A Five-Day Iceland Itinerary


Michael Ridpath in Iceland

For years, a group of old friends, who have also been loyal readers of my books, have been asking me to show them around Iceland. I promised I would one day, and this year I decided to take the plunge. If not now, when?

So I drew up an itinerary for the eight of us – four couples - and we went at the beginning of October.

The trip worked very well. And since readers often ask me to suggest places to visit in Iceland, I thought I would share the itinerary with you.

There were some important decisions to be made first.

When to go? Iceland gets very crowded in July and August and the weather isn’t very good anyway. It’s dark in winter. For a land with no trees, the autumn colours can be quite spectacular. So we chose early October.

How long to go for? There would be plenty to see on a two-week trip to Iceland, but it would also be expensive. So we settled on five days.

What about Reykjavik? Once again, there is plenty to see in Reykjavik, but we decided since we had limited time, we would spend most of it in the Icelandic countryside. The centre of Reykjavik is quite small, and you can get a little bit of a feel for it walking around for 3 hours or so.

Where to go? The Snaefellsnes peninsula has featured heavily in my books and there is plenty to do there. It’s also only three hours from Reykjavik. So that, plus the three big sights of Thingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir seemed a good choice.

Here is the itinerary:

Day 1

Arrive in Iceland.

Dinner Apotek. A good restaurant just off the Austurvöllur square in central Reykjavík.

Hotel: The Reykjavik Residence Hotel. Rooms are in a series of old houses full of character in the city centre.

Day 2

Walk around Reykjavik. Cafe Mokka on Skólavördustígur; the Hallgrímskirkja including view from the tower; walk downhill through residential streets of old brightly coloured metal-clad houses; the Tjörnin pond; the Reykjavík City Hall with large relief map of Iceland; the Austurvöllur square outside Parliament; Baejarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand; the Harpa opera house; walk along the bay to the Viking longship sculpture.

Afternoon. Drive to Snaefellsnes.

Hotel. Hótel Búdir. My favourite hotel in Iceland in a spectacular location. View of the mountains, the Snaefelsjökull volcano, a lava field and the black church. Good food too – lamb and fish recommended.

Day 3

The Snaefellsnes Peninsula, as featured in a couple of my books, especially Sea of Stone. Pretty fishing village of Stykkishólmur; Helgafell the "holy mountain" of the sagas; the Berserkjahraun and the Berserkjagata (a path cut through the lava field by two berserkers a thousand years ago); the shark museum at Bjarnarhöfn; lunch in Grundarfjördur looking out on the photogenic Kirkjufell mountain; Hellnar and a 2km walk along the cliffs to Arnarstapi and back

Hotel. Hótel Búdir

Day 4

Drive to Hvalfjördur – "Whale Fjord" – and along the south shore of the fjord, where my next book Whale Fjord is set. Hvammsvik hot springs - an amazing series of hot pots by the side of the fjord with a wonderful view. Worth the expensive entrance, but you need to book online in advance.

Afternoon. Thingvellir, the open-air Parliament set next to a dramatic gorge between the two continental plates.

Hotel: Blue Hotel Fagralundur in Reykholt. Well run and not expensive. Dinner at the good Mika restaurant next door.

Day 5

Morning. Geysir – the geyser – and Gullfoss– a waterfall of magnificent power.

Afternoon either Reykjavik revisited or Kleifarvatn and the Seltún hot springs to the south-west of Reykjavík.

Hotel: Cheap hotel by the airport, but don't choose the one we stayed in!

Day 6

Morning flight home.

There are countless other ways of seeing Iceland, but this trip worked well. It is amazing how much variety you can squeeze into five days! If you have any questions about this itinerary, just ask me in the comments section.

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