- Hike along beautiful, near-empty trails in Iceland's east coast (short or long!)
- Check out massive waterfalls and glaciers along Iceland's dramatic south coast
- Visit top sites in the Golden Circle like "Geysir", a famous geothermal hot spring
- Get a dose of Reykjavik's colorful downtown with street art, cafés, and shops
|Day 1||Arrive in Reykjavik, Flight to Egilsstadir||Seydisfjordur|
|Day 2||Scenic Eastern Fjords: Egilsstaðir to Höfn||Höfn|
|Day 3||Jokulsarlon, South Coast & Vik||Vik|
|Day 4||Waterfalls, Black Sand Beaches & Golden Circle||Golden Circle|
|Day 5||Golden Circle to Reykjavik||Reykjavik|
|Day 6||Explore Reykjavik, Departure|
Day 1: Arrive in Reykjavik, Flight to Egilsstadir
Welcome to Iceland! Upon arrival at KEF International Airport, you'll catch a transfer to the domestic airport for your flight to Egilsstadir in the East Fjords. If you have more time before your flight, spend some time walking around the city (more details for Reykjavik listed on the last day).
Once you arrive in Egilsstadir, you'll pick up your rental car and drive over the pass to Seydisfjordur. From here, you can go hiking, visit a troll church, or explore the artwork and sculptures around the city. Not many travelers make it to Iceland's East Fjords so expect fewer crowds than along the south coast.
Here are ideas for scenic day hikes:
Hengifoss & Litlanesfoss: Take a 20-minute detour (40 minutes there and back) and hike until you arrive at Hengifoss waterfall, passing Litlanesfoss on the way. These spectacular waterfalls are framed by huge basalt columns and make a great activity for those who prefer to escape the larger crowds in the south. During early summer, you may also spot some puffins in the area.
Seydisfjordur: After a 30-minute drive over the mountain pass, you will be welcomed with amazing views of the fjord, below. Once in Seydisfjordur, you can hike several trails to waterfalls (two are fairly steep but they only take 5-10 minutes each). If you're looking for a longer hike, head to the northern side of the fjord and find the parking lot just before Langahlid Seydisfirdi accommodation. Hike for as long as you like; the longer the hike the better the view. If you continue for three hours, you'll arrive to a lake at the top called Vestdalsvatn.
Day 2: Scenic Eastern Fjords: Egilsstaðir to Höfn
After breakfast at your hotel, you'll begin the road trip headed southeast making stops along the way. As you drive south from Egilsstaðir, you have the option to take Route 1 to Breiðdalsvík, or Route 92 to 96. While Route 1 is about 40 minutes shorter, the recommended (and more scenic route) passes several picturesque fjords. Here are some sites along the way:
Take a short break to stretch the legs at the harbor town called Breiðdalsvík, located just off the Ring Road. While you’re here, stop at Kaupfjelagið where you will find all sorts of small knickknacks and treats including fresh bread, local salted fish, wool clothing, mittens, and hats. You can also pick up a quick meal before continuing onwards.
Next is the small town of Djúpivogur, sitting along the fjord, which makes for a great stop. Take a short walk (less than a mile there and back) along the shore to the lighthouse on the rocks where you will also have great views of the fjords. For coffee or a snack, you may want to try homemade cakes from Langabúð. For lunch or dinner, Hótel Framtíð has great fish dishes.
From Djúpivogur the road continues for another 1.5 hours, winding along the coastline, to Höfn. On the way, you can stretch your legs and take a short walk along the black rock beach at the Hvalnes Nature Reserve where you will likely see lots of bird life. If you’re lucky, you may see hundreds of swans in the calm waters below the jagged cliffs.
Once you get to Höfn, the Pakkhus restaurant is well-known for its langoustines and lobster. While here, stop by the visitor center for Vatnajokull National Park where you can learn more about the park, the town’s history, and watch a couple short films (under 30 minutes). On the southern side of town, you will find a hillside that offers fantastic views of Iceland’s largest glacier, covering 14% of the country.
If you arrive early enough, you can even head out for the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon today, or save it for tomorrow (more details listed tomorrow; it's about an hour each direction).
Day 3: Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon & Vik
Today's road trip adventure starts with a quick trip off the main road that will bring you to Hof where you can check out the Hof Turf Church. The practice of covering the roof with turf dates back to medieval times throughout Europe to protect from the harsh weather.
From here, continue driving east along the Ring Road towards Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. Here are some attractions in the area:
Diamond Beach: At the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, you’ll get the chance to see one of the most unique sights in Iceland: icebergs floating out to sea and beached on the black sand. Climb the hill for a better view of the entire area or follow the river under the bridge to the ocean for smaller icebergs along the black sandy shores of "diamond beach" where waves crash against them. It’s quite the sight! You may be fortunate to see seals, porpoises, or small whales that sometimes hang out in the lagoon or near the shore.
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon: The rock formations in Fjadrargljufur Canyon look like they’re from another world. There is a trail less than a mile from the parking lot along the ridge of the canyon where you will find some amazing viewpoints where the river curves around this strange rock cliffs. You can admire the views the entire time and go as far as you like.
Skaftafell & Svartifoss (optional ice-caving & glacier walks): You could spend several days hiking all the trails around Skaftafell. If you’re short on time, the most popular hike leads to Svartifoss, a thin waterfall surrounded by columns of basalt. The hike is around three miles long (weather dependent) and offers great views alongside the river and towards the ocean in the distance. If you like, you can join an ice cave/climbing tour or glacier walking tour based here.
Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon: A few minutes before Jokulsarlon, you will find another Glacier Lagoon about 10 minutes from the parking lot. Here you are much closer to the glacier than at Jokulsarlon, and you’ll have better views of all the cracks and crevices.
After a day exploring, you'll continue driving to the town of Vik for the night. While the town itself is fairly small, its proximity to several great sights more than makes up for it, allowing you to see more of the area in the evening when larger crowds have left or before the crowds arrive the next day. For instance, towards the water, you will find a black sand beach with trails that are often filled with soaring birds.
Day 4: Waterfalls, Black Sand Beaches & Golden Circle
Today, you'll spend time enjoying the popular highlights of the south. The area between Vik and Selfoss is full of many popular sights and destinations, quickly becoming one of the most beloved areas of Iceland; leave the crowds behind by hiking further on the trails away from the parking lots.
Near Vik, along Route 1, you will see a turnoff for Reynisfjara beach, past a pretty church as you drive towards the water. This black rock beach (not as fine grain as the one in Vik) is most famous for the Reynisdrangar Columns, huge basalt hexagonal columns rising up out of the sand. Walk around the cliffs to the left as you face the ocean and you will find a couple of large caves as well.
At Dyrholaey beach, there are two parking lots from which you can see the famous arch. The one high on the hill has the better view. Take the bumpy dirt road to your right as you enter. From the top, you will also see a lighthouse and great views looking farther west along a black sand beach that reaches as far as you can see. Look for rare birds (and perhaps even puffins) flying around—they nest along the cliffside.
Next, along Route 1, you will find the powerful Skogafoss waterfall. This marks the beginning of the 16 miles (26 km) Fimmvörðuháls Trail, which ends in Thórsmörk. You can admire the waterfall from the bottom (a short walk from the parking lot), or if you are up for it, find the stairs to the right and climb up for a different perspective. At the top, walk along the canyon to see some more waterfalls along “waterfalls way” before turning around (note: depending on snow conditions this may not be possible).
Your next stop is Seljalandsfoss waterfall, which you can walk behind (the ground is uneven in a few places but there are stairs on one side). Standing in a cave under the cliff you will see the water come roaring down in front of you. Pay attention to the direction of the wind, or wear a rain jacket (or both!) You will find two smaller waterfalls to the right if you are looking from behind the waterfall.
As you head towards the Golden Circle route, consider an evening stop at the Secret Lagoon (Gamla Laugi) in Flúðir, where warm geothermal water flows from the rocks. It’s a great place to end a long day exploring the southern coast.
Day 5: Golden Circle to Reykjavik
Today, you should start out early to visit Gullfoss and Geysir before the crowds and buses arrive when you’ll have these magnificent places all to yourself.
At Gullfoss (“Golden Falls”) you can walk along a few different paths to see the tremendous falls from different angles and perspectives. You’ll want to spend some time here admiring the impressive amount of water that constantly flows over the edge.
Next, continue to the Geysir geothermal area where Strokkur geyser shoots into the sky like clockwork every 5-10 minutes. In between eruptions, you can walk around the hot pools, steam vents, or climb the small hill above it all for a great view.
End your tour of the Golden Circle Route at Thingvellir National Park and learn about the traditions of the old Icelandic Parliament that met each summer at Law Rock. Walk between the giant rock fissure where the tectonic plates meet.
Finish your day at Kerid Crater, a quick detour from Route 1 on your way back to Reykjavik. Hike around the top of Kerid Crater with its blue lake at the bottom.
In the afternoon, you'll drive back to the capital to spend your last night exploring Reykjavik's great dining and nightlife scene.
Day 6: Morning in Reykjavik, Departure
It's time to say farewell to Iceland! Depending on your departing flight, take some extra time to check out the world’s most northerly capital city. Here are some suggestions:
Things to do in Reykjavik:
- Walk through Reykjavik’s compact downtown area and check out the unique street art scene.
- Head to the waterfront for the Sun Voyager Sculpture and Harpa Concert Hall with its cool glass architecture.
- Visit Hallgrimskirkja church on the hill; take the elevator to the tower for a great overview of the city below and panoramic views of the area. To escape inclement weather, you may consider visiting a few museums such as the Northern Lights Center, the Saga Museum, the Marine Museum, or the Whales of Iceland Exhibition. You can also join a whale watching tour from the Reykjavik harbor, or simply snack on a world-famous hot dog at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur.