This savvy 10-day Iceland tour bypasses the summer crowds in favor of remote road-trip adventures in the west and north. After touring the waterfalls of the Golden Circle, head to the volcanic beaches and rugged cliffs on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, then continue to the far north and the Arctic coast. Discover the fjords of Tröllaskagi, go whale watching in Húsavik, explore the lunar landscapes of Mývatn and more.


  • Hike in Þingvellir National Park and go snorkeling in the Golden Circle
  • Discover the volcanic beaches and waterfalls on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
  • Visit local farms, historic churches, and natural pools in Iceland's far north
  • Tour the pseudocraters, lava formations, and baths of Lake Mývatn
  • Board a boat in Húsavik and embark on a whale watching adventure

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Keflavík, Drive the Golden Circle  Golden Circle
Day 2 Drive to Snæfellsnes Peninsula Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day 3 Snæfellsnes Beaches & Villages Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day 4 Drive the Arctic Coast to Varmahlíð Varmahlíð
Day 5 Drive to Goðafoss Waterfall & Húsavik, Whale Watching Excursion Húsavik
Day 6 Day Trip to Asbyrgi Canyon & Dettifoss Húsavik
Day 7 Explore Lake Mývatn, Drive to Akureyri Akureyri
Day 8 Drive to Grábrók Crater & Borgarnes Borgarnes
Day 9 Glymur Falls Hike, Drive to Reykjavík & Explore Reykjavík
Day 10 Visit Reykjanes Peninsula & Blue Lagoon, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Keflavík, Drive the Golden Circle 

Explore the canyons and waterfalls of Þingvellir National Park

Welcome to Iceland! This volcanic island near the Arctic Circle draws many visitors who come to experience its stunning natural wonders, rich Viking heritage, and colorful culture, particularly in the dynamic capital of Reykjavík. Upon arrival at Keflavík Airport, you'll pick up your rental car and begin your road trip adventure. 

First, drive about 45 minutes to Reykjavík, then head south out of the city for a drive 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 Law Rock. At this outcrop during the Middle Ages, chieftains met once a year to air grievances and recite new laws. Also in the park is 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.

Next is the Geysir geothermal area, famous for its bubbling mud pits, steam vents, and erupting geysers. The star is the Strokkur Geyser, which erupts every 5 to 10 minutes, reaching up to 130 feet (40 m) high. Then, you'll stop at Gullfoss, one of Iceland's most impressive waterfalls, for a hike. Cap the day with a visit to the Secret Lagoon. Created in 1891 in the Hverahólmi geothermal area, this is the oldest human-made swimming pool in Iceland, with water remaining between 86°F-104°F (38°C-40°C) year-round. After enjoying the lagoon, head to your roadside hotel.

Day 2: Drive to Snæfellsnes Peninsula

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula's many dramatic coastal landmarks include the arch at Arnarstapi

Time to hit the road again. After breakfast, pack up the rental car and head north from the Golden Circle to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This 56-mile (90 km) long peninsula is often referred to as "Little Iceland" as it contains many of the wonders the country is known for, like rugged sea cliffs, unique rock formations, and waterfalls. 

The drive takes about three hours, and once you arrive, you'll have the freedom to drive, hike, and explore the peninsula as you see fit. Don't miss the three-tiered waterfall of Kirkjufellsfoss, which is backed by the rounded peak of Mount Kirkjufell and was featured in "Game of Thrones." The Berserkjahraun and Budahraun lava fields are also worth visiting. 

You'll also stop at the Gerðuberg Cliffs. This area is famous for its row of basalt columns that stand up to 46 feet (14 m) tall and run along a sea cliff for over half a mile. From there, you can drive east to the twin waterfalls of Hraunfossar and Barnafoss. At the end of the afternoon, you'll drive to your hotel in the small fishing village of Arnarstapi, famous for its rugged coast and impressive natural arch formation. For dinner, consider hearty fish stew at a waterfront café.

Day 3: Snæfellsnes Beaches & Villages

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is known for its volcanic sea cliffs, like at Lóndrangar

Leave Arnarstapi in the morning for a full-day drive to visit even more highlights on the peninsula. First, drive to the southwest and Lóndrangar. The unusual 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). The peninsula's visitor center is farther up the road, where you can learn more about this area's volcanic system.

A short drive up the coast from Lóndrangar, you'll reach Djupalonsandur. This beach is also dotted with towering rock formations, but its volcanic black sands are the real star. There's interesting history here in the form of a shipwreck from 1948, and back in the Middle Ages, the area was a prominent fishing village. Left on the beach from that time period are four different-sized stones that sea captains used to test the strength of potential sailors. 

Spend the night in the town of Grundarfjörður, near Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, or continue to the larger town of Stykkishólmur. On the way, stop at the Shark Museum and taste hákarl (fermented shark), an Icelandic staple. Or, for something less adventurous, enjoy dinner at one of the town's cozy restaurants. 

Day 4: Drive the Arctic Coast to Varmahlíð

The rock formation of Hvítserkur is steeped in Icelandic myth and legend

After breakfast, hop back on Ring Road (Route 1) and continue to the far north of Iceland and the town of Varmahlíð. The drive takes about three hours, but there are many exciting stops along the way. Just off the highway, for example, is the village of Hvammstangi. Here, you can visit the Icelandic Seal Center, a research facility with info regarding the various seal species in Iceland. You can also drive along the Vatnsnes Peninsula for views of Hvítserkur, large black and white basalt formations rising out of the sea. Legend has it that the rock was once a troll, turned to stone by the sun. 

If you'd like to learn more about how Icelanders used to live, stop in at Glaumbær Farm, where you can visit the ancient turf houses that locals once called home. You can also visit Víðimýrarkirkja church, which was built in 1834, and is one of the only remaining turf churches in Iceland. Continue to the Skagafjörður fjord and soak in the legendary Grettislaug—twin geothermal pools that feature prominently in Icelandic lore. Afterward, head back south to Varmahlíð, where you'll overnight.

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Day 5: Drive to Goðafoss Waterfall & Húsavik, Whale Watching Excursion

Embark on a whale watching tour in Húsavik and spot humpback whales

This morning, you'll continue driving a couple of hours northeast to the colorful fishing village of Húsavik. On the way, you'll stop at Goðafoss waterfall, known as the "Waterfall of the Gods." Located on the right side of Route 1, this natural wonder spans a width of 98 feet (30 m) and plunges 12 m (39 feet) into a river gorge. There are different vantage points around the falls from which you can take great photos, so don't be shy about hiking around.

Afterward, continue to Húsavik. Not only is this a lovely harbor town but it's also the whale watching capital of Iceland. Here, you'll hop in a boat for a quick cruise, during which you might spot humpback and sperm whales as well as harbor porpoises and dolphins. Get lucky, and you might even glimpse an orca or two. Afterward, you can check out the Whale Museum and the church by the harbor before settling into your hotel in town.

Day 6: Day Trip to Ásbyrgi Canyon & Dettifoss

Experience the majesty of Ásbyrgi Canyon on nature hikes

Follow the Diamond Circle, a 155-mile (250 km) circuit that passes some of the most incredible landscapes in Iceland's north. One such highlight you'll visit on this drive is the spectacular Ásbyrgi Canyon. This forested glacial canyon is accessible via a network of hiking trails leading to viewpoints where you can marvel at this vast gorge's unique horseshoe shape. Nearby, another short hike in the Vesturdalur Valley leads to the surreal riverside Hljóðaklettar basalt formations and red-and-black Rauðhólar hills.

After the canyon, continue to Hafragilsfoss waterfall, where the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river plunges 90 feet (27 m) into Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon. Only 2 miles (3 km) upstream is Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful cascade: you can drive between the two waterfalls or hike atop the ravine. From Dettifoss, continue to the northernmost edge of the country and enjoy the sweeping coastal views at Rauðanes Cape, which also features a spectacular natural arch. At the end of the day, you'll return to Húsavik.

Day 7: Explore Lake Mývatn, Drive to Akureyri

Tour the highlights of the Lake Mývatn area, like the Skútustaðir Pseudocraters

Drive south in the morning from Húsavik for about 45 minutes to Lake Mývatn. The region around this volcanic lake is remarkable, as it contains the highest concentration of geothermal sights in Iceland. You'll discover many of these natural wonders on a full-day self-drive tour. First up is a visit to the Skútustaðir Pseudocraters, which were formed when lava flowed over marshland. On an easy one-hour hike around these almost alien landscapes, you'll enjoy scenic views across the lake and witness steam rising from the geothermal areas and volcanic craters in the distance.

Next, embark on another walk around the Dimmuborgir pillars—fascinating rock formations created after a lava flow. You can hike a 2-mile (3 km) loop trail here that will also take you to Kirkja (The Church), an impressive lava formation that resembles a vaulted church apse. A little ways past Dimmuborgir, you can make another stop at Hofdi. Wooded hiking trails lead to these volcanic formations, which rise out of the lake. Another major landmark in the area is the Hverfjall ring volcano. Climb up its slopes for panoramic views of the surrounding area. 

Your next stop is Grjótagjá Cave, a small lava cave that contains a natural geothermal spring. (Fun fact: it was a filming location for the series "Game of Thrones.") You can walk inside the cave to the hot pool, but use caution as the water tends to run extremely hot. Later, take a relaxing dip in the Mývatn Nature Baths, which are a series of geothermally heated pools and steam baths. Then continue driving an hour west to Akureyri, Iceland's second-largest city, where you'll overnight.

Day 8: Drive to Grábrók Crater & Borgarnes

Enjoy the fjord scenery and hike up mountains near Borgarnes

Depart Akureyi this morning and begin the drive back down the western edge of Iceland, passing through the lava-clad region of the Borgarfjörður fjord. One highlight you'll visit here is Grábrók Crater, located right off Route 1. Grábrók is the largest of three volcanic craters within the same fissure, and you can walk around it via a rim boardwalk trail—don't forget your camera. 

After the hike, continue south to the colorful town of Borgarnes. Once here, you can visit the Settlement Center on a tour. Located in two of the town's most historic buildings, the center recounts Icelandic history and recreates fascinating folklore. If you like, you can stretch your legs on a three to four-hour hike up Hafnarfjall, a nearby mountain that stands 2,769 feet (844 m). From its summit, you'll enjoy incredible panoramic views of the Borgarfjörður fjord. Following the day's activities, browse the local shops in town and enjoy a nice dinner before retiring to your hotel.

Day 9: Glymur Falls Hike, Drive to Reykjavík & Explore

For one of your last adventures in Iceland, hike around the massive Glymur Falls

In the morning, leave Borgarnes on a short drive south to Glymur Falls. Iceland's second-tallest waterfall cascades 650 feet (198 m) over cliffs, and the surrounding area offers great nature hikes. A two-hour out-and-back hike to the waterfall leads through narrow canyons and to panoramic viewpoints. To marvel at more cascades, you can continue a short way north to the twin waterfalls of Hraunfossar and Barnafoss.

Then it's time to drive just over an hour south to Reykjavík, where you'll have the afternoon free to discover the city's culture and heritage. In and around this area are a wealth of fine museums and galleries, including 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 see the impressive Sun Voyager dreamboat sculpture and tour the Harpa Concert Hall. The northern lights inspired the shimmering glass facade of Northern Europe's most impressive concert venue. And don't want to miss Iceland's tallest church, Hallgrimskirkja, which sits on a hill overlooking downtown. When the sun goes down, perhaps indulge in Reykjavík's nightlife scene. Plenty of cool bars serve up handcrafted cocktails you can enjoy while listening to live music.

Day 10: Visit Reykjanes Peninsula & Blue Lagoon, Depart

Stop for a quick soak in Iceland's famous Blue Lagoon before departing

The fun isn't over yet. In the morning, you'll drive toward the airport, stopping on the way at the famous Reykjanes Peninsula for a self-guided tour. Highlights include lava fields, fishing villages, and the UNESCO World Heritage Reykjanes Geopark. This hotbed of geological activity is the only place on Earth where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is visible above sea level.

The most famous destination on this peninsula is the Blue Lagoon. If time allows, stop for a soak in its milky blue waters, which hover around a luxurious 98-104°F (37-40°C). The experience is heightened by the sheer blanket of steam and mist perpetually hovering above the water. Speaking of that water, its rich mineral content, combined with its algae and silica, offers many health benefits. It's even a proven treatment for psoriasis.

Other locales you may want to visit include Reykjanesviti, the oldest lighthouse in Iceland, which was built in 1878. Nearby is 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. Afterward, drive to the airport, where you'll drop off your rental car and catch your flight home. Come back soon!

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Map of Iceland West to North: Golden Circle, Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Húsavik, Akureyri & More - 10 Days
Map of Iceland West to North: Golden Circle, Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Húsavik, Akureyri & More - 10 Days