Choosing a location to visit next from your wanderlust list or bucket list can be hard! But we do it, all in the name of adventure and epic memories!! Our Katlatrack Super Jeep Team often gets asked from our guest’s recommendations on what they should go do or explore next. We find folks value a local’s opinion, so today we would like to share with you our thoughts on the best Iceland Itinerary. So come along with us to find out what to see and do in Iceland and what time of year to do it!
Your Iceland Itinerary – The Perfect Plan to Explore Iceland
Adventuring to Iceland, often referred to as the mecca of adventure and beauty, was likely an easy decision on your part. What isn’t so easy though I bet is planning your trip day by day! You’ve likely found yourself overwhelmed and up to your eyeballs in options but feel confused about what is really worth your time to see and do, eh? We hear you, and want to share with you from our local perspective what is the best Iceland Itinerary to embark on. Doesn’t matter if you plan to come to Iceland for 3 days, 5 days, or 10 days, we have your perfect Iceland Itinerary!
Iceland Itinerary 3 Days
Having 3 days in Iceland we believe is an absolute minimum. So if you find yourself on one of Icelandair’s’ awesome “stopover” deals we would encourage you to go full force and follow the Iceland itinerary below we spec out for you.
Day 1: Best of the Golden Circle
The famed Golden Circle is what Iceland is most known for. So if you are only spending 3 days in Iceland this is the perfect adventure, to begin with. We, however, have added in a few of our favourite lesser known locations too so you can cash in on our local experience.
- Þórufoss Waterfall is a waterfall barely anyone (even locals) know about! It is an inspiring sight to see too! You can hike down into the canyon is time allows but also get a very Instagrammable shot from a cliff and the waterfall behind (be safe though!).
- Thingvellir National Park is next on your adventure! It is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site and within you will find an amazing waterfall named Öxarárfoss which emerges from incredible lava rock walls. Note: It is about a 15 minute walk from the car park. Can be muddy at times but has had a boardwalk recently built. If you wish to spend more time here you can visit the famed tectonic plate area called Silfra. And if you’re a dare devil you may want to try your hand at snorkeling or scuba diving between them with the experts at is
- Geysir – Is a spouting hot spring (think Yellowstone). It’s a natural phenomenon which bursts about every 9-12 minutes.
- Gullfoss Falls – This unbelievable waterfall has often been referred to Europe’s version of Niagara Falls. In summertime, it boasts so much glacial river runoff that it is hands down the largest volume falls in all of Europe! It’s a sight to be seen although it will have hundreds of people at it. Please heed the ropes and chains that are set to keep you safe, though okay?
- Faxafoss – Within 10 minutes of Gullfoss and further down the rivers stream is an offbeat waterfall named Faxafoss. Most of the tour buses only stop at the top and never give their guests time to walk down. Do the walk down (or drive) to witness it from its base. You’ll notice the sheer power it has and the sneaky little salmon ladder next to it. You’re welcome to hike alongside the river to the front of the falls and also hike to the top of the falls for another viewpoint.
- Friðheimar Greenhouse – The majority of the tomatoes that are eaten in Iceland are grown by Friðheimar Greenhouse. It is there you will also find one of the best lunch spots in Southern Iceland. We encourage you to have a late lunch here (anytime between 12-4pm) as they serve delicious tomato soup, fresh bread, and tomato based pasta dishes. Best to make a reservation so you will not be disappointed.
- Secret Lagoon – As your belly is full and you need a little break from adventuring, the Secret Lagoon in Flúðir is a primo stop to consider! Imagine yourself floating around in a hot spring on a fun-noodle with a cold beer or wine in hand. Bliss!
- Kerið Crater – You suddenly have extra energy and want to visit one more location, right? Kerið Crater is a volcanic crater that is beautiful to photograph and hike around. It’s massive!
So now you’re like where should I stay after all this awesome-ness? In this area, our favorite place for you to stay is Hotel Grimsborgir. It offers superior American style customer service, amazing amenities, super clean hot tubs for all, and 5 star dining experience. Lastly, here is a self-drive map link to follow right from the KEF International Airport: https://goo.gl/maps/iKDXq7gkiN22
Day 2: Best of Southern Iceland
Southern Iceland is the most dynamic and addicting in our local opinion. What are to suggest you do for Day 2 of your 3 days in Iceland is a huge day. It is best executed in spring to summertime days or you will need to pick and choose your favorites if coming when there is less daylight hours.
- Keldur Sod Farm is a historical little place that is very offbeat from tourists! It has amazing mountain views, a river, lots of grass covered houses, and a historical church! When you walk through the area you will feel the history oozing from it. Please make sure you find your way to pay the entrance fee to the landowners so they can continue preserving the area for your future visits and other folks as well.
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is hands down the touristiest waterfall in Iceland, but worth a look to experience it. There are not many waterfalls in the world that you can walk behind. NOTE: It’s best to ensure you are fully suited with waterproof rain gear to go behind the falls.
- Gljúfrabúi Waterfall is the lesser known waterfall nearby. If you plan on camping your way through Iceland, this is a very nice campsite to also rest for the night. You have 2 options to experience this waterfall… Hiking to the top and looking down inside or going full on inside. If you go the latter, be sure to have waterproof boots (knee high ones are best) as you will have to hike through the river to get inside.
- Skálafoss Waterfall is an extremely offbeat private waterfall you can find your way to off of the main road. It is found on a farm between Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss.
- Skógafoss Waterfall is another must see tourist waterfall and the super cool thing is that there are stairs that will take you to the top. It’s huge, wide, and makes for a wonderful photo opportunity! And if you have more days to spare, there is an incredible hike that starts at the top we will tell you about later in this Iceland itinerary blog post!
- Dyrhólaey Lighthouse comes with a view of a super cool sea arch too! The road winds to get up there so it is best to have a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Can be pretty touristy in summer but there are still areas you can find to have to yourself.
- Reynisfjara Black Beach has been voted the most touristy, beautiful and yet dangerous beach in Europe, and maybe the world! Still worth a look, we promise you! But, it is not a beach that you lay out on to get tan, for sure you are there just to experience its beauty. You’ll be witness to amazing basalt rock columns, a cave (during summer / low tide), and basalt stacks in interesting shapes in the sea!
- Vik Black Sand Beach – Around the other side of the mountain in the village of Vik (our hometown and base) you will find another viewpoint of those famous basalt stacks in the sea. It looks totally different from this side, so we encourage you to spend some time checking it out!
Our Katlatrack team suggests you stay at Icelandair Vik or Hotel Kria for the night. Are you so excited to self-drive this Iceland itinerary? Good news: here is a super awesome map link for you to follow from Hotel Grismborgir: https://goo.gl/maps/UdMDbrSaGDA2
Day 3: Katlatrack Adventure Tours – Scheduled or Private
You cannot come to Iceland without experiencing something offbeat and unique to the country right? We would love to invite you to experience Iceland from a local perspective with our Katlatrack super jeep team. So on your 3rd day of your 3 days in Iceland take your pick on the tour type!
- Fasttrack Ice Cave Tour – For 2.5 to 3 hours let us quickly show you what it’s like to experience an ice cave on one of Iceland’s 13 glaciers!
- Katlatrack Ice Cave Tour – Want to have more time to explore different areas of the ice cave, possibly multiple ice caves (did you know there are 8 types of ice caves?), and a memorable ride down a black volcanic beach?
- Vik 1 Hour Express Tour – Short on time or budget but still want to walk away seeing areas or perspectives not many ever do? Let our local guide show you Vik Iceland from our perspective!
- Hidden Mountains Tour – You will find your way to an area that is really known about by some locals. Experiencing unique mountain views, gorgeous private canyons, secret cave, local folklore stories and so much more!
- Private Tour – Dying to ice climb? Explore unknown areas? Hunt waterfalls all by yourself? Challenge us to craft the perfect private day for you in Vik Iceland!
Furthermore, here is a map to our meeting point which is across the street from the Icelandair Vik Hotel and next to the N1 fuel station: https://goo.gl/maps/FXpGbj97Krx
Iceland Itinerary 5 Days
Spending 5 days in Iceland is a nice amount if that is all you have to spare! We would suggest you focus on the following area for your Iceland Itinerary for 5 Days!
Day 1: Reykenes Peninsula Itinerary
An area of Iceland that is often passed by is actually the area around the airport. It is called the Reykenes Peninsula and it is rich with amazing sights! Minutes from landing you’ll be on an adventure!
- Garður Old Lighthouse – Is a historical lighthouse built in 1897 and is red and white. In winter this can be a fantastic viewing point for Northern Lights too!
- The Bridge between America and Europe is basically a point where you can experience being between tectonic plates.
- Reykjanesviti is an interesting area to visit. You have a lighthouse, rock formations in the sea, and crazy beautiful cliffs!
- Seltún Geothermal Area offer a boardwalk around bubbling mud pots!
- Lake Kleifarvatn is one of the nicest drives in Iceland and there is a lovely viewpoint of the overview of the lake too.
- Rauða Húsið Restaurant – If you are looking for a delicious late lunch or early dinner Rauða Húsið is the very best when it comes to lobster soup and other local seafood!
After a super fun day of exploring, we would encourage you to stay at Hotel Grimsborgir or our Volcano Apartments! Driving this route, you’ll want to follow this map carefully: https://goo.gl/maps/buhstNahf1w
Day 2: Best of the Golden Circle
Take a look the 3 days in Iceland section above for the full rundown on the best of the Golden Circle adventures. As we mentioned above, in this area, our favorite place for you to stay is Hotel Grimsborgir. Here is a self-drive map link again for you to follow right from the Grimsborgir: https://goo.gl/maps/wdi5QBXXgyv
Day 3: Best of South Iceland
Above you will see the intensively but unforgettable day you should give ago. And here will you find a awesome map link for you to follow from Hotel Grismborgir to Vik: https://goo.gl/maps/UdMDbrSaGDA2
Day 4: Book a Local Tour
Reserve your seat one of our Katlatrack Adventure Tours in Vik on day 4 of your 5 days in Iceland!
Day 5: Explore like a Local
Take it easy as you head back towards the airport to leave the next day and try your hand at some of the local things to do! Check out our previous blog post on 25 things to do in Vik Iceland!
Iceland Itinerary 7 Days
Lucky you! You get to spend one week in Iceland! This is the perfect amount of time to explore all of Southern Iceland fully including a nice hike! CCheck outour 7 days in Iceland plan below!
Day 1 in Iceland
Explore the Reykenes Peninsula – Driving this route yourself, follow this map: https://goo.gl/maps/buhstNahf1w
Day 2 in Iceland
As you head into day 2 of 7 in Iceland you’ll want to embark on the best route for the offbeat side of the Golden Circle. Follow this route: https://goo.gl/maps/wdi5QBXXgyv
Day 3 in Iceland
From the Golden Circle, it’s the ideal to begin your adventure south! Southern Iceland boasts some of the largest and most interesting waterfalls and countless black sand beaches. See this map for highlights for day 3 in Iceland: https://goo.gl/maps/UdMDbrSaGDA2
Day 4 in Iceland
Ready for a real adventure that everyone will be jealous of back home? Embark on one of our exclusive Ice Cave Tours! Then 15 minutes before the departure time, meet us here: https://goo.gl/maps/FXpGbj97Krx
Day 5 in Iceland
Vik is one of the most beautiful and fastest growing towns in Iceland. Spending the day here is easy to do! Checkout our favorite 25 local things to do in Vik!
Day 6 in Iceland
Southeast Iceland is an area that doesn’t get enough love! Adventuring through it is super fun if you follow this map: https://goo.gl/maps/qkCsTQRQpXm
- Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon: This place a gorgeous canyon that you must take time to explore! Generally there haven’t been big tour buses here and if you do a 30-60 minute hike back following the trail you’ll escape the masses. Special Note: During times of unthawing or heavy rains this area can be closed to ensure the preservation of it.
- Fjallsárlón is a lesser known glacier lagoon that has 2 glacier outlets doing into it. Worth a look and you’ll be slightly away from the hoards to tourists a few miles down.
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is the famous glacier lagoon that is depicted in movies like the newest James Bonds. It’s busy with tourists but a must see. Across the street is an area called “Diamond Beach” where the icebergs flow out to the ocean. Worth a look if you have time!
- Vestrahorn Mountain is one of the most picturesque mountains in Iceland. It is also nicknamed “mirror mountain.” Fun fact: There is an admission fee here but it also buys you admission into the studio set of a Viking village!
Heading this far east, it is good to stay at Fosshotel Vatnajokull in the town of Höfn.
Day 7 in Iceland
The last day of your 7 days in Iceland should include a fun hike to a waterfall named Svartifoss! It’s a fantastic 45-60 minute hike one way. It’s a black lava rock waterfall and stunning to photograph, truly! Since you will be driving Route 1 in the south, you can hit any of the locations you missed on Day 3 before you hit your hotel for the night! See this map link for self-driving directions: https://goo.gl/maps/z1tej6fHkG52
Iceland Itinerary 10 Days
If visiting Iceland for the very first time you will likely want to sightsee the entire “Ring Road,” Which is also referred to as Route 1, which is the road that takes you around the island. To experience this comfortably and safely, you need 10 days in Iceland. If we were you, we would plan this Iceland Itinerary for 10 Days.
Day 1 in Iceland
Adventure to the less touristy Reykenes Peninsula! This is the best self-drive route: https://goo.gl/maps/buhstNahf1w
Day 2 in Iceland
Even though the Golden Circle is touristy in parts, it is a “must see.” Follow this route to also checkout some of our favorite offbeat spots too: https://goo.gl/maps/wdi5QBXXgyv
Day 3 in Iceland
Southern Iceland rocks! You could frankly spend days adventuring through but see this map for highlights for your 3rd of 10 days in Iceland: https://goo.gl/maps/UdMDbrSaGDA2
Day 4 in Iceland
Day 5 in Iceland
Venturing further east, you’ll find a unique canyon to explore, a hike to a lava rock waterfall, and 2 glacier lagoons to checkout. Follow our advice above and this map link to find your way there: https://goo.gl/maps/rKp3znkSAcE2
Day 7 in Iceland
The best of Southeast Iceland! The East Fjords are best experienced during a summer adventure in Iceland mainly because of the service of the roads. Our Katlatrack Iceland Adventure Tour team suggests that you go from Vestrahorn Mountain to the Viking Village / Café and then onto the amazing drive to the village of Mjóifjörður (from July – September), then on to the quaint and colorful village of Seydisfjordur.
Day 7 in Iceland
Woot woot, you’re almost half way around! This day will be a big driving day, so depending on how you like to travel, you may want to split into 2 days. To get you started, this is the map link to follow (if coming during summer and early fall in Iceland, before the snow comes): https://goo.gl/maps/5oShXWBZRjG2
- Dettifoss Waterfall is one that is famed from the Hollywood film Prometheus, recognize it? Note: This waterfall is only accessible during summer.
- Selfoss Waterfall is another waterfall that is offbeat but only accessible safely when there is no snow.
- Namaskard is a beautiful geothermal area that is worth a look!
- Lake Mývatn is another one of our fresh water lakes that is also a protected area. It may also seem familiar to you from the most recent Fast and Furious movie that was filmed in Iceland.
- Dimmuborgir lava rock area is really unique to explore. There are several hikes through here that are short and long so take your pick!
- Goðafoss Waterfall is memorizing. Specifically our favorite side is the more offbeat LEFT side. Leave the tourist buses to explore the right side. If you’re feeling daring enough you can hike down into the canyon too!
Icelandair Hotel Akureyri, is an awesome place to rest your head after a busy day of adventuring in North Iceland!
Day 8 in Iceland
Alright folks, you have a big day of driving today so get on the road as early as you’re comfortable with. Day 8 of our 10 days in Iceland will consist of driving through the seaside village of Siglufjörður and hiking to a dragon looking rock formation in the sea called, Hvitserkur. The last is not to be missed if you’re this far north already and it tends to be more offbeat.
Day 9 in Iceland
How inspiring! You wake in a magical peninsula called the Snaefellesness!! You’ll want to use every inch of daylight exploring this fabulous area. Drive along to our favorite locations in the Snaefellsness here: https://goo.gl/maps/RdDHfdXWr412
- Arnarstapi Sea Cliffs offers amazing bird watching, crazy cool sea cliffs, rock arches, and stunning photo opportunities. Plan to stay at least 1-2 hours here if you want to go from end to end (hiking along the sea cliffs is the BEST).
- Londrangar is a unique rock formation in the sea. There is a hike that goes from here to the next location too if that is of interest!
- Malarrif Lighthouse offers amazing rock, beach, and sea views. Cool lighthouse that is a bit off the beaten path.
- Vatnshellir Cave is a unique lava tube tunnel system. For the best experience of viewing, you need to book a tour down with the landowners, here.
- Djúpalónssandur happens to be another black sand / rock beach. Often here you find pieces of shipwrecks too!
- Skarðsvík Beach is a truly golden sand beach that offers amazing textured cliffs on one side and moss covered lava on the other. Often when it is clear too you can catch a glimpse of the glacier, Snæfellsjökull.
- Kirkjufell Mountain and Waterfall will likely look familiar from Game of Thrones! Plan to spend at least an hour here walking from one side of the waterfall to the other.
End the day by driving back to Reykjavik and staying at one of the best hotels, Hotel Borg.
Day 10 in Iceland
Awwww your last full day in Iceland and by now, you likely want to live here! Crazy beautiful places you’ve seen and now you get the opportunity to experience downtown Reykjavik! Feel free to turn our self-drive map into a walking one if you wish here: https://goo.gl/maps/5QdcKXLoqkF2
- National Museum of Iceland is a perfect place to start your morning seeing the history of our 330,000 person nation. They are open Tuesday – Sunday from 10-5pm.
- Grab lunch at our favorite bakery, Sandholt. Note: If you’re a shopper this street the bakery is on is our main shopping drag downtown.
- Take in the view from the highest point in Reykjavik, Hallgrimskirkja
- Sun Voyager is a unique art installation many folks are intrigued to take photographs of down by the sea. Worth a look!
- If you’re feeling cheeky, check out the one and only in the world, the famous The Icelandic Phallological Museum.
- End your Reykjavik day at one of the very best restaurants in town, The Grillmarkaðurinn. Reservations are highly suggested year-round.
Best Time of Year to Visit Iceland
Okay, so you’ve chosen Iceland to be your next adventure, but have no freaking idea when to go! Don’t fret, there are pros and cons to every time of the year to visit Iceland and we’d like to bring them to your attention today. Because Iceland sits in the “Gulf Stream” we actually have quite temperate weather without crazy swings like most areas of the USA. But the trade off to this is that we can have some very extreme weather conditions happen like sideways rain, blizzards, wind storms, etc no matter the time of year. Get prepared by checking out our “driving in Iceland” previous blog post too!
But when you start thinking about when you should visit Iceland, it really all depends on what your token “must do’s” are. For instance, do you want to self-drive the entire island, go hiking in the highlands, snowmobiling, go ice climbing, or visit an ice cave, etc? Luckily for you, our Katlatrack team can show you an ice cave year round on our offbeat glacier via the Fasttrack or Katla Ice Cave Tours. But let’s break it down by season and you can decide for yourself when is the best time of the year to visit Iceland…
Winter in Iceland
Iceland’s formal winter season is between November-March. This is when the lowest rates are for hotels and could be considered a “shoulder season.” But visiting Iceland in November, December, January, February and March is also the time when the Northern Lights are most often seen as well. It’s likely you will experience very harsh weather conditions from heavy rains, extreme gale force winds, to blizzard white out conditions but if you’re lucky hopefully sunshine! Who knows! Temperatures average from 0-3 °C / 32-37 °F and daylight varies as well from having 3-5 hours per day.
Spring in Iceland
Yes, we actually have Springtime in Iceland! It is between April-May. You can still get good deals with the hotels through mid-May and I’ll be honest I feel like this are less busy months to also explore the “must see” tourist locations too. Visiting Iceland in April tends to be a bit rainier and May in our experience has been colder and less rainy. You can expect temperatures between 3-6 °C / 37-43 °F and daylight hours 13-20 hours per day as we near towards Summer. This is an exciting time though to visit the glacier areas with us because the area begins to change quite rapidly with the warmer temperatures, so you very well may be the first to step foot in one of our newly scouted ice caves on our Katla Ice Cave Tour
Summer in Iceland
Ah, summer we long await you each year! Summer in Iceland is the greenest. Between June 15 and July 15th you can find the Alaskan Lupine in full bloom across the south. It looks like a sea of purple and blue as you make your drive to the large waterfalls in the south! Summertime is between June-August and is hands down the most expensive time to visit Iceland. Usually visiting Iceland in July you will find all of the highlands roads open along with every single hiking track. Daylight is never-ending (June 21st you will find 24 hours of daylight) and temperatures average 4-7 °C / 39-45 ° F. Since this is the most popular time to come to Iceland, you’ll likely want to find your way away from the tourists and find you own off the beaten path places… Our Hidden Mountains Tour would be a perfect adventure for you to consider!
Fall in Iceland
You’re likely surprised that Iceland experiences this season, but we do! The ground cover changes colors from greens to orange, red, and finally to a brown green. Our formal fall is between September – October and we welcome it back with the possibility of Northern Lights again too! The best time to come if you wish to experience fall while visiting Iceland is between September 1st to mid-October. Daylight hours begin to dwindle again and temperatures fall to an average of 9-11 °C / 48-52 ° F.
Additional Advice for your Iceland Itinerary Travels:
- There are many areas charging for parking or asking for small donations that go towards the preservation of the areas. They only take cash so it’s good to have some Icelandic Kronas (ISK) on hand. Iceland does not charge formal entries to 95% of our natural wonders so when the landowners have donation buckets out, it’s helpful to them as they provide bathrooms, etc to make your visit more comfortable and safe.
- Please make sure you follow the rules for driving in Iceland and look up road / weather conditions before traveling each day.
- Tipping in Iceland is not a requirement as you dine in restaurants or go on adventures with companies. But what we will say is that there are a lot of people (our guides included) that work very hard on ensuring you have a very local and amazing experience. So if you feel the service you have received was extraordinary, tipping is way to show the guides your appreciation for your time and hard work.
Thank you for joining us today and we hope this Iceland Travel Blog post was helpful. We hope it inspires you to plan your own 3, 5, 7, or 10 day trip to Iceland! Feel free to book a tour with us to enhance your adventure too!
Your Adventure Awaits,
Guðjon + Katlatrack Team