Travel Tips for Iceland

The Best Iceland 3-Day Itinerary (Summer and Winter)


The Best Iceland 3-Day Itinerary (Summer and Winter)

Dreaming of an Iceland getaway but only have a few days to spare? While we always think more time spent in Iceland is better, it is possible to see some of the highlights of Iceland in just a few days. In fact, if you can find the right flights from your corner of the globe, you can enjoy a long weekend in Iceland and make it back home in time for work on Monday morning. 

But even though it’s possible to thoroughly enjoy a short trip to Iceland, you definitely don’t want to just show up and expect to easily find lots to do, as soon as you step out of the airport (though it is true that there's lots to do around Keflavik). Instead, you’ll want to be careful to plan your perfect Iceland 3-day itinerary, so you see the most in your short amount of time, with the least stress. 

In this article, we’re going to answer travellers’ top questions about how to see Iceland in 3 days, such as… 

  • Where to go for 3 days in Iceland in the winter?
  • Where to go for 3 days in Iceland in the summer? (Yes, the season does matter!)
  • How to get the most out of 3 days in Iceland
  • How to budget for 3 days in Iceland
  • And whether or not you can travel some of the most famous road trip routes in Iceland (like the Ring Road) in just 3 days

Find out all this and more, below. 

Our Top Tip for Planning a 3-Day Iceland Itinerary 

Before we get into how to spend your 3 days in Iceland, we’re going to let you in on our top tip: renting a car is the absolute best way to maximize your time in Iceland, especially if you’re looking to spend just a 3-day weekend in Iceland. 

It’s easy to pick up a car at Keflavik Airport when you rent with a rental car provider like Lava Car, and then you're on your way, exploring Iceland’s magical landscapes nearly as soon as your plane lands. When you're ready to go home, the process of returning your rental car is equally easy, as you just drop it at the Lava Car rental office in Keflavik and then we’ll give you a ride to the airport. 

Choose the right rental car for your Iceland itinerary

However, you don’t want to just rent any car in Iceland. Depending on the time of year of your visit, as well as other factors, you’ll need either a 2WD or a 4x4 car. If you're travelling in the summer, and only with one or two other people, and not a lot of luggage, a 2WD vehicle will most likely be suitable. If, though, you're visiting during the winter months, or travelling at any time in a group or as a family, a 4x4 car is a must.

Whichever car option you go with, make sure to rent your vehicle for your Iceland trip as soon as possible, to ensure you can book the exact car you want and for the most agreeable price.

Should You Spend 3 Days in Iceland in the Summer or Winter?

That’s a great question and it all depends on what you're looking for as a traveller. Both seasons have their pros and cons. 

If you visit Iceland during the summer, you’ll be treated to plenty of sunlight (which gives you more daylight in which to explore and drive around and see the sights) and better weather in which to enjoy all of Iceland’s outdoor activities. 

In winter, however, while the weather is (as you could likely guess) colder and there are fewer daylight hours, you do get to enjoy the fewer crowds and cheaper travel prices that come with the cold. Additionally, if you can appreciate a gorgeous winter landscape and enjoy wintertime activities, you’ll find plenty to do in Iceland during the winter months. 

For the best of both worlds, of course, you can always visit Iceland during the shoulder seasons of spring or autumn. 

Are 3 Days Enough for Iceland?

As we've already reiterated, you can spend 3 days in Iceland and walk away feeling as if you enjoyed a short holiday away from home. However, it’s important to realize that you can't do everything in Iceland in just three days. If you follow one of our ultimate 3-day Iceland itineraries below, you’ll find that you can easily (and without rushing!) explore Reykjavik, the popular self-driving route that is the Golden Circle and more. You'll be able to see quite a few iconic attractions that Iceland has become known for, from waterfalls to volcanoes, hot springs to black sand beaches.

Skogafoss waterfall in Iceland

So what can you not do in Iceland in just 3 days? We’re often asked if you can do the Iceland Ring Road in 3 days and that’s a hard no, unfortunately. Even the speediest Iceland self-driving trip along the Ring Road will require at least 7 days in the summer and at least 10 days in the winter.

Think 3 days won’t be long enough for you to do and experience everything you’re imagining for your Iceland trip? Check out our longer itineraries to discover…

How Much to Budget for 3 Days in Iceland

Overall, Iceland is a pricey destination to visit. Your costs, however, will be lower or higher depending on several factors, including when you visit (summer is pricier) and how far in advance you plan and book.

The average cost of a trip to Iceland is about 105 to 175 (both USD and EUR) per day. However, there are a few ways you can save money. 

For the most affordable car rental options, for example, check out Lava Car’s competitive and up-to-date car prices. You can also book affordably-priced tours and activities through Lava Car's website

For more information about how to budget for dining and groceries when in Iceland, you can refer to the country’s cost of living report.

Before booking your hotel, be sure to check all booking platforms and even your hotel alternatives — such as home stays and campervan rentals — to see where you can save money, too. 

The Best 3-Day Summer Self-Driving Itinerary for Iceland (May–September)

Travelling to Iceland from May to September will give you extra daylight, better weather and the best road conditions possible. As you drive around Iceland for three days in the summer, here’s how to best spend your time. 

  • Day 1: Arrival + Blue Lagoon or Sky Lagoon + Reykjavik
  • The Golden Circle + South Coast to Vik
  • Vik to Reykjavik + Departure

The Best 3-Day Summer Self-Drive Itinerary for Iceland

  • Day 1: Arrival + Blue Lagoon or Sky Lagoon + Reykjavik

After you arrive at Keflavik Airport, pick up your rental car and then start your drive. Your first stop should be either Blue Lagoon or Sky Lagoon (take your pick!), for a few hours of relaxation in the pristine thermal waters. Then, it’s on to Reykjavik, where you can explore the country’s capital city before checking into your hotel for the night. 

  • Day 2: The Golden Circle + South Coast to Vik

The Golden Circle is one of Iceland’s most popular driving routes and, luckily, it’s see-able in under a day. The Golden Circle includes multiple major sites, including Thingvellir National Park, Haukadalur geothermal valley and Gullfoss waterfall. 

After you’ve thoroughly explored the Golden Circle, head to Iceland’s southern coast, where you'll see even more waterfalls and black sand beaches, before spending the night in Vik. 

For more information on what to see and do during your second day, check out our guide to the South Coast as well as our guide to what to do on the Golden Circle

  • Day 3: Vik to Reykjavik + Return Flight

Didn't see everything you wanted during your first two days? Spend your last and third day making your way from Vik, back to Reykjavik, seeing everything you missed along the way. Then, take a late flight back home. 

Extra time near the airport? There are plenty of things to do in Keflavik

Rental car recommendations for a 3-day summer trip to Iceland

If you decide to follow the above itinerary, you can opt to rent either a 2WD small car or a 4x4 SUV. If you're travelling on a budget or travelling with just one or two other people, a 2WD small car will be just fine. If, however, you’re travelling with more people or just want more space, a 4x4 SUV is preferable. 

Of course, if you'd like to save on your accommodations, you can also rent a campervan, which is one great way to save money on a trip to Iceland

The Best 3-Day Winter Self-Driving Itinerary for Iceland (October–April)

When travelling around Iceland during the winter months, October through April, you’ll find that things go a little slower. The road conditions are variable and sometimes hazardous. The weather can change in an instant. The daylight hours are short. 

However, that hardly makes it not worth your time to visit Iceland in winter; you just need to be prepared for these facts. If you are, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the winter landscapes, more affordable travel prices and fewer crowds. 

  • Day 1: Arrival + Blue Lagoon or Sky Lagoon + Reykjavik
  • The Golden Circle OR South Coast to Vik
  • Vik to Reykjavik + Departure

The Best 3-Day Winter Self-Driving Itinerary for Iceland (October–April)

The Best 3-Day Winter Self-Driving Itinerary for Iceland (October–April)

  • Day 1: Arrival + Blue Lagoon or Sky Lagoon + Reykjavik

After you arrive in Keflavik, there’s no better spot to go than Blue Lagoon. Located nearby and on your way, both Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon offer pristine (and very warm!) spots to don your bathing suit and take to the waters, as you watch the snow fall around you. After you've enjoyed this unique, one-of-a-kind experience, you can head on to Reykjavik, where you’ll spend the night. 

  • Day 2: Golden Circle or the South Coast and Vik

On your second day, you have two choices. You can travel the Golden Circle, which features three main, Icelandic hot spots — Thingvellir National Park, Haukadalur geothermal valley and Gullfoss waterfall — and then return back to Reykjavik to spend the night. Or, you can head to the South Coast and Vik, where you can explore the waterfalls, black sand beaches and other wonders in this region of the country, before also returning to Reykjavik for the night. 

While you could feasibly see both of these regions in one day, if you visit Iceland during the summer months, it’s not possible to do so in the winter, due to the shortened daylight hours. 

  • Day 3: Reykjavik and Your Return Flight

Before your return flight, spend some time exploring Reykjavik and the Reykjanes Peninsula. There’s plenty to do both in the city and around the airport. 

Rental car recommendations for a 3-day winter trip to Iceland

A 4x4 vehicle is definitely recommended for any trip to Iceland during the winter, due to the hazardous weather and sometimes poor road conditions. Even with a 4x4 vehicle, it’s important to go slow and be cautious, and be willing to adjust your travel plans to account for any unexpected weather. 

The Perfect Iceland Stopover Itinerary is Easier Than You Think

Yes, you really can see some of the country’s best sights with just an Iceland road trip of 3 days! However, careful planning is a must — and it all starts with planning your transportation. Lava Car can help, offering a full range of 2WD and 4x4 vehicles

Let’s talk about your options and start planning your Iceland trip today.

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