7 Day Self Drive Tour | South and West Coast & the Golden Circle
Hit the road and see all of Iceland's most popular destinations on this awe-inspiring 7-day self-drive tour. This tour is perfect for anyone who wants to make their own choices about where to go and what to do in Iceland, without worrying about tour guides or other people in a group.
Highlights include the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon on the south coast, Snæfellsnes peninsula in the west, the capital city Reykjavík, the famous Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. All accommodation will come with an ensuite bathroom and of course breakfast is included so that you will lodge in full comfort during your stay.
Although these sites are the most well-renowned, Guide to Iceland wants to help you find those unusual places where you can withdraw from the masses and get back to nature. The unique itinerary you will receive after booking, therefore, with attractions hand-picked by local experts, will help you find beauty and solitude within this country, and have an experience like no one else's.
You'll be visiting all three national parks in Iceland. You'll also get to see plenty of waterfalls, black sandy beaches, glaciers, volcanoes, and hot springs around every curve of the road.
You can even add more activities, to make a fabulous combination of sightseeing and adventures. On your way around the Golden Circle, you can snorkel in the divide between continents at Silfra gorge, or snowmobile on the ice cap of Langjökull.
You can take a boat tour around Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, strap on your crampons and go into an ice cave on Mýrdalsjökull glacier, or hike across the ridges of the glaciers Sólheimajökull or Skáftafellsjökull. On this trip, there is plenty of time to make the most of these incredible opportunities.
Book now to see all Iceland's most popular spots, and to have the holiday of a lifetime. Check availability now, by choosing a date.
- Available: Apr. - Aug.
- Duration: 7 days
- Activities: Glacier Hiking, Sightseeing, Self drive
- Difficulty: Easy
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and the northernmost capital of a sovereign state in the world.
Despite a small population (120.000 and more than 200.000 in the Greater Reykjavik area), it is a vibrant city that draws an ever increasing number of visitors. It is the financial, cultural and governmental centre of Iceland. It also has a reputation of being one of the cleanest and safest cities in the world.
The city of Reykjavik is located in southwest Iceland by the creek of the same name. Throughout the ages, the landscape has been shaped by glaciers, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and the area is geothermal. Much of the current city area area was subglacial during the Ice Age, with the glacier reaching as far as the Álftanes peninsula, while other areas lay under the sea. After the end of the ice age the land rose as the glaciers drifted away, and it began to take on its present form.
The coastline of Reykjavik is set with peninsulas, coves, straights and islands, most notably the island of Videy, and seabirds and whales frequent the shores. The mountain ring as seen from the shore is particularly beautiful. Mount Esja is the highest mountain in the vicinity of Reykjavik and lends its distinct feature to the whole area. This majestic mountain is also highly popular for climbing. Other notable mountains that can be seen from the seaside are Akrafjall and Skardsheidi and on clear days one may even see as far to the legendary Snaefellsjokull glacier, at the end of the Snafellsnes peninsula.
The largest river to run through the city is Ellidaa in Ellidaardalur valley, which is also one of Iceland‘s best rivers for salmon fishing.
There are no trains or trams in Iceland, but most people travel by car. The city also operates a bus system. There are two major harbours in town, the old harbour in the centre and Sundahofn in the east. The domestic Reykjavik Airport is located at Vatnsmyrin, not far from the city centre and close to Oskjuhlid and Perlan. The international Keflavik Airport at Midnesheidi heath then lies around 50 km from the city. Cars, jeeps and bicycles can be readily rented in the city and many organized tours are also being offered.
What to See & Do in Reykjavik
The local arts scene is strong in Iceland, with both annual events and single ones, many of whom have hit the international stage. For the annual ones please check our articles Best Annual Events in Iceland and the Top Ten Festivals in Iceland. Major events taking place in Reykjavik include the Iceland Airwaves, Gay Pride, RIFF (The Reykjavik International Film Festival), The Reykjavik Literature Festival, Cultural Night, the Reykjavik Arts Festival, Food & Fun, the Reykjavik Fashion Festival and the Sónar music festival.
Among famous people from Reykjavik are artists Bjork Gudmundsdottir, Sigur Ros, writers Halldor Laxness (born in Laugavegur) and Arnaldur Indridason and mayor Jon Gnarr. For more well-known and fairly-well known Icelanders, check our article on the subject.
You might also want to check our article on some of the many things to see and do in Reykjavik, such as visiting the city‘s many museums, exhibitions and galleries, checking out live music, visiting the Harpa music hall or the theatres, visiting the lighthouse at Grotta, the main shopping street of Laugavegur, visiting the old harbour and the flea market, going on a bird- and whale watching tour or visiting Videy island. We also have a top ten list of things to do.
Make sure to visit the public square of Austurvollur, one of the city‘s most popular gathering places, where you‘ll also find the national parliament, Althingi, the state church a statue of independence hero Jon Sigurdson, as well as cafés, bars and restaurants. Austurvollur was central in the 2008 protests, along with Laekjargata, home to the House of Government. You are also not likely to miss the great church of Hallgrimskirkja that towers over the city from the hill of Skolavorduholt, wherefrom you‘ll get a great view of the city.
Try a walk by the city pond, greet the many birds that frequent the area and visit the city hall, stationed by its banks. The Hljomaskalagardur is a beautiful park that lies by the pond, it ideal for a nice walk and sometimes concerts get held there. Further off is the campus of the university of Iceland, the Nordic house and the Vatnsmyri wetland, a particularly pleasant place, but be mindful of not disturbing the wildlife there and keep to the pathways.
For a nice swim on a warm day, we particularly recommend Nautholsvik beach.
Visit the Laugardalur valley, home to one of the city‘s best swimming pools, as well as the Asmundarsafn gallery, a beautiful botanical garden and a domestic zoo. A walk by the Aegissida beach, with it‘s old fishing sheds, in the west part of Reykjavik also holds a particular charm. The aforementioned Elllidaardalur valley is also a popular resort.
Another place that offers one of the city‘s best (and free) views is Perlan, up in Oskjuhlid hill. The hill itself is a popular resort, with over 176.000 trees and great opportunities for walking and cycling.
Travel to Alftanes to see the president‘s house at Bessastadir, which is also a historical site in it‘s own right, having been the educational centre of Iceland for centuries. Nearby is a beautiful lava field, Galgahraun, well worth a visit, though there is currently an environmental struggle going on as to it‘s future state.
The city is furthermore a short drive from many of Iceland‘s major attractions, most famously the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. In close vicinity you‘ll also find the Heidmork preservation area, a favourite pastime resort of the people of Reykjavik, as well as the Blue Mountains, one of Iceland‘s most beloved skiing venues.
Check our Best of Reykjavik guide further for tips on the best cheap things to do in Reykjavik, some of the best restaurants in the city, happy hours, the top ten value places to eat and our two articles on the famous Reykjavik nightlife; Nightlife in Reykjavik and Nightlife and mating.
Finally, we‘d like to stress that these are only some suggestions of the many things you might check out in Reykjavik. Whatever you choose to do, we hope you‘ll be able to make the most of your visit and we wish you a pleasant stay in our capital.
Jökulsárlón is Iceland’s most famous glacier lagoon. Conveniently located in the southeast by Route 1, about halfway between the Skaftafell Nature Reserve and Höfn, it is a popular stop for those travelling along the South Coast or around the circular ring road of the country.
It stands out, however, due to the fact that it also fills with icebergs breaking from the glacier, some of which tower several stories high.
These icebergs, other than their scale, are notable for their colouration. Although they are, as expected, largely white, most are also dyed electric blue in part, with black streaks of ash from eruptions centuries past.
When the icebergs finally make it across the lagoon, they either drift out to sea or wash up on the nearby shore. Because of the way they glisten against the black sands of Breiðamerkursandur, this area has been nicknamed ‘the Diamond Beach’.
In spite of being a rather recent formation, Jökulsárlón is the deepest lake in the country, with depths reaching 248 metres. With a surface area of 18 square kilometres, it is also growing to be one of the largest.
Jökulsárlón has not been around since Iceland’s settlement; it only formed around 1935. This was due to rapidly rising temperatures in the country from the turn of the twentieth century; since 1920, Breiðamerkurjökull has been shrinking at a dramatic rate, and the lagoon has begun to fill its space.
Today, the expansion of Jökulsárlón is accelerating. As recently as 1975, it was just 8 square kilometres, and now that size has more than doubled.
In the relatively near future, it is expected that the lagoon will continue to grow until it becomes a large, deep fjord.
Though a dark omen for Iceland’s glaciers and ice caps in general, the retreat of Breiðamerkurjökull has resulted in an incredibly beautiful, if temporary, site. This has not been overlooked by Hollywood.
Jökulsárlón has been featured in the James Bond films A View to Kill in 1985 and Die Another Day in 2002, 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and 2005’s Batman Begins.
In 2017, Jökulsárlón was enveloped into the Vatnajökull National Park, thus it is now fully protected by Icelandic law.
Because of the wealth of herring and capelin that the tides bring into the lagoon, Jökulsárlón is somewhat of a hot-spot for Iceland’s wildlife.
In summer, it is a nesting site for Arctic Terns; stay well away from this area, as these birds are notorious for the fierceness with which they protect their eggs, dive-bombing the heads of any they see as a threat. Skuas also nest on the lake’s shores in this season.
Seals can be reliably spotted here throughout the year, swimming amongst or else hauling out on the icebergs. Jökulsárlón provides them with a safe haven to rest and socialise, especially considering the waters of southeast Iceland are renowned for their population of orcas.
Snæfellsjökull (1446 m) is an ice-capped volcano found on the tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland.
Though many consider Snæfellsjökull to simply be a particularly impressive ice cap, it is, in fact, a 700,000-year-old glacier-capped stratovolcano. The mountain is actually called "Snæfell" (Snowy Mountain), though the “jökull” (Glacier) is often added to help distinguish it from other mountains of the same name. For the first time in recorded history, Snæfellsjökull had no snow or ice at its peak in August 2012, causing concern amongst locals that climate change is threatening the nature of the mountain.
On clear days, one can see Snæfellsjökull from Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, approximately 120 kilometres away over Faxa Bay, making for an impressive sight—and a tick off the bucket list if you can’t make it to travelling across the Peninsula itself. The volcano makes up just a small part of the larger Snæfellsjökull National Park.
Nearby villages include Hellissandur, Rif and Ólafsvík, all of which were commercial and fishing hubs throughout the peninsula’s long history of human inhabitance. Fishing took off primarily in the 13th-Century, with fishing stations being built in all areas with easy access to the open ocean.
One notable example would be the settlement of Dritvík, one of the largest fishing stations in Iceland at the time, utilising around 40–60 boats and employing between 200–600 people. Fishing in the region declined during the 19th century due to a change in Iceland’s fishing practises, though it is still an important source of livelihood for those living on the Peninsula.
Snæfellsjökull has, for centuries, been considered to be one of the world’s ancient power sites, a source of mysticism, energy and mystery for the peninsula’s superstitious population. This likely has something to do with the stratovolcanoes place in the Icelandic sagas; the feature takes a prominent role in Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss, a late 14th-century saga that tells the story of Bárður, half-human-half-troll, who became the “guardian spirit of Snæfellsjökull.”
Snæfellsjökull serves as the entrance to a fantastical subterranean world in Jules Verne’s classic 1864 novel “Journey to The Centre of The Earth.” Given its central place in the novel, Snæfellsjökull has become one of the most popular spots for visitors in Iceland and has inspired a wealth of writers, poets and artists.
Since “Journey to The Centre of The Earth”, Snæfellsjökull has appeared in the Blind Birds trilogy by Czech SF writer Ludvík Souček (partially based on Jules’ work) and in Under The Glacier, a novel by Iceland’s only Nobel laureate, Halldor Laxness.
Along with the glacier, attractions include the two nearby basalt cliffs called Lóndrangar and the many fascinating lava formations at the beautiful Djúpalonssandur beach, such as the arch rock Gatklettur. At Djúpalonssandur, one can also test their strength just as the ancient sailors once did with the four "strength" stones, Amlóði ('Useless'), Hálfdrættingur ('Weakling'), Hálfsterkur ('Half Strength') and Fullsterkur ('Full Strength'). In the area, one can also explore the Saxhóll volcano crater and 'the singing cave' Sönghellir, which is named after the loud echoes inside.
Skógafoss is one of the country’s biggest and most beautiful waterfalls with an astounding width of 25 meters and a drop of 60 meters. Due to the amount of spray the cascade produces, a rainbow is present any time the sun emerges from behind the clouds.
Located on the Skógá river, this mighty cascade is clearly visible from Route 1 and is an excellent place to stop and stretch the legs while travelling Iceland’s South Coast. The river below Skógafoss holds a large char and salmon population and is thus a favourite spot for fishermen in the summer.
The land underneath the waterfall is very flat, allowing visitors to walk right up to the wall of water; keep in mind, however, that this will get you drenched. Skógafoss can also be viewed from the top as a steep staircase leads to an observational platform above the cascade.
Skógafoss is located near the small village of Skógar, south of the Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano. There you’ll find the Skógasafn folk museum, an open-air museum with both old wooden houses and turf houses, as well as a regional museum with various artefacts from this area.
A part of the Skógasafn Regional Museum is the Museum of Transportation, which showcases the history and evolution of transportation, communication and technologies in Iceland. There, you can see how this nation evolved from the age of the working horse to the digital communications of the 21. Century.
The Skógasafn museum also includes a café and a museum shop, and in the village of Skógar, you will find both a hotel and a restaurant.
At the eastern side of Skógafoss, you will find one of Iceland’s most famed hiking routes; the Fimmvörðuháls pass. The 22 km trail leads you along Skógá river, between two glaciers, Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull, before ending in the beautiful Þórsmörk valley.
A gold ring is on display at the Skógasafn museum. According to legend, the ring is from a chest that was owned by Þrasi Þórólfsson, one of the first Viking settlers in the area. Folklore states that before his death in 900 AD, Þrasi buried a chest filled with gold in a cave behind Skógafoss waterfall.
Many attempts were made to retrieve the chest after Þrasi’s death, and years later, locals managed to grasp a ring on the side of the chest. As they pulled, the ring broke off, and the treasure was lost forever. The ring was then given to the local church before it made its way to the museum.
Geysir is a famous hot spring in Haukadalur valley in South Iceland. Part of the ‘Golden Circle', Geysir gives its name to hot springs all over the world.
Though Geysir itself is hardly active anymore, the area features spectacular hot springs such as the powerful Strokkur, which spouts a vast amount of water every 10 minutes, around 15-20 meters into the air, Smidur and Litli-Strokkur.
North of Geysir are fumaroles, i.e. unlike the hot springs that emit hot water, only steam and gas emanate from these. You may be able to observe bright yellow stains at the fumaroles, this is native sulphur, which crystallizes from the steam. At the southern part of the geothermal area, called Thykkuhverir, you‘ll find various mud pots. Such mud pots are actually fumaroles that boil up through surface water/groundwater and may become steaming fumaroles during dry spells, rather than the usual boiling mud pots.
About 2 km from Geysir is an old preserved natural pool called Kúalaug. One can bathe in it and it has room for 3-5 people at a time, but care should be taken, as the area around the pool is very delicate. The temperature is 39-43°C, depending on how you are positioned in the pool. The water is slightly muddy, as the pool is built on soil, and the bottom is slippery due to algae, so caution is advised.
In Haukadalur there has also been tree planting in recent times and today the forest Haukadalsskógur is one of the largest in South Iceland. Aspen, various types of pine, and other plants have been tried out there and experiments and research continue. We also recommend visiting the tree museum, built in the memory of forester Gunnar Freysteinsson. There are good paths and roads in the forest and the wood is specially designed to accommodate wheelchairs.
Haukadalur has been a church site since ancient time. The current wooden church was last rebuilt in 1938 but the variety and appearance of the church dates back to 1842, making it one of the oldest of its kind in Iceland.
Haukadalur is indeed a historical place. It was settled during the age of settlement and scholar Ari “The Wise“ Thorgilsson grew up there. The first pastoral school in Iceland was also built there.
For accommodation, Hotel Gullfoss is about 7 km from the Geysir area, and closer still is the Hotel Geysir.
Gullfoss (translated to ‘Golden Falls’) is one of Iceland’s most iconic and beloved waterfalls, found on the Hvítá river canyon in south Iceland. The water in Hvítá river travels from the glacier Langjökull, finally cascading 32m down Gullfoss’ two stages in a dramatic display of nature’s raw power.
Because of the waterfall’s two stages, Gullfoss should actually be thought of as two separate waterfalls. The first, shorter stage of the waterfall is 11m, whilst the second stage is 21m. The canyon walls on both sides of the waterfall reach heights of up to 70m, descending into the 2.5km long Gullfossgjúfur canyon (geologists indicate that this canyon was formed by glacial outbursts at the beginning of the last age.)
In the summer, approximately 140 cubic metres of water surges down the waterfall every second, whilst in winter that number drops to around 109 cubic metres. With such energy, visitor’s should not be surprised to find themselves drenched by the waterfall’s mighty spray-off.
In the early days of the last century, Gullfoss was at the centre of much controversy regarding foreign investors and their desire to profit off Iceland’s nature. In the year 1907, an English businessman known only as Howells sought to utilise the waterfall’s energy and harboured ambitions to use its energy to fuel a hydroelectric plant.
At the time, Gullfoss was owned by a farmer named Tómas Tómasson. Tómas declined Howell’s offer to purchase the land, stating famously “I will not sell my friend!” He would, however, go on to lease Howells the land, inadvertently beginning the first chapter of Icelandic environmentalism.
It was Tómas’ daughter, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, who would lead the charge. Having grown up on her father’s sheep farm, she sought to get the lease contract nullified, hurriedly saving her own money to hire a lawyer. The ensuing legal battle was an uphill struggle; the case continued for years, forcing Sigríður to travel many times by foot to Reykjavík if only to keep the trial moving. Circumstances became so difficult that Sigríður threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if any construction began.
Thankfully, in 1929, the waterfall fell back into the hands of the Icelandic people. Today, Sigríður is recognised for her perseverance in protecting Gullfoss and is often hailed as Iceland’s first environmentalist. Her contribution is forever marked in stone; a plaque detailing her plight sits at the top of Gullfoss.
Restaurant / Cafe
Besides Gullfoss, visitors can enjoy the views from Gullfoss Cafe, a locally run delicatessen that serves a wide variety of refreshments and meals. The menu has options to tantalise everyone’s taste buds; hot soups, sandwiches, salads and cakes. There is also a shop on site where visitors’ can browse and purchase traditional Icelandic souvenirs.
Thingvellir is one of the most important sites to visit in Iceland for its landscape, history and cultural value.
The Icelandic parliament was founded in Thingvellir in 930 and remained there for centuries.Thingvellir is surrounded by a beautiful mountain range and is the site of a rift valley, marking the crest of the Mid-Atlantic range. Today it is a natural park, listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and considered a vital part of the ‘Golden triangle’ (with Geysir and Gullfoss). Of particular note is the magnificent gorge Almannagja, which marks the eastern boundary of the north American plate and into which the beautiful waterfall Oxararfoss falls.
Other notable attractions within the park include the beautiful lake Thingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland, the Silfra fissure, one of the world's top dives, and Gjabakkahellir, one of Iceland's most interesting lava tubes.
Snaefellsnes is a large peninsula extending to the west from West Iceland ending with a national park, Snaefellsjokull National Park, where the glacier towers over the scenery, as can sometimes be seen from Reykjavik, lending its beauty to the area.
The peninsula stretches over 100 km to the west as a mountain ridge that includes active volcanoes and is unique in the variety of mountains found.
A few small and beautiful villages are located on the south side and a few fishing villages are on the north side: Rif, Hellissandur, Olafsvik, Grundarfjordur and Stykkisholmur. The last one is highly popular for travelers, featuring a volcano museum and a ferry that takes you across the fascinating Breidafjordur bay to Brjanslaekur on the south border of the Westfjords.
Other museums you might want to check out are the Maritime Museum at Hellissandur, the regional museum Pakkhusid at Olafsvik, and, last but not least, the shark museum at Bjarnarhofn, indeed listed as the nr. 1 Snafellsnes attraction by Lonely Planet Travelers. Also, many of the Icelandic sagas take place at Snaefellsnes.
Snaefellsnes has an abundance of interesting sights. At the national park, you can witness the impressive lava formations of Djupalonssandur creek and test your strength on its four stones, see the two massive lava formations that compries Londrangar, explore the Saxholl volcanic crater and enjoy the echo of 'The Singing Cave', Songhellir. You may also hike on the majestic Snaefellsjokull glacier. The glacier has strong ties with folklore and was the setting for Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Other sights we can recommend at Snaefellsnes recommend include Raudfeldsgja canyon, east of the national park and the rugged and colourful Berserkjahraun lava field, near Bjarnarhofn, on the north side of the peninsula.
Last, but not least, Snaefellsnes is one of the main setting for Laxdaela saga. Chieftain Snorri godi, Gudrun Osvifursdottir, Bolli Thorlakssson all lived there as well as his namesake Bolli Bollason, the first West Norse member of the Varangian guard, an elite unit of the Byzantine army. Iceland's most famous mass murderer, Axlar-Bjorn, also lived at Snaefellsnes.
Skaftafell is a nature preserve in Oraefasveit. It used to be a national park of its own but joined the larger Vatnajokull National Park in 2008.
Skaftafell is notable for its rich flora, growing between sands and glaciers, and overall for its amazing and contrasting scenery. You can take short and easy trails to the waterfalls Svartifoss and Hundafoss, as well as Skaftafell glacier, with the mountain Kristinartindar and Morsardalur valley further off.
Skaftafell is also the perfect base camp for those seeking to climb Iceland’s highest peak, Hvannadalshnukur.
Reynisfjara is a world-famous black-sand beach found on the South Coast of Iceland, just beside the small fishing village of Vík í Mýrdal.
With its enormous basalt stacks, roaring Atlantic waves and stunning panoramas, Reynisfjara is widely considered to be the most beautiful example of Iceland’s black sand beaches. In 1991, National Geographic voted Reynisfjara as one of the Top 10 non-tropical beaches to visit on the planet.
Reynisfjara is found around 180 km from Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, and is a popular stop-off for those taking a sightseeing tour along South Coast. Driving to the beach is particularly easy, taking an approximate two and a half hours from the capital.
Upon visiting the beach, travellers will immediately observe rocky sea stacks sitting off the shoreline, known as Reynisdrangar. According to local Icelandic folklore, these large basalt columns were once trolls engaged in trying to pull ships from the ocean. However, as bad luck would have it, the dawn quickly arose, turning the trolls into solid stone.
Another legend tells of a husband whose wife was kidnapped and killed by two trolls. The man followed the trolls down to Reynisfjara where he froze them, ensuring that they would never kill again.
The sea stacks themselves are home to thousands of nesting seabirds. Species that can be found here include Puffins, Fulmars and Guillemots, making it a must-see location for all birdwatchers out there.
Visitors to Reynisfjara must be made well aware of the potential dangers present at the beach. First of all, the rolling, roaring waves of Reynisfjara are particularly violent, often pushing far further up the beach than many would expect.
Visitors are advised to never turn their back on the waves, don't go chasing after them and keep a safe distance of 20-30 metres.
Aside from these sudden and dramatic shifts in tide (known as “sneaker waves”), the currents off the shore are infamous for their strength and ability to drag helpless people out into the freezing cold open ocean. A number of fatal accidents have occurred at Reynisfjara, the last of which occurred in January 2017.
Vik in Myrdalur valley is the southernmost village on the Icelandic mainland, located 186 km from the capital Reykjavik.
Vik is important as a service centre for the inhabitants and visitors of the marvellous Reynisfjara beach.
Reynisfjara is widely considered one of the most beautiful beaches on earth (see for example Islands Magazine). This black pebble beach boasts an amazing cliff of regular basalt columns called Gardar, which resembles a rocky step pyramid and out in the sea are the spectaculary shaped basalt sea stacks Reynisdrangar. The area has rich birdlife, including puffins, fulmars and guillemots.
Kirkjufell (“Church Mountain”) is a distinctly shaped mountain found on the north coast of Iceland’s Snæfellsnes Peninsula, only a short distance away from the town of Grundarfjörður.
Kirkjufell takes it’s name from its resemblance to a church steeple, sharpened at the top with long curved sides. From other angles, the mountain can resemble a witch’s hat or even a freshly scooped ice cream.
Photography at Kirkjufell
Peaking at 463 m, Kirkjufell holds the honour of being Iceland’s most photographed mountain. Throughout the centuries, Kirkjufell’s striking slopes have acted as a visual landmark for seafarers and travellers.
Walking distance from Kirkjufell, one can find the photogenic waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss (“Church Mountain Falls”), an excellent subject for photographers who can easily frame the mountain in the background. Despite its relatively diminutive height, Kirkjufellsfoss’ three-pronged falls make the waterfall particularly stunning, even for Iceland.
At the base of the mountain, visitors will also be able to find a lake; on calm and clear days, this lake reflects a perfect mirror image of Kirkjufell, only adding to the fantastic photo opportunities around this area. On top of that, the colours of Kirkjufell change with the passing seasons; the summer see it a lush green, full of life, whilst the winter months scar the mountain’s face with a mask of barren brown and white.
Fans of the HBO series Game of Thrones will recognise Kirkjufell as a shooting location from Season 7 of Game of Thrones. The mountain is showcased from the scenes ‘beyond the wall’ when Jon Snow, The Hound and Jorah Mormont, among others, brave the wilderness in hopes of catching an undead wight. Having seen it in a vision, The Hound acknowledges Kirkjufell as “[...] the mountain like an arrowhead.” Even the Games of Thrones producers can’t resist capturing the mountain on celluloid!
There is a fairly steep trail to the top of Kirkjufell, from where there are magnificent panoramas of the surrounding fields, coastlines and rivers. The mountain takes roughly an hour and a half to ascend, and one and a half hours back to the bottom.
Alongside this mountain-track is a steeper route to the peak which involves two points where one needs to rope-climb. This route should never be attempted in the winter, and never without a certified guide. Given the steep elevation, it is highly recommended that you bring a sturdy pair of hiking boots, snacks and water to the trail.
Getting to Kirkjufell
Kirkjufell is extremely close to Grundarfjörður, a small town on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, approximately two hours drive from Iceland's capital city, Reykjavik. From Grundarfjörður, one travels ten minutes west down Route Snaefellsnesvegur 54 to the base of Kirkjufell. Visitors have plenty of parking space to choose from, all free of charge.
Reynisdrangar are rock formations situated near the shore of Reynisfjara beach by the coastal village Vík í Mýrdalur on the South Coast of Iceland.
The formations are large and impending sea cliffs, made up of the rock type basalt, that serve as a vital part of the area’s allure as they shoot dramatically out of the ocean under the looming cliffs of Mt. Reynisfjall.
- Visit Reynisfjara and Reynisdrangar on these South Coast Tours
The village of Vík only houses around 300 permanent inhabitants, but on a daily basis, travellers scouting the South Coast make their way there to visit what has been voted as one of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world. The beach of Reynisfjara, however, can be highly dangerous if proper caution is not taken. As is evident from how the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crash upon Reynisdrangar, the currents here are strong, and sneak waves can easily carry anyone that’s standing too close out to sea. The beach is not for wading, but for admiring, and especially the mighty surf bursting on the base of these rocky cliffs.
There is an Icelandic folk tale that explains the origin of the pillars’ eerie appearance. According to legend, a couple of trolls were busy dragging a stranded three-masted ship to shore when the sunlight hit them and turned them into pillars of rock for all eternity. In fact, numerous rock formations in Iceland carry with them tales of trolls or elves, and one has only to look at them to fathom why.
Surroundings & Wildlife
An alternative view of the bewitching cliffs and their surrounding sea can be enjoyed by venturing up Mt. Reynisfjall, by a road to the west of the village. The mountain furthermore functions as a puffin colony every summer, from April to September, meaning guests can enjoy the view in good company. Other birds can be seen gliding around the cliffs such as Arctic terns, fulmars and seagulls.
- See also: Puffin Watching Tours
The South Coast of Iceland is the country's most visited sightseeing route, along with the Golden Circle.
The famed South Coast shoreline stretches from the greater Reykjavík area and is dotted with natural wonders such as cascading waterfalls, volcanoes both active and dormant, black sand beaches and glacier lagoons.
Geography, Nature & Wildlife
Iceland is divided into eight geographical regions. Out of these, the Southern Region is the largest, as it spans over 24.000 square kilometres with its administrative centre in the municipality of Selfoss.
What is known as the South Coast embodies the shoreline of this particular region. The area consists of a lowland that is mostly composed of marshlands, bays and cultivated pastures that are met by a series of black beaches where the estuaries to the east and west of the district close off the coastal body.
Underneath the soil rests a vast lava field, known as Þjórsárhraun. Its edges reach several hundred metres offshore where the ocean waves crash upon them, thereby protecting the lowland from the invasion of the sea. This results in the South Coast being unusually lacking in the deep fjords that so distinctly characterise the rest of Iceland's shore line.
The region boasts vibrant bird life during all seasons. It is not only rich with both marshland birds and seabirds but also migrating birds such as the North Atlantic puffin. Some species stay throughout the harsh Icelandic winter, including the northern diver, the loom and various species of gulls and ducks.
Highlights of the South Coast
The South Coast offers an unprecedented array of natural wonders that draw thousands of visitors each day. When driving the route from Reykjavík City, the highlights in their correct order are:
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
- Vestmannaeyjar; The Westman Islands
- Eyjafjallajökull Glacier Volcano
- Skógafoss Waterfall
- Sólheimajökull Glacier
- Dyrhólaey Peninsula
- Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
- Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks
- Coastal Village Vík í Mýrdal
- Skeiðarársandur Glacial Sand Plain
- Vatnajökull National Park
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
These attractions count for but a fraction of what the South Coast has to offer. The vast sand plains of Sólheimasandur are home to a crashed DC-3 Plane Wreck, and close to Seljavellir by the Skógar Village there's Seljavallalaug, one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland.
- Explore the many wonders of the area on these South Coast Tours
Starting time : Flexible
6 nights of accommodation (different levels available; breakfast included. More detailed info below)
Vehicle for 7 days (VW Polo or similar. Upgrades available)
CDW, SCDW and gravel protection insurance for vehicle
Blue Lagoon standard entrance (upgrades available)
Detailed Itinerary with fun and practical information on the nature, history and culture of Iceland
Hands-on travel agent to oversee your itinerary
What to bring:
Good hiking boots for the glacier hike
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.
Day 1 - Blue Lagoon & Reykjavík
Your car will be waiting for you at Keflavík International Airport, with a GPS system to help you find your way. Instead of driving directly to Reykjavík, you may want to make a stop at the Blue Lagoon and arrive in the capital city revitalised after a bath in its healing, warm waters. The visit to the Blue Lagoon can also be organised for your last day if you prefer.
As soon as you arrive in Reykjavík, you'll be able to soak in some of its quirky culture. You can walk around the city centre to take a look at Harpa Concert Hall and the famous architecture of Hallgrímskirkja church, as well as the funky boutiques and galleries of the old harbour district and Laugavegur shopping street. Spoil yourself by checking out some local cuisine in one of the city's many delicious restaurants, or try a craft beer at one of its local bars.
Preferred accommodation in Reykjavík
The Fosshótel chain has four 3-4 star Hotels located in and around the city center of Reykjavík. There is a short walk from all of the hotels to attractions, cafés, restaurants, museums and the nightlife. All offer private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.
Day 2 - Snæfellsjökull National Park
Spend your second day in Iceland exploring the stunning Snæfellsnes peninsula. At the tip of the peninsula, you'll find Snæfellsjökull volcanic glacier and discover the beauty of the surrounding National Park. This volcano was used as the setting in the Jules Verne novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
Inside the national park you'll find the charming villages Hellnar and Arnarstapi, peculiar rock formations, and the stunning Djúpalónssandur beach, to name but a few attractions. You'll also see plenty of birdlife amidst the scenery.
The rest of the peninsula has even more to offer, with plenty of rivers, lava fields, waterfalls, mountains and beaches; it is also home to the most photographed peak in Iceland, Kirkjufell.
Snæfellsnes peninsula is one of Iceland's gems, and you'll have no shortage of things to do. You will spend your night here.
Preferred accommodation by Snæfellsnes
Fosshotel Stykkishólmur is a 3 star hotel centrally located within the town Stykkishólmur. Spacious hotel with a view towards the bay. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.
Day 3 - The Golden Circle
On your third day, you'll leave your accommodation in Snæfellsnes and go on exploring around Iceland's most popular attraction: the Golden Circle. On your way there you will go through the Borgarfjörður area.
You'll visit Þingvellir National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the fact it is where the world's longest running representative parliament was founded; it is a central location in Icelandic heritage. It is also located in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and it is possible to walk right between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates here; the bold can even snorkel between them, in a crystal clear ravine, Silfa.
There are two other tours you can partake in today: a caving adventure in Viðgelmir lava tube, or else an exploration of the man-made ice tunnels inside Langjökull glacier.
After Þingvellir, you will head to the Geysir geothermal area. This valley of hot springs and fumaroles is, aptly, home to two geysers: Geysir itself, and its much more active neighbour Strokkur. While the former is largely inactive, the latter blasts water over 20 m (66 ft) high every five to ten minutes.
The final stop on the circle is the golden waterfall, Gullfoss. This magnificent attraction is breathtaking to behold, and walkways let you get right up to the water's edge in good weather, close enough to truly appreciate its mighty power.
After seeing the Golden Circle, you can head to one of the many spas in the area. The Secret Lagoon close to the town of Flúðir is historical and serene, while the geothermal spas at Laugarvatn will be just as refreshing, and are closer to your accommodation for the evening near lake Laugarvatn.
Preferred accommodation by the Golden Circle
Golden Circle Comfort
Hotel Litli Geysir is a 3 star hotel located right across from Geysir geothermal area. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.
Day 4 - The South Coast of Iceland
Continue driving the south coast of Iceland from Lake Laugavatn on day four. If you elected to do so while booking, you will head to Gullfoss first for your snowmobiling adventure.
It is recommended that you take a stop at the crater Kerið to admire the spectacular fiery coloration of the mineral-rich rock surrounding the vivid blue lake resting at its bottom. Next, head to two of Iceland's most incredible waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss; you can walk all the way around the former for a unique perspective, and the latter will awe you with its power. A little further down, you will come across Sólheimajökull glacier and can walk up to its tongue; you can even opt into a glacier hiking tour here to climb upon it.
Further east along the coast, you should venture out to the cliff Dyrhólaey, famous for its enormous sea arch, and the nearby black sands of Reynisfjara beach, where the impressive Reynisdrangar basalt sea stacks rise from the water. The geology of this area is quite spectacular. Your accommodation for tonight will be nearby in the charming village of Vík.
Preferred accommodation by Vík
Hotel Katla is a 3 star country hotel that's situated 5km to the east of Vík. Comfortable private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free access to a hot tub and a sauna. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.
Day 5 - Jökulsárlón & Vatnajökull National Park
Continue from Vík along the south coast towards the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Along the way, you'll be passing stunning volcanic deserts and have an incredible view of the impressive Vatnajökull glacier, the largest glacier in Europe. If you prefer, you can start this day by taking an exciting ice cave tour to Mýrdalsjökull, a glacier that covers an active volcano.
On your way to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, you might want to make a stop at the charming, historic village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur for a short hike or bite to eat. Further ahead, you should head into Skaftafell Nature Reserve, within Vatanjökull National Park, for some incredible landscapes. There are many hikes in this area, including to the beautiful waterfall Svartifoss, which tumbles off a cliff of unique, hexagonal basalt columns. You can also opt for another glacier hike here today, or save it for tomorrow.
You'll end your day's journey at the stunning Jökulsárlon glacier lagoon, where you'll surely want to spend some time admiring icebergs as they float to the ocean, or wash up on the Diamond Beach. This area is considered by many to be Iceland's most beautiful spot, and for good reason. If you wish to get closer to the bergs in the lagoon, you can opt for a boat tour that will take you right out to them, either in an amphibious boat or a zodiac.
You'll be staying in a countryside hotel near Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon this evening.
Preferred accommodation by Jökulsárlón and Höfn
Jökulsárlón and Höfn Comfort
Hotel Höfn is a 3 star hotel centrally located within the town Höfn. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.
Day 6 - Drive Back to Reykjavík
If you decided to save some adventure for today, you have the option of going on a glacier hike before your drive back to Reykjavík, or taking that boat ride out onto the glacier lagoon. Otherwise, its a long drive back to Reykjavík so best start early.
On your return journey, revisit your favourite spots; many of Iceland's locations have a completely different beauty at different times of the day, or when the weather has changed. There are also many detours to some unique locations you can take, such as to Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, a verdant, mossy ravine carved from the rock by a fast-moving river.
Make the most of your last night in Reykjavík; soak in the city's summer atmosphere and explore the colourful culture.
Preferred accommodation in Reykjavík
The Fosshótel chain has four 3-4 star Hotels located in and around the city center of Reykjavík. There is a short walk from all of the hotels to attractions, cafés, restaurants, museums and the nightlife. All offer private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.
Day 7 - Car Drop-off at Keflavik International Airport
If you didn't go to the Blue Lagoon on your arrival date and you have an afternoon flight, then it's the perfect way to bid Iceland a fond farewell and relax before your return home. Alternately, you can take some time for last-minute shopping before returning your car to Keflavík airport, or go exploring along the Reykjanes Peninsula.
Fly home knowing you've seen all the greatest spots Iceland has to offer!
See our accommodation levels below and our preferred accommodation partners under each day in the daily itinerary. Single person bookings will be arranged in a single room, while bookings of 2 or more people will share twin/double room(s) or triple room(s). Guide to Iceland will provide you with the best available hotels and guesthouses 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. We always do our best to accommodate special requests, which may incur additional costs. The sooner you reserve the higher quality accommodation we can provide. Press choose a date at the top to find availability.
Rooms with a private bathroom in three star hotels or quality guesthouses. Very close to the best attractions at each location. 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, maximum two years of age, and come equipped with a GPS, CDW, GP, and SCDW insurances. You can also upgrade to an automatic model, free of charge.
A small 2WD vehicle fit for basic travelling in everyday conditions, such as VW Polo, Toyota Yaris or similar. This vehicle does not have highland capabilities.
A medium sized jeep or SUV with 4WD (4x4) fit for most travel, and good for snow and off-asphalt travel, such as Toyota Rav4 or similar. This vehicle has basic highland capabilities.
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 email@example.com 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.
Really awesome tour. Very easy to get around, people were extremely helpful, scenery was beautiful. The biggest issue was finding sites on the GPS. They largely didn't show up as points of interest and the GPS coordinates always seemed to be off by a little bit. Not sure if we put them in wrong, but consistently off by a couple hundred metres.
Ronald C Zabel
Seeing Iceland through the self drive tour was a wonderful way to experience what Iceland has to offer. This was our second time in iceland. The first time we based in Reykjavik and took day tours. That was very limiting and did not allow us to spend as much time as we anted in any location, The Guide to Iceland package itinerary spaced out our stops well and allowed us all the time we needed to explore what we wanted to explore. Embla was our contact. She did an exceptional job of dealing with the variances we wanted to make to the itinerary. This seven day package covers a wide array of very interesting and beautiful sights. We would recommend it to anyone.
Iceland is fantastic and the best way to know it was by car! We loved every spot the tour suggested!! What we did not like was the hotel at Vik, Katla Hotel it was old and dirty! You should change that! I should say the Francisco Rojas was an incredible help for us!!! Thanks a lot for all his work!!!!! We loved the tour and Iceland in general! I would definitely recommend to buy this tour!!
AWESOME 7 day Self Drive Tour (South and West Coast & the Golden Circle) Guide to Iceland put a nice itinerary together for my friend and me. They book your hotels, rental car, and Blue Lagoon entrance. They provide GPS coordinates that you can easily plug into the GPS to get you to your destinations. The tour REALLY takes you to the highlights of the country. They provide you plenty of time each day to enjoy the itinerary they have planned for you with plenty of time to add in additional sites if you would like to. It was pretty windy and rainy while we were there in May, so we didn't spend as much time at each destination as they recommended, but if the weather had been more cooperative I could see how you could spend more time in the locations. I'm glad we used this guide to make the bookings for us because it really saves you a lot of time from having to research all the hotel options available to find the best one and then figuring out how much time you should spend everywhere and then where you should land each night...they really do all the thinking for you so you don't have to worry. The hotels all provided nice breakfasts in the morning so I would definitely recommend purchasing that option as eating and drinking in Iceland is not cheap. I would give the hotels they booked for us 3-3.5 stars; the people were friendly, the rooms were clean, and mostly updated. We added a few stops to our itinerary and we consider them must sees!!! Skaftárhreppur Canyon and Dyrholaey both provided beautiful picture opportunities. Room for Improvement: -Provide a map overview to highlight the attractions I am going to see. Though the itinerary is detailed, it is hard to imagine how it all ends up playing out day by day. -Car Rental company was 30 minutes late to show up to the airport and then brought a manual car instead of automatic. He quickly remedied the situation though. -I think the Location: information on the itinerary could be improved to be more user friendly. For example, on day 2, I'm not going from point A to point B, then from point A to point C...I am going from point A to B to C so it would make more sense to provide the information in that manner rather than A to B, A to C, A to D. You allow enough time to go to all of the places you recommend, so you should assume the traveler will go to all of them. -Provide more excursion information. We found a glacier hike on our own, we inquired with a company about a lava cave hike, but didn't hear back. It would have been nice to have a 1 stop shop instead of having to bounce all over the internet to find all the excursion possibilities.