Explore the natural wonderland of Iceland. See the country’s majestic glaciers, massive waterfalls and mountains, all while following one of the most scenic roads in this part of the world. This travel guide takes you on an exciting road trip around Iceland’s Ring Road, discovering the country’s best attractions along the way.
1350 kilometers (840 miles) in total
Before setting off on your road trip in Iceland, have a look at some of the essential information listed below.
For starters, the remote country is home to some of the most dramatic, untouched landscapes on the entire planet, and the lack of civilization is beyond fascinating.
Explore the best of this country during an epic road trip in Iceland, with a start and finish in Reykjavik, the capital city. Admire the monumental waterfalls, photograph the astonishing glaciers, and relax in the never-ending green fields all around the country.
If your main priority is experiencing the best weather, consider going between June and August. Keep in mind that it is also the peak tourist season and some of the spots might get relatively crowded.
Planning a road trip to Iceland between September and November? That’s when the weather gets harsher, though there are fewer tourists and you will have a chance to see the Northern Lights.
Driving around Iceland is an absolute pleasure, the scenic driving roads provide spectacular views and are very well-maintained. What’s more, the freedom to change your itinerary, skip a city, or extend the road trip whenever you please can only be achieved when traveling by car.
Car rental companies in Iceland offer a range of cars, from budget-friendly compacts through to buffed-up 4×4’s that will get through any terrain.
For extra peace of mind during your road trip, Rentalmoose recommends adding excess coverage when booking your rental car.
Once you’ve picked up the car, don’t forget to take photos of the car to qualify for a 50% discount from the excess coverage fee.
Don’t forget that driving off-road is illegal in Iceland. Don’t wander off paved roads or gravel paths.
Tourists can drive in Iceland as long as their domestic driver’s license is written in the Roman alphabet. If your license is in a different alphabet, i.e. Arabic or Mandarin, you will need to obtain an International Driving Permit in your home country before leaving. Click here to learn everything you need to know about IDPs.
Remember that you always need to present your driver’s license along with your International Driving Permit.
Additionally, UK driver license holders need to provide evidence of any driving endorsements.
Think twice before speeding in Iceland. Not only is it very dangerous due to the roads’ unpredictable conditions, it can also drain your trip budget. Penalties for speeding in Iceland vary between 180 and 630 Euros.
If you do happen to get caught speeding in Iceland, there are two options for tourists to pay their fines.
If you’re pulled over by a police officer, you can choose to either pay on the spot (the penalty is then reduced), or pay the full price once you receive your ticket in the mail.
You can dispute a speeding ticket and go to court if you believe you were fined unfairly.
Photography by Marcel S.
Your trip around Iceland’s Ring Road begins in Reykjavik, the capital of what is probably the most remote country in Europe. Pick up your rental car in town and begin exploring the marvelous country of Iceland!
Hallgrimskirkja is a monumental, unique church in the heart of Reykjavik and the second tallest building in Iceland. Its strange architecture is inspired by the country’s nature, travelers can admire the exterior or take the stairs atop the tower that overlooks the entire city. Admission costs around 1000 ISK (6.7 EUR).
Walk across the street from Hallgrimskirkja cathedral and you will end up in the Einar Jonsson Museum. The artist offered all of his works as a gift to the people of Iceland in 1909, in return for receiving a museum to house the art. The idea followed through and the museum has remained open ever since.
Examine the sculptures inside of the gallery, as well as the ones scattered around town. The museum is open all week except Mondays between 12 PM and 5 PM.
Drive south for roughly 40 minutes until you reach Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s most famous geothermal spa.
Admission costs around 7000ISK (46 EUR) per person. Go for a swim in the warm outdoor pools, have a drink at the in-water bar or relax in the sauna.
The Blue Lagoon is open all year round.
Looking for more attractions in Reykjavik?
If you’re looking for more fun things to do, check out this insightful travel guide by Ecksplorer.
For your first night in Iceland, consider checking in at the remote Ion Adventure Hotel.
The stylish 4-star hotel is a getaway situated around 45 minutes from the city, featuring spacious rooms and suites with a panoramic view as well as an outdoor pool and a spa, along with a selection of day tours and adventures. Guests can unwind at weekly yoga sessions, perfect before an exhausting day.
Would you rather stay in the city?
Spend the night at the affordable Hlemmur Square Hotel and Hostel.
The 3-star hotel offers 18 elegant rooms, either ensuite or with a shared bathroom, as well as a convenient location along one of Reykjavik’s main shopping streets.
Next on your Iceland road trip: Vik, 2 hours 30 minutes
Seljalandsfoss waterfall captured by Ecksplorer.
As you head towards Kalfafell, there are multiple hotspots that are worth at least a quick peek. Set off from Reykjavik early in the morning to have enough time to see all of the attractions.
The first stop on your road trip is at Seljalandsfoss, a gorgeous 60-meter tall waterfall. It is one of the most popular waterfalls among tourists, as it can be admired from every angle. Tourists can walk inside the cave to get behind the powerful stream of water and appreciate it from a unique perspective.
Keep in mind that although admission is free, visitors are required to pay 700ISK (5.7 EUR) for parking. The funds are used to maintain the car park and nearby facilities.
Continue along the Ring Road for another 30 minutes until you reach another, equally monumental waterfall: the Skogafoss. This waterfall features a drop 2 meters longer than the Seljalandsfoss and is situated along the former coastline.
On the right-hand side of the waterfall, you will find a hiking trail that will take you up the cliff where you can photograph Skogafoss from above.
Unlike Seljalandsfoss, the parking at Skogafoss is free of charge.
The DC-3 plane wreck is a photographer’s dream. Photography by Steve Riot.
Follow the Ring Road for another 10 minutes. To be completely honest, this attraction is very easy to miss as it is not visible from the road at all. Roughly 10 kilometers away from Skogafoss, you will see a car park and a gate in the middle of the field. Park your car and follow the black sand trail for around 50 minutes.
If you pass any tourists on your way, you are probably in the right place. At a certain point, you will see an eerie plane wreck emerge on the horizon.
The DC-3 had crash-landed on the beach (everyone onboard survived) in the 70s and remained in the same place ever since, becoming one of the country’s photography hotspots.
A sight you can’t miss in the South Coast of Iceland is Reynisfjara Beach. Located just 20 minutes from the car park leading to the DC-3 wreck, the glorious black sand beach is unlike any other place on the planet.
Stroll along the black sand beach, examine the surreal rock formations or watch the view while enjoying a sip of coffee at the Black Beach Restaurant.
Then, continue along the South Coast of Iceland to the town of Vik.
Spend the night in Vik, a peaceful village by Reynisfjara Beach. Consider checking in at the Hotel Kria, a stylish 3-star hotel that features modern rooms and suites with a breathtaking view, a bar and restaurant, and a complimentary car park.
Hotels in Iceland are relatively costly, therefore it may be crucial for some travelers to find budget-friendly accommodation.
Book your room at the cozy Farmhouse Lodge, a property roughly 10 minutes away from Vik and just 250 meters off the Ring Road. Parking is available at no extra cost.
Next on your Iceland road trip: Höfn, 3 hours 30 minutes
Svartifoss Waterfall. Photography by Ronile.
As you continue along the road, make sure you have enough petrol prior to leaving Vik. After Vik, there is no gas station for around an hour.
Make your first sightseeing stop of the day at Fjadrargljufur.
The massive river canyon is believed to be almost ten thousand years old. Game of Thrones fans might recognize it, as the canyon was featured in the series.
The canyon stretches for around 2 kilometers and is roughly 100 meters high. The slight detour from the Ring Road is definitely worth it!
The next spot that’s worth a visit is the Skaftafell National Park, specifically the Svartifoss Waterfall inside of it (pictured above).
The waterfall’s surroundings are green, despite being situated near the glacier.
The hike between the car park and the waterfall itself is below 1 hour each way and can be challenging compared to Seljalandsfoss.
No Iceland road trip would be complete without a stop at the Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon.
Turn left right as you cross the monumental bridge and park your car at the car park. From there, you can choose to go on a boat tour around the lagoon or explore the ice caves (seasonal) on a guided tour.
The current pricing can be found here. There is a cozy cafe by the car park where you can choose from a selection of snacks and beverages.
If you’re not in a rush, cross the road onto the beach. The area was named “The Diamond Beach”, as there are large chunks of ice resting on the black sand all over the coastline. Rentalmoose wouldn’t qualify the beach as an absolute must-see, but it is worth dropping by if you’re already at the Ice Lagoon.
Stop for the night in Hofn, one of the largest towns in Southeastern Iceland. Consider booking a room at the cozy Milk Factory. The guesthouse features 17 recently-renovated modern rooms with spectacular views of the Vatnajokull glacier, great hospitality, and a complimentary car park.
If you want to experience a night in a cozy cabin, and have slightly deeper pockets, book your stay at the Aurora Cabins.
The cabins feature modern interior, a sun terrace and unbeatable views of the area. Complimentary parking is available for all guests.
Next on your Iceland road trip: Egilsstadir,3 hours 30 minutes
Set off from Hofn in the morning, your first stop is not far out of town. Turn right from the Ring Road right when you see the small sign for Stokksnes (directly before a large left turn) and follow the road all the way to the end.
You can park your car and take a stroll along the beach, with a perfect view of the Vestrahorn mountain in the background. Tour the village that was part of the “Vikings” hit series filming set. If you’re lucky, you might spot a sea lion or too.
The entry fee to Stokksnes is below 1000ISK (6.6 EUR).
Next, enjoy a scenic drive along the Ring Road all the way up to the town of Egilsstadir, the largest town in Eastern Iceland. Be prepared, as there isn’t much civilization between Hofn and Egilsstadir, make sure you are topped up on petrol before continuing the trip. Enjoy the absolutely unreal views, if you’re lucky you might spot reindeers and sheep.
If the weather allows it, you can take a detour from the Ring Road and visit Hengifoss, one of the tallest waterfalls in the entire country, prior to your arrival in Egilsstadir.
The waterfall is roughly a 50-minute hike from the car park, and there are lots of activities available nearby. Adventure junkies can go on ATV tours, relax at the hot springs or discover the ruins of a 16th-century monastery at the Skriduklaustur cultural center.
Hengifoss Waterfall photographed by Jacqueline Macou.
Once dusk falls, consider spending the night at the Valaskjalf Hotel.
The cozy hotel offers clean rooms in a quiet part of town. Enjoy a daily breakfast buffet or a fun evening at the hotel bar. Complimentary parking is available.
Next on your Iceland road trip: Akureyri, 3 hours 20 minutes
Unbelievable Hverir geothermal site. Photography by Adrian Kirby.
Depart from Egilsstadir and continue along the Ring Road, crossing the country’s glorious mountain passes and highlands. Turn right at a junction onto route 864 and follow it for roughly 30 minutes until you reach the Dettifoss Waterfall car park.
Hike down for around 15 minutes and you will get a clear view of Europe’s most powerful waterfall. Half a million liters of water plunge down the 44-meter drop every single second. The sight is truly spectacular.
If you follow the 864 gravel route until it finishes, then turn left onto route 85 and turn left to visit the Asbyrgi, a breathtaking glacial canyon. Enjoy one of the hiking trails or photograph the lake in the middle of the canyon.
Once you get back on the Ring Road, make a stop at Hverir right before the lake of Myvatn. The fascinating geothermal site sits at the foot of the Namafjall volcanic mountain. Observe the out-of-this-world hot springs, steam vents and many more.
The site looks like the surface of another planet and can’t be missed when in Iceland!
Next, make a stop at the Godafoss Waterfall, meaning “Waterfall of the Gods”. This natural wonder is located just off the Ring Road, no detour is necessary. The hike to get the best view of the waterfalls may be challenging as the rocks are wet and slippery, mind your step!
It’s a must on any Iceland road trip!
The hiking trail loop to Godafoss is just below 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) in length.
Godafoss Waterfall photographed by Nathan from Pixabay.com
For your night in Akureyri, consider checking in to Hotel Kea.
The 4-star hotel is located in the center of town and is a great alternative to the remote hotels around the country. Modern rooms, breakfast buffet included in the room rate as well as complimentary parking make Hotel Kea an attractive choice in town.
Next on your Iceland road trip: Reykjavik, 5 hours
Photography by Marcel S.
The final day is also the longest, with almost 400 kilometers to cover. The West of Iceland is the most remote part of the country and the majority of attractions here require a major detour off the Ring Road.
Don’t miss the Grabrok Crater on your way to Reykjavik.
The massive crater rises around 170 meters above ground level, so it is hard to miss. Park your car at the public car park and hike up to the stairs for the best view.
The hike up the crater and back to the car will take you under an hour in total and is most definitely worth doing.
As you approach Reykjavik, be sure to stop by the cute town of Borgarnes.
The little village is situated on a picturesque peninsula, if you’re lucky you can spot two glaciers from Borgarnes.
Stroll around the colorful streets, enjoy the view from the coast and indulge in the town’s peaceful atmosphere.
When you get hungry, go for lunch at the Settlement Center.
The restaurant, one of the oldest in the area, serves a variety of Icelandic dishes, such as fresh fish and lobster tails. After lunch, enjoy one of the exhibitions hosted at The Settlement Center, where you will gather insight about the region’s history and culture.
Don’t forget to book your rental car via Rentalmoose for your next road trip. On our platform, you can find the top rental companies at the best price, along with tens of curated travel guides around the globe. Get your car from Rentalmoose!
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