Extreme Iceland - 14 days Self Drive
SELF11 - Around the country and through it
Indulge in Iceland’s bountiful natural treasures by car and at your own pace. See national parks, beautiful waterfalls, striking glaciers, magnificent volcanoes and hot springs.
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 that Iceland has to offer. Besides following the ring road this route will take you to the highland's most amazing places like Askja crater, Hveravellir hot springs, Landmannalaugar and Hekla.
You will explore and experience all of the well-known attractions in almost all Iceland. This includes Reykjavik city, Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir and some other hot springs, the national parks at Thingvellir and Skaftafell, Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, Jokulsargljufur National Park, Dettifoss, Snaefellnes peninsula, Reykjanes peninsula and many more. Everything already organized for your convenience.
July, August, September
16 days / 15 nights
Quality rental vehicle
Accommodation with breakfast
A detailed itinerary
Day 2: Snowmobile tour from Myrdalsjokull glacier (all year)
Day 8: Whale Watching in Husavik (Apr - Oct)
Day 11: Glacier hike on Langjokull and boat tour (Jun-Sep)
Day 13: Ferry to Flatey island (May - Aug)
Day 14: Snorkeling under the Midnight Sun (May-Aug)
The schedule of this day depends on the time of your arrival in Iceland. Collect the car at the Int'l airport in Keflavik and go to the Blue Lagoon (if your flight schedule allows for time), where you can enjoy a 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'll need to book that. Check to the thermal swimming pools in Iceland's pristine capital, or go to the mall for some shopping, or some sightseeing around in the city. You'll also have some buffer time to get yourselves settled for the big trip beginning tomorrow.
Optional: Dining out in Reykjavik - Restaurants
One option is to take the road to south coast via Reykjanes peninsula. Then you drive to the small fishing village Grindavik and from there follow the road over some lava fields all the way to the “toe” of Reykjanes where the Atlantic Ocean ridge takes land with the small island Eldey nearby and an old lighthouse, there you should stop for a while.
Even see the hot spring area and the geyser Gunnuhver. You get to Krysuvik geothermal area where you can visit the sulphur springs at Seltun, a great hot spring area where magma exists at a little depth underneath. The surface of land looks boiled and colorful; the hot springs are more than hundred; steam geysers, water geysers and even mud pit geysers. From there you drive to the nearby Lake Kleifarvatn which offers a unique landscape. Continue along the rugged south coast and visit the bay 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. Visit the sandy shore near Olfusarbru where the waves of the Atlantic Ocean reach land and the fishing village Eyrarbakki and then to the town of Selfoss where you get to the ring road. Further east you drive through the Hella village and at Hvolsvollur village you can visit a nice museum about the Icelandic Sagas.
From Hvolsvollur you drive towards the central volcano Eyjafjallajokull. You stop at Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Skogafoss waterfall and then you drive to Solheimajokull glacier and then to Dyrholaey, Vik and Reynisdrangar. From Vik you drive over Myrdalssandur where you will see up to the central volcano Katla which is under the ice-cap of Myrdalsjokull glacier.
East of Myrdalssandur is Eldgjarhraun lava field, which happens to be the largest amount of lava on Earth to flow from a single eruption in historic time, formed in one massive eruption in the year 934 in the volcanic rift of Eldgja which is almost 60 kilometers long. East of Eldgjahraun lava field and the glacier river of Kudafljot, we'll find the historic lava field of Skaftareldahraun, formed in a huge eruption in the Lakagigar crater-row in June 8th 1783-February 7th 1784. A lot of farms and their farming areas were destroyed in the aftermath of the eruption because of ash-fall and most of the livestock died subsequently. The lava field remains all 656 sq. kilometers and 14 cubic kilometers of it. You drive to Fjadrargljufur river gorge where the river Fjadra cascades down the cliff-side into the spectacular gorge beneath and take a hike in the gorge. You drive to Landbrotsholar hills around Kirkjubaejarklaustur that's one of the largest pseudo-crater areas in the world.
You get to the village at Kirkjubaejarklaustur, take a hike to Systrastapi, a steep rocky hill. Folklore says that on top of it, two nuns of the monastery were buried after being burned at the stake for violating codes of ethics. The rocky hill can be ascended and from the top the view of glaciers, among other things, is amazing.
Your accommodation is near Kirkjubaejarklaustur.
Optional: Snowmobile tour from Myrdalsjokull glacier (all year)
Skaftafell in Vatnajokull National Park
You stop at Kirkjugolf, a black basalt columnar floor formation Kirkjugolf which is around 80 square meters. 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.Stop at Foss á Sidu waterfall and Dverghamrar that are a peculiar columnar basalt rock formation, created by the surging sea when the status of the ocean was higher around the last ice age.
Head east over the glacial river Hverfisfljot that splits two lava fields apart, Skaftareldahraun and Nupahraun. At the farm Núpsstadur there are remarkable old buildings believed to be typical for farms in Iceland in past centuries. Pass Lomagnupur, a 767 meter high mountain and further east we pass two major rivers Nupsvotn and Gigjukvisl on Skeidararsandur sand plains. The water that once flowed through the riverbed of Skeidara River now flows into 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 Vatnajokull glacier ice cap.
Skeidararsandur is an enormous sand plain that reaches from Skeidararjokull glacier to the sea, formed like other sand plains in this region from glacier runs and is the largest sand plain in the world and covers 1300 km². Several eruptions under the glacier have caused glacier runs, the last one in 2011 and are originated in Grimsvotn central volcano system. Closest to the glacier the sand plain is really rocky, with massive boulders but the further you get to the sea it transforms into gravel and mud. There is also very little vegetation on Skeidararsandur sand plain. The sand plain closest to the sea is important to the seal population around the island, for the seals use it as a nursing ground for their newborn pups. The sand plain is also the largest breeding ground for the Great Skua in Iceland.
Pass the bridge over Skeidara River which is the longest bridge in Iceland, about 900 meters long and get to the National Park of Skaftafell. It was established in 1967 and is the largest of its kind in Europe, around 5000 square kilometers. The glacier tongues of Skeidararjokull glacier, Morsarjokull glacier and Skaftafellsjokull glacier give the National Park majestic scenery with the country's highest peak, Hvannadalshnukur and there are few places in Iceland where you can more easily get in contact with the great whites of Iceland. In Skaftafell National Park you'll find many hiking paths, both easy and hard ones and you can get really close to glaciers. Here you can take a guided glacier walk.
In the park it's possible to hike and get in view Svartifoss waterfall, Skaftafellsjokull glacier, and Svinafellsjokull glacier. Then you drive to Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon - you can find more photos here.
After you have enjoyed the lagoon with its icebergs you drive to accommodation place nearby.
Optional: Guided glacier hike - Blue Ice Experience (Feb - Oct)
Optional: Boat tour in Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon (Apr - Oct)
The East Fjords
You drive to village Hofn enjoying a fabulous view to many outlet glaciers from Vatnajokull with nearby valleys. You get to Hofn village, situated in breathtaking scenery in the realm of the greatest glacier in Europe, Vatnajokull.
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 meters high, dominates the landscape. The mountain is pyramid-shaped and many believe it to be a source of cosmic power.
Then you drive up north along the rugged and varied coastline of Austfirdir, Iceland´s magnificent East Fjords, stopping here and there, like in the villages Djupivogur, Breiddalsvik, Stodvarfjordur, Faskrudsfjordur and Reydarfjordur. Drive around Lagarfljot Lake where it's possible to stop at both historical places and places with special nature like Hengifoss waterfall with the height of 118 m, 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.
The 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 close to Egilsstadir town.
Askja and the North East Highland
Wake up early because you have a long day for driving. You drive to the mountains Upptyppingar and Askja where you will experience a unique nature, caused by volcano eruptions. There are numerous hiking trails in the Herdubreidarlindir area and the nature is unique. Take a walk to Lake Oskjuvatn and a bath at Viti if you feel for it. 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 Oskjuvatn Lake. 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-metre deep lake.
Viti is a popular bathing site, but those intending to bathe there 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 drive to the highland oasis Herdubreidarlindir and north to Myvatn for accommodation.
Myvatn area and Jardbodin
You head across 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 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 that can be walked into and looks like a church dome. See the pseudo craters at Skutustadir, the colorful sulfurous slopes of Namaskard and Krafla volcano area. And don’t forget Grjotagja chasm which is yet another wonder; it has an underground flow of hot water and can be explored on foot. You can even take a bath in this natural bathing place.
In the evening you can take a bath in Jardbodin Geothermal Spa, a natural bathing site in a lagoon that 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. No chlorine or other disinfectants are therefore added to it. A hot tub and a natural sauna are also on site.
Accommodation at Myvatn Lake area.
Jokulsargljufur National Park
From Myvatn you drive to the geothermal area at Hverarond and Krafla where the boiling and spiting sulphuric mud and clay springs may make you feel like you have gone back in time to the creation of the world itself. It's 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.
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 and see in mind huge waterfalls flowing down the cliffs down to the now silent ponds Botnstjorn and Leirtjorn surrounded by luxuriant vegetation.
See a 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. Go and see Hljodaklettar, outcrops that are the cores of 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.
Then you drive around Tjornes to the town of Husavik for accommodation.
North Iceland and Akureyri
You can 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 harbor with its remarkable whale museum. The church, built in 1907, stands on the main street and is regarded as an emblem of the town. Up the street is 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 provides a botanical garden and numerous pleasant hiking routes. One of the most popular routes is a walk around the lake Botnsvatn, just above the town. You can start the day with a whale watching tour from Husavik.
From Husavik you drive to Godafoss waterfall one of the most impressive waterfalls of 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 the waterfall after Christianity had been accepted in the Parliamentary Plains in the year 1000 and the name, The Waterfall of the Gods, is derived from this event.
You drive from Godafoss over the heath to Akureyri, the biggest town in north Iceland where you can take a walk in town and enjoy the sight of its location by a scenic fjord and streets winding their way through gorges. Spend some time walking around the town centre, see the impressive church and check out Listagilið (literally: "the art canyon"), home to a number of arts and crafts galleries and shops. The tranquil municipal botanical garden, Lystigardurinn, is worth visiting, as are the several small museums dotted around down town.
From Akureyri you drive back towards Godafoss and there you get accommodated.
Optional: Whale watching tour from Husavik (Apr - Oct)
Isholsvatn Lake and Sprengisandur
You drive into the valley Bardardalur and stop by the waterfalls Aldeyjarfoss and Hrafnabjargafoss and the lake Isholsvatn. You set the course south on Sprengisandur highland road lying between the glaciers Hofsjokull and Vatnajokull. Enjoy the specific view to mountains and glaciers while driving over the Sprengisandur wasteland. Consider the meaning of the name which references to old time 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.
You can take a break at Nyidalur and from there you drive on to Hrauneyjar dam where you spend the night.
Landmannalaugar and Mount Hekla
From there you drive to the highland geothermal oasis of Landmannalaugar. The area displays a number of unusual geological elements, like the multicolored rhyolite mountains and expansive lava fields. The mountains in the surrounding area display a wide spectrum of colors including pink, brown, green, yellow, blue, purple, black, and white. There you can take a hike in beautiful surroundings and a bath in the hot natural pool.
Then you drive Landmannaleid towards Mt. Hekla, the most famous volcano of Iceland, a stratovolcano with a height of 1.491 meters. Hekla is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes; over 20 eruptions have occurred in and around the volcano since 874. During the Middle Ages, Europeans called the volcano the "Gateway to Hell." Hekla is part of a volcanic ridge, 40 kilometers 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 in the world in the last millennium, around 8 km3. You drive over to the valley Thjorsardalur (Þjórsárdalur), there you can visit the old Viking farm at Stöng. The farm Stong 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 Stong excavation 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 also worth visiting.
You will accommodate in the area.
The Golden Circle and Hveravellir
You drive to Geysir geothermal field. The 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 is erupting every five to ten minutes.
From Geysir geothermal field you drive to Gullfoss, 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 there we can watch the enormous white glacial cascade 32 meters down into a narrow canyon which is 70 meters deep and 2.5 kilometers long. Its spectacular two-tiered cataract hangs in the air like fine drizzle, which forms a rainbow in the sunlight.
Then you drive north Kjolur road and 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 Lake Hvitarvatn you can expect one of the most spectacular sceneries in the country on a fine day. The oldest tourist hut of the Icelandic Tourist Association (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 drive the Kjolur road to Hveravellir hot spring area. Hveravellir is a unique nature reserve situated between the glaciers Langjökull and Hofsjökull. This is one of the most beautiful geothermal areas in the world with smoking fumarolees and beautifully shaped with sky blue, boiling water. From there you drive north to Blonduos for accommodation.
You drive from Blonduos south the Ring road and turn to Vatnsnes. Take a walk to the hill Borgarvirki which at 177 m over sea level dominates the surrounding region. It is a volcanic plug and the sagas explain that in earlier centuries it was used for military purposes. You 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 Hvammstangi. Hvammstangi is the largest community in West Hunathing whose history as a trading centre dates back over 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 there you drive to Budardalur and follow the road at the entry to Hvammsfjordur fjord. Enjoy the great view over the islands of Breidafjordur which were believed to be uncountable.
You drive to Stykkisholmur (Snaefellsnes peninsula) for accommodation.
Optional: Horse Riding along the Black River (all year)
Optional: River Rafting in North Iceland (May - Sep)
Take a stroll in this nice little fishing village. You can seize the chance for 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 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.
You drive 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 that 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 alluring steep mountains.
You hike inside the national park to Snaefellsjokull glacier, Saxholl, and to Djupalon, Dritvik, Londrangar, Hellnar, Arnarstapi, Budahraun and Budir.
You drive to Borgarnes and then to Reykholt where you will accommodate.
Optional: Ferry to Flatey island, from Stykkisholmur (May - Aug)
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.
You drive to the waterfalls Hraunfossar and Barnafoss which are beautiful and unusual natural phenomena. The Hraunfossar falls are clear, cold springs that 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 in a deep and narrow ravine. There used to be a stone arch spanning the river, forming a bridge between the districts at both sides 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 falling into the falls from the stone bridge. The mournful mother had the bridge destroyed to prevent similar grievances. But actually the stone bridge was destroyed in an earthquake.
You drive to Husafell which is a beautiful area with a great view to glaciers and mountains - you can visit the swimming pool there. From there you drive over the Kaldidalur pass, which is the second highest pass in Iceland offering a great view to glaciers and mountains. You get to Thingvellir National Park where you spend good time before you drive towards Reykjavik where you return the car.
Optional: Snorkeling under the midnight sun (May - Aug)
---Meet on location - Activities around Iceland
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