Updated: Aug 10
As Iceland emerges from yet another long winter, it’s time to start planning for the summer; particularly in relation to top day trips where you can rack up some kilometers on your camper-van!
There is so much to see in Iceland that it can be a bit intimidating to decide where to go. That’s why we’ve put together a helpful guide that covers our five favorite day tours in Iceland. So, what are you waiting for? Get ready to explore the Land of Fire and Ice for all its worth.
1. The Diamond Circle
Yes, you read that right – the Diamond Circle. Sure, The Golden Circle is great, but the beauty and sheer raw power that you will encounter on a drive around the Diamond Circle is out of this world.
Situated in the North East of Iceland, The Diamond Circle is a 250 km loop that incorporates two of the most incredible waterfalls in the country. You can imagine the competition they are up against- a large canyon with mystical origins, plus the pretty whale watching town of Húsavík.
Approaching from the West (about 30 km from the town of Akureyri) your first port of call will be the spectacular Góðafoss waterfall. This is the place where, legend has it, paganism was renounced and Christianity was embraced in Iceland.
The falls are about 12 meters (ca. 35 ft) in height, certainly not the tallest, but their impressive 30-meter width lends them a magnificence that will take your breath away.
Heading North on road number 85 you will come to the picturesque harbor town of Húsavík. Nestled on the shores of Skjálfandi bay, Húsavík is known as the whale watching capital of Iceland. There are numerous tour companies here that offer excursions to spot these huge majestic sea dwellers. You might also get to see some puffins if you’re lucky.
As you leave Húsavík heading North, the road hugs the coastline, offering spectacular views of the ocean before heading inland to Ásbyrgi canyon. This huge horseshoe-shaped canyon (allegedly created by Odin’s horse Sleipnir) has numerous walking paths leading through its base that you can easily stroll along as you take in the views of the imposing canyon walls.
Heading south from Ásbyrgi on the 862 will lead you to Dettifoss, the second waterfall to feature on the Diamond Circle. The most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss is simply an incredible awe-inspiring sight. In fact, we can safely say that you will hear its roar before you see it!
2. Lake Myvatn
Lake Myvatn is officially part of the Diamond Circle, but we happen to think that this nature haven and its immediate surroundings warrant a one-day trip of its own.
Myvatn is one of the largest lakes in Iceland and has a rich and diverse birdlife, with the landscape in the immediate vicinity being characterized by the volcanic activity that once dominated the area.
You can start the day off by driving with your campervan rental around the lake. Stopping off to check out the eruption craters at Skútustaðagigar and the strange yet beautiful lava formations at Höfði that also extend into the lake itself. (a scene from the popular TV show Game of Thrones was filmed here).
The lava formations get even more weird and wonderful at Dimmuborgir, just off the eastern coast of the lake. These huge columns and pillars of lava were formed when lava from an eruption flowed into a lake.
You can finish the day off by hiking up Hverfjall, a large explosion crater that offers gorgeous views over Lake Myvatn. Afterwards, relax in the geothermally heated waters of the Myvatn Nature Bath, an outdoor spa that easily rivals the more famous Blue Lagoon.
If you’re looking for somewhere to park the campervan for the night, then there is a well-equipped campsite at Vogar, right on the shores of Lake Myvatn.
3. Rauðasandur – Latrabjarg – Dynjandi
People often overlook the Westfjords when traveling around Iceland, which is a shame as its landscape is truly unique.
Distances aside, it would be futile to attempt to cover the entire Westfjords in one day, as the roads around here are, to put it politely, not the best. However, there are three sites located in the southern part of the fjords that are simply a must-see – Rauðasandur, Latrabjarg and Dynjandi.
You can easily visit all three places in one leisurely day trip in your campervan. We think the best (and most scenic) way of getting here would be to take the ferry from the pretty fishing town of Stykkisholmur in Snæfellsness.
After you have spent a full day exploring, there are a number of places to camp for the night. Our top pick is the town of Patreksfjörður, a stunning spot with excellent facilities.
Upon disembarking the ferry, your first stop will be Rauðasandur – Red Sands. This beautiful, remote and pristine beach stretches out for over 10 km. The sand, as its name suggests, consists of various red-colored shades and hues. This is a most welcome antidote to the monochromatic black sand beaches so synonymous with Iceland.
Rauðasandur offers spectacular views of the Snæfellsness volcano on a clear day, and if you're lucky you can even spot a seal or two. A charming French café house gives you the chance to unwind with a hot coffee and delicious snack before heading out to your next destination.
Slightly further west of Rauðasandur lies the stunning cliffs of Latrabjarg, one of the most popular destinations in the West Fjörds. These cliffs mark the most westerly point of Iceland (and for that matter Europe!) and feature an abundance of birdlife – including puffins – that you cannot see anywhere else in Iceland.
The cliffs are huge – up to 450 meters tall! Although they are beautiful to walk around, they are also dangerous as the edges can be loose and give way easily, so don't stand too close!
We don’t think you can ever get bored of checking out waterfalls in Iceland, but in case you start to feel that you’ve “seen them all before”, you should really check out the awesome and majestic Dynjandi. This huge (100 metres, or 300 feet if you prefer) waterfall is often likened to a bride’s veil because of its cascading white waters and unique trapezoid shape.
One of our favorite places to visit in Iceland is the huge lava cave at viðgelmir. As amazing as the cave is, it's the numerous stops en route to it that make this one of the best day trips you can take in Iceland.
Viðgelmir is located in Borgarfjörður, a beautiful part of West Iceland where the incredibly diverse landscape (hot springs, glaciers and waterfalls will all compete for your attention) is steeped in Icelandic culture and history. This is a saga country, and many of the characters from these epic tales have roots here.
Start off your day in the pretty town of Borgarnes before heading East on Route 50 to the hot (and we mean VERY hot – there’s no bathing here!) springs at Deildutunguhver.
These are the most powerful hot springs in Europe, a fact you’ll appreciate all too well as you get close to them! From here it’s just a short drive to Reykholt, a cultural center dedicated to medieval Icelandic author Snorri Sturluson.
Continue further East on route 518 where you will eventually reach the Hraunarfoss and Barnafoss. These waterfalls are unlike any other you will encounter in Iceland, so you simply HAVE to check them out. It’s a really nice place to park the campervan and maybe enjoy a spot of lunch before heading out to the lava caves.
Viðgelmir is the largest lava cave in Iceland, and well worth embarking on a guided tour. The lava formations deep inside this 1.5 km lava tube are breathtaking. A family-friendly adventure, seeing Viðgelmir is the perfect way to round off your day trip. Not to mention this site is only a short distance from the mighty Langjökull glacier – but that’s an adventure for another day!
5. The Ring of Riverdale
Whilst this day trip might sound like something out of a Lords of the Ring movie, it is a very popular day trip in the Eastfjords for both locals and tourists.
The eastern part of Iceland is particularly known for its warm, dry summers and large forests, both of which are at a premium in other parts of the country! In fact, this is yet another part of Iceland that is criminally overlooked, so get in your campervan and head East!
The Ring of Riverdale itself is an approximate 60 km road trip around the beautiful Lagarfljöt lake. According to local legend, it is home to a giant worm-like monster but unfortunately there have been no recorded sightings as of yet! Lagarfljöt is situated right by the town of Egilsstaðir, so you can stock up on supplies before heading out.
There are plenty of things to see and do as you cruise around this magnificent lake – here are a couple of our suggestions.
This is the largest forest in Iceland and you can spend hours wandering along its over 30 km of hiking paths, congratulating yourself on finding one of the few forests in the land!
If you’re feeling a little adventurous, then Quad biking and horse-riding tours are available. Alternatively, you could simply relax and take in the nature at the arboretum. It’s worth noting that there is also a campervan-friendly campsite here.
No day trip in Iceland would be complete without a beautiful waterfall, and this particular one is an absolute beauty. Hengifoss has a towering 130 meters (400 feet) tall cascade of water flowing over an equally impressive backdrop – huge basalt rocks with streaks of bright red clay.
The hike up Hengifoss takes about an hour from the car park, and while it’s steep in some places it isn’t too challenging. One thing’s for certain: the results are definitely worth it!
Roaming around Iceland!
Iceland is a stellar destination for a self-drive holiday in a campervan. These are our pick of the 5 top day trips, but we could have easily added a load more.
With a wide selection of campervans and motorhomes available for hire on our website, it won’t be hard to secure your perfect house on wheels!