Iceland Itinerary – Five Days in the Land of Fire and Ice

Five Days in Iceland

Iceland is known as the “Land of Fire and Ice” due to its volcanoes and glaciers, yet it is full of never-ending contrasts.  Bright green moss sits on top of stark black volcanic rock, the North Atlantic Ocean is wild compared to calm rivers cutting through the countryside, and massive waterfalls shoot water down rapidly while steam slowly rises up all over on the landscape due to the underground geothermal activity.  And of course there are the famous Icelandic horses and sheep as well as puffins on the coasts.  The diversity of Iceland is incredible!

We spent five days here and got a great taste for what Iceland has to offer.  Really, it just left us wanting to come back and explore even more!  In sharing our five day itinerary, we hope that it will help you plan a trip to this incredible place!

About Iceland

Iceland is Europe’s westernmost country and Reykjavik is Europe’s northernmost capital.  It was under Danish rule until 1944 when it finally established independence.  Iceland’s historical government dates back to 930 when it was called Alþingi which met at Þingvellir, now a national park.  This is considered to be the world’s oldest parliamentary democracy.

Iceland’s location on the Mid-Atlantic ridge directly causes its geothermal activity.  In fact, the Eurasian and North American plates are pulling apart, which you can actually visually witness at Þingvellir National Park.

Iceland experiences about 22 hours of daylight in the summer and 22 hours of darkness in the winter.  We never saw full darkness during our visit!  It was pretty cool to experience the midnight sun.

Map of Iceland, in between North America and Europe

When we visited

We visited in June 2022.  We had sunny days and blue skies with temperatures in the 50s.  One exception was at the end of our trip when we had a rainy day.  Iceland experiences a maritime climate with rainy days to be expected, less so in the summer.  Summers tend to be in the 50s with a mix of sun and clouds.  Winter is colder with snow in some areas.  

Where we stayed

The Black Pearl | Reykjavik, Iceland

We loved our stay at the Black Pearl as it was very centrally located to explore Reykjavik.  Our family had the entire fourth floor as there were two apartments located across the hall from one another on each floor.  The kids had one room while we had the other.  Both rooms had kitchens, balconies, and a full bathroom.  We loved the space and amenities!

Itinerary Overview

  • Day 1 – Reykjavik, Iceland – Travel day, arrive in Iceland; Blue Lagoon; check in to lodging in Reykjavik.
  • Day 2 – The Golden Circle – Day trip to see some of Iceland’s best sights.
  • Day 3 – The South Coast Day trip to see more of Iceland’s best sights.
  • Day 4 – Back in Reykjavik spend the day exploring the city.
  • Day 5 – Travel Day Home

DAY 1

  • Travel day to Iceland
  • Relax in the thermal waters of The Blue Lagoon
  • Explore Reykjavik after checking in to lodging

We arrived in Iceland on a red-eye flight from the US, landing around 7:30 am.  After a quick and easy customs process, we retrieved our luggage and headed out to get our rental car.  We rented our vehicle through National, which was one of the car rental companies located off-site, which you reach by taking a shuttle bus.  Even with waiting for the shuttle, riding to the car rental site, and then getting the rental car, we were driving away from the airport within an hour after landing.

From here, it is time to head to The Blue Lagoon!  This is one of Iceland’s most visited places.  We posted a thorough guide to visiting the Blue Lagoon titled, All About Visiting Iceland’s Blue Lagoon.  Be sure to check it out for in-depth information pertaining to securing tickets, how to time it right, and what to expect during the whole experience.

We enjoyed our time here!  Nothing felt better than wading in the warm waters of the Blue Lagoon after our transatlantic flight.  Set against black volcanic rock, the pale blue colored lagoon looks like an oasis in the middle of another world.  We felt relaxed as we waded about, enjoyed our drink, and indulged in the face masks.  

A great experience, post transatlantic flight!

The Blue Lagoon is located on the Reykjanes Peninsula, about 20 minutes from Keflavik Airport.  Because of this, it is recommended to visit the Blue Lagoon on the way from the airport or on the way back to it.  It will save you time driving back and forth when instead you could just slip in here after or before your flight as it’s probably the nearest you’ll be to it during your time in Iceland.

After our Blue Lagoon experience, we drove to Reykjavik to check in to our hotel, the Black Pearl.  We got settled and then headed out to get into the day light and explore.  Getting outside into the fresh air and sunshine is best for beating jet lag!  The Scandinavian architecture in this pedestrian friendly area is lovely. 

We also came across Rainbow Road – a rainbow painted on the road leading up the hill to Hallgrimskirkja.  It’s a big photo spot so it’s also a fun place to watch people grab their pics 🙂

Rainbow Road, leading up to Hallgrimskirka

We did a little shopping in the stores on Laugavegur, Reykjavik’s premier shopping road.  We particularly liked Eymundsson’s, a lovely bookstore and cafe.  

At the top of the hill we visited Hallgrimskirkja, a Lutheran Church and the tallest church in Iceland.  Towering over the city, the exterior was designed to mimic basalt columns present in Iceland’s landscape.

Hallgrimskirkja, Iceland’s largest church

Inside, it is very simple in the nave and houses an organ which is the largest musical instrument in Iceland.

The interior of Hallgrimskirkja

Going up the tower is worth it as you will get great views of the city from above.  Tickets can be purchased in the gift shop and the elevator is located around the corner.  Once up, you will be just below the massive bells and can look outside the windows from the clock faces. 

Looking up at the bells

Continuing up on a few flights of stairs, you will now get fabulous views of the city, waterfront and beyond in all directions.  

City views from the top of Hallgrimskirkja

We ended our day with dinner out at Sæta Svínið Gastropub.  We had a variety of pub food and found all of it to be delicious.

The name of the restaurant means “sweet pig”!

DAY 2

  • The Golden Circle

Today is an epic day!  It will be a long driving day but you will be stopping a lot along the way.

We started off our day at Kronan, a grocery store, located just a short distance from our hotel.  We got drinks and lunch items so we could have a picnic lunch during our road trip.

Here were our stops on the Golden Circle:

  1. Þingvellir National Park – pronounced like “Thingvellir” this is a historical site as well as a geological wonder.  Lake Þingvellir is also a fabulous spot for fishing.
  2. Geysir/Strokkur Geysir – Geysir is no longer predictable and is not considered active, however its next door neighbor, Strokkur, is very predictable, erupting every 8-10 minutes. 
  3. Gulfoss Waterfall – the most epic waterfall!
  4. Kerið Crater – not to be missed.  One of the “side” sights of Golden Circle, it definitely deserves to be seen.

Þingvellir National Park not only holds historical importance but geological importance as well.  The original Icelandic parliament, Alþing, met at Þingvellir dating back to the 10th century.  There are some remains from this time which led to its protection as a National Park.

The entrance to Thingvellir National Park

Geologically speaking, Þingvellir is the site of a rift formed from the separation of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.  To be able to visually see it is astounding! 

Not only can you hike around it but you can even snorkel in it as well!  For a chance to snorkel in between the North American and Eurasian plates, check out Dive Iceland.

While at Þingvellir National Park, Mike and Braden also spent some time fishing at Lake Þingvellir.  I enjoyed taking in the beautiful scenery and capturing photos.  Some of the world’s biggest brown trout are located in Lake Þingvellir!

Fishing in Lake Þingvellir

It took us about an hour to reach our next destination, Geysir & Strokkur Geysir.  The “OG”, or original geyser, from which all succeeding geysers get its name, Geysir was once an active geyser although remains mostly dormant today. 

Here rests Geysir

Right next door is Strokkur Geysir, which is very predictable.  Erupting about every 8-10 minutes, water shoots into the air about 100 feet high.  It’s easy to see where it will be as you’ll see people crowded around the roped off area.  While walking around this area, steam rises, mud pots bubble, the earth is active!

The active Earth around Strokkur Geysir

Onward to Gulfoss, which is about 10 minutes away.  This was absolutely incredible.  To get an idea of the size of Gulfoss, check out the people on the walkway next to the waterfall.

Incredible Gulfoss

We enjoyed a little cafe time after viewing Gulfoss, I enjoyed an Icelandic beer and carrot cake!

After Gulfoss we continued on to our last stop during our Golden Circle trek, about 45 minutes away, Kerið Crater.  The crater is a volcanic lake, formed about 3000 years ago.  The red soil contrasts with the blue water in the caldera.  It’s a stunning site! 

Incredible Kerid Crater

One can walk around the rim high above, which Mike and Braden did.  It took them about 10 minutes to trek the entire rim. 

Mike and Braden traversing the rim

I took the stairs to see what it was like at the bottom, which took me about 5 minutes to reach.  The view was more stunning from above but it was also neat to get a size perspective from down in the bowl.  

Stairs down to the crater bowl

View from the bottom

We were ready for dinner at this point so stopped at Ölverk Pizza & Brewery.  It was good pizza and decent beer.  We seemed to be among all locals in this smaller town, which was fun!

DAY 3

One of Iceland’s other iconic routes is the South Coast.  Once again, we started off at Kronan getting picnic supplies for our road trip. 

Here were the stops on our South Coast Tour:

  1. Seljalandsfoss – a waterfall that you can walk behind.
  2. Gljufrafoss – next door neighbor to Seljalandsfoss. 
  3. Skogafoss – a beautiful waterfall set in a canyon of black rock and green moss.
  4. Skogar Museum – collection of historical homes, buildings, and artifacts.
  5. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach – a wild black sand beach with basalt columns and sea stacks.
  6. Vik – The largest town in south Iceland, a fishing town set next to active Katla Volcano.

We drove just under two hours to reach our first stop, Seljalandsfoss.  You can see the waterfall from the road along with several other smaller waterfalls flowing down the cliffs.  

The paved parking lot was full and several camper vans and busses were parked along the side of the road, however we easily found parking in the gravel overflow lot below.  You do have to pay and display here before you visit the falls.

Entering Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss is unique in that you can walk behind it! 

Can you spot the people walking behind the falls?

You will feel the spray as you get closer so it is recommended to wear a rain jacket and shoes with good traction, such as hiking shoes.  The falls thunder down about 200 feet as you see it from all angles!

It’s stunning from all angles

Next to Seljalandsfoss is Gljufrafoss, a smaller waterfall.  Walking along the path, you can see lots of smaller waterfalls trickling down.  

The walking path to see more waterfalls next to Seljalandsfoss

We ate our picnic lunch in the car before moving on.  On site, there is also a small outdoor cafe selling drinks and snacks.  

From here we headed to Skogafoss, located about a half hour away.  Again, you can see the falls as you approach but nothing beats seeing it up close as it is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland.  To the right of the falls are stairs leading up to a viewing platform as well as a chance to continue on hiking “Waterfall Way”, a 4.2 mile hike taking you among even more waterfalls. 

To the right of the falls are 370 stairs and a viewing platform

We viewed Skogafoss from above and could not believe the wind!  We carefully headed down the stairs where the wind was still…windy…but not as treacherous! 

The top of Skogafoss with a hiking path to continue on to “Waterfall Way”

This is such a pretty waterfall, set deep into the canyon, surrounded by black rocks with soft green moss.  You’ll get the best light for photographing it in the afternoon and will probably see a rainbow as well!

Next door is the Skogar Museum, a collection of turf houses, a church, school, and a small museum on site.  We spent some time here, and especially enjoyed walking into the homes to get a peek into home life in old Iceland.

Skogar Museum, a great stop after Skogafoss

From here, we drove about 30 minutes to Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach.  Located on the south shore of Iceland near the town of Vik, you will see black sand, sea stacks, eroded caves, and basalt colums. 

Basalt columns and sea stacks on Reynisfjara Beach

It was once voted one of the top 10 non-tropical beaches in the world by National Geographic!  It’s absolutely stunning with all the amazing geology here.  However, it is imperative to be very careful when visiting.  You’ll see signs as you approach talking about “sneaker waves” – strong waves that can suddenly come up much further than expected and have carried unsuspecting tourists out to sea.  So be very mindful when visiting this otherwise astounding beach.

Our South Coast road trip was another epic day in Iceland and we highly recommend all of the stops listed.  We tried to eat at Restaurant Suður-Vík, located just up from the church in Vik, however it would have been a 30 minute wait.  We decided to head back to Reykjavik and eat there.  A reservation is a must if you’d like to dine in here while in Vik.

Lovely Vik

DAY 4

  • Explore Reykjavik
  • Pub Crawl (adults only!)

Today was a day we had planned to explore Reykjavik a bit more.  After our two driving days, a day of sleeping in and seeing the sights in the city was on our agenda.

Mike and I had plans to do a Rick Steve’s City walk, however it was pouring rain.  One must pivot when weather dampens plans.  Instead, we went to lunch at Bistro 101, which was excellent!  We highly recommend the Icelandic cod fish and chips and a local brew.

From here we walked to explore Harpa, the concert hall that is a work of art in and of itself.

Harpa, located on the waterfront of Reykjavik

Harpa is an architectural masterpiece!  (with an awesome cafe/bar)

We then drove to Fly Over Iceland, which is similar to the ride, Soarin’, at Disney World.  We love these fly over rides!  There was a large parking lot on site, right next to another Kronan grocery store.  After our time at Fly Over Iceland we grabbed some dinner supplies so we could cook in the apartment this evening.  

Our trip to Iceland was coming to an end as we had to pack and prepare for an early morning departure the next day.  However, the rain let up so Mike and I went on a pub crawl!  

Pretty buildings in Reykjavik

To start our pub crawl, we went to Skuli.  The bartender at Skuli was intriguing.  He never said a word as we ordered and simply handed us our drink.  In fact, we never heard him say a word to anyone!  I got a Skuli pale ale while Mike got a Randy Raspberry & Marshmallow.  Skuli had a good mix of locals and foreigners.  The place was rustic and cozy.

Skuli, a cozy place

Next was Sessions.  Sessions is on the second floor and you can almost miss it.  It’s right at the beginning of Rainbow Road.  We liked this location because we could look over Laugevegur, Reykjavik’s premier shopping district.  We also watched people take pics on Rainbow Road.  And we played Scrabble!  With that, I had a flight and Mike got a sour.

My flight

While chatting with the friendly bartender we spotted some home grown Kentucky Bourbon on the shelf.

Hey look!  Kentucky bourbon is on the shelf!

P.S. I won Scrabble 🙂

From here, we went to our last stop, Baka Baka, which was our favorite of the night.  When we initially passed it, the building caught my eye as it was a really cute Scandinavian style building. 

Baka Baka, right next to the Punk Rock Museum

Inside, it was cozy and featured beautiful beams set into the brick, definitely an old building! 

The cozy interior

But what we loved was the service and the food and drink!  Here, I ordered an espresso martini, but was soon approached by the lively bartender that not all ingredients for this were in stock.  She offered to make me a naughty cold brew:  if you know me you know I LOVE iced coffee and not only that – it was made with Kentucky Bourbon!  We shared that we were actually from Kentucky and had toured many a distillery so this drink sounded perfect.  And it was!  Coupled with one of the best tiramisu I’ve ever had, this was an excellent end to our evening. 

My tiramisu and “naughty cold brew”

Mike enjoyed a Moscow mule with salami and olives and we sat back and relaxed with our excellent food and drink taking in the vibe in this lovely place, our last hurrah of our time in Iceland.

DAY 5

Travel day home!

Iceland is unlike any other place we have visited. The landscape is best described as “other worldly”.  The epic beauty of Iceland is unsurmountable.  With this five day itinerary you’ll get a great overview of all that Iceland has to offer.  

Read More!

For the full post on visiting Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon, check out our article for all the planning information and what the experience entails:  All About Visiting Iceland’s Blue Lagoon

And for a more in-depth look into exploring Reykjavik, check out, Great Things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland

Dietary Notes

As always, everyone’s needs are different.  At press time my husband is grain-free and two of our kids are allergic to nuts and eggs.  Although we seem to encompass a large amount of dietary restrictions, we can only offer advice as to what pertains to our own family, as that is where our expertise lies!

We found dining in Iceland to be relatively easy with food allergies.  We ate at and recommend the following restaurants:

  • Saeta Svínid Gastropub – its name means “sweet pig”, Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Deig Workshop, a bakery located next to La Kock – we had bagels and cold brew coffee here daily, Reykjavik, Iceland 
  • 101 Bistro – excellent fish & chips, Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Ölverk Pizza & Brewhouse – two things that go great together, especially following a road trip day, Hveragerði, Iceland
  • Gulfoss Cafe – yummy drinks, food, and treats at Gulfoss Waterfall, Haukadalur, Iceland

For more on traveling with dietary restrictions, be sure to check out our guide:  On the Go with Allergies.

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