A road trip is undoubtedly the best way to get to know some of the most beautiful landscapes of Iceland at your own pace and the only way you can plan your very own trip according to your preferences of things to see.
This drive will set you for a big adventure exploring lava fields, waterfalls, mountains, glaciers, black sand beaches, hot springs and many other countless unforgettable experiences.
I loved every minute and cannot recommend it enough. Even when we were driving for some time the scenery was incredible and so inspiring! We stopped many times just to absorb the natural landscapes because I could not believe my eyes sometimes!
This road trip was mainly done around route 1, also known by Ring Road, which is basically a highway that circumnavigates the whole country.
This road trip itinerary is based on 8 nights and 7 days. If you’re thinking to do the route along the Ring Road I recommend you to leave at least 7 days to do this itinerary but you can always adapt it, it’s all up to you!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
DAY 1 | REYKJAVÍK
My flight landed at 2pm at Keflavík International Airport and after the usual time picking up the suitcases I was quickly received by the Lagoon Car Rental representative.
Only 5 minutes later I was at their office filling up the usual car rental paper work and ready to set off on an epic road trip with my husband.
Our first stop was the Brim Hotel in Reykjavík, where we stayed for the first night. Then off to explore the capital of Iceland.
With so much written about Reykjavík already I’ll keep it short here.
In total I spent three nights in town, one at the start if my journey and two at the end. It was enough for me to absorb the vibe and the laid back environment of the streets and establishments.
It was not my favourite place and to be honest if I only had stayed there I would be a bit disappointed with Iceland but it’s worth the stop for a night or two!
Wondering around the main streets is the best way to get to know the town. It’s not big and most of the remarkable sites like the Hallgrímskirkja church, the concert hall Harpa or the Sun Voyager are within minutes from each other.
To finish the day I had an Italian dinner at Rossopomodoro restaurant just on the main street.
We also stocked up on snacks for the next few days on one of the local supermarket just before returning back to the hotel.
DAY 2 | ÞINGVELLIR • STROKKUR • GULLFOSS • KERIÐ • GAMLA LAUGIN
We left Reykjavík early morning just after a quick breakfast at the hotel and I was quite excited with the first day, until it started to rain heavily. I eventually accepted that the rain would just be the normal forecast for the week!
STOP 1 – Þingvellir National Park
The Þingvellir National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for both historical and geological value.
The park was the site for the oldest parliament in the world in 930 AD and is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart at a rate of almost two centimeters a year.
If you have time you can snorkel and scuba dive there in the rift formed by the divergent plates in an area called Silfra – quite the experience!
STOP 2: The Strokkur geyser
The Strokkur geyser is located in the geothermal area of Haukadalur and it’s a spectacular scene you don’t want to miss! Geysir is also located in this area but is now dormant.
With a bit of patient you will witness one of the most incredible phenomenon’s in Iceland which is the eruption of the Strokkur geyser – the most active geyser in Iceland.
It took about 3 eruptions to recognize the signs of when would it happen.
At first some small movements on the boiling water start to appear. Then some bubbles are visible on the surface, followed by bigger ones that then transform into a massive explosion of 30mt (98 ft) in the air. The eruption repeats every 4-10 minutes.
We had a quick lunch in the small restaurant just across the street and then continued to explore the area.
STOP 3: Gullfoss Falls
The Gullfoss falls often known as the Golden Falls are created by the glacial river Hvítá and it’s an impressive plunge of water of 32m (104 ft) deep.
It’s one of the easiest waterfalls to see with no need to hike and walking platforms around to get the best views from above or down.
I found them really beautiful with some traces of snow still lying around. Don’t forget your rain coat as the splashes from the water are quite frequent!
Related: What to pack for a week in Iceland
STOP 4: Kerið Crater
Kerið is a volcanic crater lake that dates back to 3,000 years and is a must see due the beautiful bright blue colours of the water in the crater.
Red volcanic rock composes the soil surrounding giving it a different look from the usual greenish/yellow Iceland landscape.
You can hike around the crater or even hike down and get really close to the water. When I visited the water was frozen and it looked like crystal. There is a small of 400 ISK to visit.
STOP 5: Gamla Laugin – The Secret Lagoon
This Secret Lagoon hot spring is not as secret as it was before. Less busy than the Blue Lagoon for example it’s a relaxing stopover during a road trip.
Located in Fludir within the Golden Circle area, it was kept as natural as it can be since 1891. The water ranges from 38-40°C (98-104°F). Around the lagoon you can see steam coming out from several geothermal spots and a little Geysir which erupts every 5 minutes.
There are facilities to change for men’s and women’s and like in many other lagoons you are required to shower naked before entering the lagoon. A little bar serves refreshments like water and beer and small snacks. You can book a time on-line before your visit but it’s not busy so I just got my ticket at the entrance as I was not sure if I would make it there.
Alternative stop: If you have time and want to check out another hot spring, Reykjadalur is just in the area.
We finished the day with a hot tube session at our accommodation which was a treat!
DAY 3 | SELJALANDSFOSS • SELJAVALLALAUG • SKÓGAFOSS • DC-3 PLANE • VÍK
After a relaxed night it was time for another early start. We cooked breakfast in the guesthouse as they had a shared kitchen and after that off we went for a long drive ahead.
STOP 1: Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland and probably my favourite of them all. Its located 2 hours away from Reykjavík with an easy access just off the main road.
The beauty of this waterfall lies in the power of the water dropping 60 metres deep surrounded by the natural Icelandic landscape. Also you can see it from different angles by walking behind the falls if the weather allows it.
Expect splashes of water from the waterfall: bring your waterproof rain jacket and boots. To park there you have a 700 ISK fee that it’s valid for the whole day and also for other parks around too.
STOP 2: Seljavallalaug Swimming pool – Hveragerði
Seljavallalaug is one of those hidden gems in Iceland of so many touristic places.
It’s one of the oldest swimming pools built in 1923 and preserved in the middle of the mountains with a jaw dropping landscape.
The access is not so easy like other hot springs but it’s not impossible to get there! After your visit to Seljalandsfoss take road 242 until you get to a small parking lot marked as Seljavellir (marked as the red cross – you can put this name on your GPS to guide you there). From there it’s a 15 minute walk across beautiful landscapes with scenery almost like a ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie set.
The water was cold (not warm as many websites refer) and it was also freezing outside but that did not stop me from going for a swim! Once inside the pool it was quite relaxing and the hard part was to get out!
The pool is free to use and there is nothing there apart from a small room in a bad condition where you can change clothes. Take everything with you – flip flops, towel, swimsuit – because there is nothing there!
Related: What to pack for a week in Iceland
STOP 3: Skógafoss
Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland with a width of 25m (82ft) and a drop from a 60m (196ft) cliff.
There is an access on the side of the waterfall that will take you to the observation platform at the top with a spectacular view of the water falling down.
If you’re lucky enough maybe you get to see a rainbow but most probably you will just get a splash or two!
STOP 4: Crashed DC-3 Plane
In 1973 the United States Navy DC-3 Plane ran out of fuel and crashed at Sólheimasandur black sand beach with no fatalities.
The plane remains in the same place, abandoned and stripped of most parts inside. With a surreal landscape around of black sand and nothing else, is one of the most unusual places I have ever seen.
It was used to be possible to drive up there but all vehicles are now forbidden. To reach the site you have to leave your car in the small car park available (note that there is no indication at the car park where you are, you just have to trust the GPS) and then brace yourself to walk 1 hour each way.
Unfortunately I cannot say I recommend you to go and see this place. The walk is too long for what you get to see and it’s literally nothing on the landscape around, it’s like walking into nothing (best way to describe it). On top of that it was raining a lot and super windy so that just decreased my overall experience! If I had to go back would skip this.
Alternative stop: If you decide to skip the plan wreck you will have more than time to stop at Dyrhólaey with a beautiful landscape.
STOP 5: Vík
Iceland’s most southern town is located 180 km (110 miles) southeast from Reykjavík and is a must stop during the road trip.
Although is only a small town with just over 300 people is where the black sand beach, Reynisfjara is located and also the impressive Reynisdrangur, a basalt sea stacks emerging to the East of Vík.
If you have time, drive up to the church, where you can see the beautiful view over the town and the beach all in one look.
STOP 6: Reynisfjara
Have you ever seen a black sand beach? It was a first to me! Near the town Vík you will find this black basalt beach with large basalt columns that result from the black volcanic sand.
It’s one of the most unique places in Iceland in my opinion and really easy to visit, even if you’re not driving around the Ring Road. The landscape of the black sand with some mist in the air is perfect for any photography lover.
Be careful with the sea, it can be really rough and there were incidents in the pass where people actually died.
We finish off the day at Hótel Geirland.
DAY 4 | MÝRDALSJÖKULL • FJAÐRÁRGLJÚFUR • SVARTIFOSS • JÖKULSÁRLÓN • HÖFN
I had planned to start our fourth day directly driving to Fjaðrárgljúfur as our first stop and then do an ice caving tour in the Skaftafell Ice Caves in Vatnajökull National Park.
Unfortunately as I mentioned in other articles before, the weather in Iceland is unpredictable and we were informed just the day before that the caves were flooded because of the rain.
Thankfully the tour company had an alternative and we were put on the first time slot to go ice caving in the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier which meant we had to drive back towards Vík again for this activity.
STOP 1: Mýrdalsjökull Glacier
Mýrdalsjökull glacier covers the active volcano Katla. I was lucky to get to hike across this glacier as a way to explore the ice caves there. A mist of clear blue and dark brown ice resulting from the Katla volcano cover these caves and most of the glacier.
There are several glaciers around Iceland and you cannot go and explore the glaciers by yourself for obvious reasons.
Thankfully there are many companies that can take you there with specialized tour guides that know the areas and how to handle adverse weather conditions. It’s probably the only tour that I actually recommend you to sign up for!
The tour companies will provide you crampons and helmets. Walking it’s fairly easy, expecting that the snow is not melting (in that case you can get a bit wet – hence the waterproof boots).
I was really impressed with the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier because of the variety of ice caves going from crystal clear to massive black ice ones and I’m glad I did this tour, something that will keep in my memory forever.
STOP 2: Fjaðrárgljúfur
When I decided to include the Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon as one of the stops of my road trip I was not expecting much but was pleasantly surprised with its beauty and incredible views!
Formed 9,000 years ago, the canyon stretches for about 2km with a 100m (328 ft) depth into the Fjaðrá River that passes through.
There are trails to follow around to the best viewpoints and it’s such a freedom sensation sitting at the top surrounded by the canyon’s moss covered walls.
STOP 3: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
The Jökulsárlón Lagoon is located on Route 1 as your drive towards Höfn and it’s a dramatic scene of multiple icebergs that keep being released from the Jökulsárlón glacier.
You can also see them across the lagoon but also in the beach. During the months of April to November it’s possible to go on a boat tour around the lagoon to see the icebergs really close.
STOP 4: Diamond Beach
Not far away from the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon it’s the Diamond Beach.
The name comes from all the ice parts from the icebergs that wash ashore and stay there looking like diamonds against the black sand beach.
STOP 5: Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull National Park is Europe’s largest national park and a protected area in the south of Iceland.
The park has many highlights – the highest mountain, Hvannadalshnúkur, the largest glacier Vatnajökull (where you can go glacier hiking and ice caving) and Europe’s largest waterfall in terms of volume discharge, Dettifoss.
I had planned to go glacier walking into Vatnajökull and ice caving in Skaftafell but with the change of plans mentioned above we skipped this, although I really recommend you a visit if you have the time and the weather conditions allow you to.
Extra stop: If the day had gone according to plan without having to drive back into Vík in the morning, the Svartifoss waterfall would have been totally possible to visit. At 20m tall the Black Fall, like it’s called, has unique black columnar basalt formations all around the water which makes it really beautiful to look at from far. To get there you can park your car at the Skaftafell visitor centre and from there it’s a 1.5 kilometres hike to the waterfall.
STOP 6: Höfn
As it started to rain heavily at the end of the day I could not wait to check in and have a warm shower. That’s exactly what we did after checking into the House on the Hill in Höfn.
I knew I wanted to have some lobster as it’s quite a famous dish within the town so we had dinner at Z Bistro where I ate a lovely lobster pasta.
DAY 5 | SEYÐISFJÖRÐUR • DETTIFOSS • HVERIR • MÝVATN BATHS • AKUREYRI
We left Höfn really early in the morning as it would be another long day if driving with not so many stops, or so I thought. Literally the drive until our last stop for the day in Akureyri was full of beautiful landscapes and we could not stop ourselves from stopping the car all the time to enjoy the views.
Not a lot of people continue their road trips towards this area, so the roads were almost empty and I can risk saying that it was probably my favourite day in Iceland if I had to pick one.
STOP 1: Seyðisfjörður
One of the most beautiful towns in Iceland. As soon as you arrive is hard not to be blown away from the beautiful multi-coloured houses reflecting into the bay.
Located in East Iceland is a must stop even if is just for a small break. The drive down is incredible with the snow-capped mountains surrounding the town. If I had more time I would have stayed around there just for one night to explore more.
Skip stop: We wanted to see Dettifoss waterfall but unfortunately we did not knew that the roads to access were closed. We still tried a few detours but no luck! It can be reached by Route 862 or Route 864 but both roads only open at the end of May or early June.
Dettifoss has the greatest volume of any other waterfall in Europe with 500 cubic metres of water per second plunging over the edge. Located in the northeast of Iceland, the water comes from the nearby Vatnajökull glacier. The falls are 100 metres (330 ft) wide dropping 44 metres (144 ft) down to the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon.
STOP 2: Hverir geothermal area
Be ready for a total different landscape from what you have been seeing across Iceland. Hverir looks more like Mars with lots of mud, puddles and fumaroles.
It will definitely leave an impression on you even if it’s just because of the rotten egg kind of smell.
In this area you can hike to the top of mountain Námafjall with several viewpoints on the way. You have privileged views over the lava fields and lake Mývatn.
STOP 3: Mývatn Nature Baths
Located in Lake Mývatn Geothermal Area (on the map as the red arrow) this man-made hot springs were my favourite of all the ones I visited. Much quieter than the Blue Lagoon (probably because is so far away from the capital) it was a treat to finish off a day driving watching the sunset there.
I felt a sensation of peace and happiness while I watched the landscape of lava, craters, caves and sulphur surface mountains around me. ⠀
There are two pools with the water temperature going from 36 – 40°C (96-104°F) and a hot tub with extra warm water that I did not venture. Similar to others, the water contains a large amount of unique minerals like sulphur good for many skin conditions.
The baths have easy access with proper lockers, showers and even a small restaurant if you want a drink or a snack.
STOP 4: Akureyri
Akureyri is a large city in the north of Iceland, sometimes referred as the second capital because of the similarities with Reykjavík. There is even an airport 3km away from the town centre.
Some of the attractions to see include the Church of Akureyri overlooking the city and the majestic views of the fjord.
I stayed there for one night in Torg GuestHouse located right in the middle of the city centre. There were lots of restaurants and cafes around with a really modern feel to it.
The northern lights were on my bucket list for a long time and one of the reasons why I wanted to visit Iceland as well.
The lights can be seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres and are known as ‘Aurora borealis’ in the north or ‘Aurora australis’ in the south.
They are the result of the collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere and can have many colours with green and pink being the most common ones.
If you go on a trip to see them, there are some important things to consider. You want to see clear skies (no clouds); total darkness – the best months are from September to April where dark full nights happen in Iceland and a bit of luck!
Some websites that can be handy when trying to find them without a tour like the Aurora Forecast.
Practice with your camera before it happens (one of the days it was only a 30 minutes window were I could see them and considering that it takes time for each photo you want to be ready) and take a tripod (the camera needs to be really still while shooting).
With all these in mind we knew that the conditions were all in our favour to see them just a bit outside town. We parked our car and waited for about 20 minutes only until they appeared.
For about 1 hour we saw them dancing in the skies in an incredible scene that I will never forget!
DAY 6 | GOÐAFOSS • HRAUNFOSSAR • REYKJAVÍK
In the morning we explored a bit of Akureyri and had a large breakfast for the big drive ahead!
STOP 1: Goðafoss Waterfall
Located just 25 minutes from Akureyri there is no way you want to miss this waterfall.
Easy accessible from the main road, the landscape was covered in snow with the sun shining which made it just breathtakingly beautiful.
Different from most of the other waterfalls, Goðafoss has only a small drop of 12m (39ft) but spreads 30m (98ft) width and the water is so powerful that you can barely distinguish it as creates a sort of mist in the air.
Extra stop: If you have time and you feel like you want to see another beautiful waterfall stop at Aldeyjarfoss, you won’t regret it!
STOP 2: Hraunfossar
It’s not one of the most popular sites that people normally visit but I was intrigued by the bright blue water against the volcanic rocks.
In fact this is not just one waterfall but a series of waterfalls formed by rivulets streaming over a distance of about 900 metres out of the Hallmundarhraun lava field, creating this unusual natural phenomenon of the bright blue colours.
There are wooden pathways around to different point of views and the access it’s quite easy from the main road.
STOP 3: Reykjavík
We got back to our starting point in Reykjavík and check in for two nights in Brim Hotel were we stayed on the first night because it was really nice and within budget.
We spend the rest of the day exploring Reykjavík streets and shops and set up for dinner in a local sort of pub that had live music.
DAY 7 | BLUE LAGOON
On our last day I did not put any stops apart from the Blue Lagoon as all I wanted was to relax and unwind after a long drive around Iceland.
If you want to do things different I suggest you to visit the Blue Lagoon on the first day when you arrive on your way from the airport and then for this day visit the Iceland’s Snæfellsnes peninsula which is said to be really beautiful.
STOP 1: Reykjavík
We had a long sleep to recover from all the early mornings during the week and went for a late breakfast around town. It was nice to just sit down for a long coffee and talk about all the places we have been and what a crazy adventure it was!
STOP 2: Blue Lagoon
The blue lagoon is the most famous thermal bath in Iceland and also the most visited. It’s located quite close to both Keflavík International Airport and Reykjavík. Perfect to visit if you only have a stopover in Iceland or a few days in Reykjavík.
The lagoon has a characteristic milky blue colour due to its components of algae, silica, sulphur and other minerals that can be beneficial to the skin. The water temperature averages 37–39°C (98–102°F) which is just perfect for a relaxing time bathing and swimming.
I advise you to book a time slot as soon as you decide you’re going there because the times sell out really quick especially during the day when it’s busier.
For my visit I choose to go in the evening for sunset. I had already been to many other thermal baths around Iceland and this was my last day in the country so I wanted to avoid lots of people. Really loved it, watched sunset at about 8pm and them had some drinks at the bar until about 22pm.
A silica mud mask is included in the price and it was a fun activity! You need to be extra careful about your hair – the minerals in the water make it really dry. But, if you follow their recommendations of putting lots of conditioner before and after you enter the lagoon it will be fine at the end.
More Northern Lights…
Although I had already experienced to see the lights before back in Akureyri we thought going to see them again just for fun and a little bit of challenge!
On our way back from the Blue Lagoon at about 10pm we decided to stop near a light house were there already three cars waiting for to see the lights as well. We waited, had dinner in the car and it kept raining, we almost gave up.
Then at about 1am the skies clear for a total of 30 minutes and there they were, beautiful and with totally different colours from before towards pink and purple. It just gave a bit of magic to our last night in Iceland!
But remember, at the end of the day the northern lights are a natural phenomenon and even when you go with a tour they cannot guarantee 100% that you will see them, so fingers crossed!
The next day we got back to the airport to catch our flight and returned our rented car into the Lagoon Car Rental office located just 5 minutes way.
You can use this guide in many different ways but doing just part of it, skipping or adding places but at least you have any idea of the route and things can be far apart.
Do you feel ready now for an epic road trip? Plan it with my tips and remember if you need any more information about any route or experience please leave me a comment or send me an e-mail!
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