Perched on a fissure between tectonic plates, Iceland has oodles of unique natural scenery in a relatively small country. But different trips offer very different experiences; here are 6 Iceland itineraries to help you have the perfect trip tailored to you.
All trips to Iceland have something in common – remarkable natural scenery in concentrated abundance you don’t find anywhere else.
Nevertheless, different Iceland itineraries can offer vastly different experiences.
Base yourself around Reykjavík and the Golden Circle and Iceland is set up for tourism; good roads, plenty of facilities, regular tours to famous hotspots, and a wide selection of accommodation options.
Venture onto the Ring Road and you’ll start to leave the crowds behind with handsome waterfalls, glacial lagoons and whale-watching opportunities luring road trippers on a voyage circumnavigating the country.
Head into the wilderness – wide desolate plains filled with dramatic scenery only accessible in summer and you’ll be carving out an unforgettable experience well off the tourist trail.
After 4 trips to Iceland over many years, we’ve developed six diverse itineraries for different experiences.
We have shorter, car-free trips you can do using public transport and tours; longer trips where you’ll want your own hire car and adventure trips where you’ll need a 4×4.
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IN THIS GUIDE
6 ICELAND ITINERARIES
HOW MANY DAYS IN ICELAND?
If you just want to see the main tourist sites around Reykjavik and the Golden Circle, you need to allow 3 days. You won’t be able to leave the crowds behind, but this is the minimum amount of time you would want to spend in Iceland.
If you have 5-7 days, you’ll be able to venture past the Golden Circle towards Vik and Höfn to see Jökulsárlón Glacier Pool, the black sand beaches at Dyrhólaey Peninsular and some of the most impressive waterfalls in Iceland.
In 10 days, you’ll be able to complete the Ring Road and visit the east fjords, Mývatn, and Stuðlagil Canyon.
PLANNING YOUR ICELAND ITINERARY
We have put together six action-packed Iceland itineraries from 3 to 10 days. All of them begin and end near Keflavik Airport, which is about 30 miles from the capital, Reykjavík.
Our 3- and 5-Day Itineraries can be done on public transport and tours; but you’ll need your own 2WD rental car for the 7-Day Itinerary and the 10-day Ring Road Itinerary. Our Iceland Adventure Itinerary requires a 4×4.
Here’s some more reading that will help you plan your Iceland adventure.
- To discover the incredible attractions in the country, read our guide to the best places to visit in Iceland.
- To help with all the logistics and practical information read our planning a trip to Iceland guide.
- For information on getting around including the best hire car options, read driving in Iceland.
3–DAY REYKJAVÍK ITINERARY
This 3-day Iceland itinerary can be completed while based in Reykjavík. You can either use public transport and join tours to get around or hire a car and drive yourself. For hotel and guesthouse recommendations see our where to stay in Iceland Guide.
DAY 1 – GOLDEN CIRCLE & GEOTHERMAL POOL
The classic day trip from Reykjavík, the Golden Circle is a 3-hour, 30-minute circular drive that visits some of southwest Iceland’s premier sights.
Stops include Thingvellir National Park where a fissure runs through Iceland’s historic parliament, Geysir where geysers erupt every ten to fifteen minutes, and Gullfoss, a powerful and beautiful Icelandic waterfall. Don’t forget to stop at either the geothermal pools of the Secret Lagoon or Laugarvatn Fontana nearby.
Drive or Tour // If you don’t have a car, this Golden Circle Tour includes all the main stops, plus a swim in the Secret Lagoon. For a self-drive experience read our guide to the Golden Circle (coming soon).
DAY 2 – REYKJAVÍK, FAGRADALSFJALL VOLCANO, AND BLUE LAGOON
Spend the morning exploring the streets of Reykjavík, then head to Fagradalsfjall Volcano, the sight of Iceland’s latest eruption. A range of different hikes offer magnificent views of the steaming black lava fields sweeping over the mountains.
End the day by soaking in the upmarket geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon or the natural and beautifully set Reykjadalur Thermal River.
Drive or Tour // This Reykjavík Blue Lagoon Day Trip Tour includes a guided hike at Fagradalsfjall followed by a visit to the Blue Lagoon, and this tour to Reykjadalur is perfect for groups of up to 6. To self-drive, all the information is in our Fagradalsfjall Volcano guide and our Reykjadalur Thermal River guide.
DAY 3 – DAY TRIP TO THE NORTHERN LIGHTS, HIGHLANDS OR THE SOUTH COAST
For your final day around Reykjavík, take a day trip to capture one of Iceland’s unique experiences. Here are some suggestions based on the time of year you are visiting.
Summer // In summer take a day trip into Iceland’s Highlands. They are long days, but a great way to explore exactly what makes Iceland so unique. Some options we recommend –
- Landmannalaugar – Colourful mountains deep in the remote central Highlands
- Thórsmörk – The Valley of Thor where rivers cut their way through black sand and rock
- Langjökull – A large glacier where Snowmobile tours can be combined with the Golden Circle
Out of summer // In spring, fall and winter the highlands roads close, but there are plenty of other great day trips you could do from Reykjavík –
- Head out on a south-coast Iceland tour to see the waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, and the black sand beaches and puffins (April to August) at Dyrhólaey.
- Join a super jeep tour to explore the wonders of the Ice Cave at Katla.
- From September to March head out with a camera and a tripod on a Northern Lights Bus tour.
5–DAY SOUTHWEST ICELAND ITINERARY
Southwest Iceland has many of the unmissable attractions in the country including natural geothermal pools, several of Iceland’s top waterfalls and access to remote regions of the central highlands. In our opinion, 5 days is about the right amount of time given how much there is to see.
It’s possible to complete this entire itinerary using public transport and tours from Reykjavík, but it’s easier and more efficient to rent your own car. Read our driving in Iceland guide to find out how easy it is.
DAY 1 – REYKJAVÍK & REYKJADALUR HOT SPRINGS
Spend the morning exploring the streets of charming Reykjavík. In the afternoon head to Hveragerði. From here a 1-hour hike takes you to Reykjadalur thermal river where you can soak in the naturally heated water while staring out at glorious scenery.
In winter spend the evening searching for the Northern Lights on the outskirts of Reykjavík. In the summer, take advantage of the cool bar scene in the centre of town.
Stay – 1 night in Reykjavík (where to stay in Reykjavík)
DAY 2 – GOLDEN CIRCLE & SECRET LAGOON
No trip to Iceland should miss the Golden Circle. The key sights are Thingvellir where a fissure runs through Iceland’s historic parliament; Geysir where geysers erupt every ten to fifteen minutes; and Gullfoss a truly majestic waterfall. End the day at the Secret Lagoon, a wonderfully relaxing natural geothermal pool near the town of Flúðir.
Stay – Modern stylish Hotel Rangá with onsite observatory or good value Álftröð Guesthouse.
DAY 3 – LANDMANNALAUGAR OR THÓRSMÖRK
Iceland is famous for dramatic scenery, but the best of its impressive landscapes are in the highlands. It’s a wild and remote part of Iceland but two of the best areas are accessible from the southwest.
Landmannalaugar // Landmannalaugar is an area of colourful mountains in the Fjallabak National Park. It has excellent hiking with amazing views and a geothermal pool set under a cooled lava flow. The drive there passes Haifoss waterfall; the picture-perfect canyon of Sigöldugljúfur; and the volcanic crater of Ljótipollur. Either drive yourself (a 4×4 is required – no 2WD) or join a tour. Read more in our Landmannalaugar Guide.
Thórsmörk // Three valleys converge forming a dramatic wilderness of spectacular scenery at Thórsmörk. Huge moss-covered mountains dwarfed by even bigger glaciers are divided by a swathe of black rivers. It’s a hiker’s paradise but even a short 40-minute walk can take you to some wonderful viewpoints. You’ll need to get the public bus from Reykjavík or join a tour. Read more in our Thórsmörk Guide.
Stay – Modern stylish Hotel Rangá with an onsite observatory or a cool Icelandic stay at The Garage.
DAY 4 – SKÓGAFOSS, DYRHÓLAEY & VIK
On day 4, head east along the Ring Road to visit some of Iceland’s best waterfalls. Seljalandsfoss is a 60-metre drop that you can walk behind, Gljufrabui is a smaller waterfall hidden behind rocks, and Skógafoss is a beautiful 25-metre-wide cascade.
Another 30 minutes’ drive brings you to Dyrhólaey. This peninsula has great views of the black sand beach and excellent puffin viewing.
Some other ideas for day 4 –
- Walk on the black sand beach of Reynisfjara under basalt columns
- Drive up the rough road to Katla for wonderful views of the canyon
- Take an Ice Cave tour and Glacier Hike from Vik
- Walk to the wrecked DC-3 Plane at Sólheimasandur for your Instagram shot
Stay – The Garage is a cool Icelandic stay with a fully equipped kitchen, or Hotel Katla is a modern comfortable lodging in Vik.
DAY 5 – FAGRADALSFJALL VOLCANO & BLUE LAGOON
Spend the morning exploring more of the south coast suggestions listed above before heading back west. In the afternoon stop at Fagradalsfjall Volcano, the sight of Iceland’s latest eruption.
A range of different hiking trails offer magnificent views of the steaming black lava fields. End the day soaking in the moody upmarket geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon. Explore yourself or take a tour.
Stay // Northern Light Inn right next to the Blue Lagoon or in Reykjavík (where to stay in Iceland guide).
7–DAY SOUTHERN ICELAND ITINERARY
One week is enough time to see the entire south coast of Iceland. This 7-day itinerary covers most of the sights listed above but also heads to the far southeast of Iceland where the country is wilder and more remote.
Here you’ll find Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe towering over the famous Jökulsárlón Lagoon pool, dramatic canyons and jagged mountain ranges.
Many visitors try to do the whole Ring Road in 7 days but – in our opinion – that would be too rushed. It’s better to spend 7 days taking your time and properly exploring the south, which has many of the best places to visit in Iceland.
This trip can be done in a 2WD except DAY 3 where you will need to join a tour to either Landmannalaugar or Thórsmörk. If you hire a 4×4 you can drive to Landmannalaugar yourself.
DAYS 1 TO 3 – EXPLORE FROM REYKJAVÍK
Follow days 1 through 3 on the 5-day Iceland itinerary above.
DAY 4 – SKOGAFOSS, DYRHÓLAEY & VIK
Follow day 4 on the 5-day Iceland itinerary above, but instead stay at either Hotel Katla in Vik or Glacier View Guesthouse in Hrifunes, so you’re close to tomorrow’s activities.
DAY 5 – JÖKULSÁRLÓN & VESTRAHORN
Today head east along the south coast to the far southeast of Iceland. This drive takes you under the flanks of Vatnajökull Glacier, the largest ice cap in Europe. First stop at the moss-covered Eldhraun Lava Field, then at the beautiful Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon where a river has cut a jagged path through the gorge.
Next, drive past Skaftafell National Park (saving it for tomorrow) to visit the glacial lagoon of Jökulsárlón and the massive ice cubes on the black Diamond Beach. End the day at Vestrahorn taking photos of these pointed mountains reflecting in the tidal lagoon.
The entire drive takes 3 to 4 hours, but it has some of the best scenery on the Ring Road.
Stay – For sunrise and sunset views of Vestrahorn stay at Viking Café. However, if you would like more facilities, read the Höfn and Southeast section of – best places to stay in Iceland.
DAY 6 – SKAFTAFELL & VATNAJÖKULL GLACIER
The best way to truly come to terms with the utter wilderness of the Vatnajökull Glacier is to get up close to it. There are a couple of good options to choose from.
Firstly, the Skaftafell National Park, has a variety of hiking trails. In 45 minutes (each way) you can see Svartifoss, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. In 1 hour 15 minutes (each way) you can reach the Sjónarnípa viewpoint which overlooks the glacier. Longer hikes leave the crowds behind and take you high up into the mountains. There are maps and information at the Visitor Centre.
Secondly, join a Glacier Tour. There are a range of different tours that get you onto the Vatnajökull Glacier itself.
Stay – After a day of activities head back west and stay at Hotel Katla in Vik or the Glacier View Guesthouse in Hrifunes.
DAY 7 – FAGRADALSFJALL VOLCANO & BLUE LAGOON
Follow DAY 5 of the 5-day Iceland itinerary to the Fagradalsfjall Volcano and the Blue Lagoon.
10–DAY ICELAND RING ROAD ITINERARY
Ten days is enough time to drive the entire Ring Road and make a complete circuit of the country. The Ring Road is just over 800 miles (1,300 kilometres) long, which would take about 17 hours of driving without stops. But there are plenty of stops, and several short detours are needed to see the best sights.
This itinerary can be done in a 2WD except DAY 3 where you will need to join a tour to either Landmannalaugar or Thórsmörk. If you hire a 4×4 you can drive to Landmannalaugar yourself.
DAY 1 TO 4 – REYJKAVÍK TO VIK
Follow days 1 through 4 on the 7-day Iceland itinerary above.
DAY 5 – SKAFTAFELL, JÖKULSÁRLÓN & VESTRAHORN
Follow DAY 5 of the 7-day Iceland itinerary except this time stop at Skaftafell National Park and take a hike to Svartifoss and/or one of the glacial viewpoints. This extra stop makes it a long day requiring an early start. If you have time, visit Vestrahorn, if not, save it for the following morning.
Stay – For sunrise and sunset views of Vestrahorn stay at Viking Café or for other options checkout the Höfn and southeast section of our best places to stay in Iceland guide.
DAY 6 – VESTRAHORN, HENGIFOSS & EASTFJORDS
If you ran out of time yesterday head to Vestrahorn to take photos of these wonderful mountains over the tidal lagoon, then begin your long drive (3 to 4 hours) up the east coast of Iceland on Route 1 (the Ring Road).
In the summer months, when the road is open, it is well worth taking the shortcut between Breiðdalsvik and Egilsstaðir on Route 95. It’s about an hour shorter and the scenery, if anything, is better.
Just before Egilsstaðir take a detour on the 931 west to Hengifoss. From the car park it’s a 1-hour hike (each way) to the waterfall and the first 30 minutes is quite steep, but the red rings etched into the rock framing the cascade make it one of the most beautiful falls in Iceland.
There are a host of nice places to stay in the area, but our pick is Seyðisfjordur. It’s an extra 30-minute drive each way from Egilsstaðir, but this colourful town perched at the end of a fjord offers great views and the drive there is breathtaking.
Dinner Tip // The pizza and local beer at Skaftfell Bistro are excellent.
Stay – Seyðisfjordur Guesthouse is good value with kitchen facilities in a great location or check out our other suggestions in the eastern section of our where to stay in Iceland guide.
DAY 7 – STUÐLAGIL CANYON AND MÝVATN
Start today at Stuðlagil Canyon which was revealed only in 2009 after a dam forced water levels to drop. All the details are on our Stuðlagil Canyon guide including the best viewpoints.
From Stuðlagil, follow the Ring Road northeast to the Mývatn area based around the village of Reykahlíð. There are loads of different volcanic oddities to see in the area and all of them are listed on our Mývatn guide. For this afternoon, we suggest you explore the bubbling mud pots of Hverir and/or the steaming lava fields and volcanic crater at Krafla.
Spend the evening day soaking in the geothermal pools of the Mývatn Nature Baths.
Stay – There are lots of good accommodation in the area. Try the modern Fosshotel or its sister Hotel Laxa.
DAY 8 – HUSAVÍK & DETTIFOSS
Head north on Route 87 and explore the fishing town of Husavík. From May to September, this is one of the best places in the world to spot whales. They can often be seen from the coast, but increase your chances by taking a Traditional Whale Watching Boat Tour. In July humpback whale sightings are almost guaranteed and from April to August puffins can be seen fishing in the waters.
In the afternoon head back to Mývatn via route 85 and 864, where there are a few spots to stop on the way –
- Ásbyrgi is a unique horseshoe-shaped canyon that stretches 3.5 kilometres long and 1.1 kilometres wide.
- Hljóðaklettar is a collection of basalt columns diverging in multiple directions creating swirls, spirals, roses and arches that are known to produce haunting acoustic effects.
- Dettifoss is the largest waterfall by volume in Iceland and one of the most powerful in Europe. It plunges 44 metres into a canyon creating a watery spectacle.
Stay – Stay in the modern Fosshotel or its sister Hotel Laxa.
DAY 9 – NORTH ICELAND EXPLORE
It’s a 3-hour drive along the Ring Road from Mývatn to the town of Blönðuós. On the way, stop at Goðafoss, one of the most attractive waterfalls in Iceland.
For the rest of the day, there are several choices –
- Visit more of the volcanic sights around Mývatn such as the pseudo craters or the lava cave and fissure at Grjótagjá.
- Pop into the fishing town of Akureyri for lunch and a stroll along the harbour.
- Drive a loop around the Trollaskagi Peninsula where the road twists and turns round steep bends amongst lovely scenery (add 1 hour 30 minutes to the drive).
- If you have a 4×4 you can take a detour (50 minutes each way on the F26) to the waterfalls of Aldeyjarfoss & Hrafnabjargafoss
Stay – There are few better places to stay in Iceland than Brimslöð Atelier. This guesthouse has splendid evening meals on a shared table and breakfast is excellent.
DAY 10 – FAGRADALSFJALL VOLCANO & BLUE LAGOON
It’s a 3-hour drive from Blönduós to Reykjavík, where you can grab some lunch. In the afternoon head to Fagradalsfjall Volcano and follow day 5 of the 5-day Iceland itinerary.
ICELAND 4×4 ADVENTURE ITINERARIES
Many of Iceland’s best sights are scattered about the Ring Road. But to get away from the crowds and experience the true wilderness, you need to head into the highlands – a desolate and remote area with few facilities.
To access them you need to drive on mountain roads (called F-roads). Driving these roads is a magnificent adventure into a true wilderness and, if you are up for the challenge, offers a unique vacation experience.
To learn more about driving in the Highlands read our F-roads of Iceland post.
To discover the places you could visit read our Iceland’s Highland guide.
There are few places to stay in the highlands (except campsites), instead, it’s best to take day trips in and out from the Ring Road. Here are some specific day trips you can add to your itinerary.
IN SOUTHERN ICELAND
Iceland’s dramatic green volcano, Maelifell, rises out of a sea of black ash and stone, creating a spectacular desolate scene. There are 3 ways to get here, two of which are very achievable. Access – from Hrifunes, just east of Vík. All the details are in our Maelifell guide.
IN EASTERN ICELAND
Laugavallalaug is a scenic geothermal pool in the middle of nowhere and Hahfrahvammagljúfur is a steep-sided canyon just a few miles away. The mountain road here (F910) is a little bumpy but it’s not too challenging and it feels like you are driving over the roof of Iceland. Access – near Hengifoss or Stuðlagil. Read more in our Iceland Highland’s guide.
IN NORTHEAST ICELAND
One of the most challenging adventurous day trips is to the calderas and craters of Askja. You’ll need at least a medium-sized 4×4, a sense of adventure, and the ability to control those jangling nerves. Access – near Mývatn. Read more in our Askja guide.
IN WESTERN ICELAND
A mountain range concealing colourful hills and steaming vents, Kerlingarfjöll is a magical place. The mountain road here is easy to drive and makes an excellent route between Blönðuós, Gullfoss, and Reykjavík, rather than via the Ring Road. Read more on our Kerlingarfjöll guide.
IN SOUTHWEST ICELAND
A great F-road for beginners and a fantastic day out with beautiful waterfalls, picturesque canyons and colourful mountains, Landmannalaugar is one of the most achievable excursions into the highlands. It’s already included on DAY 3 of our itineraries, but you can read about all the great Landmannalaugar hikes to pick your adventure.
ICELAND ITINERARY EXTENSIONS
If you are planning on a longer vacation in Iceland, here are some other additions you can make to the 10-day Iceland itinerary above.
- Snaefellsnes Peninsula – The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is on the western tip of the country and is often described as a mini-Iceland. Here you’ll find a glacier, basalt columns, and dramatic coasts. Allow 1 to 2 days.
- Westfjords – Stretching out into the Atlantic Ocean, the Westfjords are a series of rugged peninsulas and massive mountains including spectacular but remote scenery. They include one of the best bird-watching cliffs in Europe and wonderful local bars and restaurants. Allow at least 2 days.
- Multi-day hikes – There are a host of multi-day hikes in Iceland. The most popular is the Laugavegur trail between Landmannalaugar and Thórsmörk which takes 3 to 4 days to complete.
PLANNING YOUR ICELAND TRIP
Iceland is an excellent destination for semi-adventurous travellers who like to get off the beaten track and immerse themselves in stunning scenery. Here’s some more reading from us to help plan your journey to the land of fire and ice.
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GENERAL TRAVEL TIPS
15 useful travel tips for visiting Iceland
How to drive the F-Roads in Iceland
Helpful tips for planning your Iceland trip
Where to stay in Iceland – Regions & Hotels
All you need to know about driving in Iceland
OTHER GREAT DESTINATIONS
How to visit the Fagradalsfjall Volcano
How to visit Vestrahorn, Iceland
Complete guide to Landmannalaugar
Visiting Thórsmörk in the highlands
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