With the growing popularity of Iceland-based budget airlines like WOW Air and Icelandair, Iceland has now become a coveted destination to visit. Regaled for its magnificent landscapes, friendly people and proximity to the United States, one can easily spend weeks exploring Iceland’s diversity. For those of us who may not have the time, rest assured you can still see the best the country has to offer in as little as four days. If Iceland is just a quick flight for you (I’m looking at you, New York!) then consider a weekend getaway to this inspiring country.
Day One: First Stop, Reykjavik
After an overnight flight from the United States, start your day in the colorful capital city of Reykjavik. If visiting in the summer, the midnight sun here means travelers will have the unique experience of late night bar hopping in broad daylight. Not surprisingly, this all-night party mentality has made Reykjavik a popular destination for bachelor and bachelorette parties. While waiting to check into your hotel, walk the streets and visit some of the museums this city has to offer. If you are visiting during the spring or fall, book a Northern Lights tour to see the natural phenomenon in the evening.
Day Two: A Visit to Iceland’s Skogafoss Waterfall
It’s worth noting here that renting a car in Iceland is your best bet for getting around, especially if you only have a few days. The next morning, grab your rental car and head east for a two hour drive from Reykjavik, along Iceland’s southern coast to Skogafoss–one of the country’s most famous waterfalls. Because the coastline has receded seaward in this area, the highlands meet the lowlands, allowing visitors to walk right up to the falls. It is also easily accessible, as there is parking lot a short walk from the base of the falls. The waterfall’s enormous drop creates a consistent spray, so it is very common to see a single or double rainbow on a sunny day.
Next Stop: Catch the Dramatic Sunset in Vik
After leaving Skogafoss, continue east towards Jökulsárlón, Iceland’s famous glacial lagoon. Jökulsárlón is 2.5 hours east of Skogafoss by car (about 4.5 hours from the capital of Reykjavik) so it is best to stay overnight in the village of Vik to break up your journey. The Icelandic village of Vik is about 180 kilometers from Reykjavik (about a 2 hour drive). The basalt rock columns here rise above the sea and provide a dramatic backdrop during sunset. The folklore behind these striking columns tells the story of former trolls who were trying to drag their boats out to sea but were caught by the sunrise. Being creatures of the night, the daylight froze the trolls into the columns you see rising from the Atlantic. Vik is particularly famous for its black sand beaches–the black sand being the black basalt; another interesting find here is the Puffin bird that can be spotted on the Vik beaches during nesting season.
Day Three: Head on Over to Jökulsárlón
Catch the sunset and a night’s rest in Vik and wake up early to start your drive to Jökulsárlón. This glacial lagoon formed when the tip of Breiðamerkurjökull glacier (part of the Vatnajökull glacier) began to retreat from the sea in the 1930s. Large pieces of glacial ice broke off the glacier to create the striking icebergs floating in the lagoon seen today. After taking a boat ride through the lagoon, start to make your way back to the capital city. You can stop off and see another waterfall, Seljalandsfoss, which is about half way through the drive between the glacial lagoon and the capital city. Be sure to get here before sunset as there is a path that allows travelers to actually walk behind the waterfall but is poorly lit at night.
Spend Today Exploring the Golden Circle
The third day in Iceland should be spent exploring the famous Golden Circle. Depart Reykjavík for a full day tour that includes geysers, the Thingvellir National Park and the powerful waterfall called Gullfoss. The geyser named Strokkur is quite active and you can see it erupt every 6 to 10 minute. At Thingvellir National Park you can see the cracks and faults that have been created due to continental drift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates; in fact, you can even dive and snorkel in the Silfra fissure.
Day Four: Relax in the famed Blue Lagoon
Your fourth and last day in Iceland calls for some relaxation! Leave your Reykjavík hotel a bit early and stop by at the Blue Lagoon on your way to the airport. This geothermal spa is a welcome retreat from the cold weather where you can unwind before heading back to the States. From waterfalls to glaciers, Iceland is a beautiful and majestic destination that should be on every traveler’s bucket list!
Have you been to Iceland? Will you be headed there in 2016? Share your comments and questions below! For more information on visiting Iceland, check out World Travel Hack!
Saya Nagori is the founder of WorldTravelHack.com and is also a physician based in New York City. Saya is fluent in 5 languages and is the medical director of the startup SimpleContacts.com. You can follow her travels on Facebook or on Instagram.