While planning our trip to Iceland, our main objective was to fit as MUCH stuff in as possible, because we wanted to SEE. IT. ALL. Looking back, we don’t have any regrets about what we saw, but we do wish we’d had more time at certain places. We’re going to take a look at five places you need to see on your trip to Iceland and how much time you should spend there.
Because in all honestly, you never know how cool a place is until you see it in person (unless you’re reading this nifty little blog of course). We scheduled short stops to places that ended up being some of our favorite destinations— and it made sticking to our schedule a little tougher!
So while planning your trip to Iceland, allow for some buffer time at each of these stop. Don’t make the same mistake we did first time around, save time for all of these places we wish we’d had more time at! Be sure to let us know what you think below in the comments and if you’re feeling extra awesome shoot this post a like and a share, as always, enjoy!
Ideal Time: 2-3 Days
We know what you’re probably thinking— you didn’t save time to explore the capital city? The answer to that is: well, yes and no. We arrived in Iceland at 4am (which really felt like 10pm our time) and planned to spend the first day ridding ourselves of the dreaded jet lag. We couldn’t check into our hostel until 4pm, so we wandered around the city and checked out the Perlan Observatory and Harpa Concert Hall, but mostly just slept in the rental car. Our second day in the city we checked out the Hallagrakirksjama Church, the central shopping district, and the Sun Voyager. Ultimately, we wished we’d had to spend more time to explore the city and check out its famed night life!
Ideal Time: 1-2 Days
To be honest, we knew that Akureyi was Iceland’s second largest city and “capital of the north” but we weren’t really expecting to see a whole lot when we got there. Although it’s smaller than Reykjavik, it’s still an incredible “little” city! We were only able to spend a morning in the city, and since it was quite dreary out, most of it was spent in a café drinking hot chocolate and eating cookies. We walked away content and warm but dreaming of exploring its endless shops and alleyways!
#3) Skaftafell National Park
Ideal Time: 4-6 Hours
After sleeping through our alarms (oops) and waking up to find out that the road ahead of us was going to be closed for who-knows-how-long due to 100+ mph winds, we were forced to take a speed tour through this gorgeous national park. Since we were short on time, we hiked right up (and behind) to the famous Svartifoss waterfall before running back to the car to hopefully catch a glimpse of the Glacier Lagoon before the road closed due to the high winds. Which leads us to our next stop…
#4) The Glacier Lagoon
Ideal Time: 1-2 Hours
Just our luck, the road closed just before we could reach the Glacier Lagoon (conveniently there were little hotels scattered right next to the road closed gate… in what seemed like the middle-of-nowhere, hmm…) We were then forced to make a tough call: do we continue driving on the closed road (we were told if we needed help they wouldn’t come after us until after the wind died down) or wait it out for an unknown amount of time and potentially have to skip destinations on our route for lack of time. We, of course, decided to risk it. We stopped at the Glacier Lagoon, also known as Jökulsárlón, for maybe 5 minutes. Enough time to hop out of the car, take a picture, and get back in before the wind blew us into the water.
#5) Vik’s Black Sand Beach
Ideal Time: 2-4 Hours
There are a multitude of black sand beaches scattered along Iceland’s coast, but none as popular as the one located in Vik. Another spell of less-than-optimal weather turned our sunset on the beach night, into one of cold weather and strong winds, meaning we were unable to even catch a glimpse of the sunset. Had the weather been calmer, this beach would have been a beautiful place to sit and relax at the end of the day (but don’t swim— the currents are strong and more than one person has lost their life trying to swim at this beach).
Having 12 days of perfect weather in Iceland would be an absolute miracle, it’s practically unheard of. It’s a lot more common to have 12 days of bad weather, especially because we went in May rather than the middle of the summer. We had some absolutely stunning no-clouds-in-the-sky days, as well as some miserably cold wind-blowing-out-of-the-north days too. Overall the weather wasn’t perfect, but it could have been a lot worse, and for that we’re thankful.
We hope this blog helps you to enjoy your next trip to The Land of Fire and Ice and we hope you’ll let us help you plan it (since we’ve spent a bit of time there *wink wink)! If you want to hear more about what to see or do, take a look at our other blogs about Iceland:
- What We Wish We’d Done in Iceland
- 5 Free Things to Do in Reykjavik
- 5 Things We Wouldn’t Do Again in Iceland