- Hiking in Þórsmörk Nature Reserve on a "Super Jeep" tour into the wilderness
- Thrill to ziplining in the mountains outside Vík í Mýrdal
- Explore the geothermal marvels of Lake Mývatn
- Soak in a hot tub filled with beer at the Bjórböðin Spa
|Arrive in Keflavik, Reykjanes Peninsula & ATV Tour
|Golden Circle & Fontana Geothermal Baths
|Þórsmörk Hike, Waterfalls & Beaches, Transfer to Vík í Mýrdal
|Vík í Mýrdal
|Zipline & Horseback Riding Tour on Víkurfjara Black-Sand Beach
|Vík í Mýrdal
|Skaftafell Hike, Boat or Kayak Jökulsárlón, Transfer to Höfn
|Eastfjords: Explore Egilsstaðir, Hike to Waterfalls & Reindeer Safari
|Stuðlagil, Explore Lake Mývatn & Surrounds: Krafla Volcano Walk
|Explore Diamond Circle, Dettifoss Hike, Whale Watching & Mývatn
|Troll Peninsula via Beer Spa, Vatnsnes & Viking Fortress to Laugarbakki
|Snæfellsnes, Kirkjufell Mountain & Waterfall, Vatnshellir Lava Tube
|West Iceland: Hraunfossar & Barnafoss Waterfalls, Reykjavik City
|Explore Reykjavik, Depart
Day 1: Arrive in Keflavik, Reykjanes Peninsula & ATV Tour
Arriving at Keflavik airport this morning, pick up your rented 4WD, and explore the Reykjanes Peninsula before heading to the "Golden Circle" area. Reykjanes' volcanically active, moon-like lava landscape is an excellent introduction to Iceland. You could head to the Blue Lagoon to soak away any travel stress in the electric-blue geothermal lagoons. Or follow the coast road south to walk across the Bridge Between Continents that spans the Mid-Atlantic Rift, then head to Fagradalsfjall volcano, where an eruptive fissure poured out lava between March and September 2021. There, you can hike atop the recent lava flows.
Continue east to Þorlákshöfn, where you'll swap your 4WD for an ATV and thrill to an hour-long guided tour along the black-sand beach and grass-covered dunes east of town. Finally, continue the short distance to your hotel.
Day 2: Golden Circle & Fontana Geothermal Baths
Enjoy a full day exploring Iceland's most popular sightseeing route, with time to experience all the highlights on a clockwise loop. Begin at Þingvellir National Park, which straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. You can hike the gorge separating the Eurasian and North American plates, ending at the Öxarárfoss waterfall, or opt to don a wetsuit and experience an unforgettable 2.5-hours snorkeling adventure in the crystal-clear glacial waters of the Silfra fissure. Continue to the Geysir geothermal area, where the Strokkur geyser erupts every 5-10 minutes, blasting scalding water up to 100 feet (32 m) in the air.
Next, head further up the Hvítá River canyon to Gullfoss ("Golden Falls") waterfall, a two-step cascade that is one of Iceland's most beautiful. After hiking the short boardwalk trail with several viewpoints, take a soothing soak in one of the Golden Circle's alfresco geothermal baths, such as Fontana Geothermal Baths, on Lake Laugarvatn, with its three turquoise alfresco mineral pools, plus Finnish-style steam rooms fed by steam simmering directly up from the ground. After steeping for a while, enjoy a cool dip in the lake.
Day 3: Þórsmörk Hike, Waterfalls & Beaches & Transfer to Vík í Mýrdal
Lace up your hiking boots today as you head east along the South Coast Ring Road (Route 1) to Hvolsvollur and Þórsmörk Nature Reserve in the glacial Þórsmörk Valley ("Valley of Thor"). It boasts a warm microclimate and lush forests, and the convoluted mountains are scythed by innumerable gullies that make Þórsmörk one of Iceland's most popular hiking destinations. Getting there requires several crossings of the unpredictable Krossa River, so join an organized guided group hiking trip by "Super Jeep" for a full morning hiking the trails beneath glacier-capped Eyjafjallajökull volcano.
Back on the Ring Road, stop to marvel at Seljalandsfoss waterfall (where you can walk behind the cascade) and nearby Skógafoss, made more photogenic by the rainbow its spray creates. Then check out the nearby Skógar Folk Museum to view a traditional turf-roofed farmstead. Continue east to the Dyrholaey cliffs, with its sea arch, and Reynisfjara, for its picture-perfect sea stacks and basalt-column cliffs (puffins nest here in summer). You'll overnight in nearby Vík í Mýrdal.
Day 4: Zipline & Horseback Riding Tour on Víkurfjara Black-Sand Beach
This morning meet your guide in Vík for a short hike to Zipline Iceland's mountainside, where you'll enjoy four short yet exhilarating zipline rides that also give you a stunning bird's-eye view of the breathtaking scenery below. You'll then return to Vík, where the Icelandic Lava Show teaches about volcanology, including real red-hot flowing lava. You can lunch next door at The Soup Company—the "red-hot lava" soup!
Then check in at the Vík Horse Adventure office to enjoy an easy-going one-hour guided horseback ride along Víkurfjara black-sand beach, including an opportunity to experience the Icelandic horse's unique gait, called tölt. The balance of the day is at leisure to relax in your hotel's sauna or perhaps to explore more of the surrounding region. Just 5 miles (8 km) east of Vík, the Hjörleifshöfði promontory rises above a black volcanic glacial wash: two trails on the west side lead to the summit, where you can view the burial mound of Viking settler Hjörleifur Hróðmarsson (killed here in 875 CE).
Day 5: Skaftafell Hike, Boat or Kayak Jökulsárlón, Transfer to Höfn
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Head east today across the Mýrdalssandur black volcanic wash and head up to the curved, moss-covered, and beautiful Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, accessed by a well-maintained trail with viewpoints. Then continue to Skaftafell Nature Reserve, where the landscape is dominated by the Vatnajökull ice-cap (Europe's largest) and its off-shoot glaciers. Here, hike to the Skaftafellsjökull glacier tongue and the picturesque Svartifoss waterfall pouring over a cliff of basalt columns. Then head to the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, where you can lunch on fish 'n' chips at Nailed It.
This afternoon you'll take to the waters to roam amid the electric-blue icebergs on a guided tour by Zodiak or amphibian boat. Or you can don a dry suit and slip into a kayak to paddle among the floes that break off the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, float to the lagoon's egress, and wash ashore on black-sand Breidamerkurfjara ("Diamond Beach"), where they sparkle like diamonds. Curious seals may pop up beside you, while others can be spotted sunning themselves atop the ice floes. Finally, continue east to the fishing town of Höfn and to your accommodation.
Day 6: Eastfjords: Explore Egilsstaðir, Hike to Waterfalls & Reindeer Safari
The sparsely inhabited Eastfjords comprise one of the most scenic stretches of Iceland's Ring Road, with remote, charming fishing villages tucked into fjords cusped by towering mountains. Immediately after Höfn, you'll pass through the Almannaskarð tunnel to snake through the fjords. Arriving at the head of Berufjörður, take a short break to hike to the Folaldafoss waterfall, pouring from a majestic volcanic staircase. Then continue to the hamlet of Breiðdalsvík to check out the old general store and the local heritage museum inside an old fish factory and to enjoy lunch at the artisanal Beljandi Brewery.
Continue to Fáskrúðsfjörður, where the Ring Road turns inland for Egilsstaðir, the regional capital on the banks of Lagarfljót Lake. Shortly before arriving in Egilsstaðir, detour east into Mjóifjörður to view the World War II US Navy LCM washed up in the fjord and to hike to the multiple cascades that make up Klifbrekkufossar waterfall. Time permitting, you might stop along Lagarfljót for a short hike up to Hengifoss waterfall; or soak in the geothermal infinity pools of Vök Baths on the outskirts of town. Alternately, join a four-hour reindeer safari from Breiðdalsvík before heading to Egilsstaðir.
Day 7: Stuðlagil, Explore Lake Mývatn & Surrounds: Krafla Volcano Walk
Today head west through the volcanically hyperactive and geologically fascinating Northern Atlantic Rift Zone. Your first stop is Stuðlagil Canyon, where the jade-green Jökulsá glacial river carves through sheer walls of basalt columns. Then continue to the Lake Mývatn region, replete with intriguing volcanic formations, beginning with the bubbling geothermal mud pools and steaming sulphuric vents at Hverir and Leirhnjukur and, nearby, the still-active Krafla volcano filled with jade-colored lake Viti. You can walk around the crater and that of dormant Hverfjall immediately south of Hverir.
Next, peer inside the Grjótagjá cave, filled with a crystal-clear azure hot spring made famous as a romantic setting in the HBO series "Game of Thrones." Then hike amid the jumbled lava-rock formations of nearby Dimmuborgir, below Hverfjall, before heading the short distance to the south end of Lake Mývatn to view the bizarre Skútustaðagígar "pseudocraters." These dimple-like cones were formed 2,300 years ago when molten lava flowed over the wetlands, causing superheated steam to be trapped beneath until it bubbled up in gaseous explosions.
Day 8: Explore Diamond Circle, Dettifoss Hike, Whale Watching & Mývatn
You'll loop counter-clockwise around the "Diamond Circle" today, heading first to the Dettifoss waterfall—Europe's most powerful cascade—and, a short distance beyond, the less powerful but no less beautiful Hafragilsfoss. Next, head to lushly-forested, horseshoe-shaped Ásbyrgi canyon, where a boardwalk trail ends at a serene jade-colored lake. Nearby, another short hike in the Vesturdalur valley leads to the surreal riverside Hljóðaklettar basalt formations and red-and-black Rauðhólar hills.
Arriving in the fishing village of Húsavík, you'll have time for lunch before an optional three-hour whale-watching boat tour (summer only) in search of humpback, minke, and other whale species in Skjálfandi Bay. Or explore Húsavík Whale Museum, with its 11 full-size whale skeletons, before heading back to Lake Mývatn for a soothing soak in the geothermal lagoons at Mývatn Nature Baths.
Day 9: Troll Peninsula via Beer Spa, Vatnsnes, Viking Fortress to Laugarbakki
Continue west along the Diamond Circle to another of Iceland's iconic waterfalls—picture-perfect Goðafoss ("Waterfall of the Gods"), a contender for the most spectacular cascade in the country. Arriving in the harbor town of Akureyri, you can explore Akureyri Botanical Garden and/or one or two of its small museums, such as The Motorcycle Museum of Iceland. Then follow a scenic coastal route around the Troll Peninsula via Bjórböðin Spa to steep, uniquely, in a tub of (undrinkable) warm beer!
Continue through the fishing village of Siglufjordur and the hamlet of Hosfós, where you might visit the Icelandic Emigration Center and 17th-century, turf-roofed Grafarkirkja—the oldest church in Iceland. Next, head west for the Vatnsnes Peninsula and the surreal, double-arched Hvitserkur sea stack, likened by locals to a petrified Troll (or a thirsty dragon). Nearby, you can also visit the ancient hilltop ruins of the 10th-century Borgarvirki Viking fortress before continuing the short distance to your hotel in Laugarbakki.
Day 10: Snæfellsnes, Kirkjufell Mountain & Waterfall, Vatnshellir Lava Tube
This morning head to the Icelandic Seal Center in Hvammstangi to learn about pinniped ecology. Then keep your eyes peeled for seals, which frequent these shores, as you drive along Hrútafjörður fjord and cross to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, arriving in time for lunch in this "Iceland in miniature." Then set out to explore on a counter-clockwise circuit around the ice-capped Snæfellsjökull volcano at the peninsula's tip. You'll begin with shark-tooth-shaped Kirkjufell mountain—made famous as "Arrow Mountain" in "Game of Thrones"—and the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall at its base.
Continue to the southern shore to marvel at the coastal formations of Djúpalónssandur black-sand beach; Lóndrangar, with its clifftop basalt pinnacles; and the clifftops extending between Hellnar and Arnastapi, most prominently, the Gatklettur sea arch. Time permitting, you might also take a one-hour guided tour of the Vatnshellir lava tube cave. Finally, cross the Budahraun lava field to view the lonesome Búðakirkja black church sitting atop the red dunes of Búða beach.
Day 11: West Iceland: Hraunfossar & Barnafoss Waterfalls, Reykjavik City
Head south for Reykjavik today via the Borgarfjörður region of West Iceland. First, head into the Hvítá River Valley to view the Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls, tumbling through a lava field perpendicular to the river. Exiting the valley, stop to explore Reykholt medieval Saga heritage village, then continue south to Borgarnes to visit the Settlement Center regaling the history of Iceland's settlement, beginning in the late 9th century. Next, follow the shore of Hvalfjörður fjord for the hike up the canyon to the 650-foot-tall (198 m) Glymur waterfall—Iceland's second-highest.
It's a short drive from here into Reykjavik, where you'll have the afternoon to explore the charmingly historic downtown and main sites. You can walk, or rent a bicycle, to head to the contemporary Hallgrimskirkja church, resembling an elongated Viking helmet or basalt columnar tower. Don't miss the shorefront Harpa Concert Hall, another architectural masterpiece inspired by polygonal basalt columns, plus the Sun Voyager sculpture. Culture vultures might head to the Old Wharf to check out the world-class Maritime Museum, Saga Museum, and Whales of Iceland museum.