Wondering what to do in Iceland in for a long weekend? In this ultimate Iceland travel guide I’m sharing a fun 4 day itinerary and useful travel tips. Flying into Reykjavik, 4 days are plenty of time to discover the Southern part of this spectacular and picturesque country. You’ll get to explore the Golden Circle, different waterfalls, glaciers and hot springs. Lots of incredible photo opportunities along the way guaranteed!
Harry surprised me with this amazing Iceland road trip for our one year anniversary. He managed to keep it a secret right up until we got to the gate – I had no idea where we were going until I saw ‘Reykjavík’ displayed above the gate! Can you imagine the excitement? It was an incredible holiday, definitely made lots of amazing memories.
I definitely recommend renting a car in Iceland. It gives you all the flexibility you need. You can stop anywhere along the way. As many times a you want, for as little or long as you want. And believe me, you will see the most incredible scenery where ever you go. If you’re in the passenger seat, you’ll be shouting “photo stop” countless times.
Here’s what to do in Iceland in 4 days!
The ideal 4-day itinerary for your South Iceland road trip
Day 1: Route 1/South Coast
After landing at Keflavik airport, we were picked up by our car rental company from arrivals. Then we set off towards Vík via the Blue Lagoon and then along the 427 which goes along the coast. It’s quite a scenic and quiet drive. Going through Selfoss to get some coffee and snacks, we then drove along Route 1.
First stop: Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss is a stunning waterfall about 65 meters tall. You can walk behind the waterfall, it looks really incredible. Make sure to wear something waterproof and protect your camera/phone. If you fancy going on a little walk, there are some paths you can explore in the area.
Plan for about 30-90 minutes.
Waterfall #2: Skógafoss
A short drive from Seljalandsfoss, you’ll pass by Skógafoss waterfall. It’s situated on the Skoga River and comes directly from two glaciers Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull. Its drop is 60 meters.
Make sure to climb up the 370 steps and look at the waterfall from above. The views along the coast are worth it. If you’re lucky and the sun is out, you may get to see a beautiful rainbow form in front of it due to the splash the waterfall creates!
If you fancy a bit of hiking (not available in winter), there is a 22km hiking trail very close by which leads through two glaciers (so part of the trail is snowy).
A glacier hike: Sólheimajökull
The Sólheimajökull glacier tongue extends from the Mýrdalsjökull glacier – its snow cap covers a mighty volcano!
You can do part of the walk by yourself – up until you reach the icy part. If you think you’d like to do a glacier hike, you will need to book this with a tour operator. Icelandic Mountain Guides offer this tour three times a day year-round. Tours start at 10am, 12pm, and 2pm and last about 3-3.5 hours. Two hours are on the ice and you will be provided with ice gear and safety equipment.
Dinner and sunset in Vík
Vík is a really small town and there’s nothing to do really. The sunset is quite nice to watch though and if you’ve been out exploring the countryside, you may want to stop there for dinner.
We went to Restaurant Sudur Vík where we had a burger and seafood pasta. The portions were big, the price alright for Icelandic standards.
Add-on if you have extra time
- Sólheimasandur Beach is where a U.S. Navy airplane crashed after experiencing severe icing. It’s a popular location for photo and video shoots.
Day 2 + 3: The Golden Circle
No Iceland road trip is complete without doing the Golden Circle. It’s a 330km route with a bunch of cool sights along the way. You can easily do this tour in a day but there are a couple of other stops worth taking. I think it’s worth expanding this tour with a few detours to 2 days.
We stayed at Borealis Hotel which is just South of Pingvallavatn lake so the route below made most sense for us. If you’re staying in Reykjavik, it might make more sense to start your trip at Thingvellir National Park.
Walk down into Kerid Crater lake
We stayed at Borealis Hotel so the first stop on our extended Golden Circle tour was Kerid crater lake. It was formed around 6500 years ago and is completely oval with a lake at the bottom. You can walk down some steps to get to the lake and then walk around it.
Entrance fee is 500 ISK.
Picnic by Pingvallavatn lake
Driving around the lake is so scenic and there are lots of photo stops. We went on a little side road and stopped by a picnic bench for some snacks. It’s so quiet and serene. Definitely worth exploring the lake shore a bit more!
Hike between two tectonic plates in Thingvellir National Park
One of the our favourite activities on this Iceland trip: Hiking in Thingvellir National Park. Here you can walk between the North American & Eurasian tectonic plates which are slowly splitting apart from each other. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You will need to park at the lower end close to where the scuba diving site is. From there, you can look up to the viewing platform and will spot lots of tourists. So this little hike between the tectonic plates means you’re escaping all the tourist crowds – Harry and I were completely on our own! There is a little path from the parking lot between the lake and the plates and at some point you can venture off and walk/climb along the rocks.
Make sure to drive up to the actual viewing platform as the views are quite nice.
Relax at Fontana Hot Springs
After your little adventure, stop at the geothermal baths which are on the way to Geysir. Simply relax and benefit from the hot springs’ natural healing powers.
The spa has three steam rooms, all above natural hot springs, and a wooden Finnish sauna with fantastic views of the lake. If you’re really brave, wade out into the lake. The water was absolutely freezing, probably around 10 degrees Celcius… You almost couldn’t move. However, you’ll see spots with steam coming up, that’s where the water will feel a bit warmer. Just be careful not to burn your feet on hot stones.
Watch geysers erupt in Geysir
As you approach Geysir, you’ll see the landscape starting to be really steamy. Geothermal activity is really high in the area. There are two geysers you can see erupt. Geysir itself and Strokkur. However, Geysir hardly erupts while neighbouring Strokkur erupts about every ten minutes.
You’ll see people stand around it and watch with anticipation as the opening in the ground first starts to bubble before a forceful stream of water shoots up. Cool – and smelly (the sulphur smells like rotten eggs)!
Impressive Gulfoss waterfall
This is another spectacular waterfall in Iceland: Gulfoss. It falls 30 meters into a crevice in the earth. The result is thick mist and frequent rainbows (which we didn’t see as there was no sun…).
You can reach the waterfall by walking down a long staircase and can then look down into the roaring cascade of water. It’s a very popular sight so expect many tourists. Taking nice photos isn’t easy… As it’s pretty windy down there, the water sprays far and wide so a waterproof jacket and case for your camera will go a long way.
Additional stops if you have time…
- Go snowmobiling on Langjökull glacier. You can a book a tour to be picked up in Reykjavik or, if you’ve got a rental car, from Gulfoss waterfall.
- Relax at the Secret Lagoon, or Gamla laugin, in Flúðir. It is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland and was built in 1891. The pool is 38-40°C warm year-round and there’s a walking path to explore the geothermal area.
- Visit charming Solheimar Eco-Village. There’s a bakery, cafe, guesthouse and multiple art venues as well as regular workshops such as candle-making.
Where to stay:
The owners of this guest house were absolutely adorable and so welcoming. There are a variety of options from private rooms with shared bathrooms to multiple bedroom apartments. The location is great for watching the Northern Lights as it’s off the main road.
Day 4: Reykjavik & the Blue Lagoon
On your last day of the Iceland road trip, you may want to explore Iceland’s capital city. There’s plenty of great restaurants to choose from as well as a lot of bars/pubs (I think people like to drink there, haha).
Climb up Hallgrimskirkja
This church is the city’s most iconic landmark. An elevator will you take up part of the way but the last 30 steps you’ll have to climb.
Walking tour through the center
You can either explore the city center on your own (it’s rather small and easy to navigate) or book a tour. You’ll come across lots of cool street art so have your cameras ready!
Eat your way through Reykjavik
Reykjavik has plenty of great restaurants offering local and international cuisine. We had a hard time deciding which of the many places we should try out. It’s recommended to book tables in advance.
Local cuisine focuses on seafood and lamb. The fish of the day is always a safe bet but you can be a bit more adventurous and try local delicacies like puffin or sheep’s head (yikes…).
This is a traditional meal we had in a restaurant in Reykjavik. Fresh fish with potatoes and veggies and some fish and chips.
End your Iceland road trip at the Blue Lagoon
As a lovely end to your holiday, you could head to the Blue Lagoon and relax in their geothermal spa. Treat yourself to a volcanic mud mask and maybe a drink while you float about in the warm water.
Keep in mind that you have to book a slot well in advance. We tried two weeks before and that was too late. Although we didn’t get a spot to go into the spa, we could at least walk around the lagoon and restaurant.
Top Tips for your Iceland road trip
Here are some other useful tips for your trip…
Bring some food
We knew Iceland was expensive yet we were shocked just HOW expensive it was! We generally paid about £20-30 for a main meal at a restaurant, maybe around £15-20 for burgers/pizza. Supermarkets aren’t cheap either… It makes sense to dedicate some space in your luggage for snacks, maybe even some canned food. Eating out three times a day is hardly sustainable!
Have breakfast at hotels/guest houses
We booked most accommodation on Booking.com where breakfast was labelled as being charged at an extra cost. However, every hotel and guest house we went to actually served it to all their guests. Either we they told as at check-in that breakfast was included or no one checked to see who paid for breakfast and who didn’t. That can save you around £10 per person per day.
Rental car insurance
Make sure to get some additional car insurance, especially one that covers damage to your windows. After the first day, we already had two windscreen cracks.
It’s cooooold in Iceland so pack warm clothes and wear layers. We went in October and it was freezing in the early morning as well as from afternoon onwards. It tended to be sunny from 10am to 2/3pm and when you’re out hiking, you can feel a bit warm so wearing layers helps. As soon as the sun was gone and it got windy, it was just freezing cold and we needed to really wrap up.
As you’ll be visiting some waterfalls, waterproof clothes are highly recommended. You don’t want to be wet and cold for the rest of the day. Good walking shoes are also useful.
Let me know in the comments what you think about this itinerary and whether you’re going/have been to Iceland! As always, I’m curious to hear about your experience. And don’t be shy to message me with any questions.
Have a great time road tripping through Iceland! xx