Exceptional Iceland – The Golden Circle, Glacier Lagoon and Reykjavik
- Duration:5 nights
- Pace:Set your own
- Suitable for: Anybody over the age of 18. See our terms for further information.
- Midnight Sun Dates: 16 - 29 June
- Car Hire: 5 nights/6 days hire is included including Sat Nav, collision waiver and unlimited miles (from October to April a compact 4x4 (Suzuki Grand Vitara or similar) is included in the price. From May to September we include a compact 2 wheel drive car (VW golf or similar) with the option to upgrade if clients wish – see ‘Personalise’ for details.
- Accommodation: 2 nights Frost and Fire, 2 nights Hotel Ranga and 1 night Hotel Holt
- Meals: 5 breakfasts
- A comprehensive guidebook, detailed map of Iceland is provided and comprehensive driving instructions are provided
Known as ‘The Land of Fire and Ice’ the island of Iceland offers its visitors natural wonders in abundance. This Iceland self-drive itinerary has been designed by our experts to take in some of the most exceptional sights and some of our favourite accommodation.
Iceland’s natural attractions are available to be enjoyed at any time of the year and so whether you want to go in the depths of winter when the Northern Lights may shine or during the summer when the days are never ending – this Iceland holiday will provide unforgettable experiences.
As this is a self-drive holiday we have outlined what we would recommend as the ideal itinerary, based on our expertise and that of our local partners, but you can travel at your own pace and pick your own priorities for your holiday. The opportunities to witness the power of nature within this holiday are plentiful and so you can take your pick.
Many people choose to visit the world famous Blue Lagoon (payable locally) on their way from the airport to the first hotel. Here you can unwind in the misty waters and enjoy one of Iceland’s most unique attractions. You can also choose to include this visit on the last day depending on the most convenient flight times. From your initial base in the beautiful Hveragerdi you can watch the steaming hillsides in this geothermal hotspot before setting out to complete The Golden Circle of Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall and the explosive hot springs at Geyser.
Along the south shore you can take in the striking black sandy beaches, the mountains and the glaciers which create some of the most dramatic scenery in Europe before retreating to your base at the world famous Hotel Ranga.
A visit to the glacier lagoon is also a must do item on any Iceland holiday in our opinion, getting up close to such vast chunks of glacial ice as they float in the water is a wonderful experience.
By the time you board the flight home you will have had the opportunity to appreciate this incredible landscape and a fantastic variety of its natural wonders up close and completely at your own pace.
Image credits: Iceland Pro Travel
Day 1 Arrive and settle in
Upon arrival at Keflavik Airport, your car will be waiting to be collected.
Our carefully planned route begins at Keflavik Airport in the south-west corner of Iceland. Aside from the main airport, Keflavik is also renowned for the world famous Blue Lagoon where many people enjoy a dip in the soothing and mineral-rich hot springs; an ideal way to relax into your holiday. This activity is payable locally and due to its proximity to the airport is normally either a wonderful welcome or farewell activity and a real highlight of your time in Iceland.
At your leisure, you can then continue to Hotel Frost and Fire in Hveragerdi your base for the next two nights. It’s only around an hour and a half drive to the hotel from the airport but you will feel like you have arrived on another planet.
Hveragerdi is known as one of the most active geothermal areas on the planet and so you’ll witness steaming mountain sides and streams as you travel but will also be able to gaze at them from the comfort of this riverside hotel.
This evening you may wish to take advantage of the outdoor hot tubs. If you are travelling between September and March then you should also keep an eye on the skies in case the Northern Lights are visible.
Day 2 The Golden Circle
Whilst we do not dictate a set itinerary for this element of the holiday, this agenda outlines the highlights that our travel experts feel you simply must not miss out on!
Today you will enjoy a hearty breakfast (including homemade bread that is cooked in the nearby geothermal oven every morning!) before setting off to explore.
Our recommendation is that you set out on a route that encompasses three of Iceland's most spectacular natural and historical wonders – Þingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir which are known collectively as The Golden Circle.
The UNESCO World Heritage site at Þingvellir National Park is of great historical, geological and cultural significance. It is the site of the first Icelandic parliament which was formed in 930AD and was the centre of all culture on the island.
Here, you will also find the geological wonder of the rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The continental drift between the North American and Eurasian plates can be clearly seen here in the cracks of the faults which traverse the region. If you wish, we can arrange for you to snorkel between these tectonic plates for a truly memorable experience - see the 'personalise' section for details.
Gullfoss is known colloquially as The Golden Falls as, on a sunny day, the water plunging down the three step staircase, and then tumbling down two steps into the 32-metre crevice can truly look golden. In the winter, the waterfall is exceptionally dramatic as ice surrounds its edges and it takes on a very dramatic character.
Geysir, is one of the most spectacular destinations in Iceland as the erupting hot springs have fired water many metres into the air for the last 10000 years. The Strokkur Geyser is the most active currently and fires water to heights of around 30 metres every 15 minutes or so.
There is little wonder that this combination of sights is one of Iceland's most popular attractions and with the flexibility of your car you can determine how long you would like to spend in each destination without any restraints.
Day 3 The South Shore and Hotel Ranga
After checking out of your hotel we recommend heading eastwards along the South Shore as you drive towards the famous Hotel Ranga. The hotel is only around 50 minutes away and there is much to do en-route.
This route from Hveragerði offers wonderful scenery from the start. As your journey takes you from the wide coastal plains, home to the famous Icelandic horses, then mountains, glaciers and volcanoes begin to appear. The scenery is dramatic.
There is also a delightful geothermal valley called Reykjadalur which has a hot bathing river (Nature's unchanged version of the Blue Lagoon) if you fancy a dip en-route.
Whilst you can check into Ranga from 3pm onwards we recommend continuing past the hotel to keep exploring before returning later to check in.
The south coast offers incredible waterfalls, lava fields, black beaches and incredible mountainous backdrops. If you wish you can also enjoy a glacier hike on the Solheimajökull glacier, which is a favourite spot on the island for such things. Please see the 'personalise' section for full details.
The renowned Hotel Ranga, famed for its countryside location, hot tubs and a wonderfully tempting menu (meals payable locally) is your base for the next two nights.
Day 4 Glacier Lagoon
Today we suggest you venture further east along the south coast and explore the incredible glacier Myradalsjökull. This is Iceland's fourth largest ice cap and covers over 700 square kilometres, reaching a thickness of up to 750m in places.
If you wish you can head further east and we would suggest driving up to Vatnajökull glacier, the biggest glacier in Europe, which covers approximately 13% of the island's surface. Vatnajökull National Park offers an incredible array of scenery created by the combination of natural forces – glacial ice, rivers and geothermal and volcanic activity.
One highlight of the Vatnajökull area is the beautiful glacier lagoon ‘Jökulsarlon’ where you can gaze upon luminous blue icebergs as they drift past. The icebergs can spend up to five years floating in the lagoon before making their way to the sea.
From May to September, there is also an optional boat tour that you can enjoy around the lagoon (payable locally).
Day 5 Reykjavik
After two nights deep in the countryside, it is time for you to head to Reykjavik – the modern-day cultural centre of Iceland and a vibrant capital city.
Reykjavik is a small city in comparison to some and many highlights can be enjoyed on foot. There are restaurants, museums and shops galore.
Iceland’s reputation as a whale watching destination is well-known and so we can arrange for you to enjoy a boat trip in search of these magnificent mammals.
The day is entirely yours and so you may want to enjoy the countryside for longer before you head to town. Just make sure you get there in plenty of time to try one of the many exceptional restaurants on offer.
Day 6 Departure
Today you can return to the airport in time for your flights home. Alternatively, we can, of course, arrange for you to extend your stay on the island and explore in greater depth, we have itineraries which cover many different regions and our travel experts will happily help you combine the trips. Simply contact us for a quotation.
Included in price
Frost and Fire (Frost og Funi)
Hotel Frost and Fire (Frost og Funi) is located on the banks of the River Varmá in the town of Hveragerði. This is one of the most active geothermal locations in the world and the hotel is surrounded by natural hot springs and steaming hillsides.
This quaint guesthouse definitely makes the most of what nature has provided; it offers breathtaking views across the River Varmá, the steaming springs and Mt. Reykjafjall.
- The hotel is small and has just 22 rooms in total meaning that this is a relaxing place in which to spend time in Iceland. Upon arrival, you immediately sense the feeling of exclusivity
- The rooms are situated on the riverside and afford countryside views. The rooms are situated a very short walk from the main restaurant and reception area
- The well-regarded restaurant serves an à la carte menu in the evenings, with a variety of delicious Icelandic dishes. Sourcing local produce (including organic tea, coffee, free-range eggs and vegetables) is something that the hotel takes pride in. Be sure to try the traditional delicacy of smoked trout and take the chance to boil your own breakfast eggs in an ancient hot spring!
- The hotel offers guests a 12-metre outdoor swimming pool which is a favourite during the summer months
- Guests can relax in the hotel's sauna, natural steam room and outdoor hot tub. Ideal for relaxation and pampering after a day in the countryside. Bathrobes and slippers are provided for all guests
Double or twin bedroom
All the en suite rooms are very well designed with comfort and style in mind and feature Icelandic art. They are modern in style and come well equipped with a TV, wireless internet and tea and coffee making facilities.
As a charming four star hotel, the Hotel Ranga is one of Iceland's most sought after accommodation options, predominantly due to its perfect location. Located away from light pollution, the hotel has an Aurora alert system and has earned an enviable reputation for being a remarkable spot to witness a potential Aurora.
Not counting its Northern Lights potential, the hotel is equally renowned for its wonderful food and charming hospitality. In addition to its comfortable rooms, the hotel also has a range of delightfully themed suites that are always popular with guests. New for this season the hotel had constructed a roll-off roof observatory has room for up to 30 people and is equipped with two high quality 11-inch computerized telescopes perfect for star gazing or Northern Lights viewing.
- Breakfast and evening meals are served in the main restaurant, which offers lovely views over the surrounding countryside. When it comes to food you are in splendid culinary hands. The restaurant uses a 'farmers' market' concept to really capture the flavours of the region. They try to make the most of local produce by taking advantage of traditional cooking methods and recipes.
- In the hotel there is also a lounge and bar area which is a great spot for relaxing in the evenings.
- The hotel also has three very popular outdoor hot tubs, which are not only perfect for relaxing in but also provide the ideal vantage point should the Northern Lights make an appearance.
Guest bedroom types
The hotel has 24 standard bedrooms. All guest bedrooms are well equipped with TV, telephone, Wi-Fi, bath, shower, hairdryer and mini bar. There are bathrobes and slippers available for guests, ensuring easy visits to the hot tub. The rooms either have a view over the Hekla Volcano or the River Ranga.
The hotel has 20 deluxe rooms which have the same facilities as the standard rooms but are larger in size. The majority of the deluxe rooms have a king size bed.
Hotel Ranga has four junior suites (decorated with the themes of Asia, Australia, North America and South America) and three master suites which are slightly larger (decorated with the themes of Africa, Antarctica and the Royal Suite). These are all fully equipped with TV, telephone, en-suite bathroom, mini bar, coffee machine and bathrobe and slippers.
Image credits: Hotel Ranga
This boutique-style hotel has the benefit of being located in the centre of Reykjavik, yet tucked away on a quiet street and away from the hustle and bustle of the centre. It is located in a quiet, residential area called Þingholt, known for its beautiful houses and gardens. Up to a five-minute walk away, you can find the Main Street and downtown Reykjavik, the Hallgrímskirkja Church Tower and many other fascinating sights. The hotel’s Gallery Restaurant is a true highlight when staying here – so popular that the hotel recommends booking ahead in order to secure a table. The dining room showcases the most valued pieces of the hotel’s art collection and the warm reds and dark wooden interior creates a charming atmosphere that is not to be missed.
- The hotel reception is open 24 hours should you require assistance at any time, and the staff are always happy to give recommendations to their guests.
- In case you require a computer during your visit, the hotel lobby area has its own business centre with two computers and a printer.
- High- speed internet is available, for free, in all rooms and throughout the hotel for all guests.
Your double or twin room is complete with coffee and tea making facilities and a mini-bar for hot drinks and extra snacks.
- Each room has its own private en suite, and a bathrobe, hairdryer and all necessary toiletries are provided, including shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, soap and toothpaste.
- Hotel guests receive 10% off the a la carte menu at the popular Gallery Restaurant.
- If you desire some extra relaxation during your stay, a small fitness room and massage room are on the premises.
- The hotel’s buffet breakfast is included in the price and offers items such as eggs, bacon, breads, ham, cheese, yoghurts and croissants.
Your double or twin room is complete with all facilities that you might need during your trip. Your en suite includes your own shower, and comes prepared with all toiletries, saving you from packing heavy and bulky liquids in your bag. In your room, you will also find a telephone, a safe, a luggage rack to store your bags and a large closet for all of your clothing.
Personalise this tour
Reykjavik is a city which offers both small town friendliness and cool urban cosmopolitanism. Visitors to the most northerly capital in the world can enjoy a wide range of distinctive architecture, a vibrant café culture and some five-star dining experiences.Read more
Attractions such as art galleries are also worth visiting and the city's long and rich history means there is a variety of museums to enjoy, detailing its Viking past up to its integral use as a base during WWII. The city is also well known internationally for its thriving nightlife, particularly during the long nights of the Midnight Sun. An extended stay in Reykjavik can be added to any of our Iceland trips, and our sales team would be happy to discuss your accommodation and flight option with you, simply contact us for a quote.
Glacier hiking - Iceland
Iceland is famed for its glaciers and on day three you can meet a tour which will allow you to get up close to a glacier during a hike on the spectacular ice field. The experienced and enthusiastic guides will teach you the correct techniques to tackle the glacier and provide you with the crampons. You will also get to try your hand at ice climbing during this activity.Read more about this activity
This is always an activity that will leave you with a great sense of accomplishment and a better understanding of the power of the glaciers.
You will meet at the Solheimajökull Glacier on the South Shore for either a 10am, 12pm or 2pm tour and should arrive 30 minutes before departure.
Snorkelling between continents
Snorkelling at the Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park is an unforgettable experience as you gaze down through some of the world’s clearest water and find your eyes drawn down to the bottom of this crack in the Earth’s crust.
This fissure has been created by the tectonic plates that underpin Eurasia and America drifting apart. It is a place where you can literally snorkel between continents.Read more about this activity
The water’s purity stems from the fact that it started life as glacial melt some 50 kilometres away and has made its way, over numerous decades, through volcanic lava to rest in the fissure.
The price includes all equipment including dry suit, flippers and snorkel and you will be in the water for between 30 to 40 minutes.
If you would prefer not to use your hire car to visit Silfra and Thingvellir then we can arrange the transfers from Reykjavik (around 1 hour drive away); please add £30 per person.
Upgrade your car hire
Guests can choose to upgrade their inclusive car hire to a larger 4 x 4 (travelling in winter) or a larger vehicle or 4 x 4 (travelling in summer).
Our Travel Experts will be happy to provide you with a quotation based on the most appropriate vehicle for your party.
Dates & Prices
We include more, no hidden costs
|Departure dates between|
Mon 01 May 2017Enquire
Thu 31 Aug 2017
|Adults£ 1,315||Single Adult£ 2,235|
Fri 01 Sep 2017Enquire
Sat 30 Sep 2017
|Adults£ 1,065||Single Adult£ 1,763|
Next year's provisional dates and prices
You can secure places on your chosen holiday for next year by making a ‘pre-reservation’ and paying a deposit. All departure dates, prices and itineraries for next season are provisional and subject to change. We will contact you when the final details are confirmed and you will have 14 days to decide if you would like to go ahead. If you decide not to travel we will refund your deposit in full. Our travel experts will happily provide you with full terms and a complete quotation.
|Departure dates between|
Sat 30 Sep 2017Enquire
Fri 30 Mar 2018
|Adults£ 1,005||Single Adult£ 1,760|
Sat 31 Mar 2018Enquire
Sun 29 Apr 2018
|Adults£ 1,445||Single Adult£ 2,470|
Mon 30 Apr 2018Enquire
Thu 30 Aug 2018
|Adults£ 1,385||Single Adult£ 2,355|
Fri 31 Aug 2018Enquire
Sat 29 Sep 2018
|Adults£ 1,120||Single Adult£ 1,855|
For our full booking terms and conditions please click here
Holiday group size (approximate)
Minimum 2 people
Most of our holidays require a minimum number of participants to operate. Minimum numbers are detailed on each holiday page and are always approximate. Group sizes for tailor made holidays will vary for each of the activities. For private departures you may also be joined by other guests during the activities unless you have discussed specific private activities with us.
If your selected date has not yet reached minimum numbers you will be informed at the time of booking. In the unlikely event that your chosen date has not reached the required minimum numbers nine weeks before your scheduled departure date we will contact you and discuss the various options available to you. We will always do all we can to operate a holiday and in some cases we may be able to operate the holiday by combining your itinerary with that of other guests for some activities (this may mean that the maximum group size is increased but this will be discussed in full with you).
If we are unable to operate the holiday then you will be offered the chance to transfer to an alternative holiday or date (subject to availability). If the alternative is more expensive you will be asked to pay the difference, if it is cheaper then you will be reimbursed. You will also be offered the option to cancel and receive a full refund of all monies paid.
Whilst Artisan Travel only sells holidays to those aged 18 years and over on a small selection of holidays there may be those under the age of 18 who have booked with other companies and where our local supplier also allow those under 18 to participate (additional activities during tailor made holidays for example). Our travel experts will answer any concerns you may have in this regard.
Medical History and advice
You must inform us at the time of booking if any of your party has a disability, medical or behavioural conditions which could affect their own participation in the holiday or indeed that of the other people on the holiday.
We cannot be held responsible for any incident or event arising from your failure to do so.
Experience and fitness
Any activities included in your itinerary are all designed for beginners. Full instruction and tuition is provided for all activities and you do not need to have any previous experience. For example you need never have set foot on a pair of skis of any kind before a cross-country ski tour. We have adults of all ages and fitness levels taking part in our holidays.
We do highlight certain itineraries where an increased level of fitness is required.If you have any questions at all with regards to fitness levels please get in touch and talk to one of our experts. You can find further details in our trip preparation section online. You must inform us at the time of booking if any of your party has a disability, medical or behavioural conditions which could affect their own participation in the holiday or indeed that of the other people on the holiday.
Guides and safety
It is absolutely essential when partaking in any activity that you listen very closely to, and abide by, the instructions provided. Nobody knows the environment better than our activity providers who work here almost everyday.
Consequently, their knowledge and experience is unsurpassed. If there is anything that you are unsure of during a safety briefing or that you would like to clarify with the guides please make this clear to them immediately before starting the activity.
There may be rare occasions when our guides consider local conditions unsuitable for a certain activity. Hence, your itinerary may be subject to change at short notice but we will always endeavour to firstly find a replacement on the day and secondly, to provide the cancelled activity later in your stay whenever possible. Very occasionally it proves impossible to provide the activity in which case you will be refunded when you return home.
Our guides' word on activities is always final and your safety is their principal concern at all times, please respect their decisions. By following their instructions, your safety and enjoyment during each activity will be greatly enhanced.
You must inform us of any medical conditions that may affect your participation in an activity at the time of booking.
Booking activities locally
In almost all of our destinations you can book and pay for additional activities locally. Please note that we cannot be held responsible for any injury or loss that occurs through any activities that are booked in your destination (see our terms and conditions for further details).
Please always ensure that your safety is your primary concern when arranging any such activity.
If your trip includes car hire the named driver must have a credit card registered in their name which they can present when they collect their car along with their driving licence, as a deposit will be held on the credit card. Please see your trip dossier for full details.
The aurora was on show again on our last night in Iceland - magic! 07 February 2016 by Alan Middleton
Having travelled last year to Lapland to view the Northern Lights and experienced the wilderness at Nellim I was keen to seek an experience to equal or surpass that trip. Wow, this trip to Iceland has done that for us from the moment we left. A trouble-free flight out of Bristol which was more conveninent for us than travelling to Gatwick from our home in Cornwall. Landed in Keflavik and within 15 minutes we had our bags and were picking up the hire car, a Toyota Rav4 AWD - a must have in the winter conditions, a normal car is just not up to the job for touring. The sat-nav was a bit hit and miss but this didn't phase us as we'd mapped our route in advance and knew the general location along route-1. The route over the mountains leaving Reykjavik was "interesting" on the ice and snow covered roads - glad we had the AWD vehicle. Stunning sights along the way to Hella for our first night, about 1.5 hours drive from Keflavik. Hotel Stracta (the substitute for Hotel Ranga that was booked out) was easy to find and proved to be a great location. Friendly and helpful staff, good food and comfortable rooms. There was a slight showing of the aurora on our first night but it was so faint (not helped by the light pollution from around the village - if they could only arrange to put lights out when an aurora shows like they did in Lapland) that it was not really worth the inconvenience at 1:30am in the freezing cold. We enjoyed our first sauna and hot tub in the snow - pretty cold getting back to the room in flimsy bathrobes! Over the next two days we travelled around the south shore - with some stunning waterfalls, black beaches, pounding surf, glaciers, icebergs, seals, Icelandic ponies and arctic landscapes. A photographer's paradise! The only negative for us at Hella was the hotel is geared up for coach loads of people - which did not present a problem for us - however, we enjoy smaller hotels with less people around. We left Hella for Hveragerthi to stay at the Frost and Fire Hotel. Wow - what a magic place this is set in alongside the river, thermal springs and vents (smell the sulphur), hot tubs and Northern Lights from your own balcony!! The food was simply sensational, we cannot recommend it highly enough. The next day was spent at Geysir and Gullfoss - awesome! Later we headed over to Blue Lagoon to see if we could swim/soak in the thermal pools - as we hadn't booked in advance (yes needed even in winter) we were going to have to wait for about 3 hours, so we decided to return to the hotel and use their hot tubs alongside the river instead - very relaxing. The aurora was on show again on our last night in Iceland - magic! The drive to the airport next morning in the blizzard was interesting but we had plenty of time to drop the car, check-in and relax in the airport before a trouble-free (although slightly delayed due to spraying the aircraft for ice) flight back to Bristol. We are now thinking of a return trip to Iceland in the Spring or Summer next year - it is the type of location you could return to over and over again seeing something new every visit. Best suggestion from a friend who had been working there was to take slip on crampons for your footwear in winter as all the paths to any attraction are covered in ice (not snow unless freshly fallen) - we walked everywhere without a hitch whilst others risked life and limb sliding everywhere.