I have traveled to over 50 countries on seven continents, more than half of which were visited solo. I love traveling, being outdoors, and hiking. I hope to inspire others to travel and explore further, even if that means going alone.
Hey, I'm Ashley!
From the dramatic waterfalls and geysers to the glaciers and hot springs, Iceland offers a wealth of experiences. In this blog post, I will take you on a five-day itinerary through Iceland, highlighting some of the must-visit places and activities to help you make the most of your trip to this breathtaking country. Whether you’re an adventurous traveler or simply looking to soak up the beauty of Iceland, this itinerary has a mix of everything.
After you arrive, pick up your rental car. Renting a car will make it much easier to drive around South Iceland without needing a guide. Average travel time from the airport to Reykjavik is about 45 minutes.
If you prefer to not drive, taxis are expensive, but you can utilize buses and tours to get around. I took a bus from the airport to the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is only about 20 minutes from the airport on the way into Reykjavik. You will be able to check your bags at the Blue Lagoon.
One of the most iconic things to do in Iceland is the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa located in a lava field on the Reykjanes Peninsula. The lagoon’s milky blue waters are rich in minerals and silica, and are renowned for their healing properties. As you soak in the warm, mineral-rich waters, surrounded by the rugged lava landscape, you’ll feel the stresses of everyday life simply melt away.
With options for private changing rooms, massages, and even a swim-up bar, it’s easy to spend an entire day here. I probably wouldn’t recommend spending your money on a massage though, I wasn’t very impressed.
If you want to save time getting in to the Blue Lagoon, purchase the premium package. The line to get in is much shorter.
The Radisson Blu 1919 is a stylish and luxurious hotel located in the heart of Reykjavik, Iceland’s vibrant capital city. Housed in a historic building that dates back to 1919, the hotel seamlessly blends traditional Icelandic architecture with modern amenities and chic Scandinavian design.
Amenities at the Radisson Blu 1919 include a fitness center and a business center, making it an ideal choice for both leisure and business travelers. Plus, with its prime location just steps from Reykjavik’s main shopping street and many of the city’s top attractions, the Radisson Blu 1919 is the perfect base from which to explore all that Iceland’s capital has to offer.
I started my Day 2 with a two-day tour hosted by Arctic Adventures. They have tours that quickly cover many of the top things to do in Iceland. Arctic Adventures holds smaller group tours that allows you to see much more than what is offered by other big bus tour companies. If you’ve rented a car, you can easily hit all of these spots on the tour on your own. Just make sure to start the day before the sun rises for a gorgeous drive.
Hekla is one of Iceland’s most active and iconic volcanoes, situated in the south-central region of the island. With a history of frequent eruptions over the past millennium, Hekla has earned the nickname “The Gateway to Hell.” However, despite its ominous reputation, Hekla is also a major tourist attraction.
Visitors are offered the opportunity to hike to its summit and take in stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The volcano’s rugged terrain is also a popular destination for adventure activities such as mountain biking and off-road driving. On a short five-day itinerary, you unfortunately won’t have the chance to experience all this place has to offer. But, at least make a stop here for a few pictures.
Seljandsfoss is one of Iceland’s most beautiful and unique waterfalls. What sets Seljandsfoss apart from other waterfalls is that visitors can actually walk behind the cascading water. If it is icy, you will need crampons to walk behind the waterfall to prevent taking a tumble.
The waterfall is fed by a nearby glacier, and the water plunges nearly 200 feet into a serene pool below. The surrounding landscape is also stunning, with rolling hills, moss-covered rocks, and stunning vistas stretching out in every direction.
Eyjafjallajökull is one of Iceland’s most famous glaciers. This glacier gained worldwide notoriety in 2010 when its volcanic eruption caused widespread disruption to air travel across Europe. However, the glacier is also a popular destination for visitors to Iceland, offering breathtaking views of its icy peaks.
Visitors can explore the glacier on foot, hiking across its icy surface and marveling at the otherworldly landscape. There are also guided tours available that provide an in-depth look at the glacier’s geology and history.
While short on time on this itinerary, this will only be a quick stop at the viewpoint for photos.
Skogafoss was my favorite waterfall between this one and Seljandsfoss. The waterfall cascades down nearly 200 feet, but is also over 80 feet wide, creating a stunning and powerful display of nature.
Visitors can get up close to the falls and feel the mist on their face as they take in the beautiful scenery. This waterfall can also be icy in the Fall and Winter months. Pack some crampons depending on the time of year you’re visiting.
In addition to the waterfall itself, the surrounding area offers a variety of hiking trails.
Dyrhólaey lighthouse is a stunning attraction situated on a promontory in southern Iceland. The lighthouse was first built in 1910 to aid navigation in the area and has since become a popular tourist destination.
Visitors can take in the breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding black sand beaches, towering cliffs, and the Atlantic Ocean. The location is also home to an abundance of wildlife, including seabirds, puffins, and seals. The lighthouse can be accessed by car, and visitors can explore the area on foot via hiking trails that lead to picturesque viewpoints.
Vík is a charming and picturesque village located in the south of Iceland. It is known for its stunning black sand beaches, dramatic sea cliffs, and scenic natural beauty. For those interested in unique outdoor activities, Vík even offers horseback riding opportunities.
Stop for lunch in Vík at Black Beach Restaurant. From the restaurant, you will have views of the ocean and be only a quick walk to Reynisfjara Beach.
Explore the nearby natural attraction, Reynisfjara Beach, which boasts towering basalt columns and breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. Reynisfjara Beach is a must-see destination for anyone traveling to Iceland, offering a truly unforgettable experience of the country’s natural wonders.
Fjaðrárgljúfur is a magnificent canyon known for its awe-inspiring beauty and unique geological features. The canyon was formed by the erosion caused by a glacial river that still flows through it today. Visitors can explore the canyon’s rugged terrain and winding trails, which offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
Hótel Skaftafell is an affordable and cozy hotel, nestled in the shadow of the Vatnajökull Glacier. The hotel offers a range of comfortable and well-appointed rooms. It also offers a variety of amenities to make your stay as enjoyable as possible, including a restaurant serving delicious Icelandic cuisine.
The hotel is also ideally situated for exploring things to do in Iceland. Nearby attractions include the stunning Skaftafell National Park, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, and Vatnajökull Glacier.
If you’re visiting in the dark winter months, try catching the northern lights when they are the most visible. One of the most spectacular natural phenomena that can be experienced in Iceland is the northern lights, or aurora borealis.
These beautiful, dancing lights are caused by charged particles (electrons and protons) that collide with gases in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Those collisions produce tiny flashes that fill the sky with colourful light. Iceland’s northern location and low light pollution make it one of the best places in the world to witness this awe-inspiring natural wonder.
Skaftafell Nature Reserve is a breathtakingly beautiful natural area near the Vatnajökull Glacier. The reserve covers over 1,400 square kilometers. It is home to a variety of unique flora and fauna, as well as mink, field mice, and arctic foxes.
Visitors can explore the reserve’s many hiking trails, which wind through stunning landscapes of glaciers, mountains, and waterfalls. The most popular hike in the reserve is the trail to Svartifoss, a dramatic waterfall surrounded by towering basalt columns. The reserve is also home to several guided tours and activities, including glacier hikes and ice cave explorations.
Glacier hiking should be at the top of your things to do in Iceland. However, keep in mind glacier hiking to the ice caves is typically only available during the winter months when they are stable. Still, visiting the ice caves without a guide is very dangerous. Inquire with one of the guide shops set up right outside the nature reserve.
During the glacier hike, there is a huge ice cave you can visit. Unfortunately, I was unable to visit the largest ice cave since the ice had melted and it was unsafe. We were taken to this smaller ice cave instead.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a stunning natural wonder and is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. The lagoon is filled with icebergs that have broken off from the nearby Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier. Visitors can take boat tours of the lagoon to get up close and personal with the icebergs and even spot seals lounging on the ice.
The Diamond Beach near Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a truly unique and striking natural wonder. The beach is known for its dramatic ice formations as icebergs often wash up on shore. The beach also has very distinctive black sand which is made up of volcanic basalt. This beach probably has the blackest sand I’ve ever seen!
After this exciting two days around the south of Iceland, head back to Reykjavík. This will be a long 4-5 hour drive back.
Knock of two of the best things to do in Iceland in one day. I took two separate half-day tours, one to snorkel Silfra and one to explore a nearby lava cave.
Snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that should not be missed by any adventure seeker visiting Iceland. The Silfra Fissure is a crack in the Earth’s crust that runs through the Thingvellir National Park. The fissure actually marks the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
Silfra Fissure is also filled with crystal-clear glacial water that has been filtered through layers of lava rock. The water in the fissure is incredibly pure, even drinkable, and offers visibility of up to 100 meters, making it one of the clearest waters in the world.
You will be provided with a dry suit to snorkel for about 30 minutes. It does still get very cold, my fingers and lips were blue at the end or the snorkel. Double up on socks and wear warm clothing underneath your dry suit. Additionally, bring a hat and gloves to keep your head and hands warm after the snorkel.
Don’t forget to bring an underwater camera (mine died, I was crushed). You won’t see any fish but the underwater scenery is incredibly unique.
If you take a tour, you will either go to Gjábakkahellir cave in Thingvellir or the Leiðarendi cave (closer to Reykjavik). I visited the Leiðarendi cave on my tour. You can try to find the cave on your own; however, it’s not easy to find.
Leiðarendi cave is a fascinating natural wonder located in the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland. The cave was formed over 2,000 years ago by a volcanic eruption. It is made up of a series of intricate lava tubes and chambers that have been shaped by the flow of molten lava. Explore the cave’s many fascinating features, including stalactites, stalagmites, and unusual lava formations.
Make sure to bring walking shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty because it does get muddy in the caves.
Fiskmarkadurinn, also known as the Fish Market, is a world-renowned restaurant located in the heart of Reykjavik, Iceland. The restaurant’s menu is inspired by the country’s rich fishing heritage, and features fresh and locally-sourced seafood that is expertly prepared by skilled chefs. The restaurant’s menu changes seasonally, with dishes that highlight the best of Iceland’s seafood. I had whale while I was there and it was amazing!
Fiskmarkadurinn is also known for its unique and creative presentation, with dishes that are as beautiful as they are delicious. The restaurant’s chic and modern decor, coupled with its friendly and attentive service, make it a must-visit for anyone seeking a truly memorable dining experience in Iceland.
I did my own city tour the my morning before my flight out. I walked from the Radisson Blu 1919 to the following sights.
Hallgrimskirkja is an iconic and imposing church located in the center of Reykjavik, Iceland. Standing at 244 feet tall, the church is the tallest building in the city. Its unique design, inspired by Iceland’s natural landscapes, also makes it instantly recognizable.
Visitors can climb to the top of the church’s tower for panoramic views of Reykjavik and the surrounding area. You can also explore the church’s interior, which features modern stained glass windows and an impressive pipe organ.
The Sun Voyager is a captivating and iconic sculpture located along the Reykjavik waterfront in Iceland. Created by Icelandic artist Jón Gunnar Árnason, the sculpture resembles a Viking ship, with its prow pointing out towards the ocean. The smooth, fluid lines of the sculpture create an impression of movement. Its striking silhouette against the backdrop of the sea also make it a popular spot for visitors to take photos and admire the stunning views.
Harpa Concert Hall is a concert hall and conference centre located in the heart of Reykjavik, Iceland. The building is a marvel of modern design. It features a striking glass facade that reflects the surrounding landscape. This concert hall even housed some dramatic conversations between Clayton, Becca and Rachel, in Clayton’s season of The Bachelor (Season 26).
Take the bus back to the airport if you didn’t rent a car. I took an expensive cab back to the airport because I wanted to find a specific lava cave. Unfortunately, the cab driver wasn’t able to locate the cave, but we drove past plenty of interesting lava fields on the way.
Iceland is a land of unparalleled beauty and natural wonders that leave visitors in awe. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or simply a chance to immerse yourself in nature, Iceland is a destination that truly has something for everyone. So if you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience, put Iceland on your list – you won’t regret it!
For other adventure-driven destinations, check out these blog posts.
March 1, 2023
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