Our guide to all you can do with 3 days in Iceland to make the most of your time. For our Iceland 3 day itinerary we based ourselves in Reykjavik and explored some of Iceland’s must see sites such as the golden circle and the South coast. Discover all our full 3 nights in Iceland itinerary below.
A trip to Iceland has been one of my travel dreams for well over a decades.
I first set my wanderlusting eyes on Iceland’s otherworldly landscapes in 2001 but it is only this year that with the help of cheap flights and some intense travel planning I was able to make my dream come true. I am just back from 3 days in Iceland and the country not only met my expectations but surpassed them by quite some distance.
Iceland is most simply stunning.
Asking an Iceland 3 day itinerary to fulfill a lifelong dream was a tall order. When you dream of visiting a place for almost 20 years you want your 3 days to pack in as much as possible but you also want to have enough time to really enjoy what you see and not just tick sites off a list.
However, my itinerary did the job. I left thinking this was the best way to spend 3 nights in Iceland / 3 days and went as far as saying to my travel companion I would ‘do it again in the exact same way’.
Here is my 3 days in Iceland itinerary. I hope you enjoy it!
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3 days in Iceland in winter: our trip
We took our 3 day trip to Iceland in February. Many people reacted with surprise to our travel dates but there are many reasons to visit Iceland in winter and our choice proved correct: Iceland this time of year is magical.
It was only 2 of us (both adults) and this was our Iceland winter itinerary. We
- Flew with Wowair from Dublin to Reykjavik on a Friday morning
- Got a transfer from the airport to our apartments with Grayline (Flybus is also worth checking as often cheaper)
- Stayed at Kerno Apartment
- Booked a Northern Light tour
- Went on a south Coast tour and glacier walk
- Went on a Gold circle tour with Grayline
- Went to the Blue Lagoon on Sunday night with the Grayline transport+admission combo ticket
- Explored Reykjavik on our first afternoon and last morning.
In this occasion, I travelled with a friend but I would get organised a very similar way if I was to go to Iceland with the kids.
Quick tips for 3 days in Iceland
3 days in Iceland go quickly. The country is small but packed with things to do so a weekend in the Reykjavik area can easily make you feel short on time if you don’t have a strong plan.
Here are some practical tips on how to make the most of your 3 nights in Iceland.
Book accommodation well in advance
I booked accommodation 4 months before my trip (something I never do, I felt super organised!) and I am glad i did. At that time, we had a good selection of hotels and apartments to choose from and we were able to secure one in a good location without spending a fortune. We used booking.com to book which is my go-to accommodation booking site for ease of use and variety of options.
Prices in Iceland are notoriously high: booking up to 6 months in advance can make a difference between reasonable vs almost unaffordable 3 nights in Iceland.
Book tours early too
You don’t have to book a tour to enjoy Iceland but in winter, the option of not driving around in snowy conditions was appealing to me and so we did.
Like for accommodation, I found it pays off to move quickly: even booking with a few weeks notice left us with only few options for the northern lights tour and we only got one slot in the Blue Lagoon. Yes, the Blue lagoon does sell out!
While we were happy enough with the slot we got, it would have been nice to have more time there so I highly recommend booking your time as soon as your flights are secured.
For tours, I use GetYourGuide that offers a variety of options and a super easy booking process, plus an easy way to compare prices between several tours.
Inform your bank / credit car provider
Iceland is almost cashless: you can buy pretty much everything with a credit /debit card and for pretty much any value. In 3 days in Iceland, I haven’t seen cash one: I wouldn’t even recognise Icelandic Kronas if I saw them!
You will be asked to enter your 4 digit pin when making a purchase but otherwise card payments and withdrawals are easy. ATMs are easy to find too.
I recommend you inform your bank about your travel plans in case they decide to temporarily block your card as used in an unusual location.
Bring a waterproof layer and sensible walking shoes
I knew Iceland would be cold in winter but nobody told me how wet it would be!
The temperature was not half as cold as I imagined in would be (about 3 – 7 C during the day) but it rained often and the wind in Iceland is wild!
The best protection is sensible hiking shoes, a waterproof layer for both top and bottom half of your body and good quality thermal underwear with moisture wicking properties.
Plan at least one night in Reykjavik
Reykjavik is the perfect base for 3 days in Iceland but don’t make the mistake of thinking it is a base and nothing else. Especially in the evening Reykjavik has a lovely buzz and many bars and restaurants.
Our guide recommended us to grab a copy of the Reykjavik Grapevine to find out what’s on: it’s an English language newspaper and apparently also lists all Happy Hour options in town!
You can find our guide on all you can see in Reykjavik in one day here.
if you are going with kids, you will be glad to know Reykjavik has several family friendly attractions too.
Book an apartment
To keep costs down but also for convenience, we booked and apartment and would not hesitate to do it again. We stayed at Kerno Apartments and other good ones are Old Charm Reykjavik Apartments and Odinsve hotel Apartments
Tours or self drive?
In this occasion, we booked tours and we were happy. However, we took this decision mostly because we are not used to driving in snowy conditions: in summer, I would probably mix and match and start with one tour to get a guide (ours with Grayline was amazing) and then do the rest by car.
3 days in Iceland itinerary: 3 days and 3 nights in Iceland
Iceland day 1 – Reykjavik and Northern Lights
This was our travel day. We arrived in Reykjavik at about lunchtime and quickly made our way into town with the transfer we had pre-booked with Grayline.
We settled into our apartment, got dressed for the rain (there was an orange weather warning on the day and it was wild) and went for a first walk around town.
We headed towards the Harpa Concert hall, got almost knocked over by the wind and then retrieved towards the port first and Reykjavik old town next. This is a lovely area of town with shops, cute buildings (very different from the modern ones you see on your way in from Keflavik) and many restaurants.
For the evening, we had pre-booked a Northern Lights tour but sadly the weather conditions were not good and as we wandered around town we got an email from our provider that the tour had been cancelled. We knew this was a possibility so instead we found refuge from the rain in the city shops and restaurants and ended up having a lovely night.
Some places to try in town, according to our local guide, are Nora, Apoteke and Shalimar. He also mentioned Glo (vegetarian) and The Sea Baron which is a casual place serving allegedly the best lobster soup in town: if you take a stroll along the port, where all the sea tour providers have ticket counters too, you cannot miss it.
Reykjavik is compact in size and you can walk to most places in the centre.
Iceland day 2 – South coast with glacier hike
This was the most adventurous of our days in Iceland, we booked a full day tour to the South Coast and it included a glacier hike!
Our day started really early with a pick up from the hotel but for once, I didn’t mind the early call. Several friends had told me to expect stunning scenery in the South and indeed, my expectation were more than met.
The three that really made and impression on me were Skogafoss waterfall, where we saw an incredible rainbow curving along the precipitating water, the famous Black Sand beach and the glacier hike.
Stunning Skogafoss waterfall is on the way between Reykjavik and Vik. You arrive at its base but there is a good, albeit rather wobbly, staircase allowing you to venture up to where the water meets roaring its precipice.
We gingerly climbed up and the burn in our legs was most definitely worth it: Skogafoss is beautiful from all viewpoints.
The black sand beach
The other highlight of the day was the famous black sand beach.
The black sand beach: need to know. You may have read that the black sand beach is one of the most dangerous places in Iceland. I had come across that notion myself and our guide (otherwise very, very chilled) stressed how important it was for us not to get too close to water.
I could see in the eyes of our fellow travellers a skeptical ‘yeah, right’ smirk but it only took a few seconds on the beach to see why the warnings: the wavers here are huge! And I don’t mean ‘surfers paradise huge’, I actually mean raging walls of water tumbling and crashing down on the shore.
They are stunning, powerful and a sight to behold but they do come very close (you think they don’t until one almost catches you very far from the water line) and they are not waves you want to try get out of. There is no danger if you keep your distance but do pay attention!
The last stop on our trip was also the highlight of our day: the glacier hike on Solheimajokull. The glacier is on the way between Reykjavik and the black sand beach and it is stunning. At its base there is a glacier lagoon and you can hike onto the glacier with an easy 20 mins walk and then a short climb (no experience or any special level of fitness required).
We booked our trip with extreme Iceland/Arctic Adventures and we met our guide at the base of the hike. Here, we got kitted out with a harness, helmet, ice pick and crampons and off we went!
Overall, we spent about 3 hours reaching the glacier and on it. It was wonderful and it left us suitably tired for the return to Reykjavik.
On the way back, we talked endlessly about the day just gone and promised to each other we should come back and devote to this part of the country at least a few days, following a more comprehensive Southern Iceland itinerary.
The weather refused to cooperate for the Northern Lights again so we spend a second night in town.
Iceland day 3 – Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon
This day saw us packing in 2 of the most popular activities and attractions in the whole of Iceland: a tour of the Golden circle and the Blue Lagoon.
We started our day with another wander around Reykjavik. The weather had moderately picked up and so we ventured along the seafront to see the famous Sun Voyager and Hofdi house.
The sun voyager is an evocative sculpture along the sea while Hofdi House is the location of a historical meeting between Reagan and Gorbachov (an interesting note about the spelling of the latter is here). Here, in 1986, they met in for a meeting that is said to have marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War.
After the waterfront, we made our way to the Tjornin Pond, which is lovely, had a look at the commercial street Laugavegur and then made our way for lunchtime pickup.
Golden Circle Express Tour
Grayline picked us up from our apartment at lunchtime and we headed off on their ‘Golden Circle Express’ bus tour. It was fabulous.
I had worried a big bus tour in a very popular location would mean crowds and impersonal experience but it was all but. Our guide Darren was excellent and both the locations and his explanations made for a wonderful day.
I am going to write a full post about touring the Golden Circle but I can already share that we had 3 stops during our tour: Thingvellir national park, Gullfoss waterfall and Geyser.
The Blue Lagoon
We came back from our tour at about 7pm and quickly made our way to the last activity of the day: a trip to the blue lagoon. Visiting the blue lagoon was one of my must-do activities for my visit to Iceland but I will be honest; the experience was very different from what I had anticipated!
While nothing bad happened, and I am full of praise for the place and the service that brought us there, the weather really didn’t cooperate with us and we had our ‘relaxation and pampering time’ while battered by icy cold rain in what I can only describe as choppy waters!
The darkness didn’t allow us to see anything (not sure why people recommended to us to go at night?) and while we made the most of what we had I must be honest: the best part was giggling with the other costumers about how unexpectedly cold and wild it was.
As I pointed out at a time, a good travel story (I will write fully about it and also tips on how to enjoy the blue lagoon in winter) but definitely not a relaxing time for us!
Final considerations about our Iceland winter trip
We left the Blue lagoon at closure and got back to our hotel after midnight. We quickly packed our bags for the early morning pickup to the airport. I left Iceland at 6.45 am, eyes still filled by this country unique beauty and a steely determination to come back with my husband and kids too. This time, I won’t wait 20 years to fulfill that dream!
I hope you enjoyed my 3 days in Iceland itinerary for the winter. If you did, please do save it for future reference or share it with travel loving friends!
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