9 Day Self-Drive Winter Tour | Snaefellsnes Peninsula, South Coast, and Ice Cave
Book this incredible self-drive tour to make the most of nine days in Iceland. This tour is perfect for those who wish for the opportunity to see Iceland’s best-known sites, to marvel over its hidden gems, and who desire the freedom to explore in their own time.
On this drive, you will see the world-famous Golden Circle, the diverse landscapes of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, and the wonders of the South Coast. You will also receive a ticket to the famous Blue Lagoon where you can relax in the warm azure waters of the spa.
You will have opportunities to do more than just sightseeing, however; as you book, you will find adventures that you can pick and choose to add on to each day, such as snorkelling, caving, snowmobiling and glacier hiking. You will even have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit an ice cave.
The beauty of a self-drive is that you choose when to leave and where to go. You will only have to find your accommodation each night and the location of the tours you book. To aid you with this, you will receive a personal itinerary that will inform you of all the potential sites you can visit in a day, both famous landmarks and hidden gems, so that the journey you plan fits your desires and needs.
What is more, Iceland experiences many hours of darkness this time of year, so there is always the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights. You will spend numerous nights in country hotels, away from the bright city lights, enhancing your chances to see the beautiful Auroras.
Do not miss this chance to explore Iceland, from its most unique corners to its most famous sites, on this incredible 9-day self-drive tour. Check availability by choosing a date.
- Available: Oct. - Apr.
- Duration: 9 days
- Activities: Glacier Hiking, Snorkelling, Caving, Hiking, Snowmobile, Sightseeing, Hot Spring Bathing, Ice Caving, Self drive
- Difficulty: Easy
- 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.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.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)
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.Eyjafjallajökull,
The glacier volcano of Eyjafjallajokull (1651 m) is located at the borders of the South Icelandic highlands. It featured prominently in world news in 2010 when ash from its eruption halted air traffic in Europe.
An ice cap of about 100 km with several outlet glaciers covers the caldera of Eyjafjallajökull that stands at the height of 1651 meters. The diamaeter of its highest crater is around 3-4 km2 wide and the rim has several peaks.
Eyjafjallajokull glacier volcano lies north of Skogar, and to the west of Myrdalsjokull glacier and the massive volcano there; Katla.
Eyjafjallajokull is thought to be related geologically to Katla in Myrdalsjokull and eruptions in the former have often been followed by eruptions in the latter.
The 2010 eruptions
The end of 2010 saw some small seismic activity that gradually increased and resulted in a small eruption in March of 2010, characterized by a flow of alkani-olivine basalt lava.
This first stage lasted until April 12th and created the volcanic craters Magni and Modi at the Fimmvorduhals trail. They are so far Iceland's newest vocanic craters, and still eminate steam with lava glowing under the surface.
However it was the second phase of the eruption that started on April 14th that created the huge ash cloud that rose about 9 km into the skies.
This eruption halted air traffic in Europe for days, and its estimated that as many as 107.000 flights may have been cancelled during the week it lasted.
The ejected tephra measured around 250 million cubic meters. This ash cloud lasted for six days and some more localized disruption continued into May. The eruption was officially declared to be over in October 2010, as the snow on the glacier had ceased to melt.
Future volcanic developments?
Eyjafjallajokull erupted in years 920, 1612 and again 1821-1823.
Its latest eruptions were the two that occurred in 2010.
Future volcanic developments remain unclear. The area is still highly active and can be quite unpredictable. It continues, however, to be closely monitored by The Icelandic Meterological Office.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.Reykjanes,
Reykjanes is a peninsula in Southwest Iceland, characterised by immense lava fields, volcanoes and strong geothermal activity.
Volcanic & Geothermal Activity
The peninsula runs along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates are drifting apart. Because of this geological setting, the whole peninsula is extremely volcanically active, covered with lava fields and volcanoes and small earthquakes are very common there.
During the middle ages, many eruptions occurred in Reykjanes, but no eruptions have been recorded there for the last 500 years.
The main geothermal areas of Reykjanes are Gunnuhver, Krýsuvik and Svartsengi. Various mud pools and fumaroles can be seen at Gunnuhver while Krýsuvik is characterised by hot springs and mud pots that bestow multicoloured hues upon the soil. The green crater lake Grænavatn is also an impressive sight.
Svartsengi is home to a geothermal power station that produces 76.5 MW of electricity from the 475 litres of 90° C warm water that gush from the earth per second. The mineral-rich surplus water fills up the Blue Lagoon spa.
Nature & Wildlife
Reykjanes' cliffs are teeming with birdlife. Its best-known bird colony resides in Krýsuvikurbjarg which is the nesting place of approximately 80 thousand seabirds. North of Krýsuvíkurbjarg is Kleifarvatn, the largest lake on the peninsula and one of the deepest in Iceland.
Reykjanes is hammered by some of the most breathtaking breaker waves in the world. A short drive from Krýsuvík is Selvogur where one is able to witness some of the country's greatest waves. On Reykjanestá, the southwest tip of the peninsula, the waves are known to reach heights of 20-30 meters.
The peninsula's north side is dotted with fishing villages and towns, most notably Keflavík, Sandgerði, Garður and Vogar. Grindavík town is located on the south shore of the peninsula.
Near Keflavík is the Miðnesheiði heath, where the international airport, Leifsstöð (also known as Keflavíkurflugvöllur or ‘Keflavík Airport’) is located.
The World-Famous Spa
On the southern tip of the peninsula is the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, an ideal place for relaxing and bathing.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.Mýrdalsjökull,
Mýrdalsjökull is a glacier in the south of the Icelandic highlands. It is the country's fourth largest ice cap, covering nearly 600 kilometres squared, and its highest peak is almost 1500 meters tall. It is most well-known for sitting atop the notorious and explosive volcano, Katla. Mýrdalsjökull is visible from Route 1 on the South Coast, sitting to the north of the village of Vík.
Eruptions beneath Mýrdalsjökull
Since 2010, the world has known of the volcano beneath Eyjafjallajökull; few, however, are aware of the much larger volcano right beside it. Mýdalsjökull conceals Katla, one of the country’s most active volcanoes, having erupted, on average, once every fifty years since 930 AD. Because of the glacier above it, these eruptions tend to cause enormous ash clouds.
The last major eruption beneath Katla was in 1918, in which such huge lahar floods occurred that the southern coastline was extended five kilometres outwards. This area is also very susceptible to glacial floods, or jökulhlaups, during eruptions, even when the lava does not break through the surface of the ice.
Historically, the area was little settled for this reason.
Katla is connected to the same volcanic system as Eyjafallajökull and usually erupts violently a few years after. As the ex-president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson said in 2010:
Katla is monitored heavily, and roads around it closed when seismic activity increases. All road closures around Iceland can be found on Road and Coastal Administration's website.
Tours on Mýrdalsjökull
While there are no eruptions immediately imminent, tours continue to run on Mýrdalsjökull, allowing visitors to enjoy the glacier. It is, for example, possible to snowmobile across its surface throughout the year and take ice caving tours beneath it from October to April, with departures from both Reykjavík and Vík.
Considering the ice caves under Vatnajökull glacier are usually only accessible from November to March, this provides a wider window of opportunity for travellers to Iceland outside of the depths of winter. It should be noted that the caves in Mýrdalsjökull do not have the same blue ice, however.
Tours around Mýrdalsjökull
The best perspectives of the glacier, however, can be found on the popular Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail, which goes between Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull. Part of this hike can be done in a day, or you can take the complete route from Þórsmörk to Skógar on a three-day trek.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.Höfn,
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.Stykkishólmur,
Stykkisholmur is a town of about 1100 people in Snaefellsnes. It is a center of service and commerce in the area and the ferry Baldur sails from there over to Brjanslaekur in the Westfjords.
The main industries of Stykkisholmur are fishing and tourism and the town has an excellent natural harbour. Breidafjordur, from which the Baldur ferry sails, is riddled with islands and has fascinating flora, bird- and sealife, such as whales, and sailing through the fjord is highly popular for travelers. Tasting shellfish straight from the sea is also a great treat. The regional museum in Stykkisholmur is worth a visit, positioned in a beautiful old house built in 1828, as well as the country's oldest weather station,dating from 1845.Hellnar,
Hellnar is an old fishing village on the westernmost part of the Snaefellsnes peninsula. It used to be one of the largest fishing stations of the peninsula, the oldest record of seafaring there being from 1560.
At the shore are spectacular rock formations. Among them is a protruding cliff called Valasnos. Tunneling into the cliff is a cave renowned for its changing colourful hues, according to the light and sea movement. Large colonies of birds also nest in the area.
At Gvendarbrunnar a.k.a. Mariulind you can taste excellent spring water which is said to have healing powers.
Hellnar hosts the guesthouse for Snaefellsnes National Park and has a very interesting exhibition about the economy of former times and on the geology, flora and fauna of the national park.Arnarstapi,
Arnarstapi is a village in the southern part of the Snaefellsnes peninsula. The area has several old and charming houses with interesting stories to them and is furthermore renowned for its beautiful nature.
The beach holds a particular attraction. It has an eroded circular stone arch, called Gatklettur, and three rifts, Hundagja,Midgja and Musagja. The interplay of spectacular waves and the light of the sun creates a fascinating spectacle. Large colonies of the arctic tern also nest in the area.
An old horse trail through the lava field Hellnahraun is highly popular for hiking, due to the impressiveness of the surrounding landscape.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.Búðir,
Búðir is a small hamlet in the municipality of Snæfellsbær on the westernmost tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
The hamlet is located in the lava fields of Búðahraun in the region of Staðarsveit in west Iceland. Búðir consists of a church and a country hotel but is otherwise uninhabited.
Búðir was once a prosperous fishing village and one of Snæfellsnes' most active trading posts. Medieval sources describe Búðir as one of Iceland's major ports and archaeological evidence suggests portal activity dating back to the earliest settlement of Iceland.
In the beginning of the 19th Century, the trading post was abandoned but today, the area prospers economically because of tourism.
Búðir boasts the vast lava field Búðahraun that reaches east from the hamlet towards the sea by Faxaflói Bay, and west to the reef of Hraunlandarif. The lava's source can be traced to the 88-metre tall volcanic crater Búðaklettur which is located in the middle of the lava field. The crater has an opening on its south-west side, where one can enter the 382-metre long Búðahellir Cave.
Búðahraun is acclaimed for its rich flora, boasting approximately 130 different plant species. These include rare and protected species such as four leafed clovers. The eastern part of the lava field has been an official nature reservoir since 1977.
Búðir also consists of a field of tall, windswept grass, and a beach of fair-coloured sand dotted with jet black lava rocks. Hótel Búðir is a charming country hotel where visitors can enjoy the reclusiveness of the surrounding area.
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All that remains of Búðir’s former community is the black wooden church Búðakirkja. A man named Bent Lauridtsen got a bishop’s permit in 1701 to build a church in the area. When it came to deciding the location, an old woman reportedly suggested making a man spin in circles until he became dazed and then have him shoot three arrows into the air. Where the third arrow landed, the church should be built.
A small turf chapel was built two years later, where it stood until it was dismissed by orders of the Danish King Christian VIII in 1819. Several residents fought for the reclamation of the church until in 1849 the priest’s council allowed for the construction of a new house of worship—as long as the residents of Búðir would fully finance the project and see to its maintenance.
A woman named Steinunn had meticulously cared for the artefacts from the old chapel, which resulted in the church still donning some of its original items, such a door latch engraved by Bent in 1703. Renovations were made in 1951, and again in the 1980s when it got slightly relocated and reconstructed according to its original Danish design.Djúpalónssandur,
Djúpalónssandur is an arched-shaped bay of dark cliffs and black sand, located on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in western Iceland.
History & Monuments
The location was once home to a prosperous fishing village, along with other abandoned hamlets and ports of the area such as Búðir and Hellnar, from back when the Snæfellsnes Peninsula functioned as one of the most active trading posts of the island.
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Fascinating remnants of this period are for instance found in the form of four ancient lifting stones that still occupy the beach. The stones range in weight from 23 kg (50 lbs) to 155 kg (342 lbs) and were used to test the strength of fishermen. Their names are Amlóði (useless), Hálfdrættingur (weakling), Hálfsterkur (half-strong) and Fullsterkur (full-strong).
In 1948, the English trawler Epine GY 7 from Grimsby shipwrecked on the shore, with fourteen dead and five survivors. The rusty iron remains of the vessel remain scattered on the beach, now protected as a monument to those who perished.
Environment & Surroundings
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula boasts countless natural wonders, where locals and travellers both flock on a daily basis to enjoy the unique landscape and stunning coastlines. Djúpalónssandur’s black pebble beach is particularly stunning amidst rocky coastal lava formations, including the elusive Gatklettur, a large lava rock with a hole in the middle through which you can directly spot the Snæfellsjökull Glacier Volcano.
Behind the rock are two freshwater lagoons called Djúpulón and Svörtulón, with the former serving as the namesake of the bay. Believed in olden times to be bottomless, the water bodies were later revealed to reach the depth of five metres. Lagoons such as these are held in high regard amongst the Icelandic people, and Svörtulón is thought to possess healing properties, especially after having been blessed by Bishop Guðmundur góði ('the good') in the late 1100s.
A natural monument of the area is Söngklettur, or “singing rock”, a large lava rock with a reddish hue that resembles an elfish church. Other rock formations of folklorish appeal rest close by, including the alleged trolls-turned-to-stone Kerling and Lóndrangur.
When visiting Djúpalónssandur, take heed that these are treacherous waters and the Atlantic Ocean’s powerful suction can easily carry you out to sea. This beach is not one for wading, but enjoying from a safe distance, especially if the weather is stormy.
The glistening pebbles that make up the beach known as Djúpalónsperlur, or “pearls of the deep lagoon”, are gorgeous to look at and might seem appealing to stone collectors, but they are protected by law and should not be removed from the area by visitors.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.
Pickup time : Flexible
8 nights of accommodation (different levels available; breakfast included for Comfort and Quality levels; more detailed info below)
Vehicle for 9 days (VW Polo, Toyota Yaris or similar. Upgrades available)
CDW and SCDW insurance along gravel protection for car rental
Blue Lagoon standard entrance (upgrades available)
Detailed Itinerary with fun and practical information on the nature, history and culture of Iceland
Hands-on travel agent to oversee your itinerary
What to bring:
Good hiking shoes
Valid driver's license
Swimsuit and towel
Good to know:
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.
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.
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. Please note that though the tour is available to book from October to April, the ice caves are only accessible from November to March each year.
Day 1 - Arriving in Iceland
You will arrive at Keflavík Airport on day one, pick up your car and make your way over to your accommodation in Reykjavík. If you have the time and inclination, you could opt to go to the Blue Lagoon on this day to unwind after the flight or save it until later in the holiday. You could also use the day to explore the geological and geothermal marvels of the Reykjanes Peninsula.
Otherwise, feel free to immerse yourself in Iceland’s quirky capital, with its many boutiques, galleries, museums and bars. 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 - Snaefellsnes Peninsula
On your second day, you will make your way north-west to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. En route, you will be driving past many of West Iceland’s most notable sites, so feel free to detour to destinations such as Barnafoss waterfall and Europe’s highest-flowing hot-spring, Deildartunguhver.
The peninsula itself is often called ‘Iceland in Miniature’ due to the incredible diversity of scenery along the 90-kilometre stretch; you will spend all day heading from one fantastic site to another.
Notable attractions on Snæfellsnes include the most photographed mountain in Iceland, Kirkjufell; the sleeping fishing villages of Arnarstapi and Hellnar; the black-pebble beach Djúpalónssandur; and of course, the mighty glacier and volcano that crowns the peninsula, Snæfellsjökull.
You will spend the night on Snæfellsnes. If the sky is clear, look up for a chance to witness the Northern Lights dancing above.
Preferred accommodation by Snæfellsnes
Hof Guesthouse is situated on the southern side of Snæfellsnes peninsula, just a few hundred metres from the beach. Private bedrooms with shared bathroom, living room and kitchen. Free access to a hot tub. Free Wi-Fi in public areas. Breakfast not included.
Fosshotel Stykkishólmur is a 3 star hotel centrally located within the town Stykkishólmur. Spacious hotel with a view towards the bay. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.
Day 3 - The Golden Circle
On your third day, you will leave Snæfellsnes for the most popular tourist trail in Iceland: the Golden Circle. There are three main sites of the Golden Circle, although, with your custom itinerary, you will be able to find many unique and lesser-known places in the surrounding area.
The first main destination is Þingvellir National Park, the only UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Icelandic mainland. It was here where the Icelandic parliament was initially founded, back in 930 AD, and the park is surrounded by beautiful geology due to its location directly between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
The second point on the circle is the Geysir Geothermal Area. As its name suggests, this valley is home to several geysers, including the one which gave all others their name, Geysir itself. The hot spring Strokkur goes off every five to ten minutes, reaching heights of around 25 metres. The surrounding area is dotted with other hot springs and bubbling mud pools.
The final site to reach is Gullfoss, Iceland’s most famous waterfall. Gullfoss is magnificent to behold, falling in two steps into an ancient canyon from a height of over thirty metres.
On this day, you will have the option to partake in one of two tours. While in Þingvellir, you could opt to take a snorkelling tour in the crystal clear waters of Silfra ravine and discover the aqua blue underworld located between two continents.
You could also join a caving tour in a lava tube called Víðgelmir where you walk the path the smouldering hot lava created over a thousand years ago. Both tours are fascinating, unique experiences that cannot be found in many other places around the world.
Spend the night at your accommodation on the Golden Circle.
Preferred accommodation by the Golden Circle
Golden Circle Budget
Héraðsskólinn Boutique Hostel is centrally located within Laugarvatn village. Private rooms with private or shared bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast not included.
Golden Circle Comfort
Hotel Litli Geysir is a 3 star hotel located right across from Geysir geothermal area. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.
Day 4 - South Coast to Vik
On day four, you will head to the South Coast, and witness the many wonders just off of the main road.
The first sites you may wish to stop at are at two of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls. Seljalandsfoss is a stunning fall, that tumbles in a thin stream from a concave cliff. Skógafoss, a little further east, is a similar height, at around sixty metres, but with a much heavier flow. A staircase beside these falls allows you to experience it from several different vantage points.
You will keep driving on, but keep your eyes peeled as you do; in clear weather, you will be able to see the notorious volcano and glacier Eyjafjallajökull, and in the other direction, across the ocean, you may be able to spot the Westman Islands.
More ice caps will soon appear, and if you wish, you may take a tour on one of them. It is possible to opt for a hike on the glacial tongue Sólheimajökull, or else a snowmobiling excursion on the greater glacier Mýrdalsjökull. Both of these will take you to an incredible, otherworldly landscape, and allow you to explore it in a unique way.
After enjoying one of these experiences, you will continue east. Before reaching the village of Vík, you could make a stop at Reynisfjara black-sand beach, and admire the beautiful surrounding geology, such as the arch of Dyrhólaey and the basalt sea stacks of Reynisdrangar.
You will spend the night in Vík.
Preferred accommodation by Vík
Puffin Hostel is centrally located in Vík. Private bedrooms with shared bathrooms and a common lounge area. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast not included.
Hotel Katla is a 3 star country hotel that's situated 5km to the east of Vík. Comfortable private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free access to a hot tub and a sauna. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.
Day 5 - South Coast to Hofn
On day five, you will drive the rest of the South Coast. The south-easterly corner of the country is renowned for two incredible places: Skaftafell Nature Reserve and the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.
Skaftafell was once a National Park in its own right because of its incredible beauty before it was enveloped by the greater Vatnajökull National Park. Sat in the shadow of Europe’s largest glacier, it has a wealth of scenery, from forests to lava fields, with many hiking trails going through it. One of the most highly recommended will take you to Svartifoss waterfall, the unusual surroundings of which inspired the architecture of Reykjavík’s Hallgrímskirkja church.
If you missed the glacier hike the day before, it is possible to opt for one here.
Following your time in Skaftafell, you will continue onto Jökulsárlón, which many consider this to be the crown jewel of Iceland’s nature. Here, you can watch enormous icebergs fill a serene lagoon as they break away from a glacier, and make their way slowly towards the ocean. The sight is mesmerising. This area is also home to many seals, so as you marvel over the bergs, keep an eye out for these playful creatures.
The coast beside Jökulsárlon is littered in the ice that washed out to sea, giving it its name, the Diamond Beach. It is worth having a walk along here before continuing to the little settlement of Höfn.
You will spend the night in this beautiful area.
Preferred accommodation by Jökulsárlón and Höfn
Jökulsárlón and Höfn Budget
Gerði Guesthouse is located about 13km east of Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Private bedrooms with shared bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi in main building. Breakfast not included.
Jökulsárlón and Höfn Comfort
Hotel Höfn is a 3 star hotel centrally located within the town Höfn. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.
Day 6 - The Ice Cave and South-East
Stay in the South-East of Iceland on this sixth day of your journey. If you selected to do so while booking, today is the day you'll visit an authentic ice cave.
The ice caves are incredibly rare and unique phenomena that only appear during the winter, thus opportunities to enter them are hard to come by. Make sure you don't forget your camera as after being guided to this otherworldly space, you will no doubt want to enshrine your memories here forever.
You could otherwise return to the glacier lagoon a better appreciation of it, or visit Skaftafell and try another hiking trail. A short trail leads to Skaftafellsjökull glacier which in the winter changes from a pearly white colour to an unbelievable shade of blue.
If you wish, you could also head up north to snap pictures of the jagged mountains Vestrahorn and Eystrahorn, and visit the sleeping fishing villages of the Eastfjords.
Stay another night in Höfn or the surrounding area.
Day 7 - Hofn to Reykjavik
You will return to Reykjavík on your seventh day, driving all the way back along the South Coast. On this day, you can reference your itinerary, and visit the places that you could not fit into your earlier journey. There are many unique sites just a little off the road so that the long journey can be broken up with many rewarding stops.
Just off the main road is Fjaðrárgljúfur, a majestic 100 meters deep and 2 kilometres long canyon located a short drive from the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur in south-east Iceland. This stunning gorge is the perfect place to stop and snaps some amazing photos.
You could also take another look at the black sand beach Reynisfjara or stop at the village of Vík for some local handmade souvenirs. As the Icelandic weather is fickle, you might want to view the waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss in different conditions today.
You could also head on out to Iceland's oldest swimming pool, Seljavallalaug, which is hidden in a mountain crevasse.
Once you get back to Reykjavík, find your accommodation and enjoy the night in the city.
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 8 - Day in Reykjavik
Your eighth day can be spent enjoying Reykjavík’s vibrant culture. There is a wealth of things to do, with walking tours, museums, galleries, restaurants and many shops.
Visiting a swimming pool in Iceland is an activity not exclusive to summer. Do as the locals and check out the warm waters of a geothermal pool even if it is snowing. Some say that the best time to visit these pools is when it is freezing outside.
Try some delicious Icelandic cuisine at one of Reykjavík's many restaurants and cafés. Freshly caught fish and free-roaming lamb are served every day at most places and there is usually also a vegan or a vegetarian option.
Another activity not exclusive to summer is eating ice cream. Dotted around the city are numerous ice cream parlours offering the usual vanilla, chocolate and strawberry flavours, but also more exotic ones such as liquorice, mango, and baked apples.
Spend your last night in Reykjavík.
Day 9 - Departure
On day nine, you will need to return to Keflavík International Airport to drop off your vehicle. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to return your car and make your departing flight.
If you are lucky enough to have a late flight, you can explore Reykjavík better today. Maybe check out a bakery in the morning and try 'snúður' a rolled up bread filled with cinnamon and covered in chocolate.
If you missed it when you arrived, now is a good day to check out the Blue Lagoon and unwind in the mineral-rich waters after a long journey of sightseeing.
See our accommodation levels below and our preferred accommodation partners under each day in the daily itinerary. 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). Guide to Iceland will provide you with the best available hotels and guesthouses at the time of your booking from our preferred partners. Please keep in mind that hotel quality in Iceland varies among locations and availability is highly limited. We always do our best to accommodate special requests, which may incur additional costs. The sooner you reserve the higher quality accommodation we can provide. Press choose a date at the top to find availability.
Rooms with shared bathrooms in farmhouses, guesthouses or hostels, with good locations near the best attractions. Breakfast is not included.
Rooms with a private bathroom in three star hotels or quality guesthouses. Very close to the best attractions at each location. Breakfast is included.
Below you can see the car rental options available for this self-drive tour. All our vehicles are new or current models, maximum two years of age, and come equipped with a GPS, CDW, GP and SCDW insurances. You can also upgrade to an automatic model, free of charge. All cars have winter tyres. For all winter driving, we highly recommend a Comfort level 4x4 vehicle or Luxury 4x4 to combat possible heavy winter conditions.
A small 2WD vehicle fit for basic travelling in everyday conditions, such as VW Polo, Toyota Yaris or similar.
A medium sized jeep or SUV with 4WD (4x4) fit for most travel, and good for snow and off-asphalt travel, such as Toyota Rav4 or similar.
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.