An overview of Gullfoss, the 2 traps, green grass field in the front.
Iceland,  roadtrip

2 Days in Iceland: Reykjavik, Golden circle and the south coast

We’ve been to Iceland twice and it’s one of our all-time favorite destinations; for Paul it takes first place for me it’s in the top 5. The first time we made a 10 day road trip, the second time was 2 days in Iceland on a stopover on our way to our epic road trip from New York to Orlando and from Orlando to San Francisco. This epic road trip was the best thing for our family at that moment and Iceland was the perfect start. Here is our perfect itinerary for 2 days in Iceland. Be ready for waterfalls, geysers and otherworldly landscapes.

2 Days in Iceland itinerary

This itinerary assumes previous arrival and departure on Day 3. 

Day 1:

  • Blue Lagoon (19 kilometers, about 20 minutes from Keflavik).
  • Reykjavik (49 kilometers, about 45 minutes).
  • Golden circle (47 kilometers, about 45 minutes): þingvellir, Geysir (61 kilometers, about 50 minutes), Gullfoss (10 kilometers, about 9 minutes), Kerið (56 kilometers, about 45 minutes). Towards the hostel is another 15 kilometers, about 15 minutes.

Day 2:

  • Seljalandsfoss (91 kilometers, about 1 hour and 15 minutes).
  • Skógafoss (30 kilometers, about half an hour).
  • Vík (34 kilometers, about half an hour). Back to the hostel is 150 kilometers, about 2 hours.

Day to day itinerary

Day 1: Blue Lagoon

One of the most famous geothermal spas in the world and one of the most popular Iceland stopover ideas. We didn’t go to the Blue Lagoon on this visit, but visited previously. Our son didn’t feel well, so we didn’t stop here, although it was on our itinerary. Back in 2006 Paul and I loved our visit here. It’s not cheap, see it as a luxury experience.

Blue Lagoon, with blue white water, all sorts of people in the water, fume coming out in the middle. Brown mountains/rocks in the back. A clear blue sky above
Blue Lagoon

The spa is in a lava field near Grindavík in southwestern Iceland. It’s not a natural spring, although there are many natural hot springs in Iceland. The Blue Lagoon is supplied by water from the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power station.

Day 1: Reykjavik

The Sun Voyager, a viking ship skeleton on the coast
The Sun Voyager

Reykjavik has plenty to offer, we opted for the Sun Voyager, a statue of a Viking ship. It’s on the coast and a popular tourist spot. Just a short stop on a walk along the boulevard. Enjoy the Reykjavik skyline, which is perfect seen from the boulevard. Along the boulevard is also another artwork, called The Shore Piece. Sigurotur Guotmundsson took large rocks out of the 2,5 kilometer breakwater wall, and had them polished in China. According to one of the locals, this is one of the absurdities from the years before the Icesave-crash of 2008. Although the artwork isn’t hidden, there’s no marker to point attention to it. Almost looks as if it’s not an artwork Reykjavik is proud of.

The shore piece
The shore piece

Of course the greatest landmark of Reykjavik can’t be missed and that is the Hallgrímskirkja. The church resembles a mountain with trap rocks. The changing skies match well with the white, modernistic outer appearance of the church. The inside of the church is sober and has a beautiful organ. When visiting the church go up in the tower to enjoy the beautiful views on Reykjavik, the harbor and the coast.

Hallgrimskirkja, The outside of the church with the statue of Leif Erikson in front
Hallgrimskirkja

Day 1: Golden circle

The first stop on the golden circle is þingvellir national park, the historical site of the start of the Alding, the Icelandic parliament. It’s also the place where the North American and Eurasian plates meet. You can see the divide clearly here. It’s crazy to walk here and realize that.

Thingvellir national park
Thingvellir national park

Geysir is the second stop on the Golden circle. Geysir is the original geyser, after which the other geysers are named. It doesn’t erupt that often anymore, you have to be lucky to see it erupt. But Strokkur, next to Geysir, erupts every 4 to 8 minutes. So waiting on the eruption is worth your time. Besides these 2 geysers, there are even more and you can stroll around and look at them. Although the chances of seeing the others erupt are small. We watched Strokkur erupt a few times, strolled around, made sure our 5 year old didn’t touch the hot, boiling water or stand too close and amazed ourselves again about the rotten eggs smell.

Strokkur, while erupting.
Strokkur

The third stop on the Golden circle is Gullfoss. Gullfoss is a beautiful waterfall, and I could look at it for hours. Sadly for us our son didn’t like getting wet from the spray from the waterfall. So he saw it from above and Paul and I each went separately on the path and up close to the waterfall. Gullfoss is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland and easily reachable. Gullfoss is situated in the rover Hvítá (white river). Hvítá is a gletcher river. Gullfoss falls down in 2 parts and is a powerfull waterfall.

An overview of Gullfoss, the 2 traps, green grass field in the front.
Gullfoss
An empty Gullfoss in 2006, an overview of Gullfoss, seeing the 2 traps. Brown (not yet gree) grass with a bit of snow in the front
An empty Gullfoss in 2006

Keriðis the 4th and last stop on the Golden circle. It’s a less popular stop. We haven’t made this stop yet, but it’s still on our list. Kerið is an explosion crater and a volcano. Inside the crater is a lake.

Day 2: Seljalandsfoss

Another famous waterfall in Iceland. The 60 meters high waterfall appears in many photos and on calenders. Seljalandsfoss is located close to the ring road. The cool thing about this waterfall is that you can walk behind it, and come out on the other side. It’s a thrilling experience to stand behind a waterfall. Again our son chose not to walk behind it, he admired it from a small distance.

Seljalandsfoss. Yuri and Cosette on a wooden bridge in front of the waterfall
Seljalandsfoss

Day 2: Skógafoss

Skogafoss, a waterfall dropping down over a rock into the rover below.
Skogafoss

A really beautiful waterfall in the south of Iceland along the ring road. There are stairs next to the fall, which you can climb and then admire the view of the top of the waterfall and enjoy the views on the coast. I think what Yuri loved the most about this waterfall is the fact that there was a grass field to run around at on top. The Skógafoss has a drop of 60 meters and a width of 25 meters. Iceland knows how to do waterfalls, because this is the 3rd waterfall on the itinerary and words like imposing, grand and beautiful qualify again.

The view from on top of Skogafoss. The green fields, river, road, cars on the parking lot and the sea in the distance. An overcast sky.
The view from on top of Skogafoss
Yuri waving from on top, standing on a hilly grass field
Yuri waving

Day 2: Vík í Mýrdal

Vík is a small town situated at a black sand beach. The town is lovely to stroll through, but the reason for coming here is to visit the black sand beach, which is special to walk over. Other attractions are the Reynisdrangar. 66 Meter high basalt rocks that stand in the sea. The mountain Reynisfjall and Dyrhólaey are both birders paradises.

Black sand beach, with the sea on the right. Basalt rocks coming out of the ocean. A blue sky with a few white clouds.
Black sand beach

Where to stay

At our first night we stayed at the Airport Inn in Asbru. This hotel is 8 kilometers, about 11 minutes driving from the airport in Keflavik. It’s a simple hotel, which is completely selfservice, including the check-in.

For our second and third night we stayed at Ljósaossskóli hostel in þingvallavegur. It’s close to the Golden circle, but in the middle of nowhere. It’s quiet and there’s a big gym in which you throw a ball or just play.

Where to eat

We went to a bakery on our first day to get our breakfast and lunch. The bakery we went to is Kornid bakari in Fitjar. We had dinner on day 1 at Restaurant Geysir Glima. It’s at the visitor center near Geysir and Strokkur. The second day we had dinner at the Surf & Turf steakhouse in Selfoss and we loved it here. One of the must try out things in Iceland is pylsur, the Icelandic hotdogs. We think they’re delicious.

Icelandic hotdog, in a paper bag lying on a table
Icelandic hotdog

When to visit

This small road trip of 2 days in Iceland is best suited for Summer time. In winter time the days are short. It’s a lot of driving in one and a half day and you would visit half the sites in the dark if you keep this schedule. However in Summer, when the sun doesn’t set it doesn’t matter how long you take for your tour.

Lava landscape in Iceland, lava covered with green moss. A mountain at the back and clouds covering the mountain top for 2 days in Iceland
Lava landscape in Iceland

Weather wise, when planning a trip to Iceland, be prepared for everything, and all on the same day. In 2006 we had sun, rain, and snow. In 2015 we had a lot of rain and gloomy weather. So pack lots of layers.

Tips

  • Rent a car at the airport. It doesn’t have to be a 4WD for these 2 days in Iceland, since you’re just driving on paved roads. We had a Suzuki S-cross.
  • Keep in mind that sites can be crowded and that you can get in a traffic jam towards the popular tourist spots.

Alternative itinerary

Since we drove with our 5 year old, who was not feeling well during our time in Iceland, we did less stops that in the main itinerary shared above.

Day 1:

  • Reykjavik (47 kilometers, about 40 minutes).
  • Golden circle (106 kilometers, about an hour and a half): Geysir, Gullfoss (10 kilometers, about 9 minutes). Towards the hostel is another 66 kilometers, about an hour.

Day 2:

  • Seljalandsfoss (91 kilometers, about 1 hour and 15 minutes).
  • Skógafoss (30 kilometers, about half an hour). Back to the hostel is 118 kilometers, about 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Thoughts on our 2 Days in Iceland

In 2006 we fell in love with Iceland, it’s such a beautiful country, with almost otherworldly landscapes. We noticed during our 2 days in Iceland that it had gotten far more touristy than in 2006. On some places where we were the only ones in 2006, now it wasn’t possible to take a photo without others in it. Like at Seljalandsfoss.

Paul walking behind the waterfall, seen from the side, Paul is waving his hands. Lots of people around him.
Paul walking behind the waterfall
An empty Seljalandsfoss in 2006, The Seljalandsfoss flowing down over the rock, brown rock in front and on the sides.
An empty Seljalandsfoss in 2006

Looking for another short road trip in Europe with mountains and beautiful landscapes? Check our 4 days in Switzerland route.

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