See the magic of Iceland's Ring Road with this 13-day self-drive tour. Start in Reykjavík for whale watching and a vibrant downtown scene. From here, drive the Snæfellsnes Peninsula with its crashing waterfalls and black-sand beaches, then ferry to the Westfjords. Hike the cliffs of Látrabjarg, kayak to Vigur Island, and ride horses along the Westfjords' "Alps." Walk among icebergs at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, visit breathtaking Seljalandsfoss waterfall, and end with a dip in the iconic Blue Lagoon.


  • See whales and other marine life up close and personal via whale watching tour
  • Walk the stunning orange-pink beaches of Rauðasandur 
  • Tour Iceland's historic turf homes at Glaumbær Farm
  • Soak in the healing waters of Mývatn Nature Baths

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Reykjavík, Explore the Capital Reykjavík
Day 2 Snæfellsnes Peninsula: Waterfalls, Lava Fields & Black-Sand Beaches Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day 3 Ferry to Westfjords, Patreksfjörður Patreksfjörður
Day 4 Drive to Ísafjörður, Látrabjarg Cliff Walk, Dynjandi Waterfall Isafjordur
Day 5 Hornstrandir Natural Preserve, Vigur Island, Horseback Tour Isafjordur
Day 6 Drive to Drangsnes, Arctic Fox Center, Museum of Witchcraft  Drangsnes
Day 7 Drive to Akureyri, Hvítserkur, Glaumbær Farm Akureyri
Day 8 Drive to Lake Mývatn, Waterfalls & Whale Watching  Lake Mývatn
Day 9 Geological Wonders of Lake Mývatn Lake Mývatn
Day 10 Drive to Djúpivogur, Seydisfjordur, Breiðdalsvík Djupivogur
Day 11 Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon & Diamond Beach, Skaftafell  Kirkjubæjarklaustur
Day 12 Golden Circle, Reynisfjara Beach, Waterfalls & Dyrhólaey Arch Golden Circle
Day 13 Geysers, Þingvellir National Park, Blue Lagoon, Depart Reykjavík   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Reykjavík, Explore the Capital

An aerial view of Reykjavík
An aerial view of Reykjavík

Welcome to Iceland! Upon arrival, pick up your rental car and drive to your accommodation in the capital city of Reykjavík. After you check in at your hotel, your day is free to explore the city. Start with a walk through the downtown area, where you'll find shopping and street art. Then visit some of Reykjavík's popular landmarks, like the Sun Voyager, a metal sculpture that replicates a Viking ship, or Hallgrimskirkja Church, where you can climb the tower that overlooks the whole city.

If you'd like to get a closer look at Iceland's marine life, you can join a whale watching tour from Reykjavík harbor. In addition to whales, you're likely to see dolphins, seals, and various sea birds. The city also has several museums worth visiting, including the Northern Lights Center, Saga Museum, Marine Museum, and the Whales of Iceland Exhibition. Tonight, enjoy dinner at one of Reykjavík's many fine restaurants, and check out their nightlife scene for some live music if you're so inclined! 

Day 2: Snæfellsnes Peninsula: Waterfalls, Lava Fields & Black-Sand Beaches

Views of Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall

Today, you'll drive north from Reykjavík into the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Along the way, stop in the village of Borgarnes for a walk along the path near the water. While here, visit the Settlement Center, where you can learn more about Iceland's settlement age. You can also take a detour to Glymur Waterfall, Iceland's second-tallest waterfall. Located in Hvalfjörður fjord, it towers at 650 feet (198 m) and sits in a narrow canyon. The hike takes approximately two hours round trip, and while the trail is somewhat strenuous, it is clearly marked. 

Once you reach the peninsula, your first stop will be the Gerðuberg basalt cliffs, where strange basalt columns rise up out of the earth. From here, head to Budhahraun lava fields, which sit on the south shore and originate from Budaklettur Crater, then visit the town of Arnarstapi, where you can walk along the cliffs and have lunch at the on-site café. Continue to  Londrangar lava formations, which you can view from afar, or make the 15-minute walk for a closer look. 

Later, take a stroll along Djúpalónssandur's black-sand beach. The beach has debris from an old shipwreck, which makes for great photo ops. There's also a small trail that goes to a nearby cove–once the site of major fishing operations. As you near the westernmost point of the peninsula, you'll find Saxholl Crater. Walk up the stairs that take you to the top of the crater for views of the surrounding area. End your day with a visit to Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, with Mount Kirkjufell in the background—one of Iceland's most photographed peaks. This evening, overnight at the location of your choice. 

Day 3: Ferry to Westfjords, Patreksfjörður

Stykkishólmur Harbour
Stykkishólmur Harbor

Start your morning with a drive into the Berserkjahraun lava fields, created 4,000 years ago after four scoria craters erupted. The lava flowed from the mountains all the way out to sea, and the eruption also created Selvallavatn Lake, just south of the crater. You'll then continue to the village of Stykkishólmur. Located in the northern region of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, this charming town feels like you've stepped back in time, with its old wooden houses and quiet streets. Visit their Volcano Museum, hike up to the nearby lighthouse, or take a relaxing dip in the town's geothermal swimming pool! 

Later, load your car onto the ferry that runs between Stykkishólmur to the Westfjords. The ride takes approximately three hours and while you can also drive, traveling via water is faster, and gives you the opportunity to see some of the breathtaking views of Breiðafjörður Bay. Keep an eye out for playful seals, as well as a vast abundance of birdlife. Disembark at the docks of Brjánslækur, and continue to the town of Patreksfjörður, where you'll overnight.  

Day 4: Drive to Ísafjörður, Látrabjarg Cliff Walk, Dynjandi Waterfall

Dynjandi Waterfall
Majestic Dynjandi Waterfall

Drive to the southwest tip of the Westfjords and start your day with a hike along the edge of Látrabjarg bird cliffs, with incredible views over the waters below. This is one of the largest bird cliffs in Iceland and the westernmost point of Europe. In the summer months, several species of birds nest here, including puffins, arctic terns, and white-tailed eagles. The cliffs stretch nearly 9 miles (14 km) and are more than 1,400 feet (440 m) high, and a walk along the top rewards you with incredible views across the water.  

You may also want to consider a detour to Rauðasandur red-sand beach, a remote stretch of sand made popular by its unusual color. The orange-pink sands come from pulverized scallop shells, creating a stunning contrast between the mountain cliffs and the ocean. Drivers should use caution, as much of this drive is on gravel roads. You'll also see the unusual sight of the Gardar BA 64 shipwreck, beached right on the side of the road. Be sure to stop and get some photos of the ship! 

Next, head to Dynjandi Waterfall, the largest waterfall in the Westfjords. As you reach the top, the views in both directions are endless, and you can walk around the several waterfalls below the massive Dynjandi. This is a great spot for a picnic lunch before continuing on. Your drive ends in the village of Ísafjörður, where, after checking in at your accommodations, you can take a cultural walking tour of the town, or visit the Maritime Museum for exhibits on the history of this fishing hub. 

Day 5:  Hornstrandir Natural Preserve, Vigur Island, Horseback Tour

The harbor at Isafjordur

The region's largest town, Ísafjörður is considered the heart of the Westfjords. Its proximity to various landmarks and activities makes it a great home base for adventures. Start your day with a hike at Hornstrandir Natural Preserve, one of Iceland's most remote and scenic areas. There's no road access to the preserve–instead, you'll be leaving your car and hopping on a ferry at Isafjordur's harbor. Upon landing at the terminal in Hornstrandir, you can head out on one of the numerous trails that wind through the area. You're likely to see seals along the shoreline, and maybe a curious Arctic fox.

If you want to see more of the fjords, take a kayak tour to Vigur Island. The island is the second-largest in Ísafjörður Bay and is home to huge colonies of birds. Kayak across the pristine waters of the fjord, then disembark to find nesting ducks, Arctic terns, and other birds. Visitors must be careful of the many eggs laying in the grass, and watch out for brave Arctic terns defending their nests! 

The Westfjords is also home to the lush Sandá Valley, where you can take a guided horseback riding tour that showcases the stunning "Westfjords Alps" as you cross rivers and the black-sand beaches along the fjord, all while enjoying the company of friendly and hardy Icelandic horses. Tonight, enjoy your last evening in Ísafjörður with a final walk through the town and dinner at a local restaurant. 

Plan your trip to Iceland
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 6: Drive to Drangsnes, Arctic Fox Center, Museum of Witchcraft 

Sunrise in the village of Drangsnes

Say goodbye to Ísafjörður, continuing your journey to the town of Drangsnes. This three-hour drive takes you along incredibly scenic views as you curve around the fjords. There are a few worthwhile stops along the drive to stretch the legs and get out of the car to better appreciate the landscapes.

Just outside Ísafjörður is the town of Súðavík, home of the Arctic Fox Center. This nonprofit research center features exhibits on the history of the Arctic fox. Learn all about Iceland's first land mammal, and say hello to the orphaned foxes in the pen outside. Continue south to the waterfall of Valagil. Formed from layers of ancient lava, the surrounding ravine is said to be named after the falcons that once nested there. From the parking area, it's an easy 1.25-mile (2 km) hike through the valley and to the falls. 

Stop in the small fishing town of Hvítanes to stretch your legs after driving those curvy fjord roads, and enjoy the sight of harbor seals resting on the rocks near the shore. You can also stop in at the Saltverk Salt Factory, where you'll learn about traditional salt-making and can purchase a sample. And if you're intrigued by the occult, visit the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft to learn about the history of the craft and its place in Icelandic folklore. Relax at your accommodations in Drangsnes this evening before getting back on the road tomorrow. 

Day 7: Drive to Akureyri, Hvítserkur, Glaumbær Farm

Impressive views of Hvítserkur

Get back on the Ring Road today, heading to the town of Akureyri. Again, there are several worthwhile stops on this drive, so give yourself plenty of time for detours! Just off the main road, you'll find the village of Hvammstangi. Visit the Icelandic Seal Center, a research facility that provides education on the various species of seals in Iceland. You may also want to make the side trip along the Vatnsnes Peninsula for views of Hvítserkur, large black and white basalt formations that rise from the sea. Legend has it, the rock was once a troll, turned to stone by the sun. 

If you'd like to learn more about how Icelanders used to live, stop in at Glaumbær Farm, where you'll tour the original turf houses that the Icelandic people once called home. You can also visit Víðimýrarkirkja Turf Church, which was built in 1834, and is one of the only remaining preserved turf churches in Iceland. Continue to Akureyri, where you can check in at your hotel, then take some time to explore the city. 

Iceland's second-largest city, Akureyri sits at the base of Eyjafjörður fjord, surrounded by soaring mountains and peaceful waters. Walk along the harbor to get views of the fjord, with possible glimpses of sealife and birds, or head to the downtown area of Hafnarstraeti, where you'll find restaurants and shopping. You can also visit the church of Akureyrarkirkja, which sits above the town center and offers some nice views, or take a dip in the city's geothermal pool, one of the largest of its kind in Iceland. 

Day 8: Drive to Lake Mývatn, Waterfalls & Whale Watching 

Húsavik whale watching

Head to Lake Mývatn, taking scenic routes past the village of Húsavik, Asbyrgi Canyon, and several waterfalls. Make your first stop at the magnificent Godafoss waterfall, otherwise known as the "Waterfall of the Gods." Flowing from the Skjálfandafljót River, it falls from a height of nearly 40 feet (12 m) and is 100 feet (30 m) wide. Folklore says the waterfall was named when a local chieftain made the decision to convert the country from the old Nordic gods to Christianity, and in order to prevent war, he threw the old gods into the falls.

From here, continue to the coastal town of Húsavik, where you can hop on a whale watching tour. Húsavik tours are unique in that unlike other regions where you must sail farther into the sea to view whales, you can usually find marine life just a few minutes from their harbor. Afterward, visit Asbyrgi Canyon, where you'll be surrounded by canyon walls that exceed 300 feet (100 m) in some places. There's a trail from the visitor's center that climbs the side of the canyon, which, while quite steep, rewards you with some pretty spectacular views.

Prior to reaching Lake Mývatn, stop at Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful waterfall. A 15-minute hike upstream along the cliffs will take you to the equally impressive falls of Selfoss. Later this evening, warm up with a revitalizing soak in the Mývatn Nature Baths. Built in 2004, this alkaline lagoon maintains a temperature of around 104°F (40°C) and is rich in healing minerals. You can swim and relax in the warm waters or take advantage of the nearby steam baths, which are vented to allow in natural geothermal steam. Finish the day with a meal at the on-site café.

Day 9: Geological Wonders of Lake Mývatn

Beautiful forests of Hofdi on Lake Mývatn 

Lake Mývatn and its surrounding areas boast the highest concentration of volcanic and geothermal sights in Iceland, which means you can enjoy a full day discovering some of the amazing natural wonders here. Start with an easy one-hour walk around Skutustadir pseudocraters, created by volcanic activity, then loop around nearby Lake Stakhólstjörn. You can also walk through the large, contorted lava formations of Dimmuborgir, or hike to Kirkja (The Church), a natural lava formation that resembles a vaulted church arch. 

Stroll through wooded trails at Hofdi, which takes you to some unusual rock formations in the lake, or climb up the side of Hverfjall cinder cone, where you'll see views of the Skutustadir pseudocraters and steam from Hverarond geothermal area. Later, you can drive to Hverarond and see the bubbling mud pits and steam vents. Just past Hverarond is the turnoff for Viti Crater, part of the Krafla volcanic system. The crater is filled with a bright blue lake, creating a gorgeous contrast to the surrounding countryside. 

Finish your day with an exploration of Leirhnjúkur, walking through lava fields that show once-oozing lava frozen in time. Be sure to stay on the trail, as there are steam vents all around and the ground can be very hot. Enjoy your last evening in or around Lake Mývatn before driving on tomorrow. 

Day 10: Drive to Djúpivogur, Seydisfjordur, Breiðdalsvík

Aerial view of Seydisfjordur

Your drive continues over the mountains and to the town of Seydisfjordur, which sits at the inner point of the fjord of the same name. You can hike several trails to various waterfalls here, visit a rock formation called the "Troll Church," or make the 15-minute hike up to the Tvisongur sound sculpture, created by German artist Lukas Kühne. Your next stop is Breiðdalsvík, a small harbor town just off the Ring Road. This is a nice spot to take a break and visit some of the local shops, where you can find souvenirs and homemade treats.

From here, it's just one more hour down the road to your final destination, Djúpivogur. This quaint town sits along the fjord, offering restful views of the water and an occasional glimpse of sea life. After you check in at your accommodation, you can take a walk along the shores to the town's lighthouse, where you'll see a panorama of the entire fjords. Enjoy a seafood dinner tonight at one of the town's restaurants. 

Day 11: Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon & Diamond Beach, Skaftafell 

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon

You'll be entering the South Coast region today, as you drive along the Ring Road to the village of Höfn, which sits at the base of Vatnajökull glacier and is surrounded by the tongues of many outlet glaciers. You can stop here and visit the Gamlabud building, which houses an information center, and make a stop at Ósland, a conservation area with hiking trails and plenty of bird-watching opportunities. You can also take a break with a walk along the black rock beach at nearby Hvalnes Nature Reserve. If you're lucky, you may see hundreds of swans in the calm waters below the jagged cliffs.

From Höfn, it's another hour to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, the highlight of the day. Take in the unusual sight of icebergs floating in the sea and beached on the black-sand shores of Diamond Beach, then hike into the nearby hills for better views of the area. You can also take a boat tour of the lagoon to get a closer look at the massive icebergs. and potentially see seals, porpoises, and small whales in the lagoon's waters. For those interested in Iceland's glaciers, there are seasonal tours available for glacier walks and visits to the Crystal Ice Cave

Continue your drive, with optional stops at nearby Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon and the town of Hof and Hof Turf Church, a 700-year-old church with a turf-covered roof. Hike around the preservation area of Skaftafell with a stop at Svartifoss waterfall, which is surrounded by immense basalt columns. And a visit to Fjadrargljufur Canyon shouldn't be missed, as the rock formations here are simply otherworldly, not to mention the spectacular views from the cliffs. Overnight in the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, or stay in the nearby town of Vík

Day 12: Golden Circle, Reynisfjara Beach, Waterfalls & Dyrhólaey Arch

Dyrhólaey Arch and cliffs

Discover some of the highlights of the south shore today, located between Vík and Selfoss. This is one of Iceland's most visited regions, with many sought-after sights. Start near Vík, where you'll find a black-sand beach with high cliffs on the right side, often boasting soaring and nesting birds. Then, stop at Reynisfjara Beach, a stretch of black sand most known for the Reynisdrangar Columns—huge, hexagonal basalt columns that rise up out of the sand. If you walk to the left of the cliffs, you can also find a couple of caves worth exploring. 

Then, make your way to the Dyrhólaey Arch and cliffs, a nearly 400-foot (120 m) promenade that showcases breathtaking views of the coast. There are two parking lots here, both of which show views of the famous arch. If you take the dirt road to your right, you'll see a lighthouse and panoramic views westward, to include a vast stretch of black-sand beach and birds nesting along the cliffs. Visit Skógafoss waterfall, where you can view the falls from the bottom or climb the adjacent stairs to see the perspective from the top. 

Your next stop is Seljalandsfoss waterfall, one of the only known waterfalls you can actually walk behind. Access is an easy few-minute walk from the parking lot, and you can stand in a cave under the cliffs and watch the water roar past. As your day wanes, you'll depart the South Coast and enter the Golden Circle. Before making your way to your accommodation of choice, consider a last stop at the Secret Lagoon, or Gamla Laugi, in the village of Flúðir. The warm geothermal waters flow from the rocks, making it a relaxing way to end a long day of driving.

Day 13: Geysers, Þingvellir National Park, Blue Lagoon, Depart Reykjavík 

Geysir geothermal area and its erupting geysers

It's your last day in Iceland, and you'll want to make the most of your final hours here, taking in some of the sights you might have previously missed. Make a visit to Gullfoss (Golden Falls) and admire the incredible power of this massive waterfall. End your Golden Circle Tour at Þingvellir National Park, which is considered one of Iceland's most geologically and historically significant landmarks. Visit historic Law Rock, where Viking chieftains from all over the country met once a year to discuss laws and issues. 

Before you leave the park, stop at Geysir geothermal area, and catch an eruption of the Strokkur geyser, which erupts into the sky like clockwork every 5-10 minutes. In between eruptions, you can walk around the hot pools and steam vents, or climb the small hill above it for a great view. 

Of course, your trip really wouldn't be complete without a visit to the famed Blue Lagoon! Take a relaxing soak in the blend of seawater and geothermally heated water amid a lunar lava landscape. Take a dip under the man-made waterfall, or enjoy an iconic white silica mud face mask. Afterward, it's time to head to the airport and say goodbye to beautiful Iceland. Safe travels! 

More Great Iceland Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Iceland? Check out these other Iceland itineraries, explore different ways to spend 13 days in Iceland, or learn about the best time to visit Iceland.


Map of Iceland's Magical Ring Road: Waterfalls, Lava Fields, Hot Springs & Wildlife - 13 Days
Map of Iceland's Magical Ring Road: Waterfalls, Lava Fields, Hot Springs & Wildlife - 13 Days