Looking for an Iceland itinerary that doesn’t make you travel around the entire country? Here’s a 7 day guide that focuses on the southwest Iceland.
If you’d prefer a short list of the top activities in Iceland, check out my other post on my 12 favorite activities.
Day 1: Arrival and the Reykjanes Peninsula
Depending on where you live, you will arrive in Iceland today at Keflavik International Airport. If possible, catch a red-eye flight so you arrive in the morning.
Pick up your rental car and start driving! If you can drive manual (stick) then rent a manual car to save money as they often cost a lot less to rent than an automatic car in Europe.
Many people arrive in Iceland, stop at the Blue Lagoon, and continue on to Reykjavik. However, they are missing out on exploring the sites of the Reykjanes Peninsula. I’d highly recommend spending at least a couple hours exploring the area either before or after you visit the Blue Lagoon.
If you are visiting the Blue Lagoon, book your ticket online here and base your Day 1 activities around that. For us, we scheduled our visit in the late afternoon and we went straight from there to our hotel in Reykjavik.
Start your day off at the Bridge America-Europe, where the Eurasian and North American plates are drifting apart. Iceland’s location on these dividing plates is the reason it can utilize so much geothermal energy.
Just a short drive away is Gunnuhver Geothermal Area where you can walk on wooden bridges passing by geothermal mud vents and steam. Pay attention to the warning signs because some spots are dangerously hot.
Continue down the road on foot towards Reykjanesviti (a lighthouse) and continue further if you want to get a close view of some dramatic cliff faces, Eldey Island, and the Atlantic Ocean.
Grab lunch in the small town of Grindavik. We chose Café Bryggjan where we had some amazing lobster soup and unlimited bread!
If time permits, head over to Strandarkirkja, a tiny church in between a meadow and the ocean. Many churches in Iceland follow a verys similar building model. There was no entry fee and nobody inside the church itself. It’s definitely not a must see, but we had time to kill before the Blue Lagoon.
Finally, the Blue Lagoon
End your day at the Blue Lagoon. After your international flight, a couple hours in hot blue water is a refreshing treat.
We chose the most basic package (Comfort) but you there are two more expensive options: Premium and Luxury. I honestly don’t think it’s worth paying more unless you are really into the whole spa and Blue Lagoon experience and have the money to spare.
If you have long hair make sure it doesn’t get in the water because I’ve heard it can damage it. I put mine up shortly after this photo was taken. It’s wet because before you enter the lagoon you have to take a quick shower.
Bring bathing suits that you don’t care too much about because they may be permanently changed by the water. Mine still feels a bit “crunchy” but it was also cheap to begin with. Also, make sure to try the silica mud masks. Personally, I didn’t notice any difference but it was fun!
You could stay the night at the hotel near the Blue Lagoon, but I’d recommend driving to Reykjavik so you can start off exploring the city as soon as you wake up.
We stayed at the Downtown Reykjavik Apartments where we had a small apartment with a kitchen area.
Day 2: Exploring Reykjavik
Reykjavik is a very walkable city so there is no need to use your car today.
Begin with the impossible to miss Hallgrimskirkja. Make sure to take the stairs up to the top to get an amazing view of the entire city and that iconic picture of the colored rooftops separated by a street down the middle.
Walk closer to the harbor area and stop in Reykjavik City Hall. It has plenty of information on the city and tours, as well as a large 3D map of the entire country. The building is located on the small lake of Tjörnin in the middle of the city.
Stop for lunch at The Hot Dog Shake and Pylsa Stand, which as you may have guessed by the name, sells traditional Icelandic hot dogs. The main ingredient of Icelandic hot dogs is lamb, an animal you will see a lot of driving around the countryside.
There are many museums in Iceland and while wandering around, we discovered the Reykjavík Museum of Photography. It was interesting to look around, although it wasn’t that large. I have read that the National Museum of Iceland has a better photo collection.
Other options include the National Museum of Iceland, which I wish we made the time to visit, and the Reykjavik Maritime Museum.
Continue on to Harpa Concert Hall and admire the architecture, both inside and out. There are different shows running there so if you have the time it might be worth staying.
Walk along the sidewalk overlooking the waterfront until you reach the Sun Voyager statue.
From the Sun Voyager, head back into the city to reach the main shopping street of Laugavegur. Here you will find many shops and the Icelandic Phallological Museum which I wish I had the time to visit.
Find dinner at one of the many restaurants in this area. We stopped at the Noodle Station, where you can design your own noodle bowl, similar to Chipotle.
If you are planning to make some of your own meals throughout this trip, like we did, make sure to pick up food at either Bónus or Kronan, two popular Icelandic grocery stores.
Stay a second night at the Downtown Reykjavik Apartments.
Day 3: Snaefellsnes Peninsula
This road trip loop can be done in either direction, it mainly depends if you booked a cave tour, and for what time.
Your first stop is the Gerduberg Cliffs which are, as many places in Iceland are, in the middle of nowhere. Nobody else was here, just us, the wind, some sheep, and the cliffs. There were some small trails leading up to the top that were somewhat easy to climb.
I wouldn’t call it a “must-see” but it was a fun start to our day.
If you’re into wildlife, stop at Ytri Tunga Beach and hopefully spot some seals. They are most common in the summer months of July and August. I really wanted to stop here but it was pouring rain and we still had our cave tour.
If you’d like to see another church but with a fun twist: it’s got an all black exterior! It’s called Búðakirkja.
We still had a short amount of time before our cave tour so we stopped at the Bárðar Saga Snæfellsáss Statue and Gatklettur (Hellnar arch). Honestly, the arch was pretty in person and the view was nice but if you are short on time I wouldn’t bother stopping.
We chose to visit Vatnshellir Cave which is an 8,000 year old lava tube! I’ve only ever been in limestone caves so this was really interesting to learn about. There are other caves in Iceland you can visit but this one sounded the best (price-wise) and fit well in our itinerary.
You need to book a tour online at one of the few websites selling tours. We booked ours here. Our guide was very knowledgeable about the history of the cave and the area.
After the cave tour, stop to view Lóndrangar, some unique rock formations. The viewing area was pretty far away, but there appeared to be a small trail for those who wanted to hike out.
A more interesting stop is Djúpalónssandur, a black sand and pebble beach that’s reached by a short hike through some rock formations. Parts of the beach are littered with the rusted pieces of an old shipwreck.
After relaxing on the beach, head around to the other side of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula to reach Kirkjufellsfoss and Kirkjufell. They are the waterfall and the mountain featured in almost every Iceland guide book.
Follow the trail (and the masses of people) from the parking lot to reach the viewpoint on the other side of the falls to get the classic picture. There are tour buses constantly pulling in so getting a picture without people will be difficult, although with enough patience (and luck) it is possible!
Stop for dinner in the town of Grundarfjörður and then head back to Reykjavik for your last night at the apartment.
Day 4: The Golden Circle
Get an early start to your day and head out to Þingvellir National Park (Thingvellir). There are many easy walking trails and historical sites. Park near the visitor center.
The main sites to see are Lögberg (where the first parliament sessions were held), the Almannagjá Gorge, Öxarárfoss, and Þingvallakirkja.
If you have the time (and the money), snorkeling or scuba diving at the Silfra Fissure in the park sounds like an amazing opportunity. You get to swim between continental plates!
Head up to Gullfoss, one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland. Be prepared for some mist as you get up close!
After Gullfoss, visit the close-by Strokkur Geyser which reliably erupts about every 10 minutes! Be careful where you stand though because we saw some people get soaked by some hot water.
Your second to last stop of the day is Bruarfoss, a beautiful bright blue waterfall. When we visited there was no official trail. We got lost and found Midfoss first before eventually finding the right path.
To prevent people from trespassing on private property, a new official trail and parking lot have been established. Check out this article by Earth Trekkers here if you want more information. The trail passes by Hlauptungufoss and Midfoss before you reach Bruarfoss.
The final stop of the day is Kerið, a volcanic crater lake. There is a small entrance fee but if you are arriving late in the day, it may not be required.
Take the time to hike around the lake both at its surface and on the upper rim.
This is a very busy day and we actually split it into 2 days to give ourselves a bit of a rest after a packed Day 2.
The first day we only saw Þingvellir National Park and Kerið because we gave ourselves some extra time in Reykjavik in the morning to sleep in and grocery shop. The next day we started with the The Geothermal Energy Exhibition at the The Hellisheiði Power Station and then saw the rest of the Golden Circle.
I would highly recommend stopping at the exhibition on geothermal energy. Geothermal energy provides most of Iceland’s energy and the Hellisheiði Power Station is the third largest geothermal power plant in the world! Book your tickets online here because they offer a 10% if you book online.
We stayed at Iceblue Lodge B&B and it was our favorite place we stayed the entire trip. The owners were really nice, had cats, a hot tub, and breakfast was included!
Day 5: The Road to Vik
Before you leave for all the waterfalls and the black sand beach of Vik, start your morning with a horseback ride on Icelandic horses at Skeiðvellir (Icelandic HorseWorld).
Icelandic horses are smaller than your average horse. If you’re short like me, be prepared to feel normal sized for once.
They are a family run breeding and training farm that offer horseback rides for every level of rider. We chose the 1-hour Mountains and Meadows package because I have only ridden a horse once.
We booked their earliest ride online here (or so we thought) but when we arrived they didn’t have any paperwork for our reservation. At first we were worried we’d just have to leave but they were kind enough to include us in the group that arrived after us.
After the ride, they helped me try to do the Icelandic Tölt gait that Icelandic horses are known for.
The first waterfall of the day is Seljalandsfoss, which presents the unique opportunity to walk behind it. Be prepared to get wet from the mist!
A short walk away hidden inside a mini canyon is Gljúfrafoss. You have to watch your step carefully on some rocks in a small river to get inside. However, there’s also a lot of mist inside which made me worried to take my non-weatherproofed camera out.
On your way to Skogafoss, take a minute to stop near the entrance to Eyjafjallajökull Erupts, a small museum devoted to the 2010 eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull. If the sky is clear you can see the volcano from the main road. We didn’t go inside the museum.
A quick drive will take you to Skogafoss where there’s a small set of stairs going up the side to give you a nice view of the area and the top of the waterfall.
I really wish we had the time to see Kvernufoss. Unfortunately, we still had a few more things to see and my mom was getting tired of waterfalls.
Further down the road is the famous Reynisfjara Beach with black sand, hexagonal basalt columns and small caves that seem straight out of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
There’s a restaurant overlooking the beach, aptly named Black Beach, where we shared fish and chips for dinner. Thanks to its prime location it was on the more expensive side.
After dinner, head into Vik and drive up to Vik i Myrdal Church to get some nice views of the area.
Optional second dinner is an Icelandic hot dog from a gas station.
Solheimasandur… is it worth it?
If you are feeling up for a long walk in the sand with nothing to look at, then head on over to the parking lot for the hike to the Solheimasandur plane wreck. I didn’t realize how far away the plane wreck really was from the parking lot until we actually got there. Since we didn’t have anything better to do we decided to walk out. It took us about two hours total to get there and back. If you are on a tight schedule don’t bother spending your precious time here.
We stayed at the Skammidalur Guesthouse where we had a private bedroom but a shared bathroom.
Bonus Day: If you can add a day to your trip and are into hiking, spend a day (or more) at Thórsmörk. There are many long hikes there with amazing views. If we had another day I would’ve spent it there.
Day 6: Glacier Lagoon
Today you will visit Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. If you want to go on a boat ride in the lagoon, you need to buy your tickets in advance. We booked ours here.
The two options are an Amphibian Boat or a Zodiac Boat. We chose the Zodiac Boat tour because you are able to get closer to the icebergs and it’s usually a smaller group size.
There are some other smaller glacier lagoons nearby (Breiðárlón and Fjallsárlón) and Diamond Beach, which unfortunately I forgot was on the other side of the bridge crossing over Jökulsárlón.
After eating lunch either on your own (a granola bar for me) or at the small food options at the lagoon, head back on Route 1 to Svartifoss.
It’s not too long of a hike out to Svartifoss and the basalt columns surrounding it are pretty unique.
Nearby on Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe, you can go on a glacier walk tour. I wish we had the extra money and time to do a glacier walk and it’s definitely something I would do if I come back.
Another place I really wish we stopped at is Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. I had it on my list but we were tired from our busy week and early morning start. It was closed for a bit to recover from over-tourism but it should be open now.
Drive back to Vik to stay a second night and be prepared to leave for the airport tomorrow.
Day 7: Final Stops and Flying Home
If your flight isn’t until late afternoon, take the opportunity to visit something you missed earlier during your trip. Who knows when you’ll be back in Iceland- make the most of it!
We drove back to Reykjavik to see Perlan which had some (pricey) food, a museum (didn’t have time), an extensive gift shop, and a great view of the city.
Arrive at Keflavik International Airport early to return your rental car and check in for your flight.
Have a safe flight home!
Pin this article to save for later!