The land of waterfalls, glaciers, lava fields, and otherworldly landscapes. Settling place of the Vikings. Viewing place of the Northern Lights. Home of just a wee population of 330,000. Iceland is one of Northern Europe’s most popular travel destinations – and for good reason! Around every bend is a vista just as beautiful and dramatic as the next. Here’s your one week in Iceland itinerary, from a solo female traveler.
If it’s your first European vacation, consider reading this beginner’s guide to booking your first European trip!
What to Expect in Iceland
The official language of Iceland is… yep, you guessed it: Icelandic. However, English is widely spoken in major cities and at tourist attractions. Many of the road signs, menus, stores, and other places have English translations displayed. Other languages that you may encounter frequently are Danish, German, Spanish, and French.
Weather Conditions | Best Time to Visit Iceland:
Although Iceland is a fantastic destination year-round, I’d recommend visiting in September because it starts shoulder season. You’ll typically find less tourists, more flight deals, and it begins Northern Lights visibility season! Even though the beginning of September is technically still “summer,” you’ll need to pack many layers because it’s still between 47 – 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The winds are whipping, and it can rain unexpectedly as well.
If shoulder season isn’t your cup of tea, July and August are Iceland’s warmest months and the most popular to visit. Although you likely won’t see the lights during this time of year, you will get to see the cute little puffins as a tradeoff!
Iceland’s official currency is the Krona (ISK). Many tourist-centric places also accept U.S. Dollars and Euros, although the better value is to use Krona exclusively. Overall, you won’t need cash in most transactions. Apple Pay and Credit Cards are widely accepted (just be sure your card company doesn’t have foreign transaction fees!).
Data and Phone Usage:
Most international plans don’t cover Iceland by default. To avoid running up a high bill, I recommend purchasing a Vodafone SIM card from the 10-11 Convenience Store at the airport when you arrive. It’s located to the right after baggage claim. It was approximately $15 USD for 5 GB of data and 200 minutes of international call time. Just be sure not to misplace your primary SIM! You’ll need that when you get back home.
Solo Female Travel Safety in Iceland
Iceland was my FIRST solo trip outside of the United States, and honestly it was a wonderful location to solo travel! First of all, Iceland is considered to be the #1 safest country in the world and has held onto that title for 14 years running as of 2022. The police there don’t even carry firearms. Aside from violent crimes, harassment is also considered extremely rare and petty crimes too. Like any trip, exercise your common sense as much as possible. Don’t leave drinks out uncovered. Keep your valuables in sight. Be selective of who you tell you’re traveling alone (lie, if you’d like!). Carry a portable power bank to keep your phone from dying mid-day. Lastly, share your plans and itinerary with someone you know and check in regularly to let them know you’re safe.
Is Iceland Safe for a Black Solo Female Traveler?
Iceland is one of the most kind and open-minded places I’ve ever visited! In my personal experience, they are very welcoming to everyone. Never once did I feel that I was treated differently or poorly. Having my hair in a lengthy braided style, I did receive a bit of curiosity about where I was visiting from – and many expressions of admiration. One local told me he loved the “beads of brightness” that I had woven through them, hehe. And most importantly… nobody touched me without permission!
How to Get Around in Iceland
I ‘d highly recommend renting a car to explore Iceland! Many of the country’s most beautiful sights are spread out from one another, and you’ll want to explore different parts of the southern and western parts especially. To rent a regular car, you must be at least 20 years old, your license must be printed in Latin letters and have been held for at least 1 year. Otherwise, you may need an International Driver’s Permit. Traffic flows on the right side of the road and is not much different from the United States. Make sure to follow the speed limit, as speeding tickets are notoriously expensive. Because the roads can have a lot of dust and rocks, I would also recommend to make sure your rental has a form of insurance coverage.
Things to Do: One Week in Iceland Itinerary Day 1
Visit the Blue Lagoon
@marissadaily_ Visiting the Blue Lagoon is a thing of dreams! 🏽✨ The water is JUST as milky-blue as the photos, and just as relaxing and transformational as one would imagine. 😌 The geothermal spa is perched in an 800-year-old lava field on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwest Iceland. 📍#bluelagooniceland #bluelagoon #icelandtips #icelandtravel #solofemaletraveler ♬ bad habit – johnny ★
As one of Iceland’s most recognizable landmarks, the Blue Lagoon tops traveler bucket lists globally. And it makes sense, the lagoon is a thing of dreams. Yes, the water is JUST as blue as it looks in the photos, if not bluer! Aside from the aesthetics of the world-famous spa, the silica-rich mud is known to provide amazing purifying, moisturizing, and anti-aging effects. When you arrive, you’ll be embraced by the geothermal waters that are heated between 98-104 F year-round. I’d definitely recommend purchasing the Premium package (approx. $102 USD) because it includes a robe, one drink from the swim-up bar, and access to the 3-step luxurious skincare mask system.
Hot Tip: Since the Blue Lagoon is so close to Keflavik International Airport, this stop is best made directly after arrival or right before departure.
Being the largest city in Iceland and the nation’s capital, Reykjavik (Rayk-yah-veek) is one of the best places you can make your home base. The downtown area is quite walkable and easy to navigate, with an eclectic mix of colorful buildings, cafes and shops waiting to be explored. While you could easily spend days meandering through the windy streets and back alleys, here are a few standouts to add to your list.
Walk the City Center
Quirky. Artsy. Cool. Reykjavik’s bustling city center has a certain cool factor (dare I say, hipster?) with its Rainbow Road, abundant street murals, and indie coffee shops. Take some time to pop into the locally-owned souvenir shops, boutiques, cafes, and smalls businesses that line the streets.
Behold: the largest church in Iceland! Hallgrimskirkja (HALL-creams-kirk-yuh) towers over the city at over 240+ feet. The iconic Lutheran church started construction in 1945, with the architect’s curved design mirroring the mountains and basalt lava columns of many of Iceland’s natural wonders. Be sure to go inside – observation deck at the top is the BEST place to get a 360° view over Reykjavik! Tickets to visit the viewing tower are approximately $10 USD.
Without context, the Sun Voyager may just look like a cross between a whale carcass and a ship. And you’d almost be right. Its true nature represents the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, and freedom. Sculpted by Jón Gunnar Árnason, the sculpture is meant to be a dream boat and an ode to the sun. Although , some argue that its striking resemblance to a Viking long-ship was to pay homage to the country’s rich Viking history. Whatever the true intent, it’s a beautiful stop on Reykjavik’s waterfront.
Take a Northern Lights Tour
Of course, one of the can’t-miss attractions of Iceland is the elusive Northern Lights. Emphasis on elusive! They can be hard to spot, dependent on a variety of factors – from the earth’s magnetic activity to cloud coverage on that particular day. I recommend booking a motorcoach tour with Viator, because they feature experts who know how to predict which nights will be better and know which areas are remote and have little light pollution. Many of the tours you can book in advance, although they may require you to reschedule if the company decides it’s unlikely to see them that evening. Flexibility is key for this! Northern lights season is from September to March.
When the Northern Lights *do* show up… they show OUT! And boy, do they dance. It looks like someone is on the other side of the sky with a paint brush. You can’t miss it.
Photography Tip: Bring a tripod to capture the best photos. Even the slightest movement will make them appear blurry.
Day 2: Golden Circle
Drive the Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is a major tourist route in southern Iceland that starts in Reykjavik and loops around through several can’t-miss attractions! But don’t be fooled by its grandiose name: it only takes about 3-4 hours in total and can easily be done in one day.
Þingvellir National Park
Game of Thrones fans, do you recognize this? It’s a filming location for the show! Þingvellir National Park holds a special place in the culture and geography of Iceland. Alongside the incredible hiking opportunities, the park holds a rift valley in the divide between the North-American and Eurasian continental plates – making it the only place in the world where you can stand between two continental plates. Major events in the history of Iceland have taken place at Þingvellir, such as the first ever assembly of the Icelandic parliament for new settlers. Today, the park is a protected national shrine.
💵 Parking Fee: 750 ISK (Approx. $6 USD)
If you’ve never seen a geyser erupt, here’s your golden opportunity in the Haukadalur valley! Set against a backdrop of bubbling hot springs, Strokkur is the most active geyser in Iceland. The jet stream of steam and heated water can reach nearly 100 feet and erupts every 6-10 minutes! The area became active over 1,000 years ago and consists of more than a dozen steamy potholes which you’ll see along the way.
Perched on the southwestern coast of Iceland, the “Golden Falls” is a dramatic double-cascade that’s one of the most visited sites in the country. The bottom of Gullfoss feels like a never ending mystery, since you view the falls from above and watch it plunge into a misty gorge underground. On sunnier days, you can see stunning natural rainbows that form above the falls.
Want to really feel like you’re on another planet? This 3000-year old, eye-catching crater lake features neon blue waters surrounded by red rocks! The Kerið volcanic crater is thought to have formed when a volcanic magma chamber depleted, and subsequently caved in. From above, you can walk around the rim. You can also descend to the bottom via staircase to get a view from below.
💵Entry fee: 400 ISK (Approx. $3.20 USD)
Day 3: Southern Coast
This is one of my FAVORITE waterfalls in Iceland! Not only because it’s 200 feet tall, but also because it’s one of the very few places on this big, blue earth that you can safely walk behind a crashing waterfall. On your dramatic orbit around the falls, you’ll be enveloped in a cloud of mist and hear the roar of the powerful waters that come from the Eyjafjallajökull glacier. Be sure to pack a poncho and rain paints because you WILL get wet! Also, it’d be good to bring a waterproof phone pouch or camera case if you plan to capture photos and videos.
💵Parking fee: 800 ISK (Approx. $5.62 USD)
To get even more up close and personal with a mighty waterfall, visit Skógafoss, “The Forest Waterfall.” When standing in awe of the 82 foot beast, you’ll really feel how small you are! For a new perspective, you can also climb an adjacent stairwell to see it flow down from the top and into the stream below. From the top, the falls follow the Skóga River upstream and provides a picturesque 4.2-mile out-and-back trail popular for hiking and mountain biking.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Just beside the small fishing village of Vík, the world-famous Reynisfjara (Rey-nis-fyeera) Black Sand Beach is an enchanting shoreline. The sand is a deep black color, due to the erruption of the Katla volcano many years ago. Once the hot lava hits the cold water of the North Atlantic, volcanic rock is formed and the ocean erodes it until its ground into miles of shimmery black sands. Aside from the sand, the beach is almost a popular photo spot because of the hexagonal basalt columns also formed due to the cooling of molten lava.
🚨 IMPORTANT: You cannot swim at this beach. Do not ever turn your back on the ocean here. Many people have passed away because of “sneaker waves” that sweep you out to sea even when the current looks calm.
Vantajökull National Park / Skaftafell / Svartifoss Waterfall Area
Yet another place where you can see the hexagonal basalt columns is with the dramatic cascade of the Svartifoss Waterfall. Located in the Skaftafell area of Vantajökull National Park, the waterfall is a 35-minute hike to and from the visitors center and parking area. It is mostly uphill, so get ready to sweat and make sure to bring water! For your efforts, you’ll be rewarded with an unforgettable view of the main landmark that inspired the design of the aforementioned Hallgrímskirkja Church.
💵Parking fee: 1000 ISK (Approx. $7.02 USD)
Day 4: Glaciers Galore
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon at the foot of Europe’s biggest ice cap, the Vatnajökull glacier. It’s considered to be Iceland’s deepest lake, with a glorious view of snow-capped mountains in the distance! The calm waters are dotted with free-flowing icebergs that gradually break off Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier. One of the coolest experiences to have there is to take an Amphibian Boat Tour (Approx. 6300 Krona / $45 US) to get as close as possible and learn about the lagoon. The tour guide will even have one of their staff members grab a 1,000-year-old piece of ice from the lagoon and bring it onboard for you to see up close!
Shine bright like a diamond among the ocean’s “rejected” icebergs at Diamond Beach, right across the road from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Yet another strip of black sand, this is a quick stop to see life-sized glittering iceberg fragments. Some even have little grooves that you can sit on!
Back to Reykjavik
It’s about a five hour drive from Diamond Beach back to Reykjavik (the longest straight drive on this itinerary), so you’ll want to carve out some time to head back! Get some rest and prepare for a bright and early morning exploring the western Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
Day 5: Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Búðakirkja | Budhir Black Church
Perched on the southern edge of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, the Búðakirkja black church at Buðir is an excellent photography location that dates back to 1703. The church and cemetery sits isolated in an open lava field, with a dramatic backdrop of mountains the background. Stroll through the fields, admire the church and maybe even see wild sheep if you’re lucky.
The breathtaking Arnarstapi Cliff Viewpoint is a truly beautiful place to see the ocean and admire the coastline. Not only that, but to see the interesting formations of different rock structures. One of my favorite things to see here is the stone arch, known as Gatklettur, that formed naturally over the years (pictured above).
Here’s yet another Game of Throne filming location for the super-fans out there! Mount Kirkjufell is one of the most distinctly shaped mountains in Iceland, making it the most photographed in the country. It’s odd hill-like shape is due to the process of erosion that occurred during the Ice Age. Towering above the small fishing town of Grundarfjörður, the landmark can also be climbed if you’d like to take on the challenge. Be sure to stop across the road for the view in the photo, featuring the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall.
💵Parking fee: 700 ISK (Approx. $5.00 USD)
Day 6: Explore More of Reykjavik
I like to end my trips with a relaxing free day, and let’s be honest: there’s no way you saw all of Reykjavik in the first day. Spend more time walking around, picking up souvenirs, and trying new foods! Do you dare to try the traditional Icelandic Breakfast featuring the fermented shark at Cafe Loki? I did, and let me just say… it wasn’t pretty! In all seriousness though, spending some more time in the city is a perfect way to wind down, keep the driving to a minimum, and wrap up an awesome adventure.
Day 7: Head Home!
This trip was a real dream come true – in of the most beautiful places I’ve ever laid eyes on. I hope this one week Iceland itinerary helps someone else to experience the wonder of this country’s transcendent beauty.