Extraordinary 12 Day Self Drive Tour of the Complete Ring Road of Iceland with National Parks
Embark on a magical 12-day tour of Iceland. See all the famous attractions, and discover some secret, unspoiled treasures on this self-drive trip of a lifetime. You'll see the famous Golden Circle, the incredible Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, all three of Iceland's national parks, the Eastfjords, West-Iceland, and so much more.
The beauty of this self-drive is that you are behind the wheel, so there are no tour guides, meeting points, or other groups to worry about. You go wherever you want, decide when you arrive, and when you leave. All the accommodation is set for full comfort. You will have ensuite bathrooms, and breakfast is always included.
Many people visit Iceland to experience nature at its best. That's why you will receive a custom-made itinerary, listing places not known to many others, allowing you to truly immerse yourself in Iceland's untouched landscapes. You will receive this plan, sculpted by local experts, after you book.
To add some extra adventure to your trip, you can choose to book additional activities with this self-drive at a discounted price. These include snorkeling in the Silfra gorge, boating across Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, hiking on or snowmobiling across a glacier, caving, whale watching, and horse-riding—and you can even take a walk inside a glacier or descend into the magma chamber of a dormant volcano.
Venture on the holiday you have always dreamt of. Enjoy the beautiful summer doing what you love, and explore every region of Iceland with this complete trip! Check the booking availability by choosing a date.
Day 1 - Arrival in Iceland and Exploring Reykjavik
Welcome to Iceland! Your car will be waiting for you at the airport, ready to go. If you're on an early flight, you will probably have some time to drive around the Reykjanes Peninsula, which is full of geological wonders, and visit the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa.
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.
Once in Reykjavík, settle into your accommodation, and start to explore the city on foot. Check out the many boutiques, galleries, museums, restaurants, and bars, and see some architectural sights, such as the Harpa concert hall.
Spend the night in Reykjavík.
Day 2 - The Golden Circle Attractions
Day two brings you to some of the best-known natural phenomena in Iceland on the Golden Circle route.
The first main stop is at the Þingvellir National Park. This incredible location is in the rift valley between two continental plates; you can walk between Europe and North America here. The area is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its history; in 930 AD, early settlers founded what would become the world's longest-running, ongoing representative parliament here. You may opt for a snorkeling tour in the park, within the crystal clear Silfra ravine.
The next stop is the Geysir geothermal area. The famous Geysir is not too active, but amongst the many hot pools and steaming vents, you'll see Strokkur blast water 20 to 40 m (66 to 131 ft) high every few minutes.
A few miles away is Iceland's most popular attraction and the final stop on the Golden Circle - the mighty waterfall Gullfoss. A pathway takes you right to the water's edge, where you can get a real sense of the enormous power of the falls. From Gullfoss waterfall, you have the option to add an adrenaline-filled snowmobile trip on Langjökull glacier. On this day, you can also book a two-hour-long horse ride.
Head south when you are ready. Your accommodation for the night will be in the Selfoss region.
Day 3 - South Coast Waterfalls and Black Sands
Day three is the start of your Ring Road drive as you head to the south coast. Your first stops are two magnificent waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. You can walk all the way around the former and hike a staircase for views from the top of the latter.
Next along the way is the glacier Sólheimajökull. Here, you can stop to take a fascinating glacier hike or exhilarating snowmobiling tour; whichever you choose, you will not be disappointed. You can also head straight on to the village of Vík for an optional ice cave tour to Mýrdalsjökull glacier.
Along the coast near Vík, take a slight detour to stop and admire the black volcanic beach Reynisfjara. Be careful, however, as the waves here are unpredictable and dangerous. From the shore, you can see the dramatic promontory of Dyrhólaey and Reynisdrangar rock formations. At the peak of summer, keep an eye out for puffins and other seabirds, which nest in the area.
Spend the night in the town of Vík or the Skaftafell area.
Day 4 - Skaftafell Park - Jökulsárlón and Diamond Beach
Spend the day taking in the many sights and optional activities available in the beautiful Skaftafell area of the Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland's largest national park.
If you enjoy hiking, you will find many trails here, tailored for all levels of experience and mobility, including one that leads to the beautiful Svartifoss waterfall. You can also choose to go on a guided glacier hike on the nearby Skaftafellsjokull if you like.
Soon after the national park, you'll reach one of Iceland's most famous attractions and top photo opportunities, the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Here you can watch icebergs break from a glacier and sail out to the ocean; their beauty is mesmerizing. You can opt for a boat tour into the lagoon for a closer look, either on a little zodiac or an amphibious vessel. Be sure to check out Diamond Beach after, where these bergs wash up on the black sands.
Spend the night in Höfn.
Day 5 - Eastern Fjords of Iceland - Egilsstaðir
Spend your fifth day on a zigzagging journey along the East Fjords, passing by tranquil fishing villages and sweeping coastal landscapes. The East Fjords are incredibly beautiful; keep your eye out when driving for puffins, seals, and reindeer.
A cousin of the legendary Loch Ness monster is lurking in the milky waters of Lake Lögurinn. This monster serpent was first described in 1345 and has since entered into local legend. Keep an eye out if you stop here. You may also want to visit Iceland's largest forest, Hallormsstaðaskógur, for some hiking and bird-watching.
Spend the night in the Egilsstaðir area.
Day 6 - Lake Mývatn - Volcanoes, Craters & other Mysteries
Day six takes you north to Lake Mývatn, an area known for its geothermal landscapes and popular hot spring area, the Námaskarð hot springs. Make sure to visit Dimmuborgir, the Dark Fortress, named as such because of the dramatic formations the lava takes here. You'll also enjoy the volcano Krafla with its crater lake called Víti. There's another crater in Iceland with that name, so make sure you don't confuse the two!
The hot spring lava cave of Grjótagjá is also very much worth a visit, and you can test its waters if you like. The highest temperatures recorded were in 1984, when the temperature topped 122 degrees F (50 degrees C). Since then, the temperature has steadily dropped but is still incredibly warm.
If the idea of a hot soak catches your fancy, you may look forward to the nearby Mývatn Nature Baths with their more bearable temperatures and silica-rich waters instead. Spend the night in the region.
Day 7 - Vatnajökull National Park & Dettifoss Falls
Use the seventh day to explore a little more of the Lake Mývatn area and its unique surroundings. A drive through the Jökulsárgljúfur part of Vatnajökull National Park and a visit to Dettifoss Falls, the most powerful waterfall in Europe, are recommended in this area.
Another great option is to join a whale-watching tour at the nearby village of Húsavík, renowned as the whale-watching capital of Europe. This tour can also be taken in a RIB to allow you to get close to some puffins. If not, you could enjoy a day in the Eyjafjörður fjord, exploring the beautiful valleys and hiking to Súlur peak for some amazing views.
Spend the night in the Capital of the North, Akureyri.
Day 8 - The Troll Peninsula
Continue towards Skagafjörður, a valley known for its wealth of Icelandic horses and capable riders. You can jump on a horse-riding here, too, although if you missed the whale watch yesterday, you could instead opt to stay a little longer in Akureyri to catch one.
You will also pass through the beautiful, mountainous area of Tröllaskagi (Troll Peninsula), the old herring-fishing village of Siglufjörður, and Hofsós, where you can enjoy the wonderful scenery from the town’s thermal pool.
Nearby you can also find interesting, local, Icelandic handicrafts in the galleries Alþýðulist or Rúnalist. Spend the night in the area around Sauðárkrókur.
Day 9 - Kirkjufell - Snæfellsnes Peninsula
On your ninth day, aim to reach the charming village of Stykkishólmur on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. On the way, you might want to make a little detour and visit the sea stack Hvítserkur, near the town of Blönduós.
The iconic mountain of Kirkjufell is near the village of Grundarfjörður and offers truly impressive photo ops that you may not want to miss; it is situated by a stunning lake and picturesque waterfall. Together, the three make a portrait of Iceland that can't be beaten.
Spend the night in the Snæfellsnes area.
Day 10 - Snæfellsnes Peninsula in Depth
Snæfellsnes peninsula has a plethora of beautiful spots and exciting activities to discover.
The stratovolcano Snæfellsjökull in Snæfellsjökull National Park is located a the tip of the peninsula. Around here, you can visit some beautiful stretches of coast, such as at Dritvík cove and the beach of Djúpalónssandur.
You can take your time in the small, charming hamlets of Arnarstapi, Hellnar, and Búðir and hike along the cliffs. You might also want to visit the 8000-year-old lava tube cave, Vatnshellir, as an added activity for the day.
If you are here in the summer season, you could also choose to take a tour of Snæfellsjökull glacier. In this added activity, You will board a vehicle that has been specially built to handle the rough glacial landscapes of Iceland from the quint town of Grundarfjörður. You will travel to the foot of Snæafellsjökull and then take the journey to the top in a snowcat. The experience of standing on the top of a glacier that covers a volcano is second to none. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will provide you with lasting memories and exceptional photos.
Spend another night in Snæfellsnes.
Day 11 - History and Cascades of Hraunfossar
On day eleven, explore West Iceland with its diverse attractions. These include the Icelandic Settlement Centre in Borgarnes, which explores the history of the beginning of this nation, and Deildartunguhver, the largest hot spring in Europe. Further along, be sure to visit the captivating Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls.
History buffs may also enjoy visiting Snorrastofa, the medieval research institute in Reykholt, where the early settler Snorri Sturluson wrote Saga Heimskringla in the 13th century. He also wrote the bible of old Norse mythology, Edda.
On this day, you can take one of two radically different cave tours. You can go down the more traditional route and opt into exploring the lava tube Viðgelmir; otherwise, you can travel to Langjökull and explore the glacier from the inside, down some incredible man-made channels.
The third option on this day is to take an Into the Volcano tour. On this trip, you descend into a sleeping volcano's spectacular magma chamber.
On the way back to Reykjavik, you could choose to drive along the very scenic Hvalfjörður fjord instead of taking the toll tunnel. At the bottom of the fjord, you can stretch your legs on a 2-hour hike to Iceland's tallest waterfall, Glymur.
Spend the night in the capital.
Day 12 - Departure and Farewell to Iceland
Drop off your car at Keflavík airport in time for your departure flight.
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 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.
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 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.
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.