8 Day Self Drive Tour | Circle Of Iceland Camping Trip
Book this tour for an incredible camping trip all around Iceland! If you have always dreamed of completing the ring road, love to immerse yourself in nature, and are on a bit of a budget, then this is the perfect tour for you!
You'll circle Iceland and explore the whole country. As the driver, you can go where you like and ignore a set schedule, without worrying about tour guides or other group members.
Quality camping facilities with plenty of amenities are all around, and you'll be surrounded by spectacular nature no matter where you pitch up your tent. Along the way, you can explore popular spots like the Blue Lagoon, the Golden Circle, Skaftafell Nature Reserve, the Lake Mývatn Area and the waterfalls of the West.
To guarantee that you have a selection of the most popular locations with some more private areas to enjoy, Guide to Iceland has chosen a few unique attractions to guide you to. These sites are listed in a custom-made itinerary you will receive after you book, allowing you to revel in the natural landscapes Iceland is famous for without the crowds. The itinerary also sends you to as many geothermal hot springs as possible, to ease the tension built from full days of adventuring.
This tour can be added to with various activities along the way. Snorkelling, snowmobiling, glacier hiking, ice caving, whale-watching and a boat tour on the glacier lagoon are all options you can choose to make this holiday everything you could want it to be.
Reserve this camping trip now for an affordable self-drive tour to see the best attractions in Iceland! Check booking availability now, by choosing a date.
- Available: May. - Sep.
- Duration: 8 days
- Activities: Sightseeing, Self drive
- Difficulty: Easy
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, ‘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 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.
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!
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 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 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 (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 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.
Hraunfossar in Borgarfjordur district is a series of beautiful waterfalls formed by rivulets streaming from a short distance out of the Hallmundarhraun lava field.
The lava field flowed from an eruption of one of the volcanoes lying under the glacier Langjokull. The waterfalls pour into the Hvita river from ledges of less porous rock in the lava. These are some of the most magnificent falls found in Iceland and not to be missed.
Deildartunguhver, by Reykholt, in Borgarfjordur district, has the highest flow rate for a hot spring in Europe.
The flow rate of Deildartunguhver is 180 liters/second and water emerges at 97 °C. The place is also unique for being the only place in the country where the hard fern grows.
Hofn a Hornafirdi, is a fishing town in southeast Iceland, with a population of 1641 (as of 2011). It has a strong harbour and its main industries are fishing and tourism.
Of note are several interesting museums and the annual Humarhatid (lobster festival). The area is also rich and varied birdlife and migratory birds from Scotland land here around April and leave around August/September.
Borgarnes is a town of less than 2000 people, located on a peninsula at the shore of Borgarfjörður. It's a commerce centre for a large part of western Iceland.
Borgarnes' main industry is service and commerce. It is near to many natural attractions and the view over the fjord and its mountains is highly scenic. The river Hvítá runs through this valley but should not be confused with its namesake, which is the home of Gullfoss and one of Iceland's major rafting rivers. Among major cultural attractions of Borgarnes are the Settlement Centre and the Centre for Puppet Arts.
For those with children, or wanting to bring out their inner child, we recommend the Bjössaróló environmental playground which Björn Hjörtur Guðmundsson spent years developing, using salvaged materials for all the play equipment. Here you'll find slides built into the surrounding hillocks, many slings, a jungle gym, spinning top and several lookout points. There's also a castle, an old boat, seesaws and a climbing dome. Courting couples have also been attracted to the place. In short, it's renowned as the best playground in the country, a wonderland of endless fun activities. It further gives an excellent view of the sea, so guests can take in the breathtaking scenery.
Barnafoss ('Children's Waterfall') is a waterfall in Hvita river in Borgarfjordur.
The waterfall runs through a narrow rocky gorge and legend has it that there once was a natural stone arc over the river, that was demolished after two children fell from it to their death. Not far away is the stunning series of waterfalls Hraunfossar, flowing out of a lava field into Hvita.
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.
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 centre for service, transportation and administration in East Iceland.
Airport and Services
The town provides all basic services and features an airport which is mostly used for domestic flights, although some international airlines sometimes fly there. The town also boasts a college and a health centre. 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 centre 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.
Siglufjordur is a town of about 1300 people, located it North Iceland. It is the northernmost town of the mainland. Along with its natural beauty, its Herring Era museum, Folk Music Museum and the annual Folk Music Festival attract ever more travelers.
Siglufjordur has one of Iceland's best harbours and the fishing industry has been the mainstay of the economy for a long time, but in recent years services have become and increased part of the economy. Since the tunnels through the fjord Hedinsfjordur opened in 2010 there has been a large increase in visits to the town, as the town indeed has much to offer for travelers.
History & culture
Siglufjordur has an eventful history and saw a steady rise in the 20th century, from being a tiny village in the early 1900s to becoming a town no later than as 1918. In the middle of the 20th century it was one of the largest towns in Iceland. For a long period it was the capital of herring fishing in the North Atlantic, and the town's cod fishing museum bears proud witness to this history. The old houses there are charming and its nice to take a stroll through the town and enjoy the architecture and the surrounding nature.
The Herring Era Museum is one of Iceland's largest seafaring- and industry museums in the country. The museum is split into three houses were one can learn about the fishing and its processing. One can see many ships and boats in the Boathouse, recreating the feel of the 50's. The salting station retains the old look of the place and on good summer days traveleres may observe the salting process in action and there is a dance. The old Grana factory shows how herring was transformed into meals and oil.
The Folk Music Center is located where the reverend Bjarni Thorsteinsson, 'The father of Siglufjordur', lived and brings the old folk songs to life. Here you can here recordings of people singing quint songs or tvisongur, chanting the epic rhymes (rimur), playing langspil (similar to dulcimer, featuring one melody string and one to five (usually two) drone strings), and the old Icelandic (two strings), nursery rhymes, doing folk dances etc. The center also depicts the life of reverend Bjarni.
The Folk Festival
In early July, Siglufjordur hosts it annual Folk Music Festival, introducing the folk music of various nations and ethnic groups, with a special focus on Icelandic folk music. Various events take place, including lectures and courses on music and handicraft aklong with dances, concerts and overall partying.
Siglufjordur is a particularly beautiful fjord, and high and dramatic mountains tower of the town. The birdlife is varied and some 2000 birds of 16-18 species may usually be found in the fjord. Popular hiking trails include the passes Holsskard and Hestsskard, which lead to the beautiful fjord Hedinsjordur, which may also be accessed by boat or car.
The deserted Hedinsfjordur is set by steep and impressive mountains and has a beautiful valley with good trout fishing in the Hedinssfjardarvatn lake. The last farm of Hedinsfjordur was abandoned in 1951. In the 20th century there would on average be five inhabited farms in the fjord. The vegetation is rich and food could be obtained from land and sea, but the winters were hard and saw many avalanches. The fjord was also hard to reach.
Northeast of Hedinsfjordur you'll find the remnants of one of the remote farms in Iceland, Hvanndalir. Hvanndalir can be reached from Hedinsfjordur through the Hvanndalaskridur ('Hvanndalir landslides'), though we would only suggest this to seasoned hikers, accompanied by professional guides.
Located in the north-west, Hofsós is one of the oldest trading posts in Iceland, dating back to the 1500s. Today, it is a sleepy fishing village, though tourism is now on the rise thanks to the recent addition of a designer swimming pool.
In the 16th century, Hofsós seemed destined to develop into a large and prosperous town. It was built centre-north of the country, there was easy access for boats to land, the fishing was rife and, most importantly, it was a trading port for the Danish Trade Monopoly. Given that Iceland was under Danish crown rule, this trade monopoly ensured the then King of Denmark, Christian IV, that he could both pursue his mercantilist priorities and maintain overseas territories. An old wooden warehouse, Pakkhúsið, still exists in the town dating back to this period, which ended in 1786 following the cessation of the Danish Trade Monopoly. However, Hofsós failed to develop substantially in the 20th Century, and to this day is still a fairly quiet village West of Akureyri.
A number of harbour-side buildings have been converted to the Iceland Emigration Centre, a museum dedicated to the story of Icelandic emigration to North America. Icelander Leif Erikson was, arguably, the first man of European descent to make landfall in North America, estimated at around 1000AD, five centuries before Christopher Columbus. His worthy voyage cowers in comparison to the countries’ later mass exodus. Iceland lost 16,000 residents between 1870 to 1914, all pursuing the dream of a “New Iceland”. Further thousands left after the Second World War, many settling in the Upper Midwest of the United States. The Iceland Emigration Centre’s main exhibition is a collection of letters, photographs and displays called “New Land, New Life”, which brings this story to greater attention.
Since 2010, Hofsós has boasted an outdoor swimming pool and adjacent hot pot - Sundlaugin á Hofsósi - built fjord side and beautifully integrated into the landscape. Swimmers are privy to truly majestic views of the area. Boat tours are available for bird watching and sightseeing trips to the uninhabited island of Málmey.
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
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
4x4 rental car with roof top tent for 8 days
Camping card for selected campsites
Camping chairs and Tables
What to bring:
Good to know:
Off-road driving is illegal in Iceland. It is a highly fined offence. Avoid legal problems and make sure to stay on marked highland roads and paths. Believe us, this will already be adventure enough! Also note that highland roads are closed during wintertime, which normally open in mid-June and close in September.
Self-drive tours begin either in Reykjavík City or at Keflavik International Airport. A valid driver's license is required, along with a one-year long on-road experience. Please be aware that your itinerary may be rearranged to better fit with your arrival date and time.
Although it is summertime, the Icelandic weather can be very unpredictable. Please bring appropriate clothing.
Day 1 - Arrival in Reykjavík
After landing, collect your car at Keflavík airport and drive to a camping place close to downtown Reykjavík. En route, if you have some time, you can explore the many geological wonders of the Reykjanes Peninsula, or else bask in the healing waters of the famous Blue Lagoon.
Once you've settled in, the rest of the day is free for you to explore the quirky city centre, and its abundance of museums, galleries, restaurants, and bars. Be sure to sample the city's nightlife before heading back to your camping ground for the night.
Day 2 - The Golden Circle & Southwest Iceland
Day two sees you embark on the famous Golden Circle tour before you reach the south coast. Begin with a visit to Þingvellir National Park, where you can walk the valley between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, and discover the original site of the world's longest running representative parliament. You can also opt for a snorkelling tour here, in the crystal clear ravine Silfra.
Next up is the Haukadalur geothermal valley, home to the great Geysir—the original “geyser”. Its more active neighbour, Strokkur, erupts every ten minutes or so, sending boiling water up to 20 m (66 ft) high, and the area is dotted with bubbling hot springs and steaming fumaroles.
End the circle with a visit to the mighty Gullfoss waterfall; you can approach it right to its edge to observe its incredible scale and power. From here, you can also take the option of going on a snowmobiling tour on Langjökull glacier. If that does not appeal, look into booking a horse-riding tour.
Following this, head to the south coast and visit one of Iceland's most beautiful waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss, which you can walk all the way around. The towering Skógafoss waterfall is also nearby. Further along the coast, stop to admire the black volcanic beach at Reynisfjara, and the dramatic Dyrhólaey rock formations. Other sights along the route include the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which will be on your left-hand side.
Spend the night in Vík.
Day 3 - Hiking Day in Skaftafell Nature Reserve
Day three should be spent travelling to, and marvelling over, the many sights of the beautiful Skaftafell area of Vatnajökull National Park. Before you depart to the area you can opt for an ice cave tour that departs from Vík, where you'll explore a dazzling cave on Mýrdalsjökull glacier.
At Skaftafell, hiking enthusiasts will truly be in their element. There are plenty of challenging tracks and trails to be found, including one that leads to the beautiful Svartifoss waterfall. This fall tumbles down unique basalt columns, which inspired the design of Reykjavik's Hallgrímskirkja church.
This is also an ideal place to go glacier hiking, allowing you to behold some incredible views. It's an unforgettable experience, which comes highly recommended.
Spend the night in Skaftafell Nature Reserve.
Day 4 - Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon & Höfn
On your fourth day, continue your drive eastward to what is one of Iceland’s most famous attractions and primary photo spots, the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Here you can enjoy a boat cruise amongst the serenity of the icebergs, the shapes and colours of which will take your breath away. There are zodiac and amphibious boats to choose from. Even if you choose not to take either, however, you'll have incredible views from the shore.
Don't miss a walk down to the Diamond Beach, where these icebergs wash up on the black shore like glistening jewels. Also, keep a keen eye out for the seals that call the lagoon and beach home.
Spend the night in the quaint fishing village of Höfn.
Day 5 - Lake Mývatn
Start the day early and drive to the Lake Mývatn area, a hotbed of volcanic landscapes, which includes the Námaskarð Pass, the Skútustaðagígar pseudo-craters, and Mt. Krafla. Take a stop at Dimmuborgir, the 'Dark Fortress', named as such because the lava in the area twists into strange and unreal shapes which resemble a crumbling castle, complete with towers and turrets.
After a long day on the road, take a dip in the soothing geothermal waters of the Mývatn Nature Baths, before spending the night in the Lake Mývatn area or the town of Akureyri.
Day 6 - North Iceland
Use day six to further explore Lake Mývatn and its unique surroundings. Highly recommended is a drive through the Jökulsárgljúfur region of the Vatnajökull National Park, stopping at sights such as the Ásbyrgi canyon and Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Another great way to spend some time is a visit to Husavik, renowned as the whale watching capital of Europe. You can opt into an incredible whale watch here, and even upgrade it to include puffins.
After making the most of these sights, head towards Akureyri. Just be sure to stop and appreciate the mighty Goðafoss waterfall on the way.
Known as 'the capital of the North,' Akureyri is a charming town with a plenty of shops and museums, as well as one of the world's northernmost botanical gardens. Enjoy the area, then continue through Skagafjörður, a valley known for its Icelandic horses, and spend the night in the north-west area.
Day 7 - West Iceland
Your seventh day should be spent exploring the best that West Iceland has to offer. It is a fairly long drive from the north-west to the capital, but there is a lot to see along the way. Be sure to visit the Icelandic stone citadel at Borgarviki, as well as Deildartunguhver, the largest hot spring in Europe. Along the coast, stop to admire the mesmerising Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls, and visit the Settlement Centre in Borganes, before spending the night in Reykjavík.
There are two very different caving tours you can opt into on this day. You can enter the man-made tunnels carved into the side of Langjökull glacier, or else the natural lava tubes of Víðgelmir.
Day 8 - Blue Lagoon & Departure from Iceland
Be sure to drop your car back at the airport in time for your flight home. If you are lucky enough to have an afternoon or evening flight, and therefore a few more hours to kill, consider indulging in a luxurious spa session at the world-famous Blue Lagoon, or if you have already done so, admire the sights of Reykjanes Peninsula.
After this trip, you will have seen all of the best attractions along the Ring Road of Iceland and can leave the island satisfied. Until next time!
The vehicles offered for our self drive camping tours are highland capable and equipped with a roof top tent and necessary camping equipment suitable for two people. They come with a GPS and CDW insurance.
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.