Whether you’re staying only one day, a couple of days, or a full week, Iceland has something for everyone and every schedule. But if you really only have one day in Iceland, the first advice is to change your flight and stay a bit longer, for at least three days! One day in Iceland is not enough to take in all the awe-inspiring natural beauty, the rich history dating back to the age of settlement, and the one-of-a-kind culture that has evolved over the years. If you only have one day to spend in Iceland, use the time you have to the fullest, since Iceland is such a unique destination. Let the following ideas inspire you while you are planning your stay!
It’s no coincidence that the Golden Circle is the most popular day tour from Reykjavík. The Golden Circle consists of three stops that just happen to be three of the most captivating destinations in Iceland. If you only have one day in Iceland, you will most likely want to spend it visiting the Golden Circle!
The first stop is Þingvellir, a beautiful national park where the first Icelandic Parliament was established in 930 AD. The second stop is Gullfoss, a spectacular waterfall cascading 32 metres down over two stages. And the last stop is Geysir, a geothermal area with an active geyser, guaranteed to wow visitors. Kerið, a colourful crater in the same area, is a recommended extra stop.
If you want to extend the tour, it can be combined with a few other activities depending on what you are interested in. You can add a visit to geothermally heated greenhouses, swim in the Secret Lagoon, visit Laugarvatn Fontana or drive back to Reykjavík to go on a whale safari.
Total driving distance: 220 kilometres, 3.5 hours.
Since you’re visiting Iceland, you might want to check out some icy tours, and it doesn’t get any icier than hiking on a glacier. Sólheimajökull is a glacial tongue located about 160 kilometres from Reykjavík, close enough to the city to visit if you only have one day in Iceland!
Glacier hikes are relatively easy, and all the gear is provided, so it should be accessible for most people (be prepared to hike uphill with crampons, though). You get to walk on a glacier and enjoy magnificent views, along with professional guides that tell you all kinds of interesting stuff about glaciers and Iceland in general. If hiking isn’t your thing, you can also go snowmobiling!
Since you have to drive for a while to get to the glacier, you get to see some of Iceland’s most beautiful landscapes along the way, two stunning waterfalls included, Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss!
Total driving distance: 320 kilometres, 4 hours and 15 minutes.
If you only have one day in Iceland, you don’t even have to leave the city. Not only does Reykjavík offer a variety of great museums, restaurants, cafés, and shops, it also has spectacular views of the mountains surrounding the city, right from the city centre. If you’re staying in the city and want to get the most out of your time, invest in the City Card. It’s available for 24, 48, or 72 hours and gives you access to all the city’s museums for free, as well as a discount on the admittance fee to exhibitions around town. It also gives you access to the geothermal pools of Reykjavík, the Reykjavík Family Park and Zoo in Laugardalur, and allows you to use the bus (Strætó) within the Capital Region.