13 Day Budget Self Drive Tour of the Complete Ring Road of Iceland with Waterfalls & the Westfjords
Be the master of your time and wallet on this 13-day budget self-drive tour around the Ring Road of Iceland. Don't worry about tour bus schedules or traveling with strangers. This adventure will be at your pace, and you get to decide when to move between all the fantastic locations you'll visit.
You'll get to see all the treasures of the famous Golden Circle sightseeing route, the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula to give you an idea of the natural variety you'll experience. You'll even get to explore the remote and unexampled Westfjords, a treat most visitors tend to miss.
This carefully crafted package provides you with an exclusive vehicle and a detailed personal itinerary so that you can circumference the island of ice and fire on your own accord, trailing between all the primary sights as well as the hidden gems off the beaten path.
After this extensive and locally crafted excursion, it is fair to assume that no part of Iceland will be unknown to you.
Additionally, there are several exciting adventures available to you. These include horseback riding and whale-watching in the North, snorkeling in the continental Silfra Fissure, snowmobiling on top of Langjokull glacier, ice caving in Myrdalsjokull, and lava caving in Vidgelmir lava cave.
The best part is, this budget option provides you with all the best deals on accommodation, and you get complete control of your journey's pace and what adventures you want to enjoy.
Don't hesitate in booking the road trip of your dreams. Check availability by choosing a date.
Day 1 - Arrival in Iceland
On the first day, pick up your car at the Keflavik International Airport and make your way to Reykjavik City.
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.
After settling into your accommodation in the capital, feel free to explore the bustling city center and its myriad of cafés, galleries, bars, museums, and restaurants.
You'll spend your first night in Reykjavik.
Day 2 - Sights of the Golden Circle
Your second day sees you leaving the city behind you and kicking off your Iceland adventure with the Golden Circle.
First up is Thingvellir National Park, a World Heritage site located in a breathtaking and visible gorge between two worlds where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet. Here you can add a snorkeling tour in Silfra fissure to your day for a chance to enjoy one of the top diving sites in the world.
The next sight en route is geothermal Haukadalur Valley, home to bubbling mud pools, steam vents, hot springs, and active geysers. Watch Strokkur erupt naturally every few minutes as high as 66 ft (20 m) in the air.
The last major highlight of the Golden Circle is Gullfoss Waterfall, or the Golden Falls, which the route is named after. A platform will take you to the edge of the falls, where you can see their beauty and feel their thundering power beneath your feet.
If you're feeling adventurous, you can head out from Gullfoss to go snowmobiling on top of Langjokull glacier or opt for a horseriding tour with the gentle and friendly Icelandic horses.
After an exciting day stock full of sights, you'll spend your night in the area of Selfoss.
Day 3 - South Coast Waterfalls & Black Sand Beach
Day three sees you trail along Iceland's south coast. Your first recommended stop will be at Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, which offers up the rarity of an accessible cave to enjoy the view from behind the cascading water. Close by is Skogafoss Waterfall, one of the biggest in Iceland, with a drop of 197 ft (60 m).
Continue down the road to reach the magnificent glacier Solheimajokull, where you can opt for both a glacier hike and a snowmobile excursion. If you wish to see inside a glacier instead of venturing across its surface, you can explore an authentic ice cave in Myrdalsjokull's ice cap.
When you reach the idyllic coastal village of Vik, make sure to check out the black sand beach Reynisfjara, where the eerie black sea stacks Reynisdrangar lie visible just offshore. Vík is also an excellent stop for enjoying refreshments and stretching your legs.
You'll spend the night here.
Day 4 - Skaftafell National Park & Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
On day four, you'll take in the breathtaking sights of Skaftafell, belonging to the great Vatnajokull National Park. Hiking enthusiasts are in for a treat around these parts since many tracks and trails dot the area.
One recommended route is the path leading up to the waterfall Svartifoss, where it stumbles down a wall of black hexagonal basalt columns that were the very inspiration for the architecture of Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavik. Here is also another option for a glacier hike if you have missed it so far.
Down the road, you'll reach what has been called the crown jewel of Iceland's natural wonders, the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. Here, large icebergs have broken off one of Vatnajokull's outlet glaciers and gathered to float serenely to the sea. For a closer look, you can opt for two different boat rides on the lagoon itself, one on an amphibious vessel and another on a zodiac.
Just a stone's throw away from the lagoon, you'll find the Diamond Beach, a stretch of black sand where chunks of ice have gathered from the lake to sparkle like gemstones on a black satin bed.
Your final destination for the day will be at the village of Hofn, where you'll spend the night.
Day 5 - The East Fjords
Day five will see you zig zag through the stunning and desolate East Fjords, where great mountain passes and steep hills meet with hidden villages and sandy plains for a landscape straight out of a fairytale science fiction novel.
Today includes a lot of driving but also a lot of opportunities for solitude and reconnecting with nature. These parts are also home to roaming wild reindeer and incredible birdlife, including puffins during their nesting season.
You decide where to stop en route until you reach the township of Egilsstadir, where you'll spend the night at a nearby accommodation.
Day 6 - Lake Myvatn & The North
On day six, you'll drive through the breathtaking Modrudalur Heights to your next destination of Lake Myvatn. There will be plenty to see on your way, including Jokulsargljufur Gorge and the most powerful waterfall in Europe, the thundering Dettifoss.
When you reach Myvatn, you'll find its landscape uniquely formed by geothermal activity, boasting of visionary lava fields, pseudocraters, tuff volcanoes, and hot springs. The rocky citadel of Dimmuborgir is also a stunning site.
After exploring this stunning area to your heart's content, you can soak in the Myvatn Nature Baths or embark on a whale-watching tour in Husavik, often referred to as the whale-watching capital of Europe.
By the end of the day, you'll find yourself in the charming and bustling town of Akureyri, where you'll spend the night.
Day 7 - Akureyri & Godafoss Falls
Day seven finds you waking up in the Capital of the North, Akureyri, so feel free to explore the grounds by visiting the cafés, the museums, the swimming pool, or the botanical gardens. You can also kickstart your day with a horseback ride before continuing your journey or a whale watching tour if you missed it the day before.
Once you're ready, you'll continue your journey to the Troll Peninsula, Trollaskagi, where you'll trail the coastline and pass several charming fishing villages such as Siglufjordur and Hofsos. The latter of these boasts of a nationally famous 'infinity pool' that comes highly recommended.
A great photo stop is at the ancient Holar cathedral before you reach your destination of the Saudarkrokur area, which is where you'll spend the night.
Day 8 - The Westfjords of Iceland
On day eight, get ready to venture through the seemingly endless fjords of the West and witness the incredible landscapes en route to your next destination of Isafjordur, the largest settlement in the Westfjords.
On your way, you can behold the scenic hills of Vatnsdalsholar, the columnar basalt fortress Borgarvirki or the hot pools of Drangsnes. These parts of the island have a history of witchcraft and magic, so if that sounds up your alley, you can pay a visit to the Sorcerer's Cottage or the Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft Museum in Holmavik.
Once you reach Isafjordur, you'll fall for the town's unique charm, 18th-century buildings, and otherworldly lobster soup at Tjoruhusid.
You'll spend the night in the area of Isafjardardjup.
Day 9 - Latrabjarg Cliffs & Paterksfjordur Village
Get ready to acquaint yourself with Icelandic history on day nine, where you'll traverse the trail of one of the greatest Saga heroes, the outlaw Gisli Sursson. On your route to Dyrafjordur, you can also visit the botanical garden Skrudur.
A museum dedicated to Jon Sigurdsson, one of Iceland's prime fighters for independence, awaits you in Hrafnseyri before you'll reach the westernmost point of Europe at Latrabjarg Cliffs.
A myriad of birds nest in these cliffs, including razorbills and puffins. Humans don't easily spook these adorable creatures, so you'll get a chance to venture close and snap some incredible photos.
You'll find your accommodation in the area of Vesturbyggd, close to the villages Patreksfjordur and Breidavik.
Day 10 - Snaefellsnes Peninsula & Flatey Island Ferry
A real treat awaits you on day ten, where a ferry ride from Brjanslaekur across Breidafjordur Bay is included in your package. The Baldur ferry will take you to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, where it makes port in Stykkisholmur, but we suggest you stop at Flatey island to enjoy the serenity and tranquility.
Once you reach Stykkisholmur, you can pack your day by exploring the incredible scenery of Snaefellsnes, often called 'Iceland in miniature' since it boasts of such bounteous and diverse landscapes.
Mount Kirkjufell, Snaefellsjokull Glacier, ancient fishing villages, hot springs, lava caves, cliffs, and dramatic coastlines are all on your schedule. You'll have plenty of time to explore the area further the following day, so take your time at each location.
You'll spend the night in the Snaefellsnes area.
Day 11 - Another Day at Snaefellsnes
On day eleven, you can get better acquainted with this beautiful peninsula and sightsee your heart out.
Visit the villages Arnarstapi and Hellnar, awe at the castle-like structure of basalt columns Londrangar, explore the Dritvik Cove, or walk on the black pebbles that cover Djupalonssandur Beach. The possibilities are endless, so remember to pack your camera.
You'll spend another night at Snaefellsnes.
Day 12 - Hraunfossar Falls & Reykholt Settlement History
On day twelve, you've almost come full circle, so spend it exploring the west coast and its numerous attractions, such as the settlement exhibition in Borgarnes.
Other notable stops are Deildartunguhver, the hot spring with the highest flow in Europe, and Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls.
At Reykholt, you can locate the medieval research institute Snorrastofa, former home to the one and only Snorri Sturluson, a local poet, chieftain, saga writer, and arguably the most influential scholar of the Middle Ages.
Before reaching Reykjavik, you are advised to make one last stop at the waterfall Fossatun, which, according to legend, is guarded by a troll woman named Drifa. You can also opt for three different caving tours, into the lava tubes of Vidgelmir, inside a human-made ice tunnel of Langjokull Glacier, or through the magma chamber of Thrihnjukagigur Volcano.
You'll spend your final night in Reykjavik City.
Day 13 - Bon Voyage
Your journey comes to an end. Be sure to drop off your car at Keflavik Airport in due time before your departing 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. 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), 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.
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.