Adventurous 7 Day Summer Self Drive Tour of Iceland with Time in the Highlands
Escape to the road less traveled this summer with this 7-day self-drive tour of Iceland with some time in the remote highlands. This itinerary is perfect for those who want to see the most popular attractions in Iceland but would also like to take in some of the hidden gems the country has to offer.
This adventure will begin as soon as you land in Iceland. Your car will be waiting for you at Keflavik International Airport. You will be provided with a 4x4 vehicle ideally suited to handle both the famous Ring Road and the remote Highland route.
Once you pick up your car, you will travel through the moonscape of the Reykjanes Peninsula. Along the way, you can choose to make a stop at the incredible Blue Lagoon Spa to soak away any tension from the flight. Then it's on to Iceland's capital Reykjavik.
You will then spend the next few days exploring some of the must-see spots around the country. You will begin by traveling along the enchanting South Coast, with its famous waterfalls, Black Sand Beaches, glaciers, and famous sites Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach and the quaint town of Vik.
You will then make use of your 4x4 as you venture into the untouched Highlands of Iceland. This part of the country transports you to another world. The Highlands is an area filled with magnificent sweeping landscapes of rhyolite mountains and geothermal activity. This area has a color palette unlike any other place in the world and is home to some of the most impressive hiking trails around.
You will then embark on a journey to discover Iceland's most popular sightseeing route, The Golden Circle. This is a combination of three must-see attractions; Gullfoss Waterfall, Thingvellir National Park, and the Geysir Geothermal Area.
To top it all off, you will then visit the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, affectionately referred to as Iceland in miniature due to the wide variety of the country's natural landscapes contained in a relatively small area. You will also have plenty of time to soak up the busy and culturally thriving Reykjavik with its bustling nightlife.
There's plenty of opportunities to add further adventure during the booking process. You could choose to take in some thrills like snowmobiling, glacier hiking, ice caving, or visiting a lava tunnel. You could go kayaking beneath a famous mountain or even venture into the ocean searching for sushi of the Viking waters.
Your accommodation and itinerary are taken care of so you can truly take this once-in-a-lifetime adventure at your own pace. This is the perfect chance to see the unbelievable natural beauty of Iceland while also visiting areas that are off the beaten path for a thrilling vacation that will create life-long memories.
Don't miss the chance to immerse yourself in the abundant natural beauty of the land of fire and ice with this 7-day adventure. Pick a date to check availability.
Day 1 - Day 1 Arrival
Welcome to Iceland. It’s time for your adventure to begin.
Once you have made your way into the arrivals hall, you will pick up your car. From here, you will make your first drive to the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik.
On your way to the nation’s capital, you could choose to stop off at the famous Blue Lagoon Spa. This world-famous facility harnesses the geothermal forces of Iceland and turns them into a relaxing experience.
The sparkling blue waters of the lagoon are invitingly warm and are said to hold reparative qualities. You could easily spend a few hours here, soaking in the mineral-rich waters as you unwind from your flight.
You will then make your journey through the volcanic moonscape of the Reykjanes Peninsula to Reykjavik, where you will check into your accommodation for the evening. You could take some time to wander around town and check out the many fascinating buildings, monuments, museums, and attractions.
You will spend the night in Reykjavik.
Day 2 - South Coast
Today you will explore the sweeping landscapes and pristine natural beauty of Iceland’s South Coast. You will begin by leaving the bustling capital of Reykjavik. Not long after you leave the city behind, you will come to an impressive waterfall, Seljalandsfoss.
Seljalandsfoss is a magnificent waterfall that looks like it was taken straight from the pages of a fantasy novel. Its water comes from a river that faces the ocean, dropping 197 ft (60 m) over the mouth of an open cave. During the warmer months, it’s possible to walk behind the falls to get a 360-degree view of this natural wonder.
The next stop is the different but equally beautiful, Skogafoss waterfall. Skogafoss’ waters also fall from a considerable height onto almost flat ground. The result is an impressive mist that, on some days, has been known to produce a double rainbow.
You will continue along the ever-changing landscapes of the South Coast, passing vast planes overlooked by mountains and framed by occasional ocean views. If you would like a unique experience, you could choose to see an unusual attraction.
There is a vast black desert called Solheimasandur in between Route 1 and the sea. It was here in 1973 a US Navy Plane crash-landed. The aircraft was on a routine flight, and thankfully all passengers survived. Today the wreckage of the DC3 plane is still in its final resting place and has become an interesting attraction on Iceland’s South Coast.
Once you are there, you will have plenty of time to see this man-made attraction in an otherworldly landscape and get those essential snapshots before you comfortably return to the car park.
The next stop is Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. This stretch of shoreline is a reminder of the volcanic activity that shaped Iceland. The black sands of Reynisfjara create incredible contrasts to the sky and waves as they crash. The beach is also home to fascinating hexagonal basalt rock columns. These look like monuments carved into the cliff face, but they actually form naturally.
Looking into the ocean, you will see the Reynisdrangar rock formation. These dark sea stacks jut out of the sea towards the sky. Local legends tell of how they were once trolls who set out to sink a ship but were turned to stone by the sun’s rays.
You will then make your way to the seaside town of Vik. This quaint village is a great place to stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat. From Vík, you could also choose to take some more adventures.
You could choose to go on a glacier hike of Solheimajokull. In this experience, you will meet an experienced guide who knows the area well. Your guide will give you a safety briefing and fit you with all the necessary equipment you need. You will then traverse onto a glacier, like an arctic explorer.
If you are looking for some adrenaline-filled adventure, you could choose to go on a snowmobiling tour of Myrdalsjokull. In this experience, you will meet your guide, who will get you ready for your adventure. You will then zip along the snowy caps of a glacier, feeling the thrill of the fresh Icelandic air as you take in sights you will never forget.
Another extra activity you could enjoy on this day would be to explore an ice cave. These fascinating attractions are formed during the regular melt and freeze cycles of glaciers. Ice caves are a unique attraction, and each one is as individual as a fingerprint. Stepping inside one will transport you to another world, a crystal cavern of blues and whites.
After an action-packed day, you will retire to your accommodation.
Day 3 - Exploring the Highlands
Today you will visit one of the most unique and untouched regions of Iceland, the Highlands.
You will head off from your accommodation and enter the remote Highlands. This area is home to Landmannalauger.
Landmannalaugar's name means 'The People's Pools,' due to the abundance of natural hot pools in the area. This is a large part of Iceland's Southern Highlands and one of the most popular areas to visit for hikers.
Landmannalaugar is strikingly beautiful and geologically fascinating. The area's color palette ranges across a broad spectrum due to the variety of minerals and rocks in the area. There's the jet black lava rock of the Laugahraun field, a large plane that formed after a volcanic eruption in 1477.
The surrounding areas of Landmannalaugar are made up of a rock type called rhyolite. This type of rock is known for having a full spectrum of color. When visiting Landmannalaugar, you will see shades of green, blue, golden yellow, red, and pink painting the landscapes around you.
It's essential you bring a bathing suit and a towel with you on this day. Landmannalaugar is filled with natural hot pools. These geothermal pools were once a welcoming resting spot for early Icelandic settlers on their long trips through the highlands. Today they are an exciting place to stop and relax as you soak up the beauty of this untouched region of the country.
Next, it's time to start with one of the attractions on Iceland's famous Golden Circle Route. This is a collection of three main attractions that are considered 'must-sees' when traveling in Iceland.
Today you will finish your travels by seeing one of these attractions, and another reminder of the geothermal activity that has shaped Iceland, the Geysir Geothermal Area.
Geysir is home to bubbling mud pools, stark landscapes, and billowing fumaroles. One of the most notable features of the Geysir area is the geyser called 'Strokkur.' Strokkur is the most active geyser in the area. It bursts up to 66 ft (20 m) into the air almost every five minutes.
You will then reach your accommodation in the Golden Circle area and rest to prepare for more natural wonders tomorrow.
Day 4 - The Gullfoss and Kjolur
Today you will see another one of the attractions of the Golden Circle, a spectacular waterfall. Gullfoss is a large and picturesque waterfall. Its name means ‘The Golden Falls.’
The waters of Gullfoss come from the Hvíta River that flows from Langjökull Glacier in South-Western Iceland. When the waters of the river meet Gullfoss, they cascade 105 ft (32 m) down two steps. The force of the water as it plummets down the cliff face produces a massive spray.
One adventure you could have on this day is a snowmobiling tour of Langjökull glacier. In this activity, you will swiftly traverse across the top of a glacier as you take in some of the most impressive views you will ever see.
You will then head north through a high mountain pass called Kjölur. Early settlers used this mountain range as a safe passage through the highlands of Iceland. Legend has it that Kjölur was also the hideout of an infamous outlaw called Fjalla-Eyvindur. Kjölur is also made of rhyolite rock, giving it an impressive spectrum of color.
There are a few places of interest when traveling along the Kjölur road. The first one you will come across is Kerlingarfjöll. This large mountainous area has many peaks, the highest reaching 4846 ft (1477 m). There are a number of hiking routes in this area, and people come here from all over the world to test their hiking skills and enjoy the solitude. From the peaks of Kerlingafjöll, you can see three of the largest glaciers in Iceland.
Further along on your exploration of the Central Highlands is a beautiful geothermal area called Hveravellir. This place’s name means ‘The fields of hot springs. When you come here, you will see why. Hveravellir is known as an untouched pearl of Iceland. The area sits about 2133 ft (650 m) above sea level and seems like an oasis after driving through the stark landscapes of the highlands. This is the perfect place to have a relaxing dip in a geothermal hot pool or a hot river before continuing on your journey.
You will then head to the quaint village of Sauðarkrókur, where you will spend the night.
Day 5 - The Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Today you will explore a gem of western Iceland, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This beautiful part of the country is often referred to as Iceland in miniature. This name refers to the wide variety of Iceland's natural landscapes that are found here.
You will then head to a town that sits on the edge of Snæfellsnes, Stykkisholmur. This quaint town is a cultural hub and a place of history. This is a great place to stretch your legs and take in some incredible surroundings.
Breiðafjörður is a beautiful fjord on the peninsula that is also home to a variety of native wildlife. The cliffs in the area are some of the oldest land formations in the country. They have become a frequent home to the Atlantic Puffin. While visiting Breiðafjörður, you could also choose to take a Viking Sushi adventure.
In this experience, two cuisines and cultures are combined to create something unforgettable. You will venture into the ocean in a fishing boat. The team aboard will scour the waters for seafood, and the catch will be prepared and served for you on board with wasabi and soy sauce. You can enjoy all of this while getting a different perspective on some of the landmarks of the peninsula.
From here, it's time to explore the peninsula. There are a lot of places to explore here and lots of time to see it.
One of the most notable places in this area is the glacier that has given this peninsula its name. Snæfellsjökull is a glacier-capped volcano. It looks over the surrounding landscape like a mountainous guardian. This glacier was the setting at the beginning of the Jules Verne epic science fiction novel 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth.'
One of the most popular attractions on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is Mount Kirkjufell. This mountain stretches towards the sky at the height of 1519 ft (463 m). Its conical shape seems to point up towards the heavens. If it looks familiar, you may have seen Kirkjufell featured in the hit HBO series Game of Thrones. Kirkjufell stood in for 'The mountain shaped like an arrow's head in the TV show. If you want to see this mountain from a completely different angle, you could go kayaking in the waters beneath it.
Another point of interest is Ytri-Tunga Beach. This quaint yet beautiful strip of shoreline is also a haven for a seal colony. Many visitors to the area have seen these sea mammals playing in the water or lazily sunning themselves on the shore.
Djúpalónssandur Beach is equally notable. Djúpalónssandur sits in an arch-shaped bay, looking out to rocky sea stacks. The black sands of this beach also hold a piece of history. In 1948, an English trawler was wrecked just off the shore. Parts of the ship are still scattered on the shoreline today.
If you want some extra adventure, you could choose to experience a visit to a lava cave. Vatnshellir is an 8000-year-old lava tunnel that was formed during a volcanic eruption over 1000 years ago. In this lava cave tour, you will be lowered into the depths, then follow the path that was created by magma all those years ago.
You will also see the quaint and picturesque fishing villages of Hellnar and Arnarstepi. These small towns sit underneath mountains and overlook the sea. They are places rich in natural beauty as well as great snapshots of idyllic Icelandic life.
You will spend the night at your accommodation on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Day 6 - Return to Reykjavik
Today is your last official day of travel. Before you head back to Reykjavik, you have the chance to take in some extra adventure. From Husafell, you could choose to experience an ice cave.
In this experience, you will meet at the base camp, not far from Langjökull Glacier, the second-largest glacier in Europe. You will then board an all-terrain eight-wheel-drive monster truck and traverse up the slopes of the glacier. You will then arrive at the mouth of an ice tunnel then enter and explore the world of blue and white inside.
You could also choose to take a tour inside a lava tunnel. Viðgelmir is the largest lava tube in Iceland. It is situated in the west of the country underneath the Hallmundarhraun lava field and was formed around 900 AD. Many expect the inside of a cave to be dark and cramped, but Viðgelmir is entirely opposite to that. At its widest, the walls of Viðgelmir are over 52 ft (16 m) wide and reach a height of 52 ft (15.8 m). You will descend into the lava cave and experience the rocky underworld.
From here, you can head to two fascinating waterfalls. Hraunfossar is a series of connected waterfalls that formed as a result of freshwater pushing through lava rock. The result is a wall of water that is an impressive feature in a beautiful natural garden. Barnafoss or ‘the Children’s Waterfalls’ is a rocky tumbling water feature. Its waters push through and around the lava rock of the area to create powerful rapids.
You will then take the road through the Kaldidalur Highlands towards the final attraction of the Golden Circle, a place of pristine natural beauty and historical importance to Icelanders, Thingvellir National Park.
Thingvellir is a UNESCO World Heritage Listed site and is also the birthplace of the world’s first democratic parliament. This part of the country offers incredible views of distant mountains, sweeping planes, and rocky cliff faces. Thingvellir is a must-see when visiting Iceland.
You will then make your way back to the nation’s capital. When you have arrived back in Reykjavik, you will have a chance to take in the vibrant life of the world’s northernmost capital city.
Day 7 - Farewell
It's your last day in Iceland. If you take an afternoon flight back home, you could spend a bit of time in town soaking up some last sights and sounds. This is the perfect time to get any pictures you haven't managed to yet, visit some museums, or grab those all-important souvenirs.
If you didn't manage to on your first day or just want another soak, you could choose to visit the Blue Lagoon before your flight.
You will then drop off your car at Keflavík International Airport before your departure. You will leave Iceland with some fantastic memories of your stay here.
Have a safe trip home, or as they say in Icelandic' Goða Ferð.'
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.
Some optional activities might require you to have a valid driver's license, or you might need to send additional information to your travel planner. Please note that you might need to present medical documents should you choose to go snorkeling.
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. For other levels, 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.
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.
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 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), 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.