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 you are searching for how to best spend 5 days in Iceland, we have got you covered!
If you are currently planning your 5 days in Iceland itinerary you may want to check out these articles:
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 plan an Iceland road trip itinerary that covers all the best parts of the country! Our Iceland 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. If you are hoping to see Iceland in 5 days, this is the way to do it!
Instead of driving the entire Ring Road, you will get to see the best parts of the Iceland Ring Road in 5 days. 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. 5 days in Iceland is a great starting point for seeing all the best sights.
Disclaimer: Although shortened, the entire Iceland 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 Iceland road trip in 5 days. Take a peek at our Iceland packing list if you aren’t sure what to bring because you are going to want to be prepared.
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 5 day Iceland road trip itinerary, 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 Iceland Road Trip Itinerary
Table of Contents
Day 1: Begin Your 5 Days In Iceland By Driving the Golden Circle
Highlights: Geysers, Gullfoss Waterfall, Icelandic Ponies, Reykjavik
During the first day of your Iceland road trip itinerary, 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 drive is an easy 190-miles round trip. Along the way, be sure to stop and pet the adorable Icelandic ponies who are waiting for some love! If you want to opt out of driving this part, there are many affordable Golden Circle Tours you may like to go on instead.
If you are dedicated to driving the Golden Circle fast, you can complete 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 this part of your 5 day Iceland itinerary, you can either start clockwise or counterclockwise. We suggest the clockwise version so you can get started seeing the sights right away!
Best Stops On The Golden Circle Self Drive Itinerary:
Stop 1: Thingvellir National Park
Listen up: Vikings used to have meetings here! How cool is that? Thingvellir 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 and make a unique addition to your 5 days in Iceland. 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!
Stop 3: Gullfoss Waterfall
Whether you visit Iceland for 5 days in winter or take your Iceland road trip during the warmer months, Gullfoss Waterfall is an epic sight 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 and should be added to your Iceland itinerary even if you are visiting Iceland in the low-season.
Day 2: Continue Your 5 Day Iceland Itinerary By Traveling From 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. As we said above, it is totally doable to see some of the Iceland Ring Road in 5 days and today is when you begin!
During your self-drive in Iceland, 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 of your Iceland road trip itinerary is going to be busy!
Stop 1: Seljalandsfoss Waterfall [and the hidden Gljúfrabúi Waterfall]
A little less than 2 hours outside of Reykjavik lies the stunning Seljalandsfoss Waterfall.
As you approach, you will be able to see the waterfall from the road. Seljalandsfoss is a fascinating stop to add to your Iceland road trip itinerary 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! This is one of the most fun stops along any Iceland Ring Road itinerary!
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 [about 30 minutes] 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. This stop is a “must” on your Iceland road trip as it is one of the most iconic spots in the country.
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!
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 are completing this 5 day Iceland itinerary 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. Don’t make the same mistake we did and be sure to factor enough time into your Iceland road trip itinearary to enjoy this unique site.
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 to save some money while in Iceland.
Day 3: Drive From Vik To Hofn For The Next Day Of Your Iceland Road Trip Itinerary
Highlights: Black sand beach, basalt columns, glaciers, Skaftafell National Park
Day 3 of our Iceland road trip itinerary is what we call a “sleep when you die” day because you will be out and about from dawn-till-dusk! Jam-packed 5 day Iceland itineraries 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. It is a lot of work but you can totally make it happen if you only have 5 days in Iceland and want to see as much as possible! If you have a longer time to spend on an Iceland road trip itinerary, split this portion up into two or even three days!
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 during this part of your Iceland Ring Road itinerary.
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! Get an early start because this is the longest day of your 5 day Iceland itinerary so you want to make the most of every stop!
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. Before you visit, make sure to read up about these 5 things to know about beaches in Iceland! Although they are beautiful, they are quite dangerous and people have died from not paying attention to safety precautions.
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 Iceland, 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.
If you started really early or can add more time to your Iceland road trip itinerary, you may be able to take a fabulous tour of one of the Ice caves at Skaftafell National Park! If you are sticking to our 5 day Iceland itinerary, you will love the glacier hike from the visitor center! Whether you have 5 days in Iceland or more time, make sure to at least drop by Skaftafell National Park!
Stop 4: Hofn
You will end day 3 of your 5 day Iceland road trip itinerary by spending the night in the town of Hofn. In Hofn, you will enjoy local restaurants, a large grocery store, and multiple lodging options. Remember that you can save a lot of money by not going out to eat!
Day 4: Spend The Day Exploring Glaciers And Mountains For The Most Relaxing Part Of Your 5 Days In Iceland
Highlights: Stokksnes, Glacier Lagoon, Hofn
By this point, you have done a TON of driving during your Iceland road trip Itinerary and you have a lot more left to do. Take Day 4 of your 5 days in Iceland 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.
Pick up some food at the local grocery store, 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.
Stop 1: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Located less than an hour away from Hofn, you start Day 4 of your Iceland road trip itinerary by visiting a 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 itinerary in Iceland.
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, seagrass, 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! This is as far northeast as you will head on our 5 day Iceland road trip itinerary so make sure to spend some time exploring!
Day 5: Finish Your Iceland Road Trip Itinerary By Driving From Hofn To Reykjavik
Highlights: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Dryholaey
The final day of your Iceland road trip itinerary 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. If you get to the entrance for the visitor center, you went to far so turn around and keep an eye out on your left for the glacier road.
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: Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is one of the lesser-known and most underrated stops along our Iceland road trip itinerary. This massive canyon is just a few miles away from the main road so it is an easy stop to get to. You can walk along the base of the canyon near the river that runs through it or you can climb up to the top for a majestic view inside! Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is less than two hours away from Vik so if you have less than 5 days in Iceland you can still make it a stop!
Stop 2: Dyrhólaey
Dyrhólaey is a small peninsula not too far from Vik and about a 2 and a half hour drive from Reykjavik. 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 or British Columbia!
Dyrhólaey has two parts, a lower beach with one view, and a higher beach with Dyrhólaey for a higher view from above. Dyrhólaey is a fantastic way to cap off your 5 days in Iceland and to mark the last stop along your Iceland road trip itinerary.
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. There are many ways you can modify this Iceland road trip itinerary so take the parts you love and leave the parts you don’t have time for as you spend a memorable 5 days in Iceland.
Iceland Road Trip Map
If you are a more visual person, don’t worry! We created this Iceland road trip map so you can see where you will be heading during your 5 days in Iceland! Iceland is a very GPS friendly country and you can visit all of the locations listed above by quickly plugging them into your GPS! This makes your Iceland road trip very easy to navigate and your 5 days in Iceland a breeze!
When To Visit Iceland
Don’t be surprised, but there really is no bad time to take your Iceland road trip! We created this whole post that breaks down the best time to visit Iceland and explains the pros and cons of each season. This 5 days in Iceland road trip can be done at any time of the year! Whenever you are planning your Iceland road trip and you have time off to spend 5 days in Iceland is when you should visit this beautiful country!
If you are looking to see the Northern Lights, visit during the winter! Winters in Iceland are quite mild but you need to be sure to dress properly. Want to experience neverending daylight during your Iceland road trip? Then make sure to travel during the summer! The off-season is also the perfect time for an Iceland road trip because everything is more affordable and the weather is still great. No matter when you have 5 days in Iceland to spend, you should ensure you have proper clothing so you enjoy your Iceland road trip!
Where To Stay In Iceland
As you know, Iceland is very expensive! When spending 5 days in Iceland, costs can add up quickly. For your Iceland road trip itinerary, we highly recommend that you book an Airbnb or a similar home-share type property because you will gain valuable access to a kitchen. We do recommend hotels in our 5 day Iceland itinerary above because not everyone likes Airbnb, but we do suggest it for maximum ease and convenience during your 5 day Iceland road trip.
If you are wary about spending 5 days in Iceland sharing with other guests, don’t fret! Many Airbnbs in Iceland offer “entire home” accommodation options which means you will have the entire house or flat to yourself and won’t have to share with anyone else! We love that a homestay provides you valuable access to a kitchen which will save you lots of money if you are spending 5 days in Iceland.
We have tried both hotels and Airbnb while in Iceland and prefer Airbnb for sure. We love that with Airbnb you won’t be forced to eat all meals out [which adds up quickly] and entire home Airbnbs are often the same price as a hotel or hostel, if not cheaper! If you are looking to go on this Iceland road trip on a budget or are looking to save money, cooking your own meals is the way to go!
For the purpose of this 5 days in Iceland road trip, we aren’t going to tell you what to do or where exactly to stay! That is up for you to decide based on what you think your 5 days in Iceland should be like! If you are looking for a luxury Iceland road trip, there are wonderful luxury hotels in Iceland as well as more expensive Airbnbs you can stay at! If you are looking to save money and eat at home? Airbnb is just a click away with many great lodging options for your 5 days in Iceland!
Quick tips for your Iceland road trip
-Bring plenty of water. When taking an Iceland road trip, you will want to bring plenty of water! Be sure that you bring a reusable water bottle so you can save the earth and fill up in a bathroom or at your hotel. If you must, buy bottled water at one of the Iceland grocery stores to bring with you on your Iceland road trip.
-Be prepared to potentially pee on the side of the road. Iceland is actually a pretty desolate place so don’t be surprised if you have to pee on the side of the road during your Iceland road trip. When taking a road trip through Iceland, you may drive for hours before you see an appropriate bathroom stop. Pull over to a safe spot on the road, open both car doors, and do your business! It is all part of the Iceland road trip experience!
-Driving off-road is 100% illegal in Iceland. When taking an Iceland road trip, you may be tempted to drive off-road. After all, there is no one around and there are so many open spaces. Don’t do it! Driving off-road is actually illegal in Iceland and also destroys the environment. Stick to the approved roads for a safe, legal, and environmentally friendly Iceland itinerary.
-Leave no trace. This means that when you are taking an Iceland road trip, do not litter in any way, shape, or form. If you are driving along this 5 day Iceland road trip itinerary and have trash, do not throw it out your car window. Make sure to put it in a plastic baggie and throw it away in an appropriate receptacle when you arrive into a city.
-Do not speed or drive recklessly. It is super tempting to drive fast on the perfectly straight Icelandic roads but don’t do it! You may risk getting a hefty ticket and that isn’t an enjoyable part of an Iceland road trip. Plus, you don’t want to do anything dangerous or illegal during your Iceland itinerary.
-Make sure to stay safe at all the stops along your Iceland road trip. Places such as the black sand beaches in Iceland are one of the best things to see in Iceland but they are also the most dangerous. When taking an Iceland road trip, make sure to read all the signs and proceed with caution when visiting many of the stops listed above. The warning signs along this 5-day Iceland itinerary are provided in multiple languages so there really is no excuse for doing ill-advised things.
-If you want to walk on the road, make sure to watch out for cars and give them the right of way. Many articles tell travelers to never walk on the road during their Iceland road trip but we disagree. Roads in Iceland are beautiful to photograph but you must do so safely. First, make sure you pull off the road as far as you can and that you stop on a straight stretch of road where you can see for a good distance and not on a hill or a corner. Then, if you are doing your Iceland road trip in a group, make sure that you have someone stand watch for oncoming cars. If you are alone, make your time walking down the road very short and quick. Never walk in the road at night at any point during your Iceland road trip.
-You do not need an international drivers license to take an Iceland road trip. As long as you have a driver license from your home country, you should be good to go when driving in Iceland. Save yourself time and money and forgo the international driving permit. If you aren’t sure, it is always good to ask the car rental company you are hoping to take your Iceland road trip with for clarification.
-Always make sure you have enough gas. The gas stations in Iceland are few and far between so if you think you need to fill up, you probably should! It is better to be safe than sorry and stranded on a desolate Icelandic road. When taking an Iceland road trip, it is always a good idea to top off your tank when you pass a gas station, especially if the nearest town is a few hours away.
Additional Reading To Help You Plan Your Iceland Road Trip
Planning your 5 days in Iceland road trip should be fun but not hard and stressful! We know that planning your Iceland road trip for the first time can become overwhelming at times, which is why we created a whole lot of helpful posts! These posts will provide you with further reading and additional information when planning your 5 days in Iceland! Check out these posts below for further help on planning and preparing for your Iceland road trip:
Iceland vacation planning articles:
- If you are wondering when is the best time to go to Iceland for 5 days, check out our detailed guide on the best time to go to Iceland as mentioned above in this post
- If you need help figuring out what to pack for your Iceland road trip, check out our All-Season Iceland Packing List and check out our recommendations for the best shoes and boots for Iceland and the best jackets to pack for Iceland. These are real suggestions on clothes, shoes, coats and more we have actually used during our own Iceland road trips over the years!
- Considering staying in Airbnbs during your 5 days in Iceland? We put together The Beginner’s Guide To Airbnb to help you through your Iceland road trip and show you the ropes if this is your first time.
- Looking to plan your Iceland road trip on a budget? It is totally possible even if you are spending 5 days in Iceland! Here are our 7 Tips For Visiting Iceland On A Budget as well as 5 More Things You Shouldn’t Forget To Budget For In Iceland so you can save the most amount of money possible! You can also check out these 10 Budget Iceland Travel tips to help plan your 5 day Iceland road trip!
- Looking to save even more money during your Iceland road trip or want to spend your 5 days in Iceland in the great outdoors? We put together the First-timers Guide To Camping In Iceland with all sorts of helpful tricks and tips including a detailed packing list.
- Since you are taking an Iceland road trip and this may be your first time driving in Iceland, we put together these 7 Tips For Driving In Iceland!
- Planning your 5 day Iceland road trip itinerary during the winter? Here are 5 Things To Know Before Visiting Iceland In Winter to make sure you have all the information you need to enjoy your trip!
- Is 5 days in Iceland to long for your Iceland road trip? Only have a short amount of time? Don’t worry! We put together this detailed 3 day Iceland itinerary just for you! Hint: You can do it with or without a car!
Top Things To Do And See In Iceland In 5 Days:
- Do you love cute animals? Check out the Top 10 Animals In Iceland You Will Want To See During Your Trip.
- Taking your Iceland road trip during the winter and not sure what there is to do? We put together this awesome list of 30 Things To Do In Iceland In Winter and everything included on our Iceland road trip itinerary here can be done during the winter!
- Are you traveling to Iceland for 5 days to take lots of stunning photos? There are so many great places you are going to stop during your Iceland road trip and these 25 Iceland Photography Locations That Will Blow Your Mind
- Looking to hike to some of the best views in Iceland but don’t want to spend your 5 days in Iceland trekking for days? We don’t blame you! That’s why we gathered the 5 Best Easy And Rewarding Hikes In Iceland
- Of course, you are going to visit a few Black Sand Beaches during your 5 days in Iceland! Make sure to check out our Ultimate Guide To Visiting Beaches In Iceland so that you are well prepared! The last thing you want to happen during your Iceland road trip is to get caught by a deadly sneaker wave!
Start shopping for your Iceland road trip:
Heading to Iceland for 5 days soon? Which one of these stops along our Iceland road trip itinerary has you most excited? Have you taken an Iceland road trip? Where did you head? Let us know in the comments!
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