9 Days in Iceland: An Iceland Itinerary Around the Ring Road & Beyond
Many people have told me, this is the best Iceland itinerary I’ve seen! This makes me glad, because planning a trip to Iceland and determining an Iceland itinerary can be challenging. It’s a country with so much to see and do and taste. When I sat down to plan our Iceland itinerary for our epic honeymoon road trip, I became instantaneously overwhelmed. For a few reasons:
- Despite it’s size, it’s astounding how much there is to see/do in Iceland.
- It’s difficult to determine how much can be accomplished/driven in a day.
- Icelandic is a challenging language. The names of every destination is, obviously, Icelandic.
Though we determined where we’d end up each night, much of the day was left open with a few “must see” sights we’d bookmarked. But Iceland is a place that happens naturally to you, so you go with the flow. This is my recommended Iceland itinerary. It loosely follows what we did, but I modified this itinerary to what I would do if I could travel to Iceland for 9 days all over again. This isn’t an exact replica from our journey. Why? Because we missed some things, made some mistakes, and back tracked more than I wish to admit. This could have been easily avoided with better planning, but I’m an ENFP — planning isn’t my strongest trait.
Here’s a sneak peak of my recommendations for your trip to Iceland…
Where to stop for a 9 day Iceland itinerary:
- Day 1: Reykjavik
- Day 2: Reykjavik to Vik
- Day 3: Vik to Hofn
- Day 4: Hofn to Egilsstaðir
- Day 5: F-road to Myvatn
- Day 5: Myvatn to Akureyri
- Day 7: Akureyri to Snaefellsnes Peninsula
- Day 8: Snaefellsnes to Reykjavik
- Day 9: The Golden Circle
pssst… there’s a Google map at the end of this post that shows the location of stops mentioned in this Iceland itinerary
Before Your Iceland Itinerary Begins
- Reserve a 4×4 vehicle. When you get your Iceland road map, you’ll notice that the name of some road begin with “F” — these, naturally, are called “F-roads.” These roads are unpaved, unmaintained, and only suitable for 4x4s. Having a 4×4 will ease driving restrictions and take you to places literally off the beaten path. Thanks to our 4×4, we drove to the top of a glacier (it was exhilarating and terrifying) and drove on an isolated road, where we forded 7 rivers. You can’t have these experiences without a 4×4. We used IceRental 4×4 and had a great experience. Should you decide not to hire a 4×4 vehicle, the Iceland itinerary l recommend below will vary slightly.
- Purchase an Iceland guide book. We used Lonely Planet’s guide. It’s a great way to build your Iceland itinerary and learn interesting details you wouldn’t discover from just driving around. This is how we built our trip as we road unfolded before us. The photo below links to Amazon where you can purchase the book we used.
- Purchase a road map. We bought ours at the the Visitor’s Center in Reykjavik and picked a map that shows natural springs and swimming pools (not every map does). The map we used can be purchased on Amazon, and it’s significantly cheaper (image is linked). We rarely used our GPS because traveling by map is more fun.
- ICE. What are your plans In Case of Emergency? Determine in advance if you plan to put an international calling plan on your phone or if you’re going to buy an Icelandic phone or SIM card during your road trip. Nature can be unforgivable — don’t get stranded in the middle of nowhere with no means to communicate for help. It is recommended that you submit your Iceland itinerary and travel plans to safetravel.is. Review this website for safety tips and check for safety alerts during your Iceland adventure.
Clockwise or Counter-clockwise?
There’s no right or wrong direction to drive. We chose to drive counter-clockwise because we wanted to kick off our trip with the many sites of south Iceland and end the trip on a less intense schedule. Also, because we arrived in the early fall, we wanted to be further north toward the end to improve our chances of seeing the Northern Lights.
Where to stay in Iceland?
Glad you asked! I wrote an entire post, Where to Stay in Iceland, listing all the hotels, guesthouses, and bed & breakfasts we stayed at during our Iceland road trip with a brief review of each. I would recommend booking your accommodations in advance, as determining where you stay vastly influences your Iceland Itinerary.
Best time to visit Iceland?
This is like asking what is the best ice cream flavor. It’s subjective. The best time to visit totally depends on your preferences, what you want to see, and the type of experience you want to have. Northern Lights and ice caves? Visit in the winter. Long distance biking and horse riding? Go in the summer. Concerned about your budget and throes of tourists? Low season begins September 1, when prices significantly drop.
We visited in early September, which was perfect for our honeymoon. The weather was mild, the prices were more affordable, the amount of tourists weaned, there was a chance to begin seeing the Northern Lights (and still see puffins/whales), and despite a lot of tours suspended and limited business hours for the season change, we still were able to see and do most of what we wanted.
Obviously the season you travel will impact your Iceland itinerary.
9 Day Iceland Itinerary
DAY 1 – Reykjavik
Welcome to Iceland!
Things to do while you’re exploring Reykjavik:
- Go on your own walking tour to acquaint yourself with the city. Downtown Reykjavik isn’t as sprawling as you’d expect. It’s manageable to explore by foot.
- Visit Hallgrímskirkja, the iconic Lutheran church that stands tall as the largest house of worship in the country. Not only is it one of Iceland’s most recognizable buildings, the view of the city from it’s observation point can’t be beat. Take a minute to observe Hallgrímskirkja’s column-like structure — it’s a pattern you’ll see repeated in Iceland’s natural landscape during your road trip.
- Purchase any wool goods at the Handknitting Association of Iceland (Handprjónasamband Islands). This store sells handmade woolen clothing made from local Icelanders. The selection is prolific. Although Icelandic wool is expensive, this store is significantly more affordable than the Icewear and Nordic stores that you’ll find on every block. Buy that iconic Icelandic wool hat at the beginning of your Iceland itinerary and wear it for the remainder of your road trip. You’ll look so fashionable in all your photos. :)
- Stop by Harpa, Reykjavik’s concert hall and conference center. It’s unique window architecture will remind you of a crystalized Rainbow Fish.
- Go on a whale watching or puffin tour. May – September are the best months for whale watching. It’s best to see puffins between May and mid-August (however, we were there early September and they were still hanging around). We won a free tour from Special Tours and had a great luck seeing whales, puffins, and dolphins.
- Camera tip: bring a good telephoto lens for this tour.
- Pro Tip: Húsavík is known as being the best hub for whale watching in Iceland, so if you’re planning a stop there, consider saving your tour for that location.
- For the quirky, awkwardly giggle the phallic museum or gawk at Iceland’s last McDonald’s cheeseburger (live video feed here, seriously).
- End your day beer tasting at Micro Bar, where you can sample an assortment of Icelandic brews. It’s the only micro brewery bar in the country.
- Pro Tip: order a flight (or two) so you can taste multiple beers.
DAY 2 – Reykjavik to Vík
179 km, 2 hours 15 minutes.
Start the day with a hearty breakfast. Buy road trip snacks at Bónus. Check out any other Reykjavik sites before hitting the open road. Enjoy whirling about the traffic circles as you exit Reykjavik, pass the steaming power plants, and zoom toward the southern town of Vik. The road trip portion of your Icelandic itinerary officially begins.
- It’s the day of waterfalls. Keep your fingers crossed for sunshine and you’ll see rainbows too. You’ll quickly learn that the suffix “foss” means waterfall and you’ll see a lot of them on your drive to Vik. What’s all the foss about?!
- Urriðafoss — visit this waterfall before it’s gone. There are talks of building a power plant which would cause the falls to disappear.
- Seljalandsfoss — wear your rain pants; this is the beautiful waterfall that you can walk behind.
- Skógafoss — one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls, on a sunny day you’ll witness a double rainbow.
- You’ll be driving past Eyjafjnallajokull volcano, the one that caused news anchors to go tongue-tied during it’s 2010 eruption. If you can’t pronounce it, here’s your opportunity to learn how.
- Find the Sólheimasandur plane crash that has sat vacant on the beach since 1973. Expert Vagabond has useful directions to get there. But please note: I believe you can no longer drive there, but can only walk there.
- Veer down 215 to head to Reynisfjara, a black sand beach with unique geology. Here you’ll see the basalt sea stacks — seem familiar? Those basalt sea stacks should remind you of Hallgrímskirkja’s architecture. If the season is right, you’ll see swooping and roosting puffins along the cliffside.
- Play on the famous black sand beaches of Vik. Maybe you’ll even get a suntan.
DAY 3 – Vík to Höfn
272 km, 3 hours 13 minutes.
Start your day early, you’ve got a lot to see today!
- During your drive, stop to appreciate the Icelandic lava fields, but tread lightly. It takes hundreds of years for the moss to grow back. Do not damage the growth.
- There’s another waterfall to visit today (actually, expect to stop at a waterfall per day). Svartifoss by Skaftafell is one of Iceland’s more unique waterfalls. It’s wrapped by basalt columns. Expect a hike to get there.
- Walk around Breiðárlón, a smaller glacier lake adjacent the the famous glacier lagoon. The icebergs aren’t as impressive as it’s next door neighbor, but the solitude is both thrilling and mysterious. We suggest spending a couple hours walking around the lake. You can trek straight to the glacier for an up close look at one of nature’s most spectacular forces. Maybe you’ll even find a forbidden ice cave…
- You haven’t seen Iceland if you don’t visit Jökulsárlón. It’s the picturesque glacier lagoon with cerulean icebergs and crystalline ice chunks. Get excited when you spot your first seal popping up like whack-a-mole between the ice. Jökulsárlón has been the backdrop for many Hollywood films, so it’s fame is well known to tourists. You won’t experience solitude here.
- If you rented a 4×4 and you’re feeling brave, drive up F985 to Skalafellsjökull, an arm of Iceland’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. It’s a winding and slightly intimidating unpaved path ascending to the glacier. There’s a visitor’s center at the top. You can walk on the glacier, take a snowmobile tour, or simply enjoy the views.
- Settle in at the fishing town of Höfn. Eat dinner at Humarhofnin and order langoustine. Langoustine is difficult to come by and very expensive because it’s very localized and perishable. It’s better than lobster. And guess what? You’re in the best place in the world for langoustine where it’s accessible, fresh, and more affordable than anywhere else in the world.
DAY 4 – Höfn to Egilsstaðir
187km, 2 hours, 37 minutes.
Consider today as one of your more ‘laid back’ days. You’ll appreciate it after yesterday’s busy schedule.
- If you didn’t get the opportunity to yesterday, explore more of the small fishing town of Höfn. Check out the Folk Museum or Maritime Museum. Gift shop at any of the small stores to support the local artists and craftsmen.
- Enjoy lunch in Djúpivogur. Select a seaside restaurant (may we suggest Hotel Framtid?) and take in the tastes and the views.
- Don’t be afraid to take pitstops during your journey to capture the spectacular landscape of the eastern fjords.
- Settle in when you arrive in Egilsstaðir. Replenish your road trip snacks at the local Bonus. For the cutest accommodation, stay at Skipalaekur Guesthouses. Trust me. It’s amazing.
- Get a good glimpse of Lake Lagarfljot — home to the Iceland worm monster. Have your camera ready in case he makes an appearance.
- Hike to two spectacular waterfalls: Hengifoss & Litlanesfoss. This will take a few hours.
- Have you noticed something different about the nature here? TREES! You’re at the doorstep of Hallormsstadaskogur, Iceland’s largest forest.
DAY 5 – F-roading to Myvatn
175 km, 2 hours 4 minutes.
Hope you rented a 4×4; we’re veering off Ring Road and having fun on the F roads. Prepare for a geologically enchanting day. After the lunar landscapes off Road One, spend time exploring the magical Myvatn region shaking with volcanic activity. If F-roading is not a part of your Iceland itinerary, simply continue on the Ring Road.
- Adventure time! Take advantage of that 4×4 and drive the road less traveled. You’ll ford several rivers, watch the landscape magically transform, and shout WOW every 10 minutes. Exercise caution when crossing the rivers. If it looks too deep, don’t do it. Pack your shewee, in case of bladder emergency.
- We drove: F road 901 to 907 to 905 back to 901.
- Take the small detour to stand in awe at the power of Dettifoss.
- Arrive in Myvatn, one of my favorite places in all of Iceland. In a small radius, see/do the following:
- See the main Krafla fissure and crater row, where you can walk around steaming lava vents and burnt earth.
- Visit the Viti explosion crater.
- Plug your nose at Hverir, the stinking and boiling mud pits.
- Sneak into Grjotagja, an old grotto that Icelanders used to frequent before a volcanic eruption.
- Hold on to your hat and feel the burn as you ascend Hverfell, a massive explosion crater.
- Circle Lake Myvatn and keep an eye out for some serious bird watching.
- Walk through Dimmuborgir, a jagged, otherworldly lava field with formations that will make you forget you’re on Earth.
- Eat geyser bread. Dense and sweet, it’s cooked overnight in a hot spring. I tried it at Gamli Baerinn, where it was served traditionally with butter and arctic char. Don’t pass trying this traditional food.
- Conclude the day at the Myvatn Nature Baths, a glorious hot spring that rivals the famous Blue Lagoon.
DAY 6 – Myvatn to Akureyri
93 km, 1 hour 12 minutes.
Three cheers to a day of limited driving! If you didn’t get to do everything on the Myvatn list yesterday, begin your morning by crossing off the rest of them. Before you leave Myvatn, grab a unique pizza at Daddi’s Pizza (get the smoked trout, nuts, and cream cheese — it’s their speciality). Today you’ll end up in Akureyri, the second largest city in Iceland that boasts great shopping and an awesome nightlife. There’s a lot you can do in Akureyri, it really depends on your travel taste. We did a lot of moseying around the town.
- Stop at the waterfall of the gods, Godafoss, during your journey to Akureyri.
- Say a prayer at Akureyrarkirkja, the church of Akureyri. Notice some familiarity to the church you saw in Reykjavik? That’s not a coincidence. Both churches were designed by the same man.
- Eat the best ice cream in Iceland at Brynja (brin-ya). I’d been hearing about Brynja for a while and as an ice cream connoisseur, there’s not question that this was on the itinerary. Brynja was definitely unlike any other ice cream I’ve ever experienced before.
- Get ambitious and go on a day trip. Want to say you’ve been in the Arctic Circle? Take a boat ride to Grimsley, Iceland’s northernmost island, only 3 hours from Akureyri. Want to get closer to nature? Go on a horse riding tour. Icelandic horses are unique to the country — no horses are allowed in and once an Icelandic horse leaves, it can never return.
- Hunt for the Northern Lights. Get out of the city and begin driving toward seclusion for the opportunity to see the aurora. But look at the aurora forecast and sky visibility before your hunt.
- Join in on the nightlife, but don’t expect the fun to begin until 2 a.m. We were out at midnight and it was DEAD. Bars/clubs we’d recommend: Cafe Amour, Pósthúsbarinn (an old post office converted to night club), and our favorite, Götubarinn, where we listened to the locals sing Icelandic songs at a piano.
DAY 7 – Akureyri to Snaefellsnes
377 km, 4 hours 28 minutes.
Today’s the longest driving day of the Iceland itinerary. Start with a hearty breakfast at Cafe Ilmur. Order a licorice latte. Do any final exploring of Akureyri before the big departure.
- Your first stop won’t be too far from the city. Get in the holiday spirit at Jolagardurinn, the Christmas House. Set in the gorgeous countryside, this bright and festive Candyland-esque house is filled with internationally and locally handcrafted Christmas goods, like these Icelandic Yule Lads.
- When your appetite amps up, save it for the BEST ICELANDIC HOT DOG you’ll have your entire trip. I know, I know, people already rave about that one famous pylsur stand in Reykjavik, but trust me, it’s the middle-of-nowhere, unexpected, inconspicuous places that hide the tastiest treasures. The owner makes his own warm, fluffy bread for his hot dogs every day. This hot dog is so good, we considered taking the long way back just to get another. It’s in Grabrok. I think it’s literally called “Hotel Grabrok” and the only thing in sight is the remains of a volcano decimated long ago.
- PLEASE NOTE: I did just recently have a friend who followed my Iceland Itinerary and advised that she was not able to find this place! While I do hold it in high hot dog regards, be warned that if you decide to try to visit this place, it may be gone.
- If you’re someone who collects art, stop by the quick-to-miss Asa Olafsdottir Art Gallery to support a local artist and bring home meaningful artwork from Iceland.
- Enjoy dinner at Langaholt, where you’ll be served the most farm-to-table meal of authentic Icelandic cuisine. The menu is handwritten and changes every day.
- If you arrive early enough, walk the golden sand beach right outside Langaholt. It’s the only golden sand beach in Iceland.
DAY 8 — Snaefellsnes to Reykjavik
320 km, 4 hours. Expect a toll road.
I hope your weather was better than ours. Snaefellsness Peninsula was the place in Iceland I anticipated visiting the most — it doesn’t follow Ring Road, not too many tourists visit, and it’s known as “miniature Iceland” because of the diversity of landscapes you’ll see there. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t get to see much. When the rain is bad, it’s BAD. We couldn’t see the tops of the mountains. Here’s what we did (and attempted to do):
- Journey to the center of the Earth at Vatnshellir Cave.
- Hold a tune at Sönghellir, the Song Cave. To find it, pull off on road 570. There are signs to mark the way.
- Go for a swim in Lísuhóll swimming pool, naturally carbonated, geothermal healing waters.
- Hike on a coastal trail between the adorable seaside towns of Hellnar and Anarstapi.
- Walk around the dramatic beaches Djúpalón and Dritvik and test your strength by carrying the Viking rocks. Don’t disturb the twisted metal remains of an old shipwreck and don’t take the pebbles or you’ll get cursed.
- Channel the girl power of Guðríður at Laugarbrekka. There’s a small statue honoring her — she was the first European to give birth to a son in North America. Can you imagine being pregnant and crossing the ocean around year 1000? Sorry Chris Columbus, she beat you to the new world.
- There are two places we found where you can drink water straight from the earth. Hunt for the secret drinking springs. Ask the locals if you need any guidance. And if you really want to know, drop me a line.
- Take a photo of Kirkjafell, one of the most iconic and photographed mountains in Iceland. Supposedly it looks like a church, hence it’s name.
- Stop at Bjarnarhöfn, the shark museum and producer of Iceland’s famous delicacy, hakarl (fermented shark). We did, and this is how we fared.
- Pro Tip: bring some brennivin to wash it down.
After whirling around the peninsula, drive back to Reykjavik, but be warned about the speed cameras as you get closer to the capitol.
DAY 9 — The Golden Circle
220 km, 3 hours (round trip).
The famous “Golden Circle” route, a popular tourist day trip, includes a trinity of sights near Reykjavik that most make a point to visit: Gullfoss, Thingvellir National Park, and the geysers. This is “classic” Iceland itinerary.
- Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO Heritage Site, is Iceland’s most historical stretch of land. It’s the birthplace of the country’s government and a key to the viking past. Hike along the many trails from the Visitor’s Center to the church, Öxarárfoss waterfall, or any of the other guided history landmarks.
- Snorkel or scuba dive between two continents at Silfra. Pro Tip: If you’re going to do it, I’d recommend booking in advance. It’s expensive. I’d also recommend the scuba option. However, you can only scuba if you are certified.
- Did you know that the origin of the word geyser is Icelandic? It means to gush and it’s the name of Iceland’s famous geyser, Geysir. There’s a commercialized visitor’s center, but once you can fight through the tour buses and crowds, you’ll reach the main attraction. The Great Geysir, the famous one, has actually been clogged up for decades thanks partly to idiot tourists and partly to earthquakes. It’s eruptions are very infrequent. Fortunately, Geysir’s more reliable sister, Strokkur, erupts regularly (approximately 5-10 minutes apart).
- Stop at Gullfoss. It’s the waterfall that looks like a pie, though it’s name means golden falls.
- Pro Tip: Indulge in the organic lamb stew at the cafe overlooking Gullfoss. You may think it’s expensive, but I heard on several occasions that it’s one of the best in the country. The best part about it? You get FREE BOWL REFILLS.
- End your day in Reykjavik. Enjoy a nice dinner for your final meal in Iceland. I’d recommend a “taste of Iceland’ dish, where you can sample all the local Icelandic cuisine. We dined at The Public House Gastropub. Their taste of Iceland meal was incredible.
DAY 10 — Homebound, Reykjavik to Keflavik
52 km, 46 minutes.
I know, this is a supposed to be a 9 day tour of Iceland. But guess what — you’ve got one more stop to make on your way back to the airport. And if you don’t have this outlier travel day, make sure you tack this activity on to your itinerary when you first touch down in Iceland:
- Visit the Blue Lagoon. Really, there’s no need for explanation.
As they say in Icelandic, Goða Ferð!
If you have any questions about planning your Iceland itinerary, please let me know — I love to help people with their travels! Remember to read the rest of my Iceland posts for more information and inspiration.
Spending more or less time in Iceland? This Iceland Itinerary can be expanded for slower travel or easily reduced from a 9-day Iceland Itinerary to a 7-day Iceland itinerary. Take a look at my map of Iceland below and plan to arrange your Iceland itinerary closer to Reykjavik.
More Iceland Resources for Planning Your Iceland Itinerary
affiliate disclosure: Some of the links in this post may take you to Amazon or booking.com, which are the sites we used to purchase items & secure our Iceland accommodations . It’s an affiliate link, which means if you purchase any of the items I mention here, I get a small commission! Don’t worry though, it’s the same price whether you go through my blog or direct; I promise! Think of it as tipping your hat to me for putting together this itinerary for you.
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Recommended 9 Day Iceland Itinerary