Explore Iceland’s north and west coasts on this self-drive itinerary to discover a geological wonderland and an abundance of marine life including cetaceans and pelagic birds.
Starting on Iceland’s north coast, your self-drive journey heads west with whale watching opportunities at Dalvík and Ólafsvík. With the benefit of having your own vehicle, explore at leisure the birdlife of Lake Mývatn and discover seal colonies on the Vatsnes and Snæfellsnes Peninsulas.
Aside from the rich cetacean and pelagic birdlife, uncover geological wonders of geysers, volcanoes, cascading waterfalls and fjords. At certain times of the year you may even witness the spectacular sight of the Northern Lights!
Day1: Fly to Akureyri
Fly via Reykjavik to Akureyri and collect your hire car. This evening is at leisure, however you may wish to join an optional evening whale watching or Northern Lights excursion.
Accommodation: Hotel in Akureyri, 1-night
Day2: Lake Mývatn, Dettifoss & Husavík
Today drive from Akureyri along the coast of Eyjafjordur fjord to Lake Mývatn, with a chance to stop at Godafoss waterfall. At Lake Mývatn you will have time to explore volcanic craters at Skutustadir and lava labyrinths at Dimmuborgir. There are also opportunities to see the rich birdlife of the lake and surrounding wetlands where over 115 species have been recorded.
Continuing from Dimmuborgir your drive will include opportunities to stop and explore more geological wonders, including the lava fields of Grjotagja, Krafla caldera, enjoy views of the geothermal zone from Viti and the fumarole fields of Hverarond.
Before reaching Húsavík for your overnight stay, marvel at the ‘King of Icelandic Waterfalls’ – Dettifoss, the largest in Iceland. Depending on your arrival time in Húsavík there may be time to join an optional whale watching tour or - from mid-May to mid-August - view puffins.
Day3: Whale watching at Dalvík
This morning's drive from Húsavík takes you back through Akureyri to continue your adventure along the north coast. Along the drive towards Dalvík, enjoy views of the high mountains and ice-age glacial valleys.
At Dalvík, join a three hour whale watching tour during which humpback and minke whales are often spotted, along with dolphins and porpoises. Then continue driving along the coast, occasionally passing through tunnels that have recently opened to connect remote fishing villages to the main road when once they were only accessible by sea or by hiking over the mountains. Tonight is spent in Siglufjorður, which was once the most liveliest and important fishing town in Iceland at the height of herring fishing season.
Accommodation: Siglo Hotel, 1-night
Day4: Vatsnes Peninsula
This morning enjoy the coastal drive from Siglufjorður to Hofós, where you may wish to stop to enjoy a dip at a geothermal swimming pool overlooking the ocean, before continuing to Varmahlið on the Vatsnes Peninsula.
On the Peninsula, we suggest taking an easy hike to see the Hvítserkur rock formation. During the walk there are places to observe seals at play and rest; you may wish to take an optional boat tour from Hvammstangi to view the seals and learn more about these charismatic creatures.
Accommodation: Hotel Laugarbakki, 1-night
Day5: Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Heading from Vatsnes Peninsula, drive south to Snæfellsnes Peninsula, stopping at Bifröst to take an optional hike in the Grábók explosion crater.
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is home to varied wildlife, including a multitude of bird species nesting on the cliffs and a seal colony. This afternoon explore a black sand beach, home to the seal colony, and discover the idyllic coastal villages lying within this extraordinary landscape.
Accommodation: Fosshotel Hellnar, 1-night
Day6: Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Today continue to explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and its dramatic coastline. This morning join a whale watching tour from Ólafsvík where, along with humpback and minke whales, it may be possible to spot orcas.
Continuing on your exploration of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, make a visit to the fishing village of Grundarfjörður, home to one of the peninsula’s most photographed landmarks, the Kirkjufell. Translated as ‘church mount’, this symmetrical mountain towers from the shoreline.
From Grundarfjörður continue to your overnight stay in the Borgarnes and Reykholt area, making stops at various viewpoints and waterfalls along the way. We recommend you take the time to visit the Natural Heritage Site of Gerðuberg where belts of basalt columns in intriguing geometric shapes can be seen.
Accommodation: Fosshotel Reykholt, 1-night
Day7: Hraunfoss & The Golden Circle
This morning discover the treasures of the waterfalls of Hraunfossar, a collection of countless creeks and cascades of varying sizes streaming out of lava. The Langjökull glacier is visible from here.
Later in the day, drive the Golden Circle route, an area rich with hot springs, waterfalls, geysers and gorges. Stop at Haukadal where Geysir was originally active and from which all geysers take their name. The currently active Strokkur geyser erupts between every four to eight minutes and can reach heights of up to 20 metres! The nearby ‘Queen of the Waterfalls’, the stunning Gullfoss, falls for 32 metres from the river Hvita.
Before continuing to Selfoss where you will overnight, take time to explore Thingvellir National Park, were the American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart a few centimetres per year.
Accommodation: Frost & Fire Hotel, 1-night
Day8: Blue Lagoon & fly to the UK
Before returning your hire car to Keflavik airport, make a visit to the Blue Lagoon outside of Reykjavik to relax in its geothermic seawater and reflect on your time spent in Iceland. Continue to the airport for your flight back to the UK.
You should note: The accommodation listed in this itinerary is to provide an indication of the style of accommodation on offer at the given locations and may be substituted with a similar property due to availability.
Our trip ideas are offered to inspire you and can be tailored to suit your requirements.
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 8 daysfrom £2,745 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 8 daysfrom £2,415 pp
When to go: Apr-Oct: In April, September & October, there are chances of seeing the Northern Lights.
Nestled at the head of Eyjafjörður, Iceland’s longest fjord, and at the base of snow-capped mountains, is the town of Akureyri. Being close to the Arctic Circle, there are chances to see the magical Northern Lights and wildlife highlights include whale watching excursions searching for humpack and minke whales.
Mývatn is situated on a lake which was formed during a massive eruption 2,300 years ago. Today the area is known for the huge numbers of waterbirds that visit in the summer, including tufted duck and greater scaup, and for the fascinating volcanic features that surround the lake.
Situated on the north coast of Iceland, on the shores of Skjálfandi Bay, is the small fishing town of Husavik. Known as the whale watching capital of Iceland, the surrounding waters boast humpback, minke and sometimes even blue whales, as well as white-beaked dolphins and harbour porpoises.
The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is a 90km stretch of coastline comprising a world of diversity and includes the Snaefellsnes National Park at its western most end. Friendly towns and villages, spectacular mountains, a multitude of bird species nesting on treacherous cliffs and superb whale watching opportunities.
Ideal for viewing: orca, white-beaked dolphin, Arctic tern, kittiwake, rsven
Excellent for: Whale watching, Dolphin watching
Grundarfjordur lies on the north shore of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, a two hour drive from Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik. Set on the shore of a half-moon bay, the town is backed by beautiful mountains, including steeple-shaped Kirkjufell, and provides the perfect location for whales watching trips to observe orca.
The Golden Circle consists of three natural attractions, namely Thingvellir National Park, Geysir and Gullfoss. With erupting geysers, powerful waterfalls and the spot where continental tectonic plates meet, the Golden Circle can be enjoyed as a day excursion from Reykjavik or included in a self-drive itinerary.
Iceland's capital and its largest city, Reykjavik sits on a coastline consisting of peninsulas, straits and islands. This colourful city lies on the southern shore of Faxa Bay, whose waters are often visited by humpback and minke whales, as well as puffins, Arctic tern and other seabirds.
Where: South-west Iceland
Ideal for viewing: humpback whale, minke whale, Atlantic puffin, common eider, tufted duck