Last spring break we were supposed to spend 5 nights in Iceland. However, strong Iceland winds delayed our flights for two days, so our trip was cut short. We changed our plans quite a bit, and I’ll note some of those changes in the itinerary. Miraculously, we were still able to see a lot in a short amount of time. Here’s our glimpse of our Iceland Itinerary for Families.
A note about this itinerary: Our airline switched us to a different airline the day before our flight. Our new airline canceled our flights two days in a row because of the weather in Reykjavik. We were in our connecting city, Chicago, when we found out. We had a great time in Chicago, but I would’ve preferred to be in Iceland.
Everything that I read about Iceland stressed the importance of advanced reservations, especially for a short trip when flexibility wasn’t really an option. I spent a lot of time in Chicago scrambling to figure out what parts of our plan should be rearranged, and which should be dropped. Every vendor I spoke to about our changes was very accommodating.
Iceland 3 Night Spring Itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive and Stroll
Our flight arrived early into Keflavik which meant that we had time to get some things done at the airport before driving to Reykjavik. We had a small snack, coffee, and picked up provisions at Duty-Free. Then we headed outside to wait for the shuttle to take us to our car rental.
The shuttle wait was long. The wait made even more difficult because we were so tired and it was so cold and windy.
Keflavik Car Rentals HOT TIP:
From what I could tell, the majority of the known car companies are right next to each other. Waiting for the shuttle was NOT fun. It was cold. Once it FINALLY showed up, we had to drag all of our suitcases in and out. Lines were long at the car rental places because the shuttle was filled with people also renting cars. Upon departure, we noticed that the car rental place is RIGHT NEXT to the small airport. A short and easy walk. Next time my husband, who did all of the driving, will just walk straight to the car rental place. We’ll stay warm and with the luggage in the airport, and he won’t have to deal with the shuttle lines and cold. Win-win.
Since our flights were delayed and our accommodations were already set up, we checked in immediately in the early morning. This was such a relief as we were really tired.
Originally our arrival was going to be later in the morning, so our plan was to either visit the Blue Lagoon (which I wasn’t too excited about) or the Viking Museum before heading to Reykjavik. Then we would do some grocery shopping before it was time to check-in. Since we already had the accommodation, it made sense to just skip those things and go straight to the city.
I like to take the first day, even on this short trip, to get my bearings straight. So we walked around town and went into places that seemed interesting to us. This included a trip to the top of the Hallgrimskirkja, which gave us a literal overview of the city. We walked down some of the side streets, and found our way to the Punk Museum. The perfect stop for two rowdy kids where a sign reads: “Don’t like the sound? Go away!” We then walked over to the famous Harpa Concert Hall and took a photo break near the water.
The restaurants we went to included Cafe Babalu which was the perfect stop for coffee, sandwiches, soup, and pastries and the seafood restaurant Messinn, which had a variety of Icelandic seafood dishes that were very tasty.
Day 2: The Golden Circle
I’m of the mind that popular sites are popular for a reason. I don’t like crowds, though, so if it’s high season I’m ok with skipping it. However, I didn’t want to skip the Golden Circle. Unfortunately, my body didn’t feel the same way. I woke up on Day 2 NOT ready to face the day. I didn’t have a fever, wasn’t sick – just absolutely worn out from the stress of flight cancellations and adjusting. So, I stayed in bed all morning and into the afternoon, before finally making myself get out so we could make our reservation at the “Tomato Soup” place.
My original Golden Circle plan included a stop at the Gullfoss Falls, the Laugartvatn Fontana Bakery for volcano bread (and possibly hot springs if time allowed), and perhaps some other places along the way. We had to skip those two places, and ended up visiting Stokkur Geysir and the Kerid Crater. We also made it to our reservations at Fridheimer for the all you can eat tomato soup. The soup and the additional sides filled us up.
Overall, the drive was so easy. In better conditions, I’m sure we could have experienced so much more – but I have it down on my things to do the next time we’re in Iceland list.
Day 3: Diamond Beach
Because Diamond Beach is so far away from Reykjavik, and I felt that this short trip was going to be a bit tiring anyway, we opted to do a tour here instead of a self-drive.
We booked our trip with Arctic Adventures. They have a driver, a guide, and a small bus/large van for the group. The bus was equipped with wifi and charges to help pass the time. We were the last group picked up, so we ended up with seats in the very back. This meant that we couldn’t easily see out of the window. That was my biggest complaint, but since I was still feeling overly tired it worked out. I wasn’t awake as much as I’d normally be.
The tour guide was amazing. She had so many stories about Iceland and the sights. We stopped plenty of times for food and the bathroom. We also got to see the famous and dangerous Reynisfjara black-sand beach on the way, and Seljalandsfoss Waterfall on the return. Both were worth the quick stops, though I would’ve wanted to stay at Reynisfjara longer, I also worried about the waves.
Once we got to the Diamond Beach and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon we all noticed that there weren’t as many “diamonds” as hoped. We found out that the terrible winds that had kept us in Chicago for two nights, probably swept those large chunks of ice back to the sea. It was unfortunate, but still cooler than anything I’ve ever seen at the beach before. After we stopped, the tour guide tried various stops in the hopes that something would be worth seeing – but there wasn’t.
I loved this tour. Loved seeing this part of the country. Loved the commentary. I would definitely make the trek again.
Day 4: Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park
Here it is, our last full day in Iceland. Our flight was scheduled for midnight, so we had the whole day. My original “last full day in Iceland” plan was to visit stay in Reykjavik and visit the Perlan Museum and Saga Museum. Possibly go into Harpa Concert Hall and maybe do a ferry if the weather allowed. However, thankfully, my husband thought that we should visit Thingvellir since we didn’t make it any other time of the trip.
This was our first road trip that I stayed awake for the duration, so this was the first time I finally was able to SEE Iceland. And what a beautiful and speechless place it is. There was a map on the side of the road and we stopped to see where we were. A family pulled up in their camper and I made a note that that’s exactly how we’ll do our next Iceland trip.
As for Thingvellir? Gorgeous. It was the busiest of the places we went to. If we had more time, or if our kids were older, we would have tried the Scuba Diving. But we were ok with just taking in the sites and taking a ton of pictures.
We at a quick sandwich at the Thingvellir Store before driving back to Reykjavik. In Reykjavik we ate at Café Loki. My son braved the fermented shark, my daughter braved the dessert crepes. The traditional Icelandic food was the perfect cap to our trip.
Things we didn’t do
In addition to things I mentioned above, our shorten itinerary also meant we skipped another planned activity. We were going to spend a day in the Snaefellsness Peninsula. This was going to be a day dedicated to more waterfalls and gorgeous outdoor sites. To make it worse, we read Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth, when we came back. Snaefellsness is where they enter the earth in the book.
Iceland Spring Itinerary:
Where we stayed: A Part of Reykjavik Tysgata
We booked our accommodation via our credit card’s hotel portal. It was a two-bedroom apartment, and the check-in process was similar to an Airbnb or vacation rental as opposed to a hotel with a lobby. The location was great and the apartment was perfect. We had two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom. We had so much space to sprawl out. I loved this apartment.
I always considered Iceland a bucket-list-worthy trip, but after visiting I definitely changed my mind. It’s not a place I can only go to once – for 3 nights. No, I’ll make it back. It’s worth everything.