Iceland itinerary 7 days: how to plan one week in Iceland
Are you planning to visit Iceland for one week? Looking for the best 7 days in Iceland itinerary with waterfalls, black sand beaches, and epic adventures? We have you covered with this ultimate guide for spending an amazing 7 days in Iceland, both in summer and winter.
First of all, you have to realize that it is impossible to visit all the highlights of Iceland in one week. There is so much to see! We traveled through Iceland in April for almost 5 weeks (winter camping with our 4×4 campervan of CampEasy) and didn’t even get to see it all. One week simply isn’t enough to cover this beautiful country.
But, that doesn’t mean a week won’t be amazing. A lot of those Iceland must-sees lie within a reasonable distance, making 7 days perfect to see waterfalls, glaciers, turf houses, lava fields, black beaches, and have some experiences you’ll never forget.
We strongly advise you to rent a car or campervan if you want to see Iceland in 7 days. This guide is mainly written for people planning a self-drive road trip through Iceland, but if you’d rather not drive, we suggest a few multi-day tours that cover a lot of Iceland.
In this article, we don’t travel the entire ring road in 7 days. In winter, that is simply not possible. It takes at least 12 to 14 days. You’ll find lots of articles, however, that suggest driving the ring road for 7 days in summer. In our opinion, that’s not a good idea.
First of all, because it’s a long way and you’ll be driving half of your trip. Secondly, because you have to rush so badly, there is no time left to really explore and enjoy the island or experience some of its amazing activities. You’d need at least 10 days for the entire ring road in summer.
This Iceland itinerary for one week covers a lot of suggestions for stops during these 7 days. You can adapt each day to your interests or timing to create your own perfect Iceland 7 days itinerary. You can even switch the days at the beginning and the end (Reykjavik, The Blue Lagoon, Reykjanes Peninsula), as we start and end at Keflavik airport.
You’ll soon notice that traveling to Iceland also means you have to take the weather into account. So depending on the season, this Iceland in 7 days itinerary will be either easy or challenging. Let’s talk a bit more about those seasons and the weather.
7 days Iceland itinerary in winter
Winter in Iceland is beautiful and brings its own amazing experiences, such as ice caves and the northern light. If you are looking for the perfect winter in Iceland itinerary (from October to April), and you have only 7 days to spend, you have to realize you won’t be able to do as much as in summer.
In this 7 day itinerary for Iceland, we cover Reykjavik, the Reykjanes peninsula, and the South Coast of Iceland. All of this is perfectly doable during winter, knowing however that days are a lot shorter and you need to be flexible if there is bad weather.
So our suggestion is, if you follow this one-week itinerary for Iceland in winter, to not jampack your days. If there is some daytime left, you can always add an extra highlight to your road trip.
7 days Iceland itinerary in summer
Summer in Iceland lasts from May to September. You can still expect any kind of weather (4 seasons in one day), but the days are long and the road conditions are considerably better. During wintertime, a lot of places aren’t reachable, such as the Highlands or the Westfjords. In the summertime, you can go anywhere but need a 4X4 to reach some highlights.
As mentioned before, we don’t recommend driving the entire ring road in for a 7 days Iceland trip. We want you to really enjoy this fantastic country, soak up its landscapes and activities, not rush through it.
For some, this 7 days in Iceland itinerary will be perfect for summer. It is filled with amazing places, a lot of suggestions for activities and the most unbelievable scenery.
However, some might want to squeeze even more stops and regions into their road trip. Therefore, we have suggested an extra day at the end of this article, that covers the Snaefellsness peninsula. You could do the South coast in 2 days instead of 3 and add this extra day at the end of your trip.
Driving in Iceland
If you want to visit Iceland in 7 days, we recommend driving this itinerary yourself. Driving through Iceland is definitely part of the journey and adventure. Some of the landscapes you’ll drive through are just as amazing as the destination.
Rent a car or a campervan and hit the road. The easiest way is to rent your vehicle with pick up at Keflavik airport. For a car, we can recommend the Rentalcars website, which we almost always use. A 4WD is always handy in Iceland, but you don’t need one for this Iceland 7 days itinerary (especially not in summer).
For a campervan, we can recommend CampEasy. We drove around in their 4×4 camper and loved it. A campervan will save you lots of money on accommodation as campgrounds are less expensive and you can cook your own food.
Depending on the season you plan to travel to Iceland, you might be wondering if driving in Iceland is safe and doable. Especially during wintertime, you want to be well-prepared.
That’s why we wrote an entire article on driving in Iceland during the wintertime (October – April). Even during summer, you’ll want to read this because it’s not uncommon to have bad weather.
What to pack for your Iceland road trip
As we have said before, the weather in Iceland is something you need to take into account when you are preparing for your trip. This means you need to think about what you should wear in Iceland. Packing the right clothes can make or break your trip.
It’s not uncommon to have 4 seasons in one day or to have snow in the summer months. And let’s not forget about the fierce Atlantic or Arctic wind that sweeps over the island.
Especially for a trip in winter, you need to consider what to pack. Therefore, we wrote an entire article on what to wear and pack for Iceland in winter. If you’re planning a trip from May to September (Icelandic summer), you can roughly take the same things except for the extreme winter stuff. But you’ll still need something to keep you warm and dry.
Besides the right clothing, don’t forget to pack your camera! Iceland is epic and a top destination for travel photography. Check our complete travel photography gear guide to find out the essential camera gear you’ll need.
And now it’s time to dive into our suggested 7 days itinerary for Iceland.
Day 1: Arriving in Keflavik and discovering Reykjavik
Total driving distance: From Keflavik airport to the capital, Reykjavik is 48 km or 30 miles (45 minutes to 1 hour).
Depending on your hour of arrival, you can go immediately to Reykjavik or explore the Reykjanes peninsula first, where Keflavik airport is situated. Many people go straight to the Blue Lagoon, but as it gets very crowded, we put it on day 7 of our itinerary, so you can visit it in the morning. Go check day 7 for more information on the Reykjanes peninsula if you want to add it to your first day.
How to plan your day:
After you have picked up your car or campervan at Keflavik airport, it is approximately a 48km or 30 miles drive to Reykjavik, the northernmost capital of the world. The roads on this part are usually very well maintained. If you don’t have a car (yet), you can book a shuttle bus transfer from Keflavik to Reykjavik.
Reykjavik is Iceland’s biggest town and a lively city. All sights in Reykjavik are within walking distance, so you can easily park your car by your hotel or at public parking and visit everything on foot.
One afternoon is usually enough to visit all the highlights of Reykjavik.
- Visit the Hallgrímskirkja church. The church has a 74 m / 243 inch high tower from where you have a fantastic view over Reykjavik and its surroundings. Admission to the tower costs 900 ISK for adults, 100 ISK for children aged 7-14. and is free for younger children.
What to do in Reykjavik:
In front of the church is a statue of Leif Eriksson, who discovered North America around the year 1000, more than 500 years before Columbus.
- Immerse yourself in art and culture. The Sun Voyager sculpture is a popular landmark, located along the coast near Harpa Concert Hall, which is also worth visiting.
If you are looking for history you can go to the Saga museum, the national museum of Iceland, or the open-air Árbær Museum. Looking for nature and science? Go visit the Maritime museum, Whales of Iceland museum, or The Northern Lights Centre.
- Stroll around the city center. Reykjavik has some lovely streets to discover. Don’t miss the main street, Laugavegur, which is filled with shops, restaurants, bars, and street art. You’ve probably seen pictures of this street with its rainbow painted on the ground. But you’ll want to explore further, into the narrow alleys filled with colorful houses that line the old city center.
- Dive into the nightlife. Reykjavik has a great nightlife scene. From Sunday to Thursday, cafes are open until 1am. On Friday and Saturday evenings, however, they remain open until 5am. A number of bars and cafes offer live music at night and the city is buzzing with all kinds of live entertainment.
In addition to the nightlife, there are also many restaurants where you can taste the typical Icelandic dishes. Some of our favorites are Icelandic Street food, Café Babalu and Hlemmur Mathöll. Besides these, you can find restaurants that serve all kinds of international food in the capital.
Tours to book (optional):
- Reykjavik city walking tour: if you’re short on time or don’t like to prepare anything, you can book this fun walking tour in Reykjavik. During this walk, the guide will show you all the highlights of the city center, tell you about its history and give you tons of tips and advice for the rest of your trip. If you don’t want to pay, you could also try this free walking tour.
- Northern Lights tour from Reykjavik: between the end of September and mid-April, you can see the northern lights in Iceland. You won’t be able to experience it in the city center, because of the light pollution. You can drive outside of the city yourself, but if you have never experienced the northern lights before, a tour and guide can be helpful because they know where and when to look.
- Whale watching and puffin tour: these tours leave from the Reykjavik harbor. In the summer months, between the end of April and October, you have a big chance of seeing humpback whales and puffins in the waters around Reykjavik. Other whales, such as minke whales and some dolphins can be seen year-round here.
- Icelandic Horse tour on lava fields: explore the surroundings of Reykjavik on an iconic Icelandic horse. This tour is possible for beginner and experienced riders.
Where to stay in Reykjavik:
If you don’t have a lot of time, staying in or close to the city center of Reykjavik is highly recommended. That way, you safe time ad you get to experience the real vibe of Reykjavik. The city has many options, from very basic to luxury accommodations. You’ll want to book ahead, as the best places fill up quickly.
Are you traveling by campervan, then you can camp in Reykjavik center. However, when we were there, the campground was closed and we had to go to the Grindavik campground, which is an hour away. Not ideal, so best to check this first.
- Reykjavik Treasure, if you are looking for a nice B&B. The location is fantastic and you get a real home feeling.
- Townhouse hotel if you’re looking for some luxury.
- The Galaxy Pod Hostel, if you’re a Star Wars fan on a budget. The dorm rooms and sleeping capsules feel like outher space. Another great budget option is the Kex hostel.
- Reykjavik domes, if you’re looking for something special. They are located only 9 kilometers / 6 miles outside the center, but it feels like another world. You get to sleep in a dome with beautiful sights on the surroundings.
Day 2: The Golden Circle
Total driving distance: Today we drive from Reykjavik, pass the main highlights of the Golden Circle, and continue towards the South coast (Selfoss or Eyrarbakki). This is about 300 km or 186 miles and would take you 3-4 hours without stops.
You could also stay somewhere near the Golden Circle, but then you’d have to drive more the next day. If you decide to drive back to Reykjavik, the round trip is about 240 km or 149 miles.
How to plan your day:
The Golden Circle is one of the most popular routes to drive in Iceland because it has so many highlights, so close to Reykjavik. Expect it to be crowded, therefore leave as early as you can.
The main points of interest during this route are the Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and the Gullfoss Waterfall but there are some extra stops possible.
Every Iceland 7-day itinerary will include this road trip. Your Iceland vacation would be incomplete if you skip the Golden Circle. You’ll definitely need an entire day for this, especially if you do one of the extra stops.
We end this beautiful trip in Stokkeseyri or Eyrarbakki, located by the sea and the perfect starting point to discover the South Coast. You could also stay the night in Selfoss or even on the Golden Circle, but then you’d have to drive more the next day.
What to do on the Golden Circle:
- Þingvellir (Parliamentary Fields) national park (Thingvellir)
Þingvellir National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its historical, religious, and natural importance. Here you can walk in between the North American tectonic plate and the Eurasian tectonic plate. It is one of the only regions in the world where you can see this on land.
The park has two visitor centers and different parking lots. Entry to the park is free but you do need to pay for parking.
In 930 AD, thirty clans assembled here and formed the first parliament of Iceland. Every year, they kept returning until 1798. After that, the parliament was removed by the Danish but it came back to Reykjavik in 1845. Modern Iceland was born.
Take some time to walk around and admire the rock formations, Öxarárfoss waterfall, the first church of Iceland, the birthplace of the first parliament, …
If you like snorkeling or scuba diving, you should visit the Silffra Fissure. It’s one of the top ten sites in the world. Special clothing is provided for snorkeling in the icy water. Be aware this will take a couple of hours, which means you need more time or will have to skip some other stops.
- Valley of Haukadalur (Geysers Strokkur and Geysir)
This geothermal valley has a lot of hot springs, mud pools, and of course geysers. The biggest one is Geysir, which also gave its name to this phenomenon, which can shoot up to 70m. Unfortunately, he’s inactive for the moment…
Right next to Geysir, you can find Strokkur which is the country’s most famous geyser, shooting boiling water from 20 meters (65 feet) up to 40 meters (130 feet) high. Strokkur erupts every five to ten minutes, so you will have a lot of opportunities to get a good look and picture. Don’t go too close too, the water is hot.
You have a parking lot with some restaurants, toilets, and a souvenir store right next to Geysir. Parking and entry are free.
- Gullfoss (Golden waterfall)
Only ten minutes away from Geysir, you can find Gullfoss, a magnificent waterfall. Park your car in one of the parking lots and go down to the waterfall.
Gullfoss has two different stages. The first cascade is 11 meters (36 feet), and the second one is 21 meters (69 feet). The canyon walls reach up to 70 meters (230 feet) into the sky. If it’s sunny, you might even see a rainbow.
There is a walking path that will take you close to the waterfall (you’ll get wet) where you can really feel and hear the power of the water. During wintertime, some of these paths may be closed because of ice but you still get to enjoy the views over the waterfall.
Do you have more time to spend on the Golden Circle? Here are, besides the main attractions, some other suggestions you can add to your itinerary.
- Extra: Kerid Crater
Kerid Crater is filled with a beautiful lake. You can walk around the rim or down to the lake. Depending on the time of the day and the weather, the lake will have an emerald green color.
You have to pay 400 ISK to enter the parking.
- Extra: Reykjadalur thermal river
If you have some spare time, we highly recommend visiting Reykjadalur hot springs, also called the valley of steam. From the parking lot, you can make a nice walk to the heated river. Just be careful, during the winter in Iceland, bring crampons with you because the trail can be very icy.
After a 1,5 hour walk, you should reach the bathing area. Just in time to enjoy a well-deserved warm bad after an unbelievable day!
- Extra: The Secret Lagoon
The Secret Lagoon is located between Geysir and Selfoss, on your way to the South Coast. The oldest swimming pool in Iceland, made in 1891, is naturally filled by the warm thermal waters of the area. The water completely changes every 24 hours. Perfect for a dip before you head to the south.
Entry is 3000 ISK for adults and free for kids from 14 years and younger.
Tours to book (optional):
Silfra snorkeling: In Thingvellir National Park, you can snorkel over and dive in the Silfra Fissure. It’s the only place in the world where you can dive between two tectonic plates. This is an absolutely fantastic experience! Material and clothing against the cold water are provided.
Golden Circle Tour: if you don’t feel like driving the Golden Circle, you can book a tour that will bring you to the most important highlights. This tour even stops at the Secret Lagoon.
Where to stay:
If you only visit the highlights of the Golden Circle, without the extras, we suggest you drive all the way to the South Coast so you can start to explore immediately the next day. A nice place by the sea is Stokkeseyri or the sleepy Eyrarbakki, where seals are having fun on the beach during the morning or evening. Sea Side Cottages or Guesthouse 77 are good places to stay.
If you don’t want to drive too far on your second day, you can stay in the eco-friendly Eldhestar hotel in Vellir. They’re also an Icelandic Horse stable and offer fun horse ride tours. Selfoss or is one of the bigger towns in this area where you can buy all kinds of food or other stuff. Hostel Selfoss is a great place to stay in this area.
We also want to mention Hotel Ranga, a beautiful luxury hotel in Helga and a perfect base to discover the South Coast. It’s also close to the starting point of the next day.
If you’re camping, there is a basic, but good campground in Selfoss with a kitchen and some common areas.
Day 3: The south coast, Part 1
Total driving distance: If you stayed for the night in Eyrarbakki, we’ll drive 144 km or 90 miles today up to Vik, a 2-hour drive without stops. From Selfoss, it’s about 130 km or 80 miles and from Hella, it’s only 93 km or 57 miles.
How to plan your day:
Now you’re entering one of the best parts of this 7 day Iceland itinerary and one of the most beautiful and easily reachable areas of Iceland. The island has over 10000 waterfalls, and some of the most beautiful ones are located along the South coast.
Because there are so many stops and sights we suggest splitting the south coast into two days. We don’t cover a lot of kilometers on the first day, because there is so much to see and we want you to have time for a walk to discover it all.
No worries if you miss a spot because you will take the same road back to Reykjavik. There is no loop to make here unless you’re doing the entire ring road. So depending on your interests, the weather, your planning, … you can decide to skip some highlights and to them on your way back to Reykjavik.
The roads in the South are usually well maintained, but always be aware that snow or ice can slow down your driving time. In winter, you even might have to change your schedule if roads are closed for a few hours due to the weather. If you don’t feel like driving the South coast yourself, you could book one of these full-day or multiple-day South coast tours, leaving from Reykjavik.
What to do:
Seljalandsfoss is one of Iceland’s highest waterfalls. It has a drop of 60m and you can even circle the waterfall by walking behind it. Just pay attention in winter, the path can be very icy. As this is the first stop of the day, you won’t see the floodlights which have been set up next to the waterfalls. It gets very crowded during the day, so being here in the early morning is a good idea.
You can also walk to the other smaller waterfall, Gljúfrafoss, on the left. It takes only a few minutes of walking on a nice pathway. They call this one the hidden waterfall, as it lies behind a rock. Be aware you’ll get wet, trying to see this fall.
Parking at Gljúfrafoss is free, at Seljalandsfoss you’ll have to pay a fee (not in wintertime). We stayed at the campground next to Gljúfrafoss and it was one of the most beautiful places we ever camped.
- Seljavallalaug – one of Iceland oldest swimming pools
Seljavallalaug is an outdoor swimming pool 10 km or 6 miles east of Ásólfsskáli. The swimming pool is mainly known for its beautiful backdrop and is one of the oldest pools in Iceland (1923). Thermal waters fill the pool but don’t expect the water to be very warm.
After parking your car at the small parking lot you need to hike about 30min to the pool. The views during the hike are equally magnificent. There is no admission fee and as long as there is space for you, you can hop in the water. Be aware that the changing rooms can be very dirty. Still, we highly recommend this as a stop on your route.
- Skogafoss waterfall
The Skogafoss waterfall is one of Iceland’s biggest and most impressive waterfalls. This one has a width of 26m and a drop of 60m. If you are lucky, and the sun is shining, you can see a beautiful rainbow because of the spray.
You can also climb the steep staircase to admire the waterfall from above (over 500 steps).
On the eastern side of the waterfall is the start of one of Iceland’s most famous hiking trails, the Fimmvörðuháls pass. The 22 kilometers (14 miles) trail takes you along Skógá river, between two glaciers and ends in the Þórsmörk valley.
The entrance to the waterfall is free with a big parking lot next to the waterfall. The Skogafoss waterfall is located in the city of Skogar where you can visit the Skogafans museum. This beautiful folk and open-air museum with turf houses showcase the history of Iceland. Adults pay 2000 ISK and kids below 12 years old are free.
- Myrdalsjökull glacier
Located north of Vík í Mýrdal you can find this enormous glacier and its smaller outlet glacier Solheimajökull. It’s the fourth largest glacier in Iceland and can be seen after a short walk from the parking lot. The glacier conceals Katla, the active volcano. It’s possible to do some custom hiking on the glacier.
In case of seismic activity, you should check the road conditions on the Road and Coastal Administration’s website. If you are driving in winter in Iceland (October – April), you should check this website daily anyway.
Do you have more time to spend? Here are some other suggestions you can add to your 7 days Iceland itinerary.
- Extra: Sólheimasandur plane wreck
One of the most famous plane wrecks in the world lies in Iceland on a black sand beach. You’ve probably seen some of the pictures on Instagram.
After crashing on the beach in 1973 (nobody died), the plane wreck has been subject to the fierce wind, rain, ice, and snow of Iceland. This means it’s slowly deteriorating, which makes it all the more photogenic.
Be aware though, you can not reach it by car. It takes a 45 min to 1-hour (one way) somewhat boring walk through a vast plain to get to the plane. You need to have time to visit this site and realize it can be crowded. We were here in the wintertime, towards the evening, and had the place almost to ourselves.
- Extra: Dyrhólaey viewpoint and lighthouse
On your way to Vík, you will pass the Dyrhólaey viewpoint, which is reachable by car. Dyrhólaey is the southernmost point of Iceland. You can admire the beautiful stone archway and endless black beach from here. If you want to reach the lighthouse, you’ll need a 4×4 or you can walk up there as well. In summer, there is a chance of seeing puffins. Sometimes cars aren’t allowed because birds nest on these cliffs.
Tours to book (optional):
- Visit an ice cave in the Myrdalsjökull glacier: this tour leaves by a super jeep from Vík and takes you deep into the glacier. Visiting an ice cave is only possible during the winter months, until the end of March.
- South coast trip from Reykjavik: if you don’t feel like driving the South coast yourself, you could take this full-day tour from Reykjavik that will bring you past the main highlights mentioned on this third day of our Iceland 7-day itinerary.
- Glacier hikes near Vík: hiking a glacier is a very special experience, but is only possible with a certified guide. There are many amazing tours that will take you to one of the surrounding glaciers and some even to an ice cave.
- Kayak the Sólheimajökull glacier lake: if you want to get close to the glacier, book a kayak tour and paddle between icebergs.
Where to stay:
Because it was already a challenging day, we recommend driving to Vík to stay overnight. On the way to Vík, you will pass Reynisfjara (the black beach) but we recommend visiting the beach early in the morning to avoid the crowds. It s only a short drive back.
Vík itself is a lovely small town. Don’t miss the beautiful church lying amid the most amazing scenery. The Icelandic Lava Show can be a fun stop as well, where you learn everything about lava and the volcanoes of Iceland.
A nice place to stay in Vík is Hotel Kria, which opened in 2018 and is only 5 min walking to the beach. Breakfast is served daily and includes a cold and a hot buffet.
Hotel Vík í Myrdal is another nice option, located in the center of town. It has a fitness center for those who are not tired after a day of hikes and sightseeing. You’re close to all restaurants and supermarkets as the hotel is in the center.
The Volcano hotel is a more luxurious option, just outside of Vík. Black Beach suites is another amazing place to stay, within walking distance of the Reynisfjara black sand beach.
Extra tip: We had dinner in the Ströndin Bistro and Bar and had the best burgers ever.
Day 4: The South Coast, part 2
Total driving distance: Today we’ll cover about 190 km or 120 miles from Vík to Jökulsárlón, which would talk you 2-3 hours without stops. Roads can become increasingly icier, the further you drive east. Don’t worry, however, they are usually cleared quite regularly.
How to plan your day
Starting from Vík, this day will be filled with glaciers, hikes, beaches, canyons, and, of course, waterfalls. Be ready for a jam-packed day full of adventures and natural beauty.
Depending on your plans (for example a boat tour near the glacier, or glacier hiking/ice cave tour), the (bad) weather, or if you just woke up a little later, you can decide to skip one of these highlights and visit them the next day or on your way back.
If you don’t feel like driving the South coast yourself, you can book full-day or multiple-day tours from Reykjavik to discover the highlights of this area.
What to do?
- Reynisfjara black sand beach
Get up early to discover the Black beach of Reynisfjara. Especially in summer, you’ll avoid the hordes of tourists. Wintertime can be a bit less crowded, but going early still won’t hurt. Parking shouldn’t be any problem and is free. Next to the parking, they have toilets and a small restaurant.
The beach is famous for its black sand, basalt columns on the beach, and basalt cliffs in the sea. It’s listed as one of the top 10 non-tropical beaches in the world.
Just be careful with the killer waves. Signs will warn you that you can’t get close to the water. Don’t take these signs lightly. Multiple tourists got killed by those killer waves. Never stand with your back to the sea, never. Even when you think the sea is calm, these waves come and go and can surprise you at any time.
- Kirkjubæjarklaustur canyon – Fjaðrárgljúfur
This dramatic canyon is located close to the town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. It is less known than other famous places so with a bit of luck, it will also be less crowded. The canyon is about 100m deep and 2km long, dotted with a lot of waterfalls.
You can choose which route you want to take, walking along the ridges or in the valley itself. When you choose to walk in the valley, make sure you have good waterproof boots. If you do the walk on the cliffs, you have viewing platforms every few hundred meters. The views over the canyon are phenomenal.
Next to the free parking lot, there is a toilet.
- Fjallsárlón glacier
Fjallsárlón is a glacial lagoon in Iceland, located on the southern end of the Vatnajökull glacier. Hundreds of icebergs are floating on top of the lagoon’s surface. It is similar to the more famous Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon but it is smaller and less crowded. It is also possible to take boat tours on the lagoon.
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
This is definitely one of the hotspots of Iceland, you can’t skip this one. It is a glacier lagoon filled with icebergs, with the extra bonus of seals swimming between the ice chunks. Standing here was one of the top experiences of our trip.
The lagoon connects with the ocean and is composed of salty sea and fresh glacier water, which causes its beautiful color. If you really want to experience the glacier lagoon in all its glory, book a boat tour or rent a kayak and paddle between the icebergs. Be sure to book them in advance, especially the smaller zodiac tours, as they fill up quickly.
Visiting Jökulsárlón by sunset is a magical experience, so plan accordingly if possible. Free parking spots and toilets are available next to the bridge.
- Diamond beach
You don’t need to drive any further as Diamond beach is just on the other side of the bridge and reachable by foot from the glacier lagoon. Big ice chunks are lying on the black beach and glistening in the sun. Not hard to imagine they could be real diamonds.
The icebergs from the glacier lagoon drift into the sea and are pushed back to the shore by the waves. If possible, try to visit Diamond beach when the sun sets, especially if you’re into photography! The evening sun reflecting in the ice chunks is literally gold!
- Extra: Skaftafell and Vatnajökull National Park
In Skaftafell, you can first go to the visitor center of Vatnajökull National Park. If you’re traveling by campervan, there is also a nice campground here, where we stayed for a night. You have to pay for parking your car, but if you stay for the night, the parking fee is included.
The visitor center will give you all the information you need on the National Park. There are two main options to explore the park, which are hiking by yourself or hiking on the glacier (with a certified guide). In the park, they have maps with the best hiking trails and advice on which tours to book.
The easiest hike is a 1-hour loop that takes you to the edge of the Skaftafellsjökull glacier. One of the most popular walks is the Svartifoss (Black Waterfall) hike, which is a beautiful waterfall surrounded by basalt columns. It takes around 1,5 – 2 hours to do this hike. Before you leave, always check the weather conditions!
If you decide to explore this national park, you might want to move the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and diamond beach to the next day.
Tours to book (optional):
- Hiking the Vaknajökull glacier: if you want to go ont the Vaknajökull glacier, you will need to book a tour. It is not allowed to go by yourself!
- You can just hike or even combine the hike with a visit to an ice cave (in winter) or with ice climbing.
Where to stay:
There aren’t a lot of options for accommodation in the area, so be sure to book ahead! Staying near the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon has the advantage you get to visit the lagoon and diamond beach by sunset or sunrise, an experience you won’t forget. And it will be the perfect starting point for the next day.
A great option is the Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon, located in Hnappavellir. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant and hotel bar. The glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón and the diamond beach are 29 km away from the hotel.
Other good choices are the Hali Country Hotel and Skyrhusid Guesthouse, both only a 10-minute drive from the glacier.
If there isn’t anything available anymore close to the glacier, driving to Höfn (1 hour) is another option.
Day 5: The South East Coast
Total driving distance: Today we’ll cover about 130 km or 80 miles, depending on where you spent the night, from the Glacier lagoon to Höfn.
How to plan your day:
Depending on what you already did the previous day, you can use this one to finish up all the highlights near Jökulsárlón and continue your journey towards the easy.
If you have explored Vaknajökull National Park, you likely didn’t have time enough to visit the glacier lagoon as well. Therefore, you could start the day with a visit to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and diamond beach, preferably by sunrise. Even if you visited it the day before, the light will be totally different.
After that, book a glacier adventure (if you haven’t done that the day before) and drive towards Vestrahorn – Stoksness. We’ll spend the night in Höfn.
We have mentioned a few of the glacier adventures you can do on the South coast during the previous chapters of our 7 days in Iceland itinerary, but as the days were jampacked, you probably weren’t able to do it all.
Also, exploring one of the glaciers is a must-do when you’re in Iceland, so we’ll list the best options here, as most of them are not too far from Jökulsárlón. You can plan them on your 4th, 5th, or 6th day around the South coast.
What to do:
- Visit a blue ice cave
One of Iceland’s rarest natural phenomena and most popular winter activities is exploring the blue ice caves. Book a tour and visit the naturally formed blue ice cave in the wilderness of Europe’s largest glaciers.
They will take you with a super jeep on the glacier, and after a short hike, you get to go into the ice caves. The location of the ice cave can change every year. You can visit ice caves in the glaciers of Vatnajökull, near Jökulsárlón, or on the Katla.
We booked a tour with Glacier Adventure and loved every minute of it!
- Glacier hiking
Hiking on a glacier is a very special experience! But as glaciers change every year and you can encounter hidden cracks or holes, you can only hike a glacier with a certified guide. You can choose to book a tour on the Vatnajökull or Sólheimajökull (near Vík so best on day 4).
- Ice climbing
If you’re into winter sports, ice climbing might be just your thing! There are some amazing ice climbing experiences (usually combined with hiking on the glacier or visiting an ice cave), again on the Vatnajökull or Sólheimajökull (near Vík so plan this on day 4).
- Vestrahorn – Stoksness
After your glacier experiences, it’s time to drive on towards Vestrahorn and Stoksness. This is the endpoint of our south coast trip. Saving the best for last could be true in this case. This might be one of the most beautiful and breathtaking sites! Check the weather before you go though, if it’s really misty you won’t see the stunning scenery.
It is located on the Stokksnes peninsula. With peaks reaching up to 454 meters (1490 ft), steep cliffs rising from the sides of a stunning lagoon, and black sand beaches all around, it will blow you away!
Don’t forget that the beach at Stokksnes is private, and has a small entrance fee (€5/$6). There is a small pub to grab a bite or have a hot coffee.
Next to the entrance, you can also find an old Viking village. It was built as a set for film decor but was never used in the end. Over time, the weather elements have done their thing and it really looks like Vikings used to live here.
Where to stay:
After visiting Vestrahorn, drive back to Höfn to spend the night. Höfn means harbor, as this small coastal town lies in a natural harbor. There is not much to do, but you’ll find some decent places to sleep and restaurants to eat.
Our best recommendation is the Viking Cafe. You sleep only a few hundred meters away from the famous beach of Stoksness. If you’re camping, stay at their campground. You can park your van by the Viking Cafe and you’ll have all the time in the world to explore the beauty of this place.
In town, Hotel Edda Höfn is a great choice. It’s located by the harbor. Another good place is the Milk Factory, where you get views over the glacier.
If you’d prefer to stay two nights at a hotel, you could choose to stay a second night in the hotel around Jökulsárlón and drive to Vestrahorn and back. That way, you’ll have fewer kilometers the next day when you have to head back to the Reykjanes peninsula.
Day 6: Return to Reykjavik
Total driving distance: Höfn is as far as we go for this 7 days itinerary in Iceland. Unless you drive the entire ring road, you have to go back the same way towards Reykjavik. From Höfn to Reykjavik it’s 450 km or 280 miles, but you can decide to divide the drive into two days.
How to plan your day:
It’s time now to head back to the Reykjanes peninsula. As you have to drive back the same way you came, you can visit some of the highlights you might have skipped earlier. Maybe it was dark, not open, fully booked or you just ran out of time.
Also remember, driving the South Coast of Iceland is an adventure in itself. You won’t be bored. The scenery is incredible. Over here, the journey is definitely part of the experience.
You can choose to spend the night around Vík, drive further to Selfoss, or even all the way to the Reykjanes peninsula. From Selfoss, it’s about 1 hour to Grindavik, along the coast.
Be aware that the weather might also determine how far you can drive. If it’s really windy, snowy, or icy, it might be hard to do 450 km or 280 miles in one day.
What to do:
Look back to all of our suggestions from days 3,4 and 5 of our Iceland in 7 days itinerary. Whatever you had to skip, you can do it today. We have a few more small recommendations if you’re out of ideas.
- Hofskirkja turf church
The turf churches are one of the things Iceland is famous for! And they are very photogenic! Hofskirkja is one of the 6 remaining turf churches in Iceland and definitely worth a visit! You’ll pass it about 20 kilometers or 12,5 miles before you reach Skaftafell.
Nupsstadur is an old turf farm that contains over 15 turf houses. You can also find a very photogenic turf chapel here. The backdrops are breathtaking! After a short walk, you can also find a spring. Fill your water bottles here. This is about as pure as after gets.
You’ll find Nupsstadur about 35 kilometers or 21,5 miles after Skaftafell.
- Green lava walk (Eldhraun)
This impressive lava field is a result of one of the biggest volcanic eruptions of Iceland in recent history. From 1783 until 1784, the Laki volcano erupted, blocking the sunlight in large parts of Europe and producing enormous amounts of lava. It’s also said to be a very poisonous eruption, causing disease and death.
The crew of Apollo 11 came to practice for their moonwalk in these fields. Now, you can walk through the very special landscape. Please respect nature though. The moss growing on the lava is very fragile.
This waterfall is one of over 10000 beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. It’s definitely worth the detour if you have time. Over time, the water has created multiple holes and tunnels in the rocks, creating a fantastic spectacle.
- Keldur turf house
These beautiful turf houses are located not too far from Hella. It’s one of the oldest turf farms in Iceland. The views over here are truly fantastic!
- Icelandic horse riding
We’ve mentioned it before, but riding the Iceland horses through the breathtaking landscapes is a very special experience. If you have time, today might be just perfect to book a riding tour.
We did one with Icelandic Horseworld and loved it. They are located near Hella. You get a lot of explanation about these special animals, you can explore the stables and after that ride the horses in the most amazing scenery.
Where to stay:
There are many great options for you to stay the night, depending on your schedule and how far you want to drive. Choose anything between Vík (halfway), Hella, Selfoss, Eyrarbakki, or drive all the way to Grindavik on the Reykjanes peninsula.
For inspiration, you can check our recommendations of the previous days in this Iceland 7 days itinerary. If you want something special, check our article on the coolest places to stay in Iceland. Many of them are located on the South coast.
Day 7: Reykjanes Peninsula
Total driving distance: Drive towards the Reykjanes peninsula today, where Keflavik airport is also located. Depending on where you spent the night, you’ll have to drive around 30 minutes – 2 hours.
How to plan your day:
The Reykjanes peninsula is characterized by immense lava fields, volcanoes, and a lot of geothermal activity. In March 2021, the Fagradalsfjall volcano erupted. Unfortunately, it is no longer active now, but still worth a visit.
If you have to catch your flight today, you can still plan a lot of good stuff before you have to leave. If you leave tomorrow, you can spend the night close to the airport or on the Reykjanes peninsula.
What to do:
- Fagradalsfjall volcano
If you have still the time, you can consider walking towards the Fagradalsjaff volcano. We were very lucky to have witnessed the erupting volcano, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
He’s no longer active, unfortunately, but seeing the fresh lava fields is amazing too. A return trip takes about 3 hours through the amazing scenery.
Gunnuhver is a geothermal field of various mud pools and fumaroles. It lies in the center of the Reykjanes Global Geopark (UNESCO) which is known for its lava fields, craters, geothermic activity, lighthouses, geothermal greenhouses, bird watching and so much more. You can also find the bridge that connects the two continental tectonic plates in the Geopark.
- The Reykjanes Lighthouse and Lighthouses of Gardskagi
Not far from Gunnuhver, you can find the Reykjanes Lighthouse, one of the first lighthouses of Iceland. The lighthouses of Gardskagi are two other beautiful lighthouses, located on the most northern point of the peninsula.
- Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most popular attractions. The water is milky blue and the temperature is 29 °C or 102 °F. Even National Geographic calls this one of the wonders in the world. So, if you like swimming and a spa, book your tickets in advance (especially in summer) and enjoy.
After a relaxing afternoon, you can settle down in your hotel or catch your plane. The blue lagoon is only a 20-30 minute drive from Keflavik airport.
Where to stay:
Depending on the hour of your flight, you can stay close to the airport or look for a more scenic stay on the peninsula.
A great choice near the airport is Hotel Berg Keflavik. You can relax in the rooftop pool or enjoy a drink at the hotel lobby bar. The perfect way to end your Icelandic adventure. The airport is only 3,5 km or 2 miles away. The Reykjanes Global Geopark and the Blue Lagoon are only a 20-minute drive away.
Grindavik is a small fishing town and is only 5 km or 3 miles from the Blue Lagoon. It’s also really close to the 2021 volcanic eruption site. In Grindavik, the Northern Light Inn and Harbour View Cottages are great choices. Near these cottages, you can also find a very nice campground, which we can highly recommend.
This Iceland one-week itinerary normally takes 7 days but if you don’t want to rush, I would recommend 10 days. Especially if you’re looking for an Iceland winter itinerary, the weather can be unpredictable. So be flexible or try to come a few more days.
Alternative day for your 7 day itinerary in Iceland: the Snaefellsnes peninsula
Planning a one-week self-drive road trip through Iceland in summer (May – September)? Don’t mind rushing and driving a bit more than the suggested 7 days in Iceland itinerary from this article? Or do you have 8 days to spend? We have a great extra suggestion for you!
You could make some changes to the itinerary above and add an extra day at the Sneafellsness peninsula. We suggest you spend two days instead of 3 on the south coast or drop your time on the Reykjanes peninsula.
That way you could plan to drive the Snaefellsnes peninsula on DAY 2 where it fits perfectly in between Reykjavik and the Golden circle.
Total driving distance:
If you leave Reykjavik and spend the night in, for example, Borgarnes, the total driving distance would be 330 km or 205 miles. That would take you 4,5 hours of driving without stops.
How to plan your day:
You better leave early for this day so you get to spend as much time as possible on the peninsula itself. It’s impossible to see everything in one day, so below we give a list of the top sights.
Once you reach the Snaefellsnes peninsula, you can choose to explore it clockwise or counterclockwise along road 54. We advise you to go counterclockwise because most tours drive clockwise. That way you avoid the big crowds.
Borgarnes is located between the Snaefellsnes peninsula and the Golden Circle, which is perfect to spend the night. If you don’t want to drive that far, you could look for accommodation on the peninsula. However, that way you will have a long drive in the morning to reach the golden circle.
What to do:
Stykkishólmur is a cute little fish town and the last place to stock up before you hit the peninsula. Pay a visit to the little island Súgandisey, connected to the mainland by a dam, and walk around the little lighthouse.
- Berserkjahraun lava fields
This beautiful lava field is 4000 years old and a great stop for a short walk.
- Kirkjufell (+ Kirkjufellsfoss)
You’ve probably seen pictures of Kirkjufell, as it is the most photographed mountain of Iceland. Especially in combination with the waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss, in the right angle, it makes for a fantastic shot!
Come here early or for sunset to avoid big crowds coming from Reykjavik.
Now you’ll enter the Snæfellsjökull National Park, which covers a large part of the peninsula. When the weather is clear, you might spot the Snæfell volcano and Snæfellsjökull glacier.
This beautiful waterfall is located near a gravel road a bit south of Rif. A short walk brings you to Svöðufoss, which is flanked by basalt columns.
This beautiful Icelandic church will make every photographer’s heart happy. The way the road leads up to the church, the red roof, and the mountains in the back, makes you don’t want to miss this!
- Skarðsvík beach
This is the only golden sand beach on the peninsula and one of the few in Iceland. The surroundings are amazing.
We even kayaked on this beach, with a kayak we brought along on our CampEasy campervan. Be aware though, the waves and current can be dangerous.
- Svörtuloft lighthouse
The road up here is quite bumpy, and depending on the circumstances you’ll need a 4WD. But the orange lighthouse and the views are fantastic!
- Saxhóll Crater
The Saxhóll crater is located in the Snaefellsjökull National Park and is easy to climb with a metal staircase. It takes about 10 minutes to get to the top where you’ll have an incredible view.
- Lóndrangar View Point (+lighthouse)
These rock pinnacles and basalt cliffs, a result of volcanic activity, create a fantastic viewpoint and birdwatching spot! Don’t forget to check out the lighthouse as well!
This beautiful, wooden, black church is one of the highlights of this peninsula and most photographed churches of Iceland. And yet we succeeded in missing it. By the time we realized it, we were in a snowstorm and it was too far to go back. Make sure you don’t ;-)!
This impressive waterfall lies very close to road 54 and the back church. It falls for 80 meters (divided into two parts).
Where to stay:
We suggest you spend the night somewhere in between the Snaefellsnes peninsula and the Golden Circle. Good stops are, for example, Borgarnes or Akranes.
In Borgarnes, we can highly recommend the well-equipped Gíslaholt cottages. Mulakot Cosy Cabins are a great alternative or Kría cottages, only 15 minutes outside of Borgarnes.
In Akranes, Hotel Laxarbakki is a fantastic place to spend the night.
If you decide to stay on the Snaefellsnes peninsula, Sodulsholt Cottages are amazing and right on your route! It’s a great place to try horse riding as well.
That’s a wrap! We hope you liked our suggested 7 days in Iceland itinerary! Let us know in the comments if you have any remarks or questions. We’re happy to help! Below you can find a map with all the suggested highlights and some suggestions for other articles on Iceland you might find interesting.
Other articles on Iceland you might be interested in:
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2 thoughts on “7 days in ICELAND itinerary: Self-drive road trip for summer and winter”
Fascinating post. Next time I am sure you will visit the Westfjords. It is ideal for self-driving almost all year round. It is a ring road that now has a name called The Westfjords Way.
Yes, we hope to visit the Westfjords soon. They look incredible!