3 Days In Iceland: What To Do On A Stopover

by Shelli

Seems like everyone is heading to Iceland! I have friends heading there this summer and fall. One friend mentioned visiting Iceland was one of her favorite trips ever. In the past couple of years, and even still now, there has been a general buzz surrounding trips to Iceland. However, zeroing in on what to see and do (especially for a long weekend trip like 3 days in Iceland) can be tricky. Some travelers are using Iceland as a destination in and of itself, and others are using Iceland as a layover for a few days, and then heading someplace else.

One of my friends, Jason, goes to Europe every fall to visit his mom, but he stops in Iceland for a few days first. He loves it. I’ve casually listened as he tells me what he sees and does in Iceland, but it got me thinking, what would he tell other travelers who are enjoying Iceland as a stopover for a few days?

Here’s what he suggests for the perfect 3 days in Iceland. As a reminder, this is for travel in the fall months, so there’s plenty of sunlight.

Renting A Car And Driving The Southern Coast

For your first day in Iceland, Jason suggests renting a car and driving the southern coast between Reykjavik and Jökulsárlón. It’s part of the Ring Road which is about 230 miles long. The road is paved. He says to make it a leisurely day because there’s plenty of amazing beauty to see. As for the waterfalls, his favorite walk is up to the Seljalandsfoss waterfalls. You can hike glaciers such as Mýrdalsjökull glacier. There are beaches that are spectacularly different from anything he’s ever seen. He recommends the black pebble beach of Reynisfjara. And for Game of Thrones fans, in Vik, you can see the rocky spires from Iron Islands.

Seljalandsfoss Walls Iceland

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Enjoying A Day In Reykjavik

Day two might be spent enjoying a more city-like experience. Jason isn’t much of a shopper but his wife is and she enjoys the arts and clothing, likes the shops along Laugavegur Street.

The national dish of Iceland is fermented shark, an infamous dish. Cafe Loki is a good place to try it. My friend said that once is enough for him but it’s certainly worth a try if you have no objections to eating shark. I looked at the Cafe Loki menu and while I’m much more likely to eat the herring and smoked trout, the cafe looks interesting and like a fun place to experiment with local food.

While you are in town, check out Iceland’s tallest building, the Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral. Taking in the panoramic view from the top is HIGH on his list!

View from top of Hallgrímskirkja

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Soaking in Geothermal Pools

I’ve never met anyone who has gone to Iceland and not raved about soaking in the geothermal pools. There are municipal pools throughout the city. Enjoy these pools and mixing in with the locals. As most tourists do, make the trek out to the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is is 40 minutes outside the city, and relatively close to the airport, and makes for more of a spa day.

Related: 5 Tips For Visiting The Blue Lagoon 

I get jealous when Jason sends me photos, such as the one below, from Iceland!

Kirkjufell Iceland

Kirkjufell, Iceland

Exploring Ice Caves

Day three ideas: When I think of Iceland, I think of blue icebergs. I think of them as Iceland icons. So if you have a third day, Jason suggests getting back into nature and perhaps heading out on the Ring Road again and enjoying some of the spots you may have missed on your first trip. Depending on the time of year, if you’re there in the fall, you can explore the ice caves. There is a zodiac boat that takes you to the base of Breiðamerkurjökull, and he says its 2,400 foot ice face is truly amazing to see.

Blue Ice Caves Iceland

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Final Thoughts

So while Jason doesn’t pretend to be an Iceland expert, this is what he suggests first timers see and do in Iceland when they only have a few days. I like having a simple plan like this from someone who has been to a country/city a few times. I hope it adds to the ideas you’re putting together for your Iceland travels.

What do you think of these 3 days in Iceland suggestions? If you have any of your own to add, please let me know.

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JP July 28, 2019 - 6:18 am

Great article, Shelli. Our family just returned from a short, weekend stopover in Iceland following a trip to Norway. We elected not to rent a car and instead did one of the day-long Golden Circle tours, which included a stop at the Blue Lagoon. It was a fun experience, as the driver also provided great insight into many various things about the country. We usually shy away from guided tours, but this proved to be a convenient way to get the mot out of our short stay. Beautiful country!

Shelli July 28, 2019 - 8:12 am

Great comment, JP. Thanks for letting us know about your guided tour in Iceland. Norway is for sure a country I’m heading to soon. Especially Oslo for the coffee 🙂 Sounds like you had a fun trip all around.


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