Backpacking Ireland is easy when you know where to go & how to get around – check out our 2 week itinerary for everything you need to know to plan your trip.
With so many places to visit in Ireland it can be hard to decide where to go. Follow our 2 week Ireland itinerary & you’ll discover the top 10 destinations, as well as useful information for planning a trip to Ireland on a budget.
Pick up a guidebook for more Ireland travel inspiration and keep reading…
- Is Ireland Safe?
- Best Time to Visit Ireland
- 2 Week Ireland Itinerary
- Getting Around Ireland
Is Ireland Safe?
As of mid 2019 the US Government is issuing a Level 1 travel advisory for Ireland. Travelers are advised to exercise normal precautions. You can check the current US travel advisory here and of course, you should consult your own government advice as well. Circumstances can change fast, especially during elections.
Violent crime is rare in Ireland but theft and petty crime is on the rise. Tourists are often targeted so always be aware of pickpockets. We recommend wearing a money belt with RFID blocking and traveling with an anti-theft daypack. But if you simply use common sense & precaution you’ll be ahead of the game.
Although Ireland is a very safe country for travel, we recommend purchasing travel insurance before any trip. We’ve been using World Nomads through 80+ countries over the past 12 years and have been really happy with their coverage and services.
For more details check out our World Nomads review here.
Best Time to Visit Ireland
Ireland generally has a cool and mild climate but the weather can change fast. It’s pretty normal to experience 4 seasons in 1 day and that’s just in the summer.
Still it’s the best time to visit weather-wise but expect the top Ireland tourist attractions and bigger cities to be even more crowded.
2 Week Ireland Itinerary
I spent 2 weeks backpacking in Ireland in June 2017.
I based myself in 5 cities, making day trips to other places I was interested in – I took a combination of tours & public transport but the best way to travel around Ireland is by car. Feel free to adapt this to a self drive Ireland itinerary.
You can actually visit most of the Emerald Isle on day trips from Dublin but I’d recommend staying in different cities to get a better sense of the country.
Day 1-3: Dublin
Wondering where to go in Ireland? Well Dublin is the natural starting point for any trip. From the Guinness Storehouse to Trinity College, there are many things to do in Dublin. The entry fees can all add up but many of the churches & museums are free.
I recommend spending 2-3 days in the capital to visit its attractions & soak up its lively atmosphere & an extra 2 days for day trips from Dublin. There are many places you could go but I chose Bru Na Boinne & Glendalough.
Top 13 Things to do in Dublin
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Day 4: Bru Na Boinne
Bru Na Boinne is an ancient archaeological site dating back 3200 years, making it older than Stonehenge & the Pyramids. It features 3 prehistoric tombs: Newgrange, Knowth & Dowth.
Newgrange & Knowth can be visited on guided tours, which cannot be booked in advance. Admission is on a 1st come 1st served basis & it’s a popular place so you may have to wait hours for a tour.
You can visit Bru Na Boinne by bus from Dublin but the bus schedule is very limited:
- Dublin – Drogheda: Bus #100X at 10:00am (arrives at 11:00am)
- Drogheda – Bru Na Boinne Visitor Centre: Bus #163 at 11:15am (arrives at 11:40)
When I arrived at the Bru Na Boinne visitor centre, the next available tour to Newgrange was not until 1:15pm.
There’s only 1 return bus to Drogheda at 3:00pm so I didn’t have enough time to visit Knowth too, which I was really disappointed about. From Drogheda, there are many buses back to Dublin or you can travel onwards to Navan Fort and/or Belfast -– though from personal experience, I would not recommend Navan Fort.
Nevertheless, I really loved Newgrange. It’s a passage tomb that we were able to go inside. During the winter solstice the sunlight shines all the way through.
Getting to Bru Na Boinne by car is the only way you’ll have time to visit both Newgrange & Knowth. The day tours from Dublin only include entry to Newgrange. They are roughly the same price as going by public transport but visit other attractions along the way.
Day 5: Glendalough
Glendalough is a historic monastery & village in a beautiful countryside landscape. It’s only 1.5 hours from Dublin but you can’t get there by public transport.
Besides joining a tour, the only way to get to Glendalough is by St Kevin’s Bus Service. The bus leaves Dublin at 11:30am and returns at 4:30pm. This gives you 3.5 hours there, which is enough time to enjoy the nature & take 1-2 hikes.
Don’t miss the old monastic site with a round tower, cathedral, cemetery & other ruins. From there, a walk around the Lower Lake leads to the larger Upper Lake.
There are many different hikes you can take in Glendalough. I had my large backpack with me, so I chose the 40 minute path around the Upper Lake to the Old Miner’s Village.
Glendalough is a beautiful place. I was happy with the day trip from Dublin but scheduling 1-2 nights here is also a grand idea.
Tour option: Glendalough & Wild Wicklow
Day 6-7: Belfast
There are many things to do in Northern Ireland and no trip to the Emerald Isle would be complete without a visit to Belfast.
Belfast was also shaped by The Troubles conflict between its Catholic & Protestant populations.
The Peace Walls outside of the city centre are worth a visit by foot or taxi. There are many political murals here that used to separate the Catholic & Protestant neighbourhoods.
Other attractions in Belfast include:
- City Hall
- Queens University
- Ulster Museum
- Grand Opera House
- St Peter’s Church
- Beacon of Hope sculpture
Day 8: Giant’s Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It’s made up of some 40,000 perfect hexagonal columns formed by an ancient volcanic eruption or feuding giants, depending on your preference for science or mythology!
I took a Paddywagon Tour to the Giant’s Causeway – not only was it cheaper than going by public transport but it also included stops to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge & the Dark Hedges. Check them out if you’re backpacking Ireland as they offer other affordable tours around the country.
Also known as the Kings Road in GoT, the Dark Hedges is one of many Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland.
Day 9: Galway
As the gateway to the Cliffs of Moher & Western Ireland, many tourists find themselves in the ‘City of Tribes’ and make day trips from Galway.
There aren’t many attractions in the city but it has a quaint & bustling atmosphere with lots of typical Irish pubs & restaurants.
I took the long coastal walk to the Salthill Promenade but I didn’t think it wasn’t anything special – besides, the buses to the Cliffs of Moher & Aran Islands also went along the same road so I didn’t need to make the walk!
Day 10: Cliffs of Moher
Backpackers in Ireland should keep in mind that it’s often cheaper & more convenient to take a tour to famous tourist attractions than to visit by public transport. That’s certainly true for getting to the Cliffs of Moher from Galway.
I booked a tour with Wild Atlantic Way but the bus left without me, even though I arrived on time. One of their staff members then walked me to the bus station to book a tour with another company, which left 2 hours later.
I was really shocked by this whole experience & I would not recommend taking any tours with Wild Atlantic Way. Beside, as I found out, all the tours to the Cliffs of Moher follow the same schedule anyway. A more important factor to consider before visiting is the weather.
It was raining & cloudy all day when I visited, which not only obscured the view of the cliffs but made it pretty miserable being outside at all – including at the other tour stops along the way.
Tour Option: Cliffs of Moher & Burren Tour
Day 11-12: Aran Islands
I confused the Aran Islands in West Ireland with the Arran Islands in Scotland so I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t need to worry as the landscape was beautifully green & rocky, with spectacular cliffs.
I spent 2 nights on Inishmore – it’s the largest of the 3 islands that make up the Aran Islands but you can still walk around it in 1 day. Other options for touring around are by bicycle or hop-on hop-off bus.
The Aran Islands can be visited on a day trip or tour from Galway but for those seeking a peaceful retreat, I recommend a longer stay.
Tour option: Aran Islands Tour from Galway
Day 13: Cork
There’s not much to see & do in Cork but most travellers visit for the Blarney Stone.
If you have any germ phobias, put it out of your mind for a few seconds while you lean back on the top of Blarney Castle & pucker up for the age-old gift of eloquence. Get your camera ready too so you don’t miss the shot like my friend did of me! It’s a long line to rejoin for another chance!
Besides kissing the Blarney Stone, Blarney Castle is set on beautiful grounds with gardens to explore.
Day 14: Carrauntoohil in the Ring of Kerry
Carrauntoohil may only be 1038m high but Ireland’s highest mountain is no walk in the park, especially in the rain – the views were stunning though while I could see them 🙂
With rolling green hills & white sheep, I never felt more at home in Ireland than hiking here in the Ring of Kerry. I was lucky to have camped & hiked here with my friend from Cork.
Hiking tours can also take you to the summit of Carrauntoohil or you can hop aboard one of the many sightseeing tours of the Ring of Kerry.
Tour option: Ring of Kerry Tour
As with traveling anywhere, you can save so much money by staying in a hostel with a kitchen and cooking for yourself in Ireland. Some hostels will also include breakfast.
For dinner I’d recommend stopping in at the nearest Tesco. They usually have many discounted items at the end of the day.
But food is one of the joys of travel so don’t deny yourself a good feed. You can find a pub on every corner in Ireland and they usually have great value meals which local classics such as Irish stew, beef and Guinness pie, bacon and cabbage and a full Irish breakfast.
I travelled solo in Ireland so I stayed in hostels. The cheapest dorms I found were around €10 a night except for in Dublin where they started from €15. In the capital, prices double and triple on the weekends. It’s not uncommon for hostels to sell out when there’s a big concert, sporting match or event in town.
Airbnb is extremely popular in Ireland and you can find many options in almost every city. The average nightly price for 2 people is €75 except in Dublin where it’s €105. Click here for $40 off your 1st booking.
Budget and mid-range hotels are also great value if you’re traveling in a pair.
Flying to Ireland
Consider flying in and out of different airports so you don’t have to backtrack to say Dublin. Buying two 1-way tickets is usually no more expensive than buying a return flight and sometimes even cheaper.
To maximise my time, I flew into Dublin (via Edinburgh) and out of Shannon airport. I then planned my 2 week itinerary around these flights.
I flew with Norwegian Air to/from New York (Shannon airport north of NYC). Norwegian Air has flights from as low as $100. If you’re looking to fly into Ireland from Europe, the cheapest flights will probably be with Ryanair or EasyJet.
Getting Around Ireland
I traveled almost everywhere by bus in Ireland. The only place I wouldn’t have been able to get to on my own was Carrauntoohil mountain but I only went there because I was staying with a friend in Cork (and it was awesome!)
The bus routes are pretty extensive though departure times for some destinations are limited and the journeys can be quite long.
But the fares are reasonably priced and there are often specials. If you have some flexibility try searching different days and times on the Bus Eireann website.
Keep in mind that for day trips it’s usually around the same price (and much more convenient) to take a tour than DIY.
It’s expensive to travel around Ireland by train – unless you book ahead. You can make reservations for ‘Low Fares’ 90 days in advance on the Irish Rail website. Otherwise it’s much cheaper to get around by bus.
Renting a car is the best way to get around Ireland. You’ll be able to make lots of stops and cover so much more ground without having to rely on buses and trains.
*** The Final Word: You can discover the best of Ireland in 2 weeks! ***
How long did you spend in Ireland?
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Visited in June 2017
Updated in May 2019