Iceland

Iceland Itinerary 7 Days | Road Trip Itinerary for Iceland’s South Coast

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Iceland travel is expensive, but worth every penny. And one week is just enough time to get a taste of this amazing place without breaking the bank. Here’s my day-to-day Iceland itinerary for 7 days, with stops at some of the country’s lesser-known locales along the south and east coasts.

Day 1: Arrival and Car Rental

Like many others, I took WOW Air’s cheap overnight flights to reach the capital city of Reykjavík. Space is tight, as are the carryon requirements. A child’s backpack was the largest luggage I could bring on for free. If you’re determined to get the lowest price, you’ll need to pack very light.

Almost every flight to Iceland enters Keflavík International Airport. And unless you’re renting a car, you’ll need to take a bus from the airport to the Reykjavík, which is about 30 miles away. I recommend Gray Line – just be sure to select the right hotel for your transfer. I didn’t and had to take an early morning walk through downtown, which – nonetheless – was quite lovely.

Lodging

I stayed in Reykjavík City Hostel – a cheap hotel in Reykjavík, and close to my rental car at Blue Lagoon.

iceland itinerary for 7 days
All photos copyright of Ryan Walker.

Day 2: Car Pickup and the  Famous Golden Circle

After a couple hours of sleep and some tasty Skyr yogurt (a spoon is included with each cup!) from the Frú Lauga grocery store, I was on the way to pick up my car – a manual Kia. This will be one of the most expensive purchases of your trip, but a good car is essential – don’t go with the cheapest option. Being stuck in the middle of Iceland with an old junker is not the kind of adventure you’re looking for. I found Blue Lagoon Car Rental to be the best in value and safety.

If you’re renting a stick – make sure it’s not your first time driving one. Iceland is no place to learn. Automatics are more expensive and less efficient on gas, so try practicing with a manual before you go.

The Golden Circle should be your first stop on the way out of town. It’s a full day of sightseeing at Iceland’s most popular stops: Þingvellir National Park, Strokkur Geysir, Gullfoss Waterfall, Skaftafell National Park, and Kerið Crater Lake. Despite being tourist traps, all four are worth a stop. If you’d like, see Kerið on the third day and give yourself more time for Þingvellir and Strokkur Geysir.

By the way, I suggest using the bathrooms at Thingvellir National Park, they’re beautiful. And for that reason, you actually have to pay to use them.

Lodging

This was my only opportunity to use Couchsurfing.com in Iceland. I had the joy of staying with a group of Romanian immigrants who worked at the gift shop near Gullfoss. Unfortunately, the demand from surfers is high and the supply is quite low. If you’re looking to save on lodging, then hostels are your best bet, but it doesn’t hurt to try Couchsurfing. Keep in mind, these hosts are probably getting hundreds of requests a year. Make your request kind, personal, and to the point.

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Day 3: DC-3 Crash and Skógar

By the third day, you’ll need to fuel up. Head to N1 and buy a gas card after you put Skógar into the GPS. Selfoss is on the way, so stop by Pylsu Vaginn and buy Iceland’s cheapest food: the hot dog. Get two or three and you can save yourself some money in the long run.

Stop at Seljalandsfoss on your way to Skógar. It’s one of Iceland’s more noteworthy waterfalls and has a trail that goes behind the water. You’ll get a little wet, but don’t miss it.

For me, the famous DC-3 crash on the desolate Sólheimasandur black-sand beach was an accidental find. I just parked and followed the crowd of people. But it lives up to the hype. Go before sunset and prepare to walk five miles roundtrip. The plane itself is cool, but the Mars-like surroundings with rolling hills of black volcanic ash are stunning.

Lodging

Guesthouse Steig is a twenty-minute drive from Skógar. This clean, cozy farm hotel is great place to post up, just off Iceland’s Ring Road. If you want to stay elsewhere, you’ll need to look for lodging options in the larger area. Budget hotels are harder to find as you get further away from Reykjavík.

Day 4: Glacier Hiking and Vík

On the fourth day of my week Iceland itinerary is a hike on Sólheimajökull glacier. Every guided excursion in Iceland is expensive, but you should try to do at least one. Arctic Adventures offers a good price for its 90-minute hike. Depending on the conditions, you can get inside an ice cave. Plus, don’t miss the opportunity to drink water from one of the streams. And on that note, don’t buy bottled water during your Iceland trip. Every drop from the faucet comes from glaciers and is pure as can be.

After your hike, hit the road for the village of Vík. It’s black-sand beach and ocean-side cliffs are good for a day of sightseeing. See all my pictures.

Lodging

Despite its small population, Vík has a grocery store and plenty of options for lodging. If you’re on a budget, do the Puffin Hostel. The rooms are hilariously small, but you’re probably not in Iceland for the room.



Day 5: Diamond Beach and Höfn

The final stop on Iceland’s east coast is Höfn. At a population of around 1,700, it’s one of Iceland’s biggest towns and has scenic views of the country’s largest glacier at Vatnajökull National Park.

On your way to Höfn, you’ll want to check out the glacial lake of Jökulsárlón. In springtime, large chunks of ice float in the lagoon before drifting out to see. It’s a photographer’s paradise and warrants at least a few hours of your time. Many people will stop in the lagoon and drive right past the beach – don’t make that mistake. Diamond Beach is the best part of Jökulsárlón. Stay for sunset and watch the tide rise as the sea pushes icebergs onshore. Take it all in, then take the one hour drive trip to Höfn.

Lodging

I stayed at the Höfn HI Hostel for two nights. This town is a popular stopping point, and you’ll have a good opportunity to meet other travelers.

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Day 6: Second Day in Höfn

Höfn is one of the last large towns on this side of Iceland. Your nearest affordable lodgings will be a few hours further down the road. Staying a second night isn’t necessary, but after all this day-to-day road tripping, it could be worth a rest.

If you decide to stay, use this time to walk around the town, relax, and explore nearby nature. Höfn is a great place for catching the northern lights (skip a northern lights tour), but you’ll need to drive a few miles away from town for the best conditions.

Day 7: Driving Back and a Night in Reyjkavík

Get some rest and take the five-hour drive back to Reyjkavík. If weather permits, you’ll get a great review of all the land you’ve covered. For most of your trip, you’ve probably been looking out one side of the window. On the way back, you’ll discover how much beauty there is on the other side.

This is going to be your longest drive of the entire trip. So if you’re feeling drowsy, pull into a lot and take a quick nap. I had to.

Once you’re back in the capital city, start exploring. Reykavík has a number of great murals and museums. It’s a bit overpriced, but you can’t miss the Icelandic Phallological Museum – if only to say you were there.

Also, be sure to stop by Iceland’s only gay bar, Kiki Queer Bar. The beer is expensive, the alcohol content is low, but the people are friendly.

Lodging

To my surprise, the cheapest lodging of my trip was also the most well furnished. Reykavík Downtown HI Hostel is a great choice for your last night in Iceland. It keeps you close to the city’s most noteworthy sights.

Making Your Own Iceland Itinerary for 7 Days

Iceland is a small country with a lot to do. Don’t stress out about hitting every single thing along the road, but consider adding the spots I’ve mentioned. All of the above was worth my time – and I hope it’s worth your time too. Happy trails!

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iceland itinerary 7 days


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