Driving Iceland’s Ring Road is a popular bucket list item for travelers, and with this Iceland itinerary 7 days is perfect to introduce you to Iceland’s magnificence.
If you have just a long weekend to visit, or want to visit on a quick stopover on the way to somewhere else, you can certainly experience much of what Iceland has to offer. This 4-day Iceland itinerary is perfect for travelers who want to stick to the Reykjavik area and who don’t want to bother with renting a car.
However, if you have a few more days, you can explore so much more of this amazing and endlessly beautiful country! This 7-day Iceland itinerary will take you around the entire island on a trip you’ll never forget.
This post was originally written by a friend of mine who has since retired his travel blog. He has allowed me to make it mine and republish it here on MWL.
Iceland Ring Road itinerary – 7 days
I visited Iceland in July, smack in the middle of the high summer season. If you’re planning the same, you’ll need to prepare your budget and book your accommodation as far in advance as possible. It gets busy this time of year, but it’s so worth it. This Iceland Ring Road itinerary will help you break away from the typical Reykjavik home base and experience more of Iceland’s magic.
The Iceland Ring Road offers spectacular landscapes, a sense of adventure, and a change of scenery about once an hour. You’ll go from lush lagoons to moon-like craters, with dozens of epic waterfalls in between.
While you can see plenty in and around the Reykjavik area, the whole country offers so much more beyond that. My favorite parts of exploring Iceland in 7 days were almost all a significant drive from the capital. The variety of what you can see is unmatched. So, pack your bags and grab some road snacks, because here we go!
Preparing for your Iceland Ring Road trip
First things first, there are certain things you must prepare for when planning a road trip around Iceland’s Ring Road. Because Iceland has become such a popular destination, you’ll need to book some aspects of this 7-day Iceland itinerary in advance.
The summer crowds in Iceland are certainly noticeable. Considering certain areas of the country only have one accommodation option, they’re competitive as well. With these limitations in mind, the things I most highly recommend booking in advance are:
- Accommodations for every night of your trip, especially in the more remote areas. You can read reviews here on Tripadvisor, then book them here on Booking.com. Don’t forget about vacation rentals as an option too.
- A rental car. For this, RentalCars.com is the best place to start.
- Specific Iceland tours and activities like the Blue Lagoon, glacier hikes, horseback riding, etc.
- Travel Insurance. Don’t ever travel without it! Plans can cover all kinds of medical expenses and even rental car damage and extreme sports and activities. Get a quote instantly at World Nomads, my favorite travel insurance company.
- An Iceland guidebook. Check out Rick Steves, Rough Guides, or Fodor’s and choose your favorite. Also pick up the Iceland Culture Smart guide.
Want to pick the perfect hotel every time? Check out my post on the 16 most important factors to consider when choosing a hotel.
Planning ahead for your 7-day Iceland itinerary is a must. Unless you’ll be sleeping in campervan every night, you should know your rest stop and accommodation for each evening. (Campervans are an extremely popular way to see Iceland, but inventory is limited so check on this early!)
Additionally, be prepared for traffic and crowds at the more popular locations. Thankfully, with this Ring Road guide you’ll visit some of the less crowded (but even more spectacular) locales as well. You won’t feel claustrophobic in this wide open country!
What to pack for Iceland’s Ring Road
For starters, everything you need to know about what to pack for Iceland in the summer can be found in that link. This complete guide covers everything you’ll need: apparel, adventure essentials, electronics, toiletries, and more. And don’t forget to grab your free, printable Iceland packing checklist here:
For the Ring Road especially, where the weather is known for being unpredictable, here are the most important items:
Pack a quality rain jacket and rain pants because you’ll most definitely encounter rain, wind, and waterfalls on your trip. I’m a big fan of Columbia’s rain gear. It’s perfect for rain, as a stellar windbreaker, and a must-have for getting up close to Iceland’s many waterfalls. Shop them here (lots of colors to choose from):
A quality down jacket and/or fleece jacket are also great for the chilly summer temperatures. I particularly like Columbia’s fleece jackets which you can choose from here and here. And their lightweight down jackets which you can find here for women, and here and here for men.
Good hiking shoes
You’ll also need a solid pair of hiking boots—this is a non-negotiable given Iceland’s weather and terrain. And you’ll get tons of use out of them on this 7-day Iceland itinerary. Seriously, you probably only need this one pair of shoes for the whole week.
I can’t say enough good things about my Oboz Bridger hiking boots. These are such good quality, comfortable, and were good-to-go right out of the box. No breaking in period required. I’ve worn them hiking all over the world and they still look and feel new. Shop them here:
Stay gassed up
One piece of advice I read before my trip was to fill up at every gas station, no matter how full your tank was. It ended up becoming a running joke with my travel buddy because we’d see gas stations after having just filled up an hour earlier. I did find out why that advice existed though.
Driving through the northern highlands, I passed a gas station with about half a tank on my biggest driving day. The next several miles were largely uphill, and my needle plummeted as my little car chugged along.
I managed to get to my destination, but we were so low on gas I was nearly in tears at the sight of the next gas station. After filling up, I calculated that we probably had about 1/3 of a LITER of gas left at that point. From that point forward, we instituted the fill up no matter what policy.
Scheduling your 7-day Iceland itinerary
Since you’re on a road trip and have complete control over your schedule, timing doesn’t have to be too strict. However, there are a few exceptions:
- You’ll want to be up at sunrise for some of the busy days and to catch some beautiful views.
- Some of the more remote B&Bs stop serving dinner at a certain time. (And there are no grocery stores or restaurants anywhere nearby.)
- Some of the B&Bs also stop accepting guests after a certain hour, even if you have a pre-booked reservation. So, be sure you know what those times are for the places you book.
I’m used to packing a lot of activities into one day so I ran afoul of those latter points a few times. Thankfully, they sometimes made exceptions with the food and always made exceptions with the check-ins. Although, not without letting me know I was late.
I would, however, highly recommend stashing some sandwich supplies to keep in the car with you in the event that you can’t get food in the evening.
Alright, you’ve booked your accommodation and rental car (even if those are one in the same), packed a variety of clothing with plenty of light layers and, of course, your camera! Now, it’s time to get off your flight and hop on the Iceland Ring Road to explore everything this gorgeous country has to offer in one unforgettable week.
Day 1: Arrival, Reykjavik, Blue Lagoon
Hop off your plane at Iceland’s Keflavik airport, grab your rental car, and hit the road! All flights arriving in Reykjavik from the U.S. land between 6:00 and 6:40 AM, regardless of departure point. (No idea why they do this.) This first day in Iceland is a great time to rest, adjust to the time difference, and prepare for your upcoming 7-day Iceland itinerary.
This is also a great chance to check out some of Reykjavik, Iceland’s vibrant capital city. In between stocking up on road trip supplies, you can:
- Take a great walking tour of the city
- head up to the top of Hallgrímskirkja for some aerial views
- take a whale watching tour or a puffin tour if that interests you,
- Grab some pastries from Brauð & Co., lobster soup from the Sea Baron, and one of Iceland’s famous hot dogs from the BBP.
- Check out the Sun Voyager sculpture, some of Reykjavik’s colorful street art, and more.
This is also the best time to visit the Blue Lagoon—Iceland’s world famous geothermal spa. While you’ll encounter many geothermal areas during your 7-day Iceland itinerary, the Blue Lagoon is interesting in its own ways!
I highly recommend a visit and I’ve visited a couple of times already. For everything you need to know about visiting the Blue Lagoon, check out that link! And for everything else you can see and do during your time in Reykjavik, check out my shorter Iceland itinerary.
Day 1 accommodation suggestions
Downtown Reykjavik is a great place to stay on the first night of your 7-day Iceland itinerary. However, keep in mind that parking is not widely available. Many downtown hotels simply rely on public parking. You can always search Booking.com and filter for hotels with parking to see your other options. Besides that, here are some downtown Reykjavik hotel recommendations:
- Center Hotels Plaza – Where I stayed on my latest visit to Iceland and it’s perfect! Walking distance to everything in town, affordable, clean, friendly staff, highly recommend!
- Kvosin Downtown Hotel – (Paid) parking nearby, great terrace with views, continental breakfast, popular place!
- Hotel Holt – Free private parking, great location within walking distance of everything, helpful and friendly staff.
Day 2: Iceland’s Golden Circle + more
Today is departure day for your Iceland Ring Road adventure! Today, we’ll explore Iceland’s famous Golden Circle and see a number of unique landscapes and visit some ancient historical sites.
For my Ring Road adventure, I drove against the usual clockwise route and the difference was noticeable. There were many cars going the opposite direction and not a whole lot going my way. I’m not entirely sure why most people begin the Ring Road going north, but I think driving counter-clockwise made a significant difference in crowds and traffic for me.
First stop: Þingvellir National Park
On the second day of your 7-day Iceland itinerary, you’ll visit many of Iceland’s most popular destinations to kick off your road trip. Just 30 minutes outside Reykjavik lies the Golden Circle, a collection of Iceland’s most popular destinations not too far from the capital.
The first of these is Þingvellir National Park, home to Iceland’s first parliament and the continental divide between the North American and European tectonic plates.
If you have the time and the desire, this is also the place where you can famously snorkel Silfra, the lake that bridges the two tectonic plates. (You can even do this in the winter!) The water in Silfra is some of the world’s clearest and it’s a truly special experience to swim between two continents.
Stop 2: Geysir and more geysers
An hour up the road from Þingvellir is Geysir, the famous Geyser from which all other such phenomena get their names. Unfortunately, Geysir itself rarely erupts but the nearby Stokkur geyser erupts frequently (every 5-10 minutes).
I loved Strokkur because of the magnificent blue bubble that forms with every eruption. The site itself is a large geothermal area with lots of spots to check out. Boiling springs and other tiny geysers can be seen here as well. Take your time and check it all out.
Stop 3: Gullfoss
Ten minutes down the road from Geysir you’ll find Gullfoss, one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland. Gullfoss is also the largest waterfall in Europe (by volume). Because it’s so well known and lies on the Golden Circle, be prepared for large crowds at this stop.
There are two ways to see Gullfoss. One is up close and personal from the lower viewpoint. The other is a high and wide view of the whole place from the deck on top. Both are just short walks, but you’ll fight large tour bus crowds on both of them.
Just put on your patience cap (and your waterproof gear) and wait your turn to get pictures from the railings. It’s a fairly quick stop compared to the others today but still worth it for the scale of the falls. There is also a gift shop and café on site for a quick lunch and restroom break.
Stop 4: Háifoss
Háifoss isn’t part of the Golden Circle, but it’s somewhat nearby. It also was one of my favorite waterfalls in all of Iceland.
Getting there is a fairly lengthy detour down some rough roads. Be prepared for a bumpy ride and take special care over the rocks that make a sort of stair formation partway through the drive, as you don’t want to rip off your oil pan!
Though some people have made it to Háifoss in a small car, you’ll definitely feel better navigating this 7-day Iceland itinerary in a 4×4, so rent responsibly.
Can you visit Háifoss with a small car if you have to though? Get everything you need to know about visiting Háifoss waterfall without a 4×4 here.
Háifoss is the third largest waterfall in Iceland and is actually two waterfalls for the price of one. (Even though the price is actually free.) The second waterfall is known as Granni. The river and canyon at the bottom of the falls create a beautiful vista. The desire to hike down there to see the falls up close is one of the things that makes me want to return to Iceland the most.
Not only is Háifoss one of the most scenic waterfalls I’ve ever seen, but I was lucky enough to be graced with incredible scattered light the day I was there. When you visit, be sure to exercise patience and wait for clouds to clear. You’ll be rewarded with one of my favorite sights on this entire 7-day Iceland itinerary and great photos.
Stop 5: Kerið Crater Lake
Afterwards, gingerly make your way back down the rocky road from Háifoss. Next up is over to the Kerið volcanic crater to see its lake’s vibrant colors.
Kerið Crater Lake is about 3,000 years old and is found in an area known as Iceland’s Western Volcanic Zone. The minerals of the nearby rocks cause the vibrant turquoise color of the lake. The lake itself is pretty shallow and you can even take a path all the way down to the water.
Many guided tours include a stop at Kerið volcanic crater on their sightseeing itineraries, but it’s just as easy to visit on your self-drive. However, be prepared to pay a small fee in order to visit the site. (This helps the landowners preserve the natural site and maintain the parking area.)
Stop 6: Skogafoss
Yes, the stop count is getting high now! I actually did not stop at Skogafoss simply because Iceland is absolutely covered in waterfalls so I had to pick and choose.
However, if I were to do it over again, I would have spent less time at Kerið and stopped at Skogafoss instead. Skogafoss is an extremely easy waterfall to visit—you can even see it from the road. Skogafoss is one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland and you can walk up pretty close to it to really feel its power. Just be sure to wear your rain gear for this one!
This will be your last stop for the night unless you’re feeling especially motivated. In that case, you should try to squeeze in one more stop if you can…
Stop 7: Seljalandsfoss (time permitting)
If you still have time on your first big day on Iceland’s Ring Road, try and catch the sunset at Seljalandsfoss. I saved it for the following morning, but as I saw the next day it’s really a sunset waterfall. I’ll explain more on tomorrow’s schedule.
However, you can absolutely save it for day two and it will still impress.
Day 2 accommodation suggestions
For hotels on the second night of your 7-day Iceland itinerary, look for properties in Hella, Iceland. You can start here with the full list, or check out these top recommendations. All have free parking and free WiFi.
Day 3: Iceland road trip variety pack
Day 3 of your Iceland Ring Road itinerary is a busy day filled with activities and hugely different sights. So, get an early start and hit Iceland’s Ring Road at sunrise.
Looking back at all the different things I did on this stretch, it’s hard to believe it all happened in one day! I went from cold, howling winds at Dyrhólaey to beautiful sunshine on the Skaftafell Glacier to a gorgeous sunset on a glacier lake. It’s going to be a great day!
Stop 1: Seljalandsfoss
If you didn’t catch sunset here last night, Seljalandsfoss will be your first stop of the day. Seljalandsfoss is known for being the waterfall you can walk behind, and get ready to get wet if you do. Seljalandsfoss flows over a cave and has an easy walking dirt path running all the way around it.
The opening of the cave faces west, so as I mentioned earlier you will get the best photos if you arrive at sunset instead of sunrise. I arrived right at sunrise and didn’t get the best light, but it did help me more or less have the place to myself which is always a plus!
Stop 2: Dyrhólaey
After you’ve had your fun at Seljalandsfoss (or if you already saw it last night), hop back on the Ring Road route #1 and head south. You’ll eventually turn onto a gravel road and head to the black sand beaches of Dyrhólaey. Because it’s on the coast, expect brutally high winds on a regular basis. The wind was absolutely howling on the morning I visited and it was tough to even open my car door.
The most famous sight at Dyrhólaey is the arch that stretches out to sea. There are views of it from the bottom parking lot which Google Maps will point you to if you type in Dyrhólaey. However, the best views are at the top of the cliff to the west.
Other than the obligatory arch photo, you can also (carefully!) sit on any number of rocky precipices in the area. Take in the view of the black sand beach as the birds soar along the cliffs, casually hovering on gusts of wind.
Stop 3: Fjaðrárgljúfur
If you’ve gotten your fill of freezing wind, get back on the Ring Road and drive just over an hour to Fjaðrárgljúfur. This will be quite a change of pace from the wide open beaches of Dyrhólaey. Fjaðrárgljúfur is a narrow canyon with a beautiful double waterfall at the end, like a mini version of Háifoss.
When I visited, there was quite a bit of construction underway to create some new walking paths. There were also many other well-worn paths roped off and forbidden to access (in an effort to preserve the fauna). As a result, Fjaðrárgljúfur is less of an “explore me” destination and more of a place where you’ll just stick to the path.
Stop 4: Vatnajökull Glacier Hike
This was possibly my favorite activity on my entire Ring Road Iceland itinerary. If you’re interested in touring the glacier, take a look at this small-group Vatnajökull glacier hike – it was unforgettable!
We were provided with helmets, crampons, and ice axes, although the latter ended up being unnecessary. As you can see from the photo, it wasn’t very cold either. We had beautiful sunshine for the entire hike.
If you book one excursion during your 7 days in Iceland, this should be it! Just be sure to arrive at the Skaftafell visitor center early as parking was a bit tough to find.
Stop 5: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lake
Your final stop for the day is the stunning and ever popular Jökulsárlón glacier lake. The icebergs come from the glacier you just hiked on, which calves into the lake before the chunks of ice float out to sea.
I was initially worried about whether or not there would be enough ice in the lake during my summer visit to make the stop worthwhile, but as you can see below that clearly wasn’t an issue.
Not only was Jökulsárlón filled with icebergs, but it was also teeming with birds flying off into the sunset as well as several seals. The sun stayed low in the sky and gave a nice warm color to the scenery for what seemed like hours.
It’s easy to see why Jökulsárlón is such a popular destination. It certainly lives up to the hype. After you’ve taken it all in, make the quick 10-minute drive to your accommodation for the evening and enjoy a meal before resting up for another long day on Iceland’s Ring Road.
Day 3 accommodation suggestions
In this remote location, there are just a handful of accommodation options. Here are the two highest-rated properties in the area:
- Hali Country Hotel – Nice restaurant on site for both breakfast and dinner, and even pack lunches available for purchase for the next day, free parking and WiFi, tons of great reviews! (This is where I stayed.)
- Ekra Glacier Lagoon – Excellent reviews, free private parking and free WiFi, people find it to be a great value for the money
Day 4: The long, open road
Day 4 of your 7-day Iceland itinerary is going to be a driving day with some sights at the end. The good news is that since the schedule of the day is a bit flexible, this is your chance to sleep in if you need to. I had a casual breakfast after a long night of sleep and hopped back on the Ring Road around 10 am.
Many people either make this is a strict driving day through the north or stop for the evening somewhere in the east fjords, often in the charming town of Seydisfjorður. My goal for the day was to make it to Dettifoss with enough time to grab dinner in the evening.
Getting to Northern Iceland
Instead of winding my way through the eastern fjords, I opted to depart the Iceland Ring Road and cut through on highway 939. Highway 939 is also known as the Öxi Pass and is an unpaved highway that winds through the mountains. Taking this route instead of the Ring Road saves about 45 minutes of driving time, leaving you more at your destination, and offers great views.
However, if you did want (or have) to take the long way, you’ll pass by the town of Reyðarfjörður. Here, you can visit one of Iceland’s great World War II museums, among other things.
It should be noted that Highway 939 is a summer short cut only, and should not be attempted during the rest of the year. You can drive this road in a non-4×4 vehicle, but be sure to do so carefully to avoid car damage from potholes and kicked-up rocks.
Remember my gas story earlier? That happened today, as I drove through Egilsstaðir with just over half a tank. Don’t make the same mistake as me; that town is the last gas stop until Reykjahlíð. I’m glad I rented a fuel efficient subcompact instead of a 4×4 for this reason alone as that is a very long stretch of road for any car to go without filling up.
Dettifoss is tied with Háifoss for my favorite waterfall in Iceland. It’s the most powerful waterfall and you can walk right up to the edge without any issues. (But, as always, do so at your own risk!)
One thing to note for Dettifoss is that there are two entrances and both require a fairly lengthy detour from the Ring Road. If you want to get any kind of decent experience from this stop, you must enter from the east side on highway 864. GPS will not always lead you in this direction.
I happened to pick this side out of pure luck and was very glad I did. If you enter from the other side on Highway 862, all you get is a distant view of the falls and every single bit of spray coming your direction. See the cliffs at the top right of the photo? That’s the viewpoint from the west side.
Returning to civilization
I continued back on the Ring Road to my destination for the night, nervously watching my gas gauge the entire time. Between Dettifoss and Reykjahlíð you can see some spectacular lunar landscapes as well. Thankfully, I made it to Reykjahlíð with my whopping 0.3 liters of gas and vowed never to cut it that close again.
By the time I arrived at Langavatn Guesthouse, they had already stopped serving dinner. Thankfully, they made an exception for me. My bed for the night was in a charming farmhouse and I was treated to an otherworldly sunset enveloped in a thick fog before tucking in for the night.
Day 4 accommodation suggestions
At the end of your fourth day you’ll find yourself in another remote location with few options. Here are the best ones:
Day 5: Sulfur pots, horse trots, & secret hot spots
Phew! Hope you’re rested up from that massive driving day. We’re back to packing our days with scenery and activity, and today will provide us with a variety of both. So pack your sandwiches, make sure your tank is topped off, and head back to the Mývatn area for some otherworldly landscapes.
Stop 1: Hverir Mud Pits
We’re backtracking a bit and driving just east of Reykjahlíð over Mt. Námafjall to the Hverir Geothermal Area. It’s impossible to miss because you’ll feel like you’ve landed on Venus and the welcome center is a sulfur factory.
The smell of sulfur really is overpowering in this area and I couldn’t spend too much time up close to the mud pits. Despite the odor, however, the area is really cool. I felt like I was on another planet (I say that often about Iceland, don’t I?) while I walked through the desolate, bubbling landscape.
The Hverir area also has a steam vent that seems to perpetually spew into the air. It makes an awesome, powerful noise as it billows clouds out like some earth-powered steam engine. It’s a cool sight and well worth the backtrack.
Stop 2: Mývatn Scenic Loop
Alright, this is more of a drive than a stop, but with plenty of things to see along the way. The loop begins in Reykjahlíð and continues around Lake Mývatn, meeting back up with the Ring Road in the southwest corner.
The Mývatn area is filled with interesting scenery like the lava fields of Dimmuborgir and the rootless cones (pseudo-craters) surrounding the lake. I stopped by the visitor center in the south to hike along these craters, but I had a few unwelcome locals there to greet me.
Be aware: there are tons of flies around Lake Mývatn. (It’s literally named after the hordes of midges that call it home.) I walked around the craters, but there were probably a few dozen flies per cubic feet of air here. It made for an interesting walk, but honestly it was not the most enjoyable.
These midges thankfully don’t bite and are just a bit of a nuisance, but it did add a challenge to seeing the cool sights around Lake Mývatn. Get in and out of your car as quickly as possible to avoid any flying hitchhikers.
Stop 3: Goðafoss
About 30 minutes down the road you’ll find Goðafoss, another impressive waterfall. As legend has it, Goðafoss got its name when the lawmaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði (yes, THAT Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði) made Christianity the official religion of Iceland and threw his statues of the old Norse gods over the falls.
The whole Goðafoss area is a great stop with a visitor center that sells coffee and food, has accessible bathrooms, and plenty more to explore. There’s a bridge crossing the river in the area that makes it easy to walk along both sides of the waterfall and even down to the river to get a view from below. Enjoy a snack and check your watch because the next activity is one that you’ll need to book in advance.
Stop 4: Horseback riding in the Icelandic countryside
Here’s your opportunity to ride genuine Icelandic horses, the only type of horses allowed in the country. These horses are beautiful, friendly, uniquely small, and playful with puppy-like dispositions. I went riding with this Hestasport tour, located about 2 hours west of Goðafoss.
Even with my amateur horseback riding status I was still able to experience the tölt, a gait unique to Iceland’s horses. It’s a fast-paced but smooth trot. I loved the ride and it was certainly a unique experience. As a bonus, I’m usually massively allergic to horses, but had way fewer issues with the Icelandic horses. So, if that’s you too, take that into account!
You’ll need to book your horseback riding excursion ahead of time. Check out the horseback riding options for this area here.
Stop 5: Fosslaug, a secret hot spring
Our amazing horseback riding guide tipped us off to a secluded hot spring nearby. To reach it, continue past the stables down highway 753 until the road ends, then turn left. Continue down that road until you reach the end, park, and walk through the gate towards the river, passing the waterfall.
If you follow the path, you’ll eventually cross a small bridge after which you’ll continue forward. After cresting the small hill, you’ll find Fosslaug, a small and super charming natural hot spring situated alongside the river.
This surprise stop is another reason you should always bring a bathing suit to Iceland, regardless of season. There are always geothermally-heated spots to warm yourself up in. This was a great next stop to soothe those sore horseback riding muscles.
Heading in for the night
We spent a bit more time at Fosslaug than we should have, and as a result we arrived late to our accommodation again. Luckily, we were able to check in and get some delicious fish and mashed potatoes for dinner.
Day 5 accommodation suggestions
As another remote stop on your 7-day Iceland itinerary, your options are limited. I stayed at the lovely Guesthouse Hof in Vatnsdalur, but there’s another option nearby.
- Guesthouse Hof in Vatnsdalur – Where I stayed, awesome nature views, free WiFi, buffet breakfast each morning, dinner offerings, working farm with horses, sheep, chickens, and more.
- Hvammur 2 Guesthouse – Mountain views, more like a hostel, I’m not sure they serve food there? You also have to pay for parking here for some reason. Go with the first option.
Day 6: Snæfellsnes Peninsula
It’s time to move on to the last major area of our 7-day Iceland itinerary and Ring Road road trip, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
To get there from last night’s accommodation takes about three hours, with much of it over unpaved roads once you reach the peninsula. If you’d like to break up the drive, this is a great opportunity to see Hvitserkur, the famous stone troll. (I’ve included it in the map.)
I opted to head straight down the Ring Road to Snæfellsnes because I could hardly contain my excitement.
Getting to the peninsula requires departing the Ring Road and heading through many twists and turns on unpaved gravel roads. It’s slow and bumpy but at least you get some great views. You’ll also get some bragging rights for having the dirtiest car on the planet.
Stop 1: Kirkjufell
Eventually you’ll arrive at Kirkjufell, Iceland’s most photographed mountain. Located just west of Grundarfjörður, it’s a cute little area that’s fun to walk around. It’s almost a sport now to find the best, most precise spot to train your camera for the prime composition. Most people come out of it with the same iconic shot with the waterfalls in the foreground. (see below)
It’s nice to walk around looking at all of the different angles of this picturesque spot and sitting on the small island in the middle of it all is a peaceful experience. Take your time to soak it up, but if the weather doesn’t cooperate, you’ll have another chance to check it out tomorrow.
Leg 2: Snæfellsjökull National Park
After Kirkjufell, keep going west down the road onto Highway 574 where you’ll enter Snæfellsjökull National Park. It’s a short loop that takes around an hour to drive, but of course you’ll want to stop for photos and walks along the way.
The national park is home to the Snæfellsjökull glacier, a towering mountain that looms over the entire peninsula. It’s said to be one of the seven energy centers of the earth and is also the setting for Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. The glacier’s presence is palpable.
Besides Snæfellsjökull, the loop through the national park is said to be like driving through a miniature Iceland, and I have to agree. In that short hour the landscape changes constantly from one unique vista to the next.
One pleasant place to stop and break up the loop is the Malariff Lighthouse, located on the southwest corner of the peninsula. It stands among rocky cliff sides and there are plenty of walking paths in the area to stretch your legs.
Another option is to tour Vatnshellir Cave which is in the same area. From what I saw, it required reservations, so be sure to prepare in advance if you want to experience your own journey to the center of the earth.
Day 6 accommodation suggestions
After you’ve casually made your loop around the peninsula, grab some dinner in town then make your way to your accommodation for the night. I stayed in Grundarfjörður, a charming town right next to Kirkjufell, but another option would be to stay in Ólafsvík.
- Grund í Grundarfirdi – Where I stayed, doesn’t serve any food but does offer free laundry, spacious and comfortable rooms, free parking, free Wifi, and has excellent reviews.
Day 7: The scenic route to Reykjavik
Today, the last of your 7-day Iceland itinerary, you’ll head back to Reykjavik. (But not without stuffing even more sights in along the way.)
If there’s a cruise ship in the harbor, prepare for big crowds in the city if you were considering going out for breakfast. Otherwise, swing by Kirkjufell early to beat the crowds and try to catch a nice sunrise before you head back towards the Ring Road.
Stop 1: Búðakirkja
Leaving Grundarfjörður, head south down Highway 54 and make a quick pit stop at Búðakirkja. This black painted church in the middle of nowhere makes for a unique photo op, even if you only spend 15 minutes there. If you’d like to spend more time, there are hiking trails in the area down the coastline as well.
Stop 2: Ytri Tunga seals
Just a 15-minute drive from Búðakirkja lies Ytri Tunga State Beach, home to a large colony of seals. It’s said that the best time to see the seals is in June or July, so I’m glad that’s when I was there.
When I visited, most of the seals were on a small peninsula just to the east of the parking lot, but I imagine it’s different day-to-day. I was fortunate to see so many active seals out on the rocks eyeing us inquisitively.
If you visit and want to know where the seals are, just look for all the people and that’s probably a good starting point.
Stop 3: Glymur waterfall
My biggest regret of Iceland is that I was unable to do the hike to Glymur, Iceland’s second highest waterfall. Unfortunately, when you only allow one day for an activity, it doesn’t always work out. Surely enough, the skies opened up as I approached the turnoff for the hike.
After a week on the road, I couldn’t convince myself to hike several hours through the rain and mud. However, though I’ve read it’s one of Iceland most beautiful hikes, if you can’t see 50 feet in front of you it somewhat defeats the purpose.
Anyhow, if you can squeeze it in and the weather cooperates, please let me know how you liked it. At least I’ve got a few good excuses to plan another 7-day Iceland itinerary now.
Stop 4: Back in Reykjavik
You’re back in the city! Congratulations on circumnavigating the Iceland Ring Road in 7 days! You’ll probably be getting in fairly late if you did the Glymur hike. But, if you ended up going straight to Reykjavik like I did, then take time to explore more of this beautiful city.
If you want to have an amazing and unforgettable meal on your last night in Iceland, book a reservation at Apotek. You will not regret it. Also don’t miss Reykjavik’s cool craft beer scene and the famous Lebowski Bar.
Day 7 accommodation suggestions
Depending on when your flight leaves Iceland, you might have some more time in Reykjavik the next morning or even opt for another day to decompress. Either way, there’s plenty to see in this capital city before heading back towards the airport and turning in your extremely dirty car. I hope with this 7-day Iceland itinerary you have a trip you’ll never forget!
Have a great time on your week in Iceland!
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