8 Day Self-Drive Road Trip around Iceland
Planning a trip to Iceland can be overwhelming because there are so many sights and attractions that you don’t want to miss! Whether you are planning to drive yourself or joining a 8 day guided summer tour, here is the perfect itinerary consisting of the key attractions that you don’t want to miss!
HERE! You can find some great deals on rental cars for your self drive trip!
Welcome to Iceland! Your dream trip starts here!
Start your holiday by driving the famous Golden Circle. Make a stop at Þingvellir, National Park, a site that has a special place in Icelandic hearts. The park is located between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates and is listed on UNESCO‘s World Heritage List for its geological uniqueness and historical significance. Use the opportunity while at Þingvellir and join the Snorkeling in Silfra fissure between the tectonic plates, it is arguably Iceland’s most unique activity available.
Next up is the Great Geysir, one of the most famous hot springs in the world. Even though Geysir is not active there are multiple hot springs in the area like the magnificent Strokkur, the main active geyser. Strokkur spouts to a height of about 25 meters (82 ft) and erupts every 5-7 minutes.
Only 10 minutes further east is the powerful Gullfoss (The Golden Waterfall), one of Iceland’s best known waterfalls. There you can walk very close beside the waterfall and see the river Hvitá tumble 32 meters down in a double cascade. This sight is even more beautiful when the sun is shining and forms a rainbow above the flowing water.
If you are staying in the city and do not plan on renting a car you can book an amazing Golden circle day tour here! And if up for some added adventure you can add snorkeling to the Golden circle day tour by booking this tour here!
South Coast to Skaftafell
Prepare for a full day of breathtaking nature and landscapes! Visit the beautiful Seljalandsfoss waterfall, the one that can be fully encircled! Walk behind it but bring a rain poncho or be prepared to get your clothes wet due to the mist of the falls! Walk a little further along the cliff base to Gljúfrabúi waterfall which is hidden inside a gorge. Balance on some rocks and stones sticking out from the river bed to enter the canyon and get on top of the biggest rock there for the perfect picture!
Drive to your next stop, look to your left and see the magnificent Skógafoss waterfall! This is one of Iceland’s biggest and most elegant waterfalls with a drop of 62 meters and a width of 25 meters! There are around 530 steps that lead up to an observational platform above the waterfall, walk up to the top if you are up for it and experience standing beside it and feeling tiny compared to this natural wonder!
Get up close and personal with the glaciers by joining a unique glacier hike or a hike and ice climb on Sólheimajökull or checking out the amazing ice cave in Katla from Vík, a true wonder of nature!
Next stop is the famous DC-3 airplane wreckage at Sólheimasandur. This was a US Navy aircraft that ran out of fuel and crashed on this black volcanic sand in 1973 – now it’s one of the most photographed attractions in Iceland. The hike to the airplane from the parking lot is around 4 km and takes approximately 40 minutes to 1 hour to walk each way!
Further along road nr.1 is Dyrhólaey viewing point and Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach! Dyrhólaey is a 120m promenade famed for its stunning views of Iceland’s south coast, varied birdlife and the massive natural arch. This is a great location to see Puffins in the summertime.
Reynisfjara the volcanic black beach is famous for its impressive basalt columns, caves, black lava sand and high surf of the North Atlantic ocean. Be careful not to go near the powerful waves, they can be very sneaky and dangerous!
For the final stop of the day explore the beautiful Skaftafell, wilderness area in Vatnajökull National Park. There you can find multiple hiking trails, impressive glaciers and stunning waterfalls like Svartifoss – where the dramatic basalt columns surround the flowing water. We highly recommend exploring the glaciers, Skaftafellsjökull and Svínafellsjökull and you can choose to do a glacier hike in Skaftafell as well as an ice climb and you can find those options HERE!
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon to Seyðisfjörður
Wake up early to watch the sunrise at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, the best known glacier lagoon in Iceland as well as the deepest lake in the country! Witness the calving icebergs from Breidamerkurjökull glacier tongue create a spectacular sight all year, especially during the golden hour. Just across the road is the Diamond Beach, a black sand beach where icebergs from the Glacier Lagoon strand on their way to the Atlantic ocean and make the most breathtaking sight.
Visit Vestrahorn mountain (sometimes called “the Batman mountain because of its shape) and Stokksnes peninsula on your way east. This location offers some great photography opportunities as the reflection of this unique mountain in the volcanic sand creates a beautiful image. In the area is an interesting abandoned viking village which was built in 2010 for a film that was never shot. Note that there is a small entrance fee to visit Stokksnes and the viking village.
Drive the beautiful fjords of the East to the picturesquare village of Seyðisfjörður. The road leads you through a dramatic fjord landscape and its tiny fishing villages. In the area is the stunning Hengifoss waterfall, Hallormstaðaskógur – the biggest forest in Iceland and if you are lucky you might see reindeer! Stay for a while at Seyðisfjörður, walk along the sea, rent a kayak and visit the colorful blue church!
Your first stop today is the most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss in Northeast Iceland. This waterfall is extremely large and is known for its power! On your way up there you might spot Iceland’s tallest mountain, Herðubreið.
Spend your day exploring the beauty and uniqueness of Mývatn area. Mývatn is a shallow volcanic lake situated near active volcanoes and is famous for its rich fauna of waterbirds and extraordinary lava formations. In the area you can find Skútustaðagígar a row of beautiful pseudo craters, Hverir geothermal area, Dimmuborgir lava field, Krafla caldera and Hverfjall explosion crater. This is definitely an area you have to spend a great amount of time exploring!
After a busy day relax in Mývatn Nature baths which are a set of geothermally heated pools and steam baths, similar to the Blue lagoon.
Nearby is Húsavík, a town known for being one of the first one to offer whale watching tours and has a lovely harbour accompanied with great variety of restaurants and museums. We recommend booking a whale watching tour there!
Akureyri to Hvammstangi
Explore the wonders of the North today! Start the day by driving west to Goðafoss, the waterfall of the Gods. It is sometimes referred to as “the beauty” in comparison to “the beast” of Dettifoss. The waterfall is worth visiting not only from its beauty but also has its own famous religious history.
On your way west is the charming town Akureyri, sometimes called “the capital of the North” as it is the biggest town in the region. The main attractions are the Botanical garden (especially during the summer months) filled with rare arctic species of trees and flowers, the swimming pool, museums and the Christmas Garden!
At Vatnsnes peninsula is a 15 m high monolith called Hvítserkur. The name refers to the color of the rock but “Hvít” means “White” in Icelandic, the color stems from bird droppings that cover the rock. Some say the rock looks like an animal drinking the water! This area is one of the best ones in the country to spot seals and at Hvammstangi, a town nearby, there is an interesting seal center where you can get more information about those beautiful animals.
Head to Borgarfjörður, a fjord full of Icelandic saga, some more waterfalls and craters!
The main attractions of Borgarfjörður are Deildartunguhver, Hraunfossar, Barnafoss and Reykholt. Deildatunguhver is Europe’s most powerful hot spring and the water from it is used to heat up the towns in the area around as well as a geothermal baths and spa nearby called “Krauma”.
Hraunfossar are 1 km wide, spilling out from under the lava into Hvítá River. Nearby is the enchanting Barnafoss, a set of rapids squeezing through a narrow channel. Try closing your eyes when visiting this waterfall because the sound of the powerful water rushing through the canyon is unbelievable.
Reykholt is one of Iceland’s historical sites, most notable for being the home of Iceland’s best-known author Snorri Sturluson (poet, writer and politician) during the years 1206-1241. There you can find an ancient geothermally-heated pool, Snorralaug, which is named after him.
Snæfellsness Peninsula (the peninsula of the Snowy Mountain) is one of the oldest parts of Iceland, this area offers incredibly diverse landscapes, from dramatic mossy lava fields to snowy mountains and cute fishing villages. There you’ll find some of Iceland’s most beautiful attractions like Snæfellsjökull glacier, Kirkjufell mountain, Arnarstapi & Búðakirkja black church. Snæfellsjökull can actually be seen from Reykjavík but this glacier is also an active volcano as well as the centre of the westernmost volcanic system. In the area there are many small fishing villages like Stykkishólmur & Grundarfjörður.
At Grundarfjörður you’ll find one of the most photographed mountains in Iceland, Kirkjufell, that is famous for appearing in the TV-series Game of Thrones. Further on is a beach called Djúpárlónssandur, a pebbled beach where bizarre rock formations lead down to the sea along the dramatic cliff coast. Drive along the coast and reach Snæfellsness
National Park where you can hike along towards the Snæfellsness Glacier, visit the volcanic crater Saxhóll and Lóndrangar basalt cliffs.
Onwards is the oldest fishing village and once the biggest one in Iceland, Hellnar. Next to Hellnar is Arnarstapi, Walk along the coastline and enjoy the varied bird life and some really beautiful lava formations like Gatklettur as well as the arch you can walk over. Drive 20 minutes further and reach the famous Black wooden Church, Búðakirkja, standing in a lava field in the middle of a stunning landscape!
Day 8 - If you have time
The main sights of Reykjavik include the old port, the central lake (Tjörnin), City Hall with its huge relief map of Iceland (weekdays only), Hallgrímskirkja Church (pay locally to visit the top of the observation tower) or Harpa
Concert Hall, Icelandic pride and joy. You can enjoy relaxing in a public swimming pool after a long trip, visit some Museums, walk along Reykjavík’s scenic waterfront and check out the Sun Voyager sculpture or Go Partying!
Ready to start your road trip around Iceland yet? Be sure to add these locations to your list for the perfect holiday in Iceland. If you want more information about traveling to Iceland please check out these Top 7 Do´s and don’ts of Traveling in Iceland as well and contact our team if you have any questions