10 Day Summer Self Drive Tour of the Complete Ring Road with a Taste of the Central Highlands
Join this fantastic 10-day summer self-drive and discover the many spectacular attractions along Iceland's Ring Road, such as the Golden Circle, South Coast, Eastfjords, and Myvatn region. Combine the experience with an expedition into the gorgeous hills, mountains, and ice caps of the Central Highlands.
This tour is perfect for travelers looking to maintain autonomy in their travels but who would also like to avoid the hassle of organizing their holiday itinerary alone. With this self-drive tour, you will have 24/7 contact with a personal travel agent, who can customize your route to include attractions and hidden gems that you want to see, really making the holiday your own.
You will travel through some of the most beautiful regions in Iceland. You will pass by cascading waterfalls, glittering glacial lagoons, the rugged canyons of the South Coast, charming coastal villages, the luscious meadows and towering mountains of the Eastfjords, the dried lava fields, and active geothermal areas of the Myvatn region.
This itinerary also allocates some time to Iceland's exciting capital, Reykjavik. The city is the country's hub for culture and commerce. There you'll have plenty of options for exploration. You could visit one of the many museums or walk around downtown and do some shopping.
You'll spend a day in the silence, serenity, and natural beauty of the Central Highlands, where you can choose to visit the Thorsmork valley, which is hidden between three glaciers, or the windswept and colorful mountains of the Landmannalaugar region. In the far East, you can follow a local guide to reach the far corners of the Eastfjords. Up north, you can opt to venture into the truly bizarre landscape of the Askja volcanic region, stepping on the training grounds of Neil Armstrong in preparation for the Moon landing mission.
As you book, you can add activities to make your journey even more exciting. While traveling the Golden Circle, you can snorkel between continents or snowmobile on a glacier. You can go on a glacier hike or visit an authentic Ice Cave on the South Coast. You can also descend into an empty magma chamber of a volcano and sail among the icebergs at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.
In Husavik, the 'Whale Capital of Europe', you can hop on a boat that boasts a 99% success rate in spotting the gentle giants of the North Atlantic ocean. Many hot springs and geothermal baths are available along the route to make your road trip a more relaxing experience.
Before setting out, you will have an organized itinerary arranged for you and accommodation and vehicles rentals all finalized. All you have to do is come along for the ride. By setting your own pace, you can appreciate Iceland as it should be - personal, intimate, and entirely yours.
So don't hesitate any longer! Hurry now, and you too will be able to experience the many natural and cultural highlights to be found in Iceland. Check availability by choosing a date.
Day 1 - Arrival Day
Welcome to Iceland! Today, you will be landing at Keflavik International Airport, found on the volcanic peninsula, Reykjanes. After landing, you will make your way to the rental car depot and pick up your vehicle for the next ten days.
Once in the car, drive to Iceland's capital city and cultural hub, Reykjavik, located in southwest Iceland. Throughout your journey, you will be passing the haunting, dried magma fields of Reykjanes, complemented on one side by the rolling blue waves of the Atlantic, on the other, distant mountainscapes.
Once you arrive at your accommodation in the city, you are free to spend the remaining of the day as you wish. There are countless galleries, museums, cultural exhibitions, and inner-city parks to occupy your time with, as well as quaint coffee houses and gorgeous hiking trails in the surrounding countryside.
If your flight arrives in the late afternoon or evening, why not sample some of the gourmet restaurants and discover Iceland's exciting nightlife?
Spend your first night in Iceland in the capital.
Day 2 - The Golden Circle and Kaldidalur Valley
You will spend the second day in the country discovering the three major attractions along the famed Golden Circle sightseeing route. Starting a short drive away from the capital is the first attraction, Thingvellir National Park, a beautiful location and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In this stunning nature reserve, visitors can see firsthand the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates standing exposed from the earth, as well as glacial springs such as the crystal clear Silfra Fissure. As an added extra, you can choose to partake in a drysuit snorkeling tour here to discover the glorious blue canyons that rest just beneath the surface.
The second stop of the Golden Circle tour is Haukadalur geothermal valley, an area of steaming fumaroles, bubbling mud cauldrons, and the two geysers, Geysir and Strokkur. While Geysir now sits largely dormant, Strokkur erupts every five minutes or so, making for fantastic, dramatic photographs.
The third stop of the day is the "Queen of Icelandic Waterfalls", Gullfoss. This incredible feature drops 105 ft (32 m) over two rocky steps into the dark canyon below. From certain angles, it appears as though the water is dropping off the very face of the earth!
Ambitious travelers will want to get an early start on this day to have plenty of time to explore Kaldidalur valley. The road through Kaldidalur valley, Kaldidalsvegur, is one of the shortest tracks through the Icelandic highlands, which makes it a nice warmup for the deep dive into the highlands you'll do on the following day. Despite being short, the road goes higher above sea level than most other roads through the highlands, making it a nice first taste of the gorgeous Highlands.
From the car park at Gullfoss, it is also possible to add on a snowmobiling trip on Iceland's second-largest glacier, Langjokull. Whizzing across the white, wide, open ice cap, you will be privy to some fantastic views of the surrounding area, as well as experience a jolt of adrenaline like never before.
When the day's activities are over, you will drive to the Selfoss area, where you will be spending the night.
Day 3 - The Central Highlands
On your third day, you will have three excellent options to choose from for your day of highland exploration. The Central Highlights of Iceland are only accessible in the summer months, making these expeditions all the more special.
The first option, driving to Landmannalaugar, is only available to those who have chosen to rent a 4x4 vehicle for their journey and are experienced, outdoor drivers. Please note that the route does involve some river crossings, so it's important that you are a competent driver.
The second option is to take a Super Jeep tour into Landmannalaugar ("The Pools of the People") for a short hike. You will see firsthand the colorful rhyolite hillsides of Landmannalaugar, the blue, purple, and green shades glistening from their slopes, as well as the spiraling hiking trails and lush vegetation. You'll still be able to explore the magnificent highlands on foot by yourself, but the pressure of driving will be taken out of the equation.
The third option is a super jeep tour to the hiker's paradise of Thorsmork. It is one of Iceland's most beautiful valleys, nestled between three surrounding glaciers. There, you will travel past stunning rivers and magnificent waterfalls through dramatic canyons and areas of verdant vegetation while the glaciers watch over you. You'll meet your tour guide in the Hella and Hvolsvollur region.
After your day of highland adventure, you will travel back to your overnight accommodation around Selfoss.
Day 4 - The South Coast
The fourth day of your holiday will be spent sightseeing along the picturesque South Coast of Iceland. The South Coast is considered one of the most beautiful regions in the country, an area of rugged coastlines, glistening waterfalls, and green farmlands.
Your first stops of the day will be at the waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. Both waterfalls are 197 ft (60 m) high but differ in width, with the former being far narrower. Seljalandsfoss offers guests the rare chance to walk behind the cascading water, making for great photographs!
Next up will be the black sand beach of Reynisfjara, known for its thundering waves, hexagonal basalt columns, volcanic pebbles, and dramatic sea stacks. You will also explore the nearby town of Vik i Myrdal, a great spot to grab a bite to eat or even do a little souvenir shopping.
Close to Vik village is Dyrholaey peninsula, a remarkable feature of the South Coast landscape. The rock which protrudes into the sea has an arch-shaped hole in it. Legend has it that adventurous pilots have attempted to fly through the hole.
There are many upgrades you can choose from for your fourth day. For starters, you can choose to take a hike up the glittering ice cap, Solheimajokull, an activity that will present stunning views of the South Coast, as well as an up-close perspective on the glacier's intricate ice sculptures, deep crevasses, and sloping moulins. It is also possible to have fun at the glacier by taking a snowmobile trip.
Staying in the same realm, it is also possible to book an ice cave tour in Katla, a dramatic volcano covered by a massive glacier, proving why this country is called "The Land of Ice and Fire". That evening, you will be staying in accommodation around Vik.
Day 5 - The South Coast II
Your fifth day sees you visiting the stunning Vatnajokull National Park, the second-largest national park in Europe. The default action of the day is sightseeing—and there's plenty of it to do here. As you cross the black sand desert Solheimasandur, the mighty slopes of Vatnajokull ice cap and Skaftafell Nature Reserve will begin to rise on the horizon in front of you.
If you choose to forgo the glacier hike on Day 4, it is possible to add one today at Skaftafell. Skaftafell is a stunning wilderness area within the park, known for its sweeping canyons, roaring waterfalls, and two mighty glaciers, Skaftafellsjokull and Svinafellsjokull.
The highlight of your sightseeing will, undoubtedly, be Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon, often referred to as "The Crown Jewel of Iceland," thanks to its absolute aesthetic beauty. Here, gorgeous blue and white icebergs float peacefully across the lagoon's still surface, groaning as they push against one another.
This place is truly a once-in-a-lifetime type vista with a backdrop of mountains, glaciers, and rolling Atlantic waves. Those who wish to get a closer look at these incredible icebergs can opt for boat tours on either a speedy Zodiac boat or a slower amphibious vessel.
A short walk away from Jokulsarlon, visitors can stumble across Diamond Beach. This aptly named stretch of shoreline sees icebergs from the lagoon washing up on the jet black sand on their way out to the Atlantic Ocean. This area is particularly beloved by nature enthusiasts.
In the evening, you will be staying near the town of Hofn.
Day 6 - The Eastfjords
Today, you will be discovering one of the lesser-visited regions in Iceland, The Eastfjords. In particular, you will spend your sixth day exploring the bottom half of the region, spending the night in the town of Egilsstadir.
Along the coast of the Eastfjords, there are several quaint little fishing villages worth seeing. Stopping in any of the towns along the way will be worth your while. You'll get to see the local culture and maybe get to taste some delicious locally cough fish.
The east is less visited due only to its distance from Iceland's capital. Its attractions are just as beautiful, if not more so than in the rest of the country. This is the only area of the country that boasts herds of wild reindeer, for example. The region is characterized by its haunting landscapes, eclectic hiking trails, and charming coastal villages. The entire area feels quiet and untouched—only 3.2% of the Icelandic population lives here.
From Hofn, you will drive east down a dark, cragged coastline towards Vestrahorn, a particularly dramatic mountainscape. Icelanders often refer to Vestrahorn as "Batman Mountain" or "Iceland's Horniest Mountain" with its sharp peaks and steep slopes.
You will spend a part of the day discovering Lake Lagarfljot, a body of water famed for the supposed serpent, known as the "Lagarfljot Worm," that swims at its depths. Endless hours of amusement can be spent here either looking out for the mythological creature or merely appreciating the incredible scenery around you. Also in this area, guests can find Hallormsstadaskogur National Forest, Iceland's largest wooded area.
A short drive away, you will also have the chance to visit the waterfalls Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss. Hengifoss is known for its lovely hike and dark red rock, whilst the latter (only a short distance away), is a prize example of hexagonal columns surrounding an Icelandic fall.
Near Egilsstadir, you'll find the lovely new hot water spring baths, Vok. You can add your admission to these lovely hot pools during the booking process. It's well worth the trip to soak in a hot tub that protrudes into the beautiful Lake Urridavatn.
Day 7 - East Fjords in depth / Myvatn
Your second day in the East Fjords will see you traveling around some more of the region's many attractions. To begin the day, you can better appreciate Egilsstadir, the cultural hub of the east.
From Egilsstadir, it is only a short drive to Skriduklaustur Monastery. A historical farmstead once lived in by the famous Icelandic author Gunnar Gunnarsson. Today, Skriduklaustur serves as a museum dedicated to the author and an information center for Vatnajokull National Park.
Your seventh day will also see you gain a deeper insight into Iceland's fascinating history and culture. You will visit Saenautasel, an old turf house found in the nearby countryside. The caretakers of Saenautasel provide information on the daily lives of those who once called these historical buildings.
Attractions around Lake Myvatn are numerous and make for a fantastic day of sightseeing. You could visit the dark fortress, Dimmuborgir, an area of gnarled volcanic rocks that resembles some haunted and fantastical castle.
You can also visit Namaskard Pass, a red, martian-like landscape comprised of bubbling mud cauldrons, steaming fumaroles, and other indicators of geothermal activity.
On this day, you have the option to make an extended visit to the "Giant Boulders," Storurd, in the valley Urdardalur. This spot is one of the most beloved features in the east and is a favorite amongst the region's hikers. If you choose this hike, you can expect to spend around 9 hours walking in beautiful surroundings. This area sees enormous rocks sitting half-submerged in a glistening lake, making for a truly picturesque scene. The whole area is overlooked by the towering Dyrfjoll Mountains.
You could also choose to add an entry to the Myvatn Nature Baths to this day. Making a stop to relax at the Nature Baths before heading to your accommodation for the night will ensure a good night's sleep.
You'll spend the night in the Myvatn region.
Day 8 - Diamond Circle / Highlands
Today you'll be able to explore the gorgeous attractions of the so-called Diamond Circle. Comprised of four incredible stops, each as worth seeing as the next, the Diamond Circle is the pride of north Iceland.
The beautiful Myvatn lake will be close to where you begin your day, and it's an unmissable part of any trip north. Dettifoss waterfall is Europe's most powerful waterfall. Asbyrgi canyon is a horseshoe-shaped indent in the landscape, providing one of the country's most breathtaking views. The town of Husavik is an interesting stop and is essential for those hoping to spot whales.
There are some exciting extras available on this day. For those who like hiking, the highland tour to Askja is a great choice. However, this will take up nearly all of your day. For those who like the ocean and animals, Husavik is the more apt choice. In Husavik, you can choose between an exciting and a more traditional whale watching tour, or you can have a relaxing soak in the Geosea baths.
You'll spend the night in the town of Akureyri.
Day 9 - Akureyri to Reykjavik
Today will be spent driving from Iceland's capital of the north, Akureyri, to the actual capital, Reykjavik. Even though you will spend a lot of time in the car, there will be plenty of beautiful sights to see. For example, you could start your day with a stop in Varmahlid, a small town near Akureyri, for a morning swim in their lovely little pool.
We highly recommend you stop at Hvitserkur sea stack. The gorgeous rock formation, which some say looks like a dragon taking a sip of water from the sea, is 49 ft (15 m) high and made of basalt. Along with the sea stack, you'll see one of the country's most beautiful shorelines.
When you arrive back in Reykjavik, you will have the rest of your day to enjoy as you see fit. Today might be a great opportunity to further explore the city's art museums and galleries, inner-city parks, and other cultural attractions. Perhaps you could check out the local coffee culture, pay a visit to Harpa Concert Hall or experience the city's vibrant flea markets?
There are some fun activities you can add to this day to make it that much more special. You can choose to go inside Thrihnjukagigur volcano, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness a dormant volcano. Or you can choose a different way to enter the remnants of an eruption by taking time at Vidgelmir lava caves. If plain old lava caves aren't exciting enough for you, the third option is a visit to the stunning ice tunnel in Langjokull glacier.
You will be spending the evening at accommodation in Reykjavik.
Day 10 - Departure Day
It's your final day in Iceland, and it's time to say goodbye to Reykjavík and Iceland. Depending on your flight time, you may still have the chance to explore some of the city's highlights, such as the architecturally inspired Hallgrimskirkja Church or the colorful houses of Old Town.
When your time is over, make the final journey back to Keflavik International Airport and return your rental car. Have a great flight, and come back 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.