12 Day Winter Package | Circle of Iceland & Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Experience the wonders of Iceland on this 12-day winter package that takes you to all the classic sites as well as some of the most enigmatic hidden treasures off the beaten track. This tour package is perfect for travellers that want to fully experience Iceland in winter without having to worry about driving the icy roads of the countryside.
Seeing the country couldn't be easier. Prior to your arrival, your accommodations and transport to and from Keflavík International Airport will be sorted for you. Also included in this package is an 8-day guided tour of the Iceland and a soak in the mineral-rich healing waters of the Blue Lagoon.
Allow your experienced and friendly guides to take you along to witness volcanic terrains, idyllic coastal towns, majestic glaciers and mighty waterfalls, as you explore everything from the highlights of the South Coast to the desolate and snow-covered fjords of the East, and the versatile wonders of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
After you've circumferred the countryside, there will be no need to leave the shores of Iceland right away, since this package includes two additional free days in Reykjavík City with accommodation. That means you can explore the Northernmost capital in the world to your heart's content.
There are also plenty of possibilities to make your already action-packed trip even more adventurous, as you have the option of adding additional excursions during the booking process. These include visiting an authentic ice cave, venturing into a lava tube, embarking on a glacier hike, going horse riding and whale watching, just to name a few!
While circling the Ring Road, each night will be spent at a countryside accommodation. Your guides will do their very best to hunt down possible sightings of the elusive and hypnotic Northern Lights, the winter-phenomena that tops the bucket list of so many people.
So sit back and get ready to experience all the wonders of the ring road in the intimate setting of a fully-equipped minibus. Don’t hesitate and book your winter adventure now! Check availability by choosing a date.
- Available: Nov. - Mar.
- Duration: 12 days
- Activities: Glacier Hiking, Hiking, Horse Riding, Whale Watching, Sightseeing, Northern lights hunting, Cultural Activity, Helicopter, Ice Caving
- Difficulty: Easy
- Minimum age: 8 years.
- Languages: English
- Highlights: Blue Lagoon,
The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa and is the single most popular attraction in Iceland.
The water is rich in silica and sulphur that helps make your skin shine like a baby. The Blue Lagoon also operates a Research and Development facility that helps find cures for skin ailments using the mineral-rich water.
The temperature in the bathing and swimming area is very comfortable, and averages 37–39 °C (98–102 °F). There´s a restaurant there and it´s a truly romantic and beautiful place one should not miss while in Iceland.Golden Circle,
The Golden Circle is a 300 km route to the 3 most popular natural attractions in Iceland. The Golden Circle consists of Geysir, Gullfoss and Thingvellir.
See this for Golden circle tours.
Geysir is a geyser that gives its name to hot springs all over the world. But although Geysir itself is not active anymore the area features spectacular hot springs such as the powerful Strokkur (spouting a vast amount of water every 10 minutes, regularly about 15-20 meters into the air), Smidur and Litli-Strokkur.
The 'Golden Waterfall', is the second part of the Golden Circle, and one of the most beautiful and powerful waterfalls in Iceland, plummeting 32 meters into the river gorge of the popular rafting river Hvita. It is Iocated about 10 km from Geysir.
Thingvellir national park
The largest attraction of the Golden Circle is Thingvellir National Park. The Icelandic parliament was founded there in 930 and remained until the year 1798.
Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important places to visit in Iceland, not just for its historical and cultural values, but for also its magnificent landscape.
Thingvellir is surrounded by a beautiful mountain and volcano range and is the site of a rift valley, where the tectonic plates meet, marking the crest of the Mid-Atlantic ridge.
Of particular note at Thingvellir are the magnificent Almannagja gorge, and the beautiful lake Thingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland. The popular Gjabakkahellir lava cave is also in the area.
The fissure Silfra is located by Thingvallavatn, Iceland's largest lake, and is famous for its clear waters and popular for diving and snorkeling, as you can literally swim between continents.East Iceland,
Stretching from the wide Eastfjords mountain range, set with many small fjords, through the fertile Fljotsdalsherad district and towards the highlands, East Iceland is a vast area of incredible nature, striking contrasts and fascinating history and culture.
East Iceland is characterised by a large number of fjords, surrounded by high villages. Fishing villages can be found by most of them.
From Seydisfjordur a ferryboat goes to Scandinavia, and the town also hosts the popular annual festival LungA. Neskaupsstadur features two highly popular annual festivals, Neistaflug and Eistnaflug, as well as being the home to a highly interesting museum and close to fascinating nature.
The main airport of East Iceland is in Egilsstadir, the largest town of the East and its main centre for service, transport and administration.
Further inland is the fertile agricultural district Fljotsdalsherad (see the link above). Natural birchwoods are in the area, the most famous being Hallormsstadaskogur, the largest forest in Iceland. Big rivers run through the district and by their estuaries many seals may be found.
Up in the mountains is also the Karahnjukar Hydroelectric Power Station, the construction of which led to hot debates and continues to do so. The station serves the aluminium smelter by Reydarfjordur.
The impressive mountain Snaefell is close by, Iceland's highest freestanding mountain. East of Snaefell is the highland oasis Eyjabakkar, one of the largest nesting place for the pink footed goose in the world.
Of particular cultural note in Fljotsdalsherad is the cultural and history center Skriduklaustur. In the middle ages a monastery stood there, and in the 20th century, Icelandic author Gunnar Gunnarsson lived there. Gunnar wrote such masterworks as Adventa (e. The Good Shepherd), Svartfugl (The Black Cliffs), Saga Borgaraettarinnar (Guest the One-Eyed, made into the Danish film Borgslægtens history in 1919) and the autobiographical novel cycle Fjallkirkjan ('The Church on the Mountain' published in English as Ships in the Sky and The Night and the Dream).
Other notable attractions of the beautiful Fljotadalsherad district, of which there are many, are listed under the Egilsstadir section.
Reindeer roam the mountains of East Iceland and a large number of migratory birds land near Hofn in Hornafjordur, in the Southeast, on their way from Skotland, returning back to Scotland in late summer.
Vatnajokull, Europe's largest glacier stretches to the boarders of East Iceland.Reykjavík,
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and the northernmost capital of a sovereign state in the world.
Despite a small population (120.000 and more than 200.000 in the Greater Reykjavik area), it is a vibrant city that draws an ever increasing number of visitors. It is the financial, cultural and governmental centre of Iceland. It also has a reputation of being one of the cleanest and safest cities in the world.
The city of Reykjavik is located in southwest Iceland by the creek of the same name. Throughout the ages, the landscape has been shaped by glaciers, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and the area is geothermal. Much of the current city area area was subglacial during the Ice Age, with the glacier reaching as far as the Álftanes peninsula, while other areas lay under the sea. After the end of the ice age the land rose as the glaciers drifted away, and it began to take on its present form.
The coastline of Reykjavik is set with peninsulas, coves, straights and islands, most notably the island of Videy, and seabirds and whales frequent the shores. The mountain ring as seen from the shore is particularly beautiful. Mount Esja is the highest mountain in the vicinity of Reykjavik and lends its distinct feature to the whole area. This majestic mountain is also highly popular for climbing. Other notable mountains that can be seen from the seaside are Akrafjall and Skardsheidi and on clear days one may even see as far to the legendary Snaefellsjokull glacier, at the end of the Snafellsnes peninsula.
The largest river to run through the city is Ellidaa in Ellidaardalur valley, which is also one of Iceland‘s best rivers for salmon fishing.
There are no trains or trams in Iceland, but most people travel by car. The city also operates a bus system. There are two major harbours in town, the old harbour in the centre and Sundahofn in the east. The domestic Reykjavik Airport is located at Vatnsmyrin, not far from the city centre and close to Oskjuhlid and Perlan. The international Keflavik Airport at Midnesheidi heath then lies around 50 km from the city. Cars, jeeps and bicycles can be readily rented in the city and many organized tours are also being offered.
What to See & Do in Reykjavik
The local arts scene is strong in Iceland, with both annual events and single ones, many of whom have hit the international stage. For the annual ones please check our articles Best Annual Events in Iceland and the Top Ten Festivals in Iceland. Major events taking place in Reykjavik include the Iceland Airwaves, Gay Pride, RIFF (The Reykjavik International Film Festival), The Reykjavik Literature Festival, Cultural Night, the Reykjavik Arts Festival, Food & Fun, the Reykjavik Fashion Festival and the Sónar music festival.
Among famous people from Reykjavik are artists Bjork Gudmundsdottir, Sigur Ros, writers Halldor Laxness (born in Laugavegur) and Arnaldur Indridason and mayor Jon Gnarr. For more well-known and fairly-well known Icelanders, check our article on the subject.
You might also want to check our article on some of the many things to see and do in Reykjavik, such as visiting the city‘s many museums, exhibitions and galleries, checking out live music, visiting the Harpa music hall or the theatres, visiting the lighthouse at Grotta, the main shopping street of Laugavegur, visiting the old harbour and the flea market, going on a bird- and whale watching tour or visiting Videy island. We also have a top ten list of things to do.
Make sure to visit the public square of Austurvollur, one of the city‘s most popular gathering places, where you‘ll also find the national parliament, Althingi, the state church a statue of independence hero Jon Sigurdson, as well as cafés, bars and restaurants. Austurvollur was central in the 2008 protests, along with Laekjargata, home to the House of Government. You are also not likely to miss the great church of Hallgrimskirkja that towers over the city from the hill of Skolavorduholt, wherefrom you‘ll get a great view of the city.
Try a walk by the city pond, greet the many birds that frequent the area and visit the city hall, stationed by its banks. The Hljomaskalagardur is a beautiful park that lies by the pond, it ideal for a nice walk and sometimes concerts get held there. Further off is the campus of the university of Iceland, the Nordic house and the Vatnsmyri wetland, a particularly pleasant place, but be mindful of not disturbing the wildlife there and keep to the pathways.
For a nice swim on a warm day, we particularly recommend Nautholsvik beach.
Visit the Laugardalur valley, home to one of the city‘s best swimming pools, as well as the Asmundarsafn gallery, a beautiful botanical garden and a domestic zoo. A walk by the Aegissida beach, with it‘s old fishing sheds, in the west part of Reykjavik also holds a particular charm. The aforementioned Elllidaardalur valley is also a popular resort.
Another place that offers one of the city‘s best (and free) views is Perlan, up in Oskjuhlid hill. The hill itself is a popular resort, with over 176.000 trees and great opportunities for walking and cycling.
Travel to Alftanes to see the president‘s house at Bessastadir, which is also a historical site in it‘s own right, having been the educational centre of Iceland for centuries. Nearby is a beautiful lava field, Galgahraun, well worth a visit, though there is currently an environmental struggle going on as to it‘s future state.
The city is furthermore a short drive from many of Iceland‘s major attractions, most famously the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. In close vicinity you‘ll also find the Heidmork preservation area, a favourite pastime resort of the people of Reykjavik, as well as the Blue Mountains, one of Iceland‘s most beloved skiing venues.
Check our Best of Reykjavik guide further for tips on the best cheap things to do in Reykjavik, some of the best restaurants in the city, happy hours, the top ten value places to eat and our two articles on the famous Reykjavik nightlife; Nightlife in Reykjavik and Nightlife and mating.
Finally, we‘d like to stress that these are only some suggestions of the many things you might check out in Reykjavik. Whatever you choose to do, we hope you‘ll be able to make the most of your visit and we wish you a pleasant stay in our capital.Akureyri,
Akureyri, ‘The Capital of the North’ is a town in the fjord Eyjafjordur in North Iceland. It lies just 100 km away from the Arctic Circle. It is Iceland’s second-largest urban area with a population of about 17,800.
Akureyri is an important fishing centre and port, but in the last few years tourism, industry, higher education and services have become the fastest growing sectors of the economy.
An international airport is located about 3 km from the center. A large number of cruisers also stop at Akureyri. One of Iceland's best skiing sites is found by Akureyri, at Hlidarfjall.
Traditionally Akureyri has survived on fisheries and some of Iceland’s largest fishing companies, like for example Samherji, have their headquarters there. Other large companies include Brim, Nordurmjolk, and Vifilfell hf, the largest brewery in Iceland.
FSA/Akureyri Hospital is a major employer in the area and is one of two major hospitals in Iceland.
Akureyri has excellent facilities for travelers and is located a short drive from many of Iceland’s top natural, cultural and historical attractions.
Nature & Landscape
Akureyri is surrounded by mountains, the highest one being Kerling (1538 m). The area around it has rich agriculture and a beautiful mountain ring.
The innermost part of the fjord, Pollurinn ('The Pool') further lends the town a special character. The climate in Akureyri is generally very pleasant.
The islands Hrisey in the middle of Eyfjordur and Grimsey, straddling the Artic Circle, both belong to the municipality of Akureyri. Hrisey is often called 'The Pearl of Eyjafjordur' and Grimsey 'The Pearl of the Artic' and these beautiful and peaceful islands are highly popular with travelers.
History & Culture
During World War II the town was an important site for the Allies and the town grew considerably after the war, as people increasingly moved to urban areas.
Akureyri has a strong cultural scene, with several bars and renowned restaurants. Folk culture in general is more prevalent there than in Reykjavik. During the summer there are several notable festivals in Akureyri and its surroundings.
Sites of interest in Akureyri include the brand-new Hof concert hall and Akureyri’s many museums, The Nature Museum, Nonnahus, a.k.a. Jon Sveinsson Memorial Museum, for the writer, David's house or David Stefansson Memorial Museum, for the poet, Akureyri Art Museum.
Akureyri also has several churches, Akureyrarkirkja being the most notable, as well as beautiful botanical gardens. The old town is particularly charming, ideal for a nice walk.Jökulsárlón,
Jökulsárlón is Iceland’s most famous glacier lagoon. Conveniently located in the southeast by Route 1, about halfway between the Skaftafell Nature Reserve and Höfn, it is a popular stop for those travelling along the South Coast or around the circular ring road of the country.
It stands out, however, due to the fact that it also fills with icebergs breaking from the glacier, some of which tower several stories high.
These icebergs, other than their scale, are notable for their colouration. Although they are, as expected, largely white, most are also dyed electric blue in part, with black streaks of ash from eruptions centuries past.
When the icebergs finally make it across the lagoon, they either drift out to sea or wash up on the nearby shore. Because of the way they glisten against the black sands of Breiðamerkursandur, this area has been nicknamed ‘the Diamond Beach’.
In spite of being a rather recent formation, Jökulsárlón is the deepest lake in the country, with depths reaching 248 metres. With a surface area of 18 square kilometres, it is also growing to be one of the largest.
Jökulsárlón has not been around since Iceland’s settlement; it only formed around 1935. This was due to rapidly rising temperatures in the country from the turn of the twentieth century; since 1920, Breiðamerkurjökull has been shrinking at a dramatic rate, and the lagoon has begun to fill its space.
Today, the expansion of Jökulsárlón is accelerating. As recently as 1975, it was just 8 square kilometres, and now that size has more than doubled.
In the relatively near future, it is expected that the lagoon will continue to grow until it becomes a large, deep fjord.
Though a dark omen for Iceland’s glaciers and ice caps in general, the retreat of Breiðamerkurjökull has resulted in an incredibly beautiful, if temporary, site. This has not been overlooked by Hollywood.
Jökulsárlón has been featured in the James Bond films A View to Kill in 1985 and Die Another Day in 2002, 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and 2005’s Batman Begins.
In 2017, Jökulsárlón was enveloped into the Vatnajökull National Park, thus it is now fully protected by Icelandic law.
Because of the wealth of herring and capelin that the tides bring into the lagoon, Jökulsárlón is somewhat of a hot-spot for Iceland’s wildlife.
In summer, it is a nesting site for Arctic Terns; stay well away from this area, as these birds are notorious for the fierceness with which they protect their eggs, dive-bombing the heads of any they see as a threat. Skuas also nest on the lake’s shores in this season.
Seals can be reliably spotted here throughout the year, swimming amongst or else hauling out on the icebergs. Jökulsárlón provides them with a safe haven to rest and socialise, especially considering the waters of southeast Iceland are renowned for their population of orcas.Vatnajökull,
Vatnajökull is the largest ice cap in Iceland and the third largest glacier in Europe, covering 8% of the island's landmass. Vatnajökull Glacier can be found in the south west of Iceland and is a popular spot for glacier hiking and ice caving tours.
Facts about Vatnajökull
- Surface: 8,100 km2
- Average thickness: 400 - 600 m
- Maximum thickness: 1,000 m
- Height: 1,400 - 1,800 m
- Highest peak: 2,200 m (Hvannadalshnjúkur)
Information about Vatnajökull
Vatnajökull Glacier belongs to the greater Vatnajökull National Park, which encompasses the former national parks Skaftafell, in the southwest, and Jökulsárgljúfur, in the north. Vatnajökull's highest summit is Hvannadalshnjúkur which rests on top of a stratovolcano known as Öræfajökull.
Underneath the glacier rests some of the most active volcanoes in the country, the most notable being Grímsvötn, Öræfajökull and Bárðabunga. Volcanic activity in the region has occurred on and off throughout the centuries, and many geologists believe that such a period is overdue for immediate future. If their calculations are correct, it would mean significant volcanic activity for Vatnajökull over the scope of the next half century.
The glacier boasts of over 30 outlet glaciers, which are channels of ice that flow out of ice caps but remain constrained on the sides of the valley. The major outlet glaciers of Vatnajökull include Dyngjujökull in the north, Breiðamerkurjökull and Skeiðarárjökull to the south. To the west, one can find the outlet glaciers Síðujökull, Skaftárjökull and Tungnaárjökull.
Glaciers are in constant motion underneath their weight; as they form over the centuries, the accession of snow exceeds its melting, creating a constant "push" on the ice cap. Each year, due to the melting ice water, new ice caves form that disappear come spring.
- Click here for a selection of Ice Cave tours
Numerous rivers run out of Vatnajökull, making up some of the greatest glacial rivers in Iceland:
- Tungnaá (west)
- Köldukvísl (west)
- Þjórsá (west)
- Jökulsá á Fjöllum (north)
- Skjálfandafljót (north)
- Jökulsá á Brú (north east)
- Jökulsá í Fljótsdal (north east)
- Jökulsá í Lóni (south)
- Hornafjarðarfljót (south)
- Jökulsá á Breiðamerkursandi (south)
- Skeiðará (south)
- Núpsvötn (south)
- Hverfisfljót (south)
- Skaftá (south)
Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull National Park, in its current state, was established in June 2008. The park now covers an area of 14.141 km2, making it the second largest national park in Europe. Vatnajökull National Park has 14% coverage over the whole island of Iceland.
Rivers divide the highland plateau to the north of the park; an area that sees massive glacial flows in the summertime. The volcanic table mountain Herðubreið towers over this particular region, along with volcanoes Askja, Snæfell and Kverkfjöll.
The canyon Jökulsárgljúfur was carved out by glacial floods centuries ago. At the upper end of the canyon, you'll find Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Further north, the horseshoe-shaped canyon Ásbyrgi is believed to have formed when Óðinn's horse, Sleipnir, stepped his foot down from the heavens.
East around Snæfell, one can find wetlands and ranges, home to roaming herds of wild reindeer and abundant birdlife. Steep mountain ridges make up the south side of Vatnajökull, where outlet glaciers crawl in between the ridges onto the lowlands. The sandy plains of Skeiðarársandur also lie to the south as they reach out to sea. The glacial river Skeiðará runs through this vast desert.
One of Iceland's most visited landmarks is the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, which sits at the head of outlet glacier Breiðamerkurjökull. There, large icebergs that have broken off the glacier gather to float in the lake before ending up in the Atlantic Ocean, or on the nearby Diamond Beach.
- Click here for a selection of Jökulsárlón tours
The Future of Vatnajökull
The volume of Vatnajökull reached its peak around 1930 but has since been in a steady process of decline. Because of rising levels of global temperature, approximately over the last 15 years, Vatnajökull has on average lost about a metre of its thickness annually.
If temperature levels continue to rise, the glacier could be all but gone nearing the end of the next century, leaving only small ice caps on top of the highest mountain summits.
Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón in Popular Culture
- HBO's Game of Thrones (season 2, 2012)
- Batman Begins (2005)
- James Bond: Die Another Day (2002)
- James Bond: A View to a Kill (1985)
Myvatn is a beautiful lake with many small islands in the north of Iceland, the fourth largest lake in the country. Along with its surrounding area, the lake is one of Iceland's most amazing natural attractions.
Some of the islands in Myvatn are pseudocraters, formed by steam explosions. The lake has rich birdlife and more species of ducks than anywhere else in the world. As for vegetation, it is one of the few places in the world that grows Marimo, also known as Cladophora ball, Lake ball, or Moss Balls in English, a species of filamentous green algae (Chlorophyta).
The Myvatn nature baths are also renowned throughout the world, a perfect place to relax, surrounded by breathtaking landscape.
Close to the lake is Dimmuborgir, a fascinating area of dramatic and chaotic lava. Norwegian symphonic metal band Dimmu Borgir takes its name from the the lava field, and it continues to inspire travellers from all over the world.
The Myvatn area is definitely one of the most beautiful places in Iceland. Don´t miss it!Dimmuborgir,
Dimmuborgir (e. ‘Black Forts') is a large area of chaotic lava, situated right east of Lake Myvatn, in North Iceland. With its dramatic view, Dimmuborgir is one of Iceland's most popular attractions.
The area is composed of various volcanic caves and rock formations, reminiscent of an ancient collapsed citadel. In folklore the Dimmuborgir lava field has been connected with hell, Satan was to have landed there after being cast from heaven and the Norwegian symphonic black metal band derives its name from the region.Snæfellsjökull,
Snæfellsjökull (1446 m) is an ice-capped volcano found on the tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland.
Though many consider Snæfellsjökull to simply be a particularly impressive ice cap, it is, in fact, a 700,000-year-old glacier-capped stratovolcano. The mountain is actually called "Snæfell" (Snowy Mountain), though the “jökull” (Glacier) is often added to help distinguish it from other mountains of the same name. For the first time in recorded history, Snæfellsjökull had no snow or ice at its peak in August 2012, causing concern amongst locals that climate change is threatening the nature of the mountain.
On clear days, one can see Snæfellsjökull from Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, approximately 120 kilometres away over Faxa Bay, making for an impressive sight—and a tick off the bucket list if you can’t make it to travelling across the Peninsula itself. The volcano makes up just a small part of the larger Snæfellsjökull National Park.
Nearby villages include Hellissandur, Rif and Ólafsvík, all of which were commercial and fishing hubs throughout the peninsula’s long history of human inhabitance. Fishing took off primarily in the 13th-Century, with fishing stations being built in all areas with easy access to the open ocean.
One notable example would be the settlement of Dritvík, one of the largest fishing stations in Iceland at the time, utilising around 40–60 boats and employing between 200–600 people. Fishing in the region declined during the 19th century due to a change in Iceland’s fishing practises, though it is still an important source of livelihood for those living on the Peninsula.
Snæfellsjökull has, for centuries, been considered to be one of the world’s ancient power sites, a source of mysticism, energy and mystery for the peninsula’s superstitious population. This likely has something to do with the stratovolcanoes place in the Icelandic sagas; the feature takes a prominent role in Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss, a late 14th-century saga that tells the story of Bárður, half-human-half-troll, who became the “guardian spirit of Snæfellsjökull.”
Snæfellsjökull serves as the entrance to a fantastical subterranean world in Jules Verne’s classic 1864 novel “Journey to The Centre of The Earth.” Given its central place in the novel, Snæfellsjökull has become one of the most popular spots for visitors in Iceland and has inspired a wealth of writers, poets and artists.
Since “Journey to The Centre of The Earth”, Snæfellsjökull has appeared in the Blind Birds trilogy by Czech SF writer Ludvík Souček (partially based on Jules’ work) and in Under The Glacier, a novel by Iceland’s only Nobel laureate, Halldor Laxness.
Along with the glacier, attractions include the two nearby basalt cliffs called Lóndrangar and the many fascinating lava formations at the beautiful Djúpalonssandur beach, such as the arch rock Gatklettur. At Djúpalonssandur, one can also test their strength just as the ancient sailors once did with the four "strength" stones, Amlóði ('Useless'), Hálfdrættingur ('Weakling'), Hálfsterkur ('Half Strength') and Fullsterkur ('Full Strength'). In the area, one can also explore the Saxhóll volcano crater and 'the singing cave' Sönghellir, which is named after the loud echoes inside.Skógafoss,
Skógafoss is one of the country’s biggest and most beautiful waterfalls with an astounding width of 25 meters (82 ft) and a drop of 60 meters (197 ft). Due to the amount of spray the cascade produces, a rainbow is present any time the sun emerges from behind the clouds.
Located on the Skógá river, this mighty cascade is clearly visible from Route 1 and is an excellent place to stop and stretch the legs while travelling Iceland’s South Coast. The river below Skógafoss holds a large char and salmon population and is thus a favourite spot for fishermen in the summer.
The land underneath the waterfall is very flat, allowing visitors to walk right up to the wall of water. Keep in mind, however, that this will get you drenched. Skógafoss can also be viewed from the top as a steep staircase leads to an observational platform above the cascade.
Skógafoss is located near the small village of Skógar, south of the Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano. There you’ll find the Skógasafn folk museum, an open-air museum with both old wooden houses and turf houses, as well as a regional museum with various artefacts from this area.
A part of the Skógasafn Regional Museum is the Museum of Transportation, which showcases the history and evolution of transportation, communication and technologies in Iceland. There, you can see how this nation evolved from the age of the working horse to the digital communications of the 21st century.
The Skógasafn museum also includes a café and a museum shop, and in the village of Skógar, you will find both a hotel and a restaurant.
At the eastern side of Skógafoss, you will find one of Iceland’s most famed hiking routes; the Fimmvörðuháls pass. The 22 km (14 mi) trail takes you along Skógá river, between two glaciers, Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull, before ending in the beautiful Þórsmörk valley.
A gold ring is on display at the Skógasafn museum. According to legend, the ring is from a chest that was owned by Þrasi Þórólfsson, one of the first Viking settlers in the area. Folklore states that before his death in 900 AD, Þrasi buried a chest filled with gold in a cave behind Skógafoss waterfall.
Many attempts were made to retrieve the chest after Þrasi’s death, and years later, locals managed to grasp a ring on the side of the chest. As they pulled, the ring broke off, and the treasure was lost forever. The ring was then given to the local church before it made its way to the museum.Seljalandsfoss,
Seljalandsfoss in the river Seljalandsa in South Iceland is one of the most sought waterfalls in the country.
Seljalandsfoss has a narrow cascade but is one of Iceland's highest waterfalls, at 63 meters. The waterfall is highly picturesque and has the rare distinction that one can actually walk behind it.Geysir,
Geysir is a famous hot spring in Haukadalur valley in South Iceland. Part of the ‘Golden Circle', Geysir gives its name to hot springs all over the world.
Though Geysir itself is hardly active anymore, the area features spectacular hot springs such as the powerful Strokkur, which spouts a vast amount of water every 10 minutes, around 15-20 meters into the air, Smidur and Litli-Strokkur.
North of Geysir are fumaroles, i.e. unlike the hot springs that emit hot water, only steam and gas emanate from these. You may be able to observe bright yellow stains at the fumaroles, this is native sulphur, which crystallizes from the steam. At the southern part of the geothermal area, called Thykkuhverir, you‘ll find various mud pots. Such mud pots are actually fumaroles that boil up through surface water/groundwater and may become steaming fumaroles during dry spells, rather than the usual boiling mud pots.
About 2 km from Geysir is an old preserved natural pool called Kúalaug. One can bathe in it and it has room for 3-5 people at a time, but care should be taken, as the area around the pool is very delicate. The temperature is 39-43°C, depending on how you are positioned in the pool. The water is slightly muddy, as the pool is built on soil, and the bottom is slippery due to algae, so caution is advised.
In Haukadalur there has also been tree planting in recent times and today the forest Haukadalsskógur is one of the largest in South Iceland. Aspen, various types of pine, and other plants have been tried out there and experiments and research continue. We also recommend visiting the tree museum, built in the memory of forester Gunnar Freysteinsson. There are good paths and roads in the forest and the wood is specially designed to accommodate wheelchairs.
Haukadalur has been a church site since ancient time. The current wooden church was last rebuilt in 1938 but the variety and appearance of the church dates back to 1842, making it one of the oldest of its kind in Iceland.
Haukadalur is indeed a historical place. It was settled during the age of settlement and scholar Ari “The Wise“ Thorgilsson grew up there. The first pastoral school in Iceland was also built there.
For accommodation, Hotel Gullfoss is about 7 km from the Geysir area, and closer still is the Hotel Geysir.Gullfoss,
Gullfoss (translated to ‘Golden Falls’) is one of Iceland’s most iconic and beloved waterfalls, found on the Hvítá river canyon in south Iceland. The water in Hvítá river travels from the glacier Langjökull, finally cascading 32m down Gullfoss’ two stages in a dramatic display of nature’s raw power.
Because of the waterfall’s two stages, Gullfoss should actually be thought of as two separate waterfalls. The first, shorter stage of the waterfall is 11m, whilst the second stage is 21m. The canyon walls on both sides of the waterfall reach heights of up to 70m, descending into the 2.5km long Gullfossgjúfur canyon (geologists indicate that this canyon was formed by glacial outbursts at the beginning of the last age.)
In the summer, approximately 140 cubic metres of water surges down the waterfall every second, whilst in winter that number drops to around 109 cubic metres. With such energy, visitor’s should not be surprised to find themselves drenched by the waterfall’s mighty spray-off.
In the early days of the last century, Gullfoss was at the centre of much controversy regarding foreign investors and their desire to profit off Iceland’s nature. In the year 1907, an English businessman known only as Howells sought to utilise the waterfall’s energy and harboured ambitions to use its energy to fuel a hydroelectric plant.
At the time, Gullfoss was owned by a farmer named Tómas Tómasson. Tómas declined Howell’s offer to purchase the land, stating famously “I will not sell my friend!” He would, however, go on to lease Howells the land, inadvertently beginning the first chapter of Icelandic environmentalism.
It was Tómas’ daughter, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, who would lead the charge. Having grown up on her father’s sheep farm, she sought to get the lease contract nullified, hurriedly saving her own money to hire a lawyer. The ensuing legal battle was an uphill struggle; the case continued for years, forcing Sigríður to travel many times by foot to Reykjavík if only to keep the trial moving. Circumstances became so difficult that Sigríður threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if any construction began.
Thankfully, in 1929, the waterfall fell back into the hands of the Icelandic people. Today, Sigríður is recognised for her perseverance in protecting Gullfoss and is often hailed as Iceland’s first environmentalist. Her contribution is forever marked in stone; a plaque detailing her plight sits at the top of Gullfoss.
Restaurant / Cafe
Besides Gullfoss, visitors can enjoy the views from Gullfoss Cafe, a locally run delicatessen that serves a wide variety of refreshments and meals. The menu has options to tantalise everyone’s taste buds; hot soups, sandwiches, salads and cakes. There is also a shop on site where visitors’ can browse and purchase traditional Icelandic souvenirs.Þingvellir,
Þingvellir is one of the most important sites to visit in Iceland for its landscape, history and cultural value.
The Icelandic parliament was founded in Þingvellir in 930 and remained there for centuries. Þingvellir is surrounded by a beautiful mountain range and is the site of a rift valley, marking the crest of the Mid-Atlantic range. Today it is a natural park, listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and considered a vital part of the ‘Golden triangle’ (with Geysir and Gullfoss). Of particular note is the magnificent gorge Almannagjá, which marks the eastern boundary of the North American plate and into which the beautiful waterfall Öxarárfoss falls.
Other notable attractions within the park include the beautiful lake Þingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland, the Silfra fissure, one of the world's top dives, Þingvallakirkja Church and Gjábakkahellir, one of Iceland's most interesting lava tubes.Strokkur,
Strokkur (Icelandic for "churn") is one of the most famous hot springs in Iceland and belongs to the famous Golden Circle.
Strokkur is a fountain geyser in the Geysir geothermal area in the southwest part of the country, east of Reykjavik. Strokkur is a powerful hot spring and an impressive sight. It erupts about every 4–8 minutes and spouts water to a height of 15 – 20 m, sometimes up to 40 m.Snæfellsnes,
Snaefellsnes is a large peninsula extending to the west from West Iceland ending with a national park, Snaefellsjokull National Park, where the glacier towers over the scenery, as can sometimes be seen from Reykjavik, lending its beauty to the area.
The peninsula stretches over 100 km to the west as a mountain ridge that includes active volcanoes and is unique in the variety of mountains found.
A few small and beautiful villages are located on the south side and a few fishing villages are on the north side: Rif, Hellissandur, Olafsvik, Grundarfjordur and Stykkisholmur. The last one is highly popular for travelers, featuring a volcano museum and a ferry that takes you across the fascinating Breidafjordur bay to Brjanslaekur on the south border of the Westfjords.
Other museums you might want to check out are the Maritime Museum at Hellissandur, the regional museum Pakkhusid at Olafsvik, and, last but not least, the shark museum at Bjarnarhofn, indeed listed as the nr. 1 Snafellsnes attraction by Lonely Planet Travelers. Also, many of the Icelandic sagas take place at Snaefellsnes.
Snaefellsnes has an abundance of interesting sights. At the national park, you can witness the impressive lava formations of Djupalonssandur creek and test your strength on its four stones, see the two massive lava formations that compries Londrangar, explore the Saxholl volcanic crater and enjoy the echo of 'The Singing Cave', Songhellir. You may also hike on the majestic Snaefellsjokull glacier. The glacier has strong ties with folklore and was the setting for Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Other sights we can recommend at Snaefellsnes recommend include Raudfeldsgja canyon, east of the national park and the rugged and colourful Berserkjahraun lava field, near Bjarnarhofn, on the north side of the peninsula.
Last, but not least, Snaefellsnes is one of the main setting for Laxdaela saga. Chieftain Snorri godi, Gudrun Osvifursdottir, Bolli Thorlakssson all lived there as well as his namesake Bolli Bollason, the first West Norse member of the Varangian guard, an elite unit of the Byzantine army. Iceland's most famous mass murderer, Axlar-Bjorn, also lived at Snaefellsnes.Sólheimajökull,
Solheimajokull is a beautiful outlet glacier of the Myrdalsjokull icecap.
Solheimajokull is a rugged glacial tounge riddled with crevasses and spectacular ever-changing ice formations, jagged ridges and sinkholes and is popular for hiking and ice climbing.
The glacier river Jokulsa a Solheimasandur has its source at the glacier, flowing over the sand plain of Solheimasandur towards the sea.Skaftafell,
Skaftafell is a nature preserve in Oraefasveit. It used to be a national park of its own but joined the larger Vatnajokull National Park in 2008.
Skaftafell is notable for its rich flora, growing between sands and glaciers, and overall for its amazing and contrasting scenery. You can take short and easy trails to the waterfalls Svartifoss and Hundafoss, as well as Skaftafell glacier, with the mountain Kristinartindar and Morsardalur valley further off.
Skaftafell is also the perfect base camp for those seeking to climb Iceland’s highest peak, Hvannadalshnukur.Borgarfjörður,
Borgarfjordur is a fjord and a district in south western Iceland, by Faxafloi bay. It takes its name from the farm of viking and poet Egill Skallagrimsson, of Egil’s Saga fame.
Economy, History & Culture
Several farms and townships are in the fjord, the largest rural area being the town Borgarnes (population around 1763 people), a commerce and service center for a large part of the southwest. Of particular note for travelers are the Settlement Center and the Centre for Puppet Art.
At Hvanneyri there is an Agricultural University and a Technical museum shows the developing of Icelandic farming. The same latter building has an interesting handicraft center.
Reykholt is one of the most historically important places in the country and hosts a center for medeval studies, Snorrastofa. Snorrastofa is named after writer and chieftain Snorri Sturluson, author of Snorra-Edda and Heimskringla. Snorri's Edda is the main source we have about the olden northern gods and the history of Scandinavia. Among the many who have found inspiration in it are author J.R.R. Tolkien (most famous for The Lord of the Rings) and composer Richard Wagner with his four operas collectively named Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Hvita river runs through the fjord, but should not be confused with the popular rarfting river of the same name in Arnessysla. The mountains of the district are highly scenic and varied, lending further beauty to the area. Many rare minreals have been found here. The district also has some of the best salmon rivers in Iceland. The horseriding culture is particularly strong and many riding tours available for travelers.
Natural attractions further include the Hraunfossar waterfalls, streaming out of Hallmundarhraun lava over a distance of about 900 m into Hvita river. In the same lava field is Surtshellir, the most famous and longest lava cave in Iceland. Its innermost part is called ‘The Ice Cave’. There the ceiling is lower and remarkabe ice formations, ice candles and columns may be sighted. In Reykholtsdalur is Europe's highest-flowing hot spring, Deildartunguhver.Reykholt,
Reykholt in Borgarfjordur district is among the most important historical places in the country.
In Reykholt is Snorrastofa, a center for medeval studies, named after historian, poet and politician Snorri Sturluson.
As well as being a powerful chieftain in his time, Snorri is most famous as the author of Heimskringla, an account of the Norwegian kings from the 10th century to the 12th and Snorra-Edda, the most important work we have about both the ancient Nordic poetry forms and imagery as well as on Nordic mythology. Snorri is also believed to have written one of the greatest and most beloved Icelandic sagas, Egils saga.
There is a lot of geothermal activity in the area of Reykholt, one of the country's oldest structures, Snorralaug geothermal pool, named after Snorri is found here. Notable hot springs nearby are Skrifla, Dynkur and Deildartunguhver, Europe's most powerful hot spring.
If you're looking to stay more than a day in Reykholt or nearby, there are several hotels in the vicinity, among them the the beautifully built boarding school that functions as an Edda-hotel in the summer.Vík í Mýrdal,
Vik in Myrdalur valley is the southernmost village on the Icelandic mainland, located 186 km from the capital Reykjavik.
Vik is important as a service centre for the inhabitants and visitors of the marvellous Reynisfjara beach.
Reynisfjara is widely considered one of the most beautiful beaches on earth (see for example Islands Magazine). This black pebble beach boasts an amazing cliff of regular basalt columns called Gardar, which resembles a rocky step pyramid and out in the sea are the spectaculary shaped basalt sea stacks Reynisdrangar. The area has rich birdlife, including puffins, fulmars and guillemots.Egilsstaðir,
Egilsstadir is the largest town in East Iceland, with a population of 2257 people as of 2011. It is located on the banks of the river Lagarfljot in the wide valley of the fertile Fljotsdalsherad district.
Egilsstadir is the main center for service, transportation and administration in East Iceland.
The town provides all basic services and features an airport, a college and a health center. Egilsstadir also has an annual jazz festival that we can recommend. The town is furthermore close to many of East Iceland's and indeed Iceland's main attractions and as a center of the area, many East Iceland tours are directed from there.
The area of Fljotsdalsherad has many notable points of interest, whether natural, historical or cultural. Click here for further information about those.Kirkjufell,
Kirkjufell (“Church Mountain”) is a distinctly shaped mountain found on the north coast of Iceland’s Snæfellsnes Peninsula, only a short distance away from the town of Grundarfjörður.
Kirkjufell takes it’s name from its resemblance to a church steeple, sharpened at the top with long curved sides. From other angles, the mountain can resemble a witch’s hat or even a freshly scooped ice cream.
Photography at Kirkjufell
Peaking at 463 m, Kirkjufell holds the honour of being Iceland’s most photographed mountain. Throughout the centuries, Kirkjufell’s striking slopes have acted as a visual landmark for seafarers and travellers.
Walking distance from Kirkjufell, one can find the photogenic waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss (“Church Mountain Falls”), an excellent subject for photographers who can easily frame the mountain in the background. Despite its relatively diminutive height, Kirkjufellsfoss’ three-pronged falls make the waterfall particularly stunning, even for Iceland.
At the base of the mountain, visitors will also be able to find a lake; on calm and clear days, this lake reflects a perfect mirror image of Kirkjufell, only adding to the fantastic photo opportunities around this area. On top of that, the colours of Kirkjufell change with the passing seasons; the summer see it a lush green, full of life, whilst the winter months scar the mountain’s face with a mask of barren brown and white.
Fans of the HBO series Game of Thrones will recognise Kirkjufell as a shooting location from Season 7 of Game of Thrones. The mountain is showcased from the scenes ‘beyond the wall’ when Jon Snow, The Hound and Jorah Mormont, among others, brave the wilderness in hopes of catching an undead wight. Having seen it in a vision, The Hound acknowledges Kirkjufell as “[...] the mountain like an arrowhead.” Even the Games of Thrones producers can’t resist capturing the mountain on celluloid!
There is a fairly steep trail to the top of Kirkjufell, from where there are magnificent panoramas of the surrounding fields, coastlines and rivers. The mountain takes roughly an hour and a half to ascend, and one and a half hours back to the bottom.
Alongside this mountain-track is a steeper route to the peak which involves two points where one needs to rope-climb. This route should never be attempted in the winter, and never without a certified guide. Given the steep elevation, it is highly recommended that you bring a sturdy pair of hiking boots, snacks and water to the trail.
Getting to Kirkjufell
Kirkjufell is extremely close to Grundarfjörður, a small town on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, approximately two hours drive from Iceland's capital city, Reykjavik. From Grundarfjörður, one travels ten minutes west down Route Snaefellsnesvegur 54 to the base of Kirkjufell. Visitors have plenty of parking space to choose from, all free of charge.Esjan,
The mountain Esja, often called Esjan, is situated in Kjalarnes in the south-west corner of Iceland.
Only 10 kilometres from the city of Reykjavík across Faxaflói Bay, the mountain towers over the capital’s skyline. In reality, Esja is not a true mountain in itself, but a volcanic range, the highest peak of which reaches 914 metres (2,999 feet) tall.
Geology and History
Esja's formation dates back to the beginning of the last Ice Age. Magma rising from eruptions formed layers of lava beneath a glacier, and when the ice retreated, it ground much of it away and left the mountain in its current form.
Since Iceland is situated on the boundary between two tectonic plates, Eurasia and North America, the continuous tension pushes the sedimentary soil to the west. This makes the western part of the range the oldest (at about 3.2 million years) and the eastern part the youngest (at about 1.8 million years).
Esja is composed of basalt and tuff rock.
Hiking and precautionary measures
Because of the mountain's proximity to the capital city (less than an hour by car, or accessible by taking two regular buses), Esja is an extremely popular hiking destination for locals and visitors alike. The path up the mountain is divided into different sections, with signs indicating the difficulty of each route.
The most well-known paths lead to the separate summits of Þverfellshorn (780 metres / 2,560 feet) and Kerhólakambur (851 metres / 2,790 feet).
The highest point is called Hábunga and requires an additional three-kilometre trek northeast from Þverfellshorn. Approximately 200 metres from the top, hikers find themselves at a large rock named Steinn where they are faced with three options: continuing on the marked trail, climbing directly to the peak, or simply enjoying the great views before descending.
When hiking Esjan, it is important to be equipped with proper hiking gear, with a good knowledge of your capabilities. It is also imperative that you get the weather forecast ahead of arrival, so you know what precautions to take.
Avalanches and accidents can and do claim lives; in fact, according to The Iceland Touring Association, Esjan holds the most accidents in Icelandic nature. If you take necessary precautions and do not push your limits, however, you minimise the risk to yourself dramatically.Haukadalur,
Haukadalur is a geothermal valley in South Iceland on the popular Golden Circle route.
Lying to the north of Lake Laugarvatn, it is home to hot springs, fumaroles, mud pots and geysers, including the famous Great Geysir and the active Strokkur. The area is noted for the vivid colouration of its surrounding hills, caused by elements deep in the earth being brought to the surface by the geothermal activity.
History of Haukadalur
Haukadalur has been mentioned in historic writings as far back as 1294, in which its geysers were described following an earthquake that activated them. Since the 18th Century, it has been drawing visitors to this island, most notably being a favourite destination of Danish royals.
Throughout the 20th Century, images of the Great Geysir erupting at Haukadular began to symbolise Iceland. It’s activity, however, was unreliable, so unnatural efforts were made to stimulate it more regularly, such as lowering the water table in 1935 and pumping soap into it 1981.
These, however, limited the geyser’s long-term activity, so that it rarely goes off today, although, in the early 2000s, it did have a period where it was spouting water over 140 metres (459 ft) high. Even so, the geyser Strokkur is still very active, erupting to heights of 30 metres (98 ft) every five to ten minutes.
Today, most of the near-two million visitors to Iceland will see Haukadalur Valley on their travels.
Surroundings of Haukadalur
Haukadalur Valley is located about an hour and a half’s drive inland from Reykjavík, thus making many sites of the South and West easily accessible. The most notable of these are the other points on the Golden Circle: Gullfoss Waterfall (about five minutes away) and Þingvellir National Park (about forty minutes away).South Coast,
The South Coast of Iceland is the country's most visited sightseeing route, along with the Golden Circle.
The famed South Coast shoreline stretches from the greater Reykjavík area and is dotted with natural wonders such as cascading waterfalls, volcanoes both active and dormant, black sand beaches and glacier lagoons.
Geography, Nature & Wildlife
Iceland is divided into eight geographical regions. Out of these, the Southern Region is the largest, as it spans over 24.000 square kilometres with its administrative centre in the municipality of Selfoss.
What is known as the South Coast embodies the shoreline of this particular region. The area consists of a lowland that is mostly composed of marshlands, bays and cultivated pastures that are met by a series of black beaches where the estuaries to the east and west of the district close off the coastal body.
Underneath the soil rests a vast lava field, known as Þjórsárhraun. Its edges reach several hundred metres offshore where the ocean waves crash upon them, thereby protecting the lowland from the invasion of the sea. This results in the South Coast being unusually lacking in the deep fjords that so distinctly characterise the rest of Iceland's shore line.
The region boasts vibrant bird life during all seasons. It is not only rich with both marshland birds and seabirds but also migrating birds such as the North Atlantic puffin. Some species stay throughout the harsh Icelandic winter, including the northern diver, the loom and various species of gulls and ducks.
Highlights of the South Coast
The South Coast offers an unprecedented array of natural wonders that draw thousands of visitors each day. When driving the route from Reykjavík City, the highlights in their correct order are:
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
- Vestmannaeyjar; The Westman Islands
- Eyjafjallajökull Glacier Volcano
- Skógafoss Waterfall
- Sólheimajökull Glacier
- Dyrhólaey Peninsula
- Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
- Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks
- Coastal Village Vík í Mýrdal
- Skeiðarársandur Glacial Sand Plain
- Vatnajökull National Park
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
These attractions count for but a fraction of what the South Coast has to offer. The vast sand plains of Sólheimasandur are home to a crashed DC-3 Plane Wreck, and close to Seljavellir by the Skógar Village there's Seljavallalaug, one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland.
- Explore the many wonders of the area on these South Coast Tours
The Diamond Beach is the name of a strip of black sand belonging to the greater Breiðamerkursandur glacial plain, located by the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon on the South Coast of Iceland.
Breiðamerkursandur is a glacial outwash plain located in the municipality of Hornafjörður. The sand stretches approximately 18 kilometres along Iceland’s South Coast, more specifically from the foot of Kvíárjökull Glacier to the famed glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón, that nests by the foot of Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier. Both glaciers count amongst the 30 outlets of Vatnajökull, Iceland’s largest ice cap.
The outwash plain was formed when three of Vatnajökull’s outlet glaciers, Breiðamerkurjökull, Hrútárjökull and Fjallsjökull, flowed forward due to volcanic activity and ground the rocks of the underlying surface, creating and pushing forward the glacial sediments. Such sand plains are a common part of the Icelandic landscape, due to the island being volcanically active as well as boasting numerous ice caps. The terminus (the tip of a given glacier) also dug deep into the ground and left what is now the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.
The Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is one of the most famed and visited attractions in Iceland. Floating on the lagoon are enumerable ice bergs that have broken off the resident glacier, creating an ever-changing scenery of incredible allure.
The river Jökulsá connects the lagoon to the Atlantic Ocean, meaning that these icebergs eventually drift out to sea where they are polished by the waves before floating back to the black sands of Breiðamerkursandur. The name "Diamond Beach" comes from the white ice on the black sand appearing like gemstones or diamonds, as they often glisten in the sun and sharply contrast their jet black surroundings.
Iceland has one main ring road: Route 1. This ring road goes all around the island and is 1332 km long (828 miles). The road connects the capital, Reykjavík, to the second biggest city in Iceland, Akureyri, in the north of the country. Other notable towns that are connected via the ring road are Borgarnes, Blönduós, Egilsstaðir, Höfn, Kirkjubæjarklaustur, Vík, Hella, Hvolsvöllur, Selfoss and Hveragerði.
A number of popular tourist attractions are also found by the ring road, such as Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, Lake Mývatn and the waterfalls Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss and Goðafoss.
The ring road consists mainly of paved two lanes road (one each direction). Some parts of the ring road are still unpaved however. In various places the road contains single lane bridges, especially in the east part of the country. The speed limit is 90km per hour on the paved section of the road (lower when it passes through towns), but 80km per hour on gravel.
The road was only completed in 1974, with the opening of Iceland's longest bridge, that crosses Skeiðará river in southeast Iceland. In 1998 a tunnel below the fjord Hvalfjörður shortened the drive around Iceland by about one hour (or 45km along a winding fjord). Hvalfjörður tunnels are the biggest tunnels in Iceland, 5,8 km and 165m below sea level. The ring road has another tunnel called Almannaskarð in the southeast by Höfn and by 2017 the Vaðlaheiðar tunnels should be open in north Iceland, shortening the distance between Akureyri and Mývatn.
Some sections of the ring road are original 1940's country roads, and a number of sharp curves, blind curves, blind summits as well as single lane bridges mean that people need to drive cautiously. In wintertime most of the ring road is kept open, with the exception of a short passage in the east part of the country that may be closed due to heavy snow (a detour is needed to travel from the north to the east during wintertime).
Guide to Iceland would advise people to drive cautiously on the ring road both in summer and wintertime, but also to explore other roads leading from it to multiple attractions.
Pickup time : Flexible
Airport transfer on arrival/departure
4 nights of accommodation in Reykjavík (different levels available; breakfast not included for Super Budget level; breakfast included for Comfort and Quality levels; more detailed info below)
Blue Lagoon standard entrance (upgrades available) and return transfer
8 day guided minibus tour of the ring road of Iceland and Snæfellsnes Peninsula
7 night of accommodation in various country hotels (breakfast included, private bathroom depending on availability)
Northern Lights Hunting
Detailed Itinerary with fun and practical information on the nature, history and culture of Iceland
Additional activities (can be added during booking)
Lunch and dinner
What to bring:
Warm and waterproof clothing
Good hiking boots
Good to know:
The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon, and therefore cannot be guaranteed, but this itinerary is designed to maximise your chances to see them if weather allows.
Please be aware that your itinerary may have to be rearranged due to weather and conditions. It can happen, in the case of extreme weather, that an activity is cancelled. If your chosen activity is cancelled, we will assist you with rearranging or booking other activities when possible, and any potential price difference will be refunded to you.
Day 1 - Arrival and Blue Lagoon
When you arrive at Keflavík International Airport, use your voucher to get a ticket to the Flybus. The timing of the transport is flexible so don’t worry about matching your flight schedule with that of the tour.
If you have time to do so today, take the bus to the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa. It is an ideal cure for all jet-lags. The mineral-rich waters and natural silica mud of the lagoon are world-renowned for their skin-healing abilities, allowing you to kickstart your journey with a rejuvenating and restorative soak. If your flight arrives late, you can save this experience for your departure.
Once you have fully enjoyed the benefits of the lagoon, your bus will take you to the capital city, Reykjavík where you can check into your accommodation. Before turning in, feel free to explore the charming downtown and its many sights, shops, restaurants and cafés.
You will spend the night in Reykjavík.
Preferred accommodation in Reykjavík
The Fosshótel chain has four 3-4 star Hotels located in and around the city center of Reykjavík. There is a short walk from all of the hotels to attractions, cafés, restaurants, museums and the nightlife. All offer private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.
Day 2 - Golden Circle
On your second day, you will leave the capital behind for the time being and board your minibus, where you will get to know the rest of the passengers and your friendly guides. You will begin by heading out to see the famed sights of the Golden Circle. This route is by far the most celebrated one in the entire country, and you will immediately understand why upon arrival.
First up is Þingvellir National Park, both historically and geologically fascinating. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Þingvellir is the location where Iceland’s very first legislative body, Alþingi, was founded. The area is furthermore located on the continental rift where Almannagjá Fissure marks the meeting of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.
Once you have explored the enchanting valley, you will head on to the geothermal valley Haukadalur, home to spouting geysers and bubbling mud pools. There you can observe the grand geyser Strokkur naturally erupt every few minutes. Next up is the majestic waterfall Gullfoss—a cascading beast of unharnessed power as it plummets down two stages into the icy crevice of a glacial river.
By the end of the day, you will retreat to a cosy accommodation in Hella, a small town resting on the banks of Ytri-Rangá river. Remember to look up in the sky for Northern Lights.
Day 3 - South Coast with Glacier Hike
As you set out from Hella on your third day, you will trail along one of the country’s most beautiful areas belonging to the famed South Coast. You will pass cascading rivers and rural farmlands and stop at the two magnificent waterfalls Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss.
The sights on the menu today are numerous and sure to leave you in awe, but if you want to embark on an additional activity, you can opt for a thrilling glacier hike on top of Sólheimajökull during the booking process. There really is no better way of comprehending a glacier’s power than by strapping on boots and crampons and ascending its icy surface.
Your destination for the night is the coastal village Vík, home to the black sand beach Reynisfjara, frequently voted as one of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world. Offshore you can observe the castle-like structure of the basalt sea stacks Reynisdrangar. Enjoy the local food or go souvenir shopping before calling it a day.
You will spend the night at an accommodation in Vík.
Day 4 - Skaftafell & Jokulsarlon with Ice Cave
On your fourth day, get ready for one of the ultimate highlights of any Icelandic Ring Road adventure, as you travel across the black desert Mælifellssandur to arrive at Skaftafell—a unique nature reserve boasting of glaciers, waterfalls, forestry and steep mountains. Hiking enthusiast will love Skaftafell, as there is a myriad of trails and tracks available leading to beautiful natural wonders.
Next, you will pay a visit to the famous Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, where massive icebergs that have broken off one of Vatnajökull’s outlet glaciers float in tranquil waters before drifting off to the Atlantic Ocean. This is a sight you will never forget, as well as the neighbouring Diamond Beach where chunks of ice glisten like gemstones on a blanket of black velvet sand.
Another adventure awaits you today if you opted for during booking; exploring a natural ice cave. These caves are formed each autumn and disappear come spring, so this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The spectrum of colours inside the cave will leave you in awe as you move past the icy inlets and frozen sculptures that line the walls of this ethereal wonderland.
By the end of the day, you will find yourself in the town of Höfn, which is where you will spend the night.
Day 5 - The Wild Eastfjords & Egilsstadir
Today it is time to leave the south behind and head to the Eastfjords, one of the most untouched regions of wilderness in Iceland. As you trail along the fjords, you can experience the tranquillity of the nesting mountains and resident wildlife. Perhaps you will even spot roaming herds of wild reindeer or the adorable Arctic fox in its white winter coat.
There are several stops to be made en route, such as the stretch of black sand in Breiðdalsvík, the small and charming fishing settlements that nest in the fjords, and the majestic gabbro mountain Vestrahorn.
You will spend the night in Egilsstaðir, a trading town on the banks of the river Lagarfljót.
Day 6 - Lake Myvatn & Husavik Town
Today you will head on to Lake Mývatn, a serene display of over 40 islets surrounded by pseudo-craters and mystic terrain. Highlights of the area include Dimmuborgir, a fortress of ghostly rock formations, and Námaskarð, where fumaroles, mud pools and sulphur pits rumble with geothermal activity.
A part of the day will be dedicated to visiting the captivating town of Húsavík. There you will learn about the local history and visit Húsavíkurkirkja, a picturesque farm church constructed over a century ago. You can also take a stroll around town to get acquainted with the locals or visit the charming country shops.
You will then head back to the Mývatn area where you will spend the night. The Northern Lights are even likelier to show up this far up north, so keep your eyes peeled and cameras ready.
Day 7 - Trollaskagi Peninsula & Akureyri Town
Today you will visit the historic village Siglufjörður on the Tröllaskagi Peninsula, where you can continue to immerse yourself in the local culture. You will also explore the farmlands of the Eyjafjörður fjord and learn about the agricultural history of Iceland.
The entire area is dotted with picturesque rivers and steep mountains, providing for plentiful photo opportunities that are sure to entice both nature photography enthusiasts and professionals.
Your final destination for the day is what the locals like to call the capital of the North; Akureyri. Lining the town are the finest skiing slopes in all the land, as well as a scenery of snow-capped mountains and deep fjords.
You can spend your night visiting the shops, cafés, restaurants and bars of this charming minuscule city. You will spend the night in Akureyri.
Day 8 - From Akureyri to Reykholt
As you wake up breathing the fresh mountain air of Akureyri, you can continue to explore the many enchantments of the town, such as museums, boutiques or the town church. What is probably the most beloved ice cream parlour in all the land, Brynjuís, also calls this town home. Even in wintertime, Icelanders love to enjoy ice-cream, so do as the locals and try it out.
Once it is time to continue, you will make your way west to the village Reykholt in Borgarfjörður, an area rich in fascinating settlement history. Reykholt was the home of Snorri Sturluson, a poet, scholar, chieftain, writer of Sagas and arguably one of the most prominent figures of the Middle Ages. The landscapes of the fjord are just as magnificent as its history, and you’ll spend ample time exploring the marvels of the West.
You’ll spend the night in the area of Reykholt.
Day 9 - The Snaefellsnes Peninsula
On day nine, you will find you’ve just about made a full circle in exploring the island of ice and fire. The destination for today is a fitting one, as it is the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, an area famed for boasting of such diverse Icelandic terrain that it is often dubbed ‘Iceland in minuscule’.
Tall cliffs, ancient fishing ports, black beaches, caves and coastal lines make up the landscape of the peninsula, crowned by the jewel of Snæfellsjökull—the volcano glacier that Jules Verne used as the subterranean entrance in his classic adventure novel 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth'.
The area is also home to Mt. Kirkjufell, decidedly the most photographed mountain in Iceland. Besides from sightseeing, you can also make time for a caving tour into Vatnshellir if you reserved a spot during your booking process. The cave in question is one of Iceland’s largest, and the underground dome that greets you inside will provide you with your very own Verne-esque adventure.
Finally, you will head back to Reykjavík where you will spend the night.
Preferred accommodation in Reykjavík
The Fosshótel chain has four 3-4 star Hotels located in and around the city center of Reykjavík. There is a short walk from all of the hotels to attractions, cafés, restaurants, museums and the nightlife. All offer private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.
Day 10 - Free Day in Reykjavik & Adventure Tours
Welcome back to Reykjavík. As you have now circumnavigated the entire island, you can enjoy the open arms of the capital for an additional two days before your departure, so there will be no need for hectic last minute shopping or sightseeing.
How you spend these two city days is entirely up to you. The available adventures on hand, provided you reserve them during booking, are two thrilling experiences. One is to hop on a snowcat and venture into Langjökull Glacier through a man-made ice tunnel, and the other is to enjoy a panoramic view of Reykjavík City from a helicopter that takes you to the peak of Mt. Esja.
If you prefer to sightsee the city from within, there is no better way of doing so that by opting for a 48 hour City Card. This master key to the capital provides for free public transport and unlimited access to some of the city's museums and galleries, as well as the Reykjavík Family Park and Zoo and the delightful geothermal swimming pools that dot the city.
No matter how you choose to spend your day, you will spend the night at your accommodation in Reykjavík.
Preferred accommodation in Reykjavík
The Fosshótel chain has four 3-4 star Hotels located in and around the city center of Reykjavík. There is a short walk from all of the hotels to attractions, cafés, restaurants, museums and the nightlife. All offer private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.
Day 11 - Free Day in Reykjavik & City Sightseeing
Day eleven will be your last full day, and again how you spend it is up to you. If you would like to get better associated with the wildlife of Iceland, you can choose to go on a whale watching tour from Reykjavík harbour, or a horse riding tour in the nearby countryside. The Icelandic horses are world-known for their gentle and friendly nature and getting acquainted with them is a genuine Icelandic experience.
If you didn’t opt for the 48 hour City Card the previous day, you could book a 24 hour one for today. As well as including all the previously listed benefits, both cards also provide you with a discount in several of the city’s restaurants, shops and cafés, as well as additional tours that all set out from the city centre.
Spend your day shopping, sightseeing, adventuring or relaxing, before retreating to your city accommodation for the night.
Preferred accommodation in Reykjavík
Day 12 - Departure
All adventures must come to an end, so say farewell to the city and catch your complimentary ride to the airport in time for your return flight.
If you didn't catch the Blue Lagoon when you arrive, now is the perfect time for a soak. Unwind in the warm azure waters of the lagoon before your flight so when you get back home, you'll be relaxed and rejuvenated.
Have a safe journey home and know that Iceland will always be waiting for your return.
See our accommodation levels below. Super Budget booking will be arranged in hostel dormitory bed accommodation. For Comfort and Quality bookings, single person bookings will be arranged in a single room, while bookings of 2 or more people will share twin/double room(s) or triple room(s). If you are travelling with others, but prefer a single room, please make separate bookings. We always do our best to accommodate special requests, which may incur additional costs.
Rooms or dormitory beds with shared bathrooms in guesthouses or hostels, such as HI Hostel. Located in the capital region. Breakfast is not included.
Rooms with a private bathroom at three-star hotels such as Fosshótel Barón, or quality guest houses. Located in the city center or in close vicinity. Breakfast is included.
This insurance guarantees that you can cancel the booking of this package and receive a full refund, minus the insurance cost of 5,000 ISK per person. The cancellation must be made within a minimum of 48-hours before the listed starting time. To cancel your booking and claim your refund, simply contact our service desk by writing to email@example.com no later than 48-hours before departure and declare the cancellation. Please note that this insurance only covers the full cancellation of this entire package. It does not cover cancellations of individual activities and services within the package. The cost of the Cancellation Insurance is neither refundable nor transferable.