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5-Day Itinerary for Iceland: Things to Do, Where to Stay, Hiking

Updated: Jun 19

Iceland is one of my favorite countries I've ever traveled to. From the diverse green or icy landscapes to the magical waterfalls, Iceland has so much to offer to its visitors. This is one country where you'll be sad to come home.

Girl wearing Yellow Kanken backpack while hiking

The first step to a successful trip is to plan well and set your expectations. I love planning because it frees me of the burden when I'm traveling so I can just focus on having fun. The first decision is to choose how many days you are going to be in Iceland for, and see what can be reasonably done in that time.

Many sites are conveniently located near each other or along the way. The best thing to do is prioritize what you want out of your trip to Iceland and start planning around those priorities.

Skip the Read for my 5-day Itinerary

Google Maps for Planning

Where to Stay

We chose to stay at an Airbnb during the trip because we knew we weren't going to be eating out much. You can go to Costco near the capital and stock up for the week. We bought lots of sandwich foods, roadtrip snacks, and wine for our week there. It was nice to have a full kitchen to make breakfast and dinners in. Food is very expensive in Iceland so this is a great way to save money! In retrospect, i would have chosen a hotel or apartment hotel since they have better flexibility with cancellation policies and you don't have to clean during your vacation.

If you're looking for a hotel in the capital, then opt for one of these hotels that have free-parking for your rental car: Hotel Muli, Reykjavik Lights by Keahotels, or a little outside of the city center, but near the highway: Blue Mountain Apartments which could be a better option if you're cooking meals like we did.

If you want some more adventurous stays out further, these are some great choices

Staying near Vik is going to keep you very central for exploring the glacier hikes and silfra/thingvellir national park, so Vik Apartments is a good choice. Another choice is Hotel Laekur. Positioning yourself in these more remote areas will absolutely give the promise of northern lights sightings during the fall or winter months. I always love a nice hot tub or spa, and even further east is Hotel Jokulsarlon Lagoon hotel.

When to Go

I highly recommend you go during the fall. This will optimize your chances of seeing the Northern lights as well as many of the famous sites. You get about ~12 hours of sunlight in October (when we went) which gives you the perfect split. If you go in the summer, then that's 24 hours of full sunlight, so zero chances of the Northern lights. If you go in the winter there's not enough daylight time (maybe 4 hours?) to explore the sites.

Daily Itinerary & Things to Do in Iceland

Day 1: Blue Lagoon and City site-seeing

This day started with taking the airport shuttle to Blue Car Rental. Please make sure you are aware that you need to filter on "automatic" if you don't know how to drive stick (none of girls knew how to drive manual), and most cars are manual.

Once we picked up our car we drove to the town of Reykjanesbær and stopped at one of the convenient bakeries for some local breads and coffee. We drank lots of coffee to get warm and started waking up, and then went to the Blue Lagoon Spa. The airport is very close, and after a long flight, it's extremely refreshing to shower and then bask in the sun contrasted with the brisk, cold Icelandic air while your muscles relax in the warm waters of the geothermal hot springs. Also the comfort ticket comes with a free drink! Two of us opted for the healthy green smoothie while the others started the trip off with a glass of champagne. When you arrive early in the morning, you bypass the crowds, too. We spent about 2 and a half hours just relaxing and waking up from our redeye. If you don't do this when you arrive, then opt for it before you head to the airport at the end of your trip!

After the spa we headed to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, to kill time until check-in. It was sunny outside, so we shifted our schedule to do the church tower since the skies were clear. There is lots of free parking around the church tower, Hallgrimskirkja, so just head there and find a spot nearby! The views are worth the cheap price of admittance. You can generate a list with ChatGPT to find other things to do. We just enjoyed walking around and exploring without too heavy an itinerary.

After that, it was time for check-in. We got settled into our Airbnb, caught up on sleep, and then woke up to go out that night. It was a clear night and we were able to sleep in the next day, so we pushed ourselves to check out the nightlife. I'm so glad we did though, the bars are so much fun and the people have a lot of positive energy. We had someone agree to be designated driver, and we parked the car on Laugavegur street and started following the noise. We just went through a few different bars on the street, but spent most of our time at the Kiki Queer Bar. They had the liveliest music and a drag show. It was so much fun, and the music was familiar and the drinks were great!

Day 2: Craters and Caves, and Hot Springs

We slept in and started our drive to Kerid Crater. The weather was not-so-great today. It was extremely windy (just horrible for drone pilots!). I took my drone out and got a few shots, but the wind was so extreme (44 mph gusts, so don't recommend flying here!); that was the only flying I did that day. Kerid crater is one of the only sites with a small entrance fee. It helps to maintain the site, and if you don't want to pay those fees, then stay home and don't travel! Tourism is one of the main industries in Iceland and is important for their economy. We spent about an hour here. We walked around the perimeter of the crater, I filmed some drone shots, and then we walked down to the bottom by the water.

a girl staring out at kerid crater

After that, we drove to Reykjadalur Hot Spring trail. This trail is super cool, but we just didn't have the right weather for it. We got about halfway up the trail and had to turn back to get to our next tour. It was almost hailing, but luckily we all had winter parkas with hoods and plenty of layers. This was the only bad weather day and it wasn't too bad because we were prepared, but we just were not feeling this with the weather. The hot water along the trail was so cool though.

We went to the Lava tunnel tour next. I'm obsessed with Minecraft, so getting a chance to put on a headlamp and go underground had me geeking out a bit. This wasn't my favorite attraction, but if you have the time, why not explore a little more what Iceland has to offer below the surface. This was also a nice escape from the cold, windy sites outside.

Day 3: Nothing but Water: Chasing Waterfalls, Geysirs, and Snorkeling

This day was super eventful and packed with tons of activities. Despite the unfortunate weather forecast, we had clear skies for almost the whole day; just little patches of light rainfall. We started at the Faxi waterfall. This is a simple pullover stop and we were the only ones there when we arrived. Perfect for drone flying and photo-ops. We spent about 15 minutes there and as we were packing up, a mini tour bus started pulling in.

We got in our car and headed to the Geysir. This site was absolutely stunning. There were tons of bathrooms and shopping too. We spent about 45 minutes here and I took my drone out and captured some beautiful videos/pictures. There were no visible signs that cautioned against it. The mini Geysir erupts about every 10 minutes or so, you'll definitely have a chance to catch it.

After the Geysir, we drove to Gulfoss waterfall. On the way from Geysir to Gulfoss there is a small pullover stop horse farm! The Icelandic ponies are iconic! They welcome people to park and take pictures with the horses. You'll see it clearly marked on your way towards Gulfoss. Gulfoss was the largest of the waterfalls we saw. There is some good hiking around to get the best views and you can get up close and personal with the water (sort of). We spent about an hour there.

We then started our journey to Thingvellir National Park. We had some time to spare before our Silfra snorkeling tour, so we parked at the main entrance and enjoyed the views. After enjoying the beautiful view, we got in our car and a few minutes down the road to the Silfra meeting point. The Silfra tour was definitely one of my favorite memories of the trip. It is one of the clearest waters in the world to swim in, but it is around freezing in temperatures. Your guides have got you covered though with warm dry suits. I wore just my thermal base layers (icebreaker merino wool is my go-to for cold activities like skiing and this) underneath the thermal suit and dry suit they provided for us. I wasn't cold at all, just a little bit on my hands and face. If you're bringing a GoPro, I recommend the GoPro chest mount so you dont have to stress about filming. I just attached it and enjoyed my ride through the water. The drysuits are so buoyant that you don't have to swim at all. I moved my flippers a little bit to get some speed, but otherwise you just float down and enjoy the view. The guide was so kind and helped me out when I got nervous with learning the breathing techniques, so I was really appreciative of that!

To warm up, we drove to the nearby, less-touristy geothermal pool to warm up and relax after a long day. This was absolutely needed and perfect! We went to the geothermal spa Laugarvatn Fontana. We relaxed here and decided to be brave and do the polar plunge. They have an entrance to the lake (freezing lake water) and we jumped into it and then ran back to the warm water. Totally worth the experience! (tip: don't rush back into the hotter hot spring, it'll burn after being in the ice cold water!)

You can get both tickets for the Silfra Snorkel and Fontana Spa experience here (they are close-by and great to pair with each other since you'll want to warm up afterwards!) Drink a lot of water when you're at the spa! Traveling already causes some issues with digestion and exhaustion, so always keep hydrated to prevent getting sick.

It was starting to get late when we finished up which was perfect since we were hoping to get a chance to see the northern lights; we saw that the KP index was a 6! (pro tip: you can use the Aurora app on your phone to check this) Which is super high aurora activity (the scale ranges from 0-9, with 9 being very high meaning you're more likely to see the northern lights). We decided to get dinner around the area to kill more time and try to catch a glimpse of the northern lights. On our way to the restaurant we saw the northern lights starting to cover the sky. We immediately pulled over to the nearest pullover stop and spent about 30 minutes just taking photos (use the GoPro's night photo mode) and enjoying them.

Day 4: Glacier Hiking and Canyon Exploring

This day was packed with lots of things as well. We had the longest drive ahead of us, so we started early. We began our drive to Skogafoss, but we saw a pullover for Seljalandsfoss waterfall along the way and made a 30 minute stop there. It actually wasn't that crowded, so I got some good drone footage there while the other girls walked behind the waterfall.

After this we headed towards Skogafoss. This site was incredible as well. The hike to the top of the cliff was not that bad, but I got up in about 10 minutes without stopping.

We spent about 30 minutes at this site and then headed towards Fjaðrárgljúfur. Get inspired and from Justin Beiber's music video where you see him hopping around this site. We spent about an hour here. It was moderately crowded and I saw about 5 other drones in the sky. Worth the far drive out and absolutely a must-see!

After this we headed towards our Glacier hike tour at Sólheimajökull, we made a pullover stop on the way to take some pictures by the moss. I definitely advise being careful if you do, since the moss can be fragile at some parts! The glacier hike was also very surreal. You always hear about global warming, but to see the actual effects of it happening, it's very eye-opening and saddening. This hike was made easy with the crampons the tour guide provided. 

After the hike, it was nearing sunset. We made our way to the Reynisfjara beach. Here you'll see the cool rocks and black sand beach. At sunset it's breathtaking with the cliff-side birds and crashing waves. We made our way home after our time there. If you're into game of thrones, there's a cave scene that is filmed here as well!

Day 5:

Today we spent the morning packing and headed back to Reykjavik for a little more local shopping. We also made a stop for some of the famous hotdogs. I'm pescatarian, so I didn't partake, but I heard they were very delicious and snapped a shot anyways. Afterwards, we made our way to the airport and celebrated a successful trip!

Did we miss anything else fun that you recommend? Leave in the comments!


Hi! I'm Jackie and my dog is Sora. I work remote as an engineer, but I love to spend my free time in nature and by traveling to new places. I take my camera wherever I go, and sometimes my drone.

Somewhere With Sora is a Seattle-based lifestyle and travel blog that provides helpful travel and adventure tips for all kinds of trips, with or without the dogs.

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