I absolutely fell in love with Iceland and it’s raw, dramatic, wild and beautiful nature. Below I share with you our itinerary for 5 days in Iceland, as well as some useful tips for your trip to this awesome country. I can’t wait to come back!
Frequently Asked Questions about Traveling to Iceland
Do I need a car in Iceland?
You do not need a car as there are tons of tours available from Reykjavik that offer transportation to the various national parks. However, keep in mind that that it is probably much more cost effective to rent a car, especially if you are traveling with more than two people. We preferred not to drive by ourselves in Iceland so we chose the convenience of the group tours instead.
We realized that had we wanted to rent a car, it would actually be fairly straightforward to drive in Iceland, assuming the weather conditions were good. There were not that many cars on the road and even the traffic in Reykjavik did not seem that complicated. However, we were worried we would encounter bad weather like snow, sleet, or heavy rain. That was our main concern that made us decide to not rent a car.
What should I pack to Iceland?
We’ve been told that the weather in Iceland can be very unpredictable and can change within a matter of 5 minutes. We did not experience these drastic changes and had absolutely amazing & sunny weather during our whole stay. However, we came prepared and packed the following:
- Warm waterproof jacket
- Rain jacket
- Hiking boots
- Gym shoes
- Booties for walking around in Reykjavik
- Long sleeved thermal shirts for wearing underneath sweaters
- Warm leggings
Is Iceland expensive?
I would definitely say that food is quite costly in Iceland. The tours that we booked were also fairly expensive – almost all of them were over $100 per person.
Tip: Bring a reusable water bottle and do not buy water at the grocery stores as the Icelandic tap water is perfectly safe to drink and tastes delicious. At restaurants, I was not able to tell that the water is from the tap!
Day 1 in Iceland – Whale Watching Excursion
We arrived in Iceland at 10 am. Our transportation to the hotel was the Fly Bus. We booked our tickets at the airport. It took us about 45 minutes to get to the city and there was Wifi and chargers onboard.
During our 5 night trip, we stayed at the Exeter Hotel in Reykjavik. It’s location is superb – within walking distance to the harbor and short walking distances to all other major attractions in the city. This hotel also offered a delicious, free breakfast every morning which is always a nice perk.
After we checked in to the hotel and freshened up, we walked to the harbor and took a whale watching tour with the Elding Whale Company at 1 pm. The tour lasted 3 hours. Unfortunately, we did not see any wildlife on the exhibition but the Company offered us free tickets to take the tour again (within the next 2 years)! We did so on our last day as we had ample time.
Tip: Make sure to dress warm on the excursion! It is extremely cold out at sea. The Company provides warm suits but I encourage you to bring your own hat, scarves and gloves.
After the whale watching tour, we went to the 6 pm mass at Christ the King Cathedral. I love visiting different churches whenever I travel. It’s interesting to see how different cultures and people experience mass.
We had dinner at Bazilika, a low key restaurant that serves a variety of dishes. We split a vegetarian flat bread pizza. It was delicious!
Day 2 – Golden Circle Tour and Blue Lagoon
On our second day we took a Golden Circle Tour and Blue Lagoon with NICe Travel. (We booked our tour online the day before while we were on the bus from the airport). The tour consisted of three most popular sites in Iceland: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Hot Springs and Gullfoss waterfall. We also stopped at the Kerid Volcanic Crater.
Our day started by our driver picking us up for the tour near our hotel. Our first stop on the tour was the Thingvellir National Park. This is a spectacular place with abundant nature including beautiful waterfalls, rock formations, and greenery. It is also the place where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. Pretty cool!
The next stop on our tour was the Geysir Hot Springs field, home of the first geyser recorded in written history. The Geysir is a famous hot spring in the geothermal area of Haukadalur Valley. It is actively erupting every 5 to 7 minute, often up to 30 meters into the air. It was pretty cool to see!
After walking around the hot springs field we grabbed lunch at Supa Geysir. They offer fresh and delicious soups including vegan and vegetarian options. The soup was tasty, filling and warming. Exactly what I needed for lunch in the middle of a cold day.
After lunch, we drove to Gullfoss waterfall, or as our tour guide liked to joke “Waterfall Waterfall” as Gullfoss is translated to “Waterfall” from Icelandic. The Gullfoss Waterfall is located in the canyon of the Hvítá River. It is one of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls and absolutely spectacular to see. It is no surprise why it is one of the country’s signature waterfalls! If you visit Iceland, it is a must see as it is only about 1 and half away from Reykjavik.
- If you rent a car, you can easily drive through the Golden Circle yourself. From our experience, the roads that lead to the Gullfoss Waterfall were in great condition and the road from Reykjavik was straightforward.
The next stop on our tour was the Kerid Volcanic Crater. It is a beautiful blue lake surrounded by red volcanic rock. You can walk around the lake both at the bottom of the crater and at the top! We had about 40 minutes on this stop which was plenty of time of take photos, walk around and enjoy the view.
Everything You Need to Know About Visiting the Blue Lagoon in Iceland
Our tour concluded with the Blue Lagoon. I highly recommend the option of booking the Golden Circle tour with the Blue Lagoon. You save time and money on transportation. There is also nothing more relaxing than spending two hours in a geothermal spa after a long day of walking and sightseeing in chilly Iceland. We booked our tickets to the Blue Lagoon ahead of time for the 5 pm time slot that day. Make sure that you book your tickets in advance as the lagoon has become so popular in the last few years that you might need to book your entry a couple of days in advance depending on the season you are coming to Iceland.
When booking your tickets, you have two main options: Comfort or Premium.
- The Comfort option, for 84 Euros at the time of this writing, includes: entrance to the Blue Lagoon, a mud mask, use of towel, and one drink of your choice.
- The Premium, for 105 Euros at the time of this writing, includes all of the aforementioned items, in addition to the use of a bathrobe, slippers, a second mask and an option to reserve the Blue Lagoon restaurant for dining.
We decided to purchase the Comfort option as we didn’t think it was worthwhile to purchase a second mask and the use of a bathrobe for an extra 21 euros.
The Blue Lagoon is an experience that you don’t want to miss. We were apprehensive that it might be one of Iceland’s tourist traps but that is totally not the case. In my opinion, it should be an essential part of your itinerary. When I go back to Iceland, I definitely want to come here again. It was a soothing, renewing and relaxing experience. The water is about 102°F year-round, making it the perfect temperature for bathing in contrast to the Icelandic cold air temperature.
Tip: Bring a waterproof phone pouch so you don’t have to worry about having your phone with you in the lagoon. I did not have one and had to put my phone away after taking some photos!
Day 3 – Snaefellsnes Peninsula
On the third day, we booked a tour for the Snaefellsnes Peninsula from Bustravel Iceland. The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is a region in western Iceland known for its beautiful and dramatic landscapes.
Our first stop on the tour was the Kirkjufell Mountain. We admired the beauty of the majestic mountain and also visited a waterfall nearby. We spent about 30 minutes in this location.
The next stop was the black sand beach at Djúpalónssandur. This beach was absolutely stunning and the area nearby provided great views of Snaefellsjokull. We had great weather conditions and perfect visibility. I definitely encourage you to add this beach to your itinerary!
We had lunch at Sker Restaurant near Hellnar. I had the vegetarian option, a black bean burger, but my sister had the local catch of the day which was apparently delicious. The restaurant is run by a chef whose father is a local fisherman and catches the fish every day for the restaurant.
The final sight-seeing stop of the day was the Arnarstapi Center. Arnarstapi is a small fishing village at the base of the Stapafell mountain. We spent about 45 minutes here and took a beautiful walk along the coast. The views were absolutely breathtaking. We took in the sights of birds flying over the ocean and magnificent lava formations.
Day 4 – South Coast & Jokulsarion
We saved the longest tour for our last excursion. It was the South Coast & Jokulsarion tour that lasted about 15 hours. We booked our tour with Extreme Iceland. This phenomenal day tour from Reykjavik is full of remarkable views of Iceland’s spectacular nature.
The first stop on our tour was the Skogafoss waterfall, one of Iceland’s largest waterfalls. This waterfall is truly breathtaking!
Next on our itinerary were the Reynisdrangar ocean cliffs and a black sand beach. The views from the ocean cliffs were awesome and I absolutely loved seeing the stunning black rock formations on the beach. It was truly unlike anything I have seen before. This part of the coast should definitely end up on your planned route!
After the cliffs, we drove to Diamond Beach and Glacier Lagoon. It was definitely slightly colder in this area, so come prepared with a warm winter jacket, scarves and gloves! Diamond Beach and Glacier Lagoon are iconic Icelandic landscapes. These two places were like what I imagined Iceland to be like – cold, eerie, and snowy – all in a positive sense.
Unfortunately, since we visited Iceland in the summer, there were not that many ice rocks at Diamond Beach. If you visit this beach in the colder months, you might be more lucky and see the ice rocks on the Beach shine like bright crystals. I definitely want to come back to Iceland in the winter to witness this phenomenon and to see the Northern Lights!
On our way home the last stop on the coast was the magnificent Seljalandsfoss waterfall. I highly recommend that you visit this waterfall in the evening to experience the sun setting on the waterfall. Walking behind the waterfall at this time of the day was truly magical. Even Justin Bieber think so as he has recorded a music video there! 🙂 It was the perfect way to end the evening.
The drive back to Reykjavik from the waterfall took about 2 and half hours with a stop on the way for a quick dinner. We got back around 11:30 pm and it was so cool to see that it was still daylight outside!
Day 5 – Exploring Reykjavik
On our final day in Iceland, we decided to take the whale watching tour with the Elding Whale Company again as we had free tickets from our initial failed excursion. This time we were more lucky and got to see a colony of dolphins and one whale! It was absolutely magical seeing the dolphins jump around in the sea, happy and free. I felt so fortunate seeing them in their natural habitat.
After the tour, we had lunch and coffee at Te & Kaffi, an Icelandic coffee house that serves delicious lattes, cappuccinos and pastries. We sat outside in the terrace as the day was absolutely beautiful and sunny. I ordered a cappuccino and my sister order a vanilla latte. Both were good options!
We used the spike of energy from the coffee to walk around Reykjavik for about 2 and half hours. It is such a cute city with cool architecture, beautiful scenery and fun hidden gems around each corner. We spent the time walking around the harbor, the park, and we also visited the famous Lutheran cathedral, Hallgrímskirkja. It is so impressive in person and one of Reykjavik’s distinct architectural constructions.
After sightseeing, we also got some shopping done and bought Icelandic souvenirs. It is our tradition to give our mom a magnet from every place we visit!
At around 4 pm we took the Flybus to the airport to catch our flight. As on every trip, it was bittersweet to leave!
I hope you found this itinerary helpful! If you have any questions or need any advice about your upcoming trip, please reach out and comment!