Amazing 8 Day Summer Self Drive Holiday on Iceland’s South Coast with a Taste of the Highlands
Discover Iceland on your own terms with this fantastic 8-Day Summer self-drive tour, exploring some of Iceland's most beautiful regions, including the South Coast and the Icelandic Central Highlands. Those wanting to relax and fully unravel each of Iceland's impressive natural features should not let this opportunity pass them by.
Both the South Coast and the Central Highlands are widely considered to be two of Iceland's most picturesque regions, characterized by their towering cliff sides, cascading waterfalls, and mountainous peaks, all illuminated under the omnipresent Midnight Sun.
Throughout the eight days, you travel to some of the most stunning natural vistas you've ever laid eyes on, with stops at Reynisfjara black-sand beach, Skaftafell Nature Reserve, and "the Crown Jewel of Iceland", Jokulssrlon glacial lagoon. You will also have the opportunity to see two of Iceland's National Parks, Thingvellir, and Vatnajokull, as well as a take a day tour of the moody Central Highlands.
Self-drive travelers are blessed with many unique benefits. For starters, you can set your own pace while traveling without the pressure of tour groups or guides. You can also customize your pre-arranged itinerary, choosing only the attractions and activities that interest you, and add on tours such as a glacier hike or an ice climb, a visit to an ice cave, or a helicopter excursion.
Self-drive travelers will also have 24/7 contact with a personal travel agent who can provide relevant information and answer any queries you may have along the way. This itinerary arranges that you spend two nights in a row at each of your accommodations for most of the trip, making it more relaxed.
So what are you waiting for? Hurry now, and you too can experience eight days of delight on this summer self-drive tour to Iceland's South Coast and Central Highlands. Check availability by choosing a date.
Day 1 - Arrival & Car Pick Up
Welcome to your first day in Iceland and the beginning of your self-drive adventure. After landing at Keflavík International Airport, on the Reykjanes Peninsula, you will need to pick up your most valuable piece of equipment for your trip, the rental car! Make sure not to forget your driver's license.
Once you have picked up your vehicle, you will begin the short journey to Iceland's quintessential capital city, Reykjavik, the northernmost capital in the world.
On your way to Iceland's capital city, you could choose to make a stop at the Blue Lagoon. This world-renowned spa is known for its healing waters, vivid azure colors, and luxurious treatments. It is located in the middle of a moss-covered lava field, giving it an otherworldly atmosphere. If you add the Blue Lagoon, it will be arranged according to your flights. If there is no time to visit the lagoon today, it can be added to another day. Your travel consultant will be able to arrange this for you. There is still plenty to see and do in Reykjavik and the Reykjanes Peninsula if you have extra free time.
Once you have arrived in the city, you will check in to your accommodation and prepare for the exciting days ahead. Why not check out Reykjavik's vibrant nightlife, take a stroll downtown, or even check out some of the city's landmarks, such as Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran Church and Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center?
Day 2 - Golden Circle Sightseeing
Today, you will partake in Iceland's most popular sightseeing route, the Golden Circle—comprised of Thingvellir National Park, Haukadalur Geothermal Valley, and Gullfoss Waterfall—or spend the day exploring the city.
The first stop of the Golden Circle is Thingvellir National Park, where Iceland's parliament, Alþingi, was formed in 930 AD. The area's geology is also astounding. It is one of the only places on the planet where it is possible to see both the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates exposed to the earth.
At Thingvellir, it is possible to add on a snorkeling tour in Silfra Fissure. This glacial ravine boasts nearly 328 ft (100 m) visibility and is often cited as one of the top ten snorkeling and scuba diving sites worldwide.
The next stop on the Golden Circle is Haukadalur geothermal valley, home to the famed hot springs, Strokkur and Geysir. Strokkur erupts every five to ten minutes, shooting jets of boiling water high into the air. While waiting to photograph this eruption, guests are advised to check out some of the other forty steaming fumaroles and volcanic vents that can be found in the area.
The final stop of the Golden Circle is Gullfoss, widely considered to be the country's most beautiful waterfall. Here, guests will watch in awe as roaring glacial water cascades over two rocky steps, dropping 105 ft (32 m) into the rocky canyon below.
From the car park at Gullfoss, it is possible to upgrade your tour once again with a snowmobiling tour on Langjokull glacier. Not only will such an experience provide another level of adventure and excitement to your day, but you will also get to see one of this country's glaciers up close, as well as experience the incredible vistas as seen from above.
This evening, you will be spending the night at accommodation in Selfoss.
Day 3 - Discovering the Icelandic Highlands
Today, you will be entering the mystic and majestic central highlands of Iceland. Landmannalaugar ("Pools of the People") is a hiking paradise. This stunning mountainous region is only accessible in the summer months due to the quality of the area's gravel roads and the severity of the weather in winter.
For seasoned drivers, you can opt to drive to the Landmannalaugar base camp on your own. Keep in mind that you need a sturdy 4X4 vehicle to reach here by the mountain roads.
Or you can choose to let the experienced locals take the drive while you can save the energy for the hike. A Super Jeep will pick you up from the designated meeting point close by and take you to the basecamp of the kaleidoscopic, rhyolite hillsides of Landmannalaugar. The knowledgeable guide will lead the hike and share numerous stories and knowledge of the region. You will have a good amount of time to appreciate this rich and diverse scenery.
You will be spending the night at the same accommodation as the previous day.
Day 4 - Highlights of the South Coast
The South Coast of Iceland is one of the most popular sightseeing strips in the country. Not only will you visit the natural gems, Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls, and Reynisfjara black sand beach, but you will also have the chance to add on extra activities; ice caving, ice climbing, or glacier hiking.
Seljalandsfoss will be the first stop of the day. This 197 ft (60 m) high feature sees water tumbling over the lip of a towering cliff face into a small pool below. Seljalandfoss is a rare example of an Icelandic waterfall that can be walked directly behind, making for some truly unique photographs. Skogafoss, a little further up the road, is the same height but much wider. Visitors here can climb the adjacent staircase to gain many perspectives of this incredible waterfall.
Further along the coast, you will come across the scenic fishing village of Vik i Myrdal, an excellent spot to grab some lunch and even do a little souvenir shopping. Next to the village, you will be able to visit Reynisfjara black sand beach, known for its dark volcanic sand as it is the strange hexagonal basalt stacks imprinted into the near cliffs.
As aforementioned, it is possible to upgrade the day with some authentic, frosty activity. One option might be to try your hand at glacier hiking at Solheimajokull glacier, offering you the chance to experience the joys and challenges of ascending an ice cap.
Alternatively, you could pay a visit to Katla Ice Cave, the only ice cave in Iceland accessible during the summer months. Stepping inside of these subterranean caverns is one of the surest ways to gain valuable insight into the geological upbringing that has come to sculpt this island.
You will be spending the evening at accommodation in the Vik area.
Day 5 - Vatnajokull National Park & Jokusarlon Glacial Lagoon
Today, you will be experiencing the scenic pleasures of Vatnajokull National Park, found further down along the South Coast and named after the glacier that dominates the landscape. The day is scheduled for some truly miraculous sightseeing, though upgrades are available for those who wish to partake in adventure tours.
For instance, those who have yet to experience the adrenaline surge that comes with hiking on Iceland's glaciers, today presents the opportunity to do so in Skaftafell Nature Reserve.
Your final stop of the day is widely considered to be Iceland's most beautiful natural attraction, a glacial lagoon called Jokulsarlon. Here, enormous icebergs float peacefully beside one another, making their way gradually to the open Atlantic Ocean. While here, it is entirely up to you whether you'd like to appreciate the lagoon from the shoreline or upgrade with either a speedy Zodiac or a slower Amphibian boat tour.
Boat tours take you right up to the icebergs, putting them into scale as you gaze up the gargantuan glacier above you. Boat trips also provide a new perspective of the resident seals who call the lagoon home— these curious little guys make a regular appearance here, so keep your eyes peeled!
A short walk from Jokulsarlon is a stretch of black sand shoreline decorated with hundreds of washed-up icebergs called the Diamond Beach. This area is particularly exciting for nature enthusiasts and photographers who will be eager to capture the stark contrasts between the dark volcanic sand and the pale blue of the ice.
This evening, you will be staying around Kirkjubaejarklaustur.
Day 6 - Back To The Capital
Now it's time to drive back to Reykjavík—that's not to say a lot of fun cannot be had on the way, however. Given that the default action on your itinerary today is sightseeing, you're free to stop off as you choose, personalizing your adventure in Iceland even more.
There are, however, added upgrades available for those who like to fill their day with truly unique experiences.
If you have yet to experience the inside of a volcano, you can join the afternoon departure of the said tour as you approach the capital. The dormant caldera of Thrihnukagigur volcano is embellished with color and fantastical rock formations, making stepping inside all the more unique.
That evening, you are free to enjoy the city as you see fit. You will be staying in local accommodation.
Day 7 - Free day in Reykjavik
Today, the city is your oyster! Now that you're back to civilization after your six days of adventure, it's time to soak in some culture, basking in Reykjavik's vibrant social and arts scenes. One of the best ways to maximize today is to purchase a 24-Hour Reykjavik City Card, allowing you free access to numerous exhibitions, institutions, and all public transport and providing discounts on shopping and dining.
Thankfully, there are many galleries and museums in the city, such as the National Gallery of Iceland/Listasafn Islands, The National Museum of Iceland, or Whales of Iceland, to name only a few. You may also wish to pay a visit to the Settlement Exhibition, where you can gain a deeper insight into this country's rich and fascinating history, or spend a few hours learning about Iceland's fishing heritage at the Maritime Museum.
If instead, you would like to fill your day partaking in tours from the city, you could opt-in for an afternoon helicopter tour, flying out from Reykjavik Domestic Airport to make a landing on a nearby mountain peak. Seeing Reykjavik and its surroundings from the air is a true marvel, packed with adrenaline, and is sure to be one of the highlights of your holiday.
Alternatively, you could check out the man-made ice tunnel that has been built under Langjokull glacier, providing great insight into the strange, glittering and subterranean world of Iceland's ice caps. This is a relatively new attraction in Iceland but has already gained much acclaim from visitors and locals alike.
Nighttime in Reykjavik sees the city's bars and music scene come alive, with happy hours prices overlapping with live performances across downtown. Whatever your taste, be it blues, hip-hop, or classical, you'll find something to your liking! If painting the town red is not your thing, the city is perfect for a quiet midnight stroll, boasting quaint inner-city parks and "The Pond," Lake Tjornin.
For your final night in Reykjavik, you will be staying in the same accommodation as the previous night, saving you the hassle of having to pack up and switch locations.
Day 8 - Departure & Car Drop-Off
It's your final day in Iceland, and it's time to say goodbye... at least for now!
If you've got some time to spare before your flight, you can have a final appreciation of the city before beginning the journey across Reykjanes to Keflavik International Airport.
For those who have a later flight and choose to visit the Blue Lagoon today, you will finish off your stay unwinding before you head to the airport. This is the perfect place to relax as you bathe in the warm, mineral-rich waters as you look back on the incredible adventure you have just taken in the land of fire and ice. If your flight is later, there are plenty of things to do in Reykjavik. This might be your last opportunity to fit in some final activities, so make the most of the chance—why not take a short hike up the nearby Mt. Esja, try some of the city's most beloved cafes, or even pack in some final souvenir shopping?
We hope you've had a fantastic time in Iceland, and we look forward to seeing you next time.
If you have an early flight back home, we wish you a pleasant journey.
What to bring
Good to know
Self-drive tours begin either in Reykjavík City or at Keflavik International Airport. A valid driver's license is required, along with a one-year-long on-road experience. Please be aware that your itinerary may be rearranged to better fit with your arrival date and time.
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.
Super budget level accommodations will be arranged in hostel dorm beds. For other levels, bookings for one person will be arranged in single rooms, and bookings for two or more people will share a twin/double or triple room(s).
Teenagers and children will be arranged in the same room with parents. If additional room(s) is needed, additional costs will incur.
Guide to Iceland will provide you with the best available accommodation at the time of your booking from our preferred partners. Please keep in mind that hotel quality in Iceland varies among locations and availability is highly limited. If our preferred partners are fully booked at the time of your booking, we will find another suitable accommodation for you of similar level.
Please note that not all locations offer quality level accommodation. Comfort level accommodation will be arranged at those particular locations, which is reflected in the quality level upgrade price.
We always do our best to accommodate special requests, which may incur additional costs. Press choose a date to find availability.
Dormitory beds with shared bathrooms in guesthouses or hostels. Located in the region of the best attractions. Breakfast is not included.
Rooms with shared bathrooms in farmhouses, guesthouses or hostels, with good locations near the best attractions. Breakfast is not included.
Rooms with a private bathroom in three star hotels or quality guesthouses. Very close to the best attractions at each location. Breakfast is included.
Rooms with a private bathroom in a four star hotel or superior rooms in a quality three star hotel at the best locations in Iceland. Breakfast is included.
Below you can see the car rental options available for this self-drive tour.
All our vehicles are new or current models, of maximum 2 years of age. Super Budget levels come with standard CDW insurance, while all other levels also include Gravel Protection (GP), 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.