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Ring Road is a fantastic way to explore the best sites and scenery on an Iceland road trip. Also known as Route 1, Ring Road circles the island along the coast. As you travel, venture off on side roads to the interior areas.
Surrounded by the Norwegian and Labrador seas, Iceland sits east of Greenland and west of the Faroe Islands and Norway.
The national road of Ring Road (not to be confused with the Ring of Fire, which has to do with either volcanic plates or Johnny Cash) is about 825 miles long. It connects towns and winds past the country’s most popular natural attractions.
Driving along Ring Road, you can visit Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls, the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, Vatnajökull Glacier, and Dyrholaey cliffs.
There are also a wide array of fjords, river crossings, rocky cliffs, hot springs, black sand beaches, lava fields, and other stunning Icelandic scenery. Don’t forget whale watching, the blue lagoon (not the ’80s movie, the actual blue lagoon), and the Northern Lights.
The capital city of Reykjavik makes a terrific starting point for an Iceland road trip. Travel through Vik, Hofn, Egilsstaoir, Myvatn, and Skagafjordur. You can also meander off to North Iceland, Westfjords, Snaefellsnes Peninsula, and the Golden Circle as part of your Ring Road trip.
- Getting to Iceland
- How to Get Around Iceland
- Map of Iceland
- Iceland Ring Road Trip
- Places to Stay in Reykjavik
- Things to do in Reykjavik
- Where to Stay near Vik
- Things to do near Vik
- Where to Stay near Hofn
- Things to do near Hofn
- Where to Stay near Egilsstadir
- Things to do near Egilsstadir
- Where to Stay near Mývatn
- Things to do near Mývatn
- Where to Stay near Skagafjordur
- Things to do near Skagafjordur
- Golden Circle Tour
Getting to Iceland
To get started on the perfect Golden Circle or Iceland road trip, you’ll want to look into travel insurance with SafetyWing or a similar company. Offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Travel insurance may emergency cancellations, illness, emergency medical situations overseas, and financial losses. Even if you don’t ever need it, the peace of mind may be worth the cost if you do need it on your Iceland road trip.
Keflavik International Airport (KEF) – also known as Reykjavik – Keflavik International Airport – is Iceland’s largest airport. It’s the one we recommend for starting your Ring Road tour road trip, whether you take an afternoon or evening flight.
You’ll be able to get started right away whether you choose to travel clockwise or counterclockwise around the country. For this Ring Road itinerary, we’re going to be traveling counterclockwise. No particular reason; we like it for this Ring Road itinerary.
How to Get Around Iceland
For the Ring Road tour, you’ll need to rent a car or 4×4 (especially in winter). With a rental car, you can travel independently while selecting places to pull over and stay. Check Google Maps for restaurants, hotels, and attractions along the Ring Road in a rental car. Check RentalCars.com to get the best possible price on a rental car as it compares several options.
Iceland driving means traversing gravel roads. Iceland travel tips include having enough fuel (there can be long stretches of road between gas stations), watching out for animals, driving on the right-hand side (this isn’t merry old England), and (as it is everywhere) no cell phones and texting while driving.
As a reminder, gas stations are few and far between. Fill up when you can! The speed limit along the Ring Road is 60 miles per hour, so why rush? Slow down and enjoy the Ring Road scenery (one of the best road trips in the world)!
Iceland’s weather ranges from cold and snow-covered winter to all-day sunlight. Then there are the Northern Lights to make an Iceland road trip come to life.
June is the Midnight Sun’s peak, which means it stays in daylight for 24 hours. It remains daylight for long periods from May through July. This is a wonderful time for road trips in Iceland, as you won’t have to worry about driving in the dark.
Map of Iceland
In order to build you’re itinerary, you’ll need a visualization of the country and key attractions. Here is a map of Iceland to help you get oriented.
Iceland Ring Road Trip
We recommend a five to seven-day road trip route to get the most out of your Ring Road adventure. Let’s get ready for that road trip!
The capital city of Iceland, Reykjavik, is in the southwestern part of the country. It offers Viking history, modern architecture, a boat tour, the blue lagoon, and cultural attractions.
Reykjavik has a small-town feel in an urban area surrounded by stunning natural attractions like Thingvellir National Park, the Blue Lagoon, West Fjords, interesting rock formations, and ice caves.
Reykjavik is an excellent place to start or end a Ring Road adventure or a Northern Lights tour on trips around Iceland.
Places to Stay in Reykjavik
Guesthouse Pavi, near Laugavegur Street, features a Scandinavian-style design in a convenient setting. Basic rooms have bunk beds and free Wi-Fi. Choose private or shared bathrooms for a Ring Road tour.
Hotel Muli is near shopping, dining, and entertainment as well as the Hallgrimskirkja Church. Featuring a clean and simple modern design, guest rooms have flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. Some rooms have separate seating areas.
Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina
Located in the harbor district, Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina offers fresh modern design and pops of color. There’s a library, a fitness center, a full-service salon, a lobby with a fireplace, a restaurant, and a bar. Guest amenities include free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs. Some rooms have bunk beds for a group or family road trip. Choose from city or marina views for a scenic Ring Road trip.
Felicia’s Flat, in downtown Reykjavik near the visually stunning Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran Church, has two bedrooms and one full bath. It can accommodate five guests. It offers easy access to museums, art galleries, Parliament, shopping, and restaurants. There’s an open kitchen, a dining room, and a living room with beautiful wood plank floors, red brick accents, and a modern design. Blue Lagoon is about 45 minutes away.
Things to do in Reykjavik
The Blue Lagoon
You can’t miss the famous and man-made, Blue Lagoon on your road trip. The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most popular attractions and a great idea for an Iceland road trip. The soothing blue geothermal blue lagoon pool is in the Svartsengi lava field in Grindavik and makes an amazing day trip on the Iceland road.
Book a whale-watching tour in Faxafloi Bay.
Bring your camera, binoculars, and lots of warm layers for an incredible whale-watching tour during this stage of your road trip in Iceland!
Harpa Concert Hall
Enjoy the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra or the Icelandic Opera at the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center while visiting Iceland.
Thingvellir National Park
Just east of Reykjavik, Thingvellir National Park features a beautiful waterfall, glaciers, steep cliffs, and valleys.
Take a sightseeing tour on Horseback
Explore volcanic terrain on the back of famous and friendly Icelandic horses! Suitable for beginners and advanced riders, you can choose a path suitable for your level. You’ll ride past the Redlands or the more advanced terrain of Raudarvatn.
Relax in the warm waters of the Laugardalslaug geothermal pool and hot tubs.
There’s a children’s pool, a paddling pool, and a cold saltwater pool. The Olympic-sized pools are located within Laugardalur Park, which has botanical gardens, recreation areas, and a zoo where you can see reindeer, seals, and Arctic foxes.
The next stop on our Ring Road itinerary is Vik. The small fishing village is found on the south coast of Iceland.
This secluded village is about a 2.5-hour drive from Reykjavik. It’s surrounded by the Reynisfjall Mountains and the Myrdalur Cliffs, as well as wildlife such as Arctic terns, puffins, and seals.
While small, the south coast town of Vik offers gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and other businesses to make an excellent pit stop on your Ring Road itinerary.
Where to Stay near Vik
On a farm in the Myrdalur Valley, Giljur Guesthouse is a private home with a couple of bedrooms, a bathroom, cooking facilities, and a living room. It’s within easy access to attractions and black sand beaches on the south coast near Vik.
Majestic mountains and views of the Myrdalur Valley back Hotel Dyrholaey. There’s a restaurant, a bar, a gym, and laundry service. Enjoy free Wi-Fi and daily breakfast. Choose from standard or superior rooms with electric kettles, TVs, and extra seating for your Iceland Ring Road tour.
Sleek and secluded, the modern Hotel Vik is located within walking distance of the beach, and it’s a quick drive into town. There’s a restaurant and a bar. Contemporary rooms have either twin or double beds and offer views of the ocean, basalt sea columns, or mountains. This hotel is one of our top choices for a Ring Road itinerary.
Black Beach Suites
Black Beach Suites is located along the Ring Road and offers luxury studio apartments in a spectacular South Iceland location. The sleek and contemporary hotel makes a wonderful choice for extended stays or small families and couples traveling together on an Iceland road trip. Standard rooms can accommodate up to four guests. Superior Deluxe King rooms can accommodate four guests and have dining areas, making a spacious stay for the perfect Iceland road trip.
Things to do near Vik
Bring your camera and head to this black sand beach. It gets its unique color from the lava of the Katla volcano mixing with ocean water.
You’ll find crashing waves and unique basalt sea stacks at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. Look out for birds such as puffins, guillemots, fulmars, and more while road tripping at Reynisfjara Beach.
Due to the dangerous rip currents and tides, swimming on this black sand beach is not safe. National Geographic has listed it as one of the Top 10 non-tropical beaches in the world. We just can’t get over that black sand beach.
Iceland is famous for its volcanic activity and shaping the landscape. Check out the stunning scenery surrounding the Katla volcano, which last erupted in 1918.
Capture photos of puffins at the cliffs of Reynisfjall Mountain on the south coast of Iceland. It’s truly stunning – you may recognize it from Game of Thrones!
Take a whale watching tour to see massive orcas!
Whale watching can also be done from the coastline as you visit Iceland, the Golden Circle, and the west fjords.
Visit the Thakgil Canyon on your way to Hofn along the south coast Ring Road. This rugged area is great for hiking and photography.
With a striking red roof, Vikurkirkja Church sits atop a hill in a serene setting. It was built in 1934 and serves as an evacuation spot for Katla Volcano if it ever erupts.
The Dyrholaey Peninsula
This place has a door-shaped arch that makes a terrific selfie spot. Hike to the top of it and enjoy the panoramic view of South Iceland and the south coast!
Located on a peninsula in southeast Iceland, Hofn is about a 3-hour and 20-minute drive from Vik (approximately 157 miles). Lagoons, shoals, glacial rivers, and beaches like Diamond Beach surround this area of the Iceland Ring Road.
Don’t miss the lobster and seafood restaurants just a short drive away. Hofn is known as the Lobster Capital of Iceland! There’s even a lobster festival in late June.
Where to Stay near Hofn
Hofn Guesthouse is a great budget option on an Iceland road trip. Basic amenities include free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs. There’s a shared bathroom and common kitchen/dining area for all guests. Hofn swimming pool is nearby.
With mountain and river views, Bragdavellir Cottages offers free Wi-Fi, a mini-fridge, a microwave, a terrace, and stunning mountain views. Fishing, hiking, and other activities are nearby to enjoy while on your Iceland Ring Road tour.
Hrafnavellir Guest House
Hrafnavellir Guest House offers cozy cottages with basic amenities such as free Wi-Fi, a desk, seating, and a buffet breakfast. Guests can enjoy a secluded cottage with views of the mountains and Icelandic scenery on this Iceland road trip.
Things to do near Hofn
Skaftafell National Park
Check out the glaciers, volcanoes, and stunning scenery of Skaftafell National Park along Iceland’s Ring Road. Skaftafell National Park is the gateway to Vatnajokull National Park and offers hiking and camping.
Vatnajökul National Park
For fun day trips, Vatnajökull National Park offers hiking trails in a glacier national park. Hike to Svartifoss and Dettifosis waterfalls, geothermal areas, ice caves, and snow-capped mountain peaks. Vatnajökull Glacier is the crown jewel of the area. There’s a visitor center and campsites near the Vatnajökull Glacier.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Explore an Ice Cave
You can also take a glacier walk or visit an ice cave. Natural glacier ice cave tours are available in the winter season. Ice caves other than glacier ice caves are available to see year-round on your Iceland Ring Road itinerary.
The glacier ice caves are made entirely of ice and are what we typically think of. An ice cave has some amount of ice, but it’s not made entirely of ice. So, there are your Iceland travel tips trivia for the day.
This black sand beach with drifting iceberg fragments is another stunning site to visit along the Ring Road.
Nyheimar Cultural Center
Visit the Nyheimar Cultural Center and Local Museum on your Iceland road trip to learn more about the area and its history.
A popular stop on Iceland’s Ring Road, Egilsstadir is in east Iceland along the Lagarfliot River. It’s about a 2-hour and 45-minute drive from the east coast area of Hofn.
Stay for a few days or refresh and head out after wandering the local streets and seeing reindeer, waterfalls, mountain cliffs, and the east fjords.
Along with the Northern Lights and the Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s east fjords are a popular tourist destination on a Ring Road adventure.
Where to Stay near Egilsstadir
Lyngas Guesthouse has a shared bathroom and kitchen area for guests to use. Rooms have a desk and free Wi-Fi. It’s within walking distance to a grocery store, a museum, and a restaurant, making a convenient stop while you visit Iceland on a road trip.
Lake Hotel Egilsstadir
Lake Hotel Egilsstadir is a picturesque farmhouse setting near Lake Lagerfljot in east Iceland. Modern rooms have free Wi-Fi, private bathrooms, seating areas, and a coffee/tea maker. There is also an on-site restaurant and a lounge. A spa and hot tub are available for an extra cost.
Hotel Eyvindara offers rooms with knotty pine walls, work desks, free Wi-Fi, and excellent views of mountains and the Northern Lights. There are outdoor hot tubs. Fardaga Waterfall is about a 20-minute walk away.
Vinland Cottage is near Ekkjufell Golf Course and about a mile from central Egilsstadir’s east coast location. There is a commons area with a dining table, a sofa, and a flat-screen TV as well as outdoor seating and a terrace.
Things to do near Egilsstadir
East Iceland Heritage Center
Check out the local culture at the East Iceland Heritage Center for exhibits on East Iceland’s reindeer and other historic sites.
Check out the areas Stunning Waterfalls
Visit the Fardagafoss waterfall and Hengifoss waterfall on this Iceland road trip for satisfying hikes and unforgettable photo ops.
Admire the Eas Fjords
The east fjords have a history of folklore and a stunning landscape of jagged mountain peaks, reindeer herds, crashing waterfalls, and the largest forest in the country. Don’t overlook the east fjords on your Iceland Ring Road trip.
Head to Selskogur Forest for hiking, peaceful forest views, and the Eyvindara River, which features small waterfalls.
Take a dip at Laugarvellir
Relax in the natural warm water pools at the Laugarvellir geothermal springs as a break from traveling Iceland’s Ring Road.
The Wilderness Center
The Wilderness Center has exhibitions on life in the Icelandic wilderness. You’ll feel as if you’re part of the past as you visit farm buildings, eat made-from-scratch meals, and hike or ride Icelandic horses to waterfalls along the glacial river Jokulsa.
Mývatn is about a 2-hour and 15-minute drive from Egilsstadir in northeastern Iceland. It was used as a filming location in the wildly popular Game of Thrones HBO series. Natural attractions include geothermal areas and volcanoes.
Mývatn is one of the best birdwatching areas on Ring Road. A few highlights to check out on your self-drive tour include lots of ducks, unique plant life, and the native Arctic fox.
Where to Stay near Mývatn
Within walking distance to Lake Mývatn, rooms at Elda Guesthouse offer a sink, a desk, and free Wi-Fi. Bathrooms are shared among guests as well as the kitchen and dining area. There are terrific views of the volcanic landscape.
The pet-friendly Dimmuborgir Guesthouse offers 17 rooms with private bathrooms and free Wi-Fi as well as a garden, a terrace, and BBQ grills. Breakfast is available for an extra charge. It is within easy access to Hverfjall Crater and Pseudo Crater, making it a nice place to stay along Iceland’s Ring Road.
Hlid Bed and Breakfast
Hlid Bed and Breakfast, on the north shore of Lake Mývatn, offers a shared kitchen, a convenience store, laundry facilities, and bicycle rental. Rooms are spread out over three comfortable buildings and have private bathrooms. Check with the staff to book Icelandic horseback riding tours.
Icelandair Hotel Myvatn
The elegant Icelandair Hotel Myvatn has a restaurant, a bar, meeting areas, and a hot tub. Guest rooms are tastefully decorated in a simple design with free Wi-Fi, coffee/tea makers, and flat-screen TVs. Located near the nature baths and Hverfjall Crater, it’s an excellent choice for an Iceland Ring Road itinerary.
Things to do near Mývatn
Mývatn Nature Baths
If you’re going to visit Iceland, you can’t miss the heated baths. Heated by natural hot springs, the Mývatn Nature Baths are a milk-blue mineral water outdoor bath and one of Iceland’s most popular destinations.
Visit Myvatn Lake
The sight of this serene natural setting of sapphire blue water surrounded by a wide array of birds and volcanoes is soothing for the soul!
Also known as Black Fortress, Dimmuborgir is a lava field near Lake Mývatn. It’s one of North Iceland’s most popular attractions. The large stacks of rock and lava resemble a castle.
Dettifoss Waterfall is well worth a stop on the Ring Road. This vast torrenting cascades collection makes up Iceland’s largest waterfall and makes a great place for photos.
Take a side trip to Husavik, the whale-watching capital of Iceland. Humpback whales are often seen here.
If the name of this place rings a bell, that’s because it was the subject of one of the hit songs from Will Ferrel and Rachel Mcadam’s comedy Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga! The whale-watching capital of Husavik is a popular road trip destination in north Iceland.
The district of Skagafjordur is about a two-hour and 20-minute drive (129 miles) from Myvatn in North Iceland. Rafting and horseback riding are popular. Seals, dolphins, and whales can often be seen.
Skagafjordur is sometimes called the cradle of Icelandic horsemanship. While you will probably see Icelandic horses during your Ring Road tour, there are bunches of beautiful and friendly equines in North Iceland. Book riding tours or visit local farms to learn about genealogy and see riding demonstrations
See Related: Things to Do in Iceland & Places to Visit
Where to Stay near Skagafjordur
Hofsstadir Guesthouse offers panoramic views of Skagafjordur Fjord. The hotel has an on-site summer restaurant. It’s within close proximity to Holar Cathedral and the Icelandic Horse History Center, one of Iceland’s most iconic attractions.
Located in a quiet rural setting, Karuna Guesthouse offers free Wi-Fi, a hot tub, and river views. There are five rooms and two shared bathrooms. There is a shared kitchen and dining area for guests to use at this Northern Iceland guesthouse.
Things to do near Skagafjordur
See what’s fishy at the Herring Era Museum
This compact, fascinating museum features exhibits and displays on the local herring industry in Iceland.
Take another deserved dip at Grettir’s Pool
Visit the natural geothermal hot water at Grettir’s Pool in the Skagafjordur Fjord on this Iceland itinerary. The water is year-round 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Built in 1763, is a great spot to visit along the Iceland Ring Road. Built of red sandstone, it’s the oldest stone church in Iceland. There’s an 88-foot-tall tower next to the church.
Icelandic Horse History Center
Set in a stable dating to the ‘30s (and remodeled in 2010), the Icelandic Horse History Center has exhibits on the traits of Icelandic horses and the history of saddlery. If you’re a fan of these unique horses, you’ll want to put this site on your Iceland Ring Road itinerary.
Take the Golden Circle Route
From Skagafjordur in Northern Iceland, it’s about a three-hour and 45-minute drive back to Reykjavik, where you can spend a few days or get ready to head back home. It’s also a great chance to head to the Golden Circle route or the West Fjords region in northwest Iceland.
Golden Circle Tour
Check out this bit about the Golden Circle to see if you want to add it to your Iceland road trip.
The Golden Circle tour makes a nice starting or ending point for a full self-drive Ring Road driving tour. At about 140 miles long, the Golden Circle starts at Reykjavik and circles around through Thingvellir, Blaskogabyggo, Klausturholar, and Hverageroi.
The Golden Circle drive goes to the southern uplands where you can see Pingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, and the geothermal Great Geyser and Strokkur Geyser.
Consider Iceland’s weather, river crossings, and wildlife when planning your Golden Circle and Ring Road itinerary.
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- About the Author
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Sandy is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Virginia. Her specialties range from hotels, dining, beaches, and yacht charters to theme parks, urban settings, mountain getaways, and other fun spots. She loves Nashville, Las Vegas, and Williamsburg, Virginia – but you’re most likely to find her on the beach. In addition to ViaTravelers, her work appears at AFAR, PierShare, Cozymeal, and more.