10 Day Summer Self Drive Tour of the Complete Ring Road of Iceland with Waterfalls & Black Sands
Take this ten-day, nine-night self-drive vacation to explore all of the main attractions on Iceland's ring road while having the freedom to choose what else you do and see along the route. This tour is for adventurers and freedom-seekers, those who wish to discover Iceland at their own pace. You will see and experience the very best of Iceland while tailoring the itinerary to suit you.
Your rental car and accommodation are organized for you, and you simply have to decide what attractions you'll visit along the way. Your personalized itinerary will be sent upon booking confirmation. Drive in a clockwise direction and start with the "Iceland in Miniature" peninsula of Snaefellsnes. Nature lovers will rejoice at the stunning landscapes on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, bask in one (or more) of Iceland's famous geothermal pools, and enjoy the long hours of exploring under the midnight sun.
Key attractions you can choose to visit along your route include the lava fields on the Reykjanes Peninsula, remote areas in the East and North, Thingvellir National Park on the famous Golden Circle, and the waterfalls and black sand beaches on the South Coast of Iceland.
You can also opt to add even more adventure to your trip by selecting extra activities and day tours during the booking process. Choose from whale watching boat tours, glacier hiking, and Icelandic horse riding, to name but a few.
Explore the land of fire and ice at your own pace on this unforgettable 10-day self-drive tour of the whole ring road. Don't miss out on experiencing all that Iceland has to offer this summer. Select dates to check availability.
Day 1 - Welcome to Iceland
Collect your car at Keflavik International Airport and get ready for your adventure to begin. Head towards Reykjavik, passing through the volcanic landscapes of the Reykjanes Peninsula. On your way to Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik, you could choose to make a stop at the Blue Lagoon. This world-renowned spa is known for its healing waters, vivid azure colors, and luxurious treatments. It is located in the middle of a moss-covered lava field, giving it an otherworldly atmosphere. If you add the Blue Lagoon, it will be arranged according to your flights. If there is no time to visit the lagoon today, it can be added to another day. Your travel consultant will be able to arrange this for you. There is still plenty to see and do in Reykjavik and the Reykjanes Peninsula if you have extra free time.
You will be spending the night in Reykjavik city center. After dropping off your bags and settling in, make the most of your time and head out into the city to explore. Reykjavik city is packed with museums, art galleries, bars, restaurants, and quirky shopping streets to explore. With the midnight sun keeping the city alight, there is still plenty of time to see and do whatever you want in this exciting city.
Day 2 - Explore Snaefellsnes Peninsula
It’s now time to leave the city! Head West and get ready to explore the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, nicknamed ‘Iceland in Miniature’. You can expect to see the wide variety of landscapes of Iceland in this small peninsula.
There are many iconic sites in the West. Travelers driving the ring road in a clockwise direction tend to start their adventure on the south side of Snaefellsnes and then drive up in a clockwise manner along the coast.
This means you are likely to pass Arnarstapi as your first stop. A small fishing village like this is the ideal place to stop for a quick coffee or bite to eat before entering Snæfellsjökull National Park.
Next, you will approach the Lóndrangar basalt cliffs. Aptly nicknamed “the Rocky Castle”, these natural structures are truly unique. Indeed, the coastline in the West is full of hidden gems, this being just one of them.
Here you could opt to join a lava caving tour of Vatnshellir cave. This 8,000-year-old lava cave gives a stunning example of the kind of lava formations that this island is famous for.
Snæfellsjökull National Park dominates the West tip of the peninsula, with the glacier Snaefellsjökull. This glacier rests atop a dormant volcano, catching the eye of all visitors and travelers.
Head upwards in a clockwise direction, and you will reach Olafsvik. A small fishing village with 1,000 inhabitants, Olafsvik is also home to one of Iceland’s only golden sandy beaches.
Another popular attraction on the peninsula is mount Kirkjufell and its neighboring waterfall, Kirkjufellsfoss. This mountain is famously featured in the Game of Thrones series.
Stykkisholmur sits nearby, a fishing town that stood in for a port in Greenland in the Ben Stiller film, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. This is also the departure point for a Viking sushi boat tour on Breidafjordur bay.
You will stay the night on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, so you have plenty of time to explore and enjoy all that the area has to offer.
Day 3 - North Iceland Awaits
Head up North towards Akureyri today!
En route, stop at Hvítserkur rock formation. This basalt stack sits just off the Eastern shore at Vatnsnes peninsula, in North-West Iceland. This unusual rock formation has two holes at its base, giving it the appearance of a dragon who is drinking from the water at its base.
After some exploring of your choice, drive further East towards Akureyri, where you will spend the night.
From Akureyri, you can explore the Trollaskagi or Troll Peninsula, which sits north of the town. This route has a fairytale-like quality to it and is full of charm. It is a popular area for hikers, skiers, horse riders, and mountaineers who want to enjoy the remote wonders of the area.
The route itself will take you through small fishing towns and villages, such as Dalvik, Olafsfjordur, and Siglufjordur. From Dalvik, you can take a ferry to Hrisey island. The boat departs to this flat, green, uninhabited island several times throughout the day. The spectacular coastline known as Troll Peninsula is also home to Kerlingfjöll (mount Kerling), which stands tall at 5046 ft (1538 m).
Upon reaching Akureyri, many travelers quench their thirst for adventure by taking a whale-watching tour from the Oddeyrarbót floating pier in the town. You might prefer to relax and unwind in Iceland‘s very first beer spa. Taste the local beers and relax in the warm, live beer yeast, which is believed to have good effects on skin health and vitality.
When you’ve had enough adventure for one day, return to your accommodation in Akureyri to relax for the night. There are plenty of restaurants serving delicious food spread throughout the town.
Day 4 - Myvatn Geothermal Area
Today is a day to enjoy all that the North of Iceland has to offer. You have plenty of options for what to do during the day. Set off eastward to the powerful Godafoss waterfall, boasting a 39 ft (12 m) fall with a grand width of 98 ft (30 m).
From here, drive North towards Husavik, a town with just over two thousand inhabitants. This small town has also gained a reputation as the whale watching capital of Europe. From here, we recommend taking a whale watching tour as it is the best place in Iceland to spot a sighting of one of these incredible creatures. You can choose between traditional and rib boat whale watching tours.
From Husavik, you can choose to visit Geosea Geothermal Baths. Marvel at the beauty of Skjálfandi bay from within the comfortable warmth of the geothermally heated water. With a restaurant on-site and a terrace that opens in the summer months, Geosea makes the perfect rest stop for busy travelers.
Return south to the Myvatn area. Lake Myvatn boasts incredible bright colors, with blue and green hues. On its Southern side sit a row of bizarre and spectacular pseudocraters, which are collectively called Skutustaðagigar. These were formed during gas explosions and are now a protected conservation area.
Lake Myvatn is part of the Diamond Circle route, along with Dettifoss waterfall, the town of Husavik, and Asbyrgi canyon, which we recommend visiting on day 6.
There are lots of fascinating things to see around the Myvatn area. The Víti crater in Krafla fissure was formed during an explosion. This should not be confused with the Viti crater in the Askja area. The Dimmuborgir lava fortress and Grjotagja hot spring cave both feature in the Game of Thrones series. They are both interesting destinations that are worth including during your time in the North.
Explore nearby Námaskarð Pass, where barren lands are interrupted by vivid colors that streak through the earth and steam which sprouts from the ground. The location of Námaskarð, right by the Ring Road, makes it a natural stop on your trip up North.
Visit Myvatn nature baths to enjoy a relaxing end to a busy day. Again, geothermally heated, these nature baths have a swim-up bar and a variety of pools with different temperatures to suit your comfort levels.
After a busy day exploring the North, finish your day in Myvatn, where you will spend the night.
Day 5 - Discover the North East of Iceland
Drive towards the East of the island. If you didn't get the chance yesterday, explore the Myvatn area and all the breathtaking attractions around you. Otherwise, there is plenty more on route to explore and discover.
For adventurous travelers, Asbyrgi canyon with its horseshoe-shaped depression will appeal. Settled within the sprawling Vatnajökull National Park, this canyon is blanketed in colorful vegetation in peak summer.
Close by, Dettifoss waterfall stands in all her glory. Crowned Europe's largest waterfall, this is a site you don't want to bypass on your trip to Iceland. The power and majesty of the waterfall are truly breathtaking. There is a hike to the waterfall, which is quite pleasant in the summer months.
Not had enough waterfalls yet? Visit its next-door neighbor, Selfoss waterfall. The white of the waterfall against the black basalt column backdrop makes this stand out among the plethora of waterfalls in Iceland.
Adventurous travelers might also be drawn to a visit to Stuðlagil canyon. There is an estimated 4km hike to the canyon, so a trip there is not for the faint-hearted. You will be rewarded for your efforts, though, as this canyon boasts the highest number of basalt rock columns in Iceland, many of which have an orange rust color to them.
As you head further East, you will reach Egilsstaðir. Nearby, Vok Baths sit. Its geometrically shaped pools and naturally heated water make it the only Spa in East Iceland and draw many travelers to the area.
Another option is to take a day tour from Myvatn to Askja. This is a lengthier trip and will take a full day, but for many, this is a must-do on their trip to Iceland. Taking you into the Northern Highlands, this tour will show you the place where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin prepared for the 1960s moon landing. You will also visit Askja Volcano, Herðubreiðarlindir nature reserve, and Viti crater.
After a day of adventure, you will spend the night in Egilsstaðir, in East Iceland.
Day 6 - East Iceland Awaits
Today you will explore the Eastfjords of Iceland.
Starting in Egilsstaðir, your route South will take you past the fjords and small towns that the East is renowned for.
Take a slight detour from the ring road to visit the popular town of Seydisfjordur. Known for the blue church and rainbow road in the center of town, this quaint town is sure to make your heart sing. This could also be a nice place to have lunch and do some sightseeing.
Afterward, continue your journey down through the myriad of fishing towns. Notable among these is Fáskrúðsfjörður. Founded in 1880, this small town was home to a settlement of French fishermen during the summer months. Their legacy can still be seen today in the old French hospital, which has since been renovated as a hotel and museum.
The villages of Breiðalsvík and Djúpivogur sit off the ring road in the Eastfjords. Both charming in their own right, these villages are often frequented by travelers to the area.
While you drive South, there will be plenty of other detours you could take to enjoy the area's beautiful landscapes. These will often take you to off-the-beaten-path attractions such as the waterfalls Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss.
In the South East sits the well-known Vestrahorn mountain, a spot particularly popular among travel photographers.
After another day packed with nature and adventure, relax in your accommodation in the Jokulsarlon/Höfn area. Well known for their lobster and seafood, Höfn would make an ideal stop for dinner.
Day 7 - The Crown Jewel of Iceland
Rise and set off early today - the day is waiting, and there is plenty to see!
Head to the famous Jökulárlón glacier lagoon, situated within Vatnajökull National Park. This will be the main attraction on your agenda today. Be mindful on arrival that it is easy to lose track of time here as you marvel at this breathtaking view. You can opt to take an amphibian or zodiac boat tour out on the lagoon. Sail past large blocks of ice as they make their way down the lagoon, watch seals playing and resting on the ice, and get up close to Vatnajökull glacier. It promises to be an unforgettable experience.
Next to Jökulsárlón rests the Diamond Beach. This site gained its name from its appearance. The pieces of ice which rest in the lagoon then find their way down to the nearby black sand beach, where they wash ashore. The glistening of the ice against the contrasting black sand gives the impression of diamonds; hence the name was born.
In the afternoon, visit Skaftafell Nature Reserve. Here, there is a hike that takes you directly to Svartifoss waterfall. This waterfall earned its name from the black basalt columns that surround it. Svartifoss translates directly from Icelandic to English as “black waterfall”.
Here you can opt to take a glacier hike on Skaftafell glacier. Experience the adrenaline rush as you make your way up and onto this majestic glacier in South Iceland.
When you’ve come down from the thrill of the day’s adventure, rest in your accommodation around Vik.
Day 8 - Discover the South Coast
Today is your day to take in all that the South Coast of Iceland has to offer. Head westwards from your accommodation to start your day's adventure.
You could make a quick stop to visit Fjaðrárgljúfur. There are many hikes you could do in this area, but with so much to see in the South of Iceland, you may wish to make it a quick stop.
Head onwards to the famous town of Vík. Renowned for the red church that sits atop the hill with views out to Dyrholaey sea stacks and the Reynisfjara black sand beach. This is a great place to make your first stop. There are also plenty of places to eat in the town, so you will be spoiled for choice.
Visit Reynisfjara and Dryholaey and see the incredible black basalt columns, sea stacks, and black sand up close.
Ever wanted to explore an ice cave? Now's your chance. While in Vik, take a tour from the town, which allows you to discover the hidden wonders of these icy formations. Katla ice cave sits West of the town, but with the tour departing from Vik, you simply need to meet your guide at the agreed spot.
Drive on to visit Solheimajökull glacier. On your way, you can choose to make a stop at the DC Plane Wreck. This has lay abandoned after the plane crashed in the 1970s.
After you've explored the eerie wonder that is the DC Plane Wreck, continue onwards to Solheimajökull glacier. Here you can opt to take a glacier hike atop the glacier, learning more about its formation and structure from your knowledgeable guide, all the while taking in the incredible views.
Set off again towards the famous waterfalls of the South. Start with Skogafoss, one of Iceland's biggest waterfalls. Make your way towards Seljalandsfoss next. Make a stop at the pool Seljavallalaug. Take a short hike to reach it and relax in the pool. Your final stop will be Seljalandsfoss, before you rest of the evening in your accommodation in the Selfoss region.
Day 9 - Golden Circle
Spend your day exploring the Golden Circle. Those travelers with a late flight out from Reykjavik tonight may wish to start their day early, to pack in as much adventure as possible before their flight.
The main attractions of the Golden Circle are Gullfoss waterfall, one of Iceland's largest waterfalls; Geyser geothermal area, where the famous Strokkur erupts roughly every nine minutes; and Thingvellir National Park, the UNESCO World Heritage Site which was the meeting place for Iceland's first parliament.
You may wish to take part in some activities in these locations. At Thingvellir, you can try snorkeling between two tectonic plates at Silfra Fissure.
If you're a thrill-seeker, you'll enjoy snowmobiling on the second-largest glacier in Iceland, Langjokull. This tour can be accessed from Gulfoss waterfall, on the Golden Circle route.
For those who prefer gentler activities, horse riding may more suit your nature. There are plenty of opportunities to meet, get to know, and ride the Icelandic horse on your stay in Iceland.
If you still have time to spare, there are three more attractions that might appeal to you. Kerid crater is usually considered part of the extended Golden Circle route. In summer, this crater lake can be walked around, and the stunning colors are something you're only going to believe if you see. In winter, the lake freezes over, and travelers can step upon it. The Secret Lagoon is often a stop for travelers wanting to experience a more authentic version of the Blue Lagoon. Finally, Reykjadalur, located close to Hveragerdi, is extremely popular among hikers. Here you can hike to a beautiful, natural geothermal bathing area.
Return to Reykjavik when you've explored as much as you wish, and rest before your departure.
Day 10 - Exploring Reykjavik
On your final day in Iceland, make the most of any time you have left.
You can also finish off your stay unwinding at the Blue Lagoon before you head to the airport. This is the perfect place to relax as you bathe in the warm, mineral-rich waters as you look back on the incredible adventure you have just taken in the land of fire and ice. If your flight is later, there are plenty of things to do in Reykjavik. If you have an early flight back home, we wish you a pleasant journey.
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 need either 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 snorkelling.
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.