Are you bored with your all-inclusive vacations? Did you ever picture yourself exploring the totally out of this world scenery of Iceland?
Do you want to get a bunch of friends together and have the road trip of a lifetime?
No, seriously, do you want to travel to Iceland? The answer should be yes. Yes, you do, trust me on this one! Maybe you don’t know that yet, but trust me, you do.
Whichever continent you are from, you can take my word as Miss Tourist that you haven’t seen anything like Iceland before. It’s so unique!
This article is written to give you an idea of what you can see in Iceland by making a complete circle of the country (which is an island). For more detailed practical information of how to organize each day, where to stay etc, just click the link describing each day.
This is an overview so, if you have a bit more (or fewer) days, you can simply adjust it according to the route suggested below.
- Things to do in Iceland – Itinerary overview
- Days 1-4: Reykjavik, the South and the South-East of Iceland
- Days 5-9: The Eastern Fjords, The North of Iceland
- Days 10-12: The West Fjords
- Days 13-14: the North of Reykjavik
- Bonus – any day, but a MUST DO!
Now, what do you need for your Iceland vacation?
- Tickets to Iceland
- A bunch of friends. (This is optional but highly recommended)
- And a car. (Yes! You need a car to complete the road trip, don’t act so surprised!)
- Some items you should get from home because in Iceland they are expensive
How to rent a car in Iceland
Renting a car in Iceland in the high season is tricky. It was for me, especially since I was booking for a full 2 weeks of travel. There was no luck involved here. After going through every possible rental, I found the best rates at Lagoon Car Rental; they even give discounts for one week, two weeks or longer rental periods. They sent this smiley guy to pick me up and take me to their office just a few minutes away from the airport. And they got my name right: check it out!
Also, I found RentalCars gave some interesting discounts for car rentals. If you are renting for 7 or more days, chances are you are going to get some big discount – check the rates for your dates here!
And because I wouldn’t let you go unprepared, my dear reader, I wrote a guide about how to choose a car, and about driving in Iceland!
What to pack for an Iceland road trip?
UPDATE: I have written a detailed blog post with an all-seasons ultimate packing list for Iceland. It has recommendations on everything you will ever need for your trip!
Iceland is a very expensive country, and that’s why I suggest you bring with you all you’ll need, and not expect to buy things in Reykjavik without breaking your budget. That’s just not an option. As long as you bring your essentials, you’ll be fine, and you’ll be able to have a great vacation following this itinerary.
Regardless of the season, you’ll need a few items in Iceland. Also, if you plan to camp, you’ll need some camping gear.
The essential packing list for an Icelandic road trip consists of:
- A good waterproof and winbreaker jacket – a must have in Iceland. I’ve been there in August and although it was summer, it was cold, rainy and windy almost everyday.
- Hiking boots – you’ll need a good comfortable pair, and the prices for these in Reykjavik were plain scary. You are going to hike, walk on ice sometimes and get wet near the waterfalls. Get a good pair!
- Hiking pants for hiking obviously, but also because they are so comfortable!
- A fleece jacket – you will wear it the most throughout your trip.
- A thermos – sometimes you’ll go for hours without finding a place to buy a cup of coffee or tea, and I love tea! This was one of my most used items.
- A GPS device – check if your rental car has one – otherwise it will be at least US $10-$15 per day if you rent one. If your car doesn’t have one you can bring your own and use it back home as well.
- If you are into photography – a great camera and a tripod are essential.
- In the same category – a GoPro is a cool thing to get. There will be endless opportunities to use that wide angle for spectacular movies and images.
- A power bank is always useful, especially since car chargers can be very slow
- A power transformer, because if you come from the US, Iceland is hooked to 220V not 110 and this way you can use your electronic devices, if you bring any.
You can skip some items from this list but don’t skip these:
Things to do in Iceland – Itinerary overview
Now, for a more in-depth look at the whole trip, I divided the route into 4 posts. I did this so it’s more easily readable for you. They are split as follows:
Days 5-9: The Eastern Fjords, The North of Iceland
Days 10-12: The West Fjords
Days 13-14: The North of Reykjavik and the capital
Days 1-4: Reykjavik, the South and the South-East of Iceland
Day 1 – Relax in the Blue Lagoon
Welcome to Iceland, traveler!
First things first! Relax after your flight in the Blue Lagoon for 1-2 hours and visit the city of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital. Get supplies and a good night’s sleep, as the adventure is about to begin! Read what, where and how, here!
Day 2 – Let the adventure begin!
Start with the most common touristy route that you can take in one day. So, starting early from Reykjavik, this first day you will see the wonders of the so called “Golden Circle”: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir and Gullfoss Waterfall.
Do you want to see a perfect shaped crater? Then there is a bonus stop available: visit the Kerið Crater. Read more about the itinerary of day 2 and which is the best area to spend the night here.
Day 3 – Turf houses and more amazing waterfalls!
On this day you should make your way to the iconic turf houses of Keldur. Afterwards, admire the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall (try to pronounce that, huh!).
Have you ever seen people in movies go behind a waterfall where there is a secluded cavern? This is your chance to do it, because you can get behind Seljalandsfoss! Don’t forget to visit it’s little sister called Gljúfurárbui down the road, it’s worth it, see why here:
Next, drive a bit more to Skogafoss Waterfall. It’s powerful and impressive, I would have liked to stay even longer! You can finish your day after another driving session that gets you to the black sand beach of Reynishverfi. Want to know more details about this day and where to spend the night? Click here!
Day 4 – Hike a glacier!
Iceland is full of glaciers! And today you will get your first feel (and taste, if you really want to taste it) of these ice giants. You will reach Iceland’s second national park, Skaftafell. There are many activities you can do there, glacier walks being the basic one. Day 4 should also start early if you want to take advantage of these activities. You should really book your glacier activity on Skatafell ahead of time, especially in the high season. That will take up a big chunk of your day already.
Later on, drive to the Jökulsárlón Lagoon, a magical place that gave me one of the best memories of Iceland. You need more info? Of course I wrote about it all in detail here, including areas where you should spend the night:
Days 5-9: The Eastern Fjords, The North of Iceland
Day 5: Discover Hengifoss waterfall and the Eastern Fjords!
Starting from either Eglissadir, if you choose a long drive, or from the Hofn area, make your way towards the Hengifoss Waterfall. Hope you didn’t get tired of all those waterfalls already because this one is impressive and rather different than the ones you have aready seen!
If the time and weather permits it, you can go on a drive around one or more of the Eastern Fjords.
See more details about day 5 and accommodation info here.
You won’t be able to wake up from your admiration, as after just a 10-minute walk you will see Selfoss, which is stunning in a different way: it’s quieter, but in the shape of a horseshoe with many cascading torrents. Something like Rivendell.
Did you ever wonder what Mars looks like? I think you’ll find your answer at the sulfur smelling fields of Hverarond, a mere 20-minute drive from Dettifoss.
Just around the corner there are the Mývatn nature baths, also known as the Blue Lagoon of the North. I suggest you relax here for an hour or so. It is also cheaper than the Blue Lagoon, but I still prefer the first one!
Aaaaaand we’re still not done yet! Make your way around Mývatn Lake and stop to see Godafoss. The third waterfall of the day, fantastic again!
Day 7 – Have a rest in Akureyri
Tired by now? I’d say so, it has been intense! Take it easy on this day and relax in Akureyri, Iceland’s second biggest town. Click for more info about things to do in Akureyri and how to prepare for the next day.
Day 8 – Boots on, it is time for some hiking!
Hiking boots on! It’s time for a special view in Ásbyrgi.
Asbyrgi is a horseshoe canyon with many trails. Take advantage of the wild natural surroundings and fresh air and go for a hike. Here is all the info about how to get to Asbyrgi, and where to sleep next.
Day 9 – Spot some whales in Husavik!
How much do you like whales on a scale from 0 to “a whale lot” ?
Huskavik is maybe the best place to go whale watching in Iceland!
And it was one of the best activities on my trip. Find a description of how to pick a whale watching tour, pictures, info, and other options for whale watching activities in the North of Iceland at this link:
Days 10-12: The West Fjords
Day 10 – Discover the undiscovered – West Fjords
Reach the unreachable. Time to head West, are you ready?
It’s a long drive to IsaFjordur, the capital of the West Fjords, but well worth it!
Besides the ever incredible views along the road, you should be able to see some super relaxed seals. Click here and I’ll tell you exactly where they are!
Day 11 – Meet some Vikings in a fishing village
This day you can get away with only a short drive (yay!). But there are plenty of activities around Isafjordur that you may enjoy.
They include visiting the fishing villages of Suðureyri, Flateyri, taking food tours, cooking classes and learning the secrets of Viking sushi. All the info is here.
Day 12 – on the edge of Europe
You might be missing waterfalls by now, right?
There is one that you should not miss in the West Fjords and that is Dynjandi Waterfall (also known as Fjallfoss). It’s your first stop of the day and it’s of course unique and worth visiting.
If you want to, you can also visit Látrabjarg, Europe’s most western point. It is an enormous bird cliff that is also a home for puffins, adorable birds that are so close, you can almost touch them!
Beware, you do need a 4WD normally to reach it!
Find out in this link which way to go next and all the extra info you’ll need:
Days 13-14: the North of Reykjavik
Day 13 – There is still so much to see!
Day 13 already, and still more amazing things to see and do!
Wake up early and go see the Hraunfossar & Barnafoss waterfalls. Believe me, they will amaze you again, even after seeing so many other impressive waterfalls.
If you manage to plan it well enough, on your way to Reykjavik, stop to see the out of this world boiling (!!) river.
All are described and pictured for you here.
Day 14 – Don’t forget about Reykjavik
Day 14 concludes the tour of this island. It has been a long drive, but totally worth it.
We are heading back to Reykjavik,but do not be sad, there are still many great activities you can do before your flight back.
Your visit to the capital does not have to break the bank; check out my guide called “Reykjavik on a budget“.
UPDATE: I now also have an article that will help you book ALL hotels in Iceland in under 10 minutes – they are sorted by cities and prices for your convenience and they all have great reviews!
Bonus – any day, but a MUST DO!
Here are some amazing tours that you should consider taking! I did not post them by a specific day because you can take them in many places, but it would definitely be a shame if you don’t do them!
UPDATE: Read my new blog post 10 Best Tours You Have to Take in Iceland
1. Horseback riding in Iceland
It does not really matter to me WHERE in Iceland you will go horseback riding, but please promise me you will do it!
The Icelandic horse is a breed developed in Iceland. They are special – something in between a pony and a horse, and VERY cute! They were brought to Iceland by Viking colonists over 1000 years ago and they have not been bred with any other variety of horses since then!
You can find some Icelandic horses outside Iceland (expensive) but you CANNOT find any other horse typw inside Iceland. That is done in order to protect the breed, to keep it pure. It is illegal to import horses in Iceland. Point.
Just look at this, how can you not adore them?
No wonder why I was so excited to see them, to pet them and obviously to ride them!
It was great and I really can recommend the experience to anyone who likes horses! My horse knew oh-to-well what to do and I found it hard sometimes to manage it because, after all, Icelandic horses have quite a wild spirit, even if raised on a farm.
P.S. If you are afraid to ride horses, no worries, it is not a big deal. But at least stop from time to time when you see them in a pasture to look at them, and maybe you’ll find the courage to pet them!
P.S.S. If you cannot choose which Iceland horseback riding company to choose, I recommend this one or this one. They are both close to Reykjavik and you can be sure about the conditions the horses are kept in and the staff qualifications.
COST: It really depends on the company and the tour you are taking (private or in a group), but it should not be more than 40 EUR per hour for group horseback riding.
2. Whale watching
Another cool thing to do – whale watching! The best place to do it is in Husavik. I wrote quite an elaborated piece about my experience here! But, if you are not going all the way to Husavik, you can try your luck in Reykjavik. They, too, know how to spot whales. This is a good environmentally certified whale watching company.
3. Silfra Fissure Snorkeling
Don’t miss your chance to snorkel in one of the TOP 10 diving spots in the world!
Silfra Lava Fissure is the place where the American and European continental plates meet, and guess what? You can swim in between them!
I haven’t personally done that yet, but swimming in the crystal clear water between 2 tectonic plates is one of the main reasons I want to goe back!
This tour has a PADI certified snorkeling guide, all gear and admission fee included.
If you are looking for road trip itinerary around Iceland, this guide will give you an idea of some of the things you can do there during two weeks.
You can use it as it is or you can make your own trip from the main points I listed here.
Either way, you are in for a wonderful adventure!
Have you been to Iceland?
Would you add something to this “Things to do in Iceland” list? What is your favorite/most desired activity in Iceland?
“Like” and Share this article, spread the Iceland love! 😉
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