Iceland is one of the most incredible countries to visit – in fact, I think it's such a cool country that I've been there four separate times!
On my first three trips to Iceland, I mostly based myself in the capital of Reykjavik and did day trips from there. You absolutely can have a great trip to Iceland by doing this – and it's perhaps the most convenient (and safe) way to do it if you're visiting Iceland in winter, when many roads close and bad storms can make driving more dangerous.
On my most recent trip, though, I finally did the thing that the vast majority of visitors to Iceland dream of doing: driving the Ring Road.
And I can confirm that it's an epic, must-do road trip!
How long do you need for a Ring Road road trip?
The Ring Road (Þjóðvegur 1, or simply Route 1) circles the entire country in 821.5 miles (about 1322 kilometers). Many people complete this Iceland road trip in as little as a week, but my friend Kate and I actually allowed ourselves 15 days to do it (and we skipped Reykjavik and the Golden Circle since we'd done them before).
While 15 days is probably longer than the average person needs for the major highlights of the Ring Road, I think 7 days is too short. In my opinion, 8-9 days would be the least amount of time I'd allocate to the Ring Road, but 10-12 days would be ideal! (And even then, you'll be driving hours each day and staying somewhere different almost every night!)
I've created this 10-day Ring Road itinerary based on my four trips to Iceland, including my own jam-packed Iceland road trip. There is SO MUCH to see and do in Iceland that you'll never see it all; but I'll tell you what I think it most worth seeing/doing as you circle the country.
This itinerary does include lots of driving and sightseeing, but that's what an Iceland road trip is all about!
When to take an Iceland road trip
Technically speaking, you can visit Iceland any time of year. And while I do actually love traveling to Iceland in the winter, I don't personally recommend road tripping Iceland in the winter.
Why? For starters, Iceland is located very close to the Arctic Circle, meaning it has very short days during the winter months. While the chance of seeing the Northern Lights is cool, only having a few hours of daylight each day (5-6 hours in November, 4 hours in December, 5-6 hours in January, 9 hours in February) makes it challenging to actually see all the cool features Iceland has to offer.
Secondly, while not always frigidly cold, Iceland is prone to gnarly fall and winter storms with damaging winds strong enough to rip car doors clean off. There's an increasing risk of these storms starting each year in October, and they often cause roads – including the Ring Road – to completely close for a day or two at a time.
So, even though the summer months are the most expensive in Iceland, they do make for much better road tripping.
May-September is the best time for a road trip in Iceland. During this half of the year, you generally get better weather (though a freak storm can happen any time of year), and the long daylight hours mean lots more time for exploring.
I did my Iceland road trip in August, which is probably the busiest time to be in the country. If I were to plan it again, I would perhaps go in mid-June (when lupines usually start blooming) or early September (when there might be a slight chance to see the Northern Lights).
But July and August are good, too, as long as you plan and book everything well in advance.
Just note that the weather in Iceland will ALWAYS be unpredictable, even in the summer. You might luck out and get a string of sunny days like I did, or you could be faced with clouds and rain. The forecast changes constantly, so your best bet is to prepare for anything!
Pro tip: If you're going to do this trip in the late fall, winter, or early spring, be sure to check the Safetravel.is site (or download the app or follow them on Instagram) for info on weather alerts, travel disruptions, closures, etc. You may need to be flexible and change your plans based on storms. You can also check Road.is for up-to-date info on road conditions.
The perfect 10-day Iceland road trip itinerary
Here's my version of the perfect 10-day Ring Road itinerary in Iceland. I'm including everything that I think is a must-do, and also giving suggestions of extra things you might want to add if you have time/are interested.
This itinerary includes lots of time spent outdoors visiting free natural sites, so be sure to pack accordingly! It also includes some long days of driving and sightseeing, so be sure to be realistic about how busy you want your trip to be.
A note on renting a car in Iceland
Before we dive into my Ring Road itinerary, let's talk about the vehicle you'll need to rent.
Driving in Iceland is generally fairly simple. The main roads in the country (including the entire Ring Road) are paved and well-maintained, and are generally just 2 lanes. The non-main roads in Iceland are sometimes unpaved and narrower than 2 lanes, but this itinerary doesn't have you driving on very many of those.
What kind of car should I rent in Iceland?
Many people will tell you to rent a 4WD (or 4×4) vehicle in Iceland – but honestly, unless you're visiting in the winter, you don't really *need* 4WD for the Ring Road. Larger 4WD vehicles are necessary to drive the rough roads up into the Highlands (known as F-roads), but this itinerary is not going to include any of those detours.
Renting a campervan is also a popular way to travel around Iceland, with many people assuming they'll save a lot of money by being able to sleep and cook inside the van. Campervans are generally far more expensive that normal cars to rent in Iceland, though, and it is illegal to camp or park overnight outside of designated camping zones. Even when traveling in a campervan, you'll still need to pay for campsites each night.
In my opinion, then, the best option for driving the Ring Road (in summer) is to just rent a regular small car. The Ring Road is all paved and easy to drive in a normal small car. You'll have many rental company options to choose from, and it will be the cheapest option.* Just be sure to reserve an automatic car if you cannot drive manual.
*Cheap is relative in Iceland, though. It's an expensive country, and renting a car during high season isn't going to be inexpensive. I would compare prices using a site like Discover Cars to see all your options.
Check out this post for more road trip tips: 15 Things You Need to Know Before Taking an Iceland Road Trip
Day 1: Arrival, Blue Lagoon, and Reykjavik
If you're flying to Iceland from North America, you're likely going to arrive early in the morning (generally sometime between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.) at the Keflavik International Airport.
You'll have to go through immigration, and then you can then pick up your rental car; most rental places are located just outside the small airport.
Pro tip: If you want to drink while you're in Iceland, you'll actually find the best prices on alcohol at the Duty Free shop inside the Keflavik airport. Stocking up on a few bottles can save you some money later. (And speaking of money, Iceland is almost entirely cashless, so there's no need to take money out at the airport.)
Next, you have two different ways to structure you day, depending on whether you want to visit the famous Blue Lagoon or not. I'm assuming you DO want to, as it's iconic and a great intro to Iceland's hot springs. But if you'd prefer the newer Sky Lagoon, I'll let you know how you can amend this itinerary to do that instead.
After you pick up your car, start your day with a few hours at the Blue Lagoon.
Iceland's most famous thermal spa is located just 20 minutes away from the Keflavik airport, kind of on the way to Reykjavik. Here you can enjoy the large baby-blue geothermal pools, saunas, silica mud masks, and more. It's an excellent way to unwind after an overnight flight.
Use of a locker is included, and most tickets will include things like use of a towel and a drink from one of the swim-up bars. Note that you'll need to shower (naked) before entering the Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon does have ample private shower stalls, but just be aware that most Europeans have no qualms about walking around in locker rooms naked.
You need to book a timed entry to the Blue Lagoon – and tickets DO frequently sell out in the summer, so book as far in advance as you can! (You can book a ticket here, or directly through the Blue Lagoon.)
Most people will want to spend at least 2-3 hours at the Blue Lagoon, but once you're in you can technically stay as long as you'd like!
Pro tip: Book your Blue Lagoon entry time for at least 2-3 hours after your flight lands to allow yourself to get out of the airport, pick up your rental car, and drive to the Blue Lagoon.
After you're done, it's a 45-minute drive into downtown Reykjavik. By now, you should be able to check into your hotel, or at the very least drop your luggage off and start exploring the city.
Half a day is generally enough time for most people to explore Reykjavik, as it's a small, walkable city.
Some things you might want to do/see this afternoon include:
- Try a famous hot dog from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (the cheapest meal you'll find in Iceland!)
- See the inside of the Harpa Concert Hall
- Take photos at the Sun Voyager sculpture
- Visit Hallgrímskirkja church (and the observation deck at the top)
- Walk down the Rainbow Street (Skólavörðustígur)
- Enjoy coffee with a view at Café Loki, or coffee with kitties at Kattakaffihúsið
- Stroll around Tjörnin Pond
And if you want to combine a walking tour with some delicious local bites, I highly, highly recommend a food tour in Reykjavik. This food tour lasts 3 hours, and includes enough tastings for a full meal. (They have multiple tour times each day.) Book a food tour here.
Optional Sky Lagoon
If you're not interested in visiting the Blue Lagoon (or if perhaps this isn't your first trip to Iceland and you've already been there before), you could shift this itinerary up by a few hours and end your day at a thermal spa instead of starting at one.
The Sky Lagoon opened up close to downtown Reykjavik in 2021, and is another great hot spring option. With an infinity-edge thermal pool overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the Sky Lagoon is especially lovely to visit around sunset (assuming you're visiting in a month when the sun does set within opening hours!).
The 7-step ritual here is also unique, and includes access to a sauna with incredible views. Book a ticket in advance here.
Total driving time: 1.5 hours at most
Sample costs for today: Blue Lagoon or Sky Lagoon entry – $70-$100 USD (9500-14,250 ISK), depending on which ticket you book and what dates you're going; food tour – $120 USD (17,125 ISK) per person
Where to stay in Reykjavik: I recommend staying in the city center if possible. If you can find a hotel that offers free parking, you can park your car and explore on foot the rest of the day without having to worry about parking charges or using a taxi to get into town. A few central options with parking include: the art-filled Hotel Holt, Skuggi Hotel by Keahotels, and the Reykjavik4You Apartments.
A note on direction: My Ring Road itinerary is going around Iceland clockwise simply because that's how I structured my own road trip. This means you travel to the lesser-visited parts of Iceland first, and then end with a few days of more touristy spots. You absolutely can reverse this itinerary if you want, though!
Day 2: Golden Circle
We'll start your Iceland road trip with a bang – but actually off of the Ring Road!
The “Golden Circle” is a popular inland sightseeing route in Iceland that includes several iconic stops to see geysers, waterfalls, and historic sites. I recommend driving the circle counter-clockwise from Reykjavik, since you'll be ending your day further north instead of returning to the capital.
Today includes a lot of driving, but also lots of stops to help break it up. (This will be a recurring theme in this itinerary!)
From Reykjavik, you can head to the point furthest to the east, which is Gullfoss Falls (about a 2-hour drive from Reykjavik).
On the way (about halfway there), you might want to stop to see the Kerið (Kerid) Crater. The red volcanic crater is filled with a turquoise crater lake, which is awesome for photos. You do have to pay a small fee to walk around the crater (400 ISK), but it's a great stop to stretch your legs and marvel at some striking Icelandic scenery.
Then it's on to Gullfoss, the “Golden Falls”. This is a 2-tiered waterfall on the Hvítá River. It's just over 100 feet tall, and you can view it from above from a couple different viewpoints. There's ample (free) parking, as well as a restaurant and shop.
The next stop is just 10 minutes away in the Haukadalur Valley, where you'll find some of Iceland's most famous geysers. The Great Geysir is actually where we get the word “geyser” from!
Here you can follow a short trail and see stinky hot pools and erupting geysers in an active geothermal valley. Strokkur is the most active geyser in the area now, erupting every 5-10 minutes.
This stop is one of the most touristy in all of Iceland in my experience, but seeing an erupting geyser is very much worth it! (There's also a restaurant here at the Geysir Center, which would be a good spot to grab lunch.)
From the Geysir area, it's less than an hour to the third and final Golden Circle stop: Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park.
This park is both the site of Iceland's first Althing (parliament) dating back to the 10th century, as well as the spot where you can physically see two of earth's tectonic plates drifting apart. For both these reasons, this place is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Stop at the Hrafnagjá Observation Deck, and continue on around Thingvallavatn lake to a spot where you can walk between the edge of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates in the Almannagjá Gorge. The walk is fairly flat and includes being able to see a cool waterfall called Oxararfoss.
You can even go snorkeling between the tectonic plates in a rift called Silfra here – but you'd have to rush the rest of today's sightseeing, as the last snorkeling tour starts at 2 p.m. (It is awesome, though!)
From Thingvellir, you can head straight to Borgarnes (where I recommend staying tonight), or make a very slight detour to another hot spring. Hvammsvik Hot Springs are located on the tranquil Hvalfjörður (Whale Fjord), and are brand new as of 2022.
Hvammsvik is one of my favorite hot springs in all of Iceland, with several naturally-fed hot pools built right into the fjord. The spot has all the amenities you'd expect to find (including a small restaurant, a swim-up bar, a sauna, and tidy locker rooms/showers), and yet feels very natural.
If you have the time and want to visit another hot spring, this is one you won't want to miss.
You can have dinner at Hvammsvik, then drive to Borgarnes for the night.
Total driving time: 4.25 hours
Sample costs for today: Kerid Crater parking – 400 ISK ($3 USD); Hvammsvik entry – 6900-7900 ISK ($48-$56 USD)
A note on Icelandic guesthouses: You will find guesthouses all over Iceland; these are small, usually family-run accommodations. They tend to be smaller and homier than hotels – and cheaper, too. There is usually a shared kitchen and lounge area, and often shared bathrooms. If you don't mind sharing common spaces (my tip? take your showers at night!), then you can usually find good deals on rooms in guesthouses.
Day 3: Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Today you'll be exploring one of my very favorite parts of Iceland: the Snaefellsnes Peninsula! This small peninsula is often called “Iceland in miniature,” because it has all of the natural sights Iceland is famous for, from volcanoes to waterfalls to black sand beaches.
There are a LOT of things to see on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, but how many stops you make is completely up to you. There's one main road that circles most of the peninsula (Snæfellsnesvegur, or Route 54 on maps), and a second (Útnesvegur or Route 574) that goes out to the very end. All the major sites are right along these two roads.
I recommend driving clockwise around Snaefellsnes from Borgarnes, as it will save you having to do any backtracking.
Along the route from Borgarnes to the town of Grundarfjörður, here are all the stops you could conceivably make, in order of when you'll see them:
- Gerðuberg Cliffs (basalt column cliffs you can climb to the top of)
- Ytri Tunga (golden sand beach; you can often spot seals here)
- Búðakirkja (a black church)
- Bjarnarfoss* (very cool waterfall)
- Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge (requires a short hike; waterproof boots recommended)
- Town of Arnarstapi* (good spot for lunch, and also there's a really nice coastal path here with several cool viewpoints to see things like the Stone Bridge and the Gatklettur rock arch)
- Hellnar (another town, at the end of the coastal path from Arnarstapi)
- Lóndrangar (rock formation with nearby walking trails)
- Vatnshellir lava cave (guided tour required)
- Djúpalónssandur beach* (there's a viewing area, and you can walk down to the rocky beach, too; don't get too close to the water here, though!)
- Saxhóll Crater* (extinct volcanic crater you can climb to the top of)
- Skarðsvík Beach* (another golden sand beach)
- Ingjaldshólskirkja (a pretty red-roofed church)
- Svöðufoss* (another lovely waterfall)
- Kirkjufell / Kirkjufellsfoss* (famous mountain and set of waterfalls; the only site that charges for parking)
*The items with “*” are the very best stops (according to me). But you CAN hit most of these in one summer day.
Kirkjufell is right outside of the town of Grundarfjörður, which would make a good stop for tonight. OR, you can drive a little further and stay in Stykkishólmur, the largest town on the peninsula. Both towns have restaurants to choose from for dinner.
Total driving time: 2.75-3.25 hours, depending on where you stay
Sample costs for today: The Kirkjufellsfoss parking lot charges you based on how long you stay; expect to pay perhaps 750 ISK ($5.50 USD)
Where to stay on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula: In Grundarfjörður, the Grundarfjordur Bed and Breakfast and Kirkjufell Guesthouse are good, while in Stykkishólmur I'd recommend Hotel Egilsen or Syslo Guesthouse.
Day 4: To Akureyri
You can have a slightly more leisurely morning today, and make your first stop of at the Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum (which is not open year-round, so if you're visiting outside of April-October, double check before you go). This little museum is located on a family farm where they make Hákarl, the famous fermented shark that is Iceland's national dish.
The process of turning the toxic meat of the Greenland shark into something edible takes roughly 6 months, and you'll learn about how it's done here (and be able to taste some, of course!).
Sharks are no longer hunted in Iceland, so the family only processes shark meat when the creatures are accidentally caught up in fishing nets. If you visit while they have some fermented meat drying, you can see it up close in the drying shed.
The Shark Museum is roughly halfway between Grundarfjörður and Stykkishólmur. If you didn't stay in Stykkishólmur last night, I recommend stopping into town next, as it's really cute! It has a nice harbor area, and the Stykkishólmskirkja Church is worth seeing.
Then it's time to bid farewell to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and start heading into Northwest Iceland. There are several places you could opt to stop along the way to Akureyri today, depending on your interests. It's a fairly long drive (just over 5 hours total), so making some stops is a good idea!
The first stop I'd recommend is Kolugljúfur Canyon. It does require a detour (and a short drive on an unpaved road) to reach this little canyon, but it's quite pretty and usually isn't very crowded. You can walk over a bridge and get close to the Kolufossar waterfall.
Past Blönduós, the Víðimýrarkirkja turf church makes for an easy photo stop, and the Reykjafoss waterfall is also worth a slight detour.
Reykjafoss is a stunning multi-tiered waterfall in the middle of farm land. It does require a short walk to see, but I think it's worth it!
Pro tip: Put “Reykjafoss Car park” in your GPS, as searching just for the waterfall won't take you to the right place in this case.
If you want to visit a “wild” hot spring in Iceland, there's one very close to Reykjafoss simply called Fosslaug. (Just bring your own towel, and know that there are no changing areas here!)
You *could* also drive around the Tröllaskagi Peninsula on your way to Akureyri, but it will have already been a full day, so I'm including that extra drive in the “if you have more time” section at the end of this itinerary. (It's awesome, but you really do need an extra day if you want to add it.)
Your destination for tonight is Akureyri, the largest town in northern Iceland.
Total driving time: About 5.5 hours
Sample costs for today: Shark Museum – 1600 ISK ($11 USD)
Day 5: Husavik
Today you have the option to do some of the best outdoorsy things in north Iceland! They will require you to drive one hour north to the town of Husavik, which is one of my favorite towns in all of Iceland.
Note: Driving from Akureyri to Husavik on the Ring Road requires you to drive through the only paid tunnel in Iceland. It costs 1650 ISK one way, and you can pay online any time within 24 hours of driving through it (you can pre-pay the day before, or pay up to 24 hours after). Payment page is here.
First up in Husavik will be a whale watching tour, if that's on your Iceland bucket list. Husavik is THE best place to go whale watching in all of Iceland – in fact, it's regarded as one of the best places to go whale watching in all of Europe.
The town sits on Skjálfandi Bay, where three different nutrient-rich ocean currents converge to support a variety of species of whale year-round. You can spot everything from humpbacks to minke whales to even blue whales, plus porpoises and dolphins.
I recommend going on an early morning tour. The weather and seas are often calmer in the morning, and then afterwards you can do some other things in and around Husavik. (Whale watching tours usually last about 3 hours.)
Good to know: Tour companies will provide you with warm coveralls to wear on most whale watching trips, but be aware that these tours often operate in less-than-ideal weather as long as it's still safe to sail. Take seasickness meds in advance if you're prone to it! Also keep in mind that these are wild whales you're looking for; sightings may be quick and far away – that's nature!
After your whale tour (or perhaps in lieu of it if whale watching isn't your thing), be sure to visit the Húsavík Whale Museum. This small museum packs a big punch, covering not only all the different whale species you'll find in Iceland, but also the history of the country's relationship with the marine mammals.
The museum has a huge collection of whale skeletons on display, the most impressive of which being a full blue whale skeleton. It's worth spending an hour here!
You can then grab lunch in town, and then consider a horseback riding tour this afternoon. There are lots of places where you can go horseback riding in Iceland, but I honestly think the scenery in Husavik overlooking Skjálfandi Bay is some of the best!
I'd recommend the 2-hour “Seaside Tour” with Saltvik Farm, which is a 2-hour riding tour that will take you down to a black sand beach within sight of snow-dusted mountains. It's a beautiful ride, and Icelandic horses are super cute! On this ride, you'll get to try out their special extra gait called the Tölt.
After this, you might want to relax at yet another hot spring. In Husavik, I highly recommend the Geosea Geothermal Sea Baths. They are a set of infinity-style hot pools up on a hillside with fantastic views. (Pre-book tickets here.)
Afterwards, you could have drinks and dinner at the Jaja Ding Dong bar in Husavik, which is named after a song in the Will Ferrell Netflix movie “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.”
The bar serves pizza and movie-themed cocktails, and also has a museum-style Eurovision exhibit that covers Iceland's history in the actual Eurovision Song Contest, and also has a room filled with props and costumes from the Netflix film.
RELATED: 7 Awesome Things to Do in Husavik
Total driving time: 1.5-2.5 hours, depending on where you stay tonight
Sample costs for today: Whale watching tour – $90-$160 USD (12,800-22,700 ISK); Saltvik horseback tour – 12,500 ISK ($90 USD); Eurovision museum – 1500 ISK ($10.50 USD)
Where to stay: You could stay a second night in Akureyri since it's only an hour away. Staying 2 nights in one place is nice on a trip like this! If you do that, though, note that you'll have to pay for another trip through the Vadlaheidi tunnel. There are also hotel options in Husavik, including Fosshotel Husavik, and Guesthouse Arbol.
Pro tip: If you're staying a second night in Akureyri, you might want to skip Geosea and go to the Forest Lagoon in Akureyri instead. (Personally I prefer Geosea for the views, but the Forest Lagoon is lovely, too.)
Day 6: Diamond Circle
You've already explored the Golden Circle, so today it's time to explore the Diamond Circle in the north! Like the Golden Circle, the Diamond Circle has three major sights to see: two waterfalls (epic ones, too), and a geothermal area.
Start with a stop at Goðafoss, or the “waterfall of the gods,” just a short drive from either Akureyri or Husavik. It's said that when Iceland converted to Christianity, idols of the “Old Gods” (i.e. the Norse gods) were thrown into this waterfall – hence its name.
Godafoss is a stunning, horseshoe-shaped waterfall 40 feet high and about 100 feet wide. There are two sides to view it from, and a paved trail that connects them both. (Personally I like the view from the west side best, but you should have time to visit both.)
Your next stop is in the Lake Mývatn area. Lake Mývatn is a huge volcanic lake, and probably the most touristy area in northern Iceland.
There are several things to do/see in this area. Ones I especially recommend include:
- Skútustaðagígar (a series of pseudocraters to see)
- Dimmuborgir (an area of dramatic lava rocks with easy paved walking trails)
- Hverir AKA Námafjall Geothermal Area (an area where you can see smoking fumaroles and boiling mud pools up close; it's stinky, though!)
And there are a couple others things you could do with more time (but that I'm not sure you need to):
- Climb Hverfell Crater Mountain (there are two trails to choose from)
- Grjotagja Hot Spring Cave (a site for looking only! made famous by “Game of Thrones” where Jon Snow and Ygritte hook up; it's crowded, and honestly not much to see)
- Myvatn Nature Baths (a thermal pool that's blue like the Blue Lagoon; I found it to be super crowded and not all that enjoyable in August, so would not particularly recommend a stop here)
From Lake Myvatn, it's another short drive (less than an hour) to see Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Iceland. The waterfall is fed by a glacial river that comes from Vatnajökull, Iceland's largest glacier, and tumbles roughly 150 feet into Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon.
There are two sides of Dettifoss that you can visit. The west side has a paved road leading to it, so it's the more-visited side of the falls. This side has a viewing platform with a straight-on view of the falls – but you will probably get wet from the spray!
The east side is less visited, but can only be reached via a very bumpy, unpaved road that's only open during the summer months.
You probably don't have enough time to visit both sides (unless you were to add an extra day in this part of Iceland), so I recommend visiting the west side. I tried visiting the east side on my road trip, and it ended up being too foggy to even see the waterfall – so NOT worth the 1.5 hours driving on that unpaved road!
From Dettifoss, it's another 2 hours of driving to reach Egilsstaðir, where you'll stay tonight.
If you're up for yet another hot spring, the Vök Baths just outside of Egilsstaðir are fantastic. There are two pools that sit right in Lake Urriðavatn, along with steam rooms, a swim-up bar, and a small restaurant. This hot spring was one of my favorites in Iceland; I loved its relaxed vibe. (Book a ticket in advance here.)
Total driving time: 4.5 hours
Sample costs for today: Other than the Vok Baths (6290-10,990 ISK, or $44-$77 USD), you only really have to pay for parking at Hverir, and that amount is based on how long you stay.
Where to stay in Egilsstaðir: It's not a large town, but there are still several hotels and guesthouses to choose from. The top-rated spots include Gistihusid Lake Hotel Egilsstadir, Herad Berjaya Iceland, and the Lyngas Guesthouse.
Day 7: The Eastfjords
Get an early start this morning, because there's a ton to see as you explore the Eastfjords region! (It's probably the part of Iceland I find the most breathtaking after the Snaefellsnes Peninsula!)
Start out with the half-hour drive to Seyðisfjörður, an adorable little fjord town. The drive itself is stunning, and there are two waterfalls (Fardagafoss and Gufufoss) worth stopping to see along the way (though Fardagafoss does require a hike).
Once in Seydisfjordur, you can explore the small town a bit, making sure to visit the famous rainbow street leading towards the blue church Seyðisfjarðarkirkja. Seydisfjordur is a bit of a detour off the Ring Road, but I think it's worth it.
You'll have to retrace your drive to get back onto Route 1 to follow it through the Eastfjords. The views are absolutely stunning, so expect to want to pull over a few times!
The next stop I recommend is near the village of Stöðvarfjörður (about 1.5 hours from Seydisfjordur). Here you can stop to visit Petra's Stone Collection, which is exactly what it's billed as. Ljósbjörg Petra María began collecting interesting rocks and minerals at the age of 7, and continued throughout her whole life until she passed away.
Now, her former house and garden is a museum dedicated to her collection. Most of the stones and minerals were found in eastern Iceland, and it's a very impressive collection! (Note though that it's only open June 1-September 30 each year.)
Then you can wind your way along the coast. There are two more waterfalls that are optional to see: Folaldafoss (which requires a very short detour) and Nykurhylsfoss. Both are on the way to the town of Djúpivogur.
I recommend having lunch in Djúpivogur at Við Voginn (which has excellent fish and chips), and stopping to see the quirky Eggin í Gleðivík, which are sculptures of eggs representing all the different types of birds that live in this part of Iceland.
Once you hit the road again, scenic spots to stop at include the Hvalnes Lighthouse, and the Stokksnes Peninsula.
Stokksnes is known for the towering Vestrahorn Mountain and black sand dunes, and is worth a longer stop. The peninsula is on privately owned land and does require an entry fee (which you can pay at the Viking Cafe), but it just means that you aren't likely to find this spot very crowded.
Once on Stokksnes, you can explore the dunes and black sand beach (my favorite part), visit the remnants of a “Viking village” that was built as a movie set, and potentially hike out to the nearby lighthouse.
From there, it's a short drive to the Höfn area for the night.
Total driving time: 5 hours
Sample costs for today: Petra's Stone Collection – 1500 ISK ($11 USD); Stokksnes entry fee – 900 ISK ($6.50 USD) per person
Where to stay in Höfn: The Milk Factory is a small hotel right in the town of Hofn, while the Fosshotel Vatnajokull is located a little ways north of town (but is the top-rated hotel in the area). The Aurora Cabins are also a good option.
Day 8: Hofn to Vik
Today is another busy day! This is a day where you might want to pick and choose what you do, depending on your personal preferences and how much hiking you do/don't want to do.
Regardless of what else you do today, though, your first stop of the morning should be at the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, about an hour's drive from Höfn. This is one of the most popular spots along the South Coast of Iceland, so go early (but expect it to be busy even at 9 a.m.)!
Jokulsarlon is Iceland's famous glacier lagoon, where large chunks of ice break off the glaciers in Vatnajökull National Park and slowly make their way out to sea. Getting out into the lagoon on a boat is popular here and fairly easy; book a 35-minute tour in an amphibious boat, or an hour-long zodiac tour that will get you up closer to the ice. (Book tours in advance here.)
Just across the Ring Road from Jokulsarlon is a spot known as Diamond Beach, where sea-polished chunks of glacier ice wash up on a black sand beach. (It's cool to see, but is really just a photo stop!)
Pro tip: If for whatever reason you can't book a boat tour at Jokulsarlon, know that there's another (smaller) glacier lagoon nearby called Fjallsárlón! Boat tours are also offered at Fjallsárlón, which is less crowded and actually cheaper. Tour info here.
After the glacier lagoon, I recommend one or two hikes. Which one(s) you do will depend largely on what you want to see and how much of a challenge/adventure you want.
My personal choice would be to hike to Múlagljúfur Canyon, which is a magical canyon filled with mossy cliffs and thin cascading waterfalls. It's close to Fjallsárlón, and you should be able to fit this hike in before lunch.
The canyon is not super easy to access, requiring a drive down a bumpy and pitted gravel road (you CAN do it in a regular car if you take it slow) and then a moderately strenuous uphill hike for 45 minutes or so. But the views once you make it to the top of the canyon? SO WORTH IT.
An option for the afternoon is to do a glacier hike in Skaftafell on an arm of the Vatnajökull Glacier. This 3-hour glacier hike has several afternoon departures during the summer months, and is an excellent way to get up close to Iceland's largest glacier. (Book a glacier hike here.)
You could also go on a hike in the Skaftafell section of Vatnajökull National Park. The most popular hike is the one to Svartifoss waterfall, which is a waterfall surrounded by basalt columns (you've probably seen photos of it).
This hike is much less exciting than the one to Múlagljúfur Canyon, though, with fairly a steeply uphill walk for just under a mile on the way to the waterfall. I don't personally think Svartifoss is a must-see, but if it's on your list then you should go! (Just know that if you're going on a summer afternoon, the viewing platform down by the waterfall will likely be pretty crowded!)
If you reallllly push it, you could probably fit Múlagljúfur Canyon, a glacier hike, AND the hike to Svartifoss into the afternoon of Day 8, but I wouldn't recommend it. I would probably choose one or two of those things and fully enjoy them (there will be another chance for a glacier hike later, another canyon, and lots more waterfalls in this itinerary).
Not into all the hiking? There are a few things between the glacier lagoons and the town of Vík í Mýrdal that are easier to see, including the Eldhraun lava field, Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, and the Gígjagjá cave. (And, theoretically, you could stop at one or two of those on your way to Vik if you aren't in a rush; otherwise, you'll have a chance to backtrack to some of those spots on Day 9.)
Total driving time: 4 hours
Sample costs for today: Glacier hike – $95 (13,550 ISK); Skaftafell parking – 1000 ISK ($7 USD)
Where to stay in Vik: Highly-rated hotels in Vik include Hotel Vik i Myrdal, Hotel Kria, and Hotel Katla. For guesthouses a little bit outside of Vik, check out Solheimahjaleiga Guesthouse or Grand Guesthouse Gardakot.
Day 9: Vik area
There's a lot to see within an hour's drive of Vik, so I recommend spending a second night here and driving out to the spots that sound the best to you.
If you missed them yesterday, some sites worth seeing to the east of Vik (backtracking along the Ring Road) include:
- Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon – A very striking canyon 320 feet deep and a mile long that looks like something out of Lord of the Rings. It's not far off the Ring Road, and you can walk as little as 10-15 minutes for some epic views. (There's a longer walking trail along the canyon edge, too, if you want to see more.)
- Eldhraun lava field – Eldhraun is the largest lava flow of its kind anywhere in the world, and was the result of a cataclysmic eruption of a volcano called Laki in the 1780s. Today, the massive lava field covers more than 215 square miles and is covered in a thick layer of spongy green-gray moss. There are several places to stop and see it; I'd recommend “Gönguleið um Eldhraun,” where you can find some established trails you can safely walk on. (Just don't walk on the moss!)
- Gígjagjá (AKA Yoda Cave) – This cave in a hill called Hjörleifshöfði makes for a fun photo stop. You can drive basically right up to the cave, and from inside the cave openings resemble Yoda from Star Wars (and parts of the “Rogue One” Star Wars movie were even filmed here!).
Closer to Vik, the must-visit spots are:
- Reynisfjara Beach – With its dramatic black sand, basalt columns, and spindly sea stacks, Reynisfjara Beach is probably the most famous beach in Iceland. It's also one of the most dangerous, though, with “sneaker waves” always possible. If you go here, obey any warning signs (some days you may be advised not to visit the beach).
- Dyrhólaey – There are two areas you can visit on the small Dyrhólaey Peninsula: one a viewpoint at the top of a hill, and the other closer to beach level. The hilltop viewpoint offers views of “The Endless Black Beach” and the Dyrhólaey rock arch – but beware that it can be VERY windy!
To the west of Vik, some spots you could visit today that are only about half an hour away include:
- Kvernufoss – This waterfall is somehow still a bit of a hidden gem along the South Coast. It's a gorgeous, 100-foot-tall waterfall half tucked away in a small gorge. It requires a short (15 minutes or so) hike across a relatively flat field, and once you reach it you have the option to walk down into the gorge and behind the waterfall. Definitely a must!
- Skógar Museum – A regional folk museum that actually comprises three different small museums and six historical buildings, including a replica turf house village. The three different museums include a folk museum, a technical museum, and an open-air museum (where you'll find the turf houses). It's an interesting look into the historic way of life in this part of Iceland.
- Skógafoss – Skogafoss is one of the larger waterfalls in Iceland, with a height of around 200 feet and a width of just over 80 feet. You can get fairly close to the base of the falls, and there's also a set of stairs that will take you up to the top of the waterfall. (I don't personally think walking up the 400 steps is worth it, though, unless you want to hike part of the Waterfall Way.)
Speaking of the Waterfall Way, if you do want a nice hike today, this is a great option! You first have to climb to the top of Skogafoss, and then the Waterfall Way trail follows the Skógá River for 8 kilometers (about 5 miles), passing 26 different waterfalls along the way. It's an out-and-back trail, so you can hike as much or as little as you'd like.
Lastly, there's another chance to do a glacier hike today on the Solheimajokull glacier. This is a really cool experience, and I'd highly recommend a glacier hike if you've never done one before. All the gear you need is provided, and you'll learn all about Iceland's glaciers as you get up close and personal with ice formations and crevasses. (This 3-hour tour is offered a few times each day, and they also offer ice climbing and snowmobile tours here.)
Total driving time: 4 hours (if you did every single thing on the list)
Sample costs for today: Kvernufoss parking fee – 750 ISK ($5 USD)
Where to stay in Vik: A second night in Vik! Highly-rated hotels in Vik include Hotel Vik i Myrdal, Hotel Kria, and Hotel Katla. For guesthouses a little bit outside of Vik, check out Solheimahjaleiga Guesthouse or Grand Guesthouse Gardakot.
Day 10: Back to Reykjavik/Keflavik
Today it's time to head back to the Reykjavik area or airport. The drive from Vik is less than 3 hours, so you should have time for at least one or two more stops (or more, depending on whether you're flying home today or spending one more night in Iceland).
You will have seen most of the waterfalls close to Vik already, but there are two left to see today along the Ring Road as you head back west.
The first is Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall that cascades 200 feet over cliff into a rounded pool surrounded by green moss. Because of the way the cliff face is formed, you can walk all the way around the back of this waterfall – which you'll definitely want to do!
Good to know: The trail around Seljalandsfoss is fairly short, but it's wet and can be slippery in spots. Know that if you want to walk the loop all the way around behind the falls, there's some rock scrambling involved on the far left side (if you're going counter-clockwise).
While at Seljalandsfoss, you'll notice that the trail continues on past the first famous waterfall. Not as many people make the 10-minute walk, but those who do can visit Gljúfrabúi, or the “Canyon Dweller.”
This 130-foot-tall waterfall cascades down into a small gorge, almost completely hidden from view. Those who don't mind getting wet can walk/wade into the canyon and see this impressive waterfall. (You will get VERY WET, though, so I highly recommend fully waterproof coat, pants, and boots to visit this one.)
You can stop in the town of Selfoss for lunch, where an old milk factory in the center of town has recently been transformed into a food hall and collection of shops.
IF you aren't flying home today, one more unique thing to do is hike to the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River, which is a naturally warm river you can soak in. To get to the part of the river that's safe for bathing, you have to park at the dedicated Reykjadalur parking lot and hike for about 45 minutes.
Boardwalks line the river in the section where you can swim, but pay attention to signs warning of extra hot water – not all pools are safe to jump into! Also note that there aren't any restrooms or private changing areas one you're out at the river.
From here, it's not long to get to Reykjavik or Keflavik.
Total driving time: 2.75 hours to Reykjavik, or 3 hours to Keflavik
Sample costs for today: Seljalandsfoss parking – 750 ISK ($5 USD)
Where to stay: If you're staying another night in Reykjavik, you have lots of options. If you need to stay near the airport for an early flight tomorrow, the Aurora Hotel is walking distance to the airport.
Have more time in Iceland?
I distilled a longer road trip down into just 10 days, because that's the average length of trip most people plan in Iceland.
But if you have 12 days in Iceland or 15 days in Iceland (or longer!), here are a couple ways you can extend this 10-day Ring Road itinerary to add on even more epic adventures!
1. Extra day to do Tröllaskagi
The Tröllaskagi Peninsula lies just to the northwest of Akureyri, and is incredibly beautiful but not super well-known among visitors to Iceland. You could add an extra night in Akureyri and spend a day leisurely exploring this little corner of Iceland.
A few things to do as you drive around this beautiful peninsula on Route 76 include:
- Visit the Herring Era Museum – The fjord-side town of Siglufjörður was once the herring capital of Iceland. You can learn about this period of history at the quirky Herring Era Museum, which is spread throughout several buildings. Learn about everything from herring fishing to processing to how people who worked in the industry lived. And Siglufjörður is worth walking around, too.
- Swim at Hofsós Sundlaug – The small town of Hofsos is known for its nearly-infinity-style swimming pool with incredible fjord views. They have a (heated) pool and hot tub, and the entry fee is less than $10. You can also walk down to see the Staðarbjörg basalt rock columns in the cliffs below the pool.
- See Grafarkirkja – The oldest (and arguably cutest) turf church in Iceland is located near Hofsos on the western side of the Tröllaskagi Peninsula. Parts of this little church date back to the 17th century, and it's worth stopping to see, even though you cannot go inside the church any longer. (Note that Google maps won't quite take you to the right place here; you need to turn in at a gravel driveway with a farm gate that you'll need to get out to open/close.)
Where to add it in: In between Days 4 and 5 of this itinerary makes the most sense! Then you can stay an extra night in Akureyri.
Total driving time: About 3.75 hours to circle the peninsula if you start/end in Akureyri
Sample costs: Herring Era Museum – 2200 ISK ($15.50 USD); Hofsós Sundlaug entry – 1175 ISK ($9 USD)
2. Extra day between Akureyri and Eastfjords
If you're visiting Iceland for the hiking, then you might want to allow an extra day between Akureyri and the Eastfjords.
By adding an extra day, you'd have time to visit the east side of Dettifoss (the side with the bumpy gravel road that you'll have to take slow). The road is only open during the summer months, and you'll want to get there early as the parking lot is a bit small.
You can hike down to see Dettifoss first (10-15 minutes down a fairly steep and rocky trail), where you can get pretty close to the powerful falls. Then you can continue on for another 1 kilometer along another rocky trail to see the Selfoss waterfall from the east side. (Allow 1.5-2 hours to see both of these waterfalls, not counting driving time.)
You can also continue driving up the unpaved road for about 5 minutes to see another waterfall, Hafragilsfoss, and the stunning Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon. (This is just a short walk to a viewpoint.)
From there, the other major stop I'd recommend on the way to Egilsstaðir is Stuðlagil Canyon.
This incredible, Instagrammable canyon filled with tall basalt columns and turquoise water was actually only “discovered” a handful of years ago. The river that flows through the canyon used to run much higher, until a new hydro power station was built that altered the level of the river, revealing these stunning columns.
Note: The water in the canyon is NOT that turquoise color year-round. When they let water out of the dam (usually in late August/early September) and sometimes after very heavy rains the river can appear brownish-gray instead of teal.
Visit the viewing platform on the west side of the canyon first (marked on Google Maps as “Stuðlagil Canyon”), and then drive to one of the parking areas on the east side of the canyon (the first lot is “Stuðlagil East side parking” on Google Maps, and the second parking area is “Parkplatz Klaustrusel – Stuðlagil”). You really probably need a 4WD car to get to the second parking area.
The hike to the column-filled part of the canyon is 2.5-3 miles from the first parking lot, and the “trail” just follows a mildly hilly gravel farm track. The hike itself is not super exciting, but the canyon is incredible once you get there!
Just beware that you visit Stuðlagil Canyon at your own risk; there's a rope to help you climb down near the river if you want to, but if you slip and fall here you could get very injured and be quite far away from help.
Pro tip: Visit the west side viewing platform first at Stuðlagil Canyon and use the restrooms here (fee required, but they take credit cards/Apple Pay), as there are currently NO services available on the east side of the canyon.
Then you can continue on to Egilsstaðir to soak in the Vok Baths after all the hiking today.
Where to add it: Between Days 6 and 7 of this itinerary. Visit Godafoss, the Lake Myvatn area, and perhaps the west side of Dettifoss on Day 6, then the east side of Dettifoss, Stuðlagil Canyon, plus the Vok Baths on Day 7.
Total driving time: This doesn't actually add a lot of extra driving time; it would make your driving time on Day 6 shorter, and your driving time on Day 7 about 3.75 hours.
Sample costs: There aren't any extra costs here.
Where to stay: I would stay the extra night in the Lake Myvatn area. Hotel options include Fosshotel Myvatn, Hotel Laxa, and the Icelandair Hotel Myvatn. For guesthouses, the Vogafjos Guesthouse and Dimmuborgir Guesthouse are both highly rated.
3. Day in Westman Islands
Lastly, this one admittedly isn't ON the Ring Road, but it's a unique addition that I highly recommend! The Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar) are a small archipelago off Iceland's south coast. The largest island, Heimaey, has a sizable town and lots to do, and makes for an excellent extra day trip or overnight trip.
You can take a ferry from Landeyjahöfn (about 1 hour from Vik) and be on Heimaey in 40 minutes. The ferries are large and run several times per day in the summer months – and can carry cars.
Once on Heimaey, the top things to do include:
- Look for puffins – During the summer months (May-mid August), puffins nest on the hills and cliffs at the southern end of the island. You could easily spend hours watching them!
- Visit the Eldheimar Museum – This museum chronicles the massive volcanic eruption of Eldfell in 1973. The eruption forced a mass overnight evacuation of the island, and came close to destroying the whole town. Miraculously, no one died and the town mostly survived.
- Go on a RIB safari – If you like high speed and breathtaking scenery, book a RIB tour! These fast boats zip around the islands, float into sea caves, and get you up close to some iconic rock formations like Elephant Rock.
Where to add it: I'd add it either between Day 8 and 9, or between Day 9 and 10 of the above itinerary. Since the ferry terminal is close to Vik, you could either do a day trip to Heimaey and return to Vik that night, or stay overnight on the island. (If you stay overnight, I'd recommend either Hotel Vestmannaeyjar or renting a cute barrel cabin at Glamping & Camping.)
Total driving time: It depends on whether you need to drive both to/from Vik in one day, but on the island you won't need to drive much since it's not that big!
Note: Some people will tell you that you don't need a car on Heimaey, but you really do if you want to see everything on your own. The island is small, but walking from the ferry terminal to where the puffins are, for example, is quite a long (3.5 miles one way) and hilly walk!
And these are not the only ways to extend your Ring Road road trip!
You could also add a day or two exploring the Westfjords, or take drives up into the Highlands (only in the summer months, and only if you've rented a 4×4 that is permitted to drive on F roads). Spots like Þórsmörk and Landmannalaugar are simply stunning – but a trip exploring the Highlands is very different from a Ring Road road trip.
What to pack for an Iceland road trip
I have one major packing tip for Iceland: warm, waterproof layers!
No matter what time of year you're visiting Iceland, you're going to want a rain coat (and probably rain pants), waterproof boots/shoes of some sort, and a hat. Add as many layers underneath as you need to stay warm. (The wind and rain are almost always cold, and the high temperatures rarely get above 55 F even in July and August.)
Some must-haves for me in Iceland include:
- A good raincoat like this Columbia Arcadia II jacket
- Rain pants (I like my Columbia rain pants)
- Waterproof hiking boots (I can vouch for Columbia Newton Ridge Plus boots and Oboz Sapphire Low B-Dry shoes)
- Rain boots like these Xtratuf tall rain boots
- Warm base layers (Unbound Merino is awesome, and you can wear it for days without it smelling!)
- A good outer layer (in summer, packable down/down alternative is good; I have this cheap coat from 32 Degrees)
- Wool socks
- A cozy hat and gloves
Check out my whole Iceland packing list here.
I won't lie to you: an Iceland road trip can very easily turn into a jam-packed vacation that you'll need a vacation from when you return home! But, it's an absolutely EPIC country, and you won't regret squeezing in as much as you can!
Feel free to use this itinerary to inspire your own Ring Road trip!