Iceland in Less than a Week
Of all the places that I have visited, I get the most questions about what to do and see in Iceland. Below, I've outlined my favorite locations as well as a detailed map of every must-see in Iceland if you have longer than a week.
If you're going for a week or less, I highly recommend focusing on one coast – specifically, the southern coast if it is your first time. You can see so much in a short amount of time because so many of these locations are not activities, but just a viewpoint.
2 things to WATCH OUT FOR
RENTAL CAR COMPANIES
Do not make the same mistake that we did! DO NOT rent a car from a car rental service that is NOT reputable in Iceland! Remember, you are in a different country and they most certainly do not have the same rules as the States. We paid for insurance up front beforehand, and bought travel insurance, but the car rental company that we booked through, Green Motion, would NOT let us leave without buying additional car insurance from them or they would put a $3,000 hold on our credit card. I highly recommend renting from Europcar, Sixt, or Hertz.
I think this is one that people really don't think of a lot - Iceland is the land of fire and ice! Expect crazy weather, even if your forecast looks clear. Pack a raincoat, gloves, hat, scarf and solid hiking shoes – regardless of the time of year you are going.
For me, I can see most everything I want to in Reykjavik by just strolling the streets and soaking in the little houses and unique feel of the city. That being said, there is one place that I highly recommend not just viewing from the outside, but popping into for at least 15 minutes: Hallgrímskirkja. It's the largest church in Iceland and one of the tallest buildings in the country. Although it's gorgeous on the outside, the inside hosts a gorgeous pipe organ which is worth going inside to see.
Where to stay: 105 A Townhouse Hotel
If you're interested in seeing the glacier action, but don't have the time to actually hike for a half a day or so, definitely visit Jökulsárlón. It's a great peek into the extremities of the country and it's right off the main road.
Where to stay: Draumaland
Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool
We didn't actually get to hike all the way here (make sure you schedule enough time! Probably 30-45 minutes to hike there and 30-45 minutes to hike back plus anytime you plan to spend in the pool.) But Seljavallalaug is Iceland's oldest swimming pool, and just on the 15 minutes we stopped, we could tell the views are incredible and worth it.
If you have time, I highly recommend taking a ferry to Vestmannaeyar AKA The Westman Islands. Although we went there primarily to see puffins, we ended up being more interested in the history behind the 1973 eruptions of the Eldfell volcano. It's worth it to spend a day here, but you won't need any longer.
Where to stay: Guesthouse Árný