimkim, we had the most wonderful days in Iceland!!!
Everything was so well organized and worked as swizz clock that we had to worry about nothing, just make sure we will get to next place in time.
We had asked for budget accommodation, but were amazed how great and cozy all hostels, gueshouses and hotels were - Sunna’s guesthouse in Reykjavik had the best location! Guesthouse Lambastaðir was so cozy, just like somebodys home and the late night hot tub was brilliant. Same in hotel Katla. I’m not surprised all the places were fully booked.
Zeynep, we are so greatful fore the trip plan you had made for us. We visted almost everything you had marked on handwritten map - it was clever to use different colours, which made it really easy to understand. And small hints like the lobster restaurant Fjöribordid, wow!!! So worth of vsit.
And we loved ice hiking at Solheimajökull. It was the only day pouring rain, but we got everything we needed to stay dry. We really loved our guide who was so professional in hinking, but also fun and friendly as person. We will treasure that day for a lobg long time. And eveything he told about glaciers and melting really got us thinking about global warming and the results. Thank you Asgard Beyond!
We can also say only greatest thanks to Zodiac tours for boat tour on Ice Lagoon, what a experience! No one should miss it if in Iceland.
I left peace of heart to Iceland and hopefully will return some day to explore more. Just loved it!
Eneken and friends

Explore iceland in 5 days - seven optimized itineraries to help you make the most of your short trip to iceland , Iceland - Apr 7 - Apr 13, 2018

Traveler: Brette H. - Local specialist: Halldor Bjarkason

Hálldor and Preeti did a phenomenal job in picking the hotels, locations and excursion companies. Everything worked out perfectly, the hotels were perfect and the excursions were private with personable, knowledgeable and great guides.

When I go back to Iceland, I intend on using Hálldor and Preeti again. They’re fantastic and I’m very happy with the experience.