- Drive to the sea cliffs and volcanoes of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
- Hike up mountains and visit colonies of puffins
- Tour the most fascinating museums in the country
- Travel the famous Golden Circle route to waterfalls and geysers
|Day 1||Arrive in Iceland, Drive to Snæfellsnes Peninsula||Snæfellsnes Peninsula|
|Day 2||Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall & Puffin Tour||Snæfellsnes Peninsula|
|Day 3||Drive to Hólmavík, Visit the Witchcraft Museum||Hólmavík|
|Day 4||Drive to Ísafjörður, Optional Stops||Ísafjörður|
|Day 5||Free Day in Ísafjörður||Ísafjörður|
|Day 6||Ísafjörður Optional Activities, Drive to Þingeyri||Þingeyri|
|Day 7||Hike Mount Kaldbakur||Þingeyri|
|Day 8||Ferry to Stykkishólmur||Stykkishólmur|
|Day 9||Drive to Borgarnes, Optional Activities||Borgarnes|
|Day 10||Borgarnes Museum, Explore Borgarfjörður||Borgarnes|
|Day 11||Drive to Reykjavík, Optional Activities||Reykjavík|
|Day 12||Drive the Golden Circle||Reykjavík|
|Day 13||Tour Reykjanes Peninsula, Depart Iceland|
Day 1: Arrive in Iceland, Drive to Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Welcome to Iceland! Between its fascinating Viking history and incredible volcanic scenery, there's more than enough to keep you entertained on this epic 13-day adventure. It begins right when you touch down at the international airport on the Reykjanes Peninsula in western Iceland. There, you'll pick up your rental car and embark on the first leg of your grand tour.
Drive east to the capital of Reykjavík, then turn north and continue on to Snæfellsnes. This 56-mile(90 km) long peninsula is often referred to as "Iceland in miniature" as it boasts many of the wonders the country is known for. The snow-capped Snæfellsjökull volcano dominates the region, and elsewhere in the area, you'll find unique rock formations, desolate lava fields, windswept beaches, and rugged sea cliffs. There are also historic coastal villages and prime areas to go whale and orca spotting.
To see the most incredible rock formations on the peninsula, take a stroll on the cliffs between the villages of Hellnar and Arnarstapi. The Berserkjahraun and Budahraun lava fields are worth visiting, too. After doing some sightseeing and hiking, you'll drive to a hotel on the peninsula, where you'll overnight.
Day 2: Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall & Puffin Tour
Day 3: Drive to Hólmavík, Visit the Witchcraft MuseumThis morning you'll leave the peninsula and drive to northwestern Iceland and the town of Hólmavík. Here you'll enjoy a bit of macabre fun on a one-hour visit to the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft. Among other exhibits, the museum tells the story of Iceland's 17th-century witch craze, which was similar to the Salem Witch Trials in America. Over two floors, you'll see exhibits featuring witches, zombies, demons, magical staves, and the infamous "necropants"—leggings made from human skin that supposedly bring good luck. Afterward, spend the remainder of the day enjoying Hólmavík.
Day 4: Drive to Ísafjörður, Optional Stops
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Drive to the Westfjords region of northwestern Iceland today to witness some of the most dramatic landscapes in the country. Your destination is Ísafjörður, a historic fishing village. Grand table mountains hug the bay here, and in town, there are red-roofed homes dating to the 18th century.
There are also plenty of scenic places to stop on the way there. Get up close and personal with curious seals at the cape in Hvítanes, or stop at the Arctic Fox Centre in Súðavík to learn about the only native terrestrial mammal in Iceland. You can also hike up to waterfalls in the Valagil Gorge. When you do arrive in Ísafjörður, you'll check in at your hotel and can spend the rest of the day relaxing.
Day 5: Free Day in Ísafjörður
There's a lot of scenery to enjoy in and around Ísafjörður. After breakfast, feel free to stroll around its well-preserved town center, then learn a bit about the area's fishing history on a visit to the Maritime Museum. Located in a renovated 18th-century house, this museum features a salt house, drying shed, crew hut, and fishing boat. For more seafaring history, take a short drive up to the village of Bolungarvík and visit the Ósvör Museum, a replica of a 19th-century fishing station.
There are many other charming villages and interesting landmarks in the Westfjords, all just a short drive from Ísafjörður. These include Flateyri village, the scenic Önundarfjörður fjord, and the golden sands at Holt Beach. After spending the day driving around and enjoying some hikes, you'll return to your hotel in Ísafjörður. For dinner, consider stopping in at Tjöruhúsið, one of Iceland's best fish restaurants, which is located in a historic house.
Day 6: Ísafjörður Optional Activities, Drive to Þingeyri
There are great activities year-round in Ísafjörður. However, spring, summer, and early fall are the best seasons to enjoy some active adventures and tours. This is the time to hit the trails and explore the towering sea cliffs of Hornstrandir Nature Reserve or hike the famous Westfjords Alps. Even in the chillier weather, you can take a Super Jeep tour to the Svalvogar Peninsula and enjoy views of the Arnarfjörður fjord. Another fun activity is a kayak ride around Ísafjörður. Besides the coastal scenery, you'll spot plenty of seals and, in the summertime, sea birds like ducks, arctic terns, and puffins.
Another highlight in the area is Dynjandi. This is one of Iceland's prettiest waterfalls and an icon of the Westfjords. The name translates to "thunderous," and this 330-foot (100 m) waterfall delivers on its promise. Standing near the 196-foot (60 m) base of the falls and hearing the water crash around you is truly an unforgettable experience. At the end of the day, continue driving south to a hotel in the town of Þingeyri, located on the coast of the Dýrafjörður fjord.
Day 7: Hike Mount Kaldbakur
Make sure to eat a hearty breakfast because today you're hiking Mount Kaldbakur. At 3,780 feet (1,152 m), this is the highest mountain in the Westfjords. Not to worry, as it's a moderate hike with no steep portions or rocks to scramble over. That said, the trail does steadily ascend thousands of feet over the course of 3.5 miles (5.6 km), so a good level of physical fitness is ideal. The first part of the hike follows the Kirkjubolsdalur Valley along a rough Jeep trail, whereas the latter part goes up the mountain's shoulder. On a clear day, the views near the top and at the summit are nothing short of epic.
Day 8: Ferry to Stykkishólmur
In the morning, drive to the southern end of the Westfjords and the jetty at Brjánslækur. From here, you'll board a ferry for a scenic 2.5-hour trip across the fjord to Stykkishólmur, where you'll spend the night. With approximately 1,200 residents, this is the largest town on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. It's a historic place that was founded in the mid-16th century and is known for its colorful wooden houses, futuristic church, and a charming harbor filled with bobbing fishing boats.
You'll have the day to explore Stykkishólmur, and one great activity is to visit the bright red Súgandisey Island Lighthouse. You can also hike up the 239-foot (73 m) Mount Helgafell to enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. For something to eat, try one of the cozy seaside restaurants before retiring to your hotel for the evening.
Day 9: Drive to Borgarnes, Optional Activities
Say goodbye to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula today and drive south toward Reykjavík. At about the halfway point, you'll reach the town of Borgarnes, which was founded in the late 19th century and is a good base to explore the nature and scenery around the Borgarfjörður fjord. After checking in to your hotel, you can spend the rest of the day enjoying Borgarnes.
For a good meal, try Englendingavik, a cute restaurant by the beach that showcases Icelandic ingredients. Next door is a free toy museum that should be of interest to anyone who likes vintage toys. Also, you might want to consider a nature hike, as the forests around Borgarnes are home to the oldest and tallest birch trees in Iceland. Another highlight is Borgarfjardarbru (Borgarnes Bridge), which connects the town with Route 1 and is the second-largest bridge in Iceland.
Day 10: Borgarnes Museum, Explore Borgarfjörður
Start today with a one-hour tour of the Borgarnes Settlement Center. Located in two of the town's oldest buildings, it offers a fascinating insight into Iceland's history and sagas with a special focus on the clan of Egill Skallagrímsson, an Icelandic farmer, poet, and Viking. There's also a restaurant on site that's a great place to stop for coffee and cake.
Then, hop back in the car for more road-tripping around western Iceland and the Borgarfjörður region. Drive to the twin waterfalls of Hraunfossar and Barnafoss, and follow that with a trip to the steaming pools at Deildartunguhver, Europe's most powerful hot spring. After snapping photos of volcanic craters, you can get some exercise with a hike up the 650-foot (198 m) Glymur, Iceland's second-highest waterfall. When you get back to the car, return to Borgarnes for the evening.
Day 11: Drive to Reykjavík, Optional Activities
In the morning, you'll drive approximately one hour from Borgarnes to Reykjavík, one of the most unique capitals in Europe. After checking in to your hotel, you can take a self-guided tour of the city, which is filled with great shopping options, colorful street art, and museums galore. There are actually over 60 museums and galleries here, including the National Museum and Settlement Exhibition, both of which focus on Iceland's Nordic history. Other must-visit options include the Northern Lights Center and the Whales of Iceland Exhibition, the largest whale museum in Europe.
For more culture, don't miss the Harpa Concert Hall, Northern Europe's most famous concert venue. The northern lights inspired the building's shimmering glass facade, and it's free to enter. Another vital landmark is Hallgrimskirkja, Iceland's tallest church, which sits on a hill overlooking downtown. In the evening, head to a restaurant or pub where you can enjoy a bite to eat accompanied by live music.
Day 12: Drive the Golden CircleFor your penultimate day in Iceland, take a drive along the country's most famous sightseeing route: the Golden Circle. This 190-mile (300 km) circuit passes incredible landmarks and landscapes like Þingvellir National Park, which sits in a rift valley between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. Another highlight is the Geysir geothermal area, home to the Strokkur geyser, which erupts every 8-10 minutes. Last but not least is Gullfoss, a two-tiered waterfall that is one of the most impressive in the country. After visiting other remarkable sites like crater lakes and hot springs, you'll return to Reykjavík.
Day 13: Tour Reykjanes Peninsula, Depart Iceland
Unfortunately, this is your last morning in Iceland—but the fun doesn't stop here. In the morning, you'll return to the Reykjanes Peninsula and can explore this area on a self-guided tour until it's time for your flight. 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.
Of course, the most famous destination on this peninsula is also the most famous one in the country: the Blue Lagoon. If there's time, 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 destinations on the peninsula you may want to visit include Reykjanesviti, the oldest lighthouse in Iceland, which was built in 1878. Not far off is a footbridge over a fissure separating the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. A walk across it means you're effectively taking a stroll between two continents. Afterward, drive to the airport, where you'll drop off your rental car in time to make your flight home. Bless!