Iceland in 5 days, itinerary for summer or winter

5-DAY ICELAND ITINERARY

5-DAY ICELAND ITINERARY (SUMMER AND WINTER ITINERARY)

Headed to Iceland and wondering about a fun and yet easy 5-day Iceland itinerary? Then this post is for you as I am sharing my tips on how to spend 5 days in Iceland – along with many travel tips for your trip.

Iceland – the land of ice and fire. Yes, that intro might sound cliché, but it is actually true. Visiting this country, even if you are only 5 days Iceland, it will allow you to experience why the country was given this moniker.

Iceland is an amazing country to visit. It is probably one of the most unique countries in the world and so it does not surprise it has become incredibly popular. 

Iceland might have less than 400,000 inhabitants but it is a – geographically – big county. While it would be great to spend more than 5 days in Iceland, this time will allow you to see some of the best sights in the county. And since most of us do not have an unlimited length of time to spend in Iceland, this 5-day Iceland itinerary will help you to find out about the main sights and attractions.

And 5 days in Iceland is better than nothing, right?

The good news is that this 5 days in Iceland post not only offers you the best sights and how to spend your days in the country, but you will also find out about the best ways to get around (so, this Iceland itinerary is great whether you do guided tours or plan a road trip), where to stay, and more Iceland travel tips. 

I, myself, have visited Iceland twice: once in the winter (December/January) and once in July. So, I was lucky enough to have different experiences over the course of 21 days. And I can tell you: Whether you visit Iceland in winter, spring, summer, or fall, this 5-day Iceland itinerary has you covered and you can use it for any time of the year.

Iceland glacier beach in 5 days in Iceland with arzo travels
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Travel Tips for 5-Day Iceland Itinerary

Here are some quick travel tips for your 5-day trip to Iceland before talking about the best things to do in 5 days in Iceland.

Best Time to Visit Iceland

Best time to visit Iceland: Whether you visit in winter or summer – or even fall and spring – each season has its charms. However, it is very important depending on what you want to do.

I loved visiting Iceland in summer. It might be busy (if it weren’t for Coronavirus) and prices for accommodations are high (and attractions are very crowded), but the many hours of daylight helped me to see more.

If you want to see a lot in a short amount of time (and do not mind long days of traveling), I suggest visiting in June, July, or August. While these are the summer months, you really do not have to worry about heat. That does not happen in Iceland.

In winter you will have much less time to visit the sights. Honestly, you will just have a few hours each day as it really gets dark very quickly. 

If you prefer shorter days and less crowds, visit in fall or spring. 

Keep in mind that winter in Iceland can be very extreme – and you might not be able to road trip. Check out my Iceland in Winter guide to see if that is the perfect time for your trip or not. 

This is also why I will share some of my winter but also summer pictures in this post – so, you can imagine yourself better for when to use this Iceland itinerary for.

To check out why winter can be tricky check out my guide on what I really think about visiting in Iceland in December.

Costs of visiting Iceland 

Iceland can be expensive, but does not have to be. Surely it will never be a budget-friendly destination, but if money worries you, it does not have to in Iceland. Check out my post on how expensive Iceland is to find out more.

Language

People speak English – luckily, since Icelandic does not seem like an easy language to learn.

Money 

You can pay everywhere – even if you want to use a toilet to pee – with your credit card. Only if you camp will you need cash because you might need coins for using the shower (though not necessarily).

To find out how expensive Iceland is check out my post where I tell you exactly how much I spent on my second trip to Iceland.

What to Pack for Iceland

In winter, you need to pack very carefully. Winter can be extreme, though not necessarily because of the temperature. Check out my Winter Packing Guide for Iceland.

But even if you visit in summer, you need to pack warm clothes, including pullovers, (waterproof) jackets, gloves, scarves and headband.

Road Trip or Day Trips

Road tripping in Iceland is pretty fun and easy (with good streets and quite few cars except at the hotspots) but I did not dare to road trip in winter.

So this 5-day itinerary is perfect for anyone – you can do a road trip but also do day trips from Reykjavik. Day trips will not allow you to see all places mentioned here but the main places are included so it really is up to you what you prefer.

Both options have advantages/disadvantages so it is about personal preferences.

Renting a Car/ Campervan

Driving in Iceland is pretty easy – at least, if you visit in summer (or as long as there is no snow and ice, and the streets are open). 

F-roads and highland roads are probably a bit trickier, but I haven’t driven them myself. You need to have 4-wheel vehicles if you want to drive them. So, it really makes sense to plan your itinerary and then rent an appropriate car.

On my second trip I rented a caravan – for the very first time in my life – and I loved it. Iceland is perfect for getting around via camper van (streets are big enough, not too much traffic once you leave the main hot spots) and finding a camping site is quite easy.

If you have ever though about traveling via camper – then let Iceland it should be.

Camping

Wild camping is illegal in Iceland, and though there are very few exceptions (like written permission if you stay on private land), it is highly advised to accept Icelandic law and just stay at campsites.

Campsites are pretty affordable and are around 9-12€ for most campsites (per person, no extra charge for your vehicle).

Caravan views in Iceland_
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Where to Stay in Iceland

This 5-day Iceland itinerary is perfect for any time of the year but also whether you road trip or do day tours from Reykjavik – so, if you stay in Reykjavik, check out my guide with the best places to stay in Iceland and if you road trip it really depends on how much you get to see in one day.

In winter, you will not be able to see all places mentioned on this Iceland itinerary because hiking routes are closes and days are short.

With a camper/motorhome it is easy, you can just spontaneously decide where to park (campsites do normally not get fully booked and there are plenty in Iceland, so you just arrive and pay – even late at night / after midnight).

5 Days in Iceland

So, enough talking. Here is how to spend your 5 days in Iceland:

Day 1 – Golden Circle

While you could start with the Blue Lagoon and Reykjavik, I actually suggest saving these destinations for your last day – just to make sure not to get stuck anywhere and be close to the airport on the day of your departure.

Reserve one day of your itinerary for the most famous and popular area – namely, the Golden Circle, which has several attractions. The name “Golden Circle“ was derived from the name of Gullfoss, which means “golden waterfall” in Icelandic and is one main attraction.

The Golden Circle covers about 300 kilometers, looping from Reykjavik into the southern uplands of Iceland and back.

There are three main stops on the route – the Þingvellir National Park, the Gulfoss Waterfall, and the geothermal area in Haukadalur.

Pingvellir National Park

Pingvellir National Park is often the first stop. It is a historic site and national park known for the Alþing, the site of Iceland’s parliament from the 10th to 18th century. 

National Park in Iceland in winter
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You’ll also find the Þingvellir Church and the ruins of old stone shelters, but most people are probably fascinated by the fact that the park sits in a rift valley caused by the separation of 2 tectonic plates, with rocky cliffs and fissures.

Personally, I only visited in winter and it had lovely scenery. If you want to take a stroll (or an easy hike), you can spend a few hours here. Otherwise, 30-60 minutes is probably all you need before continuing your journey.

There is no entrance fee but there is a parking is fee. 

Gullfoss

Gullfoss might be the next stop on your Iceland itinerary – the waterfall is located in the canyon of the Hvítá river in southwest Iceland.

It is easy to drive here and you can visit at any time of the day – there is not much walking required to get here from the (free) parking slots.

Glufoss waterfall one of the main waterfalls for your 5 day Iceland itinerary
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And there it is – the impressive Gullfoss (“foss“ in Icelandic means waterfall). The water cascades down in two stages, one 11 meter high and the other 21 meters, into the 2.5 km-long crevasse below. 

I visited in winter and summer, and liked it in winter better. However, in summer, you can take walks and stroll the area (which in winter is mostly forbidden). 

Since there is no entrance fee or anything, I do highly recommend it is a must-see during 5 days in Iceland (though it isn’t my favorite waterfall in Iceland) and I would suggest spending 20-90 minutes in that area.

Tip: If you want to take a snowmobile tour, then you can start here. I had my tour booked in December and was picked up from Reykjavik and brought to the waterfall before we continued our trip to the Highlands. However, due to extreme snowfalls once we arrived at the camp, the tour was cancelled. I am sure it is an amazing experience, and if you are up for it, you can check out tours starting from here.

It is free to visit, no parking fees.

Strokkur / Haukadalur

It is then time to see the geyser, which are periodically spouting hot springs. The Strokkur is an active, fountain-type geyser, which typically erupts every few minutes.

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Its usual height is 15–20 meters, but it can sometimes erupt up to 40 meters high. So, even if you have just a few minutes, you will see it erupt – it is quite loud and I was startled by it every time.

This again is a popular sight, and since it is on the way to the other attractions, it is definitely a must-visit place.

It is free to visit, no parking fees.

All of the above-mentioned places have at least one restaurant/cafe.

However, most tours do offer one or two more stops, you just have to decide which one is the most attractive to you. If you road trip during the long summer days, I suggest adding at least two more places to your itinerary for day 2.

Kerio Volcanic Crater

Kerio Volcanic Crater is a volcanic crater lake that is a popular stop off the Golden Circle.

You can get up and even walk around the volcano. It is supposed to be a popular sight, yet it is not known as the most beautiful crater in the country.

I visited another in the north of the country and I can’t say much about that one, but the reviews are good and it is different from the rest of the country (here you have the fire – though not literally anymore).

There is a small entrance fee, so have some cash with you (if you booked a guided tour, it might be included in the price).

Another popular spot off the typical Golden Circle is the Secret Lagoon. 

Secret Lagoon

It is a man-made pool fed by naturally-occurring hot springs located at Hverahólmi, which is the geothermal area next to the village of Flúðir.

Secret Lagoon in winter in Iceland
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It is the oldest pool in the country – but nothing is secret here anymore and it is surely not a hidden gem.

However, it is great after a day out to hop into the hot spring.

I visited in winter with a guided tour and it had the entrance fee already included.

Hrunalaug

Another place you could visit – also instead of the Secret Lagoon – is Hrunalaug. This hot spring is privately owned and is quite small, but the views are amazing.

HRUNALAUG hot pools in Iceland
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The drive was possible with my 2-wheel car, though it takes some time to get there as you can’t drive fast.

I read complaints that the water was low, so ask the owner before you pay whether it is busy or if it has water.

The owner normally sits in front of the pool and you have to pay an entrance fee (either 1,000 ISK, 10€ or $10) in cash only, parking is free.

Bruarfoss Waterfall

If you road trip Iceland and are flexible, I suggest paying Bruarfoss Waterfall a visit. Since its location is a bit off the Golden Route, it is not often offered when doing guided tours.

BRUARFOSS WATERFALL, amazing watercolor in Iceland
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However, it was one of my favorite places in Iceland, and if you can visit, then go for it. After taking your car, you can do a 7 km “hike“(in total)  and will see several waterfalls along the way. 

The waterfalls come in an incredible color of blue – the color is insane, which makes it worth a visit. It is not a real hike, but more like a beautiful stroll with some steps in between (and probably some mud puddles, so wear appropriate shoes).

No entrance fee, free parking (Google sent me to the wrong parking lot – which is no parking lot any longer and I had to drive back to find the right spot).

Day 2 – South Iceland

One day of your 5-day Iceland itinerary should be reserved for exploring the south coast of Iceland – together with the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon, one of the most popular places to visit.

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss is one of the stops you can’t miss – actually, it is literally impossible to miss this high waterfall.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall for your Iceland in 5 days itinerary
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The waterfall drops 60 meters and is part of the Seljalands River, which has its origin in the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull. This waterfall is special as you can walk behind it and have a unique view. In the winter months, the walking path is most likely closed. There is not much other hiking to do, so 10-30 minutes is enough.

No entrance fee but if you have change you can donate something, and there is a parking fee.

If you do a guided tour, you will most likely continue your journey. However, if you road trip, make sure to add two more waterfalls to your itinerary.

Gljúfrabúi Waterfall

Gljúfrabúi Waterfall is just a ten-minutes-walk away. You have to leave Seljalandsfoss and get on the “main road“ and then head towards the camping site and then follow the directions – it isn’t even a hike, just a stroll.

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There you will see the other waterfall and you can reach it by climbing some steps. It is definitely worth the few extra minutes you have to spend to reach it. 

Your feet might get wet so proper footwear is great (also to avoid slipping).

If you have more time, I highly suggest taking your car and driving about 7 km to the other, hidden, waterfall.

No entrance fee, but still parking fee.

Nauthúsagil Waterfall

From these to waterfalls, continue your journey and drive to this secret waterfall. You can drive with your 2-wheel car, though you should drive slowly. It is a dirt road but nothing spectacular – however, I have not heard from guided tours visiting this waterfall.

NAUTHÚSAGIL WATERFALL is a hidden gem
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There are some parking lots and then you continue to the ravine (don‘t hike up that hill – I did by accident – just walk towards the ravine). For this part, you definitely need sturdy shoes, and there is some climbing required. However, it is a short (maybe a 10-minute hike) and easy hike and you will be rewarded with this pretty waterfall.

No entrance fee and free parking.

Skogafoss

This day is a lot about waterfalls – before visiting other attractions, you will most likely then pass Skogafoss which is one of the most famous landmarks in Iceland.

Skógafoss Waterfall in winter in Iceland
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It is one of the biggest waterfalls – with a heigh of more than 60 meters and a width of 25 meters. It will be one of the very crowded places – but you should still stop here and either walk right up to the waterfall (in winter it will be very slippery though) or when the stairs are open, you can walk up and the see the waterfall from above.

Sólheimajökull

Then, continue your trip to this glacier – especially with guided tours, this is very popular. If you are short on time, I suggest skipping this one and visiting another glacier (more on that later).

Solheimajökull in Iceland is one of the best day trips from Reykjavk
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Sólheimajökull  is about eight kilometers long and two kilometers wide, and is one of the most accessible glaciers from Reykjavík, which makes it a popular place to visit.

You can also book glacier walks (also with guided day tours). If you do not do a glacier walk, I think spending about 50-90 minutes here is fine.

There is no entrance fee and no parking fee.

Solheimasandur Plane Wreck

This is another popular spot that I, however, skipped both times. In 1973, a United States Navy DC plane ran out of fuel and crashed on the black beach at Sólheimasandur near the town of Vik. 

You can still visit the place, but have to park your car and walk around 4 kilometers to get there (one way – though there are also buses you can take there).

You aren’t allowed to climb on the plane anymore and this, in combination with the time to get there, was why I decided to skip this attraction. But I felt that I should at least tell you about it.

No entrance fee, no parking fee but taking the bus to get there does cost.

Dyrhólaey

Then, head to Dyrhólaey, which is the southernmost point of mainland Iceland and offers some beautiful views of the surroundings – you can even see the black beaches in Vik.

Dyrhólaey and the Black Sand Beaches
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I – personally  – do not consider it a must-see, but decide for yourself. They recommend driving only with a 4-wheel vehicle. I, and many others, drove with our regular cars and it was fine. However, there were some moments that got tricky, so be super careful and go slowly when driving up.

No entrance fee, no parking fee.

Vik

From Dyrhólaey you are fast to arrive in Vik which is a small village known mostly for its church and the black sand beach, Reynisfjara. 

Black Sand Beach in Vik, a day tour from Reykjavik
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While walking on the beach, the color a result of volcanic explosions, you will find basalt stacks on one side and have views of the Atlantic Ocean on the other – Reynisfjara is one of the top places to visit in 5 days in Iceland. 

You could walk there for quite a while, but this is a busy place, so you should take a look and get on the basalt stacks before continuing your journey.

The water – even in the summer – is too cold to swim in here, and the waves can be quite strong as well, so it is better just to look.

In Vik, you will also find the famous church up on a hill which is a popular photo motif but other than that I did not really like Vik that much.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

One must-see that I highly recommend though is Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. The canyon that is about 100 meters deep and about two kilometers long. 

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Mountains and waterfall are free places to visit in 5 days in Iceland
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If you road trip, make sure to check out Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Due to its popularity and its sensitive flora, they close it once in a while, so it might not be open year round. 

It is near the main road and though it‘s mostly a gravel road, you can easily drive there with all kinds of cars (in summer only). 

From the parking area, it is a short and easy walk up a hill. And from there, you have some of the best views in all of Iceland. There are several vantage points, and if you like mountains, this is the place to visit.

Walking in the canyon is not allowed any longer, but the views from above made this stop one of the highlights of my Iceland trip (plus, the weather was in my favor, which probably played a role, too).

No entrance fee, no parking fee.

Jökulsárlón

If you drive yourself, you will find many more waterfalls along the way, but there is one particular highlight waiting for you: Jökulsárlón. 

campervan costs in Iceland
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If you do guided tours, try to book a tour that brings you all the way here as well. It is a stunning glacial lagoon dotted with icebergs from the surrounding Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier, part of the larger Vatnajökull Glacier. 

Iceland glacier beach in 5 days in Iceland with arzo travels
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The black beach sand nearby is also known as Diamond Beach because the ice chunks – even in summer – look like diamonds (well, kind of).

Diamond Beach in Iceland
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It is an absolutely magical place – though in normal times, extremely busy.

My tip: try to visit at sunset – it gets even more magical at that time of the day.

Free to visit, no parking fees.

Tip: If you have time, you can do a boat tour (in summer) and go ice caving from within Vatnajökull Glacier.

Climbing on top of any of the icebergs without a guide is not advised and neither is swimming. This place is full of icebergs, so it is it is neither warm nor safe to do so.

And with these places, you have already filled 3 days of your Iceland itinerary. 

Actually, you will not be able to visit all of the above-mentioned places – unless you take advantage of the 24 hours of daylight in June and don’t sleep. With these activities, you could actually fill all 5 days, but I do have some more suggestions for day 4 and 5 and recommend doing some of the places mentioned above in 3 or 3.5 days before heading back – not to Reykjavik directly, but past it, heading to the west coast of Iceland.

Day 3 – Snæfellsnes Peninsula

The west coast is a beautiful and popular place in Iceland, though much less crowded and less visited than the Golden Circle or the South Coast.

So, after some hours of driving from Vatnajökull Glacier to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, you will have a full day.

Ytri Tunga

Start with Ytri Tunga – a small, beautiful beach area where you will find seals resting and chilling at the beach.

Ytri Tunga beach in west Iceland
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It is perfect for leisurely walks and spending time outdoors before continuing your journey.

Free entrance, no parking fees.

Arnarstap

Stop at the cute fishing village Arnarstapi and go on easy hikes along the coast – the views are impressive (just watch out for the evil birds that do attack people if they feel like it).

West of Iceland in December
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Free parking and several cafes/restaurants.

Kirkjufell Mountain

Then, it is time to visit one of the most famous sights in the country – Kirkjufell Mountain, which is a 463-meter-high mountain on the north coast of Iceland’s Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

Places to see in December
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You can either hike up the mountain or do what is definitely more popular – go to the waterfalls and see the waterfalls with the beautiful mountain as a backdrop.

There is not much more hiking to do, but you can walk around the waterfall and enjoy the scenery (even in winter, but take some crampers with you so you can walk all the way to the waterfall).

Free entrance, no parking fees.

With all the driving from South Iceland, I would call it a day. For the last two days, I recommend visiting some places close by and preparing for heading back to Reykjavik/airport.

Day 4 – West Iceland

This day is a bit of off-the-beaten path (not really but kind of) and it can be visited in winter as well as in summer. I visited in both seasons and I am not sure which one I liked more.

Barnafossar and Hraunfossar Waterfalls 

These beautiful waterfalls are actually a series of waterfalls formed by rivulets streaming over a distance of almost 1 kilometer out of the Hallmundarhraun (which is a lava field that flowed from an eruption of one of the volcanoes lying under the glacier Langjökull) – and it is one of my favorite waterfalls in Iceland.

BARNAFOSSAR AND HRAUNFOSSAR WATERFALLS 
in summer
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You can do a bit of walking and visit several waterfalls – which come in an intense color – but there is not that many other activities to do around here. 

Thus, I recommend combining it with another activity in the area.

No entrance fee, no parking fee.

Raufarhólshellir

Another activity you could do is to visit Raufarhólshellir, which is the fourth-longest lava tube in Iceland. This lava cave is just 15 minutes away from Husafell Hotel.

Lava tunnel in West Iceland
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You can witness the inner working of a volcanic eruption and walk the path where an eruption flowed more than 5,000 years ago. A guided tour will allow you to learn about the volcanic eruptions and their effect on the environment before heading back to the capital.

Hot pools at Húsafell Hotel

If you have time (getting to Reykjavik does take time and plan to arrive too early rather than too late), add Húsafell Hotel – with its hot pools – or a lava tour to your 5-day Iceland itinerary.

Hot pools in December in Iceland
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The pools at Husafell Hotel are beautiful – visiting in winter, I was the only one there, though it probably is much busier in summer. It is a great place to visit if you are into hot pools with beautiful views.

There is an entrance fee, parking is for free.

Day 5 – Reykjavik / Blue Lagoon 

So, for your last day, take it easy and so some sightseeing in the capital before resting at the Blue Lagoon.

Reykjavik

Reykjavik, actually, it is a town rather than a city, is small and interesting. 

However, with only 5 days in Iceland, I would not spend too much time on the city and not plan in more than half a day for Reykjavik.

HALLGRÍMSKIRKJA CHURCH in winter one of the top things to do in Reykjavik
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In Reykjavik, you can visit FlyOverIceland (my favorite), head to the top of the church, stroll the town center, or head to Perlan.

Reykjavik is also known for its food scene. Even I, as a 95% vegan eater, had some pretty amazing dishes. And I am afraid the food scene in the rest of the country is not that great, so here is the place to eat your weight in delicious meals.

Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is a popular first spot for many Iceland visitors but I suggest visiting at the end, so you can relax before you get on the plane again.

Top Things to do in Iceland The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is one of the best places to visit in Iceland in winter
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It is a geothermal spa located in a lava field and actually it is not a natural pool – it is supplied by water used in the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power station and it has become one of the most popular, but also busiest, places in the country.

Due to its proximity to Kevlavik Airport, you can make it your first or last stop during your 5 days in Iceland.

If you book a guided tour to the Blue Lagoon, they normally will pick you up from the airport and then drop you off at your hotel, which is very handy.

I visited the Blue Lagoon on my last day in December – but do I wholeheartedly recommend visiting the Blue Lagoon? 

Yes and no. I am not a big pool fan, so I did not spend much time here. However, I am well aware that this place is unique. If you are not on a very tight budget, and especially if you love pools or won’t be visiting any other pools/hot springs, then I say go for it.

Tip: Book in advance as slots fill up quickly. 

CONCLUSION: HOW TO SPEND 5 DAYS IN ICELAND

5 days in Iceland will give you a good glimpse of the country and you can see what all the fuss is about. I recommend staying longer, but know it is not always possible.

However, I hope that this 5-day Iceland itinerary will allow you to make the most of your trip and you will see many of the stunning places that Iceland has to offer and the best is that is Iceland itinerary is perfect for any time of the year. So, whether you visit in winter or summer – this Iceland 5-day itinerary will hopefully be very helpful to you!

Safe Travels, Arzo
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