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. Travelers seeking the best Ring Road attractions and an expedition into the Central Highlands should book this tour now.
This trip is perfect for travelers looking to maintain autonomy in their travels 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 you want to see, making the holiday your own.
You'll travel through some of the most beautiful regions in Iceland. Visit cascading waterfalls, glittering glacial lagoons, and the rugged canyons of the South Coast. Charming coastal villages, the luscious meadows and towering mountains of the Eastfjords, and the active geothermal areas of the Myvatn region await.
This itinerary also allocates time for 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 shop downtown.
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, hidden between three glaciers, or the windswept and colorful mountains of the Landmannalaugar region.
In East Iceland, you can reach the far corners of the Eastfjords on an optional full-day guided hiking tour. Up north, you can 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.
When you book, 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 the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon.
In Husavik, the 'Whale Capital of Europe,' you can hop on a boat that boasts a 99 percent 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 and accommodation and vehicle rental 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.
Don't miss the chance to experience Iceland's numerous natural and cultural highlights on this 10-day Ring Road and Highlands self-drive tour, designed for freedom and flexibility. Check availability now by choosing a date.
Day 1 - Arrival Day
Welcome to your summer adventure in Iceland.
Today, you'll land at the Keflavik International Airport on the volcanic peninsula of Reykjanes. After landing, head to the rental car depot and pick up your vehicle for the next 10 days.
Once in the car, drive to Iceland's capital city and cultural hub, Reykjavik, in Southwest Iceland. Throughout your journey, you'll pass the haunting, dried magma fields of Reykjanes. You'll also see the rolling blue waves of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and, on the other, distant mountainscapes.
Instead of driving straight to Reykjavik, you could first visit the world-famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Soaking in its warm milky-blue waters is the perfect way to rejuvenate your body after a long flight. Its location is also ideal for the first day of your trip if you have time to fit it in.
Keflavik also has plenty of shops, cafes, restaurants, and museums worth visiting. At the Viking World Museum, you can climb aboard a replica ship and try out the Viking helmets and swords for fun photos. Or, visit the Icelandic Museum of Rock 'n' Roll, a must for music buffs.
Once you arrive at your accommodation in the city, you can spend the remainder of the day as you wish. There are countless galleries, museums, cultural exhibitions, and inner-city parks to occupy your time, as well as quaint coffee houses and gorgeous hiking trails in the surrounding countryside.
Some of the city's most significant landmarks include the Althingi Parliament House, the Hallgrimskirkja church, and Tjornin pond. For museums, check out the National Museum of Iceland, or try something a bit quirkier, like the Icelandic Phallological Museum.
If your flight arrives 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'll 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 and glacial springs such as the crystal clear Silfra fissure. As an added extra, you can take a drysuit snorkeling tour here to discover the majestic blue canyons that rest just beneath the surface.
The second stop of the Golden Circle tour is the 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 feet (32 meters) over two rocky steps into the dark canyon below. From certain angles, it appears 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 the Kaldidalur valley. The road through Kaldidalur, Kaldidalsvegur, is one of the shortest tracks through the Icelandic highlands, making it a nice warm-up for the deep dive into the highlands you'll do the following day.
Despite being short, the road goes higher above sea level than most other routes through the highlands, making it an excellent 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 and experience a jolt of adrenaline like never before.
When the day's activities are over, you will drive to your accommodation in Southwest Iceland near the Golden Circle.
Day 3 - The Central Highlands
On your third day in the land of fire and ice, you'll have three excellent options 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 ("The Pools of the People"), is only available to those who have chosen to rent a 4x4 vehicle for their journey and are experienced on rough roads. The route involves some river crossings, so you must be a competent driver.
When you reach Landmannalaugar, you can bathe in the natural geothermal pools the area is known for. There's nothing better than soaking in warm water with spectacular mountain scenery around you. Ensure your camera is ready to capture Landmannalaugar's beauty for lasting memories.
The second option is to take a super jeep tour into Landmannalaugar for a short hike. You'll see firsthand the colorful rhyolite hillsides, the blue, purple, and green shades glistening from their slopes, and the spiraling hiking trails to 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's one of Iceland's most beautiful valleys, nestled between three surrounding glaciers. You'll meet your tour guide in the Hella and Hvolsvollur region, ready for an unforgettable adventure.
At Thorsmork, you'll travel past stunning rivers and magnificent waterfalls through dramatic canyons and areas of verdant vegetation while the glaciers watch over you. Thorsmork is warmer and wetter than most areas in Iceland, and its picturesque black and green mountainous landscape is simply stunning.
After your day of highland adventure, you will travel to your overnight accommodation around Southwest Iceland.
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 feet (60 meters) high but differ in width, with the former being far narrower. Seljalandsfoss offers guests the rare chance to walk behind the cascading water for great photographs.
Next up is 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 the 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 take a glacier hike up the glittering ice cap, Solheimajokull, an activity that will present stunning views of the South Coast. It also offers an up-close perspective on the glacier's intricate ice sculptures, deep crevasses, and sloping moulins.
Having fun at the glacier is also possible by taking a snowmobile trip. Zooming across the ice is an exciting way to appreciate the glacier's vast and stunning landscape.
You could also 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 an accommodation around South Iceland.
Day 5 - The South Coast II
Start your fifth day with a delicious breakfast before heading out to explore the top sites in Southeast Iceland. Your 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 rise on the horizon before you.
If you choose to forgo the glacier hike on day four, it's possible to add one today at Skaftafell. Skaftafell is an awe-inspiring 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. It's often referred to as "The Crown Jewel of Iceland," thanks to its 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 offers once-in-a-lifetime vistas 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 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 in Southeast Iceland, in Hofn or one of the small settlements in the region.
Hofn is a picturesque town known for its beautiful landscapes and proximity to Vatnajokull National Park. With its charming harbor, snow-capped mountains, and breathtaking views of the surrounding fjords, Hofn offers visitors a serene escape into Iceland's natural beauty.
Day 6 - The Eastfjords
Today, you'll discover 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 one of its beautiful towns.
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 experience the local culture and maybe taste some delicious locally caught fish.
The east is less visited due 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 has haunting landscapes, eclectic hiking trails, and charming coastal villages. The entire area feels quiet and untouched, with only 3.2 percent of the Icelandic population living 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'll 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, looking out for the mythological creature or appreciating the incredible scenery around you.
Also, in this area, guests can find the Hallormsstadaskogur National Forest, Iceland's largest wooded area.
A short drive away, you'll also have the chance to visit the waterfalls of Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss. Hengifoss is known for its lovely hike and dark red rock, while 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 hot water spring baths, Vok. You can add your admission to these lovely hot pools during booking. It's well worth the trip to soak in a hot tub that protrudes into the beautiful Lake Urridavatn.
After another magnificent day of exploration, relax at your comfortable accommodation in Egilsstadir or nearby stays in the Eastfjords.
Day 7 - East Fjords in depth and Myvatn
Your second day in the East Fjords will see you traveling around 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 is a museum dedicated to the author and an information center for Vatnajokull National Park.
Your seventh day will also give you a deeper insight into Iceland's fascinating history and culture. You will visit Saenautasel, an old turf house in the nearby countryside. The caretakers of Saenautasel provide information on the daily lives of those who once called these historical buildings home.
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 a haunted 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 can visit the "Giant Boulders," Storurd, in the valley of 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 walk around nine hours in beautiful surroundings. This area sees enormous rocks sitting half-submerged in a glistening lake, making for a truly picturesque scene. The towering Dyrfjoll Mountains overlook the area.
You could also 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 one of the country accommodations in Northeast Iceland.
Day 8 - Diamond Circle and Highlands
Today, you'll explore the gorgeous attractions of the Diamond Circle driving route. Comprised of four incredible stops, each as worth seeing as the next, the Diamond Circle is the pride of North Iceland.
The beautiful Lake Myvatn will be close to where you begin your day, and it's an unmissable part of any trip north, so make sure you explore its unique attractions if you missed them yesterday.
Dettifoss is Europe's most powerful waterfall. With its thunderous roar and massive volume of cascading water, Dettifoss captivates visitors with its raw beauty and sheer force. Standing at 144 feet (44 meters) high and 328 feet (100 meters) wide, it's a true spectacle of nature that leaves a lasting impression on all who witness it.
Asbyrgi canyon is a horseshoe-shaped indent in the landscape, providing one of the country's most breathtaking views. Its towering cliffs, lush greenery, and serene woodland will take your breath away.
The town of Husavik is a gorgeous stop and essential for those hoping to spot whales. Husavik's picturesque blend of tranquil harbor views, snow-capped mountains, and pristine vistas of the nearby Skjalfandi Bay makes it a true haven for nature lovers.
There are some exciting extras available on this day.
The highland tour to Askja is an excellent choice for those who like hiking. Askja is a remote volcanic caldera in the Icelandic Highlands that offers adventurers a thrilling journey through rugged landscapes, lunar-like deserts, and the chance to witness the breathtaking beauty of Viti crater lake. Please note this excursion 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 Rib boat ride and a more traditional whale-watching tour. You can also add a relaxing soak in the Geosea baths.
You'll spend the night in one of the towns of North Iceland.
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'll spend a lot of time in the car, there will be many beautiful sights to see. For example, you could start your day by stopping in Varmahlid, a small town near Akureyri, for a morning swim in their lovely little pool. Visiting this town can be a great way to learn more about the local culture.
We highly recommend you stop at the Hvitserkur sea stack. This gorgeous rock formation, which some say looks like a dragon taking a sip of water from the sea, is 49 feet (15 meters) high and made of basalt. You'll also 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, parks, and other cultural attractions. Perhaps you could check out the local coffee culture, visit the Harpa Concert Hall, or experience the city's vibrant flea markets.
You can add fun activities to this day to make it more memorable. For example, take a trip inside the Thrihnukagigur volcano, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness a dormant volcano. The tour begins with a 45-minute walk to the volcano's entrance. From there, a platform lowers you into a fascinating underworld bursting with color.
Or you can choose a different way to enter the remnants of an eruption by taking time to enjoy the Vidgelmir lava cave. Mesmerizing rock formations that witnessed the geological wonders of this ancient volcanic land await.
If plain old lava caves aren't exciting enough, visiting the stunning ice tunnel in Langjokull glacier is the third option.
You will spend the evening at your accommodation in Reykjavik.
Day 10 - Departure Day
It's your final day in the country, and it's time to say goodbye to Reykjavik 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 the old town.
You could also visit the Perlan Museum southeast of the city center. It has a fantastic observation deck for views over Reykjavik and several captivating exhibitions. The Ice Cave and Glaciers exhibition allows you to experience an artificial glacier environment.
In contrast, Arora, the northern lights show, is fantastic for summer travelers who don't see the lights firsthand.
Travelers with a late flight might choose to explore the natural treasures of the Reykjanes Peninsula. The dramatic landscapes of the peninsula showcase otherworldly sights, such as the geothermal areas of Seltun and Gunnuhver, where boiling mud pools and steam vents create an ethereal atmosphere.
The Bridge Between Continents, a footbridge in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, symbolizes the separation between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.
Visiting the quaint fishing village of Grindavik offers a glimpse into Icelandic coastal life, while the Reykjanesviti lighthouse and the Krysuvikurbjarg cliffs provide stunning vistas and opportunities for birdwatching.
With its unique blend of geothermal wonders, rugged coastlines, and cultural attractions, a visit to the Reykjanes Peninsula will not disappoint if you have time today.
When your time is over, head 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 and one-year-long on-road experience are required. Please be aware that your itinerary may be rearranged to fit your arrival date and time better.
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 for 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 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.