If you want an exciting and adventurous drive where you won’t encounter too much traffic, then a self-drive tour of Iceland, may be just the thing.
One proviso, though, it is better to do it during the warmer months when you have a lot more light and the roads tend not to become icy.
Driving around Iceland is actually pretty easy – just get on the main road out of Reykjavik – in whichever direction you choose and keep driving for 1033 kilometres until you reach the city again.
A typical itinerary would be to head from Reykjavik to Gulfoss. During the journey, at Thingvellir, seat of Iceland’s, and the world’s, first parliament, you’ll be able to observe the effects of the oceanic rift. At Geysir, the spouting of the Strokkur geyser will delight. A few kilometres further, you’ll see the Gullfoss waterfall, where the Hvítá river has created an impressive canyon.
Heading next to Kirkjubæjarklaustur you pass the famous Eyjafjallajökull whose recengt eruption ground most air traffic in Europe. You’ll also see some spectacular glaciers and waterfalls, the result of glacial melt.
At Skaftafell National Park you cross the expanse of sand created by the eruptions of volcanoes under the Vatnajokull glacier. Get out and hike atop impressive glaciers then pass more expanses of volcanic sand until you reach the Svartifoss waterfall and its bizarre basalt rock formations.
When you get to Dettifloss you see the most powerful waterfall in Europe. This waterfall marks one of the entrances to the Vatnajökull National Park, Europe’s second biggest national park, covering 11% of Iceland’s landmass.
Moving around to Lake Myvatn you come across pseudocraters, explosion craters, recent lava flows and cauldrons of boiling mud.
Heading south west, you reach the peninsula of the western fjords, a place of folklore, mystery and a region totally off the beaten path. Take a detour in the Vatnsnes region to check out its coastline that is populated by seal colonies. At Hólmavík, visit the museum of Icelandic sorcery and witchcraft.
Further on stop at the Dynjandi falls and the Látrabjarg cliffs, the highest in Europe, for a distance of 15 km they tower over 400 metres above the sea. This is also the westernmost and most isolated spot in the country.
Continuing to Borgarnes the drive is dominated by the Snaefellsjökull volcano’s snowy cone, which is one of the symbols of Iceland. Incidentally, Snaefellsjökull was immortalized by Jules Verne who set the beginning of his ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ here.
Continue south to the valley of Reykholt where you will find the hot water springs of Deildartunguhver, the Fastest flowing hot springs in Europe. Stop at the waterfalls of Hraunfossar and Barnafoss and drive back to the capital along the impressive Hvalfjörður.
Take as much time as you like as there are so many fascinating attractions encountered that this is one drive you should not hurry.