Top 5-day Iceland Itinerary Ideas

July 21st, 2022

Written by:

Emma Gillies

8 min read

You need to see and experience a country as vast, beautiful, and breathtaking as Iceland for yourself to truly understand its wonders. If you are staying for mere days, you want to maximize your time in the Land of Fire and Ice. A perfectly planned Iceland 5-day itinerary will deliver the highlights and hidden gems, across the capital and the countryside.

Whether you choose a self-drive adventure, a guided private trip, or a multi-day tour from Reykjavík, there are a few different ways you can experience your 5 days in Iceland. Read on for the best itinerary ideas to consider for your getaway.

1. South Iceland 5-day road trip

Skogafoss waterfall in Iceland in summer

Exploring the south coast of Iceland gives you the chance to see many of the spellbinding sights that make Iceland so iconic. Along the south coast, you could marvel at black sand beaches, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, Skógafoss waterfall, and the historic town of Vík.

To discover Iceland in 5 days, take this south coast tour that delivers everything you want to see when time is limited.

Day 1: Welcome to Iceland

You’ll land in Keflavík, the main airport serving the capital, Reykjavík. The city is approximately a 45-minute drive away, and along the way, you can start to see some of the volcanic landscape that makes up much of Iceland.

If your flight lands during the day, why not start off with a visit to the world-famous Blue Lagoon? Ideal if you’ve had a long flight, this Icelandic geothermal pool offers pure relaxation in its mineral-rich waters. After you’ve revived in the hot spring, head over to your hotel.

A couple in Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Day 2: The Golden Circle

No trip to Iceland is complete without a visit to the Golden Circle. Start in Þingvellir National Park (also referred to as Thingvellir National Park), which is 50 km (30 mi) from Reykjavík.

The North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet here, and the Mid-Atlantic rift separates the two. You can literally walk between continents!

Þingvellir National Park is home to Iceland’s only cultural UNESCO site. The Alþingi, the world’s oldest parliament, was established in the 10th century in what is now the national park. Recognized as a site of national cultural heritage, and globally as a symbol of democracy, Þingvellir remains special to Icelanders to this day.

After exploring the volcanic majesty of Þingvellir National Park, your next stop on the Golden Circle tour should be to see the intriguing Geysir area. Here, hot spring water bubbles up and out from the Earth’s crust, creating spectacular displays of steam that shoot out of the ground. The Strokkur geyser is the most reliable and impressive.

Strokkur erupting at sunset in the Geyser region of Iceland

From here, drive over to one of Iceland’s best-known waterfalls, Gullfoss. Climb the path to the top of the falls and witness the Hvítá river plunging down the gorge at up to 141 cubic meters (5,000 cubic feet) per second.

Hop back on the Icelandic ring road and then head south, traveling down to Vík and the Kirkjubæjarklaustur area for your overnight stop.

Day 3: Scenic southeast Iceland

The southeast coast of Iceland is adorned with black sand beaches, secret lagoons, ice caves, the country’s highest mountain, and Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. The south coast is where the landscape varies between windswept beaches, dramatic cliffs, and imposing glaciers.

To get up close and personal with this corner of Iceland, stop off in the Vatnajökull National Park and visit the Skaftafell nature reserve. It’s where you’ll find the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, a lake filled with icebergs. These chunks of ice are strewn on Breiðamerkursandur, also known as Diamond Beach, so named because the glittering icebergs sit on the black sands like huge jewels.

Beautiful black sands and chunks of ice at Diamond Beach at sunset

Skaftafell is also a great place to hike. Pick from challenging routes around Iceland’s highest mountain Hvannadalshnúkur, or novice paths that take in the scenery at a gentler pace.

Drive back to Vík for your second night’s stay on the south coast.

Day 4: Waterfalls and black sand beaches

Make your way down to Vík’s most awesome black sand beach, Reynisfjara. It features towering basalt columns and the Reynisdrangar rock formations that rise from the ocean. Legend tells that the Reynisdrangar rocks were once three trolls, turned to stone by the sun while they tried to drag a ship to shore.

From here, travel to Dyrhólaey, where the land juts out into the ocean and provides stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and coastline. You can see the curious ‘arch with the hole’, and you may even be able to spot eider ducks. These year-round residents are popular with bird watchers.

Dyrhólaey rock formation and the black sand beach of Reynisfjara

Afterwards, continue inland to visit Skógafoss, one of the highest waterfalls in Iceland. It has a spectacular 60 m (197 ft) drop and is known for almost always having at least one rainbow visible in the spray. You can walk right up to the falls, but bring your waterproofs if you want to get close.

Rejoin the Ring Road and travel back to Reykjavík for your final night’s stay in Iceland.

Day 5: Last-minute Reykjavík and departure

If your flight time allows, you might be able to squeeze in some last-minute sightseeing in Reykjavík. The Hallgrímskirkja church is absolutely worth a visit if you have time, or why not take a wander down to the seafront to see the Sun Voyager sculpture?

Should you be keen to experience Iceland in the winter, you could enjoy this 5-day Iceland itinerary in the colder months. You’d get the chance to try cold-weather activities like ice caving and Northern Lights hunting on a winter self-drive tour in Iceland.

2. Reykjavík 5-day city break

A wintry Reykjavík with the snowy Esja mountain in the background.

If you’d prefer not to drive around Iceland, opt for a stay based in Reykjavík. You can take guided day trips out to see the sights, returning to the comfort of your hotel in the evening.

This multi-day tour from Reykjavík covers the highlights of Iceland, including the Golden Circle and Snæfellsnes peninsula. Best experienced in the winter months, you can spend as many days exploring as you like. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker looking for glacier hiking, or you’re after some relaxing downtime, you can get the best of both.

Day 1-2: Arrival in Iceland and Golden Circle tour

Land in Keflavík airport and transfer to your hotel in Reykjavík. If you want to, kick off your vacation with a trip to the Blue Lagoon for the ultimate relaxing welcome to Iceland!

Thingvellir National Park valley in Iceland

Your first full day in Iceland will see you visit the unmissable Golden Circle. Take in the sights of Þingvellir National Park and the Mid-Atlantic continental rift. Gape at the geothermal geysers, including Strokkur which shoots water up to 30 m (98 ft) in the air!

Head over to Gullfoss to see one of Iceland’s most impressive falls, and then pop into Iceland’s unique geothermal-powered tomato farm, Friðheimar.

This pesticide-free greenhouse uses the power of Iceland’s geothermal activity to grow tomatoes and cucumbers all year round. You can even feast on tomato-themed dishes at the restaurant.

In the evening, you’ll get a chance to go hunting for the Northern Lights. The long and dark winter nights in Iceland make it a great time to search for the Aurora Borealis.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall, located in South Iceland

Day 3: South shore adventure

Today you travel down the south coast to Vík. You could see the impressive Skógafoss waterfall up close, and even walk behind Iceland’s stunning ​​Seljalandsfoss waterfall (although be sure to wear your waterproofs!).

The tour takes in all the renowned sights of the south coast, including black sand beaches, basalt cliffs, ancient glaciers, and the wild Atlantic coastline.

Day 4-5: Exploring Reykjavík and departure

Your final days of the itinerary give you two choices. You can opt to have a free day in Reykjavík, but if you’ve got a taste for adventure, go check out Iceland’s second-largest glacier.

In a special vehicle designed for driving on ice, visit man-made ice tunnels inside the Langjökull glacier. Discover the bright blue icy tunnels and see the wonders of the glacier.

Also included on this day trip is a visit to Europe’s most active and powerful geothermal spring, Deildartunguhver. Plus you’ll get to see not one, but two waterfalls: Hraunfossar and Barnafoss.

3. ​​Gems of Iceland 5-day private tour

Northern Lights over Kirkjufell mountain in West Iceland

There’s no better way to see the hidden gems of Iceland than with a privately guided tour. Choose from multiple Iceland itineraries to suit your wish list. Your guide will be able to give you insight into the history, culture and nature of Iceland, while you tick off the sights you’re keen to see.

This 5-day Iceland itinerary takes in some of the breathtaking nature that makes the country so famous. The tour includes the Snæfellsnes peninsula, Þingvellir National Park, Lake Laugarvatn, and the unmistakable Kirkjufell mountain. You might even get the chance to see the Northern Lights!

Day 1: South coast and waterfalls

Your tour kicks off by traveling down to the south coast of Iceland. Along the way, you’ll stop off at jaw-dropping waterfalls including Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, with the opportunity to get up close to both of them. Visit the tiny village of Skógar and the cultural folk museum to learn more about the history and people of Iceland.

Reynisfjara beach and rock formations at sunset, near Vik, Iceland

Your private guide drives you down the coast, so you can take in the sights of Iceland’s alluring black sand beaches, basalt cliffs, and the rugged south Atlantic shore. You’ll also visit Vík, a charming coastal village characterized by its white churches and fishing history.

Day 2-3: Lagoons and glaciers

Carry on east, soaking up some of the most impressive natural sights of Iceland. Skaftafell nature reserve and the Vatnajökull glacier, Europe’s largest glacier, offer you the opportunity to see Iceland’s dazzling scenery up close.

Skaftafell is also home to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, dotted with floating icebergs broken away from the nearby glacier. These icebergs are later found on the striking Diamond Beach, shining on the black volcanic sands with an otherworldly beauty.

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon with floating icebergs

Following the sights of the south coast, you’ll travel back west, heading over to the Golden Circle and its unmissable sights. Visit Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the geothermal geysers.

You could also stop in at Lake Laugarvatn, the largest body of water in the national park. Here you have the chance to relax in the hot spring waters at Laugarvatn Fontana spa and unwind after being on the road.

Day 4-5: Snæfellsnes, Borgarfjörður and Reykjavík

For the final two days of your visit, take in the majesty of Snæfellsnes and Borgarfjörður. The Snæfellsnes peninsula, in West Iceland, is where you’ll find the iconic Kirkjufell mountain. You’ll also discover black sand beaches, basalt cliffs, historic fishing villages, and lava fields here.

Hraunfossar waterfall in winter

Borgarfjörður boasts the Deildartunguhver hot pools, Iceland’s most powerful geothermal spring. And you’ll get to gaze at Hraunfossar waterfall, which is intertwined with a lava field to form one of the more special sights in the country.

Finally, head back to Reykjavík to wander the city and experience some of the cultural highlights of the capital.

Ways to see Iceland in 5 days

Planning a complete Iceland itinerary in 5 days is totally possible! Just consider some key things like:

  • How many days exploring you want to do (outside Reykjavík)
  • Any must-see or must-do highlights on your wish list
  • If there’s a specific time of year when you’d like to travel
  • Whether you prefer to just be based in the capital or stay elsewhere too
  • If you’d like to drive or be accompanied by an expert guide
The National Gallery of Iceland next to the Tjörnin pond, which freezes in winter

The most flexible way to travel is to rent a car on an Iceland self-drive tour. If you’re visiting Iceland in the colder months, you can get 4×4 vehicles suitable for winter road conditions. A road trip means you can take things at your own pace, stopping off to observe nature, explore villages, and soak up the landscape of Iceland.

If you don’t hold a license, or you want someone else to do the driving, a city stay where you join day trips is a great option. You’ll get to experience top Icelandic highlights on guided excursions, then spend your leisure time however you want.

A privately guided tour is the best of both — you can tailor your trip exactly as you wish. With your local guide taking the lead and driving, you can really relax and enjoy the sights and scenery along the way. It’s a great option if you’re planning an extra special trip such as a honeymoon or once-in-a-lifetime family getaway.

Check out even more vacation options and start planning your adventure with Iceland Tours. Browse our guided and self-guided packages to find the perfect one for you today. Simply secure your booking with a minimum 5% deposit and we’ll handle the rest!

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Written by:

Emma Gillies