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Looking for the ultimate road trip? Look no further than Iceland's iconic Ring Road. Circling the island country for approximately 1,332 kilometers (828 miles), the Ring Road offers some of the most breathtaking landscapes you'll ever encounter: glaciers, icebergs, fjords, waterfalls, hot springs, geysers, volcanic mountains, and smoking craters.
Also known as Route 1, Iceland's Ring Road commences its mesmerizing loop from the capital Reykjavik, guiding you through an unforgettable expedition. Explore the serene Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, where massive icebergs float serenely, or venture into Vatnajökull National Park, home to Europe’s largest glacier and incredible ice caves. Discover the mystical beauty of the East Fjords, with their dramatic cliffs and charming fishing villages, or visit the otherworldly Mývatn area, known for its geothermal wonders and unique volcanic formations. Driving the entire Ring Road typically takes around eight to 10 days, but you can customize your journey to suit your needs.
Let the adventure unfold as you embark on a well-rounded Ring Road trip in Iceland!
- From England
Driving the entire Ring Road circuit takes around 8-10 days, considering a leisurely pace and time for sightseeing. However, the time required can vary depending on weather, road conditions, and the number of stops you make. If you do not want to miss any of the incredible attractions along the way, consider a 10-day itinerary.
The most scenic road trip map to Ring Road starts with a Reykjavik trip, from where you head east, exploring the cascading waterfalls of the South Coast, the captivating Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, and the charming East Fjords. You then continue north to visit the geothermal wonders of the Mývatn area and the iconic Goðafoss waterfall. Head west next to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, known for its dramatic landscapes and picturesque Kirkjufell mountain. Finally, return to Reykjavik to complete the Ring Road loop.
When you plan your road trip, you’ll face the dilemma of whether to embark on a self-drive tour or join a group in a shared vehicle. Well, there are pros and cons to each option. Opting for a self-drive adventure gives you the freedom and flexibility to create your own itinerary and explore at your own pace. Whether in a rental car or a campervan, you can stop whenever you want, take detours to lesser-known spots, and spend as much time as you like at each destination. And if you prefer a hassle-free pre-planned adventure and enjoy sharing experiences with other like-minded travelers, then a group trip might be for you. Joining a group trip offers the convenience of having experienced guides and organized itineraries. You can relax and let someone else take care of the logistics while you focus on enjoying the sight.
When driving the Ring Road, it’s crucial to be mindful of the following:
- Traffic rules: Driving Iceland’s Ring Road is generally safe, thanks to the country’s excellent traffic rules and regulations. Off-road driving is prohibited on Iceland roads as it can damage fragile ecosystems and result in hefty fines. While driving the accessible roads too you must watch for loose gravel, potholes, and unexpected wildlife crossings. Iceland follows right-hand driving, and the speed limits are typically set at 90 kilometers per hour (56 mph) on paved roads and 80 kilometers per hour (50 mph) on gravel roads. However, the roads in Iceland are mostly narrow, so the speed limit may not always be applicable; you need to use your best judgment. Every passenger is required to wear a seatbelt, and children must be using safety equipment appropriate for their weight. Tourists can drive in Iceland with a valid driver’s license from their home country or an international driving permit.
- Best time to travel: The Ring Road is accessible year-round. However, smaller, gravel roads that lead to certain attractions, such as the Hverfjall crater, are closed off during winter. The summer months of July and August will give you the best weather conditions for driving and enjoying the stops along the way. For the high season in summer, be sure to book your accommodations well in advance. Spring and autumn (April/May and September/October) are also good times to take a road trip in Iceland. You can avoid the summer crowds during these periods. Between November and March, winter can be dangerous and should generally be avoided. For more information on the weather, please read our guide on the best time to visit Iceland.
- Gas stations: To drive the entire stretch of the Ring Road, ensure your vehicle has enough fuel. Gas stations are available at strategic stops along the route, where you can refuel and restock supplies. Plan your breaks accordingly to avoid running low on fuel in remote areas. Also, check whether the gas station you have chosen as a pit stop only has a self-serve credit card payment system or provides full service ranging from gasoline to selling snacks to having in-house restaurants.
- Stay connected: GPS is vital in Iceland as there are long stretches of road where you will be completely alone. It might take a while before you find anyone to ask for directions. Buying a prepaid Iceland SIM card will give you access to internet data, GPS, emergency services, and a way to keep your loved ones updated on your trip. It’s also a good idea to leave someone with your itinerary so they know your travel plans and can alert the authorities if there is a problem. You can submit your travel plan to www.safetravel.is for ICE-SAR to begin a search and rescue if anything should go wrong on your trip.
- Check the weather: Iceland’s weather can be unpredictable, and conditions can change rapidly. It’s essential to check the weather forecast regularly and be prepared for rain, wind, fog, and snow, depending on the season. Drive cautiously in adverse weather conditions, adjust your speed, and follow any safety advisories or road closures.
- What to pack: Iceland’s weather can change in an instant, no matter the season. Be sure to pack adequate clothing that consists of lots of layers. Don’t forget your hiking boots and waterproof clothing. Also, be sure to pack a complete first aid kit and a torch in case of an emergency.
- Day 1: Reykjavik
Arrive in Reykjavik, Iceland’s vibrant capital city. Explore the charming streets, visit iconic landmarks like Hallgrimskirkja Church, and indulge in the city’s renowned culinary scene. Stroll along the waterfront and soak in the lively atmosphere of the city.
- Day 2: Reykjavik – Grabrok - Akureyri
Distances: Reykjavik – Grabrok: 87 kilometers (54 miles) / Grabrok – Akureyri: 200 kilometers (124 miles)
Leave Reykjavik and drive north towards Akureyri. It’s a relatively short and scenic drive, making it an ideal stop to explore and enjoy the surrounding landscapes. Don’t miss the Grabrok volcanic crater, where you can hike to the top for panoramic views. Continue to Akureyri, known as the “Capital of North Iceland.” Explore the town’s botanical gardens, enjoy local cuisine, and take in the beauty of the surrounding fjords.
- Day 3: Akureyri - Lake Myvatn
Distance: Akureyri - Lake Myvatn: 93 kilometers (58 miles)
Embark on a scenic drive to Lake Myvatn, a geothermal wonderland. It’s a relatively short and picturesque drive to the beautiful Lake Myvatn area. Along the way, you can enjoy the scenic landscapes of northern Iceland and anticipate the natural wonders that await you at Lake Myvatn. Visit the mystical Dimmuborgir lava formations, dip in the Myvatn Nature Baths, and explore the Krafla volcanic area. Marvel at the bubbling mud pools of Hverir and witness the powerful Godafoss waterfall.
- Day 4: Lake Myvatn - Namaskard - Egilsstadir
Distances: Lake Myvatn – Namaskard: 23 kilometers (14 miles) / Namaskard – Egilsstadir: 196 kilometers (122 miles)
Continue your journey eastward, passing through the Namaskard geothermal area with its striking fumaroles and colorful mineral deposits. Head to Egilsstadir, a town surrounded by picturesque landscapes. As you travel from Namaskard to Egilsstadir, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the region’s diverse natural beauty, including mountains, rivers, and picturesque valleys. Explore the serene Lagarfljot Lake and enjoy outdoor activities like hiking or fishing.
- Day 5: Egilsstadir – Vatnajokull - Hofn
Distances: 1 Egilsstadir – Vatnajokull: 60 kilometers (99 miles) / Vatnajokull – Hofn: 120 kilometers (75 miles)
Drive south toward Vatnajokull National Park, home to Europe’s largest glacier. This scenic drive will take you through the beautiful landscapes of eastern Iceland. Prepare to witness awe-inspiring glacial scenery and experience the grandeur of the Vatnajokull National Park. Explore the park’s icy wonders and join a guided glacier hike or ice cave tour. Continue to Hofn, a charming fishing village known for its delicious langoustine (lobster) dishes. Enjoy a scenic walk along the harbor, explore the local culture, and soak in the breathtaking views of the mountains and the Vatnajokull Glacier.
- Day 6: Jokulsarlon - Skogar - Hvolsvollur
Distances: Jokulsarlon – Skogar: 150 kilometers (93 miles) / Skogar – Hvolsvollur: 28 kilometers (17 miles)
Visit the famous Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, where you can admire floating icebergs and even spot seals. Visit the nearby Diamond Beach, where ice chunks glisten like diamonds on the black sand. Continue along the scenic South Coast of Iceland from Jokulsarlon, stopping at iconic attractions like Skaftafell Nature Reserve, Svartifoss Waterfall, and Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. Once you reach Skogar, visit the famous Skogafoss Waterfall and explore the Skogar Museum to learn about Iceland’s rich cultural heritage. Then head to the small town of Hvolsvollur, where you can make a pit stop, refuel, and visit the nearby Lava Center to learn about Iceland’s volcanic activity.
- Day 7: Hvolsvollur - Golden Circle - Reykjavik
Distances: Hvolsvollur - Golden Circle: 70 kilometers (43 miles) / Golden Circle – Reykjavik: 50 kilometers (31 miles)
From Hvolsvollur, embark on a trip to the Golden Circle. Visit Thingvellir National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site, where you can walk between the tectonic plates. Witness the mighty Gullfoss waterfall and the geothermal area of Geysir, where Strokkur erupts every few minutes. Return to Reykjavik and spend the evening exploring the city’s vibrant nightlife.
- Day 8: Reykjavik
Take this day to explore Reykjavik further. Visit museums like the National Museum of Iceland or the Harpa Concert Hall. Discover local shops and boutiques in the city center, or simply relax at one of the city’s many geothermal pools and spas.
How long does it take to drive the entire Ring Road in Iceland?
Driving the entire Ring Road in Iceland usually takes between eight and 14 days, depending on your pace and the number of stops you make.
Do I need a 4x4 vehicle to drive the Ring Road?
While a 4x4 vehicle can be advantageous, it is not strictly necessary. The main road is well-maintained, and the most popular attractions can be reached by car. However, you can consider a 4x4 vehicle for driving the Ring Road during extreme weather conditions or if you need the added benefit of extra space.
Can I camp along the Ring Road?
Yes, camping is a popular option for travelers driving the Ring Road. Numerous campsites along the route have toilets, showers, and cooking areas. Familiarize yourself with camping regulations and respect the environment while enjoying your camping experience.
Is it necessary to book accommodations in advance?
It’s a good idea to book your accommodations in advance, especially during the peak tourist season (June to August), when availability can be limited. However, if you’re traveling during the shoulder or off-season, you may have more flexibility in finding hotels en route. Camping is also a popular option for those seeking a more flexible itinerary.
Embarking on a road trip along Iceland’s Ring Road is an adventure like no other. From awe-inspiring landscapes to breathtaking waterfalls and charming towns, this epic journey offers an unforgettable experience. With proper planning, flexibility, and an adventurous spirit, you can explore the wonders of Iceland and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Want to replicate the sample itinerary in this guide or make your own? Fill our our Iceland customized trip to plan an itinerary that is perfect for your taste.