5-day Iceland Itinerary

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

This five day itinerary takes in the highlights of what Iceland has to offer. You’ll see waterfalls, glaciers, tons of sheep, black sand beaches, hot springs and more. This itinerary requires a rental car. It’s easy for anyone to do. You can do the days in whatever order you wish.

Iceland, to put it mildly, is breathtaking. It’s some of the most unusual and amazing landscape I’ve ever seen. The country is small with a total population of just over 300,000.

Foodies will not be disappointed in Iceland. The food is consistently good and we have had very memorable meals on this trip. With only a couple of exceptions, the food we ate at restaurants was better than the food we’ve eaten in Rome, Paris, London, NYC, and so on. Lamb and seafood are front and center in Icelandic cuisine.

Day 1: Arrival Day & Blue Lagoon

Arrive at Keflavik Airport: You’ll most likely arrive first thing in the morning from the USA. The relatively short flight (about 4.5 hours) will give you little opportunity to sleep, so you’ll be a little tired and groggy the first day. Therefore, we didn’t plan much for the first day.

Upon arrival you’ll spend an hour or so getting through customs, a mandatory covid test, and getting a shuttle to your rental car (most rental car companies are not in the terminal). After all that we were not only tired, but hungry! We planned a breakfast stop in a nearby town of Reykjanesbær, a small town adjacent to the airport. We had a wonderful breakfast of coffee and pastries at Kökulist Bakery.

You don’t want to head straight to Reykjavik. That’s 45 minutes up the road and you’ll be missing one the hottest attractions in Iceland; the Blue Lagoon! Since you’ve arrived so early, so your hotel or AirBnB probably isn’t ready. You’re tired and slightly jet lagged so why not enjoy a little pampering. The Blue Lagoon is a great spot. Yes, it may be slightly touristy, but it’s well worth a visit. I would put it on the “Must Do” list for any trip to Iceland. You will spend a few hours here relaxing. When you’re done, head to Reykjavik and check in to your hotel, unpack and get ready for dinner. See below for restaurant recommendations.

The Blue Lagoon

Address: Norðurljósavegur 9, 240 Grindavík, Iceland
Website: https://www.bluelagoon.com/
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Day 2: Southern Coast to Vik

Day 2 sends you down the Southern Coast of Iceland towards the town of Vik. You’ll see several waterfalls, a glacier and end on the well known Black Sand Beaches near the town of Vik. It’s a long day with a lot of driving but the sightseeing is worthwhile. Enjoy the unique landscape as your make the drive. In fact, expect to drive approximately 250 miles roundtrip.


Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Stop #1. Seljalandsfoss was my favorite waterfall we visited because you can walk behind it! And I highly recommend the extra effort needed to make the climb up and into the waterfall. There are metal steps on the right side (as you face it) of the waterfall. They make the climb easy, but be aware that even in July, they were frozen and covered in ice! Once you reach the end of the stairs, there’s a slightly muddy decent into the mouth of the waterfall. When you come out of the other side, you walk down another hill with a mix of steps and mud.


Skogar offers a lot to do in one stop. The small village has a museum, a hotel, a restaurant, and, of course, a waterfall. It’s the second stop on the South Coast tour and a great place to grab lunch before continuing on your journey.

Sólheimajökull Glacier

A special prize to anyone who can pronounce “Sólheimajökull”… We’ll just call it the glacier. In the middle of Iceland is a giant glacier that has been receding for decades. Along this itinerary you can go to a spot with a parking lot and a walk to get right up to the face of the glacier. The walk from the parking lot to the glacier is about a half a mile. If you’re feeling adventurous and have the time (and appropriate hiking gear), you can hire a guide to take you on to the glacier. We weren’t about to do that with a toddler in a stroller.

Special note. When the parking lot was originally built, it was at the face of the glacier.

Vik and the Black Sand Beaches

This is another area with a lot to see and in a smallish area. This is also the end of the tour. Start by visiting the lighthouse called Dyrhólaey, then hop back into the car and down to the black sand beaches. While at Dyrholaey, take a look at the rock formations called “Reynisdrangar” as well as the arched rocks. There’s a parking lot there with pay toilets (so have some change if you need to go). On the beaches you can see the basalt columns and hang out in the Hálsanefshellir Cave. When you’re done, we headed into Vik to a restaurant for dinner (that we would not recommend) before heading back to Reykjavik.

Dyrhólaey Lighthouse
Reynisfjara Beach & Hálsanefshellir Cave

Extras if You Have Time


Address: 871 Vík, Iceland
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The DC-3 Plane Wreck. A US Navy plane encountered icing and crash landed here back in 1973. The fuselage was never removed and has become a tourist attraction. You cannot drive to the crash site. There is a designated parking lot that you pay to park in, and then a two mile walk from the parking lot to the wreckage.

Day 3 & 4: Rekyavik

Explore the town of Reykjavik. Get lost. It’s a small town but there’s plenty to do. Here’s some of the things we did (in no particular order). The Reykjavik Food Walk is highly recommended. The food tour is about four hours, so if you only have one day in Reykjavik, you can skip this to make time for other sight seeing.


The big church. For about $5 you can take an elevator to the top and get some great view of downtown Reykjavik.

The Perlan

An interactive science museum that tells about the geology and wildlife of Iceland. It features a Northern Lights planetarium show and a rooftop terrace with great views of Reykjavik. This is a great activity for kids. Skip it if you’re not traveling with children.

Sun Voyager


Laugavegur is a pedestrian street that serves as a shopping district and area with a lot of restaurants. It’s great to stroll down this street and window shop, find a bite to eat, or admire the art painted on the street.

The Reykjavik Food Walk

Website: https://thereykjavikfoodwalk.com/

Spend an afternoon in Reykjavik getting a taste of what Iceland has to offer and while getting the lay of the land of downtown Reykjavik. We sampled amazing dishes from six different restaurants in town.

Day 5: The Golden Circle

Get up, grab breakfast to go at Braud & Co. and hit the road early to avoid crowds and make the most of your day. The Golden Circle is an ALL DAY road trip. Plan on spending at least 12 hours to complete the loop, much more if you spend a lot of time at each stop. The drive itself is not as breathtaking as the Southern Coast drive, but the stops are all very interesting.


Thingvellir National Park


Skalholt is a tiny village that has a modern school, with a historic wooden church. Just a little ways off your


Make a reservation! If you’re behind schedule, go to Skalholt after lunch, if you’re ahead of schedule, go to Skalholt first. Read below on our take on this MUST NOT MISS restaurant stop.

Strokkur Geyser


Kerid Crater

Extras (If you have time)

The Secret Lagoon

Restaurant Recommendations


Old Iceland Restaurant

Address: Laugavegur 72, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland
Website: https://oldiceland.is/menu/
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Old Iceland Restaurant was our dinner spot on our first day in Reykjavik. It’s a very small restaurant and we weren’t sure what to expect. It did not disappoint and was one of our favorite meals in town.


Address: Lækjargata 6b, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland
Website: https://www.messinn.com/
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Messinn is great dinner spot for a sit-down dinner. The owner got his start as the head chef in Iceland’s prison and is now one of the better known chef’s in the country. They are known for their “Fish Pans” (pictured below). We ate here twice and got to sample several of them; every single one was incredible.

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur

Address: Tryggvagata 1, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Website: https://bbp.is/
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You MUST try Icelandic hotdogs. They’re a perfect quick lunch stop while you explore Reykjavik. Get it with everything on it! Hot dogs are found all over Iceland. Iceland is known for their sheep, so guess what these hot dogs are made from? Sheep! And they’re delicious. The traditional toppings are a ketchup, fried onions, raw onions, yellow mustard, and a remoulade sauce. Take note that Icelandic ketchup is more like a brown sauce and is very different than American style ketchup like Heinz.

Braud & Co.

Address: 16 Frakkastígur, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Website: https://www.braudogco.is/en
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Our go to breakfast spot. By far our most favorite place in town to get a quick breakfast of fresh baked pastries and coffee before heading out on our road trips each day. Very much a European style pastry shop with excellent croissants (my favorite was the pretzel croissant) that rivaled any croissant I’ve had in France.


Address: Hafnarstræti 101, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Website: https://fjallkona.is/

This was a stop on our food tour and also a place for dinner one night. While the food we sampled on the food tour was very good, our dinner left us feeling like this was nothing special to write home about. I would skip this.

Cafe Loki

Address: Lokastígur 28, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Website: https://loki.is/

Another stop on our food tour. Known for their Rye Bread ice cream. It’s ice cream with rye bread crumbled up on it. It sounds odd, until you learn that rye bread in Iceland is not the same as rye bread in the USA. In Iceland rye bread is a quick bread (think banana bread) and is more sweet than savory. It’s a good combination, and likely the only place you’ll find rye bread ice cream. Stop in for dessert or to take a break after visiting Hallgrimskirkja which is across the street.

Golden Circle


Address: 5HH4+225 Friðheimar, 806 Reykholt, Iceland
Website: https://www.fridheimar.is/en
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You cannot miss this place. A truly special restaurant and experience that you won’t find any where else on Earth. Friðheimar is a tomato farm that grows tomatoes year round in their massive greenhouses. They are responsible for growing 1/3rd of all of the tomatoes consumed in Iceland. Go there for lunch during your Golden Circle tour. Reservations are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. We did not have reservations but arrived around 11:30 AM and just beat the lunch crowd. There were tour busses full of tourist pulling in as we were eating. We were told that had we not arrived when we did, that they wouldn’t have been able to seat us at all that day! So MAKE RESERVATIONS!

There’s a menu, but the thing to have is the tomato soup. You get unlimited tomato soup, all you can eat bread at the generous bread table, and toppings such as sour cream, and basil plucked from live basil plants on your table. It’s cheap, hearty, and the perfect lunch spot in the middle of nowhere.

Southern Coast

Skogafoss Bistro Bar

This was our lunch spot along our Southern Coast road trip. It was conveniently located at Skogafoss Waterfall in the Hotel Skogafoss. The food was hearty, the restaurant was clean, and you got views of the waterfall while you ate.


Tips & Tricks

Driving: Roads, Navigating, Rental Cars, and Fuel

Iceland is a very rural country. When you get out of Reykjavik and away from the major population centers many of the roads are dirt and gravel. You may be driving on unpaved roads for a very long time.

Unpaved gravel roads are very common when you get away from Reykjavik and other population centers.

Fuel is EXPENSIVE! About four times higher than the gasoline in the United States when we were there. I did the math to convert Icelandic Krona to USD and Liters to Gallons and worked out that gasoline was a little over $10 a a gallon. Because visiting the sites of this country requires lots of driving, I would recommend that you get only as big of a rental car as you need. Go for fuel economy.

Very expensive gasoline.

Download your maps! Did I mention that Iceland is rural? So download maps onto your phone BEFORE leaving Reykjavik. You may not always have a cell phone signal and you don’t want to be out there without GPS to help you get around. Click here to learn how to download Google Maps to your phone to use offline.

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