A 7-day South Iceland road trip: Reykjavik to Höfn

There is no concept of ‘normality’ in Iceland’s landscapes. Everything is majestic and rugged; dramatic mountain peaks meet glistening glaciers, endless lava fields and lunar-like terrain. It’s mystical, it’s moody, it’s mesmerising, and I can’t believe how lucky Icelandic people are to have this all in their backyard. No-one leaves this enigmatic country without leaving a fragment of their heart behind, and going on an Iceland road trip will guarantee memories to last a lifetime.

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

The Iceland road trip

When my hubby and I were planning our Iceland road trip, we were originally going to drive around the entire island following the Ring Road, which we thought would be feasible given we had 7 days in Iceland. While it is possible to do a self-drive around the island in 7 days (it takes about 18 hours to do a complete loop), we found that there was a lot to see particularly concentrated in the south of Iceland, so we decided to drive from Reykjavik to the south-eastern fishing town of Höfn before turning around and driving back, with stopovers along the way.

Your Iceland road trip itinerary will depend on the amount of time that you have in Iceland, what you want to see and do, and the type of holiday that you want to have. We wanted to see the main sights at a more leisurely pace, which is why we opted to focus on the south of the island. If you only have a few days, most people tend to base themselves in Reykjavik and fit in a day trip to the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. Whatever you do: don’t try to see the whole island in 3 or less days – you will miss out on so much.

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Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Suggested 7-day South Iceland road trip itinerary

Day 1: Reykjavik – Golden Circle – Selfoss

The Golden Circle is a popular day tour from Reykjavik and is made up of Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss and the Geysir geothermal area. It is a great introduction to Iceland offering a combination of history and geological phenomena.

Sights and activities 

  • Þingvellir National Park – Þingvellir is located on the boundary of the North American and Eurasian Tectonic plates and was once the site of the Icelandic Parliament. You can snorkel in the Silfra Fissure and experience swimming between two continents.
  • Gullfoss A powerful waterfall located in a deep gorge with two impressive drops. There is a path that allows you to walk  up close to the waterfall.
  • Geysir geothermal area This is the geyser after which geysers are named: RESPECT. However, it is the nearby Stokkur geyser which is active, erupting up to 30 metres in height every 5 minutes to gasps of delight.
  • Kerið Crater Lake  The colours of the crater are simply stunning: the aquamarine lake contrasting against the red volcanic rock and green foliage. This was the only place where we had to pay an entrance fee to walk to the bottom of the crater (which went towards maintenance costs).

Driving time: Approximately 3 hours

Accommodation: Guesthouse Garun Selfoss

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Day 2: Selfoss – Skógar

An Iceland road trip is synonymous with chasing waterfalls and you will see plenty of them as you drive along the Ring Road  and, no, they don’t get any less spectacular. Enjoy each and every one.

Sights and activities 

  • Hjálparfoss  the ‘double’ waterfall
  • Seljalandsfoss  the waterfall you can walk behind
  • Gljúfrabúi – the hidden waterfall (next to Seljalandsfoss)
  • Skógarfoss – the waterfall that you can walk right up to (look for the rainbow)
  • Snowmobiling on the Myrdalsjokull glacier with Extreme Iceland

Driving time: Approximately 3 hours

Accommodation: Skógar Guesthouse

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Day 3: Skógar – Höfn

Driving through the never-ending expanses of the moss-covered lava plains on a cloudy day makes you feel like you are experiencing some kind of extraterrestrial moment. Watch the terrain gradually change to the snow-capped glaciers shimmering in the distance. Nothing will prepare you for that moment when you see the huge floating chunks of blue ice in the glacier lagoons for the first time.

Sights and activities 

  • Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon
  • Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon – A smaller and less crowded glacier lagoon that is only a 15-minute drive away from the more popular Jökulsárlón lagoon.
  • Zodiac boat tour on Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon with Ice Lagoon
  • The Thórbergur Centre (one for the bookworms)  

Tip: Höfn is the langoustine capital of Iceland, so don’t miss out on trying the langoustine or lobster soup at Humarhöfnin. Absolutely delicious!

Driving time: Approximately 44.5 hours

Accommodation: Guesthouse Dyngja

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Day 4: Höfn – Vik

Höfn is the furthest eastern point that we reached during our Iceland road trip before turning back. Make your way back in the direction of Reykjavik and enjoy a hike through Skaftafell where you’ll be able to see the impressive Skaftafellsjökull glacier (part of the Vatnajökull ice cap). Head towards Vik, which is the southernmost village in Iceland and one of the rainiest. Vik is famous for its moody black beaches and basalt columns and is the place to go for some puffin-spotting.

Sights and activities

  • Skaftafell (Vatnajökull National Park)
  • Svartifoss waterfall
  • Black beaches of Vik

Driving time: Approximately 34 hours

Accommodation: Hotel Katla Hofdabrekka

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Day 5: Vik – Blue Lagoon – Reykjavik

Embarking on an Iceland road trip is exhilarating but also energy-consuming. After days of exploring, hiking, chasing waterfalls, snowmobiling, zodiac boating and driving, the Blue Lagoon is the perfect pit stop for some indulgent relaxation before heading back to the capital city of Reykjavik.

Sights and activities 

Driving time: Approximately 3 hours

Accommodation: Airbnb

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Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Day 6: Day trip from Reykjavik to Landmannalaugar

We booked a full-day tour out to Landmannalaugar and the Hekla Volcano with a tour company as this involved going on the F-roads. Landmannalaugar is spectacular and the swirls of red, white and green will have you mesmerised. You are allowed some time to hike some of the easier trails as well as bathe in the geothermal pool. We also saw other sights along the way such as the  captivating Ljótipollur Crater Lake.

In terms of the tour itself, it was well organised and the driver/guide was insightful and offered plenty of interesting facts about Iceland during the trip. It was also fun to be a passenger in a super-jeep as you bounced haphazardly around in your seat and traversed rivers. My only gripe is that it is an extremely long day at 9 to 10 hours and most of the time is spent in transit, which obviously can’t be helped. As amazingly stunning as Landmannalaugar was, in hindsight we probably would have skipped the full-day tour and spent our day in Reykjavik instead. This also could have been due to the fact that we were nearing the end of our time in Iceland and just wanted to settle in one place to enjoy local life.

Sights and activities 

Duration: 910 hours

Accommodation: Airbnb

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Day 7: Reykjavik

For a tiny town, Reykjavik sure packs a punch, and even though it won’t take you long to explore the city, you’ll have an amazing time in downtown Reykjavik visiting the myriad bars, restaurants, bookstores and retail stores – join in on the Runtur (town pub crawl) if you’re game. Most of the action is concentrated around the Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur streets. We were lucky to be in town during Reykjavik Culture Night, which is held annually in August, so the streets were bursting with activities and entertainment.

Sights and activities 

  • Climb Hallgrímskirkja for a view of the city
  • Visit the Kolaportið flea market on the weekend (I bought my Icelandic jumper there)

Tip: Drink coffee at Reykjavik Roasters and eat a hotdog from Baejarins bestu.

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

This is the itinerary that we followed for our 7-day Iceland road trip, but there are a million variations on what you can do, and there were a lot of small stops along the way that weren’t mentioned and a lot that we didn’t see.

The biggest advice I would give is to take it slow  there is a lot to take in and if you can’t do it all the first time then it just gives you an excuse to come back for another Iceland road trip…in search of the fragment of your heart that you left behind.

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

What to do before you arrive

  • Use the online itineraries from tour companies as a guide to planning your own Iceland road trip.
  • Pre-book your rental car.
  • Pre-book any big activities that you want to do so that you can organise your itinerary around them. That being said, there is an abundance of activities to do in Iceland so prioritise because chances are you won’t be able to do it all. We organised a snowmobiling tour, iceberg lagoon tour and a full-day trip to Landmannalaugar. Bu there’s also horse-riding, glacier trekking, snorkelling between tectonic plates, descending into volcanoes, helicopter rides…you name it. All of these activities cost money, so choose wisely.
  • Pre-book your accommodation, especially during the busier months, as the towns are small and accommodation may book out quickly.
  • Pack appropriately and make sure to bring rain-proof gear and good hiking boots your converse sneakers will not suffice in the Icelandic elements.

Time of year

We went to Iceland during the month of August, right at the end of the Icelandic summer. It was the perfect time to do a road trip as the days are still long, but the sights and attractions don’t feel as crowded as it’s not the peak of the busy summer season. There were some days when I didn’t need to wear my thermals, but for the most part it was cold and wet. Although, when the sun did come out, it was simply glorious.

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Rental car

Before arriving in Reykjavik, we had pre-booked a rental car through Blue Car Rental, a company we had found online which had good customer reviews and which was priced quite competitively. They dropped the car off for us at our hotel, and later on picked it up from our Airbnb accommodation, exactly when they said they would. We had selected a GPS as an additional extra but it stopped working on the second day. In hindsight, we could have done without the GPS as we managed just fine using old-school visitor maps and Google maps (pre-load your maps before you get out of wi-fi range).

In terms of other car rental places, the cheapest option we found was Geysir. Go Iceland, Budget and Reykjavik Cars fell in the middle range of pricing, and Hertz and Avis were more on the more upper end. Note: manual cars are more readily available than automatic cars.

Roads

The Ring Road, or Route 1, loops around the entire island, making it very easy to navigate and extremely difficult to get lost. There were parts where the road was gravelly, but for the most part it was a smooth drive but be on the lookout for the occasional sheep meandering across the road. Scenic sights are well sign-posted to let you know when you should turn off. Note that F-roads are mountain roads in the highlands that should only be taken by 4×4 cars and those massive super jeeps that you’ll pass on the Ring Road shuttling groups of tourists. Some of these roads are closed during the colder months.

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Tips

  • It can be expensive eating out all of the time in Iceland so buy your brekky and lunch from convenience stores and pack them with you to save some dollars. Stock up on Skyr which is like an Icelandic ‘yoghurt’ (I wish we had this in Australia!).
  • Don’t be afraid to pick up hitchhikers. You’ll see quite a few people along the road with their thumbs sticking out (one person had a ‘To the Capitol’ sign, which I thought was clever) which is very normal in Iceland. We didn’t pick up any hitchhikers up as I had my ‘stranger danger’ hat on, but looking back, I think it would have been a fun experience to connect with other travellers. Of course, as always, do use your judgement.
  • Enjoy long, hot showers without any guilt! I think it’s engrained in us to have short showers in this dry, drought-stricken land of ours, but in Iceland, water is plentiful and there is no shortage of hot water. There is a slight sulphuric smell to the water but you quickly get used to it.

Get in the Icelandic mood

    • WATCH: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (and then take up skateboarding)
    • READ: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (you’ll find out what a badstofa is once in Iceland)
    • LISTEN TO: Of Monsters and Men

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

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Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

 

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

Travelling around South Iceland? Here is a suggested 7-day Iceland road trip itinerary.

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Here is a suggested 7-day South Iceland road trip itinerary | Driving in Iceland | Iceland Ring Road | Iceland self-drive | Iceland itinerary |

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