Finally, your trip to Iceland is coming! I am sure you have been waiting for this for so long but don’t worry, I lived in this amazing country for over 3 years now and I’ve prepared this super comprehensive resource for you to make sure you have an amazing vacation!
Iceland is a country that screams adventure. You have a bit of everything – glaciers, ice caves, waterfalls, hot springs, black sand beaches, and much more! From the majestic landscapes to the wild vistas of an active volcano, this country has a lot of things to offer. But what people don’t know is that Iceland is a surprisingly safe country for a tourist to visit, and a trip to Iceland can be a life-changing experience.
Below is a guide of the most important things to do, see and eat on a 4-day trip to Iceland. Pssst – it covers most of the most well-known must-see places, but I have a couple of surprises for you in the post – there are some great off-the-beaten-path gems that only locals know about! 😉
NOTE: As you might know by now, the best way to get around the country is to rent your own car. While it is possible to get from city to city by public transportation, you will miss out on awesome attractions in between. So, this guide will be the most useful for travelers who are on a self-drive adventure.
With all this said, let’s dive into this 4 days in Iceland itinerary:
- Day 1 – Arrival in Iceland, Blue Lagoon and time in Reykjavik
- Day 2 – West Iceland, Snaefellsnes Peninsula
- Day 3 – Golden Circle, Secret Lagoon, South Coast, and Northern Lights
- Day 4 – Glacier Lagoon, Diamond Beach and back to Reykjavik
- Practical Information for an Iceland road trip
- Frequently asked questions
Day 1 – Arrival in Iceland, Blue Lagoon and time in Reykjavik
For the simplicity of it, I am going to assume that you arrived in the morning and are ready to start your trip right away. (If you arrive in the middle of the day or in the evening, I recommend having a rest and checking out Reykjavik so that you can start your drive the next day in the morning).
After all the formalities at the border have been done, pick up your rental car in your preferred car rental near Keflavik Airport (we have a super-comprehensive post on how to choose the best car rental in Iceland here). I suggest driving directly towards the Blue Lagoon, which is a 20-minute drive from Keflavik Airport, where you will soak and be fully recharged for your upcoming trip!
1.1 – Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is located in one of the many geothermal areas in Iceland where you can soak in amazing baby-blue color water. The Blue Lagoon is, as its name says, blue, because of the way silica reflects visible light. Silica is the main element of the Blue Lagoon and while there, you can do a silica mask. Believe me, your skin will be so smooth afterward.
There are a couple of ways you can visit the Blue Lagoon – the normal way and the “posh” way. The normal way is a simple entrance and it has 2 packages – Comfort (~US$53) and Premium (~US$70). The only difference is that you get a bathrobe, slippers, and 2 additional masks with the more expensive ones.
There is also another way to enjoy the Lagoon – it is a 5-hour Retreat Spa (~US$450) that gives you exclusive access to some of the areas and, of course, different treatments of your choice.
If you are going for a normal visit, please account for at least 2 hours of your time. Most people spend about 3 hours (considering changing, hair washing (girls, you will need to do that after all the sulfur on your hair, trust me!), etc.).
PRO TIP: If you are doing the Retreat Spa experience, you can actually stay there for the whole day – Blue Lagoon recently introduced their brand new hotel called Silica Hotel. And yes, if you are doing it, I am officially jealous! Let us know in the comments how your experience went, we all want to know! 🙂
There is also the LAVA Restaurant at the Blue Lagoon where you can have lunch before heading to Reykjavik (main dishes start from $US40).
PRICE: from 6,990 ISK (~US$55)
1.2 – Reykjavik, Sun Voyager, Harpa Concert Hall and Hallgrimskirkja
It is now time to go to Reykjavik, where you will spend the rest of the day. Start by going to your hotel to check in and leave your luggage (more on accommodation below).
Forget about your car for today, you won’t need it – the city is super walkable. If your hotel doesn’t have complimentary parking, you can park the car in city parking but remember that it is paid from 9 am to 6 pm every day and it is free on Sundays. You can also use the mobile app called Easy Park to make payments.
Now you will discover the city at your own pace or you can also join a free walking tour. If you prefer to visit by yourself, the main locations in Reykjavik to visit are the Cathedral Hallgrimskirkja, Sun Voyager, and Harpa Concert Hall.
You might have already seen pictures of Hallgrimskirkja – a 75m tall church. The structure represents the basalt columns you will see in Reynisfjara in South Iceland during your road trip to the South Coast of Iceland.
The Sun Voyager is a sculpture of a viking boat, representing an ode to the Sun and often called a dreamboat. It also represents hope, progress, and freedom.
Finally, you will visit Harpa Concert Hall. This is a glass building that calls your attention even from a distance. Visit at night for a special light show – they lit it up sometimes!
Psssst – if you want to learn about even more cool things to do in the city, check out our Reykjavik on the budget post
Where to eat
If you are looking for traditional Icelandic food, I strongly recommend the restaurant called Old Iceland.
Where to sleep
You will stay in Reykjavik tonight. Below are my suggestions for accommodation tips for all kinds of budgets (make sure to book in advance, good places tend to sell out fast!):
Luxury ($230+ USD):
You have the Black Pearl Apartment Hotel located right in downtown Reykjavik. As you have a rental car, parking might be a problem but you have private paid parking garages nearby. If this is not luxurious enough, you can stay at the newest hotel in Reykjavik, The Reykjavik EDITION which is located near Harpal.
Middle-Priced ($120 – $230 USD):
I suggest Skuggi Hotel which has parking for their guests subject to availability and it is very well located in the city center. It is actually one street down Center Hotels Laugavegur and having parking spaces reserved for the hotel is a bonus.
Located in the main street in Reykjavik, Laugavegur, the Center Hotels Laugavegur can be a great choice if the location and quality/price relation are important for you. Another similar hotel, in the middle of the same street, is the Sand Hotel by Keahotels.
Budget (Under $120 USD):
I suggest Hotel Cabin which is located in the business area of Reykjavík. It is a great option if you want to be near the city center and it is quite easy to park around the hotel. The rooms are not very spacious but they are comfortable.
Day 2 – West Iceland, Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Today is a big day so have your breakfast early and we are ready to go! Let’s head to West Iceland first, to a place called Snaefellsnes Peninsula (Snæfellsness Peninsula). Your first stop there will be Ytri Tunga Beach, which is 2,5h away from Reykjavík. A beautiful and rare white sand beach in Iceland. With some luck, you can even see seals there!
TIP: Consider stopping by Borgarnes for a coffee break before arriving at Ytri Tunga Beach. If your car needs gas, this is also a good time for it.
2.1 – Budakirkja
Continue until the next stop: Budakirkja (Búðakirka). This black church is probably one of the most photographed places in the country (I am sure it will give you some chills – it looks pretty mystical). Do not forget to check out white sand beaches when there, it is literally in front of the church!
Before arriving at our next stop, Arnastapi, stop by Raudfeldsgja Gorge (Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge). On a sunny day, you can see a waterfall. On the other hand, if the weather is cloudy, it will be very dark and you have no visibility.
2.2 – Arnarstapi
This is our last stop for today! Dry towards Arnarstapi, it should only take about 20 mins. Once there, pay a visit to Gatklettur (most commonly known as “2 kissing rocks”), and Bardar Statue (Bárðar Statue) where it starts a great trail very close to the cliff. This trail doesn’t have a specific name but it is a 3.1-kilometer trail along the coastline and it is very well marked.
Day number 2 is almost finished but you still have a few stops to make:
Continue your day trip along the Saefellsness National Park and you will have a view of the Snæfellsjökull (Snæfellsnjökull) glacier. Then check out Kirkjufell Mountain and the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall. If you are a Game of Thrones fan you will recognize these places! 😉
Where to eat
In Arnarstapi I recommend Stapinn Cafe or Snjofell Restaurant. During these 4 days in Iceland, you will see that it is a bit hard to find restaurants or cafes within short distances and you might want to have some snacks and sandwiches with you just in case.
Where to sleep
Drive like you are on a round trip to Reykjavik but, instead, you will stop in Borgarnes where you can stay your night here. This will allow you to be closer to the Golden Circle area as it will be your day trip for tomorrow.
Middle-Priced ($120 – $230 USD):
There are not many options of accommodation in Borgarnes, and the B59 Hotel is the best one and very well located.
NOTE: Borgarnes is a small village and does not have luxury accommodation nearby. Same applies for Budget but, B59 Hotel also offers smaller rooms for less than $120 USD.
Day 3 – Golden Circle, Secret Lagoon, South Coast, and Northern Lights
After a good night of sleep, and having a lovely breakfast it’s time to start driving towards the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle geothermal area is not very far from Borgarnes and has several hot springs and beautiful waterfalls. This will be 1h drive from Borgarnes to the first stop in the Golden Circle, Thingvellir National Park.
Why is it called the Golden Circle, you may ask? When visiting the area you usually do a circle that starts and finishes in Reykjavik. And, because the geothermal area has this golden tone of color, to distinguish this area from the rest of the Iceland itinerary, the Tourism Board has called this the Golden Circle. Very pragmatic, right?
3.1 – Thingvellir National Park
Your first stop is the Thingvellir National Park (Þingvellir National Park). Thingvellir means “Assembly Plains” and it was here, in 930, where the assembly was established and continued until 1798.
You will be able to see the Thingvellir Church, the main historical point of the park which has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2004. The church is usually closed, but luckily, you might see it open around 10am and there is no entry fee.
Thingvellir National Park is very rich in terms of nature and has several trails. The most common trail takes you on a journey of around 2-3 hours and you will be able to visit Almannagjá, Oxararfoss, and Silfra.
3.2 – Almanagja, Oxararfoss Waterfall (Öxarárfoss), and Silfra
The Almanagja fissure is a place where you are able to see the tectonic plates of the American and Eurasian diverging and moving apart. Here you will also find a small waterfall where, historically, women were drowned for incest.
Oxararfoss is the main waterfall in the Golden Circle (by the way, we also have a whole post on the best waterfalls in Iceland, check it out here!). It has 13 meters and you can see how strong it is, hitting the pile of rocks. Some people get closer to it if on that day there is not much water near the rocks, but be careful as the rocks are very slippery!
The Silfra fissure is the only place in Iceland where you can do snorkeling or diving between the tectonic plates. It is 60 meters deep but if you would like to dive, you can only go up to 18 meters depth. The water is very clear and it has a constant temperature of 2 degrees Celsius.
3.3 – Geysir and Strokkur
If it starts to smell weird – don’t worry, you are in the right place – geysers are all around! 🙂
The area has several geysers and trust me, you won’t miss the show – some geysers “explode” with a hot stream of boiling water every 10 mins or so.
For instance, Strokkur is the geyser that is in constant activity, erupting every 7 minutes (sometimes less than that). You can see this small explosion as many times as you want because it is not always the same (sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker).
Here you can also do one of the trails and, very close to this area, you have one that takes you to the top of a mountain which gives you an incredible panoramic view. This point is called Konungshver. The trail is not clearly marked, but the right point to start is at Strokkur and you will see that colorful mountain (hard to ignore!). From there, just follow other people. Seriously, follow them. There is always someone hiking that mountain. If it happens you are alone there, here is a google maps link.
3.4 – Gullfoss Waterfall
Continue this journey towards the famous waterfall of the Golden Circle area – Gullfoss Waterfall. This 32-meter waterfall (Golden Waterfall in Icelandic) is divided into two waterfalls, the tallest one being 21 meters. It releases 140 cubic meters of water per second. It is definitely very strong. You can see this waterfall from above or closer to it.
Let’s dive into a very interesting story? Gullfoss was supposed to be a hydroelectric plant nowadays. Back in the early 1900s, Tómas Tómasson, a sheep farmer, owned Gullfoss and it was proposed to sell the area to an Englishman so he could build a hydroelectric plant there. Tómas agreed to lease instead of sell this land but his daughter, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, fought against it taking this case to court.
Sigríður is known as the first Icelandic environmentalist. She was about to lose the case when she made a threat to jump into Gullfoss if construction on a hydro project would start. In the end, and after so much trouble and years in court, the lease contract was canceled and the rental fee payments were not being done.
Gullfoss means, as said before, Golden Waterfall. Have you ever wondered why? It is told that Sigríður owned a lot of gold and she was accused of incest and she would be killed by drowning.
However, as she did not want to transfer her gold to anyone in her family, she threw her gold to the waterfall. Now, every time you see a rainbow, people say it’s Sigríður’s gold shining. 🙂
PRO TIP: Do not forget your waterproof clothes (more on this here) – Gullfoss waterfall is very powerful and you will see an incredible amount of water, so yeah, you WILL get wet!.
3.5 – Secret Lagoon
Secret Lagoon, even though less and less secret throughout the years, is a hot spring where you can enjoy and relax in the warm water.
The water temperature is around 40 C and, similar to the Blue Lagoon, you do not have a time limit to spend there. During the winter season, it is open from 11 am to 7 pm, and during summer, from 12 pm to 8 pm. If you happen to forget a towel (or even a swimming suit), you can rent one there.
PRICE: ~$US23 per adult, children under 14 can enter free of charge
Where to eat in the Golden Circle area
There are a few places to eat along this journey. You can either go to a restaurant combined with a souvenir store, such as Gullfoss Panorama Restaurant. Or, if you prefer to have a more relaxed and gastronomic experience in Iceland, you should definitely try Friðheimar (Fridheimar) Tomato Farm or Farmers Bistro.
3.6 – Seljalandsfoss Waterfall and Gljufrabui
Seljalandsfoss is a 60 meter waterfall and yes, you can walk behind it!
As I mentioned earlier, waterproof clothes are going to be very useful on this day, it will come in handy now too!
PRO TIP: About 5 minutes from this waterfall, you will find Gljufrabui. This waterfall is a little bit hidden by the cliffs but it is well worth the visit. In order to see it better, you need to go in between the cliffs, along the river and voila, it is right in front of you! Climb on a big stone in front of it, spread your hands wide, and feel the incredible power of this waterfall, an unforgettable moment!
3.7 – Skogafoss and Kvernufoss Waterfalls
South Iceland is known to be a paradise for waterfall lovers. I am sure at the end of your stay in Iceland (or maybe on Day 3 already?) you will lose count of how many waterfalls you saw!
Ok, but you will definitely remember Skogafoss waterfall – it is super powerful and yes, you can take some fantastic pictures there! Go up the stairs to see the waterfall from above (it is 60m tall!). You will find a gate that you can go through and walk a little but don’t go on too long as this is the Fimmvorduhals trail (a multi-day trail).
Kvernufoss waterfall is less known by tourists (tssss, don’t tell anyone!), even though it is super close to the famous Skogafoss. Here is a google maps pin – it is going to be about 20 mins walking from the parking lot, do not miss it! P.S. You can walk behind that one too!
3.8 – Solheimajokull
It is time to take a break from the waterfalls and visit the first glacier on our itinerary!
Solheimajokull is a glacier sleeve of the Myrdalsjokull glacier. Please note that you cannot hike the glacier without a guide, but you can see it from a very close distance.
Sadly, many glaciers are slowly melting now and Solheimajokull is no exception. Check out Chasing Ice documentary (on Netflix) to find out more.
If you would like to hike the glacier, I recommend the Solheimajokull Glacier Hike. Do not worry, you do not need to be an experienced hiker to participate. Your guide will take care of the necessary equipment and explain to you some basic rules while in the glacier. It is a 3-hour tour during which you will discover ice cave tunnels and an amazing glacier lagoon, receive some detailed explanations about the glacier formations, and more!
3.9 – Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
We are almost done for today – your last point of interest is Reynisfjara. This black sand beach is one of the most famous in the country and some series and movies were filmed here.
You probably have seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Thor: The Dark World, and Noah, right? Watch them again and then you will be able to say “I’ve been there!”.
In Reynisfjara, there are beautiful rock formations along the coastline. These are basalt columns with years of history as they are solidified volcanic lava and the caves you see are the result of erosion. While looking at the sea, you will see two other rock formations that the erosion broke apart. They are called Reynisdrangar.
If you are enjoying the ocean and observing the waves, look to the right and you will see Dyrholaey (if it is a clear sky). From where you stand looks quite small but it is a 120 m high cliff with an arch.
Where to eat in the South Coast area
There are a few places on this trip on the South Coast where you can eat. You will see that Iceland doesn’t have many options along the ring road unless you are in the main villages. The more common places are in the Black Beach Cafe (in Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach) and then, a restaurant in your hotel.
Where to sleep
The end of the day has arrived and you definitely need your well-deserved rest! Here are some options I chose for you where you can have a good night sleep. You can also check more information on accommodation in Iceland here.
Your 4 days in Iceland itinerary is almost over, and by now, you have realized that you have taken a great decision to avoid staying in Reykjavik every single night as that would make you drive back and forth every day and not take advantage of your time in Iceland.
This will allow you to have your breakfast at the hotel without rushing because you would have to drive many kilometers.
NOTE: Vík does not offer many options that can be clearly identified as Luxury and Middle-Priced.
Middle-Priced/Luxury ($170+ USD):
The Vík Apartments is one of the most expensive accommodations in this area of the South Coast of Iceland. It is very modern with minimalist decor and incredible views.
If you want something simple but equally comfortable, you can stay at Hótel Kría. This hotel has a restaurant which would make your life easier at the end of the day.
Budget (Under $170 USD):
You want to keep yourself on a low budget, and you don’t mind spending your night in a very simple hotel, Hotel Katla by Keahotels is perfect for that.
TIP: You might want to choose a hotel that has a hot tub (if possible) and that is isolated. Imagine yourself in the hot tub looking at the dark sky (if you are traveling in winter) and seeing the Northern Lights dancing. This is one of the best experiences you could have!
Day 4 – Glacier Lagoon, Diamond Beach and back to Reykjavik
After a big breakfast, you are now ready to start your last day of your trip to the South Coast.
4.1 – Skaftafell, and Svartifoss Waterfall
Welcome to Skaftafell Nature Reserve. It is located in the Vatnajokull (Vatnajökull) National Park which is also the biggest glacier in Iceland.
This area has lots of glaciers, ice caves, and waterfalls. While hiking the Skaftafell Nature Reserve, make sure to check out Svartifoss, one of my favorite waterfalls in Iceland! You will need about 2 to 3 hours to be able to do the trial, but it is totally worth it (only available during the summer).
If you wish to hike a glacier in this area, I suggest the Skaftafell National Park: 3-Hour Glacier Hike. You can also combine the glacier hike with an ice-cave visit, here. If you prefer to visit just the ice cave, then you would have to drive to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and do this tour to the Crystal Ice Cave.
4.2 – Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, and Diamond Beach
This is the highlight of today’s Iceland ring road trip. When you are arriving at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon (Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon) you will see the Diamond Beach on your right side and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon on your left. The view is mesmerizing and you will feel like you can’t decide where to start!
Let me help you decide – Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon where you will be able to see huge chunks of ice floating from the glacier. The Glacier Lagoon is changing year-round and you might see it full of ice chunks or with almost nothing. How it looks depends on how much ice broke apart from the glacier and the current strength of the ocean. Either way, it’s always beautiful! Sit on a bench and just listen to the ice breaking. You might even see seals there if you are lucky enough!
PRO TIP: Here, I highly recommend the Zodiac boat to the Glacier Lagoon. This tour will take you very near the icebergs and to the glacier at the end of the lagoon. During this tour, the guide will tell you more about the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon history as it is getting bigger and deeper every year due to global warming. Please note that the boats are only operating during the summer.
Let’s now head to Diamond Beach, which is only a 5 minutes drive. Jökulsárlón is on the left side of the bridge and Diamond Beach is on the right side of it. Here is where all the melted icebergs from the Glacier Lagoon end up, pulled by the ocean. Mind your feet as some icebergs can be covered by black sand. It is known as Diamond Beach because these melted icebergs are so clear and shiny that they remind us of diamonds.
Now it is time to drive back to Reykjavik. Depending on your flight schedule, you might want to stay near Keflavik Airport but that will be a longer drive and you should also rest after these amazing four days.
Where to eat
This area in the ring road doesn’t have many options. You can try the restaurant at Hotel Skaftafell or then eat near the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
Where to sleep
You will now drive back to Reykjavik along the ring road as your final destination of this Iceland itinerary. You can stay in Reykjavik at the same hotel you stayed on the first night or stay in one of the airport hotels if that’s more convenient.
|📅 Best Months||June – August|
|💆♀️ Best Hot Springs||Blue Lagoon|
|🏛️ Learn About Culture||Reykjavík|
|🏖️ Beautiful Beaches||Snaefellsnes Peninsula|
|🌋 Volcanic Landscapes||Golden Circle|
|🧊 Glaciers||Diamond Beach|
Practical Information for an Iceland road trip
When traveling to Iceland, there are a few things to know in advance in order to save you money and any kind of trouble that might happen along your trip.
- Weather: the weather in Iceland is very unstable and it is constantly changing. It can be raining now and sunny 5 mins later. When doing a self drive trip to Iceland, you should check this website for weather updates.
- Roads: Sometimes some roads in Iceland can be temporarily closed and it is important to check the status before starting driving.
- Cash: when you are planning a trip to Iceland, you always think that you need to bring cash with you. Good news! Iceland is a very card friendly country. Even residents in Iceland almost don’t use cash. However, if you still prefer to have some cash with you, please note that you can only do it in banks here in Iceland.
- Rental car: when contacting a car rental to drive in Iceland, I recommend adding the best insurance they have. This will save you from having to give them a huge amount for deposit and a hassle at the dropoff time when it is time to check all possible scratches in the car. PRO TIP: if your credit card doesn’t cover the insurance, you can use this one instead of buying it from the car rental company, it will be much cheaper!
Frequently asked questions
👀 Can I see Iceland in 4 days?
You can definitely see Iceland in 4 days. Even though it is a short time in this beautiful country, you can see many beautiful places in 4 days. Usually, people visit Reykjavík, go to the South Coast and the Golden Circle.
📅 How many days are recommended for Iceland?
If you are planning to do a road trip around the island, it is recommended between 8 and 15 days to see Iceland. This also depends if you are traveling in winter or summertime. Remember that in wintertime you don’t have many daylight hours which means you need more time to visit everything you want.
🇮🇸Is 3 days enough to visit Iceland?
Depending on where you live and if you have direct flights from your country to Reykjavík, you can make a short visit to Iceland in 3 days. You can also join guided tours to make the best of these 3 days in Iceland.
🌋 Is 5 days enough to visit Iceland?
Of course – 5 days there is plenty to visit. You can either rent a cart or join guided tours and still cover the most emblematic locations in Iceland.
So here you have it – my 4 days in Iceland itinerary. I tried to provide all the information you’d need to figure out what to see and do, how to see it, and why you may enjoy it.
You can simply follow my itinerary – it is sorted out by days and the activities on each day are sorted by the order of appearance (as you would see them as you drive). I also recommend places to stay and eat for each of the days so, technically, you should have everything you need for a great stress-free trip!
Let me know if I can help you out with any more information for your Iceland trip.
As we say in Icelandic, Goða Ferð (Goda Ferd), which means, safe travels!