3, 5 & 7 Days in Iceland: Itineraries for First Time Visitors

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Are you visiting Iceland soon but you find it hard to decide where to go? You are at the right place. Here you will find itineraries to follow if you only have 3, 5 and 7 days in Iceland. These itineraries are great for you, especially if you have never been to Iceland before.

Disclosure: Please note that this post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click on a link marked with [AD] and proceed to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Iceland is a magnificent country with an enormous amount of things to do. You will probably need a few months to explore everything Iceland has to offer. And if you take into account that the landscape changes based on the season, then you will probably need years! But anyway, most of us don’t have that much time on our hands, so here are some suggestions of where you could go if you only have 3, 5 or 7 days in Iceland.

To save time from being constantly on the road, the itineraries focus on the southern and western parts of Iceland, i.e. areas that are not extremely far from the airport and the capital, Reykjavík. Of course, there are many places you can visit in the central, northern and eastern parts of Iceland, but to do that it’s better to have either more days or arrange a dedicated trip there.

A large waterfall in Iceland
An infinity number of waterfalls wait for you in Iceland

Itineraries Overview

Planning Your Trip

Follow these tips to help you plan your trip to Iceland.

How to move around?

The easiest way to follow this itinerary is by renting a car [AD] or even a campervan. Having your own wheels will allow you to have the flexibility to visit the places you want without depending on others.

If you don’t want to rent a car there are many organised tours that depart from Reykjavík and visit the regions mentioned below. This option works well for the 3-day itinerary but for the longer plans, it’s not the best choice. In that case, it may be better to join an organised multi-day tour.

Where to stay?

For the 3-day itinerary, I suggest you base yourself in Reykjavík [AD] and go on day tours from there. For the other itineraries, you will need to change hotels (almost) every night as the distances involved will be longer. In the itinerary descriptions, I will note the closest city/town that you can use as your base.

If you enjoy camping, you can rent a campervan instead of a car. In this way, you can avoid packing and unpacking daily and even save some money on accommodation. There are campsites all over Iceland, so it’s easy to find a place to spend the night. Note that some campsites tend to be very busy and you will need to reserve a spot in advance.

When to go?

Due to the large distances involved, it will be best to follow these itineraries during the summer when the days are long. It is still possible to follow the 3- and 5-day itineraries during the rest of the year, although if you will rely on tours they may not be as frequent as during the summer.

However, the 7-day itinerary can only be followed during the summer months. This is because it includes a day in the highlands which are inaccessible during the winter.

3-Day Iceland Itinerary

If you only have three days to spend in Iceland, then you should focus on activities not far from the airport. Start with the capital, Reykjavík and continue to cover the Golden Circle. Finish your trip with a visit to the Southern Peninsula.

For this trip, I suggest you stay for the duration of your trip in Reykjavík [AD] or even near the airport [AD] if you will have your own car.

Day 1: Reykjavík

Cityscape of Reykjavik with a river, a church and some houses in view for Iceland itineraries
Reykjavik should be included in every itinerary to Iceland

Spend a day exploring the capital of Iceland. Go on a walking tour of the city centre to see the main sights such as Hallgrimskirkja (the largest church in Iceland) and the Harpa Concert Hall. Both buildings have unique architecture and are well worth a photo. If you want you can also step into Hallgrimskirkja (free entry) to see its relatively modest interior and even buy a ticket to climb (with a lift and some stairs) to the top of the church’s tower to admire the view of the city. To get inside the Harpa Hall you need to join one of the guided tours of the building or watch a show.

If you have time, you can also visit a couple of Reykjavík’s museums and art galleries. Many of them are only a short walk from each other, so it is easy to visit a few of them in a short amount of time. If you are planning on visiting a lot of museums, it may be worth purchasing a 24-hour Reykjavík City Card [AD] to save money on admissions.

Some of the museums you can visit are the National Museum of Iceland, the Settlement Exhibition, the Reykjavik Art Museum, and the Culture House. Besides, there are many other attractions, such as Whales of Iceland, Aurora Reykjavík and the Saga Museum. The last three are in the Old Harbour area which is great for a walk and getting dinner. There you can also find Þúfa an outdoor art installation.

You can find out more about Reykjavík and individual 24-hour itineraries in this 3-day itinerary for Reykjavík.

Day 2: Golden Circle

Impressive view of Gullfoss that should be included in all Iceland Itineraries
The power of Gullfoss can be felt (and heard) right at the moment you reach the visitor centre

The Golden Circle is one of the most popular routes to follow in Iceland. No matter how long you spend in the country, you should at least dedicate a day driving around the area (or taking a tour there).

There are many places to visit in the Golden Circle, but since you only have a day in the area it’s best to focus on the most important ones. The “big three” places of interest are the Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall. These are extremely busy places with tourists but at the same time, they are very impressive.

It’s possible to visit all three places in one day and even squeeze in a couple of shorter stops along the way. Kerið crater and the Faxi Waterfall are some examples. These are less busy places than the rest but equally (if not more) beautiful. If the weather is not great and you want a bit of an indoor-ish activity you can visit Cave People. On the other hand, if you want to avoid the crowds you can follow the 3.5km hike to Brúarfoss Waterfall.

Organised day tour from Reykjavík alternative: From Reykjavik: Golden Circle and Kerid Crater Trip [AD]

Day 3: Southern Peninsula

Steaming black lava from volcano eruption
The site of the recent eruption of the Fagradalsfjall Volcano attracts a lot of visitors

The Southern Peninsula, also known as the Reykjanes Peninsula may not be as well known by name as other places in Iceland, but it is home to some popular attractions. The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is the most well-known, while recently the sites of the Fagradalsfjall and Meradalir volcano eruptions became popular among visitors.

It is easy to visit both places in a day, both on a tour and on your own. If you are going on your own, you will need to dedicate about 2-3 hours per attraction. I would suggest going first to the volcano site to see the huge amounts of lava that came out of the volcano. Then, in the afternoon you can go to the Blue Lagoon for a relaxing break.

If you have time, in between you can visit some of the sights of the area, such as the Brú Milli Heimsálfa, a bridge separating the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, the Gunnuhver Hot Springs and the Reykjanes Lighthouse. Another option is to visit the Raufarhólshellir Cave (Lava Tunnel attraction [AD]) known for its colourful inner walls.

It’s best to leave this region of Iceland last, as it is very close to the airport. In this way, if your flight timings allow you, you can head straight to the airport after your last activity of the day.

Organised day tour from Reykjavík alternative: From Reykjavik: Reykjanes Volcanic Hike & Blue Lagoon Option [AD]

Suggested route

Trip map created using Wanderlog, a road trip planner app on iOS and Android

5-Day Iceland Itinerary

Five days allow for a bit more freedom with the option of going a bit further from Reykjavík and exploring more parts of Iceland.

Note that the distances between the different regions included here are long. You will often need to drive around 2.5 hours to reach the next destination. So if you want to cover all the highlights of each area, you will need to start early in the morning.

Day 1: Reykjavík

Read the suggested activities for Reykjavík under the 3-Day Iceland Itinerary section.

Look for accommodation in/near: Reykjavík [AD]

Day 2: Snæfellsnes Peninsula

View of a river with Kirkjufell, a dome-shaped mountain at the background
An iconic spot in Iceland, Kirkjufell is a must-stop when in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is mostly known for Kirkjufellsfoss, a pair of waterfalls with the dome-shaped Kirkjufell mountain in the background. It attracts many photographers and tourists alike and it is a must-stop when you are in the area.

After you visit Kirkjufellsfoss continue your road trip in the Snæfellsjökull National Park. There are a lot of stops you can make there with dramatic black sand beaches and impressive rock formations. Some areas of the park are accessible only to 4×4 vehicles but even if you don’t have one, there are still many beautiful spots to visit.

You can plan to visit Saxhóll Crater, Djúpalónssandur, Lóndrangar and Arnarstapi. The first stop is a crater you can climb to the top, the second one is a popular black sand beach, while the other two offer viewpoint opportunities. Outside the national park but within the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, you can visit the Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge and Ytri Tunga, a golden sand beach with the chance to see some seals.

Organised day tour from Reykjavík alternative: Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Natural Park Guided Day Tour [AD]

Look for accommodation in/near: Grundarfjörður [AD]

Day 3: Golden Circle

Read the suggested activities for the Golden Circle under the 3-Day Iceland Itinerary section.

Look for accommodation in/near: Selfoss [AD]

Day 4: South Coast

Water falling down from Gljufrabui Waterfall
Gljufrabui is a popular stop on a South Coast itinerary

The South Coast covers a rather big area in Iceland but here the focus is on the southwestern coast up to the village of Vík í Mýrdal. Start driving from Selfoss towards Vík and make stops at some (or all) of the following places: Seljalandsfoss, Gljufrabui, Skógafoss, Sólheimajökull, Solheimasandur and Reynisfjara Beach.

The first three places above are waterfalls. Seljalandsfoss is known for allowing visitors to walk behind the falling water, Gljufrabui is located inside a small canyon creating a cool effect, while Skógafoss is one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland. For this reason, you will probably notice that Skógafoss is way busier than the others with a lot of tour buses making frequent stops there.

Sólheimajökull is one of the many glaciers that exist in Iceland. This one has a combination of white and black ice. To enter the glacier you need to join a guided tour, but if you don’t have time for that you can still go there and walk to a viewpoint near the car park.

Last but not least, Solheimasandur is the side of an old plane wreck and can be considered an iconic location in Iceland, while Reynisfjara is a very popular black beach with tall vertical lava rock formations. Note that to get to the exact plane wreck site you will need to walk for about 45 minutes from the nearest car park.

Organised day tour from Reykjavík alternative: From Reykjavík: South Coast Day Trip with Glacier Hike [AD]

Look for accommodation in/near: Vík [AD]

Day 5: Southern Peninsula

Read the suggested activities for the Southern Peninsula under the 3-Day Iceland Itinerary section.

Look for accommodation in/near: Keflavík [AD]

Suggested route

This map was created with Wanderlog, an itinerary planner on iOS and Android

7-Day Iceland Itinerary

Take advantage of these two extra days and visit some of the highlights of Iceland that are further from the capital. In seven days you have time to visit the Icelandic highlands and even cross into the Eastern region.

Similarly, to the 5-day itinerary, there are some long distances involved. If you want to take it slowly you can just keep the same plan as for the 5-day trip and extend your stay in areas you want to spend more time in. Otherwise, you can stick to the early morning wake-up calls and explore more places in Iceland.

Day 1: Reykjavík

Read the suggested activities for Reykjavík under the 3-Day Iceland Itinerary section.

Look for accommodation in/near: Reykjavík [AD]

Day 2: Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Read the suggested activities for Snæfellsnes Peninsula under the 5-Day Iceland Itinerary section.

Look for accommodation in/near: Grundarfjörður [AD]

Day 3: Golden Circle

Read the suggested activities for Golden Circle under the 3-Day Iceland Itinerary section.

Look for accommodation in/near: Selfoss [AD]

Day 4: Landmannalaugar

Orange mountains at Landmannalaugar
Landmannalaugar is known for its unique terrain

The Icelandic highlands is a whole different world from the rest of the country. It has a unique terrain that creates magnificent scenery. A trip there is definitely not for everyone as you will need to be in decent shape and willing to walk some challenging routes. One of the most popular areas there is Landmannalaugar which is specifically known for its colourful mountains.

Many people go to Landmannalaugar to hike to the tallest mountain in the area Mt Bláhnjúkur. The complete circular trail takes between 3 to 4 hours to complete and it offers some stunning views from the top. Another popular activity there is the People’s Pool, a natural hot spring site.

Unsurprisingly, this “wild” area of Iceland is not easily accessible. The roads around the area are marked as F-roads, which means are only open to 4×4 cars. Unless you have a 4×4 vehicle you will not be able to drive there. What you can do instead is to take the highland bus. In the summer, there are daily services from Reykjavík to Landmannalaugar via Hella and Rjúpnavellir.

Find out more information about planning a day trip to Landmannalaugar here.

Organised day tour from Reykjavík alternative: Iceland: Landmannalaugar 4-Hour Hiking Experience [AD]

Look for accommodation in/near: Vík [AD]

Day 5: Vatnajökull National Park

Icebergs floating inside the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
The Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon never ceases to amaze with its beauty

Vatnajökull is the name of the biggest glacier in Iceland and Vatnajökull National Park is the area that encloses it. There you can find the famous Diamond Beach or in layman’s terms a black sand beach with iceberg pieces lying on the sand and floating in the water.

This unique formation is created from pieces of ice that flow from the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon across the road. The lagoon in its turn fills with water and iceberg pieces from the glacier behind it, the Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier which is a branch of the Vatnajökull Glacier.

Both places are well worth a visit, despite being the furthest point on this route. There are also various opportunities to get in the lagoon and get a close-up view of the icebergs, either on a boat or in a kayak.

Another popular activity at the national park is joining a guided glacier hiker. Skaftafell, at the western part of the park, is a common starting point and many companies offer tours from there.

Organised day tour from Reykjavík alternative: From Reykjavik: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Full-Day Trip [AD]

Look for accommodation in/near: Vík [AD]

Day 6: South Coast

Read the suggested activities for the South Coast under the 5-Day Iceland Itinerary section. Note that in this case, you will need to follow the suggested route the other way around.

Look for accommodation in/near: Hella [AD]

Day 7: Southern Peninsula

Read the suggested activities for the Southern Peninsula under the 3-Day Iceland Itinerary section.

Look for accommodation in/near: Keflavík [AD]

Suggested map


Of course, there are many more places you can visit when you are in Iceland. This is just a round-up of our favourite places from when we visited the country. You can find out what we did on this 12-day road trip itinerary, along with more suggestions for things to include in your trip.

Pick and choose what suits your needs and get ready to start packing!

Eigðu góða ferð!

All photos were taken using the camera Sony ILCE-5100 [AD] and the 16-50mm [AD] or 55-210mm [AD] lense unless otherwise specified.

P.S. This is my first post where I create multiple itinerary suggestions for a destination. These itineraries lack the details of the bigger guides, and they are mainly for inspiration and to help you create a rough plan of your trip. If you think anything is missing from them, or you have any other comments, let me know.

P.S.II “Eigðu góða ferð!” means “Have a nice trip!” in Icelandic.

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Elina Michaelidou

Elina is a computer science graduate and a traveller enthusiastic. Read everything about her travel experiences here.

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This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Maninder

    Such a beautiful destination, definitely adding it to my bucket list

  2. Andrea

    I love Iceland but I only went for a short stopover en route to Europe. Thanks for sharing these for when I return.

  3. Stephanie

    You’ve got so many great tips and ideas here to built the ultimate Iceland itinerary! I’m definitely bookmarking this for when I finally plan my visit!

  4. Jasmina

    Thanks for offering different itineraries – I would go for a 7-day itinerary, the Icelandic highlands & Vatnajökull National Park are so stunning!

  5. Brittany

    This is such a helpful blog post! I love that you included itineraries for different trip lengths. It makes it so much easier than having to narrow it down on your own! I also love that you put the suggested routes on a map for each road trip. Thanks for sharing! Iceland looks stunning.

  6. Lina

    These itineraries are great Elina and perfect for anyone traveling 3, 5 or 7 days to Iceland! Definitely saving this for my future trip to Iceland 🙂

  7. Juli

    Thanks for offering so many great itineraries. I was in Iceland this summer with a group trip and had the trip planned for me. I’d love to return with my family one day soon and your itineraries would be a great place to start planning.

    1. I hope you had a great time in Iceland and that you can return with your family soon!

  8. Deirdre Jenkins

    So many beautiful places to choose from. Decisions, decisions!

    1. Yeah, and the less time you have the more difficult to choose where to go!