Travel Tips for Iceland

Best Iceland 8-Day Itinerary (Summer and Winter)


Best Iceland 8-Day Itinerary (Summer and Winter)

Headed to Iceland? If you’re planning to visit Iceland for only 8 days, you’ll want to be sure that you plan your trip very carefully, so that you can see the best of the country in that small amount of time. There’s a lot to see on the island and we’re here to help. 

In this Iceland 8-day itinerary article, we’re going to cover…

  • What Iceland 8-day itinerary you should use for both the summer and winter seasons
  • How to spend those 8 days in Iceland in the most enjoyable way possible
  • What car you should rent for an 8-day self-drive trip to Iceland
  • How much to budget for an Iceland 8-day self-drive trip 
  • And what to do during an 8-day Iceland Ring Road tour

So, ready to get started? Here’s everything you need to know, plus our ultimate 8-day Iceland itinerary. 

3 Things to Know When Planning Your Iceland Itinerary (8 Days) 

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of our itineraries, it’s important to cover a few key facts. Here are three things you want to keep in mind when first planning your 8-day Iceland itinerary. 

  • Choose your rental vehicle carefully

You want to rent your car for the season and where you plan to drive in Iceland. During the summer months, 2WD vehicles are okay, late May through early September. However, if you’re visiting Iceland during the winter months, October through April, you’ll want to go with a 4WD vehicle. Otherwise, you could find yourself very limited as to where you can go and drive, due to poor weather and road conditions. 

  • Book your vehicle before it’s gone!

Along these lines, if you’re travelling to Iceland during the summer months, which is our high season for tourism, then you want to book your vehicle well in advance — at least a month ahead of your arrival. This will ensure that you actually get the car you need (such as a vehicle large enough for your group, as well as a manual versus automatic transmission), at an agreeable price. The longer you wait to book, the fewer options you’ll have and the more you’ll have to pay.

This also applies to camper vans. If you want to camp during your Iceland trip, you’ll want to book your camper van well in advance of your trip, as 4WD camper vans are in short supply around the entire country.

Renting a campervan in Iceland will allow you to travel in total freedom

  • Eight days is enough time to enjoy Iceland — with some caveats

While you might think that 8 days in Iceland is not very long, especially if those 8 days include your arrival and departure dates, it’s worth noting that it is entirely possible to enjoy a complete trip around Iceland’s famous Ring Road (also called Route 1) during that time frame, so long as you’re travelling during the summer or spring months. It’s not advised during the winter, but there’s more on that below. 

Should I Spend 8 Days in Iceland in the Summer or the Winter?

So, should you visit Iceland in the summer or the winter? It all depends on what you’re after. The experience in Iceland is very different depending on the season that you visit, and both seasons come with their pros and cons. Both seasons, however, are suitable for an 8-day itinerary.

If you visit during the summer, you’ll be happy to find lots of daylight hours, so you get plenty of time to travel around the country and enjoy the relatively good weather. You’ll also find that much more of the country is accessible and that you can enjoy more of Iceland’s outdoor activities.

If you visit during the winter, however, you’ll be rewarded with fewer crowds and better travel prices, as well as activities and adventures that just aren’t possible during the summer months (such as viewing the northern lights). 

You can see the northern lights in a winter 8-day itinerary in Iceland

If you want a mix of good prices on your accommodations and airfare, as well as not too many crowds, you can try to visit during one of Iceland’s shoulder seasons, either the late fall (September and October) or the early spring (March and April). 

Whenever you visit, though, you’ll find plenty to do during your 8-day Iceland itinerary. 

Is it Possible to Drive the Ring Road in 8 Days?

As mentioned, yes, it’s entirely possible to drive around Iceland’s Ring Road in 8 days, so long as you’re visiting during the summer months. 

During the summer, the Ring Road (or Route 1, as it’s also called) makes for an excellent road trip and 8 days is just enough time to see a lot of the main sites that the Ring Road offers. Additionally, visiting during the summer months means you have extended daylight, so you can drive from early in the morning to late in the evening, without stopping. Additionally, you’ll be able to visit many of Iceland’s natural sites, from waterfalls to volcanoes, all without worrying about early closures due to darkness, like you would experience during the winter. You can explore right up until you’re ready to go to bed. 

Seljalandsfoss waterfall in Iceland in summer

However, while 8 days is still enough time to travel along and see the Ring Road, it’s undesirable to do so in the winter for several reasons. One is the darkness. The extended dark hours mean you have fewer chances to get out of the car and see Iceland’s natural scenery, meaning the route will take you longer if you don't want to miss anything. 

Additionally, the winter weather can cause issues for many international drivers. The wind, snow, rain and ice are all unpredictable and can pop up at any moment, further slowing your travel. On top of this, many of Iceland’s more remote areas along the Ring Road become closed off during the winter, due to snow, meaning you have fewer options for things like accommodations or even sightseeing.

So, all in all, winter is not an ideal time for an 8-day Ring Road road trip. 

If you decide to visit Iceland during the winter, though, you can still enjoy much of what the island offers, just in a smaller area. We recommend, for example, that you plan a South Coast road trip if you visit in the winter. This will allow you more time to see some of Iceland’s more accessible areas, without as many worries about weather and drive times. For more information on a South Coast driving itinerary, check out our full guide to seeing Iceland’s South Coast.

Winter roads in Iceland

But what if you’re visiting during the spring or autumn months? It is still possible to drive the Ring Road during the shoulder season. However, it’s just a smart idea to keep a close eye on the weather. 

Have 10 days to see the Ring Road? We’ve got a guide for that Iceland trip, too.

Are 8 Days Enough in Iceland? 

For most travellers, 8 days is enough in Iceland. This amount of time allows you to see the majority of Iceland’s most popular attractions and, as noted, it will allow you to travel around the Ring Road if you visit during the summer months. However, if you want to get a little bit off the beaten path and see some of Iceland’s more remote areas, such as the Highlands or the Westfjords, you’ll want to plan for a longer trip, at least 10 days. 

How Much to Budget for 8 Days in Iceland

Iceland is, in general, an expensive travel destination, but you can make a trip to Iceland more affordable by planning well in advance of your trip, as well as by visiting during the winter or one of the shoulder seasons. 

An average trip to Iceland costs approximately $105-175 per person per day (or €93 to €155 per person per day). Taking this into consideration, that would mean an 8-day trip to Iceland would cost about $840 to $1,400 per person or €744 to €1,240 per person. If you’re travelling in Iceland in a budget-friendly way, trying to cut costs where you can, you’ll see that your travel costs are on the lower end of the spectrum. If you’re travelling without much prior planning or in the middle of the summer, though, you can expect to pay closer to the higher end of the spectrum. 

- What to Budget for Rental Vehicles in Iceland 

Car rental prices (as of 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 vehicles. Camper 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 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 vehicles. Camper vans run about 16,000 ISK (126 USD or 107 EUR) to 50,000 ISK (396 USD or 336 EUR) per day. 

Choose the right rental car in Iceland for your 8-day road trip

Rental prices will, of course, differ depending on the car make and model and the age of the car. You can check Lava Car Rental’s current lineup for the latest in pricing. 

- What to Budget for Food in Iceland 

Your food costs will differ according to your habits and tastes. You can find common grocery prices in this easy guide to the cost of living in Iceland.

For dining out, you can expect that a meal at an inexpensive restaurant will be typically around 2,500 ISK (20 USD or 16 EUR) per person, while a meal for two at a mid-range restaurant will be 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).

- What to Budget for Accommodations in Iceland

For your accommodations, check hotel booking platforms such as Booking.com, hotels.com and trivago.com to find the best prices. For even more savings, though, you can book a camper van, which bundles the cost of your transportation with the cost of your accommodations. 

If you’re travelling in a group of four or more people, you might also want to consider booking a homeshare and splitting the cost four ways.

- What to Budget for Other Expenses in Iceland

It’s also important to remember that you’ll have additional expenses in Iceland as well. While many natural attractions are free to see, if you want to take any guided tours or enjoy any guided activities, such as hot spring visits, ice caving or glacier hiking, you’ll need to book them separately. 

You can find current Iceland tour prices on the Lava Car Rental tour page.

The Best 8-Day Iceland Itinerary (Self-Driving, May Through September)

Driving around Iceland in the summer months, May through September, gives you plenty of daylight hours, lots of calm and mild weather, and an altogether agreeable situation for a self-driving tour. Temperatures range from around 8 degrees Celsius in June (46 degrees Fahrenheit) to 14 degrees Celsius in August (57 degrees Fahrenheit), and snow is limited. Here’s how we recommend you spend your time. 

  • Day 1: Arrival + Blue Lagoon + Reykjavik
  • Day 2: Golden Circle + South Coast to Vik
  • Day 3: South Coast (Vik to Jokulsarlon)
  • Day 4: Eastfjords
  • Day 5: Lake Myvatn
  • Day 6: Akureyri + North Iceland
  • Day 7: West Iceland to Reykjavik
  • Day 8: (Blue Lagoon) + Departure

Summer itinerary for 8 days in Iceland

Now, let's go into the details.

Day 1: Arrival + Blue Lagoon + Reykjavik

On the first day of your Iceland trip, if you arrive at Keflavik Airport with enough time, pick up your rental car and go straight to the nearby Blue Lagoon, the most famous hot spring spa in the country. From there, after a few hours of post-flight relaxation, you can go on to your hotel in Reykjavik, the capital city.

Iceland's Blue Lagoon spa

Day 2: Golden Circle + South Coast to Vik

Your second day in Iceland is the perfect time to drive around the Golden Circle. This short route connects multiple tourist hot spots and only requires a few hours of your time, but you’ll want to go slowly and fully enjoy the experience, before heading on down the South Coast.

Day 3: South Coast (Vik to Jokulsarlon)

You can spend the entirety of your third day on Iceland’s South Coast, exploring the black sand beaches and towering waterfalls around Vik and Jokulsarlon.

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon in Iceland

Day 4: Eastfjords

On your fourth day, explore the Eastfjords. Among this region’s jagged coastlines, you’ll find beautiful scenery and photo ops, small fishing villages and true wilderness, just waiting for your explorations.

Day 5: Lake Myvatn

From there, it’s on to Lake Myvatn, one of Iceland’s most popular tourist regions. The large lake of the same name contains lots of islands and the surrounding region is filled with hot springs and hiking opportunities. 

Day 6: Akureyri + North Iceland

Travelling north, you’ll reach the wild and remote landscapes of North Iceland. Stop into, or better yet, book an overnight stay in, Akureyri, Iceland’s northernmost cultural centre. With museums and historical sites, the city is a nice break from all the remote landscapes.

Godafoss Waterfall in North Iceland

Day 7: West Iceland to Reykjavik

You’ll spend your seventh day driving along West Iceland until you return back to Reykjavik, where you’ll spend the night. 

Day 8: (Blue Lagoon) + Departure

On the last day of your summertime 8-day driving trip around Iceland, if you have enough time and didn’t manage to fit it in on your first day in the country, swing by the Blue Lagoon, for a proper Icelandic send-off. 

Below, you will find the driving route and the attractions that you can explore on your 8-day self-drive trip in Iceland in summer:

Does all this sound a bit too rushed? Try our seven-day itinerary for a slower pace.

Rental Car Recommendations for an 8-Day Summer Trip to Iceland

As mentioned above, summertime is the only time in which a 2WD vehicle is suitable for driving around Iceland. But, even then, it might not be suitable for your particular group. Usually, 2WD vehicles are best for couples travelling alone or on a budget trip, as they’re on the smaller side. Additionally, it’s important to note that 2WD vehicles are not suitable for travelling in the North or along the Eastfjords. 

If you do want to travel to these more remote regions, or if you have more than two travellers in your party, you’ll want to rent a 4WD vehicle or SUV.

Additionally, if you want to save money on your accommodations, you might be interested in renting a camper van. Here’s everything to know about camper van rentals in Iceland. 

The Best 8-Day Iceland Itinerary (Self-Driving, October Through April)

If you decide to visit Iceland during the more affordable winter months, you’ll find that you need to go a little slower as you travel around the country, to account for the changing road conditions and weather. Ice, snow and storms are all to be expected, so you don’t want to press yourself to travel more or longer than is safe on any given day.

Do note that we do not recommend you visit North Iceland or the Eastfjords during the winter months, as road conditions can be very treacherous. Additionally, 4WD vehicles are a necessity during these months, to keep you and your fellow travellers safe. 

Here’s what we recommend you do with 8 days in Iceland during the winter: 

  • Day 1: Arrival + Blue Lagoon + Reykjavik
  • Day 2: Snaefellsnes Peninsula / Golden Circle
  • Day 3: Snaefellsnes Peninsula / Golden Circle
  • Day 4: South Coast to Vik
  • Day 5: South Coast (Vik to Jokulsarlon)
  • Day 6: Ice Caving + Back to Reykjavik
  • Day 7: Buffer day / Free day in Reykjavik
  • Day 8: (Blue Lagoon) + Departure

Winter itinerary for 8 days in Iceland

Let's go into the details.

Day 1: Arrival + Blue Lagoon + Reykjavik

On your first day in Iceland, consider stopping by the Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s most famous hot springs spa. The Blue Lagoon is particularly nice to visit during the winter, when the hot waters mix with the chilly snow and sleet, making for a unique experience. From there, head on to Reykjavik.

Days 2-3: Snaefellsnes Peninsula / Golden Circle

The second and third days of your trip are ideal for visiting the Golden Circle and Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Taking two days to fully see these areas — which include some of Iceland’s most famous tourist spots — will give you plenty of time to go slow and account for inclement weather as needed.

Geysir, in the Golden Circle of Iceland

Day 4: South Coast to Vik

On the fourth day, you can drive along the South Coast to Vik, during which you’ll discover black sand beaches, glaciers, volcanoes, waterfalls and more picturesque Icelandic landscapes. 

Day 5: South Coast (Vik to Jokulsarlon)

You can spend your fifth day further enjoying the South Coast and all it offers, without rushing.

Day 6: Ice Caving + Back to Reykjavik

Your sixth day is the perfect opportunity to get in some Iceland ice caving tour, along with the help of a guide, before you head on back to Reykjavik.

Ice caving in the glaciers is one of the most popular activities in Iceland in winter

Day 7: Buffer Day / Free day in Reykjavik

Your seventh day is a “buffer day,” to help you spread out your itinerary if needed due to weather. If you end up not needing your buffer day, you can use this day to enjoy exploring Reykjavik and all the museums, cultural attractions, shopping and dining that the city offers. 

Day 8: (Blue Lagoon) + Departure

On your departure day, if you didn’t get a chance to see the Blue Lagoon on your way in, do so now, before you head home. 

Below, you will find the driving route and the attractions that you can explore on your 8-day self-drive trip in Iceland in winter:

Rental Car Recommendations for an 8-Day Winter Trip to Iceland

We recommend that any traveller rent a 4WD vehicle when visiting Iceland during the winter months. This is really the only truly safe option, as the weather and road conditions can change so much during this time of year. 

Need more tips for renting a car in Iceland? Check out our full rental car guide, with lots of car renting tips from the locals and professionals.

Ready to See the Best That Iceland Has to Offer?

You really can see a lot of Iceland in just eight days! All it takes is a bit of planning in advance and the right wheels to get you around the island. Let Lava Car Rental outfit you for your 8-days Iceland itinerary. Check out our full lineup of vehicles and get in touch to learn more. 

Related Travel Tips

What to Do Near Keflavik Airport in Iceland

Lava Car Rental is located just steps away from Keflavik International Airport, so we know this area — and the whole island, really — like the backs of our hands. So, ready to start your Iceland adventure as soon as you land? Here’s everything we recommend you see and do near Keflavik Airport.

Best Iceland 10-Day Self-Drive Itinerary (Summer + Winter)

If you’re planning 10 days in Iceland, there’s no better way to spend your time, regardless of the season, than by driving your way around the island. An Iceland 10-day itinerary can give you just enough time to see some of the country’s best spots, without putting you into a rush. Of course, proper planning is necessary in order to make the most out of your 10 days in Iceland, so that’s why we’re here to help.

A South Coast Iceland Tour: Hiking, Biking, and Bathing

Looking for an action-packed day tour along the beautiful South Coast of Iceland? This one includes a bike ride to the famous DC3 plane wreck in Sólheimasandur, letting the mists of Gljúfrabúi and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls refresh you, glacier hiking over Sólheimajökull glacier, bathing in Seljavallalaug geothermal pool, and ending the day with a peek into Raufarhólshellir, a lava cave.