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5 Day Iceland Itinerary: Don’t Let Planning an Iceland Trip Get you Overwhelmed

I have a reputation for being an obsessive planner when it comes to our family vacations. But planning a trip to Iceland really took the cake. For our five days in Iceland, I spent over 20 hours pouring over my guide books, maps, and blogs to create our 5 day Iceland itinerary. That’s a lot of work for a vacation, but it paid off in spades.

If you want to take a trip to Iceland, I’m sharing our Iceland travel itinerary to make your planning easier. You can follow this Iceland 5 day itinerary, or if you want an Iceland trip planner, in addition to my two trips to Iceland, I’m also a Certified Iceland Specialist and I’ve helped nearly a dozen families plan a trip to Iceland.

To make things super easy, I’ve even created downloadable, detailed PDF 3-day, 5-day, and 7-day Iceland itineraries for purchase based on everything that I have learned from my trips and planning trips for others. They will be available through the site soon, but if you are interested, contact me to learn more.

Before you go, it is important to realize that even if you find cheap airfare, Iceland is an expensive country to visit. I have put together this Iceland budget guide to help families and others understand how much a trip to Iceland costs. Also make sure to read my separate post of Iceland travel tips!

For more helpful tips and to ask planning questions, join our exclusive Iceland Trip Planning Facebook Group!

5 Days in Iceland: Our Iceland Itinerary

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. All opinions are my own.

Eyjafjallajökull and farm

Trying to “do” Iceland in 5 days means you are going to be busy, so it is best to do it in the summer when the days are long. I have also visited Iceland in the winter, but I still prefer summer when there is more time to spend outside.

Keep in mind that a trip to Iceland means that you will be doing a lot of driving and also moving hotels frequently. Even with only five days in Iceland, there is no getting around moving a couple of times if you want to minimize driving.

We visited Iceland around the summer solstice, staying six nights and five full days from June 20 – June check rates and reviews26. Given the limited amount of time, we focused our attention on South Iceland, splitting our time between three nights in Reykjavik and three nights at a cabin out in Geysir.

Looking back, I would have been better off splitting our time between Reykjavik and the South Coast at Hotel Ranga or IcelandAir Hotel, in order to minimize driving. (My downloadable PDF 5 day Iceland itinerary has all my updated suggestions based on the mistakes that I made — email me to learn more.)

If you want to drive the entire Ring Road and get to the more remote places like the West Fjords, you are going to need at least 10 days.

Getting to Iceland

We flew IcelandAir from Boston to Keflavík, arriving at 11:40 pm on Saturday night, just in time to get the full effect of the midnight sun. While we considered trying WOW Air (it was actually their advertised $99 each way fare that first enticed us to try Iceland), when we looked at all the added costs (seats, carry on bags, checked bags, etc.), IcelandAir was only a little bit more expensive and had a solid reputation.

I’m actually really glad we flew IcelandAir because it was the most comfortable flight I have had for a long, long time. We were given a real blanket, pillow and a bottle of Icelandic water upon boarding. Each seat had its own seat back entertainment system with coloring, games, music, documentaries about Iceland and plenty of movies (including a good selection of family friendly ones). Kids were given free kid’s meals, along with their own kit with child-friendly headphones, a blanket, coloring book, and crayons.

Getting Around Iceland

5 days in Iceland -- rent a car from Sixt

Driving near Dyrhólaey

After checking prices we ended up renting a car with Sixt.com. Depending on where you are going, you probably won’t need an SUV, but if you are going to drive into the interior on any of the “F” gravel roads, it is a requirement. We were glad we had a 4×4 just for getting through the bumpy dirt track to our cabin in Geysir. Our experience with Sixt rental car was fine but there are a few things to note:

  • You’ll need to find your agent in the very crowded, very small meeting area outside of customs and he/she will drive you a couple of minutes away to their rental office.
  • I’d recommend double checking with your insurance carrier at home or your credit card company to see if you have any coverage already before upgrading to theirs.
  • We rented a MiFi device for $10 per day, which was totally worth it for navigation and Internet access throughout our trip. Just keep in mind that it is for a max amount of data and if you run out, you need to top it off. We would turn it on to start Google Maps and then turn it off once the directions started.

Where to Stay in Reykjavik

Reykjavik is a small, walkable city. If you stay anywhere in the core downtown area, you are no more check rates and reviewsthan a 20-30 minute walk to all the main attractions. The city itself is clean and felt very safe. There are quite a few hotels downtown but we decided to go with an apartment via Airbnb. (See my list of family-friendly hotels in Reykjavik) Since hotels in Iceland book up really early, Airbnb was the way to go for our family.

We found a two-bedroom apartment on Airbnb in downtown Reykjavik that was a perfect location for exploring for under $200 per night. (Register for Airbnb here to get $25 off your first stay with my referral code.) It was one block off the main shopping street, 10 minutes to the Sun Voyager statue, 15 minutes to the Harpa concert hall, 20-30 to the Old Harbour and around 15 minutes to Hallgrímskirkja.

The apartment was a third-floor walk up so getting the suitcases up was a bit of a pain but after that everything was fine. We had a small terrace, room darkening shades for sleeping, a full kitchen and one full bath. There was also a small toddler bed in the second bedroom for families with young children.

5 Day Iceland Itinerary Day 1 – Reykjavik

Sun Voyager sculpture in Reykjavik

 

Start off with breakfast at Elder and Is (Skólavördustígur 2) for crepes and coffee (also a good stop for Icelandic ice cream later in the day!) Next, make your way over to the stunning Harpa Concert Hall (Austurbakki 2) and be sure to walk around inside.

After the Harpa, walk over to the Old Harbor for a Puffin Express boat tour with Special Tours. The tour is just an hour, leaving you plenty of time to explore but also giving you a close up view of these cute little birds. You will have built up an appetite, so stop for lunch at Icelandic Fish & Chips (Tryggvagata 11) — so yummy! (You can also check out some of my other recommendations on where to eat in Reykjavik.)

Unless you have young children, after lunch you can visit the Saga Museum to learn more about Icelandic history. (Note: the audio guide is a bit long winded, and the history portrayed is very violent.)

Take some time to explore and shop along Laugavegar. Make time for with stops in 66° North (warm weather gear) and Volcap (I loved this store where everything is handmade with Icelandic wool and the colors are inspired by the ice, fire Northern Lights, and land of Iceland.)

Finish off with an elevator ride to the top of the Hallgrímskirkja church (Hallgrímstorg 1) for beautiful views over the city.

We finished with dinner at Fiskfelagio (The Fish Company) at Vesturgötu 2a near the Old Harbour and a walk along the waterfront to the Sun Voyager statue.

Iceland Itinerary Day 2 – South Iceland

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon icebergs

 

On our second day, we took a very long day trip along the south coast all the way out to the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. This is an extremely long day and in my downloadable PDF itinerary, I recommend breaking this up into two days, with a stay in the Vík area or near the Glacier Lagoon.

Despite the length, it was worth every minute. On the first day I’d do the waterfalls, the puffins, Vík and a stop at the Skogar Cultural museum. On the second day I’d do Jökulsárlón.

Depart Reykjavik at 8am and drive along Rt 1 (Ring Road) 1 hour, 45 minutes to Rt 249 to Seljalandfoss waterfall. You can walk behind the falls (be sure to wear a good raincoat and rain pants — see my Iceland packing list!).

Sejlandfoss waterfall

After walking behind the falls, follow the path a few hundred meters further to Gljufurarbui waterfall in a hidden valley (a highlight of our trip!)

Continue on Rt 1 another 30 minutes to Skogafoss waterfall in Skogar. You can walk to the foot of the falls or climb a staircase to see the falls from above. Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to enjoy the falls!

Continue along Rt 1 to Rt 218 to Dyrhólaey (35 minutes), a stone sea arch where puffins nest. You’ll need to drive up a steep, narrow dirt road to reach Dyrhólaey. Just note that this area is closed during puffin nesting season. We lucked out because it was open and by leaning over the cliff slightly we got some close up views of these cute little puffins.

Standing on the sea arch at Watching puffins at Dyrhólaey and seeing the contrast of the green grass with the black sand below

If you have time, head back to Rt 1 and follow to Rt 215 to Reynisfjara (30 minutes), a black sand beach with amazing basalt columns, caves and sea stacks. We were running late so we skipped this on our drive out but ended up stopping here around 11pm on our drive back — thank goodness for midnight sun!

Reynisfjara sea stacks in Iceland

Stop for lunch in Vík at the N1 service plaza and take a walk out to the black sand beach to see the famous Reynisdrangur rock formations.

[We were going to continue 1 hr 30 minutes to Skaftafell National Park Visitor Center (open 8am – 9pm) and hike to Svartifoss falls (1.8 km from visitor center) or Skaftafellsjokull (3.7 km to glacier face) but we had to skip this stop because we were running out of time.]

Drive across the lava fields to the Jökulsárlón glacier ice lagoon for a zodiac boat tour with Jökulsárlón. You will get to see all types of icebergs and with the zodiac boat tour, you can also get up close to the glacier face.

If you cross the bridge between the lagoon and the sea, you will get to Diamond Beach. It was named for the large chunks of ice that wash up on shore, glittering on the black sand beach like diamonds.

On your way back, stop for dinner at Systrakaffi at Klausturvegi 13, 880 Kirkjubæjarklaustri. This nice cafe offers simple fare like pizza and hamburgers, but also nicer entrees like a very well-prepared arctic char. If you can’t find lodging near the glacier or closer to Vik, this is a good spot to look for an Airbnb.

Iceland Itinerary Day 3 – Viking Museum & the Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon Iceland reviews -- trying out the silica mud
After a busy day on day two, you may want to start this day a little later. Begin with a stop at Sandholt Bakery (Laugavegar 36) for some delicious pastries and coffee. This also makes a good itinerary for your last day before heading to the airport if you have a late afternoon flight.

Visit the Viking World Museum near Keflavik airport to see a full-scale replica Viking ship that actually sailed from Iceland to Canada and the U.S. You can learn about Viking history and Norse mythology. Outside there is a small petting zoo and playground.

Next, head to the Blue Lagoon with lunch at Lava Restaurant before enjoying the lagoon. While the Blue Lagoon is a top attraction for Iceland tourists, I didn’t love our time there because of the crowds (although the restaurant was great!) and would say go if you have time, but don’t go out of your way.

Later, you may want to try horseback riding. We attended the Fakasel Horse Theater but this has since closed. There are other activities nearby too, like one of Iceland’s best lava tube cave tours.

Head out to your accommodations in the Hekla or Golden Circle area. We drove out to Geysir to check into our Homeway cabin for the next three nights.

Iceland Itinerary Day Four – Dog sledding and the Golden Circle

5 Days in Iceland -- a sample itinerary includes a visit to Gulfoss in the Golden Circle

 

Since dog sledding was on our bucket list and Iceland was our chance to do this in the summer, and not the freezing cold, we started our day very early for a 2.5 hour drive up to the Langjökull glacier to meet our dog sledding team from Dog Sledding Iceland at the Husafell Camping site. This has since come under different management and they aren’t offering sledding on the glacier in the summer, so I would think twice about doing this in the future.

However, you can alternatively go snowmobiling on the glacier, visit an ice cave, or go into a lava tunnel. But honestly, just visiting the Golden Circle is a pretty full day (especially if you add in the other stops I’ve included in my new downloadable PDF 5 day itinerary.)

If you are interested in joining a small group tour or getting a private guide and driver, I would recommend working with Hidden Iceland. Whatever you do, don’t book the large group bus tours if you want flexibility in your schedule and to enjoy nature without so many people around.

From the glacier, we headed to Thingvellir National Park, to see the rift between the two continents.

If you have time, add in a stop at the Laugarvatn Fontana spa for a tour of their thermal bakery (they bake bread in the ground) and a dip in their spa but we just didn’t have time. This would be a good stop to include on a day just in the Golden Circle (Thingveiller, Geysir, Gulfoss, and Kerid.)

Make sure you stop at Geysir Visitor Center to watch the reliable Strokkur geyser erupting across the street. Next, drive just 10 minutes further up the street to the impressive Gulfoss waterfall.

For dinner, you may want to stop at Efstidalur II, at Blaskogabyggd 801, a farm hotel and restaurant with great homemade ice cream.

Iceland Itinerary Day Five – Glacier Hiking

 

Glacier hiking in South IcelandOn our final day in Iceland, we took a three hour glacier hike with Arcanum Tours on Sólheimajökull glacier. It was two hour drive from our cabin so we left early (definitely better to have a home base near Vík for a couple of days.)

On the way back, stop at the 6,500 year old Kerid Crater for a quick walk around the caldera.

For dinner, we finished off with a special meal at Lindin, at Lindarbraut 2 in Laugarvatn. Lindin specializes in seafood (including whale and puffin) and game (like reindeer burgers) and isn’t the most kid friendly but it was fine for our foodie and for a nice final dinner in Iceland.

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5 day Iceland itinerary guide for 5 days in Iceland

Have a question about Icelandic travel or ideas for a longer trip itinerary to visit Iceland? Please leave a comment below.

Note: Some of our tours and activities were hosted, but all opinions are my own. 

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61 Comments on “5 Day Iceland Itinerary: Don’t Let Planning an Iceland Trip Get you Overwhelmed

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  1. you guys are the first to mention Saga museum. Seems like a good option to include. Thanks.

    Thanks for sharing your itinerary! you managed to do so many things in five days, amazing 🙂
    We are thinking of going there for a week this year, trying to choose between may and september. What month for you suggest? unfortunately, june-August are not an option as i cannot take a week off during the summer months

      I would rather go in September as you will also have a possibility of seeing the Northern Lights.

    This is so helpful, thank you so much for all of your recommendations! How much would you say all of the activities cost total? I’m trying to figure out how much I need to budget for in additional to airfare and accommodations. Thank you!

      It really depends on how many activities that you do but most group excursions will be anywhere from $75-150 per person. Keep in mind too that accommodations are quite pricey.

    Thank you for sharing! Photos just wonderful! Tell me what transport is better to use to cover the whole of Iceland? I want to visit several places but I think that car rental will be more convenient than public transportation

      I would definitely recommend a car rental.

    I just got a 3 Day Iceland Package offered few days ago and now after reading your blog I am going to book it. And, explore the beauty of this place.

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