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10 Days in Iceland | First Timer Itinerary

How to spend 10 days in Iceland?

|December 13, 2023
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Heading to Iceland for ten days is the perfect chance to tour the country and visit some of the most iconic sites. From waterfalls to black sand beaches, Iceland has it all.

With so many options and world-famous sites, it can feel overwhelming to plan what you can pack into your Iceland trip. Ten days in Iceland may go by so quickly, but with the right planning, you’ll have a perfect itinerary packed with memories that last a lifetime. 

There are many options for how to explore Iceland, especially when you have plenty of time. You can either spend the entire time traveling, spending just a day in each new place, or base yourself in a few areas and get to know them in detail. We've broken ten days into a trip that takes you around the famous Ring Road (R1), a route that circles the whole country, giving you a taste of the west, north, south, and east.

What time of year is best for a 10-day itinerary?

This itinerary can be followed any time of the year, as the Ring Road is maintained all year round. However, there are some differences in the amount of light that is around at certain times of the year. During the winter, you have to be stricter with your timing in order to fit in all stops during the daylight hours. In the summer months, you can experience the midnight sun, meaning that you can take it slower and at your own pace.

The Perfect 10-Day Itinerary in Iceland

Driving towards Svinafellsjökull glacier in Iceland

Day 1 - Arrival:

Depending on your arrival time, you may have the opportunity to explore some of Iceland on your very first day.

For those morning arrivals, pick up your rental car and explore the Reykjanes Peninsula. This area is famous for its volcanic landscape. Take a hike or go for a dip in the famous Blue Lagoon, the perfect place to unwind after a morning of traveling.

If you won’t be arriving until the afternoon, then we recommend picking up your rental car and heading straight into the capital, Reykjavík. Once you are all checked into your hotel, head out into the city and discover its quaint coffee shops, museums, and restaurants. To celebrate your arrival, visit some of Reykjavík's bars and enjoy its exciting nightlife.

Day 2 - Golden Circle:

Make sure you've saved plenty of energy for day two because it is packed with incredible attractions. Start the day by leaving the capital and heading onto the Golden Circle route, a renowned circular route that takes you to some of the most loved Icelandic attractions.

The first stop will be Þingvellir National Park, home to the world's oldest parliament and the place where the tectonic plates meet on land. While in the national park, there are plenty of activities to enjoy, from horseback riding to diving in Silfra fissure. The water in the fissure is some of the clearest in the world and can be explored by snorkeling or diving. The next stop is the Geysir Geothermal Area, where you can see hot water being shot up to 25 meters into the air. The next stop is Gullfoss, the golden waterfall. Don't be mistaken, though; the water isn't golden. However, it is well known for being a two-tiered waterfall with a powerful force behind it.

Choose one of the unique hotels on the Golden Circle to spend the night.

Day 3 - Heading out onto the Ring Road:

People gathering under Skogafoss waterfall in Iceland

It's time to head onto the Ring Road, the main road running around the whole of Iceland. Starting by heading south, there are many stops to visit along these lowlands. Stop off at Seljalandsfoss, one of the highest waterfalls in Iceland, and then just 10 km (6 mi) away is the incredible Skogafoss. From here, there are a few options for your next destination depending on the time of year you are visiting. If you are visiting during the summer, then visit Þórsmörk - a mountain ridge named after the Norse god Thor. Or you can head to the black sand beach of Reynisfjara before spending an evening in Vík.

Diamond Beach scattered with ice melting on the contrasting black sand

Day 4 - Exploring the South Coast:

As you continue your journey along the Ring Road, venture further into the captivating landscapes of the South Coast. Your first stop will be Vatnajökull, Europe's largest glacier, located in the mystical beauty of Skaftafell National Park.  Get up close to this vast ice sheet by going on a glacier walk.  Take some time to explore the glacier lagoon, Jökulsárlón, which has been used as a film set for movies like James Bond.  Follow the icebergs as they head from the lagoon out to sea, and you’ll find Diamond Beach. The black sand beach is famous for the chunks of ice that wash up onto the sand, creating a contrasting and breathtaking scene. 

Consider exploring Fjaðrárgljúfur, a stunning canyon carved by glacial waters. Conclude the day by settling into accommodations in the charming town of Höfn.

Day 5 - Experience the East Fjords:

Embark on a scenic drive through the East Fjords, where towering mountains meet the tranquil sea. Give yourself plenty of time on this drive to stop and take in the sprawling views.  Dotted all along this coast are unique towns and villages - we recommend exploring the picturesque Seyðisfjörður, known for its colorful houses and artistic community.

Capture the serenity of the East Fjords before resting in one of the coastal towns for the night.

Day 6 - Exploration around Lake Myvatn and Húsavík:

Day six begins by heading north, bidding farewell to the peaceful East Fjords. Start by exploring the unique landscapes surrounding Lake Mývatn, known for its geological wonders. To warm up, visit the geothermal baths by the lake. Afterwards, drive a little further north to the coastal town of Húsavík, the whale-watching capital of the world. Alternatively, if time is limited, check out the Whale Museum.

If you have extra time, explore the surreal landscapes of Hverir, where bubbling mud pots and steaming vents create an otherworldly atmosphere. As evening falls, savor the tranquility of the Lake Myvatn region by staying overnight.

Day 7 - Capital of the North:

Take the drive towards the cultural hub of Akureyri, often referred to as the "Capital of the North." Here, you’ll find the town's botanical gardens, local museums, and shopping. In the afternoon, head to Dalvík for a whale-watching tour if you haven't already. As the day concludes, consider exploring Akureyri's vibrant dining scene and lively cultural events.

Day 8 - Onward to the Westfjords:

View of an inlet in the incredible Westfjords, Iceland

Leaving the northern towns behind, continue on a westward journey toward the remote and untouched landscapes of the Westfjords. While in these wild areas, visit the stunning Dynjandi waterfall, cascading down a mountainside in multiple tiers. Take your time and slow down while you are in this region, as there is a special tranquility that comes with this less-explored region.

Day 9 - Snæfellsnes Peninsula Exploration:

As you come to your second-to-last day, it's time to discover the diverse landscapes of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, often referred to as “Iceland in miniature.” Here, you can find the iconic Kirkjufell mountain, explore the charming town of Stykkishólmur with its colourful houses, and traverse Snæfellsjökull National Park, home to an intriguing glacier-capped volcano.

Depending on your departure time, you may want to drive south on day nine and choose accommodation nearer the airport.

Day 10 - Departure:

On your final day, you can choose to experience anything you missed on day one, whether that's relaxing in the Blue Lagoon before your flight or stocking up on souvenirs in Reykjavík.

If you want to add an extra activity at any point in your trip, take a look at our day tours. Starting from all over the country, you can find something unique to do in Iceland.

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