10 million puffins live in Iceland during summertime, on its coasts and islands.

What can you do on a five-day holiday in Iceland? Can you drive all the way around the island? Should you book bus tours or rent a car? Read ahead for our top tips on how to spend five fun-packed days in Iceland. 

If you're visiting Iceland for five days, you have a wealth of things to do and see, regardless of the time of year. While you will not have quite enough time to encircle the entire country without rushing past the sites, you can still see a wealth of places across the South, West, North, and even the Highlands.

Of course, what you can do is limited by the season during which you arrive. With the ever-present daylight hours of the midnight sun in summer, you have longer sightseeing opportunities—and though more activities are available to you than in winter, you will not be able to see the Northern Lights or visit the ice caves.

In winter, meanwhile, there are fewer tours available, but these amazing natural phenomena can be marvelled over. 

Hallgrímskirkja is a cultural landmark in the city.

Regardless of the season, Reykjavík remains a bustling, cultural capital that none should overlook. One of the reasons that it is not recommended to attempt to complete the ring-road in this window of time is the fact that you would then miss out on experiencing this historical, fascinating city.

At least half a day should be spent sightseeing here, to check out the cultural sites, the unique architecture and the street art. If you are planning on spending one or more full days exploring Reykjavík, however, you would do well to purchase a City Card which gives you access to a wealth of museums, galleries and swimming pools. It also provides free public transport and discounts across the city.

Of course, there are also many city sightseeing tours, such as Hop-On, Hop-Off Buses, and those that focus on the cuisine and drinking culture. If you would like to sightsee independently, you should check out these tips.

Visitors to Iceland may see puffins in the summer, especially on boat tours.

If you elect to spend just a half-day wandering around Reykjavík, you can fill the rest of your time with a short tour out of the city. Whale watching tours leave throughout the year from the Old Harbour, and in summer, you can add a puffin-watching segment. Other short adventures you could book include horseback-riding, snowmobiling and lava caving.

Throughout the year, you can also take tours to popular regions in the South and West in just a day, including to the Golden Circle, South CoastReykjanes Peninsula and Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This four-day self-drive package will introduce you to the former three, and you can use your final day to explore Reykjavík. 

Beautiful sea cliffs at the Snæfellsnes peninsula in Iceland.

If you don't mind missing out on the South Coast, you could embark on this five day self-drive instead, which will fully immerse you in the sites of West Iceland. 

Many visitors, however, would rather not rent a car. This is especially the case when it comes to winter, as only experienced, confident drivers should risk the roads, and only then in a four-wheel drive

If you are one who would prefer to be driven, you can base yourself in Reykjavík and take day tours out. You could also, however, save yourself a lot of planning time and stress, while getting further into nature, by booking a package instead.

What package tour you take, however, will depend on the season of your arrival.

What To Do With Five Days in Iceland in Summer

Seljalandsfoss waterfall in south Iceland falls from a mossy cliffs into fields of wildflowers in summer.

In Iceland's summer, the sun does not set, meaning you have many hours every day to sightsee and partake in activities. Packages allow you to fit as much as can be enjoyed into these hours as possible, and come in many different forms.

This five-day summer package includes a two-day tour of the South with a visit to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, a Golden Circle tour, and Blue Lagoon entry. It also includes all accommodation and transfers and has a wealth of optional activities.

Another particularly incredible five-day package available only in summer is one which includes a day to Greenland, with flights included. On this once-in-a-lifetime trip, you will also explore the Golden Circle and South Coast. 

If you want to get out into nature but would rather have more flexibility than booking up your full five days in one go, you can instead look to two-day tours. This two-day biking tour of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, for example, could be booked alongside this two-day South Coast tour, leaving you a free day to explore Reykjavík and go whale-watching. 

In summer, you also have the opportunity to take a tour that is wildly different to the standard trip most get to experience in Iceland. The Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, the remotest part of the country, is only accessible in this season, so why not spend two days exploring it? Why not three?

Similarly, the Highlands are at their best in summer; they can be visited on super jeep tours in winter, but not explored in depth. You could spend three days hiking in the eastern part of Vatnajökull National Park (although you will need to arrange domestic flights to the town of Egilsstaðir for this), or four days trekking along the world-famous Laugavegur Trail.

It is also possible to spend a day hiking in Landmannalaugar.

Landmannalaugar is a beautiful hot spring valley in the Icelandic highlands

Outside of Highland hiking, summer-exclusive activities include river-rafting and most boat tours, particularly those which go to see puffins. Tours from the Westman Islands also only depart in summer, providing a great reason to spend a day or two on this historical, volcanic archipelago.

Five days is enough time to reach the north of the country too, particularly in summer when the roads are clear. From here, you can embark on tours that explore the incredible Mývatn region, visit the most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss, and even head into one of the world's greatest whale-watching areas, from Húsavík.

What To Do With Five Days in Iceland in Winter

Five days in Iceland in winter will be enough time to expose you to spectacular snowy landscapes and to let you engage in awesome arctic activities. Hopefully, you will also be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights, and to have an opportunity to explore an ice cave. 

The Northern Lights, it should be noted, can be very fickle, and Iceland's winters are known for their volatile weather; this means that five days may not be long enough to guarantee that you will see them. Every night that they are expected from September to April, however, Northern Lights tours set out in hunt for them.

These tours can be taken by bus, boat or super jeep, depending on whether or not you want your experience to be affordable, unique, or adventurous. You can also rent a car and hunt for them yourself, using the aurora and cloud forecasts on the Icelandic weather website to plan your route. 

Most coming to Iceland dream of seeing an incredible Northern Lights display.

All winter packages will have components where you hunt for the Northern Lights. Self-drive tours will also come with itineraries that suggest the best ways to search for them yourself, such as this three-day self-drive that focuses on aurora hunting and hot-spring bathing.

Not all winter packages, however, head to the ice caves, so if this is on your agenda, look to this five-day experience, which takes you all the way across the South Coast to have a shot at exploring them. It will also take you to the Blue Lagoon, around the Golden Circle, and includes optional activities such as snowmobiling, horseback riding, and snorkelling. 

Ice cave tours are amongst the most competitive in Iceland, so book up quickly.

You can also reach the ice caves with two- or three-day tours along the South Coast, or drive up to Jökulsárlón yourself and meet your guides on location.

As with the auroras, however, the ice caves are not 100% reliable. If it has rained heavily or the temperature has risen above freezing, for example, they may lose their stability and be unsafe to enter. Your guides, however, will always do their very best to make sure you have an opportunity, and if your tour is cancelled, you will be able to replace it with another activity, usually glacier-hiking.

Please note that ice caving is only possible between November and March.

Svartifoss waterfall in Skaftafell Reserve in south Iceland in wintertime

If you don't want to worry about cancellations, there are many other things you can fill your time in winter with that are more reliable than the Northern Lights and the ice caves. This unique 3-day winter tour to Landmannalaugar, for example, is one of the few ways you can enjoy the majestic Highlands in winter (and you will still have a great shot at seeing the auroras).

Confident drivers can also head up north if the roads are clear, to see sites such as Goðafoss and Mývatn in their winter colours; this should be of particular appeal to Game of Thrones fans, as Mývatn is where many scenes North of the Wall have been shot. You can also go on a dog-sledding tour in this region in winter. 

The Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is easily accessible if you have five days in Iceland.

Coming to Iceland for five days provides many more opportunities for sightseeing, adventure, culture and relaxation than those coming for a long weekend. So long as you respect the fact you can't see everything that those coming for a week or more could, you will be able to fully immerse yourself in Iceland's nature and history, and enjoy a holiday you'll never forget.