The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide
Iceland Ring Road Travel Itineraries

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Itinerary And Guide

A road trip around Iceland's Ring Road is a bucket list dream adventure for many travelers. Planning for a Ring Road vacation can leave one feeling a bit overwhelmed, so in this guide, I've organized everything you'll need to get the most out of your Ring Road adventure. 

A road trip around Iceland’s Ring Road is a bucket list dream adventure for many travelers. Waterfalls, mountain peaks, black sand beaches, glaciers, hot springs, geysers, quaint villages, and wildlife await visitors at every turn. Planning for a Ring Road vacation can leave one feeling a bit overwhelmed with the abundance of sites and activities on offer in Iceland. In this guide, I’ve organized everything you’ll need to get the most out of your Ring Road adventure.

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide


Contents:


When To Visit Iceland

The best time to visit Iceland for a Ring Road adventure is during the summer months. The days are long and the weather is rather pleasant…for Icelandic standards. Don’t visit Iceland in the summer thinking you’ll have sunshine and blue skies though. You very well may end up with rain on each day of your trip. Our trip started with three days of cold rain, and finished with a week straight of blue skies and sunshine. Be ready to experience all four seasons on your trip to Iceland, you might even see them all in one day! If you’re afraid of rain and variable weather, don’t visit Iceland! It’s quite likely that you’ll be doing a lot of site seeing in less than ideal circumstances.

Snow can arrive in Iceland as early as September. F-roads will be closed for winter, and hiking can be quite difficult. As winter progresses, the days grow short, but the Northern Lights grow bright.

The major downside to visiting Iceland in the summer is that you’ll be joined by throngs of other tourists at the most popular attractions. This increase in tourism creates a supply and demand problem for rental vehicles and accommodations, pushing prices up. For this reason, late spring and early fall are also good options.

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide


Getting To Iceland

Unless you already live in Iceland, you’ll need to book a flight from your home county with a destination of Keflavik Airport (KEF). There is a budget Icelandic airline company called WOW, that will save your quite a bit of money. There are a multitude of airlines that fly into Keflavik though, so your options are quite good.

Keflavik Airport is 50km from downtown Reykjavik, so you’ll need to take a bus (Airport Express, Flybus), taxi, or rent a car to begin your adventure.

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Driving Around The Ring Road

The Ring Road (Þjóðvegur 1) is a 827.7 mi highway that runs along the circumference of Iceland. You’ll end up driving a lot more than that on your way to seeing a bunch of Iceland’s best sites towards the island’s interior. On our Ring Road trip, we covered just north of 3,000km!

Deciding on a mode of transportation is one of the most important decisions you’ll make on this trip. For this reason, I’ve put together a separate post titled “The Ultimate Guide To Renting A Car For Iceland’s Ring Road“. Make sure to read through this entire post before deciding on a vehicle. You will find a list of contents for this post below.

The Ultimate Guide To Renting A Car For Iceland's Ring Road


Booking Ring Road Accommodations

If you’re visiting in the summer and you don’t plan on camping or sleeping in a camper van, you’ll need to book accommodations well ahead of your trip. This is the only way to ensure you’ll be able to reserve budget friendly options. When I say “budget friendly”, I mean in relation to the prices of accommodations across Iceland. To save money, look for hostels or guesthouses if you don’t mind sharing rooms and/or restrooms. For private hotel rooms, you can expect to pay from $100-$300, depending on location and hotel offerings.

As an Expedia+ Gold member, I booked all of my accommodations through Expedia.com. There are some other great booking sites though. My top four picks are:

Rooms in Iceland tend to be on the small side, although they were much larger than the places we booked for our Japan trip last year! Rooms listed with full beds are usually just two twin size beds pushed together. Internet access and cell phone coverage is really good all around the island, and every hotel we stayed at had solid wi-fi.


Buying Food Along The Ring Road

Food in Iceland is expensive, especially if you eat out at restaurants. I’ve put together a separate guide post titled “7 Ways To Eat On The Cheap And Save Money In Iceland“. You can read this post for all of the details on how to save money and where to shop, but I’ll also list the seven money saving tips here:

  1. Pack A Suitcase Full Of Food And Snacks
  2. Book Accommodations That Include Breakfast
  3. Book Accommodations With Microwaves and Kitchenettes
  4. Shop At Grocery Stores And Supermarkets
  5. Eat At Gas Stations
  6. Bring Bottles And Drink Tap Water
  7. Don’t Drink Alcohol Or Buy It Duty Free

7 Ways To Eat On The Cheap And Save Money In Iceland


15 Must Have Gear Items For Iceland

In this gear section, I’m going to focus on items that you shouldn’t leave home without. If you forget anything, Reykjavik has plenty of great stores, but you’ll pay a premium.

  1. Rain Jacket
    • You’ll need this waterproof layer for rain, wind, and waterfalls. A waterproof shell will work well in the summer. You’ll probably want a waterproof parka in the winter. Browse REI
      The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide
  2. Layers
    • It’s important to pack layers and dress accordingly. The weather can change quickly in Iceland, and you’ll want to be prepared. I had days where I was sweating like crazy while hiking under the sun, only to have to layer up when clouds obscured the suns warmth.
  3. Down Jacket
    • A down jacket is a must, even in the summer months. Browse REI
      The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide
  4. Camera Gear
    • This is a no brainer for Iceland. I travelled with my Sony a7ii camera body and Sony 16-35mm lens. The 16-35mm was the perfect zoom range to cover wide angle landscapes and get close when need be. I wish I would have brought a telephoto like the Sony 70-200mm for more wildlife shots. Bring extra batteries, memory cards, a waterproof back, and a few microfiber towels to help clear rain from your lenses.
  5. Guide Book and Map
  6. Smart Phone With Data
    • I use T-Mobile, and love their international plan. For only $25 per month, I was able to get unlimited text and data.
  7. Bathing Suit
    • If you want to enjoy the Blue Lagoon and other hot springs, don’t leave home without your bathing suit.
  8. Good Hiking Shoes
    • Iceland is a large volcanic rock with trails that can get muddy and slick. A solid pair of hiking shoes is a must if you plan to explore the island on foot. A standard pair of trail running shoes will work well during the summer months. You’ll probably want something a little warmer in the winter. Browse REI 
      Gear Review: My Trail Co Storm UL Rain Jacket
  9. Summer Sleep Mask
    • It doesn’t get dark at night during the summer months, and most hotel black out curtains let in quite a bit of light around the corners. Browse Amazon
  10. Power Adapters
    • Iceland uses the type E or F outlet with 220v.
  11. Driving License
    • If you plan on driving around the Ring Road, don’t forget your driver’s license. This is absolutely required to pick up your rental.
  12. Camping Gear
    • This is only for those not staying in hotels. Some of the camper van companies will provide gear for you. If you’re planning on camping around Iceland on your own, I’m going to assume you know what you’re doing. If you have not experience camping, I would suggest that you don’t make Iceland your first attempt.
  13. A Solid Day Pack
    • You’re going to be doing a lot of short day hikes to access all of the sites along the Ring Road. Make sure to have a comfortable day pack to carry water, snacks, camera gear, and layers. I brought my waterproof HMG Southwest 2400, but any day pack will do.
  14. Water Bottle
    • Iceland has pure and drinkable tap water. If you bring a bottle with you, you’ll never have to purchase water from the store.
  15. Sunglasses
    • When you visit Iceland in the summer, you’ll be treated to nearly 24 hours of solid day light. You don’t want to forget your sunglasses!

My 11 Day Ring Road Itinerary

One of the most frequent questions I see asked about the Ring Road is “How many days does it take?”. There really is no right or wrong answer here, as you need to take advantage of the time that YOU have available. If you plan on driving the entire Ring Road, I would suggest a minimum of 7 days. Anything less than that, and you’d pretty much spend the entire trip in your car driving. For my tastes, 10-14 days is the ideal amount of time. This will allow you to stop and appreciate each site without feeling rushed.

We started our Ring Road trip with a exploring the city of Reykjavik. We skipped the Blue Lagoon (it’s right next to Keflavik Airport) on day 1 and saved it for our final day. From Reykjavik, we made our way counter clockwise around the island, starting with The Golden Circle and Southeast Iceland. In the guide below, I will provide a map as well as a daily itinerary.


Reykjavik

Ring Road Day 1: Self Guided Walking Tour of Reykjavik

After flying into Keflavik airport, we picked up our rental car and drove for 45 minutes to downtown Reykjavik. I put together a separate guide post for a self guided walking tour of Reykjavik, so make sure to check that out. This self guided tour starts at the iconic Hallgrímskirkja, before passing famous sites like Harpa concert hall and the sculpted metal Sólfarið boat.

Reykjavik Self Guide Walking Tour Sites

  • Hallgrímskirkja church
  • Tjörnin lake
  • Listasafn Islands National Gallery of Iceland
  • Fríkirkjan í Reykjavík church
  • Reykjavik City Hall
  • Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík historic community college
  • Stjórnarráðið prime ministers office
  • Harpa concert hall
  • Sólfarið – Sun Voyager sculpture
  • Laugavegur shopping street

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide


The Golden Circle

Ring Road Day 2-3: The Golden Circle

In-depth Golden Circle Guide

After spending a day walking around Iceland and adjusting to the time change, we made our way to Iceland’s Golden Circle. Our original plan was to spend day-2 on the Golden Circle and day-3 hiking Glymur, but a heavy rain storm forced us to change our plans. We opted to do a little more exploring near The Golden Circle route and found some great options that were ideal for rainy conditions.

In-depth Golden Circle Guide

Þingvellir National Park was our first stop along The Golden Circle. Þingvellir is the location of Lögberg, or Law Rock. This outcrop is home to the original national parliament of Iceland. Þingvellir also has waterfalls and the site of the rift valley that marks the Mid Atlantic Ridge.

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

After visiting Þingvellir, we made our way to the Strokkur Geysir. We wanted to stop at the Bruarfoss Waterfall on the drive over, but the rain was falling a little too hard. The Strokkur Geysir erupts every 10-15.

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

After visiting the Strokkur Geysir, we drove to Gulfoss Falls. This was probably the most impressive waterfall we saw in Iceland.

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

After Gulfoss Falls, we stopped by the Kerið Crater, Urriðafoss Falls, Hjalparfoss, and Gjáin. I would highly recommend Gjáin for those with the time. Gjáin was used as a filming location on Game of Thrones and sits near the Viking settlement of Stöng.

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide


Southeast Iceland

Ring Road Day 4: Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, Plane Wreck, and Reynisfjara

In-depth Southeast Iceland Guide

Our first stop on our drive of the Southeast Ring Road was the Keldur Turf House. This is the oldest turf house in Iceland.

 The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

After visiting the Keldur Turf House, was made a short drive to Seljalandsfoss. What makes Seljalandsfoss so special is that you can follow a hiking trail that goes behind the main fall. Make sure to bring a rain coat for this one!

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

As beautiful as Seljalandsfoss is, the next waterfall on the Ring Road takes it up another notch. Hop in your car and make the short 30km drive to Skógafoss. Skógafoss is one of the most popular stops along Iceland’s Ring Road, so make sure to get here early. There is a hiking trail to the right of the falls that allows visitors to hike up and see the falls from above.

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

The Solheimasandur Plane Wreck is one of the most iconic images from the Ring Road. This used to be an “off the beaten path” point of interest, but due to mass exposure, that is no longer the case. Visitors used to be able to drive right up to the wreck, but now an 8km (5 mile) hike is required. Is it worth it? I’ll leave that up to you. I’m glad we took the time to make the hike out.

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

The basalt sea stacks of Reynisfjara amidst a black sand beach are the perfect place to stop before arriving in the village of Vik. This is also a great spot to see puffins.

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

If you have the time and the weather is nice, I suggest heading north from Vik and hiking around Bláhnjúkur. The weather did not cooperate for hiking on our trip, so we continued on and drove through Kirkjubæjarklaustur before reaching our evening destination near Skaftafell Wilderness Area.

Ring Road Day 5: Svartifoss, Svínafellsjökull, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach

In-depth Southeast Iceland Guide

The Skaftafell Wilderness Area is located within the larger Vatnajökull National Park. Make sure to hike out to Svartifoss, also known as Black Falls. You can also do a lot of hiking and glacier walking within . Next to Skaftefell you can take a dirt road to see the Svínafellsjökull. See my full guide for more on that.

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The next stop on the Southeast section of the Ring Road is the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach. After the Diamond Beach you’ll leave Southeast Iceland behind on the Eastern Fjords passing towns like Höfn.

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide


Northern Iceland

The weather and landscaped began to change quite a bit as we made our way to North Iceland, but the incredible views continued right along. The hub city in North Iceland is Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest urban area. Northern Iceland is filled with massive waterfalls, fishing villages, and geothermal areas. The north is also a great place for whale watching.

In-depth Northern Iceland Guide

Ring Road Day 6: Dettifoss, Krafla, Mývatn, Goðafoss, and Akureyri

After spending our first night in North Iceland in the town of Eiðar, we made our way to Dettifoss. Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe, and in my opinion, a photograph or video can not do this experience justice.

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After Dettifoss, we made a short drive to the geothermal area of Leirhnjúkur and the Krafla Viti Crater.

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

Our midday stop was near the massive Mývatn lake. There are also the Mývatn nature baths, which are said to rival The Blue Lagoon. If you enjoy hiking and scenic views of nature, make sure to spend some extra time exploring Mývatn.

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Continuing to make our way west across the north of Iceland, we came upon the “Waterfall of the Gods”, Goðafoss!

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

Our stop for the night was in the city of Akureyri. After staying in mostly small towns along the Ring Road, Akureyri  felt like a huge city. This is mostly due to the fact that this city is a port for cruise ships. We were glad to have only booked one night here. Akureyri does have a few whale watching options though. We wanted to do a little whale watching, but weren’t able to with a toddler in tow.

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Ring Road Day 7: Trollaskagi (Troll Peninsula)

In-depth Northern Iceland Guide

For our 7th day on the Ring Road, we decided to take a little detour from the main highway. Looking at our guidebooks, we realized there wasn’t much to see between Akureyri and Varmahlíð. We also wanted to plan a short day where we could stay in a cabin and relax. We found a great place in the small town of Ólafsfjörður, a short 1-hour drive from Akureyri. For those of you crunched for time, you can skip this section entirely, or just drive through for the views.

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Ring Road Day 8: Glaumbær, Hvitserkur, Kolugljúfur, Eiriksstadir Viking Longhouse

In-depth Northern Iceland Guide

After our night in Ólafsfjörður, we continued on to Siglufjörður and Hofsas, before rejoining the main Ring Road.

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As I mentioned in my Iceland driving guide, there are horses, goats, and sheep all throughout Iceland. This stretch is especially spectacular, so make sure to get out and enjoy your time with these beautiful equines.

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The turf houses of Glaumbær have stood since the Age of the Settlements in 900 AD. They have since been renovated and restored, but the history remains.

Visiting Glaumbær is like walking back into Iceland’s history. After visiting Glaumbær, make sure to stop by Víðimýrarkirkja, one of the few remaining turf roofed churches in Iceland.

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Kolugljúfur Canyon is a bit of a hidden gem in North Iceland. This is one of those locations that will flat out take your breath away. Start out by viewing the waterfalls near the bridge and the dirt parking area. From the bridge, you’ll see a few hiking use-trails that lead down and around the edge of the canyon. You can follow these trails for some once in a lifetime views.

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

Hvitserkur is a basalt sea stack that juts 15m up from the ocean floor on the Vatnsnes Peninsula. To some the formation looks like a dragon taking a drink (head to the left, feet to the right). There is a large viewing area a short distance from the parking lot. The trail to Hvitserkur is a steep use-trail down a coastal bluff. Be very careful with your footing.

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For our final night in Northern Iceland, we stayed at the Gauksmýri Lodge. I haven’t mentioned my other accommodations while in Iceland, but this one is worth the feature. The Gauksmýri Lodge is built on a horse ranch, and also offers horseback riding. My son had a great time getting to know the host family. The Gauksmýri Lodge also had a gorgeous lounge, and provided our favorite breakfast of the trip.

Drive North Iceland Glaumbær Víðimýrarkirkja Hvitserkur Kolugljúfur Eiriksstadir

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Our final stop in North Iceland was at the Eiriksstadir Viking Longhouse. This was actually done on day 9 as we drove to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. This replica farmhouse allows travelers to step back in time and experience what life might have been like for Erik the Red and Leif Eriksson.

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Day 9: The Snaefellsnes Peninsula

In-depth Snaefellsnes Peninsula Guide

The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is not on the official Ring Road, but it has so much to see, that a “Ring Road Trip” is not complete without seeing it. The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a scenic peninsula in the west of Iceland that’s often referred to as “Iceland in Miniature” because of the way it highlights so many of the country’s natural treasures in such a small area.

We began our Snaefellsnes Peninsula drive in the small town of Stykkishólmur, the shooting location of Ben Stiller’s film called The Secret life of Walter Mitty.  From Stykkishólmur, we made our way to the most popular view in all of Iceland, Kirkjufell Mountain.

The 1500ft Kirkjufell Mountain has also been featured in many movies and TV shows, most recently in HBO’s Game of Thrones. The is a very crowded dirt parking lot just off of HWY 54, which grants visitors access to a very short walking trail around Kirkjufellsfoss.

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

The Saxholl Crater is a 358ft mound that erupted 3000-4000 years ago. There is a metal staircase that allows visitors to hike up to the top of Saxholl for some unbeatable views of Snæfellsjökull and the surrounding peninsula.

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Djúpalónssandur is a beautiful black sand beach that used to be home to a thriving fishing community. Today the beach is uninhabited (except by sheep), but visitors can still enjoy the gorgeous shoreline views on a number of trails that branch out from the parking area.

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

If you’re lucky, you’ll get a clear day when visiting Djúpalónssandur for a one of a kind view of Snæfellsjökull. You can also find 4 “lifting stones” at Djúpalónssandur. These 4 stones ascend in weight from 50lbs to 340lbs and were used to test the strength of men wanting to work on fishing boats.

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

The Vatnshellir Cave is an 8000 year old lava tube that goes 115ft below the earths surface. This is one of the few paid experiences on this trip with adult tickets costing 3250 ISK (~32USD).

Upon checking in, your guide will give you a helmet and flashlight, then walk you through the basic procedures. From there, you will enter a silo with a door, before descending your first spiral staircase.

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After the Vatnshellir Cave, you’ll pass by the Londrangar sea stacks before arriving at Gatklettur in Arnarstapi. The main site and attraction in Arnarstapi is the arch shaped rock, Gatklettur. The viewing area for Gatklettur is reached by hiking a short trail from the main parking lot in town.

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge is one of those places you have to see to believe. From the road, the Rauðfeldsgjá ravine appears to be nothing more than a thin crack in the cliffside. As you begin to approach the ravine, it quickly becomes clear that this thin crack holds much more than meets the eye. The ravine is also the setting for many Icelandic fantasy tales and sagas.

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

Búðakirkja is a small black church located in the hamlet of Búðir. The church didn’t seem like much when I first read about it, but then I saw that the only two buildings in Búðir are a black church and a black hotel.  There are few structures that really capture the feeling of the surrounding lava fields. Somehow, the simple Búðakirkja was able to do that for me.

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

Day 10: Hraunfossar and The Blue Lagoon

In-depth Guide to the Blue Lagoon

There are a lot of great places to stop and enjoy on the drive back from the Snæfellsnes Peninsula to Reykjavika and Keflavik. If you’re looking for another waterfall that isn’t too far off of the main road, Hraunfossar is one I would recommend.

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The Blue Lagoon is a popular geothermal spa in Iceland. The water at Blue Lagoon is rich in vitamins, minerals, and algae. This water composition has been shown to alleviate the condition of psoriasis, and to possess healing and restorative properties for skin. Above all else, Blue Lagoon is a wonderful place to relax while vacationing in Iceland.

We made the Blue Lagoon our final stop on the Ring Road, which was the perfect way to end a magical trip.

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

Day 11: Flying Home

We had an early flight out of Keflavik on our 11th and final day. After an enjoyable evening at The Blue Lagoon, sleep came with ease, and our 4:00 AM wakeup felt natural. Having spent 11 days in Iceland, I would love to have had at least 11 more. The Ring Road was a phenomenal primer on Iceland, and I can’t wait to return for some F-road and Western Fjords exploration!

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Read More On Iceland’s Ring Road:


The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary And Guide

I’m Drew, creator of Trail to Peak. Trail to Peak brings content to life on the web through breath-taking photography and captivating video. I launched Trail to Peak in 2014 with a goal to inspire readers to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. I have traveled to 19 countries, walked Camino de Santiago, hiked the John Muir Trail, trekked through the Andes of Peru, and am constantly seeking new adventures in my home state of California. Joining me on my weekly adventures is my partner, Julia, our son, Owen, and our two goldendoodles, Isla and Lilly.

3 comments on “The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Itinerary And Guide

  1. This really is the ultimate guide. Beautifully organized and presented. Thank you Drew!

  2. Pingback: A Self Guided Walking Tour Of Reykjavík - Trail to Peak

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