In this article, we will answer the most critical questions about how many days in Iceland is enough, including how long it will take you to do specific activities, how best to maximize your time spent, and the best ways to get around the country no matter the duration of your stay.
Even one day spent in Iceland will leave you with enough memories to last a lifetime, but a visit to the Nordic gem offers so much that you will undoubtedly need a few more days to fully grasp the true beauty of the country’s attractions. So, how many days in Iceland is enough?
Careful planning and consideration are essential to get the most out of any Icelandic road trip, and a trip to Iceland is no different. There are many things to decide, including how long you want to spend, which can impact how many exciting attractions you can fit into your trip. If you will be in Iceland for multiple days, as we recommend, then the best way to get around the country is with a rental car, especially if you plan on touring the attractions at your own pace and convenience.
Quick Getaway: 1-5 Days Exploring Iceland’s Gems
One to five days should suffice for a short trip exploring the most iconic of Iceland attractions. The first stop for most vacationers is the Keflavik-Reykjavik International Airport, the primary access to the country’s capital, which has many of the biggest tourist attractions in Iceland.
In one day, you could see one or more of Reykjavik’s famous lagoons, including the Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon, which are extremely popular among both tourists and locals. In Iceland’s capital you can also check out the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church, as well as the museums and restaurants that make Reykjavik the most visited spot in the country.
You can also visit the National Museum of Iceland and delve into the country’s culture with a visit to the Reykjavik City Hall, or you can enjoy a concert at the world-famous Harpa Concert Hall.
Within 24 hours, you can take a tour of the famous Golden Circle, although you will only be able to stop at the most popular attractions, and not for very long.
Golden Circle tour
Ideally, if you can stay a few days longer, you can also see the Golden Circle in its entirety. You can spend more time at the famous Thingvellir National Park, hike the challenging trails and see two continents, or explore the Geysir Geothermal Area and the Gullfoss Waterfall.
With more time, you can also explore more niche areas of the Golden Circle, such as Iceland’s oldest swimming pool, the Secret Lagoon.
South Iceland (south coast of Iceland)
If you’re spending four to five days in Iceland, you must spend at least one of those days exploring Iceland’s South Coast. Experience the beauty of the Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, and take an immersive trip through Vik and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
There are incredible sights to see in the south of Iceland, including the ice caves and glaciers in Vik that accentuate the famous black sand beaches outside the city, including Reynisfjara black sand beach and Diamond Beach, with opportunities to hike on the glaciers and walk along the shores of a most unusual coastline.
Medium Stay: 6-10 Days Delving Deeper
Staying for six to 10 days gives you the opportunity to enjoy a more comprehensive range of activities and you can take a closer look at some of Iceland’s biggest wonders and attractions with more time to truly appreciate them without rushing.
Route 1 Ring Road
With between six and 10 days of vacation in Iceland we recommend an itinerary that includes the attractions on Iceland’s Ring Road, which loops around the entire country.
You can explore locations and attractions along Iceland’s South Coast, Northern Iceland, Westfjords, and Eastfjords. However, it may be best to skim through the Eastfjords if you are pressed for time.
The most popular attractions in Northern Iceland can be found near Akureyri, which is why it is often referred to as the capital of the north. While it is not as famous as the capital, Reykjavik, Akureyri still holds a massive appeal for visitors, with a superb line-up of activities.
While in the North of Iceland, you can enjoy the best of Iceland’s wildlife, with Eyjafjordur and Húsavík offering opportunities to go whale watching or see the majestic Atlantic puffins when they migrate to the area to mate during the summer.
We also recommend taking the time to visit Lake Mývatn, the Mývatn Nature Baths, as well as the most powerful waterfall in Iceland, Dettifoss Waterfall and Goðafoss waterfall, also known as the “Waterfall of the Gods.”
South Iceland Extended
A longer stay in Iceland will also allow you to dive deeper into the beauty of South Iceland. You can enjoy the black sands of Reynisfjara Beach and the Sólheimajökull Glacier, which has excellent hiking opportunities. Enjoy a more extended stay at the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and go Icelandic horseback riding along the beaches in Vík.
The Dyrhólaey Nature Reserve in the south is also home to the iconic Dyrhólaey lava arch and lighthouse. When visiting the Dyrhólaey area, be sure to check the availability of its attractions, as they can be closed off during the bird nesting season in May.
West Iceland-Snaefellsnes Penisula
The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is the treasure of Western Iceland and features a variety of natural landscapes within a more condensed area, earning it the nickname “Miniature Iceland.”
From the iconic Búðir Black Church built in the 18th century to the imposing Kirkjufell Mountain, which stands 1500 feet tall and was featured in the hit TV show Game of Thrones the peninsula is full of incredible scenery.
Snaefellsjökull National Park is another major attraction in the area and gets its name from the Snaefellsjökull subglacial volcano, its main highlight. It is also home to Djpalónssandur beach and the Lóndrangar basalt stronghold, which all hold unique appeals, especially for first-time travelers who have some time to spare.
Extended Journey: 11+ Days Immersing Fully, SUMMER ONLY (June to August)
For a fully immersive tour of Iceland, where you can experience all the country has to offer, spending 11 days or more is ideal. In addition to touring the major attractions of the Ring Road, you will also have time to explore lesser-known gems of the region, go on exciting trails, and camp out in the pristine woods, provided you’re visiting in the summer months.
East Iceland – Eastfjord area
East Iceland is all about the great hiking possibilities, starting with the largest national park in Europe, the Vatnajokull National Park, which covers 5,460 square miles and is most famous for the Vatnajokull glacier. It also contains an incredible range of natural landscapes, including black sand beaches, volcanic craters, and ice caps, within the national park’s borders.
Also in the east of Iceland is the charming village of Seyðisfjörður, with the Skaftfell Center for Visual Arts and the Seyðisfjörður church, famous for its rainbow-coloured walkway. You can also visit the Hallormsstaður forest, which has excellent hiking trails, to see the Hengifoss botanical gardens and waterfall.
Make sure that you take to time to visit the Eastern Fjords, where you can drive along the scenic coastline and explore the beauty of this untouched region. There are many great wildlife spotting opportunities in this area, and also generally less tourists so you can enjoy more peaceful moments in nature.
The Westfjords is one of Iceland’s most beautiful regions, located in the far northwest of the country. It’s off the beaten path and features deep fjords, mountains, waterfalls and hot springs with lots of hiking trails.
The best time to visit the Westfjords is during the summer as there are many unpaved Iceland F-roads that provide access throughout the area, and they are often closed during the winter months due to weather conditions in Iceland. Some of the top attractions in the area include Dynjandi waterfall, Hornstrandir Nature Reserve and Látrabjarg Cliff, which is one of the best places in the country to see puffins.
If you grow weary of the crowds in the more populated areas of Iceland, a trip to the remote Highlands of Iceland is precisely what you need. This region is for the true adventurers, and you will need a 4X4 rental car in order to access it.
You can make your way to the Landmannalaugar geothermal area, known for its colourful rhyolite mountains, lava fields, and hot springs. You can also see more of Iceland’s remote wonders, including the 55 kilometer (34 mile) long Laugavegur trail, which takes between three and five days to complete and offers Iceland camping opportunities with huts along the trail for travelers to rest.
Given the nature of these remote areas, the trails are usually open only during the summer, as the mountainous areas and F-Roads can become hazardous due to heavy ice, wind, and snow storms in the winter.
Best Months to Visit Iceland: When? How to decide?
The best time of year to visit Iceland will largely depend on your itinerary and what you plan on doing while touring.
If you want to see the best of the Highlands and Westfjords, the best time to visit would be during Iceland’s summer, when all the roads will be open and safe. You will also have the opportunity to witness the midnight sun in Iceland and the weather will be milder.
The winter months in Iceland are perfect for enjoying winter activities like seeing the northern lights, snowmobiling, ice climbing and hiking on glaciers. One of the best parts about going to Iceland in the winter is enjoying the country’s beauty without the hustle and bustle of the large crowds that characterize the summer months.
The shoulder months are between the summer and winter, and they offer the best of both worlds. Spring, which falls between March and May, and Fall, between September and November, offer a unique balance to daylight and night, allowing you to see either the early beginnings or the conclusion of the summer and winter attractions while avoiding tedious crowds and commutes. The shoulder months are also the most budget-friendly months to visit, enabling visitors to get deals on accommodation, activities and rental cars.
Renting a Car: The Best Way to Travel Iceland Regardless of Length of Stay
The best way to see Iceland is by renting a vehicle and driving yourself. There are limited public transportation options available in the country, and if you choose to just book tours then not only will it cost more, but you will have to plan around the tour operators schedule.
Without a rental car you will also be unable to reach many of the top natural attractions in Iceland, since tours are not offered everywhere. Renting a car for a self-drive tour allows you to be flexible with your plans, build your own custom itinerary, and make unscheduled stops if you find attractions on your way.
In addition, you can decide how long you want to spend at each attraction and create customized experiences for you and your traveling party, which will help optimize your time in Iceland.
There are a range of cars to choose from to cater to the size of your traveling group. From compact cars which seat one person or a couple, to bigger 4X4 SUVs which can transport families or larger groups, the choice is entirely yours. Check out our Iceland car rental tips to choose the best rental option for your group.
How Many Days to Spend in Iceland?
No matter how many days you have in Iceland you can still have a fulfilling experience. With an extensive list of things to do, regardless of how long you have available, a trip to Iceland is an adventure of a lifetime. To get the optimum experience, planning your itinerary and figuring out how long it will take to do everything on your chosen route is crucial.
When you decide what you want to do and see in Iceland and how long you want to stay, it’s essential to book a rental car online and in advance of your trip. In order to maximize your time, you can pick up your rental car from Hertz directly in the Iceland International Keflavik airport arrivals hall at the airport so you can start your adventure as soon as you land!