7 Day Iceland Itinerary
Iceland completely captivated me in a way I never would have imagined. The irony is we only ended up in Iceland because our trip to Japan was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. So when we got notice that the airline had cancelled our flights to Japan we scrambled for a new destination. Iceland had always been a place on my “must visit list” but I would say it was waaaaay at the bottom. If you know me, you know I am a go-go-go person and love the hustle and bustle of city life. So for that reason we were prioritizing a trip to Japan, and well Iceland not so much… Iceland seemed like a hiking/nature destination which wasn’t really what I wanted at the time. I started searching different flights and prices for places like Europe and the Middle East but either due to COVID-19 restrictions or flight prices etc. I kept on my search and ended up finding $600 RT flights from Fort Lauderdale airport to Iceland on JetBlue. This seemed like a good deal for the week we already had originally planned to visit Japan. So I called my friends whom were also going to Japan with us and they were into the idea of trying out Iceland, so we went for it and that night (a month before the date of travel) booked the airfare.
My point in writing this blog is to create a concise Itinerary for first timers in Iceland. I, myself had to read so many reviews, blogs, and do countless searches on social media for the best places and restaurants in Iceland that it became more stressful than fun. While in Iceland, and upon my return people kept asking me different questions about my trip so I decided to take a leap a faith and start a blog about my travels. Beginning here, with Iceland.
So, finally the day arrives and we flew out of FLL to JFK (on JetBlue) and after a quick layover, from JFK to Iceland (this flight was booked on JetBlue but operated by Icelandair).
The Condensed Version:
- Day 1: Arrival at KEF – Bridge Between Two Continents, Blue Lagoon, Fagradalsfjall Volcano, Reykjavik.
- Food: Lava (at Blue Lagoon), Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, and Cafe Loki.
- Day 2: Snæfellsnes Peninsula – The Gerðuberg Cliffs, Grundarfoss, Mt. Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss.
- Food: Sandholt and Matarkjallarinn – Foodcellar.
- Day 3: The Golden Circle – Thingvellir National Park, Öxarárfoss, Kerid Crater, Strokkur, and Gullfoss.
- Food: Sandholt (again) and Friðheimar.
- Day 4: Vik – Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck, Reynisfjara Beach, and Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon.
- Food: Halldórskaffi and Prakkus House.
- Day 5: Höfn and Glaciers – Vatnajökull, and Diamond Beach.
- Food: Kaffi Hornið and Otto Matur & Drykkur.
- Day 6: Vik and Reykjavik – Vik Horse Adventures, and Dyrhólaey Peninsula.
- Food: Ströndin Bistro and Bar, and Rossopomodoro.
- Day 7: Reykjavik and KEF airport.
Read on for “The Detailed Version:”
DAY 1 (arrived at KEF airport at 6 am):
Something important to keep in mind, which I did not take into account until we were already in Iceland, is that in November the sun rises at around 9:30 am in Iceland and sets around 4:30pm. So plan all of your sightseeing between 9:30am and 4:30pm since MOST sights in Iceland are nature-related.
We knew early on that we wanted to rent a car and set our own itinerary, instead of a set tour with a company. Mostly, this is a personality thing. I don’t like to wait for other tourists in the group to take thousands of photos (which I took close to 1000 in a week in Iceland!) or having a set time to eat. I also like to do more “off the beaten path” kind of adventures that the tour companies don’t provide.
The car rental situation was a stressful one because we knew conditions would be snowy/icy and we wanted to make sure we had a well-equipped car for this since we would be driving in a new place that we knew NOTHING about. I spent hours researching different companies, reading thousands of reviews until we finally decided on a company. I hope this recommendation saves you that stress.
These were the driving conditions on the day we arrived:
We rented a 4×4 snow wheel equipped car from IceRental 4×4. They were great. The only thing to keep in mind is that they are not located inside the airport, but they do provide a shuttle service to and from their location and the airport (about 15 minutes away). They coordinate with you a few days before your arrival time so they are there waiting for you with a sign when you arrive at KEF. When we arrived to pick up our car it was quick and easy since we had selected the insurance package. Other than booking online ahead of time, my only other advice is to take photos of any imperfections or dings the car may have before you leave their lot (they advise you to do this as well) just so you CYA (Cover Your Ass). On the return we had zero issues with them. Here’s the link to their site: IceRental 4×4.
So we picked up our car and were on our way. The KEF airport is about 45 minutes west of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland (and only “large” city in my opinion). As we made our way towards Reykjavik for our 3pm check-in we made a few stops along the way…
Stop 1: Bridge Between Two Continents
This Bridge connects the North American and European tectonic plates.
Yes it’s dark… I told you we landed at 6am and sun doesn’t rise until 9:30 am so poor planning on my end we got here at 8:30am and it was still dark out. PLAN ACCORDINGLY.
P.S. you can also scuba dive between the two plates but I am the only PADI certified diver in my group so we did not do this. Here’s the link for anyone interested: Fissure Diving Tour.
Stop 2: Blue Lagoon (DUH!)
Full disclosure: this is the ONLY place I knew in Iceland before I started planning this trip. It’s the reason we decided on Iceland, and it did not disappoint. Is it hyped and tourist filled? YES. But, it is still a must do and it was a magical experience as we saw the sunrise here.
FOR REFERENCE: it is 10:10 am in this photo and look at the sun still rising behind us.
It was about 28F here but the water is so hot that you DO NOT feel cold AT ALL. The water is pumped from a geothermal plant next door that takes water from the Earth’s core, when it reaches the blue lagoon, the water is about 90F. It takes some adjusting when you first get in. We loved it.
Also, there’s a mask bar and a drink bar (1 drink and 1 mask is included in the price).
We also opted to eat here since we had only had a sandwich (Joe and the Juice) at the airport when we landed. Lava, is pricey (like everything in Iceland) and portions are small and gourmet but it worked out for a good yummy lunch.
Here are the prices for the different packages (they vary by date and time)…
Stop 3: Fagradalsfjall Volcano
All volcanoes in Iceland are considered active. This one is also on the way to Reykjavik. It is less known and empty of tourists.
It’s a short hike up to the mountaintop from where you can see the Volcano in the distance (you could walk close to it but we thought this was a good place to stop).
Pretty cool you get to walk onto the igneous rock. All at your own risk of course.
Stop 4: Reykjavik for hotel check in/dinner
We stayed at Reykjavik Residences. We had a large suite. Full kitchen, balcony, great toiletries etc. Booked on Expedia and would definitely recommend. Unfortunately, I did not photograph the room but here’s the link to the hotel: Reykjavik Residence Hotel. Only complaint I have is that the door key for the rooms work with an app called “Flexipass” and it glitches when unlocking the doors sometimes. So we ended up going to get a physical key.
There is street parking all around Reykjavik from Monday – Saturday from 9-6pm you must pay on the city parking app.
If you haven’t heard… hot dogs are a big deal in Iceland. They have special sauces and little onions they put on them. It may sound strange, but they are delicious! We ate multiple hot dogs while in Iceland.
Even President Clinton came to this tiny hot dog stand when he visited Iceland.
Here’s the famous Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik. It’s astonishing. We climbed up to the tower during the daytime and you have a full panoramic view of Reykjavik.
DAY 2 – Snæfellsnes Peninsula:
Before heading out north, we had breakfast at what is now our favorite breakfast spot. We ate here just about every morning that we were in Reykjavik (that’s how good it was!).
Fuel up, the drive is about 2.5 hours from Reykjavik to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
(Jeremy, my husband, says I must tell you to try the shakshuka).
Stop 1: Gerðuberg Cliffs
The formation of these columns is a very interesting process. The shape was given by the rivers of lava that drowned from the volcano and were cooled by the ocean’s cold waves here (the ocean is no longer here btw). The combination between the hot lava and the cold waves gave the cliffs this perfect geometrical appearance.
Also, very cool is that on the drive from Reykjavik to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula you drive through the Hvalfjörður Tunnel. It is 5,770 meters long and reaches a depth of 165 meters below sea level. Just cool that you’re driving about 10 minutes under water. The above photo was taken just as we exited the tunnel on the other side.
Stop 2: Grundarfoss
One of the few Icelandic terms we learned was “foss.” It’s a suffix that means waterfall. After stopping at so many “fosses” we figured it out.
Twin waterfalls – unfortunately we couldn’t get any closer because the conditions didn’t allow us to drive in beyond here. But, look at those cute Icelandic horses!
Stop 3: Mt. Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss
The locals from this fishing village call this “Church Mountain.” It is 463 meters high and the steepest mountain in Iceland (no we did not climb it).
P.S. the population here is 900.
Dinner: We tried to have late lunch/early dinner in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula around 3-4pm but every place we found was closed. It was a Monday so not sure why but google said they were open and were not (this happens often in Iceland just fyi). I was starving by now (to no surprise) so we went to “Bonus” a famous grocery store all over Iceland and got some snacks and drinks for the drive back to Reykjavik. We ate at Matarkjallarinn – Foodcellar. BEST DECISION EVER. Truly, one of the best if not THE BEST meal i’ve ever had. We did the Chef’s Surprise 6 course meal. Do it, forget the price. It’s worth it 110%. We went to a bar after for drinks called “Jungle Cocktail Bar.” Very good drinks and the vibe was just right.
DAY 3 – The Golden Circle:
When I started my research on Iceland I kept reading “The Golden Circle” on every page so this is a popular one. Touristy for sure, but worth it (especially for GOT fans).
Stop 1: Thingvellir National Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Stop 2: Öxarárfoss
For the GOT fans: The Öxarárfoss trail is the same trail that Arya and Sansa take to the “Bloody Gate” to visit aunt Lysa in the Eyrie.
Stop 3: Kerid Crater
The Kerid volcano is thought to have formed when the magma in the center simply depleted itself, and the empty chamber beneath caved in, creating this little lake (frozen in the winter). In other words, Iceland showing off again.
Stop 4: Strokkur
The MOST active geysir in Iceland. While we were here, it erupted every 4-5 minutes, 15-20 meters high each time. This area has 4-6 different geysers. Although, not all are active right now.
Stop 5: Gullfoss
JUST, WOW. THAT IS ALL.
This is the famous waterfall that Zac Efron visits on his trip to Iceland on his Netflix show – Down to Earth. Here’s the link: Down to Earth – it’s definitely worth a watch if you’re interested.
The waterfall is so loud and potent it just takes you away being there. This water is from Langjökull glacier that is just 32 meters away.
140 cubic metres (459 cubic feet) of water surges down the waterfall EVERY SECOND. It is my understanding that the little pathway behind me in the photo is accessible in the summer. In the winter it’s too icy so they close it off.
Dinner at Friðheimar: This was a food experience, for sure.
This is their website description: “The theme of Friðheimar cuisine is tomatoes, in many different forms. And that’s not surprising, as four different varieties of tomato are cultivated in the greenhouses where lunch is served among the plants.” & I don’t like tomatoes, not even ketchup. So, needless to say this was a big Icelandic adventure for me.
Well… like everything else in Iceland…I was very pleasantly surprised. I LOVED IT.
(P.S.: You get to clip your own basil from your personal basil plant on your table for the best tomato soup)
This night we stayed in little cabins in the middle of nowhere.BUT, we saw northern lights because of the ideal “middle of nowhere” location. Plus, the cabins were so cute and well equipped.
The owners who live down the road even had a dog “Mói” which we of course played with for hours, because this is who we are. He was the goodest boy (after our dog Mako, of course).
Link to cabins: Heima Holiday Homes
DAY 4 – Vik area:
Stop 1: Seljalandsfoss
Just look at it.
Beware: you will get wet! **For my Disney fans, this is a cool way to see the 8th wonder of the world: O2H.**
Stop 2: Skógafoss
Stop 3: Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck
Disclaimer: No one told me it was a 6 mile hike (3 there & 3 back). It’s on flat black sand but just be aware. I should note this was also the longest walk/hike we did in Iceland.
Stop 4: Reynisfjara Beach
It is beautiful, and breathtaking!
Lunch: We tried to go to Strondin Bistro and Bar which came recommended by a friend who had been to Iceland recently but it was closed (google said it was open, but again it was not). This was on a Wednesday at 2pm. Instead we tried the only place we found open in Vik, Halldórskaffi. It was traditional Icelandic food and it was delicious. Reindeer burger and dilled salmon salad:
Stop 5: Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
You might recognize this from Justin Bieber’s music video: I’ll Show You
Dinner: Prakkus House, definitely one of my favorite restaurants, ever. I had had so much salmon at this point but I couldn’t help myself. I think i had subconsciously decided to try the lobster bisque and salmon everywhere I went. Each time, I would tell everyone “Ok, ok this one is the best one.”
Stayed at “Milk Factory” the next two nights. This was an “authentic Icelandic” experience and we loved it! Coffee/Hot Chocolate 24 hours and breakfast included. We had a large room that even had a loft.
Link: Milk Factory Hofn
DAY 5 – Höfn and Glaciers:
Stop 1: Breiðamerkurjökull outlet of Vatnajökull
Second word we learned in Iceland,”jökull” means glacier.
This was hands down one of the most breathtaking experiences of my life.
Being inside this 1000+ year old glacier ice caves was just magnificent.
Stop 2: Diamond Beach
So about 100 years ago the glacier actually reached all the way out to this beach. But… global warming. So, its now 100’s of meters away & some of the ice that breaks off reaches this beach.
Lunch: Kaffi Hornið – here comes another yummy lobster soup… It was so good I didn’t have time to photograph it. Also, fun fact the owners here are Spanish and we were so happy!
After lunch we found some local geothermal springs and went for a sunset swim. It was a perfect night.
Dinner: Otto Matur & Drykkur. Ok now really… the best langoustine soup!!! They also have fried brie!
Fun fact: this is the oldest house in Höfn dating back to 1897.
Stop 1: Vik Horse Adventure
Ok, throughout ALL of our driving around Iceland, we saw wild Icelandic horses EVERYWHERE. For reference, I love horses and I’ve always felt a connection to them for whatever reason. So my friends finally indulged me and we went horseback riding on our last full day in Iceland.
Our glacier hike/Ice cave tour guide told us “If you want to offend someone in Iceland call our horses ponies.” This is because the horses in Iceland are genetically mutated. They are smaller, they are hairier and, they are soooo sweet & friendly! In Iceland, the horses have evolved to grow more hair in the winter (which they shed in the spring) and they have a special trot when they build up speed. It was a magical experience riding these cuties on the black sand beach at Vik.
(P.S. low key jealous that Jeremy got to ride “Snow White”)
Stop 2: Dyrhólaey Peninsula
Side note: This day it was 19 F and it snowed on and off, we Miamians were very cold! But, Iceland always makes it worth the views.
Lunch: Ströndin Bistro and Bar (second attempt, this time they were open). The nachos/burgers/fries here were delicious (& more gin and tonics).
Dinner: Rossopomodoro – Italian/Icelandic goodness.
DAY 7 – COVID-19 Test and Back home 🙁
COLDEST DAY. It was 67 mph winds (flight was delayed because of this) and again 19-20 F.
Explored some more of Reykjavik, then headed to KEF for COVID-19 test and car return.
1. Remember to schedule your COVID-19 test if you visit during pandemic times.
Link: COVID-19 Test. FREE, easy, fast, and close to KEF airport.
- To get to Iceland we took a PCR 72 hours before traveling + had to show our vaccine cards + fill out a health declaration form upon arrival.
- To go back home we just took a rapid antigen test and they only glanced at in KEF, not in JFK or back in FLL.
2. My only regret was not finding the famous fermented shark dish, just to try it.
3. Other food options we tried and loved: Brauð & co. (breakfast). Cafe Loki (everything). Messinn (dinner – seafood).
4. 7 days is barely enough to touch the surface of sights in Iceland. I would advise a longer time there if possible.
5. Iceland is expensive in comparison to other European countries.
6. You won’t need any cash – not USD or ISK. They take credit and debit card everywhere (even AMEX in most places).
7. Gratuity is not customary there.
8. The weather is so unpredictable in Iceland. We saw a souvenir shirt that said “In Iceland if you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes” and after a week there this definitely speaks volumes to me.
9. Find natural/free geothermal (hot) springs other than the Blue Lagoon. They are everywhere and whenever we had some time to spare we would google search “geothermal spring near me” and just drive there. This felt so authentically Icelandic and we loved it.
10. We all had T-Mobile and it works great in Iceland. You’ll have GPS/Data/Texts. Calls are 25 cents a minute unless you’re on wifi.
11. There aren’t a lot of chicken options anywhere in Iceland. More of a seafood/lamb/reindeer meat type of a place.
12. The locals are extremely nice and helpful, everywhere.
13. We cannot get over how good the yogurt and ice cream is in Iceland.
14. The water in Iceland is superb. We even drank straight from streams and the glaciers.
15. I’ve been asked repeatedly “what do you think is the best time of year to go to Iceland?” Two things:
- A local described a “perfect” summer day as 65 F & from mid-May to mid-August there are basically 24 hrs of daylight (sun may set for about 3 hours a day).
- Glacier tours are only available from October to March. So if this is something you want to do, take that into consideration when planning your trip.
16. GO TO ICELAND. That is all.
In conclusion, Iceland feels like you’re on another planet at times. The landscapes and pristine sights transform you, & we cannot wait to go back.