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How you can Plan Your First Journey to Iceland: 5 Day Iceland Itinerary

I’ve a fame 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 numerous work for a trip, nevertheless it 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 out to be 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 discovered, and a few new points of interest which have just lately opened.

You’ll be able to comply with this Iceland itinerary for five days, or if you would like 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 in addition affords journey planning consultations on Zoom.

Eyjafjallajökull and farm

Planning a visit to Iceland: Know Earlier than you Go

Be aware: This submit incorporates affiliate hyperlinks. In the event you click on a hyperlink and make a purchase order, I’ll obtain a small fee. All opinions are my very own.

How A lot Does a Journey to Iceland Value?

Earlier than you go, you will need to understand that even when you discover low-cost airfare, Iceland is an costly nation to go to. I’ve put collectively this Iceland funds information to assist households and others perceive how a lot a visit to Iceland prices, relying in your funds and pursuits.

Needless to say if you go to enormously impacts prices, with the costliest occasions being between June by means of August and through the festive season. To cut back prices, plan on staying in visitor homes and trip leases within the countryside and limiting your time in Reykjavik. You may as well give attention to free actions, like mountaineering, and decrease paid excursions and excursions. It’s exhausting to keep away from Iceland’s high-priced meals, however you possibly can decrease your meals funds by planning informal meals and getting ready a lot of your personal meals.

The black sand of Vik in Iceland
The black sand seashore at Vik

When to Go to Iceland

Attempting to “do” Iceland in 5 days means you’ll 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 favor summer season when there’s extra daylight for exploring.

Needless to say a journey to Iceland signifies that you can be doing numerous driving and in addition shifting accommodations steadily. Even with solely 5 days in Iceland, there isn’t any getting round shifting a few occasions if you wish to decrease driving.

Given the restricted period of time, you’ll doubtless wish to focus your consideration on the South Coast in your first journey to Iceland. It will assist you to 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’ll want a minimum of 10-14 days.

Attending to Iceland

Iceland Air

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 affords nice funds fares (changing the now defunct WOW Airways) and United and Delta additionally supply a couple of 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. As of late, 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’d e-book for the night time 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. a minimum of, you can be drained and it’s exhausting to hit the bottom operating with a busy day. When you have a resort, you possibly can a minimum of drop off your baggage and stroll round to remain awake. In case you are staying in an Airbnb, there’s baggage storage on the important bus station. On my final journey, I ended up hanging out on the Hlemmur Meals Corridor till our Airbnb was prepared.

Getting Round Iceland

5 days in Iceland -- rent a car from Sixt
Driving close to Dyrhólaey

Until you might be planning on utilizing a non-public driver or taking excursions, you have to to lease a automotive in Iceland. If you’ll simply base your self within the metropolis and take day journeys from Reykjavik, you possibly can e-book the FlyBus to get from the airport to the principle bus station (the place you possibly can change to a different bus for resort drop-offs.)

I might advocate utilizing Northbound to examine automotive rental charges from over 30 suppliers (together with automobiles, 4x4s, campers, and motorhomes.) After checking costs we ended up renting a automotive with Relying on the place you’re going, you in all probability received’t want an SUV, but when you’ll 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 filth roads you usually drive on to get to waterfalls, hikes, and a few excursions.

When renting a automotive in Iceland, there are some things it’s best to consider:

  • Strains on the rental automotive places of work could be fairly lengthy, be ready and be affected person.
  • Further insurance coverage (significantly gravel and ash) is HIGHLY really useful and dear — construct this into your Iceland funds

The place to Keep in Reykjavik

5 Days in Iceland -- if you visit Reykjavik you should definitely go inside the Harpa Concert Hall to see the light refracting through the glass walls

Reykjavik is a small, walkable metropolis. In the event you keep wherever within the core downtown space, you might be not more than a 20-30 minute stroll to all the principle points of interest. Town itself is clear and really protected.

Reykjavik has been rising and it’s now not fairly as exhausting to discover a resort room. (See my checklist of family-friendly accommodations in Reykjavik.) Since accommodations are so expensive, Airbnb was the way in which to go for our household.

I’ve stayed in a number of Airbnb flats downtown which have been underneath $250 an evening that labored out completely (aside from the late check-in and the necessity to carry baggage upstairs.) The comfort of a resort is good however the residence leases are rather more funds pleasant. At the least now there are some choices for those who wish to use factors, together with the Cover by Hilton and the Marriott Version.

For extra solutions on planning a visit to Iceland, ensure to learn my separate submit on Iceland journey suggestions!

5 Days in Iceland Itinerary: Exploring the South Coast

As talked about earlier, when you solely have 5 days in Iceland, a well-liked possibility for first-time guests is to discover Reykjavik, the Golden Circle, and the South Coast. When you have already been to Iceland, otherwise you need to get somewhat extra off-the-beaten-path, you can even try my itineraries for the Snaefellsness Peninsula and the West Fjords. Collectively, these additionally make a superb 5 day Iceland itinerary.

Day 1 – Reykjavik

Sun Voyager sculpture in Reykjavik

In case you are arriving within the morning, you might wish to plan a cease on the Blue Lagoon in your solution to Reykjavik to kill a while earlier than you possibly can 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 when you get there very early within the morning the crowds received’t be too dangerous.

Instead, you may strive the newer Sky Lagoon, which is nearer to the town and affords stunning views overlooking the water. In the event you don’t have a automotive, you can even e-book 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 means over to the beautiful Harpa Live performance Corridor (Austurbakki 2). Make sure to 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 Categorical boat tour or an categorical whale watching tour. The puffin tour is simply an hour, leaving you loads of time to discover but additionally supplying you with a view of those cute little birds. You’ll 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 possibility is to go to the Perlan. This glass dome-shaped constructing contains an ice cave and a planetarium present that makes you’re feeling like you might be underneath the Northern Lights. It’s a nice possibility for those who have restricted time in Iceland however nonetheless wish to expertise a few of its magic.

One other various, particularly for those 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 buying avenue, and end off with an elevator experience to the highest of the Hallgrímskirkja church (Hallgrímstorg 1) for stunning views over the town.

Day 2 – Golden Circle

5 Days in Iceland -- a sample itinerary includes a visit to Gulfoss in the Golden Circle
Gulfoss Waterfall

Start your second day with a hearty breakfast from Sandholt Bakery (Laugavegur 36). If the road there’s too lengthy, Icelandic Road Meals (Laugavegur 85) is a good various.

I like to recommend spending the second day exploring the Golden Circle and holding your property base in Reykjavik, so that you don’t want to modify accommodations each night time. In case you are desirous about becoming a member of a small group tour, I might advocate utilizing Hidden Iceland. Use promo code WE3TRAVEL to get 10% off scheduled group excursions with Hidden Iceland. I did a tour with them just lately and was so impressed with their data and customer support.

If you wish to keep away from the large 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, you might 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’ll find in Iceland. If you wish to have lunch, be sure you e-book a desk prematurely.

Your subsequent cease might be on the spectacular Gulfoss waterfall. Give your self time to stroll alongside the varied viewpoints and take within the double rainbows that you simply usually discover above the waterfall. Many discover this essentially the most stunning waterfall in Iceland, however you will notice my favourite tomorrow.

As soon as you might be down at Gulfoss, simply ten minutes down the street 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 Trustworthy 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 types that then explodes upward in a sprig of steam and water. You may as well spend time strolling by means of the new pots, however typically this cease shouldn’t take too lengthy.

When 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 may as well have a late lunch there or you may cease at Efstidalur II, at Blaskogabyggd 801, a farm resort and restaurant with nice selfmade ice cream.

Finish your day in Thingvellir Nationwide Park, the location of the nation’s first Parliament. It is usually a Recreation of Thrones filming web site and a spot the place you possibly can see the rift between the 2 continents (and even snorkel between the tectonic plates!) To be sincere, the views right here aren’t that outstanding however it’s a great spot if you wish to do a little bit of mountaineering. Typically by this time of the day you might be getting bored with getting out and in of the automotive and may favor only a brief cease.

You’ll be able to 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 nevertheless it was superb for our foodie household.

Day 3 – South Coast

Sejlandfoss waterfall

In your third day, it would be best to try of your resort early and organize for a resort room within the Vík space or ideally close to the Glacier Lagoon for the following night time or two. This might be an extended and busy day exploring a few of the most stunning spots on the South Coast. Make sure to top off on snacks earlier than you head out.

Depart Reykjavik early to take advantage of 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 notice the waterfall as you drive in direction of it and don’t be stunned when you see fairly a couple of tour busses too. Hopefully you possibly can sneak in there between the bus excursions and benefit from the falls with out the crowds, however understand that even when Iceland is crowded, it’s nothing just like the crowds you will discover someplace like Niagara Falls.

One of many enjoyable issues at Seljalandfoss is you could get to stroll behind the waterfall, which is without doubt one of the coolest issues I’ve performed. Simply be sure you put on good non-slip, waterproof sneakers 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 checklist for extra solutions! I additionally wouldn’t advocate this within the winter as the world surrounding the waterfall is pure ice and you have to crampons or microspikes if you wish to get shut.

After strolling behind the falls, comply with the trail a couple of hundred meters additional alongside the cliff face to the Gljufurarbui waterfall. You will want to enter right into a crevice within the cliff and stroll by means of a small stream to seek out this hidden waterfall. So many individuals on bus excursions overlook this hidden gem nevertheless it was a spotlight of our journey! You will want some good waterproof mountaineering sneakers to get in there although until you don’t thoughts chilly, moist toes for the remainder of the day.

In case you are hungry, there’s often a meals truck or a fish and chip stand arrange at Seljalandfoss.

After you’ve got had your fill at Seljalandfoss, proceed on Rt 1 for an additional half-hour to the Skogafoss waterfall in Skogar. You’ll be able to stroll to the foot of the falls and in addition climb a staircase to see the falls from above. I personally assume that is essentially the most stunning waterfall on this 5 day Iceland itinerary. Simply be sure you go away your self loads of time to benefit from the falls! It’s possible you’ll assume these are going to be brief picture stops however the waterfalls are so spectacular that it would be best to take time simply to benefit from the views from each vantage level.

When you’re performed, proceed alongside Rt 1 to Rt 218 to Dyrhólaey (35 minutes), a stone sea arch the place puffins nest. You’ll have to drive up a steep, slender filth street to succeed in Dyrhólaey. Simply be aware that this space is closed throughout puffin nesting season in late Might and early June. We lucked out as a result of it was open once 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 could be fairly sturdy. There’s additionally a cute lighthouse on the promontory.

Standing on the sea arch at Watching puffins at Dyrhólaey and seeing the contrast of the green grass with the black sand below

Subsequent, head again to Rt 1 and comply with it to Rt 215 to Reynisfjara (half-hour), which is house to a black sand seashore with wonderful basalt columns, caves, and sea stacks. There was just lately a rockfall right here so a part of the seashore could also be closed. In any case, keep away from 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.

Reynisfjara black sand beach and cliff

In the event you haven’t eaten but, cease for lunch in Vík and take a stroll out to the black sand seashore to see the well-known Reynisdrangur rock formations. I might additionally advocate testing the brand new Icelandic Lava Present to expertise the “hearth” a part of the land of Ice and Hearth.

It’s possible you’ll wish to select to remain on this normal space on the south coast for 2 or three nights to reduce shifting round. Some choices embody:

In case you are persevering with on to the Glacier Lagoon today, you possibly can cease for dinner at Systrakaffi at Klausturvegi 13, 880 Kirkjubæjarklaustri. This good cafe affords easy fare like pizza and hamburgers, but additionally nicer entrees like a really well-prepared arctic char. In the event you can’t discover lodging close to the glacier or nearer to Vik, it is a great spot to search for an Airbnb.

In case you are staying close to the glacier lagoon, drive throughout the lava fields to the Jökulsárlón Lagoon.

Day 4 – Icebergs & Glacier Mountaineering

Getting up close to icebergs in the glacier lagoon
Getting up near icebergs

In case you are staying on the south coast, begin off with a drive east to the Jökulsárlón Lagoon. You’ll be able to see icebergs from the seashore, however I might advocate a ship tour to rise up near them. Until you’ve got little youngsters, a zodiac boat tour will get you up near all sorts of icebergs and you can even rise up near the glacier face.

In the event you cross the bridge between the lagoon and the ocean, you’re going to get to Diamond Seaside. It was named for the massive chunks of ice that wash up on shore, glittering on the black sand seashore like diamonds.

In case you are visiting within the winter, you possibly can take a tour of an ice cave as a substitute. Though I wouldn’t advocate driving out right here by your self within the winter until you might be very comfy driving underneath winter circumstances (be sure you try my suggestions for visiting Iceland within the winter.)

It can save you 10% off scheduled group excursions with Hidden Iceland with promo code WE3TRAVEL!

When you’ve got completed on the Lagoon, you possibly can drive again in direction of Reykjavik or Keflavik, stopping once more on the South Coast.

Within the afternoon, I’d advocate a glacier hike. Close to the glacier lagoon, you possibly can 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.

Glacier hiking in South Iceland

Day 5 – South Coast / Reykjanes Peninsula

When you have 5 full days in Iceland, you’ve got another day of journey earlier than heading house. Nevertheless, if you’re flying out late in your fifth day, it’s best to begin to make your means towards Keflavik and take a self-driving tour of the Reykjanes Peninsula earlier than heading to the airport.

When you have youngsters, they might get pleasure from a go to to the Viking World Museum close to Keflavik airport to see a full-scale duplicate Viking ship that really sailed from Iceland to Canada and the U.S. You’ll be able to find out about Viking historical past and Norse mythology. Exterior there’s a small petting zoo and playground.

Nevertheless, when 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 advocate embody:

I hope that you simply go away Iceland simply as in love with this magical nation as we did — exhausted, exhilirated, and enthralled.


5 day Iceland itinerary puffins and waterfalls


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