2-day itinerary through southern iceland

Summer in Iceland is incredibly gorgeous with roaring waterfalls, bountiful lupine, and a dappling of wildlife just to lure you in for more. We were bound for Paris, but couldn’t pass up taking up Icelandair’s offer on a long layover as an excuse to visit the country. This is everything we saw plus more if you’re better hustlers than us!


Getting there

First off, Icelandair is a budget airline, meaning flight tickets are relatively cheap. However, it also means that you basically are required to have a layover in Iceland before reaching mainland Europe, if that’s your final destination. In the past there were other budget airlines to fly to Iceland, but some of them have since closed. I do think that these airlines were created to bring more tourism to Iceland, which I can’t be mad about it! As a budget airline, Icelandair will add fees for everything from meals to checked luggage, depending on which leg you get. But, because the planes are small, they will let you check a bag for free for long distance flights, like from Seattle. The great thing about an extended layover in Iceland is that the cost is the same whether you stay an hour or a day or a week, so there isn’t any additional costs to your original flight plans.

Once you’re in Iceland, be prepared for everything to be expensive and towns having bare minimal infrastructure, generally speaking. Reykjavík is the largest city, also the capital and has quite a few great restaurants, but otherwise, even towns seem barren in this country. Most have at least a supermarket and gas station, but there’s not much more to that. I think that the minimalist culture is part of the fun experience you get here! It’s the vastness and incredible scenery that leaves you feeling like you’re in a nature documentary. One thing to note, the Keflavík airport is an hour drive to Reykjavík, but you can take the bus into town if you don’t feel like renting a car.

Highway lupine

Where to stay

2 days is not a very long time and we had much difficulty finding budget accommodations. I personally wanted to drive all the way out to Höfn, which is nearly 6 hours away from Reykjavík. It wasn’t easy to figure out good half way points to stay within our limited budget. They exist if you book far in advance, but most of your options are near Reykjavík, which limits the areas you might be able to visit. If you’re willing to splurge, there’s plenty of pricier options in scenic destinations. No worries if you want to base yourself in Reykjavík because there’s plenty to do near the city, like the Golden Circle. But for exploring more of Southern Iceland, I’d recommend renting a camper van to allow for the most flexibility in your schedule. There’s a lot of companies to rent from, but we found that Campervan Iceland (seems to partner with was the cheapest for what we wanted.

When we arrived at the airport, we looked for someone holding a sign and they took several of us to the nearby rental office. There was a long wait, so I would suggest budgeting time in your schedule for retrieving your car. Returning the car was much quicker. They’re very thorough at checking for damage to the car, so be careful and try not to drive off road. In the past years, you could park and camp anywhere, but recently, Iceland started enforcing camping in designated sites for camper vans. The great thing is that most sites are roomy and you don’t need to book them in advance!

Our camper van was basically a minimalist minivan outfitted with sleeping and cooking equipment. We would fold down seats to create a bed and use sleeping bags as bedding. I opted to bring a sleeping bag liner to be more sanitary since the Italian huts required them anyway for my trip right after! There was a small kitchen based off of a portable butane stove. It worked sufficiently for us though!

We had ideas for where we could camp but generally a few hours before we wanted to stop, we would look up the next nearest campsite. We found this google map created by Cozy Campers very useful! It tells you when the sites are open and what facilities are offered and the price. We ended up staying at Vík the day we landed and at Sandgerði on our second night right before our early morning flight.


While we visited at the start of summer, we got a lot of windy and cold weather. Iceland doesn’t get very warm in the summer and has quick changes in weather due to the patterns around the island, so I’d be prepared for cold weather. I almost didn’t feel warm enough with my puffy and mid layer!

Staying connected

I’d highly recommend getting an e-sim for data. I used Airalo’s plan for 10GB over my 21 days which worked out great. I did have to manage it and turn off data every so often so I wouldn’t exceed about 0.5GB/day and used wifi when I could. It cost me $37. At the time, this was the cheapest option for the coverage I wanted. With an e-sim you can still keep your current sim card for call/text. But I think you’ll need to make sure that your phone is e-sim compatible.

A note on lupines

If you’ve followed my blog or Instagram for a while, you’ll know that I really love lupines. One of my goals going to Iceland was to see wild fields of lupine, but I had little idea of where to go. The reality is that lupines are an invasive species first introduced by someone who brought over Alaskan lupine to “beautify” Iceland, not realizing how quickly they’d take over the land. They’re definitely one of the few “weeds” that I thoroughly enjoy! All that to say, they are plentiful everywhere in Iceland, like right off the tarmac, there’s already fields of lupine. But because lupines are invasive, the Icelandic people take good care to make sure the lupine don’t invade the natural land. And therefore, they primarily grow next to roads and unmaintained urban land. It’s funny to see the hoards of lupine right next to the highway and immediately stop across the highway fence. So, it’s truly a good and bad thing here. I visited end of June and it seemed quite prime! After the rest of my Europe trip, I made a pitstop again in Iceland and the lupines were still blooming. I’d imagine anywhere from June-July would be perfect timing for the lupine.

The Itinerary

Roughly speaking, we arrived early morning in Iceland after a red-eye flight from Seattle. We spent all morning exploring Reykjavík and getting our camper van rental set up. We started driving towards Vík and stopped a few times to explore waterfalls. The second day, we drove all the way out to Svínafellsjökull Glacier, stopping at cool pullouts along the way. On the drive back to Reykjavík, we stopped by Kerid Crater and more waterfalls. We flew out on our third morning.

Exploring Around


I wish I had a full day in Reykjavík, there’s plenty to explore, especially if you’re looking for some cute food options here. I can’t say I’d recommend any other town, but Reykjavík was surprisingly cute and fun to walk around. There’s lots of stray cats and plenty of coffee shops and bakeries to keep your energy going on your walk. I went into the city with little in mind as we wandered around, but was pleasantly surprised by how much there was to see and do in this tiny city. All street parking is paid parking as far as I could tell, so pick your spot and then take your time to roam around town.

Food Options

We were quite hungry after landing so we made our first stop at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. Get everything on the hot dogs! It was surprisingly tasty, even though I wouldn’t have expected such a mixture of flavors to work well. I especially loved the fried onion crunch.

The only other food place we ate at was Ramen Momo for dinner on our last full day. I had a friend recommend the lamb ramen, but it was truly delicious either way. The shop is small, so be prepared for a wait or go early enough.

We had friends recommend some other places and I’m happy to share them with you! Friðheimar is a restaurant near the Golden Circle (more on that later) that serves lots of tomato-based dishes and apparently has really good unlimited tomato soup! While very American, Flatey Pizza looked great. If you’re looking for more Icelandic food, Skal! and Icelandic Street Food are great places to check out.

Whenever I visit somewhere new, I love finding bakeries to be inspired by. Whether or not I buy something from this is a separate question. I think that Brauð & Co does a great job with their breads and pastries. It’s definitely not like french croissants, but their bread was delicious and we ate it for breakfasts and snacks on our trip. I was all pastried out after the first bakery but was super impressed by Sandholt. I definitely would have gotten something there if I had the time for more pastries. I was also interested in Mokka Kaffi, known for their waffles and coffee. And there’s a whole host of other coffee shops worth checking out – just google them!

For groceries, we had good luck with Bónus and Krónan in most towns. Our camper van didn’t have a fridge but had a cooler and a container for water, so make sure you fill up on ice and water before you leave the grocery or gas station.

Sights to See

Definitely the highlight was Rainbow Street that leads straight into the famous Hallgrimskirkja. Town runs right next to the piers, so don’t forget to check out the harbor and the Ingólfsgarður Lighthouse. For a 2-day trip, you probably don’t have time for a whale watching tour or puffin ferry, but keep those in mind if you’re around for a longer stay. I had a recommendation to visit the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which is highly rated. Right next to the museum is Harpa, the Icelandic Opera House, which is one of the most gorgeous buildings you’ll ever see!. There’s also a lot of art shops in town we wished we could have space in our luggage to buy.

Day 1: Side Stops Driving to Vík

We created a map for our main stops for day 1, which I’ll share here. Our first stop was almost 2 hours away to the first waterfall, Seljalandsfoss. This is one of the few that you can walk behind. If you take a stroll along the path, there’s a few small waterfalls before the hidden Gljufrabui waterfall. It splashes a lot, so I’d recommend a rain jacket for a better experience. There’s several small waterfalls along Highway 1 before Skógafoss that you can tick off your list, but we just enjoyed them from the car on our drive. We ended up leaving Skógafoss for later but you could tag it now if you have time. And if you really have time, check out the Seljavellir Geothermal Pool, which is a short hike to free warm pool. Alternatively near the capital, there’s the Reykjadalur Hot Spring, a good mile hike in for free hot spring. Otherwise, go to the highly rated Blue Lagoon near Reykjavík, where most people hit up for their hot spring fill.

Seeing the tongues of glaciers was high on my list of sights on this trip, so I prioritized Sólheimajökull. There’s a short walk you can take to get near the glacier, but you need more gear to walk on it. We saw a couple tours that brought you closer. i rather enjoyed the distant view to see how massive the glacier is. Mountains are not particularly steep in Iceland but they spread far, which makes the impressive in a different way than the Washington mountains I’m used to with our smaller glaciers.

By the time we finished our walk, we were getting hungry and stopped at Vík for a quick grocery run before making our dinner in the car (it was super windy outside) next to the famous Vík i Myrdal Church. There’s a short hiking loop you can take to get a good view of the lupines and the black beach or the church from here. After dinner, we decided to take a look at Reynisfjara, the black sand beach with cool basalt columns and the Hálsaneffshellir Cave. It was super windy and we found a brave couple posing for elopement pictures – which to say, hit me up and hire me as your photographer for an Icelandic elopement!!

Since it was just summer solstice, the sun set quite late and it was easy to stay up, not realizing what time it was. We felt sufficiently tired, so we ended up staying the night in the Vík campground which has a nice kitchen we used for breakfast in the morning. If you aren’t moving too early, Skool Beans is an amazing little coffee shop that you simply must check out, right next to the campground.

Reynisdrangar Cliffs

Day 2: Skaftafell and back to Reykjavík

We hightailed it to Skaftafell in the morning and made minimal stops along the way. I would have loved to hike Fjaðrárgljúfur, a gorgeous canyon. I think the minimal hiking time is 1 hour, but you could venture further. The highlight of the trip for me was finally seeing the combination of lupines and glaciers, two of my absolute favorites. Svínafellsjökull Glacier was the perfect place for that! We spent a good amount of time soaking in the views. So much that we had to simply drive back the way we came. Next door, you can hike to the basalt waterfall, Svartifoss.

Things that we missed that were further east: Grófarlækjarfoss for the lupines and waterfall, Jökulsárlón for the glacial icebergs, and Fjallsjökull for another impressive glacier. The rest of our google itineraries were broken into the second half of a day 1 we never did and an extension into the Golden Circle that we skipped.

On our way back, we stopped near Vík again for lunch by Dyrhólaey, specifically the Reynisfjara viewpoint. I knew that puffins occasionally came here, but didn’t really believe that we could see it until I saw a large group of people with their cameras pointed at the cliff! Indeed we found 2 puffins! Satisfied, we continued our long drive back.

We caught Skógafoss after skipping it on the first day. You can hike to the top of the falls, which feels precarious on the wobbly stairs, but they are solid. At the right time of year, you can catch the famous lupine-Skógafoss views.

Fossálar Waterfall
Spotting the puffin
Reynisfjara Beach

Golden Circle

There’s two circles that are famous in Iceland. The Golden Circle and the Ring Road. The Golden Circle is a shorter loop near Reykjavík that hits many highlights of Iceland, such as geysers, waterfalls, and lagoons. The Ring Road is the outer highway that loops around the entire island, which generally takes several days to complete it properly.

We only took a short detour out to Kerid Crater, an amazingly red volcanic crater formed thousands of years ago, now teeming with flora. There’s many blogs and tours for the Golden Circle, but if I had time to add to my road trip, I would go see Gullfoss, Geysir, Brúarfoss, and Öxarárfoss.

Kerid Crater

End of Trip

After reaching Reykjavík, we decided to drive a bit closer to the airport for an easier morning before our flight. At Keflavik, we got Kökulist Bakery treats in the morning and drove back to the rental center to drop off our van and get a ride to the airport.

  • We kept everything organized by creating google itineraries and a running list of ideas in a shared google doc. We split it up by Day 1 Part 1: Reykjavík to Vík, Day 1 Part 2: Vík to Höfn, and Day 2.
  • The biggest issue we ran into was not realizing how long we could spend at each stop, which made it hard to visit every single place. I think 3 full days would be barely enough to hit all the spots we want to see. Honestly, Iceland deserves a couple weeks to visit haha.
  • Most places are cash-free, and we never needed to take out cash for Icelandic króna.
  • Campsites often close after a certain time at night, but I believe you can catch them in the morning as well if you miss the night time payment.
  • Let me know if there’s more questions you have for this 2-day itinerary of Southern Iceland!

Photos taken on Canon 5D Mark IV and iPhone 13 mini

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