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Are the roaring waterfalls, snow-capped mountains and steamy hot springs of Iceland calling out to you? Check out our easy 5 day Iceland road trip itinerary to find out how you can see all this and more during your trip. 

By the end of your 5 days in Iceland, you’ll be totally spellbound and probably already planning your next trip before you’ve even left the country!

Easy 5 Day Iceland Road Trip Itinerary For First Time Visitors

Iceland Golden Circle

If you’re planning a 5 day trip to Iceland then we’d highly recommend a self drive Iceland itinerary. You’ll be free to explore the best of the country without being tied to specific timings while avoiding some of the hustle, bustle and jostle that can come with busy coach tours. 

One of the main reasons why we’ve labelled this particular Iceland road trip itinerary as “easy” is because we’ve tried to split up the driving to ensure you won’t be in the car for more than a few hours per day in total. We’ve also tried to build the driving time up as you spend longer in Iceland and get better used to your rental car. 

You should also find that this Iceland itinerary follows the main roads apart from the odd dirt track to get into the attractions themselves. Despite having to drive on the right hand side in Iceland, once you’re out of Reykjavik, you will find the drive pleasant. Hardly any cars are around and incredible scenery awaits at every single turn.

5 Days in Iceland Road Trip Map

Here’s a quick look at our self drive Iceland itinerary. Read on for full info on each starred destination plus some road trip tips and other important must-knows for your trip to Iceland.

Days 1-2 in Reykjavik: 1 hour of driving
Day 3 in the Golden Circle: 3 hours of driving (including a grocery store pit stop)
Day 4 along the South Coast: 3.5 hours of driving
Day 5 at the Blue Lagoon: 4 hours of driving

Are you ready for your 5 day Iceland road trip? Let’s go! (Who’s got shotgun?!)

Is this Iceland itinerary not quite what you were after? We also offer custom travel planning services!

Days 1-2: Reykjavik

Reykjavik is Iceland’s capital. As it’s a small city, you can easily see the top sights in just one or two days making it a fantastic European city break option. However, do note that you’re likely flying into Keflavik Airport, which is actually about an hour from Reykjavik itself. 

After that initial drive, if you’re staying in the capital, then you shouldn’t need a car to get around Reykjavik. Walking between the top sights is sufficient! 

Reykjavik is also a great base for Northern Lights tours if you’d rather head out in a group than as a couple. Here’s what we recommend you add to your two night Reykjavik itinerary.

Hallgrimskirkja

Hallgrimskirkja

Hallgrimskirkja, the largest church in Iceland, is one of the most iconic images of Reykjavik. 

It was named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson and is said to have been designed to look like the rocks, mountains and glaciers of Iceland’s epic landscape. Its architecture really is something else entirely! 

Plus, there’s an observation deck at the top offering 360 degree views of the city, the surrounding mountains and out towards the ocean. Note: The tower is closed on Sundays from 10.30am – 12.15pm due to mass.

Sólfarið – Sun Voyager Sculpture

The Sun Voyager, Reykjavik

Another iconic Icelandic landmark is Sólfarið aka the Sun Voyager sculpture. 

Built in the 1980s to commemorate Reykjavik’s 200th anniversary, it looks a little like a Viking ship. However, the concept behind it is one of a “dreamboat” and ode to the sun. It’s a promise of undiscovered territory and a dream of hope, progress and freedom. 

Whether you get the design concept or not, it’s a beautiful piece of art, which overlooks the ocean and looks especially beautiful during the ‘golden hour’ (aka that last hour of sunlight as the sun is setting).

Harpa Concert Hall

Harpa Concert Hall

You might be sensing a theme here but the Harpa Concert Hall is another of Iceland’s most iconic landmarks. And it’s once again right here in the capital city! 

The building itself is fairly new (it opened in 2011) and is an obscure mix of steel and glass. But it’s the Iceland Symphony Orchestra you make the trip for. 

You might not know this but Iceland is home to a number of musical stars – both classical ones and rockstars – and it’s something the country is really quite proud of!

Reykjavik Street Art Walking Tour

Reykjavik Street Art

Did you know that Reykjavik is one of the most famous cities in the world for street art? No? Well, now you do! 

There are so many murals to see that you could easily spend half a day finding them all. But they really do look incredible! 

Check out this blog for some stunning photos of the “Wall Poetry” street art initiative or this blog for a full rundown (plus video) of all the incredible street art pieces you can see in Reykjavik.

Bonus: Northern Lights Tour

Iceland Northern Lights Tour

As Reykjavik is Iceland’s capital city and where most first time visitors base themselves, it’s an excellent pickup point for most group tours. 

Although we’ve designed this 5 day Iceland itinerary to be a self-drive road trip itinerary, a Northern Lights tour will be a fantastic addition to your trip. Not only can you follow the professionals in search of the Aurora Borealis but the best tour providers will also share plenty of tips with you along the way (including how best to photograph the lights). And if you don’t see them on your first night, you’ll often get to join another tour free of charge. 

Seeing the Northern Lights is never guaranteed (check out this blog for all the things you should know about them), but with two chances to see them, we’ve got our fingers crossed for you. This is why we recommend spending two full days in Reykjavik – just in case you need to head out on more than one tour if you choose to do this during your time here.

Check out Get Your Guide for some fantastic Northern Lights tour options >>>

Where To Stay In Reykjavik

Although Reykjavik is small, it’s comparatively busier than the rest of Iceland. And as you have to drive on the right hand side of the road, we wanted to keep things easy in this Iceland itinerary by providing you with some hotel options that have decent parking, are fairly central and have breakfast included. So once you’re parked up, you can just leave the car there and explore on foot for the full two days of your Reykjavik itinerary.

Check out more Reykjavik hotels on Hotels.com >>>

Day 3: The Golden Circle

On your third day in Iceland, it’s time to grab your rental car and head out in search of some of Iceland’s most spectacular scenery. 

Nicknamed ‘The Land of Ice and Fire’, Iceland is a dramatic mix of snow-capped mountains, jet black beaches, roaring waterfalls, erupting geysers, glistening lakes and more. 

And some of the best of Iceland’s landscapes can be found within the aptly named ‘Golden Circle’. We recommend you start early in order to enjoy all of this in one day.

Thingvellir National Park

Church in Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

The visitor centre at Thingvellir National Park (where we recommend you start) is roughly 50 minutes in the car from Reykjavik, so it’s ideal to see this part of the Golden Circle on your way to your next hotel (or better yet, quaint wooden cabin). 

On the way, we’d recommend heading to a grocery store just outside of Reykjavik like one of the Bónus stores on Route 1, so you don’t have to eat out every night as this can quickly get expensive. 

From the Hakið Visitor Centre in Thingvellir, you won’t have to walk far before finding a stunning viewing platform and the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates either side of a sloping path. This is known as the great Almannagjá fault – and it’s incredible to see! 

After that, we’d recommend spending the next 3-4 hours walking in this area if you can as you’ll be treated to multiple waterfalls including the famous Öxarárfoss Waterfall (where Game of Thrones was filmed), as well as lots of lakes, mountains in the background and even a little church parish. 

Check out our special blog post for all the details about this stunning walk >>>

Gullfoss Falls

gullfoss-waterfall-iceland

Gullfoss is the A-list star and crown jewel of the Golden Circle. In fact, this area of Iceland gets its name from this waterfall (Gullfoss = “Golden Falls”) as in the summer, the waterfall turns a muddy brown colour due to various types of sediment winding its way through the crevasse. 

Gullfoss is about an hour from Thingvellir National Park and thanks to long wooden walkways (and lots of steps!) it’s possible to see Gullfoss from a number of different angles. You’ll probably be exclaiming “Wow!” every single time! 

Personally, I’d say Gullfoss is particularly beautiful in the colder months like winter or early spring, as rather than a muddy brown colour, you’ll be treated to ice blue colours instead. 

Entry to the waterfall viewpoints are free – you don’t even have to pay for parking!

Geysir Hot Spring Area & Strokkur Geysir

strokkur-geysir-iceland-hot-spring

Another highlight of the Golden Circle is the Geysir Hot Spring Area, which is just 15 minutes away from Gullfoss by car. 

This is your chance to see a number of hot springs bubbling and boiling like witches’ cauldrons in just one area. But I think it’s safe to say that the almighty Strokkur Geysir (aka The Churn) steals the show. 

It erupts every few minutes and throws hot steam well over 20 metres in the air every single time – incredible! 

Entry to this area is free although there is a donation box at the entrance if you want to leave a little something to help keep this area beautiful. 

Top Tip: Stand to the left hand side of Strokkur and keep an eye on it. Just before the geysir erupts, you should be able to see a bright blue bubble. This is the signal that the geysir is just about to erupt and is almost as stunning as seeing the actual eruption itself.

Secret Lagoon

Secret Lagoon Spa in Iceland

From the geysirs, head south for roughly 30 minutes and you’ll get the chance to soak in a natural hot spring yourself – a must when in Iceland! 

Locals have been bathing in hot springs for hundreds of years and it’s amazing to be able to follow in their footsteps. Not least because these hot springs are incredibly relaxing and are the magic ingredient for great skin.

Kept at a constant temperature between 38-40 degrees Celsius year-round and found outside in nature, the Secret Lagoon (the Blue Lagoon’s lesser known distant relative and oldest of all the swimming pools in Iceland) offers natural water, picturesque surroundings and a unique Icelandic experience. 

The Secret Lagoon doesn’t have any timed entry, so once you’re inside, you’re welcome to stay for as long or as little as you like (until 8pm in the winter, 10pm in the summer). Because daily coach tours usually arrive at the Secret Lagoon between 2.30-5pm, we’d suggest coming for a twilight session after 5pm and staying for at least a couple of hours. 

Once you’ve finished relaxing, be sure to take a wander along the wooden paths surrounding the lagoon to see the boiling hot springs nearby.

Is this the best way to end your third day in Iceland? Quite possibly. Even better if you can time it with an epic sunset or maybe even the Northern Lights dancing overhead!

Quick Note: You must shower nude before entering the pool. This can be a bit of a shock if you’re not aware of this in advance. Alongside this, there are a few other things to know before your trip to an Icelandic hot spring, so do take note of them here.

Where To Stay In The Golden Circle

Although there are hotels dotted around the area, we think nothing beats staying in a quaint cabin right at the heart of the Golden Circle. Some even come with their very own hot tubs! Here’s our pick of where to stay in and around the Golden Circle.

Check prices of more hotels on Hotels.com >>>

Day 4: The South Coast

Although epic waterfalls can be found throughout Iceland, there are a number of famous ones dotted along the South Coast. This, combined with the black sand beaches you can find in this area, make the South Coast the perfect area for a full day of exploration. Here’s what we recommend your Iceland South Coast itinerary should look like.

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss

First up on the list of waterfalls to see along the South Coast of Iceland is Seljalandsfoss.  At over 60 feet, Seljalandsfoss is a total beauty! And you can actually walk behind this one (providing it’s safe to do so), which makes for such unique photos and memories.

Gljúfrabúi

Gljúfrabúi Waterfall

Within a quick five minute walk of Seljalandsfoss, you’ll come to a series of smaller waterfalls with the crowning jewel at the end going to Gljúfrabúi. 

This “secret” waterfall is hidden inside an open-topped cave. The only way to see it is to either climb over some steep rocks and cliffs or wade through deep water. 

You could technically just lean around the corner with your camera like we did (we were ill prepared for wading!); the only problem with this is that you’ll only see the bottom of the waterfall rather than the full thing.

Skógafoss

Skogafoss waterfall from above

It’s time to hop back in the car (for roughly 30 minutes) to go and see another popular Icelandic waterfall: Skógafoss. 

You can get up close and personal with this waterfall as there’s nothing stopping you from standing right in front of it (save for getting supremely wet!).

Or you can choose to take in the unique views of it from above – providing you climb the 500 steep steps in order to do so! It’s well worth it for unique views of the waterfall as well as outstanding views of the surrounding countryside.

Sólheimasandur Plane Crash Site

Crashed planed in Sólheimasandur, Iceland

Just a few minutes drive from Skógafoss is the sprawling black sand beach of Sólheimasandur. After the hour-long walk to the beach from the car park, you’ll be met with a very unusual sight indeed – a plane crash! 

It’s from the 1970s (thankfully, no one was hurt at the time!) and you can climb inside the plane if you want to. Although we had no idea this existed before our own trip to Iceland, it seems to have become quite the little tourist trap over the years as we now see it mentioned everywhere. 

And to be honest, it’s easy to see why! 

Aside from the jet black sand that goes on for miles and miles and the unique plane crash site, there are also snow-capped mountains in the distance. We actually got engaged with those very mountains in the background!

Vik

Vik, Iceland

If you’re in the mood for yet more black sand beaches, then just 20 minutes down the road from Sólheimasandur is the infamous village of Vik (aka Vík í Mýrdal).

Here, you’ll find ancient rock formations akin to what you’ll see at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Vik village is also well worth a look for its lighthouses, scenic church and surrounding landscapes.

Where To Stay In Vik

As you’re now this far East, we’d recommend staying close to Vik. You can then start the long drive back to the airport (via Kerid Crater and the Blue Lagoon) the next day after a decent night’s sleep. Here’s where we recommend you stay near Vik.

Check prices of more Vik hotels on Hotels.com >>>

Day 5: Kerid Crater & Blue Lagoon

As the Blue Lagoon is just 25 minutes from the airport, it makes sense to see this on your way back if you have time and have booked in advance. Along the way, be sure to make time to see Kerid Crater too – another beautiful gem of the Golden Circle.

Kerid Crater

Kerid Crater, Iceland

Kerid Crater is roughly two hours from Vik and helps to break up the long drive back. Here, you’ll find a deep volcanic crater that is filled with bright blue water. 

It takes just a few minutes to hike to the bottom of it and there are benches dotted around when you get there for beautiful Instagram photos. When we went a few years ago, it cost 400 ISK to see it.

Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon

Just short of 1.5 hours from Kerid Crater (and just 25 minutes from the airport) is Insta-famous Blue Lagoon. 

Although we personally prefer the natural vibe of the Secret Lagoon, a visit to the Blue Lagoon is well worth it if you have the time before your flight, know you won’t be visiting Iceland again anytime soon and can afford it! 

Just remember to book tickets at least 3-4 months before your trip if you want the best pick of times and dates to coincide with your flight home.

Home

Once you’ve had the hard job of tearing yourself away from the hot waters of the Blue Lagoon, it’s time for the short drive back to the airport to hand in your car and wave goodbye to Iceland from the plane window. Hopefully you’ll agree that it’s been one hell of a trip!

Where To Stay In Iceland

Reykjavik

Although there’s a fair amount of choice of where to stay in Iceland, this 5 day road trip itinerary focuses on three main areas: Reykjavik, the Golden Circle and Vik. As a recap, here’s where we recommend you stay in each area.

Top Places To Stay In Reykjavik

Check out more Reykjavik hotels on Hotels.com >>>

Top Places To Stay In The Golden Circle

Check prices of more hotels on Hotels.com >>>

Top Places To Stay In Vik

Check prices of more Vik hotels on Hotels.com >>>

When To Visit Iceland

Iceland Mountains

Honestly, Iceland has so much natural beauty to show you throughout the year. From spotting puffins in the summer to frozen waterfalls in the winter, when to visit Iceland is a big decision to make. 

To help, check out this detailed blog post written by us and other travel bloggers all about when is the best time to visit Iceland.

But the TLDR version is this: it depends on what you want to see and do during your trip. 

If you want to see the Northern Lights, then you’ll need dark nights, so a summer-time visit isn’t for you. On the other end of the spectrum, if you want to see the incredible midnight sun phenomenon then summer IS best for you after all.

We personally visited in mid-March, which was perfect for us. It was still early enough in the year to see the winter wonderland we had always imagined. But with a glimpse of spring on the horizon, the snow had melted in some places so the roads were clear and hiking in Thingvellir National Park was a lot less icy.

Maybe you need to take several trips to Iceland to decide when the best time to visit is… we think that’s the best idea yet!

Hiring A Car In Iceland: Must-Knows

Car hire in Iceland

The process of hiring a car in Iceland is much the same as elsewhere in Europe but here are the important must-knows:

  • You can easily hire a car at the airport. This is recommended as it takes just under an hour to drive to Reykjavik. Waiting to hire a car until you get to the city would really eat into your sightseeing time!
  • You need to be at least 20 years old and have had a license for 1 year to hire a car in Iceland, although some companies will prefer you to be over 21. 
  • You’ll need to be 23 years old and over in order to rent a 4×4 vehicle.
  • Under 25s will naturally incur costly surcharges when renting cars from most companies.
  • Check that you don’t have a mileage limit on your rental! We went for a great deal that turned out to have a 600 km mileage limit on it, which meant we had to do some careful planning of our driving routes to ensure we saw everything we wanted to. And even then, we still had to fork out an extra £30 when we did go over by a few miles.
  • Off-road driving is strictly forbidden and if you cause damage to the car when doing so, then you’ll be responsible for repairs as insurance won’t cover you. The popular car rental company Sixt recommends avoiding the following roads in Iceland: 578, 622, F210, F323, F337, F578, F910 and F980.
  • You’re also likely to be given a manual car unless you specifically ask for an automatic transmission.

Driving In Iceland Tips

Driving in Iceland Road

Here are our quick-fire driving in Iceland tips. For more detailed info plus other things to know before your Iceland trip, take a look at our special blog post here.

  • Keep your headlights on at all times. Yes – even on bright sunny days. It’s a requirement in Iceland.
  • Be prepared for unpredictable weather. Hence the always-on headlights.
  • Plan where you’re going to fuel up. Outside of Reykjavik and other large towns, gas stations (and other useful landmarks) are few and far between!
  • Remember to pack some snacks for the road. You never know when hanger might hit.
  • Avoid off-road driving in Iceland – it’s illegal! So yeah, just don’t do it. This is a good excuse to take to foot and try hiking instead!
  • Drive on the right. Simple… apart from the backwards roundabouts!
  • Watch out for F roads. These are the mountain roads in the highlands, which are usually gravel roads with no bridges over rivers so can be quite dangerous. If you stick to our 5 day Iceland itinerary then you shouldn’t come across these but we still wanted to point it out in case you’ll be adding to this itinerary. Alternatively, you could try some day tours to see attractions in hard-to-reach places.
  • Admire the scenery but keep your eyes on the road. All this beautiful scenery can be distracting. We saw a couple of smashed up cars along Route 1, which was a harsh reminder to be careful. If you see something you like, find somewhere safe to pull over – but don’t stop in the middle of the road!

Read More About Iceland & Plan Your Trip


We hope this 5 day Iceland road trip itinerary proves useful. You’ll truly love your time in Iceland; it’s such a beautiful country! What are you most excited to see and do? Who’s your perfect road trip buddy? Or have we left out something epic from our itinerary? Let us know in the comments below as we’d love to hear from you!

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The Complete Guide to Visiting Iceland in Winter

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