Summer self drive tours in Iceland
Summer is definitely the best time to do a self drive tour of Iceland. It is warmer and drier, for one, and most of the country is opened up, including the tough ‘F’ roads in the centre. It is light for most of the day, too, with northern parts seeing midnight sun, so you can drive any time of the day.
Many visitors take on a complete tour of Iceland and that is made easy by the main highway, Route 1. The ‘Ring Road’ goes right around in a loop, taking in all areas. There is awesome scenery along here despite being the main highway and it is well looked after and has hardly any traffic, even during the busiest times of year.
You will still need to be more alert than usual however, as there are mountain passes to negotiate, along with narrow bridges, blind bends and wandering animals. Route 1 also gets gravelly in parts, though these sections are signposted and typically remote.
The only part of Iceland that Route 1 doesn’t get into is the West Fjords, although this region is easy to get to from the main highway. You can do the entire loop in around a week, including stops at attractions and overnights in towns and villages.
South Iceland is home to some of the most impressive, and certainly the most visited, attractions. The best of it is you can get to them within a relatively short drive from Reykjavik. The so-called Golden Circle is the star drive, featuring nice falls, geysers and access to Þingvellir. Want to see the original Geysir? It is here, as is the much visited Gullfoss waterfall, nestled in a deep canyon of the Hvítá river.
There are many other worthwhile falls in south Iceland, along with charming towns like Vik. This region is crisscrossed with rivers and glaciers, such as the famous Eyjafjallajökull glacier and that of the massive glaciers of Vatnajökull National Park. For hiking, the sublime Landmannalaugar lava region is more inland and approachable by four-wheel drive.
On a summer self drive tour you can easily access eastern Iceland from the south. The main road continues along the south coast, past the front of Vatnajökull National Park and its glaciers. Worth stopping at are the Jökulsárlón Lagoon, for its icebergs and cruise, and the relatively nearby town of Höfn.
This harbourisde town is a good launch point for drives to the East Fjords; a lesser visited, though no less impressive, version of the more accessible West Fjords. The roads are typically lonely and the scenery unending, with headland after headland and villages of interest. Route 1 hugs the coast partway before heading back inland towards the north via the Fljótsdalur valley and the beautiful Hallormsstaðaskógur forest.
The main highway then loops round the top shores of Lake Mývatn, a top attraction of the Icelandic north, with great hiking and bathing at nearby Krafla Volcano. From here a good idea is to head up to Húsavík, a sizeable town with popular whale watching tours. Akureyri is the main centre of north Iceland, though it still quite small and easy on the eye with a backdrop of big mountains. You’ll also find Iceland’s best skiing around here.
From Akureyri, it’s only a four or five-hour drive back to Reykjavik (in the summer), unless you detour up to the West Fjords and spend another couple of days there. It features wonderful seascapes and seaside national parks.
While you can drive much of this route in the summer, with a four-wheel drive you can also hit the famed F roads at various stages en route, and even cut across large sections of Route 1. Good driving skills are needed for these as they are all unsealed, crossed by numerous rivers, often high and windy and are also remote.
Summer self drive tours of Iceland typically start from, and end at, Reykjavik, which itself sits on a charming peninsula that is home to the Blue Lagoon as well as the airport. The Blue Lagoon is a major talking point and an easy drive from the city. Blue Car Rental pick-ups and drop-offs can be organised at hotels there, or indeed in Reykjavik and at the airport.
For great deals on hire cars in Iceland in summer, visit www.bluecarrental.is.
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