A PERFECT Icelandic Road Trip: 4-Day Itinerary

With Iceland’s surge in tourism, transportation from it’s capital to it’s many beautiful wonders have improved greatly. 

But if you aren’t keen on spending a few hundred dollars on a tour from Reykjavik and want to explore on your own time, this guide will show you exactly how to navigate the many wonders of Iceland with little time on your hands. 

This is a nonstop driving itinerary, designed for those renting a car and either booking accommodation along the way, or car camping. I prefer to car camp, and it’s fairly easy and can allow for even more unique off the beaten path sights that you may not see in your typical Iceland trip. For all you need to know about car camping, check out my Expert Car Camping Guide post!

It’s important to note that this itinerary is also adjustable to your liking, and depending on your flight times, trip length, personal interests, and capabilities, you can adjust this trip to suit you! Here, it’s spread over four days with the maximum activities that can be completed in that time included, although it may seem fast-paced to some. But that is why this itinerary is so amazing, as you can completely cater to your own wants/needs. 

Iceland is also notorious for its unexpectable weather, so some sights/activities may need to be adjusted due to inclement weather. Also, due to its proximity to the Arctic Circle, sunlight hours in Iceland vary, and light hours become limited when traveling from December-February. May-September is the brightest time of year where you will find that the sun rarely ever sets, creating the Midnight Sun phenomenon.

With that being said, no sunset in Iceland during these summer seasons means that the midnight hours can also prove to be a great time for exploring where you’ll find barely any tourists. Reykjavik hosts mostly daytime tours of the Golden Circle, so you typically won’t see many people after 10 pm. 

Prefer to stay in the chilly months of Iceland? You will also be lucky to find that it is known for its northern lights scene- with beautiful greens and purples painting the sky just after the sun sets. There are countless tours to be found from Reykjavik and beyond to search for them.

Below is a map of all the spots along the Golden Circle, South Coast, and beyond that can be accessed within four days.

Using this Google Map: This map is specifically designed for the itinerary included in this post, with all of the sights and routes highlighted for your easy use! You can interact with this map to zoom in/out and click on each icon for more information. The arrow in the top left will pull up the full list of attractions as well as driving routes for each day of the itinerary. The star to the right of the title will save it to your Google account, and you can view it through your Google Maps by opening up the “Your Places/Maps” tab in the menu. You can also view it fullscreen in Google Maps by clicking the fullscreen button at the top right of the map.

Day 1: Golden Circle

Though Reykjavik has many interesting and unique experiences to offer, this guide is about getting out of the typical city environment and experiencing the natural beauty that can be found in Iceland.

Just outside of Reykjavik, you can start off on the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is an extremely popular day trip locale and loops back around to Reykjavik, which is why you are most likely to find crowds in the destinations along this route.

However, having your own mode of transportation certainly makes the route more adjustable to your wants and needs, and can be explored 24/7 at your own pace. If you want an Expert Guide to Car Camping Iceland, check out my post!

Stop #1: Þingvellir National Park

The first stop when setting off on the Golden Circle would be Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park- which offers a great variety of sights:

  • Walk between tectonic plates
  • Snorkel the Silfra Fissure
  • Go horseback riding
  • Oxarafoss Waterfall
  • Hiking through a Game of Thrones episode
  • Marvel at Lake Thingvallavatn

There are a variety of things to find at Thingvellir, and it is accessible 24/7- though the visitor center is only open from 9am-5pm. There is no entrance fee, but there is a parking fee for those who have their own vehicle. 

Laynie touching either end of the Silfra fissure
Touching North America and Europe at the same time!

Stop #2: Strokkur

After Thingvellir, set off to Geysir– a naturally occurring geyser, and where the word “geyser” originated from. Though the original Geysir has not erupted in years, Strokkur erupts roughly every 10 minutes, and there are several geothermal pools nearby to discover. 

But don’t stop there, there are several geothermal pools nearby to be discovered after witnessing Strokkur’s powerful eruption. Strokkur is free to visit and you can grab a quick meal just across the street at the Geysir Center! 

Stop #3: Gulfoss

A short drive from Geysir is Gulfoss, a true natural masterpiece. Gulfoss- which translates to Golden Falls- is a massive and iconic waterfall that is a must-see when visiting Iceland. The falls have several different viewpoints, and you can get instagram-worthy shots from all angles via the path that takes you to the top of the falls. 

Though this may be the spot where most would begin the drive back to Reykjavik, we instead will start the journey to the South Coast. 

The powerful Gulfoss waterfall
Gulfoss- a popular attraction on the Golden Circle

Wandering Words of Wisdom: A less popular Secret Lagoon can be found between Gulfoss and Kerid Crater, and is certainly a less expensive option compared to the Blue Lagoon- one of the most popular tourist spots. If you have extra time, this is a great addition to your route.

Stop #4: Kerid Crater
The last stop along the Golden Circle is Kerid Crater, a volcanic crater lake located just past the three main attractions of this prominent route. The entirety of the crater can be accessed in just minutes from the parking lot, but there is also a small trail that will take you to the base of the crater. 

View of Kerid Crater from above
Kerid Crater, with all of its striking colors

Deep red and brown rock surrounds a beautiful blue-green pool in the center, and it is truly a unique sight to see. The entrance fee to the crater is only 400 ISK (~$3 USD), and is free for children 12 and under!

Though there are not many signs of civilization to be found along the scenic routes of Iceland, the small town of Selfoss can be found just after finishing the Golden Circle, and it is a great spot to stop for gas, groceries, or rest before getting back on the Ring Road.

Stop #5: Seljalandsfoss

About an hour from Selfoss, the beautiful falls of Seljalandsfoss can be found off the side of a mountain. This waterfall is especially unique because you can walk behind it, and it allows for many beautiful and unique photo opportunities. 

The back of Seljalandsfoss during the sunset
Seljalandsfoss during Midnight Sun!

Wandering Words of Wisdom: Gljúfrabúi– a waterfall lodged in a less discovered cave– is just a 30 minute round trip trek from Seljalandsfoss. These falls are certainly less known by the tourists and typically overlooked by those visiting Seljalandsfoss.

Seljalandsfoss has no entrance fee, but does charge for parking at 700 ISK (~$5 USD), which includes use of the bathrooms located just before the path to the falls.

Stop #7: Skogafoss and Kvernufoss

The final drive of the day will be to Skogafoss– yet another must-see along the Ring Road. One of the largest waterfalls in Iceland, you’re able to walk right up to it from the rocky ground beneath it. Skogafoss, though stunning from the bottom, can also be accessed via a steep hike to the top. 

View of Skogafoss from the base of the falls
Skogafoss from the bottom, you can hike up to the top from a staircase on the right

A lesser known but one of my favorite spots in all of Iceland, Kvernufoss, is not far from Skogafoss. The first time I reached Kvernufoss, it was like I had entered a movie scene, and each time since has been nothing short of breathtaking. It is not easily spotted from the road, and requires a short hike to get there, but the view is incredible and you can also venture behind it.

Laynie looking at Kvernufoss during the Midnight Sun in Iceland
Kvernufoss at midnight during Midnight Sun

You can find the Hotel Skogafoss nearby, a 4-star hotel that offers a more comfortable stay after a long day of exploration. However, there are tons of people who camp in the field just before Skogafoss in the summer, and it allows you to view the majestic waterfall at sunset and sunrise (depending on the daylight hours).

OR if you want to get a head start on the South Coast of day 2, take just a 30 minute drive to the town of Vik and find accommodation there! 

Day 2: Vik and Hengifoss

If you called it a night at Selfoss, you can begin your day with the three aforementioned falls on your way to Vik, and discover more luxuries of the South Coast later on day two.

We begin day two in earnest from Vik or nearby accommodation, our first stop will be at one of the most iconic Icelandic views- from a black sand beach.

Stop #1: Reynisfjara Beach

The reynisfjara black sand beach in Iceland
The unique landscape of Reynisfjara never disappoints

A one of a kind sight that boasts stunning rock structures and deep black sand, you can’t skip Reynisfjara Beach on your Icelandic road trip. The pictures to be taken here are nothing short of stunning, and wearing white on the black sand is a great opportunity for a contrast shot.

Wandering Words of Wisdom: Be extremely cautious when getting close to the water at this beach, the current is known to be extremely powerful. Though it may seem way too cold to consider taking a swim, the waves may surprise you if you’re not paying attention.

You can also catch a meal in nearby Vik, a small town along the south coast that boasts great accommodation and dining, including a first of its kind Lava Show Restaurant.

Stop #2: Vik or Hengifoss

Following a meal and beach visit in Vik, the next stop is up to you.

The first option is to visit Hengifoss, the third highest waterfall of the island with striking red clay and black basalt patterns seen behind the falls. Like I said, this trip is not for the weak. The drive to Hengifoss is one that is long- about 6 hours from Vik- but stunning. 

Wandering Words of Wisdom: In summer, you will find that much of the Ring Road is lined with Lupines, a stunning purple flower that can be found in massive fields just off the main road. These flowers are typically in bloom and best seen in the months of June and July, and taking pictures with them was one of the highlights of my last trip there!

A close-up of the Icelandic Lupines that line the main road in summer
Fields of Lupines line the Ring Road during summer!

You will need a 4×4 when traveling through the East Fjords on the route to Hengifoss, and the roads do demand caution in several places closer to the hike. However, the views along the way are breathtaking, and many don’t typically explore the East region of Iceland. 

Marvel at the winding fjords, green rolling hills, and smaller waterfalls that come with the drive to this waterfall. When you arrive, there is free parking at the base of the trail, so gear up and get ready for a quick hike!

The hike up to this waterfall certainly isn’t the most difficult hike of Iceland, but it shouldn’t be written off as easy! The steep incline is sure to get your heartrate up as you begin the trek, however it typically only takes about 45 minutes to complete, and the view will not disappoint you!

Hengifoss falls on brightly colored basalt columns
The view at the end of a steep hike, Hengifoss!

Though in one of the most remote areas of the itinerary, there is a hotel and restaurant about 10 minutes from the Hengifoss trail, perfect for refueling or resting before getting back on the road!

If you’re not up for the drive, you can stay in Vik and explore the quaint town overlooking the black rocky beaches of Iceland’s southern coast.

There are many special adventures to be found in Vik, but here are some of my favorites:

  • Glacier Trekking: Venture through the Katla Ice caves on a rigorous hike along a slippery glacial trail and across thin beams of wood to discover what the “Ice” in Iceland is really about. Approximately 3 hours long, a glacial trekking trip may not be the most budget opportunity to find from Vik, but it can be considered an adventurous and rewarding tour- it has been my favorite Iceland experience to date!
  • Lava Show: In the heart of Vik, one of the most popular and unique restaurants to be found along the South Coast of Iceland, the Iceland Lava Show is the only live lava show in the world, and can’t be missed when exploring this coastal town. With shows beginning at 11 am, you can get tickets for 5900 ISK (~$42 USD), and learn how lava has played a part in the history of Iceland.
  • Snowmobiling: See what it’s like at the top of a glacier with this snowmobiling experience! Mýrdalsjökull glacier covers Katla volcano and offers a stunning view over the icey landscape and south Iceland. This tour is also offered year round as weather permits, and is open to first-time riders.

Stop #4: Diamond Beach and Jökulsárlón Lagoon

Ice pieces washed up on Diamond Beach
Crystal clear ice pieces contrast against the black sand beach

No matter which way you begin your second day of exploration, time at Diamond Beach can be added onto either plan, and is a perfect picturesque spot. Arrive to Diamond Beach to see the beautiful pieces of ice that wash up onto the contrasting black sand. 

You can find where these huge pieces of ice came from just across the street at the Jökulsárlón Lagoon. Look out over the icey, barren terrain, and see how the ice gently floats out into the Pacific.

Following this icey beach and lagoon, you can find accommodation nearby at the Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon, a comfortable stay with a mountain view. 

Day 3: South Coast

Stop #1: Múlagljúfur Canyon

We start the day at Múlagljúfur Canyon, which is arguably one of the best hikes in Iceland. The entire hike is rather difficult but typically can be completed in 2-3 hours with short breaks at each viewpoint. If you’re willing to take on the challenge, you will be rewarded with a relatively tourist-free scene of Iceland’s amazing landscape. Due to the medium amount of difficulty this activity provides, most tourists tend to avoid it. 

A wide angle view of the Mulagljufur Canyon with a distant waterfall
Múlagljúfur Canyon- an ominous yet worthwhile hike

The mossy green hills and curves of the canyon make the hike picturesque and enjoyable throughout the trek, which inevitably leads to views of a waterfall rushing down the lush greenery, which also trickles down to a winding river at the base of the canyon. I prefer to take this hike to start off the day, and it’s located very close to Diamond Beach, so you can get started right away in the morning. 

Stop #2: Svartifoss and Svinafellsjokul

Svartifoss, also known as the Black Falls, is not far from the Múlagljúfur Canyon hike, and is yet another delightfully unique sight waterfall, and is still about 4 hours from Reykjavik, so you won’t see as much traffic here as some of the more popular sights.

While not as long as the previous hike, this waterfall can be accessed by a 30 minute trek and it’s important to set aside about an hour and a half for hiking out and back as well as stopping for pictures along the way. This waterfall is unique, as it cascades over a multitude of basalt columns that truly makes the view remarkable.

A low view of the Svartifoss waterfall
Svartifoss was actually the inspiration for the Hallgrimskirkja church of Reykjavik

Nearby, there’s a perfect spot to snap a photo of one of Iceland’s astonishing glaciers, Svínafellsjökull. The view attracts glacier hikers and nature enthusiasts alike, and portrays electric blue and white glacial structures with a backdrop of luscious green fields renowned to Iceland.

Stop #3: Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon 

For the second canyon stop of the day, Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is located just about an hour from the incredible glacier of Svínafellsjökull. A short trek will lead you to a gorgeous overlook of the canyon, with the familiar mossy green covering the twisting walls that surround a wide and magnificent Fjadra river.

You won’t have to hike far to reach this spectacular view, and it’s a great stop to break up some of the labor involved with Icelandic sights.

Staying warm, even in summer.

Stop #4: Vik

Vik is less than an hour from the gorgeous river canyon, where you can grab a bite to eat or even end your day with an experience in Vik! If you took the drive to Hengifoss, check out the activities available in Vik!

OR if you’re looking for a night in after a long list of adventures, chill out at the Hotel Katla. This is an upscale hotel complete with an outdoor geothermal hot tub and classic sauna, perfect for a spa day and night of rest and relaxation. They have stylish modern suites and include a breakfast buffet that makes for a great breakfast before hitting the road again.

Day 4: Reykjavik

After lots of hiking and sightseeing, one can begin to familiarize with Iceland’s rich historic background. While Iceland is a natural marvel, many interesting peoples and happenings occurred here throughout the millennia. 

While Iceland has such a vast diversity of ecosystems and nature, it can take a lot out of you, especially when trying to squeeze all of the beautiful experiences into just a few days.

This is why your last day will be focused on exploring more of Reykjavik, before dipping into the world famous Blue Lagoon for a relaxing experience of one of the 25 wonders of the world.

After a cozy breakfast (Hotel Katla has included breakfast, or head to Skool Beans– Iceland’s first micro roaster- in Vik!), you’ll begin the drive back to Reykjavik. 

Stop #1: Reykjavik

The rainbow road of Reykjavik leading to the dramatic Hallgrimskirkja church
The rainbow road- ever vibrant- showcasing the astonishing Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik.

[vc_row][vc_column icons_position=”left”][vc_column_text]You’re sure to find a multitude of activities in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik! It’s a great choice to visit after exploring the stunning South Coast and spending a few days immersed in the island’s nature. 

You can find a full list of27 Things To Do in Rekyjavik here to save for your visit to the lovely capital city!

Stop #2: Blue Lagoon

After spending a bit of time in Reykjavik, make a short drive to the Blue Lagoon- found just 15 minutes from the Keflavik airport. These astounding natural geothermal hot springs are named for the color of the water, which is a light baby blue.

It’s a well known attraction of Iceland, and boasts huge geothermal pools, as well as face masks and a bar to make your relaxation experience worthwhile.

Laynie basking in the blue lagoon
Taking in the natural wonder of the blue lagoon!

Wandering Words of Wisdom: For those with long hair, be mindful when entering the lagoon- all of the minerals found in this water can leave an impact on your hair. Once luscious locks can be turned to a consistency similar to… well, horse hair. This only lasts a few days, but is certainly not a nice thing.

This relaxing haven does require a reservation, which you can make on this page, which allows you to choose your date and time of reservation, and which package you’d like to experience. The Blue Lagoon is also open rather late during the summer, and only requires visitors to leave after midnight. 

After exploring waterfalls, canyons, geysers, and more- you’ll surely be entranced in the natural beauty of Iceland!

I hope that this itinerary helps you to create your own adventure on the road in the land of fire and ice.

For more information for your Iceland trip, check out these posts:

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