11 Days in Iceland | Complete Itinerary for the Ring Road
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I do not know if there is any country in the world more picturesque, unique, and just downright unbelievable as Iceland. I am generally averse to visiting the same destination multiple times as there are so many other places in the world to explore, but Iceland might just be an exception. With so much of the island untouched, you can come back and visit multiple times and still find new and unexpected gems. We visited in the middle of June for 11 days and drove around the entire country. All seasons have their perks and there really is no wrong time to visit. We chose mid-June because it was only at the start of peak season, 22+ hours of daylight, lupines would be in peak bloom, and temperatures would be getting warmer. My completely biased opinion would be that early to mid-June is the ideal time to visit, despite the lack of the Northern Lights and the moderate crowds.
Each day I have broken down in separate posts with considerable detail (all linked below) on what we saw, ate and where we stayed. In this article, I will focus on the sights you need to include on your Iceland Ring Road Itinerary in each region of the country.
Day 11: Fly home
Individual posts with more detail for each day are linked above.
South Coast: Days 1 & 2
One of the best-known waterfalls in Iceland is the perfect first stop. You can walk completely around the waterfall on a slippery trail.
Within walking distance of Seljalandsfoss, Gljúfrafoss was our all-time favorite waterfall in Iceland. After walking through a 3-inch deep stream in a canyon, you reach Gljúfrafoss. You can get up close to the waterfall – so be sure to have waterproof pants, jacket, and boots.
This beautifully impressive waterfall is yet another one of Iceland's extremely popular waterfalls. You can walk up close to the falls to get soaked or walk up to look over the falls. There is a scenic trail that follows along the glacial river starting at the top of the falls.
A small peninsula that juts out from the coast, with a stunning naturally formed arch. From the top of the peninsula, you can get gorgeous views of the black sand beaches on the coast – including the next sight, Reynisfjara. Along with the great views, this is a great spot to see some cool rock formations and birds (including puffins).
The most famous black sand beach in Iceland. Iceland is full of black sand beaches, but this is the one you must stop at it. There are some awesome basalt columns right on the beach and sea stacks, Reynisdrangar, right off the coast.
This church is up on a hill overlooking the city of Vík, offering a great view of Vík and Reynisdrangar. It is especially magical when the lupines are blooming.
This deep, magnificent canyon was once a hidden gem but growing in popularity. There is a walking trail along the canyon and to the bottom of the canyon to the river running through it.
Skaftafell National Park
One section of Iceland's Vatnajökull National Park, Skaftafell offers several great hiking trails. One of the most popular trails is to the Svartifoss Waterfall, which is surrounded by basalt columns. There is also a shorter trail that takes you to the base of the Vatnajökull glacier
Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon
The highlight of the south coast! No other place in the world is like the glacial lagoon, Jökulsárlón. Glacial icebergs fill up a pond that lets out into the ocean. Nearby there is a black sand beach (diamond beach) where the glacier pieces occasionally wash up onto.
One of the largest glaciers in Europe, Vatnajökull glacier covers a large area on Iceland. There are several excursions to book that will you get you on the glacier – either to snowmobile, hike, explore the ice caves, or even climb on the ice. It is an unbelievable experience to see glacier views for miles 360º around you.
East Coast: Day 3
Most of the joy of the east coast of Iceland is driving through the East Fjords. You will likely make dozens of stops to enjoy the fjords outside of your car, but here are a few worth a longer visit.
A charming fishing village, Höfn is one of the largest towns in East Iceland. You can walk along the harbor and coast enjoying views of the ocean and Vatnajökull glacier.
Tucked in a fjord, Seyðisfjörður was one of the most endearing towns in Iceland. Known for its artsy residents, you can find colorful and meticulously decorated houses and a rainbow-painted road in the center of town. The village’s surrounds add to the charm – high mountains on either side with hundreds of cascading waterfalls. The drive to get to Seyðisfjörður is part of the fun, as you ascend a snow and ice-capped mountain and descend down into the fjord.
There are a few breathtaking short hikes in Iceland and the hike to Hengifoss may top the list. The total hike is one to two hours depending on how well you can hike with consistent elevation gain. Hengifoss is the third-highest waterfall and halfway to the falls is a smaller waterfall, Litlanesfoss, which I personally felt was more impressive-looking.
North Coast: Days 4, 5 & 6
Dettifoss & Selfoss
The powerful and imposing Dettifoss is the most voluminous waterfall in Europe. If you go to the west side of the falls, there are paths that take you up close to the falls and on a canyon edge for a full view. Upstream a bit is Selfoss, an equally impressive crescent-shaped waterfall. The loop to walk to both falls is around 2.5km and often wet and muddy.
An active volcanic region includes the geothermal Krafla Power Station and a lava field. After the initial shock, you will get used to the strong sulfuric rotten egg smell. The area includes volcanic craters and bubbling mud pools.
The Mars-like landscape of Hverir holds mud cauldrons, steaming vents, and piping fumaroles. This fascinating red-tinted field has paths allowing you to walk close to these natural features.
A dormant volcanic crater, Hverfjall dates back to a large series of eruptions 2700 years ago that shaped much of the landscape in the Myvatn region. You can walk up the side of the large crater and around the rim for views inside and of the beautiful Myvatn lake.
Created by the same series of explosions, Dimmuborgir is a lava field with some interesting rock formations. It is up to your imagination what you feel these solidified lava flow look like but several are named for their resemblance to buildings or animals. There are many paths through the lava field with varying lengths and difficulty.
Another relic of the ancient eruption, Skútustaðagígar is a row of several pseudo-craters that offer great views of Lake Myvatn. Pseudo-craters are made from gas explosions from lava flowing over wetlands, rather than directly from volcanic eruptions.
This charming town in North Iceland is famous for the many daily whale watching tours that depart from its harbor. We did not have the best experience whale-watching, but as long as the weather is decent, it can lead to incredible memories.
This bright blue glacier waterfall has a similar shape to Niagra falls, just a smaller version. Named after a historical figure in Iceland who threw the old Norse god statues in the waterfall after Iceland converted to Christianity.
This reasonably sized botanical garden in Akureyri is one of the northern-most botantical gardens in the world. It is home to many flower and plant species that are able to live so close to the arctic circle.
The main church in Akureyri can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. It is a small church but has lovely stained glass windows.
Snæfellsnes Peninsula: Day 7
One of my favorite towns in Iceland. Stykkishólmur is located right on the north coast of Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The scenery is almost as picturesque as the charming colorful houses in the village.
The most photographed mountain in Iceland, Kirkjufell is a free-standing mountain right on the water. Kirkjufell is typically photographed with a small set of waterfalls in the foreground.
Öndverðarnes is the most western point of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This area has a golden sand beach (rare for Iceland), bright lighthouses, and plenty of walking trails through its lava fields.
Now on the South Coast of Snæfellsnes Peninsula, this black sand beach is surrounded by a large lava field with large uniquely shaped rock formations. It used to a popular place for fishing boats to depart and return, the rough seas make it too dangerous now.
A pair of rock pillars on the shore, Lóndrangar has plenty of folklore surrounding its history. The area around it also includes a rocket-shaped lighthouse and beautiful cliffs filled with birds.
A small fishing village on the south coast, Arnarstapi has a wonderful coastal walk that includes a popular stone arch eroded by the water.
Another golden-sand beach home to a large seal colony. You can walk along the beach and see a few different species of seals sunning on the rocks a few meters away or playing in the water.
A jet-black church near lava fields and the south coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. It likely won't be open when you visit, but it is an interesting landmark to photograph contrasting with either the snowy or green ground.
Reykjavik: Days 8, 9 & 10
Within a short distance of Reykjavik, the Golden Circle driving route typically includes 3 sights: Geysir, Gullfoss and Thingvellir National Park. Kerid, a colorful volcanic crater, is nearby and worth a visit despite a small entrance fee.
A hot spring and geothermal area, Geysir is home to the name-sake Geyser. Geysir itself is no longer active, but there is another Geysir Strokkur that goes off every few minutes.
A large and forceful multi-layered waterfall, Gullfoss is one of the most impressive sights on the golden circle. You can walk up and feel the mist from the falls or climb up the stairs to admire it from afar.
Thingvellir National Park
Located along the rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, Thingvellir National Park has an impressive landscape. There is also some history behind the national park – it was the site of the original Icelandic parliament.
This is a must-do experience while in Iceland. You snorkel in crystal clear glacier water above a tectonic rift. Silfra is located in Thingvellir National Park and is a perfect add-on while visiting the golden circle.
Sculpture & Shore Walk
Located in downtown Reykjavik, this walking path takes you right along Reykjavik's shore and harbor. Along the path are several sculptures, with the sun voyager being the most popular.
The most photographed and recognizable church in Iceland. Hallgrímskirkja has an impressive basalt-column like exterior. Once inside, you can take an elevator up to the top to get great views of the colorful city.
If you are in search of some good museums while in Iceland, Reykjavik is where to go. There are many small but mighty museums throughout Reykjavik – National Museum of Iceland, Whales of Iceland, and The Saga Museum to name a few. We visited The Phallological Museum, which has the largest collection of animal penises in the world, very educational and very humorous.
So now that you know what we saw, why don't you watch it: