Iceland Ring Road 5 Day Itinerary – The Perfect Family Trip

Iceland Golden Circle - Blue Lagoon Mother with kids

Want to plan the perfect family trip to Iceland? How about a fun Iceland Ring Road 5 Day Itinerary? Then follow in our footsteps as we explore waterfalls, the coast, volcanos, and more.

And be sure to bring the kids. As we’ll show, Iceland is a great family-friendly destination.

Our itinerary will give you plenty of sights to see, hot springs to visit, while still allowing for downtime. Each day can be mixed and matched depending on the weather and your energy levels.

When Should You Plan Your Family Trip to Iceland?

Iceland is notorious for it’s weather. Regardless of when you go, you are likely to run into cold, wet, and possibly snowy days.

If your goal is to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), the plan your trip between September and March. If you are looking for the warmest weather, then the best time of year for your family trip to Iceland is between June and August.

We bucked the trend and went in May. Our weather was great and the real benefit was that the tourist season had not yet begun, so the stops on our 5-day trip following Iceland’s Ring Road were not busy. In the summer months this part of Iceland can turn into a parking lot with all of the tour buses.

How do you get to Iceland?

Getting your family to Iceland is the easy part. Iceland Air has 11 direct flights to the US, including our home airport in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and the flights are reasonably priced.

Iceland is also a hub to Europe, which makes it a great stopping point if you are looking to break up a larger trip.

The airport is relatively new, clean, and easy to navigate. Car rentals are located on-site, so there is no need to take a bus to a separate car rental location.

Upon Arrival – Things to do Before You Start Your 5-Day Ring Road Excursion


If you enjoy a beer or glass of wine on your trips, this may turn out to be a real money saver. Once you land, and before you pick up your rental car, you need to buy booze.

Alcohol is extremely expensive in Iceland. Read here if you don’t believe us! You will save from 25-50% vs. prices at the liquor stores depending on the type of alcohol.

Stop at the Duty-Free store at Keflavik Airport (KEF) and stock up.


We also recommend renting a car. Large tour buses are OK for adults, but not so great for kids. Renting a car is a small price to pay for flexibility, peace of mind, and if you have little ones, some car naps. You can get up when you want, leave when you want, take breaks when you want… you get the idea.

If you are going in the winter, we’d recommend a cheap 4×4 like the Dacia Duster and Suzuki Vitara. We rented through Budget and picked up at the airport.

Our advice is go to and find a car that meets your price point and size needs. They cover most major brands and in our experience are relatively painless to work with. We rented a Hyundai i20, but that was in the spring. The airport is easy to navigate and pickup was in the terminal parking area.

What about Car Seats?

Pro-tip: We bring our own car seats. Rental car companies do rent them, however we find they are very expensive. We throw them in a big black garbage bag (or maybe you are lucky and your car seat comes with a travel bag!) and check them as bulky luggage, which is free with most airlines and worth the hassle.

What about Car Rental Insurance?

We also skip the added insurance. Our Capital One Venture X card has rental coverage included (recommendation from Nick at Thrifty Traveler).

We have never had to use that insurance, however, with the number of cars we’ve rented, we’d still be ahead even if we had to pay for a couple of small dings or dents. Make sure you take a quick video or pictures of your car before you take off so you have a good record of any existing damage.

What is Iceland’s Ring Road?

The Ring Road in Iceland, also known as Route 1 on maps, is a 820 mile loop connecting most towns and villages, along with many of Iceland’s most iconic sites. It is home to some epic road trips!

It can be driven year round and does not require a 4×4. It takes on average 7 days if you are driving it as a loop, and you can go either clockwise, or counterclockwise starting in Reykyavik.

Iceland’s Golden Circle or Ring Road?

Because many of the more iconic sites are in the south, and that the Ring Road is sooooo long, many do not complete it in its entirety. The Golden Circle is a great option for shorter trips or for folks that prefer less driving and more enjoying!

For a 5-day itinerary, we recommend focusing on the Golden Circle, which covers many of the sites but focuses on the southern part of the Island. The entire Golden Circle can be driven in 4-5 hours and is perfect for day trips spread over five days. It too can be travelled in the summer or winter months.

What are the most popular sites on Iceland’s Ring Road?

There are too many to count! Below is a list of all of the more popular sites organzied by region. An Iceland Ring Road 5 Day Itinerary could easily focus on just one of these regions, or, as we’ll detail shortly, on the Golden Circle.

What are the most popular sites in Southwest Iceland?

  • Reykjadualur Valley by Hveragerdi
  • The Golden Circle (see below)
  • Various Roadside Glaciers and Island Views
  • Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
  • Seljavallalaug Outdoor Swimming Pool
  • Skogafoss Waterfall
  • DC3 Plane Wreck
  • The Dyrholaey Peninsula
  • Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
  • Vik

What are the most popular sites in Southeast Iceland

  • Kirkjubaejarklaustur
  • Vatnajökull national park
  • Fjadrargljufur Canyon
  • Skaftafell Nature Reserve
  • Hofskirkja Church
  • Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon(Jokulsarlon)
  • Diamond Beach

What are the most popular sites in East Iceland?

  • Hofn
  • Vestrahorn Mountain
  • The Wild Reindeer
  • Egilsstadir
  • Vok Baths
  • Hallormsstadaskogur Forest and Lagarfljot Lake
  • Hengifoss Waterfall
  • Seydisfjordur

What are the most popular sites in North Iceland?

  • Lake Myvatn
  • Dimmuborgir Lava Field
  • Grjotagja Hot Spring
  • Hverfell Volcano
  • Myvatn Nature Baths
  • Dettifoss Waterfall
  • Asbyrgi Canyon
  • Husavik
  • Godafoss Waterfall
  • The Forest Lagoon
  • Akureyri

What are the most popular sites in West Iceland?

  • The Snæfellsnes Peninsula (Snaefellsnes Peninsula)
  • The Westfjords
  • Deildartunguhver Hot Spring and Krauma Spa
  • Reykholt
  • Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls
  • Borgarnes
  • Hvalfjordur Fjord
  • Hammsvik Hot Springs
  • Mount Esja
  • Reykyavik

What are the most popular sites on Iceland’s Golden Circle?

  • Thingvellir National Park (ÞINGVELLIR)
  • Geysir Geothermal Area
  • Gullfoss Waterfall
  • Kerid (Kerið) Crater
  • Laugarvatn
  • Reykholt
  • Bruarhlod (Brúarhlöð) Canyon
  • Fludir (Flúðir) Village
  • Skaholt (Skálholt) Village

Lodging – Where to stay on your Family Trip to Iceland?

Iceland Ring Road 5 Day Itinerary - Picture of Airbnb Cabin with hot tub

We love Airbnb’s as long as they are professionally managed. They generally offer a more unique experience than traditional hotels and a lot more flexibility and privacy as a family.

The Ring Road (and Golden Circle) in Iceland is full of small developments of tiny cabins. Most are available on Airbnb, and all have crazy views and easy access to the more popular destinations.

We also are not fans of changing hotels each day. As a result, we chose a cabin that was centrally located relative to the sites we wanted to see. That way we could take day trips as needed and keep all of our gear in one spot.

Our cabin had plenty of space. It is one room with a kitchen, a small hallway, and a full bathroom. Although it technically sleeps 4-5 people, I would only push that limit if it were two adults and three kids. It also has a nice kitchen.

Most importantly, it has beautiful views and a clean geothermal-powered hot tub. Think of it as one of Iceland’s famous hot springs, except in this case you can actually enjoy it without your kids scaring off the other guests. The host was super helpful, and provided a ton of useful tips to ensure we enjoyed our stay.

Day 1 – Iceland Ring Road 5 Day Itinerary

We like to spend our first day in a new country, or at least part of that day, enjoying our lodging and taking in our new surroundings. Our cabin was right in the middle of the Golden Circle, which gave us easy access to those sites and may Ring Road sites on the souther part of the island.

Day 1 is your arrival day. If you arrive late, it is a great day to find your lodging, walk outside a bit, and generally get situated.

We had some extra time so set off on two adventures. The first was to pick up groceries to last our trip. The second was to Kerid Crater so we could get a feel for what was to come.

Is it eating at restaurants in Iceland worth it?

Iceland Family Trip - Grocery Shopping with little kids

Food (and alcohol) in Iceland is expensive. Eating out multiple meals per day can really add up. For that reason we prefer to cook two meals at our cabin and eat one meal each day out.

As a result, our first stop on our trip was to a local grocery store to pick up provisions. After a quick 20 minutes of shopping, we had everything we needed for breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

Pro Tip: Grocery stores are a great way to keep your budget under control. We love eating out, but realize it just isn’t practical, or in some cases, affordable, with kids.

Our approach is to eat breakfast at “home”, lunch while we are out exploring, and then dinner back at “home”. We bought eggs, bacon, meat for grilling (the cabin had a grill!), veggies, sandwich ingredients, and plenty of snacks.

The kids also picked out some unique looking foods with labels we could not read. We love trying new things and this is an easy and cheap way to do it.

Kerið Crater

Iceland Golden Circle - Kerid Crater View from top

Our first stop was Kerid Crater. It is a short walk from the parking area to the crater’s edge. Then you can walk down the paths (visible in the picture above) down to the lake. The water is extremely clear and gives off vibrand blue hue depending on the light.

Kerid is a volcanic crater lake in the Grimsnes area of South Iceland and is right on the Golden Circle route. It is part of the Western Volcanic Zone, which includes Reykjanes peninsula and the Langjökull Glacier, and is a mere 6,500 years old! Our kids were old enough to understand the concept behind volcanos and it was a ton of fun hiking around the rim and playing by the water.

The crater sits on private land and there is a 450 KR fee (about $3.00). According to their website, it is oep when the sun is shining.

Day 2 – Blue Lagoon and Icelandic Horses

Iceland Golden Circle - Blue Lagoon Family Fun Picture

After decades of travel, we often run into friends in the strangest of places. Right before we arrived we found out that we would overlap with a couple of old friends so we made plans to meet up at the famous Blue Lagoon.

We tend to avoid most touristy spots. That being said, We would still highly recommend Blue Lagoon. It is a truly unique spot and is very well organized. While it can be busy, it is a great way to relax with your kids.

Which Blue Lagoon tickets are the best for familes?

You need to buy tickets ahead of time and can buy directly from their website.

Kids 13 and under are free! We opted for the Comfort tickets, which cost about $60. They come with an entrance ticket, towel, silica mud mask, and a free drink.

There are options for more luxurious packages, but for us they weren’t worth it. Skip the fancy packages, enjoy your time, have a couple of expensive drinks, and head home when you are done.

To our surprise we spent hours there! The water color is mesmerizing, as are the views. It was not terribly busy when we went, so there was plenty of room for the kids to “swim” around.

After a long day at Blue Lagoon, we went back to the cabin for some food and another walk.

What makes Icelandic Horses so special?

Iceland Golden Circle - Icelandic horses weathering the rain

The horses in Iceland are mesmerizing. They look almost like large ponies, but with long, flowing hair. Our cabin sat right in the middle of horse country, so we were fortunate to have the horses pass by our door on a daily basis.

You will also see plenty of them on your drives on the Ring Road. If you have time, be sure to stop and say hi. They seem to be very friendly and would come up to the fences for a pet whenever we approached.

Day 3 – Tectonic Plates and Waterfalls

Þingvellir National Park

Iceland Golden Circle - Thingvellir National Park Kid Running

Our first stop was Þingvellir National Park, which is known for its unique geology and is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site on the mainland.

Here you can see where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. It truly is quite fascinating. The area is wide open and there is plenty of room for kids to be kids. If they have energy, plan this stop for around that time!

You can also snorkel in pooles that straddle the tectonic plates. It looks like a lot of fun! The park has a great Visitor Center that explains the history and nature of the area.

Geyser Hot Spring Area

Iceland Golden Circle - Geyser Hot Spring Area

Stop number two was the Geysir Hot Spring area. This was a really exciting stop for us all. How could anyone complain about seeing active geysers, boiling mud pits, and the infamous Strokkur Geyser. I bet we stayed around an hour at this spot, but you could make it shorter if you caught a good glimpse of Strokkur!

There is a nice restaurant across the road and plenty of parking.

Gullfoss Falls (Golden Waterfalls)

Iceland Golden Circle - Kid getting wet at Gulfoss Falls

From what I hear, Gullfoss Falls is amazing, however, I personally did not see it. We hit a bit of a brick wall with our youngest who was ready for a nap.

My wife and oldest hiked up to the falls and said they were amazing. The water in the Hvítá river travels from the Langjökull Glacier before falling 105 feet down Gulfoss’ two stages. The water flow is highest in the summer, but still impressive during the winter.

Warning, you will get wet!

Day 4 – Waterfalls, Glaciers, and Black Sand Beaches

Day four took us down the southern coast. In addition to the four stops we detail below, the drive itself is beautiful.

Seljanlandsfoss (Waterfalls you can walk behind)

Iceland Golden Circle - Seljandlandsfoss Waterfall from distance

Seljanlandsfoss is a tall and slender waterfall pouring right over the cliff. The best part is you can get out, stretch your legs, and walk behind it. We’ll warn you, it does get a bit slippery so take your time. It is fascinating to be able to see the falls from all angles.

Three is a little gift shop with snacks and a giant parking lot.

Solheimajokull Glacier

Iceland Golden Circle - Solheimajokull Glacier at water's edge

On the way to Vik we stopped at Solheimajokull Glacier. It is right off of the coastal road into Vik and looked too interesting to pass up. Unfortunately, the kids were at wits end. Kristen and I took turns taking a short hike up to the glacier and then decided to call it a day.

If you have time, it is worth considering some of the glacier based activities Iceland has to offer. While we did not build it into our plan, there are opportunities for snowmobiling, guided 4×4 adventures, hikes, etc. on most of Iceland’s glaciers.

If we went back, we definitely would bundle up and take the kids on some of the best adventures Iceland has to offer!

Black Sand Beaches of Vik

Iceland Golden Circle - Black Sand Beaches of Vik

Our final stop were the black sand beaches of Vik, and Reynisfjara in particular. This was our main goal and we were willing to make sacrifices on the previous stops to make sure we made it in one piece!

The weather started to darken, and it rained a bit, but the trip was well worth it. What you see above is very typical weather in Iceland.

It is so cool seeing jet black beaches and the kids loved running around. Our recommendation is to make this your destination and come to terms with the fact that you may miss out on some of the stops along the way.

During some season you also might see Puffins

Day 5 – Exploring Reykyavik

Reykyavik is the largest city in Iceland and is close to the airport. Our flight left mid-afternoon, so we had about a half day to explore. We decided to stay out of the city center and check out some other unique finds.

Whales of Iceland Museum

Iceland Golden Circle - Whales of Iceland Museum

Our first attraction of the day was the Whales of Iceland Museum. Our son was very into whales at the time and requested something whale related for this trip. It did not disappoint.

The museum is a self-guided audio-visual tour. There are life-sized models of the different whale species hanging on the ceiling and interesting exhibits. There is also a small play area to get the kids climbing and moving!

A Slight Mishap

The museum is pretty dark and little Betty was wandering around behind some exhibits when we heard her fall. When we went to pick her up (remember, very dark) she was wet and smelled horrible. What we later learned was that a student on a local field trip thew up and, while the staff were gone to get cleaning supplies to clean it up, Betty had slipped in it.

She was covered literally from head to toe. Of course, all of her clothes were packed up and since it was the last leg of the trip we didn’t have spare clothes out like we usually do.

We took her into the bathroom and gave her a quick shower in the sink, including ringing our her clothes! The museum staff were mortified and offered up some museum swag so she could wear something clean.

It was an A for effort, but C for execution. The smallest size they had would be equivalent to a 6-8 year old in the US. Needless to say, Betty ended up with a very cute Penguin dress that we still have to this day. Luckily we were off to the hot spring and could shower!

Nautholsvik Hot Spring – Reykjavik

Iceland Golden Circle - Nautholsvik Hot Spring Reykjavik

Next we set off for Nautholsvik Hot Spring in Reykyavik. Nautholsvik was a chance to avoid the throngs of tourists and enjoy a local experience. It is a local swimming hole for the people of Reykyavik and has changing facilities and showers (with lockers), steam baths, and hot tubs. Hot water is pumped into a small lagoon providing a chance to swim in 60-70 degree water.

The coolest part is the number of locals swimming out in the open sea (water temp = FREEZING). Many had neoprene gloves and hats and were swimming long distances. We garnered up the courage and went for a quick dip ourselves and then booked it back to the hot tubs to warm up. If you are in Reykjavik and have a little time, it is definitely worth a stop.

Whale Watching along Iceland’s Ring Road

Our trip was too short, and too hastily planned, to include whale watching. That eing said, some of the best whale watching in the world can be found in Iceland.

Many tours leave right from Reykjavik and have a 99% chance of seeing a whale. Common species include minke and humpback whales, whale-beaked dolphins, and harbor Porpoises. These trips are offered year round.

There area lso trips from Husavik, Akureyri, Hauganes, and Olafsvik, and some of these have opportunties to see blue whales. The seasons tend to be shorter on average from April to October.

The End

All good things must eventually come to an end. Lucklily Reykjavik Airport is easy, well organized, and has plenty of shops and restaurants.

Were there things we wish we’d known beforehand? Absolutely. Do we wish we would have seen other sights? Of course. Should we have extended the trip by a day or two? Definitely. Those are all true of any trip.

That being said, as we look back and write this post, we realized this was the perfect Iceland Ring Road 5 Day Itinerary for a family trip. We hope you can use this post as a guide and design your own unique adventure. Set some goals, but keep it flexible. Some of the most memorable experiences are unplanned.

I mean, who would plan for their daughter to turn the Whale Museum into a vomit slip and slide?

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The Quill Family

We are the Quills! An ordinary family sharing our extraordinary travel experiences. 


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