A 5 Day Iceland Itinerary for Travelling in May
Updated: Dec 4, 2020
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Isn't it everyone's dream to travel to Iceland? The landscape all over the country is simply breathtaking, and it's a big change from visiting a bustling, overcrowded city for a vacation. Iceland is always seen as an expensive destination for people. Luckily, I was able to find a cheap flight and some great accommodation, which gave me a bit of wiggle room with my budget. We were there a total of 5 days, and crammed a lot into each one. There are A LOT of things to see in Iceland. From driving the Golden Circle route, to crawling through ice caves, to getting close and personal with waterfalls, Iceland has it all and really is an explorer's paradise. Don't let the cost put you off. Make sure you budget ahead of time and plan your trip. Everything you do will be a once in a lifetime experience, and you can't put a price on that. Here's a bit of practical information for you:
Car Rental in Iceland: Driving in Iceland doesn't come cheap, but the best way to see the country is by car. We used Icerental 4x4 and rented a brand new KIA Sportage. We added WiFi to the package in the event we lost phone service (I'd highly recommend doing this). A car rental representative met us in the arrival hall of Keflavik Airport and drove us to the office. They will also drive you back to the airport when you drop off your vehicle. You have the option of adding the platinum insurance package as well which we did to cover ourselves fully driving in the Icelandic terrain. Prices depend on what type of car you rent, how many days, and what time of the year you're visiting. There are lots of car rental companies at Keflavik Airport, but we found Icerental to be the best in terms of value and their 4x4 options. I can guarantee you one thing - you'll love driving around Iceland.
Currency in Iceland: The currency in Iceland is the Icelandic króna. You can get some currency before flying if you want, but it's just as east to get it from an ATM once you arrive as well. I don't like to have a lot of cash on me, so I used my card for most transactions, but some of the more remote places only take cash, so it's a good idea to have some on hand. For the purpose of this blog post, I've put everything in Euros to give you a better idea of the prices.
How Expensive is Iceland?: Before visiting Iceland, all I ever heard was how expensive it is to visit. It's probably the most expensive country I've visited so far, but if you plan ahead and start booking the activities you want to do well in advance and spread the payments out, it'll make it seem a bit cheaper for you. Food is expensive. Very expensive. I'd recommend going to a grocery store and getting some food to take on the go. This is what we did most of the time as we ended up driving a lot to various areas of southern Iceland. Of course, we stopped at a few restaurants and cafes along the way though! Hotels aren't cheap either, but I have some recommendations to give you an idea of the prices throughout this post.
We spent 5 days in southern Iceland, predominantly in and around the Reykjavik area. But we did mange to go a bit outside of the Golden Circle for some fantastic experiences. Our itinerary was a full one. I don't even know how we managed to fit everything in without being exhausted. The great thing about visiting Iceland in May is that the sun doesn't set until after 10pm, so you get some extra hours to explore more places! In my opinion, it's the best time to visit Iceland. Check out my 5 day Iceland itinerary below for some travel inspiration and hopefully for some help in planning you own trip to Iceland:
Our flight into Keflavik Airport arrived in the middle of the afternoon, which wasn't ideal but it was the cheapest option. Once we entered the arrivals hall, we waited for a short amount of time for the shuttle to take us to the car rental office. We had a very easy pickup process with Icerental 4x4 and were on our way with a brand new KIA Sportage in no time. We decided to stay at one of the hotels surrounding Keflavik Airport, rather than driving into Reykjavik right away, because we had tickets very early the next morning for the Blue Lagoon which was nearby. B&B Hotel Keflavik Airport was 5 minutes from the airport, which was perfect. You can read more about our stay in my hotel review.
We were able to check in to our double/twin room right away, and were told where we could get breakfast in the morning. Our room cost €88 for the night, which included breakfast for two people. When we were pulling in to the hotel we noticed there was a small restaurant situated in the parking lot which seemed to be really busy. We were quite hungry once we checked in so we decided to take a look there first instead of wandering around.
Turns out it was a good decision! Langbest Pizzeria Steakhouse has some amazing pizza to choose from. This was our first taste of the price of food in Iceland, and it was because of this pizza that we decided to try and make our own meals as much as possible. The pizza was probably double the price of one you'd get in the UK for example, but at least it was delicious. From there, we decided to take a little drive around the area as the sun was setting.
I would love to tell you the route we took driving around the Keflavik area, but I honestly have no idea. We decided to free-style it a little bit so we could get used to driving the car. It was fun though! And we ended up coming back onto the main road at some point so we found our way back to the hotel easily enough for a much deserved good nights sleep.
After a very large breakfast at our hotel, we packed up our things from our room and checked out. We had booked our tickets for the Blue Lagoon at 8am to try and avoid the large number of people that visit daily. The Blue Lagoon is located in Grindavik, not Reykjavik. So it's actually a very short distance from Keflavik Airport. From our hotel, it took less than 20 minutes to get there, which is why we chose to stay close to the airport overnight. If you're travelling from Reykjavik to the Blue Lagoon, it takes about 50 minutes driving or there are bus services you can take as well if you don't have a car.
Is any trip to Iceland complete without a trip to the Blue Lagoon? It's honestly an incredible experience, and I'm so glad we got to do it. There are three types of tickets you can purchase, each with their own benefits, and the prices for them vary depending what time of the day you visit. We purchased the premium ticket for €84 and received 2 face masks, a drink, and a robe/slippers too! You're also given flip-flops which you get to take home with you. I would definitely say that the best time to visit the Blue Lagoon is early morning. We had the lagoon mostly to ourselves for the 2 hours we were there.
Once we showered and changed, we headed into Reykjavik to pick up our City Card's. Having picked those up, we started driving from Reykjavik to Husafell for our Into the Glacier tour. The drive is about 2.5 hours non-stop, and we passed by a couple of lovely waterfalls on the way. Hraunfossar Waterfall is only 5 minutes down the road from the meeting point for the Into the Glacier tour, so it's worth a stop. We actually turned up at the meeting point early so were directed to come and check out this area for a bit. Barnafoss Waterfall is also right next to this one, so you can see two small Icelandic waterfalls at the same time!
Into the Glacier is a surreal experience, and I'd highly recommend it. It takes around 3 hours in total, including the journey up Langjokull Glacier and your time in it. It's Iceland's second largest glacier, and the tunnels through it are a work of pure masterpiece. It's also one of the top attractions in Iceland and is a once in a lifetime experience too, as the glacier and tunnels are constantly changing! Many people considered this to be the best thing to do outside of Reykjavik. We took The Classic Tour, and prices start at €123 per person.
After our Langjokull Glacier tour, we started the drive back down to Reykjavik, at a more leisurely pace than we had driving up to Husafell. We went directly to the hotel we were staying at in Reykjavik's city centre so we could check in - Hotel Klettur. There are lots of hotels to choose from in Reykjavik itself, and many of them can blow a big hole in your budget. Hotel Klettur was a great choice, both for its central location in Reykjavik and its price. We stayed here for two nights and had a standard double room priced at €149 per night, which included breakfast. Click here to read more about our stay at Hotel Klettur.
The hotel was located located only a 5 minute walk from the main shopping street in Reykjavik, Laugavegur, so we decided to go for a little stroll and get something to eat. We ended up eating at Noodle Station, which was right around the corner from the hotel, and very reasonably priced too! It had been quite a long day so we decided to go back to our hotel room and watch Netflix for the rest of the night, so we would be fully rested for our adventures tomorrow.
Breakfast is my favourite (and most important) meal of the day, so we woke up early to take full advantage of Hotel Klettur's buffet breakfast. As much as we both love driving, we decided to have one day where someone else did the driving for us. We booked a full day Game of Thrones Tour with GetYourGuide (€90.20 per person), and were picked up by shuttle right outside the hotel and taken to the location of the coach. If you're planning a trip to Iceland, this is an absolute must for any GoT fan. Even if you aren't a fan of the show, you get to see some incredible spots, most of which aren't crawling with tourists which is a bonus. The guide was actually an extra in the show, and gave us some behind the scenes insight into it. Our first stop was at a horse farm where we were able to get up close and personal with the famous Icelandic horses. Some of them were even used in GoT!
Our next stop was at Thorufoss Waterfall, which was used in the famous scene when one of the dragons burns all of the sheep and flies off with one. Other than our group, there was no one else around, and we were told it's an often overlooked area by tourists.
We continued our tour to probably the most popular tourist area in Iceland: Thingvellir National Park. It's famous because you can walk between the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia. The plates are actually constantly moving, and separate about 2cm each year. It's also the filming location of The Eyrie, where Sansa and Little Finger entered the Bloody Gates.
We walked along the path at a leisurely pace for about 10 minutes, and came out at Oxarafoss Waterfall which is absolutely stunning. I hadn't read about this Icelandic waterfall during my research, so it was a nice surprise.
And last but not least, "Olly's Village". This was the location of the gruesome scene which saw the wildlings slaughter everyone, except for Olly. It's called Þjóðveldisbærinn Stöng in real life, and is a reconstructed Viking village. Surprisingly there was absolutely no one else there, which was great for photos! Most of the locations we visited had hardly any people at them, which is why I think May is the best time of the year to go to Iceland, in between the winter and summer tourist seasons.
It's worth mentioning that they do make a couple of stops along the way for toilet breaks, as well as lunch. We brought our own lunch with us to save some money, and were very rudely kicked out of the cafe and told to go out outside if we weren't paying to eat there, even though we were with the tour group. So just keep that one in mind! The coach brought us back directly to downtown Reykjavik, and stopped off at some of the hotels as well. We got off in the very centre so we could explore it a bit before sunset.
We were meant to be looking for somewhere to eat for dinner, but instead we had ice cream. Joylato is a very cool ice cream parlour, where they make the ice cream right in front of you! They have a couple of different options, but naturally I went for the liquid nitrogen one, which was very fun to watch and reminded me of a science experiment. Result? Deliciously smooth and creamy ice cream. There was no way I was going 5 days in Iceland without at least one sample of my favourite dessert food.
After having dessert first, we did actually find somewhere to eat that wasn't too expensive. The Icelandic people love their fish, and while I'm not a massive fan of it, I do like to have fish and chips from time to time. We came across Reykjavik Fish Restaurant while walking along the water front, and managed to order something just before they closed for the evening. This was one of the few restaurants in Reykjavik we visited, but I would recommend it.
The next day we had booked a couple of boat tours, so after eating we walked around the dock area to try and find where the meetup points for them were. After that, we went back to the hotel and looked through some of our photos from the coach tour, before drifting off to sleep.
With breakfast sorted, we checked out of the hotel and put all of our luggage in the car. Then we took a walk back towards the waterfront to go on our first boat tour of the day. Special Tours have a number of different tours to choose from and have great reviews, so we were really excited to be going on their Puffin Watching tour (€38 per person). There are many puffin tours in Iceland, but most of them are in the northern area of the country, which is why finding one in Reykjavik was perfect for us. It only lasts 1 hour, so it's a great option if you're on a tight schedule or don't do well on long boat journeys. The small boat circles around a little island full of puffins, so you can get some nice shots of them and see them in their natural habitat.
After the tour, we decided to walk along the waterfront for a bit in the direction of our hotel so we could pick up our car. We also cut through the city centre and stopped at one of the many cafes along the way for smoothies and a little rest. I found the best way to save money in Reykjavik was to purchase the City Card, which gives you entry into all of the city's key museums and thermal pools, as well as a few added bonuses too such as free public transportation! While we were walking, we came across a number of historic sites in Reykjavik that were off the beaten path too.
We also stopped to look at the famous church, Hallgrímskirkja. The church is free to go inside, but it's a lot more interesting on the outside. So if you don't have time to go in it, don't worry you aren't missing much. If you're visiting Reykjavik on a budget, check out Free and Cheap Things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland by The Directionally Challenged Traveler for some great travel tips.
From here, we went and picked up our car and drove back to the dock area to go on our second boat tour of the day with Special Tours. We chose the combo ticket for this tour, which was the Whale Watching & Whales of Iceland Exhibition (€81 per person). Special Tours have great reviews, and offer the best whale watching in Reykjavik. The tour takes around 3hrs, and in the event you don't see any whales you're welcome to try again free of charge, either on the same day or another one of your choosing. I have terrible luck with these things, so we didn't see any unfortunately, and we didn't have any time in our schedule to go on a second tour, but it was still a nice experience. The second part of the ticket gives you access to a whale exhibition nearby which is interesting to visit.
After the whale tour we stopped at 17 Sortir who have two locations in the city, but we went to the one along the waterfront near the Special Tours dock. Their selections change every day, and the cupcakes are to die for. So make sure you take a break from exploring the city and grab yourself a sweet treat.
Armed with a box of cupcakes, we drove directly to Galaxy Pod Hostel where we were staying for our two remaining nights. If you're looking for an out-of-this-world experience, this is a fantastic hostel to stay at in Reykjavik. Don't let the word hostel put you off. You get to stay in an individual pod, that has a lockable sliding door on it, and the inside is very high tech with a number of lighting options and a television! We stayed in a queen sized pod in a four bed dorm which was priced at €100 per night. Pod hostels are gaining popularity, so I'd recommend trying it out. Click here to read more about the pod and the hostel itself.
We'd already fit a lot into this day, but the sun wasn't setting for a few hours so we decided to self drive the Golden Circle. Our thinking was that the coach tours would be finished by early evening, so we would have the locations mostly to ourselves. And we turned out to be right! Our first stop was the Kerid Crater which isn't technically on the Golden Circle route, but we were making our own route up to some extent. Kerid Crater's entrance fee is 400 ISK (€2.50) if you visit here yourself, but some tours will stop off here too so the price will be included with your tour ticket. The volcanic crater is a magnificent sight, and is very easy to get to from the Golden Circle route. It's also only an hour drive from Reykjavik, so if you only have 5 days in Iceland like we did, it's very easy to add to your itinerary.
Driving Iceland's Golden Circle is a lot of fun, but even more fun are the detours you can go on. Take Skalholt for example. While it may not be on everyone's list of things to do in Iceland, it's only a 20 minute drive from the Kerid Crater so worth a quick visit. It was a very important settlement in Icelandic history, and dates back to the 11th century. This spot was completely empty when we arrived - perfect for photos!
After Skalholt we drove to Strokkur, which was 25 minutes away. If this isn't on your bucket list, it should be. It's one of the main stops on any Golden Circle tour. The geysir erupts every few minutes, and is located in the famous Geothermal Area. Once again, no crowds! I think there was maybe two small groups of people in the entire area.
And of course, no Golden Circle route is complete without a stop at one of the most popular waterfalls in the whole of Iceland. Gullfoss Waterfall actually falls in two stages, and is by far one of the most beautiful waterfalls I've seen, although it wasn't my favourite one in Iceland. Again, because we visited at sunset, hardly anyone was parked in the parking lot and we had it practically to ourselves. Strokkur to Gullfoss only took 10 minutes, which was ideal because we were running out of sunlight! If you're driving from Reykjavik to Gullfoss directly, it'll take you about 1 hour and 40 minutes in total.
Thingvellir National Park is also on the Golden Circle route, but since we visited there on our Game of Thrones tour we didn't need to stop there again. If you're worried about the driving conditions in the Golden Circle, we had no problems at all driving in May. Obviously that's going to be a different story if you're visiting Iceland in the winter though. Here's a map showing our Golden Circle stops, including the national park in case you are heading there too:
After our stop at Gullfoss, we drove straight back to our hostel and went to sleep as soon as we got there. It had been a very busy day, and there was even more driving in store for tomorrow. Our 5 day Iceland itinerary was almost complete, but not without saving some of the best destinations in Iceland for last.
It was our final day and we were ready to go on another road trip in Iceland! We dedicated our fifth day to the southern coast of Iceland, and the area around Vik. The drive from Reykjavik to Vik is around 2.5 hours without stopping. We stopped halfway to get some breakfast because we set off very early in the morning to get there in time for our ice cave tour with Katlatrack. The meeting point for the tour was at the only service station in Vik, so it was very easy to find. The tour takes 3-4 hours and the vehicle is fully equipped for some intense off-road driving.
The Katla Ice Cave Tour took us across a black sand beach, past green mountains, and through the unbelievable Katla Ice Caves, which are considered by many to be the best ice caves in Iceland. At €190 per person it's not the cheapest tour you'll ever go on, but it's 100% worth the money and I would definitely go on one of their tours again.
After crawling through a second, small cave, we emerged inside the crater of the glacier and climbed to the top for some incredible views of the surrounding landscape. It's a moderate difficulty tour, so don't worry if you're not great at climbing, you'll be kitted out with the appropriate gear before starting off and the guide makes an easy trail for you to follow. The tour is limited to a small number of people too so it feels more like a private tour than a group one. You would be crazy not to add this to your 5 day Iceland itinerary.
Following our incredible ice cave tour, we stopped off at the giant souvenir shop located next to the service station in Vik, before driving to Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. Southern Iceland is stunning. And one of the most beautiful spots is this black sand beach right next to Vik. The large basalt columns found on the beach are another pull for tourists, and some scenes from GoT were shot here as well!
Just up the road from the black sand beach is the famous Solheimasandur plane wreck. I find this a very bizarre attraction considering you're surrounded by beautiful examples of nature everywhere in Iceland. The walk from the parking lot to the plane wreck is long. 4km each way to be exact. We actually didn't make it all the way because we were on a tight schedule and didn't realize it took so long to walk to. Maybe next time! So instead, we turned our attention to Skogafoss Waterfall. It's a mighty waterfall to look at. You can walk right up to it but be prepared to get soaked. There are also steps leading up to the top for a different view. If you're driving, you'll easily see it from the road. Skogafoss is only a 30 minute drive from Vik, back in the direction of Reykjavik. If you're looking for things to do in southern Iceland, you don't need to look far!
Our last stop of the day was, you guessed it, a waterfall. What's a visit to Iceland without seeing multiple waterfalls anyways? Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is really unique, as you can walk directly behind it. You do get drenched though so come prepared! This is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland, and is only 25 minutes from Skogafoss too. We planned to see all of these spots in this order specifically because it was in the direction of Reykjavik, and we needed to get back for our final meal of the trip.
After dropping our things off at the hostel we arrived at Sushi Social, which offers a blend of Japanese and South American cuisine. We had several dishes from the menu, and all of it was incredible. The presentation of the food was also just as incredible as eating it. I'd highly recommend stopping here, even if you don't like fish, there's something for everyone. At the end of a very busy 5 days in Iceland, it was nice to sit down and relax for a bit.
After eating, we drove back to our hostel with our bellies full. We had a very early morning flight the next day, so we packed our luggage before going to sleep. Since we left so early, there was no one on reception, but there is an easy check out system in place. We drove directly to Icerental 4x4 to drop off our KIA Sportage (even though we didn't want to), and were shuttled back to Keflavik Airport. And so concludes our 5 day itinerary in southern Iceland. But we will definitely be back to explore more regions, and plan another road trip soon!
Iceland is an incredible country to explore, and although we were only able to travel around the southern part of it during our 5 days in Iceland, I loved every minute. It can get quite pricey though if you're going on tours, so make sure you plan ahead and have all the tours pre-booked, so you can budget more effectively while you're there. The great thing is that as long as you rent a car, mostly all of the attractions will be free for you to visit (since they're in nature). You're probably only going to do each activity once in your lifetime, so you might as well as go all out if you can!
If you have any questions about planning a trip to Iceland, my 5 day Iceland itinerary, or recommendations for where I should travel to when I return, don't hesitate to get in touch. And remember to follow me on Instagram too!