So you’ve booked a round trip flight to Iceland. What next? Well time to plan that trip of course! With only 6 days to work with to enjoy this awe-inspiring land, you’re going to want to fit in as much as you can. This road trip itinerary gives you the best balance of the popular attractions in the Golden Circle while also layering in off the beaten path places where you can hike, take photos or just soak it all in. The beauty of a self drive holiday is that you will have the freedom and flexibility to do it at your own pace.
You’ll notice that this itinerary doesn’t cover the North and this is simply because there is so much beauty in the West that can’t be missed. Obviously, use your discretion in terms of how you want to plan it but I highly recommend this route if this is your first time in Iceland.
Day 1 – Start From the East
Once you land in Reykjavik, you’ll want to immediate catch an internal flight from Keflavik International Airport to Hornafjörður Airport in Hofn which is on the east side of the island. The reason for this is because it’s much more efficient to go from the East, South and to the West.
Renting an SUV from the airport, you’ll head straight out and drive to Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon where you’ll be able to cruise on the lagoon with towering icebergs all around. Along the drive, you’ll be able to stop by the glacier tongues on the east side of the island. Be sure not to miss the black sand beach here.
In the afternoon, you’ll drive into Skaftafell National Park which is a beautiful place of natural wonder. Pick a few short hikes here and time permitting get on a guided tour here. This will take a majority of your day.
Once you’re done at the park, drive to the village of Vík which is 1.5 hours drive away. Along the way you’ll pass by several waterfalls. Let’s just say you’ll be making a lot of pitstops.
Spend the night in Vík.
Day 2 – To the Capital
The town Vík is right by a glacier and so depending on what you feel like, you can either take a snowmobile tour or do a glacier climb with one of the local tour operators.
After grabbing lunch, you’ll hit the road, starting with a visit to Dyrhólaey which is a 120m high cape with dramatic cliffs teeming with bird life. Snap a few photos here before you head over to the hidden thermal pool of Seljavellir. Make sure you take a dip here.
From Seljavellir, start making your way towards Reykjavik. Like the first day, you’ll encounter many waterfalls along the way. One of them to note is the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. This one is not to miss because it’s one of the few waterfalls where you can actually walk behind the waterfall with it’s well designed loop trail. You can pretty much capture the waterfall from every single angle.
Depending on your timing, you’ll get to Reykjavik towards the late afternoon. Explore the capital at your own pace. Things to do here are well documented so go nuts!
Day 3 – Drive the Golden Circle
Today’s the day where you get to drive the legendary Golden Circle of Iceland. Originally I thought this was the entire ring road of Iceland but it is in fact a 300km loop starting from Reykjavík into central Iceland and back.
Through this loop, you’ll see Strokkur in Geysir, Gullfoss waterfall, and Thingvellir National Park. Each one is distinctive and stunning. The Strokkur geyser shoots water up to 30 m every 4-8 minutes in a thrilling display. Gullfoss (Golden Falls) waterfall feels as large as Niagara Falls when you get there and be mesmerized by the water from the river Hvítá crashing into a 32m crevice. Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park is a wonder for both its geological and historical significance.
Once you’re done the circle, start driving towards Snaefellness (Snæfellsnes) Peninsula and enjoy the this iconic landscape.
Spend the night in Hellnar and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to watch the Northern Lights dance in technicolor delight. Have a religious experience.
Day 4 – Ferry to the Westfjords
Start off your day early with a 5km Arnastapi coastal walk which is situated right by Hellnar. This walk takes you through the out of this world Búðahraun lava field and the beautiful basalt cliffs.
After lunch, drive to the small town of Stykkisholmur (Stykkishólmur) where you’ll board a car ferry with Baldur Ferry to cross over to the Westfjords. You do this because it’s the most efficient way between the south and mid-west of the country. From January to May and September to December, there is a ferry that leaves at 3PM that takes you to Brjanslaekur (Brjánslækur). If you’re there in the summer, the ferry departs at 9AM so you may have to adjust your itinerary accordingly.
Once you’re off the ferry, drive towards Latrabjarg (Látrabjarg). Eventually you’ll reach Route 612 and why I made you get all the way up here is soon apparent. 3 km from the junction to 612 is a picnic table where the fjord view opens up. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Latrabjarg manages to blow your mind again.
Day 5 – Exploring the Westfjords
Today, you’ll be able to fully appreciate the majesty of the Westfjords. Start the morning exploring the cliff of all cliffs. The Latrabjarg cliffs are home to unfathomable number of seabirds including very tame puffins. Beware the steep drop offs here.
From the end of Route 612, turn around and before Breiðavík, there’s a turnoff to the right. Continue driving and you’ll start to exercise those struts and all-wheel drive of your 4×4. Continue for 10km, cross a small stream and you’ll get to the beginning of a trailhead for Keflavík and where you’ll find a beach a well. It sounds like a lot of work but trust me, if you thought the views of Latrabjarg were amazing, wait until you see it from here. You won’t be able to find the trail on Google Maps but this map will have it on the dotted line.
When you’re done, make your way back on Route 612 and catch 614 south over the spine of the peninsula towards Rauðisandur, a beautiful settlement named for its red-tinted sandbanks sheltering a large lagoon with mountains in the background. It’s something straight out of the Game of Thrones.
The last leg of the day is to drive up to Isfjordur (Ísafjörður) on the northern side of Westfjords. It’s roughly a 3 hour drive but it’ll end up taking much longer because you’re going to want to stop around every bend and turn.
Stay the night in Isfjordur and if you’re feeling up for it explore this small fishing village in the evening.
Day 6 – An End to Quite the Adventure
Isafjordur conveniently has a small airport where you’ll be able to return your rental car and fly back to Reykjavik in the morning. Once you land, you’ll have whatever amount of time you have until your international flight back home.
If you have a few hours to kill, check out a few of the remaining spots in the city. Explore a few museums, see the Hallgrímskirkja church, relax at the Blue Lagoon or grab a hot dog (Icelanders love their hot dogs).
When To Go
The best time to do this itinerary is during the shoulder seasons in my opinion. Summer is obviously beautiful and makes each area accessible but that also means that your chances of seeing the Northern Lights is much lower. The best time to see the Northern Lights is between September and March.
The reason why winter might not be the greatest time for an itinerary like this is because it requires driving and in the winter, heavy snow will make it difficult to make it through certain passes if it is not cleared. You’ll also have to deal with snow chains. Snow could start as early as September but on average it usually starts late October/early November.
The Full 6 Day Itinerary
Here’s a full recap of the 6 day itinerary in table format.
|Day 1: Start From the East||Day 2: To the Capital||Day 3: Drive the Golden Circle||Day 4: Ferry to the Westfjords||Day 5: Exploring the Westfjords||Day 6: An End to Quite the Adventure|
|Morning||- Land in Reykjavik|
- Flight to Hornafjörður
- Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon
|- Glaciers near Vík||- The Golden Circle (Strokkur, Gullfoss, Thingvellir)||- Arnastapi coastal walk|
- Catch Baldur Ferry in Stykkisholmur
|- Flight from Isfjordur back to Reykjavik|
|Afternoon||- Skaftafell National Park||- Dyrhólaey cliffs|
- Seljavellir thermal pool
- Seljalandsfoss waterfall
- Drive towards Reykjavik
|- Snaefellness Peninsula||- Drive towards Latrabjarg|
- Explore the area
- Drive to Isfjordur
|- Explore Reyykjavic
- Flight back home
|Evening||- Drive to the village of Vík||- Explore Reykjavik||- Drive to Hellnar|
- Northern Lights??
|- Rest early||- Explore Isfjordur||N/A|