For a 5 day trip to Iceland in October, I would recommend spending only 1-2 days in the capital Reykjavík before heading out to the countryside! Here's one itinerary idea.
For a 5 day trip to Iceland in October, I would recommend spending only 1–2 days in the capital Reykjavík before heading out to the countryside! Alternatively, you could make Reykjavik your home base and take day trips out of the city – but getting out of the city for longer is more fun!
First, after your arrival or on your way back to the airport, spend a few hours at the Blue Lagoon Natural Spa
While it’s becoming quite touristy, and you will rarely find a local (they find it too expensive!), I highly recommend everyone to visit the Blue Lagoon at least once – it’s pretty awesome and super relaxing. There’s even a bar inside the lagoon :)
Make sure you book in advance as it frequently gets sold out for the day.
It’s only a 20 min drive from the international airport so ideal to stop by on your way to or from the airport.
The Blue Lagoon. Travelade/iStock.
Walk around downtown Reykjavik.
Laugavegur street is the main shopping street
Skólavörðustígur street which has a lot of small shops, cafes and icelandic art and crafts.
Hallgrímskirkja is at the end of Skólavörðustígur - go to the top of the church for great views of the city!
Check out some art and history.
Do a free walking tour.
I generally don’t like guided tours, but I’ve done this one myself and to my surprise it was actually really good. Super fun, young guy who mixes history of the city with good humor.
Visit a local swimming pool and hot tubs
The locals are crazy about their swimming pools and hot tubs (you will almost never find them in the Blue Lagoon!). You can find them in every neighborhood in Reykjavik - and literally in every small village around the country! Entry is usually only a few dollars. Laugardalslaug one of my favorites in Reykjavik.
There are countless outdoor swimming pools in Iceland. This one is in the town of Hofsós. Flickr/Richard Whitaker
Kolabrautin (in Harpa)
Grill Market , awesome lamb, beef, Icelandic cuisine.
Fish Market , a great seafood restaurant.
3 Frakkar , traditional Icelandic food, very high quality.
Snaps , trendy icelandic/french bistro.
Kopar , a great restaurant by the old sea harbor.
Sea Baron , tiny local fisherman's restaurant.
The “most popular” restaurant in Reykjavik, a 70 year old hot dog stand called Bæjarins bestu pylsur .
The hot dogs at Bæjarins bestu pylsur. Travelade/iStock.
For the remaining 3–4 days, I would recommend renting a car and do a road-trip to the south and southeast coast of Iceland (make sure you’re ready to drive in all kinds of different weather conditions in Iceland!). Below are a few cool things we recommend and you could pick and choose from.
A few car rental options:
All the major international car rental companies operate in Iceland and offer similar services. Budget is probably the cheapest based on my experience.
You can find affordable cars here .
The Golden Circle (~1 day)
Spend one day driving and checking out all the places along the golden circle which is a scenic route that almost everyone does who visits, great waterfall and geysers.
Often people add Thingvellir (a more historical place where the two continental plates, Europe and America, divide Iceland in two parts). While these places get a lot of tourists, they are still pretty incredible to check out! There's a cool restarant called "the Seashore" in a tiny seaside village around an hour's drive from Thingvellir, which would be a great end of the day – if you find a place to stay not to far.
Key places to stop on the Golden Circle:
Gullfoss (e. The Golden Waterfall)
Geysers: Strokkur and Geysir (the original Geysir, which the English word geyser is drawn from)
Þingvellir National Park.
More interesting places, including nice restaurants in the Golden Circle area can be found in this article .
Gullfoss Waterfall in the summer. Travelade/iStock.
The South Coast (~1 day)
Take a day to drive the South coast. Tons of great places to stop along the way such as Seljalandsfoss waterfall, the Black Sand Beach “Reynisfjara”, the Dyrholaey Arch , do a hike up to Hjorleifshofdi (Aka the Haunted Mountain) or walk up above the Skogarfoss waterfall.
The awe-inspiring Reynisdrangar, Reynisfjara Beach. Flickr/Christophe Pinard
There’s also a cool little museum/exhibition on the way about the Eyjafjallajokull volcano that erupted in 2010 called Iceland Erupts (Only open on weekdays in October to April).
Westman Islands (~1 day)
If the weather is clear, visiting the Westman Islands is an amazing day trip. But it can sometimes be good to bake some flexibility or backup plan into your trip as if the weather turns bad (which it often does there), you might not see much due to clouds! You can get to the islands both with a ferry and small sightseeing airplanes (only takes 10-15 to fly over).
In the Westman Islands you can hike up one of the cliffs (there aren’t good online sources, just ask a local for a good easy to moderate hike!). Here’s also a good article about visiting the islands. Finally, I highly recommend doing the Rib Safari tour - did it last year with the GSB OA club and we had an absolute blast!
Þórsmörk (~1 day)
If you end up renting a 4x4 jeep and drive yourself (or get a tour with friends of mine who run a great super jeep/adventure company in southern Iceland: Midgard Adventure – if you do, tell them I said hi!), the Thorsmork area is an outdoor paradise worth visiting! On Volcanohuts.com (also a company run by another group of my friends - yes, Iceland is a small country!) you can find a ton of info about the area and they also offer some basic accommodation options.
A hiker in Þórsmörk. Flickr/Leonard S. Jacobs.
Skaftafell and Vatnajokull National Park (~1-2 days)
I highly recommend you to try to reach the Vatnajokull national park area (furthest from the city, ~4-5 hour straight drive). Vatnajokull is the largest glacier in Europe and the area is a nature paradise.
Svartifoss Waterfall in Skaftafell National Park. Flickr/Arian Zwegers.
You’ll find a lot of information on the national park website . This is a good local guide if you are interested in a glacier hike or ice-cave sightseeing in the area. Additionally, Icelandic Mountain Guides also offer a ton of guided adventure tours in the area. Then you definitely don’t want to miss the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon .
Two Bonus Recommendations
Reykjadalur Hike and Geothermal River
If weather is decent and conditions good, there’s a great little hot spring hike to Reykjadalur (~1 hour hike each way I believe) outside of Reykjavik (on your way to the southern coast) which ends in a natural hot spring river!
Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) Hunting Tips
The northern lights can be amazing if the conditions are right - but just as disappointing if they are weak or expectations are too high. Most tour companies will try to convince you to go in all conditions but if you want to see the northern lights, only book a tour when it looks like a good forecast for the night. Good night means 3 or above and clear (or mostly clear). Here's the aurora forecast .