Secrets Of The Ring Road: Iceland’s Epic Road Trip (Complete Guide)

Ring Road Iceland
Guide to Driving Iceland’s Ring Road
Ring Road, Iceland

There’s nothing quite like an Iceland road trip. Especially when driving past incredible volcanoes, icebergs, waterfalls, and magical northern lights on Iceland’s Ring Road!

Iceland is has opened its borders for tourism again with COVID-19 testing on arrival at Keflavík International Airport, but it’s still closed to Americans.

If you’re searching for an unforgettable adventure travel experience, a road trip around Iceland’s Ring Road will not disappoint. The country is visually captivating in a way I’ve not seen elsewhere.

Lurking around every bend a stunning new Icelandic landscape reveals itself.

Renting a car and self-driving Iceland on the Ring Road exposes you to bubbling geothermal springs, sparkling rainbows, beautiful horses, icy glaciers, massive waterfalls, and rugged mountains day after day.

If you’re lucky, you may even catch the magic of the northern lights too!

Now throw in the occasional ice cave or even an erupting volcano, and you’ll start to appreciate what traveling in Iceland is actually like. However, you must experience this country for yourself to understand!

In this travel guide I’ll help you get the most out of a self-drive ring road adventure. Learn how to prepare, where to stay, and the best things to see!

This Ring Road itinerary is completely free! I’ve worked hard putting it together for you. If you find it useful, I’d appreciate if you use my affiliate links when you book hotels, rental cars or activities. I’ll get paid a small commission, at no extra cost to you! Thanks.

Ring Road Iceland Travel Map

How To Use This Map

Above you’ll find a map of my itinerary for Iceland’s Ring Road. Click on the top left of the map to find separate layers marking the route and points of interest. You can hide and show different layers, or click icons on the map to see the names of places I mention in this travel guide. “Star” the map to save it to your own Google Maps, or open the map in a new window for a larger version. Enjoy!

Driving Iceland’s Ring Road In 2020

If you haven’t figured it out by the map above, Iceland’s Ring Road encircles the entire country covering over 800 miles on Route 1.

While you could technically drive the whole thing in less than 24 hours, the reality is it will take you at least a week with stops on along the way.

This is because you’ll be stopping a lot. Like every 5 minutes!

The photography opportunities in Iceland are unbelievable, and you’ll find yourself constantly pulling over for photos. I gave myself 10 days in Iceland, with 7 full days to drive the Ring Road itself.

Looking back I wish I had spent an extra few days on the Ring Road.

While 7 days is possible, you’ll be moving non-stop, and will probably miss a few highlights. Especially if you have a bad-weather day.

Because the weather is definitely a factor in Iceland, with sudden snowstorms common in the spring, fall, and winter.

Campervan Rental in Iceland
My Happy Campers Van
Iceland Road Trip
A Peek Inside the Van

Rental Car Or Campervan?

The best site to book your rental car is with Discover Cars. They search both local and international car rental companies to help you find the best possible price. This is the easiest way to rent a car for driving in Iceland.

There are bus tours that drive the route, but a self-drive tour is the better way to go in my opinion. You can stop anywhere you want, for as long as you want, giving you complete freedom.

I drove the ring road in Iceland while living out of a Happy Campers van. The major benefit to renting a campervan is that it covers your accommodation.

My van was equipped with a fold-down bed, sink with running water, electric cooler, gas grill, battery-powered heating system and a large solar panel.

UPDATE: Since writing this article, Iceland implemented new laws that restrict where you can spend the night in a campervan. You can no longer pull over and spend the night anywhere. You must park at campgrounds.
Planning Your Ring Road Adventure
Planning Your Ring Road Adventure

Planning An Iceland Road Trip

Where To Start From

Most travelers start their Ring Road drive from Keflavik International Airport, others spend a few days exploring Reykjavik from a hotel first. You can drive the route in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction, but I recommend driving counterclockwise to hit the most touristy parts of Iceland first.

Gas Stations

Gas is expensive in Iceland at $2 USD per liter ($7.50 per gallon). Gas stations are easy to find around towns, but in the countryside, they are less frequent. Some foreign credit cards may need to be used inside rather than at the pump.

Fill up whenever you can, especially in winter, just in case you’re stuck in a snowstorm overnight. Gas for the entire ring road journey cost me about $300 USD.

Groceries In Iceland

Stock up on groceries before you leave for your road trip, because food in Iceland is expensive. There’s a famous budget supermarket called Bónus that’s perfect for this. You can’t miss it — the logo is a giant cartoon pig!

Many gas stations along the ring road also offer pre-made sandwiches, hot soup, and basic groceries for sale too. So you can buy some general food supplies along the way.

GPS & Mobile Phone

If your cellphone is unlocked, you can buy a local prepaid Icelandic SIM card from the Vodafone store at Kringlan Shopping Mall in Reykjavik. This gives you access to GPS maps, internet data, emergency services, and local weather reports.

What Should You See?

I’d recommend picking a few highlights and loosely planning your journey around them. Most people start their Ring Road adventure from Reykjavik or Keflavik Airport.

Below you’ll find my suggested 7-10 day itinerary with highlights you shouldn’t miss, good places to stay for the night, plus a few adventure activities that must be booked in advance.

My Iceland Ring Road Itinerary

DAY 1: The Golden Circle

Golden Circle Iceland
Strokkur Geyser on the Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is a short 1-day road trip that starts from Reykjavik which I covered in a separate article. This 300 km (190 mi) route covers many beautiful Iceland landmarks in a short period of time, so it’s perfect for people on a long layover.

It’s a good place to start a longer ring road adventure too because the attractions are some of the most visited in Iceland. I’d recommend getting these out of the way first before heading out into the more remote (and less crowded) parts of the country.

Thingvellir National Park

The location of Iceland’s first Parliament, and where the North American & Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly splitting apart from each other. You can spend a lot of time here, walking the trails. This is also where Silfra is, where you can go snorkeling or scuba diving between the plates.

Geysers At Haukadalur

An impressive geothermal area featuring two natural geysers that erupt on a regular basis. Churning boiling water that smells like eggs. You don’t have to wait long to see them go off either!

Gullfoss Waterfall

This wide & fast-moving river turns a corner and falls 100 feet into a huge waterfall, producing thick mist & frequent rainbows. From here most people turn around and head back to the Ring Road, or to Reykjavik.

Where To Stay On The Golden Circle

DAY 2: South Coast To Vik

Seljalandsfoss Ring Road Iceland
Exploring Iceland’s South Coast

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Your next stop is perfect for incredible sunrises, so wake up early! Seljalandsfoss Waterfall [MAP] rises some 200 feet in the air, with a short hiking trail that takes you behind the waterfall itself.

Shooting photos behind the waterfall at sunrise can be difficult with all the spray though. Another good photo location is from a hill on the right, just be careful because it’s slippery climbing up.

Skogafoss Ring Road Iceland
Rainbow at Skogafoss Waterfall

Skógafoss Waterfall

After that you can drive to Skógafoss [MAP], another massive & beautiful waterfall only minutes away. About the same height as Seljalandsfoss, but much wider and more powerful. Colorful rainbows are a common occurrence here. A wooden stairway brings you to a viewing platform on the top.

Iceland Ring Road Activities
Ice Climbing Glaciers in Iceland

Hiking Sólheimajökull Glacier

One activity you can’t do on your own is hiking glaciers. If you’ve never hiked a glacier before, I highly recommend it! The guys at Arctic Adventures have a few different glacier hiking trips that include ice climbing. If you’re driving the Ring Road, you can book a trip and just meet your guide at the glacier.

Sólheimasandur Plane Crash
Visiting Sólheimasandur Plane Crash

Sólheimasandur Plane Crash

The abandoned airplane wreckage on Sólheimasandur Beach is one of Iceland’s most iconic photography locations. Back in 1973 a United States Navy DC-3 crashed on the beach here. The plane has been used in a bunch of music videos making it famous.

You can park your car and hike out to the plane on foot and explore what remains. Check out my detailed directions if you’d like to see this famous spot first-hand!

Iceland Black Sand Beach
Black Sand Beaches

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

Often referred to as the world’s most beautiful black sand beach, Reynisfjara is a must-visit location for travelers. This wild, rugged beach was created by lava mixing with ocean water. I wouldn’t recommend sunbathing on this beach, but you will get some amazing photo opportunities here. From the black beach itself to the cliffs, caves and basalt columns, Reynisfjara is very impressive.

Where To Stay Around Vik

Puffin Hostel
The Barn
Hótel Kría

DAY 3: Iceberg Lagoons & Ice Caves

Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

This majestic canyon came to life approximately 9,000 years ago as a result of progressive erosion. I was thrilled by the opportunity to walk inside this narrow, winding canyon. However, if you want to avoid wading through water, I suggest enjoying its natural beauty from the walking path above Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Be aware that the path is steep, but the view is more than worth the effort.

Svartifoss Black Waterfall

The black basalt columns that flank the narrow flow of water from Svartifoss (aka the “Black Waterfall”) will make you feel like you’ve discovered an alien planet. Depending on whether you want to take the direct or more circular route, you can expect to walk for at least 2 miles to reach it. You can’t enter the actual waterfall area, but you’ll get close enough for great photos.

Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon

Breiðamerkurjökull glacier is slowly melting, with giant blue-tinted icebergs breaking off and floating into a large lagoon called Jökulsárlón. The ice collects on its shores, while some pieces continue on and drift out to sea.

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is such a cool place (pun intended) that you can easily spend most of the day here. Don’t forget to visit the ocean beach nearby, where some icebergs get pushed on shore due to waves.

Ice Caves on the Ring Road
Exploring Crazy Ice Caves

Hidden Crystal Ice Caves

If you’re traveling in Iceland for photography, you can’t miss the crystal ice caves under Vatnajökull glacier. Meltwater creates these intricate natural ice tunnels, with sunlight filtering through the ice giving them a blue tint.

Iceland’s crystal ice caves can be difficult and treacherous to reach, so you’ll need to hire a guide. For safety reasons, you can only visit them in the winter too (starting in November) when the ice has hardened up and the risk of collapse is low.

Where To Stay Around Hofn

Hotel Höfn
Aurora Cabins

DAY 4: Egilsstaðir & The Eastern Fjords

Mountains on the East Coast
Mountains on the East Coast

Driving The Coastline

Ok, now you’re officially in the middle of nowhere. Eastern Iceland is an untamed wilderness of rocky mountain peaks, winding black-sand coastlines, and quickly changing the weather.

There’s a lot of driving here without many towns (or people). You’ll be weaving in and out of fjords all day. Pump up the jams and enjoy beautiful Icelandic views. Most people stop to spend the night in the town of Egilsstaðir.

East Iceland Ring Road Trip
Cool Bird Watching Hut

Sheep & Reindeer Spotting

While it may not have many people, Eastern Iceland is home to many sheep & reindeer. Yup. Reindeer! Make sure to keep your eyes on the road, because a herd can suddenly cross your path without warning.

Pay special attention at night or in bad weather. In the winter the sheep will be fenced in, but in the summer and fall, they roam free through the countryside.

Northern Lights in Iceland
Playing with Light Under the Northern Lights

Hunting Northern Lights

You should be searching for the Northern Lights every evening while driving the Ring Road, however, on the East coast they were especially good for me. During my 7 day adventure, I lucked out with 3 nights of strong aurora activity and clear skies.

Night driving will actually improve your chances of spotting them. Here’s a post I wrote with tips for finding & photographing the Northern Lights in Iceland.

Where To Stay In East Iceland

DAY 5: Myvatn & More Waterfalls

Boiling Mud Pools in Iceland
Hverir Mud Pools at Myvatn

Icelandic Mountain Passes

Fáskrúðsfjarðargöng tunnel (I dare you to say it out loud!) is 4 miles long and seems like it will never end. When it does, you’ll eventually be in the Highlands of Iceland. A barren stretch of a high plateau.

In the winter it’s covered in snow, and Route 1 is the only safe road to travel on. In the summer you can explore more with a 4×4.

Powerful Dettifoss Waterfall
Powerful Dettifoss Waterfall

Dettifoss Waterfall

Dettifoss [MAP] is the largest waterfall in Iceland (and Europe) by water volume. Imagine the visual and auditory impact of more than 132,000 liquid gallons rushing past you every second! It’s equally beautiful and overwhelming.

Most tourists go to the waterfall’s west side, but the east side is even better for photos. If you have the time, it’s definitely worth a stop. It’s very impressive, but also very dangerous if you get too close to the edge. Especially if the rocks are wet. Be careful!

Godafoss Waterfall

Godafoss Waterfall is famous for several reasons, including its impressive width of almost 100 feet. More importantly, if you go here at night during the right time of the year, you can photograph the Northern Lights over the water.

It doesn’t originate from a very tall height, but Godafoss has width and power that reminded me of Niagara Falls. This attraction is known locally as the “Waterfall of the Gods” due to an Icelandic legend involving Norse statues and the area’s conversion to Christianity.

Ring Road Activities Geothermal Vents
Myvatn Geothermal Vents

Námafjall Hverir

Pulling back onto Route 1 you’ll soon get to the Myvatn Lake area in Northern Iceland. Volcanic activity is high, with some fun hot springs & other geothermal features to explore. One such place is Námafjall Hverir geothermal area [MAP]. You can get up-close-and-personal with boiling blue mud pits or steaming fumaroles.

Where To Stay Around Myvatn

Hótel Laxá

DAY 6: Akureyri & North Iceland

Flying over Erupting Volcanoes
Flying over Erupting Volcanoes

Holuhraun Volcano Flight

Akureyri has tons of activities to keep you busy, but one, in particular, was pretty special. Flying over Iceland’s most recent eruption at Bárðarbunga Volcano (also called the Holuhraun eruption). On August 2014 lava broke through the surface there and was spewing huge rivers of molten rock.

Flying over an erupting volcano had been on my bucket list for years, and I’m so happy I got to witness the power and fury of nature up close like that! For scenic flights over the volcano I used Booking a small plane is MUCH cheaper than a helicopter.

UPDATE: The Holuhraun Eruption ended February 2015. There are currently no erupting volcanoes on Iceland, but you never know when the next will be!
Whale Watching around Akureyri
Whale Watching around Akureyri

Whale Watching In Iceland

Because I was waiting for the weather to clear up for my volcano flight, I didn’t have a chance to go whale watching in Iceland. But it’s a very popular thing to do at the fjords around Akureyri. Whale season is from June to October.

Apparently, you can spot bottlenose, humpback, and minke whales. You can learn more about whale watching in Akureyri here.

Where To Stay Around Akureyri

DAY 7: Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall in Snaefellsnes
Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall in Snaefellsnes

Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall

Depending on how much time you have left, you’ll either want to head straight for Reykjavik or drive around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula (sometimes called “Little Iceland”). I drove all night in order to make time for the peninsula.

Snæfellsnes is where you’ll find Kirkjufellsfoss, the most photographed waterfall in Iceland just West of the town of Grundarfjörður.

Búðakirkja Black Church

One of my favorite things about Iceland is that’s it’s easy to leave the hustle and bustle of big city life behind. Búðir fully embodies this sense of wonderful isolation by having only two structures in the entire hamlet: a hotel and a tiny church named Búðakirkja. This black church sits inside a lava field, and it also has a lot of green space behind it. Be careful not to fall into any of the big holes that dot the grassy landscape.

Where To Stay On Snæfellsnes

DAY 8-10: Explore Reykjavik

End the Ring Road in Reykjavik
Spend Time in Reykjavik

If you made it back to Reykjavik and have a few more days to spare, there’s plenty of things to do in Iceland’s capital! Reykjavik is a vibrant city full of cool street-art, great nightlife, modern architecture, and some pretty weird attractions too.

Hallgrímskirkja Church

Iceland’s Hallgrímskirkja Church towers over Reykjavík and is the tallest church in the entire country. Naturally, this has made the expressionist architecture one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions. The two most noteworthy aspects of the church are the beautifully detailed statue of Leif Eiríksson and the huge, mechanical pipe organ. Make sure to take the elevator up to the top for some very cool views of the city.

Harpa Concert Hall

The glass facade of this modern Icelandic building is really impressive. Harpa Concert Hall is worth touring even if there are no performances during your visit. But if you’re lucky, you may be able to catch one of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra’s weekly concerts there. At night the whole building pulsates with colored lights, putting on a show of its own.

Tjörnin Pond

This natural geothermal pond in the middle Reykjavik attracts geese, swans and ducks year-round, along with picnicking families and couples looking for a romantic walk. Locals call the pond the “Biggest Bread Soup in the World” due to all the bread that’s offered to the birds. A little environmental tip is to offer seeds instead of bread, which is healthier for them.

Swimming in the Blue Lagoon!
Swimming in the Blue Lagoon!

The Blue Lagoon

While not technically in Reykjavik, you can’t visit Iceland without a dip in the famous geothermal Blue Lagoon. It’s located about an hour away from the city center, closer to the international airport. Visiting the lagoon is expensive, but worth it.

The Blue Lagoon is not REALLY a natural lagoon, it’s actually man-made using surplus water from the nearby geothermal powerplant. But bathing in the warm mineral-rich waters surrounded by Iceland’s dramatic volcanic landscape is still fun!

Where To Stay In Reykjavik

Ring Road Driving Tips
Old Abandoned Bus on the Ring Road

Tips For Driving The Ring Road

How Long Does It Take?

Seven days is the minimum, but you’ll be pushing it. In fact, I’d recommend at least 10 days so you don’t feel rushed and have time to relax, maybe spending a few days in one spot. I also recommend saving a day or two to explore the capital city of Reykjavik too.

Best Time To Visit Iceland

The best time to visit Iceland and drive the Ring Road depends on what you’re after. For the best weather, the summer high season of June, July, and August is good. But the shoulder season of September & October has fewer tourists, shorter days, and better chances to see the northern lights!

Bathrooms & Showers

How do you shower if you’re in a campervan? Well most towns have heated public swimming pools that you can visit for $3-$6 USD. Or, you can pay to use a shower at one of Iceland’s many campgrounds. Sponge-baths work too! Regular bathrooms are available at most tourist attractions, restaurants, and gas stations.

Checking The Weather

Speaking of the weather, it changes quickly in Iceland. A sunny morning can easily turn into a whiteout blizzard. Bookmark the website for real-time road conditions. There’s even a smartphone app.

Stay Safe Out There!

I recommend visiting the website to stay updated on Iceland’s weather, road conditions, and take their short online driving test to make sure you’re prepared for a safe & happy road trip.

Iceland is one of the most amazing countries I’ve ever visited, I think you’ll feel the same way after spending a week driving the Ring Road! ★

Travel Video! Iceland Ring Road Adventure

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(Click to watch Ring Road Adventures In Iceland! on YouTube)

Travel Planning Resources For The Ring Road

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip.

Book Your Flight

Ready to fly? Here’s how I find the cheapest airline flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Cars is a great site for comparing car prices to find a deal.

Cheap Accommodation

Learn how I save money booking hotels & vacation apartments.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read why you should always carry travel insurance.

Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Iceland
Suggested Reading: The Little Book Of Hidden People

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Tips for driving the Ring Road in Iceland. My complete itinerary and travel guide!
Tips for driving the Ring Road in Iceland. My complete itinerary and travel guide!


I hope you enjoyed my guide to the Iceland Ring Road! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

Any questions about driving Iceland’s ring road? Are you planning a trip? Drop me a message in the comments below!


Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 10 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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Comments (316)

  1. Totally one-stop Shopping, thank you so much for sharing. Now have more clear ideas how to plan a ring road trip. Looking forward to visit Iceland but fingers crossed all go ahead after a Covid 19 test at the airport. It is so uncertain time to travel but I’m sure we will have a marvellous time. Travelling period is 26th July – 6th Aug 2020, happy to take on any recommendations or tips. 3 adult travelling, one couple and an adult. Thanks again, you’re awesome!

  2. Epic trip! Thanks for sharing. You saved me a lot of time and energy with your information that you shared! I’ll be going to iceland from 26 March to 9 April, assuming flights are still operational. If anybody wants a travel buddy to go around the ring road for a week or more, let me know at [email protected].

    Happy travels!

  3. Hey! We are headed to Iceland in June. Yeah a somewhat last minute planner. Do you feel you need to book hotels ahead of time on the Ring Road locations or are rooms usually available? Thanks.

  4. I will be visiting with My Daughter in August
    We only have 6 FULL days what should we cut out this trip? I know we want to see Ice caves, Waterfalls, and the Blue Lagoon.
    Any help and or map/ guide is appreciated

  5. Matthew, great page. Will be looking in more detail over the coming days. Planning a trip September 2020 and this as given me a brilliant starting point for planning. We will be a group of 4 and after reading this, hoping we can make it an 8 or 9 day stay.

  6. hi there! I love this!!! I am planning on using the links. but, I am only there for 36 hours! can you recommend what we can do from the airport arriving in the am, driving all day, staying overnight somewhere, and ending back in reykavick at 5 pm the next day??? thank you!

  7. This is amazing!!! If I can only do a 5-day trip…. is there any way I could modify this? Planning on doing a modification of this route June 20-25th.

  8. Hello my friend…your article is really interesting and helpful so I thank you for this. I’d like to ask only something. I’m planning to travel there about March, so, is it possible so we can spend all the nights at the van during the ring road???

  9. Hi.. Thanks for your post. Its very useful information. Wanted to know that did you had previous snow/ winter driving experience?? Me and my hubby are planning to travel to iceland in winter.. but we dont have any previous winter experience nor left hand drive as we are from india.

  10. Would you be willing to share what time of year you went? Your pictures are beautiful and your posts are very helpful.

  11. Hi Matthew,
    Thank you very much for all of this, we used your map on our trip in Iceland(we just got back), we did the Ring Road& few stops of the Golden Circle.
    We had quite a short time tho, compared with your trip, but we took advantage of the non-stop daylight at summer time, and drove as much as i was able to, it was tough!
    Obviously we wish we would have had double time& we wouldn’t have been always in a hurry. We will have to go back some-point for sure!!
    Don’t think there is any words to explain how gorgeous& breathtaking is Iceland🇮🇸

  12. Hi Matthew. What a great itinerary. I am heading there in July this year and will follow it pretty closely because you have ticked most our boxes as we like to get off the beaten track when possible. Just a question about some of the hiking. My husband is pretty fit but cannot do too much ‘strenuous’ hiking due to illness is there anything in your itinerary that is difficult to get to that we should drop?? I was also thinking, as we are heading to Kerlingarfjoll and Namafjall Hverir geo thermal areas that perhaps could skip Thingvellir thermal area and just do the geysers in the national park to pick up a bit of time and slow the pace down. Do you think this is a good move?? I know it is on the top of everyone’s list but seems most only do this south section so this is their best opportunity to see such sites. It doesn’t look that unique compared to the other 2 areas and we have done quite a bit of this in New Zealand already. Myvatn looks similar but less crowded than Blue Lagoon but I see that you did both. Is there a reason or was it that you can’t go to Iceland and not do blue lagoon? Interested in your opinion. I have 8 full days excluding the day of arrival and day of leaving Reykavik. Trying to squeeze one more day but working with connecting flights etc. is determining my itinerary.

    • Glad to hear it James! Wishing you a good trip! What time of year are you going to drive the Ring Road?

  13. Hi Matthew, I have been researching a self drive trip now for a few months, and I think you have convinced me a campervan is the way to go for me. Can you give me any info on campsites? I understand there are many, what is the average cost? Do they fill up at night? Can you and do you need to reserve a spot? Thanks

  14. Iceland is one of the mysterious place on earth which came popular recently in past two years. I always want to go to this place, one day i will visit iceland.

  15. I am traveling with someone who is not handicap, but needs to avoid extensive physical activity. Is your plan, and traveling Iceland in general, realistic for someone with these limitations? Any suggestions are appreciated.

  16. Hi, I’m from Ireland. The driving directions are different in Europe. I’m planning to rent a car. Will it be easier for a foreigner to start up driving on the right side of the roads? Also recommend if Scooter ride along the ring road would help?

  17. Iceland is such a unique and beautiful country! What I love about it, is that it’s equally beautiful during summer and winter. I have visited in both seasons and would absolutely love come back! How did you find experiencing Vatnajökull? I wasn’t able to on either trip but it seems so amazing!

  18. Thanks for such a detailed post! I’m planning our trip there in October and can’t wait. I was already thinking 10 days so this pretty much solidified that for me. Now to decide where to spend a little more time… Did you spend any time in Skaftafell?

  19. Does this Ring Road trip include Golden Circle tour as part of the 7 days?

    If just renting a car, not a campervan, and thus having to spend nights in accommodations, can this be accomplished in 7 days? (without the extra activities like trekking or whale watching).


    • Yes, it does include the Ring Road portion of the trip. While you can drive the Ring Road in 7 days, I’d recommend at least 10, otherwise you’ll feel a bit rushed, and won’t be able to stop as long as you’d like at each highlight. Combined with possible bad weather some days — 10 is a safer bet if you have the time.

      • First of all a huge thank you Matthew. I used you Ring Road blog as a basis for the most memorable trip of a lifetime. I even proposed to my wife while overlooking Ásbyrgi canyon. I can say that even 10 days in tight as we had 11 days of driving time and despite a well planned itinerary still felt rushed at times. This despite the fact that we took full advantage of almost constant daylight and had many 16 hour days. The problem is there are so many beautiful places you see while driving between so called destinations you can’t help but stop and check them all out. My only regret was not following your counter clockwise route around the island. We went clockwise so we got to the Golden Circle towards the end of trip. I don’t know if it was lack of sleep at that point but the insane crowds in the Golden Circle actually really irritated me despite the beauty around me. Again huge thank you for making the trip so easy to plan and for those of traveling with people who don’t camp the air bnb’s are a fabulous way to meet locals and get tips to hidden gems that the tourists have no clue about!

        • So glad you had a great time Wolfgang! Congratulations on the engagement too! Yes, you could easily spend weeks trying to see everything in Iceland — there’s just so much beauty there.

  20. Nice post, Iceland is an amazing travel destination with its breath taking ice caves, Northern Lights, sea, volcanoes, glaciers and geysers. Last year I had gone to Iceland with my friends for travelling. We visited some places of Grand Golden Circle. Our tour was so awesome, thanks the travel agency Go to joy Iceland to make our tour successful.

  21. I am doing the Icelandic free stopover of 7 nights. They actually start counting the day of departure from the US, which leaves me with only 6 nights. On the 7th day I would have to be at the Happy Camper drop off spot say by 10 am. I am going mostly for the photography and will not be going to mud baths or spas. Any thoughts or pointers? Thank you

  22. We are going in the beginning of April 2018 and we are renting a camper van. I was wondering how you decided where to park and sleep for the night when you went on the Ring Road? Is it just anywhere there is a spot of area? I heard it is common to ask the land owner for permission to park and camp on their land. Any tips you may have would be awesome!

  23. Did you have to park in campgrounds when you were traveling around or were you able to park off road in some areas? I am planning to go to Iceland In April and can’t decide if we should rent a car and book accommodations or stick with the camper van. Any input would help, thank you!

  24. Hi! I want to rent a campervan but I’d like to be able to take it in the highlands, and will need a 4×4 vehicle. There are many other campervan companies, and I’m wondering if you have had experience with any others. According to the happy camper website, they do not have 4×4 vehicles. So were you able to go everywhere you wanted without 4×4 vehicle? Just curious if it’s necessary, I’d hate to miss out on anything. Thanks!

  25. Iceland is an amazing travel destination with its breathtaking ice caves, Northern Lights, sea, volcanoes, glaciers and geysers.One of the most famous places in Iceland in winter is the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon and for this it is best to choose a two-day tour that gives great time to explore ice caves and the glacier. Last time I had a tour to there through DISCOVER. It was Just amazing.L visited all the places.

  26. Excellent article about Iceland and beautiful photography! It is on my list and hoping to visit really really soon!!!

  27. Great article and tips. I will be traveling with my best friend to Iceland in April. How are the roads during this time of year? We’re a bit cautious and having second thoughts about driving since 1) we’re not very experienced in driving in snow 2) we haven’t done right hand driving. How do we maximize our experience if we don’t drive and just do tours instead? Are there public transportation available?

    Thank you and keep on traveling!

  28. I just got back from an adventure along the Ring Road+ in 2 weeks. I can’t imagine doing it in less time. You really do stop every 5 minutes. There are waterfalls around every corner. Iceland exceeded my expectations. Wow!

    • Hi Heidi,

      Can you please recommend accommodations along the ring road? I’m planning a 14 day trip to Iceland and already booked my first 2 nights in reykjavik.. Still need to book the accommodations (different cities along the ring road) for the remaining 11 nights last night being in reykjavik. I really appreciate the help.


  29. Thank you for the amazing post! Super helpful and intriguing. I’m planning a trip this December and would potentially be interested in the camper van; also want to hit up the ice caves and would be there arriving in Reykjavik early morning on the 4th and leaving on the 10th. Would ring road be too condensed for that duration?

    • Hi Rachel! Glad you liked my Iceland Ring Road article. While it’s certainly possible to drive the Ring Road in that time, I think you will feel a bit rushed, and have to skip some things. But it’s doable.

  30. Good read!! I plan on doing this drive next summer with my teenage daughter. I’ll probably follow this itinerary closely. The only issue I’m having is trying to pre-plan/book places to stay each night. Any advice, tips, or websites that can take care this for me? Thanks!

  31. I love this article I will be traveling to Iceland Nov.5 to Nov.11. I will be 50 and the lights are on my bucket list. I’m not a activities like hiking, glacier climbing. I am a plus sized lady and love adventure. I was thinking one central location then day trips, I’m thinking might be better to stay at different places. Help? I’ll pay for you time.

  32. Hello, I am going to Iceland this winter but I don’t know what to pack or wear! Also I need help with the packing part (winter clothes take a lot of space!!)

  33. This is awesome! Thanks so much for all the tips! I’ve been panicking and therefore procrastinating creating a lose itinerary for my trip coming up in September. Do you have a map of your route? I’d love to reference it!

  34. Hi Matthew, this sounds like an amazing adventure . My husband and I are traveling to Iceland September 21 – October 1, 2017. We are going to travel the Ring road thanks to your article. I would like to know if you could give me a list of towns to stay during the 10 days on the road as our last day and night will be in Reykjavik. If its possible to stay 2 nights in each town. Or just let me know if its the towns marked on the Ring Road map above or only the towns you list in your itinerary . Also what is the driving time between each town(not including stopping time) to spend the night. Thank you, any information is greatly appreciated.

  35. I really like your tips. we are super excited to go to Iceland. We booked our trip on July 15th and coming back on July 29th. we rented a house close to the main lake about 40 minutes from Reykjavik because my husband is trying to do the half Iroman there. We will have 5 more days in Iceland after that. What do you suggest for us? I was thinking of renting a place on the north side and go around on the area. Please let me know if you think this is a good or not so good idea. Thank you

  36. Hi Matthew,

    First thing, awesome article. My girlfriend and I will be doing a road trip between septembre and october. When did you travel exactly? Because now it’s not allowed to sleep in the van outside camping sites anymore. Did you stay in one of them? Were the basic facilities (shower and water) available despite winter season? Thanks!! Cheers

    • No, I didn’t stay in any of the campgrounds when I was visiting Iceland, as you could just pull over and sleep anywhere. Things seem to be changing fast!

  37. Hello Matthew: Fantastic blog and great info. I’m a mature solo traveler. Would you recommend the the happy camper van for a solo mature female traveler? I am planning a trip to Iceland at the end of August. How safe is driving the Ring Road for solo female traveler? Thanks

    • Yes for sure! You shouldn’t have any snowstorms to worry about in August. The road is plenty safe.

  38. Hi thanks for the great information. We are traveling for 4 days only can part of the ring be done or do you have to complete the full circle. If it is possible which area would you recommend

  39. Amazing guide Matthew! I really appreciate all the tips! I visited Iceland in July 2014 and I’m aiming to go again this year around September – November. This time round I’d like to drive the whole ring road but I’d also really like to see the Northern Lights, what month would you recommend the most? Thanks!

  40. I enjoyed reading your post! Beautiful pictures! My husband and I just booked a trip Sept 20-30. Do you have a suggested itinerary for a 10 day Ring Road trip? Also, i saw on the Happy Campers website a note that says “New legislation prohibits parking overnight in a camper van outside organized campsites or urban areas.” Do you think there are enough locations in key areas to park for the night to still make this a do-able option?

    • Hi Mathew for great details from your trip. I am debating either to rent a car, SUV or a camper. I am going mid April with my daughter for a week then I will be alone for the rest. Don’t know what type of vehicle to rent during this time. I would love to see the caves and climb the glacier but it appears that is not the best time to do this. I also heard it is extremely expensive. I guess you did your camping in their summer months? I am a bit confuse. It seems you went twice there. Any suggestions I would appreciate it so much.

  41. Hi Matthew

    Thanks for your info on ring road. It is very well written and give us valuable detail.

    I am preparing a road trip mid March to end of March. Do you think it is possible? I can afford 10-12 days road trip, which can cater for sudden change of bad weather.

  42. Hi, we’re a family of 3 (teenage daughter) planning to visit Iceland with the ferry taking our own car for 8 days end of July. Would you recommend doing the whole ring?

    • Oh cool! I didn’t even know it was possible to bring your car to Iceland on a ferry. Sure, I think you can drive the whole ring-road in 8 days if you needed to. You won’t be able to see everything, but you can do it.

  43. I just love your blog, it’s so full with in good information! Congratulations on it!
    I was hoping you could answer me a tricky question..
    I’m going to Iceland this year from 27march to april5 and like you Ild love to do the volcano flight and the hike to the glaciar cave, but I’ve serched in the websites and the hiking to the glaciar caves are only opened until February,but the flight in the volcano is not available until may!
    When were you there? How did you manege to do both things in the same trip??
    I would really apreciatte your answer!
    Thank you so much in advance! :)

    • Hey Sarah, yeah the ice caves are only possible to visit in the colder winter months for safety reasons. I visited the caves in November.

      I also flew over the erupting volcano in February, but the volcano I flew over isn’t actually erupting anymore… I should really update this Iceland ring road guide with that info.

      As far as I know, you won’t see any molten lava right now. However scientists think Iceland may have another eruption soon, so who knows!

  44. Planning a 10-day trip including New Year’s Eve from Dec 26 to Jan 5 in Iceland. Do you think it’s possible to do the ring road trip during winter or is it pretty much just the west and south side due to weather?

  45. Hi, your blog is very helpful. My friend and I are traveling to Iceland, however it’s only a short trip(March 1-4). We are pretty much staying in Reykjavik and has already booked some famous tours. We are renting a car and I would love to visit Akureyri as well-how is driving up there(to Akureyri), is it possible to do a day trip there? Do you think it would be better for us to just cancel the bus tours and just drive on our own? If we only have few days to spend in Iceland what would be your recommended itinerary?
    Thanks…any suggestions/advice would be greatly appreciated!

    PS: sorry for too many questions

  46. Hi , thanks for all the information , it will will make my trip to Iceland easier. One question i’m still in doubt about is the insurance. Do i need an insurance that covers for natural calamity ? e.g. volcano eruption ( will keep airlines stranded ) … or not the case ?


  47. Hi Matthew,
    Your post has been very helpful in planning my Iceland trip!
    I have a question for you about renting and travelling in a camper van – was it tricky to navigate and drive the roads in a van that was not 4X4? I will be going in April so I think the roads may still have some bad conditions at times.

  48. wooow. this blog is amazing! thank your for your work!
    I have visited iceland last summer for the first time to get some cinematic inspiration, but after reading this blog I gotta go again ?

  49. This was great! I’m going to be in Iceland early March. Do you think this drive would be accessible in winter? Any recommendations on a good car rental agency to go with for a 4×4? Thanks!

  50. I can travel to Iceland anytime from early March to mid May, any recommendations which 7 to 10 days would be best to visit during this time?

  51. I referred to your blog a whole lot while planning for my campervan honeymoon trip to Iceland in October. Thanks so much! I’ve also blogged about my experience there too. There were many places we didn’t get to see though, like the Golden Circle and ice caves. Hoping to go there again. Can’t get enough of Iceland~

  52. Hi everyone I am flying in the Monday 17th night and leaving early Sunday 23rd the only thing I am definitely doing is diving between the continental plates.. planning on getting off the beaten track and explore a ton… I wil rent a 4×4, hit me up if you would like to join. oh btw 34yr male who now lives in the Caribbean who travels active ton every year – one of my greatest passions…

  53. We are thinking of doing a driving tour in late August and early September. One question I would like to ask is if it involves high elevation driving (scary for me) through narrow mountain roads? And if so, should we also expect snow and ice on those roads in early September? Thanks.,

    • Well, I was by myself for this leg of the trip, so I just heated some water in the van and took a sponge bath most days. However you can also stop at campgrounds and pay for a shower, or at one of Iceland’s many public heated pools, located in most towns. Prices range from $3-$6 USD.

  54. Hello!
    I am planning to go there Sept 21 to sept 26. Im traveling alone. 28 f from states. If anyone wants to come do the iceland road trip let me know. We can split the cost of the transportation and drive. email me at [email protected]

  55. What an awesome post and many comments too. We were thinking about
    Happy Camping the Ring, but only have 6 days to do so. The advice is clear: 10 minimum, 14 best, but one poster did it in 5 days and he said he’s so glad they did.

    So how about it folks?? Is this a 50 KPH road, or is it that there are just so many awesome things to see you’d miss the awesomeness in the rush? Should we undertake 6 days in October, or stick to the golden circle and the like out of Reykjavik?


    • My husband and 7 year-old son did the Ring Road in August and we did 11 days total, nine days on the Ring road, one of those being on the Westman Islands . It was AMAZING. If I could do it over, I would definitely add in a couple more days. We spent two nights in the Myvatn region (at Vogar Travel Service in one of their guesthouses-highly recommended) and the two night overlay was great for resting up and taking advantage of the laundry service. Not to mention exploring that incredible part of the country. The South gets all the cred (for good reason), but the north is truly other-wordly and stunningly beautiful. If I had just 5 or 6 nights, I personally would not try to do the whole Ring Road. You would see incredible beauty, but you might also get bogged down by the slog and not enjoy yourself as much. You’d end up driving about 6 hours per day. We clocked 30 hours on our car doing the Ring Road. It usually took about 1.75X the amount of time I thought it would actually take to get places. Pick a portion of it and enjoy the sights and take a few side roads just to see where you’ll end up (except maybe in Winter!)

      • Hi we are visiting Iceland for 6 days in June. Looks like the ring road is out of the question. Could you please recommend places for us to see? We are an active family with two teenagers who live in the tropics of Darwin Australia. Also accommodation recommendations would be fantastic. WE would like to experience the real, not tourist side of Iceland. Thanks

      • If you have a choice with only 3-4 days which way would you travel from Reykavik *traveling with kids fyi, and would love to know the best coolest things that a 12 year old boy might like to do.

  56. Some really great tips! I’m visiting from 24th Sep – 8th Oct. Do you think I can get away having a 2WD or would you recommend going for a 4WD (just to be on the safe side)

    I’m traveling solo so looking for someone to share costs and I’m doing the ring road. Btw, 32 yo, female from Singapore. If anyone else is looking around for a travel companion, mail me: [email protected]

  57. Did you have any trouble that time of year finding campsites or places that allowed you to pull over? We are planning our trip end of October/early November, and we’re hoping to go the Campervan route as well. I was just reading through a forum that worried me saying October is too dangerous for campervans and that pulling off to the side of the road isn’t as easy as it sounds because Iceland is trying to prevent this. They also mentioned no camgrounds are open during October. Did you struggle with this at all? Advice is greatly appreciated! :) Thanks!

    • Hi Marlena.

      I’m trying to the same as you did this year (Ring circle in October) and I have the same doubt as you had.

      Did you made the trip? If so how was your experience?


      • Hi Marlena.
        I’m trying to the same as you did this year (Ring circle in October) and I have the same doubt as you had.
        Did you made the trip? If so how was your experience?

  58. Hi Matthew,

    I am visiting Iceland in October and am wanting to do the Ring road similar to you with hiring a camper van. Can you please tell me where you stopped and stayed overnight? Are there pull off bays or do you have to reserve spots at camp ground?

    Thank you in advance!

  59. Thanks so much for all your Iceland posts, especially this one. I used it extensively to plan out our trip. Just got back from a fantastic 10 day Iceland trip and I used a lot of information that you provided in your posts!

  60. Hope to travel from Sept 15 for 10 days ~ anyone interested in doing the ring road for photo shoots let me know ~ gonna book to stay in B&B’s hopefully along way….

  61. I am planning to go to Iceland end of October/November. I will be there for 8 days, the first 5 days I want to do this road trip, and will be spending the last 3 days at Reyjavik for Iceland Airwaves music fest. If anyone’s there around the same time or planning on going get in touch we can share cost of the road trip and just enjoy the company. I am 27 years old Male.

  62. My husband and myself will be in Iceland for 9 days. 20 sept to 28 sept. We have booked our accommodation along the ring road. We plan to hire a 4×4 or would even like to share if anyone has already booked a car hire. Please contact if the dates are suitable.

    • Hi, will be in Capital on 20th myself then hit the ring rd next day…already booked a car but maybe we can meet and travel tandem for company and friendship ~ Im there to take photos ~ lots of photos so will be stopping a lot…soon as I find out the hotel Im staying the first night will let you know….email is [email protected]

  63. Great post! The biggest piece of advice I can give: Your credit card needs a 4 digit pin to operate the gas stations! Call your bank ahead of time and set up the pin

    • Hi the PIN code is not really needed , you can just pay at the counter or get a prepaid card from N1 and then use it on your trip.
      Snaefellsness is really a must do if weather is good and even going up to the glacier in a 4×4.
      Eldgja to Landmannalaugar drive was amazing , 4×4 required but the most beautiful road i saw and I believe only open until Sept 1st.
      Dyrholaey and road 215 to the black beach and basalt columns.

  64. Thanks for this post – you’ve got some really good info and photos here which are making me want to visit Iceland even more! Quick question – what camera (and lens, plus any other gear?) did you use for these images? They are great.

  65. Thanks for this! Really helpful. Just booked tickets for 2 weeks in Iceland next month for an impromptu trip :) Nothing planned yet but I think I have to start soon! ;) Exciting!

  66. Hi All –

    First of all it’s a great article. Thanks for sharing this… It definitely helped me to plan what I am going to do and provides a good idea for stop-go in my self driving trip.

    Second I’m coming to Iceland with my wife on Sep 6 (early morning at KEF) from US – 11 Sep. I know the time is tight and we might some awesome places, but I’m definitely interested in covering the entire ring road. If anyone if interested in joining us for the trip you’re most welcome to share the cost of ride and get a company. I have already booked a vehicle and its roughly costing me $600 for the trip (plus fuel, roughly $300 additional).

  67. Hi,
    I am there 22nd September – 5th October.
    Already booked a car. Have myself a tent, but happy to find accomendation.
    Im a single M who is 32 years old, if anyone wants to join – even for just some of it. Then please let me know

    Great article this, cant wait!

      • My sister (30y) and I (26yo) are planning on going the end of October but we don’t have our driver’s license. We’re from New York – what dates are you going?

      • Hey Renee, we are 2 guys doing a trip to Iceland end of October. As far as planning goes, we have booked flights and a car, that is it. We are planning to go with the flow with everything. If you are interested, let’s talk. If you have done good research, we are more than willing to let you direct the trip. [email protected]

      • Hi Renee,

        What dates will you be in Iceland?
        I will be there on the 16th and leave on the 22nd.
        I have rented a 4×4 vehicle already and plan to do the ring road.
        Let me know if these dates coincide with your dates.

  68. Hello people – I will also add my name on this list.
    Im 32 from Bristol, UK. I will arrive in Iceland on 22nd September (the day after my birthday if your going to get me a gift) and will be there for 2 weeks.
    Planning on renting a car and sleeping in a tent, totally on my own with nothing to do. Was hoping to find anyone else who is also on their own, or in a small group and dont mind me joining. Would be great expereince to share, and I am sure there is tons of things we can do.

    Dont worry if we dont get on, ill at least promise to drop you at a petrol station :) hmmmmmmm BYE. lol

    • Hey Christov! I’m traveling alone also from September 24 to October 6. Hoping to connect with one another person who is doing the same and our dates kind of (sort of) coincide.. Shoot me an email and let’s discuss the possibility of meeting up.

  69. I have only 5 days in Iceland–would you recommend the Southern route on the Ring Road–
    how far can one get in 5 days coming and going???
    thank you

  70. I will be travelling solo in Iceland from 29th July to 3 Aug. I am looking for travel mates particularly for sharing rides. Let me know if anybody has a place.

  71. Awesome blog! So much information! I’m arriving in Iceland on the 27th and am planning on driving the ring road! Anyone interested in sharing gas and car rental costs. I’m into nature, photography, animals and camping. Let me know!

  72. This is great! Thank you! Did you happen to see any mountain biking opportunities along Ring Road in any areas or towns? We would love to do this drive but def would love to be able to stop along the way somewhere and do some MTB. What a cool blog! Thanks.

  73. Hello! Me and my friend will be traveling to Iceland and taking this roadtrip, we are pretty laid back. So if you are interested in joining us to split costs, send me an email to [email protected] We are 31 and 27 y/o from Costa Rica.

  74. Hi,

    Me and my wife are looking forward to cover the above suggested itinerary and would love to share the cost of Car and Fuel. If anyone (preferably couple) is interested in joining along during 14th-23rd Oct’16, do let me know.


    • Hi Nimit
      My husband and myself are planning to travel in Sept or Oct and planning about 10 days. Are your dates fixed. Are you planning on booking a 4WD. Also please let me know about accommodation.

    • Hello, I think I will be there exactly in the same period, I came alone and I would like to do the same trip + Blue Lagoon! Maybe we can talk and share the costs!
      Please let me know!

    • Hi Nimit,

      My friend and I are going to Iceland almost the exact same dates and hitting this route. We were looking to rent a 4×4 to be safe and have peace of mind but it’s quite expensive. Wondering if you were still looking for anyone to share the fuel and cost? We’re there Oct 12-24.

  75. Hi Matthew.
    I’ve been reading your blog and am enjoying your posts very much. I’m hoping you can give me your opinion…I booked a way too short trip to Iceland through a Groupon. It was for all the right reasons but now I’m kind of lost. We (hubby and me) will be in Iceland for 7 days in September. The deal came with a hotel in Reykjavik and since we are on a bit of a budget, I’m wondering if it’s possible (or stupid) to use that hotel as a home base (so to speak) and do daily “trips” or excursions out in various directions to see as much as we can. Any thoughts you can give would be appreciated. I want to make this trip as special for my husband as I can and I feel like I am in WAY over my head. : ) ~Kathy

    • Hey Kathy! You could use Reykjavik as a base for a few days, but after 3 or 4 you’ll have covered most of what you can see from there in one day.

      You can go North to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. You can drive the shorter Golden Circle. You can drive South on Route 1 to Vik stopping at some of the great waterfalls and glaciers along the way. You can spend a 4th day exploring the city and visiting the Blue Lagoon. After that, day trip options from Reykjavik start to dry up…

  76. Hi Matthew,
    nice reading your travel experience in Iceland! I am going for a week in September and I am trying to figure out if renting a 4X4 car is absolutely necessary to explore the back roads. My budget is quite low and wanted to avoid the extra cost. Can I rent a regular car and still enjoy some of the great locations, outside of route 1? Thanks!

    • Hello evryone. I planned to visit Iceland in September, anyone want to joined me? I was reading everywhere that is cheapest if you travel in a car.


    • Hi
      My name is Asdis and i live in Iceland. yes it is necessary to rent 4×4 to travel the back roads and also if you are going over river. Please be careful and always have fully charged gsm and extra battery also GPS we have had to many accidents this year sorry to say.
      Hope you have a wonderful time here and yes ask for icelandic map for the GPS.

      Best regards
      Ásdis Valdimarsdóttir