Relaxed Pace 10 Day Summer Self-Drive Ring Road Adventure in Iceland with Waterfalls
Embark on a breathtaking adventure around the Ring Road of Iceland with this 10-day summer self-drive. If you wish to expose yourself to some of the world's most remarkable landscapes at your leisure, without having to worry about the hassles of organizing a trip, there are few better choices than this tour. This is the perfect tour for those wanting to make the most of each location around Iceland's Ring Road under the long daylight hours of the midnight sun.
Regions you will get to explore in-depth include the magnificent Snaefellsnes Peninsula, the geothermal wonderland of the North, and the untouched East Fjords. Ten days will provide you with plenty of time to marvel over incredible attractions. With the itinerary, you'll also have the opportunity to seek out remote hidden gems.
Other than on the days of your arrival and before departure, you'll spend every night in countryside hotels surrounded by unbelievable landscapes. As you leisurely travel from one to another, you'll also have many chances to get a new perspective of the country's diverse wilderness by booking from a range of tours.
Horseback riding, glacier hiking, and snowmobiling are all classic options, whereas experiences such as the beer bath at Dalvik and a Reykjavik helicopter ride are more unique. A self-drive adventure allows you to travel at your own pace. This is particularly the case on a journey as slow-paced as this one, where you do not have to cover a considerable amount of the country in a single day.
As such, you can tailor your adventure to the needs and desires of your group. Animal lovers can focus on seeking out the country's puffins, reindeer, seals, and whales. Those passionate about culture could locate villages and monuments steeped in folklore, and those eager for relaxation could travel from geothermal pool to geothermal pool.
Due to the clockwise direction of this self-drive, you'll be moving against the flow of most travelers, allowing you to explore many sites at opportune times.
A final draw of this tour is that it is in the summer. Between May to mid-August, the sky never falls dark because of the Midnight Sun phenomenon, allowing your sightseeing adventure to go on well into the night or to start in the early hours of the morning.
Don't miss this adventure of a lifetime traveling clockwise around the Ring Road of Iceland in summer. Check availability by choosing a date.
Day 1 - Arrival to Iceland
The first day of your adventure around Iceland's Ring Road begins when you land at Keflavik International Airport. After you clear customs, you'll find your rental car waiting.
To reach Reykjavik from the airport, you'll drive across the haunting lava landscapes of the Reykjanes Peninsula, which provide a fascinating glimpse into the country's wilderness. If you arrive in good time, you could spend a few hours seeking out the dramatic attractions of this region, which include hot springs, volcanoes, and spectacular coastal formations.
Another way to spend the day is to visit the most famous site of the peninsula, the Blue Lagoon. This luxurious spa is renowned for the healing properties of its milky blue waters, as well as its geothermally heated steam rooms and saunas. There are also a wealth of restorative therapies available.
Note that the Blue Lagoon cannot be entered without an advance ticket, so be sure to add it on while booking. If your flight arrival time does not allow us to arrange it on your arrival day, your travel agent will fit it on another day of your vacation.
You can also head straight to Reykjavik and relax on your first night. After all, you'll spend the next eight days immersed in the wilderness, so why not experience the quirky culture of the world's northernmost capital before retiring?
Day 2 - The Snaefellsnes Peninsula
On the second day of your summer holiday around the Ring Road of Iceland, you will set out to explore the wonders of the west.
Today you will focus on a region so diverse and beautiful it's been nicknamed 'Iceland in Miniature', the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Along both its shores are countless attractions, promising something appealing to travelers of all walks of life.
Animal lovers will enjoy the seals at Ytri-Tunga and the bird colonies at the basalt fortress of Londrangar. Meanwhile, those interested in history can locate abandoned villages and hamlets, communities steeped in folklore, and the 'lifting stones' at Djupallonssandur beach, a central part of the local fishing tradition for centuries.
If the volcanic forces that shaped Iceland's nature fascinate you, you'll find bizarrely formed hexagonal columns of lava at Gerduberg and a stunning nearby crater named Eldborg. Even if your main interest is watching television, you'll be impressed by the dramatic mountain of Kirkjufell, which is featured in Game of Thrones.
The greatest appeal of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, however, is on its very tip. The twin-peaked, subglacial volcano of Snaefellsjokull is a magnificent monument that towers over its surroundings, so beautiful it has inspired countless works of art and literature. Now protected in a National Park of its own name, it is breathtaking to behold.
Near the glacier is a hidden lava cave named Vatnshellir, an exploration of which can be organized while booking. Caving promises to provide you with a great sense of adventure while introducing you to a surprisingly vibrant subterranean world.
If you'd rather stay above ground, you can opt for the Viking Sushi tour, a boat excursion that leaves from the village of Stykkisholmur. The waters north of Snaefellsnes boast countless islands, an incredible perspective on the mountains of the Westfjords, and bountiful wildlife.
After a day marveling over the wonders of Snaefellsnes, you'll retire in a hotel on the peninsula.
Day 3 - Traveling North
On day three of your Ring Road self-drive holiday around Iceland, you will make your way to the country's north. If you wish to visit more sites or revisit some places on the Snaefellsnes peninsula, you have the freedom to do so in the morning.
En route to the 'Capital of the North', Akureyri, it is recommended to take a slight detour to the Vatnsnes Peninsula. This area has two major attractions: its seal colonies and the Hvitserkur monolith.
The former can be found in many places around the coast, and you can learn about them in detail at the Icelandic Seal Centre in the village of Hvammstangi. The latter, meanwhile, is striking for its unique formation, appearing to most as a stone elephant drinking from the ocean.
Those interested in Iceland's history and fishing culture can find many fascinating settlements on other northern peninsulas, particularly of note: Siglufjordur, Olafsfjordur, and Dalvik. If you elect to do so while booking, you can organize a trip to the Beer Baths in Dalvik, a unique spa experience where you can relax in a tub of young beer.
Akureyri itself has a wide-reaching appeal to all travelers and warrants at least a little exploration. Its architecture is beautiful. It has upmarket boutiques and restaurants. The museums and galleries are intriguing, and it boasts the world's northernmost botanical gardens.
Furthermore, its views over the ocean and surrounding mountains are breathtaking.
From Akureyri, it is possible to organize an alternative tour, in which you will set out from the harbor in search of the gentle giants of the deep. North Iceland is one of the world's most reliable whale-watching locations. Many humpbacks frequent the water in summer, and rare species such as Blue and Fin Whales are spotted rather regularly.
You'll retire for the night in Akureyri.
Day 4 - North Iceland and Myvatn
On day four of your Icelandic summer holiday, you'll be free to explore the incredible landscapes of north Iceland. Whether you seek dramatic wilderness, geothermal wonder, abundant wildlife, or serene relaxation, you'll find something for you in this incredible region.
One of the area's highlights is the fishing village of Husavik to the northeast of Akureyri, one of the country's oldest settlements. It has been colloquially dubbed the whale-watching capital of Europe due to the incredible wealth of life in its bountiful waters, and you are welcome to add a tour to experience this up close.
Those who seek comfort and commodities on their whale watch have the option of a traditional tour in a larger boat. In contrast, the daring who want to get as close to these amazing animals as possible can book a RIB excursion instead.
If you'd rather spend your time at Husavik unwinding, you can book a dip into the GeoSea baths. These pools are unique in Iceland because they are filled with saltwater. The water has therapeutic properties and is geothermally heated, and is just as rejuvenating to bathe in.
Despite Husavik's appeal, much of your day in North Iceland should be spent in the Lake Myvatn region.
This spectacular area boasts vast bodies of serene water that are bursting with birdlife and surrounded by stunning flora, as well as some fascinating geological marvels. These include rows of strange pseudocraters and the lava fortress of Dimmuborgir.
Around Myvatn, you can also find some stark geothermal areas that contrast dramatically with the serenity of the lakes. Namaskard is most notable, with dozens of hissing steam vents billowing poisonous gases across a barren mountain pass.
To enjoy the geothermal forces of north Iceland's nature in a more serene way, you can organize admission into the Myvatn Nature Baths when booking. This more traditional Icelandic spa has a wealth of amenities and spectacular surrounding landscapes.
You'll retire for the night in the Lake Myvatn area.
Day 5 - Travelling East
On day five of your summer vacation in Iceland, you will set out from the north to reach the capital of the east, Egilsstadir. This route goes through the northern reaches of the vast Vatnajokull National Park, which boasts some of the country's most otherworldly landscapes and dramatic features.
Most notable amongst these is the most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss. It thunders with incredible force into a barren canyon of black lava rock, providing an ominous yet unforgettable atmosphere. Just up and downriver from Dettifoss are two equally impressive waterfalls, Selfoss and Hafragilsfoss.
Near to these sites is another wonder of northeast Iceland, Asbyrgi canyon. Shaped like an enormous horseshoe, early Icelanders could only believe something so beautiful was divinely created, thinking it was the hoofprint of Odin's steed. With sheer-sided cliffs and abundant forest within, hours can be spent hiking around this site.
Once you reach Egilsstadir, you'll be on the cusp of the East Fjords. You are welcome to detour to the coastline for some incredible mountain and sea views, with the spectacular Borgarfjordur Eystri most highly recommended.
Of course, you can also enjoy the town, the region's most important cultural and economic hub, and its surrounding sites, such as the mysterious lake Lagarfjlot and the vast forest of Hallormstadasskogar.
Those seeking a hot spring experience can find a luxurious option near Egilsstadir at the Vok Baths. Level with a beautiful lake, these pools are the epitome of serenity, and the site also boasts saunas and a restaurant.
Those who wish to immerse themselves in the Highlands of Iceland can also do so today, although it should be noted that this will push all other destinations you plan to visit into the evening and night.
Instead of driving away from Myvatn first thing in the morning, you'll be picked up in a super jeep and whisked into the country's interior. The landscapes here appear to be from another planet, and you'll be able to explore them at length as you stop to hike.
The highlights of this tour are, without a doubt, the vast crater lakes you will witness, Askja and Viti, one of which you can swim in.
You'll retire for the night in Egilsstadir.
Day 6 - The East Fjords
Other than the Highlands and Westfjords, the East Fjords of Iceland are its most remote and untouched region. On day six of your summer holiday, you'll be able to explore them in-depth.
Every site you visit today will be a hidden gem very few visitors to Iceland ever get to see. Vast fjords, towering mountains, far-flung villages, blossoming nature reserves, and sites steeped with fascinating folklore can all be easily sought out.
Another great appeal of the East Fjords is its abundant wildlife. Seals can be found playing in the waters and hauling out on the shores; puffins and other seabirds nest in their thousands in the cliffs; and wild reindeer can be found roaming in their herds.
If you are seeking culture, many of the settlements exist almost as they have for centuries. Seydisfjordur and Breidalsvik are particularly notable for their charm and surroundings, whereas Djupivogur is renowned for its public artworks and 'Cittaslow' way of living.
Towards the end of your journey, it is recommended you seek out two of the most unique and photogenic mountains in Iceland, Eystrahorn, and Vestrahorn. The former is found in the southern reaches of the East Fjords, whereas the latter crowns a peninsula jutting away from the town of Hofn.
After a day of unveiling beautiful site after a beautiful site, you'll retire for the night in South East Iceland.
Day 7 - South East Iceland
On the seventh day of your ten-day vacation to Iceland, you will explore the unbelievable sites of southeast Iceland, found in the southern reaches of Vatnajokull National Park. Though you'll spend less time on the road than you have on most previous days, you'll be very grateful for the extra time you can spend at each site.
The first major attraction is the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. Located between a crumbling glacial outlet and the ocean, this enormous lake is filled throughout the year with countless icebergs, some larger than multi-story buildings.
Watching them float slowly across the lagoon is a mesmerizing and unforgettable experience, and you can maximize the opportunity by taking a boat trip amongst them. Tours on both an amphibious vessel and RIB are options you can choose depending on the desires of your group.
When the icebergs of Jokulsarlon finally reach the ocean, they wash up on the adjacent black sand coast. Nicknamed the Diamond Beach for how they glisten as they melt, this area should not be overlooked by those seeking to admire Iceland's beautiful contrasts.
While both these sites are stunning in their own right, they are made even more spectacular by the hundreds of seals that frequent their waters.
After making the most of this area, you'll head to Skaftafell Nature Reserve. A paradise for those who enjoy hiking and photography, there are plentiful trails of different difficulties promising to expose you to a diverse range of sites.
The most popular trek will take you to the bizarrely formed Svartifoss waterfall, which tumbles from a cliff of hexagonal basalt columns. Others will introduce you to dramatic lava landscapes, rushing rivers, glacier tongues, and more glacier lagoons.
At one of these tongues, you can opt for a glacier hiking tour in which you will scale the outlet of Svinafellsjokull. This excursion will introduce you to spectacular ice formations, such as crevasses, ice walls, and perhaps even caves, and expose you to some of the most beautiful views this country has to offer.
Unlike other days, you can book both the tours available today rather than just one, as the boat trip will be conducted in the morning and the glacier hike in the afternoon.
After you make the most of the incredible sites of Southeast Iceland, you'll head to the village of Vik to retire, in the perfect position for your South Coast adventure tomorrow.
Day 8 - The South Coast
On day eight of your summer holiday to Iceland, you'll set out along the spectacular South Coast.
At Vik, you can immediately immerse yourself into some otherworldly landscapes. You can expect glacier views, deserts of volcanic ash, lava fields, and a wonderful perspective over the ocean. You can also enjoy a unique ice caving tour, which will take you into the glacier that conceals the volcano of Katla. Ice caving is an excursion that can be found in few other places on earth, making this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that should not be missed.
Besides being a charming settlement and a base for tours such as this, Vik is best known for being adjacent to the stunning black sand beach of Reynisfjara. This stretch has incredible coastal geology, most notably being home to the giant sea stacks of Reynisdrangar, said to be trolls petrified by sunlight.
Close to Reynisfjara is another magnificent coastal attraction: the Dyrholaey Rock Arch. This phenomenon is so large that boats can comfortably sail through it, and daring pilots have even 'threaded the needle' in small planes.
In summer, Dyrholaey is at its best, as it is one of the premier locations in Iceland to get close to thousands of nesting puffins.
Travel a little further along the South Coast, and you'll begin to get glimpses of the glacier of Myrdalsjokull. If you wish to hike onto one of the tongues of this outlet, you can organize an adventure up the gleaming slopes of Solheimajokull for some breathtaking views.
If you have already been glacier hiking or it does not appeal, you can instead head to the volcanic desert of Solheimassandur. This will take you to the famous wreckage of a DC-3 plane, which lays alone in a waste of black sands.
No one was injured in its crash, meaning your exploration of this metal skeleton will be fascinating rather than morbid.
The final three major attractions of the South Coast are all equally beautiful waterfalls. Skogafoss is the most powerful and is steeped in folklore regarding a giant's buried treasure. Seljalandsfoss, meanwhile, is the only one that can be fully encircled due to an unusual cavern behind it. Gljufrabui is unique in that it is hidden just out of sight, pouring into a beautiful, fairytale-like grotto.
After enjoying the diverse and spectacular attractions of Iceland's South Coast, you'll retire around the countryside village of Selfoss.
Day 9 - The Golden Circle
On the penultimate day of your Iceland summer vacation, you'll leave the Ring Road to explore the magical sites of the Golden Circle. These three attractions are Iceland's most famous and provide a fantastic way to say farewell to the country's nature.
The first of these is the Gullfoss waterfall. Fed by a milky-white glacier river pouring from the ice cap of Langjokull (which is in sight), this feature boasts both daunting power and serene beauty. In summer, a pathway allows you to approach it close enough to feel the spray.
From the car park of Gullfoss, you can elect to take an excursion up the slopes of Langjokull on a snowmobile. This thrilling adventure will provide you with unmatched views of the Highlands while getting your adrenaline pumping as you race across the snow.
The second site of the Golden Circle is the Geysir Geothermal Area. Home to the exploding hot spring of Strokkur, guests can marvel at the height and power of each eruption multiple times in one visit. It goes off every five to ten minutes.
Surrounding Strokkur are many other beautiful hot springs, including the currently dormant Great Geysir itself.
The final major attraction you will come to today is Thingvellir National Park. Framed by the cliff edges of two tectonic plates, this incredible reserve boasts forests, waterways, lava fields, lake views, and many surrounding volcanoes. It also had a central role in modern democratic thought, which you can learn about on-site.
A snorkeling tour can be conducted in the park by donning a drysuit and plunging into the ravine and natural spring of Silfra. This water is so clean that you can drink it, and so clear that the visibility often reaches 328 ft (100 m).
With the sites of the Golden Circle explored, you can head straight to Reykjavik to make the most of the vibrant city before retiring. Southwest Iceland, however, has plenty of overlooked cultural and natural sites of incredible beauty that you can easily detour to.
Day 10 - Departure
On your tenth day in Iceland, you drive to Keflavik International Airport in awe at what you have managed to achieve on your summer holiday. You drop your car off in decent time for your flight, but those with a late departure can still fit plenty into their final hours.
From the domestic airport in Reykjavik, for example, you can embark on a thrilling helicopter ride. Not only will this provide you with a breathtaking view of the city's patchwork quilt of colorful tin roofs and its dramatic landmarks, but it will escort you over the surrounding geothermal areas and even make a short landing on a far-flung mountaintop.
Alternatively, you could book an excursion only available in Iceland and only in one volcano: a descent into a magma chamber. After a short hike, you'll be lowered into an unbelievably vast and colorful subterranean cavern in a mining lift, where you can explore and marvel over Earth's volcanic forces.
If these tours do not appeal, you can spend the day admiring the capital's art, architecture, and culture. Alternatively, you could make the most of your remaining time with a car to explore the surrounding nature.
If you did not have time to visit the Blue Lagoon on your first day, you could rejuvenate in its healing waters before departing.
Have a safe flight home, and we hope to see you soon!
What to bring
Good to know
Self-drive tours begin either in Reykjavík City or at Keflavik International Airport. A valid driver's license is required, along with a one-year-long on-road experience. Please be aware that your itinerary may be rearranged to better fit with your arrival date and time.
Some optional activities might require you to have a valid driver's license, or you might need to send additional information to your travel planner. Please note that you might need to present medical documents should you choose to go snorkeling.
Although it is summertime, the Icelandic weather can be very unpredictable. Please bring appropriate clothing.
See our accommodation levels below and our preferred accommodation partners under each day in the daily itinerary.
Super budget level accommodations will be arranged in hostel dorm beds. For other levels, bookings for one person will be arranged in single rooms, and bookings for two or more people will share a twin/double or triple room(s).
Teenagers and children will be arranged in the same room with parents. If additional room(s) is needed, additional costs will incur.
Guide to Iceland will provide you with the best available accommodation at the time of your booking from our preferred partners. Please keep in mind that hotel quality in Iceland varies among locations and availability is highly limited. If our preferred partners are fully booked at the time of your booking, we will find another suitable accommodation for you of similar level.
Please note that not all locations offer quality level accommodation. Comfort level accommodation will be arranged at those particular locations, which is reflected in the quality level upgrade price.
We always do our best to accommodate special requests, which may incur additional costs. Press choose a date to find availability.
Dormitory beds with shared bathrooms in guesthouses or hostels. Located in the region of the best attractions. Breakfast is not included.
Rooms with shared bathrooms in farmhouses, guesthouses or hostels, with good locations near the best attractions. Breakfast is not included.
Rooms with a private bathroom in three star hotels or quality guesthouses. Very close to the best attractions at each location. Breakfast is included.
Rooms with a private bathroom in a four star hotel or superior rooms in a quality three star hotel at the best locations in Iceland. Breakfast is included.
Below you can see the car rental options available for this self-drive tour.
All our vehicles are new or current models, of maximum 2 years of age. Super Budget levels come with standard CDW insurance, while all other levels also include Gravel Protection (GP) insurance. Please note that off-road driving is illegal for all types of cars.
All levels come equipped with free Wi-fi. You can enjoy unlimited data with the Wi-Fi device, which can be connected to up to 10 devices at once. The car rental will provide 24-hour roadside emergency services.
Age requirement for each level can be found below. For all levels, the driver must possess a valid driving license for at least one year before the date of the rental.
We recommend Budget 4X4 level for summer driving and Comfort 4X4 for winter driving.
A small 2WD vehicle such as Toyota Aygo or similar, fit for basic travelling in everyday conditions. Compact and comfortable for up to 2 travellers with very little luggage. No highland capabilities. The driver must be of 20 years of age or above.
A basic 2WD vehicle, such as a Toyota Yaris or similar, suitable for travelling in everyday conditions. Comfortable for 3 travellers with light luggage. This vehicle does not have highland capabilities. The driver must be of 20 years of age or above.
A basic 4WD (4X4) jeep or SUV such as a Dacia Duster or similar. Comfortably fit up to 3 travellers with 2 large pieces of luggage. Fit for most travel and decent for snow and off-asphalt driving. Has basic highland capabilities. The driver must be of 20 years of age or above.
A medium-sized 4WD (4x4) jeep or SUV such as a Toyota Rav4 (automatic) and Suzuki Vitara (manual), or similar. Comfortably fit up to 4 travelers with 3 large pieces of luggage. Fit for most travel and good for snow and off-asphalt driving. Has basic highland capabilities. The driver must be of 21 years of age or above.
A large 4WD jeep such as a Toyota Land Cruiser or similar. Comfortable for up to 4 travellers with 4 large pieces of luggage. Fit for nearly all travelling. Has full highland capabilities to drive on accessible mountain roads. The driver must be of 21 years of age or above.
A large 9-seater van such as a Mercedes Benz Vito (4WD manual, has highland capabilities and better suited for winter driving), or similar. Comfortable for 5 to 7 travelers. If seated full, luggage space is limited. The driver must be of 23 years of age or above.