Ring Road, Iceland
The Ring Road, also known as Route 1, is an awe-inspiring road that runs around the country of Iceland. Starting at Reykjavik, the road takes you past incredible volcanoes, icebergs, waterfalls, and magical northern lights. It’s a must-see for any tourists who visit Iceland!
If you are searching for an unforgettable road trip experience, take a journey around Iceland’s Ring Road. The country is visually captivating in a way I have not seen anywhere.
A stunning new Icelandic landscape appears from every corner.
Driving a car in Iceland and self-driving with Ring Road’s beautiful geothermal springs, bubbling cracks in the road, rainbows in the sky, waterfalls, glaciers, massive waterfalls all day long.
Whether you are traveling around the country on your own, or with a group of friends, you will definitely want to prepare. It is important that you know where to stay and what to see. With this handy guide, I can help you plan out your trip
Ring Road Iceland Travel Map
HOW TO USE THIS MAP: Turn to the map of Iceland you’ll find on page 78. Click on the top left of the map to display a separate set of layers that mark the route and points of interest. You may toggle between hidden and main layers or click icons on the map to see which names I mention in this travel guide. #### To save the map, click on “View Larger Map” in the upper-right corner of the screen.
Iceland Travel Restrictions 2021
Yay! Iceland will allow travelers who have received the required vaccination against the deadly Avian Flu to visit. Tourists who have been vaccinated may be allowed to enter starting on April 6th.
Hotels attractions and private tours are open with a new health and safety protocol in place. Many hotels have been forced to operate at only 50-60% capacity because of the new regulations.
You can find the latest updates on traveling to Iceland here.
Iceland Ring Road Driving Guide
The Ring Road around Iceland encircles the entirety of the country. In fact, the Ring Road stretches over 800 miles, which you can see from above via a map.
While you can technically drive the whole thing in less than 24 hours the reality is it will take at least a week to drive with stops on along the way.
This is because you’ll be stopping a lot. Like every five minutes!
There are so many incredible photo opportunities in Iceland that you’ll find yourself constantly stopping for photos. I spent 10 days in Iceland and had 7 full days to drive the Ring Road.
If I had spent a few more days on the Ring Road, I would’ve seen more of this city.
You’ll certainly want to stay on the Inca Trail for at least seven days. It is possible that you will miss some of the highlights, though, as you will be moving for those seven days. However, those seven days should be filled with wonderful sights and experiences.
There was a time when the weather in Iceland was extremely unpredictable. The weather is still unpredictable, but it never snows anymore.
Rental Car Or Campervan?
If you want to rent a car, it’s best to book with Discover Cars.They search both local and international car rental companies to help you find the best possible price. This is the easiest way to rent a car for driving in Iceland.
There are many different types of tours available. Some bus tours will drive through the route, while others offer self-drive options. It’s best to try to find a tour that offers both options. You can stop at any time for as long as you like, giving you total freedom of choice.
I drove the ring road in Iceland. As an alternative to staying in a motel, I stayed in a campervan, which covered my accommodation cost.
My truck had a fold-down bed sink with running water electric cooler gas grill battery-powered heating system and large solar panel.
UPDATE:Icelandic laws have recently changed so that you cannot spend the night in a campervan anywhere outside of designated campgrounds. You must park at designated campsites and there are many of them.
Planning An Iceland Road Trip
Where To Start From
Most travelers start their Ring Road drive from Keflavik International Airport, others spend a few days exploring Reykjavik from a hotel first. You can drive the route in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction but I recommend driving counterclockwise to hit the most touristy parts of Iceland. The first.
Gas is very expensive in Iceland. To be exact, it’s about $2 USD per liter ($7.50 per gallon). In addition, gas stations are not that common around towns but are more frequent in the countryside. Foreign credit cards may need to be used inside rather than at the pump where they’re more likely to get
Fill up whenever you can, especially if the weather turns bad. The price for gas for a round trip from Chicago to DC or from New York to LA was around $300 USD.
Groceries In Iceland
Before you go on a trip, stock up on groceries to make sure you have enough for the road. Food in Iceland is expensive — there’s a famous budget supermarket called Bónus that’s perfect for this. You can’t miss it – it’s the giant cartoon
Many gas stations along the ring road also offer pre-made sandwiches hot soup and basic groceries for sale too. So you can buy some general food supplies along the way.
GPS & Mobile Phone
If your phone’s SIM is unlocked you can buy a local prepaid Icelandic SIM card from the Vodafone Store at Kringlan Shopping Mall in Reykjavik. This gives you access to GPS maps internet data and weather reports.
What Should You See?
I’d recommend picking a few highlights and loosely planning your journey around them. Most people start their Ring Road adventure at Reykjavik or Keflavik Airport.
Here I’ll show you my suggested 7-10 day itinerary with highlights you shouldn’t miss. You’ll also find a few adventure activities that must be booked in advance.
My Iceland Ring Road Itinerary
DAY 1: The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is a 1-day road trip that starts from Reykjavik, Iceland. I wrote an article about this adventure in a separate section. This 300 km (190 mi) route covers many beautiful landmarks in a short period of time so it’s perfect for people who are on a long layover.
The main attractions in Iceland are located in the capital, Reykjavik. The city is a great starting point for longer ring road tours of the country. The city is also known for its thriving harbor and many must-see attractions such as Þingvellir National Park and the historical Hallgrímskirkja church.
Thingvellir National Park
The place where Iceland’s first Parliament was built and where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly splitting apart from each other is called Silfra. You can spend a lot of time here walking the trails, or you can go snorkeling or scuba diving between the plates.
Geysers At Haukadalur
An impressive geothermal area featuring two natural geysers that erupt every few minutes. Churning boiling water that smells like eggs, it isn’t long before you can witness the eruptions!
This wide and fast-moving river turns a corner and plunges down 100 feet into a thundering waterfall. From here most people head back to the Ring Road or to Reykjavik.
➜ Read My Golden Circle Travel Guide Here
Golden Circle Guided Tour
In the spirit of adventure, take a day-long tour to explore the best of Iceland’s Golden Circle with a professional guide and transportation.
WHERE TO STAY ON THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
DAY 2: Iceland’s South Coast
You’ll be driving through the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall [MAP] next, and it’s a pretty spectacular sight with its 200-foot waterfall. You can get behind the waterfall for a good view of the falls and then continue on to your final destination.
Shooting a photograph behind a waterfall at sunrise can be difficult, as the spray often gets in the way. Another great location to shoot is from a hill on the right. Just be careful because it’s slippery going up.
After that you can drive to another massive waterfall known as Sogafoss [MAP]. The waterfall is only minutes away from the previous site, but the road leading there is quite strenuous. However, once there it’s easier to see all kinds of beautiful rainbows. On-site, a wooden stairway offers visitors an enjoyable place
Skaftafell National Park
One activity you should not attempt on your own is hiking across Iceland’s famous glaciers. If you have never hiked on a glacier before I recommend joining an adventure!
There are a lot of different glaciers to explore in Iceland, but perhaps the most popular one is called Vatna Fissure Glacier. It’s massive and there are a number of trails where you can explore it.
Sólheimajökull Viewpoint [MAP] is a popular place for tourists to get photos. All you need to do is step onto the upper level of the viewing platform, and you’ll find yourself admiring one of Iceland’s most awe-inspiring sights—a glacier
Hike A Glacier In Iceland
Step onto a glacier in Iceland and discover what it’s like to wade through a river of ice.
Sólheimasandur Plane Crash
Abandoned airplane wreckage on Sölheimasandur Beach is one of Iceland’s most iconic photography locations. In 1973 a United States Navy DC-3 crashed here and was left to its fate. This plane has since made it into a bunch of music videos and so is well known.
You can park your car and hike out to the plane on foot and explore the remains. If you like, I’ve provided detailed directions to make sure you see this famous place first-hand!
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Often referred to as the world’s most beautiful black sand beach, Reynisfjara [MAP] is a must-visit location for travelers. This wild rugged beach was formed by lava and ocean water mixing with each other.
I wouldn’t recommend sunbathing on this beach but you will get some amazing photo opportunities here. From the black sand itself to the cliffs and caves, Reynisfjara is an impressive sight.
South Coast Guided Tour
If you would like to take an interesting day tour, then you should join a South Coast tour. Travelers will visit the best attractions of Iceland’s South Coast with a guide and transportation.
WHERE TO STAY AROUND VIK
DAY 3: Iceberg Lagoons & Ice Caves
This magnificent canyon has been around for thousands of years. It began life about 9000 years ago as a result of erosion, which carved out the narrow winding path through its middle. I was thrilled to walk in this gorge without getting my feet wet. However, if you want to avoid water wading through the canyon, I recommend exploring it from above the Fjärårgljúfur Canyon. Be aware that the path is steep but the view is well worth the effort.
Svartifoss Black Waterfall
The black basalt columns that flank the narrow flow of water from Svartifoss (aka the “Black Waterfall”) will make you feel like you’ve discovered a new planet. Depending on whether you decide to take the direct or more circular approach, you can expect to walk an estimated 2 miles up a mountain stream. You can reach the waterfall area. You can’t actually enter the actual bucket-wad, but you’ll get close enough for great photos.
J & ouml; kuls & aacute; rl & oacute; n Iceberg Lagoon
Breiðamerkurjökull glacier is slowly melting with giant blue-tinted icebergs breaking off and floating into a large lagoon called Jökulsárlón. The ice collects on its shores while some pieces continue on and
Kukulcan glacier lagoon is such a cool place (pun intended) that you can spend most of the day there. Don’t forget to visit the nearby ocean beach where some icebergs are pushed onshore by waves.
J & ouml; kuls & aacute; rl & oacute; n Beach Tour
Explore the highlights of Iceland’s South Coast on a 14-hour sightseeing tour from Reykjavik to Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon.
Explore Magical Crystal Ice Caves
If you’re traveling in Iceland for photography, you can’t miss the beautiful ice caves beneath the Vatnajokull glacier. Melt-water creates these intricate natural ice tunnels with sunlight filtering through the ice giving them a blue tint.
Ice caves in Iceland are difficult and perilous to reach. To visit them you will need to hire a guide. For safety purposes, you can only visit them in the winter (starting in November) when the ice has hardened up and the risk of collapse is low.
Crystal Ice Cave Tour
Take your camera inside the world’s largest glacier as you marvel at heavenly shades of blue. Led by a certified glacier guide, you will explore this magnificent glacier and all its wondrous colors.
WHERE TO STAY AROUND HOFN
DAY 4: Egilsstadir & The Eastern Fjords
Driving The Coastline
Now you’re officially in the middle of nowhere. Eastern Iceland is a wild and rugged wilderness of rocky mountain peaks winding black-sand coastlines, where the weather can change quickly.
There is a lot of driving in Iceland without many towns. You’ll be weaving in and out of fjords all day, but you won’t have to stop too long to rest. So, turn up the tunes and take in the majestic Icelandic scenery. A lot of people stop for a night at Egilsstaðir
Sheep & Reindeer Spotting
Eastern Iceland is home to many sheep and reindeer. Yup, reindeer! Keep your eyes on the road because a herd can suddenly cross your path without warning.
Pay special attention to the sheep on dark nights or in bad weather. In winter, sheep are enclosed within their fences, but during the summer and fall they roam free throughout the countryside.
Hunting Northern Lights
You can see the Northern Lights every night driving in circles on the Ring Road in the north. On the east, you can always find clear skies for stargazing. When I was in Norway, I had 3 nights of great aurora activity and clear skies.
Traveling at night will help you spot the Northern Lights. Read this post for tips on how to photograph the phenomenon.
Premium Northern Lights Tour
Take your family on a trip to the Northern Lights. Be amazed by the colorful displays!
WHERE TO STAY IN EAST ICELAND
DAY 5: Myvatn & More Waterfalls
Icelandic Mountain Passes
Established in the year 930, it is believed that Faskrissfjardarháng Tunnel consists of approximately 4 miles and is located in Iceland. It goes underground and up to 1,000 feet, but no one knows exactly where. What a long boring drive!
During the winter months, Route 1 is covered in snow. During the summer months, you can drive a 4×4 to explore more of the area.
Dettifoss is one of the greatest waterfalls in Europe. It has over 13,000 gallons of water rushing past it every second! It’s equally beautiful and overwhelming.
Most visitors head to the waterfall’s west side, but the east side is a great place to take pictures. The view from the east is very impressive, but it’s also very dangerous if you get too close to the edge. Especially when the rocks are wet! Watch out for falling rocks!
Godafoss Waterfall is famous for several reasons. Its impressive width of over 100 feet and its location on the north coast, makes it a favorite destination for many tourists and photographers alike. More importantly however, if you visit this watery wonder during the right time of the year you may be able to witness the phenomenon of “The Aurora Bore
Godafoss is not derived from the height of a very tall waterfall, but it has the width and power to remind me of Niagara Falls. The falls are known locally as the “Waterfall of the Gods” because an Icelandic legend involving Norse statues and their conversion to Christianity.
Pulling back onto Route 1, you’ll soon get to the Myvatn Lake area in Northern Iceland. Volcanic activity is high with some fun hot springs and other geothermal features to explore. One such place is Námafjall Hverir geothermal area. You can get up-close-and- boiling mud pits or steaming fumaroles.
WHERE TO STAY AROUND MYVATN
DAY 6: Akureyri & North Iceland
Fly Over An Active Volcano!
Akureyri has lots of things to do, but one in particular is pretty special. Flying over Iceland’s Bárðarbunga Volcano (also called the Holuhraun eruption) was an incredible experience. The lava broke through the surface there and was spewing huge rivers of molten rock
Flying over an erupting volcano had been on my bucket list for years. I’m so happy I got to watch the power and fury of nature up close like that! To book a small plane for this journey, I used MyFlug.is, an online booking service. A flight was much cheaper than a helicopter ride
2021 UPDATE:Unfortunately, the Holuhraun Eruption of Iceland ended back in February 2015. However, the Fagradalsfjall Volcano continues to erupt outside Reykjavik!
Whale Watching In Iceland
Because I was waiting for the weather to clear up for my volcano flight I didn’t have a chance to go whale watching in Iceland. But it is very popular and can be done from June through October.
Whale Watching Trip
Set sail on a whale-watching cruise to try and spot minke whales, dolphins, porpoises and more.
WHERE TO STAY AROUND AKUREYRI
DAY 7: Snæfellsnes Peninsula
It is easy to choose between driving around Iceland or flying directly to Reykjavik. I flew so that I could make time for the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Kirkjufellsfoss is known for being one of the most photographed waterfalls in Iceland, located West of the town of Grundarfjörður.
Búðakirkja Black Church
One of my favorite things about Iceland is that it’s so easy to get away from city life. The country is very isolated and deserted, which helps you to escape the noisy city noise. The only two buildings in Búðir are a hotel and a tiny church named B&u This black church sits in a lava field and it also has lots of green space behind it. Be careful not to fall into any of the big holes that dot the grassy landscape.
WHERE TO STAY ON SNÆFELLSNES
DAY 8-10: Explore Reykjavik
If you’re back in Reykjavik, there are a couple of exciting things to do here! First, Reykjavik is a vibrant city. There’s a lot of interesting street art to see and cool nightlife to enjoy. Second, the city has some really innovative architecture. Modern buildings have been constructed from
Iceland’s Hallgrímskirkja Church towers over Reykjavík and is the tallest church in the entire country. Naturally this has made expressionist architecture one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions. The two most notable aspects of the church are its steeple and its bell tower The statue of Leif Ericksson and the huge mechanical pipe organ. See if you can ride the elevator to the top and get some nice views of the city.
Harpa Concert Hall
Harpa Concert Hall is a modern building in Reykjavik, Iceland, that features an unusual facade made of glass. The building stands out because of its unique architectural style and because the exterior is illuminated by light. There are no performances held at Harpa Hall during your visit, but you can schedule a tour if there’ pulsating with colorful lights, the building puts on a show of its own.
This natural geothermal pond in the middle Reykjavik attracts geese swans and ducks year-round along with picnicking families and couples looking for a romantic walk. Locals refer to the pond as the “Biggest Bread Soup in the World” due to all of the bread that is offered to the birds. A local A small environmental tip is to offer seeds instead of bread to birds. It’s healthier for them!
Reykjavik Walking Tour
See the highlights of the world’s northernmost capital on a fun walking tour of Reykjavik, Iceland.
The Blue Lagoon
You can’t visit Iceland without a visit to the Blue Lagoon. It’s located about an hour away from Reykjavik, closer to the airport. Visiting the lagoon is expensive but well worth it!
The Blue Lagoon is not really a natural lagoon, it’s actually man-made using surplus water from the nearby geothermal powerplant. But bathing in the warm mineral-rich waters surrounded by Iceland’s dramatic volcanic landscape still makes for a fun time!
Blue Lagoon Bus Transfer
Easy transportation to the Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik is available. You can travel there every hour on the hour.