5 Adventurous Days in Iceland: Are You Ready For It?
Lisa Van Brunt
If Iceland isn't on your bucket list yet, add it now. I promise you'll thank me later. This island is full of rugged beauty and nonstop adventure that you don't want to miss. Known as the "Land of Fire and Ice", this extreme contrast is what makes this unique island so appealing. Driving across the landscape you'll find waterfalls, geysers, volcanoes, black sand beaches, glaciers, steaming lava fields and so much more. It's like watching a scene out of a movie and this is a movie you don't want to miss!
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Day 1: Arrive in Iceland
Flights to Iceland arrive at Keflavik International Airport which is located on the Reykjarus peninsula (where you'll also find the Blue Lagoon). Pick up your rental car, ideally a 4x4 and drive to Reykjavik (approx. 45 minutes). You've likely come in on a red eye and there's no better way to re-energize then by fueling up on a delicious chocolate croissant from Baka Baka Bakery and a soak in a thermal hot spring at the Sky Lagoon. Feel your tired muscles relax in the warm water while gazing out at the ocean.
*Tip: Book Sky Lagoon in advance and ideally for the opening slot to enjoy the pools before it gets crowded. And splurge on the 7 step ritual- it's worth it!
When you've had your fill of soaking, head back to downtown Reykjavik. The sites you won't want to miss are the views from the top of Hallgrimskirkja church, shopping on Laugavegur and the rainbow painted street, Harpa concert hall and the Sun Voyager sculpture. End your day with dinner at Rok restaurant followed by a drink at the rooftop bar at the Edition Hotel. Don't skip the wasabi nuts, they're oddly addicting.
Day 2: The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is a loop that connects three of Iceland's most popular spots and we are starting in Thingvellir National Park. Here you'll find the giant fissure from the Eurasian and North Atlantic tectonic plates pulling apart. If you're brave, you can snorkel between the tectonic plates in the crystal clear, but cold water (book in advance). This is a great activity for teens.
Next stop is Bruarfoss falls. Walk a short path from the paid lot to take in the electric sky-blue water. Tour buses don't stop here and shockingly there weren't many tourists either. It's a quick 15-minute stop but so worth it in my opinion. After Bruarfoss, you can opt to stop for home made ice cream and to see the Icelandic horses at Efstidalur Farm or continue on to Geyser Geothermal Park. Here you get to witness Strokkur Geyser erupt at eye level and from above. It's like a mini Yellowstone!
Last stop on the Golden Circle loop is Gullfoss Waterfall. Don't forget your raincoat here! Walk the upper path first, then the lower path (where you'll get wet) and if lucky you'll catch a rainbow.
Now it's time for a late lunch at either The Farmer's Bistro or Fridheimar Tomato. If you have extra time, you can add on Kerid crater after lunch, but in my opinion it wasn't worth the $4 parking fee.
End the day by checking into your hotel in the Selfoss/Fludir area. I recommend the 360 Hotel in Selfoss. You can enjoy your evening warming up in the sauna and thermal pools before the most delicious dinner at the hotel. The food here was the best I had in Iceland!
*Tip Start today early to get ahead of the tour groups on the Golden Circle and pack layers as it's likely to be cool, windy and wet.
Day 3: The South Coast
Start your day with breakfast at the 360 Hotel. The green smoothie and chia seed pudding were outstanding, but everything was delicious. After checking out, head east along Ring Road to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. This was my favorite waterfall. We caught the most vibrant rainbow here and loved walking behind the fall too.
Just a short walk to the left is Glijufrabui Waterfall. Walk inside the canyon and climb to the top of the big rock if you dare for an awesome picture. Then drive approximately 10-minutes further east to one of Iceland's most iconic waterfalls- Skogafoss. Here you can view the falls from below and from above by walking up 525 stairs stairs to the upper viewpoint. You can also hike in along the Skoga River (10 miles RT) turning around at any point as it's an in and out path.
*Tip: Wear a brightly colored raincoat at the falls to stand out in pictures. In my opinion, yellow or red work best.
Now drive towards Vik and check into your hotel. I suggest staying at the Black Sand Suites. You'll have sweeping views of green rolling hills out to the ocean from your balcony. It's really peaceful here.
In the evening, head into Vik town to admire the purple wildflowers in front of Vik I Myrdal church and the coast followed by dinner at Sudir Vik (book in advance). After dinner, drive down to Reynisfjara black sand beach and take in the iconic "sleeper" waves and geometric basalt columns.
*Tip: Come to Reynisfjara in the am or after 8pm when the tour buses are not here.
Day 4: Glaciers and icebergs
Drive east to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon where you can see icebergs floating in a glacial lake. Take a zodiac boat tour out on the lake for the most magical scenery you can imagine (including sea lions lounging on icebergs)!
*Tip: This is a 2+ hour drive from so plan accordingly and fuel up before leaving Vik. I recommend the zodiac boats (not the kayaks or the amphibian boats because neither go back as far to the glacier wall like the zodiac boats do). Book the zodiac boats in advance and don't forget a winter coat, hat and gloves today.
After your tour, have lunch at one of the food trucks before heading across the road to Diamond Beach. Here you'll find pieces of sparkling glacial ice that have washed up on shore.
Next, drive back towards Vik, making 2 stops along the way. First stop at Skaftafell Nature Preserve to hike to Svartifoss waterfall. The black basalt pillars make this waterfall a standout!
Last stop before returning to Vik is Fjaorarglijufur canyon for stunning views. The scenery here is absolutely breathtaking from the top and not be missed.
Day 5: Blue Lagoon
Before leaving Vik, drive to Dyrholaey Arch. You can often spot puffins here! Have lunch in Selfoss at Kaffi Krus and wander around town for any last minute shopping before checking into Hotel Silica. Spend your last evening in Iceland pampering yourself at the Blue Lagoon (complimentary and no reservation needed when staying on property). In the morning, relax in Hotel Silica's private thermal pools until it's time to head back to the nearby airport, concluding your incredible journey through Iceland!
Need to Know
Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Fire and Ice: A Thrilling 5-Day Adventure in Iceland.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Iceland.