8 Day Self Drive Tour | The Ring Road & The Golden Circle
Book this tour for eight incredible days in the Land of Ice and Fire. This self-drive excursion is for anyone who likes to go where the wind takes them, rather than having tour guides in control. You will travel in full comfort, all of your accommodation will include an ensuite bathroom and breakfast.
Using the Ring Road as your guide, you'll see as many of the country's natural wonders as you can fit into your stay, including the capital city of Reykjavik, the Golden Circle, and the northern capital of Akureyri. You'll also visit Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, the beautiful Lake Mývatn, waterfalls, volcanoes, and tiny towns.
During the booking process, you can also add activities to your trip. You can go snowmobiling on Langjökull glacier, or hike on a magnificent glacier; you can join the famous Jökulsárlon glacier lagoon boat tour, go whale watching in Húsavík, or saddle a horse for a riding tour through the countryside of Iceland.
You can snorkel between continents at Þingvellir National Park, explore the dark places of the earth on a tour of a lava cave, or venture inside the pure, white halls of a glacier. There is even the chance to descend into the vividly coloured magma chamber of a sleeping volcano. The opportunities are endless.
A trip to the world famous Blue Lagoon is included in the price, so you can bask in its soothing water while you're here. Also to help you relax, the itinerary includes many spots where you can be virtually alone, in incredible locations most have never heard of.
So do not hesitate, take this unique opportunity to create the perfect stay in Iceland. Check availability now by choosing a date.
- Available: May. - Oct.
- Duration: 8 days
- Activities: Glacier Hiking, Snorkelling, Caving, Snowmobile, Whale Watching, Sightseeing, Hot Spring Bathing, Cultural Activity, Bird watching, Self drive
- Difficulty: Easy
From Reykjanesta and the next 100 km onwards, the south shore is characterized by lava formations constantly battered by the wild ocean waves (‘brim’ in Icelandic). For the next 300 km after that the shore consists of sands with hardly any harbours.
Along with the powerful brakers, there is rich birdlife in the lava shore area. As for the sand shores, despite the lack of harbours, people would set off for fishing there anyway, at tremendous risk and this would indeed often result in great losses of life.
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.
Akureyri, ‘The Capital of the North’ is a town in the fjord Eyjafjordur in North Iceland. It lies just 100 km away from the Arctic Circle. It is Iceland’s second-largest urban area with a population of about 17,800.
Akureyri is an important fishing centre and port, but in the last few years tourism, industry, higher education and services have become the fastest growing sectors of the economy.
An international airport is located about 3 km from the center. A large number of cruisers also stop at Akureyri. One of Iceland's best skiing sites is found by Akureyri, at Hlidarfjall.
Traditionally Akureyri has survived on fisheries and some of Iceland’s largest fishing companies, like for example Samherji, have their headquarters there. Other large companies include Brim, Nordurmjolk, and Vifilfell hf, the largest brewery in Iceland.
FSA/Akureyri Hospital is a major employer in the area and is one of two major hospitals in Iceland.
Akureyri has excellent facilities for travelers and is located a short drive from many of Iceland’s top natural, cultural and historical attractions.
Nature & Landscape
Akureyri is surrounded by mountains, the highest one being Kerling (1538 m). The area around it has rich agriculture and a beautiful mountain ring.
The innermost part of the fjord, Pollurinn ('The Pool') further lends the town a special character. The climate in Akureyri is generally very pleasant.
The islands Hrisey in the middle of Eyfjordur and Grimsey, straddling the Artic Circle, both belong to the municipality of Akureyri. Hrisey is often called 'The Pearl of Eyjafjordur' and Grimsey 'The Pearl of the Artic' and these beautiful and peaceful islands are highly popular with travelers.
History & Culture
During World War II the town was an important site for the Allies and the town grew considerably after the war, as people increasingly moved to urban areas.
Akureyri has a strong cultural scene, with several bars and renowned restaurants. Folk culture in general is more prevalent there than in Reykjavik. During the summer there are several notable festivals in Akureyri and its surroundings.
Sites of interest in Akureyri include the brand-new Hof concert hall and Akureyri’s many museums, The Nature Museum, Nonnahus, a.k.a. Jon Sveinsson Memorial Museum, for the writer, David's house or David Stefansson Memorial Museum, for the poet, Akureyri Art Museum.
Akureyri also has several churches, Akureyrarkirkja being the most notable, as well as beautiful botanical gardens. The old town is particularly charming, ideal for a nice walk.
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.
Dimmuborgir (e. ‘Black Forts') is a large area of chaotic lava, situated right east of Lake Myvatn, in North Iceland. With its dramatic view, Dimmuborgir is one of Iceland's most popular attractions.
The area is composed of various volcanic caves and rock formations, reminiscent of an ancient collapsed citadel. In folklore the Dimmuborgir lava field has been connected with hell, Satan was to have landed there after being cast from heaven and the Norwegian symphonic black metal band derives its name from the region.
Goðafoss waterfall is located the river Skjálfandafljót in north Iceland, the fourth largest river in Iceland. It is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland, falling from a height of 12 metres over a width of 30 metres.
The fall's name means either waterfall of the gods or of the 'goði' (i.e. priest/ chieftain). It is said that when the lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði declared Christianity the official religion in Iceland, after his own conversion, he threw the statues of the old Norse gods into the waterfall.
Dettifoss, in the glacier river Jokulsa á Fjollum, flowing from the glacier Vatnajokull, is reputed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
This thunderous fall has an average waterflow of 193 m3 per second. It is 100 meters (330 ft.) wide and plummets 45 meters (150 ft.) down to Jokulsargljufur canyon.
Skogafoss is one of the biggest and most beautiful waterfalls of the island with an astounding width of 25 meters and a drop of 60 meters.
This is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland for travellers to visit. It is located in South Iceland, not far from Skogar, which itself features a highly interesting regional museum. Due to the amount of spray the waterfall often produces a single or double rainbow on sunny days.
Seljalandsfoss in the river Seljalandsa in South Iceland is one of the most sought waterfalls in the country.
Seljalandsfoss has a narrow cascade but is one of Iceland's highest waterfalls, at 63 meters. The waterfall is highly picturesque and has the rare distinction that one can actually walk behind it.
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.
The 120 meter high promontory Dyrholaey is the southernmost part of the mainland, only a short drive south of the Ring Road. It offers a breathtaking view and features spectacular outcrops and rock formations.
A notable attraction is the massive arch that the sea has eroded from the heartland, giving the island its name (‘dyr’=door’). One daredevil pilot even flew through it!
Dyrholaey has an abundance of birdlife, the most common being puffins and eider ducks. You can also enjoy the black beach, where the waves can provide an impressive sight. As these can be very wild, we do however advise uttermost caution.
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.
Hraunfossar in Borgarfjordur district is a series of beautiful waterfalls formed by rivulets streaming from a short distance out of the Hallmundarhraun lava field.
The lava field flowed from an eruption of one of the volcanoes lying under the glacier Langjokull. The waterfalls pour into the Hvita river from ledges of less porous rock in the lava. These are some of the most magnificent falls found in Iceland and not to be missed.
Deildartunguhver, by Reykholt, in Borgarfjordur district, has the highest flow rate for a hot spring in Europe.
The flow rate of Deildartunguhver is 180 liters/second and water emerges at 97 °C. The place is also unique for being the only place in the country where the hard fern grows.
Hofn a Hornafirdi, is a fishing town in southeast Iceland, with a population of 1641 (as of 2011). It has a strong harbour and its main industries are fishing and tourism.
Of note are several interesting museums and the annual Humarhatid (lobster festival). The area is also rich and varied birdlife and migratory birds from Scotland land here around April and leave around August/September.
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.
Blönduós is the largest urban area of Húnaflói bay in northwest Iceland, with a population of around 880 people. It is a service centre for the local area and a common stop for travellers of the ring road.
Economy, accommodation and services
Blönduós’s main economy is acting as a serving centre, particularly for dairy products, as well as fishing and light industy and tourism. A creamery and a butchery are both operated at Blönduós, as well as a hospital and a health service. The town has a hotel and a guesthouse, as well as summerhouses and a camping area and offers general commerce and services.
Attractions and activities
Birdwatching is popular in the area, as well as horse riding tours and the nearby lakes and rivers are some of the best in the country for fishing trout and salmon. Among these is the river Blanda, one of Iceland's longest rivers. In it is the beautiful island Hrútey, rich with vegetation and is a habitat for many bird species, such as geese. The Yndisgarður is a nice park with a variety of beautiful plants. A small golf course is also located in the town. The town is further a good set off point when travelling in Húnaflói bay.
You might also want to check out the handicraft museum, the Sea Ice Exhibition Centre and the textile museum, the only one of its kind in Iceland. The local church, i.e. 'the new church' with its interesting architecture, is also worth a look, inspired by nature and made to resemble a volcanic crater. The older church, built in 1894 is a real beauty, built in Romanesque style from ca. metre thick granite blocks. The ceiling is painted with a thousand stars and the church has a thousand small windowpanes. The altarpiece was made by Jóhannes S. Kjarval, one of Iceland's foremost painters.
Kerið is a volcanic crater lake in Grímsnes in south Iceland. It is a popular stop when traveling the Golden Circle.
It is believed that Kerið was originally a cone volcano that erupted and and emptied its magma reserve. Once the magma was depleted, the weight of the cone collapsed into an empty magma chamber, later to be filled with water.
The Kerið caldera is composed of red volcanic rock and is around 55 m deep, 170 m wide and 270 m across. There is little vegetation in the steep-walled crater, save for one wall with a gentler slope which is covered with deep moss. This wall is fairly easy to descend.
The lake itself is fairly shallow and is striking in its beauty. Opaque and aquamarine, surrounded by the red crater walls, Kerið offers a great contrast of colours and a highly impressive scenery.
The acoustics of the crater are considered to be fairly good, and a number of concerts have been held inside Kerið. There is a small admission fee to visit Kerið, 400 ISK per person (as of 2017).
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
Iceland has one main ring road: Route 1. This ring road goes all around the island and is 1332 km long (828 miles). The road connects the capital, Reykjavík, to the second biggest city in Iceland, Akureyri, in the north of the country. Other notable towns that are connected via the ring road are Borgarnes, Blönduós, Egilsstaðir, Höfn, Kirkjubæjarklaustur, Vík, Hella, Hvolsvöllur, Selfoss and Hveragerði.
A number of popular tourist attractions are also found by the ring road, such as Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, Lake Mývatn and the waterfalls Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss and Goðafoss.
The ring road consists mainly of paved two lanes road (one each direction). Some parts of the ring road are still unpaved however. In various places the road contains single lane bridges, especially in the east part of the country. The speed limit is 90km per hour on the paved section of the road (lower when it passes through towns), but 80km per hour on gravel.
The road was only completed in 1974, with the opening of Iceland's longest bridge, that crosses Skeiðará river in southeast Iceland. In 1998 a tunnel below the fjord Hvalfjörður shortened the drive around Iceland by about one hour (or 45km along a winding fjord). Hvalfjörður tunnels are the biggest tunnels in Iceland, 5,8 km and 165m below sea level. The ring road has another tunnel called Almannaskarð in the southeast by Höfn and by 2017 the Vaðlaheiðar tunnels should be open in north Iceland, shortening the distance between Akureyri and Mývatn.
Some sections of the ring road are original 1940's country roads, and a number of sharp curves, blind curves, blind summits as well as single lane bridges mean that people need to drive cautiously. In wintertime most of the ring road is kept open, with the exception of a short passage in the east part of the country that may be closed due to heavy snow (a detour is needed to travel from the north to the east during wintertime).
Guide to Iceland would advise people to drive cautiously on the ring road both in summer and wintertime, but also to explore other roads leading from it to multiple attractions.
Starting time : Flexible
7 nights of accommodation (different levels available; breakfast included. More detailed info below)
Vehicle for 8 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
Lunch / Dinner
What to bring:
Good to know:
Self-drive tours begin either in Reykjavík City or at Keflavik International Airport. A valid driver's license is required, along with a one-year long on-road experience. Please be aware that your itinerary may be rearranged to better fit with your arrival date and time.
Although it is summertime, the Icelandic weather can be very unpredictable. Please bring appropriate clothing.
Day 1 - Arrival in Reykjavík
Pick up your car at the international airport in Keflavík before driving through the otherworldly landscape of the Reykjanes peninsula to your accommodation in downtown Reykjavík. You can choose to go to the Blue Lagoon on your first day, on your way from the airport, or leave it for your last day as a way to bid the island a fond farewell.
After settling in at your hotel in Reykjavík, make the most of your proximity to the vibrant city centre, and discover the multitude of museums, galleries, restaurants, and bars on offer. Spend your first night in this beautiful, quirky city.
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 - Golden Circle and South Coast
Day two sends you to some of the best-known natural phenomena in Iceland via the route known as the Golden Circle.
The first stop is Þingvellir National Park. Here, you can walk between the rift valley of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and explore an area which plays a huge role in Iceland's heritage; parliament was founded here in 930 AD, and it is also where Iceland converted to Christianity and declared its independence from Denmark.
Here you can opt for a snorkel tour into the Silfra fissure, a crystal-clear ravine that runs between the Eurasian and North-American tectonic plates.
The geothermal valley of Haukadalur is the next stop, where you can see the geysers Strokkur and Geysir, amongst many bubbling hot springs. Strokkur erupts every 10 minutes or so, to heights that exceed 20 m (66 ft).
Just a few kilometres away is Iceland's most popular attraction, the mighty waterfall of Gullfoss. A pathway takes you to the water's edge, where you can get a real sense of the incredible power of these enormous falls. From Gullfoss, those with a good sense of adventure can jump on an optional snowmobiling tour on Langjökull glacier.
If neither a snorkelling tour or snowmobiling tour appeal to you, you may instead opt for a horse ride.
Another popular sight is the volcanic crater of Kerið, which is well worth a visit before continuing to the south coast. The rocks of this crater are coloured rust red and fiery orange, and the water that permanently sits within it is an incredible, vivid blue. The contrast is stunning.
As you move onto the ring road in the south, you will see Seljalandsfoss waterfall, which you can walk all the way around for some great photos. A little further down the road is the mesmerising and mightily powerful Skógafoss waterfall, well worth a quick stop.
Along the coast near Vík, take a slight detour to stop and admire the black volcanic beach and the dramatic Dyrhólaey and Reynisdrangar rock formations. Be very careful of the ocean, however, as the waves along this stretch of coast are notoriously unpredictable and dangerous. Spend the night in Vík.
There are three different tours you can choose to opt into on this day.
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 3 - Skaftafell Glaciers - Diamond Beach
On day three, you will head to the beautiful Skaftafell Reserve, within Vatnajökull National Park. You can choose to start your day with a visit to the natural Ice Cave in Mýrdalsjökull glacier. These ice caves are the only natural caves accessible all year, so don't miss the opportunity to visit.
In Skaftafell, you can spend time taking in the many sights and activities that are available. If you enjoy hiking, you will find many trails and tracks here suitable for all levels of mobility and experience, including one that leads to the beautiful Svartifoss waterfall. It is also possible to choose to take a glacier hike.
Continuing your road trip, stop by one of Iceland’s most famous and beautiful attractions, the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Here, you can enjoy an optional cruise on the water, meandering amongst serene icebergs of all shapes and sizes, on either an amphibious boat, or a little zodiac.
Even from the shore, however, the lagoon is stunning, and you have a good chance to see seals playing amongst the ice. After you have enjoyed the lagoon, take a short walk to the Diamond Beach, where many ice-flows wash up on the shore and sparkle like gems. You can then drive a little further ahead, and spend the night in the charming town of Höfn.
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 4 - The Eastern Fjords
The driving on day four will take you on a rollercoaster ride around the rolling hills and seemingly countless fjords of the eastern coastline. Each fjord seems to have its own soul and spirit, and each promises to take your breath away.
The great Vatnajökull glacier lies to the west, visible when you cross over the high mountain ridges as you make your way north. The many idyllic fishing villages en route make for perfect little rest stops, and grant you many opportunities to learn a little more about Icelandic history and culture.
The East Fjords are also home to some of the greatest diversity of wildlife in the county. They have many incredible bird-watching sites and seal colonies, and the east is the only place in the country where you can spot herds of wild reindeer.
You'll stay overnight in the 'eastern capital', Egilsstaðir, or one of the nearby villages.
Preferred accommodation by Egilsstaðir
Lake Hotel Egilsstaðir is a 3 star hotel located in a short walking distance from the centre of Egilsstaðir but also right by the lake. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Spa on site for additional price. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.
Day 5 - A Day at Lake Mývatn
On day five, you will head to the renowned Lake Mývatn. It is highly recommended to take a drive through the Jökulsárgljúfur part of Vatnajökull National Park on the way, visiting the incredible Ásbyrgi canyon, and Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
The Lake Mývatn area is simply stunning. It is known for its geothermal landscapes, including the Námaskarð Pass, the Skútustaðagígar pseudo-craters, the Dimmuborgir lava formations and Mt. Krafla, one of Iceland’s most visited volcanoes.
You can join a whale watching tour at the nearby village of Húsavík, known as the whale-watching capital of Europe, and even upgrade it to a rib boat tour to fit in some puffin watching as well. Skjálfandi bay is a very reliable place to observe the magnificent humpback whale feeding.
Later on, take a dip in the soothing geothermal waters of the Mývatn Nature Baths; it is the perfect way to relax after a full day of sightseeing. Afterwards, continue to the 'capital of the north', Akureyri, where you will spend the night.
Preferred accommodation by Akureyri
Hotel Norðurland is a 3 star hotel centrally located in Akureyri. Spacious and bright private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.
Day 6 - Goðafoss Falls - Tröllaskagi Peninsula
On day six, spend the morning enjoying Akureyri, a charming town with plenty of unique shops and museums. It also has one of the world's northernmost botanical gardens, which is well worth a stroll through. Once you have made the most of the town, set out to explore the Tröllaskagi peninsula. You can also opt into a whale watch on this day.
Continuing towards Skagafjörður, a valley known for its abundance of Icelandic horses (where you can take another horse-ride), you will pass through the beautiful mountainous area of Tröllaskagi, the old herring-fishing village of Siglufjörður, and Hofsós, where you can enjoy the gorgeous scenery while you relax in the town’s thermal pool.
Spend the night in the vicinity of Blönduós.
Preferred accommodation by Blönduós
Hotel Blanda is centrally located within Blönduós town in north Iceland with a view towards Blanda river and the sea. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi in public areas. Breakfast is included.
Day 7 - Landscapes of the Ring Road
On day seven, explore West Iceland with its diverse attractions, including the Icelandic Settlement Centre in Borgarnes, which details the history of the settlement of our nation, and Deildartunguhver, the largest hot spring in Europe. Further along, be sure to visit the captivating Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls.
History buffs may also enjoy a detour to Snorrastofa, the medieval research institute in Reykholt, where Iceland´s most famous poet, politician, and historian, Snorri Sturluson, wrote the saga Heimskringla in the 13th century. He is also the author of the bible of old Norse mythology, Edda.
If you have time, you can also opt for an exciting caving tour at the Viðgelmir lava tubes, or adventure into the incredible, man-made Langjökull ice tunnels. You can even take an 'into the volcano' tour, where you descend into the colourful magma chamber of Þríhnúkagígur.
On the way back to Reykjavik, take a short break at Fossatún, a waterfall said to be guarded by a troll woman named Drifa, before spending another night in the capital.
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 8 - Farewell to Iceland & Departure
Drop off your car at Keflavík airport in time for your departure. If you are lucky enough to be taking an afternoon or evening flight, you can fit in one last fantastic Icelandic experience - a revitalising visit to the world famous Blue Lagoon spa.
If you didn't visit the Blue Lagoon on your first day, then it is a great way to end your Icelandic adventure. The geothermal water is rich in minerals, giving it a turquoise glow, as well as many reputed health properties.
If you did visit on your first day, then you can explore the many geological wonders of the Reykjanes peninsula, or simply do some last-minute shopping in Reykjavík.
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.
Tamanna Roshan Lal
My husband, 2 year old toddler, my in-laws and myself booked the 8 day self driving tour and we had a fabulous time. Our agent Francisco Rojas made the booking process a breeze. Initially, I had only booked the trip for my husband, son and myself. 1 month later, I asked if I could add 2 more travellers (my in-laws) and Francisco was very accommodating. Within 48 hours, I had everything updated and confirmed. Even when I emailed and had multiple questions, he answered every one of them and even honoured my multiple requests (ie crib in each hotel room, car seat, upgrading tour packages, etc). Everything in Iceland went smoothly. In fact, while we were there, we learned that the ring road was closed east of the Diamond Beach, which meant that we were unable to get to our next two hotels as well as the Amphibian Boat Tour. I made this discovery at 7.30 am. I called Guide to Iceland at 8am and a new agent, Melkorka Edda told me that she would change our hotels for the next two nights and cancel the boat tour. At 9am - I get a phone call that everything has been arranged, the boat tour cancelled and I even received an email saying that my money was being refunded. This is my mind was excellent service. Everything on this trip ran smoothly, from picking up the rental car, checking into the hotels, checking in at the various tours and even making changes to the itinerary due to unforeseen circumstances. Our family loved everything on this trip - the country, the hotels, the tours, the people and the fact that everyone is so helpful. We are already making plans to go back to Iceland and will definitely be booking everything through Guide to Iceland. Thank you Francisco and Melkorka for making this a stress free process for me.
My wife and I along with our two adult daughters took the 8 day self driving tour and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We had planned to do the ring road counterclockwise around the island. We learned that the ring road were closed east of Diamond Beach due to bridge problem. We called our agent Melkorka Edda and she helped us develop an alternative plan, change our hotel and tour arrangements enabling us to see all the sights that we had intended to see. Guide to Iceland provide a tour package at City hall which included a sim card for the Icelandic mobile service which came in very handy for stranded travelers. Loved the hotels, attractions and the countryside. Iceland was spectacular.
John Uy Cana
The staff at Guide to Iceland are very helpful and accomodating. I dealt with Jonathan and he was incharge of booking me with the car rental and hotels. Everything was done right. We did the self drive tour. He was very quick to reply, took care of everything for us. Booked us at good hotels. Francisco was also helpful especially when we had to spend an extra night at hofn due to storm. Francisco was very prompt and helpful and re-arranged our itenerary and rebooked our hotels to make our revised itenerary work well. I would recommend guide to iceland and use it next time
This was the greatest adventure we've ever had. Iceland is extraordinarily gorgeous, and Icelanders were so patient and generous with us at every turn. Booking with Guide to Iceland was really what made this trip possible for us, given our busy schedules and inability to plan too far ahead. The Toyota Yaris was perfect for us and gave us no trouble, even on the occasional gravel road. The accommodations were all pretty great, with the exception of the two in Reykjavik which were in the middle of construction sites/across the street from the loudest bar in town. The add-ons we booked were two of the best experiences of the trip - whale-watching in Husavik and touring the glacier lagoon - and it's important to know that there really isn't time to do everything listed on the itinerary. Make sure to spend some time at the Radhus in Reykjavik stocking up on multiple maps, because most Icelandic maps leave off a lot so you might need two or three regional maps to get the full picture on any given day. Make sure also to map out the length of time/drive between each destination, which isn't included in the itinerary, because there are some half-day drives hidden in there that you might not expect. Truly wonderful experience which is making it hard to go back to the States!
We loved our trip to Iceland, it was more amazing than we could ever dream. The people there were so welcoming and helpful. We enjoyed all the hotels and thought that the people who worked there went above and beyond to help us when we needed help. We added two extra nights and were so glad that we did. There was so much to see and do we had a hard time fitting it all in. I wish we had more time for our trip, days were very long and I would have loved to be able to add more excursions but just didn't have time. We went whale watching in Husavik and I am not sure we would have done that if given the chance to do it all over again. While I really enjoyed seeing the whales we were very rushed getting from Hotel Alden to Husavik in the morning and I think we would have preferred sightseeing on the drive there instead of rushing out of the hotel and driving straight to Husavik. That being said we enjoyed everything and especially liked sightseeing in all the recommended sights. Thank you for helping us plan our dream vacation!
We had a great time, although it is hard to do Iceland justice in 8 days (we spent another 2 nights in Reykjavic). Having a car and hotels arranged, and extensive advice on the possible activities each day, made our circumnavigation a pleasure. With only one exception the hotels were of a very good standard. Some days were very full - it is ambitious to circle the country in 8 days and see all that you want to see! Be prepared for some long days.
I like to travel with as little preparation as possible; just go with the flow and let things fall into place as they may. I expected a lot of Iceland in every way and I wasn't disappointed. I had no problems with the rental vehicle or any of the logistics in pick up/drop off etc. All I ask of a place to stay is that it be clean and all the hotels were that and more. I have absolutely no criticism of the arrangements. My daughter and I were busy every day and saw everything suggested and even went to some additional out of the way spots. If you only have eight or ten days this arrangement worked for me. The things I missed, I'll see next time. Thank you on behalf of my daughter Laura and I to Melkorka Edda our co-ordinator and go to person. I apologize for not getting the opportunity to drop in and thank her personally. Great job.
Guide to Iceland was very helpful in the booking process, it would have been too overwhelming for me to try to figure out everything on my own. They were also fantastic when we missed our connecting flight due to weather and ended up arriving a day late. They made the necessary arrangements for us. The tours were amazing. We however did not like Hotel Blanda. The rooms look nothing like the pictures above and they are in the middle of renovations. They were hammering away early in the morning, which was a little annoying. Guide to Iceland is a really great company and I would definitely use them again. Just don't let them book you at Hotel Blanda.
We weren't expecting up to 4 hours a day of driving so some days felt rushed. All of our excursions were exceptionally wonderful. All hotels were great except the one in Reykjavik which smelled of sewer. We loved to see the whales and puffins. Daughter loved the snowmobiling. Air Iceland also my new favorite airline.
Iceland is incredible and this road trip helps you experience the unique sides of the country. Thank you to our service agent Olafur who helped with every detail. Guide to Iceland is a very professional company that cares about its customers and reputation. If we ever visit Iceland again we will use their service without hesitation.
Great adventure on a magnificent island. Would definitely do again given the chance. Planning was flawless and itinerary was a mix of exciting activities and relaxing days of sightseeing, exactly like what we were hoping for. You can book with these guys with closed eyes.
By far the best time of our lives. We had 8 days of incredible fun. Pickup from the airport was perfect and the tour overall was extremely well planned. They showed some off the beaten path places that no other tourists were visiting at the time we were there. We were very grateful they put in that extra detail for us. Can highly recommond this company.
We had an awesome trip in Iceland! Guide to Iceland was an amazing help during the planning process. Knowing that all of our hotels and tours were booked was a huge relief when we arrived. Thanks Guide to Iceland for all your help! I will definitely recommend your company to anyone I know that is travelling to Iceland!
We had a wonderful time. The tour info that was provided was very helpful & mostly well planned out though I would have preferred our 4th day to be a little easier - there was a lot of driving involved. Our hotel in Hofn wasn't really in Hofn & that threw off our timing a bit. It was a little difficult to fit in all the things we wanted to do, so we had to do some prioritizing, but all in all it was excellent. The 2.5 hr glacier hike was really fun. Our category 3 hotels were generally very good, & our car rental was very easy. The Blue Lagoon was another highlight that we thoroughly enjoyed. Our tour operator contact person was always very responsive via email to the many questions I had during the planning stage of the trip. I think a 1 night hotel stay in the Myvatn Lake area & a 1 night stay in Akureyri might have made the driving more manageable too, rather than the 2 nights in Akureyri.
The views in Iceland are fabulous. The tour is also very helpful in terms of cal rental and hotel bookings. Just one thing to improve in the future: the tour put us on a glacier walk on the second day, together with the golden circle visits on the same day. This is too rush in time arrangement, and we were not booked on the Sólheimajökull glacier tour but another smaller glacier tour. And we did not have time to go to see the beautiful northwest part of the island, but this is mostly because of our time limit. Otherwise the tour was quite great and provided us with a lot of convenience.
We absolute loved Iceland- the geology, birds, sea and sea life (whales, porpoises, seals), the Icelandic ponies. We weren't so impressed with some of the hotels we stayed in (the one in Blondhuis was worst, basically being renovated/ under construction with bar and restaurant closed and workman everywhere downstairs). Also GPS coordinates given in itinerary were not always accurate.