5 Day Itinerary Iceland: Hidden Gems and Classics

Many people dream of seeing the natural wonders that are dispersed around the nordic nation, Iceland. From bursts of green, orange and red twinkling in the sky, volcanic marvels and green fjords, Iceland captures the imaginations of adventurers from all scenes of the world.

Did you know that it would only take you 12-13 hours to drive around the entire country of Iceland? This essentially means travellers can see all parts of the country in a short number of days – as you will see in this 5 day itinerary Iceland.

This Iceland vacation itinerary will lead you around the awe-inspiring coastal cliffs and mythical mountains to discover the most iconic and cherished parts of Iceland.

Let’s explore what a 5-day itinerary for Iceland entails, and the wonders that you’ll unearth along the way. And be sure to check out my post on everything you need to know before visiting Iceland, to be well prepared.

5 Day Itinerary Iceland: How to Get to there and How to Get Around

If you are flying into Iceland from abroad, you’ll arrive at the Keflavík International Airport (KEF), located 50-minutes from Reykjavik. The capital city also has an airport, but it only services domestic flights or flights to Greenland.

Flights to Reykjavik

Keflavik Airport is also only about half an hour from the Blue Lagoon. This is why most visitors tend to visit the Blue Lagoon on the first or last day of their trips. In this 5 day itinerary Iceland, I have suggested visiting the Blue Lagoon on the last day of your vacation.

Don’t miss reading My Guide to the Blue Lagoon and is the Premium Package Worth it?

brush and small mountain in distance in iceland
Standard Icelandic stunning view

Getting from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik

The airport shuttle service provides fly buses that will take you to Reykjavik. You can choose your hotel as a drop-off point or the central bus terminal (BSI terminal) in the city centre. 

There are 2 companies that run airport buses. You can buy tickets for the Flybus onboard Icelandair flights. Grayline is the other company.

⇒ Save Money & Time – Book Your Transfer from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik

Seljalandsfoss iceland waterfall
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Getting around Iceland

Without question, the best way to see Iceland is to Hire a Car.  Not only will it save you a fortune it is the best way to see most of the sites in 3 days in Iceland. Most of the key sites are free eg the Golden Circle so if you have a car costs drop dramatically – especially if you are with a group.

And if you are going to hire a car for your Iceland trip then the best option is to pick it up at Keflavik airport. This will save you the transfer cost between the airport and Reykjavik. This is one of my top travel tips for Iceland.

lake and blue sky in iceland

5 Day Iceland Travel Itinerary: Day 1: The Golden Circle Tour

The Golden Circle tour is Iceland’s most popular day trip. This is generally a full day tour which departs from Reykjavik around 8am and returns at 5pm. If your flight is arriving a bit later you can opt for an afternoon tour around the Golden Circle.

The core of the Golden Circle tour is the following 3 activities

lake at pingvellir Iceland
lake at pingvellir

Pingvellir National Park

Pronounced Thingvellir in English, the park is a UNESCO world heritage site and holds historical significance – it’s the location where Iceland’s first parliament was held.

Thingvellir National Park is located 40-minutes from Reykjavik and has several attractions. It’s geologically unique, where you can see a continental divide between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.

icelandic flag at pingviller
Icelandic flag at Pingvellir

In the southern part of the park lies the largest natural lake in Iceland, the Thingvallavtn (Pingvallavatn). You can dive or go snorkelling here, or simply enjoy the scenery.

Geysir Thermal Area

After exploring the park, it’ll be a 40-minute drive to the Geysir thermal area. “Geysir” is a geyser in the geothermal area along the Golden Circle. Get your cameras ready to snap pictures of bubbling mud pots, springs shooting up boiling water and steaming air from the earth.

Smoke from geysir iceland
Smoke from geysir iceland

Along the way, before you arrive at the Geysir, you’ll pass by a lovely farm restaurant, the Efstidalur II, that provides some delicious foods.

Gullfoss Waterfalls

Just a quick 10-minute drive from Geysir is one of Iceland’s most iconic falls found in the Hvítá glacial river. It’s a wide, two-tiered waterfall that cascades down a 32-meter drop. For me this was the most stunning waterfall in Iceland.

gulfoss iceland in summer
gulfoss in summer

There are several viewpoints where you can take pictures from. Be mindful that you should wear waterproof clothing and shoes when exploring these spectacular natural wonders.

Gullfoss iceland in october
Gullfoss in October

Boutique Hotels in Reykjavik

Reykjavik has a fantastic boutique hotel scene with some great high end design options as well as some interesting concept hotels.

The classic Reykjavik boutique hotel is Hotel Borg. This was essentially Iceland’s first boutique hotel and is still modern in style and delivering on luxury. It also has a fantastic location on Austurvöllur Square, home to Reykjavik’s unique cathedral.

⇒ Read more Reviews on TripAdvisorBook Now

hotel borg iceland double room
hotel borg iceland double room

101 Reykjavik is a member of the Design Hotels group and is all about sleek and minimalist black and white design. It features the work of local artists and a very stylish bar.

⇒ Read more Reviews on TripAdvisorBook Now

101reykjavik hotel double room
101reykjavik hotel double room

Normally I would never recommend staying at a hostel. However, Reykjavik has two unique hostel concepts and staying at these may give you more cash to enjoy Icelandic lobster.

Kex is the Icelandic word for biscuit. This really has nothing to do with anything but this is the perfect place to stay for solo travelers who like a bit of luxury. They have a fantastic bar and restaurant with live music and wine prices that are dirt cheap for Reykjavik.

They offer singles and doubles (as well as dorms – shudder) which are simple in design but still clean and stylish as this is Iceland.

⇒ Read more Reviews on TripAdvisorBook Now

kex hostel iceland twin room
kex hostel iceland twin room

The second hostel option is the Galaxy Luxury Pod Hotel. This is luxurious budget accommodation (I think that is an oxymoron but will continue). The only option here is a dorm room but instead of a bunk bed you will have your own enclosed pod. And there is a virtual reality gaming room.

⇒ Read more Reviews on TripAdvisorBook Now

galaxy pod hostel iceland.jpg
galaxy pod hostel

If you’re looking to keep all of your cash for full on day trips and Icelandic lamb Air bnb have loads of properties in Reykjavik so this could be a great way to experience real Iceland.

If you’re planning some solo travel don’t miss my posts on the best Singles Holidays over 40, vacations for over 50 singles, the best singles ski holiday options, the 30 best singles travel groups, Bali Retreats for Singles and some fantastic solo spa breaks.

Iceland Trip Itinerary Day 2: Bláfjöll Country Park and Reykjavik South Coast

Upon arriving in Bláfjöll Country Park, you’ll have a couple of hours to spend discovering one of Iceland’s secret natural gems, the Þríhnúkagígur volcano.

After the awe-inspiring venture, drive to the south coast of Reykjavik, where you’ll spot incredible natural attractions and awe-inspiring landscapes.

icelandic blue sky with clouds

Bláfjöll Country Park

Begin your second day in Iceland by driving 20km to the east of Reykjavik, where you’ll arrive in Bláfjöll Country Park in the late morning. One of Iceland’s greatest natural phenomenons, an empty volcanic magma chamber of Þríhnúkagígur volcano, is found here.

inside the volcano tour

The tour to the chambers or Inside the Volcano begins with a 3km hike, followed by a cable cart ride that descends 120m into the heart of the dormant volcano.

inside the volcano iceland

After the thrilling experience in the scarlet, orange volcano, drive to the small town of Hveragerði, nicknamed the earthquake town. There are supermarkets and a cafe here – the perfect place to grab some food for fueling your adventures.

Reykjavik South Coast

The scenic drive from Bláfjöll Country Park to the south coast will take you around 5 hours, depending on the weather. You’ll most likely arrive in the late evening.

Locals and international travellers are continuously blown away by the beauty that’s found along the south coast of Reykjavik.

Many travellers choose to explore the area in different ways. Embark on a group driving tour or drive around the area and find the beauty yourself. You’ll spot dried lava fields, breathtaking cliff sides and quaint fishing villages.

If you’re travelling during winter, as the night starts to fall, take a drive to the edge of Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. You might get lucky and see the celebrated Northern Lights.

best places to stay in iceland for northern lights
Rainbow over Ranga

If you’re interested in seeing the Northern Lights I highly recommend staying at Hotel Ranga in Hella. This is one of the two best Iceland Northern Lights hotel options to stay in – in my opinion.

⇒ Read Reviews of Hotel Ranga Iceland on TripAdvisorBook Now

Iceland Travel Itinerary: Day 3: Egilsstadir & the East Fjords

On the third day of your itinerary for Iceland, you’ll be venturing out to the quintessential town of Egilsstadir. The 4-hour drive to the town will reward you an array of waterfall sightings, mountainous landscapes and jagged fjords.

Egilsstadir

The town of Egilsstadir is split by Iceland’s largest river, Lagarfljót. It’s in these waters that it’s believed the Loch Ness monster lived. Use this visit as an opportunity to discover the culture, food and folklore found in the east of Iceland.

North Icelandic Landscape: View of Fellabaer Village (Egilsstadir)
North Icelandic Landscape: View of Fellabaer Village (Egilsstadir)

These parts of Iceland are also the only regions where you’ll spot wild reindeer roaming around. The tree-covered grounds are also particularly rare on the island and a great place to go for a light stroll is at the Hallormsstaðaskógur National Forest.

lake near egilsstadir iceland
lake near egilsstadir iceland

The East Fjords

The east fjords are known globally for their wild beauty, and often the scene of Viking inspired movies and series. Charming fishing villages and glaciers surround the steep cliffs that are nestled along the coast.  And they’re often complemented with thundering waterfalls and crystal clear bodies of water.

Boutique Hotels in Egilsstadir

Hotel 1001 Nott is a luxury family-owned hotel on a quiet lake about 4km from Egilsstadir. Every room has floor to ceiling windows and contemporary and modern design.

hotel nott 101 iceland
hotel nott 101 iceland

The restaurant at Hotel 1001 Nott also has floor to ceiling windows to take advantage of the beautiful vistas – and it is well known for its reindeer burgers.

⇒ Read more Reviews on TripAdvisorBook Now

Or why not stay at an Icelandic farmhouse? Hotel Eyvindara is another family-run hotel just 2 km from Egilsstadir. Many of their simple and modern rooms also have private balconies. Their restaurant serves a mix of Icelandic and international dishes.

⇒ Read more Reviews on TripAdvisorBook Now

⇒ Austria has everything from mountains to lakes to fantastic food to the Sound of Music and so much more – find out where to go in my Austria Itinerary, Innsbruck Highlights and the best things to do in Graz.

Iceland Travel Itinerary: Day 4: Husavik & Akureyri

A leisurely drive of around 3 hours will take you from Egilsstadir to the coastal town Husavik, which is famous for whale-watching and for its role in the fantastic Eurovision Song Contest Film: The Story of Fire Saga.

Given that the main spectacle is the chance to watch whales breaching over the water, try to leave Eglisstadir as early as possible to reach Husavik, and then Akureyri.

Husavik

Thousands of travellers are drawn to Husavik to catch the chance of spotting whales. On the traditional whale tour, you’ll also often encounter the harbour porpoise, the titanic blue whale and plenty of white-beaked dolphins.

Once you’ve gotten your thrill of seeing the sea life, visit the Exploration Museum and Whale Museum, to discover even more weird and wonderful facts about these sea creatures.

husavik iceland whale tail

Akureyri

An hours drive from Husavik is Akureyri, the second largest town of Iceland which holds a vibrant, bustling population. And with a city this big, an exciting array of activities await you.

Consider doing something you’ve probably never done before, visit an arctic botanical garden. The garden encompasses every flower species native to Iceland, and fairy-like paths will lead you through the wonderful scenery. Entrance is free, a nice bonus.

Akureyri church iceland 5 days iceland itinerary
Akureyri church iceland

End of the day by dining at Strikið, one of the best restaurants in the country. The classy establishment shows off views of the surrounding fjords. Those brave enough for the cold can choose to enjoy their meal of the terrain with even better views.

Spend the night in Akureyri before making your way back to Reykjavik.

Hotel Akureyri is a super cute and quirky boutique hotel with micro suites in downtown Akureyri. They have a mix of rooms that feature ocean views or sloping ceilings or private balconies.

⇒ Read more Reviews on TripAdvisorBook Now

Photo by Arnaldur Halldórsson / 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Hotel Kea is located in the heart of Akureyri next to its famous church. Their 104 rooms have contemporary wooden floorboards and modern interior design. They also have an excellent in house restaurant Mulaberg Bistro & bar.

⇒ Read more Reviews on TripAdvisorBook Now

⇒ Head East for more interesting European experiences from Czech Spa Towns to things to do in Riga and things to do in Latvia.

Reykjavik Itinerary: Day 5: Back to Reykjavik to Explore the City and/or visit the Blue Lagoon

After a good night’s rest in Akureyri, start your morning bright and early, and journey back to Reykjavik. The drive will take you approximately 5 hours. This will be your last day to experience the capital of Iceland.

Depending on the time of your flight, you may well be able to explore Reykjavik and visit the world-famous Blue Lagoon on your way to Keflavik airport.

sun voyager sculpture reykjavik iceland
sun voyager sculpture reykjavik iceland

If you are short on time I would recommend prioritizing a visit to the Blue Lagoon. Reykjavik is a very cute town with lots of atmosphere but the Blue Lagoon is a genuinely unique experience that you won’t encounter elsewhere.

City Life in Reykjavik

Start your day wandering along the streets and through the charming neighbourhood. Or venture to Reykjavik’s Old Harbor, which shows off the icy sea waters and views of Mount Esja in the background. Don’t miss the stunning Sun Voyager sculpture on the harbor.

reykjavik street art
reykjavik street art

There are plenty of museums that can be visited in the Icelandic capital. Choose between visiting the Saga Museum, the Maritime Museum or the National Museum of Iceland. A visit will most likely take you 1-2 hours, which leaves you with time to wander the lively streets.

inside Reykjavik Harpa concert hall
Reykjavik Harpa concert hall

Visit the tallest church in Iceland – the Hallgrimskirkja which has fantastic views over Reykjavik and if you’re a coffee-lover, pop into Reykjavik Roasters for a fantastic cup of coffee.

Hallgrimskirkja Church reykjavik iceland
Hallgrimskirkja Church

Blue Lagoon

After exploring Reykjavik, venture to the Blue Lagoon, which is one of the most popular things to do in Iceland. The man-made lagoon, which features milky blue waters, is supplied by warm waters from Svartsengi, the nearby geothermal power plant. Travellers enjoy taking dips in the water or venturing the spa and resort.

lava restaurant iceland reviews
Grabbing a drink in the blue lagoon

It’s recommended you book a ticket in advance to skip the queues to get into the Blue lagoon. This is a must-do during your 5 day Itinerary Iceland and a perfect way to finish your vacation.

blue lagoon iceland reviews

Blue Lagoon is a 50-minute drive from the city centre. You can take Reykjanesbraut, Highway 42, through to Grindavíkurvegur, Highway 43, and then simply follow the signs to Blue Lagoon and then drive on to Keflavik airport once you’ve finished.

blue lagoon reviews

The Blue Lagoon is open from 8 am – 8 pm, and ticket prices will vary depending on the time.

Best Time to Visit Iceland

While it’s not a problem to visit Iceland all-year-round, different seasons provide different opportunities for travellers.

iceland big sky and colourful land
The amazing colors of Iceland

5 days in Iceland during summer is always going to be great for outdoor adventure tours and hikes through the wildlife. Summer will last from June to August, and it’s one of the most popular times for visiting the country.

However, the shorter days in the winter months will create a better opportunity to see the glorious Northern Lights. You can also spend more time visiting museums, cosying up by the fire and galavanting in the snowy forests. September to mid-April are the coldest months in Iceland.

gulfoss iceland in summer from above
gullfoss in summer f

Things to Know before you go to Iceland

⇒ If you have not hired a 4 WD car check in with your hotel on where you are going to make sure that your car will be ok. Quite a few roads are 4WD only and they show up quickly.

⇒ There is no need to buy a SIM card for Iceland. Indeed my UK provider Vodafone covered me under my normal UK plan.

icelandic blue sky with clouds

⇒ Also, there is wifi virtually everywhere in Iceland and it is almost always free. This is from the hotels to the major tourist attractions.

⇒ You can save a lot of money by grabbing your lunch at a supermarket. The supermarkets in Iceland are great – loads of good quality produce.

⇒ Icelandic chocolate is also delicious. We also bought crisps, dips etc at the supermarket for pre-dinner snacks. A key item you must try whilst in Iceland is the national yoghurt Skyr.

colorful land of geysirs iceland
colorful land of geysirs

⇒ Wine is very expensive in Iceland. However, there are several ways around this. Firstly when you arrive in Iceland and go to baggage claim there is a giant duty and tax-free store. Iceland is I believe the only place in the world to have shopping that is both tax and duty-free.

⇒ Virtually everywhere in Iceland accepts cards – even the toilets. This is much easier than dealing with cash. It is also quite easy to pay individually when you are in a group.

Shortcut Travel Toolkit
Ready to Book? Here are my travel favourites:

⇒ For accommodation Booking.com – great prices, great clear layout of accommodation options & brilliant for cancellation (& good photos!)

⇒ Or feel like a local by staying at an airbnb or having one of their great local experiences Airbnb

⇒ For flights skyscanner.net – always have the cheapest prices and great tools to help easily figure out if it would be better to leave the day before etc

⇒ For car hire rentalcars.com – huge range of options and a price match guarantee

⇒ Every trip is improved if you know at least a little bit of the local language – Rosetta Stone is the best and often have great getting started deals.

Skip the Line tours – Viator have over 14,000 of these – I am always so happy when I have pre-booked one of these! And you can cancel most Viator tours with full money back if you’re more than 24 hours out

⇒ And finally and super important – Roam Right for Travel Insurance have an excellent rating and lots of choice. I particularly like their policies that just cover medical or car rental. They also have great options for adventurous travellers.

⇒ Looking for some travel inspiration? Itineraries not only help you plan a trip they can also help you to figure out where you want to go next. Check out my Austria Itinerary, Nova Scotia Itinerary, Colombia Itinerary 2 Weeks, Chile Itinerary 2 Weeks, Everest Base Camp Trek Itinerary, Self Drive Namibia, Jordan Itinerary, Sicily Itinerary 7 Days, Turkey Itinerary 7 Days, Cappadocia Itinerary in Turkey, 3 Days in Iceland, 5 Day Itinerary Iceland, Sydney Itinerary, Gold Coast Itinerary, Perth Itinerary, Scotland Itinerary 7 Days, Scotland Itinerary 10 Days, Seoul Itinerary 5 Days Istanbul 3 Day Itinerary and Korea Itinerary.

icelandic home on the horizon

Get Ready to Embark on a 5 Day Trip to Iceland

The strikingly beautiful landscapes in Iceland will leave you breathless, no matter how many times you’ve explored the nordic country. Fortunately, the country is so small; it allows travellers the opportunity to discover all the magical destinations and natural wonders.

Perhaps 5 days may be too long for you. If so, be sure to check out my best Iceland Itinerary for 3 days, which includes many fantastic ventures.

icelandic horse up close
Icelandic Horse

Who Paid for What in this Post?

This post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.

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