Iceland road trip: The ultimate guide

Iceland Road Trip Ultimate Guide

89 Comments

  1. Green Global Travel

    Wow, who knew there were so many diverse and amazing spots to visit all over Iceland! I love the Kerið volcanic lake and all the waterfalls. Thanks for all the awesome suggestions! – Emme @ Green Global Travel

    1. Breathe With Us

      Hi Emme,

      Iceland is an amazing and very diverse country. We wanted to showcase that there’s a lot there that often gets overlooked.

      The collection of waterfalls is out of this world. So many and in different shapes! 🙂

      Cheers!

  2. Sudama Kumar Baraily

    Hello Hugo,
    Wishes from India. I am planning to travel to Europe in April 2016 for maybe 18-20 days. Initially i was hinking of visiting some major 6-7 cities in Europe. I also had this secret wish to visit Iceland and Norway, as i had been collecting pics of wonderful northern lights and Icelandic waterfalls.While searching in internet about it i found your website. After going through your information i feel like just visiting norway and iceland. I am a person who loves natural landscapes…And iceland and Norway just happen to have lots of them.
    I am writing this to thank you for the information you have provided. And it would be nice to know more about norway too..
    Thanks and love

    1. Hugo Cura

      Hi Sudama,

      Thank you for your kind words. We’re glad we can inspire people to travel to the destinations we write about and love.

      If you love natural landscapes, Iceland is the perfect place to go. It’s amazing!

      Unfortunately, we have yet to visit Norway, but it is definitely on our must-visit list due to the stunning landscapes.

      Cheers!

  3. Brenda

    Wauw! What a perfect website for information when you’re planning a holiday to Iceland. Thank you very much and we will definately use this info 🙂

    1. Hugo Cura

      Hey, Brenda!

      Thank you for stopping by. Glad you find this guide useful and our blog inspiring for planning a trip to Iceland.

      Stay tuned as we have more good stuff about Iceland coming soon!

  4. Bayne & Philippa Wagner

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! What a helpful article. My wife and I are starting to plan our own trip to Iceland for next June and happened across your site. This is just the kind of trip we were hoping to plan ourselves. You’ve made things much easier for us–and even recommended a good map! Hope you two can make it to Canada someday. Lots to see and do here.

    1. Breathe With Us

      Hey! You’re very much welcome. We’re glad it’s useful!

      June is a good month to visit and you’ll have a blast there. It’s a gorgeous country. The map is really cool because it highlights lots of places with a focus on photography.

      Let us know if you have any questions!

      We have Canada high in our must-do list, but we feel we would need to put aside a considerable amount of time to make a proper visit. We’re looking forward to all of the amazing nature Canada has.

      1. Bayne & Philippa Wagner

        I love photography, so the map and ebook will be a great resource. I’m already debating my lens selections.

        Canada is such a big country, unless you have months to commit to it, you’ll need to come several times. We recently toured Newfoundland for two weeks. Think of it as Iceland-lite. Marvellous landscapes. We live in Calgary, which it only an hour from the Rocky Mountains which is where I grew up. So many great hikes there. Feel free to ask us any questions about Canada if you start planning your trip.

        1. Breathe With Us

          Yes, Canada is huge and amazingly beautiful. Probably 3 weeks for a first-timers road trip! We definitely need to think about it.

          If you’re a keen photographer, Iceland is heaven on earth. Bring your gear and a decent tripod. Lot’s of waterfalls and landscapes to shoot!

          Thanks! 🙂

  5. Dana

    We are planning to visit Iceland next year, but I didn’t even think about a road trip. This would be the perfect way to explore the country with my kids.

  6. galanda23

    Very comprehensive post about a road trip to Island. I am a photographer and Island is on my list of great places to visit. There seem to be so many amazing spots to visit.

  7. Mia

    What an incredible road trip! I’m not big on road tripping but I were going to do it, I’d definitely do it in Iceland! So much to see and do, you could probably go on for months. 🙂

  8. travelleranto

    Can you believe I’ve been to Iceland six times and have never even gone beyond Jökulsárlón? There’s just so much to see on the southcoast …. one day I’ll head up north, but most likely my next visit will be to the Westfjords first!

    1. Breathe With Us

      Definitely can! My second time was 10 days long and also didn’t go past Jökulsárlón (after 2 weeks around the country 6 months before).

      I’ve seen some of your posts about Iceland over the past months and know you really love the country. I’m a happy member of that club as well!

      The whole country has so many things that I can’t even choose a favourite region.

      My plan is to head back next year and do one week in the Westfjords after only having been there a couple of days.

      – Hugo

  9. Laura

    This is a really great guide – lots of info. We went to Iceland in winter so we could do the drive. I sort of wish we’d waited til summer, but that just means we should go back! I really loved Reykjavik.

  10. Melody Pittman

    Your Iceland adventures look amazing. Makes me sad because my husband and I were supposed to go Sept 23 (that awesome WOW fare deal) but our houses we are building in Panama were delayed (last minute touches to being complete) so we were unable to go at that time. Your trip was epic, you’ve covered all the details. The best Iceland post i’ve seen.

    1. Breathe With Us

      Thank you so much, Melody.

      What a shame! Well, at least, you can enjoy the warmer temperatures of Panama!

      Hope you guys make it to Iceland soon, we think you’ll love it. The WOW fare deal has been getting a lot of attention. Lots of new tourists to Iceland thanks to them.

      Cheers!

  11. Sue

    Fantastic info, I am trying to make up my mind whether to go to Iceland for the first half of April this year to celebrate a milestone birthday….can I do pretty much everything you’ve mentioned at that time of year or will some of it be inaccessible?

    1. Breathe With Us

      Hello, Sue!

      Thanks for reading and enjoying our article!

      Answering your question. In short, maybe.

      Bad news first. The highlands (central part of the country) will definitely be closed and access to certain areas may be difficult (like the Westfjords).

      This being said, the classic ring-road is possible but still very weather dependent at that stage of the year. If you’re lucky, it can work out just fine. A recommendation we always give when travelling before late May or After late September is that the weather can have an impact on your trip. Road closures can happen and you need a plan B, and, in general, takes longer to do the circle around the country.

      How many days were you thinking about for this?

      Hope it helps.

      1. Sue

        Oh, I had somehow missed your reply until I got an email about the latest comment – thank you so much! 😀 I have booked my flights and will arrive in Iceland on March 31st, departing on April 13th. I haven’t actually booked anything beyond that, but am planning to have the first two nights in Reykjavik (to check out the city and maybe try to do a Northern Lights tour), then depart on the road trip on April 2nd. I would aim to arrive back in Reykjavik on April 11th or 12th (maybe spend the night of the 12th near the Blue Lagoon). I know it is quite a short time for the road trip (10 days or so), especially if the weather doesn’t play ball, but I guess I will just have to make the most of it. I am ok with not going up to the highlands or to the Westfjords – am happy just to concentrate on the ring road. I sort of wish I had more time as I live in New Zealand and probably will never get back there! But I decided to add a few days in London onto the end of the trip, which cut Iceland a little bit short. Because I’m worried about the weather, though, I am thinking about NOT booking accommodation in advance and just seeing where we end up each night (with a vague plan, of course). Is this a bad idea in April, do you think? I’d be happy with hostel accommodation or whatever we can find, really. So excited! 🙂

        1. Breathe With Us

          Hey Sue!

          You’re right. Weather can be tricky. March/April still is very much winter in Iceland. Obviously not as bad as other months yet still very unreliable.

          A couple of days is Reykjavík is enough. Not booking is possible during that time but I would advise you to book at least one or two days in advance to avoid disappointment.

          Don’t forget to check the weather forecast and road conditions daily. It may be problematic to pass on the east of Iceland if there’s snow on the mountain passes.

          The highlands are closed until mid/late June and the Westfjords still hard to reach during those months. Enjoy!

  12. Judit

    Great piece! We are planning to do a Iceland road trip somewhere in September/October this year. Thanks so much for all the info. But what a difficult names to remember…

    1. Breathe With Us

      Thank you, Judit!

      September is probably safer weather-wise. It all depends on what your plan is and what you’re interests.

      The names are the funny part! 🙂

      Let us know if you have any questions.

      Cheers!

  13. Loes

    Dear Hugo and Cristina,

    Thanks for all the awesome suggestions! My friend and I planned a trip to Iceland in July 2016 and we almost have 16 full days to spend on the island. We booked a Airbnb for the first three nights in Reykjavik, and after that we hire a camper for 11 days to travel the ring road. And then we still have two more nights to spend somewhere…

    We definitly want to do some excursions. We thought about of the whale watching tour, the Blue Ice Glacier hike and the pórsmörk Volcano hike. The glacier hike takes about 4 to 5 hours, and the volcano hike 12 hours. I already got information about transport and pick-up locations, but was wondering if a 11 day car-trip is enough if you want to do these excursions? We really don’t want to rush. Do you think it’s a good idea to do one or two excursions with a pick-up from reykjavik to save some time?

    Thanks in advance and kind regards,
    Loes

    1. Breathe With Us

      Hello Loes,

      Thank you for visiting. We’re glad you enjoyed reading our article!

      You raise a valid point. Without knowing much about your global itinerary, it sounds that at least the glacier hike should be fine within the 11 days road trip (btw, is this in Skaftafell?). The Thórsmörk hike being a full-day affair may change things a bit, but not much! It depends on how your itinerary is looking.

      One idea is to use the last full-day in Reykjavík to go to the Golden Circle (Thingvellir, Gullfoss, Geysir) and, with this you can save a day. 3 days in Reykjavík is a probably a bit too much.

      There are lots of day trips from Reykjavík (in fact 90% of them start there). One suggestion is doing one to Landmannalaugar, a beautiful place in the highlands that you can’t get to on a camper.

      Cheers,
      Hugo

      1. Loes

        Hi Hugo,

        Thanks for your answer. Our departure time in Iceland is at 12:00 P.M, so we stay 3 nights in Reykjavik, but we only have two days before picking up our camper. But maybe that’s too long as well? The whale watching tour, the glacier hike (Sólheimajökull) and kayaking are possible on our trip. But is a 11 day-trip enough, our should we extend our camper booking with one more day…? Did you some excursions on your 12 day trip? And are all above locations on your trip reachable without a 4X4?

        We were thinking to arrange a pick-up in Reykjavik for the volcano hike, because we have two days before, and two days after our 11 day ring-road trip.

        Have a nice evening!
        Loes

        1. Breathe With Us

          No problem. Glad to help.

          If you’re only planning to see the highlights of Reykavík, then 1 day is enough. If you rather also visit some museums, then 2 days is perfect. More than that is not necessary, in my opinion.

          Is extending a possibility? That would be great. Otherwise, we can work with what you currently have.

          This 12-day itinerary is 90% similar to what we did, but since I already visited Iceland twice (and going again in June), we made some changes and tweaks to improve it.

          Yes, we did glacier hiking and whale watching. Those are the two big ones that take half-day.

          All the locations of the main 12-day itinerary are accessible except the roads between Dettifoss and Ásbyrgi (think they were improving those two roads, at least, the one west of Dettifoss!). The extras have some parts that I wouldn’t recommend on a camper.

          I think day trips from Reykjavík are a great idea. Especially for those place where you can’t take the camper. Like Thorsmork or, as I suggested previously, Landmannalaugar.

          Cheers

  14. Arun Matta

    Hi Hugo and Cristina

    This is a fantastic compilation.Comprehensive and yet very precise.Having gone through loads of stuff on internet i can safely say that this is the best piece of information on how to plan a iceland tour i have come across.I am travelling to iceland this june with my wife and two teen age sons and doing a self drive ring road trip.I wanted a little suggestion where i am a bit confused.I will briefly layout my itinerary for better understanding

    day 1– reykjavik reaching ate in the evening
    day 2- golden circle.sleep in reykjavik
    day 3– reach vik
    day 4- reach hofn
    day 5– reach egilstadir
    day 6- reach olafsfjordur
    day 7– reach grundarfjordur
    day 8– back to reykjavik
    day 9- fly back in the afternoon

    After going through your post i feel that we are cutting it very fine on day 6 with lots to do and cover.normally people spend couple of days in myvatn area and akyurei.on the 7th day the journey is more than 400km.Though i have booked my hotels but i can still make changes.Can i leave west fjords completely and spend day 6 and 7 in myvatn area and head back to reykjavik on day 8 or I leave the itinerary as it is and cut on a few attractions on both these days.Would be grateful for your suggestions.

    thanks Arun

    1. Breathe With Us

      Hello, Arun

      We’re glad you found this guide to be useful! And thanks for your kind words.

      Day 6 is a bit crazy. It’s a very long drive.

      You don’t have the Westfjords on your itinerary. Perhaps you mean the Snaefellsnes peninsula? (day 7 Grundarfjörður)

      I would do like you said. Don’t do the Snaefellsnes (Grundarfjörður) and, instead, stay in Myvatn one night and the next one slightly west of Akureyri.

      A suggestion. On the Golden Circle day, you can sleep further south instead of Reykjavik.

      Cheers,
      Hugo

      1. Arun Matta

        Hello Hugo thank you so much for your quick response.

        Yes I meant Snaefellsnes peninsula which I will skip now as you suggested but if I book near myvatn area then on day 8 i have a straight drive of around 470 km from myvatn to reykjavik where i have to reach by the evening to take the next morning flight back.This will become too taxing especially when you are ending the tour. Basically I have to re organize day 6 and 7 so that on day 8 i dont have to travel more than around 200 kms to reach reykjavik.pl let me knw if you have any suggestions on this.

        I am returning to reykjavik from golden circle tour just to explore the city and night life in the evening otherwise I will be left with no time in reykjavik.

        thanks once again for your valuable suggestions

        cheers Arun

          1. Sue

            Hi Arun, I hope nobody minds me chiming in here (and I hope I’m replying to the right comment!). I just wanted to second the suggestion to spend a night in Hvammstangi after the night in Myvatn. I was in Iceland last month, and in the north I spent two nights in Akureyri (not too far from Myvatn) and then one night in Hvammstangi (then I went on to Grundarfjordur). Hvammstangi is a lovely little town with a nice view of a fjord! You could easily drive from Myvatn to there in one day, and then from there to Reykjavik the following day. I got to see the Northern Lights and also ride an Icelandic horse there. 🙂 I know you wouldn’t see the Northern Lights in June, but that’s ok. It’ll be lighter for you! We stayed in a little cottage – highly recommended! I think they were just called Hvammstangi Cottages. They are small, but can sleep four or five people (two bunk beds and one fold out sofa bed). If you like space and you can afford it, maybe you could try to hire two. But two rooms in a guest house might be cheaper. Partly due to the cute little cottage, though, this was actually my favourite night stop in Iceland, probably. And I did the whole Ring Road! I’m so envious of your trip – I totally fell in love with Iceland and want to go back! But I live on the complete opposite side of the world, so it’s a bit hard! Hope you have an amazing time! 🙂

            P.S. Hugo and Cristina, thank you so much for the advice you gave me earlier about weather, trip timing, etc. Everything worked almost perfectly! I’m actually kind of glad some things were closed when we were there because there was so much else to do that it would’ve been hard to decide what to miss!

            ~Sue 🙂

          2. Breathe With Us

            Hey,

            No problem at all!

            Glad to hear you had such a good time and that our tips were useful.

            Hvammstangi is a great place. I’ve stayed there once and staying there again (at the cottages) in a month. With a bit of luck, you can also see some seals there.

            Hugo

          3. Arun

            Hi Sue
            Thank u so much for the insights..i am planning to do exactly as you and Hugo suggested and will change my itinerary accordingly. Good to hear that u had a wonderful time in this absolutely beautiful country and I am looking forward to my days under the sun (literary) but would miss the northern lights experience. May be next time…

            Regards Arun

  15. Arun Matta

    Hi Hugo did some changes in the itinerary.Though was not able to book a suitable place at myvatn area and Hvammstangi.I guess i was a bit late and the places are sold out.Instead booked one night at Husavik and the next night at Varmahild. Now I am giving grundarforjodur a miss and will spend two days in north before heading back straight to reykjavik from varmahild on my last day of the ring road trip.pl let me know if you have any suggestions as i am using booking.com and changes till the last day are possible.my revised itinerary is as follows

    day 1– reykjavik reaching late in the evening
    day 2- golden circle.sleep in reykjavik
    day 3– reach vik
    day 4- reach hofn
    day 5– reach egilstadir
    day 6- reach husavik
    day 7– reach varmahild
    day 8– back to reykjavik
    day 9- fly back in the afternoon

    Also i had a few queries

    how is the whale watching trip at husavik. what are the chances of sighting?

    any suggestions on the must do trips or excursions based on my itinerary.

    Since i have only one day (barely) at myvatn area what should i do and what do i skip ?

    thanks for all your help.

    cheers Arun

    1. Breathe With Us

      Hey,

      Looks good to me.

      Husavík is the best place in Iceland for whale watching but it’s nature.. there are no guarantees. They have a pretty high success rate, though.

      One of the most interesting things you can do is glacier hiking. A good place to do it is at Skaftafell.

      Drive around the lake and there are plenty of reasons worth stopping for. Don’t miss dettifoss or Krafla (search for these).

      Cheers.

  16. Daphne Low

    Hi, thank you for such a detailed itinerary! Serves a great help to us. Just to check with you, as we will be driving a 2WD in winter and would love to follow your itinerary above, is there any places above which are not accessible?

    I still faced difficulty figuring out the F-road. Appreciate your help. Thanks

    1. Breathe With Us

      Hi Daphne,

      In how many days? and when? Don’t forget the days are shorter. In general, if you stick to route 1/ring road, it should be possible to do it but you need to pay attention to the weather and road closures. The eastern part from Egilstadir to Myvatn may be closed.

      All of the highlands will be closed and this includes all F roads. So, no worries about f roads.

      You can find out more about driving in Iceland here: https://breathewithus.com/driving-in-iceland/. It has a lot more detail and it’s meant to complement the road trip guide.

      1. Daphne Low

        Hi,

        Thank you for your prompt response. We will reach on March 20th and intend to be there for 11- 13 days (still deciding on the itinerary). So do you means that i could follow all the itinerary above except for the day 5 – East Fjords?

        I researched and realized that march will have about 12 hours of daylight so it should be fine isn’t it?

        1. Breathe With Us

          No worries about daylight hours in March.

          In theory, 11-13 days is good enough but road closures can happen, even in March. They should not last long unless the weather is really bad. Don’t rush it and have some spare time in case you need to wait some hours or a day.

  17. Sabrina Brett

    This is so helpful as I plan out an itinerary!! If possible, I would love your advice 🙂 I’m planning a trip to Iceland from April 2-18, and have a few questions about accessibility: (1) Is it possible to hike in Skaftafell in early April (not glacial hike).. Just a regular hike on your own without a guide?
    (2) Do you think it’s possible to venture here: Dalvík and the Tröllaskagi peninsula? (3) Are there any paid tour activities you recommend (glacier hiking, etc…) for that time of year? Thank you!!!

    1. Hugo Cura

      Hi Sabrina,

      Glad it’s helpful!

      Answering your questions.

      1. It should be possible but it really depends on how much snow. At least the svartifoss hike (2h return) and the glacier face (1h return) should be ok. The visitor center has information about the trails conditions.

      2. Yes. It’s possible and recommended. Beautiful part of Iceland. Do take a look at road conditions. Although there are tunnels in the region, it’s best to be prepared.

      3. Glacier hiking is always a good idea. Takes around 3h and you can combine it with your trip to Skaftafell. Whale watching? You can do it in north in Husavik.

      1. Sue

        Hi Sabrina, with regards to your question #2, I drove the Tröllaskagi Peninsula around April 9th last year (east to west) and it was definitely accessible. As Hugo said, there are a lot of tunnels, and you should definitely check the road conditions before travelling, but it was absolutely fine for us and well worth it! There was only one slightly scary part when we were driving around the very northern tip of the peninsula (wind and sleet), but it didn’t last long and we survived! We just drove very slowly and carefully. 😉 There was still a lot of snow around and it was quite beautiful in parts. Hardly any traffic on the road. I found it really different and fascinating to the rest of the trip with all the tunnels! You’d pop out into a different world. 🙂 Hope you enjoy Iceland – it is such an amazing country and I am dying to go back.

  18. Wouter

    We went to Iceland last spring, it was really amazing! Thank so much for your work and info! It was my second time i have visited Iceland but after reading your inspiration and want to jump on the plane again.

  19. kidsandcompass

    Thanks for these tips – we’re doing an Iceland road trip with our kids this summer so saving this as we want to see as many of these places as possible!
    We’ve got about 10 days – think we’ll have to leave out the East Fjords and the far west but hopefully we should get to the rest!

  20. Cristina

    Thank you so much for the detailed information. I just wanted to know if you are driving in June for about 3 days on the Route 1/Ring Road, is it necessary to have a phone with SIM card or a data plan?

    1. Breathe With Us

      You’re welcome! Not necessary. There is wifi pretty much everywhere like gas stations, restaurants, etc. We never felt the need to have 100 internet coverage.

      Your phone should work normally in case you need to make calls.

      1. Cristina

        Thanks.

        Oh sorry I meant to say do you think it’s doable to forego phone service in Iceland if travelling for 3 days in June.

  21. Lidija

    Hi guys 🙂 I’m currently planning our September Ring Road trip and found your guide really helpful, thanks for your awesome work! I have a question regarding day 10 in Snaefellsnes. I can’t find the Ditrivik beach on Google Maps or just googling it also has no real results. As I don’t want to miss a single awesome thing, can you tell me if you made a typo or help me to locate it. Thanks a lot.

    1. Breathe With Us

      Hi Lidija,

      You’re welcome. It should definitely be ditrivik but I can’t confirm right now since we’re traveling. Shoot us an email and we’ll get back to you in a couple of weeks!

  22. Didana D

    Omg thank you for this!!! i was having a hard time finding things to do in some regions and this article totally helped! I feel a lot more prepared for our trip! thanks again!!

  23. Edgar Freire

    Hello. Next year i would like to visit Island and make the best photos. How much is the travel and a place to stay. A group to visit the best places in Island. Because i cant drive. And the mounth to go from Portugal and how many days! Thanks

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