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Iceland Ring Road Road Trip Guide

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

Iceland is high up on many people's bucket lists. With powerful waterfalls, breathtaking beaches, and refreshing glacier lagoons, Iceland is creation in its natural, untouched habitat and it is beautiful! Whether you’re visiting for a few days on a layover with IcelandAir or spending a week camping at different sites, Iceland will win you over.

The Ring Road follows the outer perimeter of the entire island taking those brave enough to road trip along its mighty roads on an epic adventure. Today, we are looking into how to take a road trip along the Ring Road and where you should stay. Let’s take a look!

My Experience

My first adventure to Iceland was in September of 2017. Although it was the off season, it was still warm enough to camp along the way and the majority of campsites along the Ring Road were still open. After spending a day exploring the capital city of Reykjavik, my friends and I rented a car and a tent and hit the Ring Road for an epic ten day road trip. Each day on our road trip was full of sites that left us speechless and eager to explore more of what Iceland had to offer. Since then, whenever I am asked for a travel recommendation about where to go, Iceland is in my top three choices. Let’s take a closer look at how you can explore the gorgeous Ring Road.

✈️ Pro Tip: If you start your journey in Reykjavik, make sure to grab a cinnamon roll from Brauð & Co.! Seriously five years later and my mouth still waters just thinking about them!

Jessi's Journey at Skógafoss
Nothing puts into perspective just how small you are like Skógafoss Waterfall.

Rental Car

To do an epic road trip, you will need to rent an epic car. Keep in mind, gas in Iceland is not cheap as fuel-up spots are few and far between. So when budgeting for your car, also make sure to budget accordingly for gas. Additionally, depending on what time of the year you are traveling, road conditions might not be ideal. Renting a car with four wheel drive and off-roading capacities, while more costly than other options, is highly recommended for road tripping through Iceland.

The Route

Your flight will take you into Reykjavik, which conveniently is also where you will likely pick up your rental car. Before you start your road trip, I recommend spending a day or two exploring the capital city. It is full of cute little shops, unique attractions and amazing pubs.

A word of caution…do not go off of the Ring Road! While we had been warned multiple times before about not taking detours on our road trip, after consulting a map to uncover road conditions, we thought we were able to take a shortcut off the Ring Road on a dirt road. What followed was indeed not a shortcut, but instead a multi-hour treacherous climb up a rocky mountain where it felt like we were hanging off of a cliff…because we were. Plus, there were no guard rails! I am generally pretty risk averse, but going off the Ring Road I highly do not recommend!

Pro Tip: If you want to go camping while in Iceland instead of staying at Airbnbs, rent all your camping equipment from Iceland Camping Equipment Rental. They have everything you need for an amazing adventure and make it so you don’t have to lug your camping gear from your home country!

Reykjavik To Vik

After spending some time exploring Reykjavik, you’ll be ready to pick up your rental car and hit the Ring Road! The first day of your road trip will take you south to the town of Vik which has excellent camping spots. On the way, stop at Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, two of the most stunning waterfalls in Iceland. These waterfalls are sure to leave you speechless. As you drive, be prepared to see tons of little waterfalls trickle down the mountains surrounding you. You will also likely drive by pastures filled with stunning Icelandic horses. I say all of this to help you time your adventure. If you’re anything like me and my friends, you will be stopping every few minutes on your road trip to take photos of everything. After photo-shooting, head to Reynisfjara Beach, also known as the famous Black Sand Beach.

Jessi's Journey at Black Sand Beach in Iceland
Iceland's Black Sand Beach might not be ideal for tanning, but it sure is stunning!

Vik To Höfn

The next phase of your road trip will take you to the eastern area of Iceland. Your final destination will be the town of Höfn which is a cute little harbor and fishing town. While you’re there make sure to try some traditional Icelandic food like langoustine and cured shark. After sitting in your car for extended periods of time, your body will be in need of some stretching. On your way to Höfn take some time to hike Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. This famous canyon made an appearance in a Justin Bieber music video and it is well worth the climb. After, head to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. To this day I can still smell the air of this famous lagoon when I cast my mind back on my memories. The air is fresh and the water is unlike any other color blue you will ever see. You can also book a hiking excursion along the glacier if you want.

Jessi's Journey at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Breathe in the crisp, fresh air at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.

Hofn To Akureyri

After staying in Höfn, it will be time to head north to Akureyri. After many days of adventuring and camping, you will likely be feeling a bit sore. You probably have heard of the Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik (which is actually man made!), but have you heard of the Mývatn Nature Baths? These hot springs will soothe your sore limbs and give you some time to relax. Take some time on this portion of your road trip to visit Goðafoss Waterfall as well. Finally, head to Akureyri to explore the cute city. Keep an eye out for little elf houses and the famous Christmas village. Whether you’ve been sleeping in hotels or in a tent, I highly recommend spending a night in Akureyri Backpackers Hostel. At the very least, stop into the bar in their lobby and enjoy a pint and some of their potato wedges. Two years after my trip to Iceland, I couldn’t stop thinking about these potato wedges so I emailed them asking for the recipe. Turns out, there wasn’t anything special to the potato wedge recipe, but instead it simply was the potato itself that made the difference. Iceland is known for their spuds and even use them to make their vodka. They are must have fuel for your road trip!

 Jessi's Journey at Búðakirkja Black Church on Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Take some time to take photos at Búðakirkja on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Akureyri To Snæfellsnes Peninsula

This portion of the Ring Road road trip will actually take you off of the Ring Road. Only do this portion if you have a vehicle with four wheel drive and off-roading capacities. As you drive along the peninsula, keep an eye out for the famous Snæfellsjökull Volcano. Also seek out the famous black church Búðakirkja that sits on the peninsula. We camped at the base of the volcano and got to see the Northern Lights from our tent!

Snæfellsnes Peninsula To Reykjavik

All good things must come to an end. After traveling the entire perimeter of Iceland, make your way back to Reykjavik full of beautiful memories and experiences.

Hit The Road For An Epic Adventure

A road trip around Iceland will surely leave you marveling at the beauty of nature. The best part of renting a car or RV for a road trip along the Ring Road is that you can take as little or as long as you like. Whether you’re in the north, south, east, or west, Iceland will leave you speechless. So where will you go?

Is a Ring Road road trip on your bucket list? Tell us in the comments!


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