- Experience Reykjavík's culture by touring its museums and concert halls
- Take a road trip around the country, stopping at fjords, volcanoes, and waterfalls
- Discover history and folklore with visits to ancient homesteads and Viking ships
- Explore glimmering ice caves and ancient sandstone caverns
- Visit historic landmarks, relax in hot springs, and see the northern lights
|Arrive in Reykjavík, History, Culture & Music
|Drive to Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Stop at Borgarnes
|Beaches, Shark Museum & Historic Villages
|Kolufoss Falls, Lake Mývatn & Hot Springs
|Drive to East Iceland, Möðrudalur Farm & Heritage Museum
|Drive to Djupivogur, Jeep Tour of Breiðdalur Valley
|Drive to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Visit Crystal Blue Ice Cave
|Icelandic Lava Show, Waterfalls & Northern Lights
|Caves of Hella & the Golden Circle
|Tour Reykjanes Peninsula, Viking World, Depart Iceland
Day 1: Arrive in Reykjavík, History, Culture & Music
Welcome to Iceland! This northern volcanic island is a hotbed of geological wonders whose settlement dates back over 1,000 years to the Viking Age. After arriving at Keflavík International Airport, you'll pick up your rental car and drive 45 minutes east to the capital of Reykjavík. Here, you'll check in to your hotel and will have the rest of the day to experience the city's history, music, and culture.
Despite Reykjavík being a relatively small capital, it's actually home to more than 60 museums and galleries. Top options that showcase Iceland's history and culture include 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.
You'll also pay a visit to Harpa Concert Hall, whose shimmering glass facade was inspired by the northern lights. This is one of the finest concert halls in northern Europe, and from inside, you can look out through its geometric windows to great views of the waterfront and cityscape. It's free to enter on your own, or you can join a guided tour and see the inner workings. Harpa is even more impressive at night when thousands of LED lights illuminate the building's facade.
Day 2: Drive to Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Stop at Borgarnes
Today you'll hit the road north to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The trip takes about 1.5 hours, but there are plenty of scenic places to stop on the way, like the black-sand beaches in the town of Borgarnes. Also, here is the Borganes Settlement Center, which you'll visit on a tour. Located in two of the town's most historic buildings, the center recounts Icelandic history and recreates fascinating folklore. There are also plenty of other optional detours you can make, like the lovely port town of Akranes.
Upon arrival at the peninsula, you can head to Stykkishólmur to enjoy a soak in geothermal pools. Another highlight is a stroll along the rugged seaside cliffs between the fishing villages of Arnarstapi and Hellnar. Afterward, you'll check in to your hotel in Arnarstapi, where you'll overnight.
Day 3: Beaches, Shark Museum & Historic Villages
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: Kolufoss Falls, Lake Mývatn & Hot Springs
After breakfast, drive a little way east from Laugarbakki to Kolugljúfur Canyon, another of Iceland's natural wonders. Here, the tranquil waters of the Víðidalsá River meet the gorge and turn into the Kolufoss, a waterfall cascading 26 feet (8 m) into a natural pool. Head to the viewing platform to enjoy this breathtaking sight and snap photos. A short drive north of Kolufoss, on the coast of the Vatnsnes peninsula, you'll find Hvítserkur. According to legend, this gargantuan basalt rock formation is actually a troll who was caught in the sun and turned to stone.
Then, continue on to Lake Mývatn. This stunning geothermal area is one of the stops on the Diamond Circle, a 155-mile (250-km) circuit that passes some of northern Iceland's most incredible sites. In just a few hours, you can explore the craters, rock formations, and lava fields of this almost alien landscape. Continue the adventure with a hike up a volcanic crater, a dip in a thermal cave pool, or a walk around mud pots. You can also relax at the Mývatn Nature Baths, a hot-spring lagoon. Afterward, you'll drive to a hotel in the area where you'll overnight.
Day 5: Drive to East Iceland, Möðrudalur Farm & Heritage Museum
Today, you'll drive up to Möðrudalur Farm, which sits at 1,539 feet (469 m) and is the highest farm in the country. Besides its elevation, Möðrudalur is known for its rich history, which dates back over 1,000 years to the first settlements in Iceland. A walk along the trails here will lead you to great viewpoints offering wide panoramas of the farm. There's also a storybook chapel with a red roof and white-washed facade that was built by the owner of the farm in 1949.
Continue east to the town of Egilsstaðir, where you'll overnight. Here you'll learn more about the nation's history with a stop at the East Iceland Heritage Museum. It was founded in 1943 to preserve the culture of this side of the island and includes historical artifacts from the rural community here. There's also a reindeer exhibition detailing the nature of these animals, which only exist in East Iceland. You'll also see how locals have used reindeer materials to make everything from clothing to handicrafts.
Day 6: Drive to Djupivogur, Jeep Tour of Breiðdalur Valley
You're in for a treat, as today you'll explore the fjords of Iceland's east. The route you'll follow runs along the rugged coast and passes charming villages, dramatic mountains, hidden waterfalls, and scenic valleys. Feel free to stop at any point for a hike and to snap photos of the dazzling panoramas.
When you're ready, continue on to Djupivogur, a town located on the Berufjörður fjord. On the way, however, you'll stop in the Breiðdalur Valley. Here, you'll leave your car and hop in a Super Jeep 4WD for a guided off-road tour. It will take you around the rugged terrain to see some of the highlights of the area, both man-made and natural. These include waterfalls, abandoned farms, and a local church.
Day 7: Drive to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Visit Crystal Blue Ice Cave
In the morning, hit the road again down Route 1 to southern Iceland and the town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. The drive takes about four hours, but plan on it being a full-day excursion, as you'll be stopping on the way for tours and optional adventures. One idea is to visit the otherworldly rock formations of the Fjaðrárgljúfur river canyon. There are a couple of famous waterfalls on the way, too, including Skaftafell and Svartifoss. The latter plunges 65 feet (20 m) over basalt cliffs and is accessible via a scenic 3-mile (5-km) trail.
Eventually, you'll arrive at Jökulsárlón. 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 if you're lucky, you might spot seals and small whales in the water. Then, follow the lagoon to the shores of the adjacent Diamond Beach. This black-sand beach is famous for the iceberg fragments that drift ashore from the lagoon and which gleam like diamonds in the sunlight.
Day 8: Icelandic Lava Show, Waterfalls & Northern Lights
After breakfast, you'll drive about an hour south to Vík. This town sits in the Katla UNESCO Global Geopark, which is home to the Katla volcano. Here, you'll experience the only indoor lava show in the world. This hour-long spectacle begins with a short video about the geological history of Iceland. Then, you'll put on your safety goggles and watch as 2,000°F (1,100°C) lava streams into the showroom, recreating an actual eruption in miniature. You'll hear the sizzle and pop as the molten rock flows over ice, and you'll feel the heat emanating from it.
After the show, continue the road trip. Near Vík, you'll find Dyrhólaey, a 393-foot (120 m) rock promontory whose name derives from its massive natural arch (Dyrhólaey actually translates to "door-hole"). After snapping photos and maybe strolling the black sands at nearby Reynisfjara Beach, continue to Urriðafoss, a waterfall on Iceland's longest river of Þjórsá. The falls here aren't big, but they do cascade at high speeds over rugged lava rocks. Another waterfall you'll pass is Seljalandsfoss, which plunges 200 feet (60 m) over a cliff into a lagoon.
Day 9: Caves of Hella & the Golden Circle
In the morning, you'll head to the other side of town and visit the Caves of Hella, one of the most fascinating archeological sites in the country. These are a series of 12 ancient man-made sandstone caves located on the bank of the Ytri-Rangá River, and four are open to the public. They are so old that many believe they pre-date even the earliest settlements in Iceland. On a tour inside, you'll see wall carvings, ancient crosses, and even carved seats. See if you can help solve the mystery of how and why these caves came to be.
Afterward, drive along Iceland's famous Golden Circle, a 190-mile (300-km) route featuring Southern Iceland's best natural attractions. First up is Þingvellir National Park, home to the historic Law Rock. It was here during the Middle Ages that chieftains met to recite new laws and air grievances. Next is the Geysir geothermal area. With bubbling mud pits and erupting geysers, the area is one of the most active geothermal zones in the country. Then it's on to Gullfoss, one of Iceland's most impressive waterfalls. After the drive, continue north to your hotel on the Reykjanes Peninsula.
Day 10: Tour Reykjanes Peninsula, Viking World, Depart Iceland
Unfortunately, your time in Iceland is drawing to a close. After breakfast, you'll drive to the airport; however, depending on your departure time, you can stop and enjoy some highlights of the southern peninsula, like Krýsuvík. This geothermal area is situated on Iceland's tectonic plates and is filled with hot springs, steam vents, and mud pots. Similarly, you can visit the bubbling cauldrons at Gunnuhver Hot Springs, named after a female ghost who was supposedly trapped here by a priest about 400 years ago.
You can also travel to Reykjanesviti, the oldest lighthouse in Iceland, which dates to 1878. Nearby is the Bridge Between Continents, a footbridge over a fissure separating the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Be sure to stop at Viking World to glean some of the country's rich Nordic history. This museum features a spectacular full-size replica of Islendingur (the Icelander), a Viking ship that dates to 870 and was excavated in Norway in 1880. Afterward, head to the airport to drop off your car and board your flight home.