Iceland Itinerary

Rainbow in South Coast
With at least two days in Iceland, be sure to visit its spectacular South Coast.
By Rick Steves and Ian Watson

So much to see, so little time. How to choose? To help you get started, we've outlined our plan for your best Iceland itinerary — plus our top picks for where to go — whether it's a whirlwind 24-hour visit or a longer, more relaxed stay.

Depending on the length of your trip, here are our recommended priorities:

  • 1 day: Golden Circle, Blue Lagoon
  • 2 days, add: South Coast
  • 3 days, add: More time in Reykjavík
  • 4 days, add: Westman Islands
  • 6 days, add: Nature excursions
  • 8 days, add: West Iceland
  • 10 days, add: Ring Road drive
  • More time: Add more nature excursions, slow down

Iceland in 24 Hours

If one day is all you have in Iceland, here's how to pack the best of it in:

Morning:  Arrive, pick up car, head straight to the Blue Lagoon, and soak.

Midday:  Drive into Reykjavík for lunch and a few hours of browsing, then check into your hotel.

Afternoon:  Set out for the Golden Circle loop trip — hitting just the highlights.

Evening:  Dinner in Golden Circle country.

Late:  Collapse at your hotel and sleep for a few hours. Fly out the next morning.

Extra time:  With 48 hours, add a day trip to the South Coast. With 72 hours, add a day trip to Snæfellsnes or spend more time exploring Reykjavík.

Rick’s Best Five-Day Iceland Trip

Day 1:  Arrive, pick up car, go to the Blue Lagoon, then head to the South Coast (sleep along the South Coast)

Day 2:  Westman Islands day trip (sleep along the South Coast)

Day 3:  South Coast sights, to Reykjavík (sleep in Reykjavík)

Day 4:  Golden Circle (sleep in Reykjavík​)

Day 5:  Reykjavík, or excursions — whale watching, horseback riding, glacier hikes (sleep in Reykjavík​)

Day 6:  Drop off car and fly out

  • With 4 days: Spend less time in Reykjavík — see it in the two evenings, and on your morning of departure.
  • 6 days: See the South Coast on Day 2, then overnight on the Westman Islands (Day 3) before heading to Reykjavík.
  • 7 days: Head to Snæfellsnes, ideally overnight, or as a day trip.
  • 8 days: Add another day in Reykjavík (and/or more excursions).
  • 9 days: Day-trip from Reykjavík to Borgarnes and the Reykholt Valley, or spend some time here on the way up to Snæfellsnes.

Rick’s Best 10-Day Iceland Road Trip

With enough time, it's possible to see Reykjavík, drive the entire Ring Road route, including the South Coast, side-trip to the Westman Islands, and hit the Golden Circle highlights. The 10-day itinerary outlined here assumes you've rented a car (or campervan) and sets a fast pace, with several long driving days (and one-night stands) in a row. The more time you can devote to the Ring, the more relaxed and rewarding your circuit will be.

Day 1:  Arrive, pick up car, stop at the Blue Lagoon on the way into Reykjavík (sleep in Reykjavík)

Day 2:  Reykjavík (sleep in Reykjavík)

Day 3:  Begin the Ring Road drive by heading to Borgarnes, then Skagafjörður (sleep in the Skagafjörður area)

Day 4:  Drive the Tröllaskagi Peninsula, stopping in Siglufjörður and Akureyri; spend the evening heading to the Mývatn lake area (sleep in Mývatn)

Day 5:  Mývatn area and Húsavík port town (sleep in Mývatn)

Day 6:  Head to the Eastfjords, taking in Dettifoss falls or Stuðlagil canyon en route (sleep in Seyðisfjörður)

Day 7:  Along the Eastfjords to the southeast — the Vatnajökull area (sleep in Höfn, Jökulsárlón, or the Skaftafell area)

Day 8:  South Coast sights (sleep along the South Coast)

Day 9:  Westman Islands day trip (sleep along the South Coast)

Day 10:  Golden Circle highlights en route to Reykjavík (sleep in Reykjavík)

Day 11:  Drop off car and fly out

  • With 9 days: Spend only one night in Mývatn (and skip Húsavík) — or make Borgarnes your first overnight, and blitz Reykjavík and the Blue Lagoon at the end of your trip.
  • 11 days: Add a Snæfellsnes detour, another day in Reykjavík, or overnight in Akureyri.
  • 12–14 days: Add an excursion: Þórsmörk or Skaftafell hike, glacier visit, volcano tour, or whale watching
  • Westfjords alternative: If you don't have this much time to spare but still want a taste of remote Iceland, consider a few days in the Westfjords.

Extra Considerations

Time of year: These suggested itineraries assume you'll visit in summer, when daylight is virtually endless and roads are clear. In the off-season, you'll want to stay closer to the capital.

Blue Lagoon scheduling: The Blue Lagoon is located between Reykjavík and Keflavík Airport, so it's easy to combine a soak with your flight. These plans assume you'll arrive in the morning and stop at the Blue Lagoon on your way into town. But it works equally well to visit the Blue Lagoon on your departure day if you have a late flight. Whenever you go, reserve the Blue Lagoon in advance.

Westman Islands weather: Ferries to the Westman Islands are weather-dependent, so have a plan B ready. Don't schedule a return from the islands on the same day as an onward flight from Iceland; give yourself at least a one-night buffer.

Without a car: Base in Reykjavík and book day-trip excursions to the Golden Circle, Snæfellsnes, South Coast, Blue Lagoon, Westman Islands, or Þórsmörk. It's possible to fly from Reykjavík to Akureyri, a hub for tours in the north (Mývatn, Siglufjörður, whale watching) or to Höfn, near the glacier lagoons.

Ian Watson is a co-author of the Rick Steves Iceland guidebook.