Iceland is a stunning country. It is a must-visit at least once in your lifetime. In no other place, will you witness such an interesting landscape – lava fields, stunning waterfalls, glaciers, cute coffee shops and street-art or nature’s phenomenal displays. We were impressed with the country’s management of natural resources, economic boom, cuisines and of course the vibrant capital city Reykjavik. People are warm and the sheep and Icelandic horses will melt your heart. Chase those northern lights in the winter or sleep under the blanket of stars on warm summer nights – use this 3 days in Iceland itinerary and make your dream-trip a reality!
3 Days in Iceland Itinerary – What to see in Iceland in 3 days
Iceland Airport Arrivals & Departure
If you are flying to Iceland from international airways, you will arrive at the Keflavík International Airport. Keflavík International Airport is located about 50 minutes away from the capital city of Reykjavik. Reykjavik also has an airport, but it only services internal flights or flights to Greenland. The airport although small, is packed with stores, restaurants and services like sight-seeing tours, bus services and car rentals.
- If you are planning to rent a car, you can reserve it online and pick it up at the airport. There are many car rental companies on site. Bring your own GPS to keep costs low. Take additional insurance. While on the road, wear seat-belts (it is mandatory in Iceland), watch out for wildlife and don’t get distracted by the landscape outside. Re-fuel when you find a station, sometimes you will be driving for miles and miles without any fuel stations in sight.
- No car, no problem. Reykjavik Excursions and Reykjavik Sightseeing via Flybus operates buses to take you to Reykjavik city. You have options to either choose your hotel as a drop-off point or the BSI terminal (central bus terminal in Reykjavik). It is not required to pre-book bus seats, but you can get 10-20% discount coupons from Iceland tour companies if you book tours through them.
Immigration process is easy and quick. You will require a Schengen Visa to visit Iceland, if you do not belong to the passport exempt countries. More information on Schengen visa process and list of countries here
Departures are a bit tricky if you have check-in bags for your flight. Line-ups are huge and so we recommend arriving early to Keflavík to check-in.
Day 1 Iceland Itinerary – Arrival – Blue Lagoon – Reykjavik Downtown – Northern Lights/Midnight Sun
We flew from Canada and arrived in Iceland in the morning hours. The flight was only 6 hours long and we arrived at 6:30 am via IcelandAir. Quick break stop for us at the airport and we were ready with our backpacks to explore. As mentioned, Reykjavik is 50 minutes away from the airport, so we took a flybus to reach the capital city.
Blue Lagoon is located 15 minutes from the Keflavík – Reykjavik airport. So if you are planning to visit the Blue Lagoon, we recommend visiting on your day of arrival or departure.
We decided to book a bus to take us to Blue Lagoon and then drop us at the hotel in Reykjavik. Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa, powered by Svartsengi power station. It is a man-made lagoon and is one of the popular Iceland attractions. The warm water is full of minerals like silica and sulphur and is considered very beneficial for body wellness. Blue Lagoon maintains strict hygiene policy – you have to take a shower before getting in to the pool.
Blue Lagoon Iceland Tips
- Pre-purchase your Blue Lagoon Tickets online here. Packages start at 55 euros
- The entry tickets have time stamps on them and they start as early as 08:00 am and close at 10:00 pm or 00:00 am depending on seasons
- Extra luggage can be stowed at a locker room for a fee. Towels and bathing suits can be rented
- If you were not able to book tickets online or if your preferred time-slots are not available, you can still explore Blue Lagoon Iceland without purchasing tickets, just that you cannot go inside the pool/spa. There are restaurants and stores open at the Lagoon which are open to public (without entry fees).
- Food at the cafe is decently priced.
You can easily spend two-three hours at the Blue Lagoon. If you visit the lagoon in the morning, then by noon try to hit Reykjavik. Our accommodation was at one of the Reykjavik downtown apartment hotels – A Room with a View.
Reykjavik downtown is (I think) one of the prettiest and hippiest downtown that I have explored so far. It is nothing like what I imagined it to be, and I am glad to admit that it took me by surprise. Reykjavik downtown is can be easily explored on foot or bicycle during summer months. The lanes are marked by names and numbers. Laugavegur is the main street in downtown and addresses in that lane/street are marked by numbers. For example our hotel was located at Laugavegur 18.
Grab a Reykjavik tourist map and get exploring. You will notice that on one side of Reykjavik, there is a long coast or harbour. If you are planning to explore Reykjavik for a full day, then consider starting your sightseeing venture from the harbour. Located along the harbour are some of the prime Iceland tourist attractions like – Harpa Concert Hall and the Sun Voyager (Solfar).
If you only have a few hours (4-6 hours), then you will have to pick a few spots and the tallest church of Iceland should be included in that. The church of Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran church located in Reykjavik. It is one of the most popular Iceland attraction. The architecture of the church from the outside is quiet interesting and grand. The interiors are very simple. There is a large pipe organ located inside the church. There is no entry fee to enter the church, but if you plan to access the tower then 10 Euros entry fee is required.
It is worth taking the elevator to get tower access to view the entire city of Reykjavik and its colorful houses. During summer months (May to September), tower access is available from 09:00 am to 09:00 pm. During winters (October to April), tower is open from 09:00 am to 05:00 pm
Your second stop in Downtown Reykjavik should be the Reykjavik Free Church. It is a beautiful green and white church. Right opposite to the church is a beautiful lake – the Pond. Perfect place for a quick stroll in the afternoon or evening during summers. You can also see swans enjoying their swim. The Reykjavik city hall and Iceland tourist centre are also located in the area.
As you walk or bike away from the Pond, you will be back into the heart of Reykjavik. These lanes are lined with pubs,restaurants and coffee houses. Downtown Reykjavik is colorful and vibrant – their night life is hip and happening; music, good food and drink.
There are numerous museums, stores and grocery markets in Downtown as well. On your first day, you can pick up snacks or groceries before heading to the hotel. We checked-in to our hotel in the evening and rested for a couple of hours. At night, we had planned to take a Northern Lights tour.
The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis, are a natural phenomenon occurring in the Northern hemisphere when the sun’s charged particles enter earth’s atmosphere and create an eerie green glow with dancing array of lights in the night sky. During winter months, which are from October to February, you can view northern lights in Iceland.
Northern Lights Tips
- You do not need to take a tour to view Northern Lights. As long as you can find a spot, away from the city lights and dark, preferably between 11:00 pm to 02:00 am, you can chase these lights.
- As it is a natural phenomenon and weather dependent, if it is raining or snowing, you wont see any dancing lights in the sky. Northern Lights tour operators offer a second day free tour, if no northern lights were seen or if a tour was cancelled. So it is a good idea to squeeze this on your first or second day of your 3 day Iceland itinerary.
- Cell-phones (including iphones) cannot capture the beauty of Northern Lights. You will need a proper camera to shoot the northern lights.
- Our tour operator actually had binoculars, cameras and tripods and they helped us capture those amazing moments. We also saw shooting stars, along with Northern Lights that day. Book your Northern Lights Tour
- There are fun and romantic ways to witness the Northern Lights – Hotel Ranga (this resort is located about 1.50 hours from Reykjavik in Hella and people often see Northern Lights here). Another option to witness Northern Lights is by staying in a Buubble (these are transparent bubbles where you can sleep overnight and witness the aurora borealis all night long. This is a great item, if you have 4-5 additional days in Iceland. These bubbles have to be pre-booked as well and cost 450 Euros per person – so yes a little pricey)
The Mid-night sun is a natural phenomenon and a term used to refer to consecutive 24- hour periods of sunlight experienced in the Arctic and south of Antarctic circle. Its occurs during summer months – from late May to July. During summer solstice, the sun in Iceland is visible for almost 24 hours (sun sets after midnight and sunrise occurs just before 03:00 am).
Living in Canada, it is easy to understand both the northern lights and mid-night sun phenomenon. If you have never seen Northern Lights – boy, you are in for some real treat. And if you have never experienced mid-night sun or longer summer days, then it could be hard on your body. Some people find it difficult to adjust their bodies during extended sunny hours. Imagine, it is actually 11:00 pm and you are not hungry or sleepy because you think and feel that it is just 18:00 pm. Longer summer hours mean you can stay out exploring or even camp under the blanket of stars.
Day 2 South Iceland Itinerary – Sólheimajökull Glacier – Vik – Reynisfjara – Seljalandsfoss Waterfall – Skogarfoss
Start your day 2 in Iceland by embarking on a southern exploration and go way down to the village of Vik (southern-most part of Iceland). You can rent a car or take a day tour from Reykjavik. The tour or the drive can be done in 9-11 hours. If you start by 8-9 am from Reykjavik, you will be back in downtown by 5-6 pm and that gives you time to explore the city or enjoy a nice dinner or just nap!
To reach Vik, you will be passing through lava fields. You will see volcanic landscape (lava/black in color) and no trees around. That is why Iceland is so windy – no trees around. The country is high on using environment friendly products and many will request you to not print your vouchers when you take a tour. I saw this in my email confirmation when I booked a tour, which was very different from other European cities – where they ask you to get your vouchers printed.
Anyhow, back to the drive. You will see Hekla Volcano and the mighty Eyjafjallajökull (hey, now I can pronounce it right) from your car seat. Such stunning landscape, feels like you are in a different planet.
Sólheimajökull is your first stop. It is located about 2 hours from Reykjavik. Sólheimajökull is a glacier located in south Iceland and one of the most accessible sites from Reykjavik. There are options for glacier hike (3 hours or so). You can also walk at the beach area or take a short hike to see the glacier opening.
After a drive of 3-3.50 hours, you will arrive in Vik and Rejnisfjara Black sand beach. This place is beautiful with black sand and the huge basalt-column cave and sea stacks. Be very careful as the wave currents are very strong – strong enough to sweep you away into the sea. You can also meet Icelandic horses here and go horse-riding.
It is almost lunch time after a walk at the beach. Vik has a tourist stop where you can have lunch and also purchase IceWear goodies from their factory outlet. I think I had the best lamp soup here at Vik. The “town” of Vik only has 271 residents.
Next stop is Skogarfoss waterfall. Skogarfoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland. You can go as close as you want to the falls – but be careful the force is strong. You can also climb up 527 steps to see the 60 meter high waterfall from above. It is advisable to wear waterproof clothing as you will drenched in water. Due to the force of water, you will very often see rainbows here, we did too.
Very close to the waterfalls is a farm where I played with the cutest and fluffiest sheeps. I fell for these sheeps more then the Icelandic horses (sorry horsie)
Last stop on your south Iceland Itinerary is another waterfall – Seljalandsfoss. This is the coolest as you can walk from behind and around the waterfall. Again waterproof clothing and good gripped shoes are important as you will be climbing on rocks to access the waterfall from behind.
Day 3 Golden Circle Iceland Itinerary ( Thingvellir National Park – Geysir – Gulfoss Waterfalls) – Secret Lagoon
After yesterday’s South Iceland itinerary, you will be exploring one of the most popular routes in Iceland – Golden Circle Route, on your last day. The Golden Circle Route consists of – Thingvellir National Park, Geysir and Gulfoss Waterfalls. You can drive or take a Golden Circle day tour from Reykjavik to explore these sites. The tour will last 6-8 hours. Most tours start at 8 or 9 am and are back in town by 4-5 pm. This allows you to spend some time in Reykjavik in the evening – shopping, eating or exploring the downtown. (Book Golden Circle Tours here)
Thingvellir National Park (Þingvellir) is an UNESCO heritage site in Iceland. This site is important for historical and geographical reasons. Historically significant as this was the seat of Iceland’s parliament (althing). The Althing Iceland was presided over by their Norwegian chieftain – I Arnarson.
Althing Iceland – the creation of national Parliament was instrumental in shaping Iceland and its communities the way it is now. The site – Þingvellir is also the first national park in Iceland. Quite an interesting visit to the Parliament as it is like no other in the world – its not like the Hungarian Parliament or city halls in Munich – but something very raw and unique as it shows how humans facilitated the understanding and need for common assemblies and association. I was impressed and was imagining Vikings presiding over these sessions, which is also so cool, don’t you think?
The Thingvellir National Park is also unique as it lies in a rift valley, marking the boundary between the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates. You can take a short hike and walk through those plates. You will notice that the North American plates are bigger then the Eurasian one. To the south of the park, lies the largest natural lake in Iceland – Thingvallavtn (Þingvallavatn). You can snorkel or go diving here.
Up next on the route is something that personally I have never witnessed before – a geyser. A geyser is a upward spring characterized by water discharge from the ground,intermittently. The two geysers in the Golden Circle route are – Strokkur and Geysir (geysers of Haukadalur). (Geysir gave the English word “geyser”). We saw the Strokkur erupt in 2-4 minutes – so stay put and get the cameras ready. This site also has many hot springs, mud-pots and smaller geysers. The boiling water from these mud-pots were insane – you can even boil eggs here!
Gullfoss is a beautiful waterfall, located in the Hvita glacial river. It is possible to take a leisurely walk to the site. There are two observation areas. The closest and easiest one also has a statue of the first environmentalist of Iceland, a lady name – Sigriður Tómasdóttir. Story is that she walked to Reykjavik to save this waterfall from being commercialized for hydro-power.
If you keep walking, you will reach the second observation area, where you can feel the cascading power of this waterfall (a drop of 21 metres). This feeling of standing so close to the waterfall is surreal – it is almost like standing on top of these mighty falls. As always, waterproof clothing and shoes are key to enjoy these natural wonders safely.
There is also another waterfall closeby, called Faxi waterfall. On warm days, you can actually sit here and soak the sun.
Last treat for the day is Secret Lagoon. This is actually not a part of classic Golden Circle sightseeing route, but it is on the way and many tours also provide this as an add-on option to your Golden Circle tour. As part of the tour, you can spend 1-2.50 hours at the lagoon. We were there for 2 hours and it was more then enough time to enjoy the warm waters and take a short walk to see the geyser. Yes! the secret lagoon has small boiling pots and other geothermal spots that are interesting to see.
Secret Lagoon Tips – The Secret Lagoon or the Gamla Laugin is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland. It was created in 1891. It is located close to the Fludir geothermal site and you can see greenhouses near the site as well.
- This is a great option to enjoy the geothermal spas in Iceland.
- I consider this a great alternative to the Blue Lagoon as it is natural. Also if you couldn’t pre-book your Blue Lagoon tickets, then you MUST visit the Secret Lagoon as no advance booking is necessary.
- As you swim or float to the edges, the water gets warmer and warmer as it is powered by the geothermal water (boiling pits nearby)
- The water is very swallow – so you will be fine, even if you dint know how to swim.
- There is an entry fee of 35 Euros to the lagoon. It has shower and change room facilities. Lockers are free (of any size). Get Entry tickets for less then $30 USD here
- There is restaurant inside and a few fish food stalls outside the lagoon lobby area.
- Book Golden Circle Tours with Secret Lagoon Entry here
Secret Lagoon is less crowded, less commercialized and a perfect way to unwind and relax after 3 days of intense exploration.
With the addition of the Secret Lagoon to your Golden Circle day trip Itinerary, you will arrive in Reykjavik by evening – 07:00 pm or so.
Travel Tips for Iceland Itinerary – 3 days
Iceland is a unique country to visit. The country’s capital is Reykjavik, which is located on the southern part of the island. It is a very clean and an organised country, in terms of cities and streets. People are friendly and everybody can speak in English.
Iceland tourism is blooming. There are no dearth of all inclusive packages to Iceland, day tours or excursions. Here are some quick tips for your Iceland Trip.
Iceland Travel & Budget – Iceland Tours Reviews
IcelandAir and WoW Airlines operate flights to Iceland from many international airports daily. You will most likely see deals from IcelandAir, with hotel packages during spring and they are a steal. Depending on your departure airport, a return trip can be as low as $300 USD (outside of Europe)
To explore Iceland, you can either rent a car or book tours. For a short trip or a layover in Iceland, consider booking tours instead. They are the best way to travel Iceland and enjoy the views. They are convenient, safe and makes efficient use of your short time in Iceland. Full day tours start as low as $60 USD per day. These tours are not intrusive. The bus operator and a guide will take you to the Iceland tourist spots and you can explore those sites your way. They leave the tourists alone to explore and enjoy the site. They do operate on strict time-lines though as weather can be quite unpredictable in Iceland.
Food & Budget for your 3 day Iceland Itinerary
Iceland has some great delicacies that you got to try in your 3 day itinerary.
- Skyr is an Icelandic yogurt (less sweet then a Greek yogurt), which is a must try. My favorite flavor was Creme Brulee.
- Try Icelandic Lamp Soup. It is healthy and delicious. A big bowl of soup with a bun is a filling meal. It costs around $16 USD. You should try this once in a restaurant.
- Dark Rye Bread – Love everything about this bread. It is crust-less and a tad sweet. It is made by burying the dough underground near a hot spring (what!). Yes and it is sooo delicious!
- Fish – Iceland has over 340 species of fish. Codfish with mashed potato is one of the popular dishes. It is called Plokkfiskur, served with dark rye bread.
When it comes to budgeting your trip to Iceland, special attention has to be paid to food expenses. Eating out in restaurants everyday of your 3 day Iceland Itinerary will be costly for your wallet. An average meal for 2 is about $65 USD (2 sandwiches meal), which is expensive. So plan to buy groceries and cook in your hotel.
Budget friendly grocery stores include Bonus, 10-11, Kronan, etc. These stores also sell some of Icelandic must-try items like Skyr (Icelandic yogurt), dark rye bread, Icelandic chocolate, soup and salads, etc. Cup noodles from Bonus grocery stores are the most delicious cup noodles that I had ever had. Try them for 169 kronas. Reykjavik has an Ikea store and it is a great option for budget eating.
Iceland Where to Stay?
There are tons of options for Iceland accommodation. Options include luxury resorts and hotels, hostels, campsites, camper-vans and AirBnB.
We stayed in a hotel for our 3 days in Iceland and the hotel was located in Reykjavik. Here are some recommended places to stay in Iceland.
- Room with a View – We stayed at this hotel, located in Downtown Reykjavik
- The hotel was located in a very convenient location to tours, bus-stops, sightseeing in Reykjavik and restaurants and grocery stores
- Rooms were big, had a kitchen – which was a bonus. Some rooms with detached washrooms were cheaper then rooms with attached bathroom. Budget friendly hotel.
- Located close to the Hallgrímskirkja Church.
- Book your stay here
- IcelandAir Hotel Natura – Great option when paired with IcelandAir Vacation Packages
- Close to the centre and Perlan in Reykjavik. Most tours will pick up and drop off guests from here
- Clean, environmental friendly.
- Hotel has a restaurant on site. Happy hours start at 04:00 pm
- Book your stay here
- Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Centre – One of the finest hotels in Iceland
- Luxurious hotel in the heart of Reykjavik. Great interiors
- Great location for tours and sightseeing in South Iceland
- The hotel overlooks the Faxa Bay
- Book your stay here
- Centre Hotel – Located near Harpa concert hall in Reykjavik
- If you are renting a car, stay at this hotel as it has free parking
- Also includes free breakfast.
- Has a Turkish bath and spa on site
- Book your stay here
- City Park Hotel – Another great hotel option located close to downtown
- Includes free parking and breakfast
- Book your stay here
- Hostel Options in Iceland – Reykjavik City Hostel, I Sleep Reykjavik Hostel, Downtown Hostel, Loft I Hostel
- Galaxy Pod Hostel – Unique, compact, budget-friendly. This pod hostel has singles and couples room with TV and air-conditioning. Check out the Galaxy Pod Hostel here
- Campsites – There are over 170 registered camp sites in Iceland. You can consider staying at a camp site for cheap. They are open from June to August/September only.
- Iceland nature preservation law dictates which sites are considered campsites. However, you are allowed to put out tents in residential areas for a night. Conditions apply, check this
- Camper-Vans/Motor Homes – Camper-van Iceland offers 24 hours services for camper-vans. These services are available all year long.
- Most camper-vans offer unlimited mileage. You have to return a full tank upon returning your van
- Basic insurance is included and you have to pay for additional coverage.
- Most camper-vans are offered for a minimum of 3 days to 7 days. So definitely an option for your 3 days Iceland itinerary.
Find great Iceland Hotel Deals here
Iceland Travel Itinerary – Summer & Winter Tips
- Things to do in Iceland in Summer – You can use the above stops for your 3 days in Iceland summer itinerary. You will miss out the Northern Lights, but the weather will be more favorable to camp outside or stay exploring in to the later hours in the evening. You can explore Reykjavik on food or bike around the town. In fact, exploring downtown core (the cafes, lanes and harbour) is one of the best places to visit Iceland in summer, without worrying too much about the cold or the wind. Great options for capturing the mid-night sun in Iceland in summer. As always, carry waterproof clothes, wind-proof jacket and a sweater. Don’t forget the sturdy shoes. Summer is also a great time for some Iceland adventure travel like exploring lava cave, helicopter tours or snorkeling, hiking, horse riding, etc Find more Iceland Summer Activities
- Things to do in Iceland in Winter – Iceland winter itinerary is extra unique due to the amazing things that you can do. Let’s start with the Northern Lights tour, of course. Glacier hikes and snow-mobile rides are even more prettier during winters. Soaking in a geothermal spa is best experienced when it is slightly snowing, yet you feel warm in the water! So definitely a must winter item. Winters in Iceland also brings in unpredictability in travel planning though, especially for a short 3 day trip. You can definitely visit all the sites as mentioned in this itinerary (northern lights depends on weather conditions). If you are driving, stay careful on the road. Can’t stress enough how important it is to dress well and layer your sweaters. Tip: Early October – November is the best time to visit Iceland, as snow has not started yet and driving is not a challenge. Tourist attractions are open and easily accessible and don’t forget the Northern Lights tour. More on Iceland Winter Activities
- Iceland Winter Tours are special. Most of these suggested tours are in the south Iceland or Golden Circle route, you will have to add additional time to the day’s activities to cover these tours. Also keep the weather conditions in mind. Iceland tour recommendation for winter include Northern Lights Tour, Glacier Hike and Expedition, Snowmobile tours, Ice Cave Exploration,Golden Circle and Fontana Wellness Spa
Iceland is one of the most accessible countries than you think. Iceland vacation packages are offered in many international destinations. Some of the popular ones are highlighted below.
Before that, a word about IcelandAir – Iceland Air should be credited in offering affordable and safe flights to Iceland. They are innovative and one of a kind. From the moment you step in to their aircraft, you can feel the Icelandic hospitality. I adore their in-flight safety precautions video – how creative! (you have to see this yourself : Youtube). The in-flight entertainment package also includes day tours and airport transfer options to book from. Iceland Air is also well connected to other European cities, so this is also a perfect lay-over destination.
- Iceland tours from UK – If you are in the UK or planning to visit UK, you can add a complete tour package from London to Reykjavik. Flights start as low as 40 Euros (non-stop 3 hour flight) which is a perfect weekend getaway to Reykjavik Iceland from London. Once you are in Iceland, you can tailor the 3 day Iceland Itinerary stops to your taste.
- Iceland tours from USA – Flights from major cities in USA at $300 USD for Iceland return trip deals. Many Iceland vacations combine flights, hotels, sightseeing tours and airport transfers for a decent price.
- Iceland getaways from Canada – Perfect Iceland weekend getaway from Canada is possible! IcelandAir operates from most of the major Canadian cities including Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal. We departed from Edmonton via IcelandAir (6 hours flight) at 6:20 pm and arrived the next day at 6:30 am in Iceland. Almost the same flying time as traveling to Toronto from Edmonton and flight costs cheaper then that. During spring time, Iceland Air offers flight return trip deals starting at $350 CAD from major Canadian cities.
- Iceland tour packages from India – Iceland tour packages from India are quite affordable then other European countries. MakeMyTrip.com offers flight+hotel deals via IcelandAir and Wow Airlines. Flights to Paris from major cities in India are also cheaper (thanks to the flight frequency), so you can book a flight to Paris and get a connection to Iceland after.
Iceland’s landscape and the country’s welcoming vibe won’t disappoint you. You can definitely craft this itinerary to fit a layover in the city of Reykjavik for a few hours or 1-2 days in Iceland tour.
Last Update: November 11 2018
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