5-Day Itinerary to Explore Iceland’s Natural Beauty
Take a pause from real life in a destination in Europe that’s full of breathtaking scenery. This Iceland itinerary will showcase the bucket list hunt for the famous northern lights, alongside some of the region’s equally impressive natural offerings from beautiful waterfalls to lagoons, geysers, icebergs, puffins and more — all in an easy-to-follow 5 day trip.
The Fora Difference
Book with Rabia to access exclusive perks and experiences on your trip.
Free upgrades, spa credits and more—we got you
Customized travel planning for your style
Expert advice from people who’ve actually been there
Where to stay
Hótel Borg Reykjavik
Iceland’s first luxury hotel with an Art Deco vibe, set on a scenic square in the city center.
Reykjavik Residence Hotel
Great for long stays and families, you’ll find apartment-size rooms and all the hotel amenities.
Ion Adventure Hotel Nesjavellir
An architectural gem and your base for exploring the lava fields of Thingvellir National Park.
Food / beverage credit.
Welcome treat in room on arrival.
Upgrade & guaranteed late check-out.
Unlock perks by contacting Rabia to book your trip.
Day 1: Exploring Reykjavik
CHECK IN AND GRAB A COFFEE
After you land at Keflavik International Airport, get your rental car for your Iceland road trip; it should take a 45 minute drive to get to your accommodation, so you can check-in and freshen up for the day. Explore some of the cafes and coffee shops in Reykjavik and join a walking tour of the city to get your bearings.
VIEWS AND LUNCHTIME
Take the time to rest because the first day is still packed with activities. Visit Hallgrímskirkja Church and climb to the top for beautiful vistas of the colorful city of Reykjavik and the surrounding ocean. Settle down (and warm up!) in a cozy cafe for lunch, like Snaps Bistro-Bar, before heading down Laugavegur Street to check out fashion boutiques and Icelandic design shops.
Reykjavik is also a launching point for a variety of boat tours that offer whale watching and shoreline sightseeing in the day and northern lights hunting at night.
IMMERSE YOURSELF IN HISTORY
Pop into one of Iceland's museums to learn about viking history as the sun goes down. Afterward, finish your evening in the city with a dinner of traditional Icelandic cuisine – I recommend Fiskfelagid for seafood.
SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
Join a Northern Lights group tour or research where to see the lights. Check the forecast in advance, but plan on spending time at the beginning of your trip looking for them – this way, if you don’t see them your first night, you’ll have enough time for more chances the rest of your trip.
A note from Rabia
Since the Northern Lights are only seen in specific weather conditions and cannot be guaranteed, many tours will continue to take you out each night until you see the lights, all for one set price. To greatly increase the chances of catching the aurora, visit between October and March, the best time of year to see them.
Day 2: Check out the Reykjanes Peninsula
A SCENIC DRIVE
After a hearty breakfast, hop in your car and make your way to the Reykjanes Peninsula in the southwest portion of the country. Enjoy the stunning views along the two-lane (mostly deserted) highway, stopping off at the Gardur Lighthouse, Bridge Between Continents and Gunnuhver Hot Springs along the way.
LUNCH AND SHIPWRECKS
Enjoy a warming lobster soup at Cafe Bryggjan in a traditional fishing village before exploring the Grindavik shipwrecks nearby.
Day 3: Exploring the Golden Circle
EXPERIENCE THE NATURAL BEAUTY
Leave the hotel before sunrise (an easy feat in winter, since the sun won't rise until almost 10 am, depending when you're there!) to make your way to Thingvellir National Park before the crowds to begin this exciting day tour. Spend some time wandering the immense national park and enjoying the extraordinary beauty of lava fields created by the Mid-Atlantic rift’s tectonic plates. There are lots of hikes to do, or you can just enjoy some of the signposted vistas and fjords.
LUNCH AND HORSEBACK RIDING
For lunch, head to the spa town of Laugarvatn and try some of the area's popular reindeer burgers. Then, make your way to your next stop, Strokkur Geysir, for an epic explosion and Gullfoss Waterfall for some incredible views of where Game of Thrones scenes were filmed. Stop off for a homemade ice cream at Efstidalur Farm and see the Icelandic horses.
Book a quick ride on the Icelandic horses to experience the smoothest horseback ride ever. These small, pony-sized horses are famous for having five gaits, compared to all other breeds that can only do three or four. The tölt gait makes you feel like you're flying!
Unwind from the day at the thermal pools of the Secret Lagoon near the village of Flúðir. If you're lucky, you can see the Northern Lights while taking a soak!
A note from Rabia
If you prefer guided tours, you can opt to hit most of these destinations by joining a full day golden circle tour. Then, end the day at the thermals pools.
Day 4: Visit the southern shore
START YOUR DAY WITH WATERFALLS
Get an early start for your road trip to the south coast of Iceland to see the beautiful black sand beaches. Along the main ring road, you can stop off at the magnificent Seljalandsfoss waterfall and Skogafoss waterfall and explore the lush surroundings and wildlife.
CATCH OF THE DAY AND BLACK SAND BEACHES
For your first stop, enjoy lunch in the town of Vik — definitely opt for the catch of the day — and walk around the main street to get a feel for local life and culture. Marvel at the immense waves on Reynisfjarablack sand beach and the geometric basalt columns along the cliffside.
VISIT THE NATURE PRESERVE
Then take a scenic drive up to Dyrhólaey, a nature preserve known for its picturesque views of the volcanic rocks in the sea. Depending on how much daylight you have left, stop off at Sólheimajökull Glacier and take a glacier hiking tour to the top. As you head back, make sure you keep scanning the skies for the Northern Lights.
Day 5: Relax at Blue Lagoon
After all that driving, you deserve some relaxation, so plan on a day at the infamous Blue Lagoon before your flight home, especially if its your first time there. Arrive early to avoid the crowds, and spend your day unwinding in the geothermal area baths. You can even book services such as a massage or facial, and treat yourself to a gourmet meal.
Before heading out, you can purchase some of the Blue Lagoon skincare products created from the bioactive elements of the water to promote radiant, youthful and healthy skin. You'll be well-prepared for your journey home!
A note from Rabia
The Blue Lagoon is close to Keflavík airport, so spend the morning before your flight at the pools. Slots fill up quickly, so be sure to book your ticket in advance!
Need to Know
Schedule a rental car ahead of time when you visit Iceland so it is available for pickup when you arrive. Having the freedom of your own car means you can explore the country at your leisure, however, it can get tricky driving at night and in the winter. You can also book drivers and guides to take you around to the different areas you're interested in – most will be private tours that can pick up and drop off at your accommodation!
Dining out in Iceland can be expensive, but you can always stop off at the local grocery stores to grab ingredients or snacks and sample local favorites. Interestingly enough, you won't find any McDonald's or Starbucks in the country!
Get in touch with Rabia
Did you like this guide? Reach out to customize and book your own experience. Or, just to chat about travel in general.
You can normally expect a response from Rabia within a business day or so. You'll also be subscribed to our travel newsletter (you can unsubscribe at any time).