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 make the most of your trip to this breathtaking country.
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 popular 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 has incredible milky blue waters due to the waters being rich in minerals and silica. Spending time in these waters was made popular not only because of its beauty, but also because of its healing properties.
With options for 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 wonderful hotel located in the heart of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city. The hotel is housed in a historic building that dates back to 1919. The Radisson Blu 1919 is also located in a prime location, just steps from Reykjavik’s main shopping street and many of the city’s top attractions.
Start your second day 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, in the south-central region of the island. It has a history of frequent eruptions over the past thousand years, earning the nickname “The Gateway to Hell.” However, despite its reputation, Hekla has become a major tourist attraction.
Visitors get 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. The waterfall is fed by a nearby glacier, and the water plunges nearly 200 feet into a pool below.
What sets Seljandsfoss apart from other waterfalls is that visitors can actually walk behind the falling water. If it is icy, you will need crampons to prevent falling.
Eyjafjallajökull is one of Iceland’s most famous glaciers. This glacier gained worldwide media attention 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 stunning views of its icy peaks.
Visitors can explore the glacier on foot, hiking across its icy surface. There are 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 it and Seljandsfoss. The waterfall cascades down nearly 200 feet, but is also over 80 feet wide, creating a more intense display.
You can get up close to the falls and feel the mist on your face as you take in the beautiful surrounding scenery. In addition to the waterfall itself, the area offers a variety of hiking trails.
This waterfall can also be icy in the Fall and Winter months. Pack some crampons depending on the time of year you’re visiting.
Dyrhólaey lighthouse is a unique attraction situated in southern Iceland. The lighthouse was first built in 1910 to assist with navigation in the area and has since become a popular tourist destination. Take in panoramic views of the surrounding black sand beaches and Atlantic Ocean.
Vík is a picturesque village in the south of Iceland. It is known for its beautiful 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 unique and towering basalt columns along the Atlantic Ocean. Reynisfjara Beach is a must-see destination for anyone traveling to Iceland. It’s one of the country’s most unique natural wonders.
Fjaðrárgljúfur is a magnificent canyon formed by erosion caused by a glacial river that still flows through it today. Visitors can explore the canyon along one of its various hiking trails.
Hótel Skaftafell is an affordable and cozy hotel, near the Vatnajökull Glacier. The hotel offers a range of comfortable rooms and a restaurant serving celandic cuisine.
The hotel is also ideally situated for exploring more adventurous things to do in Iceland. Nearby attractions include 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. 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 beautiful natural area near the Vatnajökull Glacier. The reserve offers 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 one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. The lagoon is filled with icebergs that have broken off from the nearby Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier.
The Diamond Beach near Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a truly unique with its huge blocks of ice that often wash up on shore. The beach also has the blackest sand I saw on the island.
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 off 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 anyone 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 extremely clear glacial water that has been filtered through the lava rock. The water in the fissure is even drinkable and has 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 located in the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland and 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.
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 features fresh and locally-sourced seafood and the menu changes seasonally. I had whale while I was there and it was amazing!
I did a self-prepared and self-guided city tour the morning before my flight out. I walked from the Radisson Blu 1919 to the following sights.
Hallgrimskirkja is an iconic church located in the center of Reykjavik. The church is 244 feet tall and is the tallest building in the city. Its unique design was actually inspired by Iceland’s natural landscapes.
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, with stained glass windows and an impressive pipe organ.
The Sun Voyager is a unique sculpture located along the Reykjavik waterfront in Iceland. Created by Icelandic artist Jón Gunnar Árnason, the sculpture is meant to resemble a Viking ship.
Harpa Concert Hall is a concert hall and conference centre located in the heart of Reykjavik. It features a striking glass facade that reflects the surrounding landscape. This concert hall was even the stage of 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. Whether you’re seeking adventure or simply a chance to immerse yourself in nature, Iceland is a destination that has something for everyone.
For other adventure-driven destinations, check out these blog posts.
March 1, 2023