Arctic Iceland

A Self Drive Odyssey

Book By

Dec 14, 2019

Duration

11 Days

from USD

$1799

from CAD

$2359

 
Price Includes
  • 10 nights' accommodation

    • Comfort (good no-frills hotels with private bathrooms) accommodations in standard rooms

    • Quality (best available in each area, with private bathrooms)

  • 10 breakfasts

  • Car Rental;

    • Unlimited mileage, CDW, theft protection and VAT

    • GPS system and no charges for an additional driver. Digital map and itinerary

    • Iceland Travel companion app

    • 24-hour emergency assistance

  • Service fee and taxes

Price Excludes
  • Travel insurance

  • International and domestic airfare & airfare taxes

  • Visa fees if applicable

  • Meals and beverages not mentioned

  • Gratuities

  • Items of a personal nature

About this Trip

This 11-day Icelandic self-drive vacation takes you around the Ring Road to experience the natural wonders of this Atlantic nation. It features your choice of comfort or quality hotels, a car rental, independent touring options, and is ideal for travellers who want to see the highlights of Iceland at their own pace.

Your Icelandic journey begins upon arrival at Keflavik Airport, where you’ll pick up your rental car and begin your drive throughout the country. As you drive along the Ring Road, you’ll have the option to stop off at highlights along the way. Follow your fancy in this beautiful landscape to discover quiet fishing villages, geothermal pools, and frozen landscapes. Right after leaving the airport, consider stopping off at the famous geothermal pool of the Blue Lagoon, where you can revitalize yourself in the silica-rich waters. Continue to Hveragerdi to stay the night in the small centre located on top of geothermal hot springs. On your first full-day, drive the Golden Circle, the most popular natural attractions in the country. First stop is Thingvellir National Park, a stunning series of rocky cliffs at the meeting point of the continent plates, followed by the exploding geysers of Geysir and Strokkur, and the Golden Waterfall of Gullfoss.

After getting these popular tourist sites out of the way, get on Route 1 and follow the Ring Road around the country. Stop off at the stunning waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss before reaching Vik, where you’ll find the imposing black sand beach of Reynisfjara, known for its organ-like basalt columns and rogue waves (as well as an appearance in Game of Thrones). Continue to Vatnajokull National Park, home to the largest ice cap in Europe. You can explore the glacier on an excursion or continue along to Jokulsarlon, a glacier lagoon that is considered the most beautiful site in the country. Stroll along Diamond Beach to see miniature icebergs deposited on a black sand beach, and gaze out over the waters to see transparent slabs of ice flowing along the surface.

Continue into the Eastfjords to explore some of the oldest parts of the country. You can take advantage of geothermal waters near Lake Urridavatn before driving along the Arctic Coast Way to see the trails of the Langanes Peninsula or the fishing village of Thorshofn. Continue north and stop off in Raufarhofn, the northernmost town in the country, to gaze out over the Arctic waters. Turn west and cross the plain of Melrakkasletta to reach Asbyrgi, a stunning horseshoe-shaped canyon said to be formed by the hoof-print of Odin’s magical horse. You can also stop off at Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe, before reaching Husavik, the nation’s whale watching capital.

North Iceland is a hotbed of activity. You can explore Lake Myvatn and the lava citadels of Dimmuborgir, head to Godafoss, Waterfall of the Gods, or visit the surprisingly-cosmopolitan streets of Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest urban centre. Then drive west along the Siglufjordur and pass the Troll Peninsula. Continue west into a landscape known for medieval legends. You can visit the medieval centre of Holar, follow the footsteps of legendary hero Grettir the Strong in Grettislaugh, or stop at a local farm to get up close with Icelandic horses. Make your way to Hvammstangi and follow one of the best seal-watching routes in the country. Spot the ocean rock formations at Hvitserkur and reach West Iceland with a visit to Dalir, home to Eirik the Red and his son, Leif Eiriksson, who reached the New World centuries before Columbus.

 

On your final full day, drive around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula to explore a microcosm of Iceland as a whole. Pay special attention to Kirkjufell, the most photographed mountain in the country, the black sand beach of Djupalonssandur, and Snaefellsjokull, the massive ice cap that was featured in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. If you have time after exploring the peninsula, head along the Borgarfjordur to see the waterfalls of Hraunfossar and Barnafoss, before reaching Reykjavik.

On your final morning, head back to Keflavik Airport, making time for a stop at the Blue Lagoon if you haven’t already, to drop off your rental car and return home.

Discover Iceland
 
 

Day 1: Arrival


Pick up the car at the airport and start your Iceland experience. From Keflavik International Airport, drive the southern coast of the Reykjanes peninsula towards your first overnight stay in the charming village of Hveragerdi. This village is one of the few sites in the world located directly on top of a geothermal area and, because of its many greenhouses heated by hot water from nearby springs it is often called the "flower village". If your flight arrives early in the day, you might stop at the Blue Lagoon (a short distance from the airport) for a chance to relax in the soothing geothermal mineral waters. Please note that admission to the Blue Lagoon must be booked in advance and is not included in the package price.




Day 2: Thingvellir - Gullfoss Geysir - Thjorsardalur - Hella


After breakfast at your accommodation, visit Thingvellir National Park, site of the ancient Icelandic Viking parliament and a jewel of nature. Here you can see the meeting point between the North American and Europe continents. Many important historical events happened here and a range of walking and hiking trails take visitors to historical points of interest. Continue to the amazing Gullfoss Waterfall and the Geysir hot spring area. Gullfoss is considered by many visitors to be Iceland’s most beautiful waterfall, while Geysir, an active geothermal field with many bubbling steam vents and spouting hot springs, never fails to impress. If you enjoy history, visit Laugarvatnshellir, a cave cleverly converted into a home for two Icelandic families in the early 20th century. Later, explore Thjorsardalur Valley and its ever-changing landscapes of birch woods, sandy lava fields, rivers and waterfalls. During the summer you can visit the excavated site of a Viking age farm that was covered by lava from one of Hekla's eruptions. A replica shows you how the longhouse looked (admission not included).




Day 3: Hella - Vik - Kirkjubaejarklaustur


Fuel up with breakfast at your accommodation and later drive along the spectacular south coast and view highlights along the way such as the Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls and Myrdalsjokull glacier. If the skies are clear, you might even have a glimpse of beautiful Mt. Hekla, Iceland's most frequently erupting volcano. The glacier offers great opportunities for guided snowmobile or ice hiking tours. Head to Vik, Iceland’s southernmost village. In the area you can view the seabird cliff of Dyrholaey and the black sand beach of Reynisfjara (Please note that Dyrholaey is closed during nesting season in spring, from mid-May until June 23rd). Continue over Eldhraun, Iceland’s largest single lava flow, towards Kirkjubaejarklaustur, a picturesque village that is the former site of a 12th-century Catholic convent. The town is known for its excellent farm-raised arctic char trout, which you might like to try tonight.




Day 4: Vatnajokull National Park- Jokulsarlon - Hofn - Djupivogur


Enjoy breakfast at your accommodation, then get set to experience the southern area of Vatnajokull National Park, named after Europe's largest glacier. Road 1 (The Ring Road) takes you along the side of Vatnajokull, giving you great views of the glacier through the day. Visit the awe-inspiring Skaftafell area of the park, a lovely oasis is set between glaciers. There are several excellent hiking trails including one to the basalt-lined Svartifoss Falls. Here you may choose to partake in a glacier adventure it is highly recommended to take a guided hike on one of the parks glaciers. You'll see amazing glacier features and learn from the guides about how glaciers are formed. Continue to the shimmering icebergs of Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon and enjoy the amazing view. If you’re lucky you might glimpse a few sunbathing seals. Nearby is the famous Diamond Beach, a popular area to snap a picture of broken glaciers resting on black sands. The Thorbergur Center is a great place to stop near the Glacier Lagoon, both for its unique architecture (it resembles a huge shelf of books) and its restaurant using local farm produce. Pass through Hofn, a town located within view of the glacier. It's a nice idea to visit the harbor and watch the fishing boats. Head onwards, enjoying the views of steep mountains and seacoast. Your destination is Djupivogur, a charming and historical town that is the "gateway" to the rugged East Iceland coastline. Be sure to check out the quirky egg sculptures in the town's harbor.




Day 5: The Eastfjords - Egilsstadir - Arctic Coast Way


Following breakfast at your accommodation, drive through the spectacular eastern fjords with towering mountains and charming fishing villages such as Breiddalsvik and Stodvarfjordur. This is one Iceland's oldest regions, with rugged fjords carved by glaciers during the Ice Age. This also means the Eastfjords have a huge variety of stones and minerals geology buffs might enjoy visiting Petra's Stone Collection at Stodvarfjordur. Drive through Fagridalur (the Beautiful Valley) to Egilsstadir, one of Iceland's youngest towns. The town has a nice variety of restaurants and shops. One of the local specialties is reindeer, as East Iceland is home to the country's only wild reindeer herd. You might opt to visit the new Vok Baths at nearby Lake Urridavatn, where you can unwind in untouched nature in distinctive floating geothermal pools. Then it's time to leave Road 1 and turn onto Road 85, the entry to the new Arctic Coast Way. Pass by Vopnafjordur village, with its spectacular coastline and natural hot springs. Continue on to Langanes Peninsula, an outdoor paradise for birders, hikers and nature photographers. A nice place to take a break is Thorshofn, a pleasant fishing town that is a perfect spot to connect with the area's culture. It is a pleasant experience to walk along the harbor and enjoy the daily life. Near the town, you can take guided sea kayak tours that are a wonderful way to view bird and marine life. Continue on the Arctic Coast Way (Road 85). As you drive along today, keep an eye out for various cute scarecrow figures made by a local artist. If you enjoy checking out quirky and enjoyable roadside attractions, an interesting place to visit is the Leader Sheep Center, located just off Road 85. Physically different from other Icelandic sheep, leader sheep have an uncanny ability to predict weather. They take the role of protector and leader of the flock when the sheep wander loose in the mountains. They have saved both their flock and shepherds by warning about impending storms. The Leader Sheep center has an exhibit about the history of these sheep, as well as a small shop selling yarn and handicrafts made from sheep wool and horn. The cafe is a fun place to visit too, they offer their own special coffee blend, Aerblanda. Please note, the center is open June through August, 11:00 - 18:00 (11:00am - 6:00pm). Drive to your overnight destination in Raufarhofn.




Day 6: Arctic Coast Way: Raufarhofn - Kopasker - Vatnajökull National Park - Husavik


After breakfast at your accommodation, begin the trip toward Raufarhofn village, Iceland’s northernmost town and home to the picturesque Arctic Henge, an enormous sun calendar based on Norse mythology. The Henge is still being constructed, and you can view a model the completed structure will look at the Hotel Nordurljos's restaurant. If you enjoy walking, we recommend taking one of the several easy walking trails to the beach and the Raufarhofn lighthouse. There is something special about breathing in the ocean air, listening to the birds and viewing the timeless mystery of the Henge. Perhaps break for a well-deserved meal, then consider where to go next. You can take Road 870 and drive across the exotic Melrakkasletta the "Arctic Fox plain" Iceland's most isolated region (please note this road is gravel). You will hear little more than the waves, birds and the wind. It's a special way to enjoy some digital detox and to connect with nature. The naturally stacked driftwood on the shoreline and the old ruins of farmhouses are a photographer’s dream. There are several great viewing points and marked hiking trails along the way. Road 870 meets Road 85 again at Kopasker village. Otherwise, If you want to shorten your journey, you can also stay on Road 85 and drive directly between Raufarnhofn and Kopasker towns.The fishing village of Kopasker has an interesting Earthquake Center located in the town's schoolhouse. The center focuses on the area's big earthquake of 1976, as well as describing earthquakes in general. You can also take a beautiful walk from the village to view the uniquely shaped Kopasker lighthouse. If you're interested in history or handicrafts, the Snartarstadir Heritage museum near the town displays area handicrafts from the 19th and 20th century. Later, visit Asbyrgi, a magnificent horseshoe-shaped canyon in the northern part of Vatnajokull National Park. Local legend says this was formed by the hoofprints from Odins's magical horse. Walking trails lead down to the canyon's beautiful lake and observation platforms. Depending on your schedule, you can also visit the park's Dettifoss falls. Dettifoss is the largest waterfall in Europe. Please keep in mind Road 864 Dettifoss is gravel, and please pay heed to any Warning signs that are posted. Drive along the scenic and fossil filled Tjornes peninsula at the edge of the Arctic Circle en route to the fishing port of charming Husavik where you will be spending the night. Husavik is known for its excellent whale watching tours, as week as the Whale Museum. Depending on when you arrive, you might consider a tour. A great way to end the day is a soak in the GeoSea Baths where you can relax in naturally heated seawater and enjoy views of the Arctic Circle and Husavik lighthouse.




Day 7: Arctic Coast Way: Husavik - Akureyri - Siglufjordur


Relax over breakfast at your accommodation, then start the day exploring highlights of Lake Myvatn such as the lava citadels at Dimmuborgir, the pseudo-craters at Skutustadir, the colorful sulphurous slopes of Namaskard and the Krafla volcano area. Depart Myvatn and drive westward, visiting beautiful Godafoss, the Waterfall of the Gods. Take some time to visit Akureyri, Iceland's colorful northern "capital". Take some time to enjoy this town of beautifully preserved historical buildings. Though relatively small in size, Akureyri has a vibrant cultural scene, including a street dedicated to art galleries. It also boasts one of the best geothermal swimming pools in Iceland. Drive to Siglufjordur along one of Iceland's most dramatic coastlines, enjoying a unique view towards the North Atlantic. This is the region of the Troll Peninsula, where the steep Icelandic mountains (known by locals as the Icelandic Alps) drop towards the sea. On the way, maybe you'll enjoy a relaxing and unique geothermal beer bath at the Beer Spa (must be booked in advance) or dine on excellent saltfish specialties at the Baccala Bar in Hauganes. The town of Siglufjordur itself has many beautifully restored, colorful buildings and excellent options for outdoor recreation, from golf to hiking to whale watching. The award-winning Herring-Era Museum is an excellent place to learn about the early 20th century fish migration that turned tiny Siglufjordur into an international boomtown. This town was the filming location for both seasons of the popular Icelandic suspense series, Trapped. Spend the rest of the day in the town, enjoying its friendly local restaurants, microbrewery and splendid fjord views. Please Note: The Ring Road route today contains a toll tunnel. This fee must be paid online at tunnel.is, using a credit card and your vehicle's license plate number.




Day 8: Arctic Coast Way: Siglufjordur to Laugarbakki


Settle in for breakfast at your accommodation, then get ready for a great day exploring both beautiful landscapes and Viking legends. Thread around the peninsula, heading from Eyjafjordur in to Skagafjordur, a renowned area for horse breeding and medieval history. The pretty town of Hofsos has a unique swimming pool that seems to float into infinity. The pool looks towards Drangey Island, known from the famous Viking-age Saga of Grettir the Strong. A great photo opportunity is to take a short walk down to the geometrically shaped basalt columns near the sea. If you are a history buff, we suggest a stop at Holar. This cultural center has buildings and religious artifacts covering nine centuries of Icelandic history. The new Battle of Iceland virtual reality experience in Saudarkrokur town brings you back into the 12th century to learn about one of Iceland's most pivotal battles, which occurred close to here. Between mid-May and August you can also take a guided boat tour out to Drangey Island from Saudarkrokur harbor. Hike with the guide to the top of the island on a trail bringing you into good viewing of seabirds, including puffins (Puffins are best seen between mid-May and early August). You'll also learn about the story of how the Viking outlaw Grettir hid out on the island. Another suggestion is to drive out to Grettislaug, the coastal hot spring pool Grettir used. The manor farm of Glaumbaer is a turf home that dates back to the 18th century. Visiting here gives a sense of life in Iceland in the old days. Glaumbaer was an inspiration for Hannah Kent's famous novel Burial Rites, now being produced as a movie. The actual events in the story occurred in the Vatnsnes area of North Iceland, which you will visit tomorrow. Near Varmahlid town, a great place to visit and meet a local farm family is at Lytingsstadur horse farm. Meet Icelandic horses, see the replica of a turf stable and learn about why horses are important to Icelandic history. Head on to Laugarbakki, a peaceful area steeped in old legends of outlaws, sorcerers and medieval battles.




Day 9: Arctic Coast Way: Hvammstangi -Vatnes Peninsula - Stykkisholmur


After breakfast at your accommodation, take to the road on a route that is one of the best in Iceland for seal watching. You'll also see some of the places associated with the tragic 19th century events described in the novel Burial Rites. You can learn more about seals, where to see them, and even book a guided seal watching tour at the Seal Center in Hvammstangi town. A great area to view seals is Vatnsnes Peninsula, where the ocean seems to meet the sky. A wheel-shaped sheep round-up pen right on the seacoast is a striking image and a great photo stop. Every fall farmers in the area join together on horseback to herd free ranging sheep down from the mountains and into the pen. Illugastadir Beach has a seal colony, with a nearby viewing hut. Please note that Illugastadir is closed from the beginning of May until 20 June to protect the nesting eider ducks. Illugastadir is also the location of the farm and workshop where Agnes Magnusdottir and Fridrik Sigurdsson supposedly murdered two men, an event described in the novel Burial Rites. One of the men killed, Natan Ketilsson, was Agnes former lover. Agnes and Fridrik were sentenced to death and beheaded in 1830, the last execution in Iceland. You can see their gravesite at Tjorn church's cemetery. While you are on Vatnsnes Peninsula, a recommended place to try Icelandic seafood is the Geitafell Restaurant near Tjorn, a popular place for local residents. The fish comes right from local catches, so it is very fresh. Today you'll also have a view of the Hvitserkur arch-shaped ocean rock formation. Hvitserkur is a landmark symbol of the area and a great subject for a photo. Visit Borgarvirki, a natural rock formation that has been used as a citadel since Viking times. A stairway leads to the top for a great view of the area. Please be careful as there are often rocks that have fallen from the citadel onto the path. It's interesting to imagine what life must have been like for the people who lived on this cliff. Head from the Arctic Coast Way and into Western Iceland. Visit Dalir, the region of Eric the Red and birthplace of his son, the great explorer Leif Eiriksson at a living replica museum before driving to Snaefellsnes peninsula.




Day 10: Snaefellsnes Peninsula - Borgarfjordur - Reykjavik


Following breakfast at your accommodation, you will today explore the ever-changing beauty of the Snaefellsnes peninsula and Snaefellsjokull National Park. Continue around the Snaefellsnes peninsula, passing the small fishing villages of Grundarfjordur and Hellissandur. Keep an eye out for Kirkjufell, Iceland's most photographed mountain. Make a stop at the rocky beach of Djupalonssandur as well as the magnificent columnar basalt rock formations at Arnarstapi. The crown jewel of the region is Snaefellsjokull, a glacier-topped volcano that is said to be the home of a benevolent troll spirit. You can enjoy guided activities in the region such as glacier hiking on Snaefellsjokull, visiting Vatnshellir lava cave, whale watching near Olafsvik, and sea kayaking in the vicinity of Kirkjufell. Explore the gem of Borgarfjordur, a charming area of volcanic landscapes and Viking history. This is one of our favorite areas to find beautiful handicrafts and taste local farm products. Visit the brilliantly blue waters of Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls, and the hot spring Deildartunguhver. Near the hot springs is Krauma, the relaxing "fire and ice" geothermal spa that uses a soothing blend of hot springs and glacier water. Continue via Hvalfjordur fjord to Reykjavik.




Day 11: Departure


Drive back to Keflavik International Airport. We recommend departing your hotel in Reykjavik no later than at least 3 hours before your flight departure. It takes approximately 1 hour to drive to the airport, and check-in will start 2 hours before your departure. If you did not visit the Blue Lagoon on your way to the city on your first day but have some free time today, you might want to use the opportunity en route to the airport. For this detour, please be sure to allow for at least 2-2.5 hours extra so you'll have ample time at the lagoon. Your rental car should be returned to the airport service area, which is located only 2 minutes from the airport building. A shuttle will then transport you to the departure hall.





Itinerary
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TERMS AND CONDITIONS:

"Prices are "from" per person based on twin/double share accommodation and for travel in low season. Hotels are not guaranteed and are subject to change until 3 weeks prior to departure. Seasonal surcharges and blackout dates may apply. Limited seat/spaces and all pricing is subject to change and availability. Rates for single or triple travellers are available on request - please inquire."

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