Two of Iceland's more remote and scenically stunning yet lesser-visited regions—Westfjords and North Iceland—are the focus of this scenic 12-day active self-drive adventure, which also includes the mesmerizing Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The non-stop experiences range from clifftop hikes and wildlife viewing to helicopter flightseeing, as well as visits to many of Iceland's iconic and less familiar but equally spectacular sites.


  • Soak in geothermal waters at Blue Lagoon Spa or the deluxe Spa Lagoon
  • Hike the Látrabjarg promontory to see millions of endearing puffins
  • Explore the remote Askja caldera and Viti crater on a "Super Jeep" tour
  • Thrill to a helicopter sightseeing tour of Southwest Iceland

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Reykjavik, Blue Lagoon or Spa Lagoon & Reykjavik Reykjavik
Day 2 Snæfellsnes Peninsula Stykkisólmur
Day 3 Ferry from Snæfellsnes Peninsula to the Westfjords Patreksfjörður
Day 4 Látrabjarg Cliffs Guided Day Hike Patreksfjörður
Day 5 Dynjandi Waterfall & Ísafjörður Isafjordur
Day 6 Around and about Ísafjörður or Hornstrandir Isafjordur
Day 7 Scenic Drive from Ísafjörður to Varmahlíð, Vatnsnes Peninsula Varmahlíð
Day 8 Discover North Iceland Akureyri
Day 9 Whale Watching & Diamond Circle to Lake Mývatn Lake Mývatn
Day 10 Askja & the Highlands Lake Mývatn
Day 11 Lake Mývatn to Reykjavik, Helicopter Tour Reykjavik
Day 12 Transfer to the Airport, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Reykjavik, Blue Lagoon or Spa Lagoon and Reykjavik

Geothermal Blue Lagoon
Geothermal Blue Lagoon Spa

Arrive at Keflavik airport and pick up your 4WD rental, then drive the short distance to the Blue Lagoon Spa, where you can relax in a blend of sea-water and geothermally heated mineral-rich water. Ease away travel stress under the artificial waterfall, and even enjoy the spa's iconic white silica mud face mask as you laze in hot turquoise waters surrounded by a lunar-like black lava landscape. Alternately, head to the luxurious Sky Lagoon (reservations required) to bathe in an oceanside geothermal lagoon built into the cliffs overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean and Reykjavik Harbor.

The balance of your day is free for you to explore Reykjavik's charming historic downtown area, impressive landmarks, and world-class museums. Begin with a walking tour, or rent a bicycle to pedal your way between the main sights, including the modern Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral, being sure to take the elevator to the top of the tower for a panoramic view of the city. Then head to the shoreline to admire the glass-sheathed Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik's principal performance venue. Now walk east to the iconic Sun Voyager Sculpture—a gleaming steel contemporary interpretation of a Viking ship.

Day 2: Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Kirkjufell mountain & Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall

This morning explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula—often referred to as "Iceland in miniature" for its many geological wonders and huge bird colonies. You'll follow a clockwise loop beginning along the south shore, with your first stop at the lonesome Búðakirkja black church, rising atop the Búðahraun lava field at the ocean's edge. Next, circle around the majestic glacier-clad Snaefellsjokull stratovolcano (4,744 ft/1,446 m) at the peninsula's tip. Stop in the fishing hamlet of Arnarstapi to view the unbelievable coastal rock formations stretching south to Hellnar, including the photogenic Gatklettur "Arch Rock."

Further along, stroll on windswept Djupalonssandur black-sand beach before continuing via the Lóndrangar basalt cliffs (and its twin clifftop basalt pillars) to Vatnshellir Lava Cave to explore inside an 8,000-year-old lava tube. Then head along the north shore, eastbound, to the iconic, shark-tooth-shaped Kirkjufell mountain (made famous by "Game of Thrones") and, nearby, the exquisite Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall. Finally, continue east through Grundarfjordur and the Berserkjahraun lava field to spend the balance of the day relaxing at your hotel in the fishing town of Stykkisólmur.

Day 3: Ferry from Snæfellsnes Peninsula to the Westfjords

The harbor at Stykkisholmur
The harbor at Stykkisholmur

This morning you'll catch the morning ferry for a three-hour journey to the Southern Westfjords, a relatively remote and unexplored region in northwest Iceland. Arriving at the Brjánslækur wharf, drive west along the shore via lonesome and lovely Barðastrandarsandur Beach and the Patreksfjörður fjord, then descend a steep gravel road with switchbacks to honey-hued Raudasandur Beach. Stretching unbroken for 5 miles (8 km), this magnificent beach draws harbor seals, which often haul out to bask on the sands.

Continue to the hamlet of Hnjótur and the Hotel Latrabjarg overlooking a lovely white-sand beach in a sheltered cove at the mouth of the Patreksfjörður fjord. The balance of the afternoon is at leisure to relax. You might consider strolling the beach or surrounding meadows or spotting porpoises, which can often be seen rounding up mackerel to eat in the fjord.

Day 4: Látrabjarg Cliffs Guided Day Hike

Látrabjarg Cliff
Látrabjarg cliffs are the westernmost point in Iceland and home to millions of birds

Hiking enthusiasts will enjoy today as you head to the westernmost tip of Iceland and Europe—the Látrabjarg promontory, which stretches for 8 miles (14 km) and where the cliffs plunge sheer into the ocean 1,450 feet (442 m) below. Millions of seabirds nest here in summer, notably puffins, but also razorbills, fulmars, guillemots, kittiwakes, and other seabirds, all nesting and raising their chicks on the cliff-face. (Látrabjarg is considered to be Europe's most populace bird-nesting cliff.)

You'll explore the region on a 5- to 6-hour hiking tour with a local guide, who'll pick you up at your hotel. So pack your hiking shoes for this hike, which is of moderate difficulty. You'll return to your hotel in the late afternoon after stopping at the small yet impressive Hnjótur Museum, displaying a collection of historical relics, such as the remains of an Antonov AN-2 and Douglas C-117D aircraft, plus a fishing trawler. An important exhibit of local pride regales how villagers rescued survivors by scaling down the cliffs of Látrabjarg after the British trawler Dhoon ran aground in 1947.

Day 5: Dynjandi Waterfall & Ísafjörður

Dynjandi Waterfall
Dynjandi Waterfall

Today's drive is a non-stop visual feast through some of Iceland's most scenic landscapes as you snake east around majestic fjords and over steep mountain passes through sub-arctic tundra. First comes tiny Tálknafjörður, then Arnarfjörður, one of Iceland's most spectacular fjords and at the head of which tumbles the Dynjandi ("Thunderous") waterfalls—the highlight of today's journey. Seven individual cascades stairstep down from the iconic, trapezoidal uppermost cascade colloquially titled the "Jewel of the Westfjords." You can hike to the top (a great spot for a picnic), passing each waterfall in turn.

Continue to Dýrafjörður fjord and the historic fishing village of Þingeyri, where you can explore the relics of a medieval assembly hall ("Þing") behind the village church. You'll then head through a long, glaciated valley to Önundarfjörður, a particularly stunning fjord made more so by a curling white-sand beach at its head. Finally, you'll drive through the 6-mile-long (9 km) Vestfjarðagöng tunnel and descend to Ísafjörður, the largest settlement in Westfjords and the northernmost in Iceland (as well as one of its most important fishing ports). Relax in a hot tub after an enjoyable day.

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Day 6: Around and about Ísafjörður or Hornstrandir

Arctic fox in his summer coat on Hornstrandir

After breakfast, start your day with a guided cultural and historical walking tour of the town, including the Ísafjörður Maritime Museum, housed in an 18th-century timber frame house ("turnhús") and where exhibits include an impressive accordion collection. Adjacent ancient buildings house a local folk museum and the Tjöruhúsið seafood restaurant—a great place to hear traditional live music. In the afternoon, drive north along Ísafjarðardjúp fjord for the magnificent view from the Bojafjell clifftop plateau to the rugged mountains of Hornstrandir Nature Reserve at the remote, uninhabited northern tip of Iceland.

If you feel more adventurous, you can join a full-day guided hike to the Hornstrandir wilderness. Hornstrandir is home to millions of nesting seabirds (notably arctic terns, black guillemots, and puffins) and a refuge for the Arctic fox, which preys upon the birds' nesting along Hornstrandir's towering cliff-faces; visitors frequently and easily see the bold foxes. The area is reachable only by boat and for organized trips in the summer months.

Day 7: Scenic Drive from Ísafjörður to Varmahlid, Vatnsnes Peninsula

Hvitserkur—sea stack or petrified Troll?

Set out today for a scenic drive south as you snake through the Ísafjarðardjúp fjords, stopping to hike up to the "Troll's Seat" for a last view down over Ísafjörður before continuing to the nearby town of Súðavík, home of the Arctic Fox Center. Here you can see orphaned foxes and learn about Iceland's only native mammal. Driving along Hestfjörður and Skötufjörður, you may see harbor seals resting on shoreline rocks. Beyond, Hólmavík—home to the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft—continue south to the head of Hrútafjörður fjord and turn east for the little-visited Vatnsnes Peninsula.

Your first stop is Hvammstangi for its Icelandic Seal Center—a must-visit to understand pinniped ecology. Then head the short distance to the Borgarvirki fortress, built atop an ancient volcanic plug of pentagonal columnar basalt; although its origin is uncertain, it's thought to have been an early Viking fortress. Next, continue north to nearby Húnafjörður Bay to view the 50-foot-tall (15 m) basalt Hvítserkur sea stack—the surreally eroded remains of a volcanic dyke, but which local legends say is a petrified troll. Finally, continue east to your hotel in Varmahlíð.

Day 8: Discover North Iceland

Akureyri, capital of the North
Akureyri, capital of the North

Distant North Iceland may be the country's best-kept secret, with stunning attractions that get fewer visitors than the south and Golden Circle. Start by exploring the Víðimýrarkirkja Turf Church, built in 1834; and Varmahlíð's Glaumbær Farm & Museum, with its ancient turf-roofed houses (the sloping turfed roofs served to insulate the structures against harsh winters and strong winds). Then set out for a scenic drive along the shore to Akureyri, with stops en route around the Trollaskagi Peninsula 

First comes the historic village of Hofsós, overlooking Skagafjörður fjord. South of town, Grafarkirkja, Iceland's oldest church, dates from the 1670s and is Iceland's only remaining "stave" church made of timber and turf, with beautiful baroque-style wooden carvings. Then visit the Icelandic Emigration Centre (Vesturfarasetrið), detailing the mass emigration of Icelanders to North America in the late 1800s. Continue via the fishing village of Siglufjörður (you might visit its fishing museum) to Akureyri, nestled at the head of Eyjafjörður fjord and the second-largest city in Iceland.

Day 9: Whale Watching & Diamond Circle to Lake Mývatn

Godafoss Waterfall

This morning don warm clothing for a whale-watching voyage with an expert in search of humpbacks (keep your fingers crossed to witness a feeding frenzy) and other whale species. The waters off North Iceland are considered the best region in the country to spot whales: 23 species of whales can be spotted in or around the bay. After lunch back in Akureyri, drive east along the southern portion of the "Diamond Circle" sightseeing route, stopping at the horseshoe-shaped, picture-perfect Godafoss ("Waterfall of the Gods") resembling a magnificent mini-Niagara. Then continue east to Lake Mývatn for two nights.

The region is replete with intriguing volcanic formations, beginning with the geothermal mud pools, sulphuric vents at Hverir and Leirhnjukur, and the Krafla volcano filled with a jade-colored lake. Next, peer inside the Grjótagjá cave, filled with a crystal-clear azure hot spring made famous as a setting in "Game of Thrones." Time permitting, hike amid the jumbled lava-rock formations of Dimmuborgir before heading to the south end of Lake Mývatn to view the bizarre Skútustaðagígar "pseudocraters" formed when superheated steam bubbled up in gaseous explosions.

Day 10: Askja & the Highlands

Askja caldera and Viti crater

Up the adventure quotient of your vacation today with a full-day guided tour by "Super Jeep" into the uninhabited Dyngjufjoll Mountains on the northern side of Vatnajökull National Park. Your destination, reached after fording two rivers, is Askja, a considerable caldera pitted with smaller, nested craters. You'll hike to Öskjuvatn Lake, which occupies the main crater, and the recently-active Viti crater, filled with a turquoise geothermal lagoon and where you can bathe if current conditions permit. The landscape is sufficiently Moon-like that astronauts trained here for the 1960s Apollo lunar missions program.

Then continue to the vast (33 sq-mile/85 sq-km) Holuhraun lava field, which is still warm following its formation in a seven-month-long eruption in 2014. After hiking marked trails, you'll then return to Lake Mývatn for your second overnight here. Throughout today's drive, keep an eye out for wild reindeer; transplanted from Norway two centuries ago, about 3,000 individuals roam the mountains of eastern Iceland, notably in these highlands.

Day 11: Lake Mývatn to Reykjavik, Helicopter Tour

Aerial view of Fagradalsfjall volcano from a helicopter

This morning, you'll drive back to Akureyri to deliver your car at the airport and take a 45-minute domestic flight to Reykjavik. Arriving at Keflavik airport, you'll transfer to a helicopter for a sightseeing tour, with a choice of routes. If there is volcanic activity, you'll surely want to fly over the lava fields to see the red-hot lava erupting! You'll then transfer to your hotel in Reykjavik to relax or to continue exploring the capital city.

If you explored the main sites on a walking or bicycling tour on day one, be a culture vulture this afternoon and head to the Old Wharf, where your many museum options include the Whales of Iceland Exhibition to learn more about whale ecology and whaling. Across the street, the Reykjavik Maritime Museum focuses on the island's fishing history, while the Saga Museum teaches about ancient Icelandic history. Finally, next door, Aurora Reykjavik offers an interactive experience that guarantees you'll see the Aurora borealis

Day 12: Bus to the Airport, Depart

Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral from the air
According to your flight time, you'll catch a bus or taxi to the airport and say "goodbye" to Iceland.

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Map of Best of Iceland's West & North: Snaefellsnes, Westfjords, Vatnsnes & Diamond Circle - 12 Days
Map of Best of Iceland's West & North: Snaefellsnes, Westfjords, Vatnsnes & Diamond Circle - 12 Days