One Week Road Trip of the Popular South Coast and Mythical Highlands of Iceland
Spend a week in Iceland immersing yourself amongst the incredible landscapes of the South Coast and untouched Highlands with this 7-day summer self-drive. This road trip is designed for those who want to spend every moment of their journey exploring the country's most beautiful settings on their own terms.
The south of Iceland is home to an endless array of spectacular natural features. The sightseeing trail of the Golden Circle, the magnificent glacier lagoon of Jokulsarlon, and the nature reserve of Skaftafell are all found here. Due to the slow-paced nature of this tour, you will be able to explore every site at length without having to rush or skip over destinations.
Your time in the Highlands, however, is what makes this week in Iceland truly unique. Very few guests make an effort to reach the country's untouched interior, meaning its otherworldly landscapes and breathtaking features can be marveled over far from the tourist crowds.
The hikes here are spectacular, and at the oasis of Landmannalaugar, you'll even be able to bask in naturally occurring hot springs.
This holiday will not just be packed with sightseeing but can be tailored to your desires by adding a range of activities. You will, for example, be able to book excursions that take you horseback riding, snorkeling, snowmobiling, ice caving, and even into a magma chamber of a volcano.
After choosing what kind of adventure you will have during the booking process, you can relax. All details of your trip, including hotels and tours, will be arranged for you. This takes all the stress out of organizing your holiday, allowing you to focus on enjoying the buildup to your time here.
A detailed itinerary, showing you the countless options of what to do each day, will be provided after you confirm your booking. Another great bonus of self-drive tours is that you can pick and choose where you will go and how long you will spend at each site, based on the desires of your group.
Animal lovers can dedicate hours admiring the puffins at Dyrholaey and seals of Jokulsarlon, for example, whereas hikers can spend as long as they like on highland trails.
Because the summer nights are lit by the magnificent Midnight Sun, the only limits on your freedom are reaching your hotels and tours in time.
Don't miss this immersive, slow-paced, week-long immersion into south Iceland and the Highlands by booking this summer road trip. Check availability by choosing a date and book your Iceland adventure.
Day 1 - Arrival
On day one of your week in Iceland, you will land at Keflavik International Airport and pick up your rental car as soon as you clear customs. If you arrive late in the evening, you can take the scenic drive to Iceland's capital across the Reykjanes Peninsula. However, those who arrive early could start their immersion into Iceland's nature.
When booking, you can opt for a visit to the Blue Lagoon. A luxurious geothermal spa located near the airport, its azure waters, filled with minerals such as silica, are world-renowned for their beauty and healing properties. After a long flight, you'll greatly appreciate the rejuvenating pools, saunas, and steam rooms.
Alternatively, you could explore the Reykjanes Peninsula itself. A volcanic wasteland, you will travel across otherworldly lava fields, see countless cone-shaped peaks, and marvel over its seething geothermal areas.
Once you arrive in Reykjavik, it is a good idea to have at least a quick look around the city. After all, you'll be spending most of the holiday out in the country's far-flung nature. It is a beautiful capital with a thriving cultural scene and lively nightlife.
Day 2 - Golden Circle Sightseeing
On the second day of your week-long summer holiday in Iceland, you'll set out to visit the sites of its most popular tourist trail, the Golden Circle. This sightseeing route boasts three incredible attractions, and as this is a self-drive tour conducted under the Midnight Sun, there are plenty of beautiful hidden gems around it that you can seek out.
Thingvellir National Park is the first major attraction on your agenda. Located directly between the North American and Eurasian Tectonic plate edges, it boasts beautiful lava fields, ravines, and forests that beg to be explored. The site also has a fascinating history, being the original setting of Iceland's first national assembly.
Next, you will find the Geysir Geothermal Area. This valley is a hotbed of hot springs, with many bubbling mud pots, steaming vents, and, as its name suggests, several geysers. Strokkur is the most impressive of these, regularly blasting water and steam to remarkable heights.
Finally, you will come to Gullfoss, one of the most beloved waterfalls in Iceland. Not only is it a natural wonder cascading into an ancient valley with awesome power, but it had a fascinating role during a pivotal moment in Iceland's environmental awakening.
Around these fascinating sites are several lesser-known attractions where you can enjoy the wonder of Iceland away from the tourist crowds. These include the Kerid crater lake, Solheimar eco-village, and the Secret Lagoon.
There are also three tours you can add to your day for a taste of adventure. While at Thingvellir, you can organize a snorkeling excursion into the spectacular Silfra, a crystal clear spring found between the tectonic plates. Meanwhile, from the car park at Gullfoss, you could take a super-jeep to the sparkling glacier of Langjokull, and embark on a thrilling snowmobiling ride across its surface.
Finally, you could head to a farm in the beautiful countryside of southwest Iceland to ride an Icelandic horse. These creatures are renowned for their intelligence, friendliness, and diminutive size and provide a lovely perspective of the surrounding nature.
After packing your first day full of amazing attractions and adventure, you'll retire for the night in a countryside hotel in the area.
Day 3 - Highlands
On the third day of your summer vacation in Iceland, you will set out to explore the country's magnificent Highlands by traveling to Landmannalaugar.
If you are experienced driving on bumpy tails, you can elect to take the highland roads and drive there yourself with a four-wheel-drive car. If, however, you would rather not risk your rental car, or if not up to the job, you can take a super jeep tour there for a more exciting journey. You will be in the company of an experienced, knowledgeable local guide, who will introduce you to the sites.
However you get there, you'll no doubt be blown away by the beauty of Iceland's interior. The rhyolite mountains of Landmannalaugar are vividly colored by the area's volcanic activity, shaded colors of yellow, green, pink, and red. The hot springs are numerous and inviting, and there are plenty of hiking trails for those wanting to get further into nature.
Many of these will provide you with views over the Highlands that few travelers are lucky enough to see. You'll be awed by volcanoes, lunar landscapes, glaciers, and even some vast crater lakes. Though some of these trails are relatively short and easy, those who would rather unwind can simply bathe in the luxurious geothermal pools and marvel over their surroundings.
Once you have made the most of your visit to Iceland's far-flung Highlands, you'll return to your hotel in south Iceland.
Day 4 - Continuing along south
On day four of your week-long Icelandic summer holiday, you'll slowly explore the sites of the South Coast of Iceland. Many packages and tours try to squeeze as many attractions along this route as possible into a single and end up rushing, but due to the immersive, slow-paced nature of this tour, you will give all of them justice.
The South truly has it all: waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes, beautiful stretches of coastline, charming villages, and terrain that ranges from idyllic country to volcanic wasteland. It is perhaps most famous for the waterfalls. Today, you'll marvel over the serene Seljalandsfoss, the powerful Skogafoss, and the magical Gljufrabui, spending as much time at each as you desire.
The ice caps deserve special mention due to the exciting opportunities for excursions that they present. The first of these is a classic glacier hiking tour on the outlet of Solheimajokull. Under the care of an experienced guide, you will scale its spectacular surface and attain unforgettable views across the South.
The second is the chance to explore an ice cave on Myrdalsjokull, the glacier that conceals the notorious volcano of Katla. Ice caving is not usually possible in summer, making this a unique opportunity for those seeking to witness the world inside an ice cap.
Though you are welcome to set out to find the many hidden gems of the South, it is still highly recommended you visit the popular attractions of the Dyrholaey rock arch and Reynisfjara beach. The former is famous for its scale and being home to thousands of puffins in summer; the latter is a beautiful black sand stretch of coast, renowned for the towering sea stacks of Reynisdrangar.
When you finally retire for the evening, it will be at a hotel in the charming village of Vik.
Day 5 - Skaftafell and Jokulsarlon
The fifth day of your holiday will be spent exploring two of the most incredible locations in south Iceland, both in the majestic Vatnajokull National Park: Skaftafell Nature Reserve and Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. Sitting under the park's namesake, the enormous Vatnajokull glacier, you will be incredibly grateful for this self-drive's slow-paced nature as it will provide you with hours at each.
Skaftafell is a spectacular area, sheltered by glacier tongues and defined by lagoons, rivers, and lava landscapes. It is often described as a hiker's and photographer's paradise. The most popular trail in the reserve leads to the beautiful Svartifoss waterfall, which tumbles amongst bizarre columns of hexagonal basalt.
To further immerse yourself in Skaftafell, you can elect to take a glacier hiking tour on the magnificent tongue of Svinafellsjokull. This is a great choice for those who missed the trip on Solheimajokull yesterday. Though Solheimajokull's more consistent weather often leads to better views, Svinafellsjokull usually has more dramatic crevasses, ridges, and ice formations.
Jokulsarlon is a glacier lagoon of epic proportions. One of the largest natural lakes in Iceland, and ever-growing, it is filled with enormous icebergs that break from an adjacent glacier tongue. Their scale, vivid coloration, and gentle movements make them magnificent to watch, and many spend hours silently marveling over them from the shore.
If you want a more intimate experience, you could book an alternative tour here and take a boat into the lagoon. Amphibious vessels are an affordable option that allows you to immerse yourself amongst the bergs while largely staying out of the splash zone. At the same time, zodiacs can offer you an even closer perspective.
When the icebergs finally escape Jokulsarlon, they wash up on the shore of the adjacent black-sand coast. Called the Diamond Beach, this is another area of spectacular beauty you should be sure to explore. Both the lagoon and coastline are also great seal-watching locations.
After enjoying the wonders of southeast Iceland, you'll head to Kirkjubaejarklaustur for the night.
Day 6 - Drive back to Reykjavik
On the penultimate day of your Icelandic summer holiday, you'll drive from Kirkjubaejarklaustur back to Reykjavik along the South Coast. This journey will allow you to seek out any hidden gems you were not able to reach over the past few days and to return to some of your favorite sites.
If you are so inclined, you even have time to return to Jokulsarlon or Skaftafell for a few hours to further marvel over their unique beauty, unless, of course, you have booked a tour.
You can embark on a once-in-a-lifetime journey inside the magma chamber of a dormant volcano. Available only in Iceland, you'll head to a mining lift in southwest Iceland, which will lower you into a cavern that defies the imagination. Vividly coloured and unbelievably vast, the Thrihnukagigur magma chamber is a natural wonder unlike anything else on earth.
Considering that tomorrow is your departure day, some guests may prefer to get to Reykjavik in good time; after immersing yourself so deeply in the country's nature, many also appreciate the opportunity to get to know its culture. The capital has something for everyone, with many galleries, museums, pools, restaurants, shops, and a great live music scene.
Day 7 - Farewell
Day seven marks the end of your week in Iceland. Those with an early departure will need to make sure they drop their car off at the airport in decent time before catching their flight home. Those leaving later, however, can create a few last memories of Iceland.
Sightseeing around the capital or Reykjanes Peninsula is great for those eager to soak up a little more culture or nature. Considering you’ll still have your rental car, you could even visit other attractions around Reykjavik, such as Mount Esjan, the Blue Mountains, or the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Valley.
Alternatively, you can organize your Blue Lagoon visit on this day. Taking a dip in its healing azure waters is a perfect way to rejuvenate and end a week of adventure.
We hope you enjoy your flight home and come back to Iceland soon.
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.
Wearing cotton or jeans as the outer layer during your trip to the Þríhnjúkagígur volcano tour is not allowed. Please wear suitable waterproof clothes and sturdy hiking shoes for this trip. It's always the same temperature inside the crater – about 5–6°C (42–43°F). The Þríhnjúkagígur volcano tour involves a hike of approximately 3 km (2 miles) each way. The walk usually takes around 45–50 minutes (depending on the condition of people in the group). A guide will be with you at all times during the walk.
See our accommodation levels below and our preferred accommodation partners under each day in the daily itinerary.
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 a 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.
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), 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.