Arey you heading to Iceland? And want the best possible experience? I´d like to present to you some possible itineraries for your stay in Iceland, so you can better organize your trip. There is so much optimism in people´s minds while planning their trip of a lifetime from their sofa at home. Everybody wants to see everything, there are so many beautiful places and Iceland seems to be so small. It is NOT. Iceland is huge and there is not much similarity between Iceland and your home country. How many times have you got stuck on an island because the ferry was cancelled. How many times have you experienced a river destroying a bridge and there by adding an extra 800 km to your trip back to the airport? How many times have you driven 200 km on a dirty road?
Iceland is definitely different from what you know. Nothing you can´t cope with but you shouldn´t be too optimistic either. For your own safety.
So many times I have seen someones itinerary for two weeks looking like this..
To be honest, the only way you can catch all this is to drive 24/7 and eat and sleep behind the steering wheel. And you´d have to run to the places you want to see too. And not to experience anything unexpected. A cancelled ferry because of the strong sea currents, a closed road for a variety of reasons, swollen rivers prohibiting safe passage for a couple of days. There is no highway in Iceland, the maximum speed for an asphalt road is of 90 km/h and 80 km/h for gravel roads. And you won´t be driving at this speed for a very long time.
To have such an itinerary can be really dangerous. Under normal circumstances you can barely manage half of it. However if you are in Iceland with such an unrealistic itinerary in mind, you might want to try to catch it all, be rash and reckless. Maybe you promised to your beloved ones to see it all and now you want to accomplish it. That´s exactly the time when accidents happen.
If you have already been to Iceland, you know what you want to see and do and you just want to add several places you missed the last time, then go for it! You can check the clever map of Iceland and make your itinerary.
If you are about to go to Iceland for the first time, here are some amazing itineraries you can reasonably accomplish. And for sure, you can combine them. For shorter, undemanding, stays in Iceland, you have two options. First, just stay based in Reykjavík without even renting a car and just do some daytrips from there. The second option is to rent a care and find an accommodation somewhere around Selfoss (town!). There is so much to see from there and you can easily adjust your plans to your stamina. It is not far away from the Keflavík international airport and you have two options on how to get there (via Reykjavík and via coastline). Maybe you find it unnecessary, but trust me, there is so many things that can go wrong in Iceland, that having two options is always good.
And now, let´s se some..
Amazing and realistic itineraries for Iceland for a week:
Golden circle and surroundings:
This is a perfect itinerary for those of you who is not in a rush and want to combine beautiful nature with a give some relax time to their souls. Great advantage of this itinerary is that you can have one base (greater Selfoss area) and just make daytrips. Þingvellir, Gullfoss, Haukadalur – Geysir, Þjóðveldisbærinn Stöng, Háifoss + Gjáin (4×4), Landmannalaugar (4×4), Reykjadalur, Hraunfossar lava falls, Brúarfoss and Glymur for these who want to stretch their muscles are waiting for you. If you have time and mood, you can sail to the Heimaey island (with the greatest colony of puffins containing about 1 000 000 birds around Stórhöfði). And do not miss Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls. You can have a bath in Reykjadalur geothermal river or Seljavallalaug among others. Your itinerary migh look like this:
There is SO much to see and experience along the south coast of Iceland. And to miss Geyser would be a pity. Just to be completely clear, we speak about the area between Reykjavík and the Glacier Lagoon. What is here waiting for you to explore? Let´s find out. Seljalandsfoss (and the hidden Gljúfrabúi), Þórsmörk (4WD), Sticafoss, Skógafoss and hike along the Skóga river, Skógar, Dyrhólaey with puffins, Reynisfjara black beach, Sólheimasandur plane wreck, Hofskirkja, Skaftafell national park, Vatnajokull, Fjallsárlón and, of course, Jökulsárlón – Glacial lagoon and the Diamond beach (+ enthusiastic hikers should not miss the Múlagljúfur canyon nearby). AND of course definitely most overlooked part of Iceland – the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. There, where is so much beauty and so few tourists. As long as you just follow the Ring Road, you can be OK with a 2WD. If you want to drive back via Landmannalaugar, you definitely want to go for a 4×4 car. This is your itinerary:
Road nr. 1 – the Ring Road (Hringvegur or Þjóðvegur 1):
This is for sure the most popular Icelandic itinerary of all. The road connects Reykjavík with Reykjavík in 1335 kilometers and would lead you all around Iceland like the thin red line. Most of the travellers are driving anti clockwise, just because most of the interesting stops are in the South, when you have still enough energy to absorb all the beauty. Forget the relax and welcome to the racing mood. There is so much to see all around that even in case you skip the half, there is still so much to see! But let´s divide it to bite size pieces. Geysir? Let´s start with it! and add the Gullfoss waterfall via the Þingvellir national park (all together also known as the Golden circle). That´s a must see. Then just turn to the South and follow the Ring Road. We have here Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, Dyrhólaey where we can see puffins (and yes, we intentionally skipped the abandoned DC-3 plane wreck, cause we are in hurry) and the Reynisfjara black beach. Then the Eldhraun lava field + Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon. Then we encounter the Skaftafell national part, where you can go to Svartifoss or/and Morsársfoss and to Skaftafellsjökull glacier tongue. Then there is popular Svínafellsjökull (and driving to it you will realise, that the speed limit is really a matter of theory and you won´t be driving quicker than 15 km/h). Have some rest by the Hofskirkja church and there is already the Glacier lagoon and the Diamond beach in sight. Then you can make it to the beautiful town called Höfn.
I hope you hold your chapeau well, cause still we are not in the half. Now, the Stokksnes with its famous views over Vestrahorn is waiting for you. Nor far away in our direction are the Eystrahorn rocky mountains where majority of people just drive by. You can dip in the hot Djúpavogskörin geothermal tube and to have the complete and authentic Icelandic experience, we take the Öxi pass ´shortcut´. Right on our left, there is a nice and raw Folaldafoss waterfall well visible from the parking lot, so you do not have to loose time going out of the car, because there are about 200 not so interesting kilometers ahead of us. You can stay then for example in the Fjalladýrd ´elf´campsite, where you can see goats and polar foxes. In case you do not want to miss the most powerfull european waterfall – Dettifoss, then to spare some time, take the west route (road nr. 862).
And then we have here the Krafla caldera, but to spare the time we´ll be OK with Hverir geothermal area and many beautiful places just over the hill. Here there is a Dimmuborgir lava field, Grjótagjá cave, Skútustaðagígar pseudo craters and if you like, many other sights around the Lake Mývatn.
We leave the area and are greeted by the waterfall of Gods and later we reach Akureyri (you do not have to take the tunnel if you do not like, it is just too expensive for its money). Then let´s have some relax time by the Fosslaug geothermal pool and the Reykjafoss waterfall. Kolugljúfur canyon, Grábrók craters and nice Glanni waterfall follows.
And, believe it or not, we are almost at the end of our journey. You can drive through the undersea tunnel or make a small detour to the Glymur waterfall.
And we are where we started almost a week ago, back in Reykjavík. It was a ride, wasn´t it? And we drove just digitally!
This itinerary has just a one big disadvantage – you miss more than you´ll see and you´ll spend quite a lot of time behind the steering wheel. But in general, for the road trip, this is a very good deal.
This is how your journey looks like in map:
Ring Road – off the beaten track:
As I already mentioned above, you´ll miss so much by just following the traditional places along the Ring Road. If you´ve already been to Iceland and did the Ring Road tour, you liked it and you´d like something ‘the same but different’, let´s see what´s here for you.
Ring Road will still lead you, so you´d not miss it´s famous attractions, but you´ll not spend there much time neither and you´ll definitely skip the Sólheimasandur plane wreck. What is still here for you?
Let start with this premise, that from the Keflavík international Airport you just go south around the Reykjanes peninsula heading to Gunnuhver, Valahnúkur, Brimketil rock pool or Seltún-Krýsuvík geothermal area.
Now we meet the ring road and we can go along the fuming land of Reykjadalur. Sure, there are Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss just on your way, but do not miss Kvernufoss! Then, why not to take a bath in the oldest icelandic pool of Seljavallalaug?! One of the interesting spots in the south is Reynisfjall with nice views and nesting puffins.
To be off the beaten track, do not waste your time in Vík, rather go deeper to the Icelandic mainland where is Þakgil. More to the east most of the people miss the Múlagljúfur canyon. You have never heard of it? That´s why you read this.
Further anti-clockwise we do have 3 ´sibling´ waterfalls Selfoss, Dettifoss and Hafragilsfoss and then along down the strem the beautiful Ásbyrgi canyon. From here, you can follow the coast of the Tjörnes peninsula to Húsavík.
Do you want an adventurous detour? Then why not to take a ferry to the Grímsey island?
If you look to the map, your itinerary look something like this:
Snæfellsnes peninsula and Westfjords:
These area are so spacious and ‘Icelandic’, still not overcrowded by hords of tourists. Snæfellsnes has a nick name as Small Iceland and therefore you can enjoy all that Iceland has to offer – volcanos, glacier, craters, geothermal pools.
From the Keflavík international airport, you can drive along the south coast of Reykjanes peninsula (meet Gunnuhver, Seltún-Krýsuvík and maybe abandoned village of Selatangar) and through Selfoss to Geyser and Gullfoss. From there you will drive bit back to Þingvellir national park and to the North via road nr. 550 to Hraunfossar lava falls along the Deildartunguhver geothermal area to Guðrúnarlaug hot pool with an adjacent campsite and hotel. Now, you have to decide if you want to explore the eastern side of Westfjords called Strandir, where are cool geothermal hot tubes in Drangsnes (with an possible boat trip to Grímsey island) and really long ride to Djúpavík and many abandoned places (ship wreck, heriing factory) with a strange waterfall called Húsárfoss at the very end of all this.
A ´classic´ Westfjords coast will take you around the almost never ending coastal roads over the Litlibaer seal lookout, shy Valagil ravine to Ísafjörður. If you like never ending views, then Bolafjall is the best bet for you. Then for the South, Dynjandi waterfall is waiting for you. And swimm in Reykjafjarðarlaug where there is a pool and hot pots as well.
Later, you´ll pass by Garðar BA 64 ship wreck on your way to Látrabjarg cliff, one of the largest cliffs of Europe with filled with nesting puffins. If you are a beach enjoyer, do not miss a huge yellow sand beach Rauðisandur.
Transfer to the Snæfellsnes peninsula may seem to be bit not interesting, but you can take the ferry ftom Brjánslækur terminal to Stykkishólmur via the Flatey island (where you can stay for some time).
Then the Snæfellsnes is waiting for you with all its enticements. Kirkjufell – the most photographed of Icelandic mountains, a place where the Journey to the Centre of the Earth took place – the Snæfellsjökull glacier. There are yellow Skarðsvík beach, black Djúpalónssandur beach and ´the seal beach´ Ytri Tunga. When you are already here do not miss Lóndrangar cliffs, Rauðfeldsgjá riss, Búðakirkja black church.
Placed in a map, you can see something like this:
Beautiful wild nature so similar to the Norwegian on is far in the East Iceland. Far-reaching plateaus, deep fjords, and a lot of trekking routes. You can go to explore the fjords, hike to the Hengifoss and Strútsfoss waterfalls, go along the waterfall triangle ( Faxi, Stuðlafoss, Kirkjufoss), climb the tallest mountain outside the glacier reagions in Iceland – Snæfell. See puffins at Hafnarhólmi and if you´re lucky, observe reindeers hanging around. And as a bonus, you can do the south coast quick tour on your way here or back to the airport. If you want to spend a week in Iceland hiking in a beautiful raw nature with almost no tourist, the East part of Iceland is your best bet.
Area about the Lake Mývatn and the North East:
Many, or better say, most of the tourist just ride through this area, but you can spend full adventurous week here around the lake Mývatn. In the close vicinity of the lake Mývatn you can spend 3 full days without being bored (Dimmuborgir, Grjótagjá cave with its famous geothermal pool known and Námaskarð geothermal area and Námafjall are right here. Then is here for you a daytrip to the Krafla area (with a geothermal shower just on the road there), the trio Selfoss, Dettifoss and Hafragilsfoss waterfalls with Ásbyrgy canyon at the top of it. Húsavík is another option or a daytrip or the Grímsey island + Akureyri is an another idea. Why not to go to explore the Arctic henge or Northern gannets nesting at Rauðinúpur cape or Stóri Carl. Here you have an additional whole peninsula which ends with an abandoned fishing village Skálar.
Icelandic Central Highlands:
Completely accessible (usually) since half July and drivable only with a bigger 4×4 machine (Toyota Land Cruiser, Land Rover Defender and similar). Sure, you can reach most of the places with their smaller friends (Dacia Duster, Subaru Forester, Suzuki Jimny and similar, just be carful!). The itinerary is on your behalf based on actual situation with snow, rivers and of cours your driving skills and courage.
Here is a list of places you should consider while in the Central Highlands. Let start with the Gullfoss waterfall ´from the other side´ and driving to Háifoss and Gjáin valley. Not far away, but completely away from all the attention is Dynkur. Rauðufossar waterfall and not to forget the majesty well of the Rauðufossakvísl river – Rauðauga and climb Löðmundur for its stunning views. Mælifell and its surrounding with remote geothermal pool Strútslaug. Kerlingarfjöll mountain range with Hveradalir geothermal area and Borholan hot pool. Sure, you cannot miss Landmannalaugar and all what it offers, hot pools, Hnausapollur and Ljótipollur craters and Brennisteinsalda or Bláhnúkur colorful mountains. Deep to the center to lake Langisjór. Then there are endless vastland along the F26 and you can swimm in hell in Víti crater (Víti means hell) in the Askja caldera and have a look on Aldeyjarfoss waterfall and climb the queen of all icelandic mountains – Herðubreið.
In the South there are 140 craters in line called Lakagígar waiting for you, as well as stunning Fagrifoss waterfall and Þórsmörk area and Sticafoss along the way.
Lets have a look to the map:
Laugavegur + Fimmvörðuháls:
This two possibly adjacent trek routes takes you from Landmannalaugar in central Iceland to Skógafoss on the southern shore. You definitely do not need a car for this fun, actually it would be a burden to you. You can take the bus to the starting point and from the exit point. And from Skógar, hitch hiking is as an option.
You´ll see a magical Island on this trip, but you´ll have to do much of the work (to walk) by yourself. Be ready for 75 tough kilometers and many rivers to be wade. There are camping sites on your way, where you can pitch up your tent for to spend a night. If you´d rather like to sleep in the huts, it is necessary to plan your trip rather in advance and make your reservations about 6 monthe in advance. Really! There is a very limited number of beds available and much more tourists eager for these places on the other hand.
Most of the tourists go from the North southwards (from Landmannalaugar to Skógar), but sure, you can do the other direction.
This is how your itinerary looks in the map:
In the footsteps of movie locations in Iceland:
Iceland is very popular among the film producers and the landscape here featured in many movie and serial hits. If you are an avid fan of blockbusters like Star Wars, James Bond, Tomb Rider, Prometheus, Journey to the Center of the Earth or TV series Game of Thrones (read here about Game of Thrones filming locations in Iceland), Black Mirror, Trapped to name really just the most popular ones. Forget about the Ring Road itinerary and let the filming locations lead your steps.
The famous film locations are þórufoss waterfall, þingvellir national park, Kirkjufell, Grjótagjá cave, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, Siglufjörður, Seydisfjörður, Goðafoss and Dettifoss waterfalls, Dimmuborgir lava fields, þórsmörk, Svínafellsjökull glacier tongue, Þjóðveldisbærinn Stöng farm, Stokksnes and Hverir (Námaskarð) to name just the most famous ones. There is an abandoned viking village for a TV serie which never took place as well.
And still you can present you trip to your friends not just as a vacation but rather as a discovery journey.
The final itinerary is on you, the good thing is, that most of the places are quite easily accessible.
Away from everyone!
In case, you want to go to Iceland and still be completely alone, even it might sounds strange and contradictory, still, there is and option for you. And it is called Hornstrandir natural reserve. The just and only permanent inhabitants here are the polar foxes and practically reachable just by boat from Ísafjörður.
You can reach Ísafjörður from the Keflavík international airport by car in about 6 hours, or there is a flight connection to Ísafjörður from Reykjavík domestic airport.
Just take one thing into account. If you go to Hornstrandir, you have to take everything you´ll need with you. So if you plan to spend 10 days there, you need to take the food for 10 days.
Reykjavík and daytrips:
Not everybody is willing to go to Iceland and end up in Reykjavík. But on the other hand even Reykjavík has something to offer and with combination with daytrips, it can be a fulfilling week spent here. This option is exceptionally good for you if you do not want to drive a car on your own. And for example in the winter, you should consider this option more than you think.
There are some obvious options here, so let´s start with ´Golden Circle´ – Þingvellir national park, Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir.
Or the bite mor distant circle with Háifoss, Gjáin, Hjálparfoss, Þjóðveldisbærinn Stöng farm + Stöng í Þjórsárdal and Þjófafoss.
Then we have the Snæfellsnes peninsula option with Kirkjufell, Lóndrangar, Búðakirkja and Landbrotalaug geothermal pool as main attractions.
And last but not least, the south shore. You can start early in the morning heading the East and you´ll see, if you end up by Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and the Diamond beach, or you´ll stop just by the Dyrhólaey and going back via Reynisfjara black beach and Skógafoss (+ Kvernufoss) and Seljalandsfoss (+ Gljúfrabúi).
For to have an idea what is waiting for you, here is a map:
All the time you are on your way, you should adjust your itinerary to the actual weather and your actual physical conditions no matter how well prepared your itinerary is. Not just one were a stress a contributing factor to tragical events.
Enjoy your trip to Iceland and do not skip the be safe in Iceland and by car in Iceland chapters.