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 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 South-East Iceland Road Trip Itinerary
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.
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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