More than 2.3 million lucky people visit Iceland every year. Are you hoping to be one of them in 2020?
Iceland may be a small country, but its biodiversity is overwhelming. There are over 200 named waterfalls across the island (and countless unnamed ones). There are geysers, hot springs, caves, and glaciers to explore.
This is also your chance to see reindeer, puffins, and Icelandic horses, as well as whales and seals. You can’t overlook the capital city of Reykjavík either, which has plenty of restaurants and museums to discover.
You could spend months exploring all that Iceland has to offer—but what if time is limited? Is it possible to see Iceland in 5 days?
It is! Of course, you won’t be able to circle the entire island or see everything this amazing country has to offer. But with the right itinerary (and a comfortable motorhome), you can have an unforgettable 5 days in Iceland.
In this post, we’ll help you plan the best Iceland itinerary to match your interests. Read on to learn more—and then get ready to pack those bags!
5 Days in Iceland: Pick your season first
Iceland is an incredible country at any time of the year, but the season you choose will greatly impact your visit. Some activities may not be available during the summertime, while others might only be available in the summer.
Before you narrow down your itinerary, you first need to narrow down the best time of year for your vacation.
Summer in Iceland
The capital city of Reykjavík sits only 168 miles south of the Arctic Circle. From the middle of May to the middle of August, the sun only “sets” for about 3 hours a night—and even then it never gets completely dark.
If you spend 5 days in Iceland in the summer months, you’ll have virtually unlimited daylight to see and do whatever you like. These months are usually the warmest and driest, but the weather here is unpredictable, with snow possible even in July!
The good weather and long days draw the most tourists during the summertime, which means more crowds at the major sites. Many sites in the mountainous interior are only accessible during the summer months when the snow and ice have melted.
Important note: If your dream is to see the Northern Lights, don’t come in the summer! The famed Aurora Borealis is only visible during the darker months from the end of August to late April.
Winter in Iceland
As we just mentioned, winter is your best chance to see the Northern Lights. This is also the only time of the year you can access the country’s ice caves.
Most areas of Iceland only receive about 5 hours of daylight during the shortest months. This can limit your sightseeing options during the day, and you’ll need to check road conditions before you venture out.
Considering its latitude, temperatures in Iceland aren’t as low as you might expect. While no one would consider Icelandic winters to be “warm,” the average temperature hovers right around freezing, even in December.
If you don’t mind the dark days and chilly temperatures, Iceland’s snow-covered landscape (and the Northern Lights, of course) is truly a sight to behold. With the sun’s low angle in the sky, it looks like sunset all day long!
Spring or autumn in Iceland
If you want to avoid the summer crowds and the dark days of winter, consider visiting Iceland during the shoulder seasons.
Spring and fall offer a “happy medium” with mild temperatures and days that aren’t too long or too short. Planning your visit in April, September, or October still allows the chance to see the Northern Lights while (usually) avoiding snow.
Bonus tip: If you’re hoping to see puffins, plan your visit for April or May. This is peak “puffin season” when the birds arrive and begin nesting.
Option 1: Use Reykjavík as your base
Our first option for a 5 day Iceland travel itinerary is to stay in Reykjavík and take day trips to your chosen destinations.
Of course, this will limit your sightseeing choices to things within reasonable driving distance of the city. But don’t worry—there’s no shortage of incredible things to see and do nearby, including in Reykjavík itself.
The city is fun and energetic, with a quirky sense of fashion and art. If you’re into nightlife, you’ll have a blast partying in the city’s many bars, clubs, and entertainment venues.
Consider getting a City Card for 24, 48, or 72 hours. This gives you access to public transportation and many different museums, galleries, and pools. We especially love the National Museum of Iceland and the Whales of Iceland exhibits.
Once you’ve had your taste of Icelandic culture and history in the capital, it’s time to hit the road. With your remaining days, consider the following day trips from Reykjavík:
The Blue Lagoon is at the top of many travelers’ lists when in Iceland, and for good reason. It’s huge, it’s outside, and its incredible blue color seems to glow from beneath.
Be sure to pre-book your ticket before you come, and plan to spend several hours enjoying the facilities. With swim-up bars, a spa, and plenty of warm water to soak in, you won’t want to leave anytime soon.
Bonus: If your flight arrives early, consider heading directly to the Blue Lagoon. It’s situated much closer to the airport than it is to downtown, and this will free up one of your other 5 days for a different activity.
Pick a day you have a lot of energy and drive northeast to explore Iceland’s Golden Circle route.
Along the way, you’ll see the historic Þingvellir National Park and the site where the North American and European tectonic plates meet. If you’re brave enough, you can slip on a dry suit and snorkel in the crack between the continents!
On this drive, you’ll also pass the stunning waterfalls of Öxarárfoss and Gullfoss, as well as Geysir (where we get the English word “geyser”). If you only take one major day trip out of Reykjavík, this one provides the best overview of Iceland’s natural wonders.
Another popular day trip from Reykjavík is a few hours northwest to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Here you’ll find fewer crowds than the Golden Circle and plenty of jaw-dropping scenery to enjoy.
Start with a stop-off at Kirkjufell mountain, one of the most photographed spots in all of Iceland. Go for a hike on Snæfellsjökull Glacier if conditions are right, or look for seals lounging on Ytri-Tunga Beach.
This is also your chance to try fermented shark (if you dare) at the renowned Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum.
Option 2: Iceland’s Southern Coast
Would you like to land in Reykjavík, hit the road, and explore as much as you can outside the city? After seeing what you want to see in the city, hop in your campervan or motorhome and head east.
You won’t have time to loop the entire island in 5 days, but you can hit the major sites along the southern coast. These include Seljalandsfoss waterfall (which you can actually walk behind) and Skógafoss waterfall, favored by locals and visitors alike.
Further along, you’ll have great photo ops at the black sand beaches and basalt columns of Reynisfjara. The picturesque town of Vík is a great place to spend the night and get ready for more.
Continuing along the southern ring road, you’ll pass Svartifoss Waterfall and the Svínafellsjökull Glacier. Your trip will end at the spectacular Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon before you’ll turn around and return to Reykjavík.
Find out more details about driving through southern Iceland here.
Option 3: The Northern Ring Road
What if you really want to get off the beaten path and away from the other tourists? Book a luxurious motorhome for your 5-day journey north towards the top of Iceland.
This epic road trip will take you past some of the country’s most spectacular geothermal and volcanic wonders. After leaving Reykjavík, you’ll first explore the rugged coastline, mountains, and lava fields of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Next, you’ll drive towards the city of Akureyri and stop in Húsavík, the whale watching capital of Iceland. This is also the perfect base to explore some of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe, including Goðafoss, Selfoss, and Dettifoss.
Finish your road trip with a long, rewarding soak in Lake Mývatn, a volcanic and geothermal wonderland. From here, you can either drive back to Reykjavík or fly there from Akureyri.
What’s on your Iceland travel itinerary?
So, what’s at the top of your list for your trip to Iceland?
Is it soaking in the Blue Lagoon? Standing beneath a mighty waterfall? Gawking at icebergs in a frozen lagoon?
The good news is you don’t have to pick and choose these experiences. With 5 days in Iceland, you can do all of this and more!
As you begin planning your Iceland travel itinerary, refer back to this article. Pick the option that appeals most to you. Then the only thing left to do is book your tickets and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. Are you planning to rent a motorhome to explore Iceland? Click here to learn more about touring our beautiful country in your very own motorhome.Back