Iceland makes for an epic road trip, one that’s probably on everyone’s bucket list. What makes the country a perfect road trip destination is the Ring Road, an 800-mile highway circling the island. The landscape changes around every corner. Within an hour of driving, you will see black sand beaches, lava rocks, green mountains, glacier lagoons, and vast expanses of nothing. But driving around Iceland and doing it justice can take anywhere between 10 and 14 days. Unfortunately, I only had a week to spare, and still wanted to cover the diversity Iceland has to offer. After poring over blog after blog while planning my trip to Iceland, I pretty much had every possible itinerary combination memorized (I’m a compulsive planner). Here’s a 6-day itinerary for Iceland that you can follow!
Day 1: Reykjavik
Day 2: Golden Circle
Day 3: Reykjavik to Vik: Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Skogafoss waterfall and Sólheimasandur Airplane Wreck
Day 4: Around Vik: Reynisfjara Basalt Column Beach, Dyrholaey Arch and Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon
Day 5: Vik to Hofn: Skaftafell National Park, Diamond Beach and Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Day 6: Reykjavik
Detailed itinerary for 6 days in Iceland:
Day 1 – Reykjavik and Blue Lagoon
Chances are that you’ve landed really early in Iceland (most flights do), so you’re probably too early for check-in. Blue Lagoon is right beside the Keflavik International Airport, where you will land, so it’s best to visit it right after landing, while you’re still waiting to check in.
The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most visited tourist attraction. Its high mineral content and curative properties have been its claim to fame, but it’s now basically just a massive public pool. You can buy drinks, mud masks and massages in the lagoon, and while away some time. I thought it was fairly overrated and definitely overpriced. I would have much preferred visiting some of the lesser known thermal pools in Reykjavik and the surrounding area – they are cheaper and less crowded! Regardless, make sure to buy your passes in advance.
Spend the rest of the day in Reykjavik, strolling along the harbor and visiting the Harpa. Make sure to take a free walking tour by CityWalk – one of the best walking tours I’ve ever taken in Europe (and I’ve done almost 20). You will learn SO MUCH about Icelandic history and culture, as well as life in Reykjavik. Absolutely do not miss! I’ve included more details on spending a day in Reykjavik in my other blog post here.
Day 2 – Golden Circle
Highlights: Gullfoss waterfall, Strokkur geyser, Thingvellir National Park, snorkeling/diving at Silfra
The Golden Circle is the most popular tourist route in Iceland, primarily due to its proximity to Reykjavik, and the fact that you can complete it within a day (starting from and ending in Reykjavik). If you’re planning a trip to Iceland just for a weekend, you should include Reykjavik and the Golden Circle. It includes the Gullfoss waterfall, Thingvellir National Park, and the Strokkur geyser.
The Gullfoss waterfall is one of the most iconic and powerful waterfalls in Iceland. The Strokkur geyser erupts every 7-10 minutes, spewing out hot sulfur up to 20 to 40 metres in the air. The third stop, the Thingvellir National Park, is the site of the first Icelandic parliament! Budget some time to hike around the national park and soak in the gorgeous views.
Best of all, Thingvellir is where the Eurasian and American tectonic plates are slowly separating from one another. Unlike what most people think (and the false rumors that do the rounds), you can’t touch both tectonic plates with your arms. They are several meters apart! What you can do, though, is dive or snorkel in the crack between the tectonic plates, the Silfra fissure. Silfra is considered one of the best dive sites in the world, filled with icy blue water flowing in from a nearby glacier. The visibility is one of the best in the world (think crystal clear, turquoise blue waters) and there is no marine life due to the 2oC temperature, making it one of the most surreal diving experiences ever!
You can either choose to drive the Golden Circle yourself, or select one of the many tour options (Arctic Adventures, Extreme Iceland, Dive Iceland or Reykjavik Excursions), which will pick you up and drop you back in Reykjavik. Completing the three stops will take approximately 5 hours. If you choose to dive or snorkel, add in 2 extra hours for the entire process.
If you are planning a trip to Iceland, DO NOT MISS diving or snorkeling at Silfra. It is one of the coolest travel experiences you’ll ever have.
Day 3 – Reykjavik to Vik
Highlights: Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Skogafoss waterfall and Sólheimasandur Airplane Wreck
Overnight: Vik (or nearby)
Drive from Reykjavik to Vik today, stopping at Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Skogafoss waterfall and the Sólheimasandur Airplane Wreck. Vik is one of the bigger towns in Iceland, so look for accommodation options either in Vik or smaller towns close by. We couldn’t find any Airbnbs in Vik, so we ended up staying in Skogar, right beside the Skogafoss waterfall.
The cool thing about Seljalandfoss is that you can walk behind the waterfall. I wish someone had told me that the trekking path behind it isn’t the safest. The waterfall is powerful as hell, splashing cold water everywhere. The path is slippery and doesn’t have any sidebars, so be careful. And definitely don’t take your DSLR like I did!
Skogafoss is beautiful in its own right as well, especially when you trek up and look at it from above.
Finally, head towards the famous airplane wreck that you’ve likely seen too many photos of. What’s the big deal about this airplane wreck? Well, in 1973, a US navy aircraft was forced to land on the black sand beach at Solheimasandur and the wreckage has since become a popular tourist spot. Thankfully, no one was injured!
Unfortunately, in the last few years, landowners have banned vehicle access on the beach. You’ll have to park your car and walk 4km each way across the black sand beach. There are no signs marking the site of the wreck or the car park, so be alert and follow these instructions.
Disclaimer: the plane wreck is cool, but does it take your breath away? Not really. Lower your expectations and you’ll enjoy the photo ops!
Day 4 – Around Vik
Highlights: Reynisfjara Basalt Column Beach, Dyrholaey Arch and Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon
Overnight: Vik (or nearby)
On day 4 of your 6-day Iceland itinerary, you’ll drive around the Vik area, spending the night in Vik again.
Visit the Reynisfjara beach, close to Vik. You’ve definitely seen photographs of its iconic basalt columns. Try visiting early in the morning or later at night, when the crowds are less and you can get some amazing photographs.
Nearby is the Dyrholaey Arch, a prominent peninsula, from where you can see the Reynisfjara basalt columns, the coastline, and the black sand beaches of Vik. It is also a nesting ground for puffins!
Next, drive to Fjaðrárgljúfur, a 2-km long serpentine canyon with breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape; this canyon is believed to be 9000 years old. Hike up to the top of the canyon’s edge to be rewarded with some brilliant photo ops!
Day 5 – Vik to Hofn
Highlights: Skaftafell National Park, Diamond Beach and Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Overnight: Hofn (or nearby)
This was one of my favorite days in this 6-day Iceland itinerary! It’s almost an amalgamation of everything Iceland has to offer. Drive from Vik to Hofn, a densely populated town (by Icelandic standards, I must emphasize) close to the largest glacier in Europe (Vatnajokull).
Start the day off by stopping at Skaftafell National Park, which was established in 1967 but became a part of the larger Vatnajokull National Park in 2008 (the largest national park in Europe). Skaftafell National Park offers some great hiking paths, camping and picnic options, and (if you are visiting in the winter) ice cave walks in Vatnajokull (the largest glacier in Europe). Unfortunately, because of the possibility of melting ice, the ice cave walks are only permitted in the winter. If you’re following this itinerary for 6 days in Iceland, you’ll only have a few hours to spare at Skaftafell National Park. In that case, make your way to the Skaftafell Visitor Centre and choose from the many hiking trails available; the most popular being the hike to the Svartifoss waterfall and the Skaftafellsjokull glacier (2-3 hours).
After grabbing a quick bite to eat at the Skaftafell cafeteria (enough vegetarian and vegan options available!), drive to Diamond Beach and Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, which are on opposite sides of the highway, a few minutes from one another.
Diamond Beach is a gorgeous black sand beach, with large ice rocks scattered across. The contrast of the translucent ice against the stark black sand makes for a surreal sight.
Jokulsarlon is a natural glacier lagoon, formed by water flowing in from the nearby glacier. As more water flows in, the lagoon gets larger, unfortunately melting the ice chunks with it. Two James Bond films and the Tomb Raider were shot here!
Take a boat tour through the Jokulsarlon glacier. You have two options: a zodiac boat or an amphibian boat. The zodiac boat is smaller (taking less passengers), but gets closer to the icebergs. The ride lasts about an hour. The amphibian boat, on the other hand, is larger, cheaper (USD 90 vs USD 50), runs more frequently, and takes 30-40 minutes. Unfortunately, you won’t get too close to the icebergs. Irrespective of the option you choose, make sure you book it in advance here. This is an absolute must if you are planning a trip to Iceland, and tours get booked fairly quickly (especially in the summertime).
Day 6 – Reykjavik
Drive back from Hofn to Reykjavik today (5.5 hours). If you leave early enough, you can make it back just after lunch. Depending on how much you explored on day 1, you can either choose to spend the rest of the day in Reykjavik, or take a day trip for whale watching (3 hours) or horse riding (range of time options).
That’s it! You’ve just experienced the best of what the country has to offer in this 6 day itinerary for Iceland.