With black sand beaches, massive glaciers, fascinating landscape, and thundering waterfalls, trying to decide what to see during your trip to Iceland can be a hard task. It becomes even more difficult when you only have a few days to see what makes this island country so amazing. With only three or four days in Iceland, it can be tempting to try to see and do everything, but that’s just not really possible. Keep reading for what you should include in your three day Iceland itinerary.
Planning Your Iceland Itinerary
If you only have three days in Iceland, I would recommend seeing part of the Southern Coast, part of the Golden Circle, and Reykjavik. First, you need to think about the time of year to visit Iceland. While winter gives you more of a chance to see the Northern Lights, summer offers basically 24 hours of daylight. This gives you even more time to try and see as much as you can of the country’s amazing landscape.
3 Days in Iceland
The three biggest things to consider when planning out your itinerary are the driving times (I highly recommend renting a car and driving in Iceland), the specific activities you book, and your accommodations. Fortunately, many of the highlights of things to see are located along Route 1, making it easy for you to stop and see the sights and hop back on the road to continue your journey. This itinerary is best during the summer when you can take advantage of the Midnight Sun. Keep in mind that no matter what time of year you visit, layers will be your friend (even in summer). Check out my post for what to know before visiting Iceland for more tips before your trip.
Day 1: South Coast (Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss)
No Iceland itinerary would be complete without at least one or two of the country’s famous waterfalls. The most convenient place to pick up your rental car in Iceland is Keflavik International Airport, since that’s where you’ll be arriving. After picking up your car, start your trip by heading towards the south coast. After a day of marveling at waterfalls, spend the night in the seaside village of Vik. I stayed at Hotel Katla during my visit to Iceland and would definitely recommend it. As for where to eat in Vik, head to Sudur Vik or Halldorskaffi.
The Kerid Crater is a place that’s often overlooked by travelers and it’s often recommended to skip it in favor of other notable sights. This almost circular, deep volcanic crater has a deep blue lake in the center that makes for a great photo opportunity. If you happen to visit on a clear, sunny day, you will be rewarded with vibrant colors. This is more of a quick stop along the way to the waterfalls along Iceland’s south coast.
Around two hours from Reykjavik is Seljalandsfoss, one of the most recognizable and iconic waterfalls in Iceland. Be sure to bring some waterproof or quick drying clothes because you can actually walk behind this waterfall and you will get a bit wet. Be careful and watch your step making the adventure behind the plunging water. Seljalandsfoss is an easy turn-off from the highway and be sure to plan for at least an hour so you can see the hidden Gljúfrabúi waterfall, while much smaller it’s worth the short walk.
After your time at Seljalandsfoss, head back to the car and continue your journey just a little further south to Skógafoss. (You’ll see it from the highway.) This iconic waterfall is known for its width and if you feel up for the exercise, you can climb up hundreds of stairs to reach the top for a different view. There’s a high probability of rainbows around Skógafoss thanks to the crazy amount of water spraying from the falls. Try to come during off-times to get the best pictures, such as later at night during the summer. (Thank you Midnight Sun!)
Your second day of your three day Iceland itinerary will be all about glaciers and canyons. However, if you’re a morning person and like horses, I recommend starting your day with a one-hour horse ride with Vik Horse Adventure. After the horse riding, grab some snacks from the nearby market and hop in your car for the rest of the day’s excursion.
The Fjadrarglijufur Canyon is a place just a short distance off Route 1, also known as the Ring Road, and is certainly worth a stop. At two kilometers long and around 100 meters deep, this canyon isn’t exactly massive but it’s still an interesting sight to see with the river Fjaðrá’s blue waters running through it. You can park your car at the bottom and walk along the canyon to the top. Plan for at least an hour for the walk and taking pictures.
Jökusárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökusárlón is a glacier lagoon further down the road from Fjadrarglijufur Canyon. While it’s a bit of a drive, if you want to see a glacier-fed lake with icebergs floating in it, the journey just may be worth it. Be sure to visit Diamond Beach nearby as well. After spending some time marveling at the large chunks of glacier, head back to Vik for dinner.
After dinner, venture just outside of the main area of Vik to Reynisfjara Beach to walk off your meal. You may have seen some black-and-white, moody photos of this beach before. While the black sand beach is certainly an interesting thing to see, even more so are the fascinating hexagonal rock formations. It can be tempting to dip your feet in the water here, but the waters and waves of Reynisfjara Beach are deadly. You will see signs warning you stay away from the water and its current.
For day three of your Iceland trip, you will need an early start to your day. Grab some breakfast, then hop in your car to leave Vik and head north to another one of Iceland’s famous waterfalls: Gullfoss.
Around two hours from Vik, Gullfoss, or the “Golden Waterfall,” is one of the main sights along the famous Golden Circle route. Once there, take the narrow path for some close-up views of this massive, two-tiered waterfall. Rainbows can be seen during sunny, summer days, while winter offers an interesting sight of frozen waves of glistening ice. One of the country’s most popular waterfalls, it’s best to get here early in the day.
Þingvellir National Park
Just a little under an hour away from Gullfoss, Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park is part of Iceland’s foundational history as a nation. “Thingvellir” means “Parliament Plains” and the national park is the site where the Alþing general assembly was established by the Vikings around 930 AD and continued until 1798. In addition to the unique landscape and history, Thingvellir National Park is also home to a one-of-a-kind experience of snorkeling or scuba diving between two tectonic plates (North American and Eurasian).
Reykjavik is 45 minutes from Thingvellir National Park. Once you arrive in Iceland’s capital check in to your hotel and drop your luggage in your room, then head out into the city to explore. Reykjavik is a small, walkable city that enables you to see a lot in just a few hours. Of course, if you have a fourth day in Iceland, you can always spend another day in the capital city. If you do only have an afternoon, be sure not to miss the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church and the Sun Voyager statue. If you want to get the highlights of Icelandic cuisine, I highly recommend taking a food tour in Reykjavik.
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