11-Day Adventure Road Trip Along The Ring Road of Iceland
Drive to every magical region Iceland has to offer, including its spectacular Highlands, with this eleven-day holiday around the island. Those who want to see the most famous features of the Land of Ice and Fire, as well as its many hidden gems far off the usual tourist trails, should not hesitate to book this road trip.
Without worrying about any other travelers or the strict schedule of a tour guide, you will make your way around the Ring Road of Iceland at your own pace, visiting whatever sites you want for as long as you like. With an expansive itinerary of options sent to you after booking, you'll be able to shape your own agenda around incredible attractions such as the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, the East Fjords, and Lake Myvatn Area.
As you travel, you'll also have plenty of opportunities to engage in the diverse range of thrilling adventures Iceland has to offer. Snorkeling, lava caving, and ice caving are all fantastic options if you seek out unique landscapes. Adrenaline junkies, meanwhile, can partake in activities such as snowmobiling, a helicopter tour, and glacier hiking. Even those seeking relaxation will find no shortage of options - hot spring bathing, whale watching, and horseback riding are all unforgettable yet serene experiences.
This self-drive holiday also offers the chance to explore the enormous magma chamber of a dormant volcano, an adventure only possible in Iceland. Furthermore, it offers one of three tour options that will allow you to visit a site well off the beaten track for most travelers: the geothermal highland of Landmannalaugar, the forested, glacial valley of Thorsmork, or the volcanic Westman Islands, at the height of puffin season.
As this tour is conducted in summer, you will not need to worry about icy roads as you travel. Furthermore, your sightseeing will not be constricted by the hours of light in a day. Due to the phenomenon of the Midnight Sun, all of Iceland's majestic landscapes and features will be basked in a golden hue throughout the night.
Explore the Land of Ice and Fire, embark on a range of adventures and seek out the country's most untouched and beautiful wilderness with this eleven-day self-drive holiday to Iceland. Check availability by choosing a date.
Day 1 - Welcome to Iceland
Welcome to Iceland! You will land at Keflavik International Airport, where your car will be waiting, and you'll start your adventure by heading to Reykjavik, traveling across the volcanic Reykjanes Peninsula.
On your way to Iceland's capital, 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. The capital boasts a range of cultural attractions suited to all interests, whereas the peninsula has spectacular landscapes and several geothermal areas.
Once you've been introduced to this beautiful country, you'll retire for the night in the city.
Day 2 - The Golden Circle
After recharging from your travels, your adventure around Iceland will begin. Your first attractions will be found along a popular sightseeing route close to the capital, the Golden Circle.
The first on your agenda is Thingvellir, a national park located between two tectonic plates. Walking in this no-man's-land that belongs to no continent is a beautiful experience due to its abundant forests and waterways. Furthermore, it has a fascinating history - Iceland is a bastion of democracy. It has had a representative assembly since it was first founded here in 930 AD.
While in Thingvellir, one of three tours on offer can be joined. In one of the ravines torn open by the movement of the tectonic plates is a beautiful freshwater spring you can snorkel in. Protected by a drysuit, you'll be privy to vividly blue underwater views, with visibility exceeding 328 ft (100 m). Furthermore, the water is so clean you can drink it as you swim.
After Thingvellir, you will continue to the Geysir Geothermal Area. Home to the geyser of Strokkur, this steaming valley is a fantastic place to observe the strange phenomena created by Iceland's volcanism. Every five to ten minutes, it will erupt steam and water into the sky with breathtaking beauty and power.
Just five minute' drive from Geysir, you'll find the spectacular waterfall of Gullfoss. Formed by a glacial river flowing from the ice cap of Langjokull, it thunders into a valley that opens unexpectedly through a landscape of rural bliss.
From the car park at Gullfoss, you can opt for a second tour, snowmobiling. After taking a super jeep up the slopes of Langjokull, you'll set off on a thrilling adventure across its icy surface. Snowmobiling is great for anyone who wants to get their adrenaline pumping and wishes to be privy to some magnificent views.
Your third option for today's tour is a horseback ride. Icelandic horses are lovely creatures. Their small stature and gentleness help ease newcomers into the activity, whereas their unique gait and stamina make this excursion just as inviting for experienced riders.
After enjoying the attractions that define the Golden Circle and an unforgettable excursion, you can address your itinerary to locate many other attractions in the area. Kerid is a particularly notable example. It is a beautiful lake of azure waters nestled in an enormous crater of red rocks.
Once you've finished your travels, you'll retire in or around the beautiful village of Selfoss.
Day 3 - A Taste of the Highlands
On the third day of your summer holiday in Iceland, you will go on one of three thrilling adventures that few other guests make an effort to do. You can travel to the highland areas of Thorsmork or Landmannalaugar or the stunning Westman Islands.
If you elect to head to a highland area, you'll have the further option of either driving yourself or taking a day tour in a super jeep. The former option grants you more freedom regarding what you do and how long you stay, whereas the latter takes away the concerns associated with driving on highland roads and finding the best spots in these vast areas.
Thorsmork is a valley sheltered by three enormous glacier tongues. The valley is filled with beautiful forests. Many hiking trails will take you from the scenic sites this area boasts, and introduce you to magnificent views of the ice caps, highlands, and south.
Landmannalaugar is much more barren but just as beautiful. This highland reserve boasts colorful rhyolite mountains that have been dyed unusual colors by the area's geothermal activity. This activity has also produced many hot springs surrounded by striking landscapes that you can bathe in. Those who enjoy hiking will also find plenty of routes that will take you deeper into the Highlands.
Meanwhile, the Westman Islands are an archipelago that boasts beautiful nature, abundant wildlife, and fascinating history.
The central island of Heimaey hosts a massive volcanic crater that you can trek around. Furthermore, you can learn about its catastrophic eruption in 1974 at the Eldheimar museum. Heimaey's craggy coastline also makes for some beautiful walks, particularly in summer because this is the world's most populous nesting ground for Atlantic Puffins.
No matter how you choose to spend your day, it will no doubt be magical and made all the more beautiful by the fact you got off the beaten track and away from the main tourist crowds. You'll return to Selfoss at the end of the day for a second night.
Day 4 - The South Coast
On the fourth day of your holiday to Iceland, you'll travel along the South Coast as you officially begin your Ring Road adventure. If you went to the Highlands the day before, you will have seen a few of these sites en route but will now have an opportunity to explore them with the justice they deserve.
The first three attractions are all magical waterfalls. Seljalandsfoss falls before a gaping cavern, allowing you to witness its gentle stream from unusual angles. Glufrabui, meanwhile, is hidden in a little grotto off the beaten track, away from the eyes of most tourists. Skogafoss is the most powerful of the three. It stands at 197 ft (60 m) tall and smashes into a river below with incredible force.
If you elect to take a glacier hiking tour, you will head to the outlet of Solheimajokull after viewing these features. A tongue of the greater Myrdalsjokull, climbing it is an excellent way to witness the gleaming landscapes of the ice cap, its unusual and dramatic features, and great views over the south. Furthermore, it sits beside Eyjafjallajokull, the subglacial volcano that erupted in 2010.
As you continue along the South Coast, wildlife enthusiasts will want to detour to the Dyrholaey rock arch and cliffs. Not only is this a monumental site, but it is another excellent puffin-watching destination, with thousands of nesting pairs overlooking some beautiful ocean views.
Right by here is another picturesque coastal attraction, Reynisfjara beach. This black sand shore boasts the dramatic geological feature of Reynisdrangar, an enormous pair of basalt towers that are said, in Icelandic folklore, to be two trolls frozen by the light of the morning sun.
By the beach is the charming village of Vik, where you can stop for refreshment, and, if you select so when booking, head on an ice-caving tour on Myrdalsjokull. A super jeep will take you to the summit of the spectacular ice cap, where you will enter its beautiful and fascinating depths.
Once you are ready, you'll continue along the South Coast through some stunning lava fields. There is a sightseeing stop where you can stop here to explore. You'll then come to the magnificent Fjadrargljufur canyon. Three hundred and twenty-eight feet (100 m) wide and 1.2 miles (2 km) long, this verdant valley has lovely hiking trails and a scenic, low river flowing through it.
Finally, you will reach the historic settlement of Kirkjubaejarklauster, where you will retire for the night.
Day 5 - Vatnajokull National Park
On day five of your eleven-day holiday to Iceland, you'll enjoy the wonders of Vatnajokull National Park in the southeast. This area is defined by the glacier of Vatnajokull, which is the largest ice cap in Europe and has created some spectacular scenery.
This is best experienced at your first destination for today, the Skaftafell Nature Reserve. The hiking trails here are truly wonderful, taking you through diverse landscapes of lava fields and forests and to some spectacular attractions. Most notable is the Svartifoss waterfall, which steams down a cliff of hexagonal black columns, and the Svinafellsjokull glacier tongue.
It is possible to organize another glacier hiking tour on this magnificent outlet renowned for its incredible formations and vivid colors. This would be a particularly great option if you went ice caving yesterday, though still enticing for those who hiked Solheimajokull due to their dramatic differences.
Once you have enjoyed the magnificent Skaftafell Nature Reserve, you'll head to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. One of the country's most famed and beloved sites, this lake separates one of the tongues of Vatnajokull from the ocean. As the outlet breaks apart, the lagoon fills with countless, colossal icebergs that, over months, cruise their way to the sea.
When they finally reach the ocean, they are washed onto the adjacent Diamond Beach. Though overlooked by many guests, this is a spectacular place due to the way the icebergs glisten as they melt and contrast with the dark sands.
Both of these sites are magical to walk along and admire from land, but those who want to get so close to the icebergs that they can touch them can organize one of two boat tours into Jokulsarlon. An amphibian boat tour will keep you largely out of the splash zone, though a zodiac tour will provide a more personal and up-close experience.
Thankfully, today you do not need to choose between taking the glacier hike or a boat tour. You'll have time to do both.
Today, guests seeking hidden gems will find plenty in the area, but none more spectacular than the Fjallsarlon glacier lagoon. Though slightly smaller than Jokulsarlon, far fewer visitors to Iceland make an effort to reach it, allowing you to enjoy the views over the icebergs, and take photographs without any crowds blocking you.
At the end of the day, you'll continue along the South Coast to the beautiful coastal town of Hofn, where you'll retire for the night.
Day 6 - The East Fjords
On day six of your Icelandic vacation, you'll discover the magic of the remote Eastfjords.
Before reaching this region, you'll take a beautiful coastal road that will introduce you to two unique mountains, Eystrahorn and Vestrahorn. Both are nicknamed 'the Batman Mountains' due to their dark coloration and twin, jagged peaks. You'll then come to the 'cittaslow' village of Djupivogur, where you can relax in coastal hot pools and admire the public art.
Once you begin to navigate the East Fjords, you'll be blown away by their beauty. The fjords are deep and spectacular, framed with dramatic mountains and home to countless little fishing villages. Each of these has a distinct character, though all are authentic places to witness the local history and culture. Furthermore, many sites en route tied to folklore that those interested in Icelandic lore can find.
Animal lovers will rejoice at the abundant wildlife in the east. The cliffs are home to countless seabirds, and there are several puffin-watching hot spots in the region. Wild reindeer, meanwhile, roam inland in great herds. You may even spot seals, dolphins, and whales feeding in the fertile waters when looking out to the seas.
You'll find plenty of fascinating detours on your itinerary you can head to, particularly as you get close to your final destination of the day, the town of Egilsstadir. Hallormstadaskogar, for example, is the largest forest in Iceland, with plenty of trails that appeal to hikers, birdwatchers, and those just looking for a lovely spot for a picnic. Lake Lagarfjlot sits adjacent to it, a peaceful body of water rumored to hold the Lagarfljot Wyrm, a creature similar to the Loch Ness Monster.
Once you reach Egilsstadir, you are welcome to enjoy the region's largest town before retiring. If you elect to do so when booking, you can also take a detour a little north to the Vok Baths, a geothermal spa nestled in a spectacular lake, surrounded by beautiful scenery. There are few places as luxurious and revitalizing to unwind in.
Day 7 - The Geothermal North
On the seventh day of your eleven-day Icelandic holiday, you'll travel out of the east and enjoy the beautiful sites of the north. Before departing the region, however, you may want to check your itinerary for some final sites around Egilsstadir. For example, you could travel to the magical fjord of Borgarfjordur Eystri, renowned for its spectacular wilderness, folklore, and wildlife.
However, your first main destination in the north is the waterfall of Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful falls. Not only is its force and scale breathtaking, but the dramatic black valley it surges into has an ominous beauty. Just up and downriver are two more waterfalls, Hafragilsfoss and Selfoss, which are just as striking.
You'll then head to the Myvatn area, the most popular part of the region for its diversity and geothermal wonder. The stunning lakes here are thriving with unique flora and fauna. Birdwatchers, in particular, will want to look out for the many freshwater species that frequent the waters.
Those fascinated by geology will also find many sites to admire. There are pillars of basalt rising from the lakes, rows of pseudocraters around the shores, and the nearby Dimmuborgir lava fortress. Not only was this one of the Icelandic locations used in Game of Thrones for its dramatic appearance, but it is also central to the national folklore, being home to the notorious Christmas trolls.
There are two nearby locations where you can marvel over the geothermal forces of the north. The first is Namaskard Pass, a barren mountain plateau with many fumaroles belching volcanic gasses into the sky. The smell of sulfur, lack of life, and lingering steam give this place an otherworldly air.
The second is the Myvatn Nature Baths. Located on the edge of the lakes, this is another wonderful geothermal spa where you can soak in the naturally heated, mineral-rich waters. If you want the chance to unwind here, be sure to select admission when booking.
Once you have enjoyed these sites of the north, you'll retire in the Lake Myvatn area, ready for more northern adventures tomorrow.
Day 8 - The Whale Watching Capital of Europe
On the eighth day of your holiday, you'll continue to explore the wonders of North Iceland. The three most magnificent sites to head to today are Husavik, Asbyrgi, and Godafoss waterfall.
Husavik is one of Iceland's oldest towns, sitting on the shores of the magnificent Skjalfandi Bay. It is also considered the whale-watching capital of Europe due to the abundance of life in its waters, and you can elect to take a boat tour here to see for yourself.
Humpback whales, renowned for their acrobatic surface behavior, are the most commonly seen species, alongside dolphins and porpoises, although rarer (and larger) creatures are also seen regularly. Furthermore, there are many seabirds to be found, including puffins. The boat is large and spacious, with a comfortable deck for viewing the animals and a warm indoor area to relax in between sightings.
Husavik is also known for being home to the saltwater geothermal pools called the GeoSea Baths. Just as rejuvenating but more unique than other spas in the country, it is possible to book admission alongside or separately from the whale watching tour.
Do note, however, that if you choose to enjoy both, you may not have the time to reach Asbyrgi Canyon unless you do not mind a particularly long day.
Asbyrgi is renowned for its natural beauty and role in Icelandic folklore. A canyon shaped like an enormous horseshoe, it was once believed to be the hoof mark of Odin's eight-legged horse, Sleipnir. The hiking trails here lead to some magnificent landscapes and views. You can either travel on top of the cliffs or in the verdant woodland within the canyon.
Your final natural destination for the day is the stunning Godafoss waterfall. This site is also entwined with the Old Norse Gods. It was the place where the country symbolically abandoned them for Christianity when the law speaker threw their idols into the rapid waters.
Once you've made the most of these sites, you'll reach the Capital of the North, Akureyri. This pleasant town has stunning views of the fjord of Eyjafjordur, great architecture, museums, galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and bars, all of which are worth exploring before you retire.
Day 9 - The Northern Coastline
The ninth day of your eleven-day holiday to Iceland will be the last you spend touring the Ring Road country. You’ll visit some more sites in the dynamic north, before traveling through the beautiful nature of the west.
In the morning, you are welcome to check out the villages along the shore of Eyjafjordur. One of these, Árskógssandur, offers a strange tour for guests. The Beer Baths provide a unique spa experience, where you can bathe in young beer as a way to rejuvenate, freshen the skin, and relax. Adults can even have a drink as they enjoy the healing effects seeping into their skin.
Another detour you can make before leaving North Iceland is to the beautiful village of Siglufjordur. Nestled in a narrow fjord of the same name, it boasts a serene church, a wonderful atmosphere, and spectacular views.
As you travel to West Iceland, the final major site of the north is the Vatnsnes Peninsula. This area is most famous for the Hvitserkur monolith off its coast. Said to be a troll in folklore, it more closely resembles an elephant with its trunk submerged. This site is also close to a natural lava formation called Borgarvirki, which local clans used in the medieval era as a fortress.
The Vatnsnes Peninsula is also home to the Icelandic Seal Center, as it is one of the best places in the country to find seal colonies.
Once you reach the rural landscapes of west Iceland, you have the option to partake in one of two tours. The first of these is the Ice Tunnel on Langjokull glacier. Nowhere else on earth has a series of corridors and chambers been carved into an ice cap for visitors to explore. The colors here are spectacular, and the experience fascinating.
Alternatively, you could head to the lava cave of Vidgelmir. Created in a dramatic eruption, this subterranean world is bursting with unexpected color and bizarre ice and rock formations. Though an ominous concept for those with claustrophobia, Vidgelmir is surprisingly spacious and well-lit. Thus this tour is more than comfortable for most guests.
Before reaching Reykjavik, you are welcome to detour to some other sites in the west, such as the waterfalls of Barnafoss and Hraunfossar or the hot spring of Deildartunghver. Otherwise, you can get to the capital in good time to enjoy its many attractions before you retire.
Day 10 - The Nordic Capital
On the penultimate day of your holiday to Iceland, you'll be based in Reykjavik and welcome to enjoy it however you please. The pools, shopping malls, boutiques, parks, nature reserves, restaurants, bars, museums, and galleries mean that Reykjavik is truly a city for everyone.
Of course, as you still have your car, you can use it to find some natural sites around the city. For example, Mount Esjan and the Reykjadalur hot spring valley are short drives away, and both provide beautiful hikes; Esjan will give you incredible views over the capital, whereas Reykjadalur will allow you to bathe in a geothermal river.
There are, however, three tours on offer today, one of which you'll be able to partake in.
Firstly, you could head to the domestic airport and embark on a helicopter ride over the city. The aerial views of Reykjavik are unmatched. Its colorful tin roofs, architectural marvels, and coastal beauty are all even more spectacular from above. Furthermore, you will fly over the incredible surrounding nature and make a short landing on a tabletop mountain.
Secondly, you could enjoy the FlyOver Iceland experience. This interactive 'ride' will have you strapped into a seat, dangled over an enormous screen, and blessed with an incredible video of Iceland's most stunning sites unfolding beneath you. With wind and scent effects, this is an incredibly authentic and breathtaking journey.
The third option is the Into the Volcano tour, an excursion that cannot be enjoyed anywhere else on the planet. You'll use a mining lift to descend into the empty chamber of Thrihnukagigur volcano, a space large enough to hold Reykjavik's Hallgrimskirkja church. The scale, the colors, and the uniqueness of the activity all make this one of the most sensational, unforgettable experiences that the country has to offer.
You'll spend your final night in the capital of Iceland.
Day 11 - Departure
On your final day in Iceland, you'll have to drive back to the airport to drop off your car and get through customs before your departure. Hopefully, you'll have enough time to have some final moments in the city. Why not head to Laugavegur for some last-minute souvenirs or to the up-and-coming Grandi area for brunch by the harbor?
Even those who just want a last glance of nature will find some wonderful views by just walking along the seafront or using their last hours with their car to visit places such as the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula. As it is en route to the airport, you could also use the opportunity to sightsee the volcanic and geothermal sites of the Reykjanes Peninsula.
For those who have a later flight and choose to visit the Blue Lagoon today, you will finish off your stay unwinding 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, of course, 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 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.
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 their 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 a 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.
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.