My husband recently quit his job (after 8.5 years!) and wanted to travel! And…we pretty spontaneously booked a kid-free trip to Iceland! We’ve heard wonderful things about Iceland from friends (and strangers) but never made it a priority to go. While I know tons of people go to Iceland with kids and love it, it hasn’t been on the top of our family travel bucket list. So this felt like the perfect kid-free destination for us! Now that we’re on the other side of the trip, we’d definitely love to come back with the girls when they are a little older. Anyway, here’s a huge detailed travel guide highlighting our time in ICELAND!
We flew in and out of Iceland via NYC on Icelandic Air. Our flights were around ~$500/person and we bought separate flights to/from New York. After doing some research and thinking about how we wanted to spend our time (one week), we decided to focus on time on the South Coast. Many people visit Iceland and do Ring Road, which is a national road in Iceland that circles the entire country. While you could definitely do that in a week’s time, it felt too rushed for us, and we’re glad we stuck with the South Coast instead.
We rented a car and it was an absolute necessity for us on this trip! There are plenty of companies to book excursions all sorts of with, but we loved the flexibility and freedom of being on our own time and doing whatever we wanted. FYI the car rental was ~$250 for the week and we spent another ~$200 in gas (and did A LOT of driving).
Our total time in Iceland was 6.5 days and 6 nights.
WHERE WE STAYED
We stayed at three different hotels in Iceland for a total of six nights, two at each hotel and overall, had a great experience at all three spots! Here’s some info on each of the hotels we stayed at in Iceland.
Our first stay was at Hotel Ranga in South Iceland. Hotel Ranga is a four star luxury hotel and the property was beautiful! There’s an onsite restaurant and bar, daily happy hour, and breakfast was included in our stay. We had breakfast and dinner at the hotel both nights of our stay and I was very impressed with the food! There’s also a game room and three mini hot tubs that were so beautiful and relaxing. The hotel ambiance is very laid back and inviting. One of the main reasons we booked this was because of the low light pollution, meaning better likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights! We saw them both nights and the hotel has a wakeup call, so you can sign up to get a call in your room if the Northern Lights are spotted! Another cool feature of Hotel Ranga was that they have an onsite observatory, where they host local astronomers — it was so cool to learn more about the sky/stars from them! The location was fantastic, being only ~1.5 hours from the airport and also a close drive to SO many popular spots to visit in Iceland, including the Golden Circle, waterfalls, beaches, and more.
Our second hotel for the next two nights was Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon, near Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Skaftafell. There are several Fosshotel’s all over Iceland, and this specific hotel was the closet to the glacier tour we had booked. It truly is in the middle of NOWHERE with no restaurants or things nearby besides the beach, glaciers, and parks. I’d say this was a great stop for more exploring/nature-focused travelers. The hotel itself was very nice and one huge perk for us was getting to see the Northern Nights both nights, right from our hotel window while laying in bed. Such a pinch me moment! ✨ Our stay included breakfast and I was very impressed the food, especially for being a buffet. There’s also an onsite restaurant, but we opted to order room service one night and ordered food from the bar our second night to eat while reading + drinking wine by the cozy fire in the lobby. They did have a gym, a sauna (love) and two massive outdoor hot tubs – perfect for watching the sunset and sunrise. We had a couple hours of ‘spa time’ both days and it was lovely. While we stayed for two nights at Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon, it seemed like most people only stayed for one night – basically before or after their glacier experience. Looking back, we really only needed to be in this area for one night BUT it was also nice for us to just chill + relax before/after the glacier and hiking activities.
Our last stay was for two nights in Reykjavik at EDITION. This is a very chic and upscale hotel in downtown Reykjavik, right next to the Old Harbor port and tons of restaurants and shopping. We ended up booking this one via credit card points/perks. Like our other hotels, our stay included breakfast at the hotel. The hotel also had a gorgeous lobby with a bar and fireplaces, a cute coffee shop, onsite restaurant, and rooftop bar. We had breakfast at the hotel both mornings of our stay and one night had an appetizer-style dinner at the rooftop bar. The rooftop bar was a very popular spot and busy / lively both nights! There’s also a gym and spa area in the hotel with a sauna, steam room, and massive hot tub area. Out of our three hotels, this definitely was the most elevated hotel with a larger room and extra nice amenities. We did have to valet park our rental car both nights, which wasn’t included in the room rate.
Here’s a pretty detailed look at how we spent our time in Iceland! I also decided to do a mini vlog on my Instagram sharing different days from our trip and I’ve also included the videos below. 💫
Day 1 (Monday)
We landed bleary-eyed around 6am after a short red-eye flight from NYC. We got through customs and got our rental car and headed straight to the Blue Lagoon. We booked this in advance, and intentionally went through from the airport, based on its location and our other travel plans. We got there right as it opened around 8am. We opted for the Comfort Package ($62 USD) vs the Premium Package ($79) and were perfectly content with that! It included lagoon entrance, towels, one mask, and one drink. You can stay for as long as you’d like – we were there for two hours. It was beautiful and a very unique experience, but definitely tourist-y and busy, especially later on in the day. Still glad we did it! After our time at the lagoon, we grabbed breakfast at the nearby Hjá Höllu.
It was about a two hour drive to our first hotel, and so just enjoyed the stunning views and landscape (which was exponentially better after we took a 40 minute parking lot power nap!). We stopped for a drink + snack at The Old Dairy Food Hall (Mjólkurbúið Mathöll) in Selfoss and also stopped to admire the Urriðafoss waterfall before arriving at Hotel Ranga. We lounged, read books, and hot tubbed before an early dinner and VERY early omg-we-are-so-jetlagged bedtime. We did get an 11pm wake-up call to see the Northern Lights – SO cool to experience and absolutely one of our highlights!
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Day 2 (Tuesday)
We woke up feeling SO much better than the day before and ready to adventure! We had some loose plans for this day, but also planned to just wing it. It basically was a big waterfall-filled day! After breakfast at the hotel, we drove over to see the Gullfoss waterfall, which was stunning! We grabbed a coffee at the nearby cafe, and then went to see Geysir (my first time seeing a geyser!), and Faxafoss waterfall after that. At the recommendation of a friend, we had booked lunch reservations at Friðheimar for Tuesday afternoon. We were SO glad we did! Friðheimar is a family-run restaurant inside of a greenhouse. Their focus is on growing (and serving) tomatoes and it was such a unique dining experience! E tried a tomato beer and I had a green Bloody Mary, and we each had their legendary tomato soup + homemade bread, tomatoes + burrata (SO good) and a garden salad. So glad we did this! 🍅 🌿 After lunch, we planned to go to hot springs. While the popular Secret Lagoon was nearby, we opted for the off-the-beaten path Hrunalaug natural hot springs. It wasn’t as busy as the other hot springs / lagoons we visited and very much felt like a hidden treasure.
We didn’t have plans after that but instead of going back to our hotel, we decided to make the most of the (finally!) sunshine and keep exploring! We drove to see more waterfalls (Gljufrabui and Seljalandsfoss), both next to each other in a gorgeous canyon. We were over here around sunset and it was such a beautiful way to end our day. This is pretty popular spot (lots of buses/vans) but cleared out closer to sunset. It was really so beautiful and magical to see a rainbow in front of the waterfall, too! 🌈 After that, we drove back to the hotel for more hot tub time before dinner! And, we got to see the Northern Lights for the second night in a row before we went to bed!
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Day 3 (Wednesday)
We checked out of Hotel Ranga and began our 3ish hour drive to our next spot! This was a big driving day, but we planned to stop a few differnet places along the way. And, one of the best things to do in Iceland is just drive and soak up the otherworldly beauty – waterfalls! streams! mountains! ocean! horses! and more. Our first stop was at Skogafoss waterfall, which was beautiful but VERY busy. You can climb to the top of these narrow stairs to see the waterfall from the top, too. When you get to the top, you can keep hiking down a path to see a bunch more waterfalls – that part was so cool! And not a lot of people continued to hike beyond the top of Skogafoss, so it was a lot less busy after that. We probably saw 4-5 more waterfalls from that one hike! After that, we got back in our car and drove over to the nearby Kvernufoss. This was way less busy and also STUNNING. This one was extra special because we were able to actually hike BEHIND the waterfall — I had never done that before and we weren’t able to do that at any other waterfalls we visited. We continued our drive and stopped at Smiðjan Brugghús in Vik for lunch. It was delicious! We visited Black Sand Beach nearby, then continued driving with one more stop for a quick hike at Svínafellsjökull Glacier (within Vatnajökull National Park). We got to our second hotel, Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon. We enjoyed the hot tub + sauna situation before ordering room service and admiring the Northern Lights from our window (!!) before bed.
Day 4 (Thursday)
We woke up Thursday and had (a surprisingly delicious buffet) breakfast at our hotel. We had pre-booked a glacier hike + ice cave tour for this morning so left early for that! The sun was still coming up when we left, and it was beautiful to see the sunrise on our drive. We stopped at Diamond Beach, which is famous for black sand and the icebergs that wash up on the shore, resembling sparkling diamonds. It was really beautiful here! We went to the nearby Jökulssárlón Glacier Lake as the meeting spot for our glacier tour. This was a beautiful lake that we partially hiked around after our glacier tour! We booked our glacier hike + ice cave tour via Troll Expeditions and it was great! There were about 12 people on the tour and our guide was fantastic. There are all sorts of tours and we opted for a 3 hour tour. Looking back, we could have done a longer tour, but it was still amazing to see what we were able to see! The tour wrapped up around mid-day and we didn’t have plans for the rest of the day and there quite literally is nothing around except glaciers + nature. On a whim, decided to keep driving the South Coast to have lunch in Höfn and then came back to our hotel for a long sauna + hot tub situation, followed by reading by the cozy fire and dinner at our hotel. We definitely didn’t do “as much” this day and could have drove back closer to Reykjavik after the glacier tour, but we had booked two nights in the hotel. Overall, it was good to have a more chill day in the middle of our trip, since we had been doing a lot of activities and were pretty go, go, go every other day of the trip.
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DAY 5 (Friday)
On Friday (day 5) we had breakfast and began our long drive back early in the mornings to Reykjavik, where we were staying our last two nights! It was a 4 hours and 45 minute drive, so this was definitely our longest driving day! Before arriving in Reykjavik, we stopped at The Greenhouse for lunch, which was a really cool hybrid hotel + food hall + shopping space, filled with natural light and tons of plants. From there, we drove the remaining 30 minutes to our third and final hotel. After checking into our hotel (EDITION) and getting settled, we went out to explore Reykjavik! In cities, we tend to just wander around and see what we stumble upon. We wandered over to admire the Hallgrímskirkja church, which is the largest church + one of the tallest buildings in Iceland. The architecture was so cool! We stopped in a few shops and then ended up grabbing a drinks at Bastard Brew Pub (the hazy IPA was delicious!) and Vínstúkan Tíu sopar , a cute natural wine bar. We continued walking and tried lobster soup at Seabaron Sægreifinn. This spot was more tourist-y, but the soup was delicious! We then were craving non-seafood, and ended the night having pizza at Flatey Pizza. This was a local Neapolitan style pizza spot and very delicious!
DAY 6 (Saturday)
It’s hard to pick a favorite day from our trip, but day 6 was definitely up there! We didn’t have a plan for Saturday until we got to Reykjavik on Friday and spontaneously booked two activities for Saturday. We had breakfast at our hotel and then drove to Hvammsvik Nature Resort & Hot Springs. While most people planning a trip to Iceland (myself included) have heard of the Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon, Hvammsvik is definitely more off the beaten path. It’s a natural resort + hot springs right on the ocean! It was TRULY incredible and so special! We booked our tickets the day before and got there right when it opened. The admission included unlimited access to the eight natural hot springs, the steam bath, indoor and outdoor showers, a drink ticket at the swim-up bar and the beach + ocean. Eric jumped into the ocean several times! We spent about three hours just enjoying the stunning view and rotating between the different pools and sauna. This place was much less busy / touristy than many other spots we visited in Iceland which made us like it even more. ❤️
After the hot springs, we went horseback riding! One of my favorite parts of the trip was admiring the adorable and friendly Icelandic horses we saw all over the country, and I was so excited to go on a ride! We booked a 1.5 hour group ride with Laxnes Horse Farm, a family-run horse farm outside of the city. We drove there, but they also offer free pickup at hotels in Reykjavik for those without a car. We were also the only ones there so we got a private horse tour/ride. I was so happy! 🐴 Looking back, horseback riding BEFORE hot springs would probably make more sense, but as mentioned, we were sort of planning everything on the fly! After our horseback riding, we drove back to the hotel for hot tub + sauna + steam room before getting ready for the night. We had drinks + dinner at the hotel’s very chic rooftop bar, and then bopped to two spots nearby (Mat Bar + Mikki Refur). Both were so cute and great vibes. 🍷✨ Another spot we passed was Book
DAY 7 (Sunday)
Our last day! We had breakfast and packed alllll our stuff and checked out of our hotel. We had booked Sky Lagoon for our last and final day before our late afternoon flight back to the States. Yes, we did a lot of lagoons/hot springs/spa-like things on this trip! 🧖♀️ We booked the Pure Package for 2, which included our admission to the lagoon (and towels/lockers), a drink ticket, and Sky Lagoon’s 7 Step Ritual. The 7 steps are 1) relax in the geothermal pools of the lagoon 2) a cold plunge (!!), 3) sauna (truly the most stunning sauna I’ve ever been in – here’s the view!), 4) a rain shower mist, 5) a body scrub 6) steam room and 7) shower and back to the lagoon. My skin felt SO nice after! Sky Lagoon overall was so beautiful and overlooked the ocean – so magical! We didn’t realize, but our package also included a ‘Sky Platter’ at the inside bar after we were done. This area was so cute and cozy with fireplaces and worked out great for us as a pre-airport lunch. From there, we headed to the airport for our looooong travel journey back home! ✈️
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THINGS TO DO IN ICELAND
All the details of our activities are shared in the day-by-day itinerary above, but here’s a ton of photos of each big activity/outing we did!
What a dream and surreal experience to experience this four nights in a row! We were just amazed and obsessed. 💫
Hvammsvik Nature Resort & Hot Springs
Hrunalaug Hot Springs
Other Views & Waterfalls!
WHAT I PACKED
It definitely took me awhile to finalize my Iceland packing situation because 1) I wanted to travel with a carry-on only and 2) because we needed to bring clothes that would keep us warm in colder + wet weather. You can find my Iceland Packing blog post HERE!
& MORE TRAVEL-RELATED BLOG POSTS HERE!