With its countless natural wonders forged by ice and fire, Iceland was built for road trips. And while it's possible to embark on short sections of this nation's most scenic drives, this epic 10-day journey doesn't skimp on the action. You'll drive around the whole country, stopping for adventures as you marvel at waterfalls, snorkel in Arctic waters, explore the rugged Eastfjords, go horseback riding on black-sand beaches, brave whitewater rapids, soak in volcanic hot springs, and more.


  • See the highlights of Iceland's Golden Circle, from waterfalls to glaciers
  • Ride ATVs, soar over the treetops on ziplines, and hike remote areas in Iceland
  • Soak in geothermal hot springs, from Lake Mývatn to the famous Blue Lagoon
  • Go snorkeling between two continents and ride horses on volcanic beaches

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Iceland, Drive to the Golden Circle, Silfra Snorkeling Golden Circle
Day 2 Drive to Vík via South Coast Beaches & Zipline Adventure Vík
Day 3 Drive to Höfn via Skaftafell Nature Reserve & Lagoon Zodiac Tour Höfn
Day 4 Drive to the Eastfjords, ATV Tour Egilsstaðir
Day 5 Drive to Lake Mývatn, Hiking & Hot Springs Lake Mývatn
Day 6 Day Trip to Húsavik: Waterfalls, Canyons & Horseback Ride Lake Mývatn
Day 7 Drive to Laugarbakki via Akureyri, Goðafoss & Whitewater Rafting Laugarbakki
Day 8 Drive to Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Wildlife Hike Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day 9 Drive to Reykjavík via West Iceland Waterfalls & Lava Caves Reykjavík
Day 10 Reykjanes Peninsula & Blue Lagoon, Depart Iceland  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Iceland, Drive to the Golden Circle, Silfra Snorkeling

Kick off the road trip with stops at major landmarks like the Gullfoss waterfall

Welcome to Iceland! Formed by volcanic activity over millions of years, this "Land of Fire and Ice" sits on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, near the Arctic Circle. With its myriad glaciers, fjords, volcanic beaches, rugged coastal cliffs, and otherworldly geothermal fields, it's a bucket-list destination for anyone interested in geology and cold-weather adventures. You'll experience the highlights on a circuit tour around the entire country, starting with your arrival at Keflavík International Airport in southwest Iceland.

Here, you'll pick up your rental car and drive about an hour into the capital of Reykjavík. From there, continue west along the famous Golden Circle, a 190-mile (300 km) scenic route that features some of southern Iceland's most popular natural attractions. These include the bubbling mud pots and steam vents of the Geysir geothermal area and the massive, thundering Gullfoss, one of Iceland's most impressive waterfalls.

Another landmark you'll visit is the Silfra fissure. This rift is located in a lake on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and is the only place in the world where you can dive between two continents. You'll do just that as you squeeze into a wetsuit, grab a snorkel, and hop in the lake for an aquatic exploration. Over a couple of hours, you'll swim through narrow canals and vast underwater chambers between the Earth's tectonic plates. There's a lot to see, as the lake's glacial waters are so clear that visibility reaches a staggering 393 feet (120 m). Afterward, you'll continue to a lodging option in the area.

Day 2: Drive to Vík via South Coast Beaches & Zipline Adventure

Black Sand Beach and Rocks of Reynisfjara
The volcanic beaches of southern Iceland are filled with otherworldly rock formations

Rise and shine! Hit the road again this morning as you continue to the southern end of Iceland. You'll follow Route 1 (Ring Road) on a journey to Vík, the southernmost village in the country. The drive takes a couple of hours, but you'll stop at plenty of dazzling landmarks. One example is Seljalandsfoss, a romantic waterfall that plunges 200 feet (60 m) into a lagoon. A real highlight 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 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 near Vík is Dyrhólaey, a massive rock promontory and natural arch home to colonies of puffins. You can stop to admire the panoramic clifftop views looking out to the ocean, plus the arch is one of the most Instagrammable coastal features in Iceland. Afterward, continue to a canyon area where you'll strap into a harness and soar over the dramatic southern landscapes on a thrilling zipline ride. There are four zipline circuit options, each offering bird's-eye views of the surrounding canyons and waterfalls. Afterward, you'll drive to Vík and your hotel for the night.

Day 3: Drive to Höfn via Skaftafell Nature Reserve & Lagoon Zodiac Tour

See glaciers up close on a thrilling Zodiac boat tour

Leave Vík early and head east on the Ring Road to Skaftafell Nature Reserve, home to Vatnajökull, Europe's largest glacier at 3,130 square miles (8,100 sq km). Here, you can embark on a scenic 3-mile (5 km) hike up to Svartifoss. This awe-inspiring waterfall plunges 65 feet (20 m) over towering basalt cliffs. You can also stop to admire the rock formations of the Fjaðrárgljúfur river canyon and visit other impressive waterfalls.

Later, you'll arrive at Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon on the coast. 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 pieces of them break off and wash up on the adjacent Diamond Beach. A stop at this black-sand beach reveals iceberg fragments that gleam like diamonds in the sunlight.

Afterward, drive to the nearby Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon—a mini version of neighboring Jökulsárlón. Here, you'll hop in a Zodiak for a fun and fast ride across the lagoon. During the hour-long trip, your captain/guide will reveal insight into the area's geology, including the majestic Vatnajökull Glacier. You might even witness it shedding 1,000-year-old chunks of ice from its massive walls. Later, you'll drive to your hotel in Höfn, a charming fishing village on a narrow peninsula.

Day 4: Drive to the Eastfjords, ATV Tour

The Eastfjords
The Eastfjords are defined by waterfalls, fjords, and soaring coastal mountains

Say goodbye to southern Iceland as you embark on a trip to the remote Eastfjords region on the east coast. Follow Route 1 on a scenic drive that passes charming villages, secluded waterfalls, dramatic mountains, and vast fjords. There will be options for stops throughout the trip, including at Seyðisfjörður. Located on the fjord of the same name, the area offers plenty of activities, including nature hikes leading to lakes and waterfalls. Don't miss the little blue church in town, which is right out of a fairy tale.

Feel free to stop at other landmarks, like Lake Lagarfljót and Hengifoss (Iceland's third-tallest waterfall), on your way to Egilsstaðir, the capital of the Eastfjords. Once in town, drop off your things at your accommodation, then transfer south to the nearby village of Hallormsstaður, which sits on the shores of Lake Lagarfljót amid Iceland's largest forest. Here, you'll hop on an ATV (quad bike) for an hour-long ride through wilderness trails. It's good fun, and as you go, your expert local guides will reveal some fascinating history of the area. Afterward, you'll return to Egilsstaðir.

Day 5: Drive to Lake Mývatn, Hiking & Hot Springs

The wonders of Lake Myvatn
The Lake Mývatn region of northern Iceland features alien landscapes like pseudocraters

You'll leave the Eastfjords region this morning, continuing into the country's north. Your destination is Lake Mývatn, a volcanic region famous for its bubbling and hissing geothermal areas and fascinating geological formations. The route there is another memorable road trip filled with optional stops at remote and beautiful landmarks. 

Feel free to stop and visit the area's top sites, starting with the mud pools and steaming sulfuric vents at Hverir. Another can't-miss landmark is the Grjótagjá cave, filled with a crystal-clear azure hot spring featured in the HBO series "Game of Thrones." Then, you can hike amid the jumbled lava-rock formations of nearby Dimmuborgir before heading to the south end of Lake Mývatn to view the bizarre Skútustaðagígar "pseudocraters." These dimple-like cones were formed 2,300 years ago when superheated steam trapped beneath the surface bubbled up in gaseous explosions.

After exploring the region on foot and by car, you can cap the day with a nice long soak in the Mývatn Nature Baths, a hot-spring lagoon known as the "Blue Lagoon of the north." The soothing waters remain at ideal temperatures between 97-104°F (36-40°C). There's also an on-site café where you can relax with a light lunch or dinner. You'll overnight at local accommodations in the Mývatn region.

Day 6: Day Trip to Húsavik: Waterfalls, Canyons & Horseback Ride

Húsavik is famous for its whales, who often swim right into its colorful harbor

The road trip continues today, but with a twist—you'll travel partly along the Diamond Circle. This 155-mile (250 km) circuit drive takes you through some of North Iceland's most spectacular sights. One highlight is Ásbyrgi, a horseshoe-shaped canyon that, as the story goes, was created when god Odin's eight-legged horse galloped across the land. Other optional stops include the turquoise Botnstjörn Pond, the distinctive rock formations in Vesturdalur Valley, and Jökulsárgljúfur, a 15-mile (25 km) glacial river canyon. A real treat is Dettifoss, one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe.

Follow the route farther north to Húsavík, a lovely fishing town and the whale watching capital of Iceland. The reason it's so popular is that you don't need to venture far out to sea to view these animals—you can see them right in the harbor. You could also head to the nearby GeoSea Baths to soak in more geothermal pools.

While in Húsavik, you'll transfer to a remote spot just outside of town. On a long section of pristine Icelandic coast, you'll saddle up for a 1.5-hour ride along the waterfront. It's a fun and leisurely excursion, and eventually, the trail will take you from the coast up into the hills to a local farm. It's a great spot to relax, take some pictures, and learn a bit about the area from your expert guide. Afterward, you'll return to your accommodation in Lake Mývatn.

Day 7: Drive to Laugarbakki via Akureyri, Goðafoss & Whitewater Rafting

Sun setting over Goðafoss, a cascade so grand it's known as the "Waterfall of the Gods"
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Today, you'll come around the top of Iceland and continue down into the northwest part of the country. It's only about a 45-minute drive south of Húsavík to the first major landmark on today's itinerary: Goðafoss. Known as the "Waterfall of the Gods," the cascades here drop 39 feet (12 m) into a river gorge. Also, watch for seal colonies as you drive along the coast.

After the waterfall, continue on to Akureyri. Known as the "capital of the north," it's the largest metropolis on this side of Iceland (it boasts a whopping 18,000 people). Perhaps take a walk on the waterfront or head to the city center to see the Swiss-inspired Akureyrarkirkja, a twin-steepled Lutheran church. Then, it's time to transfer outside of town to the East Glacial River.

As its name suggests, this waterway is born from a glacier and runs from the highlands down to the coast. It's one of the few waterfall-free rivers in Iceland, which makes it ideal for rafting. But don't mistake the lack of falls for tranquility—the East Glacial River offers thrilling whitewater fun amid Class IV+ rapids. Over a few hours, you'll travel a wild 11-mile (17 km) route through remote gorges and canyons. Afterward, get back on the road and continue another 2.5 hours west to your accommodation in the village of Laugarbakki.

Day 8: Drive to Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Wildlife Hike

The Lóndrangar cliffs are a highlight of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

After breakfast, continue into western Iceland and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. One of the country's most scenic regions, Snæfellsnes is often referred to as "Iceland in miniature" due to its wealth of geological marvels. Upon arrival, take a drive around the 55-mile-long (90 km) peninsula, stopping at the rugged Budir beach. Continue through the Budahraun lava field to Arnarstapi, a fishing village famous for its natural sea arch. There's also the clifftop viewpoint at Lóndrangar, which overlooks basalt rock pinnacles.

Circling the snowcapped Snæfellsjökull volcano, you can explore inside Vantshellir lava cave and stroll the Djúpalónssandur black-sand beach before driving along the north shore to shark-tooth-shaped Kirkjufell mountain. Its iconic pinnacle and the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall at its base combine to form one of the most indelible images in Iceland, in part due to its fame as a setting in "Game of Thrones." 

Later in the morning, you'll meet a guide for a nature and wildlife hike. Like a few other coastal areas in Iceland, Snæfellsnes is a haven for seabirds and marine mammals. This half-day excursion will take you off the beaten path along coastal trails where you might glimpse animals like orcas and minke whales. As you stroll along beaches and pass waterfalls, you'll glimpse resident birdlife, like puffins. At the end of the hike, you'll transfer back to Arnarstapi, where you'll overnight.

Day 9: Drive to Reykjavík via West Iceland Waterfalls & Lava Caves

Hallgrimskirkja, in Reykjavík, is the most iconic church in Iceland

Leave early on a trip back to the Golden Circle via the Borgarfjörður region of western Iceland. Today's drive takes you via the coastal fishing village of Borgarnes. Its fascinating Settlement Center offers exhibitions on early settled history and Icelandic Sagas (historical prose narratives). Then it's on to Reykholt, a beautiful medieval village. From here, it's a 10-minute drive up the Hvítá River Valley to Barnafoss and Hraunfossar waterfalls, which tumble over a lava field.

A short distance beyond, you'll arrive at Víðgelmir, the longest lava tube in Iceland, worming for 5,200 feet (1,595 m) beneath the earth. Here you can opt for a one-hour tour of the cave. Exiting the valley, stop for a relaxing soak in the Krauma Geothermal Bath & Spa, which is fed by Deildartunguhver, Europe's most powerful hot spring. Then follow the Hvalfjörður fjord to its head, where you'll lace up your boots for an optional hike up the rugged canyon to the Glymur waterfall; at 650 feet (198 m), it's Iceland's second tallest. Afterward, continue south, returning to Reykjavík in the afternoon.

Once you've settled into your hotel, you can celebrate your penultimate day in Iceland with a self-guided tour of the city. Despite being a relatively small capital, Reykjavík is home to more than 60 museums and galleries, and highlights include the Maritime Museum and the Northern Lights Center. You certainly don't want to miss Hallgrimskirkja, Iceland's tallest church, which sits on a hill overlooking downtown. Later, you can head downtown to indulge in Reykjavík's nightlife scene. Here you'll find plenty of bars and pubs offering live music and other entertainment.

Day 10: Reykjanes Peninsula & Blue Lagoon, Depart

The Blue Lagoon is the most famous geothermal spring in the country

The adventure isn't over yet! Wake up early and drive 45 minutes back toward the airport and the Reykjanes Peninsula. The geothermal fields here are the site of Iceland's most famous destination: the Blue Lagoon. During a visit before your flight, you'll soak in its milky blue waters, which hover around a luxurious 98-104°F (37-40°C). The water is rich in mineral content and, combined with its algae and silica, offers myriad health benefits, including as a psoriasis treatment.

After the Blue Lagoon, if there's still time, you can visit other locales in the area, like the Krýsuvík and Gunnuhver geothermal fields or the Bridge Between Continents, a footbridge over a fissure separating the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. A walk across it means you're taking a stroll between two continents. Later, continue to the airport, drop off your car, and catch your flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Iceland Extended Ring Road Self-Drive Adventure - 10 Days
Map of Iceland Extended Ring Road Self-Drive Adventure - 10 Days