The Best 8 Day Iceland Adventure Itinerary

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Iceland is full of sharp contrasts, it is after all a country where fire and ice co-exist. Where the winters are long and dark, but the summer’s midnight sun makes up for it, making the summer days feel much longer.

Recommended Read: The Best Time to Visit Iceland

Iceland has been a dream of mine for about 5 years now. The first time I saw pictures my jaw dropped. Who knew the country with “ice” in the name was so stunning and has such a diverse landscape? Not me. Iceland immediately jumped to the top of my bucket list. I started researching how much a trip to Iceland would cost me… and my jaw dropped again. There was no way I could afford that! Or was there? *Puts on thinking cap*

Here’s my 8-Day Itinerary for Iceland’s Ring Road

How to Get to Iceland

Fly into Reykjavik International Airport (KEF) to get to Iceland. Flights are typically one of the largest expenses when traveling. I fly on budget airlines frequently, especially if it’s going to end up saving me a couple hundred dollars a flight.

We chose a great time to visit Iceland because we flew direct from Detroit into Iceland for under $300 USD on the airline WOW. The budget airline was in operation from 2012-2019 and is no longer running. So as of today in 2022 there are no direct flights out of Detroit and prices range from $500 – $1500 USD.

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Iceland is full of sharp contrasts. This is a country with fire and ice co-existing. Where the winters are long and dark, but the summer’s midnight sun makes up for it, making the day’s feel much longer in summer. Diamond beach also known as the black sand beach is a must visit on your Iceland road trip.
Diamond Beach

How to Get Around Iceland

Once we arrived in Reykjavik, we took the Airport Direct bus into the city (we found that to be the cheapest way into the city without a rental car). Grace was arriving last so she would be driving the rental car into town later. The bus had WIFI and put public transportation buses in the US to shame. We were dropped off within walking distance of our Airbnb and the city’s attractions.

A rental car is necessary if you plan to explore Iceland’s ring road or outside the city of Reykjavik. Another option is to use public transportation around the city and visit the surrounding area via tours that pick you up from your hotel in Reykjavik.

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Day 1 in Reykjavik

Reykjavik is extremely walkable, so I’d recommend exploring on foot with a Citywalk tour.

Hallgrímskirkja Iceland church in Reykjavik
Hallgrímskirkja

Perhaps the most iconic building in Reykjavik, Hallgrímskirkja is a beautiful Lutheran church standing 244 ft high. The height of the church makes it the largest church in Iceland, and one of the tallest structures in the country!

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SUN VOYAGER ICELAND

Reykjavik Sun Voyager Sculpture

The Sun Voyager is a sculpture created by Jón Gunnar. The Sun Voyager sits along the coastline of the city and has a cool history. In 1986 Gunnar’s design for Sun Voyager won best outdoor sculpture in a competition funded by the city. The competition’s purpose was to create a sculpture that would commemorate the 200th anniversary of the city.

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Where to Get Food in Iceland

Snacking on the traditional Icelandic food was… interesting. Logan tried things where I drew the line, such as fermented shark and dried pounded fish. The rye bread ice cream, however, I could eat in gallons. If you’re a foodie, why not try out a food tour with a local?

Icelandic hot dogs are not like ordinary hot dogs, because they’re made mostly from Icelandic lamb, along with a bit of pork and beef. We ordered ours the traditional Icelandic way. A hot dog on a warm, steamed bun topped with TWO kinds of onions- raw white, and crispy fried onions, finished off with ketchup, sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep, and remoulade, a sauce made with mayo, capers, mustard, and herbs. It was delicious, and much preferred by locals over the fermented shark.

Traditional Icelandic breakfast

SO MUCH COFFEE. Iceland knows coffee, every cup I had was exceptionally delicious. Which is GREAT, because it’s cold and rainy almost all the time, and coffee is a requirement for me to become a functioning human in the mornings.

Everything about Iceland is expensive. Including the food.

We easily spent around $25-50 per person a meal while in the city. Before we drove to our first cabin we went grocery shopping at the local Bonus to get groceries for the first few days so we didn’t have to eat out.

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When is the best time to visit Iceland? Well, that depends on what you would like to see and what activities you want to do. Full of sharp contrasts and dramatic landscapes such as the northern lights. You'll find volcanoes, geysers, and several hot springs, including the famous Blue Lagoon. You can take a tour through a lava field, into ice caves, or hidden treasures.

Spend 3 Days in Golden Circle

We headed east towards Thingvellir National Park where our next Airbnb was. The road trip had officially begun!  Make sure to check the road conditions during your trip, the weather in Iceland is unpredictable, in one hour we saw sunny clear warm weather turn to hail and wind-blown frost.

If you haven’t yet used VRBO to travel, you’re missing out on some amazing deals. VRBO and Skyscanner are the two KEY TOOLS I use when planning and budgeting for my trips. What are the two largest expenses for travel? Accommodation, and flights. So where do you want to maximize your savings and cut costs? Accommodation, and flights. But seriously… check these out. 

You Might Also Like: 10 Best Places to Stay in Reykjavik

We spent two nights in this stunning cabin. Like most cabins in Iceland, this one came with a hot tub and was in great proximity to all the major attractions we wanted to see in The Golden Circle!

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Golden Circle Tour in Iceland

Golden Circle Activities

  • Chase breathtaking Icelandic waterfalls.
  • Enjoy stunning diverse views along your Golden Circle road trip.
  • Witness the wonders of the Strokkur geyser, it erupts every 5 minutes!
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Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland

Chasing Waterfalls in Iceland

Gullfoss (translated to ‘Golden Falls’) is one of Iceland’s most iconic and beloved waterfalls, found in the Hvítá river canyon in Southwest Iceland. For those who rent a car or take a Golden Circle tour, the Gullfoss waterfall can be reached within two hours from Iceland’s capital. 

Read: Iceland’s Most Beautiful Waterfalls Bucket List

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Iceland Faxi waterfall along the Golden Circle

Faxi waterfall

The Faxi waterfall is located on the Golden Circle but is a hidden gem not many tourists know about. Directions can be confusing due to the lack of signage so follow your GPS to the small parking lot leading to the waterfall.

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Lake Kerid is a must see while visiting Iceland's Golden Circle

Lake Kerid

Kerið is a volcanic crater lake located in the Grímsnes area in south Iceland, along the Golden Circle. There is a small entry fee of 400 ISK ($3.20 USD). There are hiking trails leading to the bottom of the crater and around the lake. The other trail takes you around the perimeter of the crater. You are not allowed to swim in the lake.

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Geysir

A favorite stop along the Golden Circle is the highly active Geysir Hot Spring Area with boiling mud pits, and exploding geysers. The lively Strokkur geyser spouts water 30 meters (100 ft) into the air every few minutes so you won’t miss it! There is also a shop and ice cream where you can get snacks and souvenirs.

The "blue waterfall" in Iceland is Bruarfoss. The bright blue water will amaze you, the hike is not too far, but can be muddy and difficult to find.

Bruarfoss

When we visited in 2018 the “blue waterfall” of Iceland was a hidden gem, and difficult to get to because it wasn’t marked as an official trail. We parked in a very small parking lot where our GPS led us.

There was a trail leading into a farmer’s private land that we were hesitant to follow. But it wouldn’t be an adventure in Iceland unless we did because the bruarfoss waterfall was on my Iceland bucket list. As we made our way to the waterfall we followed the trail through rain and hail along a blue river.

Mud caked my boots, my pants, my FACE, everything and tree branches pulled at my hair.

Hoping you have better weather – as of 2022 the trail and parking lot are well marked and bruarfoss is much more accessible.

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Spend 2 Days in Southern Iceland

Head south from the Golden Circle to continue your journey along Iceland’s Ring Road. The two-hour drive will take you to Vik, where we took a tour with Arctic Adventures.

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Katla Ice Cave Tour

Our tour guide was awesome, enthusiastic, and a slightly crazy driver. Our group drove through scenic landscapes of black sand and bright green mountains to the volcano Katla in a tour van.

Go on an adventure tour inside the Katla Ice Cave!

Once there we were provided safety gear such as helmets, and crampons. These are required to be worn during the ice cave tour, trust me – you’ll want them. After the tour, we still had plenty of time to explore until it got dark out.

Skogafoss

There were a couple of attempts to go behind the waterfall…

After the successful attempt at getting soaked- we went inside a local restaurant next to the waterfall parking lot to warm up with some delicious lamb stew.

Visit one of the many waterfalls Iceland has to offer, including the "rainbow waterfall" Skogafoss


Skogafoss waterfall in south Iceland

Just around the corner from Skogafoss is a local restaurant next to the waterfall you'll see a parking lot to warm up with some delicious lamb stew.


South Iceland road trip itinerary.

Seljalandsfoss

Thanks to that summer midnight sun! The picture above was taken around 11:00 p.m. Remember that in May, the day’s in Iceland are long, and the sun never fully sets at night, at midnight you’ll still see the sun on the horizon.

Seljalandsfoss Iceland

This meant a couple things, 1. We weren’t going to be seeing the northern lights (huge bummer, huge) 2. Sleeping at “night” became a challenge. Without black out shades/curtains and no sleeping mask, it was difficult to fall asleep and confusing when you woke up (I never knew what time it was). We talked to a couple locals about it and they laughed, and said we’re used to it, it’s all they knew! I would recommend bringing a sleeping mask if you’re visiting in the spring/summer months.

South Iceland cabin accommodations.


Laufskálavarða

The south coast of the island is unbelievably beautiful. On our way to the glacier lagoon we came across what used to be a giant farm. Back in 894, the first recorded volcano eruption of Katla (yes, the same one we went under to get to the ice caves) destroyed the entire farm.

Laufskálavarða The south coast of the island is unbelievably beautiful. On our way to the glacier lagoon we came across what used to be a giant farm. Back in 894, the first recorded volcano eruption of Katla (yes, the same one we went under to get to the ice caves) destroyed the entire farm.

Laufskálavarða, is a lava mound that was named after the farm. In memory of those that were lost, it is surrounded by stone cairns. Travelers crossing the desert of Mýrdalssandur for the first time would pile stones up to make a cairn, which was supposed to bring them good luck on their journey. The tradition continues to this day, leave a stone when you drive by!

Laufskálavarða The south coast of the island is unbelievably beautiful. On our way to the glacier lagoon we came across what used to be a giant farm. Back in 894, the first recorded volcano eruption of Katla (yes, the same one we went under to get to the ice caves) destroyed the entire farm.


Secret Glacier Lagoon

 As we continued our drive along the coastline we came to our next stop, the “secret” glacier lagoon. We found it thinking it was the main glacier lagoon we were trying to get to… it wasn’t. Looking around, we had the place to ourselves. We realized we had found “the secret lagoon” the local’s told us about.

As we continued our drive along the coastline we came to our next stop, the "secret" glacier lagoon. We found it thinking it was the main glacier lagoon we were trying to get to... it wasn't. Looking around, we had the place to ourselves. We realized we had found "the secret lagoon" the local's told us about.

As we continued our drive along the coastline we came to our next stop, the "secret" glacier lagoon. We found it thinking it was the main glacier lagoon we were trying to get to... it wasn't. Looking around, we had the place to ourselves. We realized we had found "the secret lagoon" the local's told us about.


Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

We were greeted immediately by the reindeer grazing in a clearing when we pulled in to park. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a must-visit destination on your trip to Iceland. Boat tours are available on the lagoon to take you further into the glacier water. We were shocked that despite the freezing water of the lagoon, it was full of wildlife.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a must visit destination on your trip to Iceland. Boat tours are available on the lagoon to take you further into the glacier water.

Reindeer at 
Reindeer around Iceland's Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon- a must visit destination on your trip to Iceland. Boat tours are available on the lagoon to take you further into the glacier water.

We watched the sea lions play in the lagoon while we sat and listened to the sounds of the ice moving in the water. After we’d had our fill of adorable animal friends we headed out of the lagoon and across the street.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Iceland


Diamond Beach

The ice from the glacier lagoon washes ashore the black sand beach. Scattered across the beach were giant chunks of ice, giving the beach the famous name “Diamond Beach”.

Diamond beach, or black sand beach is by Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon both are a must visit destination on your trip to Iceland. Boat tours are available on the lagoon to take you further into the glacier water.

When we could no longer handle the cold beach in our wet clothes, we headed back to our cabin for the night, where more amazing scenery awaited.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a must visit destination on your trip to Iceland. Boat tours are available on the lagoon to take you further into the glacier water.

Our next cabin had a sheep farm in the back yard, and it was spring. That means BABIES. And in my opinion, there are few things cuter in this world then baby animals. I sat on my bed while I watched them play outside my window. With the window open, I could hear them BAAAing at each other and feel the crisp salty air blowing in off of the sea. (BLISS)

AirBnb in North Iceland
Baby lamb are everywhere in Iceland during the spring.


Spend Two Days in North Iceland


We got up early and took advantage of the complimentary breakfast the cottage offered.  It was a 5.5-hour drive north to get to the city of Akureyri, Iceland’s second-most populous city. We spent 2 nights in the northern part of Iceland, chasing waterfalls and exploring the Lake Myvatn areas.

Dimmuborgir hike in North Iceland

Goðafoss

Goðafoss is one of the most visited waterfalls of Iceland's north.

Skútustaðagígar

Skútustaðagígar is an amazing hike you can do in Northern Iceland

Dimmuborgir

Dimmuborgir hike in North Iceland

Hofdi

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Hverfjall

Hverfjall crater is located in North Iceland. A hike takes you to the top of the massive crater you can see from the road.

The top of Hverfjall crater overlook. The crater is located in North Iceland, a hike takes you to the top of the massive crater you can see from the road.


Krafla Vita Crater

Krafla Vita crater is located in North Iceland by the famous power station. A hike takes you to the top of the massive crater.

Krafla Vita crater is located in North Iceland by the famous power station. A hike takes you to the top of the massive crater.


Last Day: Blue Lagoon

It was another long drive from Akureyri to Reykjavik. We had an appointment at the Blue Lagoon in the afternoon we were trying to make. The national speed limit of Iceland is 90 km/h on paved rural roads… which is REALLY slow when you’re driving around the entire country. Which is probably why we got pulled over in the middle of nowhere and received a speeding ticket. Trust me guys, you DO NOT want to get pulled over for speeding in Iceland- like everything else, the tickets are outrageously expensive.

BLUE LAGOON ICELAND

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27 comments

  1. Looks like you had a brilliant time in such an interesting and different country. You made me want to put it on my wishlist!

  2. Wow, this is such a great guide. Iceland has been on my list forever. I’m still a little hesitant for three reasons: Firstly, I’m afraid it will ruin me. Secondly, I’m not driving and wonder how to get around. And finally, I’m afraid it might be a bit too packed with visitors. But all three reasons aside: I definitely will go.

  3. I could do Iceland anytime! Loved it there. But I must return for the ring road trip. I am bookmarking this post for future reference 🙂 Great photos 🙂

    1. I’m so glad we did the whole ring road. There was a lot of unique spots that you don’t see very often in travel blogs because of how remote they are. I’m dying to go back during the winter so I can photograph the northern lights 😍🌈

  4. Iceland is such a fascinating country. We were there a few years ago and loved it. I especially enjoyed your photos of the ice cave tour. We did not do that, but seriously considered it. Your time there looks amazing.

    1. I was so excited the tour was available when we were there (May 20 for my 30th 🙂 ). It was the only tour we did while we were there because they were all so expensive 🙁 we want to go back during the winter to see the northern lights for the first time.

  5. Looks am amazing trip. Was planning a visit just as the C-word hit, so on hold for now. That Rye bread and ice cream sounds interesting, I’ll have to remember that for whenever we finally get to Iceland.

    1. The C-word hahahahah too funny. I was planning an Iceland trip with a client for September, now we have to move it to next spring/summer 🙁 the ice cream was SO GOOD lol the fish/shark.. not.

  6. What a shame about WOW … they were a cheap flight operator that did flights to the West Coast of the US, and I’d been harboring dreams of using a layover as an excuse to visit the island. Now I feel like I’ve missed out. What diverse landscape, and I love the idea of the endless day.

    1. YES. I had planned on doing the exact same but over to London 😂😂I’m in Detroit, so we had a layover in Boston to get there. So sad when they went out of business. The sun not setting was a first for us, and VERY cool. Now we are talking about going back during the winter, so we can see the northern lights for the first time. I have a drone and +2 more years experience in photography now, so I want to go there for all the photos of the beautiful nature 🤗

  7. Thanks for this detailed guide and beautiful photos!! I can’t believe all this was seen in 8 days! Iceland is definitely high up on my post covid list 🙂

    1. hahaha yes… if there is anything I am good at, it’s using our vacation time as efficiently as possible to see the most things in a quality amount of time 🤗 probably why i’m now a travel agent 😂

  8. You stayed in some really cute cabins! Were they all Airbnb? I have been to Iceland a couple of times, but always in the winter. Great for seeing the Northern Lights, but I would like to see the country looking more spring-like.

    1. That’s funny because my partner and I were just talking about how we’re ready to go back, but want to go in the winter. Obviously to see the northern lights haha we were there for my 30th bday (2 years ago on May 20th) so it was cool to see the sun not set, that was a first for all of us.

  9. This looks like the ideal trip to Iceland! We have really wanted to go see her for a while and now that they are anticipating being open again by June 15 it is looking more realistic. Will save this post as a guide!

    1. oh my goodness! I hope you are able to make it, you will love it. I was there for my 30th birthday (2 years ago on May 20th) and my partner and I were just saying how it’s time to go back haha

  10. I spend a whole moth in Iceland and I think it is still one of my favorite destination in the World. Probably I should go back! Nice post and pictures, seems you had fun 🙂

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