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The Best Self-Drives in Iceland

Self-Drives in Iceland

Do you want to have all the freedom in the world and follow your own itinerary in Iceland? A self-drive might be the thing for you! Iceland is the perfect country for a short or long self-drive tour, with excellent touring routes all around the country. In this article, we will tell you more about popular self-drives in Iceland.

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is the most popular day tour in Iceland, and for good reason. The Golden Circle combines three beautiful stops that offer a variety of unique landscapes. The first one is national park Þingvellir, the second is geothermal area Geysir, and the last one is the waterfall Gullfoss. Driving the Golden Circle tour takes between 4-6 hours, depending on your stops, and covers about 230km [140mi]. The standard Golden Circle tour has three stops, but there are several tourist sites in the area that you can add to it. For instance, you can relax for a while in the hot tubs of Laugarvatn Fontana Spa. For an original and delicious lunch, pay a visit to Friðheimar tomato farm. They have a lunchroom inside a tomato greenhouse and all their dishes have tomato as one of the ingredients. Kerið, a colourful crater in the area, is also worth a visit.

Self-Drives in Iceland
The geyser Strokkur is one of the stops of the Golden Circle.

The Diamond Circle

The Diamond Circle is a self-drive touring route in North Iceland, with five primary stops. The tour usually starts in Akureryi, the capital of the north. You will then head to Goðafoss waterfall, Mývatn lake, Dettifoss waterfall, Ásbyrgi canyon, and the town of Húsavík. With these stops, the Diamond Circle covers 265km [165mi], and if you want to drive back to Akureyri afterwards, it is 360km [225mi] in total. If you are planning a self-drive tour, make sure you book a 4WD vehicle, as the road between Dettifoss and Ásbyrgi is a rough gravel road. Also check the weather forecast on www.vedur.is and road conditions on www.road.is before you head out. Other stops include Vesturdalur valley, Krafla volcanic field, Hverir geothermal area, Dimmuborgir rock formations, Hljóðaklettar rocks, and Æðarfossar waterfall.

The Arctic Coast Way

If you want to go off the beaten path, explore raw nature, and discover some of the most remote places in Iceland, driving the Arctic Coast Way is just the thing for you! It is a unique route following 900km [560mi] of coastal roads close to the Arctic Circle. The Arctic Coast Way covers the entire coastline of North Iceland from Hvammstangi in the west to Bakkafjörður in the east. Driving the Arctic Coast Way means leaving the crowds behind and going on an adventure. Narrow gravel roads make up one third of the route, and the remote location with less infrastructure and Icelandic weather conditions are all factored in the time you should calculate for your trip. It is best to drive slowly and look out for animals like sheep and birds on the road. Experiencing the entire route and its peninsulas will take about nine days. It’s easy to only do parts of the Arctic Coast Way if you don’t have many days, and you can also add days if you want to explore more.

Self-drives in Iceland
Húsavík, the whale watching capital of Iceland, is on the Arctic Coast Way.

The Westfjords Way

The Westfjords are the part of Iceland which kind of looks like a hand stretching out towards Greenland. The Westfjords Way is a new, spectacular touring route of 950km [590mi] through the Westfjords. The route takes you past breathtaking peninsulas, mountain passes, beaches, and fjords. Sometimes, roads are small and rough, and twisting and turning up a mountain. Natural highlights you will pass include the famous Látrabjarg bird cliffs, Flatey island, the ocean-front Jacuzzis of Drangsnes, the spectacular Dynjandi waterfall, Rauðasandur red sand beach, Valagil ravine, and Bolafjall mountain. There are great bistros and restaurants along the way, and interesting museums and cultural centres to visit. Stop by The Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft Museum for insight into the witch hunts in Iceland in the 17th century and different spells that were used at the time. Visit the Arctic Fox Centre to learn everything about the arctic fox, Iceland’s only native land mammal. There’s a lot to explore in the Westfjords!

Seljalandsfoss - Three Days in Iceland
Seljalandsfoss is located close to the ring road.

The ring road

The ring road is the highway in Iceland that takes you all the way around the coasts of the island, and it is also known as route no. 1. This circular route allows you to see some of the most popular sights and attractions Iceland has to offer, starting and ending in Reykjavík (or anywhere, really, it’s circular). A lot of Iceland’s natural wonders are located close to the ring road, like Seljalandsfoss waterfall (the one you can walk behind!), Skógafoss waterfall, Dyrhólaey promontory and Vík’s black beach, and Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon in the south. In the east you can spot reindeer close to the road in wintertime, when they come down from the mountains looking for food, and drive past the amazing scenery of the fjords. In North Iceland, geothermal area Hverir, Mývatn lake and Mývatn Nature Baths, Góðafoss waterfall, and Dimmuborgir rock formations are almost directly next to the ring road. In West Iceland, the road skips the Westfjords and the Snæfellsnes peninsula, each worth a trip of their own, but you are driving past university town Bifröst, and Borgarnes with interesting museums including the Settlement Centre. Take at least 7-10 days to drive the ring road. You can drive it in less time, but it’s a lot of driving; 1,332km [828mi].

Enjoy your self-drive in Iceland!