Exceptional Iceland – The Golden Circle, Glacier Lagoon and Reykjavik
- 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 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’ tab for details
- Accommodation: 2 nights Frost and Fire, 2 nights Hotel Ranga and 1-night Reykjavik Centrum Hotel
- Meals: 5 breakfasts
- A comprehensive guidebook, detailed map of Iceland and driving instructions are provided
- A note on flights: flights are not included in the holiday price so that the best possible fares and schedule can be found at the time of booking. There are low cost and scheduled flights operating this route and our travel experts will happily provide a quotation and arrange the flights as part of the package
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 & Visit Iceland
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. We recommend to book this activity in advance, please contact our Travel Experts for a quote. Due to its proximity to the airport it 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.Included Meals: None
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.Included Meals: Breakfast
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.Included Meals: Breakfast
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).Included Meals: Breakfast
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 (depending on the time of year).
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.Included Meals: Breakfast
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 Meals: Breakfast
Please note: From October until April, Hotel Oðinsve will replace Hotel Holt.
Included in price
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.
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.
Image credit: Visit Iceland
Iceland is famed for its glaciers and on day two 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.
Please ask one of our Travel Experts for a quote.
Image Credits: Arctic Adventures
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 a dry suit, flippers and snorkel and you will be in the water for around 30 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 £45 per person.
Please ask one of our Travel Experts for a quote.
Image Credits: Arctic Adventures
Upgrade your car hire
Guests can choose to upgrade their inclusive car hire to a larger 4 x 4 (if travelling during Sept-April) or a larger vehicle or 4 x 4 (May-August).
Our Travel Experts will be happy to provide you with a quotation based on the most appropriate vehicle for your party.
Dates & Prices
Thank you for your interest in this Artisan Travel experience.
Our Travel Experts have been to all the destinations we feature and love to share their experiences and insight. We want to match you with your perfect trip, so if you have any questions please get in touch; we will be happy to talk through the destinations and itineraries with you.
Every aspect of our holiday in Iceland was superb thanks to the first class service provided by Artisan Travel. The hotels and car hire were perfect in every way
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.