Travel Guides

The Ultimate Iceland Road Trip Guide

November 17, 2016

Driving ring road and the golden circle in icelandWhen I first told a friend I was going to Iceland, her response was: “I hope you’re ready to have a spiritual awakening.”

Fast-forward to three weeks later, when I landed in Iceland and it took my breath away.

Iceland’s scenery is something out of a fairytale. Driving the Ring Road (the main road which trails the border of the island) and Iceland’s Golden Circle, it’s not uncommon to stop every 10 minutes for a photo – the landscape constantly changes as if someone has flipped a switch, and each one is completely unique.

If you are planning a trip to Iceland in the near future (and I really think you should!), read on for our 10 day road trip itinerary for the Ring Road and must-sees at each stop along the way…

beautiful colors of iceland on ring roadbaby sheep in icelandHouse built into rock and horse in icelandlandscapes in icelandcute town under waterfall in icelandIn front of the glacial lagoon iceland

DAY 1

Arrive in Reykjavik

Visit: The Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik Town

Our first day in Iceland we landed, rented our car, and drove straight to the Blue Lagoon. It’s important to note that the Blue Lagoon is out of the way from Reykjavik and the Ring Road, and after getting off a long flight a spa day at one of the world’s most famous hotspots isn’t a bad idea!

Tips for the Blue Lagoon: arrive early if you can, and buy your tickets in advance. The experience and the restaurant is pricey, so decide ahead of time if you want to splurge on a meal or eat elsewhere.

After you’ve had a dip, drive straight to Reykjavik (approximately 40 minutes away) and get a good night’s rest before setting out — your road trip starts tomorrow!

Here’s the full driving route – click here for the interactive map:

Iceland driving route of ring road in 10 Days

Iceland’s Ring Road in 10 Days

 

DAY 2

Reykjavik -> Selfoss (0:41 drive)

Visit: Gulfoss Waterfall, Strokkur Geysir

Now the real driving begins! I recommend setting out after breakfast on a drive to Selfoss, where you can visit Gulfoss waterfall: a staggeringly beautiful waterfall in Iceland’s Golden Circle. Nearby here is Strokkur Geysir, which shoots a tower of warm water out every 8-10 minutes (I can say warm because I stood right under it to get a photo…and ended up getting soaked!)

Tips for Gulfoss Waterfall: It gets windy here, so make sure you have ample layers and a cozy scarf.

Tips for Strokkur Geysir: Don’t stand where no one else is, thinking you are still behind the rope and won’t get soaked. You will.

Gullfoss Falls in Iceland finduslost

Gullfoss Falls

Hot springs next to Strokkur geyser iceland

The hot springs next to Strokkur Geysir

There’s a café across from the Strokkur Geyser, so grab a typical Icelandic meal before heading to your hotel. We loved the Ion Hotel in Selfoss.

 

DAY 3

Selfoss -> Vik (1:36 drive)

Visit: Thingviller National Park, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Skogafoss Waterfall, Kerid Crater Lake

If you want a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I’d suggest diving the Silfra Fissure which is located in the Thingviller National Park. It’s a crack between the North American and Eurasian continental plates which has some of the clearest water in the world. Keep in mind you’ll be bathing in water that’s 2°C — I mean it when I say I’ve never appreciated hot chocolate more than I did after this dive!

After the Silfra Fissure, you can also check out the nearby Öxarárfoss waterfall, which features a walking path right along the water that’s perfect for photos of the fissure and falls.

The Öxarárfoss waterfall above the Silfra Fissure in Iceland via finduslost

The Öxarárfoss Waterfall above the Silfra Fissure

Side note: yes, there really are this many waterfalls to see in Iceland and they are all worth getting out of your car for. The majority of this day involved us pulling over at every turn, and just when we’d think the next sight couldn’t get more stunning — it always did. Make sure your camera has enough space so you can max out on photos!

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall in Iceland via finduslost

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Kerid Crater Lake in Iceland Ring Road Trip via finduslost

Kerid Crater Lake

Skogafoss Waterfall in Iceland via finduslost

Skogafoss Waterfall

Hotel tip: There are not many options for hotels here and they are all understated — so book early and cozy up! We spent the night here at Hotel Katla in Hofdabrekka, right next to Vik.

 

DAY 4

Vik -> Hofn (3:13 drive)

Visit: Reynisfjara Beach, Vatnajökulsthjódgardur, Svinafellsjökul Glacier

Before heading out of town today, I’d recommend spending the mor­ning visiting Reynisfjara Beach before the crowds arrive. This black sand beach features the most amazing basalt columns, and is a photographer’s heaven. If you’re lucky, you’ll also spot an Icelandic puffin.

Basalt columns at Reynisfjara via Finduslost

Basalt columns at Reynisfjara Beach

Rock formations at Reynisfjara Beach via finduslost

Rock formations at Reynisfjara Beach

Reynisfjara Beach via Finduslost

Reynisfjara Beach

Then, drive along the coast towards Höfn, a quaint fishing town. Don’t be surprised when you get a first glimpse of the Vatnajökull glacier (we saw it through fog and could’ve sworn a wall of water was going to sweep our car away!).

View of the Vatnajökull glacier from Ring Road Iceland via finduslost

View of the Vatnajökull glacier from the Ring Road

It’s hard to get close to the glacier unless you are taking part in a glacier hike, but you can grab a stunning view of it (that not many people know about!) off of the Ring Road’s Highway 1. Immediately after you see the glacier arm on the left, take a left onto Svinafellsjokulsvegur (a road 17.3 km before the town of Hof). There will be a small parking lot and you can take the trail up for this view:

Vatnajökulsthjódgardur Glacier via finduslost

Above Vatnajökull Glacier

We stayed at Hotel Smyrlajorg in the town of Kirkubajaulester (just before Höfn) this evening, but it’s worth checking Höfn for available hotels and Airbnbs.

Höfn tip: grab dinner at Humarhöfnin to try the local flavors, specifically the fresh seafood plates.

DAY 5

Höfn -> Egilsstadir (3:09 drive)

Visit: Glacial Lagoon Jökulsárlón and beach

On day five we booked a tour of the Glacier Lagoon in Sunnuhlíð, just south of Höfn. It’s the best way to experience the lagoon! Don’t forget to stroll on the beach where the water from the lagoon flows out to the ocean: the giant chunks of ice stranded on the black sand are a must-see.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in Iceland via finduslost

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Jökulsárlón beach next to glacier ice lagoon

Jökulsárlón Beach

black sand beach next to glacial ice lagoon iceland

Chunks of ice on the beach

Afterwards, I suggest driving through the mountains until you reach Egilsstaðir, a small town with our favorite hotel: Guesthouse Egilsstaðir. The grounds behind the hotel are worth the stay and though the hotel’s restaurant is a splurge, it’s well worth it.

The coast en route to Egilsstaðir

The coastline from the Ring Road

Mountain views in Iceland via finduslost

Mountain views

Driving through the mountains in iceland finduslost

Snow in the mountains en route to Egilsstaðir

 

DAY 6

Egilsstaðir -> Lake Mývatn (2:23 drive)

Visit: Sulphur Springs, Lava Caves, Volcanos, Mud Pools, Viti Crater, Dettifoss Waterfall, Namafjall Hverir Geothermal Area, Dimmuborgir Rock Formations, Grjotagja Cave

There’s a lot to see in Mývatn. If you are only staying for one night (as we did), pick and choose sights beforehand. We loved the lava fields at the Namafjall Hverir Geothermal Area, looking out over the turquoise water in Viti Crater, and walking inside Grjotagja, a small lava cave with thermal spring inside. (Game of Thrones fans: Grjotagja is where John Snow had his memorable encounter with Ygritte.)

Viti Crater in Iceland finduslost

Viti Crater

Geothermal Area

Namafjall Hverir Geothermal Area

I’d recommend booking an Airbnb in Mývatn. We stayed at Trod North and had a delicious home-cooked meal amongst great company. Locals here are very friendly, and this stay was one of our most memorable.

 

DAY 7

Mývatn -> Húsavík -> Akureyri (1:45 drive)

Visit: Húsavík town, Akureyri town

Since Húsavík is only a half hour drive from Lake Mývatn, it’s possible to do a day trip there instead of spending the night. Húsavík is known for whale-watching, and though we booked a whale-watching tour we ended up skipping it because the weather was so bad.

Húsavík tip: have lunch at Naustid on the harbor. Their buttery fish will melt in your mouth.

From Husavik, enjoy the drive through the fjords to the bustling lake town of Akureyri. Airbnbs are the way to go here as well; we stayed in some quaint small houses overlooking Akureyri lake.

The beautiful fjords of iceland via finduslost

The beautiful fjords

 

DAY 8 & 9

Akureyri -> Stykkishólmur (4:15 drive)

Visit: Landbrotaloaug Hotpot, Stykkishólmur Town 

Akureyri to Stykkishólmur is the longest leg of the Ring Road drive, so on arrival to Stykkishólmur we settled in for a couple nights relax and explore town. Plus, the Landbrotalaug hotpot (a natural hot springs) is nearby – we took two trips here and it still wasn’t enough!

Landbrotalaug Hot Pot Snaefellsnes Iceland

Landbrotalaug Hot Pot

Landbrotalaug hotpot tip: you’ll need to plug in these coordinates to find it – 64°49’56.0″N 22°19’06.6″W. Drive until you pass the coordinates on the map, then turn right down a small dirt road and follow it to the end.

General tip: on our last night here, we took a drive just before midnight to see the midnight sun. Do it – you can’t beat this view:

The midnight sun through haze in Iceland finduslost

Chasing the midnight sun

DAY 10

Stykkishólmur -> Reykjavik (2:18)

Reykjavik Town

We opted to spend our last night in Reykjavik after driving in from Stykkishólmur. If you can add an extra day, I’d suggest wandering around town and getting lost in the rows of colorful buildings. Otherwise, you could fly out on this day.

DAY 11

Depart from Reykjavik

It was extremely hard for us to say goodbye to Iceland! We tried to fit as much as possible in our road trip, but it only left us wanting more. I’d love to go back and visit the northwestern leg of the country, where a much smaller percentage of tourists go — rumor is the the fjords are well worth it!

Final tips:

  • Don’t forget to check Iceland’s road conditions, as the weather is unpredictable.
  • If you’re visiting in summer, keep in mind the sun doesn’t set until midnight! You’ll have ample sunlit driving hours, so don’t worry about missing sights or driving when it’s dark.
  • Iceland can be pricey, so book as much as you can in advance.

 

 

Have we inspired you to go to Iceland? Let us know in the comments below!

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12 Comments

  • Reply Angie Mykieta November 18, 2016 at 6:35 am

    Just finished your Iceland blog and absolutely loved it. It not only inspirited me but it made me want to follow your footsteps. I am a traveler myself and I appreciate your organized, clean and very informative blog. Iceland has been on my list for a while now and I am dying to plan a trip soon. Thank you for all your amazing tips.

    • Reply - Selena November 19, 2016 at 12:37 am

      Thank you Angie! Means a lot. I’m very visual but also like to plan ahead based on info I find online, so I’m glad that translated to this post for you. 🙂 Happy traveling!

  • Reply Becky Moore February 2, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    I loved Iceland but we went in the middle of the winter, looked very different then! 🙂

    • Reply - Selena April 10, 2017 at 9:34 am

      I can imagine. 🙂 We’d definitely go back in winter to see the northern lights…I hope you caught them!

  • Reply Wouter February 8, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    We went to Iceland last spring, it was really amazing! Thank so much for your work and info! It was my second time i have visited Iceland but after reading your inspiration and want to jump on the plane again.

    • Reply - Selena February 20, 2017 at 11:56 am

      I know the feeling, I think about going back to Iceland every other week! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂 xx

  • Reply Q&A: Our Travels, Memorable Meals, And Plans For 2017 - Find Us Lost - Travel Guides & Wanderlust March 19, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    […] in Italy and visited some incredible new countries including Slovenia and Montenegro), and our drive through Iceland. There’s something so freeing about being able to pull over anytime you want to explore a […]

  • Reply Vicki April 7, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    Hi Selena. I was wondering what time of year did you go to Iceland? And if you don’t mind sharing how much it costed you for 10 days. We are thinking of following almost the same path you guys did..Thanks🙂

    • Reply - Selena April 10, 2017 at 9:33 am

      Hi Vicki! We went in June. To be honest I don’t remember our total cost, but it’s unfortunately not the cheapest trip. I’d say on average we probably spent around $300/day total. I would recommend staying in Airbnb’s to keep your costs down — we stayed in two and they were both our favorite stays! I’m happy to send them to you if you’re interested. Just shoot an email over to finduslost@gmail.com. 🙂

    • Reply Ollie May 21, 2017 at 3:23 am

      I was really confused, and this answered all my qusntiose.

  • Reply Kim April 26, 2017 at 5:16 am

    This post was so helpful!! My husband and I really want to plan a trip to Iceland…and a road trip sounds like the perfect way to explore the country 🙂 When do you think the best time to go is?…I hear in the winter…. you can see the northern lights…but the summer weather is nicer…would love any thoughts or tips you have for planning our trip:) thanks son much:)

    Ps. What you guys are doing is so cool and so inspiring…my husband and I decided to start traveling more and working less in December…we just got back from 4 months in south east Asia…which was incredible 🙂

    • Reply - Selena April 26, 2017 at 9:12 am

      We went in June and absolutely loved it. I think it was a great time to go because since the sun never really sets, we could spend as long as we wanted driving and didn’t have to worry about making it to our next place to stay before it got dark! The midnight sun is also beautiful. Enjoy Iceland — it’s one of my favorite destinations!

      And that’s amazing — I would love to spend that much time in SE Asia. Cheers to you two! Traveling should always be a priority 😉

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