Planning a Trip to Iceland

7 days in Iceland sounds like a lot, right? 

It’s really not when you consider that Iceland is jam packed with sights (that can be very spread out) and so much natural beauty around every turn.  Here are some of my top tips if you’re considering a visit to Iceland.  Be sure to read this before you start planning, especially if you’re thinking about driving the famous “ring road”.  It’s such an expansive country with SO much to see and do. 

Our route around Iceland with all of our planned sights and activities in yellow.

Before you even book your flights, I highly recommend that you do some research to figure out what kind of trip and route is ideal for you.  Here are a few questions that will help you start to figure out your ideal plan:

  • What time of year are you visiting?
    • There’s so much beauty in the summer season (plus long days which means more time for activities).  There’s even something called the “midnight sun” (where the sun is visible for almost 24 hours straight) and you’ll get to see the country green and lush!
    • The winter season is known for the incredible Northern lights – and this is also when you get to visit ice caves and see the country under a blanket of snow. 
    • Of course, Spring and Fall also do not disappoint and can oftentimes offer the best of both worlds (at lower prices/crowds, too).  We were there during late August and got to see a lot of greenery, visit a glacier for our snow fix and heard the Northern Lights were visible just a few weeks after we left.
  • Do you want to see any remote parts of Iceland?
    • I’d highly recommend it, if you have the time and sense of adventure.  I felt like I was on another planet so many times during our drives – and it was beyond incredible to see some of the “roads less traveled”.
    • This is important to decide because many of the roads in Iceland close during the winter due to weather conditions (even the main roads) making some of your favorite spots off the ring road unreachable by car.
    • If it’s important to you to see the more remote parts of Iceland (like the Highlands – unpopulated areas in the middle of Iceland full of glaciers, volcanoes and hot springs) you will need to visit when the weather is better and you’ll also need to rent a 4×4 car to access these spots via “F” Roads (smaller, often unpaved roads).
  • Do you want to rent a car and drive yourself or do you want to do tours?
    • If you aren’t interested in driving in Iceland, it could be ideal for you to make Reykjavik your home base and take tours from there into the Golden Circle and even into the Southern region which is where most of the country’s top sights are.
  • How many days do you think you’ll have in Iceland? Is this a stopover trip or a longer trip?
    • I would NOT recommend attempting the ring road with less than 7 days. Even 7 days was pushing it to have comfortable days without too much car time.
    • The Westfjords and East Fjords carry some of the most incredible views in Iceland, but note that they are harder to get to and drive between.  This is because fjords are long/narrow, carved inlets of the sea – they are beautiful to look at, but require extra time to drive around them.

Pro tip: By far, the easiest way to see Iceland if you’re going to do the ring road is to rent a camper van.  There are many different companies to choose from and it gives you maximum flexibility during your journey. This is a huge benefit because there are honestly infinite beautiful sights in Iceland which you can take your time exploring without having to worry about pre-booked hotels. 

Since we did not rent a camper van, we did some MAJOR research to figure out all of the sights/activities we wanted to do while we were there.  We then narrowed it down to our top favorites  our sights/activities and rough drive time each day to figure out where it made sense to spend the night.  Because I am an anal organizer, our planning document looked something like this:

“Spreadsheet Queen” should be my middle name, but my insane organization skills sure came in handy for planning our Iceland trip!

Of course, use whatever system works for you (even if that’s a travel agent haha)  And again, this is why a camper van is such an amazing option for the ring road – it eliminates the need for most of this planning.

Pro tip: Make sure to book your accommodations well in advance.  Iceland has seen a tourism surge of  440% over the last 10 years, so it’s safe to say you’re not the only one looking for a place to stay.  Airbnb has some absolutely incredible properties in Iceland and if you book early, you just may snag one of them… and get to eat ice cream in your hot tub with an incredible view just like this guy!

Hot tub + views + ice cream + local beer = Adam living his best life at the AkurgerĂ°i Guesthouse!

Have you already visited Iceland? Comment below and share your best planning tips!

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