This self-driving trip takes you to the highlights of Iceland's west coast and the remote Westfjords area. Starting in Reykjavik, you'll drive to the volcanic Snaefellsnes Peninsula before taking a car ferry to some of the most dramatic landscapes in Iceland. Here you'll hike along the jagged cliffs at Londrangar, visit black, gold, and red sand beaches, and see the powerful Dynjandi Waterfall. End the trip in Isafjordur—a great base for activities in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, accessible only by boat and trail.

Highlights

  • Escape the crowds as you explore the Snaefellsnes Peninsula area at your own pace
  • Hike the jagged cliffs at Londrangar, home to some of Iceland's most active bird life
  • Paddle Iceland's crystal clear fjords with a guided kayak trip
  • Soak your bones in Reykjavik's famous Blue Lagoon before your departing flight

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Reykjavik, Explore Downtown Reykjavik
Day 2 Glymur Falls, Borgarnes, Snæfellsnes Peninsula Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day 3 Volcanic Snaefellsnes Peninsula Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day 4 Ferry From Snaefellsnes Peninsula to the Westfjords Patreksfjörður
Day 5 Southern Westfjords: Látrabjarg & Dynjandi Isafjordur
Day 6 Isafjordur or Hornstrandir Hiking Isafjordur
Day 7 Eastern Westfjords: Isafjordur to Holmavik Drangsnes
Day 8 Drive from Holmavik to Reykjavik, West Iceland Reykjavik
Day 9 Reykjanes Peninsula, Blue Lagoon, Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Reykjavik, Explore Downtown

Start and end the trip in Iceland's capital
Start and end the trip in Iceland's capital

Welcome to Iceland! Upon arrival at Keflavík International Airport, you'll pick up your rental car and drive 30 minutes into Reykjavik. Since many international flights land in the early morning hours, you'll likely want to start your adventure with a hearty breakfast. There are café and restaurant options in the city center that open early. 

From here, you'll have the rest of the day to explore the world’s most northerly capital city. 

Things to do in Reykjavik: 

  • Walk through Reykjavik’s compact downtown area and check out the unique street art scene.
  • Head to the waterfront to see the Sun Voyager Sculpture and Harpa Concert Hall with its cool glass architecture.
  • Visit Hallgrimskirkja church on the hill and take the elevator to the tower for panoramic views of the area.
  • To escape inclement weather, consider visiting a few museums such as the Northern Lights Center, the Saga Museum, the Marine Museum, or the Whales of Iceland Exhibition. You can also join a whale watching tour from the Reykjavik harbor, and snack on a world-famous hot dog at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur.

In the evening, enjoy a variety of top-tier fish restaurants and Reykjavik’s nightlife. 

Day 2: Glymur Falls, Borgarnes & Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Get ready for rural scenery as you head north of the city
Get ready for rural scenery as you head north of the city

After breakfast in Reykjavik, you'll pack up the rental car and head north to experience Iceland's west coast and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Both of these areas see fewer visitors compared to the Golden Circle and south coast and will provide you with a bit more time to take in the sites at your own pace.

First, stop for a hike at Glymur Falls, Iceland's tallest waterfall (2 hours out and back). You’ll hike beside a narrow canyon which makes for some great photographs. 

Continue on your drive towards the peninsula and stop in Borgarnes where you can learn about the Settlement age of Iceland at the Settlement Center, or simply walk along the shore path near the water. If you have extra time, make some stops at the other quaint historical towns like Reykholt and Hvanneyri

If you had an early start and it’s not yet late afternoon, stop by Hraunfossar (“Lava Falls”) and Barnafoss (children's waterfall), regarded as some of the most unique and spectacular waterfalls in Iceland, where clear subterranean water seeps through the lava fields, pouring out of the rocks.

Once you get to the peninsula, head for the Gerðuberg Basalt Cliffs, where strange basalt columns rise up out of the earth. Park the car and walk around exploring and getting a closer look. Next, walk through the start of the Budhahraun lava fields on the coast, covered in moss or snow depending on the season.

Keep driving until you get to the village of Hellnar where you can stop for dinner at the small café near the water to taste their delicious fish soup and enjoy the setting.

Day 3: Explore the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall
Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall

Today, you'll continue your peninsula explorations with the cliff-side trails at Arnarstapi where you can get up close to some great views, lava formations, and arches in the rocks. In fact, you can walk the trail all the way to Arnarstapi from Hellnar, starting from either direction. 

Then, head for the Londrangar lava formations, which you can view from afar or up close (about 15 minutes by foot). A little further along the road is the Visitor Center for the peninsula where you can learn more about the volcanic system and the area.

If the weather is dry, take a stroll along Djúpalónssandur black sand beach with debris from a shipwreck (tip: photograph the rusted mangled metal pieces on the black sand). Here you will find four stones of different sizes, which were used by sea captains to test the strength of people wanting to join their crew. While facing the water, look for a small trail on the right-side cliffs that leads to the site of a major fishing operation. 

As you near the westernmost point of the peninsula, look for signs for Saxholl crater. If you have time, it's worth the stop to walk up the stairs that take you to the top with nice views of the surrounding area. 

Continue your drive around the other side of the peninsula and end your day with a visit to Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall with Kirkjufell mountain in the background (one of Iceland's most photographed).

You can either spend the night in Grundarfjordur near the mountain and waterfall or continue to the larger town of Stykkishólmur. On the way (and if you're brave enough), you can stop at the Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum and taste some Hakarl, or fermented shark.

Day 4: Ferry From Snaefellsnes Peninsula to the Westfjords

Enjoy water views while traveling to the Westfjords
Enjoy water views while traveling to the Westfjords

Today, you'll finish exploring the Snaefellsnes Peninsula with a drive into the Berserkjahraun Lava Fields before you drive to Stykkishólmur where you can catch a 3-hour ferry north to the Westfjords. Keep in mind that departure times vary and are limited during the winter season, but you can also make the 3.25-hour drive instead.

While in Stykkishólmur, consider a stop by the Volcano Museum and enjoy some fresh mussels for lunch by the harbor. 

When you arrive in the Westfjords, spend the night near the town of Patreksfjörður.

Day 5: Southern Westfjords: Látrabjarg & Dynjandi

Dynjandi waterfall is a great lunch stop
Dynjandi waterfall is a great lunch stop

Before heading out for today's adventures, you may want to pick up picnic supplies since there won't have many options until you arrive in Isafjordur

First, you'll drive to the southwest tip of the Westfjords and start your day with a hike along the edge at the Látrabjarg Bird Cliffs, with incredible views over the waters below.

On your drive back towards Patreksfjordur, consider another detour to Rauðasandur, a red sand beach, which stretches as far as the eye can see. Much of this drive is on gravel roads. As you head north, stop at the Gardar BA 64 Shipwreck, beached on side of the road and walk around the ship.

Now you'll take Route 62 to Route 60 and head to Dynjandi Waterfall. The drive up to the ridge has some switchbacks and is quite bumpy in places. As you reach the top, you will have incredible views in both directions, and for the whole drive down to the fjord near the falls. Park the car and walk around the several waterfalls below the massive Dynjandi waterfall. If the weather is nice, this is a great spot for a picnic in the beautiful fjord setting. 

Finish your drive through Iceland’s longest tunnel, arriving in Isafjordur in the late afternoon. While in town, visit the Isafjordur Maritime Museum, join a cultural and historical walking tour of the town, or eat all the fish you ever wanted at Tjoruhusid, named the best seafood in Europe a few years back.

Day 6: Isafjordur & Hornstrandir

A view down on Isafjordur in the Westfjords
Looking down on Isafjordur in the Westfjords

Today, you'll wake up in Isafjordur—the heart of the Westfjords and the region’s largest town. This is a great home base while you're here and a pleasant town for a stroll. 

Some options for how to spend your day:

  • Hike up the sides of the mountains in Isafjordur to see the fjords below.
  • Take a boat ride and hiking tour of Hornstrandir Natural Preserve (see below for more info), one of the most remote and scenic areas of Iceland. 
  • Take a kayaking trip in the calm fjord or paddle all the way to Vigur Island to see exotic birds and sea life.
  • Rent mountain bikes and cycle around the avalanche barrier of Ísafjördur. There's an off-road tour (beginner tracks, too) in the Icelandic "forest" over avalanche walls. 
  • Go horseback riding through the lush Sandá Valley where you can experience the Icelandic countryside and get views of the "Westfjords Alps".

Hornstrandir Nature Preserve: This is an area of magnificent beauty and wildlife, with sheer basalt mountains stretching from the sea to the sky divided by deep fjords, alcoves, and valleys. At the coastline, the relentless power of the ocean has molded towering sea cliffs, richly populated by birds, while alcoves are home to an abundance of seals. Inland, the crawling glaciers of the last ice age have hewn ancient mountain passes and lakes where the arctic fox wanders in its natural environment.

Day 7: Eastern Westfjords: Isafjordur to Holmavik

Drive along the scenic Westfjords
Drive along the scenic Westfjords

This morning, you'll head out of Isafjordur and make a 3-hour drive to Drangsnes, experiencing awesome scenery as you curve around the fjords. 

In fact, these eight fjords make up the Ísafjarðardjúp fjord system, which separates this area from Hornstrandir to the north. This section between Isafjordur and Holmavik in the Westfjords can be a bit divisive for drivers: some love the scenic drive around the many fjords, while others find it frustrating to drive for a couple hours and not get too far from where you started.

Here are a few stops along the drive to stretch the legs and get out of the car to better-appreciate the landscapes.

  • Arctic Fox Center: After 20 minutes from the Isafjordur harbor, you’ll arrive in the nearby town of Súðavík, home of the Arctic Fox Center. This non-profit research center and the exhibit will teach you everything you wanted to know about Iceland's first land mammal, as well as historical interactions with people of Iceland. You will find two orphaned foxes in the pen outside, or you can stop for a light meal in the café where you will find soup, bread, and cakes.

  • Valagil Falls: A bit south of the town, at the bottom of Álftafjörður, you will find the start of a short hike to thundering Valagil Falls.

  • Seal Colony near Hvítanes: As you drive along Hestfjörður and Skötufjörður (about an hour from Sudavik), keep an eye out for the small fishing town of Hvítanes, where you can often find many Harbor seals resting on the rocks near the shore. This makes a nice place to stop and stretch your legs after an hour of driving the curvy fjord roads.

  • Saltverk Salt Factory: On the tip of the small peninsula between Reykjarfjörður and Seydisfjordur Fjord you will find a small salt factory. The owners can offer you a brief tour of the factory and tell you about the history of the traditional method, which is created using geothermal steam. Take the unique opportunity to purchase some of the famous salt, either for yourself or as a gift. This also one of your last opportunities to look back at Ísafjarðardjúp before crossing to the eastern side of the region. 

  • Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft Museum (Holmavik): Take a tour into 17th-century Iceland and explore the world of witchcraft, sorcery, and the supernatural. The 30-minute audio guide will teach you about the traditions and history of the craft and its prominence in old tales and the sagas. About 20 minutes north along the coast, you will find the Sorcerer's Cottage, which makes up the second part of the museum. 

Spend the evening in Drangsnes near the water.

Day 8: Drive from Holmavik to Reykjavik, West Iceland

More stops on your return trip to Reykjavik
More stops on your return trip to Reykjavik

This morning, you'll have breakfast in the Westfjords and then may your way back to Reykjavik for your final night of the trip. If you skipped any of the areas around Borgarnes, Reykholt, Glymur Falls, or the other waterfalls listed on Day 1, you can see them on your drive back today.

Day 9: Reykjanes Peninsula, Blue Lagoon, Departure

A memorable way to end the trip
A memorable way to end the trip

It's time to say farewell to Iceland! Take this opportunity to soak up your last moments and explore more of Reykjavik. Or, if there's time before your flight, consider a side trip on your way to KEF airport. Here are some suggestions: 

  • Seljavallalaug Pool: A short distance after Skogafoss you can make a detour to Seljavallalaug, one of the oldest swimming pools in the country, built in 1923 (look for the small sign to Seljavellir). A short hike past some very cool scenery will take you to the relaxing pool.

  • Urridafoss: As you reach the end of the south coast drive consider one last waterfall: Urridafoss. While this waterfall may not be as pretty as Skogafoss or Seljalandsfoss, it makes up for it in other ways. Urridafoss is the largest volume waterfall in Iceland, and very wide (and loud). It’s only a short trip from the ring road and a good finale to the south.

  • Explore the Hidden Gems of the Reykjanes Peninsula: The following places are often missed by travelers quickly heading between Reykjavik and KEF airport. With a bit more time, you can explore lava fields, geothermal area, lighthouses, and small fishing towns.

  • Blue Lagoon: Enjoy a geothermal soak in the iconic Blue Lagoon before you fly home (great for all ages).

  • Gardur Lighthouse: Two lighthouses are located near the airport: one on the coast (older and not as stable), and a second a bit further inland. This can be a nice area to walk around and stretch your legs before your flight, and the views of the coast can be very nice.

Map

Map of Best of Iceland's West Coast - 9 Days
Map of Best of Iceland's West Coast - 9 Days