Welcome to the land of fire and ice, where natural wonders abound and breathtaking landscapes await your exploration. Iceland, a Nordic island nation located in the North Atlantic Ocean, is a destination like no other. From steaming geothermal hot springs to majestic glaciers, this unique country offers a multitude of experiences for every traveler.
Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a nature enthusiast, or a history buff, Iceland has something to captivate your senses. From the vibrant capital city of Reykjavik to the serene beauty of the countryside, Iceland is a destination that promises to leave a lasting impression.
In this article, we will guide you through the optimal duration for an Iceland trip, ensuring that you make the most of your time in this captivating country. We will explore the best time to visit Iceland, as well as provide a day-by-day itinerary that highlights the must-see attractions and experiences. So, pack your bags, put on your hiking boots, and get ready for an epic Icelandic adventure.
Best Time to Visit Iceland
Iceland’s weather is known for its unpredictability, with dramatic changes occurring within a matter of minutes. Therefore, choosing the right time to visit can greatly impact the overall experience of your trip. The best time to visit Iceland largely depends on your interests and what you hope to see and do during your visit.
Summer, from June to August, is the most popular time to visit Iceland. The weather is milder, with temperatures ranging from 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F), and the days are long, allowing for more daylight hours to enjoy outdoor activities. This is also the peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds and higher prices.
If you’re interested in witnessing the magical phenomenon of the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, the best time to visit Iceland is during the winter months, from November to February. Although the weather can be harsh, with temperatures dropping below freezing, the stunning light displays in the dark night sky make it well worth the visit.
For those seeking a balance between pleasant weather and fewer tourists, the shoulder seasons of spring (March to May) and autumn (September to October) are excellent choices. During these times, you can enjoy milder temperatures, fewer crowds, and the chance to witness the vibrant colors of the changing seasons.
It’s important to note that the weather in Iceland can be quite unpredictable no matter the time of year, and it’s always a good idea to pack layers and be prepared for varying conditions. Whether you’re exploring glaciers, hiking through national parks, or immersing yourself in the rich culture of Icelandic cities, understanding the best time to visit will ensure a more enjoyable and rewarding experience.
Duration of an Iceland Trip
When planning your trip to Iceland, one of the key considerations is how long to stay. The ideal duration of an Iceland trip depends on several factors, including your interests, budget, and the amount of time you have available. While some travelers opt for a short getaway, others prefer a more immersive journey to truly experience all that Iceland has to offer.
For a whirlwind tour of Iceland’s main attractions, a minimum of four to five days is recommended. This will allow you to explore highlights such as the Golden Circle, the Blue Lagoon, and the stunning waterfalls on the South Coast. However, keep in mind that you may feel rushed during a shorter trip, and you may not have enough time to venture beyond the most popular tourist spots.
If time permits, a seven to ten-day trip provides a more comprehensive experience. This will give you the opportunity to not only explore the popular sights but also venture off the beaten path and discover Iceland’s hidden gems. You can delve deeper into the rugged landscapes of the East Fjords, hike in the stunning Skaftafell National Park, or embark on a thrilling whale-watching adventure in Husavik.
For those seeking an even longer and more immersive experience, a two-week trip allows for a more in-depth exploration of the entire country. You can drive the entire Ring Road, which encircles the island, and discover the remote and untouched regions of the Westfjords, the highland interior, and the picturesque Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Regardless of the duration of your trip, it’s crucial to plan your itinerary carefully and prioritize the sights and activities that interest you the most. Keep in mind that Iceland’s natural beauty is vast and diverse, and there is always more to see and explore. Whether you have a few days or a few weeks, Iceland promises to leave you in awe of its breathtaking landscapes and unforgettable experiences.
Day 1: Arrival in Iceland
Welcome to Iceland! Your adventure begins as you arrive at Keflavik International Airport, located just outside of Reykjavik, the capital city. After collecting your luggage and going through customs, you can easily transfer to your accommodation in Reykjavik by either taking a taxi or utilizing one of the many shuttle services available.
Once you’ve checked in and settled into your accommodation, take some time to explore the charming city of Reykjavik. Start by strolling along the colorful streets of the city center and soaking in the unique blend of Nordic charm and modern urban vibes. You’ll find a variety of shops, cafes, and restaurants offering a taste of Icelandic cuisine.
One of the must-visit attractions in Reykjavik is Hallgrimskirkja, the iconic Lutheran church that dominates the city’s skyline. Take an elevator ride to the top of the church tower for panoramic views of the city and the surrounding landscapes. Nearby, you’ll find the charming neighborhood of Old Reykjavik, with its picturesque houses, cobblestone streets, and historic sites.
If you’re interested in learning more about Iceland’s history and culture, consider visiting the National Museum of Iceland or the Reykjavik Art Museum. Both museums offer fascinating exhibits that showcase the country’s rich heritage and artistic talents.
In the evening, indulge in a delicious dinner at one of Reykjavik’s renowned restaurants, where you can savor local specialties such as fresh Icelandic seafood, hearty stews, and traditional delicacies like fermented shark. After dinner, consider immersing yourself in the city’s vibrant nightlife scene, with its cozy pubs, trendy bars, and live music venues.
Before calling it a night, keep an eye on the sky for a chance to catch your first glimpse of the mesmerizing Northern Lights if you’re visiting during the winter months. Check the aurora forecast for the best chances of spotting this natural phenomenon, and head to a spot away from the city lights for an optimal viewing experience.
After a day of exploration and excitement, return to your accommodation and get a good night’s rest, as there are more incredible adventures awaiting you in the days to come.
Day 2: Exploring Reykjavik
On your second day in Iceland, dive deeper into the vibrant city of Reykjavik and discover more of its hidden treasures. Start your day with a hearty breakfast at a local café, fueling up for a day of exploration.
Begin by visiting the Harpa Concert Hall, an architectural masterpiece located on the waterfront. Explore the striking glass façade and admire the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the sea. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a performance or exhibition taking place inside this cultural hub.
Next, make your way to the charming Old Harbor area, where you can join a whale-watching tour. Board a boat and set sail into the Atlantic Ocean, keeping your eyes peeled for the magnificent creatures that call these waters home. From humpback whales to dolphins, this experience offers a chance to witness Iceland’s incredible marine life up close.
After the tour, take a leisurely stroll along the harbor promenade, lined with vibrant fishing boats, cozy cafes, and seafood restaurants. Stop for a delicious lunch and indulge in fresh Icelandic seafood, a true culinary delight.
Continue your exploration of Reykjavik’s cultural scene by visiting the Reykjavik Art Museum, an institution dedicated to contemporary art. The museum showcases a diverse range of Icelandic and international artworks, allowing you to immerse yourself in the thriving art scene of the city.
In the afternoon, head to Tjörnin, the city’s picturesque lake, which is often teeming with birdlife. Take a leisurely walk around the lake, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere and the views of the surrounding cityscape. If visiting during the winter months, you may even be able to lace up your ice skates and glide across the frozen lake.
End your day by pampering yourself at one of Reykjavik’s geothermal pools or spas. Relax your body and mind in the warm mineral-rich waters, experiencing the traditional Icelandic ritual of soaking in hot springs. The most famous of these is the Blue Lagoon, located a short distance from the city, offering a luxurious and rejuvenating experience.
After a day filled with exploration, culture, and relaxation, return to your accommodation in Reykjavik and reflect on the wonderful experiences you’ve had so far. With each passing day, your Icelandic adventure will continue to unfold, showcasing the incredible beauty and wonders of this captivating country.
Day 3: The Golden Circle Tour
On day three of your Iceland trip, embark on the famous Golden Circle tour, a route that takes you through some of the country’s most iconic natural and cultural attractions. Prepare for a day of awe-inspiring landscapes, historical sites, and breathtaking geological wonders.
Start your journey by heading east from Reykjavik towards the Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, you can walk between the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia, witnessing firsthand the dramatic geological forces shaping the landscape. The park is also home to the historic Althing, the world’s oldest parliamentary assembly, dating back to the 10th century.
After exploring Thingvellir, continue on to one of Iceland’s most famous attractions – the mighty Gullfoss waterfall. Marvel at the power and beauty of the cascading water as it plunges down into a rugged canyon. Get up close to feel the mist on your face and capture stunning photos of this natural wonder.
Next, make your way to the Geysir geothermal area, where you’ll witness the erupting hot springs in action. The most famous geyser in the area is Strokkur, which erupts every few minutes, shooting a column of boiling water into the air. Be sure to have your camera ready to capture this impressive display of nature’s power.
After a morning filled with natural wonders, take a break for a leisurely lunch at one of the local restaurants in the area, indulging in traditional Icelandic cuisine or international favorites.
In the afternoon, make a stop at the Fridheimar Tomato Farm, where you can discover the unique process of growing tomatoes in geothermal greenhouses. Enjoy a tour of the farm, learn about the sustainable practices, and savor a delicious meal surrounded by the lush tomato plants.
Conclude your Golden Circle tour with a visit to the Kerið volcanic crater, a mesmerizing sight with its vibrant blue lake surrounded by steep red volcanic walls. Take a walk along the rim of the crater, immersing yourself in the otherworldly allure of this natural marvel.
As the day comes to an end, return to Reykjavik with memories of the astounding natural wonders and historical landmarks you’ve explored along the Golden Circle route. Reflect on the power and beauty of Iceland’s geological wonders, and prepare for more adventures in the days ahead.
Day 4: Discovering the South Coast
Day four of your Iceland trip takes you on a journey along the stunning South Coast, renowned for its dramatic landscapes, picturesque waterfalls, and black sand beaches. Get ready to witness the raw power and beauty of nature as you explore this captivating region.
Start your day early and head east from Reykjavik, driving along the scenic Route 1. Your first stop along the South Coast is Seljalandsfoss, a majestic waterfall that’s unique because you can walk behind it. Follow the path that takes you behind the cascade, getting a truly immersive experience and a unique perspective of the falls.
Next, continue to Skógafoss, another impressive waterfall towering at a height of 60 meters (197 feet). Marvel at the thundering cascade and let the mist refresh your senses as you stand in awe of this natural wonder. If you’re up for a challenge, climb the staircase alongside the waterfall for a breathtaking view from the top.
As you continue your journey, you will pass through picturesque coastal villages and scenic landscapes. Keep an eye out for the famous Icelandic horses grazing in the fields, their gentle demeanor and unique appearance adding to the charm of the region.
Make a stop at the black sand beach of Reynisfjara, a place of haunting beauty with its striking basalt columns, roaring waves, and the towering Reynisdrangar sea stacks looming offshore. Take a leisurely walk along the beach, enjoying the serenity and captivating views of the Atlantic Ocean.
After exploring the beach, head to the nearby village of Vík, where you can savor a delicious meal at one of the local restaurants. Indulge in Icelandic specialties, such as fresh seafood or traditional lamb dishes, while taking in the breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes.
In the afternoon, set out to explore the Skaftafell National Park, a natural wonderland nestled between glaciers and picturesque mountains. Lace up your hiking boots and embark on one of the many hiking trails in the area, giving you the opportunity to witness glacial tongues, lush valleys, and pristine waterfalls. The most popular trail leads to Svartifoss, a stunning waterfall framed by towering basalt columns.
As the day comes to an end, make your way to your accommodation in the charming village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur or continue onwards to the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, where you can witness the magical sight of icebergs floating in the still waters. Reflect on the beauty and power of the South Coast as you look back on the adventures of the day, eagerly anticipating what lies ahead in the coming days of your Icelandic journey.
Day 5: Hiking in Skaftafell National Park
Day five of your Iceland trip is dedicated to exploring the mesmerizing beauty of Skaftafell National Park, a nature lover’s paradise nestled between glaciers and towering mountains. Lace up your hiking boots and get ready for an unforgettable trek through this captivating landscape.
After a hearty breakfast, make your way to the Skaftafell Visitor Center, where you can gather information and obtain maps of the hiking trails available in the park. The park offers a variety of trails, catering to different fitness levels and interests.
If you’re up for a challenging hike, embark on the Svartifoss Trail, one of the most popular routes in Skaftafell. This trail will take you through scenic woodlands, across glacial streams, and eventually to the stunning Svartifoss waterfall. Marvel at the unique hexagonal basalt columns surrounding the waterfall, creating a striking natural spectacle.
For those seeking a longer and more adventurous hike, choose the Morsárdalur Valley Trail. This trail will lead you to breathtaking viewpoints of glaciers, jagged peaks, and the mesmerizing Morsárfoss waterfall, the tallest waterfall in Iceland. The rugged beauty of the landscape will leave you in awe at every turn.
If you prefer a shorter and more leisurely hike, you can opt for the Sjónarnípa viewpoint trail or the easy walk to the glacier tongue. Both trails offer stunning views of the surrounding glaciers and mountains, allowing you to immerse yourself in the untouched beauty of Skaftafell.
As you hike through the park, keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife that calls this area home. You may spot Arctic foxes, reindeer, and a variety of bird species. The park is also a popular spot for ice climbing and glacier tours, offering unique opportunities to explore the icy wonders of the region.
After a day of outdoor adventure, make your way back to the visitor center, where you can relax and reflect on the incredible landscapes you’ve explored. If time allows, visit the exhibition at the visitor center to learn more about the park’s geology, flora, and fauna.
In the evening, return to your accommodation and take some time to rest and rejuvenate. Enjoy a delicious dinner and relish in the memories of your day, as you prepare for more exciting experiences in the upcoming days of your Icelandic adventure.
Day 6: The East Fjords
Day six of your Iceland trip takes you to the mesmerizing region of the East Fjords, a remote and untouched area known for its rugged mountains, picturesque fishing villages, and breathtaking fjords. Prepare for a day of scenic drives, charming towns, and awe-inspiring natural beauty.
Start your day by driving from your accommodation towards the East Fjords region. As you make your way along the winding roads, be prepared to be amazed by the dramatic coastline, steep mountainsides, and cascading waterfalls that greet you at every turn.
One of the must-visit towns in the East Fjords is Seydisfjordur, nestled by the shores of a beautiful fjord. Explore the vibrant art scene of Seydisfjordur as you stroll through its colorful streets lined with quaint houses and charming boutiques. Don’t miss the iconic blue church that adds to the town’s picturesque charm.
Continue your journey along the fjords, stopping at various viewpoints along the way to admire the breathtaking landscapes and capture memorable photos. Keep an eye out for the diverse birdlife that thrives in this region, as the cliffs and rocky shores serve as nesting grounds for various species.
Visit Vestrahorn, a striking mountain on the Stokksnes Peninsula, famous for its dramatic peaks and black sand beach. Take a moment to appreciate the unique beauty of this landscape, which has been featured in many films and photographs.
For outdoor enthusiasts, the East Fjords offer excellent opportunities for hiking and exploring. Consider embarking on one of the scenic hiking trails, such as the trail to Hengifoss, a majestic waterfall framed by vibrant red cliffs. The hike will reward you with stunning views and a sense of serenity as you immerse yourself in nature.
As you continue your drive through the East Fjords, take your time to soak in the peacefulness and tranquility of the area. Encounter charming fishing villages along the way, where you can stop for a leisurely lunch and savor freshly caught seafood.
As the day draws to a close, find a scenic spot to witness the mesmerizing colors of the Icelandic sunset reflecting on the tranquil waters of the fjords. Take a moment to appreciate the beauty that surrounds you and reflect on the unforgettable experiences of the day.
As you return to your accommodation, savor the memories of the enchanting East Fjords and prepare for the adventures that await you in the remaining days of your Icelandic journey.
Day 7: Whale Watching in Husavik
Day seven of your Iceland trip is dedicated to one of the most thrilling and unforgettable experiences: whale watching in Husavik, known as the whale watching capital of Iceland. Prepare for a day of adventure on the open seas as you encounter magnificent marine mammals in their natural habitat.
After breakfast, make your way to the charming town of Husavik, located on the northeastern coast of Iceland. Husavik is not only known for its abundant whale populations but also for its picturesque setting and rich maritime history.
Upon arrival, head to one of the reputable whale watching tour operators in the town. Experienced guides will provide you with safety instructions and interesting information about the different whale species you may encounter during the excursion.
Board the boat and set sail into Skjálfandi Bay, where the nutrient-rich waters attract a wide variety of marine life. Keep your eyes peeled as you cruise along the stunning coastline, searching for the magnificent creatures that call these waters home.
Whales are known to frequent the waters of Skjálfandi Bay, including humpback whales, minke whales, orcas, and even the elusive blue whale. The sight of these gentle giants breaching the surface or playfully swimming alongside the boat is an awe-inspiring experience that will stay with you forever.
While whale sightings are never guaranteed due to the unpredictable nature of wildlife, Husavik boasts one of the highest success rates for whale sightings in Iceland. Even if you’re not able to spot whales, you may encounter playful dolphins or various seabird species, adding to the excitement of the excursion.
After the exhilarating whale watching tour, take some time to explore the charming town of Husavik. Visit the Husavik Whale Museum, where you can learn more about these magnificent creatures and the importance of conservation efforts to protect their habitats.
Indulge in a delicious seafood lunch at one of the local restaurants, savoring the fresh flavors of the catch of the day. Take a leisurely stroll along the harbor, admiring the colorful fishing boats and soaking in the coastal atmosphere.
In the afternoon, consider taking a relaxing dip in the geothermal waters of the GeoSea Geothermal Sea Baths. Enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding bay as you unwind and rejuvenate in the warm mineral-rich waters, providing the perfect end to an incredible day of whale watching.
As the day comes to a close, reflect on the thrilling encounters you’ve had with the magnificent creatures of the sea and the unique experiences you’ve had in Husavik. Prepare for the journey back to your accommodation, knowing that the wonders of Iceland are far from over, with more adventures waiting for you in the remaining days of your trip.
Day 8: Relaxing in the Blue Lagoon
Day eight of your Iceland trip is dedicated to ultimate relaxation and rejuvenation at the world-famous Blue Lagoon. Nestled in a rugged lava field, this geothermal spa is renowned for its soothing warm waters and mineral-rich mud masks.
After a leisurely breakfast, make your way to the Blue Lagoon, located near the town of Grindavik, just a short drive from Reykjavik. As you approach, you’ll be greeted by the striking blue waters and the steam rising from the surface, creating a mystical and enchanting atmosphere.
Upon arrival, check in and prepare for pure indulgence. Step into the warm, milky-blue waters of the lagoon and feel your worries and tensions melt away. The silica and mineral-rich waters are believed to offer many therapeutic benefits, leaving your skin smooth and rejuvenated.
Take your time to explore the lagoon’s different amenities, including saunas, steam rooms, and relaxation areas. Indulge in the Blue Lagoon’s signature silica mud mask, applying it to your skin and allowing the minerals to work their magic. As you soak and relax in the tranquil surroundings, take in the stunning views of the volcanic landscape that surrounds the lagoon.
For an extra touch of luxury, treat yourself to a spa treatment at the Blue Lagoon’s Spa Retreat. Choose from an array of massages, facials, and body treatments, tailored to provide the ultimate pampering experience.
After indulging in the soothing waters and pampering treatments, take a break for a delicious lunch at one of the on-site restaurants. Savor Icelandic culinary delights or international cuisine while enjoying the serene views of the lagoon.
In the afternoon, continue your relaxation by lounging in one of the lagoon’s waterfall massages or enjoying a refreshing drink from the swim-up bar. Take your time to fully unwind and soak in the serenity of this natural oasis.
As the day comes to a close, bid farewell to the tranquil waters of the Blue Lagoon, feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to continue your Icelandic journey. Leave with a sense of tranquility and well-being, cherishing the memories of this unique and indulgent experience.
Head back to your accommodation and spend the evening reflecting on the memorable moments of your day at the Blue Lagoon. Rest well and prepare for the final day of your Icelandic adventure, knowing that you have experienced the ultimate relaxation amidst the wonders of Iceland.
Day 9: Departure from Iceland
Day nine marks the end of your unforgettable journey through Iceland. Although it’s time to bid farewell to this captivating country, you can still make the most of your last day before departure.
After breakfast, take a moment to reminisce about the incredible experiences and adventures you’ve had in Iceland. Whether it was witnessing the power of waterfalls, exploring the unique landscape of the East Fjords, or relaxing in the soothing waters of the Blue Lagoon, this trip has surely left a lasting impression.
If you have some time before your flight, consider exploring more of Reykjavik. Take a leisurely stroll through the city, revisit your favorite landmarks, or explore the local boutiques and shops for souvenirs to bring back home.
If you’re interested in history and culture, pay a visit to the National Museum of Iceland or the Reykjavik City Museum. Both provide a fascinating insight into Iceland’s rich heritage and offer a deeper understanding of the country’s unique traditions and customs.
Before your departure, treat yourself to a final Icelandic meal, savoring the flavors of the local cuisine. Whether it’s a traditional Icelandic lamb dish, fresh seafood, or a hearty bowl of Icelandic soup, indulge in the culinary delights one last time.
As you make your way to Keflavik International Airport for your departure, take a moment to soak in the views of the rugged landscapes, the vast open spaces, and the untouched beauty of Iceland. Reflect on the memories and experiences you’ve gathered during your time here.
Airport transfers are widely available, either by taxi or shuttle services, ensuring a comfortable journey to the airport. Remember to arrive with ample time to go through security and check-in procedures.
As your plane takes off, bid farewell to Iceland, knowing that this extraordinary adventure will forever hold a special place in your heart. Take one last glance at the striking landscapes from above, promising yourself to return one day to explore more of the wonders that this magical country has to offer.
Safe travels, and until we meet again, Iceland!
As you reflect on your Icelandic adventure, you can’t help but feel grateful for the incredible experiences and natural wonders that you’ve encountered along the way. From the vibrant city of Reykjavik to the breathtaking landscapes of the Golden Circle, the South Coast, the East Fjords, and beyond, Iceland has truly left an indelible mark on your heart and soul.
Throughout your journey, you’ve witnessed the power of cascading waterfalls, explored glaciers that seem to stretch into eternity, and marveled at the mesmerizing dance of the Northern Lights. You’ve immersed yourself in the rich history and vibrant culture of this unique Nordic island nation.
From the welcoming locals to the warm geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon, Iceland has captivated your senses and provided you with memories that will last a lifetime. The diverse landscapes, ranging from volcanic plains to lush green valleys, have continually amazed and inspired you.
Whether you embarked on thrilling adventures, such as whale watching in Husavik or hiking in Skaftafell National Park, or simply took a moment to soak in the tranquil beauty of Iceland’s natural wonders, each day was filled with awe and wonder. The pristine wilderness and untouched landscapes have reminded you of the importance of preserving and protecting our planet for future generations.
As you depart from Iceland, you carry with you not only the beauty of the land but also the warmth and hospitality of the Icelandic people. The memories you’ve made and the connections you’ve forged will forever remind you of the magic that exists in this extraordinary country.
So until we meet again, Iceland, with your rugged cliffs, hidden hot springs, and boundless beauty, keep calling to the hearts of adventurers around the world. Your captivating landscapes and rich history will continue to ignite the wanderlust within all who have had the privilege of experiencing your wonders.
Farewell for now, but know that you will always hold a special place in our hearts. Thank you, Iceland, for an unforgettable journey.