The Perfect Itinerary If You Only Have One Day In Iceland, According To Rick Steves

A trip to Iceland is kind of like a trip to another world. The island country sits north of most of Europe on a swathe of land about the size of Portugal or the state of Kentucky. The destination is unlike many others around the world, with its active volcanoes, Mars-esque landscapes, snowy terrain, and glowing northern lights. You could easily devote a week of vacation time to exploring the country and still feel like you hardly scratched the surface.

However, even if you only have a day to sacrifice, the country is worth the trip. European travel expert Rick Steves offered the perfect 24-hour itinerary for visitors looking to pack the best sights into a short window, though be warned you'll have to plan your adventure carefully. The itinerary, posted on Steves' website, starts in the morning at the airport (if you're flying from another country, you'll likely end up at Keflavík International Airport), where you'll promptly pick up a rental car. Then, according to the travel guru's recommendations, you'll power through your jet lag and drive straight to the Blue Lagoon, Iceland's famous blue-hued geothermal bathing waters.

After a relaxing soak, Steves suggests driving 45 minutes to the city of Reykjavík, where you can grab lunch and do a little sightseeing. After, it'll likely be time to check into your hotel, but you're not done exploring just yet! Steves says to end your day by driving the Golden Circle loop, stopping for dinner along the way.

Hotels to stay at overnight

If your time in Iceland is limited, you'll want to maximize every aspect of your experience, including your accommodation. Even a single-night stay is enough to enjoy a fabulous hotel and offer your jet-lagged body a relaxing reset. In Rick Steves' one-day Iceland itinerary, Reykjavík, Iceland's capital and its most bustling city, is the ideal spot to book a room. It's also a short 50-minute drive to Keflavík International Airport, so you won't be too rushed for your flight the next morning. And, thankfully, the city offers a wide variety of hotels and properties to choose from.

For a luxurious escape, look to Reykjavik Edition, a five-star hotel with swanky restaurants (grab a seat at The Roof for a stunning view of the mountains and water), a stylish spa, and easy access to the downtown area. Similarly classy is Hotel Borg, known as Iceland's first deluxe hotel. Get a taste of the country's history while decompressing in its sleek art deco rooms.

Reykjavik also has several hotel apartments, as well as short-term rentals and bed and breakfasts. For a one-of-a-kind experience, book a room at Reykjavik Dome, located 10 minutes from downtown. Think of the accommodation as a glamping resort outfitted with cozy interiors and private hot tubs.

What if you have less than 24 hours?

Rick Steves' itinerary offers just enough room to explore Iceland before you hop back on your flight and head to your next destination — but what if you have even less time in the country? You might face this predicament if you have a layover on the island with only a few hours to spare.

In this case, consider prioritizing just one area or attraction in the country. Blue Lagoon is likely to be your best bet, as it's one of the most unforgettable experiences Iceland has to offer and isn't too far from the airport. For a quick day trip, leave any large luggage in Keflavík's storage lockers before boarding a bus straight to the lagoon. The trip only takes about 20 minutes, leaving you with plenty of time to bathe in the waters and dabble in the spa treatments.

If you have extra time, book a cab to the Brimketill lava rock pool, a nature-made pool formed from hardened lava. Watch in awe as the waves crash against the cliffs and, if your timing is right, gaze out at the gorgeous sunset. Another unique spot on the way back to the airport is the Bridge Between Continents, which links tectonic plates belonging to Eurasia and North America.