You’ve seen the glaciers on Instagram, you’ve seen the epic waterfalls on Pinterest, and you’ve seen the infamous “love cave” on Game of Thrones. Now you want to plan your own trip to Iceland! But before you travel the Ring Road in Iceland, here are some things you need to know.
How Long is the Ring Road in Iceland?
The Ring Road route in Iceland is iconic. Sure, you’ve taken plenty of awesome road trips in the past. But nothing beats a road trip through active volcanos, black sand beaches, ice blue glaciers and ginormous fjords.
This route is the general circumference around the island totaling 828 miles (or 1,332 kilometers). The time and length it takes to accomplish this route varies greatly on weather, road conditions, time of year and how many stops you decide to take.
We traveled the circumference of Iceland in 7 days in March and visited most of the places below. (If you’re short on time, make sure to visit the items with * and feel free to skip the rest until next time!)
Day 1: Golden Circle
Quite possibly the most famous road trip route in Iceland, the Golden Circle starts in Iceland and is about 190 miles in length. From natural wonders to friendly Icelandic horses, there are plenty of reasons to stop along this route so take your time!
Major Stops: Þingvellir National Park, Strokkur Geysir, Gullfoss Falls*, and Kerið Crater* Lake
Where to Stay:
2 Bedroom Airbnb Apartment (click here for $40 of Airbnb credit)
Hotel Reykjavík Centrum
Tips: This will be the most crowded part of your journey. Try to start your day early to beat some of those tour buses. If you’re driving your own car, make sure to bring some money for parking for each of these locations (about $5-7 USD per spot). With the geyser, take your time! The best spouts don’t come quite as often and you’ll have to be patient.
Day 2: Reykjavík to Hvosvollur
If you were doubting Iceland’s amazingness as you meandered around the city, this is when it all starts to change. Nature is ever-present and you’ll start to see what all the hype was about. This day is full of amazing waterfalls and views! The crowds might still be present, but they will slowly start to taper off the further east you go.
Major Stops: Seljalandsfoss Waterfall*, Gljúfrabúi Waterfall*, Holtsós Lagoon, Skógafoss Waterfall*, Dyrhólaey
Where to Stay:
Icelandair Hotel Vik
Charming Cottage Airbnb (click here for $40 of Airbnb credit)
Tips: Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss might just be two of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland, therefore it would be wise to start your day early again. Gljúfrabúi Waterfall is still a bit of a secret so you might have a little trouble finding it. And Holtsós Lagoon might be skippable in the summer; we went during the winter time and were able to walk across it which was pretty awesome.
Day 3: Hvosvollur to Höfn
Some of Iceland’s most beautiful, unique and photo-worthy sites are found on day 3. So wake up early, charge your camera battery and make sure you get ready for the best day of the trip.
Major Stops: Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach*, Vík, Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, Svinafellsjokulsvegur Glacier*, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon*, Diamond Beach*
Where to Stay:
Airbnb Under a Waterfall (click here for $40 of Airbnb credit)
Tips: Svinafellsjokulsvegur Glacier is easy to spot, but the road is a little harder to come by. The minute you see the bright blue glacier up a head, keep an eye on an unmarked dirt road on your left-hand side. We also found that it was really easy to pull off every 5 minutes here. Troll houses, random waterfalls and horses were just about everywhere! Just remember to keep an eye on the time so you can be sure to see everything on your agenda.
Day 4: Höfn to Mývatn: Exploring the East
Do you want to explore more unchartered territory in Iceland? Than Eastern Iceland is where it’s at! The road from Höfn to Mývatn is long, but it’s a must to get to some of Iceland’s greatest spots in the North.
Major Stops: Höfn, Stokknes*, Seyðisfjörður Village*
Where to Stay:
Litla Stella Cabin (click here for $40 of Airbnb credit)
Tips: This might be the hardest and longest drive of your entire trip, especially in the winter. I would skip Seyðisfjörður Village altogether if there’s any snow at all (we easily could have died as we drove in an all white-out storm). Make sure you have a lot of caffeine, food and patience for this drive.
Day 5: Mývatn to Hvammstangi
Northern Iceland might be one of the most underrated parts of the entire Iceland. It’s a little hard to get to, but very worth it! From the Grjótagjá Cave (from episode of Game of Thrones) to little port towns to Northern Light sitings, there are some major gems to be seen here.
Major Stops: Mývatn*, Goðafoss Waterfall*, Aldeyjarfoss Waterfall, Hvammstangi
Where to Stay:
Brimnes Hotel and Cabins
Tips: This area has the potential for some of the best Northern Lights sightings on the entire island. If you ask your hotel, they might be able to wake you up in the middle of the night so you don’t miss them. We didn’t have as much time to explore Mývatn since we spent so much time at Godafoss and driving, but there are a lot of Game of Thrones filming locations here!
Day 6: Hvammstangi to Reykjavík
Another day of long drives and beautiful views from your car, this route is best left explored during the summer and fall seasons. Much of the western peninsula is covered in snow otherwise (so Kirkufellsfoss might not be great), but you can still see beautiful sites like the sea arch and coastline.
Major Stops: Kirkufellsfoss Waterfall*, Arnarstapi Sea Arch*, Reykjavík*
Where to Stay:
Icelandair Hotel Reykjavík Marina
Find Hotel Odinsve
Tips: We found more speeding cameras here than any other part of our journey, so be careful! (I wish I had heard about this earlier along with a few other important Iceland tips.) We didn’t get to explore this area as much as we would have liked, but there are so many beautiful stops throughout this part of the island!
Day 7: Reykjavík to Keflavík Airport
After 6 days of traveling around an entire island, now’s the time to relax. Take a leisurely stroll around Reykjavík or enjoy the tranquil Blue Lagoon.
Major Stops: Reykjavík, Blue Lagoon
Tips: If you’re headed to the Blue Lagoon, buy your tickets in advance! This is the most popular tourist attraction for visitors and it fills up fast! Also, consider some budget tricks and tips for wandering around Reykjavík! This city is incredibly expensive with even the cheapest beers starting at $8 USD.
I’ve collected over 150 ways you can save and earn money while traveling, all of which can be applied in the expensive city Reykjavík. Click here to access all of these tips for free!
How Many Days to Drive Around the Ring Road Iceland?
As previously mentioned, the timing of your route is entirely outside of your control. Weather, closed attractions and speed means you may not get to the see the sights you want when you want.
We had 7 days around the ring road and while that was a good amount of time, an extra 2-3 days would have been lovely! That would have given us more time for tours, additional sites and maybe hanging with the locals.
If you could, schedule 9-10 days for the road trip. However, you can do the trip in 5 days if you hustle. Make sure to remove some of these sites if you only have 5 days (note the asterisks above for the must-see sites).
What Should You Pack for the Ring Road?
It should be noted that a few of these items listed below are weather-dependent. If there isn’t a sign of snow during the season you’re traveling, bring hiking boots instead of snow boots. But most of these should be a good basis for what to bring with you no matter the time of year.
Snacks (protein bars, dried fruit, makeshift sandwiches, coffee, etc.)
Refillable water bottle
Dramamine (if you get car sick)
Portable battery charger
2-3 jackets (at least 1 heavy-duty snow parka type)
4-5 tops (4 casual and 1 nice for any fine dining you might do)
1 pair of snow boots or hiking boots (depending on season)
3-4 pairs of socks
2-3 warm hats
1 heavy scarf and 1 light scarf
1 pair of gloves
1-2 books (especially if you’re taking WOW air since they have no in-flight entertainment)
How Do I Get Around the Ring Road?
Okay, so you’re sold. You wanna see allll of Iceland now, but just how do you get around to see all of these spectacular locations? There’s actually more than one answer:
The easiest (and best in my opinion) is to rent your own car. A 4×4 car is probably the best for all of the off-roading you might do. If you want to check out the views at Dyrhólaey or enjoy the Mars-like terrain near the Svinafellsjokulsvegur Glacier, you’re gonna need a car that can handle all of the various elements.
We rented a Suzuki Grand from SADCARS, which despite its namesake, I promise is anything but sad! Now, there are quite a few different add-ons as far as insurance goes. Getting the most basic insurance (if you don’t already have travel insurance) is important. However I suggest you DEFINITELY invest in the gravel protection. There are many unpaved roads and cars that will spit gravel at your car and you’re gonna wanna protect that windshield!
If you’re looking to travel on a budget, hitchhiking in Iceland is a HUGE thing! Not only did we see a ton of people do this (amidst the winter weather), but we saw two single women sticking their thumbs up hitching for a ride (YASSSS ICELAND)! This practice is incredibly safe and an excellent way to get around on the cheap.
A nice middle ground would definitely be a camper van. Not only do you save money on accommodation but you also get the freedom of your own ride and schedule. Just keep in mind where you can and cannot park overnight (click here for the overnight parking site as well as several other tips about traveling through Iceland)!
How Much Should I Budget for Iceland?
This is another one that’s hard to determine. This depends on your accommodation style, how quickly you’re going from place to place and how many days you’re staying.
Iceland is a bit of a challenge for you budget travelers. Sure, WOW Air had that amazing sale for $99 1-way, but they don’t publicly advertise that it costs money to check bags AND carry-ons. Plus the accommodation and food (good lord, the pricey food…) is another story.
Let me give you an example of our itinerary and stops with the corresponding budget:
Airfare: $537 (included carry-on and checked bag prices via WOW)
Reykjavík Hostel (2 nights): $197
Hvosvollur Hotel: $174
Höfn Homestay: $45 (split 3 ways)
Mythavn Hotel: $136
Hvammstangi Cottage Stay: $126
Gas: $160 (my 1/3 share)
Food: $100~ (includes split meals and bringing a lot of protein bars from home)
Blue Lagoon Entry: $85
Parking Costs: $19
Total: $1554 USD per person
Keep in mind, this total cost was based on a lot of driving and budget-style traveling. If you’re looking for more of a luxury experience, I would add $300-500 USD for more upscale accommodations and dining experiences. I’m sure you if you couchsurfed and hitchhiked, this could definitely be lower!
To keep costs down, we avoided going out to any bars or major restaurants (we ate gas station hot dogs and fast food when we could), I brought a water bottle and filled it from my hotel tap water, and we didn’t take any additional tours.
Unless you’re hitchhiking or using a camper van, expect this to be your base price for a 7-day road trip around Iceland’s ring road.
Did you travel the Ring Road in Iceland? Do you have any other major stops or tips?
*Thank you Angie of The Lovely Escapist for most of these photos above!
**This article includes affiliate links at no additional cost to you. If you click on some of them, I earn a commission so that I can make a living and keep writing for you fine people
The post This is Everything You Need to Know When You Travel the Ring Road in Iceland appeared first on The Clumsy Traveler.