How to spend 5 days in Iceland

Travel Itinerary
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Dan Hill
Itinerary by: Dan Hill
2 years ago
Travel Blogger
Duration: 5 days

Itinerary Introduction

There's a good reason why Iceland features on many-a-traveller's wish list. With mountains, glaciers, glacial rivers, lagoons, moss-covered lava fields, water falls and hot-springs, Iceland cannot fail to inspire wonder and a closeness to nature. The most sparsely populated country in Europe (364,134 people in 2020, over 102,775 square km) is also a tourist hot-spot - so those seeking solace might want to ensure they cover some considerable distance from the capital, Reykjavik. The "problem" is that Iceland is mostly populated around its coastal areas - which is served by a long ring-road that stretches around the 5000 km coastline. Therefore, tourist coaches tend to follow the coastline - stopping at all the highlights - such as the incredible waterfalls. If this is something you'll want to avoid, then we found we needed to drive at least 1.5 hours along the ring road away from Reykjavik along the south coast road in order to see fewer tourists. We visited Iceland in May - and brought typical clothing for hikes in the northern latitudes - waterproof trousers and jackets, layers to remove such as fleeces and sweaters, hats, gloves, good walking shoes and hiking boots. Basically, stock up from your local hiking store, and bring a ruck sack for water, snacks and extra layers. If you're just driving along the south coast and parking at the main sights, you'll never be too far from your car. But if you're planning on major hikes, you'll need to be prepared for all weather types. Since the coast is 5000km in length, you'll need to plan your route according to your time available in Iceland. We stayed for a relatively short 5 nights - and decided to explore around the Golden Circle, then head along the south coast road route. We were driving for several hours every day, and on our last day of return, we were driving almost all day to get back to the Reykjavik area. If you were staying for 7-14 days, you'd have time to explore right around the entire coastland, if you wanted to. In writing about where we visited in Iceland - I found myself wanting to use the same adjectives over and over again - magnificent, spectacular, incredible, breathtaking. Certainly, I've never seen geological activity such as the geysers and steam escaping from the hillsides - anywhere else. Simply beautiful - Iceland should be on every travellers dream-list. An incredible place for photography! All photos in this itinerary taken by me, Dan Hill.

Useful information about Iceland

Getting around in Iceland

We hired a car at the airport. I was intrigued with the offering of "sand storm" insurance when picking up the car! There were 3 of us - my wife and I and our then 2 year old son. We didn't see many (perhaps any) other travellers with kids on this trip - perhaps because we travelled at the end of May - outside of school holidays. We have therefore visited sights that did not require extensive hiking (the main "hike" being when we explored a glacier in the national park). If you don't want to hire a car while in Iceland, you can also take the Airport shuttle bus to Reykjavik.

Where to stay in Iceland

On our trip, we stayed at 3 different accommodation locations. On the first 2 nights, we stayed in Reykjavik - in an AirBnB apartment rental. Reykjavik is a 50km (45 minutes) drive from the international airport - Keflavik (KEF). From Reykjavik, we explored the famous Golden Circle driving route - simply breathtaking. For our second two nights, we rented a cabin in an isolated spot along the south coast road. For our final night, we rented a hotel room very close to the airport, in order to catch an early morning flight home.

Alternative locations

If a trip to Iceland is your kind of thing, you may also want to check out my travel itinerary for The Faroe Islands - where you'll find fewer tourists.

Iceland - Travel Itinerary

Day 1

Arrival and The Blue Lagoon

We landed at Keflavik airport in Iceland in mid-morning. We rented a car that we had pre-booked, then headed to The Blue Lagoon to get our first taste of swimming in water heated by geothermal activity. If you visit The Blue Lagoon on your trip and enjoy it, then you might also want to visit some of the municipal open-air swimming pools on your trip around Iceland - which are much cheaper, and also geothermally heated. For accommodation, we stayed for the first 2 nights in an AirBnb apartment rental near the docks in Reykjavik. We found Reykjavik to be a super-friendly town with loads of great eateries for sea-food lovers. In particular, we bought British-style fish and chips from a takeaway on the docks and ate outside on a wooden bench - highly recommended.
10:00 - 11:00

Keflavík International Airport

Keflavík International Airport (KEF), Keflavík, Iceland
Originally built by the US military during World War II, Keflavík Airport is the largest airport in Iceland and the country's main airport for international flights. The airport is about 50km, or 45 minutes drive, from the capital city - Reykjavik. The car hire locations require a bus transfer. Do book with the car hire company in advance. We had to ring the car hire company at our arrival at the airport, in order for them to send the bus to pick us up. For domestic flights, Reykjavík Airport, 3km from the capital is most commonly used. Photo credit: Photo by 𝔑𝔦𝔩𝔰 𝔅𝔬𝔤𝔡𝔞𝔫𝔬𝔳𝔰 on
Article By: Dan Hill

11:00 - 11:30

Procar Car Rental Iceland

Vesturbraut, Keflavík, Iceland
Procar Car Rental Iceland is located near Keflavik airport at the main international airport in Iceland. Book in advance via their website, then call them when you are through security to have a bus collect you from the terminal. We found the service to be fine - just be ready for a few Iceland specific insurances that are offered (such as sand storm damage cover - which I have never been offered before!). "Please take care while crossing rivers" is prominently placed on a sticker in the car. Intriguing notice to be greeted with for me as a first time visitor to Iceland!
Article By: Dan Hill

13:00 - 16:00

The Blue Lagoon - Iceland

Norðurljósavegur 9, Iceland
We visited The Blue Lagoon in Iceland in May 2019 - and it was in fact the first stop we made after having collected our hire car at the airport. The Blue Lagoon is an open-door bathing area where the water is a combination of sea-water and fresh water which meet 2000 meters below the surface. The water is then heated naturally in the earth and subjected to extreme pressures - which creates "geothermal seawater". The Blue Lagoon says that this water gets enriched with "silica, algae, and minerals—the bioactive elements that endow this unique fluid with its healing, rejuvenating, nourishing abilities". The facilities are impressive - and geared up to entertaining a lot of tourists. Booking online is encouraged - and I recall we booked online using our phone on arrival. We received towels and spa-gowns on entry. The changing area has lockers to protect belongings, and showers for washing before and after entry to the pool. We visited on a grey and not-particularly warm day, but the water in the pool keeps you extremely warm. The pool is set in natural volcanic rocks - and is large enough to entertain masses of tourists without it feeling overcrowded. There's a bar area set in the pool, and kiosks to obtain silica and algae to treat your skin with while bathing. There are also steam rooms just off the pool area. There is a restaurant and a gift shop selling skin treatments and other goodies. All in all, this was a great experience. Later in our vacation we tried a municipal pool used by the locals - which was also naturally heated and with a steam room - but of course not as commercially polished. It was considerably cheaper, but we enjoyed it - so another option, and well worth the experience. Photo by Jeff Sheldon on
Article By: Dan Hill
Price covers: Entry
Prices for The Blue Lagoon - Iceland
Category Price Restrictions
Standard 10900.00 - 79000.00 ISK

Day 2

The Golden Circle

On Day 2, we set off from our AirBnb rental in Reykjavik, and headed out to see four of the most popular destinations on the famous Golden Circle tourist route - the Hakid view point, Oxararfoss Waterfall, the incredible geyser at Strokkur and the spectacular Gullfoss (waterfall). Departing from Reykjavik, it's not long at all before you find yourself surrounded by truly dramatic scenery that could only be found in beautiful Iceland. It won't be too long before you find yourself pulling over at lay-bys with your camera to capture the scenery.
10:30 - 12:30

Hakid View-Point and Oxararfoss Waterfall

Thingvellir Visitor Center, Bláskógabyggð, Iceland
Thingvellir (Þingvellir in Icelandic) National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The park was established between 1928 and 1930 to protect the remains of a historical parliament site. It was later expanded to protect the area's diverse nature. At the Visitor Centre in Thingvellir, you'll find parking and an interesting and well managed walk which ends at Oxararfoss waterfall - for a great introduction to Icelandic geology. It's one of the most popular stops on the Golden Circle tourist route in Iceland - and therefore expect to meet plenty of other tourists. There's an incredible view point known as Hakid that looks across the plains at the start of the walk. Very quickly, walkers find themselves walking through the gorge caused by the Almannagjá fault - which marks the boundary of the Mid-Atlantic Rift (the dividing point between the North American and Eurasian plates). The stone walls grow taller either side of the path, before the right hand side opens up to provide views across the plains. There have been built several wooden platforms and walkways to allow hikers to come off the track to enjoy the incredible views and practice their photography. The picturesque Oxararfoss waterfall, by Icelandic standards, is fairly small ("only" 20m in height), but a great photo-opportunity none-the-less - that you won't want to miss. The walk is fairly gentle and should be manageable by most, and took us a couple of hours at the most (with a 2 year old child) round-trip. At the visitor centre at the carpark, you'll also find a café selling drinks (including coffee, tea and hot-chocolate), snacks and plenty of tourist gifts. I think the toilet facilities here could qualify for offering the world's most incredible view (the mens at least!). Don't forget to pay for parking - which you can do online using your license plate.
Article By: Dan Hill

13:30 - 14:30

Strokkur - Geysers & Hot Springs

Haukadalsvegur, Iceland
Strokkur - located in the Haukadalur valley in Iceland - is a fountain-like geyser that erupts dramatically every 5-10 minutes. It is one of the most popular stops on the Golden Circle tourist route in Iceland - so expect to meet plenty of other tourists here - both drivers and coach travellers. There's ample parking at the tourist information centre - which also houses a large shop selling gifts and quality hiking clothing, toilet facilities and a restaurant. Crossing over the road from the parking, what first catches your attention is the steam coming from little pools and streams along the hillside. Some of the pools are colourful - and the water is extremely clear. The path is roped to indicate to visitors that they should keep to the path. There are signs indicating that the water in the pools and in the streams can reach 80-100 degrees celsius - which would cause sever burns. Keep children on hand as it would be very easy for little ones to run under the guide rope. The nearest hospital is a significant distance away. After a relatively short walk along, the Strokkur geyser comes into view and rewards visitors with a spectacular sight - regular 15-20 metre eruptions of water and steam, which can apparently sometimes reach up to 40 metres high. If you're looking to capture a 'person-free' photo of the eruptions, you may be disappointed. The shear number of visitors (we visited in May 2019) to the geyser, mean that there are people stretched all the way around ropes around the geyser. After you've taken in the incredible geyser experience, and finished gazing into the crystal clear waters of the little caverns in the ground surrounding it, head onto the path that continues up the hillside. The climb is worth it - and rewards hikers with an alternative view of the geyser, looking down the hillside.
Article By: Dan Hill

15:00 - 16:00

Gullfoss Waterfall - Iceland

Gullfoss Falls, Iceland
Located along the popular Golden Circle, Gullfoss (Icelandic for Golden Falls) - is a truly spectacular 2-step waterfall set in a magnificent canyon cut along the Hvítá river. It's nearly impossible to describe the sight of the energy in this water, and the roaring, thunderous sounds of the enormous volumes of water plunging unstoppably into the gorge below. 141 cubic metres of water falls across these falls every second of every day. Falling a staggering 32 metres in total, the water first plunges 11 metres at its first drop, followed by an additional 21 metres at the second step. Once touted as a potential source of hydro energy by its owners during the first half of the 20th century, today the site is preserved for everyone, and is owned by the state of Iceland. These awe-inspiring falls provide a stunning photo opportunity - and it's well worth the short walk from the car park to the viewing platform. The path to the falls is very well maintained, with newly maintained steps taking visitors down the hillside. The steps are wide, but a little steep in places - so allow for extra time if you have small kids (and hold on to them very tightly near the falls themselves!).
Article By: Dan Hill

Day 3

13:00 - 14:00

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall - Iceland

Seljalandsfoss, Iceland
Want to walk behind a big waterfall and don't mind getting a little wet? Then head to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. Waterproofs and decent foot-wear are recommended - I saw plenty of soaked tourists coming straight off the bus wearing jeans and sneakers who looked like they regretted it! It's a really unique experience to walk around and behind this 60 meter high waterfall and there's a pleasant little walk down the valley a little with a small stream if you want to escape the hordes or tourists for a few moments. At the ample parking facilities, you can find a cafe with outside tables and toilet facilities.
Article By: Dan Hill

14:30 - 15:00

Skogafoss Waterfall - Iceland

Skógafoss, Iceland
The impressive Skogafoss waterfall flows over cliffs that were once at the coast - before the ocean receded. At 60 metres tall and 25 metres wide, they are one of the biggest sets of falls on the island. The walk to the falls from the car park is short and along a flat path. There's plenty of parking, a restaurant, toilet facilities and a camp site.
Article By: Dan Hill

15:30 - 16:00

Dyrholaey, Iceland

Dyrhólaey, 871 Vík, Iceland
Dyrhólaey - nature reserve near the town of Vík, is the most southern point in Iceland and offers magnificent views of geological features. Looking east, black lava columns rise from the sea, while looking west provides an unhindered view of the Selfoss coast. If you look north, you can see the Mýrdalsjökull glacier. The huge black arch of lava which steps into the sea gave the area its name - door hill island.
Article By: Dan Hill

16:30 - 17:15

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, Iceland

Reynisfjara, Iceland
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach (Reynisfjöru in Icelandic) is the most famous black sand beach on Iceland. It's located on the south coast of Iceland, near the small fishing village of Vík. When I looked out to sea, I felt like my eyes had gone into black-and-white mode - there is literally no colour in the sand. There are signs stationed as you approach the beach warning of the dangers posed by strong waves and tales of tourists lost to the sea - so be careful near the water's edge. At each end of he beach you can see rock formations known as promontories (east and west) - and there's a lagoon to the north - making this an extremely scenic beach. Additionally, there are very distinct basalt columns of rock which form the cliff face, and a cave with unique rock shapes to look in. There is good parking available, as well as a cafe and toilet facilities.
Article By: Dan Hill

Day 4

12:00 - 12:30

Stjórnarfoss Waterfall - Kirkjubæjarklaustur

Stjórnarfoss Waterfall was one of the few places we visited in Iceland where we found no other tourists. The falls form part of the river Stjórn, which originates at Geirlandshraun mountain. It is located near a campsite and is a short walk from some public parking. There is a flat river valley in front of the waterfall and it would make a nice place for a picnic. The falls themselves consist of 2 drops of approximately 15 meters each - and are quite beautiful. If you are travelling the ring road in southern Iceland, Stjórnarfoss Waterfall could be a pleasant, quiet place to stop.
Article By: Dan Hill

14:00 - 16:00

Skaftafellsjökull - Skaftafell glacier

228M+J9 Skaftafell, Iceland
The walk to the lagoon to see the Skaftafell glacier in the Vatnajökull National Park was my personal highlight of my visit Iceland. We started from the visitor centre at Skaftafell - and from here there are 9 graded hikes to take - labelled S1-S6, and M1-M3. There are advisories and specific precautions to take if you are hiking in the winter time (please check the national park's website). We visited at the end of May 2019, and conditions were very favourable. We took the easiest route - which was S1: Skaftafellsjökull - at only 3.7km - since we had a sleeping 2 year old in our baby-carrying backpack. The trail is flat and easily navigable - and winds through woodlands until the glacier comes into view. As someone who has never seen a glacier in person before, this was an incredible moment. The glacier's melt-water flows into a lagoon, in which there are some smaller floating icebergs. You can walk across some scrub-land to until you are fairly close to the glacier - and are only stopped by the melt-water itself - which runs out of small waterfalls at the end of the glacier. If you are more adventurous, there are plenty of trails to choose from - and the visitor centre has lots of information to advise you.
Article By: Dan Hill

Day 5

Last Day

For the last day of the trip, we made the long journey back to Reykjavik. Along the way, we stopped at an outdoor municipal swimming pool which was heated by geothermal energy and had a steam room. This was a great experience. We arrived in Reykjavik in the later afternoon. After a stroll around Reykjavik to do some shopping and eat an evening meal, we headed to the Lighthouse-Inn near the airport - prepared for our early morning flight home.
20:00 - 23:55


2, Norðurljósavegur 402, Suðurnesjabær, Iceland
The Lighthouse-Inn is just 11km away from the Keflavik International Airport and it's located on the northern tip of the Reyjanes peninsula. This makes it very convenient for morning flights or late arrivals. The hotel interior is styled in wood - giving it a log-cabin feel. Rooms are very spacious at between 21 and 42 square metres. The hotel has a bar and restaurant. Breakfast and Wi-Fi are included.
Article By: Dan Hill

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About the author

I founded MapADay to create a platform where anybody could share and promote their favourite travel itineraries - in a consistent format that travellers can easily follow. I've lived in 5 different countries: UK, France, USA, Canada and now Denmark, and love exploring new places with my family - near and far.

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