My 4 Day Iceland Itinerary
My husband and I took a quick trip to Iceland in May of 2019, and we left yearning for a return. Our trip was actually broken into two 2-day visits with a 5 day detour to Scotland sandwiched in-between.
That being said, 4 straight days of Iceland could result in loads more inter-country travel options as you wouldn’t need to stay within close proximity to the airport. However you slice it, my itinerary provides options for both 2 and 4 day excursions and is a great place to start for first-time visitors to Iceland.
Day 1 - Selfloss
Our red-eye flight from Dulles airport landed in Reykjavik (KEF) just after 9 am. Before grabbing our rental car we snagged a few bottles of vino from the Duty Free store as alcohol in Iceland can be very expensive. We also picked up our pre-rented wifi hotspot from the kiosk outside of Customs. For more info on the logistics of Iceland travel, see my other article!
We couldn’t check in to our guesthouse in Selfloss until 4 pm, so we killed a few hours by stopping for photo-ops along the hour and a half drive (we took the southern route). After stopping for lunch at Hafid Blaa restaurant in Eyrarbakki for some seafood stew and warm lobster salad, we took a spontaneous detour to a bird sanctuary along the route that we saw signs for. We spotted tons of beautiful birds in the wetlands there, and were thankful we were wearing waterproof hiking boots. Sheep and their lambs roamed freely across the roads, which made for a serene introduction to the country.
We stayed at Guesthouse Bitra just outside of Selfloss, which had quaint accommodations with a shared bathroom. If we traveled to this part again, we’d opt for something a bit more private. After a shower and a nap, we drove into Selfloss for a nice dinner at Tryggvaskali. This place is a must-try if you visit southwest Iceland!
Day 2 - Golden Circle
We woke up early and ate breakfast at the guesthouse. Ended up on the road just after 8 am, which in retrospect was perfect timing to avoid major crowds. During the peak tourist season, I’d recommend starting your drive even earlier (6-7 am).
After a beautiful 45 minute drive (without a car in sight!) we made our first stop at Thingvellir National Park. This is where the two tectonic plates of both North America and Eurasia merge together creating a beautiful split in the park. At the top of the trail is a scenic overlook and gift shop where we snagged a coffee and chocolate bar before heading down the trail again. The history of this park dates back to the Vikings and is also home to the Prime Minister’s summer residence.
Our second stop was Geysir where the second largest geyser in the world erupts every 8-10 minutes. We watched its performance, then hiked to the top of the hill for some of the most spectacular views of the country-side. There’s a massive gift shop and food court at the base where you can stop for a bathroom break and lunch if you want. We opted to keep moving to avoid the crowd and snacked on a few goodies we purchased in Selfloss.
Next stop was Gullfoss waterfall, which was our favorite stop along the route. The waterfall itself is breathtakingly gorgeous, but, oddly, my favorite part of this site was the view of the glacier 60 miles off in the distance. It was so massive that it created the illusion that you could observe the curvature of the Earth.
Our final stop was the Secret Lagoon, which is one of a few hot springs along the route to choose from. Another popular option is the Fontana Baths, but while we didn’t visit that one, we were more than satisfied with the Secret Lagoon, which is also the oldest natural hot spring in Iceland. How can you go wrong with that?! Entrance was 3,000 kr per person and towel rental was 700 kr. A bit steep, but totally worth it. Also highly recommend the fish and chips stand outside the spring.
We returned to the guesthouse around 4 pm and headed out for dinner after relaxing and cleaning up a bit. My husband found a nice restaurant in Stokkseyri by the ocean called Fjorubordid, which specializes in langoustine.
Day 3 - Reykjavik / Blue Lagoon
We checked into a nice Airbnb in the heart of Reykjavik and then went for an early breakfast at Kaffitar (this is the Icelandic equivalent of Starbucks). We found ourselves returning to this spot multiple times for good coffee and pastries.
Today we planned on checking out the ever-so-famous Blue Lagoon. To be honest, I’m normally turned off by places like these that get so much hype and are the Siren-song for tourists, but I also knew that it was something I just had to experience once. Can’t knock it if you don’t try it, right?
It took us about 30 minutes to get there, which was just in time for our 9 am reservation. I highly recommend getting there no later than 9 am if you want to avoid massive crowds. We could tell as soon as we arrived that this was a major operation, and actually felt like we’d stumbled upon the lair of the villain in a James Bond movie. We were issued wristbands that were synced to our credit cards, which made ordering drinks at the lagoon-side bar deceptively convenient. A free facemask, cocktails and great people-watching await you here. Not to mention all the Instagram-worthy photo-ops that everyone shamelessly takes (myself included).
Would I go back? Probably not. The water was lukewarm at best, the drinks were expensive, and it’s one of those places that you only need to see once. All that to say that you should definitely check it out for yourself. Do it for the ‘gram.
We got back to Reykjavik around lunchtime and opted for a simple street dog at none other than Reykjavik Street Dog. We spent the rest of the day checking out the city and doing some window-shopping. For dinner we had a classic Icelandic meal at Islenski Barinn where my husband ordered the fish pie and I got the Icelandic meat soup and cod skin chips. We also ordered dung-smoked salmon as an appetizer…literally salmon smoked is sheep sh**. Would you think I’m weird if I said it was great?
Day 4 - Reykjavik / Glymur
On our last full day in Iceland, we decided to take a hike to the top of Glymur; Iceland’s second-highest waterfall, at 196 meters in height. From what we’d briefly read, this was a quick, easy hike, but we soon found out that this was misinformation…or perhaps advice written by an experienced hiker for whom this trail was no biggie.
The site was about an hour’s drive outside of Reykjavik along a beautifully winding highway from which you could spot wild horses on the cliffsides. The trailhead itself starts about a mile down a dirt road. During mid-May, the lupine was beginning to bloom and left a subtle purple hue on all the hills. This also added to the illusion that we were in for a slow, relaxing hike on our last day in Iceland. About 500 meters down the path, the hiker is forced to choose between two paths that aren’t clearly marked. The one to the left leads to an overlook from which casual hikers can observe the waterfall from afar…we should’ve chosen this path. The path to the right took us down a steep staircase and through a small cave that led to the river at the base. From here, you traverse a long log across some rapids before being faced with a steep uphill climb that is in desperate need of repair. You then hike (more like climb, balance and skirt) along a steep cliffside for another kilometer before finally reaching the top of the waterfall. This hike is not for the faint of heart, but is a sure way to breathtaking views and a feeling of intense, albeit terrifying, accomplishment.
We definitely deserved a good meal after that excursion. A splurge at Sushi Social in downtown Reykjavik was just what the doctor ordered. We opted for the Icelandic Feast, which was a seven course Icelandic-Asian fusion dinner spread complete with smoked puffin and raw whale. Highly recommend this place to all foodies (reservations recommended).
After passing out early, we woke up and had a few hours in the morning to kill before heading to the airport. We decided to make one last stop for a meal at a fun bar we’d been eyeing the last few nights; Lebowskibar. That’s right. This bar is all things Big Lebowski, complete with a bowling lane bolted to the wall. White Russians and burgers awaited us as our final meal. It’s these kinds of quirky places that really gave the downtown its charm.
That about sums it up! 4 days in Iceland was just enough to scratch the surface and I can’t wait to go back!
about the author
Riley is an active duty US Army Captain and the Founder of Right and Up. She’s currently stationed in Washington, DC, with previous assignments at Fort Huachuca, Fort Bliss, Fort Riley and Fort Benning. You can typically find her eating embarrassingly large amounts of food in local restaurants, or exploring her military town with her husband, Sean and her dog, Gus. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!