The best of eastern and southern Iceland awaits on this 11-day self-drive adventure that follows the Ring Road and explores the top sites of Lake Mývatn, the Eastfjords, the South Coast, and the Reykjanes Peninsula. You'll thrill to such fun activities as whale watching from Húsavik, hiking on Skaftafell glacier, and snorkeling the Silfra fissure. Plus, you'll have time to discover Reykjavik and Iceland's fascinating cultural history dating back to the Viking era.


  • Whale watching for humpback, minke, and blue whales from Húsavik
  • Kayaking amid the ice floes of Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon
  • Explore inside an ice cave of the Kötlujökull Glacier
  • Snorkel the crystal-clear waters of the Silfra fissure in the Mid-Atlantic Rift

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Keflavik, Explore Reykjavik Reykjavik
Day 2 Fly to Akureyri, Godafoss & Húsavik Whale Watching Húsavik
Day 3 Asbyrgi Canyon, Dettifoss, East to Lake Mývatn & Mývatn Nature Baths Lake Mývatn
Day 4 Explore Lake Mývatn Lake Mývatn
Day 5 Explore the Eastfjords, Drive to Fáskrúðsfjörður Fáskrúðsfjörður
Day 6 Eastfjords to South Coast, Jökulsárlón Kayaking Adventure Jökulsárlón
Day 7 Skaftafell Glacier & Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon Hikes, Drive to Vík í Mýrdal Vík
Day 8 Kötlujökull "Secret Ice Cave" Hike, Explore the South Coast, To Hveragerði Hveragerdi
Day 9 Golden Circle: Geysir, Gullfoss, Þingvellir National Park & Silfra Snorkeling Hveragerdi
Day 10 Lava Tunnel Tour, Reykjanes Peninsula & Blue Lagoon, Drive to Keflavik Keflavik
Day 11 Depart Keflavik  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Keflavik, Explore Reykjavik

Reykjavik at dusk

Upon arrival at Keflavik airport, transfer to your hotel in downtown Reykjavik, where the rest of the day is at leisure. With the afternoon to play with, you might opt for a walking tour, or rent a bicycle, to head to the contemporary Hallgrimskirkja church, resembling an elongated Viking helmet or basalt columnar tower. Don't miss the shorefront Harpa Concert Hall, another architectural masterpiece inspired by polygonal basalt columns, plus the Sun Voyager sculpture. Culture enthusiasts might head to the Old Wharf to check out the world-class Maritime Museum, Saga Museum, and Whales of Iceland museum.

The Hallgrimskirkja church and Harpa Concert Hall are also enthralling when floodlit at night. If you're interested in checking out Reykjavík's nightlife scene, you have a wide choice of great venues, including Skúli Craft Bar (with 14 mostly Icelandic craft beers on tap) and Pablo Discobar (for craft cocktails and nightclub dancing). But don't stay up too late, as you have a morning flight to catch tomorrow.

Day 2: Fly to Akureyri, Godafoss & Húsavik Whale Watching

Humpback whale sounding

A 45-minute flight from Reykjavik's domestic airport, close to downtown, puts you in Akureyri, where you'll pick up a rental 4WD. Then drive east the short distance to Godafoss ("Waterfall of the Gods"), resembling a mini-Niagara and considered one of the most spectacular cascades in the country. Then turn north for Húsavik, the oldest settlement in Iceland, with a picturesque waterfront plus two exceptional must-see museums. The Museum House, spanning folk culture to maritime and natural history, and the Whale Museum, providing a perfect primer for your adventure this afternoon.

After lunch, you'll join a whale-watching tour in Skjálfandi Bay, considered the premier location in Iceland for viewing whales. An expert biologist guide will offer narration as you look for breaching humpbacks, curious minke whales, playful pods of dolphins, and—fingers crossed—even blue whales. You'll overnight in this delightful harbor town.

Day 3: Asbyrgi Canyon, Dettifoss, East to Lake Mývatn & Mývatn Nature Baths

Mighty Dettifoss waterfall

Follow the "Diamond Circle" today as you head east to spectacular Asbyrgi canyon—a lushly forested natural amphitheater accessed by a boardwalk trail that ends at jade-colored Botnstjörn pond. Nearby, a short hike in the Vesturdalur valley leads to the surreal riverside Hljóðaklettar basalt formations and red-and-black Rauðhólar hills. Then continue to Hafragilsfoss waterfall, where the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river plunges 90 feet (27 m) into Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. Only 2 miles (3 km) upstream is Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful cascade: you can drive between the two waterfalls or hike atop the ravine.

Then continue south to the volcanically active Lake Mývatn region, with many geological formations and geothermal wonders to explore. Enjoy lunch at Café Kvika in the Mývatn Nature Baths, then head to the Viti Crater (filled with a turquoise lake) and hike the still simmering lava field of hyper-active Krafla volcano. You'll then return to Mývatn Nature Baths for a relaxing soak in the natural geothermal lagoons.

Day 4: Explore Lake Mývatn

Skútustaðagígar “pseudocraters”

Spend today exploring Lake Mývtan's many marvels, beginning with the bubbling mud pools and steaming, hissing vents at Hverir geothermal area. Then turn south to circle the lake. The first stop is to descend into the Grjótagjá lava cave, filled with a crystal-clear jade-colored hot spring famous as a romantic setting for a scene in HBO's "Game of Thrones" series. Then hike up the Hverfjall crater to circle the rim before hiking amid the fascinating lava-rock formations of Dimmuborgir, at the crater's base.

Next, continue to the south end of the lake to view and hike around the extraordinary Skútustaðagígar "pseudocraters," formed when superheated steam exploded in great gaseous bubbles from below the swampy wetlands. Continue around the lake's cone-studded western shore to Sigurgeir's Bird Museum, with interactive exhibits and dioramas displaying almost 200 Icelandic bird species, including the scores of waterbirds that frequent the lake. The rest of the day is at leisure to relax or perhaps to indulge in another alfresco soak at Mýtvan Nature Baths.

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Day 5: Explore the Eastfjords, Drive to Fáskrúðsfjörður

Klifbrekkufossar waterfall

Today you'll drive east into the Eastfjords region, boasting one of the most scenic stretches of the Ring Road, with charming fishing villages tucked into narrow fjords cusped by towering mountains. For your first stop, detour up the Jökuldalur valley to Stuðlagil canyon, where a jade-blue river cuts between sheer cliffs of polygonal basalt columns. Arriving at Egilsstaðir, gateway to Eastfjords, drive south along the forested shores of tendril-thin Lagarfljót lake for a short hike up to Hengifoss waterfall. Enjoy lunch back in Egilsstaðir before heading to the fjords along the Ring Road.

First, detour into Mjóifjörður to view the World War II-era US Navy LCM washed up at the head of the fjord and to hike to the remarkable Klifbrekkufossar waterfall, with seven cascades stair-stepping down the mountain. Then continue along the southern shore of Reyðarfjörður and into Fáskrúðsfjörður for overnight in its eponymous fishing hamlet, first founded by French seamen in the mid-1800s: dozens of French sailors are buried in the Cimetiere Francais graveyard, outside town.

Day 6: Eastfjords to South Coast, Jökulsárlón Kayaking Adventure

Jokulsarlon Glacier Kayaking Adventure
Jökulsárlón Glacier Kayaking Adventure

Continue snaking south through the fjords, with a break at the head of Berufjörður for a short hike to the Folaldafoss waterfall. Then, beyond the Almannaskarð tunnel, you'll emerge in Höfn, a fishing town (and "lobster capital of Iceland") on a peninsula probing the South Coast plains, comprised of lava washed down from the vast Vatnajökull ice cap—Europe's largest. Here, lunch on lobster and langoustine specialties at Pakkhús, washed down by local Ölvisholt glacial beer and followed by Jöklaís glacial ice cream.

Now head to Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, a stunning azure-colored lake studded with electric-blue icebergs floating down from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier to finally wash ashore on black-sand "Diamond Beach." Don a dry suit and thrill to a three-hour guided kayaking adventure as you paddle between the ice floes, keeping an eye out for basking seals and even dolphins and small whales that sometimes enter the lagoon. Or enjoy an amphibious boat tour with an expert narration about what you are seeing.

Day 7: Skaftafell Glacier & Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon Hikes, Drive to Vík í Mýrdal

Skaftafell Glacier Hike
Skaftafell Glacier Hike

This morning, prepare for more adventure as you don crampons and grasp an ice ax to hike atop the Skaftafell glacier. Accompanied by a certified and experienced local guide, you'll spend three hours exploring a wonderland of ice sculptures, ridges, and deep crevasses, while marveling at the groans and loud cracking of the glacier up close and personal.

After lunch in Skaftafell, you'll have time to hike to the picturesque Svartifoss waterfall before heading to Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, where a short hike leads to the rim of this winding and surreal moss-covered gorge, looking like a Hollywood creation for "Lord of the Rings." Continue west across the vast lava wash plains to Hjörleifshöfði. On this sizeable volcanic promontory, you can hike steeply up from the Gígjagjá cave to view the 9th-century burial site of Viking settler Hjörleifur Hróðmarsson. You'll overnight in nearby Vík í Mýrdal.

Day 8: Kötlujökull "Secret Ice Cave" Hike, Explore the South Coast, To Hveragerði

Explore inside the "Secret Ice Cave" of the Kötlujökull glacier

This morning you'll meet your guide in Vík and board a "Super Jeep" for the ride up to the Kötlujökull glacier, a beautiful icefall of the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap that smothers the active Kafta volcano. You'll then hike to the "Secret Ice Cave" to explore inside an ice tunnel on the glacier's side. Back in Vík, drive west along the South Coast, stopping at many of Iceland's most iconic sites, beginning immediately south of town with the sea stacks and columnar basalt cliffs of Reynisfjara, with a black-sand beach unfurling to the west.

Then head to the other end of the beach to marvel at the Dyrholaey stone sea-arch (and, in summer, nesting puffins) before continuing west to the picture-perfect Skógafoss waterfall and the nearby Skógar Folk Museum, where you can explore within a traditional turf-house farmstead. Next, head the short distance to Seljalandsfoss waterfall, where, if conditions permit, you can uniquely walk behind the cascade (raingear is recommended). Then head into Hveragerði and to your accommodation.

Day 9: Golden Circle: Geysir, Gullfoss, Þingvellir National Park & Silfra Snorkeling

Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir National Park

Start today with a short drive north to walk around the Kerið volcanic crater, filled with a jade-colored lake, to begin a circuit of the Golden Circuit. Then continue up-valley to the Geysir geothermal area, a hissing, steaming, bubbling cauldron where trails lead to various geysers, most notably Strokkur, which every 5-10 minutes blasts boiling water up to 100 feet (30 m) into the air. Another 10-minute drive brings you to Gullfoss ("Golden Falls"), a two-stage waterfall among Iceland's most iconic.

Head southwest to Þingvellir National Park, astride the Mid-Atlantic Rift Valley, separating the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. Begin by hiking along the rift to the Öxarárfoss waterfall, tumbling into the trench. Then up the excitement quotient by donning a wet suit for a guided snorkeling adventure in the crystal-clear waters of the Silfra fissure. Finally, circle back to Hveragerði to relax at your hotel or take a short hike to the Reykjadalur ("Steam Valley") hot-spring thermal river.

Day 10: Lava Tunnel Tour, Reykjanes Peninsula & Blue Lagoon, Drive to Keflavik

Lava Tunnel Tour
Lava Tunnel Tour

Today focus on the dramatic Moon-like landscapes of the Reykjanes Peninsula. A clockwise loop begins with a one-hour tour of the Raufarhólshellir Lava Tunnel, a huge natural conduit formed during a volcanic eruption 5,000 years ago. Then head to jade-colored Lake Kleifarvatn, occupying a deep cleft of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge Zone. At its southern end is the Krysuvik geothermal area, where trails lead through a landscape of sulfur pots, bubbling mud pools, and hissing steam vents. Next, continue to the world-famous Blue Lagoon spa for lunch and to soak al fresco in the turquoise geothermal pools.

After lunch, head to Fagradalsfjall, where a 5-mile (8 km) round-trip hike leads to the conical volcanic crater and new lava field created during a six-month eruption in 2021. Then follow the coastal road west to walk across the Bridge Between Continents, a footbridge spanning a sheer-sided fissure at the diverging tectonic plate margin. Continue into the town of Keflavik, where you can drop off your rental car and stay overnight before your departure flight tomorrow.

Day 11: Depart Keflavik

Keflavik from the air

This morning you'll head to nearby Keflavik airport to check in for your departure time. If you have an afternoon flight, you can spend the morning exploring Keflavik, including the superb Viking World museum. Exhibitions focus on Norse mythology and Sagas, Viking expansion across the North Atlantic, and archaeological findings from the Reykjanes region. Still, the highlight is the full-scale Viking ship replica. And the Icelandic Museum of Rock 'n' Roll will fascinate music fans with its exhibitions on the history of contemporary Icelandic music, such as the Sugarcubes, Björk, and Sigur Rós.

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Map of Self-Drive Iceland North, East & South: Half Circle Fly & Drive - 11 Days
Map of Self-Drive Iceland North, East & South: Half Circle Fly & Drive - 11 Days