Iceland is an increasingly popular destination, with tourism levels skyrocketing in recent years. With its stunning landscapes, explosive geysers, dramatic waterfalls, volcanoes and breath-taking nature it’s easy to see why. In August I was lucky enough to spend a week exploring this beautiful country. In this article I will run you through my exact 7-day Iceland itinerary.
- 1 Useful things to know about Iceland
- 2 How to spend 7 days in Iceland
- 3 Where to stay in Iceland
Useful things to know about Iceland
Before we jump straight into the detailed day-by-day itinerary I want to give you an introduction about Iceland and information that I think you will find useful.
The weather in Iceland can be a big incognito. It can be so variable that a common saying amongst locals is; “Don’t like the weather in Iceland? Don’t worry, it will change in five minutes anyway”. In the same day you might experience sun, rain, fog and snow. Most people take the onion approach when dressing in Iceland, lots of layers so that you can undress or cover up accordingly as the weather changes. I was there in summer where temperatures range from 10°C to 25°C. In winter it can be very different, with temperatures ranging from 0°C to -30°C. If you’re not sure what to pack for your trip, check out my Iceland summer packing list for ideas.
Despite being in the European Union Iceland doesn’t use the EUR, but the Icelandic króna (ISK). At the time of visit 1 GBP was approximately 140 ISK.
Is it true Iceland is expensive?
Yes. Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do about it, just make sure you budget accordingly. When on the first day I paid the equivalent of 15 EUR for a soup I realised I was going to have to be a bit more careful with my spending if I didn’t want to blow through my holiday budget straight away. Since I was travelling with an organised tour most of the expenses were included anyway, but there are things you can do to save money while travelling in Iceland. Check out these Iceland budgeting tips.
Another rumour that goes around hand in hand with the one about Iceland being expensive is the one about Icelandic food not being great. Personally, I enjoyed it. Most of it is fish based and it reminded me of my trip to Norway, where we made the most of our fjord cruise by stuffing our faces with smoked salmon. Most places also offer standard Western types of food such as burgers, sandwiches, pastas and soups. Let’s just say that while Iceland has a lot to offer, if you wanted to go on a foodie trip, you would probably go to Italy not Iceland.
How to spend 7 days in Iceland
This is the exact itinerary I have followed myself on my trip to Iceland last summer with the Italian travel agent Giver Viaggi e Crociere. Like all my itinerary articles they are only meant as an indication of how you can spend 7 days in Iceland that will allow you to maximise your time and see as much as possible. As I was doing an organised tour my experience will be a bit different than if I had been travelling alone, I won’t be able to give you exact price breakdowns for everything like in my other guides (eg. Cuba or Croatia) but I will still outline travel times so you can plan accordingly. If you’re still debating whether you should go to Iceland, check out these 11 reasons to include Iceland in your bucket list!
Day 1: Fly into Reykjavik
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and the main international airport, where we will be starting this 7-day Iceland itinerary. Depending on the time of arrival you will be able to spend some time exploring the city centre of Reykjavik.
Day 2: The Golden Circle
Iceland’s famous Golden Circle can be visited in one day. We set off from our hotel early in the morning and after just over an hour drive by coach we arrived at the Haukadalur geothermal area to see the geysers. The Great Geysir is now dormant, however its younger brother Strokkur is still in action and regularly erupts every 5 – 10 minutes. It’s also fascinating just walking around the geothermal area and watching the smaller pools of hot water or smoke coming out from the ground.
After Haukadalur we drove to Gullfoss, one of the most imposing and famous waterfalls in Iceland. It is also known as the “Golden Falls” since on sunny days it’s not uncommon to see a rainbow over the falls and the water seems to shine and glitter gold. I wasn’t as lucky with the weather unfortunately. There is a path that leads right up to the side of the waterfall, if you don’t mind getting wet from a bit of waterfall spray I recommend adventuring down there!
The next stop on our 1-day trip to the Golden Circle was Thingvellir National Park. It’s a huge historic site where back in the day, the Icelandic parliament used to gather. We walked around it for a while admiring the geological formations, then drove on to Barnafoss. Barnafoss Falls are a group of small waterfalls that emerge from an underground river directly from the side of a lava black rock gorge. Barnafoss was the final stop of our second day, after which we drove to Hotel Hraunsnef, our accommodation for the night. This was a typical Icelandic hotel in the middle of nowhere. They had an outdoors hot pool though and one of the best dinners I had in Iceland, plus it is strategically located on the way to start our road trip to the Westjords early the following day.
Day 3: Road trip to the Westfjords
On the third day we did A LOT of driving. We set off from our hotel early in the morning and didn’t get to our next hotel in Isafjordur until just before dinner. However as they often say, the beauty is in the journey. Coming from someone that isn’t a big fan of spending long hours on cars or coaches I actually didn’t suffer this drive as much as others. The rolling Icelandic is stunning and provides ample opportunities for distraction. We also did lots of stops along the way, which broke up the journey nicely.
We did a stop for lunch at the small town of Hólmavík. When I say small, I mean 375 inhabitants. The harbour was very pretty and it was a suggestive place for a short stop. The other stops were at even more anonymous locations, small coffee shops along the road or random locations that had a weird geographic landmark or particularly good view. We even stopped at a free thermal pool, unfortunately I didn’t have a bikini on me or I would have jumped in for a swim!
The final stop of our long day of driving was Hornstandir, the “Cape Horn” of Iceland. A short drive away from Isafjordur you can reach this stunning landmark. The drive up is very picturesque and when done on a big coach, actually quite scary. The roads aren’t paved and there is no railing on the sides. Looking outside the coach window during a steep bend can be scary but beautiful at the same time. Once you reach the top the view from these gigantic cliffs has quite to make you feel small, especially the vast amount of the sections without railing. We were also lucky as it was a sunny day, which allowed us to see the view across the fjords, on a cloudy day it wouldn’t have been as impressive. After enjoying the view we drove to our hotel in Isafjordur, originally named Hotel Isafjordur.
Day 4: Dynjandi falls & road trip to Patreksfjordur
Day four of my Iceland trip was the day I saw the most impressive waterfall I had ever seen. We left Isafjordur early and visited the small town of Flateyri before hitting the road properly. This is an interesting town to visit, while being very small it is beautifully located surrounded by the cliffs of the fjords, walking around it for a morning was very fun.
While driving along the jagged coastline of the fjords we caught sight of Dynjandi falls long before we were anywhere near it. From a distance you almost can’t tell it’s a waterfall. You will see this white line interrupting the brown or black edges of the fjords. It’s so wide that it looks like a glacier or snow on the side of the mountain. Only as you drive closer you can start to identify the seven waterfalls that make up Dynjandi falls. As soon as you step out of your car the sound of the waterfall drowns out most other noises. There is a path that you can walk along that will take you past all seven waterfalls and right up to Dynjandi, the first and biggest of the falls. We spent some time admiring this beauty of nature before then driving on to the next town on our itinerary; Patreksfjordur, where we then spent a couple nights at the Fosshotel Patreksfjordur.
Day 5: Látrabjarg & Raudasandur
We spent the fifth day exploring the Westfjords and it was my favourite by far. We started the day by driving to Látrabjarg, the most Western point in Iceland and Europe. Here the land meets the sea with imposing cliffs that are 14km long and up to 441 metres tall. It is also home to many puffins, which you can see nested along the side of the cliff. The wind here is always so strong that there are signs along the cliff edge advising people to only get close to the edge by lying on the ground. Once you’re dressed appropriately to cover yourself from the wind the walk along the cliffs is very enjoyable.
After Látrabjarg we drove to Rauðasandur, Iceland’s famous Red Beach. Iceland has a lot of black beaches due to the high volcanic activity, however Rauðasandur is the only red sand beach. It’s a 10km long beach and on the day we visited we were the only people there. We walked along the beach to see if we could find any seals basking in the sun, unfortunately we couldn’t find any unfortunately but we thoroughly enjoyed the walk anyway. Walking on a red sand beach with no one else around, with the sharp edges of the cliffs in the distance was a magical experience.
Day 6: Explore the Snaefellsnes peninsula
We did multiple stops on our way back to Reykjavik, especially while driving through the Snaefellsnes peninsula. To speed up travelling time and vary a bit from all the driving we took a ferry across the Breidafjordur, a fjord that took us approximately 3 hours to cross by ferry. Once we had made to the other side we visited some of the most famous attractions of Snaefellsnes.
This included the famous black church Budir. Located on the edge of a beach, the black church of Budir is one of the most famous and photographed churches in Iceland. It is also a popular venue for Icelandic weddings. From there we drove to Arnstapi, a small harbour surrounded by black basalt cliffs. The coach dropped us off at one end of the cliffs then drove to meet us again further down the coast. This allowed us to enjoy the sunny afternoon and walk along the cliffs, admiring the peculiar rock formations. This part of Snaefellsnes is particularly famous for the rock arches, caves and columns. It’s a very interesting coastline to walk along and admire the power of nature.
The final stop of our short Snaefellsnes road trip was the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall. The Game of Thrones fans might recognise this mountain as the vision the Hound had in the flames. There is a very small parking lot by the waterfall so we had to park some way down the road and then walk back, however even just walking along the road close to these beautiful landmarks was interesting. I enjoyed visiting this waterfall as it was considerably less busy than its more famous counterparts in the Golden Circle. After spending some time at the waterfall we drove to our accommodation for the night, Hotel Langaholt. This was another hotel in the middle of nowhere, with the beach on one side and cliff edges in the distance on the other. With the long days there are in summer we enjoyed going for a walk along the beach after dinner to check out the local puffins and see if there were any seals basking in the sun.
Day 7: Snaefellsnes to Reykjavik & fly home
On the final day of our trip we finished our road trip by driving back from Snæfellsnes to Reykjavik. During the drive we did a small stop to see the Snæfellsjökull glacier. This is the famous glacier that hides a dormant volcano in its “caldera”, which was also depicted by Jules Vernes in “Journey to the centre of the world” (check title). Depending on what time your flight is you might be able to enjoy some more time exploring Reykjavik.
Where to stay in Iceland
Since I moved almost every night in this itinerary I have included a link to the respective hotels we stayed at under the section of each day. The places we stayed at were strategically located to optimise our travelling times. Accommodation can be expensive in Iceland, so make sure to check out the latest deals for hotels in Iceland here!
Have you been to Iceland before? What did your 7-day itinerary look like? Let me know in the comments below! Iceland is a destination that had been on my travel bucket list for a very long time, being able to finally explore it even if only for seven days was amazing. It’s a beautiful destination that will make even a city girl like me gape at the wonders of nature.