Updated on December 21st, 2021
The Land of Fire & Ice has so much adventure to offer visitors that it’s hard to know where to start, especially if you’re limited for time. For me, taking a road trip along the south coast gave the perfect introduction to its stunning glaciers, epic volcanoes, spectacular waterfalls and mind-blowing landscapes. If you want to experience all these natural wonders for yourself, here is my perfect Iceland 6 day itinerary.”
South Coast of Iceland from Reykjavik to Jökulsárlón (Glacier Lagoon)
I had already fallen in love with this magnificent country during my adventures in the north. It had been an epic week at a life-affirming yoga retreat in Akureyri where I had also been hiking, whale watching & horse-riding. We had explored the otherworldly landscapes around the mind-blowing volcanic Mývatn area & soaked in the healing waters of the “Blue Lagoon of the North”. And…I had even had the privilege of seeing the infamous Northern Lights!
So, by the time I headed back to Reykjavik, I thought Iceland couldn’t get any better. How wrong I was! The south coast delivers everything within easy reach of the capital. Stunning waterfalls? Check. Mind-blowing glaciers? Check. Active volcanic landscapes? Check. Spectacular scenery at every turn? Check. So, if you only have 6 days to explore & fancy hiring a car & going on an adventure, here is the perfect Iceland Itinerary for you!
By the way, if you love the look of Iceland & fancy joining the same yoga retreat next year, there’s a trip going on 28th May 2022. Click on this link for all the details & a $100 discount.
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When is the best time for this Iceland 6 Day Itinerary?
Summertime (June – August) will usually be the answer to this question in Iceland. Not only is the weather milder, but most importantly, the days are longer. The closer to the winter solstice (21st December) you travel, the shorter the days will get. The minimum daylight could be as low as 4 hours. As this is a busy road trip, you want as much daylight as possible to allow you to make the most of each day. In addition, the road conditions will be better in the summer months as the snow in wintertime may make some routes impassable.
I went in September & although it was busy, the crowds were manageable & I never felt like there were too many people (& I hate crowds!).”
What to know about this Iceland 6 Day Itinerary?
To fully immerse in this trip, you will need to hire a car (advice on that later). Most places will be accessible on excellent tours should you feel uncomfortable driving or prefer the comfort of a tour bus. Plenty of options are included here. It would be possible to pack more into your days or go further. However, I was driving alone & with long distances, it was tiring. I also prefer to take my time & travel slow. Sitting & watching in wonder was something I did a lot in Iceland! If you feel you would like to do the same, then this is definitely the itinerary for you!
Your Ultimate Iceland 6 Day Itinerary
The best way to ease yourself into your Icelandic adventure is to explore the city a little. Obviously, how much depends on what time you arrive. With limited time I would fully recommend taking one of the free walking tours on offer from citywalk.is for a great introduction & an insight into Icelandic culture.
After the tour, head over to Hallgrímskirkja. Marvel at the architecture, based on the hexagonal volcanic basalt rock found throughout the country. The interior is quite plain by comparison with the centrepiece being an impressive 5275-pipe organ. Don’t miss the chance to take the lift up the tower for great views of the city.
From here, make your way to the water & one of my favourite sites in Reykjavik, the stunning Sun Voyager sculpture.
The sculptor intended it to convey the “promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom.” This resonated strongly with me as Iceland was my first destination post lockdown!”
For more on Reykjavik, check out my guide on the best 3-day itinerary.
Reykjavik is small & easily explored on foot, so you won’t need a car for the first day. But you will now! I suggest you get a taxi to the BSÍ Bus Station or to save money, walk. It’s only 20 minutes from the centre of the city on foot. Ideally pre-book your car to save time.
Situated just off the Ring Road, Seljalandsfoss cascades 60 metres down a cliff into a pool that looks way too small to contain the sheer volume of water crashing into it. The waterfall has carved a cave into the cliff which allows you to walk completely around it. Be warned though, you will get wet & the rocks will be slippery, but it is the perfect antidote to a long drive in the car!
Gljúfrabúi falls from the same cliff just 500 metres away from Seljalandsfoss & effectively falls into a canyon, behind the rock face. If feels mystical & undiscovered as most people miss it!”
Less than a 30-minute drive further along the coast, brings you to another spectacle at Skógafoss. And this one is epic! Skógafoss sits 15 metres across, 60 metres high & is all power! It is totally invigorating to get as close as you can but be prepared to get soaked as the spray stretches a long way from the waterfall itself.
If you can, don’t miss climbing the steps nearby. The staircase looks quite ominous & can be hard going but is well worth the effort. Seeing the sheer volume of water thunder over the edge of the cliff is awe-inspiring. However, don’t just stop there. A short walk further along the track brings you another epic set of falls which many fail to see.
Next is the famous black-sand beach, Reynisfjara. In 1991 the National Geographic named this spot in their top 10 non-tropical beaches in the world & for good reason. It combines enormous basalt sea stacks, fascinating caves & roaring Atlantic waves which create spectacular panoramas. The sea stacks themselves are a favourite of local bird populations. If you look closely, you may spot puffins, fulmars & guillemots.
However, it comes with a warning! The rogue waves can be powerful & incredibly unpredictable. Do not venture too close to the water & never turn your back on the sea.”
After this, I suggest you head to Vik & stay for the next 2 nights. Check out the Hotel Kria, Hotel Vik i Myrdal, Hotel Katla by Keahotels. Alternatively, you may choose to carry on driving for another couple of hours to put you much closer to your goal for the day tomorrow. If so, try Adventure Hotel Hof, Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon or Hotel Skaftafell.
Day 3 – Skaftafell & Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
From Vik, it is a 2 ½ hour drive to Jökulsárlón which is an adventure in itself! It is a desolate-looking route, characterised by distant volcanoes & glaciers as you cross the flat landscape created by the Ice Age. It is like nowhere else I had ever driven before & certainly not somewhere you want to break down!
And while we’re on the subject… a word of warning:
Keep an eye on your fuel levels as I had almost run out by the time I reached Jökulsárlón. I expected to find somewhere there. Not the case! Panic set in when the first filling station didn’t take foreign credit cards. It was Sunday & there was nobody there to help.
I was forced to run the gauntlet, alone on the isolated roads. It was OK but a friend of mine had exactly the same thing happen…& got a flat tyre. Therefore, let our experiences help & make sure you never let the fuel levels run too low!”
Skaftafell Nature Reserve
Skaftafell Nature Reserve is famous for its beautiful contrasting landscapes with waterfalls, black sand deserts & geological formations. It is also an amazing place to hike. Unfortunately, I didn’t get chance to explore the area (but I always like a reason to return!). It is also a fantastic place to try caving or glacier hiking (but hold that thought for later!).
After a long drive, you will be rewarded with the spectacle of Jökulsárlón. The lake is created by meltwater from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, a tributary of Europe’s largest ice cap (Vatnajökull). However, what makes this lagoon so special are the chunks that break off, creating huge icebergs, some floating several stories high. They are a kaleidoscope of colours with bright blue, black, white, some completely transparent & many a combination of these.
Despite its beauty, Jökulsárlón is a stark reminder of the effects of global warming. The lake here only started to form in 1935 & has already become the deepest in Iceland. It is rapidly growing & could soon also be the largest. In fact, the lake has more than doubled in size since 1975. It is a sobering thought that this display is temporary as it is expected to transform from lake to deep fjord.
Keep your eyes peeled for seals (I saw several) but if you spot any on the beach, keep your distance. These will be pups & their mothers are close by. They will attack aggressively if they feel their offspring are being threatened.”
The icebergs can remain in the lagoon, melting & refreezing for up to 5 years before they eventually make their way out to sea. But on the way, many arrive on the beach. They create an exquisite panorama as they glisten in the sunshine like gemstones. Hence how Diamond Beach got its name!
When you can tear yourself away, take the long drive back to Vik for the night.
Day 4 – Sólheimajökull Glacier & Sólheimasandur plane wreck
Day 4 on this Iceland 6 day itinerary is less about driving, & more about hiking. Depending on how energetic you feel, you could choose just one or both activities.
Sólheimasandur plane wreck
Unfortunately, I ran out of time to take this hike, but I have included it here, so you don’t! Overall, it is a 7 kilometre (4.3 miles) round trip. It is a well-marked track but as far as I understand, not a particularly interesting walk. You hike across the flat ground & can only see the plane when you get close.
The prize for your efforts is the remains of a United States Navy DC-3 which crashed here in 1973 after running out of fuel. Except it turns out it didn’t, the pilot just switched to the wrong fuel tank! Thankfully no one was hurt in the accident. It does get busy so if you want the place to yourself, start the walk early.
Not feel like taking the hike? You could opt to explore on an ATV tour.
Sólheimajökull Glacier is the southernmost glacier of Iceland & lies between Vik & Skógafoss waterfall. Unfortunately, it is another place to study the impact of climate change. Sólheimajökull has been melting fast & it is believed that the glacier is currently losing 60 meters of length & 10 to 20 metres of thickness each year. There is now a lagoon in front of the glacier which only began to form in 2007. The lagoon is around 70 meters deep, the same height as the famous Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavik.
If melting continues at this rate, the lake could stretch to 4 ½ kilometres up through the valley where the glacier currently sits. That’s a terrifying pace.”
Hiking on the glacier was one of the best activities I did during my whole time in Iceland (& it had a lot of competition!). To read all about the experience then head straight over to my blog post dedicated to my afternoon on this epic glacier.
For the penultimate night on this Iceland 6 day itinerary, I suggest staying in either Hella or Selfoss. I stayed just outside Hella in the Hotel Ranga which is the perfect place to get away from it all, especially if you have a penchant for wood cladding, taxidermy & enjoy the relaxing rejuvenation of a hot tub. Due to its isolation, it is also an excellent place to see the Northern Lights. If you’re lucky. For Selfoss, check out the options using the search box below.
This is the most popular tour in Iceland for good reason which makes it unmissable. For more details, check out my blog post on how to get the most out of your visit to the Golden Circle.
Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park
Thingvellir National Park has huge historical significance as the location of the first-ever parliament (not just in Iceland…in the world). It also marks the point where two mighty tectonic plates meet. Here you can walk in No-man’s-land through the gap where the North American & Eurasian plates are pulling apart. And don’t miss your chance to snorkel in the freezing glacial waters between the two plates. Head to my post for all you need before snorkelling in the Silfra Fissure.
Gullfoss waterfall thunders down the canyon, falling 32 metres en route. However, it is less about the height, more the sheer volume of water which is mesmerising. Gullfoss is one of the most spectacular waterfalls I have ever visited, & I’ve seen a few epic ones in my time (Niagara, Victoria & Iguazu Falls to name a few). To see this natural wonder for yourself then check out my video below.
Geysir Geothermal Area
All geysers in the world were named after the explosive water spring here, which ironically is currently inactive. Luckily, it’s neighbour Strokkur sends its plume of hot water up to 30 metres into the air, roughly every 5-10 minutes. You’ll also find several bright blue steaming & bubbling pools to discover in this mind-boggling area.
That evening, enjoy your final night on the epic Iceland 6 day itinerary in the city, staying in a hotel in Reykjavik.
Day 6 – Blue Lagoon
It’s been a busy 6 days so what better way to say goodbye to this mind-blowing country than to visit what has been named one of the 25 Wonders of the World (National Geographic again, this time in 2012). Even better, it is perfectly situated between the city & the airport, so it’s the ideal stop on your way back home! The Blue Lagoon itself is manmade but the water is a mix of underground geothermally heated & freshwater.
It is full of algae, silica & minerals which combine to be an excellent toner for your skin. The lagoon is so named as the water looks blue when the sun is reflected but in fact, is a milky white colour.”
I hope you have enjoyed my 6-day itinerary for Iceland. I believe it gives a fantastic overview of some of the best that this fascinating country has to offer & is perfect for anyone wanting to make the most of a short stay. Although I have included lots of tour options, I wholeheartedly encourage you to drive yourself. With these spectacular landscapes, I really do feel that the journey is a huge part of the adventure.
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