Iceland Total - 16 day Self Drive Tour
Tour the whole island - the highlands and the West Fjords
Explore Iceland’s bountiful natural treasures in the most complete self drive tour we have to offer. You won't miss a thing! All three National Parks, beautiful waterfalls, striking glaciers, magnificent volcanoes and hot springs.
Here we present you with a tour around Iceland with the duration of 16 days and 15 nights. Drive along the so-called Ring Road, the West Fjords, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula - and the highland roads in Kjolur.
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.
Your car is collected at the airport or in Reykjavik where you spend your first night. Check out the thermal swimming pools in Iceland's pristine capital, or go to the mall for some shopping, or enjoy some sightseeing in the city. You will also have some leisure time to get yourselves settled for the big trip beginning tomorrow.
Accommodations: book in Reykjavik area.
Optional: Dining out in Reykjavik - Restaurants
Your tour begins with a drive to Reykjanes peninsula to the fishing village of Grindavik and over lava fields to the "toe" of Reykjanes where the Atlantic Ocean ridge takes to the land with the small island Eldey nearby. It is good to take a hike there before driving on to see the nearby Gunnuhver geyser. You will need to take the road back east to get 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 underneath so the surface of the land looks as though it has been boiled and is colourful. There are more than one hundred hot springs; steam geysers, water geysers and even mud pit geysers. From Seltun you drive to the nearby Lake Kleifarvatn, which offers a unique landscape.
Your journey continues along the rugged south coast with a visit to 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. You must visit the sandy shore near Olfusarbru bridge where the waves of the Atlantic Ocean reach land and the fishing village of Eyrarbakki. From there you will need to drive to the town of Selfoss and then head east through the villages Hella and Hvolfsvollur, here there is a nice museum where you could gain insight into one of our most reknown old sagas, the story of Burnt Njal.
When heading east from Hvolsvollur you get a view of Eyfjafjallajokull, a 1666m high glacier-capped strato volcano, the sixth biggest glacier in Iceland, about 80 square kilometres. Its last eruption was in 2010. You should stop at Seljalandsfoss waterfall. It's a unique waterfall, 60 metres high with a foot path behind it at the bottom of the cliff. It is the only known waterfall of its kind, where it is possible to walk behind. The waterfall is very picturesque and therefore its photograph can be found in many books and on calendars.
You will then need to drive further east to get to the beautiful 60-meter high Skogafoss waterfall in the river Skogaa. If the sun conditions are favourable you will see a vivid rainbow in front of the waterfall. Your journey continues to Myrdalsjokull glacier where you could take a snowmobile tour on the glacier - and get the opportunity to touch some 600 years old ice! From the glacier you will need to drive to Dyrholaey, a 120-meter high promontory to the west of the village of Vik.
The place got its name from the massive arch that the sea has eroded from the headland. (The name literally means "door-hole"). This headland is thought to have been formed in an underwater volcanic eruption late in the glacial period. Bird life here is abundant, with puffins and eider ducks being the most common species in the area. The lighthouse on the top of the cliff stands stoic and impressive in this often very windy area.
Your route will then take you to Reynisfjara beach and then on to the village of Vik and Reynisdrangar. From there your drive will take you east over the Myrdalssandur sand plains with a view up to the volcano Katla which is sleeping nicely under the Myrdalsjokull glacier. On the way you will drive over some glacier rivers and also across Eldgjarhraun lava field which is the biggest lava field from historic times in the world (19 cubic metres) and then over to Eldhraun which is the second biggest lava field from historic times in the world (13 cubic metres). Next, your drive will take you to the Landbrotsholar hills which is one of the largest pseudo-crater areas in the world. You will come to the village Kirkjubaejarklaustur and the steep rocky hill, Systrastapi, which can be ascended, giving from the top an amazing view of glaciers and other scenery. Optional: Snowmobile tour from Myrdalsjokull glacier (all year)
Accommodation: book in Kirkjubaejarklaustur or its surrounding area
Your first stop today is just east of Kirkjubaejarklaustur at the black basalt columnar floor formation of Kirkjugolf. The translation of the name is "church floor" although a church has never been built there but the basalt columnar floor looks like as though it has been laid by human beings.
From here you will need to drive on to Foss a Sidu (a waterfall) and Dverghamrar, a special basalt rock formation. Have a stop at Nupsstadur where there are some remarkable old buildings which are typical of the farms in Iceland in past centuries. You will pass Lomagnupur, a 767 metre high mountain and drive through specific landscape with lava fields and sand plains with huge glacial rivers. Skeidararsandur is an enormous sand plain which reaches from Skeidararjokull glacier to the sea, formed like other sand plains in this region from glacier runs, it is the largest sand plain in the world, covering 1300 km². Several eruptions under the glacier have caused glacier runs, the last one in 2011. There is very little vegetation on the Skeidararsandur sand plain giving it a barren look.
Your route will take you over the longest bridge in Iceland (900 metres long) across the River Skeidara to get to the National Park of Skaftafell. It was established in 1967 and is the largest Park of its kind in Europe, around 5000 square kilometres. The glacier tongues of the Skeidararjokull, Morsarjokull and Skaftafellsjokull glaciers and the country's highest peak, Hvannadalshnukur, give the National Park majestic scenery. There are few places in Iceland where you can get in contact more easily with the great white heart of Iceland.
In Skaftafell National Park you will find many hiking paths, both easy and hard ones and you are able to get really close to glaciers. Take a hike to Svartifoss waterfall. Or enjoy a guided glacier walk.
Due to the retreat of the glaciers a glacial lake has formed in front of the Kviarjokull and Fjallsjokull glaciers. It is good to have a stop at this nice little glacier lagoon, Fjallsarlon, with icebergs floating and a great view up to the creeping glaciers. Your journey continues as you drive east to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and the view to Breidamerkurjokull glacier opens up before you, this is the largest of Vatnajokull ice cap's glacier tongues. The glacier started to retreat at the start of last century and a lagoon formed in front of the glacial tongue in 1935. The lagoon was 8 sq. kilometres in 1975 but today it is 20 sq. kilometres. The lagoon is the deepest lake in Iceland at 248 metres. An uncountable amount of icebergs float upon its surface, a boat trip on the lagoon will allow you to take a really close look at those icebergs as you sail between them. You will find more photographs of the lagoon here.
After a sailing tour on the lagoon and hiking to the shore - where icebergs float out to the sea you will need to drive in an easterly direction along the Ring road. There will on a clear day be a fabulous view to many of Vatnajokull´s outlet glaciers and nearby valleys on your journey to the village of Hofn, situated in breath-taking scenery in the realm of the greatest glacier in Europe, Vatnajokull. Accommodations are arranged in the Hofn area, which is also a good place to enjoy your evening meal.
Accommodation: book in the area surrounding Hofn in Hornafjordur.
Optional: Glacier hike in Skaftafell (all year)
Optional: Ice caves for photographers (Nov - Mar)
Optional: Boat tour in Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon (Apr - Oct)
Your day will begin with a drive north from the town of Hofn to get to Djupivogur, a small village 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. The mountain is pyramid-shaped and many believe it to be the source of a cosmic power.
You will then need to head north along the rugged and varied coastline of Iceland´s magnificent East Fjords, stopping here and there, perhaps in the village of Stodvarfjordur where you could visit Petra's Stone Collection, one of the biggest and best stone collections in the world, a magical place full of beautiful stones and plants. Continue drive along narrow fjords surrounded by steep mountains to Faskrudsfjordur and Reydarfjordur. When you get to Lagarfljot Lake it is well worth taking the time to drive around it. It is good to stop at both places of historical interest and places with special nature such as Hengifoss waterfall. With the height of 118 m, it is one of the highest waterfalls in the country. If you are in the mood you could enjoy a short hike following the trails in Hallormsstadaskogur forest, the biggest forest in Iceland or visit the centre of culture and history at Skriduklaustur.
Lake Lagarfljot (also called Logurinn) situated near Egilsstadir town has a surface of 53 km² and is 25 km long, its greatest width is 2.5 km and its greatest depth 112 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 area surrounding Egilsstadir.
It is best to wake up early because you have a long day for driving. Your drive will take you to the mountains of Upptyppingar and the Askja volcano where you will experience a unique nature, caused by volcano eruptions. You could take a hike to Oskuvatn Lake and the crater Viti, this great wonder of the Icelandic highlands. The big crater which Lake Askja is in was formed in some hours by an eruption in 1875. A few other eruptions occurred in and around the crater during the few decades after that first eruption. The last time Askja erupted was in 1961 after being dormant for 32 years.
You could take a bath in the crater Viti but do be careful as the water can be hotter in some places than in others in this unique natural pool. From Viti you will need to drive to the oasis in the lava desert, Herdubreidarlindir, where it is well worth taking a stop before you drive north along the banks of the glacial river Jokulsa a Fjollum until you come to the Ring Road. Finally, you will need to head towards Myvatn.
Accommodation: book in the area surrounding Lake Myvatn.
Today you have a day to explore Lake Myvatn and its surroundings with their unique attractions. 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 kind of which you would expect to see on Mars. You must see highlights such as the rocky promontory Hofdi, where one-of-a-kind lava clusters rise out of the lake as well as Dimmuborgir, "The Dark Castles" - lava field rim 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.
Other "must sees" include the pseudo craters at Skutustadir, the colourful sulphurous slopes of 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.
You could also take a bath in Jardbodin, a geothermal spa and a natural bathing site in a lagoon which has many special properties. Its 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, therefore no chlorine or other disinfectants are added to it. A hot tub and a natural sauna are also on site.
Accommodation: book in the area surrounding Lake Myvatn.
Today your tour will begin with a drive from Myvatn to the geothermal area at Hverarond and Krafla where the boiling and spitting sulphuric mud and clay springs may make you feel like you have gone back in time to the creation of the world itself. This is an experience not just for your eyes and nose, the place also provides music for your ears as you can hear" the scream of steam" as it escapes the holes. We recommend you to take a hike in this remarkable place before you 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. Several 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.
This 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 it is easy to imagine how it was carved by an enormous water flow and to allow your mind to visualise huge waterfalls flowing down the cliffs down to the now silent ponds, Botnstjorn and Leirtjorn, in their surroundings of luxuriant vegetation.
You must see the unique series of waterfalls in the River Jokulsa a Fjollum - Selfoss, Dettifoss, Hafragilsfoss and Rettarfoss - and 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.
It is good to take a hike in Hljodaklettar, seeing 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 you will find the Raudholar cliffs, the original scoria cones and longest fissure row on earth.
Finally, you will need to drive around Tjornes towards the town of Husavik.
Accommodation: book in Husavik or its surrounding area.
You could take a whale watching tour from Husavik in the morning before you drive from Husavik to Godafoss Waterfall, one of the most impressive waterfalls of Iceland, situated in the glacial river Skjalfandafljot. According to the Saga of Christianity the formerly Pagan Chieftain Þorgeir Ljósvetningagodi (Chieftain of Ljosavatn) was the Law Speaker (keeper) of the Althing in Thingvellir in the year 1000. He was given the authority to make a decision about which religion should be adopted by the Icelandic people. Although he was a Pagan himself he came to the conclusion that Christianity was the religion all people should follow. When he returned home to Ljosavatn he took all his statues of the Pagan Gods and threw them into the waterfall. The name of the waterfall, Godafoss (the Waterfall of the Gods), is said to be derived from that event but his residence was at the nearby farm Ljosavatn. In the year 2000 a church was built at Ljosavatn to honor his memory.
Your tour continues as you drive west through valleys and from the top of the heath Vikurskard a nice view opens out to the fjord, Eyjafjordur, before your journey continues to the town of Akureyri, the biggest town in North Iceland. Here you could take a walk to enjoy the sight of its location by a scenic fjord and the streets winding their way through gorges. It is good to spend some time walking around the town centre, to see the impressive church and to check out Listagilið ("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.
Finally, you will need to head west from Akureyri through the valley of Horgardalur and over the heath of Oxnadalsheidi to the region of Skagafjörður, an area reknowned for its fertile farmland and horse breeding. Accommodations: in the Skagafjordur area.
Optional: Whale watching tour from Husavik (Apr - Oct)
Today your route will take you along the Kjolur Highland Road through Blondudalur valley and to Blondulon which is a man-made lake made for the hydro power plant. Parts of the Kjolur Highland Road are surfaced with gravel road which at some sections can only be driven slowly using lower gears. You will see an amazing view of mountains and the Langjokull and Hofsjokull glaciers if you are lucky to have a clear day. Your drive will take you into the middle of the highland area between the glaciers to Hveravellir hot spring area, a real oasis in the highland. You will then need to drive south to the glacier lake Hvitarvatn before you drive to Langjokull glacier where you could take a glacier hike and/or a boat tour if you wish to.
You will then need to drive along the road south to arrive at the place where the desert landscape changes to the verdant canyons of River Hvita where the Golden Waterfalls, Gullfoss falls onto the rapids. We recommend you to spend a good time there, enjoying the views of the most famous waterfall in Iceland.
Accommodation: book in the area surrounding Gullfoss Falls.
You drive to the famous Geysir hot-spring geothermal area, a great place to see geysers in action. You can see hundreds of hot springs such as Great Geysir which gave name to all other geysers in the world and Strokkur which erupts every 5 minutes or so.
You drive the road west and get to the hot spring village Laugarvatn, where you can visit a modern spa. From there you drive over the Laugardalsheidi heath and follow the road to Thingvellir national park, a site of great historical importance as parliament was founded here over 1000 years ago. You will be able to stand where Viking settlers proudly stood centuries ago. Gigantic rifts run through the park creating a stark and dramatic landscape. Gently moving tectonic plates run across Thingvellir, pulling apart around 2 cm a year, making it possible to stand on two continents at once!
Take hike down through the Almannagja gorge, see the deep fissure Flosagja with money coins glittering in the crystal clear cold water; you can even walk to the little church which was built in 1859 and to Oxararfoss waterfall.
After spending some good time at Thingvellir you will need to drive the highland roads of Uxahryggir and Kaldidalur to Langjokull and Husafell. Kaldidalur is the road through the second highest pass in Iceland. This is often nicknamed "Highland for beginners" as it is the shortest highland track in Iceland!
You should have a stop and short walk at the beautiful waterfalls of Barnafoss and Hraunfossar viewing the fresh blue color of the river Hvita contrasted against the white glacial waterfalls. Finally, you will need to drive to Reykholt.
Accomodation: book in Reykholt or its surrounding area.
Optional: Snorkeling under the midnight sun (May - Aug)
Today your tour begins with a drive to the village of Borgarnes which sits at the intersection of the roads leading to the western and northern parts of Iceland, within the scenic beauty of the area of Borgarfjordur which abounds in hot springs, lakes, rivers and beautiful waterfalls. This is the location of Egil's Saga and you could visit an interesting museum in the village. The island of Brakarey, which is nowadays connected by a bridge, was named after Egil's slave Thorgerdur brak after he drowned her in the sea near it. The town is among the friendliest towns in Iceland with all necessary services for travellers such as golf, angling, hunting, good swimming pools and historical sites.
Your drive continues north to Bifrost where a social science university is located, north of this you come to the crater, Grabrok, from which there are views of the beautiful scenery in the Borgarfjordur area. Grabrok can be ascended by a marked trail. From her you will need to drive across the heath over Brattabrekka, road 60 to the Hvammsfjordur fjord and village of Budardalur. The nearby valleys are the settings of several of the medieval epics including the Laxdaela Saga which focuses on a love triangle. Eiriksstaðir Farm in the Haukadalur valley was the home of the famous discoverer of America, Leifur Eiriksson.
From here your route will continue along road 60 to the fjord of Gilsfjordur, which on a clear day will give you a view of nice scenery and lovely surroundings. You will then need to take road 61 to the fjord of Steingrimsfjordur and the village of Holmavik. It has often been said that the people of this area, Strandir, know a bit more about witchcraft and sorcery than most others, to underscore that claim the Museum of Sorcery & Witchcraft has been set up which takes one on a magical tour into the mystical world of the supernatural. The museum covers magic practiced during the 17th century, as well as folktales, in a most informative and enjoyable way.
Your journey will take you north along the road to the fjords of Bjarnafjordur, Kaldbaksvik and the fjord with the funny name of Veidileysa which means No Fishing Fjord. It is best to drive with care under the towering cliffs and hillsides giving you ample time to really take in the fantastic scenery and the atmosphere of this strange and remote region. You arrive at Reykjarfjordur before you come to the small inlet of Djupavik.
Accommodation: book in Djupavik or the area close by.
Djupavik is a former fishing outfit and the Djupavik Hotel is the building that was formerly the living quarters for women working at the herring pickling factory which was established there in 1917, but was declared bankrupt a few years later. The operation started again in 1934 and continued successfully for about a decade until the herring disappeared from the Hunafloi Bay. It is good to take a stroll and observe the ruins of the factory.
Your route continues along the northern shores of the fjord of Reykjarfjordur towards Gjogur, a tiny fishing hamlet which also sports a local airport close by.
You will then come to Nordurfjordur and in this tiny harbour with its fish curing factory, you will even find a grocery store, telling you that although you are in the centre of a now depopulated region, despite countless adversities the community still continues to survive. More photographs of this area may be found here.
From Nordurfjordur you will need to drive around the Krossnes peninsula to the former farm of Fell where you could enjoy a swim in Krossneslaug, a wonderful swimming pool which is uniquely located with the waves from the sea at the side. On your drive back and you will need to take the road 649 to Ingolfsfjordur fjord which offers a beautiful view towards the jagged peaks of Drangaskord Pinnacles, one of the best known landmarks in the Strandir area. The five (although some count seven) pinnacles that stick out into the ocean can be seen from miles around.
Herring stations and a big processing factory were built in Ingolfsfjordur just before and during the Second World War, but as herring disappeared from these waters they were abandoned shortly afterwards, nowadays these are silent monuments of an earlier time. Here the trail ends and your route will take you back south to the fjord of Steingrimsfjordur where you will need to take road 61 over the Steingrimsfjordur plateau to arrive at the fjord of Isafjordur. Driving this road will take you along the fjords of Mjoifjordur, Skotufjordur, Seydisfjordur, Hestfjordur and Alftafjordur all the way to the town of Isafjordur.
Accommodation: book in Isafjordur or its surrounding area.
The Westfjords region have sometimes been dubbed "the most famous unknown place in Iceland". Today you will have the chance to enjoy it as you drive the road along the fjords Sugandafjordur, Onundarfjordur, Dyrafjordur and Arnarfjordur. At the bottom of Arnarfjordur you will need to drive over the Dynjandi pass to the Dynjandi Waterfall, one of the highlights of the Westfjords. It really is a "must" to visit and see this waterfall with your own eyes.
This region boasts of a unique nature which attracts visitors, it is untouched and almost uninhabited. The cliffs and valleys are packed with birds, the uninhabited fjords offer a moment of silence and tranquility, and the Arctic fox proudly roams the mountains and inlets. The waterfalls are high and the streams are pure. The distances are long and the fjords are deep. And then there are places where there are no roads at all.
You will arrive at the villages of Bildudalur, Talknafjordur and Patreksfjordur before you drive on to Latrabjarg, the western-most part of Europe. Latrabjarg hosts millions of birds and is vital for their survival because it hosts up to 40% of the world population of some species, for example, the Razorbill. This is the largest bird cliff in Europe, 14km long and up to 440m high. Accommodation: reccommended to book at Hotel Latrabjarg or in the surrounding area.
Optional: Kayaking in Isafjordur (all year)
Today your drive will take you to Raudisandur, a unique place to visit and you should allocate time to visit this beautiful hidden secret of Iceland. Your drive will take you to Vatnsfjordur where the early settler Hrafna Floki settled around the year 860, however, he experienced a harsh winter with snow and ice which resulted in the loss of his entire stock. He then became angry and named the land Iceland before his departure from the country. Other settlers - Vikings with more survival skills - then came and managed to survive. Your drive continues to the village of Brjanslaekur where you need to take the ferry over Breidafjordur Bay to the town of Stykkisholmur.
If you take the ferry at noon then you will have time to stop at the particularly interesting island of Flatey, at no extra cost. You collect your car in Stykkisholmur later on. 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 diversity of nature. Stykkisholmur is in fact 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.
Accommodation: stay in Stykkisholmur or in the area surrounding it.
Optional: Ferry from the West Fjords to Stykkisholmur (all year)
Snaefellsjokull National Park – Iceland's only National Park to extend to the seashore – covers an area of 170 sq. kilometres. 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 although 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 alluring steep mountains.
You could hike inside the National Park to Snaefellsjokull glacier, Saxholl, and/or also to Djupalon, Dritvik, Londrangar, Hellnar, Arnarstapi, Budahraun and Budir.Your drive will then continue to Borgarnes before your route will take you back to Reykjavik. Enjoy your evening in Reykjavik.
Accommodation: reserve a spot in Reykjavik.
Your final chance to enjoy Reykjavik before you drive to the popular Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa on the Reykjanes peninsula (very near to the International Airport at Keflavik) where you could relax for some time. Your car is returned to the airport (if you have selected this option). Alternatively you may wish to spend an extra night(s) in Reykjavik and drop the car there.