Our 10-day Iceland itinerary uncovers what makes this land so unique: the popular sights along the ring road and the adventure of getting into the remote highlands.


Iceland is a unique destination. Perched on the mid-Atlantic ridge, where the Earth’s crust is thin, it’s a volcanic wonderland. Black lava fields drop from towering volcanos. Bubbling mud pots and sulphurous vents scar the land. Colourful mountains rise above crystal blue lakes and crashing waterfalls. It’s a stunningly beautiful country.

The ring road winds around the exterior of this island and has become a rite of passage for many road trippers. But to appreciate the power of nature and the utter desolation of this 10-day Iceland itinerary, we take a 4×4 through rivers and over rocky tracks into the central highlands. Here the crowds disappear and the hiking and landscapes are at their most magnificent.

Our 10-day Iceland Itinerary was full of incredible scenery and outdoorsy experiences. For some inspiration before diving into the itinerary, here are our favourite moments in Iceland.


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10-DAY ICELAND ITINERARY OVERVIEW

Day 1 / Golden Circle, striking geysirs and geothermal pools

Day 2 / Colourful hiking & 4×4 road trip to Landmannalaugar

Day 3 / Dramatic waterfalls & the Valley of Thor

Day 4 / Exploring the otherworldly Vatnajökull National Park

Day 5 / Snowmobiles & eastern Fjords meander

Day 6 / Self-drive adventure & mini hike into Askja Caldera

Day 7 / Humpback whales and the might & power of Dettifoss

Day 8 / Steaming lava fields & scenic weirdness at Krafla Caldera

Day 9 / The beautiful geothermal area of  Kerlingarfjöll & Hveravellir

Day 10 / Quick stop in Reykjavík and relaxing in the Blue Lagoon


WHY GO TO ICELAND?

Exploring the uniqueness of steaming lava fields and bubbling mud pots

Bouncing across the desolate highlands in a 4×4 adventure

Hiking in unique volcanic landscapes with sulphuric vents and golden mountains

Unwinding in glorious naturally heated pools as the rain falls

Watching graceful whales and clumsy puffins entertain the crowds

Experiencing the power of nature at every turn

10-day Iceland itinerary: Stunning scenery in a volcanic wonderland

DAY 1 / GOLDEN CIRCLE AND GEOTHERMAL POOL

Start the morning at Thingvellir National Park, where the national parliament of Iceland was established in 930 CE. Explore the history and stroll along the walls of the mid-Atlantic ridge which runs through the site.

Next, head to Geysir, home to a number of spouting hot springs. The mightiest is the Great Geysir, which can hurl water 70 metres into the air. But its eruptions are very infrequent. You almost definitely have to settle for the much more active Strokkur, which erupts every few minutes spouting up to 30 metres.

After grabbing lunch in the café opposite, make your way to Gullfoss, a magnificent 32m double waterfall crashing between 70m canyon walls.

Double back, and head south to Fuorir where you will find the secret lagoon of Gamal Laugin. A beautiful hot water spring set in rural surrounds that is perfect for an afternoon relax.

If you have time, head up to Haifoss for another great waterfall, otherwise make your way onto the F26 Sprengisandur mountain road to Hrauneyjar for the night.


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Highland Centre, Hrauneyjar
3 hour, 30 minute drive – add 1 hour for the return drive to Haifoss
Standing in the spray of spouting Geysir

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Highland Centre, Hrauneyjar

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3 hour, 30-minute drive – add 1 hour for the return drive to Haifoss

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Standing in the spray of spouting Geysir

DAY 2 / HIKING IN LANDMANNALAUGAR

For day 2 of your 10 days in Iceland, head into the highland area of Landmannalaugar. It is a great adventure and a truly impressive destination of colourful mountains, steaming mud pots and warm natural pools.

You will need a 4×4 to drive on the gravel mountain tracks and across small streams. It was such an impressive day, we dedicated a whole post to it. All the information and tips can be found in our Landmannalaugar day trip and hike article.

End your day at The Garage on the south coast, a great guesthouse with a beautiful setting under the cliffs.


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The Garage, Varmahlíô
Hrauneyjar to Landmannalaugar: 1 h, 20 m; Landmannalaugar to Varmahlíô: 2 h, 40 m
Hiking the Ljótipollur trail and Landmannalaugar

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The Garage, Varmahlíô

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Hrauneyjar to Landmannalaugar: 1 hour, 20 minutes; Landmannalaugar to Varmahlíô: 2 hours, 40 minutes

HIGHLIGHT

Hiking the Ljótipollur trail at Landmannalaugar

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DAY 3 / WATERFALLS AND THE VALLEY OF THOR

On day 3 of your 10 days in Iceland, drive to Básar Hut and walk over the Krossa river into Þórsmörk. It is a stunning area to explore but the river crossings to Básar Hut can be tricky so take local advice before you go. If unsure, take the bus that runs from Seljalandsfoss. We had driving rain and low cloud this day so didn’t make what would have been a pointless journey.

On your return check out Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi, two graceful waterfalls, before driving to Skógafoss. Walk up the steps by the waterfall and follow the path for 15 minutes. This is the start of the excellent Fimmvörðuháls trail which heads over magnificent scenery into Þórsmörk.

If you fancy a warm soak at the end of the day, park at Seljavallalaug Parking and walk for 10 minutes up the valley where you’ll find a swimming pool built into the mountain. The changing facilities are primitive, the water a little dirty and it needs to be cranked up a few degrees. But, it’s a nice scene and a fun thing to do.


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The Garage, Varmahlíô
Varmahlíô -Básar Hut: 3 hours return; plus 30 minutes return to Skógafoss
Hiking up to Skógafoss and beginning the Fimmvörduháls trail

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The Garage, Varmahlíô

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Varmahlíô -Básar Hut: 3 hours return; plus 30 minutes return to Skógafoss

HIGHLIGHT

Hiking up to Skógafoss and beginning the Fimmvörduháls trail

DAY 4 / EXPLORING VATNAJÖKULL NATIONAL PARK

Begin your morning at Dyrhólaey peninsula to spot the puffins as they swoop out to sea over the black sandy beaches.

Then, stop at Vik to collect food for the day on your way to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. The canyon is a bumpy 5-minute drive off the ring road, but the views as you walk up the east side of the canyon are excellent.

Next, head towards Skaftafell to explore the Skaftafell National Park. Once there, pick up a map from the office and select one of the walks. We recommend a 2 hour, 30-minute hike that takes in the black basalt rocks of Svartifoss and the remarkable views of the glacier from Sjónarnípa.

Next head to the glacial lagoons of Fjallsárlón and Jökulsárlón. You can get a boat on either, but we think it’s better to just watch from the edges. At Jökulsárlón make sure you check out black diamond beach.

Spend the night at Guesthouse Skalafell. It’s not exactly cheap for the standard of accommodation (not much is), but it’s local and friendly and they put on a pretty good dinner.


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Guesthouse Skálafell
3 hour, 45 minute drive
Standing over the snarling glaciers of Vatnajökull Park

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Guesthouse Skálafell

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3 hour, 45-minute drive

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Standing over the snarling glaciers of Vatnajökull Park

DAY 5 / EASTERN FJORDS MEANDER

On day 5 of your 10-day Iceland itinerary, book the 9 am Glacier Jeep Snowmobile adventure. A 4×4 jeep takes you up the side of a steep cliff and gives you an introduction to a truly rough mountain road. At about 1,000m you transfer to a snowmobile to explore the glacier for the next 90 minutes.

Grab some food in Höfn before heading up the east coast making sure you take the quicker inland route. Once you have completed the long drive to Borgarfjördur, check out the puffin colony just past the town where you can get super close to these clumsy animals.

In the evening marvel at the shimmering red rhyolite mountains from one of Blábjörg Guesthouse’s hot tubs perched on the water’s edge.

Today wasn’t as good as we hoped, so check out what we would do differently at the end of this itinerary for a better suggestion.


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Blábjörg Guesthouse, Borgarfjördur Eystri
Skalafell – Borgarfjördur: 4 hour, 50-minute drive.
Up close and personal with the puffins

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Blábjörg Guesthouse, Borgarfjördur Eystri

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Skalafell – Borgarfjördur: 4 hour, 50-minute drive.

HIGHLIGHT

Up close and personal with the puffins

DAY 6 / SELF-DRIVE ADVENTURE INTO ASKJA

Day 6 of your 10-day Iceland itinerary drive into the highland area of Askja. Your destination is Askja Caldera, where glacial lakes fill a magnificent crater. But the real highlight is the drive itself. A 4×4 adventure fording rivers, zig-zagging across lava fields and sliding through sand.

See our separate article about driving to Askja for all the information you need.

After Askja, head to the Fosshotel in Mývatn. It’s not cheap, but by Iceland’s standards it’s relatively good value and the restaurant delivers innovative Icelandic classics. Happy hour is from 5 pm to 6 pm.


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Fosshotel Mývatn
2 hours, 30 minutes to Mývatn; add 5 hours, 30 minutes to Askja Caldera (return)
Fording rivers and zig-zagging through lava fields as you drive to Askja

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Fosshotel Mývatn

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Borgarfjördur Eystri to Mývatn: 2 hours, 30 minutes; add 5 hours, 30 minutes to Askja Caldera (return)

HIGHLIGHT

Fording rivers and zig-zagging through lava fields as you drive to Askja

DAY 7 / HUMPBACK WHALES AND MIGHTY DETTIFOSS

Get up early and head to Huasvík to join a 2-hour whale watching tour. Whale sightings between June and August are almost guaranteed. We saw 4 humpbacks, a family of bottlenose whales, white-striped dolphins and a plethora of puffins – a highlight on our 10-days in Iceland and one of our favourite moments.

Back in the car, drive to Dettifoss via the 864 on the eastern side, where photo opportunities are better. Just before you arrive, turn left to Hafragilsfoss, where a short walk takes you to awesome views of this waterfall.

Next head back to Mývatn and check out Hverir, a yellow mountain covered in sulphurous scars and boiling mud pots. Then, wash off the smell at Mývatn Nature Baths: a smart complex of natural pools, with great views over the countryside. Pre-order a glass of wine as you arrive.


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Fosshotel Mývatn
3 hour, 30 minute drive; 1 hour boat ride
Feeling the power of the crashing waters of Dettifoss

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Fosshotel Mývatn

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3 hour, 30 minute drive; 1 hour boat ride

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Feeling the power of the crashing waters of Dettifoss

DAY 8 / STEAMING LAVA FIELDS AND KRAFLA CALDERA

Start Day 8 of your 10-day Iceland itinerary at Krafla. The caldera here is impressive and worth walking around. The far side has neon green moss contrasting brightly against the crater’s red rock.

A few hundred yards away are the steaming black lava fields of Leirhnjúkur, created by volcanic activity from 1975 to 1984, giving the area a Mordor feel. Back in the car, head west stopping at Godafoss, one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Iceland.

Now you have a choice of two options to get to Blönduós where you’ll be spending the evening. Either take the fast route inland or the scenic route around the coast. If you opt for the latter, stop for a swim at Hofsós pool perched on the clifftop.


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Brimslód Atelier, Blönduós
30 minutes return to Krafla; 3 hours to Blönduós direct
Steaming lava fields at Leirhnjúkur near Krafla

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Brimslód Atelier, Blönduós

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30 minutes return to Krafla; 3 hours to Blönduós direct

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Steaming lava fields at Leirhnjúkur near Krafla

DAY 9 / GEOTHERMAL KERLINGARFJÖLL

Kerlingarfjöll is a small but stunning mountain range that lies deep in Iceland’s central highlands. Lurking within these snowy peaks is the geothermal area of Hveradalir, a small valley of red rhyolite mountains, steaming vents and bubbling rivers.

It’s a long 4×4 drive to Kerlingarfjöll, but the hiking and views are sensational. Finish the day soaking in the natural pool of Hveravellir and you will see why this day was the highlights of our 10 days in Iceland.

All the information can be found for this day can be found in our Kerlingarfjöll article.


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Brimslód Atelier, Blönduós
5 hour, 30 minutes return
Hiking the geothermal magnificence of Hveradalir

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Brimslód Atelier, Blönduós

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5 hour, 30 minute return

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Hiking the geothermal magnificence of Hveradalir

DAY 10 / REYKJAVÍK AND BLUE LAGOON

For the final day of this 10-day Iceland itinerary, head into Reykjavík. Explore the harbour, Halgríms church and the Art Museum that is spread across town and housed in the Hafnarhús, Kjarvalsstaðir, and Ásmundarsafn buildings.

The shopping area around Laugavegur is attractive and Reykjavik Roasters delivers good coffee. But while Reykjavík is cute enough there is nothing unique here, so hop back in the car and drive to the Blue Lagoon.

Whereas other natural pools you have visited have been rural, the Blue Lagoon is modern, sleek and beautifully finished. It is situated in front of an industrial plant and as the steam rises, a pool bar, sauna and other buildings loom in and out of the mist. You could be in Gotham city.

Towels, lockers, 1 drink and a face mask are included in the entrance fee. Extras can be charged to a wristband and settled when you leave. It is not cheap, but in our opinion worth it. Book in advance.


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Northern Light Inn, Grindavik
4 hour drive includes stopping at Reykjavík and the Blue Lagoon
Soaking with a glass of wine in the moody steamy Blue Lagoon

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Northern Light Inn, Grindavik

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4 hour drive includes stopping at Reykjavík and the Blue Lagoon

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Soaking with a glass of wine in the moody steamy Blue Lagoon/p>

ALL THE INFORMATION YOU NEED TO PLAN YOUR OWN INCREDIBLE 10-DAY ICELAND ITINERARY

We believe that a little pre-planning, research, and understanding what you are looking for in a destination, will help make your travels far more successful. Here’s some further information we think you might need to plan your own 10-day Iceland itinerary.

GETTING AROUND ICELAND

For our 10-day Iceland Itinerary, you will be heading into the highlands on mountain roads and will need a 4×4 vehicle. You can read all about the challenges of driving on the mountain roads of Iceland here.

On the ring road, driving is easy, but beware of strong winds, as insurance often does not cover doors getting blown off. Keep an eye out for animals on the road, and if you stop for photos pull off the road.

BEST TIME TO GO TO ICELAND

This 10-day Iceland Itinerary takes you on 4 day trips on mountain roads into the highlands. These roads are only open in summer, opening late in June and closing in early October. July and August are optimal. These months are busy on the ring road, but as you disappear inland so will the crowds.

For all the latest information on the roads, check their official site here.

COSTS OF OUR 10-DAY ICELAND ITINERARY

The total cost of our 10-day Iceland Itinerary, for two people, was Kr 700,600. With July 2018 exchange rates of Kr 140 to the British Pound; Kr 110 to the US dollar; and Kr 125 to the Euro, this equates to:

4 day Cappadocia Itinerary
US $6,400
4 day Cappadocia Itinerary
GBP £5,000
4 day Cappadocia Itinerary
EUR €5,650

Iceland is an expensive destination for food, hotels and activities. Staying in AirBnB properties with cooking facilities would cut accommodation costs and evening meals in restaurants. Camping or renting a van you can sleep in would cut costs further, but be aware Iceland can be both cold and wet, even in the height of summer.

Another option for reducing costs is to reduce the number of days on your itinerary and focus on the southeast and central areas of the country. We would be very reluctant to save costs by hiring a 2WD over a 4X4, because hiring a 4X4 is an adventure in itself and a vital part of experiencing what is unique about Iceland.

WHAT WOULD WE DO DIFFERENTLY

Days 5 and 6 of our 10-day Iceland itinerary did not work as we had hoped. The total driving time for day 6 to Askja was too long and the Glacier Snowmobile ride on day 5 was underwhelming.

On Day 5 skip the snowmobile and head up to the eastern fjords in the morning, spending the day exploring the area around Seyðisfjörður. Then instead of taking the long drive to Blábjörg Guesthouse in Borgarfjördur Eystri, spend the night at Mödhrudalur. This will cut the driving on day 6 from 8 hours to 6 hours and make day 5 more fun and relaxing,

BOOKING AND TIPS FOR YOUR 10-DAY ICELAND ITINERARY

  1. International flights to Iceland arrive and depart from Keflavik Airport, 45-minute drive from Reykjavík.
  2. Iceland is a small country with a small population and a very large tourist influx in summer. You must book your car hire and hotels early, we suggest over 6 months in advance.
  3. There are many car hire companies either directly at the terminal or a short shuttle bus ride away. We used Blue Rental Cars to rent our 4×4. All details for our 4×4 car hire experience and adventure can be found here.
  4. Book the Blue Lagoon two weeks in advance and the whale watching in Husavík at least a day or two in advance.
  5. Iceland can be cold and wet even in summer. Bring warm waterproof clothing and be prepared to alter plans for the weather.
  6. Download our map before leaving and you will have the routes we took and the places we visited.

OPENING TIMES & DETAILS

Credit or debit card is accepted everywhere. There is no need for cash except for the odd gratuity box at toilets. Most natural sights in Iceland are completely free and open any time, although they sometimes charge for parking.

Gamla Laugin Secret Lagoon / 10.00 – 22:00 / Price: Kr 2,800 per person / More: All information here.

Glacier Jeeps Vatnajökull Snowmobile / 9.30 or 14:00 departure; lasting 3 hours / Price: Kr 24,000 per person sharing a snowmobile / More: All details available here.

Husavík Adventures / Sailings are every one or two hours during summer months, starting at 10:00 / Price: Kr 17,900 per person in RIB / Bookings: In advance, from here.

Mývatn Nature Baths  / 9.00 – 23:30 May-Sep; 12:00 – 21:30 Oct-Apr / Price: From Kr 4,200 to 5,000 per person / More: Everything else you need to know.

Reykjavík Art Museum / 10:00 – 17:00; till 22:00 on Thurs / Price: A single Kr 1,650 entrance ticket allows access to each of the Hafnarhús, Kjarvalsstaðir, and Ásmundarsafn buildings spread across Reykjavík / More: All details here.

Blue Lagoon / 7:00 or 8:00 – 21:00 to 0:00 depending on time of year / Price: Kr 6,990 basic package; Kr 9,990 premium package / Pre-book: From here.

GUIDEBOOKS & READING

We used the Lonely Planet guidebook for Iceland which contains helpful information about opening times, attractions and is generally good for restaurant recommendations.

Another great source for restaurants is Foursquare. Certainly much more reliable than Trip Advisor in searching out good food. Download the app before leaving.

MORE FROM THE BLOG

To discover more about Iceland, read about our favourite moments and our day trips to Landmannalaugar, Askja and Kerlingarfjöll. If you like the great outdoors then consider our 10-day Norway Itinerary or even hiking in the Dolomites.

Finally, if remote road trips are your thing check out all our road trips on our roam page.

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10 awesome days in Iceland from the Ring Road to the Highlands. / 10 days Iceland itinerary summer / iceland travel guide summer / #iceland #bluelagoon #Landmannalaugar #Vatnajökull

10 awesome days in Iceland from the Ring Road to the Highlands. / 10 days Iceland itinerary summer / iceland travel guide summer / #iceland #bluelagoon #Askja #Dettifoss #Kerlingarfjöll

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