Looking for the perfect one week driving itinerary for an Iceland road trip? Look no further! Glaciers, geysers, icebergs, puffins, whales, this itinerary has it all.
A few summers back, on a driving trip to Norway to visit some close friends in Stavanger, we stopped in a tourist information office in the Danish ferry port of Hirtshals.
We were surprised to discover that you could take a ferry from Denmark to Iceland. What an amazing adventure that would be! We grabbed the glossy pamphlet and filed away the idea for the future.
Our Trip to Iceland Itinerary – 7 Day Ring Road Trip
The ferry company, Smyril Line, gave us a suggested itinerary for driving around Iceland that came pretty close to hitting all of our desired sights. It seemed like a good plan, so with a few modifications we were just about ready. From there, it was easy to use our planned route and book our accommodations for each night of the trip.
This itinerary is designed for an Iceland Ring Road self-drive starting in Seydisfjordur arriving via ferry from Hirtschalls, Denmark on mainland Europe. This is our recommended journey as it can easily include a stopover visit to the stunning Faroe Islands. However, It can easily be modified to begin the journey in Reykjavik for those arriving by air.
Day 1: Seydisfjordur to Höfn; Eastern Fjords, Black Sand Beaches
Arriving in Seydisfjordur after miles and miles on the open sea is an amazing experience. The ferry terminal is located right in the middle of this gorgeous little town at the end of the stunningly scenic fjord. Pick up your rental car, fill up with gas, stop for some skyr and snacks at the tiny little grocery store, and hit the road. The climb up the small mountain pass out of town is spectacular as winds along past cascading waterfalls.
Driving along the east coast, around fjords, along the mountains, and past incredible black sandy beaches is the real treat on this day. It is an excellent welcome to this beautiful country. The drive to Hofn is about 135 miles (220 km) and takes around 2 hours. However, several alternate routes lead up into the mountains or down around fjords and peninsulas with quaint little fishing villages.
Where to Stay in Höfn, Iceland
- Arnanes Country Hotel – Cozy cottages located on a farm with stunning views
- Milk Factory – Old milk factory converted into a hotel with stunning views of Vatnajökull glacier
Main Sights Seydisfordur to Höfn
- Eskifjörður – a little off the planned route, but the bright red wooden buildings along the waterfront are gorgeous and the East Iceland Maritime Museum is worth a stop.
- Waterfalls – Gufufoss (Seydisfjordur), Snaedalsfoss (Bragdavellir), Barkináfoss (Makkranes), Skútafoss (Þjóðvegur)
- Beaches – Remote, black sandy beaches along this stretch of coast, with some impressive waves. Fauskasandur and Lækjavik are
Day 2: Höfn to Vik; Vatnajökull Glacier, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon,
The second leg of the journey was planned out to be another 180-mile day (300 km), not too much driving. But this stretch goes past some of the more accessible glaciers in Iceland and it’s hard not to want to explore them as close up as possible.
We spent a few hours winding slowly among the rock-strewn tracks leading up to Vatnajökull glacier and enjoyed a snack of peanut butter and crackers along a glacial runoff stream amid the flora and fauna of Iceland.
After our snack, we made our way back to the ring road (Highway 1) and onward to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Here we knew we would spend some time. We debated back and forth on whether or not to take the touristy amphibious truck boats for a ride out into the lagoon. And of course, we went for it.
This is the best way to get out among the glistening ice and really get up close and personal. And how often do you get a chance to go to Iceland and boat out among the icebergs in a glacier lagoon?
We weren’t expecting much after leaving Jökulsárlón, but this is Iceland and you don’t have to go far at all to get to some other natural splendor, amazing landscape, or awesome waterfall.
For us, Eldhraun lava field was a surprise. Our itinerary mentioned it without much by way of a description and the travelers along the road were just driving on through without seeming to notice this fantasy world of moss-covered lava. This is definitely a place to get out, stretch your legs, and be amazed by the scenery.
Where to Stay in Vik, Iceland
- Hotel Dyrhólaey – Just outside of Vik on a farm overlooking the ocean. Clean and comfortable rooms, traditional Icelandic meals, and local beer
- Kósý Vík – Located in the heart of Vik village, this former 1920s hospital offers a great breakfast and comfortable, cozy rooms
Main Sights Höfn to Vik
- Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon – Enormous icebergs fill up deep blue waters of the lagoon
- Hofskirkja – Old turf roofed church in the small village of Hof
The third day was as incredible as the first two. The landscape had changed but was still beautiful with sparkling waterfalls plunging over sheer cliff faces, long stretches of dark black sand and volcanic ash, and bucolic farmlands. We took another detour from the main route to get to Dyrhólaey a craggy headland that juts out into the sea providing sanctuary for a colony of colorful puffins.
Next, we enjoyed the scenic drive through rolling farmlands and pastures on our way to Geysir with its bubbling and boiling hot pots and spouts of steam shooting high into the air. Again, just incredible!
You can get right up to the edge of the geyser here and watch it go through its cycle. After it lets out a strong jet of steam and boiling water the cavity is a drained 6 foot wide tunnel descending into the Earth.
As you watch, the tunnel slowly fills up with crystal clear blue water until it’s full and begins to boil and bulge until suddenly–it erupts in an explosion of steam and hot water shooting high above and raining down on those unwitting people, not smart enough to stand upwind.
We could have stayed there all day but we had to get on the road to Þingvellir where the American and European tectonic plates collide.
Our three hours of hiking and exploring this fairy-tale landscape of moss-covered lava, surprising sinkholes, and mirror-like ponds left us determined to make a return trip to Iceland and maybe even go snorkeling along the continental fissures.
From this point on we were heading into the more populated and civilized side of Iceland toward the capital city of Reykjavik.
First, though, we had to take a relaxing stopover at the Blue Lagoon. Here the soothing hot spring water and invigorating silica mud relax the body and spirit in a calming, surreal landscape.
We also took another detour to visit Keflavik, a former US military installation that now functions as part of the airport.
It is always fascinating for us to see the once familiar sights on a closed base now being used for new and interesting uses. An interesting side note here was that in Riga we went to the KGB museum and one of the exhibits was a documentary covering the day in the life of an Air Force intelligence officer stationed at Keflavik. It’s amazing how worlds collide like this.
But Iceland, and Reykjavik in particular, has a strong cold war connection. The so-called white house was the meeting place for Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. We spent an enjoyable afternoon in town eating the famous hotdogs and discovering some amazing street art. Then we were back on the road.
After Reykjavik, we were heading north to the top of the island. To be honest, by this point we thought we had seen it all, what else could Iceland have that would amaze and astound us?
Just as had happened in the past few days, the landscapes changed and new and interesting sights met us along the road.
Not wanting to change what we had already started, we took yet another side track away from the planned route, this time to see the historic location of Erik the Red’s farm settlement near Búðardalur.
Here a sod house has been reconstructed on the site and a very well done interpretive performance really brings the volatile ages of the Vikings to life.
From Erik’s house, we decided to take a chance and take a dirt road shortcut back to the paved route. If the weather had been bad this could have gone terribly wrong but it was a beautiful, sunny day and we enjoyed the solitary countryside with only one or two other vehicles traveling along the track.
In the north, we were back among fjords and majestic mountains. It seems life revolves more around the sea and the active fishing villages are proof of the sturdy hardiness of the Icelandic people. We were hoping to go out on a whale viewing on a small boat but the weather just wasn’t in our favor at this point so we had to give it up.
This is where that daily itinerary really locked us into a plan that couldn’t be deviated from. We would have had to wait for a day and then there’d still be no guarantee the weather would break.
So we decided to give in and just spend the time driving along the high cliffs of the coastline hoping to see whales out at sea. We didn’t, but the mountains dropping into the sea were enough to hold our interest.
The highlight in the north for most tourists to Iceland is Lake Myvatn and this was true for us as well. The geothermal activity, volcanic landscape, and bird life along the lake shore are all fascinating.
Myvatn is an excellent place for hiking and horseback riding. Yes, we finally got a chance to ride on the backs of the famous Icelandic ponies!
I’m not much of a rider but Corinne is and she always manages to talk me into doing things on the edge of my comfort zone. The ride along the lake was spectacular and frightening.
We saw sinkholes filled with water that had tiny fish living in them. How did the fish get there? Who knows!
We trotted and moved along at too fast a pace for me, but when we took a narrow path along the shifting gravelly edge of a crater that dropped into the lake 100 meters below I just had to trust the solid footing of my pony and let it go.
Of course, we survived and came away with a newfound respect for these short, stocky horses.
We completed our circle drive around the island of Iceland on our eighth day. The drive down into Seyðisfjörður was just as incredible as we remembered from the day we drove off the ferry.
On our final day, we took the time to leave the Jeep and hike among the bubbling stream that falls down the mountain pass and into the fjord below.
The views were stunning and knowing the ferry was there, down in the harbor, waiting for us was comforting and a just little sad. Part of me really did want to turn the Jeep around and just keep going down the open road but we took solace in knowing that we were taking away with us memories that would last forever.
Have you been to Iceland? Do you have an Iceland Itinerary to share with us?
Author Bio: Jim Vail, is a travel, food, and video creator and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 15 years. For many years he lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands, and he’s visited over 90 countries.
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