The Ring Road & Golden Circle
Using the Ring Road as your guide, you’ll see as many of the country’s natural wonders as can be fitted into eight days, including the capital city of Reykjavík, the world-famous Golden Circle sightseeing route, and Akureyri, ‘the Capital of the North.’ You’ll also visit Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, the beautiful Lake Mývatn, waterfalls, volcanoes, rural towns and countless other attractions.
Nature enthusiasts can join the famous Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon boat tour, go whale watching off Húsavík town, ride an Icelandic horse through the countryside, explore the dark places of the Earth on a caving tour, or venture inside the glistening white halls of a glacier.
There is even the chance to descend into the vividly coloured magma chamber of a sleeping volcano. And if you want to relax, you can book a trip to the world-famous Blue Lagoon, so you can bask in its soothing azure waters while you’re here.
Day 1 – Arrival in Reykjavik
Pick up your car at the international airport in Keflavík before driving through the lunar landscape of the Reykjanes peninsula to your accommodation in downtown Reykjavík. If you want, you can choose to go to the Blue Lagoon on your way to the city as it is located en route from the airport.
After settling in at your hotel in Reykjavík, make the most of your proximity to the vibrant city centre, and discover the multitude of museums, galleries, restaurants, and bars on offer. Spend your first night in this beautiful, quirky city.
Day 2 – Golden Circle and South Coast
Day two sends you to some of the best-known natural phenomena in Iceland via the sightseeing route known as the Golden Circle.
The first stop is Þingvellir National Park. Here, you can walk along the rift valley of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, all the while exploring an area which plays a huge role in Iceland’s heritage; parliament was founded here in 930 AD, and it is also where Iceland converted to Christianity and declared its independence from Denmark.
In this beautiful park, you can opt for a snorkelling tour into the Silfra fissure, a crystal-clear ravine of incredible underwater vistas that runs between the Eurasian and North-American tectonic plates.
The geothermal valley of Haukadalur is the next stop, where you can see the geysers Strokkur and Geysir, amongst many bubbling hot springs. Strokkur puts on an unforgettable display every 10 minutes or so, erupting to heights that exceed 20 m (66 ft).
Just a few kilometres away is Iceland’s most popular attraction, the mighty waterfall of Gullfoss. A pathway takes you to the water’s edge, where you can get a real sense of the incredible power of these enormous falls. From Gullfoss, those with a good sense of adventure can jump on an optional snowmobiling tour on Langjökull glacier.
If neither a snorkelling tour or snowmobiling tour appeal to you, you may instead opt for a horse ride in the surrounding South Iceland nature.
Another popular sight of the area is the volcanic crater Kerið, which is well worth a visit before continuing to the South Coast. The rocks of this crater are coloured rusty red and fiery orange, and the water that permanently sits within its basin is an incredible, vivid blue. The colour contrast, especially when you add green-growing moss, is simply stunning.
As you move onto the Ring Road in the South, you will see Seljalandsfoss waterfall, which you can walk all the way around for some great photos behind its curtain of water. A little further down the road is the mesmerising and mightily powerful Skógafoss waterfall, a roaring beast with a 60 m (197 ft) drop and a width nearly half its height.
Along the coast near the village Vík, take a slight detour to stop and admire the black volcanic beach Reynisfjara, the dramatic Dyrhólaey rock arch and the eerie Reynisdrangar sea stacks. Be very careful of the ocean, however, as the waves along this stretch of coast are notoriously unpredictable and dangerous―all part of the allure of travelling in Iceland.
At the end of your first-rate second day, you’ll spend the night in Vík.
Day 3 – Skaftafell Glaciers – Diamond Beach
On day three, get ready to head to the beautiful Skaftafell Nature Reserve within the greater Vatnajökull National Park. You can choose to start your day with a visit to the natural ice cave within Mýrdalsjökull glacier. These are the only natural ice caves accessible outside the winter season, so don’t miss the opportunity to visit.
In Skaftafell, you can spend your time taking in the many stunning sights and exciting activities that are available. If you enjoy hiking, you will find countless scenic trails and tracks here suitable for all levels of mobility and experience, including one that leads to the beautiful Svartifoss waterfall. It is also possible to snap on some crampons and opt for a glacier hike.
Continuing your road trip, you’ll find yourself by one of Iceland’s most famous and dazzling attractions, the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Here, you can embark on an optional cruise on the water, bringing your closer to serene floating icebergs of all shapes and sizes, onboard either an amphibious boat or a zippy zodiac.
Even from the shore, however, the lagoon is stunning, and you have a good chance to see seals playing amongst the ice. After you have enjoyed the lagoon, take the short walk to the nearby Diamond Beach, where many ice-flows wash up on the shore and sparkle like gemstones in the sun.
Then, drive a little further ahead, and spend the night in the charming town of Höfn.
Day 4 – The Eastern Fjords
The driving on day four will take you on a rollercoaster ride around the rolling hills and seemingly countless fjords of Iceland’s eastern coastline. Each fjord seems to have its own soul and spirit, as each promises to take your breath away.
The great Vatnajökull glacier lies to the west, visible when you cross over the high mountain ridges as you make your way north. The many idyllic fishing villages en route make for perfect little rest stops, and grant you many opportunities to get to know the locals and learn a little more about Icelandic history and culture.
The East Fjords are also home to some of the greatest diversity of wildlife in the county. They have many incredible bird-watching sites and seal colonies, and the east is the only place in the country where you can spot herds of wild reindeer.
You’ll stay overnight in the ‘eastern capital’, Egilsstaðir, or one of the nearby villages.
Day 5 – A Day at Lake Myvatn
On day five, you will head north to the renowned Lake Mývatn. It is highly recommended to take a drive through the Jökulsárgljúfur part of Vatnajökull National Park on the way, visiting Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
The Lake Mývatn area is simply stunning. It is known for its geothermal landscapes, including the Námaskarð Pass, the Skútustaðagígar pseudo-craters, the Dimmuborgir lava formations and Mt. Krafla, one of Iceland’s most iconic volcanoes.
You can join a whale watching tour at the nearby village of Húsavík, known as the whale-watching capital of Europe, and even upgrade it to a rib boat tour to fit in some puffin watching as well. Skjálfandi bay is a very reliable place to observe the magnificent humpback whale feeding in the shallows.
Later on, take a dip in the soothing geothermal waters of the Mývatn Nature Baths―the perfect way to relax after a full day of sightseeing. Afterwards, continue to the charming ‘capital of the north’, Akureyri, where you will spend the night.
Day 6 – Godafoss Falls – Trollaskagi Peninsula
On day six, spend the morning enjoying Akureyri, a charismatic town hosting plenty of unique shops and museums. It also has one of the world’s northernmost botanical gardens, which is well worth a stroll through.
Once you have made the most of the town, set out to explore the Tröllaskagi peninsula, home to Iceland’s tallest mountains outside the central Highlands. You can also opt into a whale watch if you skipped it the day before.
Continuing towards Skagafjörður, a valley known for its abundance of Icelandic horses (where you can take another horse-ride), you will pass through the beautiful mountainous area of Tröllaskagi, the old herring-fishing village of Siglufjörður, and Hofsós, where you can enjoy the gorgeous scenery while you relax in the town’s geothermal infinity pool.
Spend the night in the vicinity of Blönduós.
Day 7 – Landscapes of the Ring Road
On day seven, explore West Iceland with its diverse attractions, including the Icelandic Settlement Centre in Borgarnes, which details the history of the settlement of our land, and Deildartunguhver, the hot spring with the highest flow in Europe. Further along, be sure to visit the captivating Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls.
History buffs may also enjoy a detour to Snorrastofa, the medieval research institute in Reykholt, where Iceland´s most famous Viking poet, politician, and historian, Snorri Sturluson, wrote the saga Heimskringla in the 13th century. He is also the author of the bible of old Norse mythology, the Edda.
If you have the time, you can also opt for an exciting caving tour at the Víðgelmir lava tubes, or adventure into the incredible, man-made Langjökull ice tunnels. You can even take an ‘into the volcano’ tour, where you descend into the colourful magma chamber of Þríhnúkagígur.
On your way back to Reykjavík, take a short break at Fossatún, a waterfall said to be guarded by a troll woman named Drífa, before spending your last night in the capital.
Day 8 – Farewell to Iceland & Departure
Drop off your car at Keflavík airport in time for your departure. If you are lucky enough to be taking an afternoon or evening flight, you can fit in one last fantastic Icelandic experience―a revitalising visit to the world-famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa. It is a great way to end your Icelandic adventure. The geothermal water is rich in minerals, giving it a turquoise glow, as well as many reputed health properties for your skin and soul.
Alternatively, you can explore the many geological wonders of the Reykjanes peninsula, or simply indulge in some last-minute shopping in Reykjavík.
Have a safe journey home.