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The Ultimate 5 Day Iceland Road Trip Itinerary

The Ultimate 5 Day Iceland Road Trip Itinerary | Icelandic Road Trip Route | Iceland Travel Tips | How To Take A Road Trip In Iceland | Follow Me Away Travel Blog

If taking an epic Iceland road trip is on your bucket list, you are not alone! These days it seems like everyone is suiting up, packing their photography gear, flying on a budget airline or with a stopover, and visiting the Land of Ice and Fire. We are one of those people and we think you should absolutely take an Icelandic road trip.

If the thought of driving the entire Ring Road [the 800+ mile highway circumnavigating the island] doesn’t appeal to you or you don’t have enough time, you can still take the Iceland Road Trip of a lifetime! Our 5-day itinerary offers you the perfect “snack size” trip to Iceland and fits perfectly with a 48-hour airline stopover or extended weekend trip. During your time on the island, you can still see geysers, hot springs, volcanic rock, ponies, glaciers, puffins, landscapes that look like they should be on another planet and more.

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Instead of driving the entire Ring Road, our Iceland road trip itinerary focuses on the stunning landscapes in the south-eastern part of the Island. You will still get to spend a ton of time on the Ring Road but you will experience it in a do-able amount of time.

Disclaimer: Although shortened, the entire Icelandic road trip itinerary we have laid out below is not for the faint of heart. It includes a lot of driving and quite a few stops. That being said, you can always tailor it to your wants and needs so that it best fits your trip.

During your time on the Island, you will still be able to see geysers, hot springs, volcanic rock, ponies, glaciers, puffins, landscapes that look like they should be on another planet and more. Since this is a road trip, you will be spending minimal time in Reykjavik, but that is okay because there is so much to see. Are you ready? Let’s get to planning!

Our Epic 5 Day South-East Iceland Road Trip Itinerary

 

Day 1: Drive the Golden Circle

Highlights: Geysers, Gulfoss Waterfall, Icelandic Ponies, Reykjavik

During the first day of your road trip in Iceland, you are heading out on a loop road called the Golden Circle. It both starts and ends in/near Reykjavik so you can spend the day in nature and the night exploring the city since one afternoon-night is really all you need for Reykjavik. The Golden Circle is an easy 190-mile drive round trip. Along the way, be sure to stop and pet the adorable Icelandic ponies who are waiting for some love!

The Ultimate 5 Day Iceland Road Trip Itinerary | Icelandic Road Trip Route | Iceland Travel Tips | How To Take A Road Trip In Iceland | Follow Me Away Travel Blog

The Golden Circle is an easy 190-mile drive round trip. If you are dedicated to driving it fast, you can drive the whole thing and see all the sights in about 3 hours. We recommend budgeting around 5 hours to make the most of your experience. When you are driving, you can either start clockwise or counterclockwise. We suggest the clockwise version so you can get started seeing the sights right away!

Stop 1: Thingvellier National Park

Listen up: Vikings used to have meetings here! How cool is that? Thingvellier National Park is also where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet and you can actually go diving/snorkeling between them if you budget enough time. Regardless, it is a cool place to walk around and take photos.

Stop 2: Geysir Hot Spring Area

Boiling mud pits, the smell of sulfur, and lively geysers can all be found at Geysir Hot Spring Area. Geysers erupt every 7-10 minutes so you will certainly be able to capture multiple eruptions on film. The hot spring area is the perfect place to stop at a restroom since there aren’t many on the Golden Circle!

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Stop 3: Gulfoss Waterfall

Whether you visit in the dead of winter like we did or take your Iceland road trip during the warmer months, Gulfoss Waterfall is an epic site to behold. Unlike most waterfalls that you stand under, you actually stand above and gaze down into Gulfoss. Budget spending the most time at the waterfall because it can’t be missed.

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Day 2: Reykjavik To Vik

Highlights: Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls, Sólheimasandur Airplane Wreck

Day 2 of your Iceland road trip is going to require a few hours of driving and a bunch of sightseeing and walking around. You will start by programming Vik into your GPS and will head east on the Ring Road out of Reykjavik.

During your drive, you will traverse between a mountain pass, over glacial rivers, and through stunning lava fields. You will spend the night in or near Vik, depending on availability. Make sure to get plenty of rest because Day 3 is going to be busy!

Stop 1: Seljalandsfoss Waterfall [and the hidden Gljúfrabúi Waterfall]The Ultimate 5 Day Iceland Road Trip Itinerary | Icelandic Road Trip Route | Iceland Travel Tips | How To Take A Road Trip In Iceland | Follow Me Away Travel Blog

A little less than 2 hours outside of Reyjavik lies the stunning Seljalandsfoss Waterfall.
As you approach, you will be able to see the waterfall from the road. Seljalandsfoss is fascinating because it is a waterfall you can walk behind! Although beautiful, we much prefer the hidden Gljúfrabúi Waterfall.

To find Gljúfrabúi Waterfall, face Seljalandsfoss and walk about 1/4 of a mile to your left. There you will spot a small sign marking that you have arrived. In order to see the hidden waterfall, you are actually going to have to walk through a gorge until you get to a cave. Here you will see Gljúfrabúi Waterfall in all of its glory!

Stop 2: Skogafoss Waterfall

If you thought the first two waterfalls were epic, you are in for a real treat! Skogafoss is only a short drive from stop 1 and there are plenty of signs to direct you where you need to go. When you are at Skogafoss, make sure to head to both the base and the top of the waterfall.

Many people spend a ton of time at the bottom but don’t hike the stairs to the top. Don’t spend the entire time looking at the falls either! From the top of the ridge, turn around and check out the fields and sea in all their glory!

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Stop 3: Sólheimasandur Airplane Wreck

Once you leave Skogafoss, you are heading only a few miles away to make the long trek to Iceland’s hidden airplane wreck. You used to be able to drive down the beach until you reached the wreck, but you are no longer able and must hike around 4 miles round trip. The hike is on flat ground and it is totally worth it to see a freaking airplane on a black sand beach!

Make sure that you know what time the sun sets based on the time of year you visit so you aren’t stuck rushing your visit and hoping you don’t get stuck in the dark. We were only at this cool landmark for about 10 minutes total because we didn’t budget our time correctly.

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Stop 4: Vik

Spend the night in or near the town of Vik. There are small grocery stores and a gas station if you are looking to purchase affordable food.

Day 3: Vik To Hofn

Highlights: Black sand beach, basalt columns, glaciers, Skaftafell National Park

Day 3 is what we call a “sleep when you die” day because you will be out and about from dawn-till-dusk! Speedy Icelandic road trips aren’t for the faint of heart! You will spend the morning admiring black sand and basalt, the afternoon checking out glaciers and lava fields, and the evening driving to the city of Hofn.

We were able to do all of this and more in the winter when it was completely dark by 7pm. If you are fortunate to visit during warmer months, you will have more than enough time before night falls. Anything you pass up on the way to Hofn you will catch on your way back to Reykjavik. Make sure to budget some time to get out of your car and admire the lava fields!

Stop 1: Reynishverfi Basalt Column Beach

You have seen the photos of these basalt columns darn near everywhere, and now it is your turn to visit! If the tide is out, climb on them for unforgettable photos! You can easily reach the basalt columns by a side road off Highway 1 near Vik. Keep your eyes out and program your GPS accordingly so you don’t miss it and have to backtrack like we did!

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Stop 2: Vik’s Black Sand Beach

The entrance to Vik Beach is located right near the only gas station in town. Stop for a bite to eat and then walk along the beach and admire the sea stacks and jet black sand. The beach is equally beautiful in both winter and summer.

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Stop 3: Skaftafell National Park

Today is the perfect time to make a quick stop in Skaftafell National Park to see what it is all about. The park is massive with tons of hikes and beautiful landscapes, but since you only have 5 days, it is best to hit the highlights. We suggest a trip to the visitor center followed by a short 2-mile round trip hike to a nearby glacier. The hike consists of walking down a pebble path until you reach the glacier. It is ideal for anyone and doesn’t require much time at all.

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Stop 4: Hofn

Spend the night in the town of Hofn where you will enjoy local restaurants, a large grocery store, and multiple lodging options.

Day 4: Hofn 

Highlights: Stokksnes, Hofn

By this point, you have done a TON of driving during your Iceland road trip and you have a lot more left to do. Take Day 4 to relax a little and soak it all in. If you wanted to spend more time in Skaftafell National Park, the nearest entrance is about an hour away so it is totally doable with an early start. Other than that stick around town and the surrounding areas.

Stop 1: Hofn

Pick up some food at the local market, stroll around town for some Icelandic souvenirs, and walk along the beautiful waterfront of this maritime fishing village. If the weather is nice, pack a picnic lunch and enjoy watching the boats go in and out of the harbor.

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Stop 2: Stokksnes

Simply plug the name Stokksnes into your GPS or drop a pin and within 30 minutes you will land on mars. Okay not really, but Stokksnes looks like it shouldn’t even be on this planet! The landscape consists of giant dunes, sea grass, a black sand beach, and mountains that plunge straight into the sea. Depending on the time of year, you can also see the northern lights!

Day 5: Hofn To Reykjavik

Highlights: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Dryholaey

The final day of your Icelandic road trip concludes with a 5-hour drive back to the capital of Reykjavik. Five hours seems like a long time, but time flies when you are having fun and taking in the scenery. If you want to, there is a road near the Skaftafell National Park entrance that takes you to the base of another glacier. You can drive right to it and it is a great quick stop.

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If you want to spend more time at any of your previous stops, now is the perfect time because you will pass each and every stop on your drive back to Reykjavik. For example, we stopped at Skogafoss again because we didn’t get enough of it the first time!

Stop 1: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

You haven’t seen anything until you have seen a glacier lagoon in Iceland! Seeing chunks of crystal-clear blue ice sitting on a perfectly black beach is something you will never forget. Look out for wildlife because seals often come out to play among the floating icebergs. Rain, shine, or snow, this is an essential stop on any road trip in Iceland.

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Stop 2: Dryholaey

Dryholaey is a small peninsula not too far from Vik. It is the home to Puffin, rock formations, and stunning beaches. This stop is the ideal spot for photography, especially if you arrive during sunset. The cliffs and giant waves are reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest and you will be hard pressed to convince your friends and family that you really weren’t in Oregon!

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Stop 3: Reykjavik

Congratulations! You just completed an epic 5-day Iceland road trip! Spend your last evening resting in the capital, hitting the town, or dropping off your rental car and catching a late flight back to your home country.

The Ultimate 5 Day Iceland Road Trip Itinerary | Icelandic Road Trip Route | Iceland Travel Tips | How To Take A Road Trip In Iceland | Follow Me Away Travel Blog

Visiting Iceland soon? Which one of these stops has you most excited? Have you taken an Icelandic road trip? Where did you head? Let us know in the comments! 

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34 thoughts on “The Ultimate 5 Day Iceland Road Trip Itinerary

  1. Sarah

    Great advice! We drove the ring road in 3.5 days, which may sound ridiculous, but it really wasn’t bad. Iceland remains at the top of our favorites list! So much natural beauty!

  2. Mary

    Thats pretty much what we did when we went! Make sure you wear good shoes for the hike to the airplane!! My feet died and we missed out on a whole day of things 🙁 Next time around!! Loved Iceland especially near Vik!

  3. Jane

    We were there for 2 weeks and we started out going west towards Snaefellness peninsula and the Westfjords. We loved the Westfjords! No tourists and you find yourself alone for hours on the drives. It’s just you and nature, which was the best! The towns are farther apart and smaller, with very little amenities, which is probably why there aren’t any tourists. We also loved the north. The more east we went, the more crowded it got.

    The places you mentioned are gorgeous (missed the hidden waterfall, but we didn’t spend much time at Seljalandsfoss) and well worth the visit, but we found the Westfjords a hidden gem that I almost don’t want to tell people about it so that it keeps the tourists away. Lol! However, there are so many places we missed that we plan to go back and explore more, especially along the F roads.

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  10. NANCY

    My girlfriends and I are planning on following this 5day roadtrip itinerary.
    Do you know a ballpark estimate on how much you guys spent on gas?

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Hey Nancy! For this trip, we would suggest budgeting around $200-$300 total. If you are splitting it, the cost won’t be as bad! To fill up, we generally end up spending around $50 USD and the cars we rent are economy not SUV or anything. Thanks!

  11. Alex

    Hi! This itinerary sounds awesome. I Was just wondering if there were any hostels you’d recommend staying at during this trip? Preferably affordable ones.

    Thanks!

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Iceland is such a fantastic place to visit!! We could go back lots of times too! Thanks for your comment 🙂

  12. Peter

    What month did you visit? Were the roads accessible during this winter time? I plan to take my girlfriend and probably propose in Iceland 🙂

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Hi Peter! We went once in March in the dead of winter and once in mid-November which was the start of winter. The roads were perfectly accessible as long as you don’t head north. The south and parts of the west are perfectly fine. Don’t worry about getting a 4×4 car either, we have only used 2×2 with no problems. Good luck!

  13. Emily

    Hi! Thank you for this great post. I’m planning to follow this itinerary more or less in August! Do you have any suggestions about lodging/hotel, such as the places you stayed and if you’d recommend them?

    Best,
    Emily

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      That is so exciting that you are going to Iceland! During both our trips, we have stayed at Airbnb properties. They are more affordable and there are more options than hotels. Simply join Airbnb and give it a look. Make sure to put in your budget! If you look to the right side of our website, we have a coupon code for $35 off your first booking too! Good luck 🙂

      1. Emily

        I’ve heard other people say that Airbnb is the best option in Iceland as well, so I’ll definitely plan for that. Thanks for the heads-up about the coupon!

        – Emily

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  15. Brian

    Hi there!

    Thank-you for the great post and itinerary! I wanted to write and let you know I did this road trip last week (4/29/17 – 5/6/17) and it worked great! Really enjoyed the scenery of the southern coast. Thank-you again for the excellent advice!!

    Best,
    Brian

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  17. Nicole

    I’m planning on doing an Iceland road trip this upcoming January. Do you think this is doable in a standard car or is a jeep or something more ambitious necessary?

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      NO! There is no point to get a jeep or 4×4 during the winter as you cannot off-road anyway! Go for the cheapest economy car you can find so you save money and also save on gas. Do not get a big car! We visited in the dead of winter with snow and a small car and had no problems at all! Good luck 🙂

  18. Anthony

    Hi There,

    I’m going to Iceland in a couple of months at the end of July this year with 2 of my friends.
    Sadly however, we will only have from August 3rd till August 7th to tour around the country due to work engagements.
    I loved how you detailed everything and I’m thinking of doing the same stops you did.
    I just have a couple of questions if you can help me out.

    We’re from Lebanon so the weather will definitely be a big change for us as well as several things. My questions are what do you recommend for clothing during the time we are going? Also about the food? i heard Iceland has excellent cuisine.

    We’ll be renting a car so my next question is are the roads easy to drive and safe?
    And Finally, Since we’ll be doing the same trip as you did most probably, what do you recommend from your personal experience?

    Thank you in advance 🙂

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Hello Anthony! So exciting you are going to Iceland! The weather will be chilly but not that cold! Bring a light jacket and long pants and layer if you have any thin pair of long underwear as it may be windy. Bring closed toed shoes. Food in Iceland is VERY expensive so we do NOT suggest eating out. Rather, go to a grocery store and buy food and make at your hotel or Airbnb. We have a lot of content on Iceland on a budget so just look at our destinations > Iceland tab on our site to see more. The roads are very easy to drive and very safe. Don’t get a 4×4 as a economy car works just fine. Our advice would be to skip the “Golden Circle” and head to the south and up to Hofn and spend a little more time there. Since we wrote this post we went back and that is just a way cooler area. Either way you won’t be disappointed!

  19. Alex

    Google Maps is reporting the drive from Hofn to Reykjavik is actually 11 hours. Any idea why when you guys say you did it in 5?

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Did you type in the correct name? 🙂 We just tried it and it says 5 hours and 18 minutes! It takes 20 hours to do the entire ring road so 11 hours would be half of it. Don’t let the time scare you away it certainly isn’t that far!

  20. Tommy Hoàng Trần

    This is such a helpful post. I am planning doing the exact trip like this, from July 1st to July 6th, but I will arrive Iceland in the afternoon at 2pm on July 1st, and will be leaving on July 6th at 5pm. Since I am arriving late in the afternoon at 2pm, do you think if that is possible for me to do the golden circle on that same day or save it for the last day?
    Also, do you know how is the weather will be in the beginning of July? I booked a mini car Hyundai i20 for my trip and I don’t know if that car can make that trip because I read some articles which said there were a lot of strong winds, high land road or bad condition road such as shevel road so we may need the 4×4 vehicle to drive thru all that condition.

  21. Tommy Hoang Tran

    This is such a helpful post. Me and my wife are planning to travel to Iceland this coming July from Jul 1 to Jul 6 and I really want to do this ring road trip around the whole island.
    I check on google map it shows that to drive the whole circle on Route 1 would take approx. 15-17hrs, so I plan to do it in 4days, but I read some articles and saw a lot of comments saying that it would be insane if I plan to do that with in a shorten time, even though if I can make it, I will spend most of the time driving on the road and I wouldn’t have much time to enjoy the beauty of the country, so I was kinda confuse and thinking that maybe it is not a good idea…
    Thanks a lot for your post here, that really help me a lot on making the decision do or do not make it. another thing that I worry abt is my rental car. Since me and my wife don’t have much stuff so I decided to rent a mini car, which is affordable and save me a lot of money, but I see some people say that it may not be able to make the trip since the wind in Iceland is very strong and the condition of the road is not good at all when I have to drive thru highland, gravel road…
    Also, I will be arriving Iceland at abt 2pm on Jul 1st and leaving at 5pm on Jul 6th, so basicly I will have more than 5days and a half for the whole trip…do you think I should spend the rest of the 1st day to drive around the golden circle or I should save it for the last day? please give me your advice!!!

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