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!
Read more: Spending a day in Reykjavik.
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.
Hi Mahek! Thank you for such a great post, it has been extremely useful to me while I plan my trip for Sept 2018. I have some questions for you about Iceland:
1. What car rental company did you use?
1.a. Did you purchase additional vehicle insurance from the rental company?
2. I’ve read elsewhere that at the Blue Lagoon – they require you to bathe before you enter the pool (understandably) but that you bathe in the nude & open communal area? Is this a fact?
(just want to be prepared 🙂 LOL)
3. Did you have a hard time finding a gas station?
3.a. When you filled up with gas did you use your regular credit card? I am in the USA so my creditcard is USA issued(& i do not have an 11digit code).
3.b. I’ve heard that you can buy a gas gift card at grocery stores (or gift card from an icelandic bank), so that you don’t have to enter a digit code/or it comes with the code that needs to be entered.
4. My trip is for the first week of September 2018 – What time frame did you visit and if you visited in August or Sept – did you have a lot of light? (not necessarily sunlight)
5. Did your car rental have a GPS or did you use the maps on your phone?
6. If you stayed in any Hotels – can you provide the names of them? (I’m thinking that I’ll book more AirBnBs but that will depend on occupancy.)
7. Did you go to Blue Lagoon as soon as you landed? If yes, how did you get from airport to BL?
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR INFORMATION AND TIME!
Hi Sonia! You are going to have a fantastic time in Iceland. These are all questions I had when planning my trip too. Here goes
1. We used Northbound.is – it had great reviews, and we also needed a big car for 6 people plus luggage. Lotus Car Rental is good too. There are tons of good car rentals. I’d recommend going with your car preference first, and then picking a rental company. Just look it up on TripAdvisor to ensure it has good reviews. And yes, definitely purchase additional vehicle insurance (ash, gravel etc) – weather in Iceland is unpredictable, especially outside of the summer. And this is one of the few places you SHOULD get vehicle insurance!
2. I had also read that haha, and I was worried too!! Luckily it’s not true. In the women’s locker room, they have some communal changing areas and some closed ones. So don’t worry!
3. It wasn’t ever hard to find a gas station but yes there aren’t too many. So we did have to plan in advance and go looking for a gas station. They take all credit cards so you’ll be fine! We used international ones from India and they worked just fine.
4.I visited first week of June so we had 24 hours of sunlight! That being said, you will get tons of sunlight in the first week of September. I would say at least 12 hours of it. As for daylight – it might be gloomy at times, but that was the case even in the summer when I visited. That’s just Icelandic weather – it’s unpredictable, and it can rain anytime, so yes that could affect how bright vs gloomy your day is. It definitely affected our photos 😉
5. We used the maps on our phone, because we purchased a Wifi pack with our car rental. That way we could use Google Maps anytime!
6. I only stayed in Airbnbs because hotels in Iceland are very very expensive! Especially outside of Reykjavik. I would recommend choosing Airbnbs!
7. We didn’t go as soon as we landed because we had some other friends we were waiting for, so we went the next day. That being said, you should do it right after landing or before leaving because it’s so close to the airport. We did a road trip so we had a car with us the whole time – just drive there! You can pick up your car at the airport and drive to Blue Lagoon.
Btw – I also have a ton of other posts on Iceland, including information about Blue Lagoon, snorkeling in Silfra, spending time in Reykjavik, the best coffee shops in the city, and all about the country’s culture. Check those out! 🙂 Have an amazing amazing time and please don’t hesitate to write back with more questions!
Great article! We are going for a week and will definitely follow this itinerary. Thanks for all the tips!
Thanks! Glad to know this was helpful 🙂 I’ve got a bunch of other Iceland posts too about other aspects of the trip. Check it out! Hope you have a lovely trip!