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12 Day Budget Self Drive Tour | The Ring Road & National Parks

12 Day Budget Self Drive Tour | The Ring Road & National Parks

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Perfect travel plan
Fully customizable
Car & accommodation
Tour starts
Keflavík Airport, Flexible
Duration
12 days
Available
May. - Oct.
Minimum age:
None

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 Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, the otherworldly area of Lake Mývatn 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, all at a discounted price, such as snorkelling 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. 

Included

11 nights of accommodation (different levels available; breakfast not included, shared bathrooms; more detailed info below)
Vehicle for 12 days (Toyota Aygo or similar, upgrades available)
CDW insurance for super budget level vehicle; other levels also include SCDW and gravel protection insurance
GPS system
Detailed Itinerary with fun and practical information on the nature, history and culture of Iceland
Taxes

Activities

Glacier Hiking
Snorkelling
Caving
Snowmobile
Horse Riding
Whale Watching
Sightseeing
Boat Trip
Hot Spring Bathing
Cultural Activity
Bird watching
Ice Caving
Self drive

Attractions

Blue Lagoon
Golden Circle
West Iceland
Reykjavík
Akureyri
Jökulsárlón
Hvítá River
Vatnajökull
Mývatn
Dimmuborgir
Húsavík
Ásbyrgi
Dettifoss
Snæfellsjökull
Skógafoss
Seljalandsfoss
Geysir
Gullfoss
Eyjafjallajökull
Þingvellir
Strokkur
Snæfellsnes
Reykjanes
Sólheimajökull
Mýrdalsjökull
Skaftafell
Sólheimasandur
Eyjafjörður
Þríhnúkagígur
Höfn
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Stykkishólmur
Hellnar
Reykholt
Borgarnes
Langjökull
Arnarstapi
Vík í Mýrdal
Egilsstaðir
Hvolsvöllur
Siglufjörður
Ólafsvík
Blönduós
Kerið
Gljufrabui
Hofsós
Kirkjufell
Búðir
Kirkjubæjarklaustur
Reynisdrangar
Hvítserkur
Öxarárfoss
Haukadalur
Grundarfjörður
Myvatn Nature Baths
Námaskarð
Vatnshellir Cave
Djúpalónssandur
Tröllaskagi
Hallormsstaðaskógur
Víðgelmir
South Coast
Diamond Beach
Ring Road
East Fjords

Daily itinerary

Day 1
Relax in the geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon spa.

Arriving in Iceland

After arriving in Iceland, find your vehicle at Keflavík International Airport and make your way towards Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík.

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 colours 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 Reykjavík, settle into your accommodations and start exploring the city. Dotted around the city are numerous museums, cafés, restaurants, bars, shops and geothermal pools. You’ll be sure to find something to your liking. 

Day 2
Visit Gullfoss waterfall and feel the unbound raw power of Icelandic nature as the earth trembles under your feet.

The Golden Circle

On day two, your adventure on the road begins. The day will take you around the famous Golden Circle sightseeing route.

Your first stop is the UNESCO world heritage site Þingvellir National Park. This where Iceland’s parliament, Alþingi, 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 that are drifting apart. The underwater canyon Silfra is a direct cause of this continental drift, and you can opt for a snorkelling 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 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 20 metres up in the air. 

The last stop of the Golden Circle route is the stunning waterfall Gullfoss. The river Hvítá cascades down a 32-metre 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 Langjökull, the glacier that feeds the river Hvítá. 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 Hvolsvöllur, you might want to stop by the lake Kerið, located in what was once a volcanic cone. 

Day 3
Visit Reynisfjara black sand beach on the South Coast of Iceland and see some of Iceland's most dramatic rock formations.

The South Coast

Today you can start the day by driving straight to the village of Vík for a thrilling tour that departs in the morning and takes you to the glacier Mýrdalsjökull. 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 great waterfalls Seljalandsfoss, Gljúfrabúi and Skógafoss.

En route are the glaciers Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull. If you are up for an icy adventure today, you could stop at Sólheimajökull glacier tongue for a fascinating hike across the ice cap or an exciting ride on a snowmobile on Mýrdalsjökull, the larger parent glacier. 

Make your way to the village of Vík. It is the perfect place to stop, relax and refuel as it sits on the shores of Reynisfjara beach. This beautiful black sand beach is edged in by cliffs of dark hexagonal basalt columns and out in the ocean rise the 66-metre high Reynisdrangar sea stacks.

Continue on to the historical town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur 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
The Diamond Beach is bejewelled with glistening chunks of ice year round.

Skaftafell Nature Reserve & Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Spend your fourth day in Vatnajökull 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 Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavík. 

You can opt for a glacier hike in Skaftafell where you trek across an ice cap of one of Vatnajökull's glacier tongues to see first hand the glacier’s constantly changing environment.

From Skaftafell you’ll move on to the incredible Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon where you can see enormous icebergs floating in the cool water. If you like to get a 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 Höfn, 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
Visit Lake Lagarfljót in East Iceland on a summer evening and breathe in the stillness.

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 amazing 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 own unique charm. You could stop at the village Fáskrúðsfjörður and learn about its relationship with France, check out the World War II museum in Reyðarfjörður or the seafaring museum in Eskifjörður, and see the immense natural beauty surrounding the town Neskaupsstaður.

Further north, you’ll find Egilsstaðir, the largest town in East-Iceland. Close by are Hallormsstaðaskógur, the biggest forest in Iceland, and the lake Lagarfljót. A cousin of Loch Ness is said to dwell in the lake’s milky waters. 

You’ll spend the night in the Egilsstaðir area. 

Day 6
Námaskarð is a geothermal area of stunning beauty by Lake Mývatn in North Iceland.

Lake Mývatn

Day six takes you to the otherworldly area of Lake Mývatn. The lake and its surroundings were formed by a volcanic eruption some 2,500 years ago. Evidence of this explosion can be seen in the free-standing lava pillars and pseudocraters around the lake.

The highlights of Mývatn include the boiling mud pools and fumaroles of Námaskarð pass, the eerie rocks formations of the Dimmuborgir lava field, and Grjótagjá, the volcanic hot spring inside a cave.

After a day of sightseeing, you could stop at the Mývatn Nature Baths for a dip in the mineral-rich geothermal waters before spending the night in the region.

Day 7
Dettifoss waterfall is a must visit destination in North Iceland.

North-Iceland

If you wish to explore the Mývatn area further, now is your chance. You could also drive through the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon and visit Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe, and the horseshoe shaped Ásbyrgi canyon.

Another option is to drive to the town of Húsavík on Skjálfandi bay. The town is known as the ‘Whale Watching Capital of Iceland’ as around 24 species of whales make the bay their home. There, you can opt for a whale watching excursion of Skjálfandi bay, and for some added adventure, you could add a puffin segment to your tour.

You could also drive around Eyjafjörður fjord and enjoy its rolling hills, beautiful valleys, mighty mountains and flowing rivers before heading to your accommodation in Akureyri.

Day 8
The Icelandic horse is a breed that is unique to Iceland and it has lived here for more than a thousand years.

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 harbour.

You could also get to know the friendly and gentle Icelandic horse on a riding tour through the beautiful landscapes of Eyjafjörður. 

Head on out to the mountainous area of the Tröllaskagi peninsula and make your way to the old fishing village Siglufjörður. There you’ll find one of Iceland’s largest maritime museums where you can learn about the town’s eventful history.

Then you’ll continue to the tiny village of Hofsós, 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 Blönduós or the surrounding area.

Day 9
West Iceland's Mt. Kirkjufell is one of the country's most stunning mountains.

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Today, you’ll head on out west, to the magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula. On the way, you could make take a short detour to Hvítserkur; the mighty sea stalk sometimes referred to as the ‘Troll of North-West Iceland’.

Make your way to the quaint town Stykkishólmur and check out its beautiful and well-preserved old houses in the town centre. Stykkishólmur is the gateway to the islands of Breiðafjörður Bay, renowned for their natural beauty and remarkable wildlife. 

Drive further west and stop at the scenic Mount Kirkjufell near the town of Grundarfjörður. It offers some impressive photo ops that you may not want to miss. 

At the western end of Snæfellsnes peninsula, you’ll find the little village of Ólafsvík. It is highly recommended to stop there for some great seafood at the local restaurant. Spend the night in the Snæfellsnes area. 

Day 10
Búðakirkja church on Snæfellsnes peninsula is a perfect example of a traditional Icelandic church.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula in Depth

Today you’ll get to explore the incredible Snæfellsnes peninsula in depth. Looming over you on your drive is the magnificent Snæfellsjökull glacier. 

You could start the day by driving to Djúpalónssandur beach. To get to this beautiful black sand beach, you must walk down a path located between massive formations of lava rocks. At the beach you’ll find four ‘measuring stones’, used to test young boys to see if they are strong enough to become fishermen. 

From there you can head out to the small fishing hamlets of Hellnar and Arnarstapi and for some incredible views of the ocean. 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
Visit Iceland in the summer and you'll experience the otherworldly sensation of being bathed in sunlight during night time.

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 Centre in the town of Borgarnes where they can get to know Egill Skallagrímsson, 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 a lawmaker who wrote Snorra-Edda, the most important work we have on Norse mythology.

While travelling in West-Iceland, you can opt for two very different tours. You could drive out to Langjökull glacier where a guide will lead you through the hallways of a man-made tunnel in the glacier, or you could descend into the colourful wonderworld of Víðgelmir lava cave.

Make your way back to Reykjavík where you can spend the rest of the day soaking in some of the geothermal pools dotted around the city. If you still have a thirst for adventure, you could opt for a tour where you go down into the empty magma chamber of a volcano. 

Spend your last night in Iceland in the capital.

Day 12
Hallgrímskirkja church is the most iconic feature of Reykjavíks cityscape.

Departure

On your final day in Iceland, you need to head on out to Keflavík 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.

Map

What to bring

Warm and waterproof clothes
Camera
Swimsuit and towel
Driver's license

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.

Accommodation

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.

Super Budget

Dormitory beds with shared bathrooms in guesthouses or hostels. Located in the region of the best attractions. Breakfast is not included.

Budget

Rooms with shared bathrooms in farmhouses, guesthouses or hostels, with good locations near the best attractions. Breakfast is not included.

Car

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), and Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW) insurances. Please note that off-road driving is illegal for all types of cars. All levels come equipped with a GPS and 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.

Super Budget 2WD

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.

Budget 2WD

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.

Budget 4x4

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.

Comfort 4x4

A medium sized 4WD (4x4) jeep or SUV such as a Toyota Rav4, or similar. Comfortably fit up to 4 travellers 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.

Luxury 4x4

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.

Van

A large 9-seater van such as a Renault Trafic (2WD manual), Mercedes Benz Vito (4WD automatic, has highland capabilities and better suited for winter driving), or similar. Comfortable for 5 to 7 travellers. If seated full, luggage space is limited. The driver must be of 23 years of age or above.

Meals

You can now add meals to your booking. Select to include dinner on every night as an optional extra, and we will provide you with vouchers as part of your booking confirmation. We will choose from top-rated restaurants that fit with your vacation itinerary and make your reservations for you. At the restaurant, you will be offered a set menu, from which you can choose from meat, fish or vegetarian options. If you would prefer something else, the voucher will act as a credit that you can redeem at the restaurant against menu items that are not part of the set menu. Please notify the restaurant on arrival about any dietary requirements. Vouchers are non-refundable.

Cancellation Insurance

This insurance guarantees that you can cancel tour and package bookings and receive a full refund, minus the insurance cost. The cost of your cancellation insurance depends on the duration of your tour or package. A base cost of 5,000 ISK per person is applied to all tours and packages with a duration of 5 days or less. An additional 1,000 ISK per person will be added to the insurance cost for each day after. The cancellation must be made more than 48 hours before the listed starting time on your voucher. To cancel your booking and claim your refund, simply contact info@guidetoiceland.is and declare full cancellation. COVID-19 Related Cancellations If you need to cancel your booking due to COVID-19 related reasons, the cancellation insurance provides further protection for your booking. If you purchase a self-drive tour or guided tour package along with the cancellation insurance, you will also get a full refund. If you test positive on arrival, to get the full refund after arrival, please email us at info@guidetoiceland.is with your booking details and your test result within 4 hours after you receive the test result. If your flight gets cancelled due to COVID, to get the full refund, please email us at info@guidetoiceland.is with your booking details and your flight cancellation confirmation prior to your scheduled flight departure time. Please note that this insurance covers the cancellation of the whole tour or package. Individual services cannot be cancelled and refunded separately, but are all covered and refunded in case of a full cancellation.

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