The Complete 5 Day Iceland Road Trip Itinerary
An Iceland road trip is an incredibly popular trip to take. The beauty of this island (despite the number of tourists) is that you can easily feel like you’re on your own. It is incredibly scenic and renting a car means you can stop off to explore when you see something of interest. You could easily spend two weeks here but five days was perfect for our introduction to the country. Read on for the ultimate Iceland road trip itinerary.
What should I know?
- Iceland is very expensive so either pack lots of snacks or consider stocking up at the grocery store in Reykjavik before heading out on your road trip. Bonus is a great grocery store (the mascot is a bright pink pig) in Reykjavik.
- Alcohol is pricey in Iceland so many people (including locals) will stock up at the duty-free shop at the airport. It’s also a great place to stock up on Icelandic goodies on your way out too.
- Iceland is cold, even in the summer, so pack warmly. You should consider getting hiking shoes but you don’t need overly intense gear.
- I’m sure Iceland is beautiful no matter the season but I love summertime for the simple fact that you get so much daylight. We could sleep in, start our day around 9am and not feel rushed to see everything because we could keep exploring until 10pm.
- Bring a fast-drying towel – it’s super handy to have when you take quick dips in natural hot springs along your road trip.
- Many accommodations will be room-only and you’ll share a bathroom. Even places that seem expensive will be set up this way. It’s just how it is in Iceland unless you want to pay a lot of money ($200+) for your own bathroom.
Day One: Reykjavik
After touching down at the airport, head to pick up your rental car. Many people will stand around and wait for the shuttle to bring them to the car rental area (if you didn’t pick a premium brand that’s in the terminal), but the car rental office is so close that you could walk and beat the shuttle (and everyone on it) there. Our car was rented through Thrifty which worked great.
From there, consider stopping at the Blue Lagoon for a post-flight soak. We opted not to because it’s very pricey and there are natural hot springs all around Iceland but it is an iconic stop if you’re interested. Just make sure you book way in advance because it books out.
Head into Reykjavik, check into your hotel or Airbnb and get ready to head back out for more exploring! We opted for an Airbnb because it was more economical but the Ion City Hotel or Hotel Borg looked like good options. There are also tons of hostel options.
If you’d like a snack before exploring, consider Brauo & Co. for the best cinnamon rolls and other baked goods.
If you’re anxious to start seeing some nature, drive to Þórufoss and Oxararfoss/Pingvellir/Silfra. These are beautiful waterfalls not too far from Reykjavik and are great intros to the country. Silfra is where in theory you are crossing tectonic plates between North America and Europe – pretty neat!
If you’re feeling adventurous and can handle very cold water, consider a diving tour with with Dive Silfra. It looks beautiful from the pictures! We opted not to given it’s pricey but reviews are fabulous so it’s probably worth it.
Once back in the city, consider exploring around Reykjavik. It really only takes a few hours to see the highlights. Here’s what you should see:
- Hallgrimskirkja (the church) – you can pay to go to the top for views of the harbor if interested
- Solfario (Sun Voyager landmark) – we were lucky to catch a rainbow here, it’s a beautiful view over the harbor
- Harpa Concert Hall – the interior is absolutely gorgeous
- History Museum
For dinner, if you’re looking for something delicious and economical, Icelandic Street Food is the best option. Their soup is delicious and they have the best hospitality. You’ll be offered waffles while you wait and dessert for no extra charge. The soup is unlimited too so you will leave feeling very satisfied! The owners of this restaurant own a bar just down the street so they offered us a free beer there to try as well – quite the deal!
For a higher end soup restaurant, try Svarta Kaffio.
After dinner, if you’re still up for a treat, grab some ice cream from Valdis.
On your way home, stock up on groceries from Bonus as you’ll head out on the road tomorrow morning. A very full but exciting first day of this Iceland road trip itinerary!
Day Two: Golden Circle
Today is a fun and active one. After a breakfast at your hotel or perhaps from somewhere in town (more cinnamon rolls from Brauo & Co.?, some Skyr from Bonus?) hit the road to start your Iceland road trip.
Your first stop is Hveragerdi Hot Spring River Trail (aka Reykjadalur Hot Springs). I’m not sure why some places seem to have multiple names but either name seems to work for Google Maps. After a ~30-45 minute hike (not too intense but steep at first), you’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous hot water running river that you can bathe in. It felt so good after our hike up to literally soak in the beauty around us and relax our muscles.
This is a natural site so is free. The trail is well maintained and there are wooden planks alongside the river so you can leave your stuff while you soak. The further up you go the warmer the river water will be. You’ll need to change in front of other people (normal for many parts of the world, might be uncomfortable for Americans) but there are some boards you can hide behind.
After your hike/soak, drive to Kerio to see a beautiful volcanic crater filled with turquoise water. You’ll need to pay for this site but it’s not very expensive.
At this point, you’ll likely be very hungry. I’d highly recommend Fridheimar for the most delicious tomato soup buffet sat within a greenhouse. We made reservations but they may not be necessary. The tomato soup and bread filled us right up and it was so nourishing before heading back out on our road trip.
Next we visited Faxi waterfall, Gullfoss, Geysir and rounded out our day with a stop at Efstidalur, an agriculture co-op. We enjoyed the best Icelandic ice cream while watching some footy with the locals. You can also see the farm animals that help make the products possible.
At this point, you will likely not be hungry for dinner because of the big late lunch and treats from the co-op, so perhaps head to your accommodation and rest for the evening. Many places have hot tubs so you can soak this evening and watch the beautiful sunset. We stayed at the Lindartun Guesthouse which I’d recommend. They had a great breakfast and comfortable rooms.
Day Three: Golden Circle to Hofn
After breakfast at your B&B, head out for another great day on the road.
Your first top is Seljalandsfoss. The main waterfall is fun to walk behind. Make sure to venture further down away from the carpark. You’ll come to another spot where you can walk back into a little cove with another waterfall (Glijufrabui). You’ll get wet so bring your waterproof jacket with you!
From here, head just down the road to Skogafoss. This is a great opportunity to hike a bit more as you can head up alongside the waterfall and keep walking along the path. The scenery just keeps getting better.
After your hike, stop for fish & chips at the red and white polka dot truck just down the road from Skogafoss. It some of the best fish and chips I’ve ever had (and that’s after living in London for two years). They also have an awesome little salt bar of Saltverk flavored salts– this started an obsession of Icelandic salt for me and I purchased one of every flavor at a local grocery store plus some extra at duty-free on the way out of the country.
(Side note – you can actually visit Saltverk on your Iceland road trip and learn how they make the salt using geothermal activity – it’s four hours north of Reykjavik if you have time to add it on to your trip!)
From here, head to Dyrhólaey and Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. After your time here, consider stocking up on more groceries if necessary (or Saltverks salt 🙂 ) in Vik.
En route to your accommodation, stop at the gorgeous Fjadrargljufur (gorge) and Laki Lava Fields.
This evening, stay around Hofn. We opted for Kalfafellsstadur Guesthouse which was a good, clean option with a delicious breakfast on our Iceland road trip itinerary.
Day Four: Hofn to Selfoss
Start your morning at Jokularson – the ice lagoon. We did a boat ride at the Glacier Lagoon which was really fun. Consider booking in advance as they do sell out.
From here, visit Diamond Beach and see the gorgeous ice pieces on the black sand beach.
Head to Skaftafell National Park to hike up to a glacier. You could also consider doing a glacier hike today with a local company. We’ve done this before in another country so opted just to hike up to it. We also hiked to Svartifoss which is a gorgeous and unique waterfall.
Afterwards, consider eating some food from your grocery store haul or else stop in Vik before heading to Sólheimajökull. This is another glacier you can see after a short walk from the carpark.
Drive to your accommodation for the evening and rest up before flying out the next day. One option we tried to book is Camp Boutique where you can glamp for the evening but they weren’t ready to open for the time we were there. Instead, we stayed in Selfoss at a B&B (Country Dream Langholt) which was great.
This is when we flew out from Reykjavik. You could consider adding on time to your Iceland road trip and continuing to the northern part of Iceland rather than doubling back from Hofn. If you do this, please stop at Saltverks and tell me how amazing it is! My only regret is not making it there 🙂
I hope you’re ready to plan your own ultimate Iceland road trip itinerary! For more Europe inspiration, read my guides here.