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

12 Day Budget Self Drive Tour | The Ring Road & National Parks
On this twelve day trip around the Ring Road of Iceland you will get to see all three of Iceland's National Parks: Þingvellir, Vatnajökull and Snæfelljökull.
Grjótagjá is a cave filled with warm water by Lake Mývatn in North Iceland.
This 12 Day Budget Self Drive Tour takes you to Snæfellsnes peninsula which is sometimes called 'Iceland in Miniature'.
It is possible to walk in a circle around Seljalandsfoss waterfall in summer.
Iceland's coastline is dotted with authentic fishing villages.
Þingvellir National Park is a treasure trove of geological marvels.

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. 

Quick facts

Tour information:
  • Available: May. - Oct.
  • Duration: 12 days
  • Activities: Glacier Hiking, Snorkelling, Caving, Snowmobile, Horse Riding, Whale Watching, Sightseeing, Boat Trip, Hot Spring Bathing, Cultural Activity, Bird watching, Ice Caving, Self drive
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • 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, Mývatn Nature Baths, Námaskarð, Vatnshellir Cave, Djúpalónssandur, Tröllaskagi, Hallormsstaðaskógur, Víðgelmir, South Coast, Diamond Beach, Ring Road, East Fjords
Pickup information:
  • Pickup time : Flexible.

Your car will await you at Keflavík International Airport when you arrive. You will drop it off at Keflavík airport, too, when you depart from Iceland.
  • 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 vehicle

  • GPS system

  • Detailed Itinerary with fun and practical information on the nature, history and culture of Iceland

  • Taxes

  • Fuel

  • Blue Lagoon entry ticket (can be added during booking process)

  • Meals

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.

Daily itinerary

Day 1 - Arriving in Iceland

Relax in the geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon spa.

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. Hidden in this barren land is the famous geothermal spa, the Blue Lagoon. You could start your Icelandic adventure by taking a dip in the mineral-rich waters of the spa and unwind after a long flight. Just remember to book tickets online in advance. 

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. 

Preferred accommodation in Reykjavík

Reykjavík Super Budget

Rooms or dormitory beds with shared bathrooms in guesthouses or hostels, such as HI Hostel. Located in the capital region. Access to cooking facilities on premises. Breakfast not included.

Reykjavík Budget

Capital Inn is a 2 star hotel 3 km out of the city centre, with a short walk to Kringlan shopping mall and Nauthólsvík geothermal beach. Private bedrooms with a washbasin but shared bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is not included.

Day 2 - The Golden Circle

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

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. 

Preferred accommodation by Hvolsvöllur

Hvolsvöllur Super Budget

Árnes HI Hostel is located close to the village of Hella. Dormitory rooms with shared facilities. Access to cooking facilities on premises. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast not included.

Hvolsvöllur Budget

Hotel Hvolsvöllur is a 3-star hotel centrally located in Hvolsvöllur village. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free access to outdoor hot tubs. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast not included.

Day 3 - The South Coast

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

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.

Preferred accommodation by Kirkjubæjarklaustur

Kirkjubæjarklaustur Super Budget

Vagnstaðir Hostel is located within walking distance from the beach and has a great view of the sea and surrounding mountains. Dorm accommodation with shared bathroom. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast not included.

Kirkjubæjarklaustur Budget

Klausturhof Guesthouse is centrally located in Kirkjubæjarklaustur town. Private bedrooms with shared bathroom. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast not included.

Day 4 - Skaftafell Nature Reserve & Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

The Diamond Beach is bejewelled with glistening chunks of ice year round.

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. 

Preferred accommodation by Jökulsárlón and Höfn

Jökulsárlón and Höfn Super Budget

HI Hostel Höfn is located in Höfn township. Dormitory rooms with shared facilities. Access to cooking facilities on premises. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast not included.

Jökulsárlón and Höfn Budget

Guesthouse Hvammur is located in the centre of Höfn town and a short drive from Vatnjökull National Park. Private bedrooms with shared bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is not included.

Day 5 - Eastern Fjords

Visit Lake Lagarfljót in East Iceland on a summer evening and breathe in the stillness.

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. 

Preferred accommodation by Egilsstaðir

Egilsstaðir Super Budget

Guesthouse Olga is a family run guesthouse centrally located in Egilsstaðir town. Access to terrace and garden. Private rooms with shared facilities. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast not included.

Egilsstaðir Budget

Guesthouse Birta is family run guesthouse centrally located in the town of Egilsstaðir. Access to terrace and garden. Private rooms with shared facilities. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast not included.

Day 6 - Lake Mývatn

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

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 heading to the town of Akureyri where you will stay the night. 

You could spend some time exploring Akureyri, the largest settlement outside the greater Reykjavík area. It boasts of a beautiful botanical garden and Laufás, the fully renovated traditional Icelandic turf houses. 

Preferred accommodation by Akureyri

Akureyri Super Budget

Akureyri HI Hostel is a short walk from Akureyri's town centre. Dormitory accommodation with shared bathrooms. Access to cooking facilities on premises. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast not included.

Akureyri Budget

Hrafinn Guesthouse is located in the centre of Akureyri town. Guests have access to a fully equipped kitchen and fully furnished terrace. Private bedrooms with shared bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast not included.

Day 7 - North-Iceland

Dettifoss waterfall is a must visit destination in 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 back to your accommodation in Akureyri.

Day 8 - The Troll Peninsula

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

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.

Preferred accommodation by Blönduós

Blönduós Super Budget

Mikligarður Guesthouse is located in the old center of Sauðárkrókur town. Private Bedroom with shared bathroom and a communal kitchenette. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast not included.

Blönduós Budget

Mikligarður Guesthouse is located in the old center of Sauðárkrókur town. Free Wi-Fi. Private Bedroom with private bathroom and a communal kitchenette. Breakfast not included.

Day 9 - The Snæfellsnes Peninsula

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

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. 

Preferred accommodation by Snæfellsnes

Snæfellsnes Super Budget

Grundafjörður Hostel is located in Grundarfjörður village. Dormitory accommodation with shared bathrooms. Access to cooking facilities on premises. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast not included.

Snæfellsnes Budget

Hof Guesthouse is situated on the southern side of Snæfellsnes peninsula, just a few hundred metres from the beach. Private bedrooms with shared bathroom, living room and kitchen. Free access to a hot tub. Free Wi-Fi in public areas. Breakfast not included.

Day 10 - Snæfellsnes Peninsula in Depth

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

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 - West-Iceland

Visit Iceland in the summer and you'll experience the otherworldly sensation of being bathed in sunlight during night time.

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.

Preferred accommodation in Reykjavík

Reykjavík Super Budget

Rooms or dormitory beds with shared bathrooms in guesthouses or hostels, such as HI Hostel. Located in the capital region. Access to cooking facilities on premises. Breakfast not included.

Reykjavík Budget

Capital Inn is a 2 star hotel 3 km out of the city centre, with a short walk to Kringlan shopping mall and Nauthólsvík geothermal beach. Private bedrooms with a washbasin but shared bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is not included.

Day 12 - Departure

Hallgrímskirkja church is the most iconic feature of Reykjavíks cityscape.

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.

If your flight leaves in the afternoon or the evening, you might have time to squeeze in some last Icelandic experiences. You could go sightseeing in Reykjavík and visit the architectural wonder Harpan Concert Hall and Hallgrímskirkja Church, the one inspired by Svartifoss waterfall in Skaftafell. 

If you missed it on your first day, you could take a dip in the mineral rich waters of the Blue Lagoon. It is the perfect way to relax after days of adventure and travelling - just remember to book tickets in advance. 


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.


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. Super budget 2WD vehicles are maximum 5 years of age, and come equipped with a GPS and standard CDW insurance. Budget 2WD and Comfort 4x4 level vehicles are maximum two years of age, and come equipped with a GPS, CDW, GP and SCDW insurances. You can also upgrade to an automatic model.

Super Budget

A small 2WD vehicle such as Toyota Aygo, Hyundai i10 or similar, fit for basic travelling in everyday conditions. Compact and comfortable for up to 2 travellers with very little luggage. No highland capabilities.


A basic 2WD vehicle such as VW Polo, Toyota Yaris or similar, suitable for travelling in everyday conditions. Comfortable for 3 travellers with light luggage. This vehicle does not have highland capabilities.

Comfort 4X4

A medium sized 4WD (4x4) jeep or SUV such as Toyota Rav4 or similar. Fit for most travel, and good for snow and off-asphalt driving. This vehicle has basic highland capabilities. Recommended.


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 the booking of this package and receive a full refund, minus the insurance cost of 5,000 ISK per person.
The cancellation must be made within a minimum of 48-hours before the listed starting time. To cancel your booking and claim your refund, simply contact our service desk by writing to info@guidetoiceland.is no later than 48-hours before departure and declare the cancellation.
Please note that this insurance only covers the full cancellation of this entire package. It does not cover cancellations of individual activities and services within the package. The cost of the Cancellation Insurance is neither refundable nor transferable.


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