A trip to Iceland is an easy decision to make. The country’s breathtaking natural beauty and unique Nordic culture make it a no-brainer for travelers of all kinds.
The hardest part is deciding just how many days to spend in Iceland. There are so many amazing things sprinkled all over the island that it can be a bit overwhelming. From urban adventures in Reykjavik to wilderness treks over sprawling glaciers, there is no shortage of activities to fill a schedule of any length.
This guide will give you everything you need to know to determine the perfect number of days you need to get exactly what you want out of your Iceland vacation. You’ll find detailed examples of what you can accomplish depending on how long you plan to stay in one of Europe’s (yes, it’s technically European) most fascinating countries.
1 or 2 Days in Iceland
The beauty of a quick trip to Iceland is that you’re right in the middle of the action the moment you land at the Keflavik International Airport. In less than an hour after landing, you can find yourself in the heart of Iceland’s capital city.
This is part of the reason that Reykjavik has become a popular layover for flights going back and forth across the Atlantic. Many travelers take advantage of an Iceland layover by spending a day or two there before heading to other European destinations.
A trip this short will be limited in scope to Reykjavik and its immediate surroundings. You won’t have enough time to explore the whole countryside, but you’ve still got some good options. The most important decision you’ll make is whether you want to stick to the urban city sights and activities or if you’d rather see more nature.
Top Things to See & Do Around Reykjavik on a 1 or 2 Day Schedule
- Golden Circle (Just Outside of Reykjavik): The Golden Circle is a tourist route that makes a loop through some of Iceland’s best natural scenery. It’s easily the most popular attraction in Iceland and the whole route can be driven in about 4 to 5 hours. This is without a doubt the best way to see a sizable portion of Iceland’s natural wonders on a tight schedule. It’s especially convenient during the extended daylight of summer. You can book a tour or drive the route yourself.
- Blue Lagoon (Just Outside of Reykjavik): The Blue Lagoon is a popular geothermal spa located about 12m (20km) from the Keflavik airport. This makes it a perfect first stop for travelers on their way to Reykjavik. You can spend a relaxing hour or two here soaking in the massive man-made lagoon. Advanced reservations are required, so make sure to book your spot at least a day or two before your trip.
- Sun Voyager (In Reykjavik): If you’ve seen many pictures of Iceland, you’ve probably seen one that featured the Sun Voyager. The Sun Voyager is a famous sculpture located in a convenient spot on Reykjavik’s waterfront. It’s a great photo op and one of the quintessential Iceland “must-see” attractions.
- Walking Tours (In Reykjavik): Walking is the best way to feel as though you’ve truly maximized your time in Reykjavik. All of the best parts of the city are compact and extremely easy to walk. You can see things like the Sun Voyager, Harpa Concert Hall, Hallgrímskirkja Church, countless mueseums and much more all within a comfortable walk through the city center.
- See the Northern Lights (In Reykjavik): If your timing is right and seeing the Northern Lights is a possibility, you’ll have a very good chance of seeing them without ever having to leave the city. September thru April is the time of year when you’ll have the best luck.
3 to 6 Days in Iceland
Staying in Iceland for 3+ days greatly expands your options. This trip length will allow you to comfortably venture outside of Reykjavik after you’ve experienced everything you’d like to in the city.
The best thing about a trip of this length is that it gives you the time to head down to Iceland’s South Coast. This is where you’ll find a cluster of Iceland’s most incredible sights, like the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Reykjadalur Valley,
Reynisfjara black-sand-beach, and countless other wonders.
If you’re trip is on the longer end of this range, we recommend heading to the Vatnajökull National Park after you’ve finished with the South Coast. This is where you’ll find the famous Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, countless hikes, and even more of Iceland’s outdoor wonderland.
Simply taking a little more time to drive the Golden Circle is also a great way to squeeze the most out of Iceland’s nature. Sure, the Circle can be seen in less than a single day, but it’s much more rewarding to dedicate more time to it. Staying overnight is one of the best ways to do the excursion when you have the time.
Top Things to See & Do in Iceland on a 3 to 6 Day Schedule
- Seljalandsfoss (South Coast): Seljalandsfoss is considered to be Iceland’s most impressive waterfall. Aside from simply being a breathtaking spectacle, it’s unique in that you can walk behind the waterfall. It’s a solid must-see for anyone visiting the region.
- Reykjadalur Valley (Just Outside of Reykjavik): The Reykjadalur Valley is one of the first stops you’ll encounter when you leave Reykjavik to head south, so there’s no reason not to visit. A geothermal heated river running through the valley is the valley’s most famous feature. It’s the perfect place for a hike and quick dip in the warm waters.
- Reynisfjara (South Coast): The Reynisfjara black-sand-beach is exactly as it sounds- a beach with pitch black sand lining the shore. The dramatic coastline is full of rocky cliffs, lava stacks, and other incredible formations. Puffins are a favorite resident of the beach during the summer months.
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: The Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a glacial lagoon located at the southern end of Iceland’s Vatnajökull National Park. It’s about a 5-hour drive from Reykjavik, but well worth it. The huge pieces of ice floating in the lagoon create a gorgeous scene that has become one of the most popular spots in the country.
- Countless other locations: The full list of potential stops on a 3 to 6 day trip through Iceland’s southern coastline is vast. No matter what area you find yourself in, you’ll have a whole host of breathtaking places to visit. TripAdvisor’s ranking of Best Things to Do in Iceland’s South Coast region is a good place to start.
7+ Days in Iceland
A week or longer is without a doubt the ideal length of time to spend in Iceland. Aside from the simple statement that “more is better”, Iceland’s layout is absolutely perfect for a week-long grand tour.
The best way to see Iceland is on the country’s Ring Road. The Ring Road is an 800-mile highway that makes a big circle around the whole country. It’s one of the world’s best road trips and it’s the perfect way to spend seven or more days in Iceland.
Possibly the best thing about driving the Ring Road is that it can be easily done in a simple two-wheel-drive vehicle. Almost the entire journey takes place on paved highway.
Whether you choose to venture clockwise or counter-clockwise from Reykjavik, you can comfortably see all of Iceland’s best regions and landmarks on this trek.
As you can see, Iceland is an amazing place to visit for really any amount of time. Reykjavik and its surrounding areas are compact enough to cover in a short period, while the whole of Iceland is laid out perfectly for a much longer trip. Whether you’re filling in the gaps during a layover or committing to a full-fledged Icelandic adventure, you’ve got tons of options.
We always recommend a minimum of three days in order to get a true taste of Iceland. At the very least, this will allow you to see most of Reykjavik and a portion of the South Coast. Anyone who wants to truly experience Iceland in its entirety shouldn’t think twice about dedicating a full week or more to explore. There’s so much to do and travel around the country is extremely easy.
Let us know how you enjoyed your trip to Iceland and what you think the perfect number of days would be!