A road trip around Iceland’s Ring Road should be on everyone’s travel bucket list. If you’re looking for an adventure you’ll never forget this trip as it is unforgettable. We chased a countless number of waterfalls and volcanoes, soaked in geothermal hot springs, and explored beautiful glaciers.
There is just so much to do and see in Iceland that’s it hard to ever get bored. It’s an outdoor fanatics dream. We spent 12 days venturing around Iceland and saw so many amazing things, but could have easily have spent months and not even scratched the surface.
I wanted to share with you our Iceland Ring Road trip itinerary so you can do the same on your trip to Iceland!
The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary
The name of the Ring Road should be pretty self-explanatory. It’s a road that covers around 1,300 kilometers and circumnavigates the whole country. The whole route should take about 16 hours if you drive non-stop. However, we’d recommend at least a week for your Iceland road trip itinerary.
Why? You’re going to stop for photographs and want to admire the nature. We were constantly pulling off to the side of the road to go for a hike up a waterfall or to take photographs. Our trip took us 10 days which was a comfortable amount of time. It would be easy to tack on more or less. Most people choose to drive the Ring Road counter-clockwise for some reason, but we found it didn’t matter.
Get a Camper Van Rental for your Iceland road trip
If you plan to make it around Iceland on your road trip a car rental is essential. We’d recommend you skip out on a tour and do the drive yourself as Iceland is a pretty easy destination to travel.
With your own car, you have the freedom to stop when and where you want. We drove around the Ring Road in a Happy Campers van.
By renting a camper van we were able to cover our accommodation and transport at one price. We’d drive whatever felt comfortable that day and park in a campsite for the night.
The van comes with all you could need for a camping trip in Iceland. It has awesome features such as a heater for the cold nights, running water sink, and a fridge/freezer.
If you want to travel with a Happy Campers van like we did (and you should!) make sure to read our full review. You can easily book using this link, but make sure to book well in advance during high season.
GPS & Mobile Phone for your Iceland Road Trip
We always pick up local SIM cards and recommend every traveler does the same. We suggest picking up a SIM card. There is a store right down the road from where we picked up our Happy Campers, ask when checking out and they’ll point you in the right direction. Or you can pay €40 for the WiFi add-on for the duration of your Happy Camper rental.
Also, we always download an offline map via Google Maps application and one via Maps.me. You cell phone GPS runs without needing data and since the maps are stored on your phone you have a working GPS for free! After driving overland across Africa, we don’t play around with directions – granted you’re only driving one road in Iceland!
Gas Stations on Your Iceland Road Trip
Be prepared to shell out some money when you head to the pump in Iceland. Gas costs nearly $2 USD a liter or $8 a gallon in Iceland. We also found American credit cards do not work at many of the pumps. To pay to make sure you ask an attendant to unlock the pump and then pay afterward inside with a credit card.
Make sure to be aware of distances in between fuel stations, granted we found them all over Iceland. For our 10 day itinerary, we spent around $400 on fuel. Make sure to budget for this one, as it’s easy to forget.
What to Eat on Your Iceland Road Trip?
Before we hit the road we filled our van up with groceries from the budget Iceland grocery store called Bónus. It’s the grocery store with an abused cartoon pig, seriously their logo is a pig with a black eye…
There’s a bunch around Reykjavik and one right next to the airport. We also found several along the Ring Road in the major towns so were able to stock up on groceries every two or three days. We’ve gone into detail on food costs and grocery stores in Iceland in a previous post.
Where to Sleep on your Iceland Ring Road trip?
Our accommodation was covered by our camper van. If you’re driving around in a standard rental car make sure to book your accommodation in advance. High season in Iceland can be intense and it’s easy to end up spending the night in your car!
What To Pack?
Iceland is cold. It may not be like traveling to Antarctica or Greenland, but you should bring along a packable down jacket. Other staples items include a good wool sweater, a rain jacket, hiking boots, and a scarf. Of course, if you’re big into photography, make sure to pack a great travel camera. If you need more check out our awesome post on what to pack for Iceland.
Follow Our Iceland Ring Road Trip Itinerary
Iceland Road Trip Day 1: Keflavík > Snæfellsnes Peninsula
You can only cover so much ground on the first day as you have a rental to pick up and groceries. We arrived in Reykjavik Airport early from the Faroe Islands a short transfer later we picked up our Happy Campers rental! Before taking off on a Ring Road tour head to the market.
We stopped by Bónus, not knowing when we would come to another grocery store and made our way to the Snaefellsnes peninsula. It was referenced as being “Little Iceland,” and one of the best regions to explore.
The drive took about two hours from Reykjavik. For our first night stayed at a campsite near the volcano, Eldborg, and took a hike up the crater. It’s an easy 1.5 hour round trip walk, great for a leg stretch! Read more about what to wear hiking.
- Highlights in the area: Hike up to Eldborg for incredible views!
- The campsite we stayed at Snorrastaðir (2000 ISK per vehicle and included toilets, hot shower, kitchen, and WiFi).
Iceland Road Trip Day 2: Hellnar, Budakirkja, Kirkjufell, Landbrotalaug
This was an amazing day as we drove the stunning peninsula. We stopped at Landbrotalaug a tiny natural hot spring that can fit two-three people. We then ventured on to Búðakirkja, a tiny wooden church that dates back to the 19th century. Around the church, there are multiple hiking paths and a lovely white sand beach.
The next big stop was Snaeffelsjokull one Iceland’s major glaciers and setting for “Journey to Center of Earth.” It’s a sight to behold! After the glacier, we made our way to Kirkjufell with plenty of stops along the way.
Although it was the offseason in Iceland, Kirkjufell was packed with nowhere to park a vehicle. All visitors are allocated to a tiny parking lot for maybe 20 vehicles in order to get the iconic shot of Kirkjufellsfoss and Kirkjufell. So, either show up super early in the day or prepare to fight for a parking spot.
Since we couldn’t park our car we went around the corner to an empty side street and decided it was good enough to get a photo! We drove short ways down the road and camped in Stykkishólmur.
- Highlights around the area: Sunset at Kirkjufellsfoss, walk around Búðakirkja Church, take a dip in Landbrotalaug hot springs, Snaeffelsjokull (glacier), check out Arnarstapi and Hellnar
- The campsite we stayed at Stykkishólmur Campsite. It was closed for the offseason, but we were still able to park our camper van there with no facilities and did not have to pay.
Iceland Road Trip Day 3: Stykkishólmur, Hraunfossar, Husafell
Stykkishólmur is situated at the most Northern point of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. It’s a beautiful harbor town that looks the same as it did in the 19th century.
Next stop was Hraunfossar, as with everything we stopped several times along the way for photos and hikes. Which means we arrived at Hraunfossar around 5 pm just as the sun was setting. Out of all the waterfalls we saw in Iceland Hraunfossar was among the most unique.
Husafell makes a great base for exploring the surrounding countryside. In the surrounding nature, you can expect to find woodlands, waterfalls, glaciers, rugged lava, crystal springs, wildflowers plus remarkable archaeological remains. We went for a wonderful hike up a nearby mountain.
- Highlights of the area: Take in the views at Hraunfossar, coffee in Stykkishólmu, Glacier Tour at Langjokull, Surtshellir and Víðgelmir caves.
- Where we stayed: Hotel Husafell. A high-end hotel, but very nice if you want a beautiful hotel to relax in with great amenities. A budget option is the Husafell Camping Site.
Iceland Road Trip Day 4: Grabok, Baula, Varmahlíð
After another early morning hike, we made our way to the Grabok Crater. Grabok is a perfectly shaped volcanic crater. There is a small parking lot for hikers and a steady path. The hike is short and takes anywhere from 10-20 minutes. Nearby is Baula, a picturesque mountain that is well worth a stop and some photos.
We made our way to Varmahlid where we would be going on a horseback ride adventure in the morning with Hestasport. That night we stayed in one of their cute cabins and enjoyed their private hot springs with some sundowner drinks!
- Highlights of the area: Grabok Crater, Buala, river Svartá
- Where to stay: Hestaport Cottages. Fabulous cottages with a full kitchen and hot spring. Budget option: Varmahlíð (Reykjarhóll) Campsite
Iceland Road Trip Day 5: Klaengsholl
We spent the morning horseback riding in Skagafjörður (“horse valley”) which is an ideal thing to do if you on a honeymoon or special trip to Iceland.
Hestaport has one, two, and three-hour rides and runs all year round. The ride was exciting as we got to learn about the Icelandic horse breed and practice a few river crossings via horseback.
We didn’t have a far drive as we went to Northern Iceland to do some hiking around Skíðadalur Valley before retiring for the night.
- Highlights of the area: Hike around Skíðadalur Valley, Check out the town of Dalvík and Akureyri
- Where to stay: Dalvík (Skeið) Campsite
Iceland Road Trip Day 6: Goðafoss, Lake Mývatn
Up until now, many of the places we visited you may not have heard of. That’s because much of Iceland’s tourism is located in the South. From the Skíðadalur Valley, we drove to Goðafoss. Goðafoss waterfall is one of the most famous in Iceland and well worth a long stop. Goðafoss translates to “The Waterfall of the Gods,” and is an impressive sight to be seen.
Then Icelandic weather got the best of us, it started to pour rain. We hung out in our camper van for a few hours waiting for the rain to settle. This is when we were thankful for our large camper van and WiFi. We were able to catch up on some work emails before setting off to Myvatn.
- Highlights of the area: Definitely see the most powerful waterfall in Iceland, Dettifoss, walk around Dimmuborgir, admire Lake Mývatn
- Where to stay: Camping Mývatn
Iceland Road Trip Day 7: Lake Mývatn, Dimmuborgir, and the East Fjords
We woke up next to Lake Mývatn and admired her beauty. With the peaks of the Krafla volcano and Mt Hverfjall as nice subjects for photos, we went for a hike around the Dimmuborgir lava fields before heading to the Hverir geothermal area.
This geothermal area here is like another planet. We hadn’t showered in two days since it was off-season and many campsites were closed. Luckily in Egilsstaðir, the capital of the east, we found a local swimming pool for a dip and shower! It was by far the best public swimming pool we visited in Iceland. They had a slide, sauna, lap pool, two hot tubs, and a cold plunge, make sure not to miss the pool!
- Highlights of the area: Borgarfjörður eystri, Eskifjörður, Stöðvarfjörður
- Where to stay: Reyðarfjörður Campsite. Toilets and Showers as well as a great camping area. This campsite was closed in mid-October, but we parked here anyway with no facilities.
Iceland Road Trip Day 8: Eastern Fjord, Skaftafell, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Best day of the trip! We had amazing weather, watched a sunset over a beautiful glacier lagoon, and saw the Northern Lights. The drive around the Eastern Fjords is epic as roads are not crowded. Since it has no big “sights” and it’s far from Reykjavik only a few tourists make it out here. However, it’s spectacular.
We stopped so much that we just got to Jökulsárlón by sunset, which made for epic photos with a clear pink and blue sky. Right across the street from Jökulsárlón is Diamond Beach, where you can get up close to the Icebergs! With a good Aurora forecast, we parked in front of Skaftafell and watched the sky dance for at least three hours. It was quite late when mother natures show was over so we drove to the next town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur to camp. It’s a basic campsite next to a beautiful waterfall called Stjórnarfoss.
- Highlights of the area: Catch sunset at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, head to Diamond Beach after, relax in the town of Hofn, hike around Skaftafell
- Where to stay? Kleifar Campsite which was free to park your car at in the offseason. There was a toilet but no other facilities.
Iceland Road Trip Day 9: Systrafoss, Fjaðrárgljúfur, Vik, Reynisdrangar, Skogafoss, Seljavallalaugh
We started our day in Skaftárhreppur in Suðurland area to hike up to Systrafoss. The hike only took about 10 minutes and once at the top, we stayed for 20 minutes. Afterwards, we made our way to Fjaðrárgljúfur – an iconic canyon in Iceland that is well worth a stop.
Make sure to stop at Reynisjafara, the famous black sand beach in Iceland. It’s a wild beach with two massive sea stacks, black sand, and basalt columns.
Seljavallalaug is the oldest pool in Iceland and it’s set in a gorgeous setting. To reach the pool you need to take a short drive down a bad gravel road and then hike 20 minutes. The pool isn’t much for swimming with abandoned changing facilities, chilly water, and poor water circulation. That being said it’s well worth a stop and photo.
The next stop is Skógafoss. It’s one of our favorite waterfalls in the world and just off the main road, you will be able to see it as you drive the Ring Road. Plan to spend some time here taking photos, hiking up its side, and enjoying a coffee at the cafe. There is also a campsite if you don’t want to leave.
- Highlights of the area: Systrafoss, Fjaðrárgljúfur, Vik, Reynisdrangar, Skogafoss, Seljavallalaugh, Solheimasandur Plane Crash, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
- Where to stay: Skógafoss waterfall campsite. We couldn’t leave!
Iceland Road Trip Day 10: The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is a 300-kilometer trip that many people do as a day trip since it is close to Reykjavik. The Golden Circle includes Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss. We recommend you also stop at Kerið crater along the route as well. The Golden Circle is a super popular drive, so expect lots of tourists. Perhaps, this is why so many people choose to go counter-clockwise on the Golden Circle, start off with the hordes of tourists.
We spent the night outside of Reykjavik, in case the Northern Lights were to make an appearance again. We wanted to be away from the light pollution so we went for a dip in a local pool in the town of Hveragerði and camped overnight there! The town makes a great stop as it is known as the Hot Spring Capital of Iceland and they have a flowing hot spring river!
- Highlights of this area: The Secret Lagoon, Bruarhlod, Skalholt Church, The Golden Circle
- Where to stay? Hveragerði Campsite. Closes in the winter, but you still may be able to park your vehicle here overnight.
Iceland Road Trip Day 11: Landmannalaugar and Mount Hekla
We really wanted to get out to Landmannalaugar, which is where they film movies like Oblivion and Prometheus. However, you need a tough 4×4 to get to Landmannalaugar. We returned the van, stayed in Reykjavik and went on a private tour with Moonwalker Tours. Bessi our guide picked us up bright and early and we made our way to the middle of Iceland.
We ventured around Llaandmannalaugar in his 4×4 and we were able to soak up the heat in natural hot springs. Afterward, we drove up Mount Hekla, a volcano long overdue for an eruption and had the most fabulous views. Again, this is something we would have either had to hike to or have a 4×4 with local knowledge.
Afterward, we convinced Bessie to take us to Háifoss waterfall. Háifoss. Háifoss is one of the tallest single drop waterfalls in Iceland and will give you serious vertigo. Right next to it you can find Granni as well! This was one of the best days we had in Iceland and I was pleased that we didn’t see many other people around as it is off the ring road. We were informed that in the summertime it gets crowded with tourists driving off-road in their small cars, which I wouldn’t recommend. Please keep in mind your rental is not insured on F roads (including 4×4) and any driving off of the road is illegal.
- Highlights of the area: Mount Hekla, Landmannalauger, Háifoss and Granni, Hjálparfoss, Lake Frostastadavatn
Iceland Road Trip Day 12: Reykjavik
Reykjavik is a charming city and well worth exploring. We used CenterHotel Midgardur as our base, which is centrally located and one of the more affordable places in Reykjavik. From there we walked around Reykjavik for the day and saw the famous Hallgrímskirkjachurch, enjoyed the sunshine in the Klambratún Park, and had a fabulous dinner at Matarkjallarinn.
- Highlights of the capital? Hallgrímskirkja church, The Sun Voyager, National Museum of Iceland
- Where to stay? CenterHotel Midgardur. Centrally located hotel with comfortable rooms. For a budget option, Kex hostel is great.
How to Plan an Epic Iceland Road Trip
Book a camper!
A campervan is the best way to get around Iceland on a budget. While a camper is slightly more expensive than a car, you can sleep and cook in it! Meaning you don’t have to search for any hotels or deal with expensive restaurants in Iceland. Plus you get to sleep in nature every night and still use a heater if you wish! If you want to travel with a Happy Campers van like we did (and you should they are the BEST!) make sure to read our full review. You can easily book using this link, but make sure to book well in advance during high season.
When is the Best Time to Visit Iceland?
In my opinion, the best times to visit Iceland are June, July, September, October, and December – but it all depends on what you want! June-August is high season, but it is also summer in Iceland and when you will find the most pleasant temperatures. It’s also when you will experience the most amount of daylight and get the most of our of your trip. December is great because it is winter, you stand a strong chance of seeing the Northern Lights, it’s low season, and the temperatures haven’t gone to complete freezing yet.
However my personal favorite time to travel Iceland is during the fall months. It’s during September and October where you will see the leaves change vibrant colors around the country. Temperatures are still mild, and tourism is slowing down. You can see the full month by month breakdown for Iceland travel here.
Things to do in Iceland
There are literally so many things to do in Iceland I could write a book about it. Unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of time so I’m showing you the ultimate Iceland bucket list here. Some things that are a must do are go to an Iceland swimming pool, soak in a natural hot spring, stand under a waterfall, and see the Northern Lights.
Photography Gear for Iceland
A high-quality camera is an important packing item for Iceland if you want some great shots while on your vacation. We travel with our Fujifilm Camera and 200mm telephoto lens. Drones have sort of taken Iceland by storm, and can capture fantastic footage as well. We had our DJI Mavic in Iceland, but make sure to use your drone responsibly as many locals are getting increasingly annoyed at the sight of them.
Whatever you do do not forget a tripod for Iceland – especially if you plan on photographing the Northern Lights. You’ll need one for the long exposures.
Is Iceland Expensive?
Iceland is mega expensive. One of the most expensive countries in the entire world actually. Make sure that you plan accordingly and in line with your budget. It’s certainly possible to do Iceland on a budget of less than $100 if you are camping, cooking all your own basic meals, and traveling by public transport or score a good deal on a rental. The good news is that nature is free, and you’ll be able to see Iceland’s beauty without paying for it. So yes – it’s completely doable to have an affordable Iceland vacation.
If you plan on drinking be sure to pick yo duty free alcohol before you leave the airport. A pint of beer can easily run you $15-$20!
Helpful Iceland Road Trip Travel Tips
- Icelanders speak Icelandic, but every single person I came across spoke English.
- The local currency is the Icelandic króna (ISK). ATM’s are found throughout the country
- Have I mentioned Iceland is expensive as hell? Well, it is! Save money by eating in and cooking for yourself. Check out our Iceland grocery store guide for all the tips!
- Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world; however, it’s always important to use common sense when walking alone at night.
- Tipping is not customary in Iceland.
- Iceland has strong internet infrastructure and you should be able to easily stay connected.
- To feel more at home we use Airbnb you can check out some tips and read more about getting an Airbnb coupon code here. Or just take this coupon for your first stay!
- Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend Lonely Planet to get you through those wireless nights.
Pack and Plan For Your Iceland Road Trip
Nothing will ruin your Iceland honeymoon more than getting hurt and not having insurance. We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen in a foreign country and it’s best to be prepared. World Nomads provides good short term coverage.
You’re going to need something to carry your belongings in while you’re traveling around the world. Even if you’re not doing extensive hikes you need at least something small for day trips. My favorite daypacks are from Camelbak. You can see all our other backpack recommendations below:
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun when you’re traveling. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
I ALWAYS have a down jacket with me when I’m traveling in the winter, fall, or even spring. They aren’t just good for hikes, but doing anything outside.
Down jackets pack up light and small so there is no reason NOT to have one in your bag. Seriously it could save your life in a bad situation. We wrote a whole post on our favorites (hint –Feathered Friends, Arc’Teryx Cerium LT Hooded Jacket, Patagonia Down Sweater, REI Coop Down Jacket)
Goretex Rain Jacket
We’re building up a collection of shell jackets. We always carry one in our pack and they’ve come in handy many times. Weather around the world can be iffy in October, so it’s best to be prepared. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof and really a great travel rain jacket. We have a bunch of different shell jackets after several years, but my favorite right now is from Arc’teryx.
Any jacket can do the job, but the top dollar ones will hold up and really help in inclement weather.
I love real books, but for traveling it can be easier to carry a lighter and more compact item like a Kindle. Plus, then you can download new books on the go!
Please consider purchasing a travel water bottle before your trip! We hate to see one time use plastic bottles ending up in the ocean. The tap water is so good here – seriously please don’t be one of those tourists that buys plastic water bottles. It’s a waste of money and plastic!
Check Out These Posts
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- 31 Best Winter Destinations in Europe (2020)
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- 30 Best Things to do in Iceland • The Ultimate Iceland Bucket List
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- Iceland Supermarkets and Iceland Groceries • 10 Things You Must Know
- Renting a Campervan in Iceland? Here Are 30 MUST READ Tips
- 27 Camping in Iceland Tips To Know Before You Go (2020)
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- Reynisfjara • 11 Things to Know About this Black Sand Beach in Iceland
- The Best Time to Visit Iceland (2020) • Month by Month Breakdown
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- 20 Iceland Travel Tips to Know Before You Go
- What to Pack for Iceland • The Ultimate Iceland Packing List (2020)
- Happy Campers Review • The Best Campervan Rental in Iceland?
- A 12 Day Iceland Ring Road Road Trip Itinerary (+ Snaefellsnes Peninsula)
- How To Drive The Golden Circle in Iceland Yourself
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- The 10 Best Hot Springs in Iceland You Have to Visit!
- 11 Best Waterfalls in Iceland Well Worth the Journey
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