Oh Iceland! The land of fire and ice with over 100 volcanoes, numerous glaciers, and crisp arctic weather (that changes every 5 minutes). Iceland is a must visit destination for any type of traveler! This guide will provide you with some ideas of things to do and places to see when visiting Iceland for 5 days.
I visited Iceland at the end of March and early April in 2018. This time marks the end of winter and early spring. I stayed in the capital, Reykjavik, which is a great base because it is easy to take day trips from here to other parts of the country.
City Tour of Reykjavik
During my first day in Reykjavik, I went on a tour of the city. This tour covered the following places: Harpa Concert and Conference Hall, Northern Lights Center (not pictured), Hallgrimskirkja Church, Old Town Center, Parliament House (not pictured), Hofdi house (not pictured), the Harbor, and the Pearl.
I took a tour to search for the Northern Lights after midnight. This tour took place on Day 1 and again on Day 2. Day 1 was definitely the best day to search even though I only saw a little, it was better than Day 2 when there were no Northern Lights at any of the locations that we went to..and we search, then everybody was pretty much tired and ready to go back to their hotels.
Note: Dress in many warm layers (or enough to keep you warm) and ski gloves as you may have to wait for hours outside before finally seeing the Northern Lights. My layers were fine but my north face gloves, that were usually warm enough for east coast winters, could not withstand the freezing temperatures in Iceland. Also bring a really good camera to capture the northern lights and learn in advance about the settings (aperture, exposure, ISO, etc.) you need for your camera to capture this amazing sight!
This was my favorite excursion in Iceland. The Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa about 45 minutes from Rejykavik Airport. The lagoon is kept warm by a geothermal power plant nearby which receives its heat from the volcanoes. I visited the lagoon when it first opened (around 8 am) as there was less of a crowd. However, by the time I left around noon, the lagoon was packed with people.
Inside of the lagoon you can visit the bar, and use your wristband to pay, to get a drink (beer, cider, water, or a smoothie) and get a face mask (silica mud mask) that will smooth your skin. The lagoon also has an indoor area, along with a sauna, steam room, and spa treatments (i.e. massages). Additionally, inside, there are options for food and souvenirs. In Iceland, everything is expensive so spend wisely if on a budget. The bottom of the blue lagoon can be slippery. Also it is about 4.5 feet deep and reaches closer to 5 feet toward the center of the lagoon. Considering how cold it is outside, the temperature of the lagoon feel amazingly warm. I also experienced rain, hail, snow, and sun, all while in the lagoon. It was an amazing experience!
Note: Before you enter the lagoon, you will have to shower naked. Afterwards, you can put your swimsuit/trunks back on and then enter the lagoon. Showers with curtains are available to give you privacy. There are also locker rooms to store your belongings.
Golden Circle Tour
This tour covered a visit to Thingvellir National Park, the Strokkur Hot Springs, Gullfoss Waterfall, and the Hellisheioi Power Plant (not pictured) which sits at the foot of Mt. Hengill Volcano.
Thingvellir National Park
Calling all Game of Thrones fans! This UNESCO World Heritage site served as the set for Game of Thrones season 4, episode 10. Not only is this park an exciting place for Game of Throne fans, it is also where you can visit two continents at one time! The national park is located in a rift valley that was created by North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Here, you can also go diving or snorkeling between the continents.
Strokkur Hot Springs
One of most active geysirs in the Geysir hot springs area. This hot spring erupts about every 10-15 minutes 100 feet in the air! Make sure you get a good spot for a great view as it gets crowded.
My favorite part of this tour was the Gullfoss waterfall. Gullfoss Waterfall (Golden Waterfall) is beautiful and an overall amazing site to see. Just like many of the sites in Iceland, you can take the best pictures when there are no crowds/tour buses.
South Shore Adventure Tour
This tour covered the southern coast which includes: Dyrhólaey Arch and cliffs, Skógafoss waterfall, Selijalandsfoss waterfall, Sólheimajökull glacier, and the village of Vik.
This is one of Iceland’s most accessible glaciers right off of the golden circle road. Here, you can walk to the glacier and admire its view or you can take a guided glacier walk. Visit this glacier while there is still time as it is rapidly shrinking due to climate change.
This waterfall is amazing, especially when you drive up to it and it appears out of nowhere! This waterfall is so beautiful! It is one of Iceland’s biggest waterfalls with a drop of 197 feet. Although I did not have time (because I was on a tour…visit on your own!) you can take a steep staircase to an observation platform to view this spectacular waterfall from the top.
Another beautiful waterfall in Iceland that you can actually stand behind! You will get soaked and the rocks/path will be slippery, but it will be worth the view.
Reynisfjara Beach, Reynisdrangar, and Dyrholaey Arch
This was my absolute favorite part of the tour! Pictures do not do this place justice! Reynisfjara is an infamous black sand beach with choppy waters and crashing waves. Not only will you stand in awe of the beautiful black sand and view of the ocean on this beach, but you will be amazed by the sea stacks (to the left of the beach) called Reynisdrangar. For any Game of Thrones fans, Reynisdrangar was featured in season 7. Also, while standing on the beach, you can get a good view of the Dyrholaey Arch and cliffs from a distance.
Walking around Reykjavik
On the last day of my trip, I decided to walk around the downtown area to do a bit of souvenir shopping as well as some site seeing along the sculpture and shore walk (i.e. Sun Voyager). I also visited the Icelandic Phallological Museum (not pictured) which is not only interesting but worth visiting to have a good laugh.
- Buy snacks and food to cook (if your staying in an air b&b) from the grocery store Bónus) as it is cheaper than restaurants in Reykjavik. Honestly, everything gets cheaper once you get away from Reykjavik.
- If you like hot dogs, try Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand in central Reykjavik.
- You must try fish and chips in Iceland! After all, you are on an island and there are plenty of fish in the oceans (Atlantic and Arctic) and Norwegian Sea! I highly recommend Reykjavik Fish Restaurant.
- Check out the following restaurants in Reykjavik: KrÖST Grill and Wine Bar, Devito’s Pizza, Reykjavik Roasters, Hi Noodle, and The English Pub.
- Get out of Reykavik and explore the rest of Iceland!
- Best months to see the Northern Lights are September to March.
- Credit and debit cards (Visa and Mastercard) are widely accepted in Iceland.