This thirteen-day driving tour of Iceland takes you to some of the country's most amazing landmarks and historic sites. Travel along Iceland's Ring Road, where you'll see crashing waterfalls and long stretches of lava fields at Lake Mývatn. Visit historic fishing villages for beautiful harbor views and marine life tours, then hike the peaks of Kaldbakur Mountain. See geysers erupt into the sky, walk the cliffs of Arnarstapi, and take in the geological wonders of the Golden Circle and Þingvellir National Park.

Highlights

  • Soak in the healing lagoons of Mývatn Nature Baths
  • Tour Miðfjorður fjord and watch playful seals in the ocean waters 
  • See endless views from the summit of Kaldbakur Mountain
  • Walk black-sand beaches and explore sea caves at Reynisfjara Beach

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Keflavík, Transfer to Akureyri, Drive to Lake Mývatn Lake Mývatn
Day 2 Hverir, Dettifoss & Jökulsárgljúfur, Asbyrgi Canyon, Whale Watching Lake Mývatn
Day 3 Drive to Laugarbakki Laugarbakki
Day 4 Drive to Ísafjörður, Hvitanes, Litlibaer, Valagil Isafjordur
Day 5 Kaldbakur Mountain Hike Isafjordur
Day 6 Drive to Patreksfjörður, Hrafnseyri, Dynjandi & Bildudalur Patreksfjörður
Day 7 Raudasandur, Breidavik, Látrabjarg Cliffs, Ferry to Stykkisholmur Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day 8 Kirkjufellsfoss, Djupalonsandur Black-Sand Beach, Lava Fields & Cliffs Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day 9 Golden Circle, Þingvellir National Park Golden Circle
Day 10 Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss Waterfall, Friðheimar Farm Golden Circle
Day 11 Drive to Vík, Waterfalls, Dyrholaey Arch, Reynisfjara & Reynisdrangar Golden Circle
Day 12 Drive to Reykjavík, Reykjadalur Valley Hike Reykjavík
Day 13 Krysuvik, Gunnuhver, Bridge Between Continents, Depart Reykjavík  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Keflavík, Transfer to Akureyri, Drive to Lake Mývatn

Mývatn Nature Baths 

Welcome to Iceland! After your initial flight into Keflavík, you'll transfer to the city of Akureyri via Reykjavík airport.  From here, pick up your rental car and begin your drive along Iceland's Ring Road, or Route 1. Your first stop will be Goðafoss or the "Waterfall of the Gods." Legend has it, the waterfall was named when a local chieftain made the decision to convert the country from the old Nordic gods to Christianity, and in order to prevent war, he threw the old gods into the falls. It's an easy hike from the road to a closer view of the falls, or you can take a small footpath down to the water's edge. 

Your next stop is Grjótagjá Cave, a small lava cave that contains a natural geothermal spring, and one of the locations where the series "Game of Thrones" was filmed. You can walk inside the cave to see the hot pool, but use caution as the water tends to run extremely hot. From here, head to Hverfjall, a large, circular explosion crater and one of Iceland's most beautiful and symmetrical craters of its kind. It is estimated that the crater was created during a volcanic explosion and is close to 3,000 years old. 
 
Your final destination today is Lake Mývatn, which encompasses just over 14 square miles (36.5 sq km), and is Iceland's fourth-largest body of water. It also boasts the highest concentration of volcanic and geothermal sights in the entire country. Spend the afternoon exploring nearby rock formations, and lava fields, ending with a visit to Mývatn Nature Baths. Take a relaxing dip in the alkaline waters of this lagoon, or enjoy a steam bath with natural geothermal steam. The on-site café is a great place to relax and have a light dinner. 

Day 2: Hverir, Dettifoss & Jökulsárgljúfur, Asbyrgi Canyon, Whale Watching

Hverir Geothermal Area
Hverir geothermal area
Visit some of the other sights of interest around Lake Mývatn, starting with the Hverir geothermal area. Here, you can spend some time walking around various bubbling mud pits and steam vents, while admiring the interesting red and orange landscape that surrounds it. Then, make the short drive to Viti Crater, a large crater filled with a gorgeous blue lake. 

The next leg of your drive takes you to Jökulsárgljúfur National Park, a huge park in the northeast where you'll find stunning glaciers and crashing waterfalls. Stop to see Jökulsárgljúfur, the most impressive section of the nearly 125-mile (200 km) glacier river Jökulsá á Fjöllum. Translated as "glacial river from the mountains," the river originates from the far-off Vatnajökull glacier from where it flows north through the highlands and into the Arctic Sea. The park is also where you'll find Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe, and Selfoss, which sits just a mile upstream. 

Visit Asbyrgi Canyon, which local folklore claims was created by the footprint of Odin's eight-legged horse. The walls of the canyon are more than 300 feet (100 m) high in some places, offering spectacular views. Or if you'd prefer some wildlife viewing, make the drive to the coastal town of Húsavik, where you can hop on a tour that offers up-close sightings of whales, porpoises, and seabirds. Unlike other regions where you must sail farther into the sea to view whales, Húsavik often has marine life just a few minutes from the harbor. Return to Lake Mývatn for the evening before continuing your travels tomorrow. 

Day 3: Drive to Laugarbakki

Kolugljufur waterfall near Laugarbakki

Head to the quaint village of Laugarbakki today, which is located on the Miðfjarðará River. The community itself is quite small, with less than 100 residents, but the surrounding areas are vast, with plenty of sights to see. Start at Kolugljufur Canyon, where you'll find the breathtaking Kolufoss waterfall. You can walk across a nearby bridge to get closer, taking in the endless views of the high cliffs and the river running through the gorge.

Adjacent to Laugarbakki is the village of Hvammstangi, where, in the summer months, you can take guided private seal-watching tours. Tour around Miðfjorður fjord, and catch views of the playful seals in their natural environment. Hvammstangi is also home to the Icelandic Seal Center, a research and exhibition facility that investigates the lives of the seals in the area. Here, you can learn about the various species of seals in Iceland, as well as the other wildlife that inhabits the northern regions. 

Visitors to this region can also explore various sights of the Vatnsnes Peninsula, stopping at local landmarks such as Borgarvirki fortress and Hvitserkur sea stack. And if the supernatural interests you, take a side trip to the Witchcraft Museum in the town of Hólmavík. The exhibits tell the story of the witch craze in Iceland in the 17th century and how witchcraft is presented in Icelandic folklore. Learn about historic witchcraft cases and about different witchcraft practices! Spend tonight relaxing at your hotel in Laugarbakki. 

Day 4: Drive to Ísafjörður, Hvitanes, Litlibaer, Valagil

Picturesque Ísafjörður

Continue to the Westfjords and to the village of Ísafjörður, known for its historic houses, maritime history, and breathtaking scenery. The largest town in the region, its central location makes it a great landing pad in between your exploration of the area. After checking in at your accommodation, head to Hvitanes, one of Iceland's most accessible seal colonies. You'll be able to observe large numbers of harbor seals as they relax on the rocks just a short distance from shore. 

Next, visit Litlibaer, a historic turf farmstead that was built in 1895, and at just over 300 square feet (29 sq m) one of the smallest farms in Iceland. The property was taken over by the National Museum of Iceland in 1969, and it now functions as a museum, with exhibitions on early life in Iceland. The museum also has a café, where you can grab a coffee or try one of their specialty waffles.

Travelers who are interested in wildlife conservation should also make the quick drive to Sudavik, home to the Arctic Fox Center, a non-profit research center where you can learn about the history of the Arctic fox. Later, end your day with a visit to Alftafjordur fjord and the waterfalls of Valagil. Formed from layers of ancient lava, the ravine is said to be named after the falcons, or valur, that used to nest there. From the parking area near the road, take an easy 1.25-mile (2 km) hike through the natural beauty of this valley and to the falls. 

Day 5: Kaldbakur Mountain Hike

Kaldbakur Mountain hike
Trekking along Kaldbakur Mountain

Get out and get active today with a summit of Kaldbakur Mountain, the highest peak in the Westfjords. This guided hike starts in Ísafjörður, where you'll take a van to the trailhead at Alftamyrarheidi mountain pass. The hike to the top takes approximately three to four hours, and is fairly strenuous, with a steady ascent and zig-zagging trails. Once you reach the top, you'll be rewarded with unparalleled views of the surrounding landscapes, including the fjord, mountains, and distant beaches. Enjoy your last night in Ísafjörður before continuing your travels tomorrow. 

Day 6: Drive to Patreksfjörður, Hrafnseyri, Dynjandi & Bildudalur

A view down over the town of Isafjordur
A view down over the town of Isafjordur

This morning, your destination will be the town of Patreksfjörður. Before you leave, however, enjoy a walking tour of Ísafjörður, where you can learn more about the history and culture of the community. You can visit the Westfjords Heritage Museum, where you'll find exhibits on the town's maritime history, or stop in at the town's old hospital, which was converted into a cultural center and has photos and town archives for viewing. 

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Along the way, visit Hrafnseyri Farm, which was once the home of Hrafn Sveinbjarnason, a legendary chieftain, as well as the birthplace of Jon Sigurdsson, the leader of the Icelandic independence movement and a founding father of the country. Visit the exhibition dedicated to him, the town's wooden church, and a turf house that is a model of the one Jon was born in. Enjoy a snack at the café before getting back on the road. 
 
Stretch your legs at Dynjandi, where a quick 20-minute hike takes you to the base of the waterfall. The falls are nearly 100 feet (30 m) wide at the top, extending to nearly 200 feet (60 m) at the bottom. The word Dynjandi translates to "thunderous," an apt name for these resounding waters! You'll also want to stop at the village of Bildudalur, a small town that is a hub for fish farming and has an active music culture. They host a yearly folk festival and have an exhibition of Icelandic music memorabilia. From here, it's a short, 30-minute drive to Patreksfjörður, where you'll overnight. 

Day 7: Raudasandur, Breidavik, Látrabjarg Cliffs, Ferry to Stykkisholmur

Birds nesting on the cliffs of Látrabjarg

It's off to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, one of the most beautiful regions of western Iceland. Your first destination is Raudasandur Beach, a remote stretch of sand made popular by its unusual color. The orange-pink sands come from pulverized scallop shells, and at low tide, you'll notice the contrast between the mountain cliffs and the blue ocean. The beach can be accessed via nearby Lambavatn Farm, which sits toward the western end of the beach, or from the community of Saurbaer

From here, make the one-hour drive to the cliffs of Látrabjarg, one of the largest bird cliffs in Iceland and the westernmost point of Europe. In the summer months, several species of birds nest here, including puffins, Arctic terns, and white-tailed eagles. The cliffs stretch nearly 9 miles (14 km) and are more than 1,400 feet high (440 m), and if you walk along the top of them, you can see the Snæfellsjökull glacier volcano.
 
After some hiking and bird-watching, continue to the port of Brjanslaekur, a drive of approximately 1.5 hours. Here, you'll board the ferry to the village of Stykkisholmur, where you'll overnight. Located in the northern region of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, this charming town feels like you've stepped back in time, with its old wooden houses and quiet streets. Explore one of their many museums, hike up to the nearby lighthouse, or take a relaxing dip in the town's geothermal swimming pool! 

Day 8: Kirkjufellsfoss, Djupalonsandur Black-Sand Beach, Lava Fields & Cliffs

Views of Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall

Take the ferry back to the mainland and continue your tour of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Stop at Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, where you'll see Mount Kirkjufell in the background—one of Iceland's most photographed peaks. You'll also want to make a quick detour to Saxholar Crater, where you can stretch your legs with a walk up the stairs that take you right to the top of the crater and great views of the countryside. 

Then, head to Djupalonsandur's black-sand beach, where you can walk the beach and see debris from an old shipwreck, another amazing photo op! While there, look for a small trail to the right of the cliffs, which takes you to a cove that was once the site of major fishing operations. Visit the Lóndrangar lava formations, which can be viewed from a distance or you can make the 15-minute walk to see them up close, then stop at Arnarstapi, a small village that sits at the foot of Mount Stapafell. You can walk along the cliffside paths here, and have lunch at a local café. 
 
Your final stops today will be Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge and Búðir. Raudfeldsgja, which translates to "red-cloak rift", is a deep, high and narrow gorge in Botnsfjall Mountain located near Arnarstapi. You can park just off the main road, and walk to the entrance of the gorge, which is home to a small, picturesque waterfall. Not far from Raudfeldsgja, you'll find the hamlet of Búðir, a small community that is most known for its small black church, which was painted with pitch to preserve it from the elements. Overnight in Búðir, or find accomodations nearby. 

Day 9: Golden Circle, Þingvellir National Park

Tectonic plates meet in Thingvellir
Tectonic plates meet in Þingvellir
Continue along the South Coast and into the Golden Circle today, where you'll visit Þingvellir National Park, one of Iceland's most historically significant sites. Vikings founded the Icelandic parliament here in 930 AD, and it was made a national park in 1928 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. Here, you'll find incredible geological features, such as the North Atlantic Dorsal Rift. The edges of these tectonic plates are clearly visible within the park.
 

The park is also home to the Silfra fissure, created by the separation of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates cutting through Iceland. Filled with glacial water that has been filtered underground for decades and with nearly 400 feet (120 m) of visibility, it is one of the clearest bodies of water on earth. You can view the fissure from land or take a snorkel tour. Before leaving the park, take a moment to visit historic Law Rock, where Viking chieftains from all over the country met once a year to discuss laws and issues.

This afternoon, stop at Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls. Hraunfossar, or "lava waterfalls," is an unusual stretch of tiny waterfalls arising from springs of subterranean water seeping through the lava. They have been protected since 1987. Nearby is Barnafoss (Children's Waterfall), whose name comes from a legend about two children who drowned in the falls.

Day 10: Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss Waterfall, Friðheimar Farm

Strokkur Geyser
Strokkur geyser
Start your day with erupting geysers and a visit to Geysir geothermal area. Walk among the bubbling mud pits and steam vents, and explore nearby Strokkur geyser, which erupts like clockwork every 5–10 minutes and can reach up to 130 feet (40 m). After watching the eruptions, enjoy a walk through the Haukadalsskógur forest, visit the Tree Museum, or relax in the natural hot springs at Kúalaug. Later, continue to Gullfoss (Golden Falls), where you can hike the falls or visit the volcanic crater of Kerið.
 
Stop at Friðheimar Farm for lunch, a family-owned greenhouse and restaurant where you can have a meal amid the greenhouse tomato plants. This working farm harvests 370 tons (335 mt) of produce each year and maintains nearly 10,000 plants. In the summer months, guests can also see a horse show on the property, and learn about the history of Icelandic horses.
 
You can also make a visit to Bruarfoss waterfall, which translates to "bridge falls" and is a small waterfall that flows into a turquoise-hued glacial pool. Do keep in mind that this is about a 4-mile (7 km) hike, so plan accordingly! And the Golden Circle is, of course, home to various hot springs, one of which is Hrunalaug, or Hruni hot springs. Near the town of Fludir, these three geothermal springs are a popular spot to stop for a soak, with each pool having different temperatures. This evening, overnight in the South Coast location of your choice. 

Day 11: Drive to Vík, Waterfalls, Dyrholaey Arch, Reynisfjara & Reynisdrangar

Seljalandsfoss waterfall views

Visit some of Iceland's most impressive waterfalls today, starting just off the Ring Road at the base of the Eyjafjallajokull glacier. Here you'll find Seljalandsfoss waterfall and the river Seljalandsa. The unusual thing about this waterfall, which cascades from a height of nearly 200 feet (60 m), is that it is one of the only known waterfalls you can actually walk behind. Access is an easy few-minute walk from the parking lot, and you can stand in a cave under the cliffs and watch the water roaring in front of you. 

Just west of Seljalandsfoss is the waterfall of Gljufrabui, which sits in its own small canyon and can be accessed via nearby Hamragardar Farm. Then, head to nearby Skógafoss, which translates to "forest waterfall." The waters here often create dazzling rainbows, making it one of Iceland's most photographed falls. From here, continue to Dyrholaey Arch. This nearly 400-foot (120 m) promenade showcases some of the most amazing panoramas of the southern coast. At the top, you can see portions of Mýrdalsjökull glacier, and endless coastlines of black-sand beaches. 

Your last stop today will be Reynisfjara Beach. This stretch of black volcanic sand is most known for the Reynisdrangar sea stacks, huge basalt hexagonal columns that are the nesting grounds for various seabirds. You can walk the beach, and if you head around the cliffs facing the ocean, you'll see a couple of large caves worth exploring. After your beach visit, overnight in the town of Vík, where you can enjoy dinner at a local restaurant and explore the town a bit. 

Day 12: Drive to Reykjavík, Reykjadalur Valley Hike

Exploring Downtown Reykjavik
Exploring downtown Reykjavík

Your last full day in Iceland starts with a visit to Reykjadalur or "Steam Valley," located just outside the town of Hveragerdi. Although the last eruption here was over 2,000 years ago, the area is still very active with steaming mud pools, fumaroles, a hot river,  and billows of steam coming out of the mountainside. You can hike to the hot river, which takes about an hour, and visitors are permitted to bathe here. Be aware that some of the hot springs here have temperatures close to boiling, so stay on the marked trail. 

This afternoon, you'll arrive in Reykjavík, where you'll overnight. After checking in at your hotel, you can step out and see more of the city. Start with a walk through the downtown area, which has shopping and beautiful street art. Then, head toward the waterfront to see the Sun Voyager, a metal sculpture that replicates a Viking ship, or Hallgrimskirkja Church, where you can climb the tower that overlooks the whole city. There are also several museums worth visiting, including the Northern Lights Center, Saga Museum, Marine Museum, and the Whales of Iceland Exhibition.

If you'd like to get a closer look at Iceland's marine life, you can join a whale watching tour from Reykjavík's harbor. Or, just explore the various shops and restaurants. The shopping street of Skólavörðustígur has several wool and handicraft stores, and boutiques featuring local designers. Have dinner at one of the city's many fine restaurants before retiring for the evening. 

Day 13: Krysuvik, Gunnuhver, Bridge Between Continents, Depart Reykjavík

Krysuvik volcanic area

It's departure day from Iceland today, but if you have some time before your flight, visit a few more interesting sights. Go by Krysuvik volcanic area, which spans 135 square miles (350 sq km) and is home to Seltun, a colorful geothermal area with bubbling mud pots and hot springs. Then, stop at Gunnuhver, one of the most active geothermal areas of Iceland. Legend has it, the region was named after a female ghost called Gunna, who caused havoc in the area hundreds of years ago.

Farther down the road is the Reykjanes Lighthouse which offers great views of the area and the Valahnukur Cliffs, which are abundant with birdlife. Make your last stop at the Bridge Between Continents, where you can cross the bridge between the Mid-Atlantic's continental plates and look down at the gap below. Afterward, drive back to Keflavík airport where you'll return your rental car and hop on your flight home. Safe travels! 

More Iceland Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Iceland? Check out these other Iceland itineraries, see additional options for 13-day Iceland tours,  or learn about the best time to visit Iceland.

Map

Map of Iceland Self-Drive Adventure: Waterfalls, Geysers & Hot Springs  - 13 Days
Map of Iceland Self-Drive Adventure: Waterfalls, Geysers & Hot Springs - 13 Days