Iceland has always been a dream destination of mine. Like for most people when travelling to a destination that they’ve dreamed about for years, I had grand illusions of packing as much as possible into my 7 days Iceland itinerary. I wanted to travel all around the Ring Road and see everything that Iceland had to offer. However, the more I researched, the more I realised that it simply wasn’t possible to pack everything in such a short period of time. Instead, I took a step back and decided to focus on planning a perfect South Iceland itinerary to ensure that I could see a specific region in depth rather than rushing through the whole country.
If you’re facing a similar conundrum and only have 7 days for your Iceland Ring Road itinerary, then I urge you to not attempt to rush around all of Iceland and instead focus on a specific part of the country because I guarantee that no matter which part you see, you’ll undoubtedly start planning a return trip to this amazingly beautiful country. Here’s our 7 day South Iceland itinerary to help you get started.
Day 1 – Arrive in Iceland
It’s best never to plan too much on your first day when arriving in a new country and given our flight got in fairly late, our only focus was picking up our rental car from Keflavík Airport and finding a place to stay for the evening. A lot of week-long Iceland itineraries will suggest starting in Reykjavik, however, I think a relaxing day in the capital city is a nice way to round out your trip so I suggest finding accommodation for the night outside of the capital. Not only will it be significantly cheaper but it will also reduce driving time from the airport.
We stayed in an Airbnb in the town of Hafnarfjordur, a port town about 10km from Reykjavik which can easily be reached off the main highway from the airport. Despite being so close to Reykjavik, Hafnarfjordur is very much its own town and if you arrive early enough it’s worth taking the time to have a leisurely stroll around.
Day 2 – Explore the Golden Circle
We used our Airbnb in Hafnarfjordur as a base for the second day of our South Iceland itinerary and set out to explore the popular Golden Circle. There are so many amazing Golden Circle stops to explore that it’s almost impossible to see absolutely everything in the one day. Given we knew that we were going to be driving past the Golden Circle again in the next couple of days of our 7 day Ring Road itinerary, our aim was to see the sites that were located furthest away from the Ring Road.
Get an early start and head to Pingvellir National Park as soon as you wake up as it can get extremely busy, particularly at the entrance of the park. We only did a short one hour walk through the park however you could easily spend a full day tackling a longer hiking trail. We then proceeded to hike to the undiscovered Bruarfoss Waterfall before driving to the popular Strokkur Geysir and Gullfoss Waterfall.
On the way back to Hafnarfjordur, I suggest making a quick detour to the peaceful Faxi Waterfall and if you still have the time and energy then make a stop at Kerið Crater Lake. The crater lake is only a short detour from the Ring Road so if you don’t have enough time you can stop here on when heading east or on your way back to Reykjavik.
Day 3 – Reykjanes Peninsula and Reykjadalur Hot Springs
Many travellers on an Iceland Ring Road itinerary will skip the South West Peninsula as they leave Reykjavik, however, it’s definitely worth making a detour in the morning and exploring the less visited sites south of Reykjavik.
Our first stop was Kleifarvatn Lake, the largest lake in the area and we were shocked by the lack of other travellers in this part of Iceland. The lake is incredibly beautiful and we made a mental note to camp here when we return to Iceland with a camper van! We then proceeded to explore the geothermal area of Krýsuvík in the Reykjanes Peninsula, where there a number of wooden paths you can walk through to see and breathe in the sulphuric boiling waters!
Unfortunately, the thermal pools in Krýsuvík are slightly too hot to bathe in so we suggest driving towards Reykjadalur Hot Springs and taking the one hour hike to the natural hot springs whose temperature is perfect for bathing! If you don’t feel like hiking, then head straight to Hella where we based ourselves for a couple of nights and visit one of the local swimming pools instead.
Visiting a swimming pool in Iceland is one of my essential Iceland travel tips as it’s a quintessential local experience and only costs a few dollars!
Day 4 – Horse Riding and Waterfalls
Hella is a great town to base yourself as it’s a convenient stop along the Ring Road and there are a number of activities you can actually organise in the town itself including fishing and even playing a round of golf! We took the opportunity to go horse riding on of Iceland’s majestic horses! Our two-hour ride with Hella Horse Rental was filled with beautiful scenery, interesting stories and the wonderful experience of humming the Game of Thrones theme song as we rode through the stunning countryside.
Spend the afternoon by starting to explore some of South Iceland’s attractions beyond the Golden Circle. Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss are two popular waterfalls on the South Icelandic coast that are situated along the Ring Road.
You can take a short walk to a cave behind Seljalandsfoss while at Skogafoss you can climb up the hill next to it to get a view from above! The Seljavallalaug Hot Pool is located in between the two waterfalls and a good stop if you fancy a quick dip in the 25m metre pool surrounded by mountains!
An advantage of spending the night in Hella on your South Iceland itinerary is that it’s relatively remote so if there is some Aurora activity you can potentially see the Northern Lights in the town of Hella itself or even by taking a short drive outside the town.
Day 5 – Black sand beaches and glaciers
Day five of our 7 day South Iceland itinerary is packed with more South Iceland highlights as you venture further away from Reykjavik.
Given we spent day four exploring Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss, we drove straight past them on our way to the town of Vik. The town of Vik is a good refuel stop and a great place to stretch your legs by strolling along one of Iceland’s famous black sand beaches. It’s also worth driving to the top of the nearby cliffs to get a great view of the Dyrholaey Arch and the surrounding coastline.
From Vik, head to Skatafell National Park where, similarly to Pingvellir National Park, there are a number of fantastic trails to explore. If you’re short on time like us, then it’s certainly worth doing the hour walk to see the glaciers. However, you could also easily spend a full day here doing a longer hike.
Our last stop on day five was the spectacular Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. We could have easily spent a full day here staring at the magnificent beauty of the glacier lagoon so I urge you to give yourselves enough time to do the same! Nearby Diamond Beach is also worth visiting as it combines the beauty of the black sand beaches with parts of the glacier that have broken off and washed ashore. I think I had a little too much fun here picking up the large sections of ice and throwing them to the ground!
We spent the night in Hörgsland as that what was all we could find in the area when booking, however, I would recommend staying close to the glacier lagoon if possible so you can enjoy it one more time in the morning!
Day 6 – Drive back to Reykjavik
It’s nearly a 5-hour drive from the Glacier Lagoon back to Reykjavik so day 6 of your South Iceland itinerary will involve spending a bit of time in your vehicle.
As you’re driving back along the same route, it gives you a great opportunity to stop at any sites you might have missed along the way or couldn’t fully enjoy due to Iceland’s erratic weather! We stopped at Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon which is over 100m deep and has several walking paths that you can take to fully enjoy the stunning views of the canyon.
Other logical stops could be Reykjadalur Hot Springs, Kerið Crater Lake, hiking to the Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck or even visiting the Blue Lagoon if that’s on your to-do list! Alternatively, just sit back in your car and enjoy the breathtaking scenery all along the Ring Road!
Day 7 – Have a relaxing day in Reykjavik
We recommend spending the last day of your South Iceland itinerary taking it in easy in Iceland’s capital! Reykjavik is fairly compact so you can easily see most of the sites and walk around the city in a couple of hours. One of the best ways to do this is by taking a free walking tour with CityWalk where the guides will give you a thorough and humorous introduction to Reykjavik.
Like the rest of Iceland, it can be difficult to stay on a budget in Reykjavik, so I recommend spending the afternoon relaxing in a venue of your choice. Whether it’s taking one last dip in a local pool, hanging out in the botanical gardens or going to a local cafe with free coffee refills, staying in one place will keep expenses down and give you a nice mellow afternoon after a hectic week of driving the Ring Road!
Don’t try to see all of Iceland if you only have 7 days for your Iceland itinerary! Instead, focus on a specific part of Iceland and if it is your first time visiting the country, then exploring South Iceland will allow you see a number of fantastic sites both on and off the main tourist trail. This South Iceland itinerary will also allow you to have some flexibility as if you can’t see a particular site due to bad weather at the start of your trip you can make your way back there when you return to Reykjavik.
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