The Ultimate Trip To Iceland!

The Ultimate Trip To Iceland!

Angie Diamantopoulou Author

Text by: Angie Diamantopoulou

Is Iceland your dream destination? Maybe you are looking to plan the ultimate trip to Iceland, and need some information and inspiration! Then look no further! This guide on the ultimate trip to Iceland will save you time and money, and give you all the information you need to know to plan the trip of a lifetime!

Iceland is a top tourist destination, and for good reason! There are so many different things to explore and experience, from the magnificent, breathtaking Icelandic nature to Icelandic culture and food!

Many people consider Iceland their dream destination. If you are one of them, keep reading to find out where to go, what to see, and how to plan your ultimate trip to Iceland!


Before we dive deep into our guide on the ultimate trip to Iceland, let's first take a look at what you can find in this blog:

  • what are the must-see places in Iceland?
  • where should you travel in Iceland?
  • how long should your trip to Iceland be?
  • what are the best Icelandic highlights?
  • where can you experience the Icelandic nature?
  • what are the best activities you can do in Iceland?
  • what are the best tours you can do in Iceland?
  • how should you plan your trip to Iceland?
  • what should you bring with you on your trip to Iceland?
  • when is the best time to visit Iceland?
  • what are the best things to see during each season in Iceland?

This blog will be structured like a trip, taking you from your first day in Iceland to your last, with all the places you should visit and things you should see in between!

don't miss out!

Our tours are often booked weeks or even months in advance, especially during high season! Make sure you book a spot in your favorite tour ahead of your trip here!


planning your ultimate trip to iceland

ultimate trip to Iceland Reykjavik

Planning a trip can often be quite stressful. You are going to a foreign country with an admittedly very weird language, you have to book flights, hotels, itineraries, and make sure you pack everything you need!

All this stress might tempt you to book your trip through a travel agency. While I think travel agencies are great if you don't mind doing all the cliche things and none of the non-touristy adventures that you could enjoy, I think it's always better to plan your own trip, around your own needs and desires!​

That is why I wanted to make it a little easier for you to plan your ultimate trip to Iceland, so that you can enjoy your time here without worrying about the logistics!

Without further ado, let's jump right into our guide!​


How many days do you need to explore the country for the ultimate trip to Iceland?​

ultimate trip to Iceland

Iceland is a small country, so you might think you don't need that long to explore it. However, there are so many things to see and do in Iceland, that in order to experience it all, you will need quite some time!

In my opinion, ten days is a good chunk of time to explore Iceland. Of course, it would be even better if you could stay longer, but I believe you can see Iceland's biggest attractions, as well as go off the beaten path and enjoy the hidden places, in a little over a week.

For many of us, seven days can be a long time. After all, we have jobs and Iceland is quite expensive, making it pretty hard to stay there for long. So, don't hesitate to modify this guide to fit your needs! You can absolutely have an unforgettable trip to Iceland, even if you can only spend a couple of days here!​


When is the best time to visit Iceland?​

northern lights in Iceland 2019

Personally, I don't think there's a best time to travel to Iceland. Different seasons bring different charm to the country, and Iceland is just as beautiful in the winter as it is in the summer.

It all comes down to personal choice. If you would like to see the northern lights, then you will have to come during the winter! The winter will also offer you stunning landscapes, with frozen waterfalls and rivers, and glittering snow covering the country!

Keep in mind, though, that winter is much darker and much colder than summer in Iceland. Furthermore, some places might be inaccessible due to storms and snowfall.

If this is something you would rather avoid, then it is best to plan your ultimate trip to Iceland for the summer.​ While you won't get to see any northern lights, you will have the midnight sun as your companion! Therefore, you will be able to spend all day outside, exploring the Icelandic nature, and it will be just as bright in the middle of the night as it is at noon!

The midnight sun is also a magical phenomenon! It is quite surreal to wake up and go to sleep with the sun, and seeing the Icelandic nature drenched in its brilliant light!​


What should you pack for your ultimate trip to Iceland?

packing list for summer in iceland

Regardless of the season, the Icelandic weather can be brutal, as well as unpredictable. Lately, we have been experiencing some beautiful sunny days here in Reykjavik, but at 12°C (53°F), it is still rather cold!

So, what should you bring with you on your ultimate trip to Iceland?​

  • Layers. That is the number one rule when traveling to Iceland. No matter the time of the year, it is very important to have several layers with you to keep warm! A good moisture-wicking base layer is also a good idea, as you want to keep dry while you explore the Icelandic nature!
  • Good hiking boots. They are a must, especially if you are planning to go off the beaten path!
  • A raincoat. While it rarely rains enough to make you need some shelter in Iceland, you will hopefully visit many waterfalls! A raincoat is a good idea if you want to keep dry!
  • Thick socks. Most people forget that their entire body gets cold! Thick, warm socks are a must!
  • Gloves, hats, and scarves. Again, you have to keep warm!
  • A reusable plastic bottle. There is no reason to buy bottled water in Iceland! Save money and the environment and bring a water bottle with you!
  • Sunscreen. Whether you come to Iceland in the summer or in the winter, it is always a good idea to have sunscreen with you. The sun can be very strong, and can easily give you a sunburn!
  • Thermals. Thermals make for the best base layer you can have in Iceland.
  • Money, but only if you must. I have yet to come across a place in Iceland that doesn't accept cards. However, if your bank charges a big fee for using your card abroad, you might want to consider having cash with you.
  • A swimsuit. It might seem strange to pack a swimsuit along with your thermals, but trust me, you will need it! Iceland is full of amazing hot springs and pools you will want to visit!

the ultimate trip to iceland

Now that you have some basic information, it is time to explore Iceland in ten days!

Pre or post-trip: visit the Blue Lagoon, explore Reykjanes

ultimate trip to Iceland
​Blue Lagoon

There are very few tourists that skip the Blue Lagoon. The otherworldly milky blue waters of the Blue Lagoon are so inviting that it is impossible to resist (even though at 11990 ISK (95 USD) the prices are steep)!

If you want to pay the Blue Lagoon a visit, I suggest that you do so either once you land in Iceland or before you leave. The Blue Lagoon is situated in ​Grindavik, meaning that it is very close to the airport. It is not only convenient, but you will also get a chance to relax, either after your flight or after a long week of adventures in Iceland!

Brimketill lava pool

Brimketill lava pool

Reykjanes peninsula

While you are in the area, it is also a great opportunity to explore the Reykjanes peninsula! Due to its volcanic activity in the distant past, the peninsula is full of hot springs (but you can't bathe in them) and lava fields

Visit the geothermal park of Gunnuhver for some truly alien-looking landscapes! Also, don't forget to see Brimketill (it's the ocean, don't swim in it), as well as Kleifarvatn, a stunning area near the ocean!​


Days 1-2: Reykjavik

The first two days of your trip are the best chance to explore Reykjavik. Even though Reykjavik is a very small city, there is plenty of things to see!

whales of iceland museum

Whales of Iceland museum

Museums

You can start by visiting Reykjavik's museums and galleries. Some of the best museums include the Whales of Iceland museum, the Árbær Open Air museum, and ​the National Museum of Iceland. As Iceland has a rich history and culture, as well as nature, the museums dedicated to them are the best way to spend a few hours in the city and learn more about Iceland!

If you will be visiting a lot of museums, as well as using the public transport, make sure you get a City Card! With it, you will get free access to all of Reykjavik's museums, pools, and public transport​! Furthermore, you will get plenty of discounts around Reykjavik! 

If you are looking for the best museums to visit, check out this guide on our favorite museums!

Or if you are more of an art lover, read this guide on the best art museums and galleries in Reykjavik!​

Perlan in Reykjavik

Perlan in Reykjavik

Perlan

While you are exploring Reykjavik's museums, it is worth paying a visit to Perlan (or the Pearl)! This gorgeous building used to be a hot water tank, providing the capital with hot water. It has since been converted into an exhibition space and museum, and you can even explore a man-made ice cave inside it!

The highlight of Perlan is perhaps its panoramic view of the city! Go to the observation deck to see the entire city like you never have before!​

Kvika hot spring

Kvika foot bath

Grótta

To finish your first day in Reykjavik with some much-needed relaxation, head over to Grótta. There, you will find a beautiful sea shore, perfectly complemented by an old lighthouse. However, the best part in that area is Kvika, a tiny hot spring where you can dip your feet and relax with views of the Icelandic sunset!


On your second day in Reykjavik, hopefully you will have had a little bit of time to rest. My next suggestion will require energy!

Reykjavik Food tour cheese platter
Reykjavik Food tour

The best way to see Reykjavik is on foot. The best way to learn about a culture is through food. So, we have taken these two must-do activities and combined them in one in our top-rated, mouthwatering Reykjavik Food tour!

During the tour, our local guide will take you around Reykjavik, showing you all of the city's highlights and points of interest. You will also visit six different restaurants and try six different dishes, with an emphasis on local Icelandic food!

If you want a full review of the tour, check out this blog!​

You can book a spot in our Reykjavik Food tour here! Make sure you book ahead, as this tour is very popular!

Harpa in downtown Reykjavik

Harpa concert hall

Harpa

Our Reykjavik Food tour begins with a meet-up in Harpa, one of Reykjavik's most stunning buildings. So, I would recommend that you get there a little ahead of time so that you can explore the building from the inside, as well! Its impressive facade designed by Olafur Eliasson is certain to stun you with its unparalleled beauty!

things to do in reykjavik

Hallgrimskirkja church

Hallgrimskirkja

Another magnificent building that you absolutely must visit during your ultimate trip to Iceland is the world-famous Hallgrimskirkja. An architectural marvel, Hallgrimskirkja is inspired by the Icelandic nature, specifically a mountain range in the north. 

Don't forget to take the elevator to the top for some stunning views of the city! ​


Day 3: Golden Circle

geysir

Strokkur geyser in the Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is one of Iceland's most popular attractions. Millions of tourists flock there every year to witness the marvels of the Icelandic nature in the form of a waterfall, a geyser, and a gorgeous park.

Our small-group Golden Circle tour will take you around the area's top attractions, as well as a couple more places where most tours won't take you.

First, you will visit Thingvellir, a national park where you can walk between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The park also has several other points of interest, such as the Oxararfoss waterfall and Silfra, a rift with crystal clear waters.

The next stop is Gullfoss, one of Iceland's most magical waterfalls. Its sheer power alone is enough to bewitch any traveler!

After Gullfoss, you will make your way to the nearby Geysir area, where you will see the geyser Strokkur (Geysir stopped erupting years ago). Strokkur is just as impressive as its big brother, and erupts every five to eight minutes, much to everyone's delight!

The tour also includes a stop at the charming little town of Hveragerði, as well as the Faxi waterfall, which -though not as big -is just as beautiful as Gullfoss!

You can book a spot in our Golden Circle tour here!


Days 4-5: South Shore

Many people do the South Shore in one day. In fact, we have an amazing small-group South Shore tour​ if you would like to see the South Shore in one day! Our tour will take you to all of the south's top attractions (more on that later!) and also to a couple of places that other tours won't take you!

If you take this tour while following the itineraries in this guide, then you get an extra day in Reykjavik! A perfect opportunity to do some shopping in Laugavegur or explore the beautiful downtown area.

More of a nature lover? I've got you covered! Check out this guide on the best hiking trails in and around Reykjavik!​

On the other hand, if you would rather spend two days exploring the South Shore on your own, keep reading to find out all the best places to go!​

Reykjadalur hiking trail

Reykjadalur thermal river

Reykjadalur

The South Shore part of your ultimate trip to Iceland starts in Reykjadalur. After a short hike, you will reach a thermal river that has been used by locals for centuries! The water in the river is naturally hot, and the higher you follow the river, the warmer it gets!

Reykjadalur is the perfect place to relax before you continue your trip! Just keep in mind that there is not much privacy there for changing in and out of your bathing suit!​

Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss waterfall

Seljalandsfoss doesn't need an introduction. The famous waterfall that you can walk behind will be your second stop in the South Shore!

Make sure you walk a little bit further, where you can find Gljufrabui, a canyon with a waterfall that most tourists overlook! Some say it is even prettier than Seljalandsfoss!​

Seljavallalaug

Seljavallalaug

Seljavallalaug

Yet another very famous spot for tourists, Seljavallalaug is the oldest pool in Iceland! While man-made, the warm water is completely natural!

You will most likely stumble upon many fellow travelers, but the pool is quite big, so you should be able to relax. Just make sure you leave the place clean, as the area is only cleaned by volunteers.​

The Skogafoss waterfall in South Shore in May in Iceland

Skogafoss waterfall

Skogafoss

Another breathtaking waterfall, Skogafoss belongs in the family of the most powerful waterfalls in Iceland!

In fact, the water spray is so strong that you can often see a rainbow -sometimes even a double one -which makes for a perfect photographing opportunity!​

Plane wreck

Solheimasandur plane wreck

This US Navy DC plane crashed in Iceland in 1973 (thankfully with no victims)​. After an hour walk on a completely desolate land, you will reach the plane, which lies just a few minutes away from the sea shore

The plane, apart from having a historical significance, is also quite an extraordinary sight, especially because it is surrounded by...well, nothing! There is nothing but dirt and pebbles as far as the eye can see!​

Dyrhólaey
Dyrhólaey

Dyrhólaey is a small promonotory near the town  of Vík​. With some breathtaking cliff formations, as well as a stunning sea shore, it is a perfect addition to your ultimate trip to Iceland.

In fact, if you are lucky, you might even see some puffins! These adorable critters call the cliffs of Dyrhólaey their home during the summer, so keep an eye out for them when you visit!​

Reynisfjara
Reynisfjara

Reynisfjara, or the Black Sand Beach as it is more commonly known abroad, is one of the most beautiful places in all of Iceland, in my opinion!

Violent ocean waves crash against a black sand beach created by ancient volcano eruptions. On the other side, basalt rock formations tower over the shore, creating a dramatic cliff that perfectly complements the raw beauty of the landscape.​

The coastal town of Vik
Vík

Vík is a charming little town, just by the coast of Iceland. With beautiful views and a very convenient location, it is the best place to finish the first day of your South Shore adventure during your ultimate trip to Iceland! 

Pick a hotel or go camping, and have a good night's sleep, so that you can continue your adventure straight away the following day!


After resting and recharging your batteries in Vík, it is time to continue your ultimate trip to Iceland! So, let's see what the second day in the South Shore has in store for you!

Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon

Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon

Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon

This magical place is located very close to Vík, and it is our first stop on the second day around the South Shore. Fjaðrárgljúfur is a canyon that you might know from that one music video with Justin Bieber, but there is much more to the place than that.

With jagged cliffs and a gorgeous river snaking down the canyon, as well as a waterfall at the edge of it, Fjaðrárgljúfur is the perfect spot to walk in the Icelandic nature. Here, you have two options: either follow the path over the cliffs or walk by (and through) the river.​

Svartifoss waterfall in Skaftafell national park

Svartifoss

Skaftafell National Park

Apart from the beauty that comes with being a national park in a country like Iceland, Skaftafell has a very special thing to boast about.

Among its shrubs and trees, the waterfall Svartifoss peeks out, cascading over a wall of basalt rock formations. The black rocks make the landscape even more dramatic, and the rawness of the surroundings only makes them more beautiful.​

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon and diamond beach
Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón or as it is more commonly known the glacier lagoon, is the jewel of the southeast. The lake is covered in small icebergs and ice chunks all year round, and you can watch them as they drift, gliding onto the surface of the lake. Stay long enough and you will definitely get to see (and hear, they make a very distinct sound) one of them sink in the water.

Don't forget to visit Jökulsárlón's neighbor, the Diamond Beach, just across the road! It is a black sand beach, much like Reynisfjara, with the added benefit of ice chunks that float there from Jökulsárlón!

This quintessentially Icelandic location concludes your exploration of the South Shore, so get some rest for the next days!


Day 6: explore East Iceland

East Iceland is definitely the least explored part of Iceland, at least by tourists. However, there are so many beautiful places and hidden gems to discover in East Iceland! They are just waiting for someone to show them the love they deserve!​

Vestrahorn
Vestrahorn

This mountain has been the subject for a vast array of photographs. The 'horny' mountain as it is affectionately referred to is a popular destination for anyone who loves landscape photography.

Its peaks create the perfect antithesis to the calm waters of the lake near its base, and many go there to catch its reflection on the still waters.​ Depending on the tide, you can even walk on the lake!

Hengifoss waterfall in east Iceland
Hengifoss

This waterfall might not be the biggest or the most powerful one in Iceland, but it is one of the loveliest waterfalls in the east. ​Often drenched in sunlight, the waterfall cascades down a peculiar rock formation.

The waterfall is also situated in a very interesting area, which we are going to explore even more soon!​

Lagarfljót
Lagarfljót

You might think that there is nothing very remarkable about this lake other than its massive size of 53 square kilometres. However, there is something very special about this lake.

It is rumored to have its very own monster! Much like the Loch Ness, Lagarfljót is said to be inhabited by a wyrm, which is a type of dragon. Many locals claim to have seen the wyrm, and in fact a video of a supposed appearance became viral a while ago.

If you are feeling adventurous and a little bit lucky, you can take a tour in the lake and go hunting for the wyrm yourself!​

hallormsstaðaskógur
Hallormsstaðaskógur

Yet another place that you probably can't pronounce (I know I can't)! Hallormsstaðaskógur​ is the biggest forest in Iceland, located near the east's biggest town, Egilsstaðir.

Now, you might think that being the biggest forest in Iceland is not a big achievement: and you are kinda of right. according to locals, if you get lost in a forest in Iceland, you should just stand up!

It is true that there is a lack of big trees in Iceland. However, ​at 740 square kilometres, Hallormsstaðaskógur is truly a marvel! Favored by locals and visitors alike for its hiking paths, its vast range of tree specimens, as well as its wildlife, Hallormsstaðaskógur is the result of a reforestation effort by the reforestation service of Iceland. 

Stórurð
Stórurð

Another must-see during your ultimate trip to Iceland, especially if you enjoy hiking in the Icelandic nature, is Stórurð.​

This otherworldly, alien-like place will make you feel as if you have been transported to a different world, as you walk among the giant boulders and the brilliant aquamarine ponds around them. ​

Stórurð is also the perfect place to say goodbye to East Iceland. After this, we move on to the north!​


Days 7-8: visit the north

A week into your ultimate trip to Iceland, it is time to explore another area that is not very popular with the tourists; the north!​

Akureyrakirkja in Northern Iceland

The first day of your adventure in the north should be spent in Akureyri, in my opinion. Akureyri is the capital of the north, and the biggest town outside the Capital Region. 

Akureyrakjirkja, the church, towers over the downtown area in the town. ​On the other side, the Hlíðarfjall mountains take center stage with their imposing presence. If you visit in the winter, there is an excellent ski resort there that locals adore!

Akureyri also has two very special attractions. The first is a swimming pool, regarded by many locals as the best swimming pool in Iceland -mainly because of their slides! The second is a Christmas store, which sells every Christmas goody you can imagine all year round!​

As Akureyri is a big town, it is the perfect place to find a nice hotel or an AirBnB and rest!​

Myvatn nature baths
Mývatn

Mývatn is a gorgeous area with a past filled with strong volcanic activity. The most known thing about Mývatn is the lake, which spans an area of 37 square kilometres! However, there are also plenty of other sights, such as a geothermal area with boiling mud pots!

One of our favorite things about Mývatn is the Mývatn Nature Baths. Often called the Blue Lagoon of the north, the facility has the same milky blue waters as the Blue Lagoon, at a much more affordable price (5000 ISK (40 USD)). Therefore, if you decide to skip the Blue Lagoon, you can pay this lagoon a visit!

Dimmuborgir lava formations in Northern Iceland
Dimmuborgir

Named after the rock formations that look like 'dark castles' Dimmuborgir is a fascinating place. Regardless of the time of the year, most of the area seems to be dead, almost as if it has come straight out of a gothic novel.

Despite its lack of life, or perhaps because of it, Dimmuborgir will take your breath away. Make sure you visit the 'church', a cave that was used for pagan ceremonies in the past. There is also a little cave that is supposed to be the home of the Yule Lads, which has been decorated to look like a living space!​


Day 9: drive around the Westfjords

westfjords iceland to do

The Westfjords are perhaps the most beautiful route in all of Iceland. There are several little villages you can explore, but in my opinion, the best part of your trip there is the drive. I recommend that you start early in the morning and make your way around the Westfjords.

You will come across a vast range of different landscapes. From towering mountains to sprawling valleys and from tiny waterfalls to violent ocean waves that crash against the shore, the Westfjords have it all!

Make some stops along the way for some of the best pictures you can take during your ultimate trip to Iceland! And then, begin to make your way back to Reykjavik!​


Day 10: a different kind of adventure!

After a night in Reykjavik (and hopefully on a comfortable bed!) it is time for some adrenaline! As the last day of your ultimate trip to Iceland, I thought you should try something that you most likely have not tried before!

Snowmobile tour

Snowmobiling on a glacier! Iceland is home to some of Europe's biggest glaciers, and a trip to Iceland is not complete unless you visit one: especially if it is supposed to be an ultimate trip to Iceland! 

In my opinion, the best way to see a glacier is through snowmobiling on it! It is a very fun activity, and it gives you the chance to see Iceland like you never have before!

Check out our amazing snowmobile tour for the adventure of a lifetime! Our guides are the best in the business, and they will guide you around the glacier safely and comfortably! You will also be provided with pick-up and drop-off with a Super Jeep truck, as well as with all the equipment you need to enjoy your adventure!

If you want to learn more about this amazing experience, check out my guide on snowmobiling on a glacier!

And make sure you book a spot in our tour ahead here!​


Seasonal attractions in iceland

Find puffins in Iceland 2019

You can do pretty much everything throughout the whole year in Iceland. However, there are a few things that you can only do on specific times of the year. Therefore, if you really want to experience one of them during your ultimate trip to Iceland, you should plan your trip around that!

  • Northern lights: mid-August to mid-April
  • Midnight sun: mid-May to mid-August
  • Puffins: late April to mid-August
  • Skiing: December to April

some final words

Did you enjoy my guide on the ultimate trip to Iceland? I hope that it will help you plan the trip of a lifetime!

Is there anything that you think I missed? Maybe something you think everyone who visits should do on their ultimate trip to Iceland? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, don't forget to share!​

Is Iceland your dream destination? Maybe you are looking to plan the ultimate trip to Iceland, and need some information and inspiration! Then look no further! This guide on the ultimate trip to Iceland will save you time and money, and give you all the information you need to know to plan the trip of a lifetime!

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