A h, Iceland. So many sights to see, so many things to do! How in the world can one plan an Iceland itinerary knowing all the amazing experiences this country can offer? And is it even possible to do it when you can only spend 7 days in Iceland?
Well, don’t worry, because while one week in Iceland isn’t enough to “do it all”, it is absolutely enough to cover all the major must-sees, to get off the beaten track, and allow some free time to soak it all in. And to help you plan your trip, I’m sharing the ultimate 7 days Iceland itinerary, including day-by-day activities, tips on where to stay, and budget notes. And yes, this travel guide is based 100% on personal experience. So, let’s start!
Table of Contents
Itinerary + Map
Itinerary Overview and Map of Iceland
Here’s an overview of my Iceland 7 days itinerary. As you can see, you’ll be able to cover about half of the classic Ring Road route, but I can assure you you’ll see all the most interesting sights anyway, as the Southern half of the country is by far the most scenic.
Now let’s get into it, shall we?
Day 1: Arrival, Reykjanes peninsula
– You’re in Iceland! Good job! From the airport, take the free shuttle to the rental agencies area where you will be given the keys to your 4. For your day 1 I’d recommend staying overnight in the vicinity, as the famous Blue Lagoon is just a few km away from the airport and tomorrow you’ll set off on your day very early.
– If you have some extra time on your day 1, you can explore a bit the Reykjanes peninsula. Check out the famous Bridge Between Continents, which is where the boundaries between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates lie. You can observe the tectonic plates as they drift apart from each other and set foot on two different continents.
– Afterward, head over to the Reykjanesviti lighthouse, an iconic historic structure sitting on an equally iconic and imposing location. The land around the lighthouse is called Gunnuhver and is very geothermally active, filled with all sorts of bubbling pools and hot springs. There’s a wooden path that leads the way through all the different mud pools, which makes the area very fun to explore.
Where to spend the night: check for accommodation options near the Blue Lagoon. I stayed at the Svitan Guesthouse in Keflavík and I’d definitely recommend the place.
Total driving time today: 1 hour
Costs: no attraction costs today
Day 2: Blue Lagoon, Reykjavík
– Start your day with a dip into the mineral-rich waters of the Blue Lagoon. Try to get there as early as 8 am to have the pool mostly to yourself, at least for a while. Around 11.30 the Lagoon will start to get pretty crowded, which is when you’ll want to slip into the shower and skedaddle.
– From the Blue Lagoon, it’s a 45 min drive to the center of Reykjavík. Your first stop will be the Saegreifinn restaurant for a traditional and oh-so-yummy lobster soup. From there, you can leave your car in a nearby parking lot and start exploring the Icelandic capital on foot. Head over to the Harpa Concert Hall to admire a futuristic-looking glass facade that attempts to replicate the texture of the famous Icelandic basalt columns you’ll see in the next days.
– After Harpa, your next stop will be the famous Hallgrímskirkja, Lutheran church and astounding landmark in the capital city of Iceland. Get that iconic shot of the church from the rainbow walkway, then climb the tower for a spectacular view over Reykjavik’s colorful roofs and icy waters
– From Hallgrímskirkja it’s just a couple of minutes to Laugavegur, the city’s main street. Stroll along and check out all the cute little Icelandic houses, as well as all the lively and hipster-looking cafès and pubs. If you’re down for something equally weird and fun, visit the famous Phallological Museum of Iceland, aka the Penis Museum.
– When it’s about 3 pm, walk back to your car and head to the Árbær open-air museum. Here you’ll get a glimpse of what Iceland used to look like in 19th and 20th century, and more importantly, you’ll be able to see the first turf houses of your trip.
– At this point it’ll be time to leave the city behind and start your exciting road tripping adventure. Venture out into the Icelandic unique landscape and head to the Þingvellir National Park, where you’ll be able to walk between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.
Where to spend the night: check for accommodation options near the Geysers area, or near the Gullfoss waterfall. I stayed at the Alftrod Guesthouse – the rooms where rather small and essential, but their window-filled common area was perfect for aurora hunting.
Total driving time today: 3 hours
Costs: around 112$ (80$ Blue Lagoon*, 12$ Phallological Museum, 7$ Hallgrimsk tower ticket, 12$ Árbær open air museum + 1$ Thingvellir parking). *make sure to purchase your tickets in advance directly from the official website, as they’ll be cheaper the further out in advance you book them
Day 3: Golden Circle
– Today you’ll explore one of the most geothermally-active areas in Iceland – you’ll soon be able to tell that by the smell of sulfur permeating the air. In fact, you’ll start the day right where sulfur steam and hot water gush up out of the earth: Geysers. The more active geyser in the area is called Strokkur, and it erupts every 6-10 minutes at a height of about 20 meters.
– After getting your share of geothermal oddities, head to Gullfoss, a huge, two-tiered waterfall that will take your breath away with its beauty and power.
– Not far from Gullfoss there’s another beauty that for some reason is often overlooked by tourists: Faxi waterfall. Personally, I think it’s a great spot to enjoy a small but beautiful fall in a peaceful landscape.
– From Faxi, it’s about a half-hour to the spectacular volcanic crater know as Kerið. I mean, a blue lake is always good, but a blue lake inside a volcanic crater is simply better! If the light is right, you’ll get to see a striking contrast between the reddish volcanic rocks and the opaque turquoise waters that fill this huge caldera.
– If you’re looking for an unusual snack, not far from Kerið you’ll find Friðheimar, a geothermally heated greenhouse that only grows one thing: tomatoes. Besides checking the beautiful greenhouse and the cute little Icelandic horses that live on the farm, I strongly suggest you hit up the restaurant. As you can imagine, it serves two things: tomato soup and bloody marys.
From Kerid or Friðheimar, you’ll start driving East, where the adventures of day 4 are waiting for you. Ideally you should try to get as close to the Skaftafell area as possible. It’s quite a long drive, but you can stop halfway to see the famous Keldur Turf Houses, the oldest homes in Iceland.
Where to spend the night: as far East as possible, ideally around Skaftafell, but in alternative try to make it to the tiny town of Skaftárhreppur.
Total driving time today: 4 hours if you make it as far as Skaftárhreppur
Costs: 3$ for Kerið entrance ticket
Day 4: Glacier exploring
– Be prepared, because you are about to embark on a super epic adventure. On day 4, you’re going to hike a glacier. Yes, I’m dead serious! Specifically, you’ll head over to the Skaftafell Terminal Tour, which is where most of the Skaftafell glacier tours depart. You can check out this article to read about my experience, the equipment I was provided with and the tour company I chose. There are plenty of options online, but make sure to book your tour quite in advance, as the best ones sell out super-fast. Most hiking tours can last up to 3 or 5 hours, and I strongly recommend to take the longer ones to maximize your experience.
– After your glacier hiking adventure, head to the famous Diamond Beach. As the name vaguely suggests, Diamond Beach is a strip of black sand where shimmering ice chunks wash up from the nearby Jökulsárlón glacier after their slow migration to the ocean. It’s a surreal landscape, probably one of the most unusual places you’ll ever see in your life.
– Right across the parking area, you’ll also find the famous Glacier Lagoon, a beautiful lagoon set between the Jökulsárlón glacier and the sea that is full of floating icebergs.
– If you have some extra hours and you’re up for one more epic sight, while heading back to your hotel you can stop to see Svartifoss waterfall in the Skaftafell area. It requires about 45min of hiking each way, but it’s definitely worth it, as you’ll not only see one of the most beautiful (and less crowded!) waterfalls in Iceland, but you’ll finally find yourself face to face with the famous Icelandic basalt columns.
Where to spend the night: you can either spend the night in the same hotel near Skaftárhreppur, or you can drive West and switch to something closer to the town of Vik.
Total driving time today: 3 hours (if you spend the night around Skaftárhreppur and then make it back to Vik by the end of the day)
Costs: prices for glacier hiking tours range from 60$ to 150$ per person
Day 5: South-East Iceland
– Day 5 will have you exploring my favorite region in Iceland: the South-East. Your first stop of the day will be the beautiful Reynisfjara black sand beach and its famous basalt columns, which are even more scenic and imposing than the ones surrounding Svartifoss.
– After Reynisfjara, it’s just a 5-minute drive to the Sólheimasandur plane wreckage, the famous site where the US Navy airplane crashed in November 1973. As you may know, all the crew survived the impact, but the plane was abandoned and still lies there. From the Sólheimasandur parking area it’s a 4km walk each way to reach the actual plane or a 15-minute shuttle bus ride.
– After spending some time checking the plane and the nearby beach, it’ll be time to get a closer look at what Iceland’s southern wilderness is all about: waterfalls! And your first stop will be the spectacular Seljandfoss. Beautiful, incredibly tall and imposing, Seljandfoss is one of the most popular waterfalls for good reason. What’s even more fascinating about it, is that you can actually walk behind the waterfall, for a truly unique perspective.
– Not many know that there’s actually another waterfall just around Seljandfoss’s corner: Glyufrafoss. Seeing Glyufrafoss requires a little bit of effort – it’s literally hidden inside a cave and is only accessible by walking through the river flowing out from it – but I’m telling you, once inside, the view is absolutely amazing. Just make sure to bring your waterproof poncho!
– Your last stop of the day will be the gorgeous Skogafoss waterfalls. Large, magnificent and incredibly photogenic, Skogafoss is probably the most recognizable Icelandic landmark after the Blue Lagoon. There’s a path that leads right up to the waterfall’s base, as well as some stairs that lead to the top. That’s your last stop of the day, so you can totally relax and soak it all in!
Where to spend the night: after Skogafoss, head West and spend the night in the Reykjavik area. If you’re aurora hunting, stay a few km away from the city to avoid light pollution; if you prefer to discover the city’s nightlife, pick something closer to the center.
Total driving time today: 3 hours if you make it back to Reykjavik
Costs: 20$ for a round trip if you take the shuttle bus at Sólheimasandur
Day 6: Snaefellsnes peninsula (part 1)
Today you’ll be moving from the South-Eastern region to the charming Snaefellsnes peninsula. Your new home-base should be located around the small town of Eyja-og Miklaholtshreppur, so I’d look for accommodations in that area.
– Your first stop in the Snaefellsnes peninsula will be Stykkisholmur, one of the most picturesque fishing villages in Iceland. Visit the small lighthouse right next to the harbor and check out the old colorful houses in the center of the town. There are plenty of nice restaurants in this area, so it makes for a perfect lunch stop.
– From Stykkisholmur, it’s a 45-minute ride to Kirkjufell, a striking conical mountain that lies in the background of an enchanting two-step waterfall (Kirkjufellsfoss). If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you can’t possibly miss this stop, as you’ll immediately be able to recognize the famous “mountain shaped like an arrowhead” as the setting of numerous episodes of season 6 and 7.
Where to spend the night: look for accomodations near Eyja-og Miklaholtshreppur
Total driving time today: 4 hours
Costs: No attraction costs today
Day 7: Snaefellsnes peninsula (part 2)
– Your 7 days in Iceland are almost coming to an end, so let’s make this last one count! In fact, I recommend starting your last day in Iceland with a long walk along Ytri Tunga beach, where seal colonies can be often found, basking on rocks offshore.
– After chatting with your seal pals, head West on the main road. Along the way, you may want to pop into the insta-famous Búðakirkja. A minimalistic’s dream, Búðakirkja is a very Nordic-looking black church sitting on a field of lava rock and surrounded by nothing except miles of tall mountains.
– From Búðakirkja, it’s a 20-minute ride to the small town of Arnastapi, where you will see breathtaking cliffs, lava formations, and spectacular arches in the rocks. Arnastapi is connected to the town of Hellnar by a 2.5 km long trail with jaw-dropping views of the rugged coast. It takes about 40 minutes each way to complete the trail and is easy enough for kids to tag along, so pack your best boots and make sure to bring your camera with you!
– From Arnastapi, continue driving west until you reach the cliffs of Londrangar, where you’ll see a pair of 75-meter high basalt pinnacles rising from the coastline.
– A few minutes away and right at the tip of the Snaefellsnes peninsula you’ll find Djúpalónssandur beach, a majestic arched-shaped bay of black lava pearl and dark cliffs. This is the last stop of the day, so you’ll have all the time to relax and enjoy every second of your last day in Iceland.
Where to spend the night: Around Eyja- og Miklaholtshreppur, or you can start getting back to Reykjavik if you have an early flight on day 8.
Total driving time today: 2.5 hours
Costs: no attraction costs today
There you have it! The ultimate Iceland 7 days itinerary that’ll help you cover the best of the country with no hassles. Now let’s move to the most frequently asked questions about a trip to Iceland.
Can I visit Iceland without renting a car?
There are some countries that just beg to be explored on a road trip, and honestly I’m a firm believer that Iceland is one of these. You could potentially have a similar travel experience without a car – you’d have to stay in Reykjavík and book several day-trips with local tour companies – but I wouldn’t recommend it, and I also wouldn’t rely on public transportation.
Should I visit Iceland during summer or winter?
It really depends on the kind of experience you’re looking for. Do you want to maximize the chances of seeing the northern lights? Do you want to explore some ice caves? Then make sure to plan your trip between October and April. Do you want to experience the famous midnight sun and maybe see some puffins? Visit Iceland between May and August. Personally, I visited Iceland last March and it was absolutely perfect, as I was looking for a crowd-free experience and a winter vibe. I wouldn’t exactly recommend traveling to Iceland between January and February, as driving conditions can get extremely dangerous and you’ll get only 5-6 hours of daylight. However, I guarantee that you’ll have an amazing time no matter the season!
Iceland in 7 days: is it possible to complete the full Ring Road?
Technically, yes, it’s possible, but you’d end up spending most of your days driving and have little time for sightseeing. In fact, you’d be forced to cancel most of the activities included in this itinerary, and although North Iceland is extremely beautiful, I’m not sure it’s worth the rush! In short, for the full Ring Road I’d recommend no less than 12 days.
Well, that’s it! Have you ever visited Iceland? Did you like this 7 day Iceland itinerary?
Let me know in the comments!