Iceland is referred to the land of fire and ice because of its diverse landscape and geothermal activity. From waterfalls, to volcanoes, to hot springs, to glaciers and stunning mountains – it’s clear why Iceland experiences such high tourism. This one week Iceland itinerary will explain everywhere we visited and which spots were out favorites! In this guide to traveling to Iceland, I’ll dive into van life, our detailed Iceland South Coast & Golden Circle itinerary, and a suggested packing list.
Iceland One Week Itinerary
We traveled to Iceland from May 9 to 16 and rented a camper van to explore the South Coast, Golden Circle, Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Reykjavik. Over the course of our trip we drove more than 1900 km, and spent less than $2500 in one of the most expensive places to vacation.
We rented our van from Happy Campers and spent around $1100 USD for one week. Our van was the smallest available size, no 4 wheel drive, but an automatic transmission. If you don’t know how to drive manual, be sure to rent a car or van that is automatic.
Overall, our experience with Happy Campers was good. The staff was friendly, they transported us to and from the airport and the van was generally clean. It definitely had some wear and dents, but it’s a budget camper van company.
After arriving at Happy Campers to pick up our van, it took around 45 minutes to go through the process of singing papers, doing the walk around and learning about the van. A tablet with GPS and wifi is provided, but the wifi was sometimes spotty. I ended up paying for an international plan with my carrier so we weren’t stuck without GPS when in more remote locations.
The van includes the tablet with wifi and GPS, one pot, one pan, plates, shallow bowls, silverware, cups, mugs, cooking utensils, a burner, fridge, all bedding and a dust pan to clean the van. We added on the power inverter and some towels. The bed was cozy, but for two smaller women (5’1 and 5’3) it was a good size. With the smaller vans, you have to fold the bed up every day to access the cookware and drawers, so just something to note. Once we got into a groove, it didn’t feel as inconvenient. The curtains are also pretty see through, and Iceland is only dark a few hours a day, so we hung up blankets and towels to make the van darker.
We loved doing van life around Iceland! It allowed us to drive anywhere and everywhere we wanted stopping whenever we saw a beautiful view or attraction. It also made it easy to be really flexible with our plans. If we wanted to change up a day’s plans, we could easily just choose a different campsite instead of worrying about hotel reservations.
We visited right before the summer season started, so it was sometimes challenging to find open campsites. There were times we could find campsites with bathrooms but no showers, but there were still a number of campsites that were open early. We used the Happy Campers campsite map to find places to camp. Google and apple maps are missing a ton of sites so we highly recommend using their directory. Also, remember to get coins because some camp sites will require coins to shower, while others include showers in the fee. We only paid to camp 2 nights out of 6 and the fees were between $10-15 USD per person.
DAY 1: Fly into KEF, SELFOSS & WATERFALLS
On day one, we both took red eyes to land at 6:15 AM so we would have the entire first day to explore. Happy Campers picked us up from the airport at 8:15 AM, then we headed over to get our van. After getting our van, we got breakfast at Sigurjónsbakarí, a bakery near the airport.
We got groceries from Bonus, their budget grocery store. We picked up breakfast items (cereal, oatmeal, muffins) and lunch items (bread, meat and cheese for sandwiches; red sauce and noodles for pasta; and veggies for soup). Our plan was to cook breakfast and lunch, then eat out for our dinners.
After grocery shopping, we started our drive to the South Coast stopping at a few points on our drive in:
Bókakaffio in Árborg, a coffee shop and book store.
Waterfall in Flóahreppur (63.92460° N, 20.67519° W)
Waterfall near Hella (63.81881° N, 20.41860° W)
Waterfall (63.71936° N, 19.89221° W). We hiked this one to the top and the views just got better!
We had to drive 7 miles on a gravel/rock road in between these two waterfalls as a heads up. Be careful and drive slow so that you don’t damage the undercarriage or windshield.
Selfalandsfoss (63.61561° N, 19.98980° W) This was one of the more popular waterfalls. We were the only people for miles at the first three but this one had more tourists, a food stand and shop. You are able to walk behind this waterfall but you’ll get soaked, so plan to wear your waterproof outer layers. (Pictured here)
After visiting all of the waterfalls, we got dinner at Valhalla Restaurant around 7 PM. We hadn’t eaten a full meal all day, and we had been up since 6 AM so we were ready to turn in!
Our first campsite was Hotel Fljotshlid. This campsite is a part of a bed and breakfast. They have a kitchen, bathroom, showers and a sitting room. The showers were not working when we stayed there, so if you’re traveling during the winter season, call ahead!
DAY 2: Westman Islands, Skógafoss, Dyrhólaey, Vik
To kick off day 2, we took the Herjólfur ferry to Vestmannaeyjar (The Westman Islands). The ferry ride was 40 minutes and they have food and drinks on board. I would recommend renting bikes upon arrival so you can see more of the Island. We didn’t do this but we would’ve biked around if we were able to. We got pastries from Vigtin Bakhús, hiked toward the Eldfell volcanoe, had a picnic with our packed lunch then visited the Sea Life Trust to see some puffins.
After returning to Iceland’s main land, we drove to Skógafoss — my favorite waterfall of the trip! It was busy with tourists, so if you want less crowds it’s better to arrive earlier in the morning or later at night before the tour buses begin arriving (between business hours). We climbed to the top of this waterfall as well for a view from above!
After, we drove to Dyrhólaey to hike to the arch. We parked in the lot further down the road in and hiked about a mile to a viewpoint for the arch. It was foggy but we were able to see the arch as well as the black sand beach.
Next, we drove to Vik and got noodles at Wok On which was one of my favorite restaurants. We planned to do the Black Sand Beach this day, but we decided to skip it since it was so foggy.
We spent about an hour and a half trying to find a campsite in Vik, but we couldn’t find anything and there weren’t even any public restrooms open by 9 PM so we ended up driving an hour east to camp at Tjaldstædid Kirkjubær II which had pay by coin showers.
DAY 3: Lava Fields, Fjadrárgljúfur Canyon, Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, Diamond Beach, Skaftafell
Our campsite was only a few minutes from Eldhraun, the lava fields, so we stopped there first. The moss is highly protected and damaging the moss carries large fines. It can take hundreds of years for the moss to grow. Then we headed to Fjadrárgljúfur, a large canyon. It was pretty rainy this day so we didn’t spend a lot of time hiking at each location like the previous days. Next, we drove out to the Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach. This probably my favorite part of the trip. The glaciers and the lagoon were incredible to see in person!
We also met up with a couple to do a photoshoot in this area. It was rainy with 24mph winds at the lagoon, so we drove back west and found an open field and hiking trail near the glaciers for their photos and it was stunning!
I flew my drone further from the lagoon but there are still a lot of airspace restrictions around the mountains and main attractions in Iceland so most shots are from further away.
Later that evening, we got dinner at Veitingasala. We only had one sit down meal (not this one) and kept all of our meals out under $25.
Then, my sweet couple that I shot photos for invited us to enjoy the spa at their hotel so we hung out with them and soaked in the hot tubs until late that evening.
DAY 4: GLACIER HIKE, SELFOSS, GOLDEN CIRCLE
The forecast predicted rain in the afternoon, so we woke up early to hike from our campsite to a glacier. Along the way, we stopped and filled our water bottles up with the glacier water which was a highlight! The water in Iceland is really pure so you can drink the water almost anywhere. We hiked really close to the glacier which was another favorite part of the trip for me.
This day was mainly for driving back across the south coast from the lagoon. We stopped at the Dwarf Rocks, and then Vik to see the Black Sand Beach, but even with all of our waterproof clothing it was way too rainy and windy for us to see it. Instead, we cooked our lunch by the beach then drove towards Selfoss. We made a stop at The Greenhouse Hotel, which has a variety of restaurants, bars, an ice cream parlor and a shop. I even saw the issue of British VOGUE that my work was featured in on their coffee table for guests to read which was pretty surreal!
After The Greenhouse, we drove to see Kerid Crater. It was pretty rainy so we headed to our campsite, the Uthlid Cottages for the night. This campsite has a restaurant on site, so we shared an appetizer since we had just had ice cream at The Greenhouse and weren’t hungry enough for a full meal. We loved using the hot tub at this campsite, and the common area was great for washing dishes and spending time outside of the van. The showers at this campsite are communal but it wasn’t very busy so we had some privacy.
DAY 5: The Golden Circle, Snæfellsnes Peninsula
This was by far our longest day with around 7-8 hours of driving. We left our campsite at 10 AM and didn’t arrive at our campsite for the night until closer to 10 PM. We started the day by visiting Geysir, Gullfoss and Brúarárfoss. You could cover all of those places the day before to shorten this day. They’re relatively close together.
One of the highlights of our trip was eating at Friðheimar, a tomato farm near Brúarárfoss. They serve you right in one of the greenhouses so you can see how the their ecosystem works with the bees and lights. The menu includes everything from tomato drinks, to entrees to desserts. They also have an insane bread table to enjoy before your entrees arrive. We had the tortilla (similar to a pizza) and the ravioli and it was amazing! They even have live basil plants at each table that you can pick the leaves off of for your food. We even had left overs that we were able to take home. Our server Esther was so kind and attentive.
After lunch, we saw the tectonic plates at Silfra, then headed out to the peninsula.
Our first stop was Bjarnarfoss, then the Black Church which is right across the street. Afterward, we saw Arnarstapi and then a lookout over Djupalonssandur Beach in the national park. Lastly, we saw Kirkjufellsfoss and cooked our dinner there before heading to our campground, Snorrastadir Farm Holidays.
DAY 6: Exploring Reykjavík
We woke up to a blizzard this morning, then headed to Reykjavík to explore the city once the weather cleared up. We started out at the church then walked the shops on Laugavegur Street. We walked all the way down to the Opera (?) near the water, then drove through the University campus to see that as well. We got fish n’ chips and I picked up a few things to take home since I hadn’t bought anything during the trip: wool socks for Christian and I, a watercolor print and wool sheep magnets for the fridge.
We ended the day at The Perlan Museum. This would be a great stop earlier in your trip because we learned so much about the history of Iceland and the landscapes, especially the volcanoes and glaciers.
On our last night, we cooked dinner and camped at the Happy Campers campsite since it’s only a 14 minute drive to the Blue Lagoon. They have two bathrooms and one shower at this campsite but the heat wasn’t working well while we were there.
DAY 7: The Blue Lagoon and Goodbyes :(
On our last day, we returned to Sigurjónsbakarí for breakfast before the lagoon.
Our Blue Lagoon reservation was for 8:00 AM, the earliest time slot. I made the reservation about a week and a half in advance, but during summer months you may need to reserve even further out. We arrived around 8:10 and were checked in and in the lagoon by 8:30. We wore our own flip flops in, but the lagoon did provide towels for use.
Upon arrival, we stored our items in a locker and rinsed off in the showers. I put conditioner in my hair and clipped it up so that it didn’t touch the lagoon at all, as the minerals in the water will completely dry out your hair.
We enjoyed our complimentary drink and face mask, as well as a story time from the staff about the history of the lagoon. They do these presentations twice a day, and the morning one was from 11-11:30.
The showers at the lagoon include body wash, shampoo, and conditioner, and the locker room has hair dryers and moisturizer as well. We took showers and got ready to leave for the airport.
We left from the Blue Lagoon to Happy Campers (about a 14 minute drive) to return the van which took around 30 minutes. Then, they transported us to the airport and we arrived at 1:15. I bought a few other souvenirs items at the airport that I had seen in the city like soap, Icelandic chocolate and lava salt.
TIPS FOR TRAVELING ICELAND
We didn’t exchange any currency. Almost everywhere takes credit cards and we only needed coins once to shower. Other than that, we never needed cash.
Dress in layers! Iceland’s weather is always changing. I wore the following layers:
1. Sport bra or athletic top
2. Moisture wicking long sleeve
3. Warm cotton long sleeve
4. Fleece jacket if needed
5. Sweater or crewneck
6. Rain Jacket
7. Thermal Leggings with rain proof pants on top when needed
8. Always a hat! The wind can make it feel really chilly.
Don’t rely on maps or google to find campsites, restaurants and look out points. The best thing you can do it drive around! Many places aren’t on the map.
Chat with the locals if you have the chance! We got to talk to a few people on our trip and really enjoyed it.
MY ICELAND PACKING LIST
I fit all of these items into a carry on suitcase. It did weigh over the Iceland Air weight limit, so I checked it.
5 Moisture Wicking Shirts (dry fit)
1 Knit Sweater
2 Crewneck sweatshirts
1 Thermal Leggings
1 Fleece Leggings
1 Regular Leggings (1 for sleeping)
9 Underwear (you can never pack too much lol)
9 Socks (High socks so that the hiking boots don’t give you blisters and pack one extra pair for sleeping, then one or two others because it can be rainy)
3 sports bras/athletic tops
Swimsuit (lots of hot tubs, springs and pools in Iceland)
Fleece zip up
Flip flops for the shower
Toothbrush & toothpaste
Light makeup if wanted (only really used concealer, eyeliner and mascara)
Bar of soap with case
Contact case & solution
Hair Dryer (I packed this and only used it once. At most campsites I just used the hand dryer to dry off my hair a little after a shower, and at the Blue Lagoon they provide hair dryers. I don’t think it’s necessary)
Rain cover for camera
Universal power adapter
Ziplock bags (for lunch to go)
Foldable bag for groceries (you have to buy bags in Iceland)
Plastic Bag(s) for dirty clothees
Drone (we use the DJI mavic mini)
Camera with 24-70 or 24-105 lens
USB cigarette charger (Happy Campers provided us with a power inverter that had an American plug but it’s not guaranteed, so be sure to bring a power adapter)