The rugged beauty of Iceland was made for road-tripping, which is precisely what you'll do on this 15-day self-drive excursion. You'll be traveling through the west, which is packed full of highlights ranging from waterfalls and glaciers to fjords and natural hot springs. You'll even have time for a detour to the north, where you'll ride horses, take helicopter tours, and drive the scenic Diamond Circle route.


  • Soak in the milky blue waters of the famous Blue Lagoon
  • Visit the unique rock formations on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
  • Explore the fjords and seaside cliffs of the Westfjords
  • Ride horses on the coast and fly over lava fields in a helicopter 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Iceland, Drive to Reykjavík Reykjavík
Day 2 Visit the Blue Lagoon, Optional Activities Reykjavík
Day 3 Drive to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula Stykkishólmur
Day 4 Explore Stykkishólmur Stykkishólmur
Day 5 Ferry to the Westfjords Látrabjarg
Day 6 Látrabjarg Guided Walking Tour Látrabjarg
Day 7 Dynjandi Waterfall, Drive to Ísafjörður Ísafjörður
Day 8 Ísafjörður Activities & Hornstrandir Reserve Ísafjörður
Day 9 Scenic Drive From Isafjordur to Varmahlíð Varmahlíð
Day 10 Discover Northern Iceland Akureyri
Day 11 Coastal Horseback Ride Akureyri
Day 12 Drive the Diamond Circle to Lake Mývatn Lake Mývatn
Day 13 Askja & the Highlands 4WD Adventure Lake Mývatn
Day 14 Lava Field Helicopter Tour, Drive to Reykjavík Reykjavík
Day 15 Depart Iceland  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Iceland, Drive to Reykjavík

Welcome to Reykjavík

Welcome to Iceland! Located just south of the Arctic Circle, this vast island is known as the "Land of Fire and Ice" due to its many active volcanoes and enormous glaciers. Besides the geological wonders, this country also boasts a rich Viking history dating back over 1,000 years.

You'll arrive at the airport near Reykjavík, one of the safest and greenest cities in the world due to its commitment to renewable energy. Upon arrival at the airport, pick up your rental car and drive about 40 minutes east to the capital, where you'll check in to your hotel. Then, feel free to head out and explore. Depending on your interests, this city has a vibrant cultural and music scene, a variety of shops and art galleries, and world-class restaurants.

Day 2: Visit the Blue Lagoon, Optional Activities

Take a nice long soak in the Blue Lagoon

Prime yourself for the upcoming road-trip adventure with some downtime in Iceland's most famous hot spring: the Blue Lagoon. Its iconic milky blue waters are the result of a high mineral content combined with algae and silica, which is great for the skin and has even been proven to relieve psoriasis. Also, these expansive pools nestled amid the lava fields of the Reykjanes Geopark are incredibly relaxing. The temperatures range between 98-104°F (37-40°C), and a fine layer of mist perpetually hovers right above the water. 

After soaking in the Blue Lagoon (and maybe treating yourself to a white-mud facial), you'll return to Reykjavík and have the rest of the day free. Perhaps visit the compact downtown area, where you can do some shopping, see colorful street art, and stop in at a couple of the over 60 museums and galleries in the city. If you like, head out from the harbor for a one-to-two-hour boat tour to spot humpback whales and Iceland's iconic avian residents, puffins.  

Day 3: Drive to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Kirkjufellsfoss and Mount Kirkjufell

In the morning, drive about two hours north from Reykjavík to the stunning Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Known as "Iceland in miniature" due to its wealth of geological attractions, it's a great place to see many natural wonders in one area. The first stop will be on the southern end of the peninsula near the Búðahraun lava fields and the Búðaklettur crater. Here, you'll visit Búðakirkja, a historic wooden chapel dating to the 19th century. You'll notice right away how well the church fits into the surrounding volcanic scenery, as it's painted jet black. 

Continue driving east along the peninsula, stopping to walk along the rugged seaside cliffs between the fishing towns of Arnarstapi and Hellnar. Then, weather permitting, you can visit Djúpalónssandur, a black-sand beach with distinctive lava rock formations. Follow the road around the western end of the peninsula to the north side, where you'll visit Snæfellsnes' most iconic landmark: Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall. Rising up behind it is the peak of Kirkjufell, one of Iceland's most photographed mountains. After the day's drive, travel to your hotel in the nearby town of Stykkishólmur, where you'll overnight.

Day 4: Explore Stykkishólmur 

The harbor at Stykkishólmur

Today is yours to enjoy Stykkishólmur. With approximately 1,200 residents, this is the largest town in Snæfellsnes. It was founded back in the mid-16th century and is known for its charming harbor area, which is filled with fishing trawlers bobbing in the water. Nearby are colorful wooden houses and a futuristic church. You can spend time strolling the town or hike up to the bright red lighthouse or Mount Helgafell, both of which offer great views of Breidafjordur Bay. In the evening, head out to dinner at one of the restaurants near the waterfront to try traditional Icelandic food.

Day 5: Ferry to the Westfjords

Iceland's Westfjords region

After breakfast, drive to the harbor, where you'll meet a ferry. Then you're off on a three-hour ride north across Breidafjordur Bay to the jetty in the outpost of Brjánslækur. This marks the beginning of the northwestern region of Iceland called the Westfjords. It's a stunning area home to dramatic landscapes and historic fishing villages. 

Upon arrival at the jetty, you can start exploring right away. Head out for a drive along the coast to Rauðasandur, a beach unique for Iceland in that its sands are red-hued and golden rather than volcanic and black. Continue to the western end of the region, and you'll arrive at Látrabjarg, whose towering sea cliffs are home to colonies of seabirds. Feel free to stop for a brief stroll near the cliffs. Afterward, you'll transfer to a hotel in the area. 

Day 6: Látrabjarg Guided Walking Tour

Spend a day hiking along Látrabjarg
Plan your trip to Iceland
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

In the morning, you'll meet a local guide for an exciting walking tour along the cliffs of Látrabjarg. It's a five-to-six-hour hike of moderate difficulty, and there's a lot of scenery to enjoy. Besides offering great ocean views, this end of Iceland is significant in that it marks the westernmost point of Europe. Its cliffs are also the natural habitat of millions of seabirds like puffins, razorbills, fulmars, and guillemots. You'll see these and many more as your guide leads you along the cliffs' edge.

It's a scenic and unforgettable hike, but the fun doesn't end once it's over. You'll then travel a few miles east to the Hnjótur Museum. This small but fascinating museum tells how Icelanders lived in the old days, their cultural values, and how locals would rescue sailors from ships that ran aground under the steep cliffs. In the early evening, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 7: Dynjandi Waterfall, Drive to Ísafjörður

Dynjandi Waterfall
Marvel at Dynjandi waterfall

After a leisurely morning and a hearty Icelandic breakfast, say goodbye to Látrabjarg and drive northeast for about two hours to the Dynjandi waterfall. The route passes some fine scenery, and along the way, you'll ascend a ridge offering panoramic views. Then drive down to the fjord where the falls are located. You can't miss them, as these cascades plunge 330 feet (100 m) down a rocky mountain and are up to 197 feet (60 m) wide at the bottom. Below this are a few smaller waterfalls in an area that's a nice spot for a picnic. After enjoying the scenery, continue north to the historic fishing village of Ísafjörður, where you'll overnight.

Day 8: Ísafjörður Activities & Hornstrandir Reserve

The cliffs of Hornstrandir

After breakfast, head out for some great activities in and around Ísafjörður. Take a walk around the well-preserved town center, then pay a visit to the Maritime Museum to learn about the area's seafaring history. Take a short drive up the coast to the village of Bolungarvík and stop at the edge of Bolafjell, a coastal mountain offering great views over the fjords. In town, you can visit the Ósvör Museum, a replica of a 19th-century fishing station.

If you're feeling adventurous, embark on a full-day group hike to the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. This 227-square-mile (589 sq km) area of unspoiled coastal wilderness is home to the arctic fox, and it boasts soaring peaks as jagged as broken glass. It's one of the most remarkable places in the country and remains so in part due to its inaccessibility. Hornstrandir is only reachable in the summer months, and if you want to join a hike, you need to plan in advance, as they don't leave every day. 

Day 9: Scenic Drive From Ísafjörður to Varmahlíð

The view from Troll Seat, in Ísafjörður

Today involves a lot of driving, but lucky for you the route passes some of the most beautiful scenery in Iceland. Get primed for the journey with a morning hike up the mountain to the south of town. At the top is a massive indent that was supposedly caused by a giant troll when he sat down, hence the name of the viewpoint: the Troll Seat. It's a steep ascent to the top, but once there, you'll be rewarded with panoramic views over the town, the surrounding mountains, and the fjords. 

Then, leave the Westfjords and drive up into northern Iceland. There are other optional stops you can make during the drive, one of which is the Arctic Fox Center. Located in the fishing village of Súðavík, it's the best place to learn about Iceland's only native terrestrial mammal. For more wildlife, visit the town of Hvítanes to see harbor seals resting on the rocks. Make sure you don't miss the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft. Located in the village of Hólmavík, it tells the story of the witch craze that swept Iceland in the 17th century. Afterward, drive to the town of Varmahlíð, where you'll overnight. 

Day 10: Discover Northern Iceland

Akureyri, the "capital of the north"

The north of Iceland, may be the country's best-kept secret. While crowds of tourists populate the south and the Golden Circle route, visitors to this region will have its geological wonders mostly to themselves. You can start the day by seeing the sights around the town of Varmahlíð. Be sure to visit Glaumbær Farm to see the famous turf houses, whose roofs are quite literally covered in turf. Another such landmark is the Víðimýrarkirkja Turf Church, regarded as one of the most beautiful in the country.

Then continue east for about an hour to the city of Akureyri, stopping to do some more sightseeing along the way. Just off the main highway, you'll find the village of Hvammstangi and the Icelandic Seal Center, a museum that also offers tours to view seals. A drive up the Vatnsnes Peninsula will take you to Hvítserkur, a gargantuan rock formation rising out of the water off the coast. According to legend, the rock is actually a troll that was caught in the sun and turned into stone. This area is also home to one of the largest seal colonies in Iceland.

Eventually, you'll arrive in Akureyri. Eighteen thousand people call this place home, which makes it one of the largest cities in Iceland. It's a popular spot for those traveling through the north due to its privileged location on Eyjafjörður, Iceland's longest fjord. After checking in to your hotel, you can take a walk on the waterfront or head to the city center to see the Swiss-inspired Akureyrarkirkja, a twin-steepled Lutheran church. In the evening, take advantage of the city's thriving dining and nightlife scene.

Day 11: Coastal Horseback Ride

Ride horses on the coast
In the morning, you'll transfer north to the seaside town of Húsavík. Here, you'll meet your horse and guide and embark on a 1.5-hour ride along the stunning Icelandic coast. As you trot over black-sand beaches and along rugged cliffs, you'll be treated to fantastic views over the Bay of Skjálfandi. It's a pleasant, easy ride that runs up through coastal hills above a farm. Afterward, you'll return to Akureyri and can spend the rest of the day relaxing.

Day 12: Drive the Diamond Circle to Lake Mývatn

Goðafoss, the "Waterfall of the Gods"

Take one last walk through Akureyri's downtown area before getting back on the main highway. Your destination today is Lake Mývatn, an otherworldly area teeming with volcanic activity. It's a popular stop on the 155-mile (250 km) Diamond Circle, the most scenic driving route in northern Iceland.

If you like, you can visit a few highlights on the way to Mývatn. One major landmark is Ásbyrgi, a horseshoe-shaped canyon that, legend has it, was created when Odin's eight-legged horse galloped across the land. There are also incredible waterfalls in the area: Dettifoss is one of the most powerful in Europe, while Goðafoss is known as the "Waterfall of the Gods." At the end of the day, head to your hotel at Lake Mývatn. If you like, you can relax in the Mývatn Nature Baths hot spring. 

Day 13: Askja & the Highlands 4WD Adventure

The crater lake at Askja

Trade your rental car for a bit of off-roading fun on a full-day Super Jeep 4WD tour. In the morning, you'll meet up with your group and guide for a trip up into the Icelandic highlands and Askja, a massive volcanic caldera. Once there, you'll get out of the vehicle, and your group will hike up to the rim of this active volcano, where you'll peer down at the turquoise crater lake. If conditions are ideal, it might even be possible to take a dip in the water.

Afterward, continue on foot to Holuhraun, a dried lava field just north of the Vatnajökull ice cap. It was created by a volcanic eruption back in 2014 and is so new that the surface area is still warm. Once you've traversed the lava field, your group will return to the Super Jeep and drive back to Lake Mývatn.

Day 14: Lava Field Helicopter Tour, Drive to Reykjavík

Fly over lava fields in a helicopter 
You've seen Iceland from the ground, now it's time to view its remarkable geological landscapes from above. To that end, you'll leave in the morning on a 45-minute helicopter tour over the lava fields created by the recent eruption of a volcano. It's perfectly safe, as the volcano is currently inactive, meaning you'll have great, unobstructed views of Iceland's ruggedly beautiful landscapes. After touching down, you'll hop in your car and drive back to Reykjavík, where you'll check in to your hotel. 

Day 15: Depart Iceland

Farewell, Iceland
Parting is such sweet sorrow. Enjoy one last leisurely breakfast in Reykjavík, then transfer to the airport, drop off the rental car, and catch your flight home. See you soon!

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Map of Iceland Best of the West: Snæfellsnes & Westfjords - 15 Days
Map of Iceland Best of the West: Snæfellsnes & Westfjords - 15 Days