We spent a week in Iceland, a trip that I have been dreaming about and planning for a few months. Like most of our other trips, this was a tightly packed Iceland Itinerary for seeing the best of the island in 7 days – from chasing waterfalls, snowmobile rides. The family leaves me to the planning and boy they were excited for this one – Iceland is like being inside a book of adventures! Where else can you see geysers and hot spring areas, majestic glaciers, dormant volcanoes, a zillion powerful waterfalls in one trip… not to mention all that interesting food.
Our itinerary for seeing the best of Iceland in a Week
OUR PERFECT ONE WEEK / 7 DAY ICELAND ITINERARY
Day 1 – Arrive at Reykjavik and pick up a car. Stay in Reykjavik.
Day 2 – Fly to Akureyri to visit Northern Iceland.
Day 3 – Day trip to West Iceland to the Snæfellsnes peninsula.
Day 4 – Drive Golden Circle and stay in Thingvellir National Park.
Day 5 – Stay in Vik and visit Southern Iceland.
Day 6 – More adventures in Vik.
Day 7 – Back to Keflavik and relax in Blue Lagoon.
Take a peek into one of the best luxury resort in Iceland
This is was a short visit in my opinion and we only had 7 days in Iceland! If you have 10 days in Iceland, then you can spend 2 nights in Akureyri (this hotel is a nice one to stay) and not do a short trip to North Iceland as we did and spend an extra day in Reykjavik.
If you have 12 days in Iceland, you can spend 2 days in West Iceland near the Snæfellsnes peninsula and spend a night at hotel Budir visit the unique Budir church in addition to the days in Akureyri. 14 days in Iceland might give you enough time to drive around the entire island at a more relaxed pace. You can spend a night in a family-friendly hotel in Egilsstadir between Vik and Akureyri.
Iceland Top Places, Waterfalls, Activities and Sights Map
See this map for all the top places, waterfalls, activities and sights (including the current volcano eruption viewing spot and parking lot).
How to Use This Map: Use your fingers or computer mouse to zoom in on the details. Click the tab in the top left-hand corner of the map to view the layers (places and the driving route). You can click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on the list.
Reykjavik, the first day of Iceland Itinerary
We picked up our rental car from Hertz and hit the road running after some coffee! We spent three nights at the Holt Hotel, a charming and intimate 4 star hotel in central Reykjavik. They have the country’s largest private art collection and I’m looking forward to seeing some of them.
We visited the Hallgrimskirkja church with stunning views of the city from the top. Shopped on Laugavegur Street. Explored the Reykjavik City – saw some of the museums, galleries, the Harpa concert hall, the Sun Voyager sculpture and found vibrant street art. Reykjavik has an awesome coffee culture, so make time to sit in a cafe and enjoy some good coffee!
We took the domestic airline to the North to Akureyri for a day trip, we saw the incredible Dettifoss and Godafoss waterfalls. The tour itself is organized by SBA. Visit Akureyri and see the whale watching hub of Husavik. Most seem to miss North Iceland on their itinerary! We might not have time to relax and enjoy the Myvatn Nature Baths but at least we get to see them.
You can do a day trip to West Iceland to the Snæfellsnes peninsula from Reykjavik. Stop for lunch at Borgarnes. Drive to Grundarfjordur and admire the mountain, Kirkjufell. Don’t miss Stykkisholmur, made famous by Walter Mitty (from the movie Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which sparked our wanderlust for Iceland). This is the part of our Iceland Itinerary Mr. Suburbia was most excited about.
On everyone’s Iceland Itinerary is the drive on the famous Golden Circle route, to visit Thingvellir National Park, Öxarárfoss, Geysir, and Gullfoss. We stayed overnight here at this beautiful hotel in the middle of a National Park. Too bad there won’t be any Northern lights this time of the year. This would have been the perfect hotel to see it from. You can ride the adorably shaggy Icelandic horse at one of the smaller farms at Solhestar. Stop for Icecream at the Efsti farm and some tomato soup at a farm.
Going to Iceland: How about a stay in a beautifully restored Lighthouse (Not available for stay now).
I also recommend the hike to Iceland’s blue waterfall, Bruarfoss, if you have time.
On your day to visit the Southern part of Iceland, visit Seljalandsfoss waterfall and Skogafoss waterfall. We rode Snowmobiles on the Mýrdalsjökull, an icecap covering one of Iceland’s largest volcanoes, Katla. We were able to explore and experience the wilderness and the breathtaking views over South Iceland on this ride promises.
The scenery around South Iceland is stunning. Check out the cliffs of Dyrholaey, black sand beaches of Reynisfjara near Vik. We stayed for 2 nights at a modern Icelandair hotel in Vik and had one of the best meals at their restaurant including a vegan dish! Unfortunately, they are not part of Icelandair anymore. You can book directly on their website.
Hotel Ranga is another great option.
Day 2 of the Southern Iceland adventure
Visit the Svartifoss waterfall at Vatnajökull National Park on your second day in Vik. We went on a Glacier hike near Skaftafell Vatnajokull National Park with Icelandic Mountain Guides. This walk took us on to the Svínafellsjökull glacier tongue.
This was definitely a highlight of our adventures and a must for adventure lovers! Don’t miss adding this activity to your Iceland Itinerary! We then drove a little further to get up close and personal with the icebergs in Jokulsarlon in the glacier lagoon.
See here for all the easy adventures we got to experience in Iceland.
Back to Keflavik on the last day of Iceland Itinerary
On our last day, we explore the region around Reykjanes. We visited the sulfates area at Krisuvik, Lake Kleifarvatn, Continental bridge. You can’t miss a visit to the Blue Lagoon to soak in the blue waters and have dinner at Lava restaurant that is on location. We stayed in Keflavik overnight. The next morning, we headed to Denmark for a few days before going home.
We didn’t get to the Eastfjords and Westfjords during this trip but it will be an excuse to return to Iceland. Our boy Dharin went on a senior trip with his friend to Iceland and made it to West Iceland, see here for photos.
Book your Iceland Tours here:
What to Pack for a Summer trip to Iceland
Our packing was a bit different than for a visit across Continental Europe. Contrary to preconceptions you might have, you will not need a heavy winter coat and snowshoes when visiting Iceland in the summer. We took rainproof gear and some warm layers since the weather changes considerably based on the activity. Here is what was in our bags and we ended up using all of them!
• Waterproof or quick-drying pants, ski pants
• Hiking shoes
• Thermal underwear, light jackets and some light sweaters
• Gloves, scarfs and hats
• GPS device for the road trip
• Camera gear and backpack to carry it all
• Swimsuit, you won’t be swimming at the beach, but in Iceland’s geothermal pools
• Sunglasses and sunscreen are essential in the summer with the constant low-hanging sun and reflective terrain
• Iceland is on a 220-volt system, so bring a converter to plug in any devices, such as a cellphone charger, hair styling tools ( We have a teenage girl traveling with us )
• Some non-perishable snacks since their prices are inflated in Iceland
• A sleeping mask to help sleep, since the sun only sets for a few hours in Summer
BEST Travel Tips for visiting Iceland
- Plan early, map out an itinerary of the things you want to do in Iceland and the activities and adventures you want to experience and Book the Tours ahead of your trip.
- While there are many tours you can book, the best way to see Southern Iceland is by renting a car and hitting that ring road (officially referred to as Road Number 1), a road that runs circular through the entire island.
- If you are coming from North America it is pretty easy to drive as Icelanders drive on the right. Factor in the price of gas, as it is expensive.
- Food is a little on the pricey side. Cafes and rest areas in the park might be closed. Always carry some extra water, snacks and plan accordingly.
- Traditional Icelandic fare consists largely of lamb and seafood but you’ll find Veggie burgers, pizza, pasta and salads on most menus. Even the gas station food was good and had vegetarian options.
- Eat a good breakfast. Most hotels and guesthouses offer a buffet breakfast. Carry a snack to eat in the middle of the day and plan for a nice dinner after the adventures in Iceland.
- If you plan on getting close to any of the waterfalls in Iceland or walk behind them, make sure to wear your rain pants and a waterproof jacket (see list above).
- If you’re visiting in the summer be prepared for nearly midnight sun and constant daylight. Most places will have light-blocking shades. It might be helpful to have an eyemask if you are a light sleeper.
- You might end up stopping every 10 minutes at every marked and unmarked waterfall, so buffer in some time for that when planning your day. Don’t fill the day with too many activities.
- Bring extra memory cards for the camera. You will water to take a gazillion photos! But every once in a while put the camera down and enjoy the adventures.
- While the Blue Lagoon seems touristy and crowded, soaking in the warm ethereal blue waters was truly relaxing, especially if you save the experience for the end of the trip.
- Lopapeysa, the iconic Icelandic sweaters, is warm and water-resistant. You can find them in many stores in Reykjavik. They are cheaper in the rural areas of the country where you will find the truly traditional versions.
- If like me you come from a warm area and have no use for a heavy woolen sweater, opt for scarves, beanies and mittens made in the same unspun yarn traditionally used to make lopapeysur sweaters or jumpers. They are will keep you warm and make excellent souvenirs.
- While it’s always a good idea to learn a few words of the language where ever you travel everyone we encountered in Iceland spoke excellent English.
- Be prepared for different kinds of weather. The weather does change every 5 minutes as does the landscape. Average daily temperatures in the summer reach around 50 to 55 °F while winter temperature varies at 0 to 32 °F. No matter the season storms and high winds can be common.
- For an atmospheric stay and authentic feel of Iceland be sure to stay at one of the many family run guesthouses that you can find in the countryside. Book them early!
- Keep a Budget. While the airline fare to Iceland is not that expensive, activities and tours can add up. Hotels are not cheap either. But it will be a trip of a lifetime.
- Some areas of Iceland look like the moon and the landscape looks like nowhere else on Earth. You will run out of superlatives to describe Iceland and your friends will be tired of hearing about your trip!
See a visual story of Iceland’s spectacular sights and adventures
Iceland is expensive but it is also possible to visit Iceland on a budget.
A few Phrases in Icelandic
Icelandic looks very formidable with its strange characters “þ” and “ð” and many accented vowels and multisyllabic words, not sure if you would need these since most people speak good English but always good to have it handy.
• Hello. Halló. (Ha-low)
• Hello (informal, to a man). Sæll. (Sight-l.)Hello (informal, to a woman). Sæl. (Sigh-l.)Hi. Hæ. (High.)
• How are you? Hvað segirðu gott? (Kvadth sey-ir-thu goht?)
• Fine, thank you. Ég segi allt gott, þakka þér fyrir. (Yeh sey-i atlt goht, thah-ka thyer fi-rir.)
• What is your name? Hvað heitirðu? (Kvath hey-tir-thu?)
• My name is ______ . Ég heiti ______ . (Yeh hey-ti _____ .)
• Nice to meet you. Komdu sæll, (to a man). (Komdu sight-l.)Komdu sæl, (to a woman). (Komdu sighl.)• • • Please. Gjörðu svo vel, (to one person). (Gyur-thuh svo vel.)or Gerið þið svo vel, (to many people). (Gyer-ith thith svo vel.)
• Thank you. Þakka þér fyrir. (Thah-ka thyer fi-rir.)
• Thanks (informal) Takk. (Tahk.)
• I can’t speak Icelandic [well]. Ég tala ekki íslensku [svo vel]. (Yeh ta-la eh-ki ees-len-skuh [svo vel].)
• Do you speak English? Talarðu ensku? (Ta-lar-thu en-sku?)
• Help! Hjálp! (Hya-oolp!)
• Goodbye, (informal). Bless. (Bless; often said twice, “Bless bless”.)
A Lunar Landscape
Before landing on the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent a summer in Central Iceland living in training camps in the interior parts of the island. He was there because NASA found a landscape that paralleled the moon in Iceland’s Highlands – no vegetation, no life, no colors, no landmarks.
Elbert King, a geologist from the University of Houston who trained Apollo astronauts is known to have said “If you want to go to a place on Earth that looks like the Moon… Iceland should be high on your list.” My sentiments exactly!
You might also like:
10 Easy Adventures in Iceland
Snowmobile ride on a Glacier
10 Scenic Stops on the South Coast
A hike to a secret Waterfall in Iceland
Hiking & a Zodiac boat ride through Glaciers
Northern Iceland Diamond Tour
Golden Circle Drive
I hope our Iceland Itinerary helps you plan your trip. While we have not made a trip to Iceland in Winter, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will happen soon and we get to see the Northern Lights! I would never say no to a return trip to visit Iceland in Summer either!
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