The following day, a drive to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula rewards with a stroll on the red-sand beach of Raudasandur and views from the bird-filled cliffs of Latrabjarg. This region feels very different from the rest of Iceland and is one of the best places to spot the country's rare white-tailed eagle.
The day's final destination is the jaw-droppingly beautiful Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon, where icebergs appear like jewels. This is a place that's well worth saving until the very end of your road trip.
Pick up your rental car in Reykjavik
The best way to experience Iceland is by car or the camper van Iceland; there's no better starting point than Reykjavik. However, booking your rental vehicle in advance is essential, especially during the high season or if you're planning a winter trip to Iceland.
Be sure to choose a 4×4 if you're traveling in the winter, as these are necessary for driving in snowy conditions. You'll also need to decide whether to rent a manual or automatic transmission car.
It's also important to remember that it's against the law to drive off the road in Iceland, even if there are gorgeous views. Doing so can cause much damage and could even lead to hefty fines. Instead, find a safe place to pull over and enjoy the scenery. This might mean waiting a bit, but avoiding accidents or unnecessary damage is worth it.
Drive to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
A road trip around Snaefellsnes Peninsula is a unique Icelandic experience. The landscape is varied and has something for everyone – the otherworldly lava fields and volcanic terrain seen on the north coast, black sand beaches, cliff-side waterfalls, a fjord system that looks like the east fjords, charming coastal fishing villages, and more.
This is also home to the world-famous Bjarnarfoss waterfall, a “geologic gem” that sees few tourists. Another highlight is the Gerduberg Cliffs, a row of perfectly shaped hexagonal basalt columns. Then there's the namesake Snaefellsjokull glacier in Snaefellsnes National Park – a sight that truly is breathtaking!
You'll also find one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe at Dettifoss. Other highlights include Thingvellir, the location of the first parliament in Iceland and where the North American & Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly splitting apart, and Namafjall Hverir, where you can get up close to bubbling blue mud pits and steaming fumaroles. Finally, take advantage of the Vatnshellir Cave, a chance to descend into an ancient lava tunnel!
Drive to the Westfjords
Driving through the Westfjords is a bit longer than in other parts of Iceland, but it's worth the drive. The area is home to some of the most breathtaking scenery in the country, ranging from eerie mountains to quiet seaside villages.
Stop by dairy farm Erpsstadir to learn about traditional Icelandic farming and sample some local cheese. Then, continue to the village of Vopnafjordur, where you can dip in Selarlaug, a natural hot spring.
From there, head to Latrabjarg, where you can witness thousands of razorbills, fulmars, and kittiwakes scavenging on the cliffs.
For the best experience, visit the area in summer when most of the roads are open. However, you can also see in the winter, though this may be more challenging since roads are often covered with snow. Keep an eye out for signs that indicate which roads are open at the time of your trip.
Drive to the South Coast
On day four of your road trip, you'll head east along the south coast and visit some of Iceland's most famous attractions. A must-see on this route is Jokulsarlon – a glacier lagoon that looks like giant diamonds on a black beach. You should also drive by Dyrholaey (a rock arch with a fantastic view) and stroll on the Reynisfjara beach, one of the country's most famous black sand beaches.
Another stop worth making is Fjadrargljufur Canyon, a gorgeous waterfall with a walking path that takes you behind the falls. The canyon is a great place to take photos, but stay within the edge of the falls because it can get very slippery!
There's so much to see on the southern part of the island that you could quickly fill up a week here alone. If you only have a little time, you can always return to the Blue Lagoon on your way back to Reykjavik.
Drive to Heimaey Island
Watch for a few hiking trails as you wind through moss-covered lava landscapes and up and down steep hills. This is an excellent opportunity to ditch the car for an up-close and personal look at this dramatic Icelandic landscape. Locals often practice a sport called Spranga, a tradition dating back to the Viking era, where people would climb to the top of cliffs to fetch seabirds' eggs. Try this thrilling and acrobatic activity on the beach near Heimaey with a guide to ensure your safety.
In Egilsstadir, the fjords of Eskifjordur and Neskaupstadur are home to beautifully renovated historical houses like Randulfssjohus and Beituskurinn serve as excellent and atmospheric restaurants. Also, bookworms should stop at Gljufrasteinn, the former home of Nobel Prize-winning author Halldor Laxness.
To reach Heimaey Island, take the ferry Herjolfur from Landeyjahofn on the south coast. The trip is scheduled several times daily and lasts about 40 minutes each way.
Drive to Akureyri
Make a last stop in Reykjavik on the final day of your trip through Iceland. Check out the Sun Voyager statue and Harpa concert hall, then go up to the Hallgrimskirkja church tower for some of the city's best views. It's also great to stock up on gas (at least two tanks worth) in town before heading out on the highway.
Back on Route 1, you'll soon reach the Myvatn Lake area, with lava fields and bubbling geothermal features to explore at places like Namafjall Hverir. Another must-see attraction here is Godafoss, the “Waterfall of the Gods,” named after a legend involving Norse statues and Iceland's conversion to Christianity in 1000CE.
Next, drive to Asbyrgi – a horseshoe-shaped canyon where clear underground water seeps through cliffs. Then, finish your drive to Akureyri – the whale-watching capital of Iceland and the perfect base for exploring northern fjords.