This two-week self-drive adventure will take you around the whole of Iceland—north, south, east, and west. It starts with city tours and nightlife in Reykjavík, then a trip south for off-roading, glaciers, lava caving, and hunting the northern lights. Continue up the rugged Eastfjords and tour the geothermal wonderland of the north before finishing the trip at western waterfalls and the relaxing Blue Lagoon.


  • See Reykjavík on foot and enjoy its nightlife
  • Drive the Golden Circle and hike to waterfalls
  • Explore glaciers and see the northern lights
  • Tour the waterfalls of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
  • Soak in the mineral-rich waters of the Blue Lagoon

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Iceland, Drive to Reykjavík, City Tour Reykjavík
Day 2 Glacier Tour, Hot Springs & Nightlife Reykjavík
Day 3 Drive to Hella, Golden Circle Tour & Viking Feast Hella
Day 4 Super Jeep Tour, Lava Caving & Hot Springs Hella
Day 5 Thórsmörk Super Jeep Tour & Hiking Hella
Day 6 Drive to Vík via Waterfalls & Coast, Northern Lights Chase Vík
Day 7 Drive to Höfn via Glacier Hike, Zodiac Tour & Diamond Beach Höfn
Day 8 Drive to Egilsstaðir, Explore the Eastfjords & Vök Baths Egilsstaðir
Day 9 Drive to Lake Mývatn: Canyons, Caves & Hot Springs Lake Mývatn
Day 10 Drive to Akureyri, Diamond Circle Tour & Hot Springs Akureyri
Day 11 Drive to Laugarbakki via Fishing Villages, Turf Houses & Beer Spa Laugarbakki
Day 12 Drive the Snæfellsnes Peninsula: Beaches & Waterfalls Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day 13 Day Trip to the Blue Lagoon, Return to Reykjavík Reykjavík
Day 14 Visit the Reykjanes Peninsula, Depart Iceland  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Iceland, Drive to Reykjavík, City Tour

Tour Iceland during the winter months, when everything (including the capital) is white

Welcome to Iceland! Known as the Land of Fire and Ice, this volcanic island at the edge of the Arctic Circle has become quite the tourist destination in recent decades. People flock from all over to experience its geothermal wonders, enjoy soothing hot springs, hike dried lava fields, marvel at volcanoes and waterfalls, and explore its rugged coast. You'll do all this and more over two weeks in winter.

After arriving at Keflavík Airport, pick up your rental car and make the 45-minute drive east to the capital of Reykjavík. Here, you'll check in to your hotel and have the rest of the day free to explore. Despite being a relatively small capital, Reykjavík is home to more than 60 museums and galleries. Top options include the National Museum, the Settlement Exhibition (focusing on the settlement of Reykjavík), the Maritime Museum, the Northern Lights Center, the Saga Museum, and the Whales of Iceland Exhibition.

On the waterfront, you can take photos of the impressive Sun Voyager dreamboat sculpture and perhaps tour the Harpa Concert Hall. The northern lights actually inspired the shimmering glass facade of northern Europe's most impressive concert venue. You certainly don't want to miss Hallgrimskirkja, Iceland's tallest church, which sits on a hill overlooking downtown. 

Day 2: Glacier Tour, Hot Springs & Nightlife

Embark on a scenic nature hike to the massive Glymur Falls

Wake up early, join your driver/guide, and head northeast out of Reykjavík to one of Iceland's most famous natural wonders: Langjökull, the second-largest glacier in Iceland. In a modified 4WD vehicle, you'll leave the main road and travel across snowy landscapes to the glacier's heart. There, put on your crampons, grab an ice ax, and follow your expert guide as you venture into ice tunnels. During this half-day tour, you'll explore the tunnel network as you marvel at the shimmering walls and ice formations. 

At the end of the exploration, your driver will take you a little ways to Hvalfjörður. This scenic fjord is located in southwest Iceland, and all around it are soaring mountains, green valleys, and abundant birdlife, including Arctic terns and white-tailed eagles. While here, you'll visit the stunning Glymur Falls. Iceland's second-tallest waterfall cascades 650 feet (198 m) over cliffs, and the surrounding area offers great nature hikes. After your trek, you can soothe your muscles in natural hot springs.

Later, you'll return to Reykjavík and will have the evening free. After dinner, head downtown and indulge in Reykjavík's burgeoning nightlife scene, which boasts plenty of bars and pubs offering live music and other entertainment.

Day 3: Drive to Hella, Golden Circle Tour & Viking Feast

Gullfoss is one of the most powerful waterfalls in Iceland

Your grand loop tour around Iceland begins! Set off southeast on Route 1 (Ring Road) out of Reykjavík along the famous Golden Circle. This 190-mile (300 km) route features some of southern Iceland's most popular natural attractions. First up is Þingvellir National Park and the Silfra fissure, a rift located in a crystalline lake on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It's the only place in the world where you can dive between two continents. Also here is Brúarárfoss, a small waterfall on the Brúará River whose rushing cascades are a vivid ice blue.

Next is the Geysir geothermal area. With its bubbling mud pits, steam vents, and erupting geysers, this is one of the most impressive geothermal zones in the country. The geyser is rarely active these days but can reach up to 230 feet (70 m) when it does erupt. However, the area, which covers much of the Haukadalur Valley, is also home to the Strokkur Geyser, which erupts like clockwork every 5-10 minutes and can reach up to 130 feet (40 m). 

For lunch, you'll visit a sustainable tomato farm for a tour of the greenhouses, followed by a delicious farm-to-table meal. Then, it's on to Gullfoss, one of Iceland's most impressive waterfalls. You can follow trails to the top of the falls or view them above the canyon's edge. Another highlight is Kerið Kerið, a 180-foot (55 m) volcanic crater lake whose steep slopes resemble an ancient amphitheater. Cap the day with a Viking-themed dinner in a real Icelandic cave—a meal experience you can't find anywhere else. Afterward, drive to the nearby town of Hella, where you'll overnight.

Day 4: Super Jeep Tour, Lava Caving & Hot Springs

Hop in a "Super Jeep" for an off-roading adventure you won't soon forget

Leaving the driving to someone else this morning on an action-packed, full-day tour. It begins when you meet your guide and hop in a specially modified "Super Jeep" for an off-road excursion over a 5,000-year-old lava field. Beyond the rugged landscapes around the field, you'll also discover an entire world beneath its surface. Equipped with all the necessary caving gear, you'll venture into the depths of the lava field along with a guide, discovering ancient lava tubes, intricate formations, and geological features.

Lunch in this region is also a unique experience. When it's time to eat, you'll dine on tomato soup, eggs, and bread, all cooked in the steam of a natural hot spring. Speaking of which, after the Jeep tour, you'll take a soothing bath in a 40°C (104°F) geothermal spring. Let the mineral-rich waters rejuvenate you as you enjoy breathtaking views of the volcanic landscapes. Afterward, you'll return to Hella.

Day 5: Thórsmörk Super Jeep Tour & Hiking

The "Valley of Thor" was created by glacial rivers and volcanic eruptions

Get ready for another Super Jeep adventure! This time, you're off to Þórsmörk (Thórsmörk), an otherworldly valley named for mighty Thor, the hammer-wielding god of thunder and lightning. There's more precipitation in this microclimate than in other areas in Iceland, producing frequent mountain mists. This only adds to the mystique as you journey through a kaleidoscope of dramatic landscapes and splash across glacial rivers. Higher up, these waterways cut through prodigious canyons, emerging onto black volcanic flood plains.

There will be plenty of stops to hike around these almost alien landscapes, and you can choose from various trails. For a more relaxed experience, opt for shorter hikes in the valley's lower regions. If you're up for a moderate challenge, venture higher into the mountains, where canyon views and volcanic landscapes await. An even more challenging hike is the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, which runs 15 miles between two glaciers. On the route, you'll pass dried lava fields from the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption. You'll return to your hotel in Hella at the end of the afternoon.

Day 6: Drive to Vík via Waterfalls & Coast, Northern Lights Chase

A hiking trail leads behind the cascades at Seljalandsfoss
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In the morning, leave Reykjavík down Route 1 to Vík, a scenic town on the south coast. The drive takes about 2.5 hours, but you'll stop at plenty of showstopping landmarks on the way. One example is Seljalandsfoss, a romantic waterfall that plunges 200 feet (60 m) into a lagoon. A real treat is the hiking trail leading behind these falls.

Next up is Skógarfoss. Located a mile outside the town of Skógar, this thundering waterfall cascades 200 feet (60 m) over a cliff into the Skógá River. According to local legend, a Viking hid a treasure chest behind these falls. Many people have searched for it over the years, but it remains elusive—perhaps you'll be the lucky one to find it. Closer to Vík, you'll stop on the coast at Reynisfjara. This beach is famous for its Reynisdrangar sea stacks—huge basalt hexagonal formations rising up out of the sand. 

Also on the coast near Vík is Dyrhólaey, a massive natural arch home to puffin colonies. Stop to admire the panoramic clifftop views looking out to the ocean, then continue a few minutes to Vík and check into your hotel. In the evening, you'll head out on an adventure to hunt the northern lights. Your personal guide will take you to observation areas outside of town to (hopefully) witness this psychedelic display of light caused by solar storms interacting with the Earth's magnetic field. The northern lights are most visible from August to mid-April.

Day 7: Drive to Höfn via Glacier Hike, Zodiac Tour & Diamond Beach

See glacial ice shimmering in the sand like diamonds

Wake up for an early breakfast, then hit the road east on the Ring Road up to Skaftafell Nature Reserve, which is home to Vatnajökull, Europe's largest glacier at 3,130 square miles (8,100 sq km). You won't merely be admiring it from afar—you'll strap on crampons, grab an ice ax, and hike across its surface. Upon arrival, meet your guide and receive your equipment. Then, step onto the ice for a walk over what seems like an alien planet. The scenery on this three-hour trek is spectacular, as you'll pass ice formations, glacial ridges, and deep crevasses.

From Skaftafell, it's a short drive to Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon on the coast. Before arriving there, however, you'll visit some other famous landmarks in the region, like the otherworldly rock formations of the Fjaðrárgljúfur river canyon. You'll also stop for photos at famous waterfalls, including Skaftafell and Svartifoss. The latter plunges 65 feet (20 m) over basalt cliffs and is accessible via a scenic 3-mile (5 km) trail.

Eventually, you'll arrive at Jökulsárlón. At 656 feet (200 m), this is the deepest lake in Iceland. The icebergs floating on its surface are over 1,000 years old, and if you're lucky, you might spot seals and small whales. After an exciting Zodiac boat tour across the lagoon, you'll continue to the adjacent Diamond Beach. This black-sand beach is famous for the iceberg fragments that drift ashore from the lagoon and gleam like diamonds in the sunlight. Enjoy a stroll on the beach, then continue the drive about an hour up the coast to your hotel in Höfn, a charming fishing village on a narrow peninsula.

Day 8: Drive to Egilsstaðir, Explore the Eastfjords & Vök Baths

The Eastfjords are known for its vast fjords and ruggedly beautiful coastline

Say goodbye to southern Iceland as you embark on a trip to the remote Eastfjords region on the east coast. Set off on a drive up Route 1 that passes charming villages, secluded waterfalls, dramatic mountains, and scenic valleys. Your destination is Egilsstaðir, a town on the banks of the Lagarfljót River. It's a three-hour drive, but there will be stops to enjoy more of Iceland's great outdoors.

At about the halfway point lies Djúpivogur, a tranquil town on a peninsula in the Austurland region of eastern Iceland. It's a great place to stop, stretch your legs, and enjoy sweeping views of the fjords and surrounding mountains. While here, grab lunch or a snack (try the local cakes) of fresh seafood. Other gems worth a visit include Breiðdalsvík, a lovely town flanked by a wild and beautiful Icelandic coast. 

Eventually, you'll arrive in Egilsstaðir, the capital of the Eastfjords region. The drive there will take you through the largest forest in Iceland, and along the way, you can stop for a short hike up to Hengifoss. At 419 feet (128 m), it's the third-highest waterfall in Iceland. After checking in to your hotel in Egilsstaðir, you can head five minutes outside town to take a dip in the geothermal Vök Baths, the only "floating Infiniti pools" in Iceland.

Day 9: Drive to Lake Mývatn: Canyons, Caves & Hot Springs

Venture into the Grjótagjá cave, made famous in "Game of Thrones"

You'll leave the Eastfjords region this morning, continuing to the country's north. It's another scenic road trip where you'll stop at beautiful locales, like the quaint Möðrudalur farm, known for its pleasant hiking trails and red-roofed chapel. Another highlight is Stuðlagil, an otherworldly river canyon in the Fljótsdalshérað region, which in recent years has become a prime hiking destination. Travels come to marvel at the soaring basalt walls carved out by the aquamarine waters of the Jökulsá á Dal River. 

After hiking around Stuðlagil, continue a couple of hours northwest to the Lake Mývatn region, a geothermal wonderland. Enjoy lunch at Mývatn Nature Baths, then change into your swimwear for a long, soothing soak in its natural hot springs. Later, you can visit some of the region's iconic sites, including the bubbling geothermal mud pots and steaming sulfuric vents at Hverir and Leirhnjukur. Nearby landmarks include the still-active Krafla volcano and Lake Viti, a turquoise crater lake. You can walk around the crater and that of dormant Hverfjall immediately south of Hverir.

Toward the end of the afternoon, you'll visit Grjótagjá cave. This cavern is filled with a crystalline azure hot spring made famous as a romantic setting in the HBO series "Game of Thrones." In the evening, have dinner in town before retiring to your hotel.

Day 10: Drive to Akureyri, Diamond Circle Tour & Hot Springs

See unique landscapes and geological formations in the north, like craters

Hit the road again after breakfast and travel around some highlights of the Diamond Circle. This 155-mile (250 km) circuit passes some of the most incredible sites on Iceland's north coast. Near Lake Mývatn, for example, are the Skútustaðir craters, clusters of massive pseudocraters formed thousands of years ago when hot lava flowed over wetlands. You'll have time for a brisk hike around the craters to snap photos and enjoy the views.

About 45 minutes from Lake Mývatn is Goðafoss, another Icelandic marvel. Known as the "Waterfall of the Gods," the cascades here drop 12 m (39 feet) into a river gorge. Other stops you'll make on this route include Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful waterfall; Ásbyrgi, a glacial canyon formed after the last ice age; and Húsavík, the buzzing whale watching capital of Iceland, where people flock to watch humpbacks breach the water's surface.

Your final destination is the colorful town of Akureyri. Iceland's second-largest city, also known as the "Capital of the North," sits at the base of the Eyjafjörður fjord and is a great place to relax. After checking into your hotel, you can venture into town for some culture with a visit to the Church of Akureyri and the Akureyri Art Museum. You can also stroll Akureyri's botanical garden, which is filled with almost every species of plant native to Iceland. For relaxation, head across the fjord to Forest Lagoon, a geothermal spa. Besides the hot springs, this complex offers two infinity pools and a sauna.

Day 11: Drive to Laugarbakki via Fishing Villages, Turf Houses & Beer Spa

The fishing village of Siglufjordur was built around the herring industry

Today is all about Icelandic culture and communities. First up is an hour's drive north to the edge of Iceland and Siglufjordur. This colorful town has been steeped in the fishing industry since its founding in the 17th century. During a stop, you can learn more about its rich maritime heritage at its fine museum. Beyond the exhibits, it features old boats and historic machinery used in the fishing trade.

Afterward, return south to Glaumbær, a historic farm and open-air museum. It's an excellent opportunity to view historic Icelandic architecture through its turf houses—traditional dwellings that date to the 18th century and feature turf walls, timber framework, and wooden roofs. On a guided tour of this open-air museum, you'll step back in time, strolling amid homes, barns, and other farm buildings. You'll also see the different artifacts, tools, and historical items used in the daily lives of the Icelanders who once farmed these lands.

When the tour is over, continue to Kolugljúfur, a rugged gorge famous for its network of impressive waterfalls. After admiring them from an observation platform, drive to the Beer Spa. Located on the Eyjafjörður, not only does this wellness center offer incredible sea views, but it's also a unique concept. Rather than geothermal springs, you'll soak in a beer-infused warm bath. Believe it or not, elements like hops and yeast increase blood circulation, facilitate relaxation, and promote skin nourishment. Afterward, you'll drive west to the town of Laugarbakki, where you'll overnight. 

Day 12: Drive the Snæfellsnes Peninsula: Beaches & Waterfalls

See the best of Snæfellsnes, like Mount Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss Falls

Get behind the wheel this morning for the two-hour drive south down the western side of Iceland and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This 56-mile (90 km) peninsula is often referred to as "Iceland in miniature" as it boasts many of the wonders the country is known for. You'll have the whole day to tour the highlights of this region, perhaps starting with a leisurely stroll on the rugged cliffs between the seaside villages of Hellnar and Arnarstapi

Then, transfer to the peninsula's southwest and Lóndrangar. The lava rock formations and coastal sea cliffs here are the remains of a volcanic crater that the sea has shaped over time. Its most famous landmarks are two incredible rock pillars, which rise as high as 246 feet (75 m). Farther up the road is the peninsula's visitor center, where you can learn more about this area's volcanic system.

A short drive up the coast from Lóndrangar is Djupalonsandur. This beach is also dotted with towering rock formations, but its volcanic black sands are the real star. There's fascinating history here in the form of a shipwreck from 1948, and back in the Middle Ages, the area was a prominent fishing village. Your last stop of the day is on the peninsula's north side at Kirkjufellsfoss, whose three waterfalls are backed by Mount Kirkjufell—one of Iceland's most photographed peaks. You'll overnight at a hotel in one of the area's fishing towns.

Day 13: Day Trip to the Blue Lagoon, Return to Reykjavík 

Relaxing in the milky-blue waters of the Blue Lagoon
Spend a day relaxing in the milky-blue waters of the Blue Lagoon

Today, you'll pamper yourself. In the morning, drive 45 minutes toward the airport and the Reykjanes Peninsula. This area is known for its lunar lava fields, as well as perhaps Iceland's most famous destination: the Blue Lagoon. You'll have hours to soak in its milky blue waters, which hover around a luxurious 98-104°F (37-40°C). The experience is only heightened by the diaphanous blanket of steam and mist hovering above the water.

But the Blue Lagoon offers more than natural beauty—the waters here get their vivid electric-blue coloring from the rich mineral content as well as algae and silica. This benefits your skin and is also great for rejuvenation. So relax, enjoy the soak, swim under the human-made waterfall, and maybe treat yourself to a white-mud facial at the luxurious day spa on site. Afterward, you'll drive back to Reykjavík and your hotel.

Day 14: Visit the Reykjanes Peninsula, Depart Iceland

A volcano erupts on Iceland's wild Reykjanes Peninsula

The adventure isn't over yet! Wake up early on your departure day and drive 45 minutes back to the Reykjanes Peninsula. Here, you'll go beyond the Blue Lagoon and enjoy some highlights of the southern peninsula, like its charming fishing villages, lava fields, and the Reykjanes Geopark.

One such highlight is Krýsuvík. This geothermal area is situated on Iceland's tectonic plates and thus is filled with hot springs, steam vents, and mud pots. Similarly, you can visit the bubbling and steaming mud cauldrons at Gunnuhver Hot Springs, named after a female ghost supposedly trapped here by a priest about 400 years ago. Temperatures at these mud springs are a balmy 572°F (300°C), so be sure to stay well within the marked pathways.

There are also some amazing views along the nearby cliffs. Here, you'll find Reykjanesviti, the oldest lighthouse in Iceland, which dates to 1878. Nearby is the Bridge Between Continents, a footbridge over a fissure separating the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Feel free to stop and take a quick stroll between two continents before heading to the airport, dropping off your rental car, and boarding your flight home. Safe travels!

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