Iceland is one of the hottest destinations to visit and for good reason! Whether you go in the winter to see the wonder of the Northern Lights or head there in the summer and experience the midnight sun, you will surely fall in love with this country. Taking an Iceland Road trip will blow you away and make you want to go back for more.
If you want to see the breadth of what Iceland has to offer, the best way is to drive around the country. I love taking a road trip and having the flexibility to change my plans or get off of the beaten path. Luckily, the Ring Road takes you around the entire island and it is only 828 miles long, so you can easily complete this trip in a week. There are so many things to see and do, so you can truly choose your own adventure!
My brothers and I drove around the Ring Road a few years ago and we had the best time. Although the Bárðarbunga volcano threatened to erupt and cancel our trip, luckily ended up not being a concern. I will always remember driving through green valleys with music blasting and delicious gas station hot dogs in tow. Below you will find the itinerary we used and suggestions to make your road trip around Iceland unforgettable.
Table of Contents
Iceland Road Trip Itinerary
Day 1: Reykjavik Day 2: Reykjavik to Akureyri Day 3: Akureyri to Goðafoss to Lake Myvatn and Husavik Day 4: Husavik to Dettifoss and East Fjords Day 5: East Fjords to Skaftafell Day 6: Skaftafell to South Iceland Day 7: South Iceland to Golden Circle to Reykjavik
Day 1: Reykjavik
You will most likely fly directly into Reykjavik, Iceland’s sophisticated capital. Here you will find a cultural center, a pulsing nightlife, and a distinct charm. Spend your day walking through the city, walking through museums, or hanging by the harbor. There are so many things you can choose to do, but some highlights are listed below!
- Blue Lagoon– In my opinion, you should stop at the Blue Lagoon after landing at the airport, because it is on the way to the city. This geothermal pool is one of the most popular spots for tourists. Soak in the hot water, but make sure to keep your hair up because the water will destroy your hair.
- Hot Dog Stand– Stop in to try what many say is the world’s best hot dogs. It’s located right next to the Radisson hotel. Order a dog with all the fixings and sit outside by the harbor. We definitely enjoyed the hot dogs, but we found some better ones around the country.
- Hallgrimskirkja– The church is over 70 meters high and you can see it from most places in the city as it sits above the downtown area. If you climb to the top you will get an amazing view of the city below and the church itself is a beautiful sight to behold
- The Pearl– A gorgeous building that offers a panoramic view of Iceland and is a must for any tourist. Inside you will find a fine dining restaurant, a cocktail bar, and a delicious ice cream spot. Don’t leave the city without a stop here!
- National Museum of Iceland– If you want to learn more about the culture, then this is the perfect spot. There are plenty of great museums in Iceland, but this one will answer your questions about Iceland’s heritage and its history.
Day 2: Akureyri (387 km)
Wake up early and head West to the town of Akureyri. Akureyri is the largest town in Iceland outside of Reykjavik and sits near the Eyjafjörður Fjord. Along the way, you can explore both the Borgarfjordur and Skagafjordur valleys. Here are some suggestions for stops along the way and for your time in Akureyri.
Stops on the Way:
- Hvalfjorour Fjord (50 km)- You can choose to skip this fjord by taking the tunnel under it or you can take in the scenery and drive 26 miles along its shore. When we went it was very grey, but it was still breathtaking. Glymur Falls sit 4 km off this road and is a great spot to get out and walk around.
- Borgarnes (76.2 Km)- This is the main town in the Borgarfjordur area. Stop here for a quick bite to eat and a coffee or stop into the Saga Settlement center. There are two different exhibitions here that talk about the vikings and the settlement of Iceland.
- Grabrok Crater (107 Km)- In the Borgarfjordur valley, you can climb up the Grabrok Crater. This crater was created thousands of years ago. It’s a short but a steep walk up to views into the crater and the landscape beyond.
- Vatnsnes Peninsula– If you decide to make this stop it will take an additional 65 km to your trip, but I believe it was worth it. Drive to the Northern point of Hindsvik to see the seals that live here. You may see other spots to stop and get out to see these cute creatures.
- Turf Church of Viðmiryi (291 km)- This church dates all the way back to 1834. This is known as one of purest forms of architecture from its original design. You can stop here for a quick look and then keep driving to Akureyri.
Highlights in Akureyri:
- Akureyrarkirkja – This church was designed by the same architect as Hallgrimskirkja. You will have to climb up a few steps to get there (I ran up and was a bit winded), but once you do you’ll get a lovely view of the city and the fjords. If you go into the church you will find a 3200 pipe organ and intricate stained glass windows.
- Botanical Gardens – If you go down the road from the church, you will get to these gardens. They have a variety of plants from Iceland and abroad. One area showcases the majority of the flowers that you are native to the country.
Day 3: Akureyri, Goðafoss, Lake Myvatn, and Husavik (75 km)
Today, you will drive less and it was my favorite day of the entire trip. I was blown away by the extraordinary sights. Start driving out of the city and stop at the panoramic view of Akureyri and the Eyjafjörður Fjord, one of the most scenic in the country. Continue along the Ring Road taking longer stops at Goðafoss and Lake Myvatn before reaching Husavik, the whale capital of Iceland. Set up a whale watching tour for the next day as soon as you get in.
Stops on Day 4:
- Goðafoss (50 km)- Otherwise known as the “waterfall of the Gods” this waterfall will take your breath away. Park on the West side of the bridge and walk along the path where you will see a small waterfall before reaching the horseshoe shaped falls. These falls made me feel as if I was transported to a mystical land. It was easily my favorite waterfall on the whole trip.
- Lake Myvatn (100 km)- The Myvatn area is often known as one of the most natural beautiful regions in Iceland. Here you can take in abundant bird life, walk along hiking paths, and explore volcanic features. We did a couple of short hikes where we saw large craters and crazy rock formations. Some popular hikes include:
- Mt. Leirhnjukur– Perched by the Husavik harbor is this gorgeous church. The white walls contrast the bright green hills that roll behind it. Make sure to walk to the harbor to view the church and take in a captivating sunset.
Day 4: Husavik, Dettifoss & East Fjords (235 km)
Start your day with a whale watching cruise before heading out on the road. Then, make a detour at the most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss, and Jokulsargljufur canyon, before heading further East. Finally, end the night in either the Egilsstadir or Hallormsstadur areas that sit near the serene East Fjords.
Stops on Day 4:
- Whale Watching– Hopefully you took a time to arrange a cruise in the whale watching capital of the world. The boat takes about three hours and you will get the chance to try and spot humpback whales, mike whales, and dolphins. We even had some dolphins play with us by swimming alongside the boat. It’s always a unique experience!
- Dettifoss (89 km)- Notably, you can only access the falls from June to September when the road is safe to travel. Once you go, you enter Vatnajokull National Park to access the Jokulsargljufur canyon and falls. The Jokulsa Fjollum river comes from under the Vatnajokull Glacier and has wound its way through the surrounding landscape for thousands of years. The water has carved out a magnificent canyon and eventually forms the large waterfall of Dettifoss. 200-700 tons of water fall from this ledge per second. You will be taken away by the strength of these strong falls.
- Lagarfliot (233 km)- Iceland’s third largest lake and home to the largest forest in the country, this is a beautiful stop. You can travel around the entire 85 km lake, hike forest trails, or visit the Hengifoss waterfall. Similar to the folklore of Nessie, locals believe there is a large creature in the lake named Lagarfljótsormurinn.
Day 5: East Fjords to Skaftafell (248 km)
When you start today you should drive over the fjord landscape to reach Vatnajokull National Park. This is geologically one of the oldest parts of Iceland and is home to Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in the country. Large volcanic eruptions formed the foundations of basalt, before the Ice Age covered the land and glaciers cut through the walls of rock. Ultimately, end your day exploring the Skaftafell region of the national park.
Stops on Day 5:
- Hvalnes– When you arrive, park near the lighthouse and walk along the black pebble beaches to take in the rolling surf. You can find hundreds of whooper swans here in the late spring and summer and you might spot a reindeer.
- Boat in Jokulsarlon– The Jokulsarlon lagoon sits at the mouth of the Vatnajokull Glacier on the west side. Book a boat ride through one of Iceland’s deepest lakes and you will get to watch as large icebergs float around you. Because of the icebergs piercing blue color, they almost look fake. If you’re lucky you may spot a seal or lovely birds.
- Hike in Skaftafell– There are plenty of hiking trails in this part of the park. My brother and I completed a moderate hike to Svartifoss (4 km). We found that we were mostly alone until we got to the falls themselves. It was a great way to stretch our legs and end the day.
Day 6: Skaftafell to South Iceland (280 km)
First, begin the day with a walk over the Vatnajokull Glacier on the Svínafellsjökull outlet. Then, Drive across the Laki Lava and past natural wonders as you make your way South. Take plenty of time to pull over and stop at different points to take in the beauty that surrounds you. Finally, end the day in one of the towns that sits along the Southern shores. We stayed in Hveragerdi.
Stops on Day 6:
- Glacier Walk– Get close and personal with the glacier by doing a walk along it. You will get to put on crampons and carry an ice pick as you walk along the smooth surface of the glacier. As you walk, the guides will explain about the geological formations and will take you on a nice walk along a scenic route.
- Dverghamrar Dwarf Cliffs(57 km)- According to the locals, dwarfs live in these cliff structures. The horseshoe shaped structure features columns or rock that you can climb over to explore. It’s a unique geological formation and is worth a quick stop.
- Fjadrargljufur (78 km)- A 100 meter deep gorge sits amongst cliffs that feature sharp edges and thin ledges. Walk along the Eastern edge to get stunning views and stare at the gorge below. Perched on top of the ledge, I felt as if I was on top of the world.
- Reynisfjara Beach (151 km)- This is a black, volcanic rock beach featuring large caves, pounding waves, and basalt columns. You might be able to spot puffins by the cliffs. Even though we visited in the middle of August, the wind was howling and we were freezing, so pack a jacket!
- Skogafoss (174 km)- This waterfall sits in the middle of a gorgeous green cliffside. Luckily, the walk up is quite short and you will be delighted by the magnificent waterfall.
Day 7: South Iceland, Golden Circle, Reykjavik (50 km)
On your last full day, you will visit the largest tourist attraction in Iceland, the Golden Circle. Plenty of people fly into Iceland, spend a couple days in Reykjavik and make a day trip around the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is the road between three major attractions in the country: Thingvellir National Park, Geyser Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall. While these attractions are stunning, the crowds of tourists are a bit of a turnoff. I am glad that we stopped here, but I think that if you only see this part of Iceland you will be missing out. Finally, stay in Reykjavik for your last night and hit up some last minute sights.
Stops on Day 7:
- Kerio Volcano Crater– Walk for a minute from the parking lot to see this massive crater. The crater was created from volcanic activity that occurred 5,000-6,000 years ago. The deep blue of the water is mesmerizing as it contrasts the red dirt surrounding it.
- Geysir Geothermal fields– Even though there were plenty of tourists exploring this part of the circle, I really enjoyed staring at the bubbling geothermal waters and bursting geysers. The Strokkur geysir erupts regularly every 10-15 minutes and is a fun show to watch.
- Gullfoss Waterfall– Drive 10 minutes from the geysir field and you’ll arrive at the “golden falls.” These two falls fall 105 feet down into the deep gorge below. A mist surrounds the falls as they thunder down. Also, make sure to walk all along the falls to get various perspectives.
- Iceland Riverjet– This was my favorite part of the day, because I love anything extreme. Jet boats were originally invented in New Zealand and they skim through bodies of water at a fast speed. Make sure to hold on to the handrails as you careen across the Hvita river through the canyon. Even though I had to hold tight to make sure that my brother (who is a bit more timid) didn’t slide too much, I smiled the entire ride. It’s a great way to get your blood pumping and to end your trip on a high note.
Going on a road trip through Iceland was amazing and one of the best trips I’ve been on. I will always remember the stunning scenery that surrounded us as we drove down the serene Ring Road. For packing tips you can go here!
Let me know if you found this itinerary helpful in the comments!
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