Iceland full circle with Snaefellsnes
This road trip takes you around “the ring road” (Riksveg 1), which circles all of Iceland. Experience all the extreme, beautiful and fascinating wonders along the way. You will drive over highland plateaus, through barren lave landscapes and lush farmlands, along the coast and into fairytale fjords with mighty mountains towering over you and glaciers sparkling in the horizon. Let yourself be seduced by Iceland’s ever changing and contrasting scenery. This trip is one of our most popular during summer, and gives you ample time in Reykjavík and on the road.
Departures 2023: April-October; daily or weekly
Direct flights from Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Denver (DEN), Minneapolis (MSP), New York, (JFK), Orlando (MCO), Seattle (SEA) and Washington DC (WAS). Connecting flights from other airports in the USA is also available.
Total driving distance: 1447 miles (30-200 miles/day)
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Arrival in Iceland and the Blue Lagoon
You arrive at Keflavík airport where you can pick up you rental car. Kick off your Iceland vacation by taking a dip in the world famous Blue Lagoon straight from the airport (must be booked in advance). The Lagoon is like a crystal blue oasis in the midst of barren lava landscapes on the way from the airport to Reykjavík. Enjoy the warm (91–102°F) and mineral rich water in the outdoor pool, or make use of the geothermic indoor pool, sauna and restaurant as well.
Re-energized from bathing in the healing waters of the Blue Lagoon, make your way to your hotel in Reykjavík for your first night in Iceland. Explore the capital city of Reykjavík for the rest of the day and into evening.
Reykjavik - Golden Circle - Selfoss
Today is the day for visiting some of Iceland’s most famous and interesting attractions. First stop is UNESCO World Heritage site Thingvellir National Park, where both the history and the geology are fascinating. We recommend walking in the Almannagjá crack (created by the European and the North American continental plates sliding away form each other) and on to the area where the Icelandic Alltinget was formed around the year 930. This was the world’s first ever parliament.
Continue on to the famous geothermic area of Geysir, where Strokkur, Iceland’s most active geyser, spurts its majestic column of water into the sky every 5-7 minutes. You can wonder among bubbling mud pits and steaming underground springs and really feel the forces of nature beneath you feet!
Close to Thingvellir national park is the majestic Gullfoss waterfall, ”The Golden Waterfall”, by many regarded the most beautiful in Iceland. The waterfall has two stages and it is possible to get close to the mighty flow of water, which hurls down into the ravine below.
Another worthwhile place to visit nearby is the historic and probably most culturally important place in Iceland, Skáholt, which was the Episcopal seat of Southern Iceland for hundreds of years. Continue on from there for an overnight stay in the Selfoss area.
Selfoss - Kirkjubaejarklaustur
Travel south and along the Southern coast until you get to the waterfalls Seljalandfoss and Skógarfoss, two stops not to be missed. You can walk behind the curtain of water at Seljalandsfoss, and at Skógar you can also find an interesting museum on the history of Iceland.
Drive on towards the town of Vik, where you can visit he beautiful cliffs of Dyrhólaey, richly populated by migrating puffin birds from springtime to the middle of August. Dyrhólaey is well worth a visit outside the puffin season too. From Vik you drive over the Mýrdalssandur plain and pass the lave field Eldhraun. It is also possible to drive around Eldhraun to the South of it and pass through the isolated farmland area of Medelland before hitting the main road again on your way to the area of Kirkjubaejarklaustur, where you stay overnight.
Kirkjubaejarklaustur - Höfn
Continue you journey over the magnificent river delta Skeidarársandur, where you can see the results of volcanic outbreaks beneath Europe’s largest glacier Vatnajökull, creating glacial rivers that have taken everything in their path with them. Reaching Skaftefell national park you can take in both the close by glacier and Iceland’s highest peak, Hvannadalshnúkur (6952 feet above sea level).
The glacial lagoon Jökulsárlón can be found at the foot of the glacier. Icebergs released from the glacier float in the lagoon, creating an almost magical atmosphere. The over 1000 year old clear blue ice protrudes the glacial tongues, and if you are lucky some curious seals will poke their heads up between the icebergs. An approximately 1 km long river leads straight from the lagoon into the Atlantic Ocean.
It is possible to take a short boat trip on the lagoon amongst the icebergs (additional fee). Continue onto to Höfn area for your overnight stay.
Höfn - Egilsstaðir
Continue along the coast, passing fishing villages like Djúpivogur. The coastal landscape changes and steep mountainsides and bottomless fjords take over, interspersed by rock formations worn by the sea to resemble statues reaching for the sky.
To get to Egilsstadir you either choose ”the fjord route”, which passes fishing villages like Berufjördur, Breiddalsvík, Stödvarfjördur, Fáskrúdsfjördur and Reydarfjördur – or the main road over the highlands pass of Breiddalsheidi. Overnight stay in the area of Egilsstadir, the main trading town in eastern Iceland.
Egilsstaðir - Mývatn
Drive through the desert and moonlike landscapes of the highlands in the morning and if you wish to make a short detour a visit the old and welcoming cafe at one of the most isolated farms in Iceland, Möðrudalur, is recommended. From here you turn north towards the mighty Dettifoss, Iceland’s most powerful waterfall. The fall height is an impressive 144 feet and the masses of water exudes and impressive mist!
After visiting Dettifoss, you can either drive back to road no 1 and continue directly to Mývatn, or you can continue north and drive around the Tjörnes peninsula. If you choose to do the latter continue on to Ásbyrgi, an escarpment shaped as a horseshoe, believed to be the hoof print of Odin’s house Sleipner. From there you drive along the beautiful coastal roads on the Tjörnes peninsula until you reach the charming fishing village of Húsavík. Húsavík is the centre for whale watching in Iceland, and from there, several 3-hour whale-watching trips are offered every day. Overnight stay in the area surrounding Myvatn/Husavik area.
Mývatn - Akureyri
Spend the day in the nature reserve surrounding Mývatn Lake, one of Iceland’s most fascinating areas. Fantastical volcanic rock formations, geothermic activity and the lake itself with its varying surrounding flora and fauna await you. Use the tourist information office to get more detailed information about walking paths and other facts about the area.
Options here include visiting the twisted lava formations of Dimmuborgir, exploring the volcanic craters of Skútustaðir, or paying Námaskarð a visit to experience the sulphurous gases and steam coming from the ground of this volcanic area, and visiting the volcano itself, Krafla. A 2-hour walk brings you up to Leirhnjúkur, a volcanic crack, which had a volcanic outbreak as recently as 1984. There is also an outdoor natural lagoon reminiscent of the famous Blue Lagoon in the area, well worth a visit to relax after the active day.
In the evening drive on to Akureyri. On the way to Akureyri, you can make a stop to see the beautiful Godafoss waterfall. Following road nr. 1, you arrive in Akureyri, the capital of the north. You will stay the night in the Akureyri area.
Akureyri - Siglufjördur - Skagafjördur
In Akureyri you can see the town’s modern church, the charming old part of town (Innbær), the amazing botanical garden and its shops, cafés as well as a large swimming pool.
Follow then the road nr.82 in direction to Dalvik and Olafsfjördur. North of Olafsfjördur you drive through a newly opened tunnel and reach the fishing village Siglufjördur. This beautiful old village is situated in a scenic fjord between high mountains. In the 1950s Siglufjördur was the centre og herring fishing in Iceland and you should visit the local herring museum which gives a good impression of the importance of these times for the Icelandic economy.
Two other places in Skagafjördur are of high historical interest; Hólar and Hofsós. Hólar is located in Hjaltadalur Valley, a beautiful mountain valley and is the former residence of the bishop of North Iceland. This was an important cultural centre in the middle ages and there you can see the old church which beholds precious art treasures that are rarely found elsewhere in Iceland. Hofsós is a small fishing village on the east side of Skagafjördur. It became known at the end of the 19th century as a harbour from which many Icelanders emigrated to the "new world" in search for a better life. The Emigration Center at the old harbour tells their story today.
In Skagafjördur you should also visit the turf house-museum in Glaumbær and the turf church Vidimýri (near Varmahlid). The turf buildings in Skagafjördur are two of the best preserved in the country. Drive on to overnight in Skagafjördur area.
Hrutafjördur – Snaefellsnes
In the morning you head to the south to the Snaefellsnes peninsula you can make a short detour to Haukadalur to visit the reconstruction of the home of Erik the Red, who settled later in Greenland with his son Leifur Eiriksson, the first white man sailing to America. This chapter in Viking history is told in the museum there.
Then you go to Stykkisholmur a charming town located in an ideal setting overlooking the Breidafjördur Bay. If you have the time you could make a stop at the Bjarnarhöfn Farm located by the sea not far from Stykkisholmur. It is one of the few farms in Iceland where there is shark exploitation and where visitors can stop by and learn about shark fishing around Iceland and taste the shark.
Traveling along the north coast of the peninsula you find typical Icelandic fishing villages like, Grundarfjördur, Olafsvik and Hellisandur. The Snæfellsnes peninsula is a nature wonder famous for the Snæfell Glacier that towers above the region. When driving around the peninsula we recommend a stop at Djúpalónssandur, an old fishing-station now abandoned, where you can also take a walk down to Dritvík the black sand beach nearby. Further on you reach Arnarstapi, a beautiful fishing village that has a unique natural port where you can see basalt columns of all sizes and shapes. In Arnarstapi it is possible to take refreshing walks to the sea.
Following the sout coast you continue to Búdir, a former port of commerce where today you can see a beautiful wooden church surrounded by a magnificent lava field.
Overnight on Snaefellsnes peninsula.
Snaefellsnes – Hraunfossar - Reykjavík
Follow road nr. 54 on the south coast of Snaefellsnes to Borgarnes.
You can stop at Gerduberg basalt columns, situated east of road nr. 54 near Ytri-Raudamelur or take a hike to the picturesque Eldborg crater. Finaly you reach Borgarnes, where the Settlement Center museum is worth visiting.
Then you can drive in direction of Reykholt. This road leads you to Deildartunguhver, Iceland´s largest hot spring in terms of water production per second and to Reykholt where the famous 13th century author Snorri Sturluson used to live. In Reykholt you can still see the warm water basin that was used for bathing in medieval times and you can visit the permanent exhibition dedicated to the life and work of Snorri Sturluson in Snorrastofa. Some 12 miles east of Reykholt you should visit the splendid waterfalls of Hraunfossar, where the water tumbles out of the lava into a passing river and the nearby Barnafoss Waterfall. On your way back to Reykjavik you have 2 options: you can either take the underwater tunnel under Hvalfjördur or drive along the Hvalfjördur Fjord (approx. 45 min. longer drive). Hvalfjördur (whale fjord) was an important naval station for the Americans during the World War II. It was also the location of a whaling station until 1986.
Overnight in Reykjavik.
Return flights either early in the morning or in the afternoon. Drive from Reykjavík to Keflavík airport (approx. 45 mins) and leave the car there in connection with your return flight.
Toyota Yaris Sedan
Skoda Octavia Sedan
Skoda Octavia Station 4WD
Dacia Duster 4WD
Toyota Landcruiser 4WD
You can choose between two different types of accommodation on this trip. If you book two or more rooms then they will all need to be of the same type.
Room with shared shower/bathroom
If you choose this option, you will stay at a guest house, farm-stay or basic hotel. Breakfast will be served at all accommodation types. The guest houses usually have a shared common room and often also offer a small restaurant and bar. The hotels usually have their own restaurants where you can order food à la carte. Most of the hotels and guest houses offer free Wi-Fi.
The rooms do not have their own shower/bathroom, but do have a washbasin with hot and cold water. Shower and bathroom facilities are shared with other guests. Beds are made and the rooms are furnished with a wardrobe, chairs and table.
Room with private shower and toilet
If you choose this option, you will stay at a three-star hotel or a better guest house. All the forms of accommodation serve breakfast and many have their own restaurant and sometimes also a bar. The hotels usually offer an à la carte option. Most of the hotels and guest houses offer free Wi-Fi.
The rooms have their own bathroom with a shower or bath. Beds are made and the rooms are furnished with a wardrobe, chairs, table, telephone, radio and TV.