I honestly had low expectations when I boarded my flight to spend 5 days in Iceland this past February. Iceland is one of the most hyped-up destinations right now, thanks to cheap flights and a flood of gorgeous photos on Instagram. Before I visited, I thought it was going to be overhyped, touristy, and too expensive (I actually had a ton of misconceptions about Iceland before I went- you can read about them here!). I was so wrong- Iceland is a destination that really lives up to the hype. This island country is truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited, and between the waterfalls, geysers, and stunning mountains, it’s easy to see why. The natural beauty of this country is astounding, and the cities are quite nice, too! I spent 5 days exploring Reykjavik, the Golden Circle, and part of Southern Iceland, so I’ve put together this itinerary to show you what we did! Of course, because we traveled during winter for a relatively short trip, we couldn’t visit the northern part of the country, and I would love to go back and do the entire Ring Road around the island some day!
Wondering what to pack for Iceland? Here’s my guide for what to wear during your trip to Iceland!
5 Days in Iceland Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrive in Iceland
We arrived in Iceland in the early evening, so we grabbed our rental car and a quick dinner before heading to our first stop: the famous Blue Lagoon. Because we were only in Iceland for 5 days, we decided to do the Blue Lagoon at night, which ended up being a really cool experience. It was so nice to relax in the warm waters while watching the sky above for the Northern Lights. Be sure to buy your tickets for the Blue Lagoon ahead of time to reserve your time slot!
After hanging out at the Blue Lagoon for a couple of hours, we headed to our AirBnB in Reykjavik and rested up for our first full day in Iceland!
Day 2 – Explore Reykjavik
During our first full day in Iceland, we explored the capital city, Reykjavik! We started our day by going to the top of Hallgrimskirkja, the famous church, for amazing views of the city. After that, we walked through the old town and got hotdogs at Baejarins Beztu– an iconic Icelandic institution that has sold delicious hotdogs for years! We wandered to the Sun Voyager, a sculpture that looks like a metal ship, before walking back down the main street and getting a late afternoon second lunch at Icelandic Street Food, a cafe with the best seafood soup served in bread bowls! Later that day, we went to the grocery store and got some snacks and sandwich supplies for our day trip the next day, and we ended the day with some fresh fish from Fisherman Fish Shop and Kitchen.
Day 3 – Chasing Waterfalls
We started our next day in Reykjavik with amazing cinnamon rolls from Brand & Co before heading out of the city. We drove south to Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss, two stunning waterfalls near the south coast. After that, we attempted to visit Reynisfjara, a black sand beach, but the weather was too rough to go beyond the lookout point. That night we made dinner in our AirBnB in REykjavik and tried some fermented shark, a traditional Icelandic food (it was SO gross, I don’t recommend it).
Day 4 – Golden Circle
We left our AirBnB early on the 4th day and hit the road to get to Thingvellir National Park, a beautiful park that includes the land between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates. This unique geographical location gives the park a stunning and interesting landscape. We drove to Geysir, the original geyser for which all others are named, and also visited Geyser Strokkur, which goes off every 10 minutes or less! After that, we went to the Gullfoss waterfall, which was breathtaking! That night, we stayed in a remote cabin in the Golden Circle to try to see the Northern Lights. We didn’t have much luck seeing the lights, but we did have amazing views of the Icelandic landscape.
Day 5 – Hot Springs and a Plane Wreck
After leaving our Golden Circle cabin, stopped by the Kerid crater, and then we went to the hot spring at Fludir. Unlike the Blue Lagoon, this is a naturally-occurring hot spring, surrounded by mountains! After relaxing there for a while, we headed to the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck, also known as the DC-3 plane wreck. It’s a long walk to get to and from the abandoned plane, but I thought it was so worth it! (FYI- no one died in the plane crash- the plane was just left there and stripped for parts after an emergency landing). That night, we stayed in Vik and went by the basalt columns on Reynisfjara beach in the morning en route to the airport to catch our flight home, but you could definitely go back to the airport that night for a late flight home.
What Worked, and What I Would Change
There are certain limitations that traveling to Iceland during the winter puts on what you can do and when you can do it. Icy paths at some of the parks near the waterfalls made it difficult for some people in our group to explore. If you visit during the summer, this shouldn’t be as much of an issue, but be sure to bring sturdy hiking boots whenever you visit. The extreme weather made getting to some sights difficult because roads were icy or covered in snow. Attractions like the plane wreck require a lot of walking, and this sight, in particular, is known for its brutally windy and chilly walk. I think having extra time and some flexibility in your schedule is really helpful, especially when traveling through Iceland during the winter. We originally planned to visit the plane wreck on our last day, but when we passed the entrance during a spell of pleasant (and less windy) weather, we knew we had to take advantage and make the walk while there were better conditions. We definitely could have streamlined our itinerary a bit by visiting the waterfalls en route to Vik, but we were uncertain how the weather would be, so we played it by ear.
Getting food and drinks in the smaller, more isolated towns was more difficult than I imagined. I highly recommend planning your meals in advance, or at least noting the hours of local restaurants and stores ahead of time! We went to grab a bottle of wine one night before realizing that practically every store in the area was closed before 7 PM! We got groceries and cooked most meals for our trip, and we found that worked really well with our schedule and our budget (because meals out are notoriously expensive in Iceland).
I really enjoyed my 5 days in Iceland, and I can’t wait to go back to tackle the Ring Road! Have you visited Iceland yet?
Iceland Vlog Parts 1 and 2
Check out my Iceland vlogs for more Icelandic travel tips!