With 2 weeks at your disposal, consider this epic driving tour covering the highlights of west and north Iceland, with plenty of opportunities to leave the car behind and experience Iceland's great outdoors directly underfoot. Some roads are long, bumpy, and grueling -- particularly in the Westfjords region. As with most driving tours of Iceland, this itinerary is doable in spring or fall, but is best experienced from early June through mid-September.
Day 1: Reykjavík
The first day and night is spent in Iceland’s thriving first city; see our 4-day itinerary for recommended activities.
Day 2: Reykjavík to Sauðárkrókur
Set off from Reykjavík around 9am and drive 132 km (82 miles) north of Reykjavík to Húsafell, the launch spot for a midday tour into the manmade ice tunnels carved inside the Langjökull glacier. Continue on to Blönduós and make a slight detour on Route 74 to the Icelandic Seal Center, your first stop on the Vatnsnes peninsula. Here you will catch great views of the Strandir coast and hopefully spot a few seals. Cross the peninsula on Route 744 to Sauðárkrókur, in the Skagafjörður region. Before checking in to your hotel, visit Gestastofa Sútarans, Europe’s only fish-leather tannery.
Day 3: Sauðárkrókur to Skagafjörður
On your way out of Sauðárkrókur, stop by the Glaumbær folk museum, the best of Iceland’s many museums dedicated to preserving 19th-century turf-roofed farmhouses, vital repositories of Icelandic cultural memory (closing time 6pm). Spend the rest of the day exploring SSkagafjörður, stopping in Hofsós, 34 km (21 miles) away, halfway up the fjord’s eastern shore, to visit the Icelandic Emigration Center, which recounts the stories of the many Icelandic emigrants who sailed to North America from the village. Drive 55km (35 miles) to the northeast until you reach Siglufjörður, set inside a short, steep-sided fjord less than 40km (25 miles) from the Arctic Circle. Explore the town’s maritime past at the Herring Era museum and have a beer at the Seagull 67 brewery, before checking into your hotel.
Day 4: Akureyri
Continue to Akureyri, 76.4 km (47.5 miles) away, then visit the Akureyri Art Museum, the Akureyri Church—with its distinctive and appealingly grandiose Art Deco twin spires—and Einar Jónsson’s poignant 1901 sculpture The Outlaw (Útlaginn). Head 10km (6.25 miles) south of Akureyri on Route 821 to visit the Christmas House for some summer Christmas cheer and cinnamon-coated almonds. Visit the outdoor restroom here; it’s hilarious. Back in Akureyri, wind down with the massaging water jets at the Akureyri Swimming Pool. Dine at Strikið, where you can enjoy views of the city and the mountains across the fjord.
Day 5: Akureyri to Mývatn
On your way out of Akureyri, stop at Safnasafnið, an innovative art museum seeking to transcend the divide between contemporary and folk art (opens at 10am). The next road stop, 50km (31 miles) from Akureyri, is the elegant Goðafoss waterfall. Backtrack 4km (2.25 miles), and turn right on Route 85 north to Húsavík, Iceland’s whale-watching mecca. (Call ahead if the weather is iffy.) Buy your boat tickets, then bone up before the tour at the Whale Museum.
After the 3-hour excursion, head for the Húsavík Museum. Stock up on groceries before dining at one of Húsavík’s two best restaurants, Gamli Baukur and Salka. Head back south on Route 85, then take Route 87 to Reykjahlíð village on Lake Mývatn, where you’ll spend the next 2 nights.
Day 6: Mývatn–Krafla
Today is devoted to sampling the geological marvels of Mývatn and Krafla. Drive first to Grjótagjá, an eerie fissure and geothermal vent, then take an hour to climb to the rim of Hverfell, a tephra explosion crater. Drive on to Dimmuborgir lava field—or, if you feel like tackling a more challenging hike, descend the south side of Hverfell down to Dimmuborgir. Don’t miss Kirkjan (“The Church”) lava archway—the clearly marked Kirkjuvegur trail will take you right through it. Continue circling Mývatn, until you reach the Skútustaðagígar pseudocraters for another 30-minute ramble. Tireless visitors can add the 2-hour round-trip hike up Vindbelgjarfjall to survey the day’s triumphs thus far.
Drive east of Mývatn to Hverir, pinch yourself to make sure this hellish geothermal hotspot is not a bizarre Martian dream, then head into Krafla and spend an hour exploring the strange and beautiful Leirhnjúkur lava field. On your way back to Mývatn, enjoy a rejuvenating swim in the mineral-rich waters of Mývatn Nature Baths. At 6pm, drop into Vogafjós Cowshed Cafe and enjoy a homemade smoked trout treat, while cows are milked on the other side of a plate-glass window. For dinner, reserve at Mylla in the Hotel Mývatn or the more casual Gamli Bærinn.
Day 7: Mývatn to Seyðisfjörður
The next fuel stop is a long way off, so fill the tank before setting out and confirm with staff that road conditions to Dettifoss are suitable. About 36km (22 miles) east of Reykjahlíð, exit the Ring Road on to Route 864 and proceed 32km (20 miles) to Dettifoss, Europe’s mightiest waterfall. From Dettifoss, hike 1.5km (1 mile) to the more understated Selfoss falls.
Return to the Ring Road and continue east. In clear weather, you should have fantastic views south to Herðubreið, voted Iceland’s most-loved mountain in a national poll. Sixteen kilometers (10 miles) east of the Route 864 junction, turn right on Route 901 and proceed 8km (5 miles) to Möðrudalur for lunch at the Fjallakaffi. Ask about road conditions farther ahead on Route 901, to help choose the best route to Sænautasel, a reconstructed turf farm serving coffee and pancakes in the middle of nowheresville. Keep this place in mind on the final day of the trip as you pass through farmland that endured the most ash fall during the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption—Sænautasel fared much worse and was abandoned in 1875 after the Askja eruption fouled the area with ash.
From Sænautasel, return to the Ring Road and continue to Egilsstaðir, the commercial hub of east Iceland. From here it’s a 28km (17-mile) detour to the lovely coastal village of Seyðisfjörður, with a breathtaking descent into the fjord. Dinner is at Skaftfell cafe/gallery, followed by a stroll along the waterfront.
Day 8: Seyðisfjörður to Höfn
Linger in Seyðisfjörður, walking among the 19th- and early-20th-century chalet-style kit homes. Devotees of outmoded technology should visit the old telegraph station at the Technical Museum of East Iceland. After returning to Egilsstaðir, decide on a route to Höfn, the regional hub of southeast Iceland. The Ring Road is the most direct. The longer route—which affords more Eastfjords coastal scenery—follows Route 92 to Reyðarfjörður, then Route 96 through a tunnel to Fáskrúðsfjörður and along the coast before it rejoins the Ring Road. Stops along Route 96 include Steinasafn Petru, a magnificent rock collection in Stöðvarfjörður begun by a local woman in 1946. Both routes pass Djúpivogur, a charming fishing village and the launch point for 4-hour boat trips to Papey Island. Before dinner at Höfn’s inviting Kaffi Hornið, visit the supermarket on Vesturbraut to pick up lunch for tomorrow.
Day 9: Höfn to Vík
The 272km (169-mile) stretch of Ring Road from Höfn to Vík is a nonstop procession of stunning scenery. The first requisite stop is Jökulsárlón, an otherworldly lake full of icebergs calved from Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier. After another 55km (34 miles), turn into Vatnajökull National Park at Skaftafell and bring your lunch along for a 2- to 3-hour hike to Svartifoss waterfall, the turf-roofed Sel farmhouse, and Sjónarsker viewpoint, overlooking an incredible panorama of majestic peaks, looming glaciers, and barren floodplains. In the tiny, isolated village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, recharge with afternoon tea or a taste of Iceland’s infamous fermented shark at Systrakaffi. Shortly west of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, exit on Route 206 and proceed 3km (2 miles) to the lovely, contemplative Fjaðrárgljúfur gorge for an hour-long walk along the rim. For dinner in Vík, set out for the casual Halldórskaffi.
Day 10: Vík to Reykjavík
The morning is devoted to Vík’s magnificent coastal environs. Allow 3 hours for the round-trip walk along the Reynisfjall sea cliffs to the viewpoint looking west toward Mýrdalsjökull and the Dyrhólaey promontory, identified by its enormous, natural arch of rock. (If this is too much hiking, just stroll on Vík’s black sand beach and gaze at the iconic Reynisdrangar sea stacks.) Back behind the wheel, take Route 215 from the Ring Road to the pebbly Reynisfjara beach on the western side of Reynisfjall, and peer into the spellbinding sea cave Hálsanefshellir. If you have time, Dyrhólaey is another enticing side trip, especially for birders. West of Vík, you’re in the area most affected by the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption, though it’s easy to pass by without noticing the new features in the landscape if you’re not familiar with the way it was before. Thirty-three kilometers (21 miles) from Vík is the Skógar Folk Museum, Iceland’s most glorious and affecting collection of folk artifacts. One kilometer (0.75 mile) away is the hypnotic Skógafoss waterfall. Now hightail it back to Reykjavík, just in time for dinner at Nostra for a valedictory feast.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.