Northern Ireland has a turbulent political history and incredibly beautiful scenery. So beautiful, in fact, that there are several "Game of Thrones" filming locations across the region. Whether you want to see what Belfast has to offer, or if you're interested in gorgeous views, Northern Ireland delivers.
If you only have a week to explore the best of Northern Ireland, fear not. This complete itinerary will guide you around the area with suggestions for where to go and what to do.
Day 1 - Arriving in Belfast
The best way to arrive in Northern Ireland for your week-long vacation is to fly directly into Belfast International Airport. Most flights arrive during the day, meaning you will have enough time to pick up your rental car and make your way to Northern Ireland's capital city, Belfast. The airport is actually located near Lough Neagh and you should expect at least 30 minutes drive to the city. Have a look around the city center and maybe enjoy a drink in style at the historic Crown Liquor Saloon. Plan for an early night in order to rest up for the true Irish vacation to come.
Day 2 - Drive the Coast Road to the Giant's Causeway
Start early from Belfast and take the winding coastal road up north. You will soon reach Carrickfergus with its magnificent medieval castle. Carry on northwards via Larne, following the A2 to Bushmills and the Giant's Causeway, one of Ireland's most important sights. When you arrive it is time to stretch your legs. You have the option to take the Cliff Walk and enjoy the view of the Causeway and (if you are lucky) the Scottish coast to the Northwest. Or stroll down to the Causeway proper, a bus will take you back up again to the visitor center if you can't face the steep road back up or (even worse) the hundreds of steps up to the Cliff Walk. If you have some time drive to the Old Bushmills Distillery, tours are offered every day. Spend the night in or near Bushmills in a B&B or book ahead to stay at the classic Causeway Hotel, overlooking the 40,000 basalt columns that make up this must-see natural wonder.
Day 3 - Tour the Antrim Coast to Derry
The next day, leave the village of Bushmills and take the coastal road westwards, staying on the A2 all the time. You will soon pass Carrick-a-Rede with its incredible rope bridge, Dunluce Castle, the famous white rocks, some pretty seaside resorts, and the huge Downhill Estate with its precariously located Mussenden Temple ("Game of Thrones" fans take note—this was one of the Irish filming locations). With only a week to see Northern Ireland, keep driving on to Derry and have a walk on Derry City's historic walls. An overnight stay in or near Derry will give you an opportunity to recover.
Day 4 - Down to Omagh and Enniskillen
Midway through your one week in Northern Ireland, take the road south via Strabane, the A5 will bring you to Omagh. Here you can visit the quirky Ulster American Folk Park with its Irish and American homesteads and the truly impressive recreation of an emigrant ship. Then take the N32 to Enniskillen and enjoy the Lough Erne scenery, maybe taking in a boat trip to Devenish Island as well. Enniskillen usually has some lively evening entertainment in the pubs, making it a good place for an overnight stay.
Day 5 - Via Armagh to Belfast
With a few days left to finish your road trip tour of Northern Ireland, you might decide to visit the Marble Arch Caves or Florence Court in the morning or drive straight on. Take the N34 south and cross the border into the Republic of Ireland. A look at the round tower in Clones and at the market town of Monaghan are a good idea—as is stocking up on petrol for the lower price. From Monaghan take the N12/A3 to Armagh, the "Cathedral City". After visiting one (or indeed both) cathedrals hit the A3 and then the M1 to bring you back to Belfast. Note that the next day is optional depending on your schedule—you might want to take the A26 straight to Belfast International Airport and stay nearby if you are short on vacation time.
Day 6 - Belfast
Unless you are already flying out today you should take a closer look at the City of Belfast and its attractions—including the celebrated Titanic museum. Or drive out to Holywood and visit the huge Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, stepping back in time. In the evening drive out towards Belfast International Airport and stay nearby to save yourself the trouble of having to make the traffic-prone drive the next day.
Day 7 - Flying Home
Seven days in Ireland go too quickly! Today you will be heading back on a flight out of Belfast International Airport—have a last look at the huge Lough Neagh when taking off, with a little luck and a bit of sunny weather, you might also get splendid views of the Irish coastline, any which direction you are going!