12 Day Budget Self Drive Tour of the Complete Ring Road of Iceland with 3 National Parks & Myvatn
Embark on a journey around Iceland and explore the country's most popular attractions on this twelve-day budget self-drive tour. Cruise the ring road and visit both famous sites and hidden gems without breaking the bank. This tour is perfect for all those wanting to travel on their own terms and create their own adventure.
Let the ring road be your guide and visit some of the country's best-loved attractions such as the famous Golden Circle, the incredible Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, the otherworldly area of Lake Myvatn, and all three national parks of Iceland.
Best of all, you are behind the wheel, so you are in charge. There are no impatient tour guides to rush you or tour groups to slow you down. You'll get to decide where to go and when you leave.
Along the way, you can add on some exciting adventure to spice up your holiday, such as snorkeling between two continents at Silfra, whizzing across the ice cap of a glacier, descending into a magma chamber of a volcano, and riding the friendly Icelandic horse through the countryside.
Get to know Iceland and enjoy the country's beautiful summer with this immersive twelve-day budget self-drive tour. Check availability by choosing a date.
Day 1 - Arriving in Iceland
After arriving in Iceland, find your vehicle at Keflavik International Airport and move towards Iceland's capital, Reykjavik.
Along the way, you'll drive past the dark lava field of the Reykjanes Peninsula.
On your way to Iceland's capital city, 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 could also head straight to Reykjavik, settle into your accommodations and start exploring the city. Numerous museums, cafés, restaurants, bars, shops, and geothermal pools are dotted around. You'll be sure to find something to your liking.
Day 2 - The Golden Circle
On day two, your adventure on the road begins. The day will take you around the famous Golden Circle sightseeing route.
Once you set out, your first stop is the UNESCO world heritage site Thingvellir National Park. This location is where Iceland's parliament, Althingi, was founded in the year 930 AD. It is also where Icelanders declared independence from Denmark in 1944.
The park is located in a rift valley on the Mid-Atlantic ridge, between two tectonic plates slowly drifting apart. The underwater canyon Silfra is a direct cause of this continental drift, and you can opt for a snorkeling tour in the crystal clear waters of the fissure for a unique adventure on this day.
Next up is the geothermal area of Haukadalur valley. This place is the home of Iceland's most famous water feature, the geysers. There you can witness the hot spring Strokkur erupt every 5-10 minutes, spouting magma-heated water 66 ft (20 m) up in the air.
The last stop of the Golden Circle route is the stunning waterfall Gullfoss. The river Hvita cascades down a 105 ft (32 m) gorge, and you can see this magnificent display of nature from several viewing platforms, including one right beside the lip of the falls.
At Gullfoss, you can opt for a snowmobile tour of Langjokull, the glacier that feeds the river Hvita. If you prefer something less speedy but equally exciting, you could choose a horse riding tour of the Icelandic countryside.
Before arriving at your accommodation in the quiet and peaceful town of Hvolsvollur, you might want to stop by the lake Kerid, located in what was once a volcanic cone.
You'll head to Selfoss for the night.
Day 3 - The South Coast
Today you can start the day by driving straight to the village of Vik for a thrilling tour that departs in the morning and takes you to the glacier Myrdalsjokull. Once there, an expert guide will take you into a natural ice cave, the only one of its kind in Iceland accessible all year round.
If you prefer to take your time, you can drive at your own pace along the south coast and visit some of the area's most beautiful attractions, such as the three incredible waterfalls Seljalandsfoss, Gljufrabui, and Skogafoss.
En route are the glaciers Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull. If you are up for an icy adventure today, you can choose from two options. You can stop at Solheimajokull glacier tongue for a fascinating hike across the ice cap or an exciting ride on a snowmobile on Myrdalsjokull, the parent glacier.
Make your way to the village of Vik. It is the perfect place to stop, relax and refuel as it sits on the shores of Reynisfjara beach. This beautiful black sand beach has cliffs of dark hexagonal basalt columns, and out in the ocean, the 180 ft (66 m) high Reynisdrangar sea stacks rise.
Continue to the historical town of Vik, where you can spend the night, or if you wish to travel a bit further, you could spend the night in the region of Skaftafell Nature Reserve.
Day 4 - Skaftafell Nature Reserve & Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Spend your fourth day in Vatnajokull National Park and see the great variety of landscapes created by the combined forces of rivers, volcanic activity, and glacial ice.
Located in the park is Skaftafell Nature Reserve, an area of stark contrasting beauty where the rich fauna grows between black sands and the white glacier.
You'll find numerous hiking trails and treks at Skaftafell. One of the trails leads to the stunning waterfall Svartifoss. The cascade's cliffs of dark lava columns were the inspiration of the famed Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik.
You can opt for a glacier hike in Skaftafell, where you trek across an ice cap of one of Vatnajokull's glacier tongues to see firsthand the glacier's constantly changing environment.
From Skaftafell, you'll move on to the incredible Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, where you can see enormous icebergs floating in the cool water. If you like to better look at the icebergs, you can do so with one of two boat tours that operate on the lagoon.
Before you head to your accommodation in Hofn, be sure to visit the Diamond Beach. Ice from the lagoon washes up on this beautiful black sand beach where it glistens in the sun like jewels on a black blanket.
Day 5 - Eastern Fjords
Today you'll zigzag your way through the eastern fjords of Iceland. The road will lead you past sweeping coastal landscapes, rugged mountains, and verdant fields.
The fjords are the home to some of the most fantastic wildlife in Iceland, so you should keep your eye open as you might spot puffins, foxes, seals, or reindeer.
Along the way, you'll pass numerous fishing villages, each with its unique charm. You could stop at the town Faskrudsfjordur and learn about its relationship with France, check out the World War II museum in Reydarfjordur or the maritime museum in Eskifjordur, and see the immense natural beauty surrounding the town Neskaupsstadur.
Further north, you'll find Egilsstadir, the largest town in East Iceland. Close by are Hallormsstadaskogur, a giant forest in Iceland, and the lake Lagarfljot. A cousin of Loch Ness is said to dwell in the lake's milky waters.
You'll spend the night in the Egilsstadir area.
Day 6 - Lake Mývatn
Day six takes you to the otherworldly area of Lake Myvatn. The lake and its surroundings were formed by a volcanic eruption some 2,500 years ago. Evidence of this explosion is evidenced all around in the free-standing lava pillars and pseudocraters around the lake.
The highlights of Myvatn include the boiling mud pools and fumaroles of Namaskard pass, the eerie rocks formations of the Dimmuborgir lava field, and Grjotagja, the volcanic hot spring inside a cave.
After a day of sightseeing, you could stop at the Myvatn Nature Baths for a dip in the mineral-rich geothermal waters before spending the night in the region.
Day 7 - North-Iceland
If you wish to explore the Myvatn area further, now is your chance. You could also drive through the Jokulsargljufur canyon and visit Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe, and the horseshoe-shaped Asbyrgi canyon.
Another option is to drive to the town of Husavik on Skjalfandi bay. The settlement is known as the 'Whale Watching Capital of Iceland' as around 24 whale species make the bay their home. There, you can opt for a whale-watching excursion of Skjalfandi bay, and you could even add a puffin segment to your tour.
You could also drive around Eyjafjordur fjord and enjoy its rolling hills, beautiful valleys, mighty mountains, and flowing rivers before heading to your accommodation in Akureyri.
Day 8 - The Troll Peninsula
After waking up in Akureyri, you could spend some time visiting the town's many shops, boutiques, restaurants, and museums. If you missed the majestic whales yesterday, you could opt for a whale watching tour that departs from Akureyri's harbor.
You could also get to know the friendly and gentle Icelandic horse on a riding tour through the beautiful landscapes of Eyjafjordur.
Head on out to the mountainous area of the Trollaskagi peninsula and make your way to the old fishing village Siglufjordur. There you'll find one of Iceland's most prominent maritime museums where you can learn about the town's eventful history.
Then you'll continue to the tiny village of Hofsos, where you'll find one of the country's most beautiful geothermal swimming pools. Take a dip and enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the fjord and its island.
Spend the night in the town of Saudarkrokur or the surrounding area.
Day 9 - The Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Today, you'll head on out west, to the magical Snaefellsnes Peninsula. On the way, you could make take a short detour to Hvitserkur. The mighty sea stalk is sometimes referred to as the 'Troll of North-West Iceland.'
Make your way to the quaint town Stykkisholmur and check out its beautiful and well-preserved old houses in the town center. Stykkisholmur is the gateway to the islands of Breidafjordur Bay, renowned for its natural beauty and remarkable wildlife.
Drive further west and stop at the scenic Mount Kirkjufell near the town of Grundarfjordur. It offers some impressive photo ops that you may not want to miss.
At the western end of the Snarfellsnes peninsula, you'll find the tiny village of Olafsvik, where you can stop for some great seafood at the local restaurant. Spend the night in the Snaefellsnes area.
Day 10 - Snaefellsnes Peninsula in Depth
Today you'll get to explore the great Snaefellsnes peninsula in depth. Looming over you on your drive is the magnificent Snaefellsjokull glacier.
You could start the day by driving to Djupalonssandur beach. To get to this beautiful black sand beach, you must walk down a path located between massive formations of lava rocks. You'll find four 'measuring stones' at the beach, used to test young boys to see if they are strong enough to become fishermen.
From there, you can head to the small fishing hamlets of Hellnar and Arnarstapi for incredible views. You could also check out the lava tube cave Vatnshellir as an added activity and the gorgeous waterfall Bjarnafoss.
Spend another night on the peninsula.
Day 11 - West-Iceland
Start day eleven by exploring the western region of Iceland and its diverse attractions. These include the beautiful waterfalls Hraunfossar and Barnafoss and the largest hot spring in Europe, Deildartunguhver.
Those wanting to immerse themselves in Icelandic culture should make their way to the Settlement Center in the town of Borgarnes, where they can get to know Egill Skallagrimsson, one of the Icelandic Sagas best-known heroes.
At Snorrastofa, the medieval research institute, you can learn everything about its former resident, Snorri Sturluson. Snorri was a poet, scholar, and lawmaker who wrote Snorra-Edda, the most important work on Norse mythology.
While traveling in West Iceland, you can opt for two very different tours. You could drive out to Langjokull glacier, where a guide will lead you through the hallways of a man-made tunnel in the glacier, or you could descend into the colorful wonderworld of Vidgelmir lava cave.
Make your way back to Reykjavik, where you can spend the rest of the day soaking in some of the geothermal pools dotted around the city.
Spend your last night in Iceland in the capital.
Day 12 - Departure
On your final day in Iceland, you need to head on out to Keflavik International Airport. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to drop off your car and catch your flight back home.
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. Super budget level accommodations will be arranged in hostel dorm beds. Budget level 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. 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.
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.