This seven-day road trip in Iceland is as much a journey through Viking history as a sightseeing tour of incredible natural wonders. Not only will you see highlight waterfalls, beaches, and geothermal sites, but you'll also visit museums and historic locales like the home of Leif Erikson. As a bonus, you'll do some whale watching and go on a photo tour to see the northern lights.


  • See Viking villages and natural wonders on a road trip through Iceland
  • Visit massive waterfalls like Kirkjufellsfoss, Kolufoss, and Goðafoss
  • Drive the famous Diamond Circle in northern Iceland and go whale watching
  • Visit museums in and around Reykjavík and see the legendary northern lights

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Iceland, Drive to Borgarnes & Reykholt Borgarnes
Day 2 Snæfellsnes Peninsula: Beaches, Waterfalls & Shark Museum Arnarstapi
Day 3 Historic Villages & Kolufoss Waterfall Laugarbakki
Day 4 Diamond Circle: Goðafoss Waterfall, Lake Mývatn & Hot Springs Lake Mývatn
Day 5 Diamond Circle, Dettifoss Falls, Whale Watching, Explore Akureyri Akureyri
Day 6 Fly to Reykjavík, Explore & Northern Lights Photo Tour Reykjavík
Day 7 Drive to Keflavík, Viking World & Depart Iceland  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Iceland, Drive to Borgarnes & Reykholt

Waterfalls near the historic village of Reykholt

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. From there, head north along the coast to the port town of Akranes, where you'll uncover some fascinating history at the Akranes Folk Museum. Established in 1959, this open-air museum features 19th-century buildings and Icelandic boats that reflect living conditions on land and sea during this era.

For some exercise, spend a couple of hours hiking up nearby 1,820-foot (555-m) Akrafjall. This mountain looks across Faxaflói bay and offers panoramic views from Reykjanes to Snæfellsjökull Glacier. Another option is to explore the coast. Sandy Langisandur Beach is a great destination, as it's one of only three Blue Flag beaches in Iceland—plus, there are rock-pool hot springs here. Afterward, continue north to Borgarnes, a town that sits on the Borgarfjörður fjord, and check in to your hotel.

If you have the energy, another nearby site you should check out is Reykholt. This small village has a prominent place in Iceland's history because it's where Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241) spent much of his life. Sturluson was a famous poet and lawyer who held a major post in the Icelandic parliament. In Reykholt, some of Sturluson's estate has been preserved, including Snorralaug, his geothermal bath.

Day 2: Snæfellsnes Peninsula: Beaches, Waterfalls & Shark Museum

The Kirkjufellsfoss falls, with Mount Kirkjufell in the background

If you didn't get a chance to visit the beaches yesterday, you can start this morning with a walk along the sand in Borgarnes. Afterward, you'll visit the Settlement Center. Housed in two of Borgarnes's oldest buildings, this cultural center charts Iceland's earliest days from the Age of Settlement to the establishment of the world's first parliamentary system in the Middle Ages. 

Then, head north to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and stroll the rugged seaside cliffs between the fishing villages of Arnarstapi and Hellnar. Nearby is Djúpalónssandur, a black-sand beach with jagged lava rock formations and debris from a shipwreck. Once a prominent fishing village, today, there remain four stones of various sizes that sea captains used to test the strength of potential sailors. 

Continue to the north side of the peninsula and end at Kirkjufellsfoss, whose three waterfalls are complimented by the rounded point of Mount Kirkjufell in the background. Then, on the return drive east, stop at the coastal farmstead of Bjarnarhöfn and visit the Shark Museum. Here, you'll learn about the role sharks have played throughout Icelandic history, plus you can try the Icelandic delicacy hákarl (shark that's been fermented for six months). Afterward, spend the night in nearby Grundarfjörður, or head a short way east to the larger town of Stykkishólmur

Day 3: Historic Villages & Kolufoss Waterfall

Kolufoss in winter

In the morning, take a drive to the northeast end of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Búðardalur. This village is situated on the Hvammsfjörður fjord and has a long history dating from the time of the first settlements in Iceland. In fact, a short distance from the village is Eiríksstaðir, the homestead of Erik the Red (950 to 1003 CE), who was the first European to discover Greenland. His son, Leif Erikson, was the first European to discover America.

Afterward, you'll visit more historic villages. First, head east to Borðeyri, located on the Hrútafjörður fjord. This small village is mentioned in historical texts and is home to Riis Hús, which dates to 1862 and is one of the oldest buildings in the region. On the other side of the fjord is Hvammstangi, whose history as a trading center stretches back over 100 years. You can learn all about it at the fascinating Trade Museum, and there's also a nice harbor where you can do some seal-watching.

Continue a little way east 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 waterfall, which cascades about 26 feet (8 m) into a natural pool below. Head to the viewing platform to enjoy this breathtaking sight and snap plenty of photos. Afterward, you'll drive to a nearby town, where you'll overnight. 

Day 4: Diamond Circle: Goðafoss Waterfall, Lake Mývatn & Hot Springs

The aurora borealis lighting up the skies near Lake Mývatn

After breakfast, you'll head east on Route 1 along the north side of Iceland to see the wonders of this region. First up is Goðafoss, the "waterfall of the Gods." Located just off the highway, the wide falls here span 98 feet (30 m) and drop 12 m (39 feet) into a small gorge on the Skjálfandafljót River. You can stop and spend half an hour or so taking photos from different vantage points around the falls. This also marks the start of the famous Diamond Circle, a 155-mile (250-km) circuit that passes the most incredible sites on Iceland's north coast.

Continue on the Diamond Circle for about 45 minutes to Lake Mývatn. The area surrounding this volcanic lake 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. Continue the adventure with a hike up a volcanic crater, a dip in a thermal cave pool, or a walk around mud pools. Finish the day relaxing at the Mývatn Nature Baths, a hot-spring lagoon. 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.

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Day 5: Diamond Circle, Dettifoss Falls, Whale Watching, Explore Akureyri

See humpback whales in Húsavík

In the morning, you'll leave from Lake Mývatn and continue on the Diamond Circle, stopping at majestic Dettifoss, one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe, as well as the crescent-shaped Ásbyrgi, a glacial canyon. Other highlight landmarks you'll visit include the Vesturdalur Valley, the "echo rocks" of Hljóðaklettar, the lava fields of the Krafla caldera, and the jagged rock formations at Dimmuborgir. You could also travel to hidden corners like the Tjörnes Peninsula, home to fossils and puffin colonies.

Eventually, you'll arrive at Húsavík, a buzzing seaside 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 often filled with these animals. Here, you'll hop in a boat for a quick cruise, during which time 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.

Your last stop of the day will be in the colorful town of Akureyri, on the Eyjafjörður fjord. It's a great place to relax at a café and enjoy a leisurely walk. Perhaps take in the art and history scene with a visit to the notable Church of Akureyri and the Akureyri Art Museum. You can also visit the local 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. Afterward, transfer to your hotel in town.

Day 6: Fly to Reykjavík, Explore & Northern Lights Photo Tour

Spend the day exploring Reykjavík

After breakfast, you'll take a quick 45-minute flight from Akureyri to Reykjavík. Upon arrival, spend the day discovering this cultural hotbed on a self-guided walking tour. Make a beeline for downtown and check out the unique street art, boutiques, pubs, and hip cafés. You can also walk to the waterfront and snap photos of the Sun Voyager dreamboat sculpture or head to Harpa Concert Hall, whose shimmering glass facade was inspired by the northern lights. Don't miss the iconic Lutheran church of Hallgrimskirkja, which sits on a hill overlooking downtown.

If you get a chance, stop at one of the city's fine museums. Reykjavík is famous for its devotion to the arts, and despite its relatively petite size, it's home to more than 60 museums and galleries. For history and culture, you can visit 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.

Cap the day with a nighttime excursion to see the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights. This optical phenomenon occurs in the outermost atmosphere at the earth's poles and is caused by electric particles that ignite the sky in white, green, and reddish hues. For this five-hour tour, you'll leave the city and head to remote locales free of light pollution. Your guide will then take you to the best vantage points and photography sites to enjoy this event, which is most prevalent from August to April.  

Day 7: Drive to Keflavík, Viking World & Depart Iceland

The full-size replica of Islendingur (the Icelander) at Viking World

Unfortunately, your time in Iceland is drawing to a close. After breakfast, you'll drive from Reykjavík to Keflavík International Airport. 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. If there's enough time left over, be sure to stop at the Viking World to glean some of the country's rich Nordic history. It 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 board your flight home. Bæ!

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