5 Day Iceland Itinerary Overview
- Blue Lagoon
- Golden Circle (Thingvellir National Park, Bruarfoss, Strokkur Geysir, Gulfoss, Kerid Crater)
- Reynisfjara Beach
- Foss a SiduJokulsarlon
- Glacier Lagoon
- Diamond Beach
- Hoffell Hot Tubs
Getting to Iceland:
5 Day Iceland Itinerary- Day 1: Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle
Where to Stay in Selfoss, Iceland:
Where to Eat In Selfoss:
5 Day Iceland Itinerary- Day 2: Selfoss to Vik on the Ring Road
Uridafoss is unique in that it is the most voluminous waterfall in the country! It’s only a little over 15 minutes into your drive, making it the perfect first stop of day 2 of your Iceland road trip. Unfortunately it was raining when we went, so my pictures really do not do it justice!
Where to Eat in Vik
Where to Stay in Vik
Also, definitely walk up the hill to check out the iconic church in Vik!
5 Day Iceland Itinerary- Day 3: Vik to the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
On Day 3, you’ll make your way from the town of Vik to the Jokulsarlon Lagoon via the Ring Road (transit time – 2 hours and 20 minutes without stops).
Stop #1: Fjaorarglijufur (50 minutes into your drive)
Fjaorarglijufur is a massive curved canyon with a river flowing through it at the bottom, and is absolutely breathtaking! Plan to spend at least an hour here. After you park, you have to walk up a trail to see the canyon and the trail continues on, meandering on top of the canyon so you can check out other sections of it. You won’t want to leave!
Stop #2:Foss a Sidu
This picturesque waterfall is just a quick stop off the Ring Road. Foss a Sidu cascades over the cliffs above a tiny farm village. Such a beautiful sight!
Stop #3:Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is truly spectacular. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before! The blue, still waters of this glacial lagoon are home to many floating icebergs that broke off from the surrounding glaciers. There is a waterway towards the entrance of the lagoon where the icebergs float out into the Atlantic Ocean and scatter along the black sand beach of Diamond Beach.
If you want to get out on the water, you can either take:
- Kayak tour
- Very weather dependent – even on a clear and sunny day, if the wind is too strong, they will cancel the tour
- Not able to get super close to the icebergs due to safety reasons
- Zodiac boat tour
- Able to take you deep into the lagoon and close to the icebergs
- Amphibian boat tour
- Bigger boat, more touristy, but slightly cheaper than the other two options
We originally planned to do a kayak tour, but once we arrived we found that our pre-booked kayak tour had been cancelled due to wind in the forecast. Instead, we opted for the Zodiac boat tour – which was great! I definitely recommend this option as you are able to go out further and see a lot more of the lagoon. The lagoon is a lot bigger than you realize from just standing on the edge looking out at it!
On the Zodiac boat, you are also able to get closer to the icebergs than on the bigger Amphibian boat. The Zodiac boat tour costs about $80 USD per person, but is so worth it if you are interested in seeing the icebergs up close! The tour lasts about an hour and they run the tours about every 1.5 hours. They’ll suit you up in this red jumpsuit that keeps you warm and blocks the wind on the boat.
You can book the zodiac boat tour of Jokulsarlon Lagoon from their truck which will be parked in the parking lot (pictured below) or you can book ahead of time from their site here.
Stop #4: Diamond Beach
After your Zodiac boat tour, head across the street to Diamond Beach. Diamond Beach is SO cool- watching the icebergs float by from Jokulsarlon Lagoon into the ocean is amazing. All of the diamond-like icebergs sitting on the black sand beach is a beautiful site, and a photographers paradise!
Stop #5: Check-In at Gerdi
I recommend that you stay in the small town of Gerdi (honestly I’m not sure if the town is actually named Gerdi, but the website of the hotel we stayed at makes it seem like Gerdi is the name of the town), about 15 minutes past the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, for 2 nights. This way, you’ll be super close to the glacier lagoon/Diamond Beach in case you want to go back, AND you will be close to the glacier for your glacier hike on the next day. Also, this will make your drive back to Reykjavik shorter than it would be if you stayed in the next, bigger town called Hofn.
There are only 2 restaurants in town- one is in the lobby of Gerdi Guesthouse, and the other is right down the road, called Hali Country Hotel Restaurant. I recommend Hali Country Hotel Restaurant- it was always bustling with locals, and the food was good (the beef patties were my favorite!).
5 Day Iceland Itinerary – Day 4:Skaftafell Glacier Hike, Svartifoss waterfall, Hoffell Hot Tubs
First Stop: Skaftafell Glacier Hike
The Skaftafell Glacier Hike is SUCH a cool experience, and is something that you will need to pre-book before you travel to Iceland. There are a few tour companies that offer the Skaftafell Glacier hike. I recommend booking with Troll Expeditions. The staff was wonderful and the tour was nothing short of amazing! Even if you are traveling on a budget, I still recommend that you splurge for this hike (about $100 USD per person) because when else in your life will you be able to walk on a glacier? It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The tour lasts about 3 hours. I recommend that you book the 9am one so that you still have half of a day to explore after the hike.
What to Expect on the Skaftafell Glacier Hike:
Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early. You can put in “Troll Expeditions Skaftafell” into your Google Maps, and it will take you to the correct parking lot at Vatnajokull National Park. You’ll check in at the Troll Expeditions trailer and get fitted for crampons for your shoes, and you’ll receive your ice axe and helmet. They do not give you any other clothing to wear, so make sure that you come equipped with many layers, gloves, a beanie, hiking boots and warm socks. I suggest taking a small backpack so that you can take layers off/add more layers depending on the weather.
You’ll then board a bus for about a 10 minute drive to the entrance of the Skaftafell Glacier. At first, you’ll hike along a dirt trail for about a half-mile or so until you get to the edge of the glacier.
At this point, your guide will teach you how to put on your crampons (metal spikes that you tie to the bottom of your shoes for traction walking through ice)- see below picture.
Then, you’ll start hiking the glacier! Your guide will show you how to properly walk with the crampons in order to safely hike around on the ice. The hike is not too strenuous – you make a lot of stops to take pictures and soak in the scenery. It’s not often that you get to walk on a glacier!
Our guide took us through this mini little ice archway which was cool.
We also found a crack in the glacier with water coming through. We were able to fill up our water bottles with this water and even lean down and drink straight from it! Glacial water in its purest form.
You’ll then hike back down and board the bus back to the parking lot where you’ll turn in your gear. In total, the tour lasts about 3 hours. It’s truly an amazing experience! After you’re done, I recommend grabbing lunch at the visitor center in the parking lot. They have an assortment of good food and drinks, with a beautiful view!
Stop #2: Svartifoss
Svartifoss (Black Falls) is a waterfall in Vatnajokull National Park that you can hike to on a trail that starts right near the visitor center where you ate lunch. Plan for at least 1.5 hours for this hike. The trail to get there is about 1 mile uphill, but is very picturesque, with lots of greenery and a backdrop of the white glacier in the background.
You’ll first see Svartifoss from afar – looking like the below picture.
Keep walking to take the trail down to the falls for a closer look. The black lava columns surrounding the falls is how it got its name (Black Falls) and is what makes it so unique.
Stop #3:Hoffell Hot Tubs
After you finish your Svartifoss hike start making your way back towards Gerdi, but drive 40 minutes past Gerdi to soak in the Hoffell Hot Tubs after your long day of hiking. The Hoffell Hot Tubs are right outside the town of
It’s definitely nothing fancy, but it feels great after a long day, and the views of the surrounding glaciers and mountains are spectacular! They also have changing rooms and showers, and you’ll get to use a towel for free upon entry (about $10 USD entry fee). They also let you bring your own beers (highly recommend). What’s not to like?
After you’re done soaking in the tubs, make your way to the town of Hofn for dinner. Hofn is a much bigger town than Gerdi, with several restaurants as well as a big grocery store to take food back to Gerdi (there is no grocery store in Gerdi).
5 Day Iceland Itinerary- Day 5:Gerdi to Reykjavik
The drive back to Reykjavik from Gerdi is a little under 5 hours with no stops. The best part about backtracking on your last day is that if there were things you didn’t get to see on your way due to weather or lack of time, you can have another chance to see them on your way back! If you got lucky on the way there and had great weather and were able to stop at everything I listed in my itinerary for that day, see below for some additional things you can do on your way back:
- 1. Stop by Drangshlid– rock housing formations on the side of a cliff where elves were fabled to have dwelled back in the day
- Puffin Tour (only if you are there April-August ) at Dyrholaey (near Vik). We were unable to do this since the Puffins are gone by September.
- Kvernufoss– “hidden gem” waterfall near Skogafoss that you take a 20 minute hike to, and you can walk behind the falls
- Seljavallalaug– one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland
- Reykjadalur– hike to this natural hot springs creek, about 45 minutes away from Reykjavik!
What to Do in Reykjavik:
After your journey back on the Ring Road, explore the city of Reykjavik for the evening before your flight out the next morning.
Where to Stay in Reykjavik: There are many good hotels and Airbnb’s to choose from. We stayed at the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina, which was really nice and had an amazing free breakfast. It was in a great location too – walking distance to the main heart of the city with several bars, shops
Recommended Bars in Reykjavik:
- Saeta Svinid Gastropub– Great local beer selection on tap, and they have 1/2 off beers during happy hour until 6pm!
- Lebowski Bar– super fun bar themed after The Big Lebowski, which of course means an extensive menu of different kinds of White Russians! Get there before 7 to take advantage of the happy hour drink specials
- Bravo– has the longest happy hour in the city (until
8pm) and has a cozy, chill atmosphere with cushions on the windowsill which make for comfortable seating
- Drunk Rabbit-Fun Irish pub with lots of character (and live music!)
What to Eat in Reykjavik:
Reykjavik is known for
However, I’m here to tell you that there is a BETTER hot dog place than the one that he went to, and I tried both. The hot dog place that Anthony Bourdain recommended is called Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. We were so excited to try this hot
Determined to have that AMAZING hot dog experience that everyone raves about, we did some more quick research and tried another hot dog place, called Pylsuhusid Hot Dog House, located in Ingolfur Square (near the first bar that was on my recommended list). This hot dog was delicious!! Definitely recommend going here.
Day 6: Fly home from KEF airport!
Don’t forget to give yourself extra time to return your rental car and take the rental car shuttle to the airport!
Hopefully you enjoyed my 5-day Iceland itinerary and found the information helpful for planning your trip. Iceland is an amazingly epic country, and I’m already wanting to go back and do the other half of the country!
See more helpful tips and details below.
When to Go to Iceland:
Deciding when to go to Iceland depends on what exactly you are trying to see and do.
Summer in Iceland: If you go to Iceland in the Summer (June-August) you will have super long days so will be able to fit even more into your itinerary, and you will also be able to potentially see Puffins before they go away for the winter. However, this is not an ideal time for the Northern Lights.
Fall/Winter in Iceland: If you want to see the Northern Lights, the best time to
If you go in winter, you have a better chance of seeing the Northern Lights, but the days are very short, so you won’t have as much time to do everything on this itinerary. Also, the snow and ice on the roads may make it difficult to see some of the sights.
I personally recommend traveling to Iceland in September, because it’s not super cold yet, you have a chance of seeing the Northern Lights, and the days are a normal length. (the sun set around
How to See the Northern Lights in Iceland:
Like I mentioned above, if you are in Iceland in September-April, you have a chance of seeing the Northern Lights if the forecast calls for it. You can check the forecast online. You can either join a Northern Lights Tour for a guided experience, or you can simply walk outside or drive somewhere more remote and see the lights yourself. If the forecast notes aurora activity and there’s a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights, the best place to view is somewhere with little-to-no light pollution, basically away from civilization.
From all the places on my itinerary, I would say the best place to view them would be when you are staying in the Gerdi area, as this tiny town is basically in the middle of nowhere. I also think it would be amazing to take a quick drive to Diamond Beach and view the Northern Lights from there.
Renting a Car in Iceland:
Make sure that you rent a car ahead of time- they can sell out. Also, make sure you get a 4×4 car and get all the different types of insurance they offer. Weather in Iceland can be crazy (potential for high winds, sandstorms, etc) so you need to make sure you’re prepared with great car insurance! There are several different rental car companies to choose from. We used Green Motion, as they had the best price and good reviews. A Green Motion employee waited for us at baggage claim with a sign, and we hopped in the shuttle for a quick 5-minute drive from the airport to the rental car place.
Be prepared for a longer wait than you’re used to at the rental car counter for both picking up your car AND for dropping off. It took us about 1 hour in line to pick up the car, and about 30 minutes to drop it off.
Iceland Travel Tips:
When driving the Ring Road, you will come across a few bridges. Even though the Ring Road has two lanes for two-way traffic, the bridge narrows to become only one lane. Only one-way traffic can fit on the bridge at one time. This means that if you see a car
For some reason, the gas stations in Iceland do not accept credit cards (it always asks for a pin number). You will have to either A) use a debit card, or B) use your credit card inside to purchase a gift card to the gas station, and use that to fill up
No matter what season you choose to go to Iceland, you should always pack both a rain jacket AND rain pants. The weather in Iceland can change in an instant, and you need to be prepared for rain. Even if it doesn’t rain, walking near the waterfalls will drench your clothes, so it’s best to wear rain gear for that!
4. Hiking Boots
Even if you aren’t doing any super strenuous hikes, you should still be prepared with good waterproof hiking boots for the same reason as above. Walking along the trails to go behind and around the waterfalls, you will definitely get wet! My favorites are these ones.
5. Expensive Food
I already mentioned this in my blog post, but you will be shocked by the price of average food in Iceland! Expect to pay about $30 for a burger or pizza, at least $10 for a beer and about $20 for a cocktail.
6. They don’t sell ice in Iceland
This one is pretty ironic- we were trying to buy a bag of ice to make a little cooler for our beers one day, but no stores had bags of ice. We then asked the staff in our hotel lobby if they had any ice, and they came back with 5 ice cubes saying that was all they had!
7. Download the maps.me app before your trip
My friend told me about this before I went, and it was really helpful! You can download the map of Iceland before you go, and pre-pin all the locations you will be going to. Once you get there, you don’t need service or wifi to use the map.
7. You’ll see the cutest Icelandic sheep and ponies alongside the Ring Road
Thank you to Troll Expeditions for hosting me during the Skaftafell Glacier Hike. As always, opinions expressed here are entirely my own.