Tag: Ring Road
How to Get Around Iceland
With enormous icecaps, awesome mountain peaks, and rugged coastline, Iceland offers enough thrills to satisfy every traveler. What’s more, these wonders are easy to visit too. You can see most of these jaw-dropping sights from the iconic Route 1, Iceland’s Ring Road.
But before you strap in for an unforgettable journey, let’s talk about practicalities. What’s the best way to get around Iceland? Can you travel without a car? Can public transport take you easily from A to B?
Here, you’ll discover everything you need to know about how to get around Iceland.
- Kickstart your adventure with a Ring Road tour of Iceland
Frequently asked questions about getting around Iceland
Read on for the answers to common questions from travelers visiting Iceland. You’ll learn the best ways to see the top sites and find out just how easy it is to get around in the Land of Fire and Ice
Is it hard to get around in Iceland?
Think of Iceland, and wild and rugged landscapes might come to mind. There are plenty of remote places to enjoy, it’s true. But Iceland’s also a country with modern infrastructure so there are many options for exploring.
Buses and coaches, for instance, make visiting the top sights a breeze. Or, if you want more freedom, car rental and self-drive tours give you the chance to create your own unique Iceland road trip.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the winter months – October to March – bring more unpredictable weather. But by planning ahead, you’ll find that it’s not hard to get around Iceland at all.
Plus, book with Iceland Tours, and if the weather affects your trip we’ll take care of re-organising your itinerary. This leaves you to have a carefree trip.
Can you get around Iceland without a car?
The beauty of traveling in Iceland is that you don’t need a car. Although Iceland doesn’t have trains (fun fact), there are other ways for you to get to where you want to be.
The public bus service is a good option, linking all the towns and villages along the Ring Road. But it’s designed for locals, meaning it might not always take you directly to the sights.
For that, coach rides or private day tours are the better choice if you’d prefer not to drive. These will pick you up from your hotel, or a handy meeting point, and take you to see some of Iceland’s stunning destinations. All you need to do is sit back and relax.
Or, for longer journeys, you could take a domestic flight. For instance, if you’re heading north to Akureyri, this will cut your journey time significantly. It’s a great way to explore far beyond the capital if you don’t have the time to travel by land.
How do tourists get around Iceland?
Visitors can get around Iceland just like the locals. Bus routes will take you from town to town, or you can rent a car for more freedom.
That said, you’re not limited to four wheels. For example, mountain bike trips or kayaking excursions are awesome ways for you to experience Iceland’s landscape up close.
Alternatively, if you want to travel along the coast or island-hop Icelandic style, hitch a ride on a ferry service. A visit to the Westman Islands should be on your bucket list. You’ll get phenomenal coastal views and maybe even enjoy whale watching from the deck.
How do you get around in Reykjavík?
Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital city, is a convenient city to get around. With plenty of transport options available, you can decide how you’d like to travel.
Firstly, Reykjavík is a walkable city. It’s compact, and largely flat, so you’ll find most of the main attractions are within a short distance of each other. It’s a safe place to visit too. In fact, Iceland is famously recognized as the safest country in the world.
You could also take to 2 wheels and zip around the city on an app-operated electric scooter. There are a couple of companies offering this service, with rental stations dotted throughout Reykjavík. Simply download the app and follow the instructions. Or why not hire a bike instead?
If you’re heading further afield, you’ll find there are other reliable options, including buses, coaches, and taxis. Head for the bus terminal on Vatnsmýrarvegur – it’s an excellent place to start.
Are there Ubers in Iceland?
So far there are no Ubers in Iceland. The taxi-hailing app has not reached us yet! Luckily, you will find conventional taxis in Reykjavík that can take you wherever you need to go
It’s worth bearing in mind that taxis outside of the city are expensive, including to and from the airport. In this case, a shuttle bus service is often a more affordable option to connect with your flight.
Meanwhile, if you want to visit countryside attractions or towns and cities beyond the capital then guided day tours or multi-day trips tend to be much better value for money.
These are the 4 best ways to get around Iceland
You’ve come to the right place if you want to discover how to travel around in Iceland. Here are some of the most popular ways that you could explore the Ring Road and beyond.
1. Self-drive tours
Self-drive tours of Iceland put you behind the wheel. By renting a car, you can go from sight to sight at your own pace.
Fancy exploring the highlights and hidden gems of the Golden Circle with fewer people around? Go for it. Prefer a longer dip in a hot spring, or want to while away the evening at the Blue Lagoon? You call the shots on an independent road trip.
There are just a couple of things to keep in mind. Firstly, at just 90 km/h (56 m/h) on rural roads, Iceland’s speed limit is lower than most other countries and fines for speeding are often high.
Secondly, if you want to travel in winter, remember that low temperatures can mean icy roads. But don’t worry, if you decide you’d rather not drive at this time of year there are other ways to explore Iceland.
2. Small group tours
Join like-minded adventurers, and let someone else do the driving, on a group tour of Iceland. From the Icelandic highlands to the Westfjords, we can take you wherever you want to go. And with an expert guide to lead the way, you’ll experience the wonders of Iceland to the fullest.
Plus, on a small group tour of the Ring Road with Iceland Tours, airport transfers, accommodation, and in-country travel will all be sorted for you. All you need to do is enjoy the view.
3. Privately guided tours
Maybe you want a more tailored experience – and that’s cool. On a privately guided tour, you’ll enjoy the freedom of a self-drive trip while benefiting from the local knowledge of your own expert driver-guide. Not only that, but you can personalize your itinerary, so you can get exactly what you want from your trip.
For instance, you could tour the Ring Road on a trip that focuses on what inspires you most. If you want to marvel at the Northern Lights in a spectacular location, let’s make that happen. Or if your priority is seeing Iceland’s wildlife, we can arrange that for you too.
We’ll also do our best to pair you with a guide that has similar interests to you, whether that’s photography, geology, or Icelandic culture.
4. Multi-day tours
Alternatively, make Reykjavík your base and spend your time exploring the sights of South Iceland, along with the Reykjanes and Snæfellsnes peninsulas. Multi-day tours are a convenient option if you want to soak up scenic highlights by day, and enjoy the perks of city-living by nights.
For example, from your Reykjavík hotel, head out to the magical Golden Circle one day, before exploring the south coast the next. Then, in the evening, you could hunt for the Northern Lights, or try some of the city’s many bars and restaurants.
- Related: Why visit Iceland?
Explore the Land of Fire and Ice with Iceland Tours
Travel around Iceland in the style that suits you. Do you prefer the freedom of self-drive trips or the social vibes of a guided group tour? Would you rather base yourself in Reykjavík on a multi-day package or have the ultimate tailored travel experience with a privately guided tour?
At Iceland Tours, we can arrange it all. Book your Ring Road tour today with just a 5% deposit. We’ll handle the accommodation, transport, and any excursions. What’s more, you can customize your trip with optional extras and additional nights, making it unique to you.
Top 7-day Iceland Itinerary Ideas
So you have a week to see the Land of Fire and Ice. You’re probably wondering whether it’s long enough. Well with pretty much any Iceland itinerary, 7 days will give you time to experience tons of natural sights and plenty of culture.
One of the best ways to see Iceland is on a 7-day Ring Road itinerary. This means you’ll get to see mighty waterfalls, awe-inspiring glaciers, and gushing geysers around Iceland.
If you want to zoom into a specific region, you could spend a week touring south and west Iceland. This covers the classic Golden Circle touring route, as well as the epic Snæfellsnes peninsula.
- Find your 7-day trip by browsing these Iceland vacation packages.
However you decide to spend your 7 days in Iceland, you’re bound to have your mind blown. So read on for some travel inspo that’ll spark ideas for your next vacation!
1. Iceland Ring Road itinerary
A week in Iceland gives you time for a self-drive tour around the Ring Road. Also known as Route 1, it hugs the stunning coastline and takes you through most of the country.
Here we’ve put together an Iceland Ring Road itinerary for 7 days to get you feeling inspired.
Day 1: Welcome to Iceland
Once you land at Keflavík airport, you’ll pick up your rental car and head to Reykjavík.
On the way, you can stop off for a relaxing dip in the Blue Lagoon. This spa is famous for its geothermally heated waters, rich in silica and other skin-friendly minerals. It’s the perfect place to unwind and recharge your batteries after your flight.
Depending on when you arrived in Iceland, you might also have time to explore Reykjavík. Iceland’s capital is bursting with cool cafés, trendy bars, and interesting museums. Spend the afternoon wandering the quirky streets of the city center or grabbing a tasty bite.
- Discover where the best places to eat are in our Iceland Restaurant Guide.
Day 2: Borgarfjörður & Akureyri
Today you could head north toward Akureyri, the second largest settlement in Iceland. This quaint town will charm you with its cute wooden houses painted in bright colors.
On the drive north, you’ll pass Borgarfjörður, one of the widest bays in Iceland. It’s studded with thousands of small islands and rocky outcrops that are home to seabirds, including puffins and eider.
It’s also worth taking a short detour off the Ring Road to check out the magnificent Barnafoss & Hraunfossar waterfalls. This network of criss-crossing streams almost glows blue thanks to the minerals in the water.
By dinnertime, you will have arrived in Akureyri. There are dozens of great spots to eat in the town. Whether you’re after local seafood, steak, European, or Asian food, you’ll have no problem finding something tasty.
Day 3: Goðafoss waterfall & Lake Mývatn, North Iceland
After a good night’s sleep in Akureyri, today it’s time to explore some of the wonders of North Iceland. First up today is Goðafoss, one of the country’s most powerful waterfalls. Unusually for an Icelandic waterfall, it’s much wider than it is tall.
Next you can head to the area around Lake Mývatn. The lake itself is renowned for its natural beauty and as a haven for birdlife. But the area around Mývatn is also home to some of the most mind-bending geological features in all of the country.
Amongst these are the Dimmuborgir rock formations, which are the remains of ancient volcanic eruptions. Here you’ll see hollow lava tubes and stacks of basalt that look like they solidified only yesterday. You might also recognize Dimmuborgir as a filming location from the Game of Thrones series.
- Travel Guide: Iceland’s nature & landscape.
A stone’s throw away from here is Hverfjall, which from the side of the road looks like a pretty standard mountain. Climb it though and you’ll see that it is in fact a huge collapsed volcanic crater!
Other cool things to see and do in the Lake Mývatn area include:
- Grjótagjá cave – Check out these spooky caves filled with naturally heated water
- Hverir hot springs – See liquid mud bubble away and steam rise from the ground
- Mývatn Nature Baths – Relax in these refreshing geothermal baths after a day’s sightseeing
- Skútustaðagígar – Marvel at these otherworldly craters formed by the Krafla volcano
You could also take a detour to Húsavík. This charming fishing village is the whale watching capital of Iceland. If seeing these gentle giants is on your bucket list, then this is the place to come.
Day 4: Eastfjords
Today you’ll carry on around the Ring Road toward the Eastfjords. This region of Iceland is sometimes skipped. But with plenty to explore here, there’s no reason you should pass it by.
The town of Egilsstaðir is a great place to stop for lunch, but the true gem here is the Hallormsstaðaskógur forest just outside the town. This is the largest in Iceland and it hugs the banks of the Lagarfljót river. Rumor has it that Iceland’s answer to the Loch Ness monster lives here!
If you have more time to explore, you could take the slow route around the Eastfjords and check out the region’s charming towns and villages. The village of Seyðisfjörður is full of traditional Icelandic buildings painted in bright, quirky colors. In the summer, it’s home to the Lunga arts festival, so it has a surprisingly cosmopolitan feel for such a small town.
Other villages in the area include:
- Eskifjörður – Check out the maritime museum and refuel at a cozy café
- Fáskrúðsfjörður – Explore this sleepy village that wears its French legacy on its sleeve
- Stöðvarfjörður – Visit the famous Petra’s Stone Collection
- Djúpivogur – Have a spot of lunch and marvel at the village’s collection of giant stone eggs
Tonight you’ll reach the town of Höfn í Hornarfirði, where you can grab dinner and get some rest before tomorrow’s adventures.
Day 5: Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon & south coast
This morning you don’t have far to go to see your first amazing sight. Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is just under 1 hour’s drive from Höfn. The lagoon is filled with baby icebergs that have broken off the Vatnajökull glacier, which is the largest in Iceland.
The lagoon looks best at sunrise, so if you’re a morning person we definitely recommend getting up early to see it in all its glory. There’s something so calming about watching the tiny icebergs drift slowly out to sea.
Just over the road from the lagoon is Breiðamerkursandur (AKA Diamond Beach), where some of the chunks of ice wash up. Just imagine the clear-blue ice glistening against the jet-black sand.
Once you’ve had your fill of icebergs, you can rejoin the Ring Road. Follow it west and check out the rest of what Vatnajökull National Park has to offer, including:
- Svartifoss – This hidden waterfall flows over hexagonal basalt columns
- Skaftafellsjökull – A jaw-dropping, tongue-like outlet of the Vatnajökull glacier
- Dverghamrar – Unusual geometric rock formations
In wintertime, you can also visit natural ice caves that form underneath the Vatnajökull glacier. Lined with smooth blue ice, these are a sight that’s hard to let go of.
- Walk underneath a glacier for yourself on an ice cave tour or adventure tour of Iceland.
- Blog: Your guide to ice caves and lava caves in Iceland.
Day 6: Golden Circle
After checking out the best of South Iceland’s nature, today you’ll follow the famous Golden Circle touring route. This features 3 unmissable sights:
- Gullfoss – A multi-tiered waterfall that is one of Iceland’s most beautiful
- Geysir – The geothermal area that’s home to the active Strokkur geyser
- Þingvellir National Park – Once the gathering place for Iceland’s ancient parliament
Now it’s time to head back to Reykjavík to enjoy your last night in Iceland. Why not head down to the trendy Grandi fishpacking district for some local food? Or you could sip a cocktail at a bar off Laugavegur, the main street.
For a truly Icelandic experience on your final night, you could visit a local pool for a dip in a ‘hot pot’ (what the locals call a hot tub). Many are open until 10 p.m., so you can relax your muscles before your journey home.
Day 7: Spa day or shopping in Reykjavík
Depending on the time of your flight, you could squeeze in a trip to the Blue Lagoon or Sky Lagoon if you haven’t already. Or simply spend the morning strolling the streets of Reykjavík and dropping into local boutiques to pick up a souvenir!
This is just a taste of what you could get up to on a 7-day Ring Road tour of Iceland. If you want to fit even more in, you could add extra days in Reykjavík at the start or end of your trip.
- Related: Top 10 day Iceland itinerary ideas.
For more inspiration, check out these Iceland Ring Road trips.
2. South & West Iceland
By focusing on one or two specific regions, you can travel at a more laid-back pace and enjoy more time at each attraction. South and West Iceland are brimming with jaw-dropping waterfalls, bubbling hot springs, and even the occasional glacier!
On this summer itinerary, you’ll have time to explore the Snæfellsnes peninsula, also known as ‘Iceland in Miniature’. This is because it packs in so much. As well as everything listed above, you’ll discover rugged cliffs full of puffins, yellow and black sand beaches, and quiet fishing villages.
Keep reading to find out what you can do in South and West Iceland in a week.
Days 1–3: Reykjavík and south coast
Start your trip by wandering around Reykjavík, snapping pics of the city’s colorful, traditional houses as you go. And of course if you have time, enjoy a relaxing soak in the Sky Lagoon or Blue Lagoon.
After a restful night’s sleep, you’re ready for your first day of adventure. Hit the Ring Road and follow it south along the coast. Here you’ll get your fill of waterfalls! These include the impressive Skógafoss, and Seljalandsfoss, which you can walk behind.
Next continue south toward Reynisfjara black sand beach. The volcanic sand makes for a dramatic backdrop, but the beach is also surrounded by jagged cliffs and towering sea stacks just off the shore.
Tonight you’ll stay near the village of Vík with its iconic church and cool dining options. In the morning, rejoin the Ring Road and drive to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Here you can see tiny icebergs breaking off the Vatnajökull glacier and floating out to sea!
Days 4–5: Golden Circle & West Iceland
Today it’s time to follow the Golden Circle trail. This popular route includes Geysir, a geothermal area home to hot springs and the Strokkur geyser. Every 6–10 minutes, you can watch the geyser blast a column of hot water up to 20 meters (65 feet) into the air!
Next you’ll head to the Gullfoss waterfall. Its name means ‘Golden Falls’, hence the Golden Circle. One of the most spectacular in Iceland, this tiered waterfall is enveloped in local folk tales.
This evening you could add a visit to the Fontana spa to your plan. The health resort has geothermally heated water and looks out over the spectacular Laugarvatn lake.
The next day you’ll head to Þingvellir National Park. This ancient site is located where the North American and European tectonic plates meet. It was once also the gathering place of ancient Viking parliaments. You can explore the history of Þingvellir by following the many paths and trails around the area.
Spend the afternoon exploring West Iceland. Here you’ll find the Deildartunguhver hot spring, where steam rises from the ground and the water is hot enough to boil an egg. Finish your day’s sightseeing at the Barnafoss & Hraunfossar waterfalls, complete with their icy blue water and rock bridge.
Days 6–7: Snæfellsnes peninsula
The Snæfellsnes peninsula has earned the nickname ‘Iceland in Miniature’ because it packs so much in. In this part of Iceland you can:
- Pass through otherworldly, moss-covered lava fields
- Spot puffins and other seabirds along the coast
- Admire the handsome Snæfellsjökull glacier
- Eat fresh local seafood in the town of Stykkishólmur
- Snap photos of rugged sea stacks at Arnarstapi
- Relive Game of Thrones at Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall
- Explore hidden lava caves and gorges
- Wander golden and black sand beaches
Thanks to how easy the Snæfellsnes peninsula is to navigate, you’ll be able to cross plenty off your Iceland bucket list here!
If you feel like you can’t fit it all in, you might want to add an extra day to your itinerary. That way, you could spend more time in this unspoiled region.
On your final day, you’ll return to Reykjavík. Depending on your flight time, you might be able to squeeze in a souvenir shopping trip or soak up culture at a gallery or museum.
3. Winter glacier adventure
Iceland is even more magical when the waterfalls are frosted over and the mountains blanketed in snow. And as the night draws in, you’ll have plenty of chances to chase down the Northern Lights.
All of this makes winter a great time to visit Iceland. Here we’ve put together an example Iceland road trip for 7 days that you could do in wintertime.
- Explore these Iceland winter tours.
- Related: Tips for Iceland in winter – Weather and packing guide.
Days 1–3: South shore & Vatnajökull National Park
Arrive in Iceland and head straight to Reykjavík, where you’ll spend your first night. If you arrive earlier in the day, you might have time to check out the museums and galleries. And in the evening, you can have dinner or grab a drink at one of the city’s trendy local spots.
In the morning, you’ll start your road trip on south coast. Follow the Ring Road down to Seljalandsfoss, probably the most famous waterfall in Iceland, after Gullfoss. This is the one you can walk behind!
A short drive down the road is Skógafoss, its more powerful bigger brother. In winter they’re both likely to be frosted with icicles.
Tonight you’ll bed down in the countryside before your next day’s adventure. Head eastwards to Vatnajökull National Park, where you’ll find Svartifoss waterfall, surrounded by hexagonal columns of basalt.
The waterfall is fed by the Vatnajökull glacier, which is also the origin of the white and blue icebergs of the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. This magical place has an almost surreal energy. Pause to watch the icebergs drift out to sea, and you’ll see what we mean.
Days 4–5: Golden Circle & Snæfellsnes peninsula
Today a new chapter of your trip begins. You’ll head back west toward the Golden Circle to see the Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall. In the afternoon, you can check out Þingvellir National Park where Iceland’s Viking-age parliament met.
- Travel Guide: Iceland’s people & culture.
The next morning, it’s time to check out Iceland in miniature on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. This compact slice of Iceland has its own glacier, black sand beaches, and lava caves. Oh, and waterfalls by the bucketload!
Days 6–7: West Iceland & Reykjanes peninsula
Spend your final couple of days exploring West Iceland. This part of the country is home to the Deildartunguhver hot springs, where you can see water boil in the ground.
A short drive away are the Barnafoss & Hraunfossar waterfalls. Hraunfossar is a collection of hundreds of small streams that form a network of waterfalls. Barnafoss is more energetic, as it cuts through a narrow strip of rock. And you can even see a lava bridge over the falls that has its own legend attached to it.
Alternatively, you could head to the Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland. This is home to the Blue Lagoon spa, a must-do experience for anyone visiting Iceland.
There are also natural attractions here, including the Krýsuvík geothermal area with its hot springs and steam vents.
You can also check out the newest sight in the area, which is the Fagradalsfjall lava field. This was created when the volcano of the same name erupted in March 2021. Even though the lava is no longer flowing, you can see it here in its crisp, solidified form.
Ways to see Iceland in 7 days
When planning a 7-day trip to Iceland, it’s worth thinking about the different options you have to get around the country.
One of the most popular is a self-drive tour. Take the wheel of your own rental car and stop wherever you like, whenever you like. This the best option if you want full freedom to explore and the chance to see every attraction.
If you’re the outdoors type, then a camping trip is great option in summer. Travel as you would on a self-drive, except you’ll be sleeping in a tent under the stars instead of in a guesthouse or hotel.
Don’t feel like driving yourself? You could join a guided group tour, where you’ll circle Iceland’s Ring Road with a group of like-minded travelers. Perfect for making new buddies!
And for something a bit special, there are private tours. Your very own driver-guide will take you all over the country, sharing their insider knowledge with you and showing you their favorite spots.
Choose Iceland Tours and we’ll take care of making your Iceland travel plans for you. Simply pick the trip that excites you the most and book online. Then we’ll organize accommodation, transport, and any included activities for you.
All it takes to secure your booking is a 5% deposit. So you can start dreaming about your week in Iceland today!
Glaciers in Iceland: Your Ultimate Guide
When visiting Iceland, glaciers are something you’ll see almost by accident! Just over a tenth of the country is covered in them, meaning there are plenty of ice-capped mountaintops to see. You’ll also see huge stretches of ice extending from outlet glaciers.
So where’s the best place to see a glacier in Iceland? They are mostly concentrated in the southern half of the country, in a crescent from the Snæfellsnes peninsula in the west to Vatnajökull glacier in the southeast.
- Get up close to a glacier on one of these adventure tours of Iceland.
Read on and find out about more about how they were formed and which ones are the best to visit.
Hint: The Icelandic word for ‘glacier’ is jökull and features in the name of almost every one in the country!
Where are the glaciers in Iceland?
You’ll find the majority of Iceland’s glaciers, including its largest, in central or south Iceland. The reason for this is not to do with temperature, but the fact that there is more snowfall in those parts of the country.
Vatnajökull, which is the biggest glacier in Iceland, stretches all the way from the central highlands to the south coast. One of its outlets empties into Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, where you can see baby icebergs calving off before floating out to sea.
The largest glacier in the north is Drangajökull in the Westfjords. It’s also the fifth largest in the country.
How many glaciers are there in Iceland?
It’s impossible to put an exact figure on it, but there are at least 13 large glaciers in Iceland. In order of size from largest to smallest, they are:
As well as these, you’ll find there are hundreds of smaller glaciers around the country, some only a few square meters in size.
Iceland glacier map
You can see the main glaciers we’ll cover in this blog post on a map:
How much of Iceland is covered by glaciers?
11,400 km² (4,400 sq mi), is covered by glaciers. This is around 11% of Iceland’s total land area. You can spot them pretty easily on any map or satellite image of the country. They’re the big white splotches (or gray on the map above)!
At the end of the last ice age, Iceland was almost entirely covered in glaciers. The ice would have joined Iceland up to the Arctic and British Isles. The glaciers that you can see today are the last remnants of this ginormous ice cap.
Are Iceland’s glaciers melting?
Unfortunately, yes. Due to the rise in temperature caused by climate change, the country’s glaciers are gradually receding. In fact, one of the smallest, Okjökull, disappeared altogether in 2014. That said, you can still see other glaciers in all of their glory today.
It’s normal for sections of glaciers to melt on a seasonal basis. In the springtime, the meltwater left behind by the glacier ice carves out spectacular ice caves underneath Langjökull and Vatnajökull.
- Walk under a glacier yourself on an ice cave tour in Iceland.
- Related: Guide to ice caves and lava caves in Iceland.
And because Iceland’s glaciers contain the equivalent of 20 times the annual precipitation the country receives, they’re an important source of freshwater.
As it happens, the glaciers feed many of Iceland’s waterfalls, including Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, and Skógafoss. You can see how much of an effect they have by visiting these waterfalls in the summer months during the seasonal melt.
In wintertime, the glaciers freeze solid once again. And they’re topped up with fresh snowfall, which becomes gradually compressed and turns to solid ice over the years.
Can I visit a glacier in Iceland?
Absolutely! One important thing is though that you shouldn’t attempt to visit a glacier by yourself. Always go on an organized trip with a trained and experienced guide, like those offered by Iceland Tours.
The surface of a glacier is constantly changing and there can be hidden dangers. So it’s vital that you go with a qualified guide who can ensure you have a safe and fun time on the glacier!
Best glaciers to visit in Iceland
Area: 7,900 km² (3,050 sq mi)
Location: Southeast Iceland
Vatnajökull is by far the largest glacier in Iceland. This beast alone covers 8% of the country (bear in mind that all of Iceland’s glaciers combined cover 11%). So if you’re driving anywhere along the southeast coast, Vatnajökull will likely be towering over you.
As with lots of Iceland’s glaciers, Vatnajökull hides active volcanoes. The most lively of these is Grímsvötn, which last erupted in 2011. Because the volcano lies beneath the ice, when it erupts it causes outburst floods known in Icelandic as jökulhlaup.
Other volcanoes under the glacier include Bárðarbunga (last eruption: 2014–15) and Öræfajökull (last eruption: 1728).
Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon
The Vatnajökull ice cap has dozens of valley glaciers that empty into different rivers. One of the most important is Breiðamerkurjökull, which stretches into the Jökulsárlón lagoon. This glacial lake is teeming with icebergs large and small that have broken off the glacier.
You can access Jökulsárlón easily from the Ring Road, which actually passes over the lagoon via a bridge. And because the lagoon connects to the North Atlantic, you can watch the icebergs drift out to sea from here.
- Why not set off on an Iceland Ring Road trip of your own?
- Blog: Ultimate guide to driving Iceland’s Ring Road.
Some icebergs are even washed ashore on the nearby Breiðamerkursandur (aka Diamond Beach). This creates a magical effect as the blue ice contrasts with the pitch-black volcanic sand.
Area: 560 km² (215 sq mi)
Location: South Iceland
Mýrdalsjökull is the southernmost glacier in Iceland, not far from the village of Vík. It covers Katla, the largest active volcano in Iceland. Although it hasn’t properly erupted since 1918, it’s considered to be one of the most active volcanoes in the country.
You can see the mark of past volcanic eruptions on the glacier in the form of layers of ash. This black grit settles on top of the ice and is quickly covered in snow. But if you enter an ice cave and see black veins in the ice, what you’re looking at is volcanic ash. Like the rings of a tree, they tell us more about the history of a glacier.
The Mýrdalsjökull glacier itself is a popular spot for adventure activities like snowmobiling tours and glacier hiking, especially on the Sólheimajökull outlet.
- Take a multi-day tour from Reykjavík and join the fun on Mýrdalsjökull.
Area: 900 km² (350 sq mi)
Location: West Iceland
Langjökull means ‘Long Glacier’. Look at a map and it’s easy to see why, it’s much longer than it is wide. If you venture to the Golden Circle and stop off at the Gullfoss waterfall, you’ll catch a glimpse of Langjökull in the distance.
Thanks to its location near the Golden Circle, Langjökull is another great spot for glacier-based adventures. Here you can join a glacier hike, go snowmobiling, or take a glacier jeep tour on top of the glacier itself.
Once you’re up on the glacier surface, you can follow a trained guide and explore one of the dozens of ice caves that form under Langjökull every year!
- Check out these day trips for a full selection of ice-focused adventures.
Area: 78 km² (30 sq mi)
Location: South Iceland
If there’s one glacier in Iceland you might have heard of before, it’s Eyjafjallajökull. Newsreaders across the world mangled the pronunciation of this glacier when the volcano beneath it started erupting in 2010.
- See Eyjafjallajökull and more on a self-drive trip to Iceland.
- Get the lowdown on Iceland’s volcanoes with this guide.
So let’s get this out of the way first: you pronounce it EY-ya-fyat-la-yoekut-l. Or at least, that’s the best way we can write it using English spelling. YouTube has loads of videos teaching you how to pronounce it if you want something more precise!
Tongue twisters aside, Eyjafjallajökull is one South Iceland’s most stand-out glaciers. It’s easily visible from the Ring Road as you drive south to Seljalandsfoss. And on a clear day, it can even be seen from the Westman Islands off the south coast.
Eyjafjallajökull is super close to its bigger brother Mýrdalsjökull. In fact, they’re connected by the Fimmvörðuháls mountain pass. This is actually the spot where the infamous eruption started back in 2010.
Area: 11 km² (4 sq mi)
Location: Snæfellsnes peninsula, West Iceland
Although it’s the smallest of Iceland’s main glaciers, Snæfellsjökull is still a stunning sight. Located at the far western end of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, the glacier sits within its very own national park.
Snæfellsjökull caps an active volcano, the only one on the whole peninsula. Despite being labeled as ‘active’, it hasn’t actually erupted for almost 2,000 years.
This was the volcano that served as inspiration for Jules Verne. In his iconic novel Journey to the Center of the Earth, the main character uncovers a passage leading to the Earth’s core underneath Snæfellsjökull.
On a clear day, the glacier is easily visible from Reykjavík. And in the summer, you can climb the mountain below Snæfellsjökull, although you shouldn’t hike on the actual glacier by yourself.
Area: 890 km² (345 sq mi)
Location: Central highlands
Up in the Icelandic highlands you’ll find Hofsjökull, Iceland’s third-largest glacier. Beneath the ice is a large and active volcanic system, although no one knows quite when it last erupted.
Because of its location, Hofsjökull is only accessible in the summer when the mountain roads (known as F-roads) are open. This part of Iceland experiences such harsh weather conditions in the wintertime that it is completely cut off from the rest of the country.
In the summer though, it’s safe for you to visit the highlands in a 4×4. There’s plenty to see there in fact, including the Landmannalaugar hot springs. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even drive the Kjölur road which runs all the way up the country from south to north.
Planning your Iceland glacier trip
As we’ve seen, you don’t have to go far (or be a pro mountain climber!) to experience glaciers in Iceland. On an adventure tour of Iceland, you can join a group tour where you could:
- Go glacier hiking on Langjökull or Mýrdalsjökull
- Cross the glacier surface by snowmobile
- Explore a bright blue ice cave
On any of these activities, you’ll be led by a qualified and experienced guide. Plus, you’ll get all the gear you need to stay safe and comfy.
When you book an adventure package with Iceland Tours, you’ll get one or more ice-based experience included. And your accommodation and transport is all set up for you. All you need to do is book your flights and enjoy your trip.
And with just a 5% deposit, there’s no need to put your plans on ice, you can book today!
Your Complete Guide to Camping in Iceland
Camping in Iceland is a fantastic way to get close to the country’s unspoiled nature without breaking the bank. And believe it or not, it’s possible to stay in a tent comfortably even this far north!
There are campsites spread all over the Icelandic countryside and most are open from April to September. These warmer summer months are popular with Icelanders too. You’ll see plenty of locals on holiday with their families at this time of year.
- Explore these Iceland camping trip itineraries.
So if you’re thinking of visiting Iceland in the summertime, why not go for something completely different and camp under the midnight sun? Read on to find out where to pitch your tent and to get useful camping tips for Iceland.
How to camp in Iceland
Your best bet is to stay at a designated campsite. Using the Ferðalag.is or Tjalda.is directories, you can easily locate one wherever you are in the country.
Most campsites have shared bathroom and cooking facilities, and some even have laundry facilities and Wi-Fi. This means you can stay clean, comfortable, and connected throughout your trip.
Of course, one of Iceland’s greatest appeals is its wilderness. If you choose to camp, you’ll enjoy endless unspoiled views and crisp, clean air. You might well be wondering if you can get this experience by staying on a campsite, and be thinking about wild camping instead.
What about wild camping in Iceland?
In 2015, rules in Iceland were changed on wild camping to help protect the country’s fragile ecosystem. Whilst not illegal on a national level, you’re required to get the landowner’s permission before pitching your tent.
- Find out more about Iceland’s precious nature and landscapes.
Wild camping is banned in national parks, like Þingvellir National Park and Vatnajökull National Park, and at many tourist sites. For a worry-free trip, we definitely recommend sticking to designated campsites.
The thing is, in Iceland, nature is never that far away. There are many remote campgrounds that let you get up close and personal with the local scenery. So compared to many other countries, campsites in Iceland can feel pretty wild!
10 of the best campsites in Iceland
It’s time for the lowdown on where to go camping in Iceland. We’ve narrowed down the dozens of campsites around the country to 10 of our favorites.
Pre-booking is generally not required. But bear in mind that in the summer, the more popular campsites can fill up quickly as Icelanders go on weekend breaks from the city.
Knowing that, it’s a good idea to try and make sure you get a pitch by the afternoon or early evening. It’s also worth having one or two backup options just in case your preferred campground is full.
Website: Svínafell Tourist Service
Location: Vatnajökull National Park, Southeast Iceland, off Route 1
Facilities: Tent pitches, toilets, showers, cooking facilities, laundry facilities
Open: Start of May to end of September
Website: Hallormsstaðaskógur Camping Ground
Location: Atlavík and Höfðavík in Hallormsstaðaskógur forest, East Iceland
Facilities: Tent pitches, toilets, showers, washing-up facilities, outdoor barbecues
Open: End of May to start of September
Website: Þingeyraroddi Camping Ground
Location: Þingeyri, Westfjords
Facilities: Tent pitches, toilets, showers, cooking facilities, laundry facilities, swimming pool, café/restaurant
Open: All year
Location: Near town of Reyðarfjörður, East Iceland
Facilities: Tent pitches, toilets, showers, laundry facilities
Open: Start of June to end of August
5. Borgarfjörður eystri
Location: Northeast Iceland
Facilities: Tent pitches, toilets, showers, cooking facilities, playground
Open: All year
Website: Camping Þórisstaðir
Location: West Iceland
Facilities: Tent pitches, toilets, cooking facilities
Open: All year
Website: Varmahlíð Camping Ground
Location: North Iceland, off Route 1
Facilities: Tent pitches, toilets, showers, hot tub, playground
Open: Mid-May to end of October
Website: Vesturdalur Camping Ground
Location: Vatnajökull National Park, Southeast Iceland
Facilities: Tent pitches, toilets, showers, laundry facilities
Open: Mid-June to mid-September
9. Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands)
Website: Vestmannaeyjar Camping Ground
Location: Westman Islands, South Iceland (ferry trip required)
Facilities: Tent pitches, toilets, showers, cooking facilities, laundry facilities, playground
Open: Start of May to end of September
Location: Southeast Iceland
Facilities: Tent pitches, toilets, showers, cooking facilities, Wi-Fi, playing field, laundry facilities
Open: All year round
Is the weather in Iceland suitable for camping?
Yes! The summer weather is normally warm and dry enough for camping. That said, Iceland is still pretty far north and in the middle of the North Atlantic. That means you should be prepared for different conditions, including wind and rain.
Even though summer days can be pretty warm, the heat quickly drops off in the evening. In August, one of the most popular months for camping, the average temperature is 11°C (52°F). This can drop to around 7–9°C (45–48°F) at nighttime.
- In our Travel Guide, you can learn more about Iceland’s weather and climate.
The amount of shelter you have will make a big difference to how cold you feel. If you’re near the coast, try and avoid pitching directly in the path of a sea breeze. You might want to go for a more sheltered campsite in this case.
What to pack for your Iceland camping trip
Sleeping in a tent in Iceland under the midnight sun can be a magical experience! But as with any camping trip, it pays to be prepared.
Of course, it doesn’t make sense to lug your own camping equipment with you from home. If you book a package from Iceland Tours, you’ll get the following gear included:
- Sleeping bags
- Air mattress
- Cooking equipment and cutlery
- Camping stove
There are lots of packing lists out there for camping in a tent, but we recommend bringing the following when staying on campsites in Iceland:
- Warm layers
- Thermal socks
- Flip-flops (for walking around the campsite)
- Swimming gear
- Mini flashlight
- Power pack for charging your devices
- Refillable water bottle
Where to get supplies for your camping trip
You can stock up on food, toiletries, and other essentials at supermarkets around the country. The cheapest is generally Bónus, found in most larger towns.
Other Icelandic supermarkets include Krónan and Nettó, which generally have longer opening hours than Bónus.
In smaller towns and villages, you might find Krambúð or Samkaup Strax. These tend to be more expensive. And here, service stations are often the only place to get a hot meal (but they’re normally good value).
On the other hand, larger towns such as Borgarnes and Selfoss normally have a couple of restaurants.
In the countryside, vegan and vegetarian options can be limited, so it pays to bring your own food supplies just in case.
How to plan your camping trip in Iceland
There are hundreds of possible routes you could take on a camping trip around Iceland. But how do you choose the right one for you? And how will you get around?
Rental car or camper van?
Let’s talk transport. Renting a car makes the most sense if you plan on staying in a tent. Many campgrounds in Iceland are remote, and most of them aren’t near public transport links.
By car, you’ll also have ultimate freedom to explore Iceland’s fantastic nature and exciting attractions. You could tour the famous Ring Road, which takes you all the way around the country. Stop and start whenever you like, and take detours when you spot something cool.
Camper vans are also an option. They can be tricky to drive if you’re not used to Icelandic roads though. And they can sometimes get stranded in high winds, which are possible at any time of year. If you do decide to rent a campervan, we’d recommend a smaller vehicle.
If you’re not confident about driving a campervan, stick to a rental car and a tent.
Organizing your Iceland camping itinerary
Start by deciding what your must-sees and must-dos are for your Iceland trip. If the Northern Lights are on your list, then a summer trip is off the cards. The Aurora Borealis are only visible in dark winter skies.
- Northern Lights not negotiable? Explore these winter self-drive trips instead.
If you want to see hot springs and waterfalls, it makes sense to pick a route that includes the Golden Circle and south coast. With an itinerary that includes these areas, you’ll also get to see black sand beaches and Þingvellir (Thingvellir), the site of Iceland’s Viking-age parliament. You could pitch your tent at the campsite in the village of Vík.
Glaciers and icebergs more your thing? You’ll want to pick a route that goes to Iceland’s southeast. There you can stop at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, which is full of icebergs even in summer. And you can check out Vatnajökull, the biggest glacier in Iceland. Here it makes sense to camp at Svínafell.
At Iceland Tours, we offer a range of camping itineraries, so you’re bound to find one that suits you. You’ll get a rental car and camping gear included. And with our Book with Confidence promise, you can change your dates or get a refund should your plans change.Take a look at our Iceland camping tours today and start planning your ultimate outdoor adventure in the Land of Fire and Ice.
How Many Days Do You Need in Iceland in Winter?
Iceland is a truly awesome destination for winter adventures. Frozen waterfalls, bubbling hot springs, and a chance to chase the Northern Lights. You’ll leave spellbound by these magical landscapes, with the pics to show for it!
But how do you know how many days to spend in Iceland in winter? The short answer: the longer you stay in Iceland, the more epic your adventure will be. That said, a winter trip to Iceland in 3 to 4 days is totally doable.
- Check out these Iceland winter vacation packages.
- Wondering what to take to Iceland? Check out our winter packing list.
You’re probably wondering exactly how many days in Iceland in winter is enough.
A short trip will probably just about whet your appetite and leave you wanting to come back ASAP. If you want to take it slower and have more time to soak up each destination, 7 to 9 days is a great itinerary length.
We get that you might not have that long to spend in Iceland, so this guide will give you ideas for both short and long itineraries, and everything in between. Scroll down for all the inspo.
Winter Iceland in 3–4 days: Golden Circle highlights
If you’ve only got a few vacation days left to use at the end of the year, a 3–4 day itinerary is definitely an option. It’s perfect if you just fancy a long weekend in Iceland.
With an Iceland 3-day winter itinerary, you’ve got enough time to soak in the Blue Lagoon, hit the capital Reykjavík and do the Golden Circle tour. This classic self-drive route covers 3 of Iceland’s must-see nature spots:
- Þingvellir National Park – See where the European and North American tectonic plates are drifting apart, and the site of Iceland’s Viking-age parliament.
- Geysir – Check out the famous hot spring that gave us the word “geyser”, and its active younger brother Strokkur.
- Gullfoss – This epic waterfall often freezes over in winter, creating icicles taller than church spires.
Get a clear night on your 3-day trip and you could catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. If aurora hunting is top of your list though, you’ll have a greater chance of seeing them with a slightly longer stay.
- Combine the Northern Lights with festive magic on a Christmas trip to Iceland.
- Blog: Your complete guide to the Golden Circle route.
On a 4-day trip, you have the option to base yourself in Reykjavík and skip the driving. From there, you can go on tours led by a local guide and do some day exploring. Follow the Golden Circle route, or head further afield if you want.
Here’s one suggestion for an Iceland itinerary for 4 days in winter.
4-day winter Iceland itinerary
Day 1 – If your flight lands early enough, dip into the warming Blue Lagoon on the way to Reykjavík. When you arrive in town, get a view of the snowy city from the Hallgrímskirkja church tower or Perlan viewing deck. Afterward, warm up with a hot chocolate and slice of Icelandic cake at a local café.
Day 2 – Head to the bus terminal and join a guided tour of the Golden Circle. You’ll stop at Þingvellir National Park, before heading to the Geysir hot spring and Gullfoss waterfall. In the evening, go on a Northern Lights tour (if the sky is clear).
Day 3 (Option 1) – Start your day with a dip in one of Reykjavík’s swimming pools (even better when the weather is freezing – trust us!). Then hit the city’s culture scene. Why not explore the museums and art galleries, or go to a live gig at a local bar?
Day 3 (Option 2) – Squeeze in some more nature with a day trip to the south coast. See the spectacular Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls and the sleepy village of Vík. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, go on an ice cave tour in a super jeep with Into the Glacier.
- Read more about the top waterfalls in Iceland.
Day 4 – Transfer to Keflavík Airport and return home. If you didn’t get a chance to stop at the Blue Lagoon on your way into town, you could add a stop on your last day depending on your flight time.
Winter Iceland in 5–7 days: Slow down and see more
A winter trip to Iceland is a real magical adventure. Whilst 3–4 days will allow you to see the main highlights, adding a couple of days to your trip is an absolute game-changer!
On a 5-day winter itinerary in Iceland, you can explore the Golden Circle and waterfalls of South Iceland on a self-drive tour. Set your own pace, crank up the tunes, and stop off whenever you like.
Spending 7 days in Iceland in winter means you can go further along the south coast, as far as the jaw-dropping Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. You could also venture west to the Snæfellsnes peninsula, with a glacier of its own and epic coastal scenery.
Because you’ll have the extra time, you can spend longer at each stop and make the most of it. What’s more, you’ll be able to travel further away from Reykjavík and stay in the Icelandic countryside.
But maybe the best reason to add a few extra days is to boost your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. Although the Icelandic weather changes fast, you’re more likely to get one or two cloudless nights the longer you stay.
- Browse these Northern Lights tours.
- Blog: Best places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland.
Here’s one option for a 6-day winter itinerary in Iceland.
6-day winter Iceland itinerary
Day 1 – Pick up your rental car at the airport and head straight for Reykjavík. Iceland’s capital is full of cool cafés, buzzing nightlife spots, and unique dining experiences. Take a dip in the local swimming pool, before grabbing street food at one of the city’s food halls.
Day 2 – Head out of the city and straight to Geysir, where you can see the Strokkur geyser erupt. Then continue to the Gullfoss waterfall which can freeze completely solid in the winter. Afterward, why not warm up in the waters of Gamla laugin (the Secret Lagoon) in Flúðir?
Day 3 – After waking up in Selfoss, head to the nearby Seljalandsfoss waterfall. You can actually walk behind this one! Then follow the coastal road to the extremely grammable Skógafoss. Finally, stop off in the cute village of Vík with its fantastic black sand beach.
- See the Golden Circle and south coast on a winter self-drive trip of Iceland.
Day 4 – Spend the morning exploring Þingvellir National Park. This magical place was the site of Iceland’s first parliament, the Alþingi. Then head up to Hraunsfossar and Barnafoss, where two waterfalls converge. Finally, check out Deildartunguhver, where you can see water actually boiling in the ground.
Day 5 – On your final full day, drive to the Snæfellsnes peninsula in West Iceland. Check out the black sand beaches and unusual coastline features, like sea stacks. Visit the iconic Kirkjufell mountain (above) and the cascading waterfall just a stone’s throw away.
Day 6 – Wake up in Reykjavík and have breakfast before leaving the city. Drive your rental car back to Keflavík Airport. If you have time, you might also be able to fit in a visit to the Blue Lagoon on the way to the airport.
Winter Iceland in 8–10 days: Circle the whole Ring Road
On an 8–10 day tour, you’re gonna have time to see pretty much the whole country. The main road around the island is known as the Ring Road, or Route 1. Follow it and you can’t go wrong – you’re guaranteed amazing views the whole way round.
- Drive the whole circle on one of these Iceland Ring Road trips.
- Blog: Driving Iceland’s Ring Road – Ultimate guide.
On an Iceland 8-day winter itinerary, you have time to explore the north of the country. There you’ll find Akureyri, the biggest town in the north (below). Further east is Lake Mývatn, which is a hotspot of geothermal activity.
Then you can swing round the east coast, passing through the atmospheric East Fjords. Keep following the Ring Road and you’ll end up at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Now you’re on the south coast with its legendary waterfalls and black sand beaches.
You’ll also have enough time to fit in the Golden Circle and spend a night or two in Reykjavík, rounding out your Iceland travel experience.
On an Iceland itinerary for 10 days in winter, you have even more time. This means you can head off the Ring Road to the Snæfellsnes peninsula for some more glacier action.
Here’s an idea for an 8-day self-drive itinerary.
8-day winter Iceland itinerary
Day 1 – Land at Keflavík Airport and pick up your rental car. Drive through the lava field of the Reykjanes peninsula to the capital, Reykjavík. Why not grab a bite to eat or sip on a local drink on your first evening in the city?
Day 2 – Today you’ll head north to the town of Akureyri. The journey is as exciting as the destination. On the way, check out the Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls. And stop at the Deildartunguhver hot spring to stand in the warm (slightly smelly) steam!
- Related: Best towns & cities to visit in Iceland.
Day 3 – Head over to Lake Mývatn. On the way from Akureyri, stop off at the Goðafoss waterfall (above). When you arrive at the lake, check out the Dimmuborgir hot spring caves or hike the Hverfjall crater. Warm up afterward in the soothing waters of the Mývatn Nature Baths.
Day 4 – You’ll hit the hay in the town of Egilsstaðir tonight. On your way there from Mývatn, see boiling mud pools at the Námaskarð hot spring. And drive through the out-of-this-world lava field near Krafla.
Day 5 – Venture through the East Fjords, stopping at its unique villages like Fáskrúðsfjörður, where all the street signs are in French. See the collection of giant stone eggs (yes, really!) in Djúpivogur. That evening, hunker down in the harbor town of Höfn.
Day 6 – Today you’re gonna see ice in all its forms. As you follow the Ring Road south, Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, will watch over you. Your first stop is at Jökulsárlón, where you can see baby icebergs drifting out to sea. Skaftafell National Park is next up, with its amazing Svartifoss waterfall set against hexagonal columns of lava.
Day 7 – This morning you’ll wake up in the village of Vík on the south coast. After breakfast, head to the Reynisfjara black sand beach. As you approach Reykjavík, you’ll turn off onto the Golden Circle route, where you can see the Strokkur geyser and ice-studded Gullfoss waterfall.
Day 8 – After seeing more waterfalls and forms of ice than you knew existed, you’ll wake up in Reykjavík. Depending on your flight time, you might be able to squeeze in a dip in the Blue Lagoon before returning your rental car at the airport.
What can you do in Iceland in winter?
Hopefully now you’re brimming with ideas about what you want to see when visiting Iceland in winter. You might be wondering about some other bucket-list experiences and whether you’ll be able to fit them in.
If you’ve never visited Iceland in winter, keep in mind the shorter hours of daylight. If you build them into your plan, you can make the most of every single daylight hour there is.
Our top tip is to hit the road before the sun rises. That way when you get to the awesome attraction you want to see, the sun will already be up. This also gives you more time to get to your next stop before the sun goes down.
Below we’ve listed some of the most popular things to do in Iceland in winter, and how long you’ll need to spend in the country to fit them in:
- Ice caving – Recommended itinerary: 4 days, guided. To see the ice caves, you’ll need to join a guided adventure tour (going solo is definitely not an option). This makes it a perfect activity to slot into a 4-day Reykjavík-based itinerary.
- Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon – Recommended itinerary: 5 days+. The Jökulsárlón lagoon is in southeast Iceland, so you’ll need to spend a bit longer in the country if you want to see it.
- Northern Lights – Recommended itinerary: 4 days+. Forecasting the Icelandic weather is a dark art, but predicting the Northern Lights is even harder. A longer stay in Iceland will give you a much better chance of seeing nature’s light show.
- Icelandic horses – Recommended itinerary: 4 days+. You can spot cute Icelandic horses all over the country from your car window. On a longer itinerary you could ride an Icelandic horse if you like.
- Waterfalls – Recommended itinerary: Any! Iceland is bursting at the seams with waterfalls. Even on a 3-day trip, you can see the epic Gullfoss. Add an extra day and you get Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss too. It’s really your call, but basically more days = more waterfalls.
No matter how many days you have to spend in Iceland in wintertime, you’re not gonna be disappointed. That said, there’s no getting round the fact that a longer trip means you can pack in a lot more.
Short trip or long, you’ll want to be back in the Land of Fire and Ice as soon as you can anyway.
With Iceland Tours, you have the freedom to travel however you like. Take a self-drive tour and go your own way. Or join the gang on a guided group tour. The choice is yours!
Ready for more inspiration? Check out our Iceland winter vacation packages, with affordable itineraries from 3 days.
Driving Iceland’s Ring Road: Ultimate Guide
Have you always wanted to go on an epic road trip? Take the wheel and drive around an entire country. Sing along to the radio as your partner in crime puts their feet up on the dashboard. Then you look outside, and you can see black sand beaches, volcanoes, ice caps, and steaming hot springs.
This is what awaits you when driving the Ring Road in Iceland. A safe route with amazing sights and attractions along the way. In this article, we tell you everything you need to know about driving Iceland’s famous Route 1.
- Start thinking about your next adventure and check out these Ring Road tours of Iceland.
What is the Ring Road in Iceland?
First and foremost, the Ring Road is the nickname for Route 1, or Þjóðvegur 1, its official name on the map. This is the national road that makes its way around the island in a circular loop.
It is 1,322 kilometers (821 miles) long and connects most of the inhabited regions of Iceland.
Look at a map of the route and you’ll see that some areas aren’t included on the Ring Road. These include parts of North Iceland, the Westfjords, the highlands, and the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Any of these can be added to your summer itinerary if you want to head off the beaten path.
- Browse self-drive tours in Iceland to plan your road trip.
How long does it take to drive around the Ring Road?
At 1,322 kilometers long, a trip around Iceland’s Ring Road could be done in 24 hours. Check out Icelandic band Sigur Rós who did this back in 2016 for a live show.
But we don’t recommend doing that! Not only because the journey would be exhausting, but because you’d miss all the amazing sights and attractions that make a visit to Iceland so memorable. It’s all about the experience along the way, isn’t it?
For a good amount of time to visit locations along the Ring Road, we recommend taking at least one week to explore the route. This should get you around the country with a comfortable amount of driving each day.
Depending on what you want to visit during your time in Iceland, you can extend your road trip as much as you want. Then you can stop at iconic waterfalls, take detours, and spend more than one day in a single location. The possibilities are endless!
Is it also worth pointing out that the speed limit is only 90 kilometers (55 miles) an hour? And the speeding fines aren’t cheap. So take your time and enjoy it!
- Check out summer tours of Iceland.
- Related: Top 7-day Iceland itinerary ideas.
Tips for driving the Ring Road in Iceland
Ready for your road trip but unsure about how to take on the Icelandic roads? We’re here for you. Read these tips to know what to expect and make driving in Iceland easier.
Drive on the right
If you’re coming from North America, you won’t have to worry about this. But if you’re visiting from Australia, the UK, or South Africa, among other places, be aware that motorists in Iceland drive on the right side of the road. And the left side of the car.
- Let someone else do the driving on a private tour of Iceland.
Be aware of Icelandic conditions
Driving in Iceland may be slightly different than you’re used to. This includes the weather and road conditions. So it’s best to come prepared. For tips and tricks, read this guide to driving in Iceland.
Always check the coming day’s conditions before setting off, especially in winter. And make sure to leave enough time to reach your next accommodation safely.
It’s good to also be aware of potential road hazards. These may be unique challenges you’ve not encountered before, such as the many sheep in the country.
Most of the highway is paved, but short stretches of the road in East Iceland have a gravel surface.
There are also a number of narrow passes, blind summits, and single-lane bridges to take with caution. When in doubt, always slow down.
Finally, be aware that you’re likely to drive through road tunnels, built to bypass mountain roads. These include the sub-sea Hvalfjörður Tunnel (5.7 kilometers) and the Almannaskarð Tunnel (1.3 kilometers).
- Browse our camping tours in Iceland.
Stop when you can
Don’t take stops for granted. In certain parts of Iceland, there can be long stretches of roads without shops or towns. This is especially true along the south and east coasts.
For that reason, refuel, use the bathroom, and grab snacks whenever you can. Most importantly, make sure to keep an eye on your fuel levels to avoid running out.
Do not drive off-road
Off-road driving is prohibited and you shouldn’t attempt it. This is because it damages the vegetation and could potentially be dangerous. People caught driving off-road are fined heavily by the authorities.
You can always go for a hike if you wish to see the natural beauty from up close.
Enjoy the journey
After taking these tips and precautions to drive safely in Iceland, all that’s left is for you to enjoy yourself. It isn’t a race. Take your time to make the journey and marvel at the scenic views along the way.
- Check out all the amazing activities you could add to your Iceland itinerary.
Which way do you drive the Ring Road in Iceland?
As the Ring Road is a circle, you can pick whichever way you want to drive it. You’ll notice a lot of our tours go clockwise. This means you’ll first head north before coming around the east and south coast, finishing with the famous Golden Circle. What a way to end your epic Iceland adventure!
But maybe you want to start with the Golden Circle? It’s all up to you. As it’s a loop, you’ll see all the same spots regardless of which way you drive.
Can you drive the Ring Road in Iceland in the winter?
Yes, you can drive the Ring Road in wintertime. In fact, some people prefer to visit in winter to experience a quieter side of the country.
At this time of year, you can enjoy less traffic on the roads as well as the stunning beauty of the snowy landscape. You can maybe even spot the Northern Lights. Winter road trips are growing in popularity for these reasons.
- Browse winter tours or Northern Lights packages in Iceland.
- Blog: Your guide to the Northern Lights in Iceland.
If you decide to visit at this time, you should prepare yourself for the adventure. Be aware of road safety precautions, be a confident winter driver, and always purchase travel insurance!
The top tip for a winter road trip is to always check the weather and road conditions before setting off each day.
For the best experience, why not hire a 4×4 vehicle? It will make driving in such conditions easier and more comfortable.
Suggestion for an Iceland Ring Road itinerary
There are so many ways to see the highlights of the Ring Road in Iceland. Here is one of our most popular itineraries, taking you around Route 1 over 8 days in Iceland. This timeframe allows you to relax and explore to your heart’s content.
Day 1: Arrive in Iceland
Depending on when you fly into Iceland, you’ll have the rest of the day to explore Reykjavík. The capital city is a treasure trove of interactive museums, fun activities, cozy cafés, and excellent restaurants. You can also marvel at the surrounding natural beauty from here.
If you would like to relax after your flight, you could also book a slot at the Blue Lagoon to dip into the geothermal waters. It’s the perfect way to decompress before setting off on an adventure!
Day 2: Drive north to Akureyri
Today you start your road trip by heading north. You’ll make your way through Borgarfjörður and Skagafjörður. The latter is known for its horse breeding, so keep an eye out for the fluffy and sturdy Icelandic horses.
As one of your stops for the day, you’ll want to see the magnificent Hraunfossar waterfalls, flowing from lava fields into a river.
Reach the capital of the north, Akureyri, for your overnight stay.
Top tip: If you want to extend your stay to include the Snæfellsnes peninsula or the Westfjords, this is when you would do it. These regions are located in the western parts of Iceland.
- Read our guide to the Westfjords for tips on exploring the region.
Day 3: Lake Mývatn area
You have a full day of adventure ahead of you. Drive to the Lake Mývatn Nature Reserve to see why it is one of the most inspiring areas in Iceland. On the way, don’t miss the impressive Goðafoss, known as “the waterfall of the gods”.
The Mývatn Baths are very popular if you would like to spend the day relaxing instead of exploring.
You are staying for a second night in Akureyri.
Day 4: Exploring the northeast
Are you a fan of whales? Because today you’ll start the day by driving to the charming fishing village of Húsavík. It is known as the whale watching capital of Iceland.
You’ll then follow the coast and drive the Tjörnes peninsula. We recommend making a pit stop at the tip of the peninsula to enjoy the view and try to spot some seabirds, including puffins!
Another recommendation for a leg-stretching stop is the lush canyon of Ásbyrgi where you could go for a walk.
Continue your journey southwards to the edge of East Iceland. You’ll spend the night in the Egilsstaðir area.
Day 5: The Eastfjords
Today you drive through East Iceland and discover the Eastfjords. Visit small museums and marvel at the long fjords and quaint seaside villages. At times, you’ll see that the road hangs precariously on the mountain slope providing stunning views below.
You’ll spend tonight in the Höfn region.
Day 6: Highlights of the southeast
Today you’ll stop by one of Iceland’s biggest bucket list items. After passing various outlet glaciers from Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest ice cap, you’ll arrive at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Many travel to Iceland just to see its glistening icebergs.
Just over the road is Breiðamerkursandur (aka Diamond Beach). Here you can see little blocks of ice from the lagoon that wash up on the black sand beach.
- Related: Best glaciers to visit in Iceland.
This enchanting sight nestles at the foot of Iceland’s highest mountain, Hvannadalshnúkur. In summer, you could book a boat trip to go onto the lagoon to see the bobbing icebergs from up close.
We then recommend spending some time in the Vatnajökull National Park. This natural oasis, surrounded by glaciers and stark black sand plains, is ideal for hiking. It was formerly known as Skaftafell National Park.
You’ll stay in the Vík area tonight.
Day 7: The Golden Circle
From Vík, you’ll continue west back to Reykjavík. Along the way, you’ll discover some breathtaking waterfalls and the highlights of the famous Golden Circle.
As you make your way back to the capital, through South Iceland, stop by Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. These last two waterfalls will not disappoint!
And then head on a Golden Circle tour, featuring three of Iceland’s most famous landmarks. See jets of steam being blasted over 50 feet in the air by Strokkur at the Geysir area. Walk through history and marvel at the geology of Þingvellir National Park. Take a picture of the magnificent Gullfoss waterfall.
If you are visiting for a shorter amount of time, don’t miss the Golden Circle as it is an ideal day trip from the capital.
Day 8: Departure
And just like that, your journey in Iceland is over. Or maybe it isn’t if you’ve extended it. Stay as long as you wish!
But in this itinerary, you’re boarding your flight back home today. Depending on what time it is, you may have time to squeeze in more visits and tasty treats in Reykjavík.
Top tip: Don’t leave without trying the local ice cream!
If you didn’t go on arrival, you could book a slot at the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa. It is located near the airport and the perfect activity to say goodbye to Iceland.
How to book a trip to Iceland to drive the Ring Road
You may think the first step is renting a car and booking accommodation, but we recommend choosing what you want to see before doing anything else. Pick what you want to experience most and it’ll direct you to the best time to visit.
Then you can start reserving your transportation, hotels, camping sites, flights, and so on. When you travel around the Ring Road, make sure to keep the driving distances in mind when booking your accommodations.
Want to have it all done in one? Book through the local travel specialists at Iceland Tours. We know the country like the back of our hands and have created tried-and-tested packages so you can see the very best of Iceland.
We can even tailor your tour or advise you on attractions and activities depending on your interests. Just ask!
It’s easy to do on the Iceland Tours website. Select your vacation start date and length of travel and then add what you’d like to do. You can pick your car, accommodations, and activities based on your budget. Then we organize it all for you, so when you arrive, all you have to do is enjoy yourself!
Look up Iceland self-drive vacation packages to get started with planning your dream road trip.