This itinerary starts off in Reykjavik and heads counter clockwise around the country. Below is a summary of how we explored Iceland in 10 days. You can read through the entire itinerary (which we highly suggest you do!), or skip to more details about a specific day.
|Day 1: Arrive in Reykjavik, Explore Town|
|Day 2: Explore Outside of Reykjavik|
|Day 3: Southwest Iceland|
|Day 4: Vik|
|Day 5: Southeast Iceland|
|Day 6: North Iceland, Part 1|
|Day 7: North Iceland, Part 2|
|Day 8: West Iceland|
|Day 9: Back to Reykjavik|
|Day 10: The Blue Lagoon and Home|
FAIR WARNING: This itinerary requires A LOT of driving as you will be driving around the entire country in 10 days! But don’t worry, this itinerary is time-optimized so that you are driving and lodging at places along the route. This reduces the back-and-forth between destinations. We know it takes a ton of time to plan out each destination, places to eat along the way, AND where to sleep at night. We already did all of the work for you in this itinerary, so make sure to see all the highlights in the same order as listed!
We took an overnight flight from San Francisco and landed in Reykjavik at 1:45pm local time. Jet lag always hits us HARD so we didn’t get to see much the first day after landing. Instead, we took a fat but lovely nap once we go to our AirBnB after failing to get a proper sleep on the plane. But then again, who ever gets good sleep on a plane? If you do, let us know your tricks!
In general, Reykjavik doesn’t offer much in terms of things to see and do, so limit your stay here. We stayed here for 1.5 days and another day at the end of our trip to see attractions that were near Reykjavik.
ACCOMODATIONS: Your cheapest option will be to stay at an AirBnB. Our lovely host Daniel was very friendly and let us (or rather Simon) try fermented shark, a delicacy of Iceland. There was also free parking in front of the AirBnB, and the location was absolutely perfect as it was a very short walk (30 seconds!) to downtown.
FOOD: Noodle Station is a quick and easy Asian-inspired noodle soup place that is delicious and comforting in cold weather. I’m a noodle fanatic, so we had this the two nights we were here, hehe.
|1. See Hallgrímskirkja|
|2. See Sun Voyager|
|3. Walk around Downtown Reykjavik|
1. SEE HALLGRÍMSKIRKJA
Hallgrímskirkja is a 74.5 meters high Lutheran parish church in Reykjavík, Iceland. It is the largest church in Iceland and among the tallest structures in the country.
The Sun Voyager, or Sólfarið in Icelandic, is an stainless steel statue that sits along the shores of Reykjavík. The artist Jón Gunnar to build a statue as an interpretation of a dreamboat and ode to the sun.
3. WALK AROUND DOWNTOWN REYKJAVIK
Nothing like strolling around town to ease your way into Iceland.
We will now be venturing off to the world outside of Reyjavik. These hot spots are about a 60 to 90-minute hour drive from Reyjavik.
|1. Soak in a natural hot springs at Reykjadalur Hot Springs|
|2. Climb down to Kerið Crater Lake|
|3. Head back to Reykjavik for lunch|
|4. Take an afternoon volcano cave tour with Extreme Iceland|
1. SOAK IN A NATURAL HOT SPRINGS AT REYKJADALUR HOT SPRINGS
Reykjadalur Hot Springs is a 2.5(ish) mile hike up the valley where you get to soak in a hot springs river right in the middle of the mountain. How cool is that?
2. CLIMB DOWN TO KERIð CRATER LAKE
Kerið is a 3,000 year old volcanic crater that measures 55m deeps, 170m wide, and 270 across. It is composed of red volcanic rocks instead of the usual black. You can walk above the crater or take the stairs down to the water.
4. HEAD BACK TO REYKJAVIK FOR LUNCH
The most popular and famous eatery in Iceland is Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, a hot dog stand that even the likes of Bill Clinton has eaten at! And the cheapest meal you will have in Iceland. Essentially, it’s a hot dog that is made of beef, pork, and lamb. It is the lamb that makes this unique. Honestly, we thought it was just okay. Nothing special. It tasted like any other hot dog but we tried it because we felt like it was the typical tourist thing to do 🙂
5. TAKE AN AFTERNOON VOLCANIC CAVE TOUR WITH EXTREME ICELAND
After the volcanic cave tour, you’ll be dropped back off at your hotel. End the night with dinner at Icelandic Fish & Chips. Hands down, one of the best fish and chips we’ve ever eaten. The batter was thin and had a perfect crisp. The fish was fresh, flaky, and moist.
You will hit all of the attractions on this day on the way from Reykjavik to Skogar/Vik, so make sure to start bright and early to ensure ample amount of time for each destination.
|1. See Urridafoss|
|2. Explore Kelder Turf Houses|
|3. Walk behind Seljalandsfoss|
|4. Check into Hotel Skogafoss and eat lunch|
|5. Explore Skogafoss|
|6. Swim in Iceland's oldest outdoor swimming pool Seljavallalaug|
1. SEE URRIDAFOSS
Urridafoss is the most voluminous waterfall in Iceland and located in the bjorsa river, the longest in Iceland. It is off road 1. The road is clearly marked with signs with a parking lot that stops right near the waterfall. There are also picnic tables and benches.
2. EXPLORE KELDUR TURF HOUSES
Kelder Turf Houses is known to be the oldest surviving turf house in Iceland. The houses were lived in up until 1946 when it was given to the National Museum of Iceland. Today, summer visitors an take a look into the houses to see what life was like.
Only open from 6/15 to 8/15 to see inside the actual houses. If you’re not visiting during this time frame, go ahead and skip this attraction.
PRO TIP: The road to get there is heavily graveled. Drive slowly so that there is little to no gravel damage on your rental car.
3. WALK BEHIND SELJALANDSFOSS
Seljalandsfoss is one of the most visited waterfalls in Iceland and can be seen right off road 1. It is 60m high and is fed by melting water from the glacier capped Eyjafjallajokull volcano. This was one of our favorite waterfalls in all of Iceland, mostly because you can walk behind it! Proceed with caution as water from the fall can make the path and rocks very wet and slippery.
4. CHECK INTO HOTEL SKOGAFOSS AND EAT LUNCH
Now let’s head to Hotel Skogafoss to check-in! After checking in drop off your luggage and grab a bite to eat in their dining room. Food options are very limited in this area so your best bet is to eat in the dining room. Food isn’t great but the view of Skogafoss is amazing!
5. EXPLORE SKOGÁFOSS
Situated on the Skoga River, Skogafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland, with a 60m drop and 25m wide. You can hike up to the top of the waterfall via stairs. You can continue hiking past the waterfall for some nature serenity.
6. SWIM IN ICELAND’S OLDEST OUTDOOR POOL SELJAVALLALAUG
All the highlights in today’s itinerary are around the Vik area so you won’t be doing massive amounts of driving today. Yay! For lunch we grabbed pre-made sandwiches at a local grocery store.
|1. Spend the morning hiking on Solheimajokill Glacier|
|2. Play around Black Sand Beach|
|3. Hike through strong winds to see the Solheimasandur plane wreck|
|4. View the Dyrhólaey arch|
|5. Dine at Sudur Vik for dinner|
1. SPEND THE MORNING HIKING ON SOLHEIMAJOKILL GLACIER
2. PLAY AROUND BLACK SAND BEACH
Black Sand Beach is made of lava and contains a natural pyramid made of basalt columns. It is located near the village of Vik. A restaurant is located nearby that serves lamb cops, burgers, salads, and sandwiches. This is an incredibly popular tourist stop, so be prepared for crowds.
PRO TIP: Dress warmly! It can get very windy and cold by the beach.
3. HIKE THROUGH STRONG WINDS TO SEE SÓLHEIMASANDUR PLANE WRECK
In November of 1973, a US Navy Douglas Super DC-3 airplane was forced to land due to severe icing. All those aboard survived but the Solheimasandur plane wreck was abandoned, now left for many visitors to come see.
PRO TIP: Dress warmly and in windproof attire if possible. The winds are extremely strong here and it is a 40+ minute walk one-way from the parking lot to the plane. The scenery is total black sand but marked by a path.
4. VIEW THE DYRHÓLAEY ARCH
PRO TIP: You need to take a road up the mountain to get here. The road is full of gravel and is narrow, so drive slow and carefully. Be prepared to pull over for drivers coming down the mountain.
After visiting the Dyrhólaey arch, eat dinner at Sudur Vik. Sudur Vik is located up a hill and serves your typical Westernized dish options: salads, soups, chicken, fish, etc. They also have vegan and gluten-free options. After dinner, head back to Hotel Skogafoss which is ~30 minutes away.
All of South Iceland is beautiful and Southeast Iceland is no exception. There is a little less to see here than in Southwest Iceland so you only needed 1 day and 1 night to see this area.
ACCOMODATION: We stayed at Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon, a brand new 4-star hotel that is smack dab in the middle of two popular spots in the region: Skaftafell and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. We paid $209 for one night after taxes and fees. This is about the same price as a room in a guesthouse in the area, so why not just stay here and get your own private room and bathroom with a comfortable bed and pillows?!
FOOD: Just like with Southwest Iceland, restaurants are sparse in the area so we ate at the Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon. We expected the food to be on the more expensive side and it was. We ordered lamb and fish, both costing a total of $120 USD. However, it was delicious and the best meal we’ve had in Iceland!
|1. Admire the beautiful Fjadrargljufur Canyon|
|2. Hike through Skaftafell National Park to see Svartifoss|
|3. See Laki and Lakagígar craters|
|4. View Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon|
1. ADMIRE THE BEAUTIFUL FJADRAGLJUFUR CANYON
2. HIKE THROUGH SKAFTAFELL NATIONAL PARK TO SEE SVARTIFOSS
In 1967, Skaftafell National Park was established, but in 2008 it became a part of the newly established Vatnajökull National Park. A famous waterfall by the name of Svartifoss is located in Skaftafell National Park, a waterfall known for its black basalt columns. This waterfall has appeared in famous Hollywood films, such as James Bond’s A View to a Kill and Die Another Day, and Batman Begins.
3. SEE LAKI AND LAKAGÍGAR CRATERS
4. VIEW JÖKULSÁRLÓN GLACIER LAGOON
After seeing the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, head back for a 20-minute drive to Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon. Enjoy a nice meal at the restaurant inside.
This day will be the longest driving day. Getting from South Iceland to North will take approximately 7 hours from Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon to the first stop in North Iceland, Dettifoss.
ACCOMODATION: We stayed at an Airbnb in Akureyri and found it to be pleasantly comfortable and clean.
FOOD: There was a kitchen in our Airbnb for our use, so we cooked our own meals.
|1. Visit Dettifoss|
|2. Hike Ásbyrgi Canyon|
|3. Visit Húsavík|
|4. Walk around Akureyri|
1. VISIT DETTIFOSS
Located in Northeast Iceland, Dettifoss is Europe’s most powerful waterfall, with 500 cubic meters of water per second plunging over the edge. Dettifoss is 45 m high and 100m wide.
2. HIKE ÁSBYRGI CANYON
Ásbyrgi, meaning Shelter of the Gods, is a glacial canyon in the north of Iceland. It is about a 50 minute drive east of Húsavík. Ásbyrgi has 100 meter high cliffs which form a wide ring of protective shelter around rich vegetation and forest.
3. VISIT HÚSAVÍK
Húsavík is a small town located on the Northeast side of Iceland. Húsavík is globally recognized as one of the best locations in the world to watch whales. You can enjoy visits from humpbacks, minkes, and dolphins from May to August with peak whale watching season in June and July.
4. WALK AROUND AKUREYRI
We recommend staying in Akureryi when visiting North Iceland. Akureyri is the North capital of Iceland and second largest urban area, after Reykjavík. In this town, you will find cafes, restaurants, and a handful of art galleries.
|1. See Goðafoss|
|2. Hike to the rim of Hverfjall|
|3. View Hverir|
|4. Climb inside Grjótagjá lava cave|
|5. Soak up the warmth in Mývatn Nature Baths|
1. SEE GOðAFOSS
Translated as the “Waterfall of the Gods”, Goðafoss is the fourth largest waterfall in Iceland.
Hverfjall is a large, circular explosion crater located on the eastern shore of Lake Myvatn. The crater is about 140 meters deeps with a diameter of 1,000 meters. You can actually hike to the rim of the crater and walk around it! Here is a great breakdown of what to expect when hiking Hverfjall that we weren’t able to capture! If you need additional help finding out where to start, go to the Tourist Information Center in Myvatn to get further information.
3. VIEW HVERIR
Hverir is a geothermal spot noted for its bubbling pools of mud & steaming fumaroles emitting sulfuric gas. These bubbling pools of mud and steam can be seen from the side of road.
PRO TIP: Don’t get too close to the steam as it can be very hot! Try to take your photos from far away as the steam can fog up your lens.
4. CLIMB INSIDE GRJOTAGJA LAVA CAVE
Grjótagjá is a small lava cave near lake Mývatn in Iceland. It has a thermal spring inside. For all your Game of Thrones fans, this is where Jon Snow was devirginized by Ygritte!
5. SOAK UP THE WARMTH IN MÝVATN NATURE BATHS
The Mývatn Nature Baths is a man-made geothermal pool that’s similar to Blue Lagoon. It is definitely smaller and more intimate than the Blue Lagoon, and thus, less crowded with tourists. Check out our comparison breakdown of The Blue Lagoon vs. Mývatn Nature Baths.
There will be a lot of driving on this day as you head west from Akureyri and then back down to Reykjavik. You will end the day in Reykjavik.
|1. See Hvítserkur|
|2. Photograph Kirkjufell Mountain|
|3. Hike to Gatklettur|
|4. See basalt columns at Gerðuberg Cliffs|
|5. View two waterfalls: Barnafoss & Hraunfossar|
1. SEE HVÍTSERKUR
Hvítserkur is a 15-meter high rock formation located off the North West shores of Iceland. You can climb down a steep cliff to see the rock formation up close and personal. Don’t worry, the climb isn’t too bad!
PRO TIP: Make sure you input “Hvitserkur, Vatnsnesvegur, Iceland” into Google Maps instead of just Hvitserkur. The latter will lead you to a place along the shore of East Iceland. The actual rock formation is west of Akureyi.
2. PHOTOGRAPH KIRKJUFELL MOUNTAIN
Kirkjufell Mountain is ~3 hour drive from Hvítserkur. It is a beautifully symmetric, free standing mountain in West Iceland. It has been dubbed the most photographic mountain in Iceland.
PRO TIP: Come here at sunrise or sunset to get a beautiful photography shot of the mountain if possible. The lighting will work best for good photos.
3. HIKE TO GATKLETTUR
Located in a small fishing village of Arnarstapi lies a naturally formed stone arch called
4. SEE BASALT COLUMNS AT GERðUBERG CLIFFS
The Gerðuberg Cliffs is a beautiful wall of basalt rock columns that form a geometric pattern. You can access Gerðuberg from road 54 and it will be a short 6-8-minute walk from the parking lot to the cliffs. Once you approach the cliffs, head right where you can see the cliffs from the top.
5. VIEW TWO WATERFALLS: BARNAFOSS & HRAUNFOSSAR
Barnafoss & Hraunfossar are two waterfalls located close to one another in Borgarfjörður. Barnafoss means “children’s waterfall” and Hraunfossar translates to “lava waterfall”.
After seeing Barnafoss and Hraunfossar, make your way down for a 2-hour drive to Reykjavik.
We are now back in Reykjavik to explore the rest of the popular attractions on the Golden Circle.
ACCOMODATION: We stayed at a different Airbnb than the one we originally stayed at in the beginning of our trip. You get a kichenette and your own private bathroom. However, the bathroom is outside of the room through the small hallway. Fair warning: the shower is tiny!
FOOD: We ate lunch at the cafe in Strokkur Geyser and eldsmidjan, a delicious pizza restaurant in Reykjavik for dinner.
|1. Hike to Glymur|
|2. Explore Þingvellir National Park|
|3. See water blast from the ground at Strokkur Geyser|
|4. View Iceland's most popular waterfall, Gullfoss|
1. HIKE TO GLYMUR
Glymur is Iceland’s second highest waterfall, cascading at 198 meters high and emptying into a beautiful canyon. It used to be considered Iceland’s highest waterfall until it was surpassed by Morsárfoss in 2011.
Unlike other waterfalls in this itinerary, this one requires a hike. The hike is about 7.5km roundtrip and will take 3 to 3.5 hours depending on your pace. You will walk through caves and smaller waterfalls along the hike.
2. EXPLORE ÞINGVELLIER NATIONAL PARK
Located east of Reykjavik, Þingvellir National Park was named a World site by UNESCO in 2004. Þingvellir National Park stretches almost 36 square miles and is famous for one of the best diving spots in the world: Silfra Gorge. Here you can choose to swim between two continents in clear, glacial water. No entrance fee but there is a parking fee of 500 ISK.
3. SEE WATER BLAST FROM THE GROUND AT STROKKUR GEYSER
Strokkur Geyser, a popular spot along the Golden Circle, is Iceland’s most active geyser, spouting water to heights of up to 40 meters every 5 to 10 minutes. Good news: they serve food here! Grab a bite to eat if you’re hungry. We grabbed lunch and ice cream after 🙂
4. VIEW ICELAND’S MOST POPULAR WATERFALL, GULLFOSS
Gullfoss is one of Iceland’s most popular waterfalls on the Golden Circle. There are multiple viewpoints from the Gullfoss Visitor Center and is well-maintained and open year-round.
Trust me when I tell you that you should save going to the Blue Lagoon for your last day in Iceland. Nothing is better than ending a tiring (but fun!) trip with a hot geothermal bath. This is a very sought after spot and full of tourists. Therefore, we recommend you going at the first slot the Lagoon opens. For us, it was 8am. It was empty when we got there, perfect for taking all the photos before the crowd starts to pour in!
PRO TIP: Book your tickets at least one month in advance to get the best time slots.
We hope you like this itinerary! Let us know if you liked this itinerary in the comments below. Was there anything else that you’ve done that wasn’t on here? There’s definitely some spots we wished we hit but weren’t able to due to time constraints or season:
Have you done any of these? How was it?