The perfect 10-day self-drive itinerary for Iceland

The perfect 10-day itinerary for Iceland is likely to depend on the weather as much as on personal interest of the traveller because there's just so much to see and do here that despite the country being really small in its size and easy to traverse just by road, it is packed with some of the most insanely gorgeous landscapes, splendid waterfalls, adventurous activities, and beautiful drives. In my previous two posts, I've talked in detail about how exploring Iceland in a campervan is, in my opinion, the best way to do it, because of the flexibility it allows you to stay overnight in some of the most stunning places, with unmatched backdrops and far away from the cities, amidst rugged nature. However, if you're not comfortable with the idea of sleeping in a campervan, then renting a car is the next best option.

If you do end up renting a campervan, my post here is the perfect 10-day itinerary for Iceland by road, along with suggestions of the camping sites to stop for the night. You do not need to book these in advance, you could just land up and pay to park for the night. Iceland has no dearth of camping sites but what you need to keep in mind is that most of them shut during the winter months. I visited during the fall season (September/ October) which was perfect not only for being able to see the Northern Lights in Iceland but also the weather was still not harsh as it can be in the winter. Most summer camping sites remain open until the end of September or mid-October which worked in my favour. I found it hard to pronounce the names of the cities I ended up visiting (and quite difficult to remember them even after I returned, LOL) but the Icelandic people are nice enough and very used to travellers not getting them right so they're likely to just laugh it off, don't worry!

It is easy to drive around in Iceland and if you're very adventurous, I'd suggest renting a 4WD that will allow you to access the untouched interiors, which are undoubtedly a notch above what you'd see if you were to stick around on the paved roads. Having said that, even if you do just cover the Ring Road (or Route 1), you will not be disappointed!


From Keflavik International Airport to Reykjavik

Keflavik International Airport is about 45 minutes away from Reykjavik. The best (and cheapest) way to get from the airport to the city is to board the FlyBus from right outside the airport terminal. FlyBus provides two options; the cheaper ticket drops you off at the BSI bus terminal in the city of Reykjavik whereas the FlyBus+ option which costs a few Euros more covers your trip from the BSI Bus Terminal via another minibus to your respective hotel in the city. However, if you're living in the downtown area, there's a ban on buses accessing the lanes so it makes more sense to just walk from the BSI bus terminal to your hotel.

FlyBus departs from the airport terminal about 40 minutes after all arrival flights and they usually adjust their schedule to cater to flight delays. The bus ticket can be bought from the ticket counter right outside the airport terminal.

Alternatively, you could rent your car right from the airport terminal itself for the next 10 days. Do keep in mind that downtown Reykjavik might have some parking restrictions and you may not be able to find parking easily. Also, since most of the areas are easily accessible on foot, renting a car might be a bit of a waste on your first day here. I preferred to rent my campervan on day 2, once I left Reykjavik to explore the rest of the country.

Tip: The Blue Lagoon is much closer to Keflavik Airport than it is to Reykjavik city. It is about 20-min drive from the airport and many people prefer to head there directly from the airport and then onward to the city at the end of the day.


Day 1: Reykjavik

Any 10-day itinerary for Iceland is likely to begin at Reykjavik because that's where you will land. Probably the most vibrant city in Iceland, Reykjavik deserves a day to explore some interesting architecture and enjoying the vibe and palpable energy before wandering off into the wild countryside. Start your day by exploring Hallgrimskirkja Church situated right in the city centre, an iconic landmark of the capital city, and a true architectural wonder.

10-day itinerary for Iceland

Although I wasn't as impressed by the interior as I was by the exterior, going all the way up to the observation tower might be a good idea, given the panoramic views you'd get of the city. It's not really a historical site as it was constructed only in the late 20th century, nevertheless, it is interesting to see how the design of the church was inspired by natural elements - the forms that molten lava takes when it cools into solid rocks. Not too far from the church, while walking on the Skólavörðustígur street, you will come across yet another insta-worthy place in Reykjavik, the Rainbow Street. Inspired by the Pride Festival that takes place in the capital every year, this street brings the area alive with colours, set against a backdrop of the towering church on one end, and the charming cafes and boutiques of Reykjavik on the other.

Reykjavik

This is also the most lively place in the city, lined with several bars and restaurants that are open until late hours. Although I found Iceland expensive, you could try an authentic, Icelandic dish here such as fermented shark or minke whale. You'll find several restaurants catering to the tourists with these dishes on the menu, only for the adventurous foodies! Alternatively, you could also experience a Reykjavik Food Walk, where a local will take you to the best places and you'll get to try some unique dishes. You could also spend some time strolling on Laugavegur, yet another perky and buzzing street with cafes and boutiques.

A traditional Icelandic meal

You're also just a walk away from the waterfront, a great place to enjoy a stroll. Walking along the harbour, you'll set eyes on two key landmarks of the city, Harpa Concert Hall, a new addition to Reykjavik's skyline with its dramatic fish-scale design and Solfar or the Sun Voyager, the gleaming steel skeletal boat which is a famous sculpture and a fascinating one at that.

Suggested budget place to stay in Downtown Reykjavik: Grettir Guesthouse


Day 2: Blue Lagoon & Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River in Hveragerði

Drive time Reykjavik to Blue Lagoon: 45 min
Blue Lagoon to Hveragerði: 1 hour 15 min

It was on Day 2 that I decided to pick up my campervan and head in the anti-clockwise direction on the Ring Road.  The Blue Lagoon is a detour from Route 1 (or the Ring Road) but a check-off-the-list when in Iceland so I decided to head there first. Although it is highly commercialized and thus, one of the most crowded and expensive places to visit in the country, I did quite enjoy the 2 hours that I spent in the hot geothermal waters, especially because it was really cold in September when I visited. The little bar in the middle of the lagoon is a great addition, with access to alcohol while you bathe in the pool (it is NOT a natural spring, contrary to popular belief). The ticket is, no doubt, pricey and costs about €85. The earlier you reach, the better it is as the place begins to receive tourists directly from the airport in the afternoon, making it extremely crowded and not as much fun to be in.

Tips: Shower before and after you get into the pool. The cheapest ticket includes towel rental, access to the locker & shower rooms, one free drink, and one free silica mud mask. The temperature of the water ranges between 37 and 40 degrees Celsius. The water is NOT good for your hair so either don't dip it in at all or leave-in a lot of conditioner before you go in. Conditioner is available in the shower rooms.

I spent about 2 hours in the lagoon and then decided to head to the Hveragerði. Hveragerði is famous for its geothermal park and hot springs but in my opinion, the Hveragerði Geothermal Park was a tourist trap. Although the charge to enter is not very high but the park seems ill-maintained & neglected, with every small activity to be paid for separately. You can boil eggs in the steam that comes out from the geothermal activity on the ground or watch the manually-controlled geysir that erupts once every 20 minutes. However, I felt that the places that followed in the next few days were much better in terms of them being more natural and well-maintained than this thermal park so I would highly recommend skipping it altogether.

What I do recommend you to include in your 10-day itinerary for Iceland is a hike to the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River. About 10 minutes ahead of the geothermal park is the beginning of a moderately tough hike in the hills towards the Reykjadalur Valley, where you will find a very unique phenomenon - a hot spring river! The hike is about 3 km one way on a well-carved path and takes about 1.5 hours to get from the car park to the river. Although the highlight of the hike is the destination itself - the hot river, there is no dearth of gorgeous scenery while you're walking towards it. As there is no light along the way, it's best to make sure that you account for at least 4 hours to enjoy the place and return to the car park before sundown.

Reykjadalur Valley Hike

Reykjadalur Valley Hot River

Dipping in Reykjadalur Valley Hot River

10 day itinerary for Iceland

Tip: There are no proper changing rooms near the river so make sure you're wearing your swimming clothes already and are ready to change out of them in the make-shift half-open changing rooms in the area. 

Suggested campsite for the night: Hellisholar Camping or Hellisholar Cottages if you're not in a campervan.


Day 3: Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss & Reynisfjara Beach

Drive time Hellisholar to Seljalandsfoss: 1 hour
Seljalandsfoss to Skógafoss: 30 min
Skógafoss to Reynisfjara Beach: 30 min

Iceland has some of the most iconic waterfalls in the world and in your 10-day itinerary for Iceland, you will come across quite a few. Seljalandsfoss is a great introduction because not only is it majestic and very picturesque, it is also one of the few waterfalls which can be circumnavigated in its entirety. This means you can go behind the waterfall! Do not forget to wear water-proof clothes if you plan to do that because you're likely to get soaked with the moisture. The rocks are also slippery due to the mist, so tread carefully in the area. If you have time, walk a little further (200 m) for another rather small waterfall called Gljúfrabúi.

Seljalandsfoss

About a 30-min drive from Seljalandsfoss is yet another spectacular Icelandic waterfall, Skogafoss. Find yourself dwarfed as you begin to walk closer to the base of this beautiful wonder of nature. What is unique about this waterfall is that a steep 500-steps staircase leads to a platform above it from where not only can you view gallons of water falling into the ground from a vantage point but you can hike on a path along the Skoga river that finally leads to this waterfall.  This hike is a part of the 15-mile hike from Skogafoss to Thorsmork and is called the 'Fimmvorduhals Hike'. However, since I didn't have the time or even the energy to attempt the entire trek, I walked around the river for a while, taking in the magnificent views, before going back down and heading to Reynisfjara Beach.

Skogafoss

Skoga river hike

Yet another iconic Icelandic landmark, Reynisfjara Beach is famous not only because of the stunning contrast of the volcanic black sand with the white ocean waters but also the stacked columns of the basalt rocks which have featured in several movies and are a sight to behold. The dramatic landscape of this area has attracted a lot of attention and is as breathtaking in reality as it is on the big screen. In the summer months, it is not uncommon to see puffins on this beach, although I didn't see any in fall when I traveled. The rainy, grim weather that I was greeted by added to the somber mood, with the low hanging clouds reducing the visibility and the angry waves crashing against the unique rock formations on the shore, creating the perfect atmosphere for a thrilling movie scene.

Reynisfjara Beach

Reynisfjara Beach Basalt Columns

Optional: It might be dependent on the weather and the time available to you but one of the exciting activities available in this area is the snowmobile tour on the Mýrdalsjökull glacier. It, however, starts operating only at the end of September/ beginning of October. The tour lasts for about 2 hours & goes to the top of Mýrdalsjökull glacier - an icecap covering one of Iceland’s largest volcano, Katla. It's a great way to explore and experience the wilderness and the breathtaking views of South Iceland.

Suggested campsite for the night: Vik Camping open until 31 October. 


Day 4: Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, Svartifoss, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Drive time Vik to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon: 1 hour
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon to Svartifoss: 1 hour
Svartifoss to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: 45 min

One of the most incredible canyons in Iceland, Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon was made so famous by Justin Bieber’s video “I’ll show you" that it had to be closed down for several months due to over-tourism. A must-include in your 10-day itinerary for Iceland, the massive canyon is about 100 meters deep and two kilometres long, and is thought to be about two million years old! Although the canyon is now re-open for tourists, several of its ledges and areas are closed off due to safety reasons, so you may not be able to have the same experience as Justin Bieber once did. Some hikers choose to wade through the river below while others can walk along the path (which is relatively easy and smooth) above the canyon, which provides unparalleled views. Keep about 2 hours to visit this place.

Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon

Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon

From here, head to Svartifoss which is another beautiful waterfall in Iceland and is located in Vatnajökull National Park, about an hour's drive from Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. The setting of the waterfall is quite unique, with the tall black basalt columns on both sides of the fall while it tumbles from a ledge 80-feet high.

Tip: Getting to the waterfall requires a 45-min hike from the Visitor Centre in Skaftafell so make sure you keep aside at least 2 hours to make the most of your visit to this place. 

Optional: If time allows, you may choose to do the Ice cave & glacier hike in Skaftafell, where you get the chance to walk on a glacier and explore a natural ice cave in the Vatnajökull region. The tours depart from the Visitor Centre and can last up to 4 hours. While the glacier hike is available throughout the year, the Ice Cave tour is open only during the winter months (starting October). 

The last stop for the day is Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon which, in my opinion, was the highlight of my 10-day itinerary for Iceland. The floating icebergs are an incredible sight to see and one can stand on the cliffs, and watch these icebergs and the seals basking in the sun. If you're adventurous, like me, you CANNOT miss the glacier kayaking tour during the sunset hours. The place itself is magical and floating through the ice bergs in a kayak is a wondrous feeling. The tour, however, only takes place until September (I was lucky to catch the last one of the season).

Jökulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Jökulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Kayak Tour

Tip: Although it is not allowed anymore, I highly suggest wild camping at the Jökulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. I was lucky enough not only to catch a glorious sunset in this breathtaking backdrop but also managed to see the Northern Lights, with the skies lighting up in green and purple at night. The icing on the cake? The brilliant sunrise! I cannot decide which of these sights were the most impressive but the overall experience was unrivaled. 


Day 5: Diamond Beach to Stuðlagil Canyon via Hofn

Drive time Diamond Beach to Hofn: 1 hour
Hofn to Stuðlagil Canyon: 3.5 hours

Diamond Beach is right across the road from the Jökulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and the perfect start to the day. The glistening white icebergs strewn across the black sand of the beach makes them look like diamonds, which is there the name is derived from. It is said that if one is lucky, you can actually see Orcas from the shore here, although I didn't manage to catch a glimpse of any. Visiting it early morning was a great idea because I avoided all the crowds and pretty much had the beach to myself.

Diamond Beach, Iceland

Diamond Beach, Iceland

The only reason I recommend Hofn in this 10-day itinerary for Iceland is to have a break on the long drive to Stuðlagil Canyon. It's a picturesque little fishing town where you can grab a quick breakfast before heading onwards. The drive, although long, passes through some of the most rugged landscapes of Iceland you will see. If you wish for another break on that drive, Egilsstaðir is a town where you can have a meal and relax before you move on towards the highlight of the day, Stuðlagil Canyon.

Drive from Hofn to Egilsstaðir

Rugged landscapes of East Iceland

I'll be honest - Stuðlagil Canyon was a last-minute addition to my itinerary and I had no plans of visiting it until a day before I was in this area. I happened to speak to a local and heard about this gorgeous canyon and when I searched for it on Instagram, I was instantly sold! However, if I had planned any better, I would've kept aside at least 4 hours for the visit so that I could attempt the tough but scenic hike down to the river. Instead, I had to make my peace with the 15 min hike to the top of the canyon, which was well worth the trip too because of how astounding the beauty of this place is. It is truly a hidden gem because not a lot of tourists are yet aware of its existence. One of the reasons could be that for a long time, access to the canyon was closed for visitors and it was only recently that it was opened to the travellers and locals.

There are two ways to explore the canyon; for those who do not wish to undertake a challenging hike, a quick 200m (15 min) walk down from the parking lot at Farm Grund will take you to lookout points above the canyon and will provide awe-inspiring views of the basalt columns and the river below. However, there is no doubt that the tough hike down to the river is more rewarding in terms of the views, because of how standing below the giant cliffs will make you feel. This hike starts from the bridge near farm Klaustursel and is about 5 kms one way, taking about 3 hours for a roundtrip.

Stuðlagil Canyon

Suggested campsite for the night: Skjöldólfsstadir Guesthouse is about 20 min away from the canyon. However, it is open only during the summer months so if you're travelling after September, you will either need to return to Camp Egilsstaðir(1-hour drive) or preferably, drive ahead towards Möðrudalur/Fjalladyrd (also 1-hour drive but towards the direction of the rest of the itinerary, on the Ring Road). Both these campsites are open through the year.


Day 6: Dettifoss, Hverir geothermal sites, Myvatn Nature Baths, Goðafoss Waterfall

Drive time Dettifoss to Hverir Geothermal Sites: 1 hour
Hverir Geothermal Sites to Myvatn: 20 min
Myvatn to Goðafoss Waterfall: 40 min

You cannot get enough of waterfalls on this trip and Dettifoss is yet another incredible one to be included in your 10-day itinerary for Iceland. Known to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe, the mist created by tonnes of water plunging from the cliff is unbelievable! There are two ways to visit this waterfall, either from the east or from the west side of the river. Both viewpoints have their pros and cons.

If you visit from the east side of the fall (which I highly recommend), you can get dangerously close to the spot from where the river plunges down the cliff and the experience is exhilarating! For the thrill-seekers, this is a perfect choice. However, one must be extremely careful because there are no barricades to stop you from going close to the high-speed river and the rocks closer to the water are very slippery. You're responsible for your safety. Also, the drive to this side is best done in a 4WD vehicle because the road is uneven and bumpy. You can, however, also visit in a 2WD but be prepared for several potholes along the way. Make sure to wear good shoes as the walk down the rocky terrain, although short, is not comfortable.

The mighty Dettifoss from east side

Getting dangerously close to the mouth of Dettifoss

If you visit from the west side of the fall, which is bigger, you will have gorgeous views of the fall from above it but you will not be able to get very close to it. This side is also more crowded usually and easier to access due to the paved road from Route 1 leading to it and the flat terrain that you need to walk on to get to the falls. Unfortunately, you cannot walk from the east side to the west, the only way to visit both sides is by road. However, I highly recommend you pick one.

Optional: Hike to Selfoss. This is possible from both sides of the fall; although the trail is way more rugged from the east side but also offers much better views of the entire fall as opposed to only a small part of it from the west side. 

Hverir Geothermal Site has often been compared to Mars because of its boiling mud pools, steam vents, fumaroles, and the typical sulfur stench. The terrain and scenery here are surreal and you are bound to be intrigued by the thermal fumes which can be seen from a distance while you are on Route 1. The natural mud pools and the steam vents are a sight to behold but don't get too close or you stand a real chance of getting burnt! The area is not very large, so keep aside about 30 minutes for your visit.

Hverir Geothermal Site

Optional: For fans of Game of Thrones, you might want to take a slight detour to visit the lava fields of Dimmuborgir, a magnificent lava landscape with extraordinary formations, columns, caves, and arches, located near Myvtan, as it was one of the filming locations for the show. Also, Grjótagjá lava cave and the thermal spring is yet another GoT filming location and is not too far from the Nature Baths.

About 20 min from the geothermal site is the Mývatn Nature Baths, another set of geothermally heated pools and steam baths similar to Blue Lagoon but smaller and lesser touristy. Since it is perpetually cold in Iceland, finding such gems along the trip is a blessing. It also provides you a well-deserved relaxation break from the active itinerary and the sightseeing of the day. Myvatn Nature Baths are also manmade but a lot less commercial than the Blue Lagoon, so cheaper as well. I would suggest keeping aside 3-4 hours for all of the Myvatn area's sights.

Myvtan Nature Baths

Relaxing in Myvtan Nature Baths

From here, Goðafoss Waterfall is about 40 minutes away. The horse-shoe shaped waterfall may not be as majestic as some others you've visited until now but is highly recommended to be included in your 10-day itinerary for Iceland. It is easy to access, with the option of going down to the level of the river or seeing the falls from above. Strangely it was not one of the most crowded waterfalls which worked in my favour.

Skjálfandafljót river

Me at Goðafoss waterfall

Goðafoss waterfall

Suggested campsite for the night: LÓNSÁ Guesthouse situated near central Akureyri, which is about 30 minutes from the waterfall and is open throughout the year.


Day 7: Akureyri, Hvítserkur & Kirkjufellsfoss

Drive time Akureyri to Hvítserkur: 2.5 hours
Hvítserkur to Kirkjufellsfoss: 3 hours

Akureyri is a picturesque city (and the second-largest in Iceland) located in the north and a great place to start your day. The charming town makes for a good choice to enjoy your breakfast before starting your journey towards an offbeat destination in Iceland - Hvítserkur. Since it is going to be a long day with a lot of driving, I recommend starting early.

Akureyri

Hvítserkur is about a 45-min detour from Route 1 and it was a real pity that I missed visiting this place due to bad weather. When in Iceland, one needs to be prepared with Plan B for the day as it is highly likely that the unpredictable weather can ruin your plans for the day. If you are lucky, then I suggest you take this detour and make it to this offbeat but exquisite destination, also known as the 'Rhino Rock' in the sea. It is a spectacular wonder of nature caused by sea erosion which carved three holes through the 15-mtr high basalt rock, making it look like a creature.

Hvitserkur. Image credit: Extreme Iceland

The last stop for the day offers the most dramatic views and is one of my favourite locations in Iceland. I would pick this as one of my Top 5 must-include places in any itinerary for Iceland. Kirkjufell Mountain is one of the most photographed locations in the country and it is not hard to see why. Its graceful posture and unique shape led to it being selected as yet another Game of Thrones filming location. A small waterfall called Kirkjufellfoss makes for an insta-worthy picture, with the majestic mountain in the backdrop.

Kirkjufellfoss

Kirkjufell Mountain

Suggested campsite for the night: If you're traveling in summer, there is an amazing campsite located near the mountain called Grundarfjordur camping groundHowever, during the winter, it is hard to find a camping site located in the area. I would suggest asking the locals for a recommendation if you're unable to figure out one. This is something that helped me on the trip as there are some campgrounds that aren't registered on google but the locals can tell you about them.


Day 8: Ólafsvík & Snæfellsjökull National Park

Drive time Kirkjufell to Ólafsvík: 20 min
Ólafsvík to Snæfellsjökull National Park: 30 min

On this day, you hardly need to drive much which is a great break after the long distances on the day before. On this day of your 10-day itinerary for Iceland, I recommend you explore the Snæfellsjökull Peninsula in leisure. You are now in West Iceland and are nearly about to complete the circle of the Ring Road. The only reason I suggest to start from Ólafsvík is because of the whale watching tour. It is by far one of the best places in Iceland to catch a glimpse of the ocean’s top predators, sperm whales and orcas. This tour is available only until the end of October, has two daily departures (morning and afternoon), and lasts for about 2.5 hours.

The rugged landscape of Snæfellsjökull National Park is quite intriguing. There is no huge entrance sign to let you know that you're inside the national park and its sort of hard to tell when you are inside the area because of that. The best way to explore is to head exactly where you need to, and this requires some research. The National Park is a favourite of hikers, with the immense choice of trails available. However, apart from hiking, there are several other places that you can visit inside the park which could be of interest.

Here are some that I recommend you visit:

Búðakirkja Black Church
Sitting on a field of lava rock, this church is quite an exquisite sight to see, mostly because of how its unique color contrasts with the background.

Búðakirkja Black Church

Songhellir Cave

Famous for its echoes, the name means the cave of songs and is derived from the acoustic resonance inside the cave. Legend has it that the cave was a shelter for Bárður Snæfellsás who was half human and half troll.

Sönghellir Cave

Saxhóll Volcanic Crater

A volcanic crater that once shot magma from the earth, leading to the formation of the surrounding landscape, it is quite intriguing to visit this site. A series of steps will take you to the top of the crater with incredible views over the Atlantic Ocean and the expansive, dried lava fields of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

Saxhóll Volcanic Crater

Londranger Basalt Cliffs

Perhaps my favourite place in Snæfellsjökull National Park is the basalt cliffs that are remains of a crater, eroded by the ocean. A hike from the parking lot towards the area from where you get magnificent views of the ocean and the basalt cliffs is a must-do. The area is usually very windy and there are no fences or barricades to stop one from going closer to the edge, so be careful and stay safe!

Londrangar Basalt Cliffs

Londrangar Basalt Cliffs

Vatnshellir Cave

This 8,000 years old lava tube can be accessed with the help of a tour guide for a price, but its quite worth the experience of going 115 feet underground (unless you're claustrophobic!).

Djúpalón Beach

Also known as The Black Pearl Beach, Djúpalón Beach is a short walk down the Nautastígur path, which leads you to the shore from the nearby parking lot. There are pieces of the wreckage of an airplane strewn across the black sand beach, from a crash that took place way back in 1948.

Optional: If you have not already managed to do it until now, this is also a great place to experience a Glacier Hike. However, it is available only until September and is dependent on the weather.

Suggested campsite for the night: Borgarnes Camping Site (open only until September) or Akranes Camping Site (coastal, a short detour from Route 1, open throughout the year) or Bjarteyjarsandur (closer to Route 1, open throughout the year).


Day 9: Thingvellir National Park, Silfra Diving, Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss & Kerið Crater Lake

Thingvellir National Park to Geysir: 50 min
Geysir to Gullfoss: 10 min
Gullfoss to Kerið Crater Lake: 45 min

Although this day's itinerary is very relaxed and doesn't cram in too many things to do, I was slowed down due to the weather and could hardly make it to most of the places due to the torrential rains that brought the driving visibility down to almost zero and insanely string winds that shook the campervan so hard that it made it nearly impossible to drive! The destinations that you will visit on this day of your 10-day itinerary for Iceland are considered a part of the 'Golden Circle' and you're now very close to Reykjavik.

What stands out about the Thingvellir National Park is that it is the meeting point of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates and one can dive/ snorkel between these, in what is called the Silfra fissure. Unfortunately, due to the extremely bad weather, the activity was cancelled on the day I was there.

The water where the tectonic plates meet is extremely clear but cold, no doubt. If you're a diver, you'll have to wear a dry suit to be able to dive in the Silfra fissure. Most people (like me) will end up snorkelling instead which is also great because getting to float between two continents is a unique experience no doubt (I guess I will have to return to Iceland one day for this!).

Silfra Snorkeling. Pic credit: Adventure.com

An hour's drive from Thingvellir National Park is the Geysir Geothermal Area. This is where the famous erupting thermal spring is located and it is all-natural! The original Geysir which went up to 122 meters and was recorded as one of the highest geysers in history, almost stopped erupting around 2003 (eruptions became rare and few). However, a smaller neighbour called Strokkur geyser is currently very active and erupts every 5-10 minutes and goes as high as 20 meters. Although nowhere close to the original Geysir, this is still a sight to see. Try not to stand too close to the geyser! There is sustained geothermal activity in this area and it can be visited any time of the year. The bad weather was, fortunately, not a deterrent in visiting the Geysir Geothermal Area.

Strokkur geyser erupting

You will always find crowds waiting for the geyser to erupt. Right before the eruption, you will see a big fuming bubble forming at the base and this is when you get ready with your cameras! Try to stand in an area against the direction of the wind so that the water droplets don't land on you. If you have time, you can take the walk west towards Blesi hot springs (2 pools of boiling water that look like a pair of blue sunglasses) or even hike up the mountain Laugafell which is bound to give you excellent views of the geothermal area.

The next stop for the day is Gullfoss. This is going to be the last waterfall of your trip but equally spectacular due to its sheer size and powerful cascade. The waterfall is tiered, with smaller drops before it finally plunges into the ravine below, creating a magnificent pool of mist. The viewing platform just above the top of the falls commands unparalleled vistas and the area is usually crowded as it is one of the most famous (and closer to the capital city) waterfalls.

Gullfoss, Iceland Golden Circle

The viewing platform above Gullfoss

The last stop for the day is the Kerið Crater Lake, yet another place that I could not make it to because of the roads being damaged in the downpour. A volcanic caldera that is younger than most others in Iceland, the lake that fills the crater is unique because of its strikingly vivid aquamarine color.

Suggested place to stay for the night: Reykjavik (since you're close to the capital anyway) or if you have an early morning flight from Keflavik and are looking for a camping site near the airport, Grindavík Campground.


Day 10: Return to Reykjavik / Keflavik for your flight

If you have some time before your flight, you could explore the capital city a bit more or simply relax in one of the smaller towns near the airport, or chill in the Blue Lagoon which is not too far from the airport either.

My last sunset in Iceland (driving from Reykjavik to Keflavik)

39 thoughts on “The perfect 10-day self-drive itinerary for Iceland”

  1. Thank you for tagging us virtually on your 10-days trip around Iceland. It was mesmerizing sight, and all I could do now after reading your blog is to dream that one day I will explore Iceland too. Not just for the beautiful night sky, but also to learn about the local tourism.

  2. We drove the ring road in Iceland and loved it! I appreciate the detail about the Blue Lagoon. We didn’t do much research on it and were surprised that is was so close to the airport and so commerialized. But still it was great. The Basalt columns are impressive but Diamond Beach really steals my heart! Your itinerary is spot on!

  3. This is what I have in mind for visiting Iceland. Renting a car and stop wherever we want and as long as we want. I think you put all the best spots to visit in the country, including the crowds, how to get there, and highlights of the places. Besides the waterfalls, I found the hot springs river intriguing. Iceland is really a dream destination!

  4. Your photos are INCREDIBLE! My favorite was the rainbow street! I love how cities are adding rainbow streets. Also loved the waterfalls! Thank you for your detailed article and beautiful pictures!

  5. This is literally the perfect guide to Iceland. In fact, out of every guide that calls itself perfect. this is THE perfect one! I got engaged in Iceland a few years ago, and this brought back so many wonderful memories. It also made me realize that I could have gotten out of Reykjavik a little more and seen what else there is to do. I did try the fermented shark as you suggested…I think one time was more than enough LOL. It really makes you grateful for all the methods of preservation we have now-a-days. LOVED this post!

    1. That’s so kind of you Stephanie! And I can imagine how beautiful it would’ve been to get engaged in Iceland x

  6. I love road trips and Iceland sure is a place I would want to drive around and explore slowly! I didn’t know Blue Lagoon was closer to the Airport. I am planning to travel to Iceland next summer and will plan accordingly. Thanks for this awesome itinerary 😀

  7. I was in Iceland for 14 days and you post and pictures brought me back my memories. Iceland is truly beautiful and has amazing landscapes. I pretty much did all the things that you have mentioned except the glacier one. I could not go to the glaciers as the weather was bad and it was dangerous to go.

    1. An Iceland itinerary has to be flexible because of that reason exactly- the weather. Its so unpredictable, you always needs a plan B!

  8. An epic 10 day itinerary on Iceland and one that I would use. So many beautiful falls and hot springs to see and experience…a self-drive is a perfect way to explore.

  9. I woukd love to visit Iceland for the waterfalls a d hot springs. So many great sights to see and I love that so many of them revolve around nature The Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River looks like a lot of fun and would definetly be on my list. Exploring the caves would be as well.

  10. Lovely pictures and one epic itinerary for those who want to visit Iceland. Took me back to my time when we road tripped there! I travelled with my twins who were 1 year olds then, so I could not get into any of the thermal pools or Blue Lagoon. Although I could not see a lot of these places, I would certainly love to go back sometime.

  11. Wow! This is an in-depth itinerary. I would definitely like to follow in your Icelandic footsteps one day. For now, bookmarking this page to refer to when I eventually manage to plan a trip.

    Thanks for sharing!

  12. I have been twice and missed Kirkjufellfoss both times for some reason. Dying to go back, and do a little more in the north too. I love jokulsarlon. We did a glacier hike on first trip and visit the ice caves on the second.

  13. Iceland has been on my bucket list for so long and I have still not been able to make it there. Your photos are absolutely stunning and I am inspired more than ever to visit! I am super impressed by how many places you got to see on your trip, bookmarking this article for whenever I get to plan my own trip to Iceland. Thank you for sharing!

    1. My itineraries are usually very active and packed, that’s why I end up seeing a lot on a trip! I come back home feeling exhausted and usually need a vacation from my vacation. LOL. But no regrets…

  14. Medha I have heard so much about Iceland, but due to the extreme cold I chose not to visit it. Your article changed my view, it seems like once in a life time experience. The images of Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon made me to rethink my decision. Overall a well written, elaborated article supported with amazing pictures. I have two questions: 1)Are there options present for vegetarians? 2)Is is safe to travel alone?

    1. Hello Ramya, Iceland is one of the safest countries to travel to, especially for solo women! And yes, there are many options for vegetarians! If you do not like the cold too much, you could visit in the summer where its still manageable (July, August). The upside is that the days will be longer, giving you more time to explore. The downside is that you won’t have the opportunity to see the Northern Lights. I would suggest to visit during fall (September, October) where you can get the best of both and its really not THAT cold yet!

  15. I love how GREEN your pictures of Iceland are! When I backpacked around the island there was snow everywhere up to my waist. But that didnt stop me from swimming in the Blue lagoon or the other amazing hot springs around the country!
    Love all the pics of the southern coast and the waterfalls you got. I never thought I could be wow-ed by so many waterfalls.
    The Glacier is a cool time too! But I think when I return perhaps in a greener time like yours, I want to explore those canyons more. We were really not allowed to backpack near there due to weather. But the Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon looks amazing!

    1. Aaah I can imagine how different Iceland would be in the winter! I went at the right time – fall was perfect to catch the gorgeous waterfalls, the greenery everywhere and also see the Northern Lights!

  16. The scenery in Iceland is spectacular and I agree that a campervan (or at least a roadtrip) would be the best way to see the many things to see. It does look cold and I bet the hot springs sure felt great. Added bonus that there are adult beverages right in the middle without having to get out lol.

  17. I’ve been aching to get to Iceland for YEARS – with it’s dramatic landscapes, stunning blue waters, waterfalls and unique architecture. This is a fabulous post detailing which spots to see. Camping at the lagoon would be amazing – too bad it isn’t allowed anymore!

  18. Great post! Iceland seems to be the perfect destination to drive around. The waterfalls look stunning! The traditional Icelandic meal looks so yummy. I could eat all that salmon. Bookmarking your post. 🙂

  19. We had a great visit to Iceland. But we definitely want to go back. Driving around the island on a 4×4 sounds like a great way to pick up spots we missed. The Reynisfjara Beach Basalt Columns remind me so much of similar features we saw at the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland! And Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon sounds like my kind of walk. Definitely sounds like a much longer return visit is needed. We missed the Northern Lights so that alone would send us back.

  20. Iceland is a relatively small countries and it’s great to see that all these incredible places are just a short drive away from each other. I am super surprised to see that there’s so much to see and to fill up 10 days! I always thought of Iceland as a 3-4 days destination. Now I need to plan better 🙂

    1. I felt even 10 days were less! Even though its a really small country in terms of the size, its a treasure trove of natural wonders! I stayed on the ring road but if one choose s to go off-road, there is so much insane beauty waiting to be explored!

  21. Thanks for this thorough and useful guide for many aspects of travelling in Iceland – the way to go about things, the places to visit, etc. Well-written and illustrated by beautiful photographs. It’s really helpful for armchair travellers like us!

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