Travel Tips for Iceland

Best Iceland 5-Day Summer and Winter Driving Itineraries (with a Rental Car)


5 days summer winter Iceland road trip route

Wondering how to spend 5 days in Iceland? If you're planning a 5-day trip to Iceland, you'll want to make sure that you spend your days in the best ways possible. Don't let those 5 days slip by before you know it! 

But planning your 5-day Iceland driving itinerary requires more than just picking a route and hitting the road. If you're planning for a 5-day road trip in Iceland for the first time, do you know which itinerary is the best for summertime versus wintertime? Do you know what car to rent for your 5-day itinerary in Iceland, based on your itinerary and/or the season? Do you know how to budget for your 5-day self-drive holiday?

If your answer to all of the above was a resounding "no" — well, then, no worries. We have you covered. 

We're helping you decide how to spend 5 days in Iceland, whether you're visiting in the summer, winter or anytime in between. As well as what you should do based on the season, your budget and your rental car. Keep reading to find out more. 

Reynisfjara Beach is one of the famous attraction in south Iceland

3 Things You Need to Know Before You Start Planning Your 5-Day Iceland Road Trip Itinerary  

But before we can begin all the fun planning, there are a few things you'll need to know as you decide how to spend your 5 days in Iceland.

1. You'll want to rent your car according to the season. 

This is a big one. When you choose a rental vehicle for your Iceland self-drive trip, you'll want to take into consideration more than just cost and vehicle size (though both of those factors are important). You'll also want to consider how suitable a particular rental car is for the weather. 

If you're visiting Iceland during the summertime (late May through early September) and not travelling the rough terrain of the Icelandic Highlands, you can go with a small, 2WD vehicle. However, if you're visiting Iceland during the winter months (October through April), you'll want only to rent a 4WD vehicle. Only a 4x4 car or SUV will be suitable for getting you across Iceland's snowy, icy roads during the wintertime. Likewise, a 4x4 vehicle or SUV is crucial for visiting the Icelandic Highlands, no matter what month you visit, due to the rough terrain.

2. It's important to have realistic expectations for what you can do in 5 days.

Five days isn't a ton of time, especially if those 5 days also include your flights in and out of Iceland. It's important to realize what you can actually do in 5 days in Iceland. It's not possible to drive around Iceland in 5 days — at least, it's not possible to drive around ALL of Iceland in 5 days. If you have your heart set on driving around Iceland's Ring Road via Route 1, you'll want to save that adventure for a separate trip.

However, that hardly means you'll be stuck in Reykjavik for your visit. You can easily enjoy an Icelandic road trip over 5 days if you take the Golden Circle route and travel along the South Coast. Not only can these regions easily fit into a 5-day itinerary, but they also include some of Iceland's most famous natural attractions. 

3. Booking ahead is always the best way to go.

While booking your rental car ahead of time is always the best way to go, in order to ensure you get exactly the rental car you want, this is especially the case during the summer months, when not booking ahead can mean that you not only don't get the vehicle you want, you might not get any car at all! 

Rental cars are in high demand during Iceland's busy summer season, so if you plan to visit us at any time from May to September, try to book at least a month ahead of your arrival date. This will not only ensure you get the car you want and need but also that you save a little cash, as the longer you wait, the higher your rental fees. 

This is also the case for renting a camper van in Iceland. Camper vans are in high demand during the summer months, as are 4WD camper vans all year long. So, if you plan on camping during your Iceland road trip, book that camper van ASAP.

always Book your Iceland rental car in advance

How to Budget for 5 Days in Iceland

If you're a budget traveller, then you're likely wondering how much to budget for 5 days in Iceland. Unfortunately, the answer isn't always an easy one. There are several factors that come into play.

The main factor that will impact the cost of your Iceland trip is the season. Summer travel to and in Iceland is always more expensive, whereas prices for things like rental cars and accommodations drop drastically during the winter months when the tourist numbers likewise dramatically decrease. No matter when you travel, though, costs will be higher if you're booking last-minute. 

In general, it's important to realize that Iceland is an expensive travel destination compared to other budget-friendly vacation destinations around the world.

Car rental prices (as of Summer 2021, with prices subject to change) in the summer, May through September, range from 9,000 ISK (70 USD or 60 EUR) to 13,000 ISK (100 USD or 87 EUR) per day for a small, economy car, and from 14,000 ISK (110 USD or 94 EUR) to 30,000 ISK (240 USD or 200 EUR) per day for 4x4 vehiclesCamper vans run about 12,000 ISK (95 USD or 80 EUR) to 30,000 ISK (240 USD or 200 EUR) per day. 

Car rental prices (as of Summer 2021, with prices subject to change) in the winter, October through April, range from 6,000 ISK (47 USD or 40 EUR) to 9,000 ISK (70 USD or 60 EUR) per day for a small, economy car, and from 10,000 ISK (79 USD or 67 EUR) to 13,000 ISK (100 USD or 87 EUR) per day for 4x4 vehiclesCamper vans run about 16,000 ISK (126 USD or 107 EUR) to 50,000 ISK (396 USD or 336 EUR) per day. 

Rental prices will, of course, differ depending on the car make and model and the age of the car.

Vik is one of the most popular Icelandic town located on Iceland south coast

Of course, beyond your rental car, unless you're renting a camper van, you'll need accommodations while in Iceland. You can find the most current pricing for your travel dates via hotel booking platforms such as booking.com or hotels.com. However, if you're looking for the best value for your money, renting a camper van during the summer months can save you a lot of cash. You can also save money on accommodations by travelling in a group and splitting the cost of car rentals and homestays. 

Lastly, it's worth considering the food costs in Iceland before your trip. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant is typically around 2,500 ISK (20 USD or 16 EUR) per person, while a meal for two at a mid-range restaurant is closer to 13,000 ISK (103 USD or 87 EUR). The average fast-food meal is about 1,800 ISK (14 USD or 12 EUR). 

Best 5 Days in Iceland in Summer Self-Drive Itinerary (May–September) 

During Iceland's summer months, the temperatures range from around 8 degrees Celsius in June (46 degrees Fahrenheit) to 14 degrees Celsius in August (57 degrees Fahrenheit). There's very little snow around the island during the summer, and sunshine is plentiful. Rain is still a possibility, but not as it would be in the fall and winter months. Summertime is easily the best time to rent a camper van in Iceland, but even if you opt for a 4x4 SUV or an economy car, you can still enjoy our 5 days in Iceland summer itinerary.

5-Day Iceland summer road trip route map + itinerary breakdown

  • Day 1: Arrival + Bluelagoon + Reykjavik
  • Day 2: Golden Circle
  • Day 3: South coast 
  • Day 4: South coast + heading back to Reykjavik
  • Day 5: Departure + (Blue Lagoon)

iceland 5 days summer self drive route map

Day 1: The Blue Lagoon + Reykjavik

On your first day in Iceland, right after you arrive at Keflavik Airport, pick up your Lava Car rental vehicle (we provide easy airport pick-up service) and head to the Blue Lagoon. One of Iceland's most popular attractions, the lagoon makes a relaxing first experience in Iceland before heading into Reykjavik and checking into your hotel.

Day 2: The Golden Circle 

Travelling the Golden Circle only takes a few hours, but you'll want to spend an entire day enjoying the drive so that you have plenty of time to stop along the route, get out and explore the various attractions. Popular spots along the Golden Circle include Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss and Geysir. 

Day 3: The South Coast 

Whether you stay in a hotel in the Golden Circle area or stay in Reykjavik, on your third day in Iceland, you'll want to travel along Iceland's South Coast, until you reach your accommodations in the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon area. The drive along the South Coast likewise only takes a few hours. Still, you'll want plenty of extra time to see the sights, including Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Seljavallalaug Hot Pool, Skogafoss Waterfall, the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck and the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach.

Skogafoss Waterfall is one of the famous waterfalls located in south Iceland

Day 4: The South Coast

But we know what you're thinking — that's a lot of sights to fit into one day! And it definitely is. That's why, on Day 4 of your Iceland trip, you can travel back from Jokulsarlon to Reykjavik and see all the sights you didn't catch on Day 3, on Day 4. 

Day 5: Heading Home

On Day 5, wrap up your visit. If you have a late flight out of Iceland, you might want to visit the Blue Lagoon again (or visit for the first time if you didn't get a chance to stop by on your first day in the country) or stick around Reykjavik and explore, before dropping your car off with Lava Car Rental and boarding your flight. 

Rental Car Recommendations for 5 Days in Iceland in the Summer

If you're travelling as a single or couple during your summertime Iceland trip, consider a small, 2WD economy vehicle. Groups of three or four, however, may want to rent an SUV for optimum comfort. Likewise, if you want to save some money on your accommodations, consider booking a camper van

Lava car rental camper van in Iceland

Best 5 Days in Iceland in Winter Self-Drive Itinerary (October–April) 

During an Iceland winter, the temperature in the southern part of the country hovers around 0 degrees Celsius, or 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Daylight is minimal, with some days in the heart of winter experiencing as little as five hours of daylight. Weather can change in an instant, and precipitation, including rain, snow and ice, is heavy. 

Regardless of these harsh weather conditions, though, travelling to Iceland during the winter months can be an amazing experience (with the right preparation). Here are our recommendations for how to spend your 5 days in Iceland in the winter. 

5-Day Iceland Winter road trip route map + itinerary breakdown

  • Day 1: Arrival + Bluelagoon + Reykjavik
  • Day 2: Golden Circle
  • Day 3: South coast 
  • Day 4: Ice caving in south coast + heading back to Reykjavik
  • Day 5: Departure + (Blue Lagoon)

Day 1: The Blue Lagoon + Reykjavik

If you arrive in Iceland with a little bit of time during the day to spare, consider travelling from Keflavik Airport, straight to the nearby Blue Lagoon. This extremely popular Icelandic experience allows you to wade out into steaming, vibrant blue waters, an enjoyable experience during the winter, when you can take in the snow falling on the lava fields all from your swimsuit. Once done, travel on to Reykjavik, where you can spend the night.

Day 2: The Golden Circle

On your second day, spend the entire day exploring the Golden Circle route. While it only takes a few hours to drive the entirety of the circle, setting aside an entire day for it allows plenty of time for you to stop and see the sights at your leisure. Don't miss Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss and Geysir!

Day 3: The South Coast 

Travel along Iceland's South Coast on your third day. Another route that doesn't take very long, it's worth setting aside an entire day for the South Coast, so that you can stop at breathtaking sights such as Seljalandsfoss waterfall and Vatnajokull National Park. On Day 3, you'll spend the night in Jokulsarlon or Hofn. 

Winter ice caving in Iceland

Day 4: Ice Caving and Sightseeing in Jokulsarlon 

Get up early and head to Jokulsarlon's ice caves on the fourth day of your winter trip. Only accessible between November and March, the ice caves are a breathtaking spot to behold, with their crystal-blue, reflective walls that disappear once the sun comes back for the summer season. Once done with your ice caving experience, drive back to Reykjavik, where you'll spend the night.

Day 5: Heading Home

On the last day of your trip, if you have time, head back to the Blue Lagoon for some relaxation before your flight, or enjoy some leisure time in Reykjavik.

Rental Car Recommendations for 5 Days in Iceland in the Winter

When travelling to Iceland in winter, we always recommend our clients rent a 4WD vehicle. Additionally, it's smart to plan a buffer day into your itinerary, so that you can drive slowly and stop when needed to account for inclement weather. The weather can change instantly and you don't want to rush yourself through poor driving conditions, just to keep your itinerary.

Driving through the Ring Road will take you to amazing locations

Renting Your Car in Iceland: Professional Tips from the Locals 

The pros at Lava Car Rental have a few tips for renting your car in Iceland, no matter what time of year you visit!

Don't forget to consider the number of travellers in your group, when booking your rental car.

If you're a travelling family with children, you may want to choose a regular-size economy car or a 4x4 vehicle. However, if you're a travelling couple or pair of friends, you can opt for a small economy car suitable for two travellers, plus luggage. You can also find smaller, more suitable 4x4 vehicles, as well as smaller camper vans for two travellers. If you're a travelling group, you can find larger vehicles that can fit up to seven passengers.

Also think about the type of traveller you are, when booking your rental car.

If you're the adventurous type, you might prefer a camper van.If, however, you'd rather choose comfort over adventure, you might be more interested in renting a luxury vehicle.

Remember to book a rental car with the right transmission for you.

Rental cars in Iceland come with both manual and automatic transmissions. If you're not comfortable driving a vehicle with a manual transmission, be sure to verify that the car you're renting comes with an automatic transmission. 

For more info on booking your Iceland rental car, check out our full guide to renting cars in Iceland, as well as our guide to renting cars for a South Coast trip specifically. 

We're Ready to Welcome You for 5 Days in Iceland!

Whatever season you visit Iceland, we can't wait to welcome you for your 5-day trip. While 5 days may not seem like a long time to explore our beautiful country, you can easily see and experience some of the top sights and sounds by following one of our 5-day road trip itineraries. 

Want to make your 5 days in Iceland even more convenient? Book your car directly with Lava Car Rental for easy airport pick-up and drop-off, easy payment and more.

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