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Traveling will always have a special place in my heart. Exploring places, learning about their history, meeting new people, and experiencing things my mind imagines without being there—everything can be exhilarating.
Iceland is exactly that form of exhilaration, and if you’re heading to the trendiest travel spot, we’ve put together a 2 days in Iceland itinerary that you’ll want to copy.
I fell in love with the Land of Fire and Ice the first time I visited Iceland, and I am always searching cheap flights so I can return. While a week or longer gives you the most time to visit Iceland and perhaps even take a road trip around the entire country, you’d be surprised at how much you can see even with just 2 days in Iceland.
Iceland has become a hot tourist destination in the past decade. It is surprisingly affordable to fly to Reykjavik from several U.S. cities, and the country boasts a great mix of rugged, natural beauty and unique culture and history. We continue to get the best deals on flights directly to our email inbox by using Going.com (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights).
Icelandair sometimes offers free layover extensions so you can easily explore this beautiful country, so why not take advantage of it? Even if it’s just for a quick trip, you can see a lot in just 2 days in Iceland.
Planning a trip to Iceland can feel overwhelming, but we are fully committed to vacationing smarter, not harder, since we’ve just got two days. I’ve visited Iceland twice and am already planning a third trip, and after 2 days in Iceland, you’ll be planning your next trip, too!
If you are in town during the aurora borealis season (September through March), stay at one of these top hotels for the northern lights. If you’re visiting during the summer or off-season, you’ll be blessed with a surprising amount of sunlight as you explore Iceland under the Midnight Sun. Regardless of what time of year you visit, this Iceland itinerary is the best Iceland itinerary if you only have a few days.
Let’s dive into our Iceland itinerary, shall we?
- Day One in Iceland: Check Out the Blue Lagoon & Golden Circle
- The Blue Lagoon Color
- The Golden Circle
- Thingvellir National Park
- Gullfoss Waterfall
- Day Two: Explore Reykjavik and Experience Iceland Culture
- Hallgrímskirkja Church
- National Museum of Iceland (Þjóðminjasafn Íslands)
- Perlan Museum
- Other Stops to Consider During Your 2 Days in Iceland
- Sun Voyager Sculpture
- Harpa Concert Hall
- Tips for Saving Money in Reykjavik
- Is 2 days enough for Iceland?
- What are the must-see attractions for 2 days in Iceland?
- Can I complete the Golden Circle in 2 days?
- What is the best way to get around Iceland in 2 days?
- Is it possible to see the Northern Lights during a 2-day trip to Iceland?
Day One in Iceland: Check Out the Blue Lagoon & Golden Circle
The Blue Lagoon is a 20-minute drive from the Keflavik International Airport and about 50 minutes from Reykjavik. One of the most visited and Instagrammed places in Iceland is the Blue Lagoon, and once you see the Caribbean blue waters of this geothermal spa, you’ll be reaching for your phone to snag a selfie.
The Blue Lagoon is a man-made pool created when the geothermal power plant, Svartsengi, was built over a natural vent from an underground lava flow. The underground lava heats the water that runs the turbines in the power plant, and the steam heats the municipal water heating system. Afterward, the water drains into the lagoon, where visitors enjoy the warmth of the water despite the cold Icelandic air.
The stunning turquoise water of the Blue Lagoon results from the silica-rich waters, which are believed to have healing properties and can do wonders for your skin. Don’t get your hair wet, though! While it’s incredible for your skin, it has the opposite effect on your hair.
I learned this lesson hard, so you don’t have to! There is conditioner in the locker room that you can throw on your hair for some added protection, otherwise, remember not to dunk your head underwater like I did. It’s nothing crazy, but my hair did feel dry for a few days afterward.
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The Blue Lagoon Color
The tranquil blue color that makes the Blue Lagoon so wonderful to photograph is just an illusion caused by sunlight reflecting off the silica in the water. But what a spectacular illusion it creates for stunning photos!
A note of caution, however; although you might be tempted to visit the Blue Lagoon early in the morning or after dusk to avoid the large crowds of people, without the sunlight, the pool doesn’t look the mesmerizing blue that makes it so appealing.
The temperature hovers around 100 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, so even if your visit during the winter (like I did), you won’t be cold. The entrance fees for bathing in the Blue Lagoon range from $50 to $100 and higher if you want the deluxe treatment, including a multi-step ritual.
When you arrive, you’ll be given a wristband that acts like your new wallet while in the water. You can add a face mask or grab drinks from the swim-up bar with just the tap of a wrist.
One thing you must purchase before you visit the Blue Lagoon is a waterproof case for your cell phone so you can take your Instagram pics. One suggestion is to take your photos as soon as you get to the Blue Lagoon, then lock your camera or phone in your locker while enjoying a worry-free swim. You can buy a waterproof case for your phone ahead of time (the Blue Lagoon also sells them in the gift shop, too) if you want to document the entire experience.
See Related: Things to Do in Iceland & Places to Visit
The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is a fun little loop to see some of Iceland’s most popular natural attractions. Think of it like “Iceland in a nutshell.”
The route covers about 190 miles looping from Reykjavik into the southern uplands, taking you to the front door of some of Iceland’s most famous natural landmarks. Don’t get it confused with Iceland’s Ring Road, which circles the entire island. Save that epic Iceland road trip for your next trip.
The big three along the golden circle are the geothermal area in Haukadalur, Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park, and Gullfoss Waterfall. There are other notable stops along this circuit, like the Kerið volcanic crater lake and Friðheimar, a restaurant/farm in Iceland known for its onsite greenhouses where they grow tomatoes and make fabulous dishes and one killer Bloody Mary (highly recommend).
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Haukadalur is a geothermal area with dozens of hot springs and geysers peppering the landscape. Strokkur is one of the geysers to keep your eye on, as it’s pretty reliable and goes off about every 5-15 minutes. There’s also a gift shop and a cafe across the street where you can snag souvenirs and food before heading to your next stop.
Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir National Park is where Iceland’s first parliament occurred from the 10th to 18th centuries. Another unique claim to fame at this historical site is that it happens to sit on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
Here, thrill seekers can put on a dry suit and go snorkeling in the Silfra fissure, which is known to be one of the best places to snorkel in the whole world! You do not often get to say that you snorkeled between two tectonic plates, so if you can brave the cold waters, you’re in for an unforgettable experience.
Gullfoss is one of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls, and since it’s so close to Reykjavik, it’s the one that most people visit. Gullfoss translates to “Golden Falls, ” where we get the Golden Circle.
This massive waterfall has two cascades, one about 36 feet and the other just shy of 70 feet. The canyon walls surrounding the waterfall can reach heights of up to 230 feet, and there are several walking paths and viewing platforms to get a closer look.
You can rent a rental car, and do a self-drive road trip (even as a day trip) or take one of the many golden circle tours. I’ve done both, and I prefer the freedom of self-driving. That way, I can stay at each stop as long as possible. Many golden circle tours, like this golden circle tour, combine the golden circle with a Blue Lagoon visit, which is perfect!
Another perk of renting a car is you might be able to squeeze in one more activity, like driving down the south coast to Skógafoss waterfall, one of the tallest waterfalls in Iceland. This makes sense if you’re visiting Iceland during the summer when you’ve got endless daylight, but if you don’t have the time to check out this waterfall, don’t worry, you can add it to your list of must-see attractions on your next trip to Iceland.
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Day Two: Explore Reykjavik and Experience Iceland Culture
Day one was filled with the otherworldly landscapes of Iceland’s natural side, so it makes sense to keep day two for exploring Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. Like many European cities, Reykjavik is easily walkable, and you’d be surprised at how many attractions and museums you can get to just a short walk from your hotel. If you need a recommendation on where to rest your head, check out some of our favorite places to stay in Reykjavik.
The first stop on this trip is the Hallgrímskirkja Church, which stands at 244 feet and is the city’s main landmark. The entire structure took 40 years to construct, with a tower seen from almost anywhere in Reykjavik. As one of the tallest buildings in Iceland, you should have no problem spotting this one.
The Lutheran church’s tower doubles as an observatory, with a great view of Reykjavík and the surrounding mountains. On a clear day, you might even see the Snaefellsjokull glacier! There is no fee to enter the church itself, only if you want to climb to the top of the tower (it’s a small fee).
Fun fact: the statue of Icelandic Viking Leif Eriksson in front of the church actually predates the church itself! It was a gift from the United States in 1930 to celebrate the 1,000-year anniversary of the convening of Iceland’s parliament at Thingvellir (Þingvellir) in 930 AD.
Pair this with a walk down Rainbow Road, a lively street in downtown Reykjavik that leads straight to this church. Have your camera ready because you’ll want to snap a selfie in front of this whimsical road.
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National Museum of Iceland (Þjóðminjasafn Íslands)
The National Museum of Iceland carries over 2,000 artifacts highlighting the past 1,200 years of Iceland culture. It was established in 1863 and covers everything from ancient burial sites to Bjork’s music career. History lovers will be in heaven at this unique museum.
The Valthjófsstadur door is one of the main highlights of the museum and it tells the tale of Yvain, the legendary 12th-century Knight of the Lion (Le Chevalier au Lion), in elaborate engravings. The museum is open daily, and you could easily spend three hours soaking in all of the history of this special museum, but we’ve got even more to see in Reykjavik, and the next museum is one of my personal favorites.
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Cap off the day and get to know Iceland even more with a visit to a world-class museum, the Perlan, which means “pearl”. This large structure on top of Öskjuhlíð Hill has a glass dome and observation deck that allows visitors to enjoy a 360-degree view of Reykjavík. Even if you visit this museum on a rainy day (like I did) you’ll still have some magnificent views and a swell spot to enjoy a coffee and maybe some licorice ice cream.
The museum also has a restaurant, a planetarium, and the Áróra, the first 8K planetarium show featuring a lovely story about the northern lights. One of the main highlights of this museum is the ice cave, which is the first of its kind anywhere in the world.
It stretches for about 100 meters and was made with ice from the surrounding Icelandic mountains. Since many of the glacier hikes in Iceland are down along the south coast, this is a great way to get a feel for what it would be like.
There’s even a throne carved out of ice that you can take a photo with and live out your Game of Thrones fantasy. In case you’re curious, yes, the ice cave is cold. Very cold. I visited the museum in the middle of winter, so I was already wearing my best winter gear and could spend about 20-30 minutes inside.
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Other Stops to Consider During Your 2 Days in Iceland
Of course, this is just a dip into the Land of Fire and Ice. All the attractions we’ve listed are ideal for your first trip to Iceland, but there’s always more to see and do. If you want to switch things up or maybe have some backup attractions when you visit Reykjavik, we’ve got you covered.
Here are a few more popular attractions you can add to your summer trip to make the most of your 2 days in Iceland.
Sun Voyager Sculpture
As you’re strolling through the capital city, you might find yourself walking along the waterfront, and it’s hard to miss this beautiful sculpture. It’s close to the city center and visible from the Harpa Concert Hall, just a short distance away.
The Sun Voyager was created by Jon Gunnar, who won a contest in 1986 to be able to build it. Sadly, Gunnar died in 1989, a year before the sculpture was erected in its current location.
Here’s a fun fact about this iconic sculpture: it does not represent a Viking ship! While it’s easy to see why so many people would think that, it actually represents the promise of undiscovered territory and a dream of hope, progress, and freedom.
It’s become a surprising top tourist attraction in Reykjavik, both during the day and at night! During the day, you’ll have lovely views of the bay and Mount Esja, plus it’s an epic spot to watch the sunset. If you’re visiting Iceland in the winter, it’s also a great spot to watch the Northern Lights from!
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Harpa Concert Hall
Three-dimensional glass panels make up the concert hall, which became an added attraction to the city’s waterfront when it opened in 2011. Natural light from the sea and sky make the building sparkle during the day, while artificial lights brighten it up at night.
The Iceland Symphony Orchestra, the Icelandic Opera, and the Reykjavík Big Band all hold annual concerts. Check the event calendar to see what’s coming up and spend one night enjoying some local music.
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Tips for Saving Money in Reykjavik
Iceland is one of the most expensive countries to visit. When you’re an isolated island without many opportunities to grow your produce, you rely heavily on exports, which can jack up the price. Sticker shock is almost inevitable, but we do have a few tips for saving money while you’re visiting Iceland:
- Purchase alcohol at the duty-free shop in the Keflavik airport.
- Buy groceries from local stores like Bonus. You can get stuff to make sandwiches, or if you’re staying in a vacation rental with a kitchen, that blows the door wide open and you can cook your meals.
- Bring a metal/thermal refillable bottle. Iceland has some of the purest water in the world, and it’s good to go straight from the tap.
- Try street food, especially hot dogs. Icelanders love their hot dogs, and I can confirm they are delicious. You’ll find them in convenience stores/gas stations all around Iceland, and if you’re in the city center, try Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, the most famous hot dog stand in Iceland (and maybe the world!).
Is 2 days enough for Iceland?
While 2 days is a brief time to explore Iceland, it can be enough to experience some of the country’s key highlights. You could complete the famous Golden Circle route in this short period, featuring Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the Geysir geothermal area. With careful planning, it’s also possible to fit in a visit to the relaxing Blue Lagoon or the South Coast’s stunning black sand beaches.
What are the must-see attractions for 2 days in Iceland?
The must-see attractions for 2 days in Iceland encompass the Golden Circle, which includes Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the Geysir geothermal area. One can also explore the stunning black sand beach at Reynisfjara and the picturesque town of Vik. If time allows, a visit to the Blue Lagoon for a soothing geothermal soak is highly recommended.
Can I complete the Golden Circle in 2 days?
Yes, completing the Golden Circle in 2 days is feasible with a rental car. This iconic Iceland road trip, comprising Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the Geysir geothermal area, can be comfortably toured in a single day. The second day could be spent exploring South Coast attractions like the black sand beach at Reynisfjara or soaking in the Blue Lagoon.
What is the best way to get around Iceland in 2 days?
The best way to get around Iceland in 2 days is by renting a car. This provides the flexibility to explore at your own pace and allows you to reach more secluded locations. During winter, driving conditions can be challenging, and joining a guided tour might be a safer option.
Is it possible to see the Northern Lights during a 2-day trip to Iceland?
Seeing the Northern Lights during a 2-day trip to Iceland is possible but highly dependent on the time of year and weather conditions. The best chances are between September and April, on clear nights away from city lights. Since the Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon, sightings cannot be guaranteed even under ideal conditions.
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.