The Magic Circle
Iceland is an otherworldly land of fire and ice that showcases everything you've ever read in a science book. It’s a vast volcanic laboratory where the forces of nature mould and create. A place where geysers spout, mud pots gloop, volcanoes grumble and glaciers glisten. A place where you can swim outdoors in a snowstorm in geothermally heated pools, hike across a mossy lava field, or power a snowmobile over an icy glacier.
On this trip, you will get to travel the whole of the Ring Road, anticlockwise. Start with the famous sights of the Golden Circle then onto Skaftafell and the immense Vatnajokull Glacier. Take a boat tour on Jokulsarlon Lagoon, relax in the fishing villages of the East Fjords, marvel at mud pots around Mývatn Lake, watch for whales in Akureyri and finally chill in the hot springs or cafes in Reykjavík.
- Flights: Direct return flights from UK regional airports to Keflavik Airport (KEF)
- Transport: Car hire from airport pick-up to airport drop-off
- Accommodation: 8 nights in characterful hotels or cabins
- Meals: Breakfasts where stated
- Trip Pack: Key family-friendly information about the country you are visiting with recommended activity links, places to eat and fun facts.
- Experiencing mud pools and fumaroles in Geysir, Námafjall Hverir and Gunnuhver
- Visiting an icy glacier at Skaftafell and the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon
- Exploring the isolated Eastern fjords and the characterful fishing villages along this coast
- Hiking across lava fields to the top of calderas and exploring the area around Mývatn Lake
- Visiting numerous epic waterfalls such as Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss and Goðafoss
- Enjoying the host of family adrenaline activities in Akureyri
- Chilling out in cafes, museums and swimming pools in Rekyjavik
- When can we go? May to October
- What type of tour is it? Self-drive
- Who is it suitable for? For active families that enjoy nature and the great outdoors. Maybe also a few geography nerds (like us at Wandering Tribe!)
- What is the minimum age? We would recommend a minimum age of 6 years due to the active nature of the trip. Please check the recommended activities as the minimum ages will differ.
We publish ‘guideline prices’ for both the high and low season to give a reasonable estimate of what you might expect to pay per person based on a family of four (two adults, two children). To get an accurate price based on your estimated departure date and party size please contact us directly.
Guide Price: Oct - £945pp
Guide Price: May to Sept - £1,035pp
Are you ready to start your adventure? From Keflavik airport drive past Reykjavík towards Þingvellir National Park. Þingvellir is the cultural centre of Icelandic heritage as well as being the geologic meeting point of two tectonic plates. Your next stop should be Laugarvatn which means a "lake for bathing”. The bottom of this shallow lake is riddled with hot springs making it perfect for swimming. There is another pool nearby which has a geothermal bakery for baking pot-baked lava bread making it an ideal stop for lunch.
Next travel to the Geysir Geothermal Area. The most reliable eruption comes from Strokkur and occurs every 10 minutes, firing jets of hot water and steam 30 metres into the air. Continue on to Gullfoss Waterfall; magnificent, thunderous and generating enough hydroelectricity to power Reykjavík, it’s located on the Hvita River, where water from the Langjokull glacier drops 32m into the canyon. Finish your day at the Secret Lagoon, Iceland’s first swimming pool and only recently rediscovered. There are also some lovely horseriding tours for families around this area enjoying the beautiful landscape of the Syðra-Langholt farm.
Spend the night in the southern area of the Golden Circle where it is easy to rejoin Route 1 in the morning.
Fun Facts: Sigríður Tómasdottir (the daughter of the landowner who owned Gullfoss) threatened to throw herself into the falls if the land was sold. As a result, her father refused to ever sell and the falls were made into a reserve.
Optional Activities: Snorkelling tour of the Silfra fissure, geothermal baths, horse-riding, dog sledding, earthquake simulator.
Make sure you wake up early today as your next stop is known for incredible sunrises. Seljalandsfoss waterfall rises 200 feet in the air and has a short trail that takes you behind the waterfall itself (wear good boots and a waterproof jacket as you will get wet).
After a short drive you will come to Eyjafjallajökull volcano which erupted in 2010 halting European flights for six days. Only a few minutes further along Route 1 is Skógafoss, another impressive waterfall. There are usually horses and sheep dotting the hillside, making for a storybook landscape.
Next head to Vik and the dramatic rock formations at Dyrholaey where you can take a cliff-top walk overlooking the black sand beach. You may also spot some puffins and explore the lighthouse. If you are feeling especially active you could take an ATV quad bike tour of the black sand beaches or go snowmobiling to the top of nearby Mýrdalsjökull glacier. If time allows we would also recommend a visit to the ancient river canyon of Fjaðrárgljúfur, often described as one of the most beautiful in the world and a personal favourite of ours! This is Jurassic Park meets Game of Thrones brought to you by the Ice Age.
Your final visit of the day should be the Skaftafell Visitors Centre. This is close to Vatnajökull, Europe's biggest glacier where the battle between fire and ice is still being fought on a daily basis. Watch a short film about the 1996 eruptions. The two-hour glacier hike is highly recommended - crunch in your crampons and experience blue ice holes, deep crevasses and volcanic ash.
Stay overnight in one of the unique accommodation options in the Skaftafell area.
Fun facts: Iceland’s only native land mammal – the Arctic Fox – can be found in Skaftafell National Park.
Optional Activities: Glacier hike, quad bike tour, snowmobiling glacier tour, Icelandic Saga Centre, Lava Centre
The glacial lagoon at Jokulsarlon is about 30 mins drive from Skaftafell. It may look familiar as it has served as the backdrop for two James Bond movies, Lara Croft and Batman Begins. It is an otherworldly, surreal landscape of glacial water and icebergs boasting every array of blue imaginable. Make sure you take the short walk down to the beach which is littered with all shapes and sizes of glacial ice – it’s like visiting an exhibition of ice sculptures. Also, keep an eye out for the seals.
After Jokulsarlon, head to Höfn and then onto the rugged East Fjords. Now you are officially in the middle of nowhere! Eastern Iceland is an untamed wilderness of rocky mountain peaks, winding black-sand coastlines, and idyllic fishing villages. It provides a more authentic Iceland experience with big skies and few towns (only 3.2% of the Icelandic population live here). Experience shimmering fjords, dramatic cliffs and herds of wild reindeer.
Spend the afternoon meandering through the exquisite fjords. You could stop in Djúpivogur and take a boat trip to see puffins on Papey Island or take a guided village walk in Breiðdalsvík. Experience the Fáskrúðsfjarðargöng tunnel (try pronouncing that one!); it is 4 miles long and when the light finally appears you will be in the highlands of Iceland. Head towards Seyðisfjörður which will be your home for the next two nights.
Fun facts: The strange lava formations that can be found around the country were once thought to be trolls who had turned to stone when caught outdoors in daylight.
Optional Activities: Boat trip on glacier lagoon, crystal ice cave tour, boat trip to puffin colony, traditional village tour.
The characterful fishing village of Seyðisfjörður has brightly painted wooden houses and acts as a mecca for artists throughout the summer months. Expect a buzzing arts and crafts scene with cosy local cafes and restaurants.
Visit the cultural centre to see some of the local artwork and the nearby nature reserve with its seals, reindeer, and puffins. You could also take a boat trip around the coast to see nesting seabirds and towering cliffs before trying a spot of fishing or if you want to do something more active, we would recommend the short uphill hike to the Tvisongur Sound Sculpture by German artist Lukas Kühne. The sculpture is a set of five concert domes where you can practice your soprano singing surrounded by fabulous views!
Enjoy a whole day of relaxing with no driving.
Fun Facts: Álfaborg in Bakkagerði (to the north of Seyðisfjörður) is known as the home of the Icelandic elf queen. Legend also has it that the worm of Lagarfljót (an inland lake near Egilsstaðir) is a harmless creature older than the Loch Ness Monster.
Optional Activities: Cultural centre, nature reserve, boat/fishing cruise, geothermal swimming pool.
From Seyðisfjörður head towards Mývatn Lake in Northern Iceland and the fabulous geothermal area. Volcanic activity is literally off the scale here. There are so many cool things for the kids to explore. Yes, it smells rather eggy (that’ll be the sulphur) but it feels like you’ve landed on Mars. Get up close with boiling blue mud pots and steaming fumaroles and marvel at the Technicolour soil. Nearby you can drive to the top of the volcano for breath-taking views of the vivid blue caldera lake and follow hiking trails traversing the lunar-like landscape where the Apollo astronauts practised for moon landings.
In the afternoon, we would recommend a soak in the local nature baths with their skin rejuvenating minerals before taking the southern loop around Mývatn Lake. Along the way, we would suggest stopping at the beautiful azure blue cave, the majestic circular volcanic crater and the mammoth lava rock formations (also known as The Dark Fortress). Definitely, a place you would expect to find trolls! If times allows we would also suggest stopping at the pretty lake peninsula with its beautiful tree’s and lava pillars and at the mesmerising pseudo craters. You can drive around the lake or hire bicycles for the ultimate vibe of serenity whilst doing a spot of birdwatching.
Along the road, stop to view the sheer majesty of Goðafoss waterfall before spending two nights in Iceland’s second largest city and capital of the North, Akureyri.
Fun Facts: The Mývatn marathon is run around the lake in May. There are four distances to choose from (Full Marathon, Half, 10km and 3km). Participants receive a medal, t-shirt, BBQ feast and free entry to the nature baths.
Optional Activities: Mývatn nature baths, bird museum, cycling tour.
Akureyri has a young buzz about it thanks to its universities. Pretty wooden houses in bright Lego colours dot the harbour and the main street is lined with 19th-century shop-fronts.
There are plenty of family-friendly activities to keep you busy. You could visit museums, go whale-watching, horse riding, white-water rafting, snowmobiling, husky sledging or take a helicopter tour over an active volcano. Alternatively, you could spend some time relaxing. Visit the beautiful botanical gardens, enjoy a spot of shopping for Icelandic jumpers followed by Ein með öllu (Icelandic hot dog) or Hrútspungar (Ram's testicles) if you are feeling adventurous. All washed down with a bottle of Víking Gold or an Appelsin for the kids.
We would also recommend a trip to Siglufjorður along the stunning north coastal route. Once a hotspot for herring fishing it now houses an excellent museum and exceptional sea views.
Fun Facts: The biggest ski event in Iceland - the Donald Duck ski competition is held in Akureyri each year (19th-22nd April, 2017). It has skiing competitions for children of all ages. Social events and prize ceremonies are held in the town every evening.
Optional Activities: Whale watching, Icelandic horse riding, white-water rafting, husky sledging, snowmobiling, seal centre.
It’s a 4½ hour drive from Akureyri to Reykjavík. There are lots of family-friendly side trips along the way including canyons, craters, churches and children's playgrounds. Once in Reykjavík, you have completed the famous Route 1 loop.
Wandering Tribe officially loves Reykjavík! It's colourful, quirky and bursting with culture. You can explore shops, art galleries, museums, cafes and thermal pools! A fabulous option for families is to visit Laugardalur, just a few kilometres out of town. Here you'll find a large swimming complex (fed by a geothermal spring), a spa, cafe, skating rink, botanical gardens, plus a kids' zoo and recreation park. It's located near the Reykjavík Art Museum, which is great for modern art and sculpture.
Back in the city centre a nice walk along the seafront will take you to the Harpa Concert Hall and on to the harbour with boat trips galore. We would also highly recommend visiting the video museum that showcases everything you need to know about Iceland and the open-air living museum set around a series of lovingly-restored homes. We would also suggest climbing the stairs at Hallgrimskirkja Church to get that famous photo shot of the city.
Take a few hours to wander around and enjoy this eclectic city which will be your base for the next two nights.
Fun Facts: Per capita Iceland has the highest number of book and magazine publications in the world and 10% of the country’s population will publish a book in their lifetime!
Optional Activities: Whale watching, husky dog sledging (all year round but dry land May-Dec) and snowmobiling (all year round).
Spend a leisurely morning in Reykjavík before exploring the Reykjanes peninsula where more than half of the land is covered with lava flows. Experience the wild coastal views from the lighthouse and the billowing clouds of sulphurous steam that define Gunnuhver. Here the ground feels alive - you can witness bubbling mud pools, steam vents and hot springs against an otherworldly backdrop. Nearby you have the option of visiting Iceland’s most famous geothermal pool – the Blue Lagoon. These mineral-rich, milky blue pools are the temperature of a hot bath.
Driving east, you could explore the large, eerily still lake and the beautifully preserved wooden church set next to the ocean. Stop for cake and coffee in Þorlákshöfn and continue on to one of Iceland’s most impressive cave formations. Some spelunking would make a perfect end to the day. Return to Reykjavík for your last night.
Fun Facts: Gunnuhver is named after an angry female ghost whose spirit is said to have been trapped in the hot springs 400 years ago.
Optional Activities: Blue Lagoon, lava tube cave.
Head to the airport for your morning flight back to the UK.
Wandering Tribe has travelled to all of the destinations that we feature and we like nothing better than talking about them. If you would like further information about these tours or a tailor-made quote then please contact us on 07392 742333. Alternatively you can fill in the contact form and we will endeavour to get back to you as soon as possible.