Iceland is an incredibly unique Nordic island with some of the most unbelievable landscapes in the world. Seeing everything in Iceland is often high on the bucket list but is often hard to do.
If you’re like me and only have limited time like a long-weekend or three day trip, this is the best way to see the most of Iceland in a short time. Delta offers nonstop flights from many US cities to Iceland for under $400 and the flight is around 6 hours long.
DAY 1: Visit Blue Lagoon and Explore Reykjavik
Likely your arrival day in Iceland, depending on the time of your arrival flight you can make a solid day out of your first hours. Going to the Blue Lagoon straight from the airport is the most ideal way to do it. It is located 15 minutes from Keflavik Airport and 45 minutes from Reykjavik. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal seawater spa wrapped in a volcanic landscape, known as one of the 25 wonders on the island and a must check off on the Icelandic bucket list. The seawater, rich in silica, rejuvenates the skin and body offering the most luxurious retreat.
You can choose between Comfort and Premium entry to the Lagoon. With Comfort the cost is $60 USD while Premium will cost you $90 USD. At a much steeper price you can book the Retreat Spa for a 4 hour day of luxury.
Pre-booking is required and should be done well in advance as peak times sell out fast and it is essential to accommodate with your arrival time.
Book your reservation to the Lagoon here and find out which entry option is best for you.
After your relaxing intro to Iceland at Blue Lagoon head to your accommodation, if you haven’t done so already, and settle into Reykjavik for the rest of your day. The downtown area of Reykjavik is an awesome place to walk around and explore. The main road, Laugavegaur Street, and surrounding roads are covered with fun gift shops, pubs, cafés and more. Close out your evening chowing down on the Icelandic delicacies at one of our top restaurant picks in Reykjavik.
DAY 2: Travel (part of) The Ring Road
One of the most epic road trips in the world can be found here in Iceland. The Ring Road has caused travelers from all over the world to gather in Iceland, seeking out the adventure of a lifetime.
Depart from Reykjavik early in the morning, first to avoid the mobs of tourists, and second for more time. The more time you have the further you can travel.
The following list is what I recommend seeing and doing (in order) in just one day on the Ring Road. You should modify the itinerary and narrow down what you want to see. It won’t be realistic to see all of the spots if you include excursions.
Your first stop on Route 1 is about 2 hours from Reykjavik. Here, you are able to climb under the falls and around it. You can also walk 1000m over to the Gljúfrabúi Waterfall where you can climb through a canyon to the falls.
- EXTRAS: gift shop, food truck, campground, restrooms
A short 30 minute drive from Seljalandsfoss is the massive Skogafoss Waterfall and the start of the ambitious Fimmvörðuháls Ridge Hike, a 25 km hike between Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull Glaciers.
It is known as the most famous hike on the island but is also only for the experienced, prepared and ones with the most time.
- EXTRAS: Restaurant, gift shop, bar and café, restrooms, campground
Sólheimajökull at Mýrdalsjökull Glacier
Hopping back onto Route 1, travel 12KM to Route 221 to access Sólheimajökull, an outlet of the spectacular Mýrdalsjökull Glacier.
You will see a carpark before needing to walk the rest of the way. This is the best location for a glacier hike tour (the only way to climb on top of a glacier). Prices for this tour start at $95 USD and will take 3 hours.
If you choose to do the tour, it will cut out some options for the rest of your day, but an incredible experience if it interests you. The tour can be booked here.
Solheimasandur Plane Crash
Continuing on route 1 towards Vik is your next stop at the infamous abandoned plane crash. Justin Bieber filmed his “I’ll Show You” music video here, which is why it has so much hype. I found it underwhelming but if it intrigues you, it’s worth the stop. It can be found after a 45 minute walk on the beach to and from the car park.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
A beautiful coastline where the sand is replaced by black lava and ash. The beach stretches for miles, but right near the carpark is plenty to see. When you’re done, grab a bite to eat at the Black Beach Café.
Black Sand Beach
- EXTRAS: Restaurant, restrooms
Popular for fans of Game of Thrones or Insterstellar, the Svinafellsjokull Glacier is a massive glacier filmed on in world famous movies. Matthew McConaughey hiked across the stunning ice structure while filming Interstellar along with dozens of other stars from other films like Batman Begins or Noah.
Svinafellsjokull is an extension of Vatnajokull, said to be the largest glacier outside of the polar regions. There is a carpark off of Route 1, then you will have to hike to the glacier. It is located on the edge of Skaftafell.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon – My #1 spot on the Ring Road
Travel 40 minutes from Svinafellsjokull to this famous Icelandic lagoon. Located in the second largest national park in Europe, Vatnajökull National Park, you will find the most unbelievable site in Iceland.
The turquoise blue waters dotted with icebergs run to the Atlantic Ocean leaving glacial chunks on the black sand beaches. This beauty of beach earned the name Diamond Beach and is one of the raddest things you’ll ever see.
Drive Back to Reykjavik or Book a Night in Vik
End your day driving back to Reykjavik, about 4.5 hours from Jökulsárlón or drive back to Vik and grab a hotel for the night. Vik has plenty of options and you can also find a few hotels randomly placed along Route 1.
If you want to stay where the stars do when they film, book a night at Hotel Skaftafell. With the summer months providing daylight 24/7, you won’t have to worry about driving in the dark, but if the day of driving was enough I recommend a night stay.
DAY 3: Travel the Golden Road or Snæfellsnes Peninsula
If you decided to stay the night in Vik or nearby, wake up in the morning and head back towards Reykjavik. If you leave early enough you might beat the tourists and could have a chance to revisit the sites from the day before without the crowd.
The Golden Road
As a top rec in Iceland, on the Golden Road you will find the Continental Divide, Gullsfoss Waterfall, Geysir and more.
It is a beautiful location and is only 40 minutes from Reykjavik, making it any easy hit. My one hesitation in recommending this place is the amount of tourists. There were so many that it felt like an amusement park rather than a natural wonder.
If you choose this option, I recommend driving the whole circle, it is a super cool drive and there is plenty to stop and see.
If you have the time and the money, book a horseback riding tour. They have dozens of options near The Golden Road.
OR Snæfellsnes Peninsula
A little bit more of a drive north of Reykjavik, I only recommend doing this one if you didn’t stay out on the Ring Road the night before.
If you ended up back in Reykjavik, I suggest you make the trip to Snæfellsnes. It’s about a 3.5 hour drive to get up there and hell of a lot to see.
Lonely Planet’s top 10 spots in Snaefellsnes:
- Southern Snaefellsnes
- Snæfellsjökull National Park
- Búðir & Búðahraun