4-day Iceland Itinerary: Weekend Getaway

4-Day Perfect Getaway to Iceland

Get ready for an otherworldly adventure to the land of fire and ice! On your trip, you’ll see cascading waterfalls, steaming geysers, black sand beaches, and more. Use this post to get inspired and ready for the ultimate Icelandic journey, filled with unforgettable experiences and breathtaking moments.

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Getting to Iceland with Icelandair

One of the easiest and most affordable ways to get to Iceland is via Icelandair. Icelandair has direct flights from major cities like Chicago, Orlando, New York City, Denver, and Boston to Reykjavik, so, for many, the flight to Iceland just takes a few hours. I booked the flight directly through the Icelandair website and I used one of their vacation packages, which included flights, hotel, and several excursions. In this post, I will share my review of the Icelandair Vacation experience with my favorite excursions and activities.

Common questions before visiting Iceland

When is the best time to visit Iceland?

The best time to visit Iceland depends on what you’d like to do on your trip. If you go in the summer (June to August), you’ll enjoy warmer weather, longer days, and more options for exploring. However, there will also be more crowds. Plus, flights and hotels will be more expensive. If you visit in the winter (December to February), you’ll likely see the Northern Lights and enjoy winter activities. Plus, there will be less crowds.

I went in January and absolutely loved the experience. Although the days were shorter, we packed all the activities during the day and even saw the Northern Lights!

Do I need a visa to visit Iceland?

Iceland is a part of the Schengen Area, so travelers from countries within the Schengen Zone do not need a visa for short stays. Travelers from many other countries, including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, can also visit visa-free for up to 90 days within a 180-day period.

What is the currency in Iceland?

The currency in Iceland is the Icelandic Króna (ISK). In my experience, every place I went to accepted major credit cards and dollars or euros, but getting some Icelandic currency for smaller purchases and transactions may also be helpful. You can get money exchanged at the airport or order currency at your bank before your trip.

Related: Fascinating Facts about Iceland

Is it expensive to travel to Iceland?

Iceland is known to be relatively expensive, especially when it comes to dining out and activities. However, being from Chicago, it didn’t feel much more expensive. As I’ve mentioned, I booked a vacation via Icelandair, which included flights, hotels, and excursions. With this package, I actually felt like a got a great deal for those to be included (around $1200 per person).

To be fair, food and drinks were a little more expensive in Iceland than what I usually pay in Chicago. For example, I spent around $18 for a burger and $18 for an alcoholic beverage. However, this included tax, and when you consider that tipping is not expected in Iceland, it comes out to be just a little more expensive than how much I’d pay in Chicago. If you’re looking to stay in Iceland on a budget, there are ways to save money – for example, you could stay at a hostel, cook your meals instead of eating out at restaurants, and participate in low-cost outdoor activities.

What should I pack for a trip to Iceland?

Be ready for Icelandic weather! Make sure to pack waterproof and windproof clothing, sturdy hiking boots, thermal layers, and a swimsuit for hot springs and swimming pools. And, don’t forget your camera to capture the stunning landscapes!

Here is a short list of items I’m glad I brought with me to Iceland:

Use my European Packing List for more details.

How to get around Iceland?

Renting a car is one of the most popular ways to see Iceland – it offers flexibility and freedom to explore remote areas. If you’d like a more relaxing experience, I highly recommend bus tours in Iceland – it allows you to relax between the stops and see amazing destinations on the way. If you’re looking to explore Reykjavik, you can take public transportation, but the center is relatively small and you can reach most tourist areas by foot.

How long should I spend in Iceland?

The ideal duration for a trip to Iceland depends on what you’d like to see. Many people opt for a 5-7 day trip to see the main highlights, while others spend more time exploring more of the country. I stayed in Iceland for four full days and experienced some of the most amazing parts of the country. I felt like it was a good length for my first trip, and I know I will return soon.

Getting to Reykjavik from the airport

Most international flights to Iceland land at Keflavik International Airport. I recommend using the Flybus Airport Transfer to get to the city center. The trip will take about 45 minutes and cost around 3.500 ISK. Upon arrival at the airport, follow signs for passport control, baggage claim, and customs. You’ll find the Flybus Transfer right outside of your terminal. From there, the bus will take you to the city bus terminal, where you will transfer to another shuttle. Although it sounds like a lot of steps, the shuttles in Iceland are incredibly efficient and easy to navigate. I was very impressed with the full process – every step of the way was very well organized.

Exeter Hotel Review

I loved my stay at the Exeter Hotel, so I couldn’t not mention it in this article. It was conveniently located near bus stop #4, within walking distance of many shops and restaurants. The room was comfortable, and the restaurant downstairs, “The Kock,” was amazing. In the morning, we had complimentary breakfast at the restaurant, which helped us save on dining. At night, the restaurant served great food, drinks, and even live music on some nights. Lastly, there was a bakery that served delicious New York-style bagels. Without a doubt, we would choose to stay here again!

Four-Day Itinerary in Iceland

Day 1: Reykjavik Exploration

Morning: Start the day at one of the most recognizable places in Reykjavik, Hallgrímskirkja Church. Standing at 74.5 meters (244 ft) tall, it is Iceland’s largest church and one of the country’s tallest structures. Its unique curved spire and side wings make it easily recognizable. Completed in 1986, the church has become a significant symbol of Iceland’s national identity. It is named after Hallgrímur Pétursson, an Icelandic poet and cleric known for authoring the Passion Hymns. Here you can enjoy an amazing piece of Expressionist architecture and, if you go to the tower, see incredible panoramic views of Reykjavik.

Mid-morning: Discover the enchanting streets of downtown Reykjavik, where you can stroll along Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur. Laugavegur, the city’s main shopping street, is famous for its boutiques, eateries, and bars. Don’t miss the quirky punk museum housed in a converted public toilet. Skólavörðustígur, one of Reykjavik’s busiest streets, is a must-visit for tourists. Lined with charming souvenir shops, clothing stores, and inviting cafes, it’s the perfect spot for a leisurely wander.

Lunch: Enjoy a traditional Icelandic hot dog.

In Iceland, there’s one food that locals and tourists alike love: the Icelandic hot dog. You can try it at the Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a small hot dog stand that has held an iconic status among both locals and tourists since it first opened in 1937. Icelandic hot dogs are considered among the best in the world, so don’t miss out on trying one!

Afternoon: Delve into Iceland’s deep maritime history at the Reykjavik Maritime Museum and see the breathtaking Harpa Concert Hall.

Reykjavik Maritime Museum: From the first Viking settlers to the modern fishing industry, the nation’s story is intricately tied to the sea. Explore the tales of resilience and survival against the harsh Atlantic weather, uncovering the fascinating journeys of past and present sailors who helped shape the island nation we know today.

Harpa Concert Hall: Designed by Danish-Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson and the Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects, Harpa opened its doors in 2011 and has since become a cultural hub of Reykjavik, standing tall as one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. It’s a beautiful building and must-visit location in Reykjavik.

Evening: Experience the world’s only live lava show, a one-of-a-kind immersive adventure that simulates a volcanic eruption using real volcanic rock. As the rock heats up to temperatures reaching up to 2000°F, it’s poured into a small auditorium, allowing everyone to witness nature’s spectacle up close in a safe environment. The show is accompanied by fascinating facts about lava, volcanoes, and Iceland’s geology, providing a truly educational and unforgettable experience.

Day 2: Golden Circle Tour

Stop 1: Friðheimar

At Friðheimar is a farm and a greenhouse, where tomatoes are grown year-round under artificial lighting, even during the long, dark winter months. It was interesting to learn about the tomato-growing process and the industry. Then, we had a few minutes to try out the menu at their cafe, featuring tomato-based dishes like Bloody Mary and tomato soup. While it was a pleasant and educational stop, it would have been more enjoyable if it had been the last stop on the tour when I was hungrier.

Stop 2: Geysir

At the Geysir stop, we saw the Strokkur geyser, spouting boiling water high into the air every 6-10 minutes. While the Great Geysir, after which all geysers are named, is mostly dormant, Strokkur erupts every few minutes, reaching heights of up to 30 meters (98 feet). It’s an amazing display of nature’s power and a must-see attraction for visitors to Iceland, even if you’re not taking this tour.

Lunch: We had lunch in the Geysir area, which I do not recommend. Everything here was overpriced and served in tiny portions. If I were to take this tour again, I would bring lunch or grab a snack at another stop.

Stop 3: Gullfoss Waterfall

Gullfoss, meaning ‘Golden Falls’, is a famous and beloved waterfall in the Hvítá river canyon. It’s accessible within two hours from Iceland’s capital by car or on the Golden Circle tour. Gullfoss boasts two cascades: one is 11 meters (36 feet) high, and the other is 21 meters (69 feet) high, making a total height of 32 meters (105 feet).

There are various walking paths and viewing platforms around Gullfoss, providing breathtaking views of the waterfall and canyon. Gullfoss reminded me of the beauty and might of Niagara Falls, so I definitely recommend seeing it on your trip to Iceland.

Stop 4: Þingvellir National Park

Þingvellir National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its historical significance as the site of Iceland’s first parliament, established in 930 AD, making it one of the oldest parliamentary institutions in the world. Additionally, it’s renowned for its geological features, as this is where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet.

Overall, it’s no wonder the Golden Circle tour is so popular – visitors get to see a variety of natural wonders in a short trip. Imagine seeing Yellowstone within a couple of hours of Niagara Falls? I truly can’t think of a place that would offer such a variety of incredible experiences in a single day. Plus, Þingvellir National Park is an amazing sight, that you must see on your trip to Iceland. If I only had one day in Iceland, I would take this tour.

Day 3: South Coast Adventure

Stop 1: Skógafoss Waterfall

Skógafoss Waterfall is known for its impressive height of 60 meters (197 feet) and its powerful cascade of water, which creates a breathtaking sight against the backdrop of the surrounding cliffs. While at this stop, we were able to take some pictures and get up close to the waterfall via a staircase leading to a viewing platform.

Stop 2: Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach was my favorite stop on this tour. I loved seeing the black sand, formed from volcanic lava, contrasting with the white foam of the crashing waves. The beach is famous for its towering basalt columns, known as Reynisdrangar, and the dramatic sea stacks rising from the ocean.

Note: be cautious of the powerful waves and unpredictable currents while enjoying this beach.

Lunch: We enjoyed lunch in the charming village of Vík and tried black-crust pizza! This stop didn’t feel like a tourist trap, like on the other excursion. The pizza was delicious and unique.

Stop 3: Sólheimajökull Glacier

Sólheimajökull Glacier is part of the larger Mýrdalsjökull ice cap and is easily accessible from the Ring Road. If we had more time, I would take a guided glacier walk to explore more of the glacier’s icy landscape, marvel at its crevasses, and witness the mesmerizing blue ice formations. We only had half an hour at this stop, so we walked around a small lake that had formed in front of the retreating glacier and came up to the glacier up close. If you have more time, Sólheimajökull is a popular spot for glacier hiking, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Stop 4: Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Seljalandsfoss waterfall, a part of the Seljalandsá River, originates beneath the Eyjafjallajökull glacier. Its close proximity to the Ring Road and stunning natural beauty make it one of Iceland’s most famous and visited waterfalls. Because we visited in the winter, we didn’t get a chance to walk the pathway behind the waterfall. This stop was the coldest I’ve felt in Iceland, so I had to jump back on the bus quickly. I would love to come back in the summer and fully encircle the falls.

Day 4: Geothermal pool, Reykjavík Tour, and Nothern Lights

Morning: Free Walking Tour

The walking tour we took in Reykjavík was both informative and entertaining. Led by a knowledgeable guide, we walked around downtown Reykjavík, visiting major attractions like the Parliament Building and City Hall. I especially enjoyed hearing more about Icelandic and Reykjavík history and culture from a local. And as we walked around, we saw symbols, hidden in buildings and structures around the city, that I wouldn’t have known or noticed without a guide. This tour is suitable for all ages, covering a distance of about 2km (1.3 miles) over 2 hours. While it’s called a “free” walking tour, you can pay what you think it’s worth at the end. If you have extra time in Reykjavik and enjoy learning more about the history of the city you’re visiting, I highly recommend taking a walking tour.

Afternoon: Blue Lagoon or Sky Lagoon?

Going to a geothermal spa in Iceland is usually on the bucket list, and if you’re not sure whether you want to go to the Blue Lagoon or Sky Lagoon, this depends on what you’re looking for.

The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most famous attractions, known for its milky blue geothermal waters. It offers a luxurious spa experience with amenities such as silica mud masks, in-water massages, and a range of facilities including restaurants and bars. The Blue Lagoon is larger and more established, making it a popular choice for visitors seeking relaxation and pampering in a unique setting.

Sky Lagoon is a newer addition to Iceland’s geothermal spa scene, offering stunning views of the ocean and nearby mountains. It features a large infinity-edge lagoon, surrounded by natural lava rocks and with a focus on wellness and relaxation. Sky Lagoon also offers amenities like a sauna, steam room, cold plunge pool, and a swim-up bar. It provides a more intimate and tranquil atmosphere compared to the Blue Lagoon.

If you prioritize a well-established spa experience with a range of amenities, the Blue Lagoon may be the better choice. However, if you prefer a more serene and scenic environment with a focus on relaxation and wellness, Sky Lagoon might be the preferred option.

Northern Lights

Because Iceland is near the Arctic Circle and has minimal light pollution, it an ideal destination for viewing the Northern Lights. The best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland is during the winter months, from September to March – when the nights are long and dark. We went out on the water to see them, however, because the boat was moving so much, it was almost impossible to capture a good photo. If you’re looking to get photos of the Northern Lights, I recommend taking a bus or a car tour, so that you could step out and take a picture with long exposure. Also, download the app, “Hello Aurora,” which can help you track down the chance of seeing the Northern Lights and the locations of recent sightings. Remember to dress warmly and be patient, as the lights can be unpredictable but well worth the wait.

Other ideas for your trip to Iceland

I was only in Iceland for a few days, and I can’t wait to go back! There is so much to see and do.

If you’re visiting in the winter, you can also go glacier hiking, ice caving, and snowmobiling. In the summer months, you can go snorkeling, puffin and whale watching, kayaking, and more!

Souvenirs to bring home from Iceland

I always try to go beyond magnets and keychains and go for something unique. If you do too, here are some souvenir ideas that you can only find in Iceland:

  1. Icelandic Wool: Known for their warmth and durability, Icelandic wool products are a classic souvenir. While it can be pricey, consider buying a traditional lopapeysa (Icelandic wool sweater) with its distinctive circular yoke design, or other wool items like hats, gloves, scarves, and blankets. Icelandic wool products make special gifts and keepsakes. Some of the most popular stores include Handknitting Association, Icewear, and Nordic Store.
  2. Lava Jewelry: Made from volcanic rock, lava jewelry is unique and will be a perfect reminder of Iceland’s amazing nature. You can find necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings, often combined with other materials like silver or obsidian. You can stop by Aurum or find lava jewelry at one of many souvenir shops.
  3. Icelandic Chocolate or Licorice: Icelandic chocolate is delicious. Make sure to try Omnom Chocolate, known for its innovative and artisanal chocolate bars with flavors like licorice, sea salt, and caramel. Also, licorice fans should try Lakkris – a famous treat made in Iceland and perfected for over 50 years!
  4. Nature-Based Skincare Products: Iceland is home to a range of natural skincare products made from local ingredients like geothermal minerals, algae, and volcanic ash. Check out popular brands like Blue Lagoon and Bioeffect for creams, masks, and other skincare.
  5. Icelandic Spirits: Iceland produces some unique spirits and liqueurs. While in Iceland, try Brennivín, known as the “Black Death,” which is a traditional schnapps made from fermented potatoes and caraway seeds. Another popular option is Reyka Vodka, made from glacial water and filtered through lava rocks.

Hope you liked this post. Let me know what you are most excited to do and see in Iceland in the comments below!

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Hi, I'm Marina, passionate traveler and blogger, based in the United States and travelling the world. Thanks for following me on my life and travel adventures!

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