If you want to see Iceland's top natural highlights, a self-drive tour is by far the most popular option. Travel at your own pace with plenty of changes to head off the main road in search of your own adventures. This tour also includes the Snaefellsnes peninsula which many call "mini-Iceland" as almost every natural phenomenon in Iceland can be found there, albeit on a smaller scale than elsewhere. 

Highlights

  • Drive around Iceland's Golden Circle to see its most iconic sights
  • Visit the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon
  • Explore the shores of Lake Mývatn
  • See the thundering water of the Dettifoss Waterfall
  • Marvel at the breathtaking Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Iceland - Reykjavik Reykjavik
Day 2 The Golden Circle - Hvolsvollur Hvolsvollur
Day 3 South Shore - Vik - Kirkjubaejarklaustur ) Kirkjubæjarklaustur
Day 4 Skaftafell - Jokulsarlon - East Fjords  Djupivogur
Day 5 Egilsstadir - Dettifoss - Husavik  Husavik
Day 6 Myvatn - Godafoss - Akureyri  Akureyri
Day 7 Akureyri - Skagafjordur - Borgarfjordur  Borgarnes
Day 8 Snaefellsnes Peninsula - Reykjavik  Reykjavik
Day 9 Departure Day  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Iceland - Reykjavik 

Reykjavik City Center
Reykjavik City Center

Welcome to Iceland! Arrive at Keflavik Internation Airport, pick up your rental car and head to your accommodation in Reykjavik. If you arrive early, sit down to a filling and rejuvenating breakfast at a downtown cafe. In the afternoon, walk through Reykjavik’s compact downtown area and check out the unique street art scene.

Head to the water to see the Sun Voyager Sculpture and to the Harpa Concert Hall with its cool glass architecture. Visit Hallgrimskirkja Church on the hill and take the elevator to the tower at for a great overview of the city below and panoramic views of the area. Be sure to check out the small sculpture garden across the street as well.

To escape bad weather, you may consider visiting a few museums in town, 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 or enjoy snacking on a world-famous hot dog at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. If you're near the harbor, tour the OMNOM chocolate factory as well.

Your drive today is approx. 30 miles (50 km).

Day 2: The Golden Circle - Hvolsvollur

Strokkur geyser spouting
Strokkur geyser spouting

Start your drive around the country with a visit to three of Iceland's best-known sights in the Golden Circle. Start at Thingvellir National Park, the site of the first parliament and a place of great geological interest. Continue to see the Geysir Geothermal Area where the Strokkur Geyser spouts a column of water into the air every 5-10 minutes. Finally, see the Gullfoss Waterfall which drops deep into the Hvita glacial river gorge.

Continue your drive towards the southern coast, then end the day in the area of Hvolsvollur.

Your drive today is approx. 200 miles (320 km).

Day 3: South Shore - Vik - Kirkjubaejarklaustur

Skogafoss waterfall
Skogafoss waterfall

Drive east along the south coast of Iceland, stopping to see the waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss.  Continue driving along the Eyjafjoll Mountains, and enjoy the views of Eyjafjallajokull Glacier. Nearby is the infamous volcano of the same name that disrupted air traffic all over Europe in 2010.

Continue east, then stop for a short easy hike at Reynisfjara black beach with views of the cliffs of Dyrholaey. Keep driving to the village of Vik to see another black sand beach, with impressive views of the Reynisdrangar Cliffs rising out of the ocean.

Finish your drive across the sand and moss-covered lava fields towards Kirkjubaejarklaustur, then stop for the night.

Your drive today is approx. 125 miles (200 km).

Day 4: Skaftafell - Jokulsarlon - East Fjords

Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon
Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon

Your morning drive to Skaftafell National Park crosses the volcanic sands of glacial rivers before reaching the green oasis of the park. Here, you can take a walk through the park to the Svartifoss Waterfall or go on a glacier hike

Drive further east along the ring road for a view of Vatnajokull, Iceland's largest glacier. The road brings you to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon where you can for a boat tour among the icebergs. If you're lucky, you might spot a seal on the shore of the Diamond Beach, or out in the lagoon. 

Continue towards Hofn, then drive along the Eastfjords towards Djupivogur/Breiddalsvik for the next overnight.

Your drive today is approx. 250 miles (400 km).

Day 5: Egilsstadir - Dettifoss - Husavik 

Dettifoss waterfall
Dettifoss waterfall

Start your morning driving along the Eastfjords to Egilsstaðir, East Iceland's largest municipality. Your route then passes through the green Jokuldalur Valley alongside numerous waterfalls that drop from the top of hills by the road. Cross the desert land of Modrudalsoraefi, then take the road to Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. 

From here continue north towards Asbyrgi, a horseshoe-shaped canyon. End your day with a drive around the Tjornes Peninsula to Husavik, then spend the night. 

Your drive today is approx. 300 miles (480 km).

Day 6: Myvatn - Godafoss - Akureyri

Godafoss waterfall
Godafoss waterfall

Start your morning with a visit to the Husavik Whale Museum or the Exploration Museum, or go on a whale-watching tour on the open water. Afterward, start the drive to Lake Myvatn where you'll spend the day exploring the volcanic area. Go for a short hike or soak in the natural baths of the geothermal lagoon. 

In the afternoon drive to the Godafoss Waterfall, then cross over the Vikurskard Mountain Pass and continue along the eastern coastal road in Eyjafjordur towards Akureyri. Stop here for the night.  

Your drive today is approx. 125 miles (200 km). 

Day 7: Akureyri - Skagafjordur - Borgarfjordur 

Hvitserkur
Hvitserkur

Start your day with a drive north along the western coastal road of Eyjafjordur and enjoy the panoramic views of the alpine landscapes, high mountains, glacial valleys, and Hrisey Island

Continue through Dalvik & Olafsfjordur and three tunnels, then reach the charming fishing village of Siglufjordur. Stop here for a visit to the award-winning Herring Era Museum. Continue to Skagafjordur, then head south along the fjords and across the Holtavorduheidi Heath towards Borgarfjordur. Stop here for the night. 

Your drive today is approx. 250 miles (400 km). 

Day 8: Snaefellsnes Peninsula - Reykjavik

Mt. Kirkjufell by Grundarfjordur village
Mt. Kirkjufell by Grundarfjordur village

In the morning drive to one of Iceland's prettiest areas, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Here you can observe most of the natural phenomena that you can find elsewhere in Iceland, only on a smaller scale—lava fields, volcanic craters, the Snaefellsjokull Glacier, waterfalls, sandy beaches, charming fishing towns, giant bird colonies and more.

One of the day's highlights is Mt. Kirkjufell, one of Iceland's most photographed. Stop to see Arnarstapi, then continue through Borgarnes via the Hvalfjordur Submarine Tunnel to Reykjavik for your last overnight.

Your drive today is approx. 260 miles (420 km).

Day 9: Departure Day

Hallgrimskirkja landmark church
Hallgrimskirkja landmark church

Drive to Keflavik Airport in time for check in for your international flight. If there's time in the morning, add an optional whale watching tour in the morning. Other options include a drive around the Reykjanes Peninsula or a visit to the Blue Lagoon before dropping off the rental car at Keflavik Airport.

Map

Map of Classic Circle Tour of Iceland - 9 Days
Map of Classic Circle Tour of Iceland - 9 Days