Planning a road trip around Iceland? Well aren’t you in for a treat!
With mountains, glaciers, craters, rugged coastlines, charming towns, an abundance of geothermal activity and an endless amount of waterfalls, there’s no denying that Iceland makes for an epic road trip. It’s a land of infinite beauty; as you drive along the ring road you’ll be wanting to stop every five minutes!
Whilst the beauty of road tripping means that no two routes will be the same, I’ve put together this 10 day road trip guide in the hope that it will give you plenty of insight into the places you can visit! And if you still can’t decide on whether or not to visit Iceland check out this post!
What you do on your first day all depends on what time you arrive! Our flight landed at around half 3 in the afternoon, so by the time we’d picked up our hire car, checked into our accommodation and had dinner it was quite late! We decided to head straight to The Blue Lagoon, to spend a few hours soaking in the glorious geothermal waters.
Yes, it’s expensive, but if you’re into thermal baths and relaxing, the Blue Lagoon is definitely for you! The price varies depending on what time you visit, so I would suggest pre-booking to ensure you get the cheapest deal.
Spend your night in… Keflavik / Reykjavik
The Golden Circle
Set off from your accommodation and get ready for the road trip of a lifetime! Spend your first full day exploring the most popular route for tourists; The Golden Circle. The main highlights showcase what the country has to offer! To begin, make your way to the Þingvellir National Park, which plays host to many of today’s sights. Don’t miss:
- Öxaráfoss – a waterfall that flows over the North America tectonic plate.
- Þingvallavatn – Iceland’s largest lake.
- Geysir – a spouting hot spring that spurts boiling water into the air every 8-10 minutes.
- Gullfoss – the most impressive waterfall of the route!
- Kerið – a volcanic crater lake which was formed about 6,500 years ago!
There are many places to see Icelandic horses, some of which offer food for a small donation. They are one of the most purely bred horses in the world, and to ensure this is maintained, Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported, and exported animals aren’t allowed back in!
If you’re looking for some hidden gems, check out this post!
Spend your night in … Keflavik / Reykjavik / Selfoss
It’s time to start your journey around the ring road! Head south along Route 1, and prepare yourself for the rugged southern coast! Your first stop will more than likely be Urraðifoss, which holds the title as the most voluminous waterfall in the country.
Related Post: 14 Must-See Waterfalls in Iceland
Next, make your way to Seljalandsfoss & Gljúfraúi, two waterfalls located within a five minute walk from each other. At the first, you can walk behind the waterfall, but be warned: you’ll get soaked, so bring a raincoat (though that goes without saying if you’re travelling to Iceland). The second is partially hidden behind a large cliff, but can be accessed through a narrow crevice. Again, you’ll get wet!
The last waterfall for the day is Skógafoss. Here a path leads to the top of the waterfall and continues along a track where you’ll spot several more waterfalls!
If you think you’ll have time, stop at the Sólheimasandur plane crash wreckage. You used to be able to drive to this 1973 wreckage, but since local landowners banned access for vehicles, you now have to walk 4km from the road. Luckily all crew members survived the crash, and now it’s become a popular photography location for tourists! Here’s how you can find it.
Follow onwards to Dyrholaey, where you’ll see an abundance of natural rock formations and bird life at this small peninsular! As you make your way to Vik, make sure you don’t miss the sign leading to Reynisfjara, an incredible black sand beach with towering, balsalt sea columns! There are signs here warning tourists of strong currents, so just be careful.
Spend your night in… Vik / Kirkjubæjarklaustur
Vik → Höfn
Get back into the car and head towards Höfn! The theme of the day will be impressive glaciers and fascinating glacier lagoons!
One of my favourite spots along the southern coast was Fjaðrárgljúfur, a 100m deep canyon that was apparently formed at the end of the last ice age – around 9000 years ago! It’s a slight detour from the ring road down a dirt track, but take it from me, the view is worth it!
Spend the rest of your morning exploring the Vatnajökull National Park where there are various hiking trails, including the walk to Svartifoss, a waterfall surrounded by dark lava columns. You can find out more here.
The afternoon can be spent at Fjallsárlón & Jökulsárlón – these two glacier lagoons are fascinating! Whilst the former is less-known and thus less-crowded, the latter is definitely the most impressive. I could have easily stayed there for a while longer, just watching the icebergs slowly drift to the ocean. Don’t forget to cross over the road to see Diamond Beach, where huge icebergs wash up upon the shore!
Spend your night in… Höfn
Höfn → Egilsstaðir
Hopefully you’ll get blessed with beautiful weather when travelling through the east fjords! I would definitely suggest taking a slight detour from the ring road to see the fjords in all their glory! On your way you’ll come across the town Djúpivogur which hosts an outdoor sculpture called Eggin í Gleðivík that consists of 34 eggs, each one representing a local bird.
Egilsstaðir will be your base for the night, so once you’ve reached the town you have a bit of time to explore the area. If you choose to head to Hengifoss like we did you’ll be driving alongside lake Lagarfljót. According to legend, the depths of this lake are home to a serpentine monster; the Lagarfljót Worm! Sightings date back to 1345, the most recent of which was in 2012 when a local farmer captured footage on his camera.
You might also notice something in this area that has been lacking so far in your Iceland road trip… trees! That’s because you’re on the doorstep of what’s considered to be Iceland’s largest forest; the Hallormsstaður National Forest.
You’ll eventually reach the car park for Hengifoss. Reaching this waterfall involves a 2.5km hiking trail, but is definitely worth the time and effort it takes!
Spend your night in… Egilsstaðir
Egilsstaðir → Akureyri
This is quite a jam-packed day, so set off a little bit earlier so that you have time to see all the sights! You should first take a slight detour from the ring road to see Dettifoss & Selfoss; two waterfalls located nearby to each other. Whilst the former is Europe’s most powerful waterfall, my favourite was actually the latter, which receives less attention, but has an abundance of character.
Once in Mývatn there are a range of different things to see. Including:
- Lake Mývatn – a volcanic lake, which was created by a large balsaltic lava eruption 2300 years ago!
- Námafjall – a geothermal area, boasting hot springs and bubbling mud pools!
- Dimmuborgir – a large area of lava fields and formations.
- Hverfjall – an immense circular crater created as the result of a volcanic eruption.
- Skútustaðir – an array of impressive pseudo-craters.
Once you’ve left the area, your next sight will be Goðafoss. This incredible waterfall will appear as if out of nowhere as you drive along the ring road!
Spend your night in… Akureyri
Akureyri → Staður
Today you have two choices; stick to the ring road, or venture upwards towards the northern fjords. We opted for the latter, following Route 82 from Akureyri. If you choose this route, be prepared to enter many tunnels. You can eat your lunch at Siglufjörður, a little town that is surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
Next, head to Glaumbær. This adorable turf house museum showcases 18-19th century rural life in Iceland, when turf houses were built to insulate against a difficult climate!
Spend your afternoon exploring the area. Visit Kolugljûfur, a less-visited gorge, which plays host to Kolufossar Falls. Apparently these falls are named after a giant troll! Then take the dirt track to Hvítserkur, a rock formation which has been said to resemble a dinosaur drinking.
Spend your night in… Staður
Staður → Westfjords
Time to head west! Are you ready for a lonnnng day of driving? This was our longest day in Iceland; we spent a total of 8 hours driving and didn’t get in until 10pm! We drove around long, winding roads that took us high into the snow-covered mountains. If you’re thinking of heading this way, it’ll be worth it, especially if you see whales in Hólmavik like us! Drive all the way to Ísafjörður, the largest town in the westfjords.
There’s no denying that Dynjandi will be your main stop for the day, which is recognised as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the area. On one side you have this incredible, thunderous waterfall, surrounded by six others (all of which my sister and I had to have a photo with!), and on the other you’re looking out towards a beautiful fjord, lined with snow-capped mountainside. Just incredible.
Spend your night in… Bjarkalundur
This is definitely one of my favourite areas in Iceland, hosting an abundance of diverse landscapes (like you’d expect anything less!). Your first sight will be Kirkjufell, the most photographed mountain in Iceland, and it’s not hard to see why! Get ready to capture this incredible waterfall and mountain combo.
As you head along the peninsular you’ll come across Dritvik & Djupalonssandur. Here you can walk through various lava formations to a beautiful pebble beach, which hosts the remains of a 1948 Grimsy fishing trawler shipwreck.
Next you’ll come to Hellnar, which is among the oldest fishing ports in the peninsular. You can either walk along a 5km return coastal track or drive to the next town Arnarstapi. Once there, don’t miss Miðjá, a natural arch formation. As you come into the town, turn left and follow the road along until you come to a car park right at the end. You’ll see the fishing port, and if you follow the path to the right which reads ‘Hellnar’ you’ll eventually come across this natural arch!
Spend your night in… Akranes / Reykjavik
As you start to make your way back to the capital, it will became clear that you’re travelling into a more built up area; there will be a lot more cars on the road! It’s worth noting that there are two ways you can reach Reykjavik from the Snæfellsnes Peninsular; the first along Route 47 will take longer, but the second along Route 1 takes you through an underground tunnel with a toll fee of 1000ISK. Once in Reykjavik, don’t miss:
- Hallgrímskirkja – undeniably one of the most unique and impressive structures in Iceland, this Lutheran parish church is something you just have to see in the capital! You can take a lift to the observation deck for around 900ISK.
- Harpa – this concert hall and conference center is another one of Reykjavik’s iconic structures.
- Sun Voyager – walk along a waterfront path to this sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason.
- Tjörnin – this picturesque natural lake is a perfect spot to relax and watch the bird life!
Top Tips for your Iceland Road Trip:
- Be prepared for all kinds of weather – Iceland’s weather can change without warning, so come prepared!
- Book ahead – I would suggest always booking your accommodation well in advance. For a start, it isn’t cheap, and you’re likely to get it for less if you book in advance!
- Download maps.me – this app was invaluable during our road trip around Iceland! You essentially download maps whilst connected to the internet that you can use when offline. A great tool to use alongside your paper map!
- Shop at the discount supermarkets – the main supermarkets in Iceland are Bónus, Nettó and Krónan. Food in Iceland can be very expensive. I would suggest making pack lunch and eating in for dinner when you have facilities to do so! Food items like pasta and rice are cheap, whereas meat and cheese are not!
- Eat at N1 – Occassionally you might find yourselves needing to eat out. If you’re trying to save money, I would suggest eating at petrol stations. These offer affordable fast-food options, such as burger and chips.
Are you planning on visiting Iceland? If you’ve enjoyed this post or found it helpful, please share or comment in the section below!
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