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How to Spend 3 Days in Iceland

3 Days in Iceland, in Reykjavik and Beyond

|December 28, 2019
Emma is a writer & editor from the United States. She's currently living in Europe to learn and write about her favorite places full time.

Worried that three days won’t be enough to enjoy Iceland? Think again. While most of us would prefer a few months to explore Iceland, you can still accomplish a whole lot in three days! All that’s required is some careful planning.

This comprehensive guide on three-day trips to Iceland lays out all of your options, from multi-day to day trips from Reykjavik. No matter what you choose, you’ll be able to customize your perfect experience.

So the next time you fly over the Atlantic, go ahead and book that free stopover in Reykjavik. You’ll have plenty of time to explore all that Iceland has to offer — and still catch your connecting flight. 

a view from above reykjavik city in summer

3-Day Sightseeing Tours of Iceland

Iceland’s best natural wonders are found deep in nature. Accessing these sights often requires the assistance of a tour guide. Luckily, many guided tours of Iceland last exactly three days.

A tour is also an excellent option if you don’t want to become overwhelmed by the planning process. Best of all, local tour guides are absolute experts on Icelandic nature, history, culture, and more, ensuring that you get the most out of your short stay. 

1. South Coast and the Golden Circle

waterfalls of seljalandsfoss and skogafoss in iceland

Winter or summer, rain or shine, you can’t do better than a 3-day tour of the South Coast and Golden Circle. This tour hits all the must-see spots, including Iceland’s most famous waterfalls, geysers, ice caves, lagoons, and more. 

Choose from two distinct packages: the Classic and the Bundle. The classic tour (Oct-Apr) includes a glacier hike, a trip to the snaking Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, and two evenings to chase the Northern Lights. Alternatively, the bundle tour, available year-round, takes you for a swim in the Secret Lagoon and on a boat trip on a glacier lagoon. 

2. Winter Wonderland

group getting ready to snowmobile in iceland

Looking for a magical winter wonderland break? A 3-day winter tour, for example, offers a completely different perspective on these majestic landscapes. Winter is the time to go explore ice caves, go skiing or snowmobiling, and spot the Northern Lights

3. Golden Circle Afternoon, the Blue Lagoon and Ice Cave

gullfoss and geysir in golden circle in iceland

If your flight into Reykjavik arrives in the morning, jump on a tour that departs in the afternoon. These flexible tour schedules guarantee that you don’t waste any time. For instance, this year-round Golden Circle tour departs at noon and takes you on a three-day journey of Iceland’s greatest hits, including ice caving and a dip in the Blue Lagoon. 

4. Tours of North Iceland

big volcanic craters near myvatn lake

There’s more to Iceland than the South Coast and Golden Circle. Three days is more than enough time to explore the lesser-known corners of the country. All you need to do is head north. 

3-day tour of North Iceland is perfect for travelers who want to avoid crowds and experience an enchanting side of Iceland that most tourists never see. Some highlights include rare lava fields, geothermal areas, and the charming towns of Akureyri and Dalvík. This northern tour also takes you whale-watching (your chances of seeing a whale are 99%) and to some awesome microbreweries. What more could the discerning traveler ask for? 

Tours of the North Coast still depart from Reykjavik, so you don’t have to worry about getting yourself up the coast. 

3 Days in Reykjavik - Day Trips from Reykjavik

Some of us would rather choose our own adventure. If you prefer to plan your own trip, it’s best to book a hotel (or hostel, or Airbnb) in Reykjavik and use the city as your base. This flexible option allows you to explore the city, get out into nature, and return to the same cozy bed every night. 

From Reykjavik, you can take many day trips into nature without straying too far from the capital. 

1. White water rafting

small groups rafting in hvita river in iceland

Summer in Iceland is river rafting season! Not far from Reykjavik flows the Hvítá river, one of Iceland’s major waterways. White water rafting tours on the Hvítá river only take a few hours. The Hvítá River rafting tour floats by some of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls, canyons, and rock formations. You’ll be back in Reykjavik in time for dinner. Better yet, the grown-up version of the tour ends with a beer tasting.

2. Snorkeling at Silfra

man showing thumbs up while snorkeling in thingvellir

Another way to explore Iceland’s waters, of course, is to jump in. On your visit to Iceland, you shouldn’t miss out on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure. The Silfra Fissure is the gap between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, meaning you’ll literally be swimming between the two continents! These glacier waters are crystal clear, making the Silfra fissure one of the best places in the world go to snorkeling. It's so spectacular it's been voted one of the Top 5 Rated activities in the world by Tripadvisor this year!

3. Caving in a lava tube

friends posing for a picture in a lava tunnel in iceland

Spelunking is another quintessentially Icelandic experience. A half-day trip to a lava cave and lava field departs at two different times during the day, both in the morning and in the afternoon. So even if your flight arrives later in the morning, you don’t have to worry about wasting a day. 

4. Hunting for Northern Lights

woman talking near a super jeep and northern lights in iceland

Finally, don’t let the city lights prevent you from spotting the Aurora Borealis. Northern Light tours leave from Reykjavik at 9:30 p.m. every day, September through April. Expert aurora guides will drive you to the best place to see the Northern Lights, depending on the nightly forecast. You’ll still be able to return to your bed in the early hours of the morning. 

The city of Reykjavik itself is filled with colorful places to explore, such as the Harpa Concert Hall, the Perlan Museum, and dozens of excellent restaurants. Learn everything you need to know about Reykjavik in this comprehensive guide.

Still not exactly sure how you want to spend your three days in Iceland? Check out our complete list of multi-day tours for even more great ideas.

How would you spend 3 days in Iceland? Let us know!

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