What to Do With 3 Days in Iceland

What to Do With 3 Days in Iceland

Nanna Gunnarsdóttir
By 
Nanna Gunnarsdóttir
Verified expert

The geyser Strokkur erupting in winter, one of the Golden Circle's three attractions.

Are you coming to Iceland for three days and don’t know what to do? Are you overwhelmed by the number of options for tours and opportunities, and need some guidance on making the perfect plan for you? Read on to discover how to make the most of three days in Iceland. 



Iceland is a marvellous country to visit for any length of time, and even a holiday as short as three days can be maximised so that this beautiful island will forever be enshrined in your memories. The choice of what to do, however, can be quite overwhelming and considering that certain tours have specific requirements,  booking a holiday can be quite confusing.

Firstly, visitors must be aware of the difference between coming to Iceland in the summertime and the wintertime. Those wanting to see the Northern Lights, for example, would be very disappointed by a holiday in July, while others may prefer a holiday over this time, to be able to see the midnight sun. 

Coming in September or April can allow visitors to make the most of both summer and winter tours in certain situations.

Of course, certain tours, such as many glacier hiking, snowmobiling and whale-watching excursions, run throughout the year, yet even these differ in terms of how they are conducted and what experience you will have for each season.

Glacier hikes in summer, for example, are easier and more comfortable, whereas in winter, the ice caps themselves become much more beautiful in terms of their colours and formations. 

Outside of considering which season to come, visitors need to decide if they want to rent a car and drive themselves or to join tours and be driven around. Renting a car is easy and allows you to have more control over your schedule; the option also means you don't have to worry about other guests.

Opting not to, however, means you don't have to worry about Iceland's tough road conditions, especially in winter, and allows you to meet more people.

With these considerations made, it is a lot easier to see how it is possible to make the most out of three days in Iceland. 

Gullfoss waterfall on the Golden Circle is a year-round attraction.

Summer and Winter Seasons in Iceland

Because of the stark differences between summer and winter, Iceland only really considers itself to have two seasons. Summer is considered to go from the 15th of May until the 15th of September, and winter consumes the rest of the year.

While many seasonal trips reflect these dates, such as Northern Lights tours, which usually run from September to the end of April, it is important not to make presumptions.

For example, if you were to arrive in May expecting to take a summer hike through the Highlands, you'll find the vast majority of the roads leading into them shut until July. Similarly, if you arrive in Iceland in September you will likely find yourself too early for ice caves under Vatnajökull, which require freezing temperatures that don't arrive until mid-October to be safe to enter. 



Northern Lights over Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon at sunset, with beautiful clouds overhead.

In spite of this, there is a lot you can do within three days regardless of the season. Iceland’s most popular attractions are the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon, and these are accessible throughout the year; you can even combine them into a single day tour, leaving you two more days to play with.

The South Coast is another of the country's most beloved regions, which is accessible the year round. It is renowned for its gorgeous waterfalls, such as Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, the black sandy beach Reynisfjara, the volcano Eyjafjallajökull, and incredible glacier views.

At its far end is the Vatnajökull National Park, which includes marvellous sites such as the Skaftafell Nature Reserve, the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, and the nearby Diamond Beach

The Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon at twilight; this attraction is accessible throughout the year.



You can also go on a day tour around Snæfellsnes, a stunning peninsula in the west of Iceland, renowned for its wildlife, coastlines, mountains and its crowning National Park, which holds the iconic Snæfellsjökull glacier.

Those seeking a tour closer to Reykjavík will find that they can explore the Reykjanes peninsula in a few hours. Besides the Blue Lagoon, this area boasts geothermal areas, historic towns, lava landscapes, and many birdwatching cliffs.

Both the Snæfellsnes and Reykjanes Peninsulas have spectacular coastal scenery; this image was shot at Lóndrangar, on the former.

Activities such as whale watching, horseback riding or snowmobiling can usually be partaken in throughout both seasons too, so the adventurous will find a thrill one way or another. Whale watch tours expose you to the beautiful creatures of the deep that live off Iceland's bountiful shores, with great whales such as Humpbacks being more common in summer, and elusive predators such as Orcas being more frequently seen in winter.

Icelandic horses, meanwhile, are sturdy enough to manage any weather conditions, so riding tours can be done throughout the year. The ice on the country's glaciers never fully melts, so eager snowmobilers need not worry about seasonal availability. 

Of course, Reykjavík itself is an attraction, with culture bursting from it seems no matter when you explore it. 



Summertime in Iceland

Seljalandsfoss waterfall on the South Coast, in the colours of summer.

The two main advantages of taking three days in Iceland in summer are the longer sunlight hours, and the fact that many tours can only be taken in this season.

In terms of long days under the midnight sun, those on self-drive tours have no limit to the number of hours they can explore; from the end of May to the end of July, the sky will never get dark. This also means that guided tours can fit in more destinations; this tour of the South Coast, for example, goes to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and back in a single (albeit long) day.

Because of the constant sunlight, midnight sun tours are also available at this time. These allow you to partake in activities such as ATV rides and sightseeing the Golden Circle by night for a more unique and less crowded experience. 



The Highlands of Iceland can be visited on certain tours in winter but are much more rewarding and reliable in summer.

In terms of the summer-exclusive tours, you have a wide range of activities you can partake in, particularly if you are a hiker. You can take day tours to Landmannalaugar, to the Þórsmörk region, and to the Fimmvörðuháls Pass, all world-renowned highland areas.

If you want to do something different, you can fly to Egilsstaðir in the eastern part of the country and partake in this 3-day guided hiking tour. The trip includes visits to beautiful waterfalls, breathtaking canyons, a volcanic crater with a hot pool, and a stay in a highland hostel with local cuisine and a hot tub, all away from most other travellers.

Other activities you can only partake in during summer are rafting tours and the 'Inside the Volcano' tour, which allows visitors to descend into the mighty magma chamber of a dormant volcano.


If the number of options for a holiday to Iceland in summer still seem overwhelming, it may be easier to simply book this 3 Day Iceland Stopover Package. It includes accommodation in central Reykjavík, a visit to the Blue Lagoon, a day tour of the Golden Circle and gives you the flexibility to book additional half day activity, such as snorkelling, diving, snowmobiling, whale watching or even a helicopter ride. 



Wintertime in Iceland

Winter waterfalls in Iceland are idyllic, if harsh, locations.

Most people coming to Iceland in the wintertime are in search of the Northern Lights. Unfortunately, the Northern Lights can't be guaranteed as they are a natural phenomenon, and three days is a small window to try and see them in.

Even so, if you simply consider them to be the cherry on top of a holiday rather than the only reason for coming, you are still sure to have an incredible time.

The Northern Lights can be seen from anywhere in the country, assuming it's dark, there's a clear sky and their activity is strong. Those who rent a car, therefore, can look at the forecasts for cloud cover and the aurora strength before setting out to explore them themselves.

You can also opt to go on Northern Lights tours, where a guide with a wealth of experience hunting for the auroras will escort you. These are advantageous as you will be able to learn as you admire them, and you will have someone on hand to help capture photos of the lights on camera. These are conducted in many ways, from boat to super jeep, private car to bus.

Þingvellir National Park wrapped in its winter colours, underneath the dancing aurora borealis.



Northern Lights tours and hunting opportunities are available only at night, so what is there to do with your days? Thankfully, quite a lot. You can partake in many activities, as diverse as scuba diving and dog-sledding. Golden Circle tours, Snæfellsnes Peninsula and West Iceland tours, and trips along the South Coast to Vík and back can all be managed in the limited hours of sunlight.

Driving to and from these destinations, however, will be done in some darkness and, more likely than not, on icy roads, so only very confident drivers should attempt the routes themselves.

The only winter-exclusive activity in Iceland other than aurora hunting is ice caving. While the crystal blue ice caves are on the far side of the country from Reykjavík, it is still more than possible, and highly recommended, to visit them, even if you just have three days.

An ice cave in south east Iceland, easily reached on a three-day package.

Guided packages are the easiest way to organise this. This 3-day guided tour to the ice caves also takes you to all the major destinations on the South Coast, around the Golden Circle, and on a glacier hike, and is thus perfect for those eager to pack their holiday with adventure. 

Those on a self-drive can take this 3-day ice cave tour, available between November and March, where you can follow the itinerary above yourself.

If you want to take care of your own plan and accommodation, you can also just rent a car and meet the guide on location by Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Just make sure you book the tour in advance, as they fill up very quickly.

A final thing that's wonderful to experience during the cold Icelandic wintertime is the natural hot springs around the island, that stay warm all year round. Those eager to immerse themselves in these geothermal hot spots should check out this 3 day self drive hot springs and Northern Lights tour, available between September and March.

Floating in the Blue Lagoon is great all year round



 

Popular articles

Guide to Iceland | The Story of the Leading Travel Agency of Iceland

What is Guide to Iceland? When was Guide to Iceland founded and why? How has Guide to Iceland changed since its conception? Continue reading to learn all about the leading travel agency of Iceland. Find the widest range of tours on offer in Iceland Discover How to Travel in Iceland | The Top 5 Do’s and Don’ts Watch these Amazing Videos of Iceland Browse these 10 Pictures of Iceland You Won’t Believe are Real Since its inception, Guide to Iceland has set out a simple mission: to provide the best services, tours and prices for travellers to Iceland seeking the holiday of a lifetime, while maintaining a strict ethics policy to protect the country’s nature and history. It is primarily a marketplace for tours, the ultimate online travel agency, but more than that, it is an encyclopedia on all things Icelandic; a social network connecting visitors to locals; a reference guide for natives and foreigners alike; and a code of conduct for all who wish to explore this delicate land. In less than a decade, it has grown from an idea between friends to the largest travel agency in the country. Partnering with over a thousand operators and providing services in eleven languages, the mission to provide the visitors with the widest range of choice possible for a holiday tailored to their needs has been a resounding success. Looking for the perfect wedding, weekend city getaway, or ultimate adventure in some of the world’s most dramatic wilderness? Seeking to find the Northern Lights on a budget, or to explore the whole country in comfort and luxury? Want to plan a holiday in Iceland but have no idea what is on offer or where to go? Guide to Iceland has you covered. Contents 1 - History of Guide to Iceland 2 - Guide to Iceland Today 3 - Guide to Iceland Awards 4 - Booking a Tour with Guide to Iceland 5 - Renting a Car with Guide to Iceland 6 - Planning Your Drive with Guide to Iceland 7 - Learning About the Country with Guide to Iceland...

Midnight Sun in Iceland

When does the midnight sun in Iceland take place? How long does a sunset or a sunrise last? How long is the period you can experience the midnight sun in Iceland? How do you sleep during the midnight sun? Read on to find out everything you need to know about the glorious Midnight Sun in Iceland!  Dip into the largest selection of Midnight Sun Tours in Iceland Midsummer is the time of the Midnight Sun! Learn about Iceland in June! June is the perfect time for this 5 Day Summer Package with Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Learn about Iceland's Seasonal Contrasts  Get to know the Weather in Iceland & Best Time to Visit  Iceland: The Land of the Midnight Sun The peak of Iceland's Midnight Sun is around the summer solstice, normally the 21st of June From May to August midnight has daylight in Iceland, although the sun sets just before midnight You can experience the brightness of the Midnight Sun in Iceland between mid-May until mid-August Iceland's hours of daylight on the longest days of the year is 24 hours per day (May-July) Iceland's hours of daylight on the shortest days of the year is 4-5 hours per day (December-January) Iceland's hours of daylight increase by 1-3 minutes every day between December 21 and June 21 Iceland's hours of daylight decrease by 1-3 minutes every day between June 21 and December 21 The Midnight Sun can be seen everywhere in Iceland The Midnight Sun can be seen in Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, Canada, Norway, Sweden,  Finland, Northern Russia and of course at the North Pole and the South Pole The Midnight Sun occurs because the Earth's axis tilts towards the sun in summer  The days are long during the summertime in Iceland. Although the Midnight Sun peaks in June, then Iceland’s nights are bright as early as May and as late as August. This is due to Iceland's proximity to the Arctic Circle; in actual fact, the Arctic Circle does cross over Iceland, just, incorporating Grímsey island at the northernmost tip of Iceland. Iceland is...

Top 10 Beautiful Waterfalls in Iceland

Iceland is a country of many amazing waterfalls, but which are the best ones? Where do you need to travel to find the most spectacular waterfalls? Are there waterfalls all around the country? Continue reading to discover the ten most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland.  Book a Nature Tour and intimately experience Iceland's natural beauty  See Iceland's largest selection of Waterfall Tours  Learn all you need to know about the Icelandic Rivers that feed the country's waterfalls  Embark on River Tours for up-close encounters with Iceland's water systems  10. Kirkjufellsfoss This small and charming waterfall is situated near the impressive Mount Kirkjufell at Grundarfjörður on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. For photographers, it is particularly scenic when you capture the serenity of the water against the dramatic mountain in the background. It best experienced in the light of the midnight sun in midsummer, but also fascinating when caked in ice come midwinter.  Find Snæfellsnes tours here 9. Hraunfossar These stunningly beautiful falls, located in Borgarfjörður in west Iceland, are formed by rivulets flowing at the edge of the Hallmundarhraun lava field, pouring into the glacier river Hvíta (not to be confused with a different river of the same name that feeds Gullfoss waterfall, discussed below). The Hraunfossar falls, though peaceful and serene, are widely considered some of the most spectacular in Iceland. Their location is also very convenient, as they sit right beside Barnafoss, another dramatic waterfall. 8. Bruarfoss This splendid series of small waterfalls is located in Brúará river, in the area of Grímsnes in southwest Iceland. They are little-known and considered something of a hidden gem. Watching Brúarfoss falling in thousands of small runlets and the stark blue colour as it enters the deep gorge makes it a fascinating scene, and ideal as a photography location.  See also: Photography in Iceland 7. Svartifoss This fascinating waterfall is l...

22 Photos of the Aurora in Iceland

See a selection of wonderful photographs that capture the magic of the Northern Lights throughout Iceland.  Find Northern Lights Tours & Holidays here  Join this 4-Day Package to the Ice Cave | Jokulsarlon, Northern Lights and the South Coast  Experience 10 Day Winter in Depth Self Drive | Snaefellsnes, Northern Lights and the South Coast These beautiful pictures by renowned nature photographer Iurie Belegurschi are a wonderful example of how the Aurora Borealis is one of the most incredible things you'll ever see.  Also known as The Northern Lights, they appear above the planet's magnetic poles when electrically charged particles from the sun collide with the earth's atmosphere, creating dancing displays of green, red, purple and blue.  We hope we see you under the Aurora in Iceland next winter. Enjoy the pictures! Read this article to learn more about photography in Iceland These celestial phenomena make up the top of the bucket list for a countless amount of people from all over the world, wishing to behold their incredible beauty. When the earth is covered with a blanket of white snow, the green of the lights strikes out with an otherworldly appeal.  For more information about the Northern Lights, read Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) in Iceland The lights are always there, but you can only see them when the sky is dark. Because of Iceland's midnight sun during the summer, the time for Northern Lights is usually restricted to the winter months of September until April. Read more about hunting down the auroras in this article about the Northern Lights in Iceland Besides darkness, for the lights to appear, optimal weather conditions are needed since the sky should be clear. From then on, it's all up to the sun's magnetic activity. You can check the forecast of the strength of the aurora's visibility at the aurora forecast. Here you can book a Northern Lights Tour Although the lights can be seen anywhere in the country, including from the capital...