Let’s get this out of the way – there is no one-size-fits-all itinerary for ten days in Iceland. Where you should go, how long you should stay, and what you should see and do will depend on a number of factors. So before you even start thinking about how to plan your trip, think about these factors first.
- What time of year are you coming to visit? In winter, some areas will be completely inaccessible while others will require a 4WD vehicle to reach. Where you go may be dictated by the season.
- What’s your budget? If you’re trying to save, you may want to think about ditching the rental car for a few days, which means either staying in Reykjavik and doing day trips with a tour, or relying on public transport (easier in peak season) or hitchhiking, both of which can slow your pace of travel.
- Do you like to go, go, go, or would you rather take it slow? How many hours per day do you want to spend in the car? And would you rather make one place a “home base” and do day trips, or pack up each day and stay somewhere new each night?
- Do you need a plan or do you like to play it by ear?
Based on these factors, you can choose one of the options below, or use one of these ideas as a jumping off point to create your own custom trip. The ideas for itineraries are as diverse as Iceland’s landscapes, as unique as each individual traveler. Two of these ideas circle the island, but you could also pick a region and explore in depth.
The “see it all” route
This one is for the person who wants to see the highlights of each of Iceland’s regions, and doesn’t mind traveling at a frenetic pace to do so. Because this route travels both on and off the Ring Road, veering up into the Westfjords and into the interior, you’ll need a well-equipped 4WD vehicle and you’ll need to be traveling in summer – particularly because you’ll need the long hours of daylight if you have any chance of completing this packed itinerary. This means you’ll need a bigger budget (for that pricey rental and gas) though you should also be prepared to rough it a bit (pack a sleeping bag) as accommodation in some areas may be limited during peak season.
You can choose the direction to head but the main stops/legs will be:
Day 1: Reykjavik through the Golden Circle (Thingvellir, Blue Lagoon and Gullfoss) to Landmannalaugar
Day 2: hiking in Landmannalaugar or Thorsmork
Day 3: drive to Vik and then onward to Jökulsárlón to visit glacier lagoon, onward to Egilsstaðir
Day 4: Egilsstaðir drive to Dettifoss Waterfall and Ásbyrgi canyon, then on to Husavik (could visit Lake Myvatn and Myvatn Nature Baths, or see Godafoss waterfall along the way) or morning whale watching from town
Day 5: morning whale watching and then stay overnight again or drive to Akureyri and stay there
Day 6: Akureyri or Husavik to Isafjordur (longest day, 7-8 hour drive)
Day 7: Isafjordur day trips to climb a glacier, visit the cliffs at Látrabjarg, or the nature reserve at Hornstrandir
day 8: Ferry from Isafjordur to Stykkisholmer on Snaefellsness Peninsula, drive to Grundarfjörður
Day 9: Circle tour of Snaefellsness Peninsula – day trips for horsebackriding, glacier walking, or caving, or drive on to Reykjavik
Day 10: Explore Reykjavik, visit Blue Lagoon
If you’d rather spend more time in one area, just cut out another (for example skipping the Westfjords and the Snaefellesness Peninsula will free up several days). Alternatively, you can do a partial trip around the country, concentrating on the north and west, or the east and south.
>> Learn more about places in North Iceland
Ring Road adventures
This route takes in some of the same great sights as the first option, but allows for a slower pace and skips some destinations further off the Ring Road, which means you can go with a less expensive car, and you can accomplish it in winter, even with limited hours of sunlight. If you prefer to go a bit slower but still want to see a lot of the famous sights, this is a good choice, especially as it allows more time for activities.
Again, you can go in either direction, but the main stops/legs will be:
Day 1: Reykjavik to Vik, by way of the Golden Circle
Day 2: stay overnight in Vik and go dogsledding, or drive Vik to Egilsstaðir, with a stop at the Jökulsárlón lagoon
Day 3: see day 2, or drive Egilsstaðir to Husavik, with a stop at Ásbyrgi canyon
Day 4: see day 3, or do second night in Husavik, with morning whale watching and then afternoon at Myvatn Nature Baths and Godafoss waterfall
Day 5: see day 4, or drive from Husavik back to Reykjavik
Day 6-10: see day 5, or explore Reykjavik with day trips (or stay more time in Husavik or Akureryi, or add a few days in the Westfjords or Snaefellsness Peninsula)
This route takes you past the highlights of the south, skims through the east on its way north, and then returns to Reykjavik for a few days of day trips like glacier walking, horseback riding, ATVing, snorkeling, and cultural tours. You could also extend the trip around the country by doing more activities along the way.
No driving/winter visit itinerary
When visiting in winter (or really October through April), you’ll want to be conscious of two factors that can affect where you go: the weather and the shorter hours of daylight. You can easily get around in winter near Reykjavik without a 4WD vehicle, but some areas of the Ring Road will be more difficult to manage. You’ll also need to travel at a slower pace, especially when the days are at their shortest (around mid-December). Unless you plan to rent a 4WD vehicle, your best bet is probably to stay near the capital. Luckily, there is plenty to see and do in and around Reykjavik to keep you busy for 10 days.
Plan on 2-3 days for sightseeing and shopping around the city, then budget 4-6 days for day trips like cave exploring, ATV driving, glacier walking, snorkeling, horseback riding, dog sledding, and venturing as far as Vik. Save one day for the Golden Circle tour; if you have time and are so inclined, you can even take a day trip by plane to Akureyri or Isafjordur with AirIceland.
>> Start with our five day itinerary and add more activities to create your perfect trip
Photo by: Amarate Tansawet