Duration: 15 Days, 14 Nights / Season: March – November / Transportation: Rental Car
This tour is a great option to get a good look at Iceland’s many natural attractions along the ring road at a relaxed pace. In addition to driving the ring road you visit Snaefellsnes Peninsula, often referred to as Iceland in a nutshell. Waterfalls, volcanoes, lava fields, glaciers and hot spring areas, this program has it all.
- 14 nights incl. breakfast in pre-booked accommodations.
- 14 days rental car of your choice. – Unlimited driving, CDW and two drivers.
- Pick-up/drop-off at the International Airport in Keflavík.
- Road Map 1:500 000. – Detailed and personalised route description.
- Emergency phone line available 24/7 while traveling in Iceland.
- VAT and lodging tax.
Consider adding day tours and excursions to your self-drive itinerary, see tours here: Daytours
Day 1: Arrival
Upon arrival at Keflavík International Airport, you pick up your pre-booked rental car. If you arrive in the morning or afternoon, you might want to stop by at the Blue Lagoon on your way into the city of Reykjavík.
If arriving late, you will find your accommodation near the airport.
Day 2: National Park Þingvellir, Geysers & Gullfoss Waterfall
Leave the city in the morning for the UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Park Þingvellir. Take a walk through the Almannagjá gorge to the former parliament site, and continue to the picturesque waterfall Öxaráfoss.
From here your journey takes you farming area to the geysers at Haukadalur. While the old Geysir is rather quiet, the most active hot spring Strokkur (the butterchurn) is erupting every five to seven minutes. The impressive waterfall Gullfoss is only a short drive away.
The former episcopal seat Skálholt is worth a visit, or the close by Secret Lagoon, with its natural geothermal water. Continue to your accommodation close by.
Day 3: Þjórsárdalur Valley & Hekla Volcano
Visit in the Þjórsárdalur Valley the beautiful waterfall Hjálparfoss and you might want to stop at Stöng, an excavated farm that was buried under volcanic ash in the Hekla volcanic eruption in the year 1104 before visiting the reconstruction of the farm, Þjóðveldisbær, located close to Hjalparfoss. A short and easy hike from Stöng is the hidden gorge Gjáin with its waterfalls and lush green vegetation.
Then drive along the foot of the volcano Hekla through a desert-like landscape of pumice, sand and stones to your accommodation near the south coast.
Day 4: Waterfalls, Activities on a Glacier & the Black South Coast
Start the day with an unforgettable walk behind the waterfall Seljalandsfoss. Keep on walking along the rock face where in gorge the waterfall Gjlufrabúi, the gorge dweller, hides.
Next stop is Skógar and the impressive waterfall Skógafoss. We recommend a visit to the local folk- and transport museum Skógasafn. At the glacier Sólheimajökull are guided glacier hikes and snowmobile tours offered, or just have a walk to with black volcanic ash covered glacier. Head on to the south coast and the bird cliffs of Dyrhólaey and Reynisfjara with its basalt columns and black sand beach.
Your journey takes you through the village of Vík, and in the summer time the road to the remote mountains at Þakgíl brings you to an impressive mountain landscapes. Another option is a guided Superjeep tour along roads only known by the locals through the black sand desert of Mýrdalsandur, passing by mossgreen mountains to the remote outletglacier of the Icecap Mýrdalsjökull, where the volcano Katla sleeps underneath.
Through the desert-like black sands of Mýrdalssandur, the lava landscapes of Eldhraun you´ll reach the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur.
Day 5: Skaftafell, Svartifoss Waterfall & the Glacier Lagoon
Head to Skaftafell, located within Europe‘s largest national park Vatnajökulsþjóðgarður, where you will find hiking options of varied length and difficulty: From an easy walk to the glacier Skaftafellsjökull or a short hike to the Svartifoss waterfall to the more challenging routes to Sjónarnípa, Kristínartindar or Bæjarstaðaskógur.
In the afternoon, drive eastward along the edge of the Vatnajökull glacier until you reach the glacial lagoon Jökulsárlón. Take a walk along the shore of the lagoon or go on a boat trip amidst the drifting icebergs. You have a good chance of spotting seals here.
Day 6: Fjord Landscapes of the East
In the fishing village Höfn you will find an exhibition dedicated to the Vatnajökull glacier, worth visiting before you leave. East of the village you reach a tunnel that leads you to the fjord landscapes of East Iceland characterized by dramatic precipices and narrow coastlines.
Along the way you have several opportunities for taking walks and hikes along a coast that is ideal for bird watching. A special walking route for bird watchers has been marked on the outskirts of the fishing village of Djúpivogur
In the renovated cooperative store in Breiðdalsvík village is the worthwhile Geo-Centre about the area‘s volcanic origins. In Stöðvarfjörður village the private mineral collection of Mrs Petra Sveinsdóttir is one of the largest in the world.
Travel onwards to Egilsstaðir via the tunnel or shorter route on gravel roads via the highland pass Öxi. Around Lake Lagerfljót is Icelands largest forest to be found, and a walk to Hengifoss waterfall is highly recommended.
Day 7: Fjords, Waterfalls & Puffins
Spend the day in the area around Egilsstaðir. During summer time the puffin colony in Bakkagerði fishing village gives you the closest look possible. A guided hike from here into the lovely hiking area Víknaslóðir can be booked on request.
The remote fjords of the area such as Seyðisfjörður with its countless waterfalls along the way, Eskifjörður, Norðfjörður, and Mjóifjörður with its lighthouse at the end of the narrow road may also be interesting to visit.
Another option for the day is a drive around the Lake Lögurinn, the alleged abode of the sea monster Lagarfljótsormurinn, apparently a relative of the Loch Ness monster! The drive will lead you through the largest forest in Iceland, Hallormsstaðarskógur, to Skriðuklaustur and the museum of 19th century novelist Gunnar Gunnarsson. A monestary of the Augustinian order was founded there in 1493 and recent archaeological findings are now on display near the farm house. Hengifoss waterfall (118 m/387ft), and the smaller waterfall Litlanesfoss is worth the easy hike.
At the farm Húsey horseriding tours to the beach and a seal colony are offered. This off the beaten track tour is a paradise for nature lovers. Every year about 30 different species of birds, including the great skua, the Arctic skua, the Arctic tern, the black-tailed godwit, the common redshank, the whimbrel, the red-necked phalarope breed here.
Day 8: Traditional Farm, Dettifoss Waterfall & Hot Mud Springs
Follow the ring road from Egilsstaðir over the highland heath to Lake Mývatn, and to Europe‘s largest waterfall Dettifoss. We recommend a detour through the valley of Möðrudalur and to the old turf style farmhouse Sænautasel, to enjoy a cup of coffee at the small café.
Have a stop by the foul-smelling, sulphur mud hot springs at Námaskarð near the volcano Krafla, before you cross a mountain pass and arrive at green farmland around Lake Mývatn, a paradise for birdwatchers. Make your last stop of the day at Myvatn Nature Baths and soak in the geothermal hot water, before heading to your accommodation for the next two nights.
Day 9: Whale Watching, Ásbyrgi Canyon & Dettifoss Waterfall
Húsavík village is known to be the Whale watching capital in Iceland, with a very good chance to see Humpback Whales, while the cute puffins are flying close by the boats. The Whale museum is one of the largest of its kind. Drive further around the Tjörnes peninsula with its spectacular views over the Atlantik ocean to the Ásbyrgi canyon. The Hljóðaklettar (literally „Echo cliffs“) in the National Park along the glacier river are a cluster of columnar rock formation, and are only an half hour walk. Along the east side of the river the road leads through the highland desert to the waterfall Dettifoss with the view from the east bank.
It is possible to take a day tou in a 4×4 highlandbus to the crater Askja located in the central highlands. The crater erupted in 1875, forcing the majority of the Icelandic people of the North to emigrate to the US and Canada (your programme can be changed accordingly).
Day 10: Lake Mývatn
Lake Myvatn is in the summer home to waders like Great northern diver, Red throated diver, Eurasian wigeon, Harlequin duck who´s breeding area in Europe is only to be found in Iceland. We recommend the privately-owned and slightly quaint bird museum by the lakeside.
A walk along the pseudo craters Skútustaðir and the lava formation Dimmuborgir provides an interesting insight into volcanic history, as well a hike to the crater Hverfjall for an impressive view over the surroundings. The pseudo craters at Skútustaðir should not be missed either. A detour to the crater Vití passes by the geothermal power station Krafla. The walk through to the in the 70s created lava field Leirhjnúkur, with its still warm areas, shows that volcanic activity is still ongoing in this area.
Picturesque Goðafoss waterfall is located on the way to Akureyri, the so called capital of North. The charming city centre has kept its danish style while Akureyri was long a danish trading centre. The women of the danish merchants did miss trees from their homeland, and started to plant them at the hill next to the harbour, this became one of the most northernly located botanical gardens.
If you are interested in taking a tour to the island of Grímsey just above the arctic circle, we would be happy to assist you with the booking. Flights leave in the afternoon from the domestic airport in Akureyri.
Day 11: Akureyri & Horses in Skagafjörður
Akureyri’s laid back atmosphere is best absorbed during a morning stroll through the city centre. driving through green valleys and mountains to Skagafjörður, the centre for breeding the Icelandic horses. Horseriding tours are offered in the area, as well as River rafting adventure tours. We recommend visits to the local folk museum in Glaumbær and the small turf church in Víðimýri.
Nestled away in a remote valley is the former episcopal seat of the Icelandic Bishop of North Iceland, and today university with the fields of equine science, aqua-culture, aquatic biology and tourism. Visit the Cathedral in Hólar, Icelandic Horse History Center, or examine Nýibær, a fine example of a 19th century North Iceland turf house. The university restaurant is open to the public and is known for its innovative cuisine based on local ingredients.
The price winning tannery in Sauðárkrókur is the only tannery in Icelandic making fish leather for top brands around the world. For a dip in a natural geothermal pool drive further north to Grettislaug, once used by the legendary Saga hero Grettir the strong, who swam all the way from Drangey island. For Icelanders, the top swimming pool of the North is the Hofsós local swimming pool with its grand view over the Fjord.
In Blönduós, the Sea Ice Exhibition Centre in the old part of the town and The Icelandic Textile Center as well as the distinctive looking church are worth a visit, while heading on to your accommodation.
Day 12: Seal Watching on Vatnsnes Peninsula & Snæfellsnes
The Icelandic Seal Centre in the fishing village of Hvammstangi, emphasis on the Seals of the North Atlantic and Arctic, showing the Seals in Icelandic culture and tradition, a documentary and the research, as well as wildlife and marine life of northern Iceland. Along the Vatnsnes peninsula, seals can be spotted at the coast and the rock formation Hvítserkur is worth the short walk.
The rebuild farm setting of Erik the Red near Búðardalur invites guests during the summer, and local ice cream can be tasted at the farm Erpsstaðir before heading on to Stykkishólmur fishing village at the Snæfellsnes peninsula. From mid-May to mid-September boat tours leaving from the harbour around the many islands and islets with its abundant bird life. On the Viking Sushi tour seafood is offered straight from the sea – it does not come fresher than this!
Day 13: Shark Museum, National Park Snæfellsnes & Glacier Snæfellsjökull
Just outside Stykkishólmur at Bjarnarhöfn farm, a privately-owned museum dedicated to shark catching in Iceland, offers a taste of the famous “Hákarl”, the Greenlandshark. Often called the rotten shark, it is the fermentation process that makes the meat edible, and according to the people of Bjarnarhöfn, is the best remedy for a healthy life!
Sea Angling and birdwatching as well as Whalewatching tours are offered from Grundarfjörður, the tiny village known for its peculiar shaped mountain Kirkjufell, the “church mountain” and picturesque waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss.
The National Park is located at the western part of the peninsula around the glacier crowned volcano Snæfellsjökull, famed by writer Jules Verne to be the entrance to the “Journey to the centre of the earth” novel. The black pebble beach Djúpalónssandur was once one of the largest seasonal fishing places in Iceland due to the only place with freshwater access in the area. The rusty remains of the trawler Epine, that sank in 1948 are washed ashore, reminding us of the fierce power of the North Atlantik ocean. Only an half hour walk along the cliffs lies the former fishing place Dritvík cove.
Take a walk from Malaríf lighthouse to the bird cliffs of Lóndrangar, or visit the lava cave “Vatnshellir” that offers guided tours daily. The stunning rock formations of Hellnar cove and the Cliffs at Arnarstapi fishing hamlet offer great views in any weather.
Day 14: The South of Snæfellsnes Peninsula & Reykjavík
At the sandbeaches at Búðir and Ytri-Tunga, seals can be spotted while resting on the rocky coast. The basalt columns in Gerðuberg, or a an hour hike to the crater Eldborg, the “fire castle”, rounding up the visit to the peninsula.
More about the icelandic Settlement and the famous Egill´s Saga can be found at the The Settlement Center in Borgarnes village, before driving through the Hvalfjörður tunnel and onwards to Reykjavík.
Explore the most northernly located capital in the world, and stroll around the city centre with the parliament buidling, city hall, office of the prime minister, Harpa concert hall and the revived area of the old harbour with its restaurants, small shops and the maritime museum.
The glass dome of Perlan (the Pearl), situated up on the hill Öskjuhlíð near the city centre, provides a magnificent panoramic view of the city. The newly opened Glacier Museum with its real glacier ice tunnel and informative exhibition, illustrates the glaciers of Iceland, their history and future, and gives visitors the amazing opportunity to experience them.
Day 15: Departure
The time of departure determines your plan for the day. If you leave in the late afternoon or the evening you will have time to further explore Reykjavík and stop by at the Blue Lagoon on your way to the airport.
If your flight leaves in the early morning you‘ll have to leave Reykjavík early for the airport, where you return your rental car before departure.