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Top 10 things to do on a self drive

Is 2020 the year you come to Iceland for a road trip? If you’re planning an Icelandic vacation, here are our picks for the top 10 things to do on a self drive holiday.

Loop the famous ring road

A circumnavigation of Route 1, Iceland’s famous ring road, is one of the world’s great road trips. Allow ten days to two weeks to really make the most of the stunning scenery and give yourself plenty of time to detour to glaciers, waterfalls and wild beaches. It’s an adventure you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

Drive yourself to the Golden Circle

Though it’s straightforward to book yourself a place on an organised tour, the advantage of including this trio of must-see sights on a self drive itinerary is the chance to set your own timetable. The spectacle of Strokkur is one that you’ll want to watch again and again. Similarly there’s much to recommend hanging around at Gullfoss waterfall and Thingvellir National Park.

See the famous icebergs of Jökulsárlón

For many visitors to Iceland this is their favourite location. Icebergs calve from Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, an offshoot of Vatnajökull, into a picturesque lake. From there, they bob gently down to the sea, where they’re washed up onto what’s become known as Diamond Beach thanks to the glittering sight of the ice sparkling in the sunshine.

Take a dip in one of Iceland’s thermal baths

Iceland’s abundant geothermal energy means there are plenty of thermal baths scattered throughout the country from the famous Blue Lagoon spa to remote pools deep in the countryside. Take a dip in the warm waters and discover what it feels like for nature to run you a hot bath.

Park up beside two tectonic plates

The Eurasian and North American tectonic plates bisect Iceland. On the Reykjanes peninsula, drive to Leif the Lucky’s bridge which spans the ever-growing chasm between the two plates and marvel at the processes shaping our planet.

Loop Snæfellsnes

Little more than an hour’s drive from Reykjavik on good roads is the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Grab a selfie in front of iconic Kirkjufell, the area’s most recognisable mountain, before driving along the coast road in search of sea stacks and wave cut arches. Don’t forget to pull in for the Shark Museum and see if you can stomach hákarl, fermented shark.

Hike to a hidden waterfall

Famous waterfalls such as Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss are easily reached as you drive the ring road and mighty Gullfoss is an essential stop as part of the Golden Circle. But go a little off the beaten track and hike to a less accessible waterfall. Park up and set Glymur in your sights. It’s the country’s second tallest, reached via a moss covered canyon and an exciting river crossing.

Head out into the countryside to see the Northern Lights

Though you might strike it lucky and see the Northern Lights in Reykjavik, your chances will be much increased if you drive out into the Icelandic countryside where there’s less light pollution. Scope out suitable places while it’s still daylight and return, park up in a safe place and look skywards for the view of a lifetime.

Seek out puffins at Europe’s largest sea bird cliffs

The cliffs of Látrabjarg teem with puffins and other sea birds. These 400m high, 14km long cliffs are home to millions of seabirds. Along with the cute puffins, you’ll be able to see razorbills, fulmars, guillemots and gannets, making this a rewarding detour into the Westfjords.

Tackle the infamous F roads

Not for the faint-hearted, Iceland’s F roads criss-cross the mountainous interior and access some of the most spectacular terrain in Europe. You’ll need to cope with potholes, slippery gravel and even ford rivers, but the rewards are great. This one’s for summer only as the F roads are closed in spring, autumn and winter.