Iceland despite its size has so much to see and do. Iceland sees booming tourism mainly for its picturesque landscape, beautiful waterfalls, volcano craters, lava fields, and black sand beaches. If you wish to explore Iceland in 5 to 7 days, you would need to plan an itinerary to parts of this wildly beautiful country depending on your interests. Here are 3 fabulous routes to choose from to spend 5-7 days in Iceland.
Reyjavik, the popular Golden Circle attractions and the South coast highlights, in my opinion are a no-brainer for a first-time visit to Iceland. Or, if you have visited the south coast of Iceland or want to do something different, then combining North Iceland attractions with Reykjavik and Golden Circle route is a good alternative. And the third choice would be to base yourself in Reykjavik for all of 5 days and explore nearby areas as day trips.
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Travel Tips for Iceland 5 to 7 day Itinerary
Are 5 days enough for Iceland?
To do a full Iceland ring road itinerary, I recommend at least 10 days or more. Whether you are in self-drive mode or taking different tours, you need to account for changing weather in Iceland. Distances may be relatively smaller but weather, especially on the scenic south shore can play a spoil-sport in Iceland.
For 5 days in Iceland, you should focus on a couple of regions to make the best of attractions and activities, like glacier and canyon hiking, chasing waterfalls, relaxing in hot springs and more.
Do your research and book early
If you are spending 5 or 7 days in Iceland, do your research on what areas and activities appeal the most to you. Remember that there is a plethora of experiences in Iceland to choose from, so research and planning is required. You have to make an estimate for your Iceland Trip Cost.
Once you have made your selection, book flights, hotels or apartments, activity tours much in advance. The best of accommodation and tour options get sold out completely in summer months. And the prices keep rising as you get closer to your date of travel.
I suggest you do a road trip even if you are spending 5-7 days in Iceland. The beauty of Iceland is in the natural landscape and you need to get out of Reykjavik to see that. You don’t need to rent a 4-wheel-drive for a 5 or 7 day Iceland itinerary in summer. The ring road connects most locations in Iceland that you would visit on your Iceland 5-7 day trip and is suitable for all cars. A 4WD is only needed if you get on F-roads (unpaved paths in Iceland) and you do need more time than 7 days to explore off-beaten-routes in Iceland. Do take full insurance when you rent a car for your Iceland road trip.
Pack for weather changes and wear sturdy shoes
You need good water-proof shoes to explore Iceland sights, even if you are not hiking. Weather is temperamental in this country. And even for spring or summer months, it may rain or become cloudy or windy and cold. You must dress in layers on any day, even if it starts with being sunny. Carrying rain gear with you at all times is a must. You need to pack full sleeve T-shirts, sweaters or fleece jacket, a light down jacket and a rain jacket for spring and summer time. Winter needs a different packing list altogether, clothes suited for extreme cold.
Use credit card everywhere
You don’t need to exchange any cash for your Iceland trip. Use your credit card everywhere in this country but do remember your card PIN.
Iceland in 5 to 7 days: 3 Itinerary Routes
Here are 3 alternative Iceland 5 day itinerary routes to give you the best of this country. Each of these itinerary options can be extended to an Iceland itinerary for 7 days. The first 2 itinerary routes are best suited from spring, summer and autumn months in Iceland. Iceland in winter needs some changes to these itineraries. Driving is challenging in winter months and the short daylight hours make it difficult to explore all suggested attractions within a day.
Iceland 5 day itinerary: Route #1
This 5 day Iceland itinerary explores the capital city of Reykjavik, the famous Golden Circle route and the best of south coast attractions. It can be easily extended to a 7 day Iceland trip by adding Snaefellsnes Peninsula either at the beginning or at the end of the itinerary.
Route 1, Day 1: Explore Reykjavik, overnight stay in the city
Did you know that Reykjavik is the northernmost capital in the world? Reykjavik features on every Iceland itinerary for a first-time visitor. This city is cool, quirky, beautiful and compact to explore many neighbourhoods via a walking tour.
You can cover most attractions in Reykjavik in a day. One of the main attractions to see in Reykjavik is the iconic Lutheran Church, Hallsgrimskirkja. This is the tallest church in Iceland at 74.5 metres in height. Its architecture is unique, inspired by the basalt columns found in so many natural sites in Iceland. The Church is beautiful from inside and you get panoramic vistas if you make the effort to climb to the top.
You can also visit other attractions in Reykjavik on your first day of this Icelandic 5 day itinerary. While walking the promenade facing Faxaflói Bay, you would come upon the Sun Voyager Statue and the Harpa Concert Hall. The city is also known for its sculptures that pop up all across and cool street art (Old Harbour area, Laugavegur street). If you are travelling to Iceland with kids, make time for a visit to the Perlan Museum. There are informative exhibits and films for both kids and adults to enjoy. Plus the observation deck of Perlan offers some of the best views of Reykjavik city.
Reykjavik also has a vibrant dining and nightlife scene. It is a great choice to try local Icelandic cuisine (Icelandic hot dogs from a street cart, or fresh seafood from a fine dining restaurant, you have all options).
Route 1, Day 2: Golden Circle attractions
The popular Golden Circle route comprises Thingvellir national park, Geysir Hot springs area and Gullfoss waterfall. Most tourists who visit Iceland go to the Golden Circle attractions, partly because of its proximity to Reykjavik and also because it is a year-round destination.
It would be good to visit Thingvellir national park early in the morning to avoid crowds. This is about 50 km northeast of Reykjavik. Thingvellir park is a unique site, both due to geological and political history reasons. This is the only place in the world where the meeting of 2 continental plates – the North American and Eurasian – is clearly visible above the ground. Hiking trails, snorkelling or diving options in the clearest fresh water on the planet, the site for the oldest running parliament in Iceland, all make Thingvellir worthy of a visit.
Geysir geothermal area is a 60 km drive ahead of Thingvellir. This geothermal area is famous for its geysers, hot springs, mud pools and seismic activity. The famous Geysir itself is no longer active. You can see the other famous geyser, Strokkur, erupt every 5-10 minutes apart. It is important to walk only on designated paths in a geothermal area, and make sure that no one touches the hot water anywhere.
The final stop on the Golden Circle route is Gullfoss or ‘Golden waterfall’. This waterfall is the most forceful during summer months but the snow transforms the entire area to a white fairyland in winter months. This is one of the most besutiful and popular waterfals in Iceland. Gullfoss is made of 2 distinct waterfalls, a shorter cascade of 11 metres and then a bigger waterfall of about 21 metres.
The 3 stops plus the drive from Reykjavik would make this a long day, very doable in spring or summer months. You should consider staying overnight near Golden Circle.
Route 1, Day 3: Visit South Iceland with Vik as the base
South coast has some of the most popular attractions in Iceland – beautiful waterfalls, the largest glacier in the country, ice lagoons, famous black sand beaches and more. No wonder that it is part of every Iceland 5 day itinerary for a first-time visitor. Vik i Myrdal is a pretty town on the south coast and makes for a good base to explore nearly sights. Reykjavik and Vik are joined together via the ring road, about 190 km apart.
You can visit the most famous waterfalls in South Iceland on your drive to Vik: Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. Skogafoss is beautiful and impressive. There is a 60 meters drop and its creates a heavy mist around the falls. You will likely see a rainbow over the waterfall if the sun is shining.
Seljalandsfoss is different from other waterfalls because it can be viewed from behind. There is a path that takes you right at the back of the falls and you can admire its 60 meters drop and the thundurous sound from very close. As you get closer to the falls, you will get more drenched so do wear a rain jacket.
You can then visit the famous black sand beach, Reynisfjara on your Iceland itinerary in 5 days. What makes this beach so famous are the tall basalt columns that make a magnificent backdrop for a photo. You could drive to Dyrholaey Peninsula nearby to get ever better views of this beach and of the Atlantic Ocean.
Route 1, Day 4: Explore more of the South coast
There are many sights on the south coast of Iceland, so there is a choice of activity on 4th day of this Iceland itinerary in 5 days. You can hike the largest glacier in Iceland or visit a natural ice cave or explore an ice lagoon. These icy-cool experiences become even more magical if you are visiting Iceland in winter.
I highly recommend a combo tour for glacier hiking and ice lagoon. You can hike to the largest glacier in Iceland, the Vatnajokull. A glacier hike can be done only with a tour guide and some hiking gear like crampons and ice picks. In the second half of the day, take a boat tour to Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. Large iceberg chunks that have broken off from the glacier float in this lagoon before getting into the Atlantic Ocean. Both these activities would take most of the day.
Check these options for exploring Vatnajokull Glacier:
You would need to book your tour to experience glacier lagoon:
If there is still time, and that’s quite possible on summer days with never-ending daylight hours, you can visit the Diamond Beach. Another black sand beach with a twist! Large chunks of ice get washed up here and the dramatic scenery of ice against the black sand is what makes this beach so famous.
Route 1, Day 5: Reykjavik with a optional detour to Blue Lagoon
[UPDATE: Blue Lagoon is temporarily closed. The closure will remain in effect until December 7, at which point the situation will be reassessed.]
After exploring the South Iceland highlights, it is time to drive back to Reykjavik. But first consider a detour to the famous Blue Lagoon at Grindavik. This is a world famous geothermal spa close to Reykjavik. And what better than soak yourself in the mineral-rich waters here at Blue Lagoon after 4 wonderful days of sightseeing in Iceland? The Blue Lagoon is open until midnight in the summer months and you get less crowded in the early morning or late hours. You need to pre-book your Entrance Pass to Blue Lagoon early as it is a popular destination.
After Blue Lagoon, you get back to Reykjavik or Keflavik airport depending on your flight back home. You have explored the best of Iceland in 5 days: the capital city of Reykjavik, the Golden Circle attractions and some of the highlights of South Coast of Iceland. Add to that, the famous Blue Lagoon and this 5 day Iceland itinerary makes for wonderful memories.
Extend this Route #1 to Iceland 7 day Itinerary
The first 4 days would follow the above Route #1 itinerary:
Route 1, Day 1, 2, 3 & 4: Explore Reykjavik, Golden Circle attractions, Visit South Iceland
Route 1, Day 5 of the 7 day Iceland itinerary:
Day 5 would then follow a different plan from the 5 day Iceland itinerary in this case. The next 2 days would be to explore the scenic area of Snaefellsnes Peninsula. You can base yourself in Budir or Hellnar for these 2 days. Vik is connected to these towns via the ring road, a distance of about 350 km to Budir and about 365 km to Hellnar. Snaefellsnes Peninsula is nicknamed ‘miniature Iceland’ for its scenic coastal drives, lava fields, the glorious Snaefellsjokull glacier, beautiful mountains and waterfalls.
Some of the West Iceland attractions that can be covered on Day 5 include Ytri Tunga seal beach, Budir black church, Bjarnarfoss (a waterfall located behind Budir), and Arnarstapi cliffs. You would get views of Snaefellsjokull glacier from many parts of your road trip.
Route 1, Day 6 of the Iceland 7-day itinerary:
Day 6 is to visit the most photographed mountain in Iceland – Kirkjufell – located in Snaefellsnes Peninsula. And the pretty waterfalls from across the road to this mountain. Both the waterfalls and the mountain put together are a photographer’s delight. You can take a Lava Cave tour in one of Iceland’s oldest lava caves, Vatnashellir. Post this tour, you could drive further to climb the rim of Saxholar volcano crater. The views of the surrounding areas are worth the climb. The lava fields of Djupalonssandur to see large lava rock formations is worth a stop.
You could stay the second night in your hotel in Budir or Hellnar and have a relaxed evening. Or if time permits, and this is quite possible in summer months with long hours of daylight, you could head to Grindavik and stay close to Blue Lagoon.
Route 1, Day 7 of the Iceland 7-day itinerary:
This last day of your 7 day Iceland itinerary is to head back to Reykjavik. From West Iceland, you can drive directly to Reykjavik or Keflavik airport depending on your flight time. Or, if time permits, you can opt for a detour to the Blue Lagoon. In this scenario, it would be better if you drive to Grindavik on the 6th day and stay the night. You can then visit Blue Lagoon in the early morning hours with less crowds before going back to Reykjavik. You need to pre-book your Entrance Pass to Blue Lagoon early as it is a popular destination.
Iceland 5 day itinerary: Route #2
This 5-day Iceland itinerary provides an alternate route to explore the north region. It combines Reykjavik, the famous Golden Circle and the Diamond Route in North Iceland. It can be easily extended to a 7 day Iceland trip by adding Snaefellsnes Peninsula on the way back from Akureyri to Reykjavik.
Route 2, Day 1: Explore Reykjavik as per the suggestions given in Route 1
Route 2, Day 2: Drive north to Akureyri, stay at Akureyri or Myvatn
Now it is time to see the North Iceland attractions. You can choose to stay overnight in Akureyri, also called the capital of the North. Akureyri is at a road distance of about 385 km from Reykjavik so this would take at least 5 hours of drive. Akureyri has a nice church, botanical gardens to explore. And there are cool restaurants and bars to spend an evening.
You can also choose to drive ahead and spend the 2 nights in the Lake Myvatn area. Myvatn is a serene lake, the fourth largest lake in Iceland. The lake lies in an active volcano area. Should you decide to spend the night in Myvatn, you can visit Myvatn Nature Baths. These beautiful natural hot springs are less crowded than the Blue Lagoon and sit within a stark landscape. The nature baths are open until 11 PM during summer months of June, July and August.
Before or after Myvatn Nature Baths, you can visit the geothermal area of Hverir, also known as Namaskaro. This area is famous for its bubbling mud pools. Do note that in summer time, the lake waters attract a large number of tiny insects that buzz all over the surrounding areas.
Route 2, Day 3: Head to Husavik for whale watching, explore Dettifoss
Day 3 of this 5-day Iceland itinerary has a couple of main attractions from the Diamond Circle route in North Iceland. You first head to Husavik, the whale watching capital of Iceland. Husavik is an hour’s drive from Akureyri and about 45 min drive from Lake Myvatn.
The Skjalfandi Bay in the town of Husavik has deep waters and enough food for several whale species to come and feed. This is a great site to view humpback whales and puffins. You can even view Grimsey island on an exceptionally clear day, the Arctic Circle runs through Grimsey island.
It is best to pre-book a whale watching tour. I recommend booking this 3-hour Whale Watching tour.
You can have a nice lunch in Husavik town and then drive ahead to see Eurpe’s largest waterfall. Dettifoss is about an hour’s drive from Husavik. This waterfall can be viewed from both the west and east side. Although the west side has a car park, and a proper path laid out to go to the waterfall. The east side gets you a much closer view but there is no barrier between the large boulders and the falls here.
Dettifoss is truly a sight to behold with enormous amounts of water across a width of 100 meters gushing down 45 meters deep into Jokulsargljufur canyon. Ahead of Dettifoss on the west side, there is a path that leads to another waterfall in the area, Selfoss. Selfoss is 100 meters wide but only 11 meters deep.After this site, you can head back to the Lake Myvatn area. But first drive ahead to visit Godafoss. Godafoss is about a distance of 100 km from Dettifoss. These falls can also be viewed from both the east and west side. This waterfall is beautiful, it has a width of 30 meters and a drop of 12 meters.
If you spent the night in Akureyri on Day 2, then you can visit the Namaskaro geothermal area and Myvatn Nature Baths on Day 3 evening.
Route 2, Day 4: Drive back to Gullfoss waterfall, stay near Golden Circle
Day 4 has a long drive inin the first half of the day. Gullfoss is at a distance of about 370 km from Myvatn. So Day 4 is to explore 2 of the Golden Circle attractions: Gullfoss and the Geysir geothermal area. As mentioned in Route option 1 of 5 days in Iceland.
Gullfoss is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland. It comprises 2 falls, a shorter cascade of 11 metres and then a bigger waterfall of about 21 metres. Next you head to Geysir geothermal area to see the famous geyser Strokkur erupt every 5-10 minutes apart. There are mud pools, hot springs to explore in this area. The overnight stay would be close to the Golden Circle attractions.
Route 2, Day 5: Explore Thingvellir and head back to Reykjavik
The last day of this 5-day Iceland itinerary is to start with the main attraction on the Golden Circle route, Thingvellir national park. As mentioned in route option 1 itinerary, Thingvellir park is a unique site for geological and historical reasons. Where else can you view the 2 continental plates – the North American and Eurasian – above the ground? You can hike on marked trails, snorkel or dive in Silfra fissure. Thingvellir also has the site for the oldest running parliament in Iceland.
After visiting this national park, it is time to drive back to Reykjavik or Keflavik international park depending on your flight time.
Extend this Route #2 to Iceland 7 day Itinerary
You can extend this 5 days in Iceland to an Iceland 7-day itinerary by adding Snaefellsnes Peninsula either at the start or the end of the trip.
Route 2, Day 1: Explore Reykjavik as per the suggestions given in Route 1
Route 2, Day 2: Explore Snaefellsnes Peninsula in a day
You can base yourself in Budir or Hellnar for the night. The distance from Reykjavik to Hellnar is about 200 km. During long daylight hours in summer time, you would have no issue in exploring most of the West Iceland attractions: Ytri Tunga seal beach, Budir black church, Bjarnarfoss (a waterfall located behind Budir), Arnarstapi cliffs, Vatnashellir Lava Cave, Saxholar volacno crater, the lava fields of Djupalonssandur, and the famous Kirkjufell.
Route 2, Day 3 & 4: Drive to Akureyri as per Route 2 itinerary
The next 2 days would be based in Akureyri or Myvatn area, to explore the North Iceland highlights as per suggestions given in Route 2. Spend an enjoyable time in Akureyri, take the whale watching in Husavik, view the mighty Dettifoss and the beautiful Godafoss, and explore the Namaskaro geothermal area. There is time to indulge in the hot springs at Myvatn Nature Baths. Make sure you pre-book the Whale Watching tour.
Route 2, Day 5 & 6: Golden Circle
The next 2 days would be based near Golden Circle attractions. Day 5 & 6 would follow Route 2 above: a long drive from Myvatn area to Gullfoss and then exploring all the 3 famous sights on the Golden Circle route: Gullfoss on Day 5 and Geysir geothermal area + Thingvellir national park on Day 6.
Route 2, Day 7: Blue Lagoon and drive back to Reykjavik
On the last day of this alternative 7-day Iceland itinerary, you can drive to the famous Blue Lagoon. Soak in this geothermal spa for a couple of hours, get a spa treatment, have a lavish meal and then head back to Reykjavik. You need to pre-book your Entrance Pass to Blue Lagoon early.
Iceland 5 day itinerary: Route #3
Some tourists may wish to not rent a car and base themselves in Reykjavik for all the 5 nights. In this scenario, the best option is to take day trips to nearby areas. Here is a suggested itinerary for your 5 days in Iceland.
Route 3, Day 1: Explore Reykjavik as per the suggestions given in Route 1
Route 3, Day 2: Take a day tour to Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Browse through these day tour options from Reykjavik:
Route 3, Day 3: Take a day tour for Golden Circle attractions
Here are the best Golden Circle Tour options from Reykjavik. You can choose to add Blue Lagoon to this.
Route 3, Day 4: Take a day tour to Landmannlaugar or to the South coast
Landmannalaugar or Icelandic Highlands lies in the central part of Iceland. You would traverse F-roads or unpaved tracks to reach this ethereal landscape. You can do a short hike and view the shades of Rainbow mountains. While hiking, you would come upon dried magma all over the landscape. There is geothermal activity to be found in the region.
Alternatively, you can book a day trip to see some of the highlights of south coast of Iceland. Another option is to hike up to Iceland’s newest volcano at Litla Hrút on a group tour from Reykjavík.
Check out these day tour options from Reykjavik:
Route 3, Day 5: Rejuvenate at the Blue Lagoon
You need to book this tour much in advance as it is quite popular:
Whichever route you decide on, you will bring back happy memories from Iceland.
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Have you visited the Land of Fire & Ice? What has been your favorite destination or experience there?
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