Pack your best camera for this scenic self-drive adventure to the far corners of southern Iceland. Things kick off in the capital of Reykjavík with a visit to a natural hot spring before hitting the road to see waterfalls, volcanoes, and geothermal fields on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Golden Circle scenic route. Continue around the coast, stopping at colorful villages and visiting other marvels like canyons, glacial lagoons, and a "diamond beach" before ending with a soak in the legendary Blue Lagoon.


  • Take an epic self-drive journey through Iceland's most photogenic landscapes
  • Stroll the rugged coastal cliffs of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
  • Go on nature hikes in river canyons and the wild Icelandic highlands
  • Drive the legendary Golden Circle to see Iceland's grandest waterfalls
  • Visit the highlights of southern Iceland, from glacial lagoons to Diamond Beach

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Reykjavík, Relax in the Sky Lagoon  Reykjavík
Day 2 Drive to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula: Beaches & Waterfalls Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day 3 Drive the Golden Circle Route Golden Circle
Day 4 Drive to Kerlingarfjöll, Hiking in the Icelandic Highlands Kerlingarfjöll
Day 5 Drive to Hella via Hiking in the Valley of Thor Hella
Day 6 Drive to Kirkjubæjarklaustur via Waterfalls & Hot Springs Kirkjubæjarklaustur
Day 7 Drive to Höfn via Canyons, Glaciers & Diamond Beach Höfn
Day 8 Drive to Reykjavík via the Eastfjords Reykjavík
Day 9 Free Day in Reykjavík: Whale Watching, Museums, or Culinary Tour Reykjavík
Day 10 Visit Reykjanes Peninsula & Blue Lagoon, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Reykjavík, Relax in the Sky Lagoon 

Welcome to Reykjavík, where the first order of business is relaxing in the Sky Lagoon geothermal spa

Welcome to Iceland! The "Land of Fire and Ice" is the ideal destination for photography buffs and adventurers interested in the Arctic north. You'll touch down in the southwest of the country at Keflavík Airport, a mere 45 minutes from Reykjavík. Pick up your rental car, then set off for Iceland's cool capital, which abounds with art and culture.

See for yourself when, after checking into your hotel, you can head out for a self-guided walking tour in and around the downtown area. Take photos of the impressive Sun Voyager dreamboat sculpture on the waterfront and perhaps tour the iconic Harpa Concert Hall. You certainly don't want to miss Hallgrimskirkja, Iceland's tallest church, which sits on a hill overlooking downtown.

Later, you can take the edge of the long flight with a relaxing spa session at the Sky Lagoon, a natural hot spring located on a harbor south of the city. While here, enjoy the Seven-Step Ritual, which involves alternating between soaks in relaxing hot springs—whose temps hover around 100-104°F (38-40°C)—and reinvigorating cold plunges.

Day 2: Transfer to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula: Beaches & Waterfalls

Mount Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall are two stars of western Iceland

It's time to hit the road this morning, driving 2-3 hours north through West Iceland to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This wild coastal region is often referred to as "Iceland in miniature" for its wealth of volcanic geological marvels. Once on the peninsula, head to the southwest and Lóndrangar, known for its otherworldly lava rock formations and coastal sea cliffs. Most notable are two incredible rock pillars that rise as high as 246 feet (75 m).

A short drive up the coast is Djupalonsandur. This beach is also dotted with towering rock formations, but its volcanic black sands are the real star. It claims a fascinating history in the form of a shipwreck from 1948, and left on the beach from the Middle Ages are four stones of various sizes that ancient sea captains used to test the strength of potential sailors. You can also stop in the coastal town of Arnarstapi and hike along its nearby sea cliffs and see the famous natural rock arch sitting just offshore. If you like, there will be time for a kayak trip along the coast.

Toward the end of the afternoon, you'll visit one of the region's most famous highlights: the three-tiered waterfall of Kirkjufellsfoss, which is backed by the rounded peak of Mount Kirkjufell and was featured in "Game of Thrones." You can then take a quick detour to the Saxholar crater, where you can stretch your legs with a walk up the stairs that take you right to the top of the crater and great countryside views. Afterward, continue to your accommodation in one of the peninsula's towns.

Day 3: Drive the Golden Circle Route

Gullfoss is one of the many highlights on Iceland's legendary Golden Circle route

After breakfast, you'll head back down toward Reykjavík and embark on a drive along the famous Golden Circle. This 190-mile (300 km) route features some of southern Iceland's most popular natural attractions. First up is Þingvellir National Park and Law Rock. It was at this outcropping during the Middle Ages that chieftains met once a year to air grievances and recite new laws. Also in the park is the Silfra Fissure, a rift located in a crystalline lake on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and Brúarárfoss, a small waterfall on the Brúará River whose rushing cascades are a vivid ice blue.

Next is the Geysir geothermal area. With its bubbling mud pits, steam vents, and erupting geysers, this is one of the most impressive geothermal zones in the country. The geyser is rarely active these days but can reach up to 230 feet (70 m) when it does erupt. However, the area, which covers much of the Haukadalur Valley, is also home to the Strokkur Geyser, which erupts like clockwork every 5-10 minutes and can reach up to 130 feet (40 m). 

Then, it's on to Gullfoss, one of Iceland's most impressive waterfalls. You can follow trails to the top of the falls or view them above the canyon's edge. Another highlight is Kerið Kerið, a 180-foot (55 m) volcanic crater lake whose steep slopes resemble an ancient amphitheater. Cap the day with a visit to the Secret Lagoon. Created in 1891 in the geothermal area of Hverahólmi, this is the oldest human-made swimming pool in Iceland. The water here is between 86°F-104°F (38°C-40°C) and is fed by a nearby geyser. After enjoying the lagoon, head to your nearby hotel to rest up for tomorrow's adventures.

Day 4: Drive to Kerlingarfjöll, Hiking in the Icelandic Highlands

Hike around the otherworldly mountain landscapes in the highlands

The road trip continues today as you make an epic, half-day drive into the Icelandic highlands. Your first destination is the Kerlingarfjöll massif, the star mountain in the country's highland ranges. The area surrounding it is full of steaming hot springs, mud pools, and natural geysers, making it a hiker's paradise.

After hiking around this geothermal area, you'll visit another regional highlight, Hveradalir. Known as the "Valley of the Hot Springs," it's one of the largest geothermal areas in the country and is a great place to relax in rejuvenating waters. At the end of the day, you'll check into your hotel near Kerlingarfjöll.

Day 5: Drive to Hella via Hiking in the Valley of Thor

The Þórsmörk Valley has been carved by glacial river floods over thousands of years
Plan your trip to Iceland
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Today, set out on another hiking adventure in the nearby Þórsmörk Valley, named for mighty Thor, the Viking hammer-wielding god of thunder and lightning. This valley has a warmer and wetter microclimate than most of South Iceland, producing frequent mountain mists and lush vegetation.

You'll be awe-struck as you journey through a kaleidoscope of dramatic landscapes and splash across unbridged rivers pouring from the Eyjafjallajökull, Mýrdalsjökull, and Tindfjallajökull glaciers. Higher up, the rivers scythe through majestic canyons to run onto a black volcanic flood plain. Like the previous excursions, everywhere you look in this natural wonderland makes for an epic photo opportunity.

But the day isn't over yet. After exploring the Þórsmörk Valley, you'll continue to nearby Stakkholtsgjá. This is yet another dazzling river canyon, spanning 1.2 miles (2 km) and with a depth of 328 feet (100 m). After hiking around the streams running along the canyon floor, you'll return to the vehicle and drive west to the nearby town of Hella, where you'll overnight.

Day 6: Drive to Kirkjubæjarklaustur via Waterfalls & Hot Springs

For epic views, you can't beat Landmannalaugar

Leave early today as you make your way east toward Kirkjubæjarklaustur. It's only a two-hour drive, but you'll take most of the day as you stop at plenty of beauty spots along the way, with plenty of time for hiking detours. One major landmark you'll visit en route is Hjálparfoss, a beautiful waterfall in the Thjorsa Valley whose double cascades point toward each other and appear as mirror images.

Nearby is Gjáin, known as the "Oasis of the Highlands." This area is famous among locals for its stunning landscapes, which include green valleys, trickling streams, moss-covered rocks, wildflower-dotted fields, and romantic waterfalls. It's a great place to stop for a brisk hike, as is Háifoss, a dramatic waterfall in the area that plunges 400 feet (122 m) over a cliff. 

Another area you'll visit is Landmannalaugar. This region is famous for its multicolored mountains, volcanic terrain, and geothermal landscapes, including hot springs, steam vents, and bubbling mud pools. End the day with a soak in one of the natural springs here, which are geothermally heated and surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. Afterward, you'll continue to your hotel in Kirkjubæjarklaustur, a village in the south of Iceland.

Day 7: Drive to Höfn via Canyons, Glaciers & Diamond Beach

Broken pieces of glacier glimmer on Diamond Beach like precious gemstones

After breakfast, continue on Route 1 up the southeast coast to Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon. The drive takes 1.5 hours, but you'll stop on the way to hike around natural attractions, like the otherworldly rock formations of the Fjaðrárgljúfur river canyon. A couple of famous waterfalls are 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.

Later, you'll visit the Skaftafell Nature Reserve, an outlet glacier extending from Vatnajökull, which, at 3,130 square miles (8,100 sq km), is Europe's largest glacier. Except you won't merely be admiring it from afar—you'll strap on crampons, grab an ice ax, and hike across its surface. Upon arrival, meet your guide and receive your equipment and a safety demonstration. Then, step onto the ice and enjoy a walk over what seems like an alien planet. The scenery on this three-hour excursion is spectacular, as you'll pass ice formations, glacial ridges, and deep crevasses.

Afterward, head back to the coast and 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. Enjoy a stroll on the beach, then continue the drive about an hour up the coast to your hotel in Höfn, a charming fishing village on a narrow peninsula. 

Day 8: Drive to Reykjavík via the Eastfjords

Hike in the far east of Iceland before returning to Reykjavík 

In the morning, you'll drive a few minutes from Höfn to Stokksnes, a scenic headland on the southeastern Icelandic coast. Part of Vatnajökull National Park, the area is known for its remote black-sand beaches and coastal mountains. You'll also find cultural heritage here in the form of an ancient Viking village with traditional turf buildings.

Then, you'll begin the epic six-hour drive back around the south of Iceland to Reykjavík. It's a long trip, but there will be plenty of stops on the way. For example, the southern tip of Iceland features a gorgeous coastline and some of the country's largest ice caps. There's also Seljalandsfoss, a romantic waterfall that plunges 200 feet (60 m) over a cliff into a lagoon, and Reynisfjara, a black-sand beach dotted with rock formations just begging to be photographed.

Other stops on the way back to Reykjavík include Dyrhólaey, a 393-foot (120 m) rock promontory (keep an eye out for puffins nesting on the cliffside), and the Eldhraun lava field. This enormous field of moss-covered lava rocks resulted from a fissure eruption in 1783 and is believed to have been one of the greatest lava flows in history. A real showstopper is Hjörleifshöfði. Known as the "Yoda Cave," the entrance to this mountain cavern is shaped like the diminutive "Star Wars" character. Eventually, you'll arrive back in Reykjavík and check into your hotel.

Day 9: Free Day in Reykjavík: Whale Watching, Museums, or Culinary Tour

Sun Voyager Statue in Reykjavik
The iconic Sun Voyager sculpture on the Reykjavík waterfront

You've enjoyed some wild outdoor adventures throughout Iceland—now it's time to kick back and spend the day getting to know the capital. Feel free to take another leisurely stroll around downtown, visiting the city's fine galleries and museums. Top options include the Northern Lights Center, the Maritime Museum, and the Whales of Iceland Exhibition. Speaking of which, you can hop on a boat for a whale watching tour around the Reykjavík harbor to spot humpbacks, minkes, dolphins, and harbor porpoises. There are sightings year-round, but the best time for a tour is from April through October.

If you like, you can also take a culinary tour of Reykjavík. Discover everything from traditional Icelandic cuisine to innovative fusion dishes on this well-rounded food hop. Highlights include stopping at Fiskmarkaðurinn (The Fish Market) to try fresh seafood, enjoying gourmet cuisine in chic eateries, and sampling old family recipes like lamb soup and pancakes rolled with sugar. 

Day 10: Visit Reykjanes Peninsula & Blue Lagoon, Depart

The Blue Lagoon is perhaps the most famous geothermal spa in the world 

The fun isn't over by a long shot. In the morning, drive from Reykjavík to the Reykjanes Peninsula, near the airport, for 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.

The most famous destination on this peninsula is 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, algae, and silica offer many health benefits. It's even a proven treatment for psoriasis.

Other locales you may want to visit include Reykjanesviti, the oldest lighthouse in Iceland, built in 1878. Nearby is a footbridge over a fissure separating the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. A walk across it means you're taking a stroll between two continents. Afterward, drive to the airport, drop off your rental car, and catch your flight home. Until next time!

More Great Iceland Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Iceland? Check out these other Iceland itineraries, explore different ways to spend 10 days in Iceland, and learn about the best time to visit Iceland.


Map of Photogenic Iceland: Scenic Self-Drive Adventure - 10 Days
Map of Photogenic Iceland: Scenic Self-Drive Adventure - 10 Days