This Iceland Full Grand Circle 12+ Day Self Drive itinerary is designed for people who want to travel the famous Ring Road of Iceland, taking in the best sites in 12 days and 11 nights. This itinerary is a combination of popular sights, nature and adventure. From the mighty glaciers in the south to the scarred fjords in the east to the volcanic regions of the north and the rural landscape in the west. This trip has it all!
On this Self Drive itinerary you will drive the entire Ring Road of Iceland, also commonly known as the “Grand Circle”, travelling around the whole country and taking in the highlights in each region.
The trip covers a glacier hike, two of Iceland’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the dramatic mountainous scenery of the Eastfjords, the volcanic region of Mývatn Nature Reserve in the north, huge waterfalls, the ever popular Golden Circle region, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon situated within Vatnajökull National Park, geothermal hot springs, rural villages and even a visit to the volcano that erupted in 2021 (now dormant). In essence, all the essential stops around the ring road of Iceland.
The itinerary below lasts for 12 days and 11 nights, including arrival and departure day. If you have time, we also recommend adding at least one full extra day in Reykjavík before the tour starts to give you time to explore Reykjavík before embarking on your trip around the island. This would increase the trip to 13 days.
Of course, if you want to add in some extra activities and locations, we can easily extend this trip by as many days as you have available. Why not check out our 14 + Day Extended Ring Road version instead. Just let us know in the comments section on the form.
Conversely, if you prefer the trip to be a little shorter let us know which day you want to take out and we’ll see if it’s possible. However, due to the journey distance and number of sites to see, we do not recommend doing the Ring Road “Grand Circle” in less than 10 days in Iceland. If you have less time, check out our Self Drive 9 + Day Best of Iceland itinerary.
Where do we stay?
As you travel around the entire ring road of Iceland, it’s important that the accommodation you stay in compliments your travel style. Therefore, we partner with some of the best and most authentic accommodations in the country. From the remote guest houses like at Hotel VOS and Sysló Guesthouse to the more luxurious hotels such as Sigló Hotel and Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon. Rest assured, we only work with accommodations that are clean, comfortable and authentic Icelandic. We believe your resting place each night should always add to your experience.
Full Grand Circle 12 Day, 11 Night Day Self Drive Itinerary
• UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Þingvellir National Park & Vatnajökull National Park
• Tasting geothermally grown food at the Friðheimar Tomato Greenhouse
• Walking along the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach with its angular basalt columns
• Hiking the 100 metre deep Fjárðarárgljúfur gorge & getting deep into the Ásbyrgi canyon
• Watching icebergs float in front of you at the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon & Diamond Beach
• Glacier hiking on Falljökull Glacier within Vatnajökull National Park
• Getting up close to a wide variety of waterfalls: Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, Gullfoss, Dettifoss & Góðafoss
• Exploring the geothermal area of Lake Mývatn & Geysir
• Discovering the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and its incredible landscape often dubbed ‘little Iceland’
• Rejuvenate in geothermal lagoons around the country such as Secret Lagoon & Blue Lagoon
• Hiking to the recently erupted (dormant) Geldingadalur Volcano 2021 eruption site
Where do we go?
Please note that below we have only provided the highlights below to give you a snap shot of this incredible itinerary. We will provide you with a breakdown of the day to day itinerary and many other hidden additions after submitting the form at the bottom of the page. This allows us to tweak and customise the itinerary to your individual needs and desires.
Arrival Day, Reykjavík & Golden Circle
As you arrive in Iceland then you’ll make your way into Reykjavík where you’ll be spending some time exploring our favourite little city, you will start with the most popular area in Iceland for tourists. Don’t worry, the crowds here are not indicative of the rest of the tour. Especially in the east. But, this area is popular for a reason. In this unforgettable first day of driving, you will see an erupting geyser at the Geysir Geothermal Area, witness your first big waterfall at Gullfoss and learn all about Iceland’s geothermal properties and unique tectonic plate dynamics.
South and South East Iceland
The next two days will have you travelling along the entire south coast, reaching as far as the Vatnajökull National Park in the south east. This area is known for its breathtaking scenery, glacier lagoons, black sand beaches and mountainous landscape. Over the space of 2 days you will get the chance to explore this unique area intimately, including a visit to the world famous Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon where you can watch the giant icebergs float around and wash up on the black sand shores of Diamond Beach.
If you are feeling adventurous you can add in a zodiac boat tour or hike on a glacier.
If you prefer a more relaxed time, there are uncountable nature walks to experience the flora and fauna, horse riding options and many other options in the area. There’s a reason this area was crowned as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019.
The East Fjords & Mývatn Geothermal Area
Over the next couple of days, one of the big highlights is the drive itself. You’ll find yourself stopping to take pictures at every twist and turn as you zip around the East Fjords in East Iceland. On your way you will see minuscule fishing villages and gorgeous views of valleys and uninhabited fjords. The birdlife it quite spectacular in certain seasons as migrant species gather in these tranquil areas.
Then, as you approach the north east and into Mývatn an entirely new terrain opens up, rich with bubbling volcanic fumaroles, giant craters, great hikes, natural hot pools and a multi-coloured landscape that needs to be seen to be believed.
The Diamond Circle & North Iceland
Once in the North, you will have the chance to take a detour off the main ring road and into the newly created Diamond Circle route. This area is rife with waterfalls, nature walks and is considered one of the best places in Iceland to see whales.
You’ll also be surprised by how big the capital of the north is in Akureyri for a spot of shopping and sightseeing before detouring again into the often missed Troll peninsula, Tröllaskagi. Waterfalls, culture and impressive views are the main attraction over these couple of days. Not to be missed.
The Arctic Coastway & Snæfellsnes Peninsula
As you come close to completing the full ring road adventure, you will take your longest drive through the breathtaking Arctic Coastway. This drive winds around stunning fjords and mountains that tower over the coastline, creating some incredible driving scenery. Rural farm life and an unspoiled landscape make this feel like the most remote area you’ve been since travelling in Iceland.
Then, as you approach the wonderful Snæfellsnes Peninsula you’ll find fjords, mountains, volcanoes, endless lava fields, glaciers, and dramatic coastal cliffs all in one amazing peninsula, including the famous Kirkjufell mountain with its waterfalls, depicted in the hit TV series Game of Thrones as the Arrow Mountain.
Reykjanes, Blue Lagoon & Departure
On your final days of self driving you will explore the UNESCO Global Geopark of Reykjanes Peninsula which is home to some incredible sights. Start with the hot springs and bubbling mud pools of the geothermal area of Krysuvik then take a hike to the newest lava field in Iceland at the dormant volcano, Geldingadalur, which started erupting in March 2021. Walk around the lava field observing its incredible geometry and textures. There is no hot lava these days but you’re likely to see some steam coming from the rocks as the lava field is still hot. There is lots to see and do in this often overlooked part of the country before you finish your journey in Iceland at the world famous Blue Lagoon.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
Accommodation for the duration of your stay, all activities, rental vehicle with wifi from arrival to departure (type of vehicle depends on group size and preferences), all taxes and booking fees, carbon offsetting of your fuel usage.
Custom itinerary for the duration of your stay. When we create your final itinerary we give you a very detailed itinerary which includes an interactive map, including a day by day map, trip breakdown as well as full detail on each stop with background information, facts, history etc on each sight. You can view it online, or can save as a pdf. You can also download a free app that allows you to have the itinerary on your phone, which then allows it to link to google maps to help with navigation.
Hidden Iceland support and assistance every step of the way.
You can request additional activities, additional days, a full extra day(s) in Reykjavík and suggested activities in the city. This tour is fully customisable to your needs under our guidance.
Flights to and from Iceland, meals unless otherwise specified.
Ready to make this your dream trip?
Please try to give us as much information as you can in the form below so that we can come up with the best private trip for you as quickly as possible. We will respond to all messages within 72 hours.