Iceland is a popular bucket-list destination for so many people, and for great reason! If you’re making the trip to Iceland, you’ll want to make certain you have allowed yourself enough time to see everything that you want to in this incredibly picturesque destination.
From incredible hikes and quaint towns to dramatic landscapes and massive glaciers, the amazing views are endless in beautiful Iceland.
And, great news – Iceland is open for travel! There are no longer any COVID-related border restrictions for travel to Iceland. All visitors are welcome, regardless of vaccination status, with no requirement to pre-register before visiting. There is no longer a requirement for a PCR test to board aircraft and no testing or quarantine upon arrival. There is also no longer a requirement to present a certificate of vaccination or prior COVID-19 infection.
Deciding to visit Iceland for the first time is so exciting, but can be overwhelming too, since there will be lots of planning, logistics, and bookings to consider to ensure you are prepared and your trip goes smoothly. Contact your TierOne Travel Consultant to begin your planning, who will take care of everything so you know you can head out on your long-awaited vacation with complete peace of mind.
Here is our answer to the popular question – “How Many Days Do You Need in Iceland?” – Your Complete 2022 Guide
The best way to figure out how long to stay in Iceland is to first figure out how you want to travel around the island. Here are some of the best options for getting around the country, but the best one for you will depend on your personal preferences and travel style.
Rent a Car / Driving Tour
Driving tours of Iceland are one of the most popular ways to travel around Iceland. A driving tour is a great way to enjoy the freedom and independence of a self-drive adventure, yet still have the support and guidance of a local expert, who planned your route in advance.
Iceland’s roads are gorgeous and with your rental car, you can easily make spontaneous stops along your journey. Plus they drive on the right side of the road in Iceland so you won’t have to worry about figuring out how to drive on the left side of the road, it’ll be just like driving home.
Explore with a Private Guide
Exploring with a private guide is a way to enjoy the same freedom without having to worry about driving, since a private guide will drive you around where you want to go. You’ll receive authentic insight into Iceland, but won’t have to think about getting from point A to point B. Private touring is the most personalized and exclusive way to experience Iceland!
Book a Guided Group Tour with Like-Minded Travelers
If you’d like to be accompanied by a guide but also have the opportunity to meet travellers from all around the world, a guided small-group tour is a great option! You’ll be driven to each destination with a local guide who’ll share their knowledge, and you can make new friends along the way. This way you won’t have to plan your whole trip yourself, since the tour will take you to all the sights!
Taking a tour also means you’ll have complete peace of mind knowing you’re with guides who know the areas like the back of their hand and you won’t have to worry about the logistics of your trip.
Day Trips From Reykjavik
After flying into Keflavik Airport, you can easily base yourself in the capital city and handpick the activities you want to do from there! Many tourists actually stay in Reykjavik but embark on day tours like these to see the surrounding area. Multi-day touring is convenient if you want to stay in the same place each night and you can join different excursions going wherever and whenever you want!
When is the Best Time to Visit Iceland?
Choosing the time of year to visit Iceland depends on what you want to do. You could have completely different experiences each season!
Visit in winter if seeing the northern lights is on your bucket list. You’ll also be able to explore ice caves and enjoy the beautiful snowy landscapes.
January is the quietest time for travel in Iceland, so you can easily avoid the tourist crowds and get some great deals.
If you want to see puffins, consider visiting Iceland in the spring. Puffins start arriving in Iceland for their annual nesting around April!
Visit in the summer months to enjoy ideal weather, lush landscapes, long, sunny days – and maybe even experience the midnight sun!
Must-See Attractions in Iceland
Here are some of the best places and attractions in Iceland. Make sure to add these to your Iceland bucket list!
Swim in the Blue Lagoon
Iceland is known for its famous geothermal heated pools, with the Blue Lagoon being the most popular spot! Head to the Blue Lagoon (it’s only a quick 10-minute drive from the airport) and spend a few hours hanging out in these relaxing hot springs. The lagoon is one of the most popular tourist attractions so it gets very busy, and it is a good idea to book your tickets in advance. Going first thing in the morning is the best time to go without the crowds. Booking your trip with a TierOne Travel Consultant will make sure you don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime experience!
View the Northern Lights
Visiting Iceland isn’t complete without at least attempting to see the Northern Lights during the winter months. If you rented a car, you can easily head out of the towns and head for some of the darker rural areas, which are prime locations for northern lights spotting. The nights are the darkest in Iceland from November to January. This means you could see the aurora in Iceland from mid-afternoon until nearly noon the next day! This makes for perfect conditions to capture amazing photos of the northern lights.
You could also book a tour with a knowledgeable guide who will know some of the best locations to see the lights. Northern lights tours run between September and April.
There is an abundance of whales that call the shores of Iceland home. Book one of the whale watching tours that depart from Reykjavik and try your luck at spotting some of these majestic animals in the wild. Some of the whale species you can see in the waters around Iceland include Humpback, Blue, Fin, Minke, Sperm and Orcas.
Whale Watching tours take about 3-4 hours and are a great way to see whales in their natural habitat. The best time for whale watching in Iceland is from April to late September-early October, with June, July and August being the peak season.
Drive the Golden Circle
Iceland’s famous Golden Circle is a popular route between 3 of Iceland’s most visited attractions. Starting in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik drives into the southern uplands and back, where you will visit Þingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, iconic Strokkur Geyser and Gullfoss waterfall. Driving this stunning route is really is one of the top things you must do on your first trip to Iceland!
The golden circle is 230 kilometers and can take about 4-5 hours to complete, depending on how much you want to stop along the route. Some people prefer to spend a few days to as long as a week to really explore the Golden Circle.
Thingvellir National Park
Þingvellir (Thingvellir) is a historic site and national park in Iceland, east of Reykjavík. This National Park sits in a rift valley caused by the separation of 2 tectonic plates. It’s historically known for the Alþing (Althing), the site of Iceland’s parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries. Here you can find the Þingvellir Church and the ruins of old stone shelters.
People visit the national park for more than just history and geology. Tourists come for excellent opportunities for snorkeling and diving. The ravines opened by the tectonic movement fill with the meltwater from Langjökull glacier, which has traveled underground for decades through porous lava rock, undergoing a very thorough filtration process producing crystal clear water.
The national park is located just 45 minutes drive from Reykjavík and is the first stop on the Golden Circle route!
Visit The Capital City
Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland is a small but growing city and is surprisingly lively! Arrive at Keflavik international airport to begin your adventure.
Explore the city, visit the Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral or head over to the Harpa concert hall which is home to the national opera and symphony.
There are so many day tours and activities to choose from here, from whale watching, visiting museums and shopping, to art galleries and all kinds of shows and concerts. Whether you visit in summer or winter, there will be so much to see and do!
The Reykjavik nightlife is great, especially during weekends. There are plenty of bars and clubs to visit and every weekend there are concerts and shows. Every year there are music festivals in Reykjavik, such as the Secret Solstice Festival in late June and Iceland Airwaves in November, both offering great line-ups including local artists and international superstars!
Reykjavik in on the coast of Iceland and is the country’s capital and largest city. It is the perfect city to set up a base for your Icelandic journey!
Go Chasing Waterfalls
Skógafoss is about 2 hours east of the airport and is one of Iceland’s most popular waterfalls to visit. Entry is free to Skógafoss and if you arrive early in the morning, or late afternoon, there will be much fewer crowds. Skógafoss is one of Iceland’s biggest and most beautiful waterfalls and should definitely be on your Iceland bucket list!
The land underneath the waterfall is very flat, which allows visitors to walk right up to the wall of water! This will get you very wet but on a summer’s day, it can be quite tempting. Skógafoss can also be viewed from the top as a steep staircase that leads to an observational platform. You can see many nesting seabirds from the platform.
After Skógafoss, make your next spot Seljalandsfoss waterfall on the South Coast. It is conveniently just a 10-minute drive from Skógafoss, so you might as well see these at the same time. This is one of the country’s most famous and visited falls. It is beautiful and is actually one of the most photographed features in all of Iceland!
One of the best things about Seljalandsfoss waterfalls is that you can actually walk behind the falls themselves, which is a must-do! When conditions are wet or icy, the path behind the waterfall is closed off, but don’t be too disappointed since it’s for travellers’ safety.
Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon
Iceland’s south coast boasts the constantly changing Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, where blue, white, turquoise and black-streaked icebergs float. These icebergs are 1,000-year-old chunks of the Oraefajokull glacier that have broken off and are floating out to sea.
The lagoon contains a mixture of salt and fresh water, which gives it its unique blue-green colour. During summer months, boat rides on the lagoon are offered and there are opportunities to hike the area year-round. You can usually spot seals hanging out on the icebergs during winter and many species of fish, as well as the rich birdlife Iceland is known for.
Jökulsárlón is located 80 km west of the village Hofn on the south coast. Stay on the main road and you will surely see it from the car once you approach it. There is no way you will miss it. The Lagoon is also a popular spot for Northern Lights hunters since it offers a great setting for beautiful pictures.
The Diamond Beach
A must-see nearby Jökulsárlón is a sandy beach named Breidamerkursandur. It is often called ‘The Diamond Beach‘ because of the glaciers from Jökulsárlón that have washed up on the sand where they sparkle like diamonds.
Make sure you check out Diamond Beach and sit or lie on the crystal-like glacier chunks. This is an unforgettable experience that will make for some unique and fun photos. Just you and your travel buddies, chilling with a huge chunk of sparkling ice!
The Reynisfjara Beach
Reynisfjara is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland. This black sand beach is home to the Reynisdrangar Sea Cliffs that stand under the Reynisfjall Mountain. The roaring ocean waves and towering, spiky basalt sea stacks jut out from the ocean high into the air. This beach was voted one of the top ten beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world. If you visit in winter you can see the Northern Lights dance across the dark sky above the Reynisdrangar Sea Cliffs.
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a region in western Iceland known for its dramatic landscapes.
This beautiful area is only about a two-hour drive from Reykjavik, so it is the perfect place to explore for a day or two. The Snæfellsnes peninsula is often referred to as “Iceland in Miniature” or “Iceland in a Nutshell”. This nickname was given to the peninsula because of its diverse landscapes.
The combination of unforgettable scenery, volcano views, Snæfellsjökull (a 700,000-year-old glacier-capped stratovolcano in western Iceland), lava fields, caves, waterfalls, and fishing villages, make Snæfellsnes, Iceland’s smallest National Park, the most wonderful place to visit. The peninsula is a legendary area of magic and beauty, offering the best of Iceland.
So, How Much Time Should You Spend in Iceland?
The short answer is, as long as possible!
The more days in Iceland, the better! If you love the outdoors, all the natural wonders in Iceland are never-ending, meaning you’ll definitely want plenty of time for exploring and even just relaxing to take it all in!
Since a lot of the popular sites could mean multiple hours of driving time apart, you’ll be spending large chunks of time traveling on the country’s scenic roads. You don’t want to feel rushed and potentially miss anything during your journeys, especially if you wish to stop at random places you travel through.
Any traveler could spend weeks getting to know Iceland, but given the reality of limited vacation days, we recommend planning for at least a week for a satisfying trip. If you’re hoping for a longer trip, plan for at least two weeks. In this length of time, you can easily plan to do everything we listed in the blog and then some, no matter how you decide to travel.
Iceland is indeed a great place for travelers looking to experience amazing natural attractions, and will create memories you’ll be dreaming about forever.
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When you’re ready to explore Iceland as well as other places on your bucket list, you can contact one of our TierOne Travel agents. They have extensive experience in life-changing travel experiences and will be able to craft something incredible that is suited to your unique needs!
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