4 days in Iceland is enough time for the country’s best features: see waterfalls, geysers, and glaciers, get familiar with viking history and relax in the Blue Lagoon to wrap it all up. I spent 4 days in Iceland as a stopover on the way to England, and absolutely loved it. It’s definitely a country that I will return to, and I would happily repeat the exact same trip over again! Visiting Iceland is very much an adventure. If you love hiking, climbing, photography, and don’t mind bundling up a little bit then this is definitely the trip for you.
I’ll be honest – Iceland wasn’t really on my Bucketlist at first. It’s gradually appeared in more and more movies, and over the past few years there’s hardly a flight going to Europe that doesn’t stopover in Iceland. That’s how I wound up in Iceland, a stopover option. I couldn’t be happier that I visited. I found 4 days in Iceland to be a great amount of time for a stopover and recommend the duration even if you’re just visiting Iceland.
This flexible itinerary features all the best of Iceland, and some useful tips for your visit. Let’s get started!
- What to Expect in Iceland
- Arrival in Iceland
- 4 Days in Iceland
- Day 1: Reykjavik
- Day 2: The Golden Circle
- Day 3: The South Shore
- Day 4: The Blue Lagoon
- Where to Stay in Iceland
What to Expect in Iceland
Food is expensive – but I have some tips for you. I’m sure you’ve already heard that Iceland is expensive, and it’s true. However, when it comes to food, there are some very reasonably priced options if you know where to look. Get groceries at the Bonus Superstore or at the IKEA and make your own snacks and meals for day trips. Eat at these cheap restaurants in Reykjavik.
The streets are heated, but it does smell funny. There’s an amazing feature in Reykjavik that I have to admit I really want: heated streets. The water in Iceland is naturally hot, and they use it to heat underneath the roads. Now, the trade off for water from natural hot springs in Iceland is the smell. The water is exceptionally clean and very safe to drink, but it does have a strong smell of sulphur
It’s always cold and rainy. The sun does come out sometimes, but Iceland is a country with fairly sporadic weather because technically, it is an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Wear hiking shoes or very good walking shoes everywhere you go, and always bring a couple layers and a rain jacket. Check out my Iceland Packing Guide for everything else you need to bring!
One thing that I can’t recommend enough is a pair of thermal pants. I bought mine right before my trip to Iceland and it is one of the best purchases I ever made. I bought this pair (here’s an equivalent for men). They’re water resistant with sealed pockets! View more options: Women Canada / Men Canada / Women USA/ Men USA
4 days in Iceland let’s you see a lot. It’s true – you won’t have time to drive the entire Ring Road with 4 days in Iceland, but you can still fit a lot in and see a little bit of everything. Fortunately, there are a lot of great places not far from Reykjavik.
Arrival in Iceland
When you look at maps of Iceland you might notice that there’s a little airport directly in Reykjavik. It’s super unlikely that your flight goes directly there – more likely you fly in to Keflavík International Airport. The important point here: you will not land in Reykjavik. There’s no public transit, and a taxi will be expensive.
Book your airport transfer: If you’re not renting a vehicle right away this means you’ll need to take a bus to Reykjavik. I took Flybus. It was super simple and the drive was about 45 minutes!
Rent a car: it’s not necessary for this itinerary (I did not rent a car, I went on organized tours and found this worked really well with 4 days in Iceland) but many people do love renting cars in Iceland. It can be a little expensive and in high demands though. If you do rent a car it will give you a bit more flexibility and potentially help you beat the crowds. Book a car rental here.
4 Days in Iceland
Day 1: Reykjavik
Spend your first day in Iceland enjoying the many things to do in Reykjavik. People often skip Reykjavik when they’re in Iceland, but I loved it! There are foods, tours, museums, and architecture that you won’t find anywhere else in the world so this is a city worth exploring. The things on this day can be done in any order!
Reykjavik Walking Tour
Get your 4 days in Iceland started right on the Reykjavik Free Walking Tour – free means by tips. Please tip well! The tour is 2 hours long and will give insights in to Iceland’s history. It’s the perfect way to get familiar with Reykjavik. Our guide was fantastic and gave us lots of great tips for the city (which are pretty much all divulged on in my Iceland posts but if you gain other insights let me know!) The tour runs morning and afternoon so you can go at whatever time is best for you.
Sightseeing in Reykjavik
The walking tour is a great way to learning about Reykjavik and Iceland’s history in general but it doesn’t bring you up close and personal with some of the notable landmarks that you will want to see. Take a scroll through the city on your own to visit these essential sites. Don’t worry – it’s a short walk. Reykjavik is small and you can walk to all of these spots:
Go inside and have a look around this stunning opera house. Even if you’re not seeing a show, you can enjoy the architecture! The glass dome and geometric shapes and unique and refract light beautifully.
The Sun Voyager
Following the Sculpture and Shore Walk from the Harpa. This famous sculpture in Iceland was created by Jon Gunnar Árnason. It’s an ode to the sun, created to represent hope, progress, and freedom. Enjoy other sculptures along the way, and a great view of the sea while you walk.
Walk up to Hallgrímskirkja Church. I can’t pronounce the name and yet I think it’s among the churches that I would recognize most easily. If you went on the Free Walking Tour you may have seen Hallgrímskirkja Church from a distance, but go and take a proper look inside. For a spectacular view of the city pay the fee to go up to the tower lookout. Walking from the Harpa to the Sun Voyageur and to Hallgrímskirkja Church is about a mile total. Here’s a helpful little map!
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
You have to try one of the world’s best hot dogs: this stand opened in 1937 and has been visited by the likes of Bill Clinton, Kim Kardashian, and Metallica. There are the are the best hot dogs in the entire world. Cash only!
The National Museum of Iceland
I don’t usually spend a lot of times at museums when I travel, but The National Museum of Iceland is really unique and interesting. The permanent Making of a Nation exhibit tells the story of Iceland’s Viking Settles and contacts artefacts and stories unlike anyways else. The museum is on the Reykjavik City Card, which is a great option if you want to visit couple museums or spend another day in Reykjavik.
Tip: if you visit the National Museum of Iceland around lunch time walk to the University of Iceland (right next door) and have a big, delicious hot lunch in the cafeteria for about $10.
Here are more cheap places to eat in Reykjavik.
Swim in a Local Pool
When you’re tired after a long day of exploring do like the locals do and unwind at a local thermal pool. There’s no shortage of hot water on this volcanic island! The locals like to hang out at the pools as an after work wind-down. The pools are also part of the City Card if you decide to go that route at any time during your 4 days in Iceland. If you decide to go, check out this post for more details on what to expect. Some pool practices are a little different from elsewhere.
Day 2: The Golden Circle
Ready for waterfalls and geysers? Of course you are! Day 2 of your 4 days in Iceland itinerary is an adventure around Iceland’s Golden Circle. Experience a little bit of everything and enjoy the natural wonders of Iceland. The whole day includes about 3.5 hours of driving. I’ve included a map with step-by-step directions at the end of this section!
Drive the loop yourself if you rented a vehicle, or go on a guided tour. Guided tour was the option we chose – and it was great to be able to relax in between stops! Unlike Day 1 you are going to want to the things on this itinerary in order!
Thingvellir National Park
Start your day at Thingvellir National Park. This park was once the site of Iceland’s parliament, from the 10th to the 18th century. You can see the old ruins while you’re there. The coolest thing in the park is the big Rift Valley caused by the separation of two tectonic plates that you can walk between.
Check out my Iceland Packing Guide so you’re prepared for your adventures!
Make a stop at Laugarvatn Lake and get your first peak at Iceland’s thermal activity. The water of this lake is so hot that it boils and bubbles on it’s own. Alongside the lake is Laugarvatn Fontana, a day spa that takes advantage of the natural hot water. If you arrive on time for a tour your can visit their geothermal bakery, where they make bread from an old recipe and bake it underground using the natural heat.
It’s time for geysers! This was one of my favourite stops during our 4 days in Iceland. I have to admit, the most amusing part is watching unsuspecting people get soaked. There are quite a few mini-geysers here and one particular massive one that usually only bubbles up a meter or two. Every now and then it shoots a few stories high and comes splashing down!
Tip: if you’re bringing camera gear, make sure you have a waterproof cover or plastic shell for it.
Also known as the Golden Waterfall, Gullfoss is another main event on Iceland’s Golden Circle. Gullfoss is located on the Hvítá river, and the water plummets down 32 meters in 2 stages, tossing up splashes and misting the air. There is a trail over looking the waterfall, and a wooden staircase leading to a path below that takes you right up to the edge of the falls.
This waterfall is seriously impressive! Once again, don’t be surprised if you get splashed.
Kerið Crater Lake
Kerid crater is located in Grímsnes and it’s a spot you won’t find of every Golden Circle itinerary or tour so watch for it if you want to go! This volcanic crater has water at the bottom is an incredible shade of a blue, and the surrounding rocks are bright red. Hiking down to the bottom of the crater only takes a few minutes, and a small trail wraps around the edge of the water. It’s a very cool stop to add to your day.
Day 3: The South Shore
More waterfalls, more amazing landscapes and a new addition on Day 3 – glaciers. Exploring the South Shore is a pretty driving intensive day so you may want to consider an organized tour like this one. Though often over-shadowed by the Golden Circle, the South Shore has some amazing and unique Iceland landscapes of it’s own! I didn’t actually do this day myself – I spent another day in Reykjavik but a friend explore the South Shore and passed on some great tips for you.
This spectacular waterfall drops 60 m and can by found right off of Route 1. The really cool thing about this waterfall is that you can walk behind it into a small cave. Just North of the larger Seljalandsfoss falls is Gljúfrabúi waterfall. This is a semi-hidden waterfall inside a gorge. You can’t see it until you’re there! Follow the path to the left of Seljalandsfoss and it’s a 5 minute walk. You’ll see information panels that mark the way.
Just 25 minutes down the road, stop at Skogafoss, another famous Iceland waterfall. It’s amazing how many waterfalls you can see with 4 days in Iceland isn’t it? There are some steep stairs at the side of this waterfall that I’m told are worth the climb for a spectacular view of the water tumbling down.
Visit the nearby Skogar museum too, a cultural heritage museum featuring Iceland artefacts from the South Shore on display in 6 houses and a few museum buildings.
This is a waterfall to visit if you’re looking to get a little off-the beaten trail. It’s not as popular of many of the other waterfalls on this 4 days in Iceland itinerary. It’s off the same Ring Road exit as Skogafoss but instead of going there head straight to Skogar and park at Hotel Edda. Walk 15 minutes to reach this beautiful and secluded waterfall. It’s similar to Seljalandsfoss, although you can’t walk behind this one.
The hike to Sólheimajökull glaciers is not something that you should attempt by yourself, but rather with a tour group. This organized tour (which includes the waterfalls and black sand beaches) comes highly recommended if you’re looking for an adventure! If you prefer to go it yourself leave this out.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
The black sands and basalt columns of the South Shore have become famous particularly since appear in Game of Thrones – and for good reason! On the beach the Reynisdrangar rock formations are to your left (facing the water). These are the famous basalt columns – you’ll be in good company if you love to take photos! Over the other direction is the Dyrholaey rock formation, a naturally occurring archway. There is currently no entry or parking fees, but apparently the introduction of parking fees is being considered so bring cash just in case.
Tip: strong waves can kick up unexpectedly. Exercise caution on the beach.
Day 4: The Blue Lagoon
Wrap up your 4 days in Iceland with a relaxing spa day at the Blue Lagoon. Yes, it’s super popular and no, it’s not the cheapest thing you’ll do in Iceland – but I personally thought it was completely worth it. The Blue Lagoon is a bucket list experience. Fortunately as it grows in popularity it has also grown in size so although there were lots of people I didn’t find it too crowded. The number of guests is limited and there is lots of space.
The Blue Lagoon is quite a bit larger than it appears in photos because there are lots of different areas. Find an area and temperature you like, and you can easily spend hours relaxing.
Pre-booking is required (you can do that on the Blue Lagoon website). Packages range from basic comfort to luxurious. I went for the comfort package (cheapest option) which includes entry, a mud mask, towel, and a drink at the swim up bar. If you go this route I suggest bringing your own flip flops.
The minerals in the Blue Lagoon are fantastic for your skin, but tough on your hair. Bring a clarifying shampoo if you on letting your hair get wet (my favourite is Live Clean Apple Cider Clarifying Shampoo; it did the trick after the Blue Lagoon!) to take the silica out of your hair. Clarifying shampoo strips everything out of your hair so you use a good conditioner after otherwise it’s very drying. If you have thick hair I recommend a quick hair mask (I like this one from Macadamia – and it travels easy).
Tip: If you’re leaving on your last day in Iceland (I had an evening flight out) then you can actually book transport directly from the Blue Lagoon on the website when you buy your day passes.
Check out this guide to the Blue Lagoon and local Iceland pools.
Where to Stay in Iceland
Hotel Ódinsvé: stay in the heart of Reykjavik. Hotel Odinsve has beautiful, modern-style rooms, it’s own terrace and café bar, and an on-site bistro. You are walking distance from everything in Reykjavik including Reykjavik’s main shopping street, Laugavegur. View Hotel.
Radison Blu Saga Hotel: walking distance from Reykjavik’s city centre (about 10 minutes). The Radison Blu Saga has a rooftop restaurant, modern rooms, and on-site fitness centre and beauty salon. It’s also a really popular pick up point for day-trips which is really convenient! View hotel.
Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura: an eco-friendly and beautiful hotel just outside the downtown (near the Reykjavik airport). This hotel has everything: Wifi, a gym, in-room fridge, and a delicious breakfast buffer in-house. This hotel is a little bit more budget-friendly because you’re outside the core, but it’s very easy to catch a bus to the city centre. View Hotel.
Hostels: there are lots of great hostel options in Reykjavik. Check out the Loft HI Hostel for a laid-back vibe and fantastic rooftop patio where you can enjoy a drink or sight the Northern Lights; book a stay in the heart of the city close to bars, cafés and nightlife at KEX Hostel. Make friends, rent a bike, and explore. Check out more Reykjavik hostel options here; there are lots of great ones!
The area near the airport is small and all the hotels have good ratings and reasonable rates for a night. This is a great option if you have an early morning flight or if you prefer not to make the commute back to Reykjavik after the Blue Lagoon.
Eldey Airport Hotel: straightforward, basic hotel with a pool and sauna so you can relax while you wait for your flight. This hotel is literally down the street from the airport.View Eldey Airport Hotel