If you are planning your first visit to Iceland, most likely you want to see the highlights. For many first-timers, Reykjavík, the Blue Lagoon, the Golden Circle, and the south coast tops the list of places to visit. With this Iceland itinerary, you get to visit those, plus a whole lot more.
About this Iceland Itinerary
On this itinerary, you will primarily stay in southwest Iceland. Reykjavík, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, the Golden Circle, and the south coast is where you will spend the majority of your time. We added in a day trip to Landmannalaugar, a fantastic, uniquely beautiful part of Iceland that I personally think is one of the highlights of this trip.
Highlights of this itinerary include:
- The Blue Lagoon
- The Golden Circle
- The Snaefellsnes Peninsula
- Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss
- Reynisfjara black sand beach
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
For this itinerary, you will need to rent a car. A 4×4 is ideal, since you will need this to drive to Landmannalaugar. Also, there are several other locations where a 4×4 is recommended but not absolutely necessary (several spots on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and one or two detours on the Golden Circle).
However, renting a 4×4 is more expensive than renting a standard 2WD vehicle (as much as $25 to $100 USD per day). To save money, rent a 2WD vehicle, skip the few sights and detours that require a 4×4, and take a bus or a tour into Landmannalaugar. There will be more details on how to do this later in this itinerary.
How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (daily things to do and the driving route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
Best Time for This Iceland Itinerary
This itinerary can be done year-round, with a few tweaks.
The best time to do this itinerary is from June through September, when the days are long, the weather is warm, and the roads and hiking trails are free from snow.
Late spring and early fall are also great times to visit Iceland. You will have less daylight, but also less visitors. In late September and October it is possible to see the northern lights, a nice bonus!
During the winter months (mid-October through April), snowstorms can temporarily close the roads, so you will need to keep a close eye on weather and road conditions. A 4×4 is recommended during these months. The days will also be very short, giving you only a few hours of daylight (or no daylight all all, during mid-winter).
Ideally, Landmannalaugar should be visited between mid-June and September, when the roads and the hiking trails are free of snow. However, it is possible to take a Super Jeep tour into Landmannalaugar during the “off-season.”
10 Days in Iceland Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive in Iceland, Visit the Blue Lagoon
Driving Distance and Time: 22 km, 20 minutes
Flights to Iceland arrive at Keflavík International Airport, which is located on the Reykjanes peninsula. Pick up your rental car at the airport. Lines can be very, very long, especially midday in the summer months. I’m talking an hour wait or longer. If you have any kind of gold member or fast pass status with a rental car company, this can save you lots of valuable time.
Instead of zipping right to Reykjavík, we recommend visiting the Blue Lagoon. From the airport, it takes 45 minutes to drive to Reykjavík but only 20 minutes to drive to the Blue Lagoon. By visiting the Blue Lagoon first, you save a lot of extra time driving and backtracking to and from Reykjavík. Plus, relaxing in the thermal waters of the Blue Lagoon is a great, low-key activity if you have jetlag.
The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most popular experiences, so expect big crowds between 10 am and 6 pm. Book your tickets in advance to get your desired time slot and to avoid waiting in line. A visit here typically lasts three hours or longer.
Click here to visit the official Blue Lagoon website, where you can book your tickets in advance and learn about what to expect during your visit.
Options on How to Plan Your Time Today
If you arrive in Iceland in the morning, you can do one of two things today. You can brave the midday crowds at the Blue Lagoon, and then spend the night on the Reykjanes peninsula or in Reykjavík. Or, spend several hours touring the Reykjanes peninsula and visit the Blue Lagoon after 6 pm, once the crowds thin out. Sleep near or at the Blue Lagoon.
If you arrive to Iceland in the afternoon, check into your hotel (stay at or near the Blue Lagoon) and visit the Blue Lagoon after 6 pm.
Don’t worry about getting to Reykjavík today. At the end of this itinerary, you will have one full day in the city.
Where to Stay Near the Blue Lagoon:
The Retreat at the Blue Lagoon. Selected by Conde Nast as one of Europe’s top resorts, this is the ultimate in luxury. Rooms are stylish, modern suites and offer views of the lava fields and lagoon. Prices start at $1281 USD so this is big splurge.
Northern Light Inn. This property is located very close to the Blue Lagoon and the prices are much more affordable than the Retreat. This property has an onsite restaurant and free shuttle buses that run to and from the Blue Lagoon.
Motel Arctic Wind. This hotel gets great reviews and offers that can accommodate up to four people at economical prices.
CAMPSITE & RV PARKING: Grindavik Campsite
Day 2: Kirkjufell and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Driving distance and time Blue Lagoon to Kirkjufell: 220 km, 3 hours. Additional sites on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula will add more distance and time.
Today is the first of two days that you have to spend on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. From the Blue Lagoon, it is a 3-hour drive to get to the peninsula.
Optional Detours on the Drive to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
On the drive to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, you will drive right past Glymur waterfall. This is one of Iceland’s tallest waterfalls. This fun hike can be easily added on to the day. It is 7 km (4.4 miles) round trip and takes 3 to 4 hours of your time. Get all of the details here. Glymur waterfall can also be added onto your Golden Circle day, but this will be a very long day.
Glanni, Hraunfoss and Barnafoss waterfalls also make a nice detour on the way to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
Once on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, you will visit black sand beaches, waterfalls, volcanoes, remote lighthouses, lava fields, street art, iconic Kirkjufell, and some of the most dramatic coastal cliffs in Iceland.
If photographing Kirkjufell is important to you, I recommend spending the night in the town of Grundarfjördur. From town, it’s just a five-minute drive to Kirkjufell, so you can see it at sunset and sunrise.
If photographing Kirkjufell at sunset and sunset is not important to you, spending the night on the south coast of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, in Hellnar or Arnarstapi, puts you closer to the main highlights, minimizing how much driving you do.
What We Did: In the morning, we hiked Glymur waterfall. It’s a great hike and I highly recommend it. In the afternoon, we drove to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, got settled into our apartment in Grundarfjördur, and then visited Kirkjufell. We had a great dinner at Bjargarsteinn. At 11:30 pm, I went back out to photograph Kirkjufell at “sunset.” We were here in July, during the midnight sun. The following day, we drove the Snaefellsnes Peninsula counterclockwise and in the afternoon drove to the Golden Circle.
Where to Stay on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
GRUNDARFJORDUR: H5 Apartments. This is where we stayed. All units have at least two bedrooms and come with a kitchen, private bathroom, and a washing machine. The apartments are nothing fancy but they are clean, spacious, and the Wi-Fi works well. Plus, it’s just a 5-minute drive to Kirkjufell, perfect if you want to snap a sunset or sunrise photo of this iconic spot.
HELLNAR: Fosshotel Hellnar. This eco-friendly hotel offers rooms with private bathrooms that can accommodate up to three people. There is an onsite restaurant.
ARNARSTAPI: Arnarstapi Hotel. Located right in Arnarstapi, you will be able to walk right out to some of the most scenic coastal cliffs on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Rooms can accommodate up to four people and all rooms have a private bathroom.
CAMPSITE & RV PARKING: Grundarfjordur Camping Ground
Day 3: Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Driving distance and time: 350 km, 5 hours. This includes driving around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and ending at Fludir on the Golden Circle.
Spend today touring the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, visiting the places that you did not get to yesterday.
In the afternoon, drive to the Golden Circle. On the Golden Circle, there are several small towns you can choose as your home base. We stayed in Fludir which was very handy for touring the Golden Circle and day tripping to Landmannalaugar.
Here are our recommendations for where to stay on the Golden Circle. You will stay here for three nights.
Where to Stay on the Golden Circle
Arbakki Farmhouse Lodge. This lodge offers rooms that can accommodate up to four people. It has an excellent location, near Reykholt and just a short drive from the Golden Circle sights.
Heradsskolinn Historic Guesthouse. This boutique hostel is located in a former school building. Stay in a private room or a dorm. There is an onsite bistro that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Mosas Cottages. Stay in your own “vacation home,” small, detached houses that can accommodate up to six people in two-bedroom cottages. This property is located in Fludir.
Where we stayed: We stayed at Guesthouse Fludir and did not have a good experience. We had two standard double rooms with a private bathroom. What they don’t tell you is that there are two levels of these rooms. If you are on the bottom level, as we were, your view is of a gravel parking lot and all night long you will hear the people above you walking around. The upper rooms are wonderful. For the same exact price, they have a gorgeous view and a balcony, but there is no guarantee that you will get this, as we learned on our visit. It’s not worth the risk of getting stuck on the bottom level. I recommend looking elsewhere.
CAMPSITE & RV PARKING: Laugarvatn Camping
Day 4: The Golden Circle
Driving distance and time: 200 km, 3 hours, not including additional places
The Golden Circle is a loop that connects three of Iceland’s most popular spots: Gullfoss, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Thingvellir National Park.
Thingvellir National Park
To visit all three of these places, it takes about 5 to 7 hours, depending on how quickly you move. The Golden Circle doesn’t fill an entire day. You can either use the remaining time to relax or add on one or more of these destinations:
Brúarfoss is waterfall that is famous for its sky blue color. You can only get here by hiking and it takes about 3 hours to visit Bruarfoss.
The Kerid Crater is a 3,000 year old volcanic crater that is filled with water. This is a quick and easy add on to your Golden Circle tour.
The Secret Lagoon is a hot spring that has become so popular that it’s no longer a secret. But if you like hot springs, end the day here.
Spend the night on the Golden Circle.
Day 5: Landmannalaugar Day Trip
Driving distance and time: 240 km, 4 hours
Landmannalaugar is famous for its colorful rhyolite mountains and epic day hikes. Geothermal hot springs, lava fields, and unique hiking trails attract adventurous travelers all summer long.
If you are a hiker, this will be one of your highlights on a trip to Iceland. But you don’t have to be big into hiking to enjoy this day trip. The landscapes at Landmannalaugar are extraordinary, and to journey into the Highlands of Iceland will most likely be one of the most memorable days of this trip.
To get here, you will need a 4×4. The roads to Landmannalaugar are F-roads which are rough, gravel roads that are only suitable for 4×4’s. If you do not have a 4×4, you can either join a tour or take a bus to Landmannalaugar. Yes, you heard me right, a bus. But this is not your ordinary bus. The off-road buses in Iceland are well-equipped with oversized wheels and high clearance to navigate these roads.
Pro Travel Tip: The best time to visit Landmannalaugar is from mid-June through September, when the hiking trails and roads are free of snow. If you are planning a trip to Iceland outside of these months and still want to visit Landmannalaugar, you will have to take a tour.
On the drive back to the Golden Circle, there are two spectacular waterfalls to visit.
Sigöldugljufur is a canyon with a stunning wall of waterfalls. It is located right on F208. You will literally drive right past it, but since it can’t be seen from the road, most people have no idea what they are missing. Park in the small parking lot and it is a 1 km (0.6 mile) flat walk to this viewpoint. This detour adds 45 minutes to an hour onto your day.
Haifoss is one of the tallest waterfalls in Iceland. In the early 20th century, it was believed to be the tallest waterfall in Iceland, earning it the name “high waterfall.” Now, it is thought to be the fourth tallest in Iceland.
Haifoss is located off of route 32, on the drive back to the Golden Circle. Turn right onto F332 and drive 7 km to the parking lot for Haifoss. This F-road was one of the roughest roads we drove on in Iceland and a 4×4 is necessary to get here.
Tonight, spend your third night on the Golden Circle.
Day 6: South Coast
Today you will tour the highlights of the south coast of Iceland. This is the day where you will visit several of Iceland’s most famous and recognizable spots.
Here are the top places to visit, in order as you drive from the Golden Circle towards Vik:
- Gljufrabui waterfall
- Dyrholaey Lighthouse and Arch
- Reynisfjara black sand beach
Seljalandsfoss is a massive waterfall that you can walk behind. Just a short walk away is Gljufrabui, a smaller waterfall that is tucked away in a canyon.
Skógafoss is one of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls. What most people don’t know is that you can hike past Skogafoss and visit 25 more waterfalls. Called the Waterfall Way, this hiking trail, which is also the start of the amazing Fimmvörðuháls hike, follows along the Skógá River, passing 25 smaller waterfalls along the way. The views of the lush, green canyons are gorgeous and just might be one of the best, unexpected highlights of the day.
To see all 25 waterfalls, you have to walk 5 miles upriver (10 miles round trip). Of course, you don’t have to walk the entire distance. Just turn around when you are ready.
Waterfall on Waterfall Way
Kvernufoss is another beautiful waterfall to visit. It is much less visited than nearby Skógafoss. Park at the Skógar Museum and it is a 10-minute walk to get to the waterfall.
Note: This waterfall is located on private property. Stay on the trail and do not litter or leave behind any trash. Even if you do not have plans to visit the Skógar Museum, you will have to pay a small fee to park here.
Reynisfjara black sand beach
The Solheimasandur Plane Wreck makes it onto a lot of Ring Road itineraries. However, we think that it is Iceland’s most overrated attraction. To get here, it is a long, boring walk (4 miles round trip, about 1.5 hours) and once here, you’ll most likely see people climbing all over the plane, despite warning signs forbidding this. Skip the plane wreck, and instead, visit Kvernufoss or walk part of the Skogafoss trail.
Tonight, sleep in Vík.
Where to Stay in Vík
Hotel Kria. This nearly brand new hotel offers modern rooms with lots of amenities. This hotel is located right in Vík, within walking distance of the Kronan grocery store. Breakfast is included with your stay.
The Barn. This hostel is one of the highest rated properties in Vík. Rooms range from dormitory style rooms to family rooms that can accommodate up to 6 people. The Barn is located just outside of Vík and a great value for your money.
Black Beach Suites. Located just outside of Vík, this property offers apartments that can accommodate up to four people. Guests rave about the amazing views of the coastline, having a small kitchen in their room, and the remoteness of this property (even though you are just a short drive from Vík).
CAMPSITE & RV PARKING: Vík Camping
Day 7: Walk on a Glacier
Driving distance and time to Skaftafell: 140 km, 1 hour 40 minutes
Walking on a glacier was one of our favorite experiences in Iceland. There are a lot of ways to do this, depending on your activity and adventure level. Tours can range from short, 3-hour, easy walks to all day hikes where you use crampons, an ice axe, and even do a little ice climbing.
On the south coast, there are two places to walk on a glacier. Solheimajökull is a popular spot for day trippers from Reykjavík. But for an epic experience, walk on Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe.
To do this, you will drive to Skaftafell and spend the day on the glacier. We did a five-hour tour with Arctic Adventures where we got to spend three hours on Vatnajökull glacier. We walked through crevasses and climbed up and over huge chunks of ice. This was one of our favorite experiences in Iceland.
You can add on the hike to Svartifoss, a beautiful waterfall that features black, volcanic basalt columns, to the end of your day (or tomorrow morning).
Tonight, sleep near Skaftafell.
Where to Stay in Skaftafell
Hotel Skaftafell. This hotel is conveniently located in Skaftafell. Rooms can accommodate up to three people. There is an onsite restaurant and a 2nd floor bar with great views of the glacier.
The Potato Storage. This new property, with its interesting name and industrial, modern décor gets exceptional. It tends to get reserved months in advance so make your reservation as soon as possible. It is located just a short drive from Skaftafell.
Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon. This property is located between the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Skaftafell. This is a 4-star property and offers stunning views of the mountains or the ocean.
CAMPSITE & RV PARKING: Skaftafell Camping
Day 8: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Driving distance and time: 440 km, 5.75 hours
In the morning, make the short drive to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. This is a beautiful place and hopefully you will have better weather than we did.
You can view the lagoon from the parking lot, but for a better experience, consider joining a kayaking or boat tour of the lagoon.
Just a short drive away from Jökulsárlón is Diamond Beach. Chunks of ice from Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon wash up onto this black sand beach, creating an extremely photogenic spot.
Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon, a lesser known but arguably more beautiful glacier lagoon than Jökulsárlón, is also worth a visit. It’s just a short drive from Diamond Beach and free to visit.
From Fjallsárlón, drive back to Reykjavík. On the way, stop at Fjaðrárgljúfur, a beautiful, photogenic canyon.
Once in Reykjavík, get settled into your hotel. You will spend two nights here.
Where to Stay in Reykjavík
Reykjavík Residence Apartment Hotel. Rooms can accommodate up to 6 people in suites, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments. This hotel has an excellent location within walking distance of Reykjavik’s top spots.
House of the Snowbird. This is a historic house located in downtown Reykjavík. Stay in a one-bedroom apartment with a dining area and small kitchen. From here, it’s a bit of a walk to Hallgrimskirkja, but you are close to the waterfront.
Loft – HI Hostel. This highly-rate hostel features a rooftop terrace, private rooms and dormitory-style rooms, and is located in the heart of Reykjavík.
Day 9: Reykjavík
Spend the day exploring Reykjavík. Places to visit include Hallsgrimkirkja church, Harpa concert hall, go shopping on Laugavegur Street, see the Sun Voyager sculpture, visit Perlan Museum, and check out the colorful graffiti.
We had some great meals in Reykjavík. 101 Reykjavík Street Food was one of our favorite spots. Eat stews and fish and chips that are delicious and this is one of Reykjavík’s most affordable, delicious restaurants. Ostabudin and Messinn are also very good.
Sleep in Reykjavík.
Day 10: Fly Home
Drive to the airport, return your rental car, and fly home (or continue on to your next destination).
How to Modify This Itinerary
With Less Time
If you want to visit the highlights of Iceland but don’t have a full 10 days, what should you eliminate?
To make this a 9-day itinerary, remove one day from the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Visit Kirkjufell and the main sights of the peninsula, which are the most scenic places. Drive to the Golden Circle at the end of the day.
To make this an 8-day itinerary, combine the glacier walk with the sights around Jökulsárlón. It will be a big day. The following day, drive to Reykjavík and spend the remaining time in the city.
To make this a 7-day itinerary, either eliminate Landmannalaugar or the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. It makes the most sense to eliminate Landmannalaugar if you are doing this itinerary from October through May. If you are big into hiking or want to see some very unique landscapes, and journey into the highlands, keep Landmannalaugar and eliminate the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
Sample 7 Day Itinerary with Landmannalaugar
Day 1: Arrive, Blue Lagoon
Day 2: Golden Circle
Day 3: Landmannalaugar Day Trip
Day 4: South coast highlights
Day 5: Glacier walk and Jökulsárlón
Day 6: Reykjavík
Day 7: Fly home
Sample 7 Day Itinerary with the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Day 1: Arrive, Blue Lagoon
Day 2: Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Day 3: Golden Circle
Day 4: South coast highlights
Day 5: Glacier walk and Jökulsárlón
Day 6: Reykjavík
Day 7: Fly home
With More Time
If you have one or more days to add to this Iceland itinerary, here are two unique Iceland adventures to add to your trip.
This was our favorite day in Iceland and one of the best day hikes we have done in the world. 26 waterfalls, 1 volcano, 2 glaciers, and 3 unique landscapes all combine for one of the most extraordinary hiking experiences on the planet.
The Fimmvörðuháls hike is a massive hike. It’s 25 km (15.5 miles) in length and done as a point-to-point hike from Skógafoss to Thórsmörk. It will take up the entire day, but what a memorable day it will be!
At the end of day 6, sleep near Skógar rather than Vik. On day 7, hike the Fimmvörðuháls trail and spend a second night in Skógar. On day 8, resume the itinerary, doing the glacier walk next. This adds one day to this itinerary.
Kerlingarfjöll, located in the central highlands of Iceland, is a geothermal wonderland of steaming vents, boiling mud pools, and rainbow-colored hot springs.
This is another unique hiking destination in Iceland. For many visitors, the Hveradalir geothermal area is the highlight. This is the place to see steaming fumaroles, bubbling mud pots, and the multi-colored mountains.
To get here, you will drive on an F-road into the highlands of central Iceland. You must have a 4×4 and to self-drive to Kerlingarfjöll, this must be done during the summer months.
Add this after the day trip to Landmannalaugar. You can either visit Kerlingarfjöll as a day trip or spend two days and one night here.
Planning Your Trip
Rental Car and Hotel Reservations
For this itinerary, you will need to reserve:
A rental car or campervan. A 4×4 is ideal, since it allows you to drive to Landmannalaugar without joining a tour or taking a bus. Plus, there are many places in Iceland where you will drive unpaved roads that are suitable for a 2WD vehicle. However, these can be rough, with potholes in some spots, and a 4×4 will make this easier.
Renting a 2WD vehicle is cheaper, but you will have to skip Landmannalaugar or take a bus or tour. You will also have to skip several sights on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula that require a 4×4.
Note: A 4×4 is a vehicle that is authorized by the rental car companies to be driven on F-roads. Many of these vehicles are SUV’s with AWD or 4×4 capabilities. For example, we rented a Kia Sorrento through Hertz and this was authorized as a 4×4 that could be driven on F-roads.
Blue Lagoon – 1 night
Snaefellsnes Peninsula – 1 night
Golden Circle – 3 nights
Vik – 1 night
Skaftafell – 1 night
Reykjavík – 2 nights
We have not camped in Iceland, but from what I have read and learned from talking to other travelers is that you do not need to reserve your campsites in advance.
Driving along the south coast of Iceland
Average Trip Costs
Here are some estimated costs (all prices are in USD for the summer months):
4WD vehicle: $125 – $200 per day; larger SUV’s, such as Land Rovers and Toyota Land Cruisers, cost up to $300 – $400 per day (and are unnecessary unless you plan to do river crossings)
Fuel: $2 per liter ($7.6 per gallon)
Campervan: $100 – $300 per day
Campsite: $10 – $15
Midrange Hotel, double room with two people: $200 – $300
High end hotel, double room with two people: $300 – $500
Meals can cost $20 to $40 per dish, depending on the restaurant. We typically saw prices averaging around $28 per dish, so for our family of four, we spent $100 to $150 per meal. To save money, we only dined in restaurants once per day and bought groceries at the Kronan or Bonus grocery stores. You will find these grocery stores throughout Iceland.
If you have any questions about spending 10 days in Iceland and this adventure itinerary, let us know in the comment section below!
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