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6 Days in Iceland - South Coast or Snaefellsnes? And is Blue Lagoon over-rated?

Hi all, I am planning a family trip to Iceland for about 6 days in May or early June. This is our first time. We have a toddler, so we can't get too adventurous, but we still hope to enjoy short hikes. I am thinking of staying at least two nights in Reykjavik at the start. I have a few questions for those with experience traveling in Iceland:
1) Is the Golden Circle possible to tour as a full-day trip from Reykjavik, or is it better to stay overnight in that area?
2) How different is the South Coast vs. Snaefellsnes Peninsula?
3) Is Blue Lagoon worth a half-day trip from Reykjavik? It seems there are many other geothermal pools throughout the country, and maybe Blue Lagoon is over-rated (and over-priced), but I'd like to know if others disagree.

Any advice would be appreciated!

Posted by
466 posts
  1. Golden Circle is entirely doable as a day trip from Reykjavik. You'll also have close to 24 hours of daylight that time of year, which extends your travel day.
  2. South Coast >Snaefellsness. I've driven both and personally thought the drive along the South Coast was a lot more picturesque. More to see along the way as opposed to the drive to the Snaefellsness, which is a ho-hum drive IMO. There is a long tunnel you can drive through on the way to Snaefellsness, or you take the long (extra 45 mins) way around the Hvalfjordur, which I did both ways. It's quite beautiful (and I have a bit of tunnel phobia). Of course when you get on the peninsula there's great scenery. It seemed like a much longer drive to get there, whereas when we drove along the south coast we broke it up with multiple stops, including a guided hike on a glacier. I just thought the whole south coast was stunning.
Posted by
7636 posts

1) We did a Golden Circle drive in a day, but it was a long day, with some extra stops. We also witnessed a fatal car crash (one car, hit black ice and flipped off the road, ejecting passengers), called for emergency responders, and stopped to attempt to render aid until the paramedics and police arrived. This was early April, but still use caution a month or two later. We wound up at Þingvellir (Thingvellir) twice, which offers short (and long) hikes, plus the Fontana baths (highly rated - see #3 below) are close by.

2) As noted by kayla.p. above, Snaefullsness is farther from Reykjavik , so takes more time to reach. We did a single day drive, with some fabulous light hiking on that Peninsula, but didn’t go nearly to the end, and didn’t get to see Mt. Snaefell. More time would’ve allowed spending a night or two there, which would’ve been rewarding. It seems to be a less-visited part of Iceland. I still remember buying home-grown strawberries from an honesty box at the end of a driveway there. It’s got a different feel, remote and charmingly wild, than the more visited but also awesome southern coast. As for the south coast, we also were too early to be able to visit the Westmann Islands, and the puffins. Your timing, especially if it’s in June, would probably make that a possibility.

3) Based on what we heard, we skipped the Blue Lagoon, feeling it was way overrated, overpriced, and overcrowded. The Fontana Baths, on the other hand, were well worth the visit. Several pools of varying heat temperatures, “sauna” shacks heated geothermally, and the opportunity to dip into the cold lake, then hightail it to a hot pool were invigorating. It was a more natural setting, not the heated runoff from a power plant. We also had dinner at their buffet - sublime!

Posted by
2241 posts

With 6 days, I would only stay in Reykjavik the first day. That will allow you to see the city and get over any jetlag, and then you will be ready to go the next morning.

The Golden Circle is an easy day trip, but I would not head back to Reykjavik. Instead, stay somewhere in that area or just north of there, around Hella. Then the next day continue on up the south coast and stop again for an overnight up around Vik if you have time, or if you are running short, then around Hella. The next day head up towards Jokulsarlon to see the glacier lagoon and diamond beach. Then make your way back and head up to Snaefellsness.

I love Snaefellsness and there is a lot to see on the drive there. I would stay the night up there, either Grundarfjordur or Stikkisholmur. The south coast and Snaefellsness are totally different experiences. Snaefellsness is sort of like a compact Iceland and you can see so much variety in this area.

The Blue Lagoon is wonderful, IME. We have been there on 2 of our 5 trips so far. I do not consider it expensive, but that is all personal. If you go when they open in the morning, you will easily avoid the crowds. I would do BL either upon arrival before you drive to Reykjavik, or on your last day just before the airport, depending on your flight time of course.

Don't forget the local pools. In Reykjavik, we like Sundhollin. It is about $8 US dollars pp, and less for kids. The local pools are very family friendly. In the Golden Circle, there is the Secret Lagoon as well as Fontana which are both quite nice and very family friendly as well. Secret has pool noodles, so that might help with your toddler a bit, but Fontana has a handful of pools including a super shallow one basically for little ones.

We head back for our 6th trip in a month. There is only one thing in Iceland that I felt was overrated, and you don't have that on your list and wouldn't do it with a toddler anyway, so no worries. Just go and have a wonderful time!

Posted by
358 posts

To me, Blue Lagoon is definitely overpriced but not necessarily overrated. My family (2 adults, 2 kids age 11 and 16) loved the Blue Lagoon. We booked a reservation there for a few hours after we landed, and it felt great to relax there after a long flight.

We also enjoyed a local pool in Hvolsvöllur on the South Coast. It was just us and a couple of locals, along with a very excitable (friendly) facility manager who wanted to tell us all about the local pool with its wonderful geothermally heated waters. Opposite ends of the universe from the Blue Lagoon.

With a toddler, an option like another local pool somewhere will probably feel more worthwhile than spending a boatload on Blue Lagoon, even though that is a memorable experience.

Posted by
2512 posts

Good advice so far. I did the Golden Circle as a day trip and thought it was fine, though I was there in winter time and would not have wanted to drive. Make sure any tour company (if you use one) allows kiddos.

Where are you flying from? Don't underestimate the effect of jet lag on yourselves and a toddler. I'd give yourself some grace and flexibility on the front end of the trip. Also as noted, it will be very light that time of year, if your kiddo (or you) needs dark to sleep keep that in mind when you select accommodations (curtains a must, take binder clips to keep them shut just in case they don't). And in case your toddler is in any way a picky eater, pack some back up snacks (based on my experience with a family full of picky eaters, they would have struggled). Have a great time!

Posted by
2 posts

Hi all,
First, thank you for the wonderful responses. They are certainly helpful. We finally bought our plane tickets for a week in late May. Given that we have a toddler and may not be able to drive and see as much per day, I’m thinking to break it up to stay in just three places and go slow. Day of arrival and the next day in Reykjavik. Then drive the Golden Circle and stay in Laugarvatn or keep going to Selfoss. Then after exploring that area for another day or two, head to Vik area. I’d like to do a day trip to see glaciers if possible. That would be the last stay before heading back to Keflavik.

Does that sound reasonable?

Posted by
7565 posts

Although we always enjoy the major cities of the world, we decided to skip most of Reykjavik, to save time for the countryside. Sleepiness is a problem on your arrival day.

Do not underestimate the endless driving time. Your first big site is probably two hours-
plus from the airport, and many sites are each an hour apart.

I'm not sure Vik alone is worth the drive to the South Coast. The waterfalls are far apart, but quite spectacular.