The Ultimate Iceland Itinerary
Planning the ultimate Iceland trip, whether you are spending 24 hours, or 10 days
With low cost flights from the Americas and Europe, Iceland is no longer the solo green island it once was.
As a traveler this is great news. $280 round trip flight from San Francisco? I'll take it! In August 2018 that is just what I did. I left for Iceland with a backpack and a plan to spend around $100 per day.
General Tips to Remember
You MUST rent a car if you want flexibility and want to see everything.
Most cars are manual. If you can’t drive a stick, try to find people who are visiting at the same time as you who can. You do not want to be a new stick driver on Icelandic roads.
Hitchhiking is common. It will take a lot longer, but it is safe. If you have a car you might want to offer someone a ride along the way!
Get out of the Capital! It is a wonderful place, but if you have the time, there is so much to see in the other parts of Iceland!
To see most of the hotspots on the ring road, 7-10 days is possible (I spent 10 days and could have done 2 more) but 14 days allows you to really see EVERYTHING especially in the winter where you need to allow yourself more time in case of weather problems.
Plan to budget at least $100 per day. (I spent $1200 for a 10 day trip in 2018). For me this included splitting a car with 2 people, couch surfing 4 of the nights, spent some time in *really nice* hostels (around $50 per night), plus a few Airbnbs.
The Northern lights are only visible during “colder” months. Meaning September - March. This is because there is less light.
The summer is June - August. More light and “warmer” weather allows you to see more.
Bring an eye mask for the summer!!
Food is expensive in general. For example, soup costs $20, and you won’t spend less than $25-$30 on a single dinner plate. To save money you can buy sandwiches for lunch.
Be prepared for all four seasons in one day.
Try to have enough money to spend to really enjoy your trip. Iceland is an expensive country but definitely worth it!
24 Hours in Iceland- Blue Lagoon & Golden Circle
In some cases you might have a 24 hour layover in Iceland. This is a common addition to many tickets through certain airlines. It allows you to see at least something in the country. Although it is definitely not enough time, it will provide you a chance to see something.
Morning: Try to arrive as early as possible. Rent a car and immediately drive to the Blue Lagoon. Alternatively you can also end your night at the Blue Lagoon. This may be cheaper, but there might be more people.
Midday: Drive into Reykjavík and walk the streets. Grab a bread bowl soup for lunch, browse the shops, and then check into your hotel.
Afternoon: After setting down your items you should go to drive the Golden Circle. This should include: -Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park -The Great Geysir and Strokkur Geysir -Gullfoss Waterfall -Kerið Crater
Evening: You can either grab dinner within the golden circle at one of the restaurants below,
Night: If you are in Iceland in the summer it will not get dark until 11pm or 12am. Take advantage of this. You can choose to go to the Blue Lagoon in the evening instead of the morning. This might be helpful if you have a later flight as well. Pass out for a good nights sleep before your flight.
If you arrive at night: Although more expensive, another option is to arrive at night. In this case you would immediately go to your hotel, and then wake up the next morning. You would need to stay 2 nights, but still only spend 24 hours in Iceland. This would allow you not to be rushed and tired in the morning from your flight.
If You Have Extra time: Should you have a bit longer, like 48 hours, you should add a trip to see the glacier lagoon, Jökulsárlón, as well as Diamond Beach. This is an incredible place that should not be missed. If you have 72 hours, you can spend more time exploring Reykjavík.
Where to Eat in the Golden Circle
Skyrgerðin: Try traditional skyr yogurt, and Icelandic classic.
Friðheimar Farm: Eat amazing tomato soup grown on site.
Efstidalur: In between Haukadalur (Geysir) to Þingvellir. All the food is farm to table.
Tryggvaskáli: Great food, and right before you go over the bridge to Selfoss. This is the most southern point of the golden circle.
More time in Iceland
If you have more time in Iceland, then you can add the following depending on how many days you have
2-3 days- Kirkjufell and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Black sand beaches, waterfalls, volcanoes, remote lighthouses, lava fields, street art, and Kirkjufell are all worth the drive!
3-4 days- Golden Circle + day trip to Landmannalaugar: The Golden Circle is a 300 km (186 mile) loop that connects three of Iceland’s most popular spots: Gullfoss, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Thingvellir National Park. Stay in Fludir or another small town in order to see these areas and day trip to Landmannalaugar.
5-6 days- South Coast: Driving from the Golden Circle towards Vìk, you should visit: Seljalandsfoss, Gljúfrabúi, Skógafoss, Dyrholaey Lighthouse and Arch, Reynisfjara black sand beach.
7-8 days: Glacier Walk + Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: The Glacier Lagoon is best explored on a Zodiac boat, and Diamond Beach is a must see. On the south coast, there are two places to walk on a glacier. 1: Sólheimajökull if you day trip from Reykjavík. 2: Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe.
9-10 days: Spend more time in Reykjavík!
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