Summer means fun in the sun and time spent outdoors and at beaches—even in a far-north country like Iceland. It's the perfect time for a road trip, and on this 13-day self-drive tour, you'll experience this Nordic nation's volcanic marvels, natural hot springs, shimmering ice caves, and breathtaking waterfalls. The adventure begins with a hike to an erupting volcano and continues with Zodiac boat rides and whale watching before ending on Iceland's famous black-sand beaches.


  • Hike to an active, erupting volcano
  • Visit waterfalls, river canyons, nature reserves, and glaciers
  • Ride a Zodiac boat across a glacial lake and go whale watching
  • Drive to geothermal zones and soak in natural hot springs

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Iceland, Fagradalsfjall Volcano Tour South Coast
Day 2 Þingvellir National Park, Geysers & Waterfalls South Coast
Day 3 Jeep Tour of Fjallabak Nature Reserve South Coast
Day 4 Drive to Vík, Beaches, Canyons & Glacier Hike Skaftafell
Day 5 Zodiac Boat Tour Skaftafell
Day 6 Drive to Höfn & Vestrahorn Mountain East Fjords
Day 7 Drive to the Diamond Circle, Waterfalls & Hot Springs Lake Mývatn
Day 8 Explore Lake Mývatn & Grjótagjá Cave Lake Mývatn
Day 9 Whale Watching in Húsavík, Ásbyrgi Canyon & Dimmuborgir Lake Mývatn
Day 10 Drive to Snæfellsnes Peninsula via Akureyri & Waterfalls Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day 11 Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Beaches & Lava Formations Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day 12 Gerðuberg Cliffs & Waterfalls, Drive to Reykjavík Reykjavík
Day 13 Depart Keflavík  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Iceland, Fagradalsfjall Volcano Tour

Marvel at the spectacle of Fagradalsfjall volcano

Welcome to Iceland! this land of ice and fire was forged by volcanoes millions of years ago and conquered by Vikings in the ninth century. Today it's a pleasant island nation with a fascinating culture and is positively full of geological wonders. You'll experience all of it on a self-drive tour of some of the most incredible landmarks and locales in the country.

You won't waste any time, either. Upon arrival at the airport on the Reykjanes Peninsula, you'll pick up your rental car and immediately drive south about 20 minutes to the Geldingadalur Valley. Here, there's a trailhead leading to Fagradalsfjall. This volcano is unique in that it was dormant for over 800 years until a fissure vent opened in 2021. This resulted in a fiery eruption that continued in 2022 and is still considered ongoing.

On this half-day tour, you'll hit the trail on a guided group tour led by an expert guide. During the two-hour walk to the latest eruption site, you'll pass dried lava fields, steam vents, and conical peaks. Eventually, you'll arrive near the fissures of Fagradalsfjall, where fresh lava fields merge with the old. Your guide will get you as close as is safely possible to the new lava fields to ensure you snap the best photos. Afterward, you'll return to your car and drive to a nearby hotel, where you'll overnight. 

Day 2: Þingvellir National Park, Geysers & Waterfalls

Hike around Seljalandsfoss waterfall

Get back on the road today and drive about an hour to Þingvellir National Park. The route you'll follow is part of the Golden Circle, a 190-mile (300 km) circuit that includes some of Iceland's most stunning natural landmarks. You'll be visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Law Rock. This is where the Vikings founded their parliament in 930 AD, making it the first-ever parliamentary system in the world. Many milestones in Iceland's history occurred here, including its conversion to Christianity, its independence from Denmark, and the election of its first president.

After marveling at the beautiful landscapes around Þingvellir, some of which were featured in "Game of Thrones," you'll continue east to the Geysir geothermal area. This is one of the most active geothermal sites in the country, which is evidenced by the area's bubbling mud pits, steam vents, and erupting geysers. Also, here is Gullfoss, one of Iceland's grandest waterfalls. There are trails you can hike to reach the edge of the river canyon and snap great photos of this thundering two-tiered waterfall. 

Before the day is over, you'll visit one more waterfall, Seljalandsfoss. These narrow falls plunge 200 feet (60 m) over a cliff into a lagoon, making it one of the most romantic waterfalls in Iceland—particularly in the summertime. Also, there's a footpath that leads behind the falls where you can take some great pictures. After spending time at Seljalandsfoss, you'll get back in the car and return to your hotel. 

Day 3: Jeep Tour of Fjallabak Nature Reserve

Go off-roading in Fjallabak Nature Reserve

Meet your guide in the morning for a full-day tour by Super Jeep 4WD into the highlands of the Fjallabak Nature Reserve. From your hotel, the two of you will drive southeast into the park. Your first stop is Eldgjá, a 25-mile (40-km) fissure that's part of the Katla volcano. You'll hike through this canyon on foot, passing volcanic landscapes on your way to cascading waterfalls.

After an al fresco lunch at Eldgjá, drive 12 miles (20 km) along the Álftavatnskrókur Road, which connects the north and south of the reserve. This is where the Super Jeep 4WD comes in handy, as it's a rough road with river crossings. During this back-road adventure, you'll pass incredible landscapes, including the green cone of Mælifell volcano rising up out of black-sand deserts. After exploring this rugged region, you'll return to your hotel, perhaps stopping along the way for more photo opportunities. 

Day 4: Drive to Vík, Beaches, Canyons & Glacier Hike

The town of Vík
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Get an early start today as you drive to Vík, a remote seaside town near the southernmost point of Iceland. Here, you can enjoy a self-guided walking tour. The major highlight is Reynisfjara, a black-sand beach dotted with incredible rock formations both on land and jutting out of the water. According to folklore, two trolls attempted to drag a ship to land but were turned to stone as daylight broke, thus resulting in the basalt rock stacks. The area is also a haven for birdlife, and here you can see puffins, fulmars, and guillemots. 

For more spectacular rock formations, drive a little ways north to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Like with Reynisfjara, the area around this river gorge is an almost alien landscape. The canyon is just over a mile (2 km) long, 328 feet (100 m) deep, and offers some great hiking. For example, along the ridge, you'll find amazing viewpoints where the river snakes through the craggy canyon cliffs. After hiking the canyon, you'll drive to a nearby hotel. 

Later, you'll visit Vatnajökull, the country's largest glacier. You won't merely be admiring this ice cap from afar—instead, you'll strap on crampons, grab an ice axe, and hike across its surface. Upon arrival at the glacier, you'll meet your guide and receive your equipment. After a safety demonstration, it's time to step onto the ice field and embark on a walk over what will seem like an alien planet. The scenery on this three-hour excursion is stunning, as you'll pass ice formations, glacial ridges, and deep crevasses. Afterward, drive to a nearby hotel located in the Skaftafell region of the park. 

Day 5: Zodiac Boat Tour

Zip along the surface of Fjallsárlón in a Zodiac boat
For your second day in this part of Vatnajökull National Park, you'll leave land behind and take to the water on a 1.5-hour boat tour by Zodiac. Your destination is the Fjallsárlón glacial lagoon, and once there, you'll board the watercraft and set out with your guide. As you speed along the silvery waters, you'll pass crystallized icebergs dating back more than a thousand years, as well as the towering walls of the ice cap itself. Afterward, return to your hotel, where you can spend the rest of the day relaxing or continue on a self-drive tour of the area.

Day 6: Drive to Höfn & Vestrahorn Mountain

Walk along the beach at Vestrahorn

In the morning, leave Vatnajökull National Park and drive a short way up the coast to Höfn. This little fishing town of just over two thousand people bridges the gap between the south of the country and the east. It's situated on a natural harbor on its own peninsula and is surrounded on three sides by the ocean. That means it's a great place to stop for a stroll around its long coast and beaches. And despite its small size, Höfn is not short on culture. Its food scene is particularly notable, as evidenced by the lobster festival held here each July.

After enjoying a relaxing stroll around Höfn (and maybe a bite to eat), continue driving about 10 minutes across the bay to Vestrahorn. This twin-peaked mountain rises 1,489 feet (454 m) and is an interesting geological site. At points along the shoreline are stunning lava dunes that are constantly being shaped by water and wind. Beyond that is a sandy beach where seals congregate. It's a great area to do some photography or simply walk along the coast as the waves crash on the shore. Afterward, you'll continue up to Iceland's eastern fjords, where you'll check in to a hotel for the night.

Day 7: Drive to the Diamond Circle, Waterfalls & Hot Springs

Selfoss waterfall

Head north from the eastern fjords today and travel to the Diamond Circle, a 155-mile (250-km) circuit that passes the most incredible sites on Iceland's north coast. One stop you'll make is at majestic Dettifoss, one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe. From here, a 15-minute hike along the basalt cliffs will take you to another giant waterfall: Selfoss. There are great viewpoints on either side of these falls, but you'll get a full view of the canyon from the eastern side.

Afterward, continue west to Lake Mývatn. This volcanic lake is a great base for exploring the surrounding geological wonderland. Finish the day relaxing at the Mývatn Nature Baths, a hot-spring lagoon, and natural steam bath. There's a café here where you can enjoy a light lunch or dinner, and afterward, you'll drive to your hotel in the area.

Day 8: Explore Lake Mývatn & Grjótagjá Cave

The Grjótagjá lava cave

The area surrounding Lake Mývatn has the highest concentration of geothermal sites in Iceland. In just a few hours, you can explore the craters, rock formations, and lava fields of this almost alien landscape. Today, you'll have plenty of options for activities in the region, and they include hiking up a volcanic crater, taking a dip in a thermal cave pool, and visiting mud pools. If you like, you can also head back to the Mývatn Nature Baths for another relaxing soak.

After exploring Lake Mývatn, you'll visit the nearby Grjótagjá Cave. The small lava cave is something of a hidden gem, as it's off the beaten path for most visitors. Inside you'll find a natural hot spring that is so attractive it was featured in the TV series "Game of Thrones." You can visit the cave on a tour, but, alas, you can't swim in the springs as the temperatures are too high. After touring the cave, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 9: Whale Watching in Húsavík, Ásbyrgi Canyon & Dimmuborgir

The town of Húsavík

In the morning, drive north on the Diamond Circle up to Húsavík, a colorful harbor town and the whale watching capital of Iceland. This is due to the fact that, unlike in other regions where you must sail far to see whales, Húsavík's harbor is filled with them. 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 continuing on the drive.

The next stop is about an hour away at the crescent-shaped Ásbyrgi, a glacial canyon formed after the last Ice Age. This massive landmark sits along Route 85 and extends in a U shape for about 2 miles (3.5 km) from north to south. At the base of the canyon is a forested valley with a rock island in the middle. Besides taking photos, you can stop at the visitor center here to pick up a map of the area and hear some local folklore. As the story goes, Ásbyrgi was stamped into existence by god Odin's eight-legged horse, which created the canyon's horseshoe curve.

Finish the day with a trip to the Dimmuborgir lava field. Located just east of Lake Mývatn, the otherworldly rock formations here come in all shapes and sizes—one even resembles a vaulted church apse. You can take a pleasant stroll along one of the area's trails, which vary in length. There's also a nearby cave you can explore. Afterward, return to your hotel near Lake Mývatn. 

Day 10: Drive to Snæfellsnes Peninsula via Akureyri & Waterfalls

The Waterfall of the Gods

This morning you'll drive about 45 minutes west from Lake Mývatn to Goðafoss, the "Waterfall of the Gods." This expansive landmark has certainly earned its name, as the falls span a width of 98 feet (30 m) and plunge 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.

Your next stop will be in the colorful town of Akureyri. Iceland's second-largest city, also known as the "Capital of the North," is a great place to relax and enjoy a leisurely walk. Perhaps take in the art and history scene with a visit to the Church of Akureyri and the Akureyri Art Museum. You can also visit its botanical garden, which is filled with almost every species of plant native to Iceland. For relaxation, head to the town baths, which feature two large pools and various hot tubs, plus a steam room and sauna—all filled with geothermal waters. 

Continue driving to western Iceland and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, home to historic towns and stunning landmarks. Your last stop of the day is on the north side of the peninsula at Kirkjufellsfoss, whose three waterfalls are backed by Mount Kirkjufell—one of Iceland's most photographed peaks. After visiting the falls, you'll drive to a hotel on the peninsula where you'll overnight.

Day 11: Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Beaches & Lava Formations

The sea cliffs at Lóndrangar

You'll have the entire day to visit the highlights of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. First, drive to the southwest and Lóndrangar. The unique lava rock formations and coastal sea cliffs here are actually 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, 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. 

Day 12: Gerðuberg Cliffs & Waterfalls, Drive to Reykjavík

The impressive Gerduberg
The Gerðuberg Cliffs

In the morning, drive to the southeastern coast of the peninsula and the Gerðuberg Cliffs. The 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. What really makes these rocks stand out is their symmetry, as it looks as if they've been sculpted by hand. The truth is these columns are the result of a lava flow thousands of years ago that poured over a cliff and was quickly cooled by seawater. There are short walking paths around the cliffs that will put you right next to the columns.

After Gerðuberg, drive east from the peninsula to the twin waterfalls of Hraunfossar and Barnafoss. The former is a series of cascades whose waters rise up from underneath lava fields and pour over rocks into the Hvítá River. The latter is a foaming, churning, powerful waterfall that runs through a narrow and rocky gorge. You can spend time walking between the two falls and snapping photos. Afterward, you'll head south to the capital of Reykjavík, where you'll overnight. 

Day 13: Depart Iceland

A summer evening in Reykjavík 

Today signals the end of your grand summer road trip in Iceland. In the morning, you'll drive to the airport, drop off your rental car, and catch your flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Iceland Summer Self-Drive Tour - 13 Days
Map of Iceland Summer Self-Drive Tour - 13 Days