Iceland is a super popular destination in the travel community right now, and I see an Instagram photo or YouTube video from Iceland almost every day. Iceland exploded onto the travel scene within the last few years, thanks to inexpensive direct flight options from the US and a massive investment in its tourism infrastructure.
During my summer trip to the land of ice and fire, I quickly realized why everyone was writing about Iceland—it is an amazing travel destination!!
With limited time off, I opted for a one-week itinerary driving the ring road, but based on my experience, I think 2 weeks would actually be the ideal length of stay for visiting Iceland. One week on the ring road is definitely doable if you can’t commit a full two weeks, but I think 2 weeks of travel allows for more time to enjoy the natural beauty of Iceland.
Below is my ideal 2 week Iceland travel itinerary. Read the full post for in-depth details about what to see around the island of Iceland.
Day 1 & 2: Reykjavik
You will arrive to Iceland at Keflavik International Airport (code REF) which is about 1 hour outside of the city of Reykjavik. If you’re not renting a car, there is a shuttle bus that departs to the city center every half hour and you can buy tickets at the counter in the arrivals terminal. If you are driving the Ring Road (which I recommend you do!), you’ll pick up your rental car at the airport.
Need Iceland driving tips? Here are 6 things I wish I would have known before driving the Ring Road!
Although most people don’t come to Iceland to experience urban destinations, Reykjavik is actually a pretty cool city. There are a lot of interesting things happening with the local food and restaurant scene in Iceland’s capital city, as well as a cool assortment of sights and shops to explore. Icelandic blogger Unlocking Kiki has some great Reykjavik city guides that I used to explore Reykjavik. Some of the city highlights I enjoyed include:
- Harpa Concert Hall (pictured above)
- Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral
- Old port area
- Sun Voyager statue (pictured below)
A quirky and uniquely Iceland stop to add to your days in Reykjavik is the Mink Viking Portrait studio where you can dress as a viking for good quality and dramatic photos. If you’ve ever dreamed of being a Viking, here is your chance! There is also an interesting and dynamic street art scene that I enjoyed. Dedicating a night or two to exploring Reykjavik definitely won’t disappoint you!
Day 3: Golden Circle
Perhaps the most famous circuit in Iceland, the Golden Circle is a 300 km route that starts and ends in Reykjavik. The whole circuit will take about 5-6 hours at a minimum (without too long visiting each stop), so it works well to stay somewhere in the Golden Circle rather than return to Reykjavik for day 3 in Iceland.
Because this is a popular route, the roads are in great condition and are very well-marked. You’ll find navigation in Iceland is actually really easy, but I still recommend having an offline Google Map available as a backup.
Some of the keys spots you’ll want to visit in the Golden Circle include:
- Thingvellir National Park (with option for Silfra Fissure Snorkeling)
- Stroker Geysir
- Gulfoss Waterfall
- Kerid Crater Lake
- Reykjadalur Hot Spring
Unless you pack a lunch, you’ll need to make a few stops to eat. I would definitely recommend getting ice cream at Efstidalur, a sustainable dairy farm where you can watch the cows being milked while enjoying your delicious treat, as well as Lindin Restaurant, a small family run restaurant a little off the beaten trail. Another good option is Fridheimar Farm, although this is popular with tourist buses, so expect a crowd.
Day 4: Waterfalls
One of the most iconic parts of Iceland’s natural scenery are the copious waterfalls found throughout the country. There is basically any kind of waterfall you could hope for and in southern Iceland, you will find several of most famous waterfalls clustered together on a stretch of highway one.
First up will be the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, which is visible from the ring road. This foss falls directly off the side of a cliff into a pool below, plunging in a small stream which creates a rainbow filled mist. It is stunning!
Just a few steps away from Seljalandsfoss is the tucked away Gljúfrabúifoss falls. These two falls share the same parking lot, so don’t bother moving your car—simply walk over! Gljúfrabúifoss is unique because it is located inside of a small open air cave. You’ll have to do a short walk through shallow water (or if the water flow is low you’ll just walk on the rocks) to reach the falls, but it is well worth it.
Next up comes the ‘grammable Skógafoss falls, one of the most notorious waterfalls in Iceland. Also visible from the ring road, this falls has a near constant rainbow and is sure to be crowded during your visit. The thundering mist is likely to get you a little wet but you are able to get very close to these falls!
One secret from my travels in Iceland is to visit a lot of these touristy spots very early or late in the day to avoid crowds. If you are traveling in Iceland during the summer, the sun will stay up until nearly 11pm, so you can go to the falls at 9pm for a stunning Golden Hour experience!
End your day of waterfall visits with a quick dip in the Seljavallalaug public swimming pool, which is accessible off the ring road via a well-marked hiking trail. This secluded pool was built in 1923 and is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland. Pack yourself a small picnic (and drinks!) for a stunning swim surrounded by Icelandic mountains.
Day 5 & 6: Vik
Vik is the largest city in southern Iceland, making it a popular place to spend a night or two as you explore all the best parts of this region of Iceland. From blacksand beaches to sweeping views, southern Iceland is simply stunning. I wrote a separate post about the 8 best things to do in southern Iceland, many of which are easily accessible from Vik.
To help round out this itinerary, I will include a few more recommendations that didn’t make the above list! If you have ever dreamed of climbing on a glacier, Iceland is your chance! The Skaftafell glacier is a stone’s throw away from Vik and trekking on ancient ice makes for a lovely afternoon activity.
We scheduled our Skaftafell glacier hike with Extreme Iceland who provides all the gear that you’ll need. They even have hiking boots if you didn’t bring your own! You’ll meet at the warming hut at the base of the glacier, and the entire trip takes about 4 hours. The guides provide lots of information on the history of the glacier as you trek.
Another interesting activity in this area of Iceland is seeing the ruins of the Sólheimasandur airplane crash. If you’ve seen photos of Iceland in your social media research, you’ve probably seen photos of this iconic sight. At the time of my visit to Iceland, the land owners had closed the wreck location due to overcrowding, but from my research, they have reopened the crash site to foot traffic although not cars from what I can tell (here are some directions via Expert Vagabond).
Day 7: Hof
Once you’re past Vik, you’ll start to notice remote, sparse and open places—and less tour buses! There are very few cities along this stretch of the ring road, so before taking off on your drive, I would recommend stocking up on some supplies, such as food, water and biodegradable toilet paper. It can be miles and miles in between stops, so it is best to be prepared just in case!
As you continue down highway 1, the next major “city” you’ll find is Hof or Hofn but before stopping for the day, explore the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon (pictured above). This is often considered one of the most beautiful canyons in Iceland and the well-trafficked hiking trail at the top of the canyon offers sweeping views. You can also opt for a more adventurous walk in the bottom of the canyon through the shallow riverbed. We did both options and it took about 2 hours.
Continue on your drive to Hofn where you’ll stay for the evening. Located on a tiny peninsula, this surprisingly foodie town is a major fishing hub for eastern Iceland with lots of restaurants specializing in seafood forward fresh food. I would recommend trying either Pakkhaus, a delicious farm-to-table spot in an old barn, or Humarhöfnin Veitingahús, an upscale seafood restaurant renowned for its lobster dishes.
Day 8 & 9: Eastern Iceland
In eastern Iceland, you will develop an appreciation for undisturbed nature that truly makes Iceland the land of fire and ice. Although it is largely undeveloped, driving in this portion of Iceland included some of my favorite days. You’ll see less and less cars, and more and more natural diversity.
The landscapes change every hundred kilometers or so, making each day an adventure for the eyes. I particularly liked looking at the part of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano that erupted in 2010 because you can see how the wide lava flow disrupted the landscape. Other natural areas that you’ll want to visit in eastern Iceland include the Svartifoss waterfall and the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. There are daily boat tours of Jökulsárlón, but they do sell out so make sure to reserve in advance. Check out the video below to get an idea of what it is like floating among glaciers!
The largest city in eastern Iceland is probably Egilsstaðir but accommodation is spread out through this region. I would recommend booking your hotel in this area ahead of time, as it can be hard to find options the day of.
One quirky destination worth a stop in Eastern Iceland is Petra’s Stone Collection and Museum. We happened to be staying in the town where the collection is located, which is how I found about this little treasure. It is literally rock and gem museum! The museum is housed inside the former home of Petra María Sveinsdóttir who became an avid rock collector. She found most of the rocks in Iceland, most of them actually coming from Stöðvarfjörður near her hometown. It’s not a must-see, but there are some seriously cool geodes here!
Day 10 & 11: Akyreyri
Continuing on the ring road, the next major city will be Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest city. During my visit, there was a large street and music festival going on, as well as a surprisingly enjoyable local restaurant scene. We primarily used Akureyri as a jumping off point for exploring other points of interest in Northern Iceland, but it is a city worth checking out for a few hours!
Assuming that you are driving from the east, there are few fun natural sights to visit in northeast Iceland along the ring road before you reach Akyreyri:
- Dettifoss is definitely a highlight as it is the most powerful waterfall in Europe and located smack dab in the middle of Vatnajökull National Park.
- Hverir is another great place to stop for a few hours and it is literally visible from the ring road. This geothermal spot offers visitors the chance to see bubbling pools of mud and steaming fumaroles up close and personal! It absolutely reeks of sulfuric gas here, so come prepared.
- Myvatn Nature Baths are naturally heated hot springs that rival the Blue Lagoon as the most picturesque in Iceland. They are well-worth a stop! The water is around 36 – 40°C and feels absolutely divine as you sit, relax and enjoy the natural surroundings.
On the north coast of Iceland is an adorable fishing town called Husavik where we stopped to go whale and puffin watching. We opted to sail with North Sailing because of their environmentally friendly practices. You can read more about why I loved my experience with them in my review post about North Sailing!
Day 12 & 13: Western Fjords
For the first time in this itinerary, you are going to get off the Ring Road for several days to explore the remote and less-visited Western Fjords of Iceland! This region of Iceland is the least touristy area of the island, so if avoiding crowds is a priority for you, consider extending this part of the trip.
Similar to eastern Iceland, the western fjords are made up of largely untouched wilderness and the roads around here will wind through the fjords along the coastline for stunning views. A few key formations to visit include:
- Hvítserkur rock formation along the northern coast is a massive basalt rock along that locals claim looks like a dragon drinking from the ocean.
- Deildartunguhver is the largest natural hot springs in Europe if your body is feeling weary from all the travel.
- Ísafjörður is a traditional fishing village in the far north of the Western Fjords where you can see some of the oldest houses in Iceland, as well as the traditionally built still with grass roofs. It is also home to Tjöruhúsið restaurant which is rumored to have the best seafood in Iceland.
- Snæfellsnes Peninsula has a large national park with coves, black sand beaches, and the Snæfellsjökull glacier. If you’re sick of the car, you can access this peninsula using a ferry that departs daily from Brjánslækur
- Kirkjufellsfoss is one of the most photographed waterfalls in Western Iceland and there is a good chance you’ve seen pictures of it on social media before.
Similar to eastern Iceland, accommodation in this area is more sparse and spread out so plan your route and stops accordingly. It is probably a smart idea to reserve your accommodation here ahead of time.
Day 14: Reykjavik
And just like that, you find yourself returning to Reykjavik to return home at the end of your trip. There is one last stop you’ll want to make before heading to your flight—Iceland’s famed Blue Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon is one of the most iconic and famous attractions in Iceland and you have undoubtedly seen drool-worthy photos of the neon blue water that makes it so famous. The Blue Lagoon is located about 15 minutes away from Keflavik airport, so it is a really simple last stop to make before taking off.
The Blue Lagoon is super touristy, so if that isn’t your thing, this stop might not be for you but a luxury spa and resort has built up around the lagoon making for a pretty luxurious way to end your time in Iceland. Plan to dedicate about 1-2 hours in the pool and then extra time if you want any treatments, massages, etc. There is a full-service cafeteria here in case you get hungry, but everything is marked up and expensive.