I’ve a status for being an obsessive planner in the case of our household holidays. However planning a visit to Iceland actually took the cake. For our 5 days in Iceland, I spent over 20 hours pouring over information books, maps, and blogs to create our 5 day Iceland itinerary. That’s lots of work for a trip, but it surely paid off.
Since our first journey to Iceland, I’ve returned twice, as soon as in winter and once more to go to Snaefellsnes and the West Fjords. I’ve additionally turn into an authorized Iceland journey planner, serving to over 20 households with their Iceland holidays. With all this expertise, I’ve up to date this submit from after I first wrote it in 2017 to incorporate what I’ve realized, and a few new sights which have not too long ago opened.
You may comply with this Iceland itinerary for five days, or in order for you private assist planning your journey with native suggestions, join with Andrés from Go Ask A Native! He’s a Reykjavik-based information and tour operator who focuses on meticulously deliberate self-drive journeys and likewise presents journey planning consultations on Zoom.
Planning a visit to Iceland: Know Earlier than you Go
Notice: This submit incorporates affiliate hyperlinks. If you happen to click on a hyperlink and make a purchase order, I could obtain a small fee. All opinions are my very own.
How A lot Does a Journey to Iceland Price?
Earlier than you go, it is very important understand that even in case you discover low-cost airfare, Iceland is an costly nation to go to. I’ve put collectively this Iceland finances information to assist households and others perceive how a lot a visit to Iceland prices, relying in your finances and pursuits.
Needless to say while you go to significantly impacts prices, with the costliest instances being between June by means of August and in the course of the festive season. To scale back prices, plan on staying in visitor homes and trip leases within the countryside and limiting your time in Reykjavik. You can even concentrate on free actions, like climbing, and decrease paid excursions and excursions. It’s onerous to keep away from Iceland’s high-priced meals, however you may decrease your meals finances by planning informal meals and making ready lots of your personal meals.
When to Go to Iceland
Making an attempt to “do” Iceland in 5 days means you will be busy, so it’s best to go in the summertime when the times are lengthy. I’ve additionally visited Iceland within the winter, however I nonetheless want summer season when there may be extra daylight for exploring.
Needless to say a journey to Iceland signifies that you’ll be doing lots of driving and likewise shifting lodges incessantly. Even with solely 5 days in Iceland, there isn’t any getting round shifting a few instances if you wish to decrease driving.
Given the restricted period of time, you’ll doubtless wish to focus your consideration on the South Coast to your first journey to Iceland. This can can help you slot in Reykjavik, the Golden Circle, black sand seashores, waterfalls, and perhaps even the Glacier Lagoon.
If you wish to drive your entire Ring Street and get to the extra distant locations just like the West Fjords, you will want at the very least 10-14 days.
Attending to Iceland
IcelandAir (which codeshares with JetBlue) is the first service for flights to Iceland, with direct flights from New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis, and Orlando. The newly launched Play Airways presents nice finances fares (changing the now defunct WOW Airways) and United and Delta additionally provide just a few direct flights from the USA.
On our first journey, we flew IcelandAir from Boston to Keflavík, arriving at 11:40 pm on the summer season solstice, simply in time to get the total impact of the midnight solar. Lately, flights often arrive within the early morning, which leaves you with the conundrum of what to do till your lodging are prepared for check-in.
Ideally, you’ll ebook for the evening earlier than, arranging for an early morning check-in, however that’s going to price extra. Since most flights to Iceland are pretty brief, from the East Coast of the U.S. at the very least, you’ll be drained and it’s onerous to hit the bottom operating with a busy day. In case you have a lodge, you may at the very least drop off your luggage and stroll round to remain awake. If you’re staying in an Airbnb, there may be baggage storage on the essential bus station. On my final journey, I ended up hanging out on the Hlemmur Meals Corridor till our Airbnb was prepared.
Getting Round Iceland
Until you might be planning on utilizing a personal driver or taking excursions, you will have to lease a automobile in Iceland. If you will simply base your self within the metropolis and take day journeys from Reykjavik, you may ebook the FlyBus to get from the airport to the principle bus station (the place you may change to a different bus for lodge drop-offs.)
I might suggest utilizing Northbound to examine automobile rental charges from over 30 suppliers (together with automobiles, 4x4s, campers, and motorhomes.) After checking costs we ended up renting a automobile with Sixt.com. Relying on the place you’re going, you most likely received’t want an SUV, but when you will drive into the inside on any of the “F” gravel roads, it’s a requirement. We had been glad we had a 4×4 only for getting by means of the bumpy grime roads you usually drive on to get to waterfalls, hikes, and a few excursions.
When renting a automobile in Iceland, there are some things you must be mindful:
- Traces on the rental automobile places of work might be fairly lengthy, be ready and be affected person.
- Further insurance coverage (significantly gravel and ash) is HIGHLY beneficial and dear — construct this into your Iceland finances
The place to Keep in Reykjavik
Reykjavik is a small, walkable metropolis. If you happen to keep anyplace within the core downtown space, you might be not more than a 20-30 minute stroll to all the principle sights. Town itself is clear and really protected.
Reykjavik has been rising and it’s not fairly as onerous to discover a lodge room. (See my listing of family-friendly lodges in Reykjavik.) Since lodges are so dear, Airbnb was the best way to go for our household.
I’ve stayed in a number of Airbnb residences downtown which have been below $250 an evening that labored out completely (aside from the late check-in and the necessity to carry baggage upstairs.) The comfort of a lodge is right however the condo leases are rather more finances pleasant. At the least now there are some choices for people who wish to use factors, together with the Cover by Hilton and the Marriott Version.
For extra solutions on planning a visit to Iceland, be certain that to learn my separate submit on Iceland journey suggestions!
5 Days in Iceland Itinerary: Exploring the South Coast
As talked about earlier, in case you solely have 5 days in Iceland, a well-liked choice for first-time guests is to discover Reykjavik, the Golden Circle, and the South Coast. In case you have already been to Iceland, otherwise you wish to get somewhat extra off-the-beaten-path, you can too take a look at my itineraries for the Snaefellsness Peninsula and the West Fjords. Collectively, these additionally make a superb 5 day Iceland itinerary.
Day 1 – Reykjavik
If you’re arriving within the morning, it’s possible you’ll wish to plan a cease on the Blue Lagoon in your solution to Reykjavik to kill a while earlier than you may examine into your lodging. Personally, I discover the Blue Lagoon very touristy (see my Blue Lagoon evaluate right here), however I do know many really feel a visit to Iceland isn’t full with out seeing the Blue Lagoon. At the least in case you get there very early within the morning the crowds received’t be too unhealthy.
Instead, you possibly can attempt the newer Sky Lagoon, which is nearer to the town and presents lovely views overlooking the water. If you happen to don’t have a automobile, you can too ebook a ticket together with transfers.
After checking in to your lodging, seize some lunch (see my suggestions on the place to eat in Reykjavik.) Subsequent, take a stroll alongside the waterfront to see the Solar Voyager sculpture and make your manner over to the gorgeous Harpa Live performance Corridor (Austurbakki 2). Make sure you stroll round inside to see the sunshine reflecting by means of the glass and the attractive structure.
After the Harpa, stroll over to the Outdated Harbor for a Puffin Specific boat tour or an categorical whale watching tour. The puffin tour is simply an hour, leaving you loads of time to discover but additionally providing you with a view of those cute little birds. You should have constructed up an urge for food, so cease for dinner at Icelandic Fish & Chips (Tryggvagata 11) — so yummy!
Whether it is too chilly to get out on the water, one other nice choice is to go to the Perlan. This glass dome-shaped constructing consists of an ice cave and a planetarium present that makes you are feeling like you might be below the Northern Lights. It’s a nice choice for people who have restricted time in Iceland however nonetheless wish to expertise a few of its magic.
One other different, particularly for people who miss out on a whale watching tour, can be a go to to the Whales of Iceland exhibit downtown. Children will particularly love the 23 life-size replicas of whales and the interactive reveals.
After the afternoon exercise, take a while to discover and store alongside Laugavegur, which is the principle purchasing avenue, and end off with an elevator journey to the highest of the Hallgrímskirkja church (Hallgrímstorg 1) for lovely views over the town.
Day 2 – Golden Circle
Start your second day with a hearty breakfast from Sandholt Bakery (Laugavegur 36). If the road there may be too lengthy, Icelandic Avenue Meals (Laugavegur 85) is a good different.
I like to recommend spending the second day exploring the Golden Circle and preserving your property base in Reykjavik, so that you don’t want to change lodges each evening. If you’re excited by becoming a member of a small group tour, I might suggest utilizing Hidden Iceland. Use promo code WE3TRAVEL to get 10% off scheduled group excursions with Hidden Iceland. I did a tour with them not too long ago and was so impressed with their data and customer support.
If you wish to keep away from the massive tour busses at every attraction, plan to do the Golden Circle counterclockwise, beginning on the 6,500-year-old Kerid Crater for a fast stroll across the caldera. Subsequent, it’s possible you’ll wish to plan a cease on the Secret Lagoon for a extra rustic and pure sizzling spring atmosphere.
One other in style spot on the Golden Circle route is at Fridheimar, a restaurant and tomato farm, which makes use of geothermal power to warmth the greenhouses which are the supply of these recent salads you will discover in Iceland. If you wish to have lunch, make sure to ebook a desk upfront.
Your subsequent cease can be on the spectacular Gulfoss waterfall. Give your self time to stroll alongside the assorted viewpoints and take within the double rainbows that you simply usually discover above the waterfall. Many discover this essentially the most lovely waterfall in Iceland, however you will note my favourite tomorrow.
As soon as you might be down at Gulfoss, simply ten minutes down the highway you’ll come to the Geysir Customer Middle. Park right here after which stroll throughout the road to observe the dependable Strokkur geyser erupting. Whereas it isn’t as tall and spectacular as Outdated Devoted in Yellowstone, I really like you could rise up shut (and also you don’t have to attend as lengthy for the eruption.) Simply earlier than it erupts, a large blue bubble varieties that then explodes upward in a twig of steam and water. You can even spend time strolling by means of the new pots, however usually this cease shouldn’t take too lengthy.
In case you have time in your day, add in a cease on the Laugarvatn Fontana spa for a dip of their swimming pools and a tour of their thermal bakery (they bake bread within the floor however reservations are wanted).
You can even have a late lunch there or you possibly can cease at Efstidalur II, at Blaskogabyggd 801, a farm lodge and restaurant with nice do-it-yourself ice cream.
Finish your day in Thingvellir Nationwide Park, the location of the nation’s first Parliament. It’s also a Sport of Thrones filming web site and a spot the place you may see the rift between the 2 continents (and even snorkel between the tectonic plates!) To be trustworthy, the views right here aren’t that outstanding however it’s a great spot if you wish to do a little bit of climbing. Usually by this time of the day you might be getting bored with getting out and in of the automobile and would possibly want only a brief cease.
You may return to Reykjavik for dinner, or cease at Lindin, at Lindarbraut 2 in Laugarvatn. Lindin focuses on seafood (together with whale and puffin) and sport (like reindeer burgers) and isn’t essentially the most kid-friendly but it surely was effective for our foodie household.
Day 3 – South Coast
In your third day, you’ll want to take a look at of your lodge early and prepare for a lodge room within the Vík space or ideally close to the Glacier Lagoon for the following evening or two. This can be a protracted and busy day exploring a number of the most lovely spots on the South Coast. Make sure you replenish on snacks earlier than you head out.
Depart Reykjavik early to profit from your day and drive east alongside Rt 1 (aka the Ring Street) for about 1 hour and 45 minutes to Rt 249 in direction of the Seljalandfoss waterfall. You will note the waterfall as you drive in direction of it and don’t be stunned in case you see fairly just a few tour busses too. Hopefully you may sneak in there between the bus excursions and benefit from the falls with out the crowds, however take into account that even when Iceland is crowded, it’s nothing just like the crowds you’ll find someplace like Niagara Falls.
One of many enjoyable issues at Seljalandfoss is you could get to stroll behind the waterfall, which is likely one of the coolest issues I’ve finished. Simply make sure to put on good non-slip, waterproof footwear and a raincoat and rain pants as a result of even to get near the falls you’re going to get soaked from the mist — see my Iceland packing listing for extra solutions! I additionally wouldn’t suggest this within the winter as the realm surrounding the waterfall is pure ice and you will have crampons or microspikes if you wish to get shut.
After strolling behind the falls, comply with the trail just a few hundred meters additional alongside the cliff face to the Gljufurarbui waterfall. You’ll need to enter right into a crevice within the cliff and stroll by means of a small stream to search out this hidden waterfall. So many individuals on bus excursions overlook this hidden gem but it surely was a spotlight of our journey! You’ll need some good waterproof climbing footwear to get in there although except you don’t thoughts chilly, moist toes for the remainder of the day.
If you’re hungry, there may be often a meals truck or a fish and chip stand arrange at Seljalandfoss.
After you may have had your fill at Seljalandfoss, proceed on Rt 1 for an additional half-hour to the Skogafoss waterfall in Skogar. You may stroll to the foot of the falls and likewise climb a staircase to see the falls from above. I personally assume that is essentially the most lovely waterfall on this 5 day Iceland itinerary. Simply ensure you depart your self loads of time to benefit from the falls! You could assume these are going to be brief picture stops however the waterfalls are so spectacular that you’ll want to take time simply to benefit from the views from each vantage level.
When you’re finished, proceed alongside Rt 1 to Rt 218 to Dyrhólaey (35 minutes), a stone sea arch the place puffins nest. You’ll must drive up a steep, slim grime highway to succeed in Dyrhólaey. Simply be aware that this space is closed throughout puffin nesting season in late Could and early June. We lucked out as a result of it was open after we visited and by leaning over the cliff barely we acquired some close-up views of those cute little puffins. Simply be very cautious right here as there are not any guardrails alongside the cliff edge and the wind might be fairly robust. There’s additionally a cute lighthouse on the promontory.
Subsequent, head again to Rt 1 and comply with it to Rt 215 to Reynisfjara (half-hour), which is dwelling to a black sand seaside with wonderful basalt columns, caves, and sea stacks. There was not too long ago a rockfall right here so a part of the seaside could also be closed. In any case, avoid the water’s edge as there are sometimes rogue waves right here which are harmful. That is an iconic spot in Iceland that you simply received’t wish to miss.
There’s additionally a small cafe right here that serves up a scrumptious meat soup — a basic Icelandic dish.
If you happen to haven’t eaten but, cease for lunch in Vík and take a stroll out to the black sand seaside to see the well-known Reynisdrangur rock formations. I might additionally suggest testing the brand new Icelandic Lava Present to expertise the “hearth” a part of the land of Ice and Hearth.
You could wish to select to remain on this common space on the south coast for 2 or three nights to reduce shifting round. Some choices embrace:
If you’re persevering with on to the Glacier Lagoon today, you may cease for dinner at Systrakaffi at Klausturvegi 13, 880 Kirkjubæjarklaustri. This good cafe presents easy fare like pizza and hamburgers, but additionally nicer entrees like a really well-prepared arctic char. If you happen to can’t discover lodging close to the glacier or nearer to Vik, this can be a great spot to search for an Airbnb.
If you’re staying close to the glacier lagoon, drive throughout the lava fields to the Jökulsárlón Lagoon.
Day 4 – Icebergs & Glacier Climbing
If you’re staying on the south coast, begin off with a drive east to the Jökulsárlón Lagoon. You may see icebergs from the seaside, however I might suggest a ship tour to rise up near them. Until you may have little children, a zodiac boat tour will get you up near all kinds of icebergs and you can too rise up near the glacier face.
If you happen to cross the bridge between the lagoon and the ocean, you’re going to get to Diamond Seaside. It was named for the big chunks of ice that wash up on shore, glittering on the black sand seaside like diamonds.
If you’re visiting within the winter, you may take a tour of an ice cave as an alternative. Though I wouldn’t suggest driving out right here by your self within the winter except you might be very snug driving below winter circumstances (make sure to take a look at my suggestions for visiting Iceland within the winter.)
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When you may have completed on the Lagoon, you may drive again in direction of Reykjavik or Keflavik, stopping once more on the South Coast.
Within the afternoon, I’d suggest a glacier hike. Close to the glacier lagoon, you may take a hike on a glacier in Skaftafell Nationwide Park. On our journey, we took a three-hour glacier hike with Arcanum Excursions on Sólheimajökull glacier.
Day 5 – South Coast / Reykjanes Peninsula
In case you have 5 full days in Iceland, you may have another day of journey earlier than heading dwelling. Nevertheless, in case you are flying out late in your fifth day, you must begin to make your manner towards Keflavik and take a self-driving tour of the Reykjanes Peninsula earlier than heading to the airport.
In case you have children, they’d get pleasure from a go to to the Viking World Museum close to Keflavik airport to see a full-scale reproduction Viking ship that truly sailed from Iceland to Canada and the U.S. You may study Viking historical past and Norse mythology. Outdoors there’s a small petting zoo and playground.
Nevertheless, in case you don’t fly out till your sixth day, take one other day to get pleasure from some extra actions alongside the south coast. Just a few I might suggest embrace:
I hope that you simply depart Iceland simply as in love with this magical nation as we did — exhausted, exhilirated, and enthralled.
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