The best way to see all the amazing attractions that Iceland has to offer is by renting a car and driving yourself. A self-drive tour allows you to go at your own pace, and see everything on your list, with the freedom that you won’t get from a tour.
That said, planning your itinerary comes with many questions like “When would be the best time to visit?”, “How will the weather be?”, “How much will it cost?”, “Will I be able to drive myself?” and “How many days should I stay to get the full Icelandic experience?”. Even if you’ve only got five days to visit the island you can still see some fantastic things. This 5-day self-drive itinerary will cover all the best stops for you to make on your short trip to Iceland.
Related links: Rent a car in Iceland
Table of content:
- Weather, temperature and general info about Iceland in summer and winter
- How to budget for your 5-day trip?
- What car should you rent for this road trip?
- How to plan for 5 days on the road in Iceland? Things and tips you must know
- 5 Days self-drive best classic route map
- 5 day Iceland summer road trip – detailed itinerary
Weather, temperature and general info about Iceland in summer and winter
|Summer (broadly saying: late May-early September )
|Winter (broadly saying: Late September – April)
|The average temperature during the summer months in the North of Iceland is 50-59 F (10 to 15 C).
The average temperature during the summer in Southern Iceland is 43-53 F (6.1 to 11.6 C).
|The average temperature during the winter in Northern Iceland is 29-37 F (-1.6 to 2.78 C).
The average temperature during the winter in Southern Iceland is 24-34 F (-4.4 to 1.1 C).
|The weather in the summer is usually warm and soothing. It isn’t particularly hot, but warm enough to not need a heavy jacket.
|The Icelandic weather during winter can be quite cold with temperatures dropping to low single digits in celsius. It also features heavy snow and harsh winds.
|Roads are easier to drive in the summer with more access roads opened during that season.
|Roads are trickier during the winter periods. The main roads are wetter and require more caution. Some roads also have to be closed due to snow cover.
|How long is the day?
|On the longest day, Iceland will have almost 24 hours of daylight in June, on the summer solstice.
|On the shortest day, Iceland will only have 5 hours of daylight during the winter solstice.
|Special seasonal activities you can do
|•See the midnight sun
•Go inside a volcano
|•See the northern lights
•Visiting the Glacier Blue Ice Caves
How to budget for your 5-day trip? What car should you rent for this road trip?
Summer in Iceland is the most tourist-friendly time of the year and this makes it the most expensive time to visit Iceland due to the increased demand for flights, hotels, cars and tours. When planning for your summer Iceland 5-days itinerary, these are the main things to consider in your budget.
- Flights to Iceland during the summer from the USA would usually cost between $917 – $2,996, while flights from places in Europe like England or Germany would cost €311 – €884.
- The price range for hotels in Iceland during the summer is around $94 – $572/ €88 – €534 depending on the quality of the accommodation.
- The price range for rental cars in Iceland during the summer is $378 – $1278/ €352 – €1192
- The average cost of food per person per day in Iceland in the summer is $35.
- Rental car type recommended:
For your Iceland 5 days itinerary winter budget, consider the following:
- Flights to Iceland during the winter from the USA would usually cost between $450 – $620, while flights from places in Europe like England or Germany would cost – €209 – €644.
- The price range for hotels in Iceland during the winter is around $74 – $449/ €69 – €419 depending on the quality of the accommodation.
- The price range for rental cars in Iceland during the winter is $154 – $740/ €144 – €691.
- The average cost of food per person per day in Iceland in winter is $29.
- Rental car type recommended:
If you want to add to your experience of Iceland by joining a local tour and trying your hands on some fun outdoor activities, then you will need to take the cost of these tours into account when budgeting. You can find the prices of tours and activities with our partners here.
What car should you rent for the 5-day self-drive tour?
When deciding what cars to rent for a 5-day self-drive tour of Iceland, the most important things to consider include;
- The budget you have in mind for your trip as a whole, because different car types will be priced differently for rent.
- You may also want to consider how many people are in your travel party and how much luggage you will need to haul around. With a larger group of people and more luggage, a bigger car becomes necessary.
- Finally on the list of things to consider, is the weather at the time of your visit. The weather often affects road network availability and therefore will affect your choice of car.
For the more clement summer weather, smaller 2-wheel drive cars would be sufficient for getting around the classic easy-to-access destinations, but for a more rounded experience, it is advisable to rent the 4-wheel drive cars.
4×4 SUVs are an excellent choice for every season in Iceland as they handle better in harsh weather, and are more trustworthy on the tricky terrain of the winter roads. They are also your best bet for reaching remote destinations in Iceland where you can’t go with a 2WD.
The 4×4 SUVs offer the most comfortable option as they are sturdy enough to contain any amount of luggage or any size of the travel group. So whether your travel party is small or large, you can rest assured that you will travel in comfort in any weather and on any roads.
You can find more information about where and how to get a rental car in Iceland with our Iceland car rental tips.
How to plan for 5 days on the road in Iceland? Things and tips you must know:
There are a few things you must know when visiting Iceland, especially as a first-time visitor. To get the best out of your experience there are some absolute must-sees along the way.
- It’s important to get the places you wish to visit ahead of time and plan your itinerary around these locations. If possible, itemize these locations according to your preference.
- Weather in Iceland is almost impossible to accurately predict, and this can also affect the road network even during the summer. Therefore, you need to keep your itinerary flexible to fit whatever the Icelandic weather throws at you. Also keep your ears to the ground for dramatic changes in weather, as you will need this information to plan your days and avoid wasting your efforts.
- Iceland’s emergency number is 112, so have it on standby. You also need to familiarize yourself with the dos and don’ts of driving in Iceland, especially if you plan to embark on a self-drive tour.
- Before starting your day, ensure you check the weather via vedur.is, and the conditions of the roads via road.is.
- It’s worth noting that it isn’t possible to go through the entire Ring Road circuit in only five days, but your tour can still drive you to some of the attractions on the Ring Road you want to see. The closer they are to Reykjavik, the more likely you’ll have time to see them. If you really want to see everything the Ring Road has to offer, you will need to book a longer tour.
Regardless of the season, it’s important to book your accommodation and rental cars ahead of time. Firstly, make sure you get your preferred accommodation and cars. Secondly, to ensure you get them at the least expensive prices. This is especially useful for people who intend to visit the country in the summer.
5 Days self-drive best classic route map (suitable for winter and summer) with must-see attractions included
5 day Iceland road trip – detailed itinerary
A short breakdown of the 5-day itinerary of Iceland goes thus;
- Day 1: Fly to Reykjavik, staying overnight in Reykjavik.
- Day 2: Golden circle, staying overnight in the area.
- Day 3: South Iceland, staying overnight in Hofn or a nearby area.
- Day 4: South Iceland,+ head back to Reykjavik, staying overnight in Reykjavik.
- Day 5: Fly back home.
Day 1: Arrival in Iceland
On arrival in Iceland, day one of the tour will take you from the airport to Blue Lagoon, and to your first port of accommodation in Reykjavik. You may also decide to move the Blue Lagoon visit to the last day of your tour if your flight gets in late or you don’t have time. Best of all you can pick up your rental car from the KEF Airport arrival hall.
Route: KEF airport → Blue Lagoon → Reykjavik. Stay in Reykjavik
- Main Attraction: The main attraction is the Blue Lagoon with world-class spas, and restaurants. The Blue Lagoon is famed for its crystal clear warm spring that has made the resort popular.
- Main Attraction in Reykjavik: Other main attractions to see in Reykjavik include the Harpa musical center which features music from the Icelandic Opera and the mammoth Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran Church. The Sun Voyager sculpture is also another very popular sight to see in the capital and it’s well worth your time.
- Alternative attractions: You may also visit the Sky Lagoon Hot Spring whose beauty is only matched by The Blue Lagoon in the whole of Reykjavik. The 100m Ice cave exhibition in Perlan is another exciting location to visit and will certainly pique your interest.
- Things to do: On day one, you can visit museums, enjoy the local cuisine and enjoy a dip in the local pools and hot springs as well.
- Optional things they can do by joining a tour:
Please note: Inside the Volcano tour only operates during summertime
Day 2: Golden Circle: staying overnight in the area
Day two of your self-drive tour will take you around the Golden Circle. You may not be able to hit all the spots on the Golden Circle, but you can definitely see the most important ones. Then, you can stay overnight at a hotel along the Golden Circle
Route: Reykjavik → Thingvellir National Park→ Geysir geothermal area → Gullfoss → Your hotel of choice along the Golden Circle.
- Main attractions: While driving the Golden Circle, you can visit an Icelandic National history sight, Thingvellir National Park, which formerly housed Iceland’s earliest parliaments. You can also visit the Geysir geothermal area, containing The Great Geyser of Iceland. A natural geyser which feeds hot springs around the area and has been active for thousands of years. In addition, the Gullfoss geysers and waterfalls offer some more beautiful views.
- Alternative attractions: You may also choose to visit the city of Skalholt and the Skalholt cathedral, Thjorsardalur Valley, Solheimar Eco-Village, Helgufoss and Thorufoss Waterfalls, Fridheimar Tomato and Horse Farm, and Kerid Crater.
- Optional things to do by joining a tour: You can join one of the few tours along the Golden Circle which offer snowmobiling on the Langjokull Glacier, a visit to the Secret Lagoon in Fludir, Fontana Geothermal Baths, as well as a snorkeling trip in the Thingvellir National Park.
Day 3: South Iceland (Golden circle hotel to Hofn) via route 1 ring road
The itinerary for the third day should include a trip to South Iceland through route one on the ring road and will likely involve a trip to Hofn.
Route: Golden Circle hotel of choice → Seljalandsfoss → Skógafoss → Reynisfjara black sand beach → Jökulsárlón → Diamond Beach → hotel in Hofn area
- Main attractions: While in South Iceland, most people enjoy visiting the Seljalandsfoss area mainly to see its 60m (197ft) waterfall, and other famous and familiar sites that can be found in Seljalandsfoss. The Skógafoss waterfalls, which flow into the Skóga river, are also a major tourist attraction and can be enjoyed on a local tour. The area contains a number of black sand beaches, including the legendary Reynisfjara black sand beach and basalt sea stacks, the Vík Jökulsárlón, and the Diamond beach.
- Alternative attractions: Other locations to consider include the Gljúfrabúi Waterfall, Kvernufoss, the Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck (DC-3 Plane Wreck), the Katla Ice Cave which will most likely involve a booked tour of the ice cave, and the Hjörleifshöfði Cave.
- Optional things they can do by joining a tour:
Please note: The Crystal Glacier is accessible only during wintertime
Day 4: South Iceland (Hofn + south coast + head back to Reykjavik)
On the second-last day of your self-drive tour you should circle back from Hofn to the capital Reykjavik while stopping by any major sites that you might have missed the first time around.
Route: Hofn → all the attractions you missed along the way on their way from the Golden Circle to Hofn → hotel in Reykjavik
- Attractions: You can visit locations along the south coast that you might have missed on the day before for lack of time including the picturesque Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, the Skaftafell National park, the Sólheimajökull glacier, and the Dyrhólaey cliff with the iconic hole in it.
Day 5: Fly back home
For the final day of the tour, it is best to keep the itinerary light to allow enough time to reach the airport to fly back home.
Route: Reykjavik → Blue Lagoon (if you didn’t visit it on day 1) → KEF airport
- There’s not much to do other than take the trip to the KEF Airport from your hotel in Reykjavik. If you haven’t already visited Blue Lagoon, you can do so on the last day as long as you ensure you have enough time to catch your flight home.
- If you’ve already booked your rental car with Hertz from the start, then you are in luck as you only need to drop off the same car at the Airport terminal, rather than having to drop the car off elsewhere and book another ride to the airport.
Iceland 5-day self-drive itinerary
So, if you plan on going to Iceland on vacation whether during the summer or the winter months, you now know how much it will cost, the pros and cons of each season, and the best ways to rent cars while on a 5-day self-driving tour of Iceland.
If you have a few extra days then make sure to check out this 7-day self-drive itinerary or this more detailed breakdown of all the great things to see and do on the Golden Circle.And don’t forget to book your rental car with Hertz Iceland as far in advance as possible to ensure you get the best car for your Iceland self-drive tour.