How Long Do You Need in Iceland?

Mountains and a coastal road in Iceland

You’re coming for the glaciers, volcanoes, hot springs, and outdoor thrills. Not to mention the wildlife-watching in summer and Northern Lights-hunting in winter. There’s a lot to do in the Land of Fire and Ice. But how long do you need in Iceland to fit it all in?

Of course, the longer you stay, the more time you’ll have for adventure and excitement. But if you only have a long weekend, that’s enough to get a taste of Iceland (and whet your appetite for a longer visit!).

In this guide, discover how long to visit Iceland for, depending on what you want to get up to. Read on for suggestions on where to go and how much time to spend in each region. But these are only minimum guides, because ultimately you can stay as long as you like!

Reykjavík skyline with mountains in the background, Iceland

Around Reykjavík in 3 days 

As Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavík is the cultural heart of the nation. No matter how long you’re staying in Iceland, you’ll likely start and end your trip here. And if you’ve only got a weekend, this is the place to be.

That said, to get the most out of your short break, allow at least 3 days. This way, you’ll be able to see some of the natural wonders around Reykjavík, while also getting a feel for the city.

The best way to spend a day exploring Reykjavík? Stroll around the harbor, dive into downtown’s food scene, and check out some of the city’s architectural wonders, such as Hallgrímskirkja.

A visit to one of Iceland’s renowned spas is also a must. A soak in one of these is the perfect way to unwind after a day of sightseeing. The Blue Lagoon, with its warm mineral-rich waters, is the most famous. What’s more, its location between Keflavik Airport and the capital make it an easy addition to your trip.

A woman with sunglasses swims in the Seljavallalaug pool in South Iceland

As well as spending time in Reykjavík, 3 days will let you take an excursion or 2 into the surrounding countryside. For instance, check out the popular Golden Circle route, and you’ll see three of Iceland’s top attractions in a single day.

These include Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home of Iceland’s ancient parliament. You’ll also witness the mighty Gullfoss waterfall and active geysers at the Geysir geothermal area.

If you have time for another day trip, venture along Iceland’s beautiful south coast where you’ll glimpse breathtaking waterfalls and black sand beaches. In summer, you could go on a puffin- or whale-watching boat tour from the Reykjanes peninsula. Or, travel in winter, and you could chase magical displays of the Northern Lights.


South Iceland in 4 days

Extend your trip to 4 days, and it’ll let you go further from Reykjavík to encounter more of the south coast.

This length of time is perfect for combining the capital with seeing the highlights of South Iceland. But it would be easy to spend longer here if you wanted to explore the region in more depth.

Begin your trip by uncovering Reykjavík’s cultural gems and checking out the must-see spots along the Golden Circle route.

With an entire day for the experience, you could add thrilling activities to your Golden Circle tour. Imagine delving into Raufarhólshellir cave, created by lava thousands of years ago, or zooming across a glacier on a guided snowmobile excursion.

The Strokkur geyser erupting in winter against a sunset

Then, spend your remaining 2 days traveling the length of the rugged south coast. Here, you’ll find many of the glacial and volcanic wonders that give Iceland its nickname – the Land of Fire and Ice.

For instance, there’s Jökulsárlón, an iceberg-strewn glacier lagoon. And Vatnajökull National Park, which is home to volcanoes, geothermal springs, and one of the largest ice caps in Europe.

Over your 4-day getaway, base yourself in Reykjavík and take day tours out of the city. Or split your time between the capital and one of the charming villages along the south coast. Vík is a popular choice, and the striking black sand beach of Reynisfjara isn’t far away.

Woman walking on Reynisfjara black sand beach in Iceland

South Iceland and Snæfellsnes peninsula in 5–6 days

Seeing Snæfellsnes, in combination with South Iceland, over 5 or 6 days means you can take a deep dive into these regions.

The Snæfellsnes peninsula is often called 'Iceland in miniature'. When you get there, it’s not hard to see why. Here, you’ll uncover a world of epic mountains, dazzling glaciers, and dramatic coastlines dotted with picturesque fishing villages. This is a place worth visiting!

Spend a day touring Snæfellsnes and you’ll pass the iconic peak of Kirkjufell mountain as you journey along the peninsula’s scenic coastal road. Don’t miss the steep sea cliffs near Arnarstapi village and the black sands of Djúpalónssandur. And stop off at the basalt columns at Gerðuberg on your way back to Reykjavík.

A man standing below Kirkjufellsfoss

With this amount of time to experience southwest Iceland, why not also head to the Westman Islands, one of Iceland’s hidden gems? Come summer, this volcanic archipelago is home to one of the largest puffin colonies in the world. Plus, there are hiking and whale-watching opportunities here.

Once you’re back on the mainland, you could marvel at astonishing waterfalls along the south coast. There’s Seljalandsfoss, the jaw-dropping plume you can walk behind, and Skógafoss, one of the biggest and most powerful waterfalls in Iceland.

A puffin on a cliff with its wings fanned

The Ring Road in 7–8 days

Iceland’s Ring Road, or Route 1, draws an enormous circle around most of the country. Stunning scenery and straightforward navigation make this the ultimate Icelandic road trip.

How long do you need? That depends on how far you want to travel in a day. Most road-trippers allow at least 7 days, as anything less can feel rushed. And there are plenty of mind-blowing sights to keep you busy, however long you want to take.

In fact, a Ring Road tour is one of the most popular ways to see Iceland. Start and end in Reykjavík, rent a car, and get ready to take in the very best of Iceland’s highlights.

Ariel view of a causeway in Iceland

After arriving in the capital, you could set out along the west coast, before heading north to Akureyri. On your way there, don’t miss the chance to check out Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls and marvel at the wild landscapes around Borgarfjörður. As you get close to Skagafjörður valley, look out for Icelandic horses roaming freely by the roadside.

Once you get to Akureyri, you’ll want around 2 days in Iceland’s north. From here, you can visit Lake Mývatn, Goðafoss (known as the ‘waterfall of the gods’), and Dimmuborgir’s otherworldly volcanic landscape.

Then, drive south towards the wild Eastfjords. In this mountainous region, the road winds its way along the windswept coastline. You could stay the night around Höfn, before taking 2 days to travel back to Reykjavík along the south coast.

The beauty of a self-drive trip is the freedom it offers. You can stop whenever and wherever you like to explore the places that you’re drawn to the most. Plus, depending on the time of year, you could put a day aside to visit ice caves or go glacier hiking.

Katlatrack Fast Track Ice Cave Tour

Iceland off the beaten path in 10 days or more

Fancy seeing parts of Iceland that few others go to? One of the best ways to do this is by adding detours to your Ring Road itinerary. If you want to explore Iceland to the fullest, just make sure to give yourself around 10-14 days, or even longer.

A tangle of deep fjords, golden beaches, and imposing sea cliffs, the Westfjords is one of these less-visited areas. This remote peninsula, which stretches out into the North Atlantic Ocean is one of the least inhabited regions of Europe.

In fact, you’ll find there’s fewer than one person per square kilometer here. Because of this, it’s a haven for Arctic foxes and is one of the top places to see puffins in Iceland.

white sand beach with blue waters between dark mountains

If you’re visiting Iceland in summer, you could also venture to the likes of Landmannalaugar in the Icelandic highlands. Another one of Europe’s last great wildernesses, it’s a land of surreal multi-coloured mountains, natural hot springs, and lava fields.

Both the Westfjords and the highlands are known for hiking trails that’ll take you through mind-boggling terrain. If you want to get off the beaten path, go camping or stay the night in a mountain hut.

While you can get a feel for both regions in a day each, know that access can be tricky. Particularly in the highlands where you’ll use unpaved tracks that require 4x4 vehicles. 

As a result, moving around can be a little slower than you might be used to. This means it’s best to budget more time than you think you might need.

Hiker in Landmannalaugar, Iceland.jpg

Explore Iceland with Iceland Tours

How long to spend in Iceland? In short, that’s up to you. However much time you have – whether that’s a long weekend or over 2 weeks – Iceland will reward you.

When you’re planning how long to stay in Iceland, consider how you want to travel too. With Iceland Tours, you can choose your preferred way to get around.

For example, do you want to take the wheel and enjoy the freedom of going at your own pace? Then a self-drive trip to Iceland is for you. We’ll book everything for you, including car rental and accommodation, along with any activities.

If you’d rather let someone else drive, a guided group trip or private tour of Iceland would be a good choice. As well as driving, your guide will make your trip even more memorable by sharing their local knowledge with you along the way.

Alternatively, base yourself in Reykjavík and get to know the surrounding area on one of these multi-day packages. This is a great option if you want to stay in the city and with the chance to check out some of Iceland’s natural wonders on guided day tours.

No matter how you want to travel, choose Iceland Tours and we’ll take care of the planning for you. Check out these last-minute Iceland trips you can book today.

ITo Author Bio Catherine Transparent BG.png

About the author

Catherine became fascinated by Iceland when she studied geology at university. And while there’s plenty to captivate a self-confessed geology geek, there’s so much more to discover here. The wild landscapes, epic bathing spots, and laid-back culture are just some of her favorite things about Iceland. When she’s not writing about travel, you’ll probably find her rock climbing or planning her next adventure.

View more posts by Catherine

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