I just returned from an epic vacation to one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever visited. Over the last two weeks, Julia, Owen, and I drove nearly 3000km on a road trip around Iceland. We covered the entire Ring Road and also traversed many side roads as we made our way around the island. I will be sharing our daily activities and a full guide to the Ring Road in the weeks ahead. For now, here are my 40 favorite photos that I hope will make you want to drive the Ring Road!
1.) To begin our road trip of the Ring Road, we made our way to Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavík. After 12 hours of travel and a 7 hour time change, we opted for a self guided walking tour of the city to help us adjust to the time change.
2.) Hallgrímskirkja is probably the most recognizable structure in Reykjavík. At 74.5 meters in height, this church is the tallest in Iceland.
3.) Harpa is a concert hall and conference center in Reykjavík. The mulitcolored honeycomb glass glistens, even in the rain.
4.) The Sólfarið Sun Voyager is a metal sculpture of a dream boat, and is located very close to Harpa.
5.) After a day of exploring Iceland, we began our adventure on the Ring Road. Our first day was spent driving Iceland’s Golden Circle. The first stop along the Golden Circle is Þingvellir (pronounced Thingvellir). Þingvellir is a famous rift valley, pictured below. Þingvellir is also the site of the creation of the Alþingi, the worlds oldest parliament that was created in the year 930.
6.) After visiting Þingvellir, we continued on the Golden Circle to Geysir, to see Stokkur erupt.
7.) After enjoying Geysir, we made our final stop along the Golden Circle to see Gullfoss. What makes Gullfoss so special is that the Hvítá river cascades down the first falls and then turns almost 90 degrees for the next fall.
8.) An extra stop we tacked on to the end of our Golden Circle exploration was Gjáin in Þjórsárdalur Valley. It is located next to the old viking settlement of Stöng.
9.) Horses are everywhere along Iceland’s Ring Road. I’ve seen a lot of horses in my life, and can say that none are as photogenic as the horses I saw in Iceland. Owen was a huge fan of the horses, so we made a lot of stops to let him enjoy their company.
10.) The weather in Iceland can give you a taste of all four seasons within a 24 hour period. We were a bit worried when we arrived in Reykjavik, as the 15 day forecast had rain in store for each day. As any local Icelander will tell you, forecasts of more than 48 hours are completely useless. We did get rain on our first three days, but after that it was all sunshine. If you’re going to drive the Ring Road, be prepared for a little bit of everything.
11.) Seljalandsfoss is one of the more popular and most photographed waterfalls in Iceland. As you can see in the photo, you can walk right up to, and behind Seljalandsfoss falls!
12.) Just after Seljalandsfoss you’ll see the wider and more powerfull Skógafoss.
13.) Skógafoss has a trail that allows visitors to hike up to the top and see the Skógá River before it heads over the edge.
14.) The Sólheimasandur plane crash site is an old US Navy DC-3 that ran out of fuel and crashed in 1973. From the Ring Road, visitors can take a 5 mile round trip hike to see the plane that still sits on the beach.
15.) One of the first major villages on the Ring Road after leaving Reyjavik behind is Vík í Mýrdal. Just before reaching Vik, travelers can visit the beaches of Reynisfjara and it’s otherworldly basalt sea stacks.
16.) Having a rental car in Iceland is the ultimate freedom. I loved being able to set our own journey to adventure our own way. I would recommend getting an SUV with some ground clearance and 4-wheel drive. There are a lot of dirt and gravel roads with major pot holes and rain ruts that a smaller sedan with 2WD just won’t handle. I partnered with Lagoon Car Rental for this trip and they set me up with a Nissan X-Trail. This car was amazing for all of our needs and had pretty decent gas mileage as well.
17.) Our next stop on the Ring Road was the Skaftafell wilderness area located within Vatnajökull National Park. Julia, Owen, and I did a little hiking to enjoy the views.
18.) The most iconic waterfall in Vatnajökull National Park is Svartifoss, also known as Black Falls for the dark basalt columns surrounding the falls.
19.) The Skaftafell area is surrounded by two glaciers, Skaftafellsjökull and Svínafellsjökull. There is a dirt road just east of the Skaftafell visitor center that allows you to drive up to and hike right alongside the Svínafellsjökull glacier.
20.) One of my favorite stops along the Ring Road was the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach. The Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier (part of the Vatnajökull Glacier), pushes down from Vatnajökull and into Jökulsárlón creating icebergs. These icebergs then flow out into the the Atlantic Ocean, break apart, and pieces wash back up on shore with the waves.
21.) The amount of beauty on offer in Iceland can almost be exhausting. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. On the first few days our road trip, we stopped the car every few minutes to take pictures and enjoy the surroundings. It wasn’t until about day 5 that we realized that’s just what Iceland looks like. Roadside mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, horses, and farms are just a part of the everyday scenery.
22.) As much as I loved seeing all of the beautiful landscapes in Iceland, it was also a lot of fun to watch the weather. I saw cloud formations twist and dance in ways that I’ll never forget.
23.) The weather and scenery in Iceland changes a great deal as you drive from the southern part of the island up to the north. Our first major stop on the northern side of Iceland was at Dettifoss where we caught this rainbow. Dettifoss is known to be one of the most powerful falls in all of Iceland.
24.) After visiting Dettifoss, we made our way to Leirhnjukur for some hiking. This is a geothermal area located near an old lava flow.
25.) Next to Leirhnjukur is the Krafla Viti Crater. This is one of the most famous Viti (hell) craters in Iceland. In 1724, a massive eruption of the Krafla volcano created this crater. You can hike a loop around the circumference.
26.) There is a geothermal plant in the area around Mývatn that uses the thermal energy of the water for energy. You can see a few of the man made pools along the Ring Road. The color of the water is absolutely stunning.
27.) Julia and I decided to take a day away from the Ring Road to explore the Troll Peninsula. The small fishing town of Siglufjörður was about as idyllic as they come.
28.) There is a ski area just outside of Siglufjörður. We drove up the dirt road to explore the local mountains a bit. The wild flowers were in bloom and the views were spectacular.
29.) For our evening on the Troll Peninsula we stayed in the small village of Ólafsfjörður. Getting around on the Troll Peninsula is some of the most fun, as the villages are connected by long tunnels in the mountains. One of the tunnels was only one lane. I had some white knuckle moments as other cars came in the opposite direction to pass. Luckily, we had this beautiful cabin on the water to relax at once we arrived.
30.) As I mentioned before, the horses in Iceland are nothing short of amazing. Photogenic and friendly, we could have spent our entire trip enjoying their presence.
31.) It’s almost as if the horses in Iceland enjoy meeting visitors as well. This entire team of horses lined up along the fence for this lovely group photo.
32.) After walking Camino de Santiago in 2012, I developed an affinity for small churches in tiny towns and villages. Iceland has these in abundance which made for a lot of really fun stops. Some of them were even the old turf roof structures.
33.) Speaking of turn roofed buildings, the structures at Glaumbær were beautiful. The farmhouse at Glaumbær has stood since the age of first settlements, around 900 AD. These buildings were constructed in the 18th century.
34.) Some of the more popular sites along the Ring Road can be a little crowded, as you get further away from the main road, the crowds die down. The most beautiful non-crowded site we came across had to be Kolugljúfur Canyon. There were only two people there when we arrived which allowed us to explore with a feeling of solitude.
35.) Hvítserkur is a 15m basalt stack located on the Vatnsnes Peninsula. The formation has the appearance of a dragon that is taking a drink. It was low tide when we visited, so we were able to walk right out to Hvítserkur for some exploration.
36.) For one of our nights, we stayed on a horse farm. As much as I love traveling, it can be very difficult leaving our two dogs behind. These Icelandic herding dogs must have felt that I was missing Isla and Lilly, because they played with me for quite a while.
37.) I’m a huge fan of fantasy and medieval history. I also love TV shows like Vikings and Game of Thrones. While visiting the Eiríksstaðir viking longhouse, I got to learn about the history of the vikings while dressed in their period armor!
38.) One of the most photographed sites in all of Iceland is the 463 meter Kirkjufell mountain with Kirkjufellfoss in the foreground. This site is located in the town of Grundarfjörður on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The Snæfellsnes Peninsula gets it’s name from Snæfellsjökull, which some may know from Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne.
39.) There is a lot to explore on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, one of our favorite areas was Djúpalónssandur. This sandy beach has great views of Snæfellsjökull and a lot of great hiking trails.
40.) It’s too warm to explore Iceland’s ice caves in the summer, but visitors can still go underground. The Vatnshellir Cave is a great place to start. This 8000 year old lava tube reaches depths of 35 meters. If you want to visit, bring warm clothes, it gets cold down there!
I hope you enjoyed these 40 photos from my Iceland Ring Road adventure, and I hope they’ve encouraged you to buy and ticket and make the trip yourself. As I mentioned above, I’ll be posting a lot of Iceland and Ring Road content in the near future, so make sure to subscribe and follow along so that you don’t miss any updates.
In future posts I’ll be covering gear, driving advice, accommodations, food, maps, and much more. I’ll also be sharing what it was like for Julia and I to drive the Ring Road with our toddler!