Iceland is a country often overlooked for more metropolitan places, but it’s absolutely a “hidden” gem. In fact, it’s a country that you could spend months trekking through and still find new and fun adventures to be had.
That’s why it’s so important to have a good itinerary planned out beforehand, so you make the most of your time. We have carefully curated this 7-day Iceland itinerary for you so all you have to worry about is having fun.
One thing to take into consideration, is that this itinerary is going to be easiest with a car. Renting a car in Iceland is quite easy, as well as driving there. The roads are very smooth, well taken care of, and easy to navigate. While you won’t need an off-road vehicle, we do recommend grabbing an SUV or 4WD if you can.
Day 1: Arrival, Blue Lagoon, Snaefellsnes Peninsula
This will of course depend a bit on where you’ll be staying in Iceland. However, it’s around a 3-hour drive from the Keflavik airport to Snaefellsnes Peninsula or 1 hour to Borgarnes.
Blue Lagoon is known worldwide, particularly on social media where people love watching people enjoying the electric blue pool of water. As it’s located just 20 minutes away from Keflavik airport, it’s a nice way to kick off your time there and helps to break up the trip to Reykjavik (if that’s where you’re heading). Not to mention, it’s the perfect way to relax and soothe the muscles after a long flight.
Side note: as Blue Lagoon is a hot spot for visitors and locals alike, if you can get your tickets before you arrive in Iceland, it’ll save you some hassle. If you’re just going for the lagoon itself, you should set aside 2-3 hours. However, if you’d also like to stop for a bite to eat at their restaurant, add an hour on.
After having a nice soak, you can make your way to Reykjavik with some renewed energy and explore the city. If you’re arriving to Iceland earlier in the day, opt for heading straight to Snaefellsnes Peninsula instead. At less than 2 hours away from Reykjavik City, you’ll have much more time to explore this stunning, serene spot.
While this peninsula is definitely known for its incredible beauty, it also offers first-class local cuisine. There are a few places you can’t go wrong with: ‘The Grill House’ for classic American cuisine, Rjukandi Café and Restaurant for incredible homemade cakes and tasty coffee, or Langaholt for fresh catch like cod, catfish, or monkfish.
If staying at the stunning Hotel Budir or Hotel Arnarstapi, they both have great restaurants so you don’t have to worry about heading to a separate eatery outside your accommodations.
Day 2: Snaefellsnes Peninsula
This peninsula is an incredible place with volcanoes, black pebble beaches, glaciers, lighthouses, old fishing villages, and other dramatic landscapes. Because of this, it’s often considered to be a “small Iceland” in itself. It definitely deserves at least a solid day of exploring.
Keep in mind that many cafes open a bit late, with some even opening at 10 or 11 am. Instead, check out bakeries or simply grab breakfast at your hotel. Breakfast restaurants aren’t as common in Iceland as they are in the US. Alternatively, you could grab some bread and Icelandic butter to tide you over until you can get a full meal.
Most of the popular sights are at the furthest end of the 55-mile long peninsula, but once you get there they’re all pretty close to one another. In fact, you can just drive in a loop to see them all in either direction.
You may start off at the Gerðuberg cliffs, which are fascinating, hexagonal columns made by lava flows from thousands of years ago. While from far away the towers look astonishing, up close the symmetry is even more impressive.
Ölkelda Farm is also a special place located right off Route 54, with a natural mineral spring with carbonated water said to have healing properties. Even if you don’t feel like taking a sip, it’s pretty cool to see! The water is a rich red color thanks to its high iron content and can even be accessed through a public tap!
Ytri Tunga Beach has gorgeous golden sand which is actually rather uncommon for the island. However, it’s not only known for its sand, but is also fun for watching bunches of seals taking naps on the black rocks during the summertime!
Lýsuhólslaug is another nice choice if you’re really into swimming and would like a different experience than the Blue Lagoon. This one is rich with green algae, magnesium, and calcium, with naturally carbonated mineral water. As you can imagine, it’s perfect for the skin and offers a variety of other health benefits.
The Búðakirkja black church is iconic to Iceland, even though it’s a man-made beauty rather than by Mother Nature. Originally, it was constructed in the 18th century, though was rebuilt on the original site in 1987. Sitting beside the church is a prehistoric lava field that only adds to the ethereal, fairytale-like atmosphere. If you’re a photographer (professional or amateur), you’re going to have a hey-day here!
Speaking of fairytales, Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge is a deep ravine known from characters from Icelandic sagas. The most notorious is Bárðar Snæfellsáss – a half-man, half-troll said to formerly rule this area. The nearby singing cave with incredible acoustics was said to shelter him, and also sports graffiti dating back hundreds of years.
Arnarstapi village is a fascinating spot for history buffs or those who simply appreciate charming little towns and stunning natural scenery. Unsurprising, the most impressive landscapes are those carved out from lava from the nearby volcano’s eruptions. “Stapafell” is perhaps the most notable structure: a cone-shaped feature that perfectly frames the traditional Icelandic homes.
Snæfellsjökull National Park has to be seen to be believed! While seeing the entire park would take days, make sure to stop at the black sand beaches, basalt cliffs, and obviously the glacier and volcano. The nearby Kirkjufell mountain that sits right outside the park is so jaw-dropping it was even used as a film location for Game of Thrones.
Bjarnarhofn Shark Museum – After all that trekking around, you deserve a bit of a break. Head indoors to this interesting little spot which is also known as a place you can try some “real” Icelandic food. The local Greenland shark is what their traditional plate “hakarl” is made of. Aside from the culinary aspect, you’ll see and learn about the family’s fishing boats, tools, and other interesting gear. If that sounds a little too eccentric for you, start out with the dried fish “jerky”.
Day 3: Golden Circle
After the Blue Lagoon, the Golden Circle is undoubtedly the most popular place to visit in the country. While you can definitely explore it on your own, we highly recommend grabbing a proper tour of the Golden Circle for an even richer experience. These tours are operated by professionals who know every nook and cranny, and will not only show you the major sites but the hidden gems that most tourists don’t know about, too.
Most include a hotel pickup and drop-off so you don’t even have to worry about driving yourself out there. It’s one of the more luxurious ways to travel through the area, with comfortable seats, wi-fi on board, climate control, and more. With so many fantastic tour options, you can find tours that last anywhere from around 6 hours all the way to 10 hours.
Here, you can expect to see geothermal activity, volcanoes, waterfalls, a UNESCO world heritage site, and much more. The Gullfoss Waterfall and Srokkur active geyser are highlights everyone loves to take photos of.
If you prefer to check out Thingvellir National Park on your own (one of the main sites of the Golden Circle), you have to check out Silfra. Silfra is a fissure between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates which was formed in the 1700s. It’s actually the only location on the planet where you can swim between two tectonic plates!
The fresh spring water extremely well-filtered thanks to the fact that it takes many years for the water to reach Silfra, resulting in clarity hardly seen anywhere else in the world. As it can get pretty cold outside, it’s best to go on a Silfra snorkel tour with a professional guide who can provide you with instruction and all necessary gear.
These tours also vary widely in length, with the shortest clocking in around 3 hours and the longest at 9.
Located less than an hour away is the Fridheimar Tomato Farm, where you can enjoy unique dishes in a greenhouse! They’re known for their 3 different kinds of tomatoes and fresh-baked bread. The green-tomato and apple pie may sound strange but it’s absolutely incredible! Alternatively, the cheesecake with green tomato, cinnamon and lime jam is rich and tasty.
For accommodation, the town of Hella is your best bet. With less than 1000 inhabitants, it’s remote and located on the shores of the river Ytri-Ranga. Hotel Ranga is the most luxe hotel in the area, though Stracta Hotel Hella and Hotel Kanslarinn Hella are also excellent choices at a more affordable rate.
Day 4: Heimaey Island or Icelandic Highlands
Both are worth seeing, so it all depends on your personal preferences. Heimaey is about a half-hour drive to the ferry from Hella and if you opt for the Highlands, you’ll want to do a tour where they transport you from your hotel. Keep in mind that Highlands aren’t accessible before the middle of June typically, so if you’re going before that, just opt for Heimaey Island where you’ll likely get to see some puffins!
You’ll undoubtedly see some of the most beautiful yet unforgiving landscapes in the world here. Iceland itself has some rather brutal features – from volcanoes to glaciers – yet the Highlands hold the title of the country’s tallest mountains sitting over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and many of the most notorious geothermal areas. The rich, shocking colors and brute forces of nature are unlike any other place on the planet – in fact, sometimes it feels like you’re on another.
It’s always a fun time to go on a snowmobile tour here, which are usually full-day excursions and come with transport to and from your hotel. Your tour will provide you with a professional guide and all necessary protective clothing and safety equipment so you don’t have to worry about packing along your own.
You can definitely explore this area on your own as well, but if you want to drive here you really need a solid 4×4 and insurance coverage that permits you to drive on the F roads. For most people, it’s simply not worth it.
As the only inhabited island of the Westman Islands archipelago, you’ll have to take a ferry to get there. The ferry lasts around 40 minutes and is actually a great opportunity to sip on a hot cup of coffee, relax, and enjoy the view. To plan your ferry trip, check out the online schedule with times and ticket prices.
Once you land on the island, you’ll have to figure out which activity to take on first. You don’t have to bring your vehicle with you if you’ll be staying close to town, so you can park it at the ferry terminal.
The Eldheimar Museum is fascinating, if not a little scary. It is based around the Icelandic eruption on the island in 1973 which buried hundreds of homes, giving it the nickname “Pompeii of the North”. In fact, the museum itself is actually constructed around one of the home’s remnants. If you need another coffee, there’s a cute little café on the second floor.
Anyone who’s into sea critters or would simply like to gain more awareness on the Icelandic wildlife situation should visit the Sea Life Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary. They have two resident whales – Little Grey and Little White – who are monitored by their animal care team.
Depending on the time of year, you could choose to go for a hike at Mount Eldfell or go on a boat tour around the island. They’re both fun, but the boat tours are particularly great for spotting whales and other marine life. For puffin sightings, you’ll have to travel around 5km away from town, which is best done by car or bike. If you prefer the former, make sure to bring your car along.
After a full day of adventuring, you deserve a delicious meal! Luckily, there is plenty of that on the island. “Gott” is a friendly place which serves up some of the best seafood and well-prepared fish around. “Einsi Kaldi” is a bit on the upscale side, with fantastic Lava-Style Lobster and deer carpaccio. Follow it up with some delicious pastries, coffee, and/or beer at Vigtin Bakhus!
You can choose to either to take the ferry back to Hella, which is likely going to be more convenient, or stay on the island.
Day 5: South Coast to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
When heading to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon from Hella, plan for around 3 to 4 hours of driving. The south coast is another hot spot with notable sights like the Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls, Vik black sand beach, Skaftafell National Park, Diamond Beach, and much more. While there’s a lot to see, the main sights are located very closely from one-another.
Seljalandsfoss is one of the most famous waterfalls in the world, offering the opportunity for you to walk behind the falls. The Gljúfrabúiwaterfall is nearby, and one of the most picturesque waterfalls partially obscured by the cliff rock. Next, take a stop at Skogafoss waterfall (the earlier the better to avoid crowds).
Located just 5 minutes from the waterfall parking lot, this open-air museum is a complex comprised of 3 sites that venture through the country’s history. With more than 18,000 regional artifacts on display, it’s a great opportunity to learn about Icelandic culture.
Here, you’ll find the famous black sand beach and the nearby Dyrholaey lighthouse. Make your way to the Ring Road heading towards Jokulsarlon and try to time it so that you arrive at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon when the sun starts setting.
If this is your first time in Iceland, we can’t express enough how sparsely-populated it is. That means that there isn’t a whole lot of dinner options to choose from. However, Guesthouse Gerdi is located just down the street from Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and serves up some of the best fish around!
As it’s probably going to be somewhat late at this point, we recommend just staying in the area. This way, you can get up early and check out the lagoon when there are no crowds, too. The Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon and Hali Country Hotel are both solid options.
Day 6: Skaftafell, Glaciers
Okay, by this time you’ve certainly done a lot of exploring around Iceland and have your sea legs. As we just mentioned, it’s always nice to start off with breakfast at the hotel bright and early and check out Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon if you’d like to see more of it or simply head straight down the South Coast towards Vik. If you do stop at the lagoon, take some time to explore Diamond Beach if you hadn’t already the day prior.
The lagoon boat tours are also a blast, with plenty of marine life sightings and just a different perspective on the area.
Skaftafell/Vatnajokull National Park
Here, you can choose to hike over a glacier and/or visit an ice cave. There are plenty of tours with different times and choices so select the one that works best with your interests and schedule. The ice caves are always intriguing, with ever-changing scenery and electric blue shades that surround you as you trek through. The ice caves are generally only accessible by tour, and this is for the preservation of the area as well as your safety.
The national park is only a 45-minute drive from Jokulsarlon towards Reykjavik. If you’re big into hiking, there are plenty of cool hiking trails around – something for every experience level and length. One of the best shorter hikes is the one to Skaftafellsjokull and should take you around an hour to complete.
Icelandic Lava Show in Vik
Just because you’re in Iceland doesn’t mean you have to be interested in everything that has to do with ice. If lacier tours and ice caves aren’t particularly interesting to you, check out the Lava Show in Vik. They’re open until 8 PM and are a load of fun!
After a long day of venturing around outside, it’s nice to just take a load off and relax in a spectacular setting. Reynisfjara Beach is a splendid place to do so – even more when the sun is setting.
There is plenty of good dining near Reynisfjara Beach, though Black Beach Restaurant tends to be the most popular. The fish and chips are phenomenal and truly some of the best in this part of the world. If you’re looking for some friendly neighborhood vibes with a refreshing pint, Strondin Pub Vik is the place to go – they also have delicious full meals.
Day 7: Reykjavik
Driving from Vik to Reykjavik is around 2.5 hours, but absolutely worth the journey. Reykjavik is a great city with friendly locals, interesting architecture, and plenty to do. Once you arrive, we recommend starting off with a stroll along the harbor, making sure to check out the Sun Voyager statue and Harpa Concert Hall. If you head towards Lake Tjornin, you’ll even see the Icelandic Parliament Building. Make sure you don’t miss it – it’s surprisingly small!
Next, grab some breakfast in the city center at Vox Brunch, Grai Kotturinn, or Sandholt Bakery. All are delicious!
Now that you’re fueled up, check out the Laugavegur and Skolavoroustigur streets as well as Hallgrimskirkja church. If you have some time, grab a lift up to the top of the tower for breathtaking views of the city. Once you’re back on the ground, head to Perlan – Wonders of Iceland Museum.
This museum is a great way to learn about the country and its culture. However, the Whales of Iceland Exhibit is a nice alternative – particularly if you’re interested in the local sea life.
Northern Lights Tour
No trip to Iceland is complete without seeing the Northern Lights. This is best done by joining a Northern Lights tour. These will take you from Reykjavik to the best viewing spots so that you can see them as they’re meant to be experienced.
Some tours incorporate ATV tours, boat cruises, and some even have overnight options complete with more immersive ice cave and glacier exploration. The shorter tours last just a few hours, and many of the guides are great at taking professional-quality photos so you can always commemorate the incredible experience.
Depending on the tour you select, they’ll even bring some hot chocolate or coffee and parkas so everyone stays nice and warm while viewing the majestic lights.