Iceland Ring Road Complete - 15 Days
Prepare to be surprised by how many different types of landscapes and other natural phenomena the country has to offer!
This tour is great for those who want to not only experience the highlights of Iceland, but also dig a little deeper and spend a little more time to let it all sink in. Not only do you see most of the interesting places along Iceland's ring road, you also visit Snæfellsnes peninsula, the Westfjords, some remote parts of the northeast, and Reykjanes peninsula. You get a good idea about Icelandic nature in nearly all its varieties, as well as learning a lot about living conditions in Iceland today and in the olden days. Prepare to be surprised by how many different types of landscapes and other natural phenomena the country has to offer! The Iceland Complete tour is a circle tour, so you can start it at other places as well, for example in Egilsstaðir or Akureyri. It goes clockwise around the country, but of course you can turn it around and go counter-clockwise. Just remember to enjoy!
DAY 1: FROM REYKJAVÍK TO THE SNÆFELLSNES PENINSULA
Are you ready to begin your adventure around Iceland? The first day takes you out of Reykjavík and under the sea, through the Hvalfjarðargöng tunnel, to the friendly town of Borgarnes. Situated in the beautiful Borgarfjörður fjord, with a magnificent mountain view, Borgarnes is home to the fantastic Settlement Center and many Saga sites. Next, you go to the Snæfellsnes peninsula, passing the volcanic crater Eldborg, through a lava field, and a couple of tiny towns by the sea, all offering great hiking opportunities. Now brace yourselves, as you are about to enter a place of (supposed) supernatural powers: Snæfellsjökull glacier and volcano, where Jules Verne based his novel "Journey to the Centre of the Earth". A view to the glacier dominates the park, but it is only visible on relatively bright days. Highlights in the national park include walks on Djúpalónssandur beach, known for its lava formations, pebble stones, and trial stones for strength. Walks by the picturesque cliffs at Arnarstapi is another highlight, especially in the summer when the birdlife can be enjoyed simultaneously. Don't miss a walk to the mysterious black church located close to the yellow sand beach enveloped by black lava at Búðir. Carry on your drive around the peninsula, through several very pretty towns by the sea, including the lovely small town of Grundarfjörður and its beautiful surroundings, dominated by the mountain Kirkjufell. You can also visit the Bjarnarhöfn shark processing exhibition and/or spend some time visiting the beautiful town of Stykkishólmur, with its many pretty houses close to the harbour.
DAY 2: FROM SNÆFELLSNES PENINSULA TO THE WESTFJORDS
Today you leave the Snæfellsnes peninsula with the ferry to Brjánslækur. The trip across Breiðafjörður fjord is very scenic and you will see several of the fjord's thousands of islands and possibly some whales. Upon reaching the Westfjords, you will visit the westernmost point of Europe, the gigantic cliffs of Látrabjarg, towering 414 m above sea level. The cliffs are home to a large number of seabirds, including puffins, kittiwakes, and guillemots. A footpath along the top of the cliffs offers great views and you can get really close to the birds, but please be super careful not to fall or disturb the birds! You could also visit Rauðisandur beach, located west of Látrabjarg; one of Iceland's most spectacular sites and its most famous beach, red in colour in a beautiful setting of black cliffs and blue ocean. From here, you carry on your journey east along the southern edge of the Westfjords until you reach Reykhólar. Enjoy a quiet walk among the birch trees, or hike the nearby mountains to experience the magnificent view over Breiðafjörður bay with its endless islands and islets.
DAY 3: THE REMOTE WESTFJORDS
As you might have guessed, there are a lot of fjords in the Westfjords. Today, you will visit several of them so get ready for a lot of breathtaking scenery, beautiful mountains, and deep fjords. Also, get ready to put your driving skills to the test as there are some epic roads in this part (yes, the roads can be pretty difficult, but you should be fine as long as you drive carefully - just imagine you're driving Miss Daisy and not competing in Formula 1). The natural highlight of the day is Dynjandi, one of the most beautiful and impressive waterfalls in Iceland. You can visit Hrafnseyri, the birthplace of Jón Sigurðsson, who was one of the leaders of the Icelandic independence struggle in the 19th century. You can also go to Þingeyri and visit one of the oldest houses in Iceland. Carry on your trip and enjoy the peace and quiet of the deep and narrow Dýrafjörður fjord, before heading to Önundarfjörður fjord in the spectacular Korpudalur valley, the perfect place to get away from it all in the midst of nature. Within minutes, you can find yourself hiking, climbing, or angling in the vast wilderness of Iceland's striking fjords and mountains.
DAY 4: THE EASTERN PART OF THE WESTFJORDS
Today you visit the capital of the Westfjords, Ísafjörður, in the enormous Ísafjarðardjúp fjord. Make sure to check out the very pretty part of town called Neðstikaupstaður, which is home to four of the oldest houses in Iceland, built in the 18th century, and a very interesting maritime and folk museum. From here, you could also book a boat trip to the romantic islands of Vigur and Æðey. Leave Ísafjörður and head to Súðavík, a small village rebuilt after a deadly avalanche in 1995. Carry on to Reykjanes, a narrow peninsula between Ísafjörður and Reykjafjörður fjords, home to geothermal hot springs and hiking trails, with fantastic bird watching. At Reykjanes, you will find a very warm 50 m pool built in the middle of the last century for the former boarding school in the area. Next is Hólmavík, with a visit to the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft, where you can for instance see trousers made from the skin of a dead man, the world famous necropants (lovely, we know!). Onwards to the Strandir area of the Westfjords, a perfect base to enjoy the unique wildlife. Seals swim along the coastline and there is a fantastic opportunity to see various species of birds, such as puffins, eider ducks, black guillemots, and oystercatchers to name a few. This is a peaceful place to explore the local peninsulas and creeks, while getting in touch with nature.
DAY 5: FROM THE NORTHWEST TO THE CAPITAL OF THE NORTH, AKUREYRI
Wake up in the peace and quiet of your accommodation in the Westfjords and then head over to the northwest of Iceland. You will notice that the landscape changes quite dramatically around here. Once on the road, see if you can spot any seals along the coast. Today you can visit Kolugljúfur gorge with many waterfalls and pass through a few pretty towns and villages, some with interesting museums, such as the textile museum in Blönduós. Don't forget to check out the great new thermal pool in Blönduós as well. You also get a chance to visit Víðimýrarkirkja, a traditional turf church from the 19th century, as well as the lovely folk museum of Glaumbær. You will have some beautiful views of the sea and coastline, and then drive through spectacular valleys before reaching Eyjafjörður fjord, one of the country's longest fjords and home to the "Capital of the North", Akureyri, with its rich culture, many restaurants and cafés, and a fantastic thermal pool with many slides and other activities.
DAY 6: THE NORTHEAST, INCLUDING WATERFALL OF THE GODS, AND LAKE MÝVATN
Today is all about the forces of nature in Iceland. Leaving Akureyri, you drive to the magnificent "Waterfall of the Gods", Goðafoss, where you can spend some time walking to the different viewpoints and marvel at the waterfall's power. Then continue your drive to Lake Mývatn, where you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful nature and its various forces. Mývatn and the surrounding area offers interesting geological phenomena, such as the pseudo craters Skútustaðagígar, lava caves, hot mud pots, steam springs, volcanoes, canyons, and a hot spring area. It also offers fantastic bird and nature watching. Furthermore, you can go hunting for trolls turned to stone in the unique recreational area of Dimmuborgir with its bizarre lava formations and caves. And why not end a long day by bathing in the outdoor lagoon at Mývatn Nature Baths?
DAY 7: FROM LAKE MÝVATN TO THE EASTERN TIP OF ICELAND
Are you ready for some whales, valleys, waterfalls, and fjords? Today, you drive to the town of Húsavík, where you can visit a whale museum and even go out to sea to (hopefully) spot the real thing! Remember to allow for at least three extra hours for the sail. From Húsavík, you drive to the enormous horseshoe shaped valley of Ásbyrgi, surrounded by dark cliffs up to 100 m high, where legend has it that the valley was formed by the footprint of Sleipnir, the Norse god Odin's horse. From Ásbyrgi, there is a short drive to Hljóðaklettar (only in summer), a distinctive cluster of columnar rock formations. Next, you drive to the most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss, dispatching 500 m3 of dark glacial water per second! From here, you cross the flat lowlands of Melrakkaslétta peninsula, the right place if you are more inclined towards wildlife as bird watching is particularly lively on the peninsula. Final point of the day is Kópasker.
DAY 8: EASTERN TIP OF ICELAND AND A GLACIAL RIVER
Today, you start by driving to the remote fishing village of Vopnafjörður, where you can visit the local folk museum and enjoy beautiful views of the sea and the surrounding mountains from the village's natural harbour. You might want a quick soak in Selárdalslaug thermal pool on the way. Next up: Hellisheiði mountain road, which is only open to traffic during the summer months. Stay safe and enjoy the astonishing views and breathtaking landscape. You can choose to take the extra mile to the picturesque little village Borgarfjörður eystri. If not, you carry onwards to Jökulsá á Dal river, once one of the biggest glacial rivers in Iceland, but now very much changed because of the Kárahnjúkar hydroelectric power plant. End your day in Húsey, an area rife with fauna. Hike the nearby trails for plentiful bird watching, watch seals sunbathe in the river, or discover even more of the east on horseback.
DAY 9: MORE OF THE EASTFJORDS AND ICELAND'S LARGEST FOREST
Start your day by driving down to Egilsstaðir town and enjoy views over the river Lagarfljót - see if you can spot the Lagarfljót monster believed to live in the river. You will find Iceland's largest forest, Hallormsstaðaskógur, on the eastern banks of Lagarfljót river with plenty of walking paths through the forest. If you're in the mood for a longer and more difficult hike, why not hike the two hours it takes to get up to the beautiful Hengifoss waterfall? You can also visit Skriðuklaustur, home to a monastery during the middle ages, but now a very interesting stone building. Return to Egilsstaðir to either cross the highland moor of Fjarðarheiði and enjoy the views before ending your day in Seyðisfjörður, or drive down to Reyðarfjörður, both beautiful towns with magnificent mountain views.
DAY 10: THE EASTFJORDS AND VATNAJÖKULL GLACIER
East Iceland has an amazing number of fjords, large and small. Today takes you through several fjords and fishing villages along the coast, such as Fáskrúðsfjörður, Stöðvarfjörður and Berufjörður fjords. Don't forget to check the little hidden waterfall at the end of Berufjörður fjord. There are numerous nice hikes and bird watching opportunities along the way. Visit Djúpivogur and look at the Eggs of Merry Bay, one of the most unusual sculptures in Iceland. You continue to the southeast of the country, where there is a chance of experiencing astonishing views of the icy vastness of Vatnajökull glacier, by far Iceland's largest glacier (and the biggest in Europe), covering one of the most powerful geothermal areas in the world and many active volcanoes. You might even see the highest point in Iceland, Hvannadalshnúkur (2110 m), in the southern part of Vatnajökull.
DAY 11: VATNAJÖKULL NATIONAL PARK TO VÍK
Today you drive along the south coast, with Vatnajökull glacier powering over you a large part of the way. You visit the fascinating glacier lagoon, Jökulsárlón, filled with large chunks of ice like diamonds glistening in the sun. The area has several hiking trails and you can also book a boat tour around the lagoon. From here, you drive to Skaftafell National Park, which is an excellent area for hiking, such as a 1.5-hour hike to the beautiful waterfall of Svartifoss, surrounded by basalt columns. From Skaftafell, you drive along a large black sand desert, Skeiðarársandur, formed by glacial rivers and glacial floods from one of the nearby glaciers. There are several highly interesting geological phenomena along the way to Vík, such as the incredible lava field Eldhraun, the canyon Fjarðárgljúfur, and Kirkjugólf: a somewhat strange formation of basalt columns, believed to have been the floor of a mediaeval church. You can also climb up the hills above Kirkjubæjarklaustur for the view and the little lake on top. You end the day in the Vík area, with spectacular black sand beaches and views of the impressive cliffs of Reynisdrangar. Watch out for the strong tide along the shore here! And see if you can spot the puffin colonies on the cliff faces of Dyrhólaey (in the summertime).
DAY 12: WATERFALLS, MUSEUMS, AND THE VOLCANO WITH THE DIFFICULT NAME
Today you will see a lot along the south coast of Iceland, including some of the country's most famous waterfalls and infamous volcanoes. You start off by visiting Sólheimajökull, one of the spectacular glacier tongues that jut out of Mýrdalsjökull glacier. You then visit one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland, Skógafoss, with plenty of walking paths and spectacular views. The area also has a very interesting folk museum. Next up: another beautiful waterfall! This one is called Seljalandsfoss and you can walk behind it (as long as it's not too icy). Breathe in the fresh air and forces of nature, all the while getting dewy from the waterfall. Carry on your drive and, on a clear day, you will see the now infamous Eyjafjallajökull glacier and volcano, in all its 1666 m high glory. The volcano erupted in 2010 and stopped all air traffic in Europe for a week. Have you mastered the pronunciation yet? It tends to be easier if you have a potato in your mouth and relax the jaw muscles! End the day in the small town of Hvolsvöllur, where, if you're all about the Icelandic Sagas, you can check out the Saga Centre or check out the cosy thermal pool.
DAY 13: THE ÞJÓRSÁRDALUR VALLEY, HYDROPOWER, AND VIKING SETTLERS
Iceland is known for its hydroelectric power, and today you get a chance to check out one of the country's impressive power plant stations in the river Þjórsá, which has a visitor centre open during the summer months. You can also visit Stöng, a captivating replica of a farmhouse from the Viking age. Here, you will find an interesting museum showcasing the living conditions of Iceland's early Viking settlers, before Hekla volcano erupted in 1104. Close by is the original Viking homestead, excavated by archaeologists in 1939, now protected by a roof but easily accessible. The Þjórsárdalur valley has an astonishing landscape, formed by the river Þjórsá and eruptions of Hekla volcano. There are plenty of hiking opportunities around here, for instance to the magnificent gorge Gjáin and to Háifoss waterfall.
DAY 14: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE TO REYKJAVÍK
Get ready for a busy day! Today, you will see some of the most popular tourist attractions in the whole of Iceland, starting off with the beautiful Gullfoss waterfall or the "Golden Waterfall". 32 m high and 250 m wide, the water falls into a 70 m deep gorge, allowing for breathtaking views from different viewpoints. Next up, it's the hot spring area of Geysir, including the very active geyser Strokkur, erupting every 5 to 10 minutes. Spend time walking along the paths and looking at the different geothermal phenomena. Carry on through the town of Laugarvatn, with a pretty lake baring the same name, before reaching Þingvellir National Park. The park is not only home to the most important place in Icelandic history, where one of the world's oldest parliaments was founded in 930, but also Iceland's largest natural lake and a lava field, situated right on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates are moving apart. At Þingvellir you can walk through parts of the ridge.
DAY 15: REYKJANES PENINSULA AND THE BLUE LAGOON
Reykjavík and its surroundings offer true gems hidden away in the lava. Drive through the pretty town of Hafnarfjörður, where you can visit the Viking village and the beautiful harbour, before heading to the Reykjanes peninsula, where your first stop is the breathtaking Kleifarvatn lake and its highland-like environment. There are hot springs at the bottom of the lake, and on a still day, you can see bubbles rising to the lake's surface. On to more geological wonders as you visit the hot springs and mud pots at Seltún of the Krýsuvík area. Be sure to tread carefully while taking it all in, sulphuric odours and all! Carry on and drive through the fishing town of Grindavík before reaching the Blue Lagoon, one of Iceland's most famous and unique attractions (be sure to book tickets in advance). Enjoy relaxing in the pale blue water, so very warm and rich in minerals. What a wonderful way to end your visit to Iceland!
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