Extreme Iceland - 14 day Self Drive Tour
Around the country and through it
Here you have a description of a self drive tour around Iceland with the duration of 14 days and 13 nights. This tour gives you plenty of time to cover all the major stunning attractions which Iceland has to offer. Besides following the ring road this route will take you to the highland's most amazing places including Askja crater, Hveravellir hot springs, Landmannalaugar and Hekla.
Check out these guided minibus tours:
The Ring Road - 7 days with northern lights hunting.
The Ring Road - 7 day summer package.
A list of tours and activities around Iceland.
Day 2: Snowmobile tour from Myrdalsjokull glacier (all year)
Sailing Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon (Apr-Nov)
Day 8: Whale watching from Husavik (Apr-Oct)
Day 12: Horse Riding along the Black River (all year)
River Rafting in north Iceland (May-Sep)
Day 13: Ferry to Flatey island (all year)
Day 14: Snorkeling under the Midnight Sun (May-Aug)
Bring with you: Warm clothes, sturdy shoes.
For further information:
The schedule of this day depends on the time of your arrival in Iceland. Collect your car at the International airport in Keflavik and maybe go straight to the Blue Lagoon (if your flight schedule allows for time), where you could enjoy the unique nature and relax. The Blue Lagoon is a natural pool of sea water in the middle of a lava field filled with moss. If you opt for car collection at the airport (for a small extra fee), you will need to book this. Today is a good time to check out the thermal swimming pools in Iceland's pristine capital, or go to the mall for some shopping, or do some sightseeing around in the city. You will also have some buffer time to settle yourself ready for the big trip beginning tomorrow.
Optional: Dining out in Reykjavik - Restaurants
One option is to take the road to the south coast via Reykjanes peninsula and to drive to the small fishing village of Grindavik and then to follow the road over some lava fields all the way to the "toe" of Reykjanes where the Atlantic Ocean ridge takes to the land with the small island Eldey nearby and an old lighthouse, this is a good place for you to stop for a while.
You could see the hot spring area and the geyser Gunnuhver and then go to Krysuvik geothermal area where you could visit the sulphur springs at Seltun, a great hot spring area where magma exists at very little depth beneath the earth. The surface of land here looks as though it has been boiled and it is colourful; there are more than one hundred hot springs; steam geysers, water geysers and even mud pit geysers. From there you would need to drive to nearby Lake Kleifarvatn which offers a unique landscape. Continuing your journey along the rugged south coast you will be able to visit the bay of Selvogur, Lake Hlidarvatn and the popular Strandarkirkja church. Legend has it that seamen in mortal danger vowed to build a church on the coast if they survived. Today, people with various problems still seek help at the church. It is also good to visit the sandy shore near Olfusarbru where the waves of the Atlantic Ocean reach land and also to see the fishing village of Eyrarbakki before continuing to the town of Selfoss where you reach the ring road. Heading further east your drive will take you through the villages of Hella and Hvolsvollur where you could visit a nice museum all about the Icelandic Sagas.
From Hvolsvollur you will need to head towards the central volcano Eyjafjallajokull. You could stop at Seljalandsfoss waterfall and/or Skogafoss waterfall before you drive to Solheimajokull glacier and then on to Dyrholaey, Vik and Reynisdrangar. From Vik your route will take you over Myrdalssandur where you will see up to the central volcano Katla which is under the ice-cap of the Myrdalsjokull glacier.
East of Myrdalssandur you will come to the Eldgjarhraun lava field, which was created from the largest volume single eruption lava flow on Earth in historic times, formed from one massive eruption in the year 934 in the volcanic rift of Eldgja which is almost 60 kilometres long. East of Eldgjahraun lava field and the glacier river of Kudafljot, you will come to the historic lava field of Skaftareldahraun, formed in a huge eruption in the Lakagigar crater-row between June 8th 1783 and February 7th 1784. A lot of farms and their farmlands were destroyed in the aftermath of the eruption because of ash fall and most of the livestock subsequently died. The lava field remains all 656 sq. kilometres and 14 cubic kilometres of it! Your drive will take you to Fjadrargljufur, a river gorge where the river Fjadra cascades down the cliff-side into the spectacular gorge beneath, you could take a hike in the gorge. Your route will then take you to the Landbrotsholar hills around Kirkjubaejarklaustur which is one of the largest pseudo-crater areas in the world.
When you arrive at the village of Kirkjubaejarklaustur you could take a hike to Systrastapi, a steep rocky hill. Folklore says that on top of this hill, two nuns of the monastery were buried after being burned at the stake for violating codes of ethics. This rocky hill can be ascended and from the top the view of the glaciers and many other things, is amazing.
Accommodation: book in the area around Kirkjubaejarklaustur.
Optional: Snowmobile tour from Myrdalsjokull glacier (all year)
Skaftafell in Vatnajokull National Park
We recommend you to stop at Kirkjugolf, a black basalt columnar floor formation Kirkjugolf which is around 80 square metres. The translation of the name is "church floor" although a church has never been built there but the basalt columnar floor looks like it has been laid by human beings. Your tour continues to include stops at Foss á Sidu, a waterfall, and Dverghamrar which are peculiar columnar basalt rock formations, created by the surging sea when the level of the ocean was higher around the last ice age.
You will then need to drive east over the glacial river of Hverfisfljot which splits two lava fields apart, Skaftareldahraun and Nupahraun. At the farm Núpsstadur there are remarkable old buildings believed to be typical of the farms in Iceland in past centuries. Continue to Lomagnupur Pass, a 767 metres high mountain pass, and further east where you will pass the two major rivers of Nupsvotn and Gigjukvisl as you cross the Skeidararsandur sand plains. The water which once flowed through the riverbed of Skeidara River now flows onto the riverbed of Gigjukvisl. The bridge over Gigjukvisl was swept away by the bulging river in a massive glacier run in 1996 after an eruption in Gjalp in the Vatnajokull glacier ice cap.
Skeidararsandur is an enormous sand plain which stretches from Skeidararjokull glacier to the sea, like other sand plains in this area it was formed from glacier runs and it is the largest sand plain in the world and covers 1300 km². Several eruptions under the glacier have caused glacier runs, these runs are originated in the Grimsvotn central volcano system, the last one was in 2011. Closest to the glacier the sand plain is really rocky, with massive boulders but closer to the sea it transforms into gravel and mud. There is also very little vegetation on Skeidararsandur sand plain. The sand plain area closest to the sea is important to the seal population around the island because the seals use it as a nursing ground for their newborn pups. This sand plain is also the largest breeding ground for the Great Skua in Iceland.
You will cross the bridge over the Skeidara River which is the longest bridge in Iceland, about 900 metres long on your way to the National Park of Skaftafell. It was established in 1967 and is the largest of its kind in Europe, covering around 5000 square kilometres. The glacier tongues of the Skeidararjokull, Morsarjokull and Skaftafellsjokull glaciers give the National Park some truly majestic scenery and the country's highest peak, Hvannadalshnukur, is to be found here. There are few places in the country where you can more easily get in touch with the great white heart of Iceland. In Skaftafell National Park you will find many hiking paths, both easy and hard ones and it is possible to get really close to glaciers. It is possible to take a guided glacier walk.
Many hikes are possible within the park allowing you to get great views of the Svartifoss waterfall, Skaftafellsjokull glacier, and Svinafellsjokull glacier before you drive on to Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon - you will find more photos to view here.
Accommodation should be booked close to this area.
Accommodation: book in the area surrounding Skaftafell.
The East Fjords
First your route will take you on a drive to the village of Hofn where you will enjoy fabulous views to many of the outlet glaciers from Vatnajokull with nearby valleys before you get to Hofn, a village situated in breathtaking scenery within the realm of Vatnajokull, the greatest glacier in Europe. Next you will need to drive to Djupivogur, a small town with a history of trading since 1589 and a long history of fishing, located in a region of incomparable natural beauty. Langabud, the oldest house in Djupivogur, is made of logs and was originally built in 1790. The towering mountain Bulandstindur which is 1069 metres high, dominates the landscape here. Ths mountain is pyramid shaped and many believe it to be the source of a cosmic power.
Form here you will need to drive north along the rugged and varied coastline of Austfirdir, Iceland´s magnificent East Fjords, it is good to stop here and there, such as in the villages of Djupivogur, Breiddalsvik, Stodvarfjordur, Faskrudsfjordur and Reydarfjordur. Your route will take you around Lake Lagarfljot where it is possible to stop at both places of historical interest and places with special nature. For example, Hengifoss waterfall with the height of 118 metres, one of the highest waterfalls in the country, take a short hike following the trails in Hallormsstadaskogur forest, the biggest forest in Iceland or visit the center of culture and history at Skriduklaustur.
Lake Lagarfljot (also called Logurinn) situated near Egilsstadir town has a surface area of 53 km² and is 25 km long, its greatest width is 2.5 km and its greatest depth is 12 m. The River Lagarfljot flows through this lake. A worm-monster called Lagarfljotsormurinn is believed to be living in the depths of Lake Lagarfljot.
Accommodation: book in the town of Egilsstadir or its surrounding area.
Askja and the North East Highland
It is best to wake up early because today is a long day for driving. Your route will take you to the mountains of Upptyppingar and Askja where you will experience a unique nature, caused by volcanic eruptions. There are numerous hiking trails in the Herdubreidarlindir area and the nature is unique. It is good to a walk to Lake Oskjuvatn and enjoy a bath at Viti if you feel up for this. Lake Oskjuvatn is the deepest lake in Iceland, formed during Easter of 1875 when an immensely powerful eruption occurred in the southern corner of Askja, the present site of Lake Oskjuvatn. After the eruption, the magma chamber ceiling began to subside, eventually stopping at 250 meters below its former level. The depression filled with ground water and formed the 220 metres deep lake.
Viti is a popular bathing site, but those intending to bathe should be warned that the sloping path is very slippery in wet weather and the mud at the bottom is quite hot, especially at the eastern bank.
From there you will need to drive to the highland oasis Herdubreidarlindir and the north to Myvatn
Accommodation: book in the area surrounding Lake Myvatn.
Myvatn area and Jardbodin
Your route today will take you across the Modrudalsoraefi Highlands to Lake Myvatn.The lake and its surrounding area are full of magnificent and unique natural wonders. You will find a thriving bird life, including various duck species, along with volcanic phenomena such as pseudo-craters. Here, you will also find the largest explosion crater in Europe and strange lava fields, the like of which you would only expect to see on Mars. Explore the natural wonders of Lake Myvatn and see highlights such as Hofdi, where one-of-a-kind lava clusters rise out of the lake as well as Dimmuborgir, where the interaction between the magnificent lava formations plays with the imagination. Dimmuborgir sports a lava formation which can be walked into and looks like a church dome. See also the pseudo craters at Skutustadir, the colourful sulfurous slopes of the Namaskard and Krafla volcano area. You must not forget the Grjotagja chasm which is yet another wonder; it has an underground flow of hot water and can be explored on foot. You could even take a bath in this natural bathing place.
In the evening you could take a bath in Jardbodin Geothermal Spa, a natural bathing site in a lagoon which has many special properties. The water contains minerals in large amounts and is alkaline and therefore good for bathing. Because of the composition of minerals, harmful bacteria and vegetation cannot survive in the water. No chlorine or other disinfectants are therefore added to it. A hot tub and a natural sauna are also on site.
Accommodation: again book in the area surrounding Lake Myvatn.
Jokulsargljufur National Park
From Myvatn your route will take you on a drive to the geothermal area at Hverarond and Krafla, here the boiling and spitting sulphuric mud and clay springs may make you feel like you have gone back to the time of creation of the world itself. It is an experience not just for your eyes and nose, this place also provides music for your ears as you can hear "the scream of steam" as it escapes from the holes.
You will then need to drive to Jokulsargljufur National Park. The Jokulsargljufur canyon and its surroundings are thought to have been cut into the bedrock through a sequence of catastrophic glacial floods. Enormous, catastrophic glacial bursts have carved out the deep ravines and rocky basins, the most famous of which is Asbyrgi canyon, 3.5 km long and over 1 km wide. It is one of the wonders of nature, a wide, horseshoe-shaped canyon with sheer cliff faces up to 100 m high. When walking in Asbyrgi you can imagine how it was carved by enormous water flow. It is good to allow your mind to imagine huge waterfalls cascading down the cliffs dropping into to the now silent ponds Botnstjorn and Leirtjorn in their surroundings of luxuriant vegetation.
You must see see the unique series of waterfalls in the River Jokulsa a Fjollum - Selfoss, Dettifoss, Hafragilsfoss and Rettarfoss - they have few equals on earth. Falling 45 m with a width of 100 m, Dettifoss is reputed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe. You will be able to see Hljodaklettar, outcrops that are the cores of an ancient crater row, revealed when the river swept away all the loose volcanic material. A little further to the north are the Raudholar cliffs, the original scoria cones and longest fissure row on earth. Finally, you will need to head around the town of Tjornes towards Husavik.
Accommodation: book in Husavik or its surrounding area.
North Iceland and Akureyri
You could start the day with a whale watching tour from Husavik. This cozy town is the main one in Thingeyjarsysla, a prosperous community by the eastern side of Skjalfandi bay. Its heart beats around the harbour with its remarkable whale museum. The church, built in 1907, stands on the main street and is regarded as an emblem of the town. Along the street you will find the museum building with its collection of museums: a regional museum, district archives, museum of natural history, maritime museum and photograph and film archives. Husavik has a botanical garden and numerous pleasant hiking routes. One of the most popular routes is a walk around Lake Botnsvatn, just above the town.
From Husavik you will need to drive to Godafoss Waterfall, one of the most impressive waterfalls in the country, situated in the 175 km long glacial river Skjalfandafljot. According to the Saga of Christianity the formerly Pagan Chieftain Thorgeir threw the wooden images of the Pagan Gods into this waterfall after Christianity had been accepted on the Parliamentary Plains of Thingvellir in the year 1000 and the name, The Waterfall of the Gods, is derived from this event.
From Godafoss your drive will take you over the heath to Akureyri, the biggest town in north Iceland, where you could take a walk around town and enjoy the sight of its location by a scenic fjord with the streets winding their way through gorges. It is good to spend some time walking around the town centre, seeing the impressive church and checking out Listagilið (literally: "the art canyon"), home to a number of arts and crafts galleries and shops. The tranquil municipal botanical garden, Lystigardurinn, is well worth visiting, as are the several small museums dotted around the town. From Akureyri your route will take you back towards Godafoss.
Accommodation: book in the area surrounding Godafoss.
Optional: Whale watching tour from Husavik (Apr - Oct)
Isholsvatn Lake and Sprengisandur
Today your route will take you on a drive into the valley of Bardardalur with the chance to stop by the waterfalls of Aldeyjarfoss and Hrafnabjargafoss and at Lake Isholsvatn. You will then need to head south along the Sprengisandur Highland Road passing between the Hofsjokull and Vatnajokull glaciers. It is great to enjoy the specific view of mountains and glaciers whilst driving over the Sprengisandur wasteland. The meaning of the name references back to the olden times when people had to cross the desert fast with their horses, i.e. they had to "spring" over it, so as to get new grass and water for themselves and the animals at the other side.
It is good to take a break at Nyidalur before you drive on to the Hrauneyjar dam.
Accommodation: book in the area around Haruneyjar dam.
Landmannalaugar and Mount Hekla
Today your route will take you to the highland geothermal oasis of Landmannalaugar. This area displays a number of unusual geological elements, such as the multicoloured rhyolite mountains and expansive lava fields. The mountains in the surrounding area display a wide spectrum of colours including pink, brown, green, yellow, blue, purple, black, and white. Here you could take a hike in beautiful surroundings and enjoy a bath in the hot natural pool.
Next, you will need to drive the Landmannaleid towards Mt. Hekla, the most famous volcano of Iceland, a stratovolcano with a height of 1.491 metres. Hekla is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes; over 20 eruptions have occurred in and around this volcano since 874. During the Middle Ages, Europeans called the volcano the "Gateway to Hell". Hekla is part of a volcanic ridge, 40 kilometres long. However, the most active part of this ridge, a fissure about 5.5 km (3.4 mi) long named Heklugja, is considered to be the volcano Hekla proper.
The volcano's frequent large eruptions have covered much of Iceland with tephra and these layers can be used to date eruptions of Iceland's other volcanoes. 10% of the tephra created in Iceland in the last thousand years has come from Hekla, amounting to 5 km3. The volcano has produced one of the largest volumes of lava of any volcano in the world in the last millennium, around 8 km3. Your tour will then take you on a drive over to the valley of Thjorsardalur (Þjórsárdalur), there you will be able to visit the old Viking farm at Stöng. The farm at Stöng was devastated by the first documented Hekla eruption in 1104 along with many other farms in the valley. In 1939, a team of Nordic archaeologists started excavating a few of them and it was decided to preserve the Stöng excavation site for visitors. The Viking Farm, built in 1974-77 in the valley, was based on the arrangement of the Stong farm.
The beautiful Gjain gorge is nearby and no one regrets walking a bit further to see this oasis in the barren landscape. The waterfall Hjalparfoss is nearby and is also well worth visiting.
Accommodation: book in the area of Stöng and Hjalparfoss.
The Golden Circle and Hveravellir
Today your drive will take you to the Geysir geothermal field. This field has hundreds of hot springs, such as the Great Geysir which all other geysers in the world take name from and the geysir Strokkur which erupts every five to ten minutes.
From Geysir geothermal field you will need to drive to Gullfoss, to see Iceland's most famous waterfall and one of the natural wonders of the world. It is in the mighty glacial River Hvita (White River) and here you can watch the enormous white glacial water cascade 32 metres down into a narrow canyon which is 70 metres deep and 2.5 kilometres long. Its spectacular two-tiered cataract hangs in the air like fine drizzle, which forms a rainbow in the sunlight.
Next, you will need to drive north along the Kjolur Road and on to Hvitvarvatn lake. Lake Hvitarvatn has an area of 29,4 km². Its greatest depth is 84 m and it is situated 421 m above sea level at the eastern edge of the country's second largest glacier, Langjokull. Its discharge is the glacial river Hvita, which contains the famous Gullfoss Waterfalls. On a fine day you can expect to see one of the most spectacular sceneries in Iceland around Lake Hvitarvatn. The Icelandic Tourist Association´s oldest hut (1928) is near the River Tjarnara. Some people, who probably are more sensitive than others, claim to have seen or been aware of a ghost roaming about in the hut during the night.
From Hvitarvatn you will need to drive along the Kjolur road to Hveravellir hot spring area. Hveravellir is a unique nature reserve situated between the Langjökull and Hofsjökull glaciers. This is one of the most beautiful geothermal areas in the world with smoking fumaroles and it is beautifully shaped with sky blue, boiling water. Finally, you will need to drive north towards Blonduos.
Accommodation: book in the area around Blonduos.
Blonduos and Northwest Iceland
Today your route will take you south from Blonduos along the Ring road until you turn to Vatnsnes. It is good to take a walk to the hill of Borgarvirki which at 177 m over sea level dominates the surrounding region. This is a volcanic plug and the sagas explain that in earlier centuries it was used for military purposes. You will then need to drive to Hvitserkur, a 15 m high monolith, which stands just offshore from the land. Many bird species live there and the rock bares their mark, as it is white from bird excrement. You drive around Vatnsnes, with stops at Hindisvik and the village of Hvammstangi. Hvammstangi is the largest community in West Hunathing whose history as a trading centre dates back more than 100 years. If you would like to see how people in days gone by conducted their daily trading in the general stores, the Trade Museum will tell you all you need to know. The Icelandic Seal Center provides information on seals and the Vatnsnes area, besides serving as a general tourist information bureau.
From here your route will take you to Budardalur and along the road at the entry to Hvammsfjordur fjord. Enjoy the great view over the islands of Breidafjordur, which were believed to be too many to count, as you head towards Stikkysholmur (Snaefellsnes peninsula).
Accommodation: book in Stykkisholmur or its surrounding area.
This nice little fishing village is a great place to take a stroll. You could seize the chance for to take an almost 6-hour boat tour to the island of Flatey. Because of its location, Stykkisholmur became a centre for trade, transportation and services on Breidafjordur early in Iceland’s history. The town is still an ideal destination for those who wish to experience the diversity of nature and life on Breidafjordur.
The town of Stykkisholmur is like a museum of old houses which have recently been renovated, giving the town a charming look, such as Kuld's House, Norwegian house, Egill's house, Clause's house, Tag and Rig and of course the Old Church. The oldest building, the Norwegian House (Norska Husid), is the Snaefellsnes Folk Museum. Souvenirs and handicrafts are sold there, and there are often special exhibitions put on by the museum or artists.
Your route will take you from Stykkisholmur to Grundarfjordur and Olafsvik and then into the Snaefellsjokull glacier National Park and you can find more photos here. Snaefellsjokull National Park – Iceland's only National Park to extend to the seashore – spanning an area of 170 sq km. The coast is varied and alive with birdlife during the breeding season. The coastal plain is mostly covered by lava which flowed from the glacier or nearby craters. The lava is covered with moss but sheltered hollows can be found in many places, filled with a sizable variety of thriving, verdant plants. The omnipresent Snaefellsjokull glacier towers majestically over the Park, with trails of lava and signs of volcanic activity clearly visible on its flanks. On its north side the Eysteinsdalur valley cuts a path up from the plain encircled by alluringly steep mountains.
You could hike inside the National Park to Snaefellsjokull glacier, Saxholl, and also to Djupalon, Dritvik, Londrangar, Hellnar, Arnarstapi, Budahraun and Budir. Finally, your drive today will take you to Borgarnes and then on to Reykholt.
Acommodation: book in Reykholt or its surrounding area.
Optional: Ferry to Flatey island, from Stykkisholmur (all year)
Reykholt is one of Iceland's major historic sites, a cultural centre of past and present. The cultural heritage of the place is mainly based around the residence of the saga writer and historian, Snorri Sturluson, who lived in Reykholt between 1206 and 1241. You will see famous antiquities like the pool, passageway, old farmstead and hot water and steam channels dating from Snorri's time.
Your route will take you to the waterfalls of Hraunfossar and Barnafoss which are beautiful and unusual natural phenomena. The Hraunfossar falls are clear, cold springs which well up through the lava and run in falls and rapids into the Hvita River. Barnafoss has been evolving through recorded history, as the river has dug itself down through the lava and runs through a deep and narrow ravine. There used to be a stone arch spanning the river, forming a bridge between the districts at each side of the river. The name "Barnafoss" (Children's Falls) is related to the local folk story that two boys from nearby lost their lives when they fell into the falls from the stone bridge. It is said the mournful mother had the bridge destroyed to prevent similar grievances. But actually the stone bridge was destroyed in an earthquake.
You will need to drive to Husafell which is a beautiful area with a great view to glaciers and mountains - you could also visit the swimming pool there. From here your drive continues over the Kaldidalur Pass, which is the second highest pass in Iceland and offers you a great view to glaciers and mountains. You will come to Thingvellir National Park where it is good to spend some time before you drive towards Reykjavik where you drop off your car (if you have not arranged to leave it at Keflavik International Airport). Your accommodation should be arranged in Reykjavik or Keflavik depending on your subsequent travel arrangements.
Optional: Snorkeling under the midnight sun (May - Aug)
-Option for the next day:
Caving tour with the Blue Lagoon (with the possibility of KEFLAVIK International Airport drop-off)-