- Enjoy glacier excursions in Langjökull, Sólheimajökull, and Jökulsárlón
- Catch glimpses of the Northern Lights from natural hot spring and lagoon soaks
- Visit frozen waterfalls, including Kirkjufellsfoss, Seljalandsfoss, and Skógafoss
- Explore Thingvellir Park, snorkel at Silfra Fissure, and dog sled in the Golden Circle
|Day 1||Arrival & Discover Winter in Downtown Reykjavik||Reykjavik|
|Day 2||Into the Glacier Tour, Frozen Waterfalls, & Snaefellsnes Peninsula||Snæfellsnes Peninsula|
|Day 3||Snæfellsnes Peninsula Winter Drive||Snæfellsnes Peninsula|
|Day 4||Visit Thingvellir Park, Snorkeling at Silfra Fissure, & Dog Sledding||Golden Circle|
|Day 5||Golden Circle Exploration & Snowmobile Tour||Golden Circle|
|Day 6||Winter Waterfalls & Black-Sand Beaches to Kirkjubæjarklaustur||Kirkjubæjarklaustur|
|Day 7||Glacier Walks, Ice Cave Tours & Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon||Kirkjubæjarklaustur|
|Day 8||South Coast Glacier Hike & Back to Reykjavik||Reykjavik|
|Day 9||Visit the Reykjanes Peninsula & Depart From Reykjavík|
Day 1: Arrival and discover winter in Downtown ReykjavikWelcome to Iceland! Arrive at Keflavik International Airport (KEF) in the morning and pick up your rental car. Drive about 30 minutes to Reykjavík for breakfast and a relaxing first day exploring the compact downtown area.
Breakfast recommendations include the following:
- Bergsson Mathús (opens at 7 am)
- Sandholt (opens at 7 am)
- Reykjavík Roasters (for great coffee)
- Brauð & Co. (if you like bread and pastries)
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.
For dinner recommendations, consider the below:
- Sea Barron
- Kol Restaurant
- The Coocoo's Nest
- Café Loki
- Craft Cocktails
- Mikkeller & Friends
- Skúli Craft Bar
- KEX Hostel Bar (live music on weekends)
Day 2: Into the Glacier Tour, frozen waterfalls, and Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Head north after breakfast to experience West Iceland and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula—both areas see fewer visitors compared to the Golden Circle and South Coast and will provide you with a bit more time to take things in at your own pace.
First, embark on the “Into the Glacier” adventure to explore Langjökull, which is the second-largest glacier in Iceland. Ride in a special vehicle designed for this 3-4-hour excursion. Take the journey up the white slopes and head into the ice tunnels toward the heart of the glacier. Then, enjoy the spectacular view as you exit the top of the ice cap. Experienced guides will ensure you are safe and educated along the way.
Next, stop in Borgarnes on the water, where you can learn more about the Settlement Age of Iceland at the Settlement Center, or walk along the shore path near the sea.
Next, land in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, which is sometimes referred to as “Little Iceland,” because here, you can find a little bit of everything that Iceland has to offer: amazing basalt columns, tiny fishing villages, coastal cliff walks past arches and other rock formations, lava fields, volcanic craters, black-sand beaches, waterfalls, lava caves, and more.
First, stop at the Gerðuberg Basalt Cliffs, where strange basalt columns rise up out of the earth. Park the car and walk around to explore and get a closer look. Next, walk through the start of the Budhahraun lava fields on the coast, which are covered in moss.
In the late afternoon, walk along the cliffside paths at Arnarstapi to experience the cool cliffs, lava formations, and arches in the rocks.
Day 3: Snæfellsnes Peninsula winter drive
If you did not do so yesterday, begin your day with a walk along the cliffside paths at Arnarstapi, and a visit to Fjöruhúsið café. Follow the trail all the way between Arnarstapi and Hellnar, starting from either side.
Next, visit the large Lóndrangar lava formations, which you can view from afar, or walk 15 minutes to see up-close. A little further along the road is the peninsula’s Visitor Center, where you can learn more about the volcanic system and the area.
Then, take a stroll along Djúpalónssandur, a black-sand beach with debris from a shipwreck—the rusted remains along the black sand make for a beautiful photo opportunity. Here, find four stones of different sizes, which were once used by sea captains to test the strength of sailors interested in joining their crews. While facing the water, look for a small trail along the right-side cliffs to follow for 15-20 minutes until you reach Dritvík cove, once the site of a major fishing operation.
As you near the westernmost point of the peninsula, look for signs for Saxhóll crater. It's worth a quick stop to walk up the stairs that take you to the top of the crater, which has 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 peaks.
Spend the night in Grundarfjörður, near the mountain and waterfall, or continue to the larger town of Stykkishólmur. On the way, stop at a shark museum and taste some hákarl, or fermented shark. Or, enjoy dinner at one of the following restaurants:
- Bjargarsteinn mathus in Grundarfjörður
- Sjávarpakkhúsið in Stykkishólmur
- Narfeyrarstofa in Stykkishólmur
Day 4: Visit Thingvellir Park, snorkeling at Silfra Fissure, and dog sledding
Finish exploring the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and drive south. Enter the famous Golden Circle area. 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, join a snorkel tour to dive between the tectonic plates at the Silfra Fissure.
You can also head out on a dogsledding excursion with native huskies in the Golden Circle. The small-group tour allows you a more intimate experience to take in the breathtaking winter views all around. (Make sure to bring warm, waterproof, outdoor clothing, along with adequate footwear.)
Finish your day with a relaxing geothermal soak at the Secret Lagoon or Laugarvatn Fontana.
Day 5: Golden Circle exploration and snowmobile tour
Start the morning early with a trip to the massive Gullfoss (“Golden Falls”) waterfall—before the day visitors arrive—and carefully hike down the short path to the top of the powerful waterfall.
Then, meet at the café for your transfer to the Langjökull Glacier basecamp to begin your snowmobile activity. Head to Langjökull Glacier in a specialized Super-Jeep, an exciting experience in itself. After arriving at the glacier base camp, get outfitted in a snowmobile suit, gloves, balaclava, and helmet for your snowmobile ride. Your professional glacier snowmobiling guide will then show you how to safely operate a snowmobile before your 1-hour excursion officially starts. Langjökull Glacier is home to several enormous ice-filled volcanic craters, rimmed in by imposing volcanoes and set in the breathtaking Icelandic interior. The views from the flanks of Langjökull are quite incredible. In the distance rests Eiríksjökull glacier, the highest mountain in West Iceland, the dome-shaped Hofsjökull glacier, and the Kerlingafjöll Mountain range.
After the trip, continue exploring more sights in the area, like the Geysir geothermal area. Or, simply relax for the rest of the day and enjoy a geothermal soak in the Secret Lagoon.
Day 6: Winter waterfalls and black-sand beaches to Kirkjubæjarklaustur
After breakfast, hit the road and spend today enjoying the popular highlights of the south.
Your first stop is the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, which you can walk behind. The ground is uneven in a few places, but it is just a few minutes from the parking lot. Standing in a cave under the cliff, you will see 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). Locate two smaller waterfalls to the left, while looking at the waterfall. One is Gljúfrabúi, which is hidden in a small cave that you can enter. Wear a rain jacket for this one.
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 carefully 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.) Slowly take the 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, which makes a great base to explore nearby Skaftafell and the surrounding glacier highlights on tomorrow’s agenda.
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 7: Glacier walks, ice cave tours, and Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
In the morning, continue east along the Ring Road (Route 1, the only major road in this area). Along the way, encounter the impressive glaciers of the South Coast, with opportunities to venture into a natural ice cave, ending at the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
First, visit Skaftafell. 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, with 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.
After a day of exploring the Icelandic glacier wonders, drive back to your accommodation in Kirkjubæjarklaustur.
Day 8: South Coast glacier hike and back to Reykjavik
Drive back along the South Coast toward Reykjavík—around 2-2.5 hours.
En route, stop in Sólheimajökull, just northwest of Vík, to do some glacier hiking. Sólheimajökull is the outlet glacier of Mýrdalsjökull, and the fourth-largest glacier in Iceland. Small-group tours are available, where safety equipment is included, so you can discover the mass over blue ice that is thousands of years old. Enjoy the incredible snowy landscapes—blue sinkholes, thrilling crevices, and rugged ridges—with an education from an experienced adventure guide. For the more advanced, ice climbing activities are available, too. Additionally, you can opt for a glacier hike combined with a horseback riding excursion along a black-sand beach (offered year-round).
Next, visit the LAVA Centre, which is an interactive and high-tech experience featuring an educational exhibit about volcanic activity, as well as earthquakes and Iceland's creation over millions of years of history.
Additional stops on the way back to Reykjavík 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.
- 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.
For dinner, revisit the restaurant recommendations from your arrival day in Reykjavík, as well as the bar roster—if you are up for a final night out on the town.
Day 9: Visit the Reykjanes Peninsula and depart from Reykjavík
Spend your last day exploring more of Reykjavík. Stop by the Blue Lagoon on your drive to the airport, where you can enjoy one, last geothermal soak before you fly home.
If you have more time, visit some of the highlights around the Reykjanes Peninsula. The following places are often missed by travelers quickly traveling between Reykjavik and KEF airport for departure. With a bit more time, you can explore lava fields, geothermal areas, lighthouses, and small fishing towns.
These places are listed east to west, as you drive from Reykjavik to KEF clockwise around the peninsula:
- Krýsuvík geothermal area: While you can walk around the area near the parking lot in as little as 5 minutes, take your time to see the steam vents and hot pools up close. Look up at the multicolored hills surrounding the area. There’s a short, steep trail up the hill, which offers great views on a clear day.
- Gunnuhver hot springs and geothermal area: Here, find a couple of bubbling and steaming mud pools. Gunnuhver is named after a female ghost who was said to be trapped in the hot springs more than 400 years ago. Temperatures are extremely hot, so stick to the walkways and viewing areas. While here, continue about 5 minutes to the cliffs to stop at Reykjanesviti lighthouse with beautiful views of Iceland from atop a hill.
- Bridge Between Continents (Europe Miðlína): This area is a great symbol of Icelandic geology. The Reykjanes Peninsula is on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which pulls apart a few centimeters every year. You can cross the bridge between the continental plates while you’re here, and look down at the gap below.
- Garður Lighthouse: About 15 minutes north of KEF, you will arrive at two lighthouses—one on the coast (older and not as stable), and a second a bit further inland. This scenic area can be a nice area to walk around and stretch your legs before boarding your return flight home.