Luxury Iceland: Summer Self-Drive Adventure
• Golden Circle • Thorsmork • Westman Islands • Jokulsarlon • Myvatn • Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Explore Iceland at your own pace, taking in the unique landscapes which greet you at every turn. From bubbling geothermal areas to thundering waterfalls and mystical lagoons, this itinerary is perfect for the outdoor enthusiast! Highlights of this journey include a day trip to the unique Westman Islands, a Zodiac tour of Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, whale and puffin watching in Husavik and Vok Baths in the Eastfjords region.
Day 1: Keflavik > Reykjavik On arrival you will be met and privately transferred to your hotel for check-in. Relax in your King Premium room at Hotel Canopy in Reykjavik, and perhaps stretch your legs with a stroll through the city centre. Your contemporary hotel spans six connected buildings just steps from Laugavegur Street, and rooms are inspired by volcanic rock and soothing blue shades of the ocean.
Day 2: Reykjavik > Golden Circle > Grimsnes This morning you will be introduced to your rental vehicle (Toyota Land Cruiser GX 4WD Automatic or similar). Begin your self-drive adventure by exploring the famous Golden Circle, featuring some of the country's most famous landmarks - Geysir, Gullfoss and Thingvellir National Park. In the Geysir geothermal area, hot springs are in abundance, geysers explode and boiling pools of mud bubble. At the breathtaking Gullfoss waterfall, a narrow path provides close-up views of the thundering two-tiered cascade below. Thingvellir National Park is where Iceland's first ever parliament was created by the Vikings in the year 930, and you can actually see where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. During your tour of the area, stop at the Fridheimar family run tomato farm for a delicious lunch (cost not included - paid locally) and a private introduction to their greenhouse and stables.
At the end of the day, drive to Hotel Grimsborgir, located in Grimsnes next to the beautiful river Sogid - Iceland's largest freshwater river. The hotel offers first class service and luxury in the countryside, and the Superior rooms have a terrace as well as access to geothermal hot tubs in a common area.
Day 3: Grimsnes > Thorsmork > Hvolsvollur This morning, drive to a designated point to meet your private driver-guide, who will take you into the wild wonderland of the rugged and stunningly beautiful Thorsmork Valley. Named after the Norse God Thor, it is situated in the south of the country between the Tindfjallajokull and Eyjafjallajokull glaciers. This natural paradise is only accessible by 4WD vehicles with an experienced driver, as glacier river crossings are required to reach it. Enjoy a picnic lunch with a view in this beautiful area - there is a surprising richness of bird life, arctic birch trees and wildflowers.
After a day exploring the unbridged rivers and rough gravel tracks of this jewel of the highlands, your guide will return you to your vehicle to continue your self-drive journey. Make sure to stop by Seljalandsfoss waterfall to enjoy an easy hike - this waterfall offers a truly unique viewpoint by walking behind the curtain of thundering water. Your home for the next two nights is a Grand Double room at Hotel Skalakot, a boutique manor hotel in the tranquil countryside on a family farm that blends simple elegance with art deco style. The family breeds Icelandic horses and takes great pride in offering guests Icelandic hospitality and a genuine local experience.
Day 4: Hvolsvollur > Westman Islands > Hvolsvollur Start your day by driving to the Landeyjahofn harbour, where you will board the ferry to the Westman Islands, known locally as Vestmannaeyjar. An archipelago of 15 islands plus numerous rocks and skerries, only the largest island of Heimaey is inhabited.
On arrival, take some time to explore - life here is quite a bit different from mainland Iceland! Soak up the atmosphere of the charming fishing town, visit the 17th century fortress built to protect the island from pirate raids, or learn about the catastrophic volcanic eruption of 1973 in the Eldheimar Museum. Included today is a scheduled hour-long RIB boat tour around the islands. The tour heads to the east of Heimaey to see the new lava that was formed during the eruption in 1973. You'll discover rich birdlife and several sea caves during this trip, and may even sail into some of them. You'll also see interesting rock formations such as the big elephant rock in Dalfjall.
During your time on Heimaey, we highly recommend having a meal at Slippurinn Eatery, a fantastic family run restaurant located in a renovated machinery workshop (table reservations on request, with food/drink cost to be paid locally). Following the philosophy of both the New Nordic cuisine and Slow Food, the menu here is fresh, sustainable and local, and will give you a culinary insight into life on the Westman Islands.
Return to the mainland by ferry and drive back to Skalakot Manor Hotel for the night.
Day 5: Hvolsvollur > South Shore > Hof Start your day by visiting Skogafoss waterfall with its seductive scenery and legend of hidden gold. Continue your drive along the South Shore, surrounded by majestic green mountains and a masterpiece of volcanic scenery. The highly active Hekla volcano looms in the clouds along with the Myrdalsjokull glacier, which conceals the fiery secrets of Katla volcano underneath. Walk the black sands of Reynisfjara beach and explore the basalt columns located on the beach before continuing to the small village of Vik.
From Vik you drive through the sands of Myrdalssandur, and cross over the Eldgjarhraun lava field. Your route today will also take you past big glacial rivers, with an excellent view of Hvannadalshnukur, Iceland's highest peak. Time permitting, stop at Skaftafell for a relatively easy hike to the unique waterfall Svartifoss, where glacial meltwater tumbles down 20 metres over a cliff, surrounded by tall black basalt columns that resemble giant organ pipes. Afterwards, continue further east to your hotel, Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon. The Deluxe rooms are designed in a contemporary Nordic style, with most including a window seat to enjoy the view of the surrounding countryside.
Day 6: Hof > Jokulsarlon > Egilsstadir Depart early this morning for the famous glacier lagoon Jokulsarlon. This mystical lagoon has featured in many films and TV shows, including Batman Begins and Game of Thrones. Nearby is Breidamerkursandur, often called 'Diamond Beach' for the pieces of the glaciers that have washed up on the sands, sparkling like diamonds. Enjoy an hour-long scheduled Zodiac boat tour of Jokusarlon, allowing you to cover large areas of the lagoon and get closer to the icebergs.
After your tour, continue driving east towards Egilsstadir. Along the way, stop in at Hofn, renowned for its fresh langoustine lobster. You'll also pass through the Cittaslow (slow movement) town of Djupivogur and the tiny, relatively young fishing village of Breiddalsvik. Overnight at the Icelandair Hotel Herad in the peaceful and friendly town of Egilsstadir.
Day 7: Egilsstadir > Myvatn Today drive from Egilsstadir to the Lake Myvatn area. Start your day at the Vok Baths on beautiful Lake Urridavatn, an essential stop on any visit to the Eastfjords region. Relax in Iceland's first series of floating pools, which allow you to soak in the hot water surrounded by the lake. After your unique bathing experience, continue driving through the Eastfjords, known for its deep and majestic fjords, charming small fishing villages and herds of wild reindeer. Time permitting, bird lovers should consider a detour to Borgarfjordur Eystri, home to a charming colony of roughly 10,00 pairs of puffins during the summer months.
Your home for the next two nights is the Icelandair Hotel Myvatn. Rebuilt on the foundation of one of the region's original hotels, it boasts an innovative design that emphasises relaxation and simplicity. The stylish lobby was created by a Swedish installation artist and uses nostalgic items from the former hotel to connect the future and the past.
Day 8: Lofthellir Cave & Myvatn area This morning you will be met by your private local driver-guide for the day. The Myvatn area is packed with highlights, and after a short discussion of your interests, they will devise a route that is tailored to your preferences.
You can start the day by exploring Lofthellir, a permafrost lava cave. Access requires a trek of 30 minutes across a craggy lava field, but the surreal and lustrous ice formations are well worth the effort. Afterwards, explore the greater Lake Myvatn area, considered the most beautiful and at the same time the most catastrophic place in Iceland. Enjoy an amazing journey through an area of extreme contrasts, bird life, flora and geothermal activity. Dimmuborgir is full of lava pillars, caves, rugged crags and towering rocks, some of which reach 20 metres in height, forming almost unearthly and alien castles and towers. According to Icelandic folklore, Dimmuborgir is said to connect earth with the infernal regions. There are also many hidden surprises to discover, such as Grjotagja, a cave with an underground hot river.
Day 9: Myvatn > Husavik > Akureyri > Siglufjordur This morning, drive to the small fishing town of Husavik and join a scheduled whale and puffin watching tour. One of the best places in the world to see whales, the plankton and fish-rich feeding ground of the surrounding waters are visited by Humpback whales, Minke whales, dolphins and porpoises - the massive Blue whale even visits the bay early in the season. You'll also stop by the peaceful Puffin Island, where thousands of puffins nest during the summer months. After your adventure on the water, drive to Akureyri, the capital of the north and the country's second largest city. Located less than 100 kilometres from the Arctic Circle, it is a colourful and surprisingly green city with some of the finest timber buildings in the country.
Finish the day heading north along the spectacular coastline of the Trollaskagi Peninsula to the colourful fishing village of Siglufjordur, once dubbed the herring capital of the world. Built into the town's harbour, all rooms at the Siglo Hotel have wonderful views of the beautiful surrounding mountains and peaceful environment of the fjord.
Day 10: Siglufjordur > Stykkisholmur Today's drive will take you through areas renowned for beautiful landscapes and Viking legends. Drive along the Trollaskagi Peninsula into the horse breeding region of Skagafjordur, and continue through Laugarbakki, steeped in old legends of outlaws, sorcerers and medieval battles. At the end of your drive, you'll reach the natural wonders of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, often referred to as 'Iceland in miniature'. This is a unique area with a variety of geological interests such as lava fields, volcanoes, glaciers, mineral springs, beautifully formed rocks, yellow and black sand beaches as well as caves and bird colonies. Your destination tonight is the Hotel Egilsen in the fishing village of Stykkisholmur. Originally built in 1867 by a prominent businessman as a private residence, it was immaculately renovated and opened as a family run boutique hotel in 2012.
Day 11: Stykkisholmur > Husafell Circle around the legendary Snaefellsnes Peninsula today, passing the small villages of Grundarfjordur and Hellissandur as well as the most photographed mountain in the country, Kirkjufell. Don't miss the black sandy pebble beach of Djupalonssandur, or the striking columnar basalt rock formations at Arnarstapi. Over all of this beauty is the glittering glacial cap of Snaefellsjokull, atop a crater which provided Jules Verne with the setting for his novel 'Journey to the Center of the Earth.' Finish your loop at Eldborg crater, which offers fantastic views of the surrounding landscape if the weather is clear.
End the day at Hotel Husafell, an elegant, peaceful retreat that effortlessly combines the comforts of a modern hotel with a distinctly Icelandic sustainable design.
Day 12: Husafell > Into the Glacier > Blue Lagoon From Hotel Husafell, head to base camp and join a scheduled Into the Glacier tour. After a shuttle transfer to the Klaki glacier base, travel by a modified glacier vehicle specially designed to explore this unique environment. The ice cave and tunnels are located high on Langjokull, Iceland's second largest glacier, and the views on a clear day are truly magnificent. After the journey up the white slopes, you will go deep inside the tunnels that lead to the blue heart of the glacier. After your rare experience of seeing a glacier from the inside, return to civilisation and resume your self-drive journey.
Your next destination is the luxurious Retreat Hotel at the Blue Lagoon, the perfect location to conclude your Iceland adventure. Built into an 800 year old lava flow on the south shore of the Blue Lagoon, the spa at The Retreat embodies the harmonic convergence of nature, design and the radiant powers of geothermal seawater. The Moss Junior Suites feature floor-to-ceiling windows and a private balcony that reveal panoramic vistas of ever-changing moss and sweeping lava fields.
Day 13: Blue Lagoon Today is at leisure at your hotel to relax in the Retreat Lagoon, enjoy a spa treatment, join the daily hike on offer, or attend a yoga class. For your final night, we suggest dining at one of the country's best restaurants - MOSS Restaurant at The Retreat Hotel. It offers stunning views of the volcanic landscape and seasonal gourmet tasting menus that highlight the diverse delights of Icelandic cuisine.
Day 14: Blue Lagoon > Keflavik Drive to Keflavik International Airport, return your rental vehicle, and proceed to your onward flight.
• Tailor-made self-drive journey • 13 nights' accommodation in carefully selected hotels • 13 day vehicle rental (Toyota Land Cruiser GX 4WD Automatic or similar with unlimited kilometres, CDW, TP & GPS) • Private arrival airport transfer • Full day of private sightseeing with driver-guide in both Thorsmark and Myvatn • Private introduction to Fridheimar tomato farm and stables • Ferry tickets for the Westman Islands (including passage for rental vehicle) • 1 hour shared RIB safari tour in the Westman Islands • 1 hour shared Zodiac experience on the Glacier Lagoon • Premium admission and use of towels at Vok Baths • Shared whale and puffin sightseeing tour from Husavik • Shared 'Into the Glacier' tour • Water bottles and light snacks in vehicle during two day tours with driver-guide • 13 breakfasts and 1 picnic lunch
Pricing (per person) $NZD
Departs Departs daily 1 May - 30 Sep
Departs daily 1 May - 30 Sep
Booking conditions • Please enquire for travel outside these dates
• Please enquire for travel outside these dates