Iceland is ready to welcome you back and the most popular way to explore Iceland is by driving the legendary ring road. With each and every twist and turn lava fields, waterfalls and icebergs come into view. A road trip in Iceland is like no other place on earth and we’re going to share the best Iceland ring road itinerary to help you make the most of your stay.
10 Day Iceland Ring Road Itinerary
- Day 1 – Airport, Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik
- Day 2 – Pingvellir National Park, Geological Wonders (UNESCO), Exploding Geysers, Massive Waterfall
- Day 3 – Hekla Volcano, Thundering Waterfalls, Puffin Colony, Black Sand Beaches, Lava Fields
- Day 4 – Europe’s largest National Park and Glacier, Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon with Icebergs on black sand
- Day 5 – Narrow Fjords, Steep Mountains and Picturesque Coastline
- Day 6 – Diamond Circle Dettifoss Waterfall, Ásbyrgi – Húsavík- Mývatn
- Day 7 – Lava Pillars and Caves, Waterfall of the Gods
- Day 8 – Viking horses, Fertile Farmlands, Viking Heritage
- Day 9 – Birthplace of Leif Eiriksson – Sea Cliffs with Birdlife – Volcanic Crater
- Day 10 – Picturesque Waterfalls, Powerful Hot Springs, Reykjavik
About The Ring Road Iceland
The Ring Road is Iceland’s national road Route 1. It circles nearly the entire country spanning 1,322 kilometers (821 mi). Iceland Road Trips are between 7 and 10 days long and you can see a lot of the most popular ring road attractions in just a few days. But we recommend taking the complete 10 days to see Iceland. We took 10 days to drive in a counter-clockwise direction from Reykjavik on this spectacular Iceland Road Trip Itinerary. Are you ready to get driving?
If you aren’t picking up your car at the airport – book this airport shuttle to Reykjavik.
Most of the Iceland’s ring road is paved and it two lane traffic, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t rugged. There are some single lane bridges, narrow passes and weather can change quickly. We sometimes had very limited visibility. I remember one snow squall coming up during a four wheel drive tour we were on and our driver continued driving using his GPS. (we asked him to stop) However, like Canada, Iceland’s roads are well maintained when it snows, so it is possible to explore it during the winter months as well.
How to Plan an Iceland Road Trip
Our trip to Iceland was with Iceland Travel and they put together an incredible Iceland road trip itinerary for us. We loved having an itinerary set up in advance with hotels pre-booked and plans made. Iceland is a popular travel destination and hotels along the Ring Road route can book up quickly, so having a tour company plan made a lot of sense.
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Driving Iceland’s Ring Road Independently
But you can book a rental car and do the ring road independently. You can check car rental prices at CarRental.com. We recommend getting a 4X4 with a GPS. We drove the Ring Road in late September and drove through more than one snowstorm. We had a car go right off the road in front of us. They weren’t in a four-wheel drive so we had it much easier between our winter driving experience and the snow tires on our SUV.
Ring Road Tours
If you aren’t comfortable driving in Iceland, there are organized tours to Iceland that go around the ring road. You can sit back, relax and let the professionals take you to the top ring road attractions.
This 8 Day small group tour takes you on a circle tour of Iceland. Leave from Reykjavik to see many of the highlights mentioned in this ring road travel guide. From waterfalls, to lava fields, in the south to the East Fjords and northern lights of the North. It covers it all. Check it out here: You can cancel up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund/
This Circle Tour of the Ring Road is a flexible option where you can choose from 4, 5, 6 or 7 days. It takes you to the South Coast, East Fjords, Lake Mývatn and waterfalls and optional tours of Borgarfjörður and Lava Caving and optional tour of the Golden Circle. Plus much more. Details here. Same option to Cancel up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.
Iceland Road Trip Itinerary
We drove counterclockwise around the ring road in 10 days. It was the perfect amount of time to see the top sights and to spend a bit of time getting to explore off the beaten path and not feel rushed. We took part in some amazing tours and witnessed extraordinary landscapes. If you have time to spend 10 days in Iceland, we recommend it. Most people drive in a clockwise direction, so feel free to do this Iceland road trip in reverse.
Day 1 – Airport to Reykjavik
You have arrived in Iceland! It is time to explore Reykjavik, the Northernmost Capital in the World. Located in the southwest of Iceland, this city is not to be missed on an Iceland itinerary. After picking up your car from the airport, you are officially on your Iceland road trip! Reykjavik is about 45 minutes from the airport with the Blue Lagoon located in between.
If you arrive early in the day, this is the perfect opportunity to soothe those aching muscles in the famous hot springs. Most people visit the Blue Lagoon either on the way out or on the day they arrive in Iceland. It may be the most touristy thing to do in the country, but you must experience the Blue Lagoon at least once in your lifetime. Read more: How to Visit The Blue Lagoon in Iceland – Is it Worth It?
Once you get to Reykjavik there are so many things to see and do. With a Viking history and a stunning Nordic setting, Reykjavik is a modern city where you can relax and plan for the days ahead.
If you want to realy enjoy the Blue Lagoon you can stay here. Luxury hotels include:
- The Blue Lagoon Retreat is a five-star luxurious escape overlooks the lagoon and stands high enough to see the lava fields of the Reykjanes Peninsula.
- The Silica Hotel. Just a 10 minute walk from the Blue Lagoon, nestled among the lava fields this award-winning hotel is an excellent option when staying over night at the Blue Lagoon.
Things not to Miss things to do in Reykjavik
- The striking Hallgrímskirkj, (The Church of Hallgrímur) – Iceland’s national church is the largest in the country and even if you aren’t religious, this is a sight to see.
- Reykjavík Art Museum
- Sun Voyager
- Head to the City Center for nightlife
- Nordic House
- National Museum of Iceland
- Read more: Top 5 Natural Wonders of Reykjavik.
You can go whale watching directly from Reykjavik. If you want to get the obligatory whale watching excursion out of the way before you hit the ring road, book this tour on a luxury yacht from downtown Reykjavik.
Day 2 – Pingvellir National Park and Geothermal Wonders
It’s time to hit the road, but we aren’t getting onto the Ring Road quite yet. Today we take a detour to the Golden Circle of Iceland to explore geysers and waterfalls.
Heading inland to Þingvellir (also known as Thingvellir National Park) is one of the natural Geological Wonders of Iceland. The UNESCO World Heritage Site was the ancient Icelandic parliament and a jewel of nature is was filled with countless things to do. One of the most amazing things to do here is to go scuba diving the Silfra Fissure – Read all about it here. You don’t have to be certified to do this, you can also book a snorkeling tour to experience this natural phenomenon where the tectonic plates of 2 continents are drifting apart.
Geysir Geothermal Area
You must not miss seeing the Geysir Geothermal Area. This famous hot spring in the Haukadalur Valley has a Geyser similar to Old Faithful. (albeit it isn’t as predictable or faithful) we never did see it erupt in the air, but the surrounding hot springs are worth seeing. The Golden Circle is a popular day tour, book this tour from Reykjavik that includes stops at Geysir area, Gullfoss waterfall, and Þingvellir National Park.
After catching a glimpse of the Geysir Hot Springs, the place to go is the mighty Gullfoss waterfall. This massive waterfall is a two-stage cascade plummeting 32 meters (105 feet) from the Hvítá river. For your first introduction to Iceland Waterfalls, this is a doozy. Gullfoss is the most visited waterfall in Iceland and for good reason. You can walk quite close to the rush water and really feel its power.
Once you have taken in the beauty of Gullfoss, Fludir is a great place to stop in and pick up some snacks or grab a bite to eat. It is a popular place for camping in Iceland and there is a luxury hotel in Fludir. Hotel Flúðir is a great splurge for the night. And in Fludir you can visit hot springs that are far less busy than the Blue Lagoon here at Secret Lagoon. Save time and book your Secret Lagoon admission ticket in advance.
Iceland Hot Dogs
Iceland Hot Dog – One thing you’ll notice whenever anyone talks about traveling Iceland is a mention of hot dogs. They seem to be the most affordable and popular food on the ring road loop. Pylsuvagninn Selfossi is a popular hot dog stand at the Ölfusá river bridge. If you are going to try a hot dog in Iceland, go for it here. We ate a lot of hot dogs at gas stations while driving in Iceland. It’s the most affordable way to travel.
- Iceland Road Trip Day 2 Details and Tours
- Where to Stay Icelandair Hotel Flúðir
- Approximate mileage day 170 km / 106 miles
Day 3 – Waterfalls, Sea Stacks and Black Sand
Day 3 of your Iceland Road Trip takes you to many wow attractions in Iceland. These are the places you’ll recognize from Game of Thrones and other Hollywood films. We could spend days here – and if you have more than 10 days, we suggest you do! It’s all about black sand beaches, lava fields, and puffins today!
As you drive south along Route 1 stop for coffee in Hella. This town has colorful houses lining the river bank and it a good place to get supplies or to fill up your car. With caffeine in hand, keep an eye out for Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls as you continue to drive south towards Vik.
You’ll recognize this iconic waterfall as it is the place where visitors can walk behind the waterfall for that classic Iceland photograph. Just a little farther along route 1 is Skogafoss. Standing 25 meters (82 feet) wide with a drop of 60 meters (200 ft), Skogafoss is one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland. Its spray is so strong, it often creates a rainbow. Read more: Iceland – Experience the Land of Fire and Ice
Being on a self-drive tour allowed us to stick around the waterfalls after the tour busses left. People really do visit the waterfalls in waves, so you can time it to be there without crowds if you have a little patience. Read more: Mighty Iceland Waterfalls You Have to See to Believe.
- Book this private tour of Southern Iceland to see its spectacular waterfalls. If you aren’t driving the entire ring road, this is a great way to get a taste of it as you visit Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers and Seljalandsfoss and Skógarfoss waterfalls.
The star attraction for us on this day was arriving in Vik. Vik stands in the shadow of the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier and is home to the black sand beach with huge black basalt stacks standing guard. This famous cluster of Basalt Rocks may be one of Iceland’s most recognizable sights and you don’t want to miss it.
Legend has it that this group of stone spires are actually trolls turned to stone by the sun. As they tried to pull their three-masted ship to shore, time ran out and the sun came up. According to folklore, once an Icelandic troll is caught in the sun, it turns to stone.
Reynisfjara Beach – Black Sand Beach
This turn took us to Reynisfjara Beach is located at turn off 215 on Highway 1 when driving from Reykjavik toward Vik. From here, take a walk along the black volcanic sand that leads to the ominous sea cave of Halsanefsheller. Vik’s Beach was voted one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. But Vik weather is unpredictable and when we visited the wind and rain were unforgiving. The black volcanic sand blew relentlessly as the dark ocean pounded steadily.
Offshore, the menacing rocks looked foreboding out to sea as we were pelted by sand particles coming from every direction. Vik is one of the wettest places on earth and we certainly witnessed that during our time there.
The frozen black trolls stood guard around the corner with just a spire or two in sight as the stormy Atlantic did her best to bury them. We looked on in awe as we witnessed the fury and beauty of Mother Nature doing her most ferocious work and wondered how Vikings managed to settle and survive on this unforgiving land?
Dyrhólaey is a bird sanctuary in Iceland famous for its puffin population. You can take bird watching tours here and it is highly recommended/
This South Coast Tour takes you to all the Iceland south coast wonderings including the waterfalls mentioned, as well as the black sand beach and basalt columns of Reynisfjara Beach.
Besides the sea stacks, one of the most photographed places in all of Iceland is the famous Víkurkirkja Church. The red roof stands out among the stark landscape. Be sure to get your obligatory photograph of this beauty, you won’t regret it.
This spectacular cave tour takes you to Mýrdalsjökull Glacier and explore the unique ice cave below Katla Volcano on this popular day tour.
Optional: Boat tour from Dyrhólar on a special made boat with wheels; Skógar folk museum.
We finish out our day at Kirkjubæjarklaustur, a picturesque village known for fishing. It is also the former site of a 12th-century Catholic convent and it sets you up perfectly to explore the next day.
- Day 3 Details
- Where to stay in Vik: Hótel Kria Vík
- Approximate mileage: 300 km / 186 miles
Day 4 – Glaciers, Icebergs and Europe’s Largest National Park
Get ready for day four of your Iceland Road Trip where you’ll explore Skaftafell National Park and Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon. It’s time to explore Europe’s largest national park and Europe’s largest glacier. Today’s drive is beautiful taking you through lava fields.
Skaftafell National Park
The drive to Skaftafell National Park offers views of one of the most unique landscapes in Iceland. This green oasis nestled between glaciers is gorgeous. And if you want to do some hiking in Iceland, this is the place to do it. Lush rolling green rocks dot the land leading to the outlet glacier of Vatnajökull. (Europe’s Largest Glacier by volume). And then you get to experience a glacier up close! Vatnajökull is an adventurers playground. There are many ways to explore the glacier from hiking tours to cave exploration. Take some time to check it out indeed.
Book this Skaftafell Glacier Hiking adventure with an experienced guide. Strap on your crampons and get ready to experience what it feels like to walk on a sheet of ice!
Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon
The most memorable place we visited in all of Iceland was certainly Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon. This glacier lagoon in the South is filled with Icebergs that wash up on volcanic beaches. The lagoon was formed by global warming a mere 60 years ago as the Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier began to retreat.
At one time, the glacier reached the sea, but as the ice began to melt more rapidly, chunks of ice broke off (known as calving) and as they fell, a lagoon was formed. Ice is powerful and it created deep gorges in the earth as it retreated. The lake is 200 metres deep!
When visiting the lagoon, be sure to go at sunset. Instead of turning toward Jökulsárlón from Route 1, instead, turn toward Diamond Beach to see the famous icebergs perched atop black sand. As the ice breaks away from the glacier, it is trapped in the lagoon forming icebergs. When the icebergs melt, they break free from the lagoon and are carried out through the mouth of the river with the tide. When the current catches them, it pulls them into shore creating a beautiful scene of clear blue ice sitting on the black volcanic sand.
- Day 4 Details
- Where to stay in Jökulsárlón: Hali Country Hotel is close to Jokusarlon
- Approximate mileage: 200 km / 124 miles
Day 5 – Djúpivogur to Reyðarfjörður to Egilsstaðir
You are now rounding the corner and heading up the east coast of Iceland heading north. This drive along the Ring Road takes you through narrow fjords, steep mountains, and a picturesque coastline. This is where we ran into some serious weather with the wind blowing so hard that many cars had their windows blasted. (We’re not joking, people came into the hotel with broken windows from the day of driving!)
Take a boat tour out to Paey Island to see the puffins nesting in the summer. And in the village of Djúpivogur, stop in at Merry Bay (Gleðivík) to see the famous art installation of 34 eggs that represent the nesting birds in the area.
- Where to Stay: Icelandair Hotel Hérað
- Approximate mileage: ca. 300 km / 186 miles
Day 6 – Dettifoss, Ásbyrgi, Húsavík and Mývatn
Sadly we had bad weather during this part of our Iceland road trip. We had some white-out conditions and were stuck inside but I sure wish we had more time. You are now on the Diamond Circle of North Iceland making your way to Myvatn.
Lake Mývatn is a beautiful geothermal area that is popular for bathing in hot springs. The Mývatn nature baths are northern Iceland’s answer to the Blue Lagoon. Námaskarð Pass geothermal area is a beautiful site of colourful soil made of red, yellow, and orange due to the high acidity on the mountain of Námafjall.
Must Watch: Husavik has gained a lot of popularity thanks to the Will Farrell Movie “EuroVision The Fire and Ice Saga.” available on Netflix. Its beautiful song was even nominated for an Oscar.
Must do: If you are going to go whale watching in one place in Iceland, it should be Husavik. This highly rated Whale watching from Húsavík lives up to its reputation as the whale watching capital of Iceland. Explore the beautiful, Skjálfandi Bay while observing whales, dolphins and sea birds in their natural habitat.
En route make sure to stop at Europe’s most powerful waterfall. Dettifoss is the Niagara Falls of Iceland. (without the hotels, bars, and casinos lining its slopes) At 45 meters high (144 feet) and 100 meters wide (300 feet). Here you can explore Jökulsárgljúfur National Park. Its impressive horseshoe-shaped Ásbyrgi canyon houses some other impressive waterfalls as well, Selfoss, Hafragilsfoss, and Réttarfoss. (did you notice that the word for a waterfall in Iceland is foss yet?) You’ll be passing through the Möðrudalsöræfi highlands so be careful here. This is where we saw the car ahead of us go off the road in the snow.
Day 7 – Lake Mývatn – Akureyri
Before moving on you may want to take the south drive around Lake Myvatn that takes you through Dimmuborgir to Skútustaðir. Dimmuborgir is where the landscape gets really unique with lava formations creating a black forest of lava pillars and caves. And then continue on to see the pseudocraters at Skútustaðir which you’ll find around the small lake just south of Myvatn, Stakhólstjörn.
It is then on to Goðafoss (Waterfall of the Gods). We didn’t think we could see another beautiful waterfall like the ones we witness so far, but there is a reason Goðafoss is the Waterfall of the Gods. It is one the largest waterfalls in Iceland flowing over a horseshoe of lava rock measuring 30-meters (98 ft.). It is believed that it was at Godafoss that the Viking, Ljósvetningagoði threw his Pagan statues into the waterfalls making Christianity the official religion of Iceland.
It is then on to your place of rest for the evening in the town of Akureyri.
- Approximate mileage: ca. 100 km / 62 miles
- Optional: bird museum in Mývatn.
Day 8 – Akureyri to Laugarbakki
Today is an exciting day because it is here that you will finally have the chance to ride those spectacular Viking horses you’ve seen throughout your road trip in Iceland. the horse-breeding valley of Skagafjörður fjord is filled with incredible beauty not only from the landscape, but the long-haired Iceland horses.
There are approximately 80,000 horses in a country that has a population of only 350,000 people. Horses are a huge part of Icelandic culture. We took a riding tour with HestaSport. To book your own icelandic horse trail ride visit the HestaSport Website it was truly spectacular.
Read more about the Icelandic horse and something unique known as the tolt here at The Icelandic Horse – All you Need to Know About this Beautiful Breed
After your ride, make your way to the Húnaflói bay area of Iceland for a boat trip to watch for seals and whales.
- Approximate mileage: ca. 193 / 120 miles
- Where to stay: Brekkulaekur Guest House – A basic house on a farm, but gives a very authentic experience after riding horses all day.
Day 9 – Stykkishólmur – Arnarstapi – Borgarfjörður
Day 9 of your tour around the ring road of Iceland is all about Vikings and volcanoes. You are in the land of Eric the Red. He lived here in the Haukadalur valley at a place called Eiríksstaðir in 985 and it is the birthplace of Leif Eiriksson. There is a Viking Longhouse that you can visit and you can pop into the Dalir Heritage Museum to learn a bit about the history before moving on to the sea cliffs of the Snæfellsnes peninsula.
If you haven’t gotten on the water yet, you must join a boat tour in Stykkishólmur to explore the bird and sea life of Breidafjordur Bay. Around the bay, there is an incredible black sand beach of Djúpalónssandur where you can hike out to a lava field filled with rock arches and formations.
- Day 9 Details
- Where to Stay: Hotel Hamar
- Approximate mileage: 344 km / 213 miles
Day 10 – Borgarfjorður -Reykholt – Hvalfjörður – Reykjavík
We are in the home stretch making our way back to Reykjavik. If you haven’t visited the Blue Lagoon, this may be your chance to do it if you are “waterfalled” out. If you are ready for more there are two waterfalls along today’s route, Hraunfoss and Barnafoss. Barnafoss is a rapid waterfall and it’s a bit intimidating to see. In fact, legend has it that two boys fell to their death while walking over the rock bridge. The water was too rapid and dizzying below causing them to fall.
The water runs fast in West Iceland as you continue on to Deildartunguhver hot spring, the most powerful hot spring in Europe. The hot water flows here at a rapid rate of 180 litres (380 pints) per second. You’ll be able to view the boiling water from wooden platforms and walkways. You can visit Krauma Geothermal Bath & Spa in the area that is an alternative to the Blue Lagoon.
- Where to Stay: Hotel Marina Reykjavik
- Approximate mileage: 220 km / 137 miles
And that is your complete 10 day Iceland Road Trip around the Ring Road. Naturally, this Iceland itinerary can be done in reverse, you can skip things if you have less time or if you have a complete 2 weeks you can spend longer exploring this beautiful country. Now that it is opened back up, maybe the notorious crowds will be less in the future. We will have to see.
Where to Stay on the Ring Road
There are campgrounds along the route with plenty of availability. This is by far the most economical way to drive around Iceland’s Ring Road. But make sure you arrive at the campgrounds early. They are first come first serve and wild camping in Iceland is not allowed. So you will want to be in the campground by sunset. Most campgrounds have toilets and showers and some have kitchens for cooking. Which is another great way to save money on an Iceland Road Trip.
We stayed at mostly Iceland Air Hotels that are all along the Ring Road. Our stays included an amazing breakfast which saved us a lot of money. They were large and delicious so we could make it through the day with just snacks instead of a large lunch.
Best Time to Drive the Ring Road
The high season in Iceland is summer and this is the most difficult time to find accommodation. So make sure to plan in advance if you are booking from June to August. We traveled to Iceland from Mid to Late September and it was less crowded. The weather was quite unpredictable with everything from hail and rain to snow and heavy winds. We did have sunny days as well.
Remember, if you are driving in mid-summer the days are long, and chances of seeing the Northern Lights are low. If you wait until closer to autumn or go in late spring you have a better chance to see them as the sun sets earlier. And there will definitely be fewer crowds during shoulder season.
Can you Drive the Ring Road in Iceland in Winter?
You can drive the Ring Road in Winter, but you should have winter driving experience. If you visit in winter, there is more of a risk of roads being closed for a day or two, so allow extra time. Iceland does have good winter road maintenence though, so if you are used to winter driving, go for it! But be warned, when we were there in September, most people we met were terrified on the roads and said it was scary for them driving through snow squalls. (yes, we had them in September and we had road closures too). Being from Canada, we are used to snow squalls, but we also had a four by four SUV which helped a lot. So, make sure to rent an SUV with 4 wheel drive capabilities.
And these are the top sites to see on the Ring Road in Iceland. It is truly one of the greatest road trips in the world. This 10 day itinerary gives you the highlights but if you have 2-weeks, you will really be able to see it all. So take your time to plan the perfect Iceland Road trip and make sure it includes all of these stops!
Planning Resources for Your Iceland Ring Road Itinerary
The Ring Road – Iconic Stops on an Iceland Road Trip