Your Ultimate Guide to Planning an Iceland ring road itinerary15 min read
Iceland’s Ring Road, also known as Route 1, is a popular road trip destination for travelers looking to explore the country’s stunning natural landscapes and unique cultural experiences.
Spanning 832 miles (approximately 1340 kilometers), the Ring Road encircles the island and connects many of Iceland’s most iconic attractions, including the famous Golden Circle, the Blue Lagoon, and the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.
Along the way, you’ll also have the opportunity to witness breathtaking waterfalls, geysers, volcanic craters, and black-sand beaches. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, a road trip on Iceland’s Ring Road is an unforgettable experience.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the main attractions and destinations along the route, answering some of the most frequently asked questions about planning an Iceland ring road itinerary.
How long does it take to drive the Ring Road in Iceland?
The distance of Iceland’s Ring Road is approximately 832 miles (1340 kilometers), and the drive typically takes around 8-12 days to complete. However, this depends on the speed of your drive, the number of stops you make, and the amount of time you spend at each destination. If you’re planning to drive the full route, it’s important to remember that Iceland’s weather and road conditions can be unpredictable, and you’ll want to allow enough time to safely navigate the roads. Make sure to read our guide for general tips when visiting Iceland!
While it’s possible to do the drive in a shorter amount of time, such as 6 or 5 days, this will mean you’ll have less time to explore each destination and may need to skip some places. However, if you’re looking for a more leisurely pace, 7 days or more could be ideal to take your time; it allows you to enjoy the views and not rush your trip. It’s important to note that the best time to drive the ring road is during the summer when daylight is longer, and the weather is more stable.
It’s also important to note that if you’re planning to drive the Ring Road in the off-season, such as in October, you’ll need to be prepared for colder temperatures, shorter daylight hours, and possibly snowy or icy road conditions. In this case, it’s best to have a 4×4 vehicle, be well-equipped with the necessary gear, and check the weather forecast frequently.
Is Ring Road Iceland worth it?
The Ring Road in Iceland offers a wealth of natural beauty, culture, and adventure. Along the route, you’ll have the opportunity to witness some of the country’s most iconic landscapes and natural wonders, including the Dyrholaey arch and lighthouse, the Kerid Crater, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Fjadrargljufur Canyon, and the Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavik.
The Ring Road also provides an excellent opportunity to get off the beaten path and discover some of Iceland’s lesser-known gems. You’ll have the chance to witness the raw power of geysers, hot springs, and volcanic landscapes, as well as the tranquility of fjords, glaciers, and black-sand beaches.
The Ring Road offers plenty of hiking, horseback riding, and even ice-climbing opportunities for those interested in outdoor activities. For history buffs, the road trip is also a great way to learn more about Iceland’s rich cultural heritage, with stops at historic sites and museums throughout the route.
The Ring Road trip in Iceland is a worthwhile experience for many types of travelers, including nature and adventure enthusiasts, culture seekers, and those looking for a unique and scenic road trip. This is because the Iceland road trip itinerary can be tailored to suit your interests and travel style, whether you’re looking for a leisurely and relaxed pace or a more action-packed itinerary.
It’s important to have a good plan before starting your trip, a good Iceland attraction map will help you to see what you can see and plan your time accordingly.
Iceland’s Ring Road Self-Drive Itinerary
One popular itinerary for a ring road trip in Iceland is to start in Reykjavik and drive clockwise around the island. This allows you to see many of the main attractions, such as the Dyrholaey arch and lighthouse, the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, and Fjadrargljufur Canyon. If you are visiting in October, it’s also worth taking a detour to the Vatnajökull National Park to see the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Skaftafell National Park.
When planning your self-drive itinerary, it’s important to remember that many of Iceland’s roads are unpaved and require a 4×4 vehicle. It’s also a good idea to book your accommodation in advance, as many popular tourist destinations can fill up quickly during peak season. With our Iceland Attraction Map, you can easily plan your route and find the best places to stay and see along the way.
Iceland’s Ring Road Guided Tour
While some travelers prefer to plan their own itinerary and drive the route independently, others opt for a guided ring road tour.
Guided tours of the ring road typically include transportation, accommodation, and a knowledgeable guide who can provide insight and information about the various sights and attractions along the route. These tours can range in duration, with some lasting a week or more, while others can be completed in as little as three days.
Guided tours can be a great option for those looking to experience Iceland’s ring road in October, as the fall months bring the opportunity to see the Northern Lights and witness the landscape’s changing colors as the leaves turn. Many tour companies offer special October itineraries that focus on these unique experiences.
When booking a guided tour, it’s important to research the different options available and choose a reputable tour company with a track record of providing high-quality, safe, and enjoyable tours.
Planning your Iceland Ring Road itinerary
Planning your Iceland Ring Road itinerary can be daunting, but with a little preparation and research, you’ll be well on your way to a successful and memorable road trip.
First and foremost, it’s important to consider what type of vehicle you’ll need for the drive. While a regular car will work for most of the Ring Road, a 4×4 is recommended for some of the more remote sections of the route, particularly in the highlands. The 4×4 car will give you more flexibility and allow you to access some of the more off-the-beaten-path destinations along the route, such as the Fjadrargljufur Canyon.
When planning your itinerary, it’s also important to consider the best time of year to visit. The Ring Road is open year-round, but the weather and road conditions can vary greatly depending on the season. Summer months (June-August) offer the longest days, the most favorable weather, and the most crowds. Fall and spring are great for visiting the island, fall is the best time to see the Northern lights, and Spring is the best time to see the wildflowers. The winter is also a great time to visit if you’re interested in winter sports such as skiing and snowmobiling.
In terms of what to pack, it’s important to be prepared for all types of weather; even in the summer, temperatures can drop quickly in Iceland, and it’s always a good idea to pack warm layers and waterproof clothing. It’s also a good idea to pack a sturdy pair of hiking boots or shoes, as well as a camera and a good map or guidebook.
Remember that Iceland’s Ring Road is a self-drive tour, so you must plan your own accommodation, routes, and meals. It’s always a good idea to book your accommodation and car rental well in advance, especially during the peak season, and to be flexible with your itinerary in case of unexpected road closures or weather conditions.
A good Iceland ring road trip itinerary will help you make the most of your time and see all the amazing things Iceland has to offer.
Iceland Ring Road Attractions
The Iceland Ring Road is home to some of the country’s most breathtaking natural wonders and historic sites. As you plan your itinerary, be sure to include stops at the following must-see attractions:
- Reykjavik: The capital and largest city of Iceland, Reykjavik is home to various museums, restaurants, and shops.
- Hallgrimskirkja Church: This towering, modernist church in Reykjavik is a beautiful architectural feat and offers panoramic views of the city from its observation deck.
- Dyrholaey arch and lighthouse: This picturesque coastal area is home to a natural arch and lighthouse and a large puffin colony in the summer months.
- Kerid Crater: This 3000-year-old volcanic crater lake is a unique and beautiful sight, with its bright blue water set against the stark red rock.
- Vatnajökull National Park: The largest national park in Iceland, Vatnajökull is home to glaciers, ice caps, and glistening glacial lagoons.
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: This natural wonder is a must-see, with its floating icebergs and crystal clear water.
- Skaftafell National Park: This park offers a range of outdoor activities, such as hiking, and offers panoramic views of the Vatnajökull glacier.
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall: This waterfall, located in the Seljalands River, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland, and it is possible to walk behind the waterfall.
- Thingvellir National Park: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of Iceland’s most important historical sites. It is also the location of the first parliament in the world.
- Geysir Geothermal Area: This area is home to the famous geyser, Strokkur, which erupts every few minutes, and it’s a great place to observe the geothermal activity.
- Gullfoss Waterfall: This powerful waterfall is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland, and it offers a spectacular view from the top.
For more detailed information on these attractions and other popular destinations in Iceland, be sure to check out our Iceland’s Attraction Map article for a comprehensive guide.
How much does it cost to drive the Ring Road in Iceland?
Driving Iceland’s Ring Road can be a budget-friendly option for a road trip vacation. Still, it’s important to consider the costs associated with renting a vehicle and the cost of gas in Iceland.
Renting a vehicle in Iceland can be quite expensive, with prices ranging from $50 to $200 per day depending on the type of vehicle and rental company. A 4×4 vehicle is recommended for the Ring Road, as some roads can be rough and unpaved. Additionally, gas prices in Iceland are also relatively high, averaging around $7 per gallon (approximately 6.5 euros for 2.5 liters).
However, there are ways to save money on your road trip; one tip is to plan your itinerary in advance and book your rental car and accommodations well in advance to take advantage of early bird discounts. You can also save money by cooking your own meals instead of eating out at restaurants and by camping or staying in budget-friendly accommodations instead of more expensive hotels.
Our Iceland attraction map can also help you plan your budget and include the most important destinations in your itinerary. It’s also worth noting that many popular attractions such as Reykjavik, Hallgrimskirkja Church, Dyrholaey arch and lighthouse, the Kerid Crater, Fjadrargljufur Canyon, Hallgrimskirkja Church, Dyrholaey arch and lighthouse, Kerid Crater, Vatnajökull National Park, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Skaftafell National Park, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall are free to visit.
Ring Road trip, Iceland Itinerary
This 8-day Iceland ring road itinerary is the perfect way to experience all the natural beauty and unique attractions the country offers. The itinerary includes stops at some of Iceland’s most iconic locations.
The itinerary starts in Reykjavik and makes a clockwise loop around the country, ending back in the capital. This allows for easy planning and allows you to see the most popular attractions on the ring road while leaving room for self-discovery and exploration.
- Day 1: Reykjavik to Vatnajökull National Park
- Day 2: Vatnajökull National Park to Skaftafell National Park
- Day 3: Skaftafell National Park to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
- Day 4: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall and Thingvellir National Park
- Day 5: Thingvellir National Park to Geysir Geothermal Area and Gullfoss Waterfall
- Day 6: Gullfoss Waterfall to Dyrholaey arch and lighthouse
- Day 7: Dyrholaey arch and lighthouse to Kerid Crater
- Day 8: Return to Reykjavik and discover the Hallgrimskirkja Church
The Golden Circle and Ring Road: What’s the difference?
The Golden Circle and Iceland’s Ring Road are two of the most popular tourist routes in Iceland, but they offer very different experiences. The Golden Circle is a shorter route, typically taking around 3-4 hours to drive, and it focuses on some of Iceland’s most iconic natural attractions. This includes the Geysir Hot Springs, Gullfoss Waterfall, and Thingvellir National Park. On the other hand, the Ring Road is a much longer route that circles the entire country and takes around 8-12 days to complete. It offers several landscapes and experiences, including glaciers, waterfalls, black sand beaches, and more.
One of the main differences between the two routes is the type of scenery you’ll see. The Golden Circle primarily showcases Iceland’s geothermal and volcanic landscapes, while the Ring Road takes you through various landscapes, including glaciers, fjords, and black sand beaches. Additionally, the Ring Road allows you to see more of Iceland’s remote and lesser-visited regions, while the Golden Circle is more of a “greatest hits” tour of the country’s most popular attractions.
Another important consideration when choosing between the two routes is the amount of time you have available. If you only have a few days to explore Iceland, the Golden Circle is an excellent option as it can be completed in a day. However, if you have a week or more, the Ring Road allows you to see much more of the country and experience a wider variety of landscapes.
In terms of transportation, a 4×4 is not strictly necessary for the Golden Circle, as the main attractions can be accessed by regular vehicles. However, renting a 4×4 can give you more flexibility and allow you to explore some of the more remote regions along the route.
Whether the Golden Circle or the Ring Road is “worth it” depends on your preferences and travel style. The Golden Circle is a great option if you’re short on time and want to see some of Iceland’s most iconic natural attractions, while the Ring Road offers a much more comprehensive and diverse experience.
In addition, our Iceland attraction map offers a great way to plan your trip and ensure you don’t miss any of the major attractions in Iceland.
Make your own Iceland ring road itinerary
In conclusion, Iceland’s Ring Road is a popular and worthwhile road trip destination that offers a diverse range of experiences and attractions. The full route takes around 8-12 days to complete, but it is also possible to do it in a shorter amount of time, such as 6 or 5 days, depending on your pace and interests.
When planning your itinerary, it’s important to consider the type of vehicle you’ll need for the drive and the best time of year to visit. The costs associated with renting a vehicle and gas prices in Iceland can add up, so budgeting and saving money are crucial.
The Golden Circle is a popular route that offers its own unique attractions, such as the Geysir Hot Springs, Gullfoss Waterfall, and Thingvellir National Park. It takes around 3-4 hours to drive, and a 4×4 is unnecessary.
Overall, Iceland’s Ring Road and Golden Circle offer a chance to see the country’s natural beauty and unique culture. It’s worth taking the time to plan your own itinerary and experience it for yourself.