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Sightseeing the Golden Circle – Best Travel Itinerary for a 4 day Trip to Iceland

(Last Updated On: 22/09/2019)

Planning a 4-day trip to Iceland and want to know what things see and do? Wondering what Iceland tourist attractions are included in the Golden Circle or where to head to photograph the Northern Lights? If you want to see the waterfalls, black sand beach, Kerid Crater and all the other places you have saved for your Iceland trip…stay tuned! This post gives you all the details of sightseeing Southern Iceland and how to plan the best Golden Circle 4-day Iceland road trip, including an itinerary and map!

Sightseeing the Golden Circle - Best Travel Itinerary for a 4 day Trip to Iceland

Iceland Itinerary 4 Days:

Day 1

  • Arrival from Keflavik
  • Collect hire car/or take Flybus shuttle bus to The Blue Lagoon
  • Blue Lagoon
  • Reykjavík (check-in)
  • Sun Voyager Statue
  • Reykjavík street art routes
  • Phallogical (Penis) Museum
  • Hallgrimskirkja Church & Viewing Tower
  • Northern Lights

When you visit a new destination, day one is all about familiarising yourself with your surroundings. I know that I’m generally a little antsy until I’ve found and checked into the place I’m staying. Once I’ve found my home-away-from-home (The Swanhouse Apartments in Reykjavík was the perfect home-away-from-home) I like to see what’s located nearby. So finding a Cafe in Reykjavík was always going to be a top priority!

Adam and I began our four day Iceland trip on a Sunday, which is also the day that parking is free in Reykjavík. Woohoo! A handy tip that I shared in my Driving in Southern Iceland post (head over to the post if you want further info on parking.) If like us, you are also heading for a long weekend in Iceland, you may wish to change the itinerary for my first day below to the Sunday you are there so you can benefit from free parking too. If you’re not driving in Iceland, you’re best option would be to take the Flybus Shuttle Bus from the airport to Reykjavík (it will even take you to The Blue Lagoon.)

Free parking in Iceland on a Sunday also gives you the perfect opportunity to explore Iceland’s capital Reykjavík and, there are plenty of free things to do in Reykjavík if you’re trying to keep costs down during your stay.

The Sun Voyager Statue

An ode to the sun, the Sun Voyager Statue is a shipping vessel, Created by Jón Gunnar Árnason conveying a message of hope and freedom. As one of the most famous statues in Iceland, it is certainly worth a visit if you are exploring Reykjavík.

Sun Voyager Statue Reykjavik Iceland

Hallgrimskirkja Church & Viewing Tower

A must on your Reykjavík itinerary is Iceland’s most recognisable landmark, the Hallgrimskirkja Church. Iceland’s version of the Basílica de la Sagrada Família, the architecture is incredible inside and out, plus it’s another free attraction in Iceland!

The church tower offers a 360-degree view over Reykjavík and can be accessed for 1000 ISK per adult (around £6.) If you only have one day in Reykjavík, make sure the day is spent at the Hallgrimskirkja Church.

Iceland Hallsgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik city

Reykjavík Street Art

If you’ve read my posts about Rotterdam and Shoreditch you will know I have a love for street art. Before arriving in Iceland, I had no idea the capital Reykjavík is so full of colourful street art. You will find colourful art displays on almost every street corner. Another great free thing to do exploring Reykjavík.

The Icelandic Phallological (Penis) Museum

Penis museum I hear you cry! Who wants to see that…! Well apparently, in Iceland you do! Big ones, small ones, long ones, thin ones – Yep, there’s plenty of variety when it comes to penises at the penis museum. Of course, with such a novelty, there is an entry fee (1700 ISK per adult.) Even if it’s not one of your top things to see in Iceland, at the very least you’ve got an excuse to escape the cold and go inside!

The Blue Lagoon

You might be wondering why relaxing in the Blue Lagoon is placed as a day one activity on the Iceland itinerary when there is so much exploring to do! But, The Blue Lagoon is located a mere 15 minutes from Keflavik airport, making it an ideal thing to do on your first or last day visiting Iceland (great place to stop if you have a free stopover too.) Therefore, depending on your preference, I recommend you do this on arrival or as you depart from Iceland. It’s ideal if your flight comes in the early morning and in the winter you can drive to The Blue Lagoon and watch the sun come up. The Flybus shuttle bus is a great option if you are not hiring a car as you can take it from the airport to The Blue Lagoon and then back to Reykjavík. Adam and I chose to do the Blue Lagoon on our last day and it was just what we needed to relax after a few days exploring, resting our tired feet and bodies in the milky blue opaque water. It also happened to be my birthday and I was in my element as you can imagine…. 🙂

Birthdays in the Blue Lagoon do not come any better

The Northern Lights

The Northern Lights is a natural phenomenon, aka a bugger to try and see with your own eyes! As I can imagine (I felt the same), it’s not the thing you want to hear when you’re only visiting Iceland for a short break like we were. For this reason, it is very important you go out on a Northern Lights tour either with a tour company or on self-drive tour on your first night in Iceland, as you then have the subsequent nights of your stay to see the Northern Lights if you are not able to on the first occasion. Many tour companies will take you back out free of charge to see them if you are unable to on your first tour company trip. If you are doing a self-drive tour of Iceland you can head to the Grótta Lighthouse, which is only a five-minute drive from Reykjavík centre.

Green and purple haze of The Northern Lights Iceland on a starry night

Don’t be unprepared for your trip to The Northern Lights (as we were) – head over to my 11 Things to Know Before visiting Iceland for the First Time post, where you will find some handy tips for seeing and photographing The Northern Lights.

Day 2

  • Thingvellir National Park
  • Kerid Crater
  • Stroke Icelandic horses
  • Brúarfoss Waterfall
  • Geysers (Haukadalur Thermal Valley)
  • Gullfoss Falls
  • Secret Lagoon

Day 2 of your 4 day trip to Iceland is all about exploring some of the natural wonders of Southern Iceland’s Golden Circle Route (not to be confused with the Ring Road, which is over 1,000 km and takes several days to complete) with a few bonus extras thrown in. These South Coast Iceland attractions are some of the closest to Reykjavík, therefore they are a good place to start your tour and ease you into driving around Iceland. I can promise you a road trip around Iceland is well worth doing as it really gives you the opportunity to explore Iceland’s natural wonders.

Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park (also known as Þingvellir) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (the only one on Iceland’s mainland) and a real highlight for any visit to Iceland’s famous Golden Circle. Though, you may want to check you packed your hiking boots for Iceland before embarking on the Thingvellir National Park hike!

Thingvellir National Park is also the birthplace of Iceland’s first parliament and the Silfra fissure. The Silfra fissure is one of the most popular things to visit as it is where two tectonic plates meet beneath the surface– North American and Eurasian plates and it actually possible to dive between the plates. Not to mention, it is understood to be one of the clearest waters to dive in the world. Intrigued? Click here to read more about Silfra snorkeling and diving.

Kerid Crater

Kerið or Kerid Crater is thought to be the creation of a volcanic eruption some 6,500 years ago. It’s bright azure blue water and deep red rocks are particularly beautiful to see in the autumn when the contrast of the colours presents a striking view. The reason why I think September is the best time to visit Iceland!

Kerið is located around 40 minutes drive between Thingvellir National Park and the Geysir Geothermal Area, therefore it is the ideal stop between these Golden Circle attractions. Located on privately owned land, there is a small fee of 400 ISK per person (around £2) to view the Kerid Crater, which goes towards preserving this natural landscape.

Stroke Icelandic Horses

Iceland’s Golden Circle Route presents many opportunities to stop to see the Icelandic horses grazing in the fields next to the road. Somewhere near the Kerid Crater, we did just that and pulled into a car park near a grazing field. It’s important not to just stop your car on the side of the road for obvious reasons so this was a good place to stop.

Brúarfoss Waterfall

Another lesser known waterfall in Iceland is Brúarfoss Waterfall, which has the most beautiful bright blue waters. Worth a visit I’d say!

Geysers/Haukadalur Thermal Valley

Activated by a volcano, the geysers erupt when groundwater meets the hot bedrock and heats up, which creates pressure that erupts at peak temperature.

The hot springs and geysers form one of the famous Golden Circle attractions and are free to visit. Just don’t do what I did and jump out of your skin when the geyser erupts!

Gullfoss Falls

Forming part of Iceland’s famous Golden Circle (along with Þingvellir and the geysers of Haukadalur), Gullfoss is one of the most popular and well-known waterfalls in Iceland.

Gullfoss cascades down a three-step staircase before plunging into crevices of the Hvítá River. Certainly one of the most dramatic waterfalls in Southern Iceland, Gullfoss is a must for every Southern Iceland tour.

Greenery around Gullfoss Falls Southern Iceland

The Secret Lagoon

After a long day exploring, make like the Icelanders and end the day with a splash in a hot thermal pool. The Secret Lagoon, as you can tell by the title, isn’t as well known as The Blue Lagoon, but it’s definitely worth a visit. Bring your swimsuit and bask in the hot thermal spring as the sun goes down. The Secret Lagoon felt hotter than the Blue Lagoon and is a fraction of the price at around £40 for two including towels. It is also located close to the Golden Circle attractions in nearby Flúðir, so it would be rude not to have a dip after a day exploring wouldn’t it!

If time is limited during your 4 days in Iceland and you only have the opportunity to visit one Icelandic spa, read my Secret Lagoon Vs Blue Lagoon post to help you choose!

The Secret Lagoon at Sunset in September

Day 3

  • Urriðafoss Falls
  • Seljalandsfoss
  • Gljúfrabúi
  • Skogafoss
  • Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck
  • Vik
  • Reynisfjara beach
  • Jökulsárlón glacier (Diamond Beach)

Day 3 of your 4 day Iceland trip is all about adventure, getting off the beaten track and going further afield to see some natural (and one not so natural) wonders of Iceland’s South Coast. Don’t forget to bring some snacks, warm clothes and, of course, some road trip tunes! This is a long drive if you are staying in Reykjavík!

Urriðafoss Falls

One of the lesser known waterfalls explored in Southern Iceland, the Urriðafoss falls is a real beauty. The fact that it’s not as well known means it’s nowhere near as overrun with tourists as some of the other waterfalls in Southern Iceland. We pretty much had the place to ourselves on our visit and, it was beautiful seeing a rainbow over the waterfall.

Rainbow-over-Urridafoss-Waterfall-Iceland

Skógafoss

If you’re not afraid of getting a little wet, you can walk right up to Skógafoss waterfall and watch as the falls splash the floor in front of you. If the setting wasn’t already beautiful, you will often see a single and sometimes double rainbow produced by the falls on sunnier days.

Larking around at Skogafoss Falls

Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck

The scene of the Sólheimasandur plane wreck may be familiar to any Belieber’s reading this post, as it was where Justin Bieber filmed his video for ‘I’ll Show You.’ The wreckage, fortunately, did not result in any fatalities and was the result of a US Navy crash where all the crew members survived. This temporary structure (floodwater is likely to wash it away at some point) has survived the tumultuous and ever-changing weather of Iceland. For this reason, it is worth seeing whilst you still can, though it can be quite tricky to locate (as we found out.)

It’s not possible to drive to the DC3 plane wreck as it is illegal to drive on the natural habitat surrounding the site. To walk there takes approximately one hour, so make sure you bring warm clothes! If you’re driving from Reykjavík, passing the Skogafoss waterfall on the left and putting the Sólheimasandur plane wreck into Google Maps should take you roughly to the car park seen from the road (on the right), where you start walking to the beach to find the wreckage.

Seljalandsfoss

The Seljalandsfoss falls are located along the same route and are a wonder to behold. It is possible to walk behind the waterfall in a cavern, where you can watch the water effortlessly glide into the pool below.

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall Autumn View from Behind the Falls

Gljúfrabúi

If you’re visiting Seljalandsfoss, don’t forget to see Gljúfrabúi; a smaller waterfall located along the same path. You might want to pack some wet shoes to truly explore this beautiful and lesser-known Icelandic waterfall.

Gljúfrabúi Hidden Waterfall Southern Iceland

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

Reynisfjara black sand beach is a beauty, albeit rather rough and rugged around the edges. The basalt rocks seen protruding from the Atlantic are called Reynisdrangar and there are a few legends surrounding these rocks. One theory is the rocks are trolls that were caught out too late and were frozen & immortalised by the early morning sunlight.
It is also a filming location for Game of Thrones, where some of the scenes ‘North of the Wall’, were filmed as well as ‘East-Watch by the Sea.’ Make sure you check out the mesmerising basalt columns!

Vik

The village of Vik is the Southernmost village and also the warmest place in Iceland (worth a visit for this reason I’d say!) The village sits within the shadow of Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which covers the active Katla volcano. The iconic red-roofed Reyniskirkja Church is said to be the only building that would be left standing should the volcano erupt and send the glacier water over the houses in the village. An area of natural wonders, Vik is home to numerous bird species that rest on Reynisfjall Mountain, including the puffin and is also where you will find Reynisfjara black sand beach and Dyrhólaey peninsula.

Road trip to Vik in Southern Iceland

Jökulsárlón Glacier (Diamond Beach)

Chunks of Ice glistening in the bay, otherwise known as Diamond Beach, this really is a beautiful area and a must for a 4 day trip to Iceland. Iceland’s crown jewel, the Jökulsárlón glacier is a natural phenomenon melting into icebergs from the effects of global warming. It is possible to go ice-caving beneath the glacier and if you are planning a visit you should know that it is around a 5-hour drive from Reykjavík, therefore you may want to have an early start if you plan on visiting and stopping at all the other stops on the route.

Day 4

Blue Lagoon
Airport

Day 4 of your 4 day Icelandic adventure is all about reminiscing, packing and, perhaps, fitting in anything you didn’t get around to seeing before heading to the airport. If you hired a car make sure you give yourself plenty of time to refuel and go over any checks with the car hire company (this can be time-consuming as I mentioned in my Driving in Iceland post.) For us, we used this day to relax at The Blue Lagoon next to Keflavik airport. The perfect way to end our 4-day trip exploring Iceland.

So there you have it, a 4-day itinerary for exploring Southern Iceland. Of course, there is more to see than just the places of interest and attractions included in this post, but those included are a great place to start, particularly if it is your first time visiting Iceland.

Please let me know if you have any questions by commenting below. If you liked this post and found it helpful, I would be very grateful if you could share it using the social share icons (every share helps my little blog be seen by a wider audience.)

For tours Get Your Guide have a great selection (click here.) Check out my other Iceland posts on the links below:

Driving Southern Iceland: Essential Parking, Car Hire & Fun Road Trip Tips

Iceland Travel Tips: 11 Things to Know Before Visiting Iceland for the First Time

The Swan House Iceland – Cosy Boutique Apartment Hotel in the Heart of Reykjavík

13 Reasons Why Visiting Iceland in September is Best for First-Timers

Happy exploring!

Jaz
xoxo

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9 Comments

  1. 02/02/2019 / 5:59 pm

    What a great itinerary, Iceland looks stunning! I haven’t been yet but these pictures definitely make me want to plan a visit to Iceland in the near future 😀

  2. 02/02/2019 / 7:34 pm

    Amazing. I’ve been waiting to visit Iceland. I can’t make my mind up if I want to visit during summer or winter as the country can be very fascinating in both seasons. So much nature and cool activities to do.

  3. Bilal Hussain
    02/02/2019 / 8:20 pm

    Wonderful itinerary of Iceland, it looks like you guys did so much! We have been planning a visit soon and personally i cant wait to try out the Blue lagoon

  4. Lou Does Travel
    03/02/2019 / 9:47 am

    I’ve wanted to travel to Iceland for so long! This 4 day itinerary sound like the perfect short trip! Will defo be taking notes. Great guide and fabulous pictures! Thanks for sharing.

  5. 03/02/2019 / 2:43 pm

    Oh my goodness – I am so envious of your trip. Iceland is top of my places to visit. Your itinerary looks like you really packed a lot in and your photos are wonderful too. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  6. 03/02/2019 / 8:34 pm

    we have heard a lot from Island over the last year, but it always looks nice and makes me definitely want to go there one day when the kids are a bit older. Your photos are stunning.

  7. 04/02/2019 / 2:13 am

    These pictures are BEAUTIFUL! I’m totally amazed that you saw a Rainbow! I really look forward to spending a weekend in Iceland soon!

  8. Janine Thomas
    04/02/2019 / 7:01 am

    There is something that really appeals to me about the the Sun Voyager Statue and the photo of Seljalandsfoss falls is breathtaking. What a great itinerary. It’s the perfect guide for anyone planning a trip.

  9. 04/02/2019 / 9:40 pm

    Iceland has been on my list for ages! the pictures are always beautiful and I can not wait to go! This sounds like a great itinerary!

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