Julie Iceland, Itinerary 32 Comments

A road trip on the Ring Road is one of Iceland’s best experiences. With 7 to 10 days, you can drive around entire circumference of  Iceland, visiting the highlights and several off-the-beaten-path destinations. Stand in front of mighty Skógafoss, tour the Golden Circle, relax in the Blue Lagoon, go whale watching and glacier hiking, explore the lovely city of Reykjavík, and visit many of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls. Learn how to plan your adventure with this Iceland Ring Road Itinerary.

About this Ring Road Itinerary

The Ring Road the main road that makes a loop around the entire island. It is 1,332 km (828 miles) long and can be driven in just a few days. However, you will need more time for scenic stops and detours.

On this itinerary, you will drive clockwise around Iceland.

The Ring Road can be driven in either direction, but we recommend visiting north Iceland early in the trip and ending on the south coast. By driving the Ring Road in this direction, each day just keeps getting better than the one before it. North Iceland is beautiful, but the south coast, with its amazing collection of waterfalls and glaciers, is a wonderful place to save until the end of your trip.

Highlights of this Ring Road itinerary include:

  • Reykjavík
  • Blue Lagoon
  • Glymur Waterfall
  • Kirkjufell
  • Godafoss
  • Whale Watching
  • Mývatn
  • Dettifoss & Selfoss
  • Glacier hike
  • Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
  • Skógafoss & Seljalandsfoss
  • Golden Circle

A 4×4 is not necessary for this itinerary (if you do this between May and September), but if you have one, you will be able to get to a few off-the-beaten-path destinations that we mention in this itinerary. Having a 4×4 is required to drive on the F-roads and it makes driving the unpaved roads easier.

The first part of this article is a 10 day Ring Road itinerary. At the end of this article, learn how to turn this into a 7 day itinerary, if you don’t have a full 10 days to spare. And if you have extra time, we also give suggestions on two great adventures to add on to your road trip. 

How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (daily things to do and the driving route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
 
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

Best Time to Drive the Ring Road

The Ring Road can be driven year-round. However, during the winter months (October through April), snowstorms can temporarily close the road, so you will need to keep a close eye on weather and road conditions. Plus, you will also have limited daylight (or almost no daylight at the peak of winter), giving you a smaller window of time for sightseeing. During the winter months, having a 4×4 vehicle is recommended.

The best time of year for this Ring Road itinerary is from May through September. The days are long and the weather is relatively warm. In June and July, the midnight sun makes it possible to go hiking and sightseeing almost around the clock.


Get a Digital Download of this ItineraryRing Road Itinerary

Do you want a printer friendly version of this itinerary? How about an eBook version of this itinerary that can be downloaded onto your computer or mobile device?

Our Ring Road itinerary eBook includes this full itinerary, with detailed daily schedules, insider tips, and travel planning resources. It is a 26-page version of this post that you can download to take with you or print at home.

Click here to purchase the eBook on Etsy.com.


Day 1

Arrive in Iceland, Visit the Blue Lagoon

Driving Distance and Time: 22 km, 20 minutes

Flights to Iceland arrive at Keflavík International Airport, which is located on the Reykjanes peninsula. Pick up your rental car at the airport. Lines can be very, very long, especially midday in the summer months. I’m talking an hour wait or longer. If you have a membership with a rental car company that allows you to skip the line, then you can save lots of valuable time.

Blue Lagoon

From the airport, it takes 45 minutes to drive to Reykjavík but only 20 minutes to drive to the Blue Lagoon. Instead of going right to Reykjavík, we recommend visiting the Blue Lagoon. By visiting the Blue Lagoon first, you save a lot of extra time driving and backtracking to and from Reykjavík. Plus, relaxing in the thermal waters of the Blue Lagoon is a great, low-key activity, especially if you just arrived on an overnight flight to Iceland.

Blue Lagoon Ring Road

Blue Lagoon Ring Road

Blue Lagoon | Ring Road Itinerary

The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most popular experiences, so expect big crowds between 10 am and 6 pm. Book your tickets in advance to get your desired time slot and to avoid waiting in line. A visit here typically lasts three hours or longer.

Click here to visit the official Blue Lagoon website, where you can book your tickets in advance and learn about what to expect during your visit. You can also book the “comfort” level entrance ticket through GetYourGuide. As of December 2021, it is slightly cheaper on GetYourGuide.

Options on How to Plan Your Time Today

If you arrive in Iceland in the morning, you can do one of two things today. You can brave the midday crowds at the Blue Lagoon, and then spend the night on the Reykjanes peninsula or in Reykjavík. Or, spend several hours touring the Reykjanes peninsula and visit the Blue Lagoon after 6 pm, once the crowds thin out. Sleep near or at the Blue Lagoon.

Reykjanes Peninsula

Overlooking the Reykjanes Peninsula from the Seltún Geothermal Area.

If you arrive in Iceland in the afternoon, check into your hotel (stay at or near the Blue Lagoon) and visit the Blue Lagoon after 6 pm.

There is no need to rush to Reykjavík today. At the end of this itinerary, you will have time to explore the city.

Where to Stay Near the Blue Lagoon:

The Retreat at the Blue Lagoon. Selected by Conde Nast as one of Europe’s top resorts, this is the ultimate in luxury. Rooms are stylish, modern suites and offer views of the lava fields and lagoon. Prices start at $1281 USD so this is big splurge.

Northern Light Inn. This property is located very close to the Blue Lagoon and the prices are much more affordable than the Retreat. This property has an onsite restaurant and free shuttle buses that run to and from the Blue Lagoon.

Motel Arctic Wind. This hotel gets great reviews and offers rooms that can accommodate up to four people at economical prices.


Day 2

Kirkjufell and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Driving Distance and Time, Blue Lagoon to Kirkjufell: 300 km, 4 hours. Blue Lagoon to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula with the detour to Glymur Waterfall.

The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is not located on the Ring Road, but with its iconic Kirkjufell mountain and beautiful coastal sights, it’s well worth the detour. This can be a very busy day (with the added detour to Glymur Waterfall and the sights on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula) or rather low-key (simple drive to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and see the sights that interest you).

From the Blue Lagoon (and nearby hotels) it takes 3 hours to drive to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. If you leave by 8 am, you will arrive on the peninsula midday, giving you a full afternoon to visit the highlights. However, we have an optional detour to recommend, which is perfect for hikers and those who want to see one of Iceland’s highest waterfalls.

Optional Detour: Hike to Glymur Waterfall

On the drive to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, you will drive near Glymur waterfall. This is one of Iceland’s tallest waterfalls and this fun hike can be easily added on to the day. It is 7 km (4.4 miles) round trip and takes 3 to 4 hours of your time. Get all of the details here.

On the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

The list of things to do on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula is long. It takes at least one busy day to make the full loop around the peninsula. This itinerary does not allow for that, but you will visit the highlights. If you want to see more of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, then you will need to add an extra day to this itinerary.

Here are two suggestions on how to spend your afternoon, depending on whether or not you hiked Glymur Waterfall.

If You Skipped Glymur Waterfall

From the Blue Lagoon, drive north to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. On the drive, you will pass through the town of Borgarnes. At the Bonus grocery store, you can put together a picnic lunch.

Drive along the south coast of the peninsula, visiting the various sights. The first three sights are optional…they are nice but better places await. These include Ytri Tunga Beach, the short hike to Bjarnarfoss, and the quick detour to Budakirkja (the Budir Black Church).

If you like the idea of doing a quick hike into a gorge, and don’t mind taking the chance you might get wet, visit the Raudfeldsgja Gorge.

One of the highlights of the day is walking the Arnarstapi Cliff Walk. This is a 1.5 mile round trip hike along the coastal cliffs. Park in the large car park in Arnarstapi, walk the trail, and see Gatklettur (a natural stone arch). This is the perfect place to have that picnic lunch you put together earlier today.

The Hellnar viewpoint is very interesting. From here, you can see interesting rock formations on the coast. It is a short drive from Arnarstapi.

Visit the viewpoint of the Londrangar Cliffs and then visit Djúpalónssandur Beach. Walk on a black sand beach, see the wreckage of a British trawler, and explore the jagged, volcanic rock formations that line the coast. A visit here can be quick, with a short walk to a viewpoint, or can last hours, as you walk on trails along the coastline.

If You Hiked to Glymur Waterfall

If you hiked to Glymur Waterfall, you will have very limited time on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula this afternoon. So, you will do a shorter version of what is listed above.

After hiking to Glymur Waterfall, continue the drive north to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. For a late lunch, you can get food at the Bonus grocery store in Borgarnes or grab something to go at one of the restaurants in this town.

Once on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, I recommend spending your time at the Arnarstapi Cliffs, visiting the viewpoint in Hellnar, the Londrangar Cliffs, and Djúpalónssandur Beach.

For the best things to do, where to stay and where to eat, read our article 20 Best Things to do on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.

Snaefellsnes Peninsula

South coast of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula | Ring Road Itinerary

 

Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Gatklettur | Ring Road Itinerary

Where to Stay on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

GRUNDARFJORDUR: H5 Apartments. This is where we stayed. All units have at least two bedrooms and come with a kitchen, private bathroom, and a washing machine. The apartments are nothing fancy but they are clean, spacious, and the Wi-Fi works well. Plus, it’s just a 5-minute drive to Kirkjufell, perfect if you want to snap a sunset or sunrise photo of this iconic spot.

HELLNAR: Fosshotel Hellnar. This eco-friendly hotel offers rooms with private bathrooms that can accommodate up to three people. There is an onsite restaurant.

ARNARSTAPI: Arnarstapi Hotel. Located right in Arnarstapi, you will be able to walk right out to some of the most scenic coastal cliffs on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Rooms can accommodate up to four people and all rooms have a private bathroom.


Day 3

Drive to North Iceland

Driving Time and Distance: 480 km, 6.5 hours

This is a big driving day, with it taking about six and a half hours to get from the Snaefellsnes Peninsula to Akureyri.

Before saying goodbye to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, there is one more incredibly popular place to visit.

Kirkjufell

Kirkjufell is Iceland’s most photographed mountain. It’s arrowhead shape, coastal location, and isolation from other mountains makes it very unique. Throw in a series of waterfalls and you have a stunning photography and filming location.

The classic viewpoint of Kirkjufell is located next to Kirkjufellsfoss, the waterfall that you commonly see in the foreground of Kirkjufell photos.

Ring Road Itinerary Kirkjufell

Kirkjufell | Ring Road Itinerary

GETTING HERE: Kirkjufell is located on the north coast of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. From Hellnar and Arnarstapi it is a 45 minute drive to get here. From Budir, it is a 30 minute drive. You will cut across the Snaefellsnes Peninsula on Highway 54.

PARKING: There is a small parking lot on highway 54. There is no fee for parking. Walk up the short trail to Kirkjufellsfoss and then enjoy the view.

Drive to Akuyeri

After Kirkjufell, drive northeast to Akuyeri. This is a long drive but there are several places along the way where you can get out, stretch your legs, and enjoy the view.

On the way to Akureyri, make the quick detour to Hvitserkur, a wild, unique chunk of black rock on the beach that makes an interesting photo spot.

In Glaumbaer, you can visit the historic turf houses.

Glumbaer Houses

Glaumbaer | Ring Road Itinerary

Spend the remainder of the day exploring Akureyri. Sleep in Akureyri.

Where to Stay in Akureyri

K16 Apartments. Stay in a one bedroom apartment that comes with a fully equipped dining area and living room and accommodates up to four people.

Halllandsnes Apartments. This property gets exceptional reviews. Take your pick from several different apartment options. Apartments can accommodate four to six people in either two or three bedrooms. The apartments also have a washing machine.

Hotel North. Located a few kilometers outside of Akureyri, rooms can accommodate two to three people. Prior guests rave about the spacious rooms, excellent breakfast, and wonderful views of the fjord.


Day 4

Godafoss and Whale Watching

Distance and Driving Time: 140 km, 2 hours (not including the detour to Aldeyjarfoss)

Morning: Godafoss

From Akureyri, it takes just 30 minutes to drive to Godafoss. Spend the morning at Godafoss, aka “Waterfall of the Gods,” one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls. 

Godafoss is located on the Ring Road, right where Route 844 meets Route 1.

There are parking lots and viewpoints on both sides of the river. You will reach the west side of the river first (just before Route 844). There is a parking lot just off of Route 1 and from here it is a quick, easy walk to several great viewpoints of the waterfall.

To visit the east side, you can either walk across the pedestrian bridge or drive to Route 844. On the east side of Godafoss there is a parking lot as well as restrooms and restaurants. Numerous paved paths take visitors to different views of the waterfall. Our favorite viewpoint was down by the river’s edge.

Expect big crowds at Godafoss. We were here midday and had trouble finding a parking space on the west side of the waterfall. A visit to Godafoss takes about one hour if you visit both sides of the river. Visit the west side first, and then the east side, since the Godafoss parking lot on the east side is connected to Route 844, which is the same road you take to get to Aldeyjarfoss and Hrafnabjargafoss (an optional detour).

Godafoss Ring Road Itinerary

Godafoss | Ring Road Itinerary

Afternoon (Optional): Aldeyjarfoss & Hrafnabjargafoss

If you want to go off-the-beaten-path and have a 4×4, consider adding on a visit to Aldeyjarfoss and Hrafnabjargafoss. These two waterfalls are located in an ancient lava field and they feel like they are in the middle of nowhere. This detour adds on 3 hours and 90 km to this day.

Aldeyjarfoss Iceland

Aldeyjarfoss | Ring Road Itinerary

Whale Watching in Húsavík

In the afternoon, drive to Húsavík (35 minutes north of Godafoss), the best place in Iceland to go whale watching. This 3 hour tour gets great reviews and almost guarantees that you will see whales.

 

Sleep in Mývatn. From Húsavík, it is a 45 minute drive to Myvátn.

Where to Stay in Mývatn

Fosshotel Mývatn. We stayed here and loved it. Rooms are modern, comfortable, and some rooms offer views of Lake Mývatn. The onsite restaurant is a bit pricey but the food is fantastic.

Birkilauf. People who stay here, love it. I read numerous reviews where people liked this property so much that they extended their stay. There is a minimum 2-night stay here, which is fine for this itinerary, since you will be spending two nights in Mývatn.

Hotel Laxá. This property gets rave reviews and has an onsite restaurant and bar.


Day 5

Mývatn & Dettifoss

Distance and Driving Time: 225 km, 3.5 hours (this includes visiting Dettifoss from both sides of the river); 175 km, 3 hours (if you only visit the east side of Dettifoss)

In the morning, I recommend visiting Dettifoss and Selfoss, before they get overly crowded.

Dettifoss is Europe’s most powerful waterfall. Selfoss is a smaller but more elegant waterfall located just upriver.

Dettifoss Iceland

Dettifoss (from the east side) | Ring Road Itinerary

 

Selfoss Iceland

Selfoss (from the east side) | Ring Road Itinerary

It is possible to visit these waterfalls from both sides of the river, but to do so, you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time here…like 5 hours of your day. Worth the time? We thought so, but this amount of driving is not for everyone.

If you only have the desire to visit Dettifoss and Selfoss from one side of the river, which one is better? Get the answer in our article about how to visit Dettifoss and Selfoss.

Spend the rest of the day touring the sights in Mývatn. Visit the Mývatn Nature Baths, the geothermal area of Hverir, walk through the Dimmuborgir lava field, hike to the top of Hverfjall crater, visit the Grjótagjá Cave (a Game of Thrones filming site), or walk among the pseudocraters of Mývatn.

Things to do in Myvatn

Hverir geothermal area | Ring Road Itinerary

Sleep in Mývatn.


Day 6

East Iceland

Total Driving Distance and Time: 350 km, 4.75 hours (not including detours)

This is one of the longest driving days on this Ring Road itinerary. Essentially, you drive from north Iceland to southeast Iceland, with the option for several detours along the way.

This is a very pretty drive, especially once you hit the coast between Djupivogur and Höfn. Here are three detours you can add to the day.

Stuðlagil Canyon. This amazing looking canyon is just a short detour off of the Ring Road. Turn onto Route 923 and follow Google Maps to “Stuðlagil Canyon Parking.” It is about 19 km from Ring Road. Allow 1.5 to 2 hours.

Rjúkandi Waterfall. This waterfall is located right on Ring Road, just past the turn off for Stuðlagil Canyon. There is a pull out on Ring Road for parking labeled “Rjúkandafoss Parking” on Google Maps.

Puffins at Borgarfjörður eystri. Puffins nest in Iceland between mid-April and mid-August. There are many places in Iceland where you can see puffins, but Borgarfjörður eystri is one of the best places to go, since it is so safe, for both you and the puffins. You will walk on boardwalk trails and viewing platforms, allowing you to get up close with the puffins without damaging their burrows.

This is a big detour. A visit here takes 3 hours from Egilsstaðir and adds on 150 km to the day. However, this experience is really more than just seeing a colony of puffins. It’s also a fun detour through a beautiful part of Iceland.

Puffins Ring Road Itinerary

Puffins | Ring Road Itinerary

 

Iceland Road Trip

Just before arriving in Höfn, you will pass the small but incredibly scenic Stokksnes peninsula. If you are doing good on time, this is a great little detour.

Stokksnes Iceland

Vestrahorn | Ring Road Itinerary

Your day ends once you reach Höfn. Check into your hotel and have dinner. We had an amazing dinner at Pakkhus Restaurant but Otto Restaurant and the Ishusid Pizzeria are also great options.

Sleep in Höfn.

Where to Stay in Höfn

Apotek Guesthouse. Located in a former pharmacy, this property offers a wide range of rooms. Take your pick from single rooms, double rooms with a private bath, or quadruple rooms with a shared bathroom.

Milk Factory. This property gets rave reviews and has rooms that can accommodate 2 to 4 people. It gets its name since it is located in a former milk factory.

Seljavellir Guesthouse. This guesthouse is located outside of town on the Ring Road. What you get is a highly reviewed property for a great price. Rooms can accommodate up to two people.


Day 7

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Glacier Hike

Total Driving Distance and Time: 140 km, 2 hours

Today will be spent seeing the sights between Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Skaftafell. You can go kayaking or take a boat tour of Jökulsárlón, walk on a glacier, visit Diamond Beach and Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon, and hike to Svartifoss waterfall. If you do everything on this list, it will be a big day, but with some advance planning, it is possible.

Depending on what activities you pick and the time they start you might have to drive back and forth. But that is okay as it’s only a 45 minute drive between Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Skaftafell. If your tour times don’t align well or you want to travel at a slower pace, then this could be a good place to add an extra day to this itinerary.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

The Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a very popular spot to visit. You can simply drive up, park your car, and take in the view. Or, you can take a kayak tour or boat tour of the lagoon, in order to get closer views of the icebergs that have broken off of the glacier.

Diamond Beach

Diamond Beach is located next to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Chunks of ice from the lagoon wash up onto this black sand beach, creating one of Iceland’s most unique beach experiences.

Park at the lot labeled Breidamerksandur on Google Maps. Parking is free and the lot is located right next to the beach. It’s a quick and easy walk onto the beach. A visit here lasts 15 minutes or longer, depending on how much time you wish to spend photographing the ice chunks.

Diamond Beach Iceland

Diamond Beach | Ring Road Itinerary

Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon

From Diamond Beach, it is a 10 minute drive to Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon. This glacier lagoon is smaller and less touristy than the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. In our opinion, it is also more beautiful. It’s quick and free to visit. There are restrooms and a restaurant here, making this a great place to take a break from today’s activities.

Glacier Hike on Vatnajökull Glacier

We did the Glacier Explorer tour with Arctic Adventures and had an awesome experience. This is a 5 hour glacier hiking tour on Vatnajökull Glacier. For three hours (2 hours are spent getting geared up and getting to and from the glacier), we walked through crevasses and climbed up and over huge chunks of ice. This was one of our favorite experiences in Iceland and our favorite glacier hiking experiences so far.

Arctic Adventures also offers a combination tour where you do a short, easy hike on Vatnajökull Glacier and kayak in Jökulsárlón. This tour is 6 hours long and still leaves plenty of time in the day for Svartifoss, Diamond Beach, and Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon.

If you will be visiting from fall through early spring, you can also hike on Vatnajökull and visit an ice cave on this 4-hour tour.

Ring Road Glacier Walk

Glacier hike | Ring Road Itinerary

Svartifoss Waterfall

This unique waterfall inspired the design for the Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavík. This waterfall is located in Skaftafell and makes a great add-on after your other activities (if you still have the energy).

This hike starts next to the parking lot for the Skaftafell Visitor Center, the meeting point for the Vatnajökull glacier hikes. To get to Svartifoss it is a 3 km round trip hike and takes about an hour and a half. From the trailhead, it’s a mostly uphill walk to the waterfall.

Svartifoss Iceland

Svartifoss | Ring Road Itinerary

Skaftafell is the most convenient place to stay when following this itinerary. You can stay in Höfn for a second night, but you will have a long drive tomorrow to get to the south coast sights. Alternatively, you can stay in Vík but that adds another 140 km and 2 hours of driving today.

If you plan to stay in Vík, consider visiting Fjaðrárgljúfur as you drive from Skaftafell to Vík. That way you do not have to backtrack tomorrow.

Where to Stay in Skaftafell

Hotel Skaftafell. This hotel is conveniently located in Skaftafell. Rooms can accommodate up to three people. There is an onsite restaurant and a 2nd floor bar with great views of the glacier.

The Potato Storage. This new property, with its interesting name and industrial, modern décor, gets exceptional reviews. It tends to get reserved months in advance so make your reservation as soon as possible. It is located just a short drive from Skaftafell.

Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon. This property is located between the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Skaftafell. This is a 4-star property and offers stunning views of the mountains or the ocean.


Day 8

South Coast Highlights

Total Driving Distance and Time: 285 km, 3.5 hours

Today, road trip down the south coast, visiting the highlights: Fjaðrárgljúfur, Reynisfjara black sand beach, Dyrholaey Arch, Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss, and Gljúfrabúi. 

Fjaðrárgljúfur

This tongue twister of a name means “Feather River Canyon” and it is one of Iceland’s most photogenic spots. A 2 km hiking trail scales one edge of the canyon, offering great views of the canyon and river.

Reynisfjara Beach

Reynisfjara is a black sand beach on the south coast of Iceland. It is a photogenic spot, with basalt columns, a giant cave, and jagged stacks of rock that sit just off shore.

While you are here, beware of “sneaker waves.” Sneaker waves are rogue waves that wash up on shore and pull unsuspecting visitors out to sea. It might sound like a joke, but just a few years ago a tourist drowned when they got too close to the waves and was pulled out into the ocean.

Reynisfjara

Reynisfjara Beach | Ring Road Itinerary

Dyrhólaey Lighthouse & Arch

Park at Dyrhólaey Lighthouse. From the Dyrhólaey Viewpoint, which sits right beside the Dyrhólaey Lighthouse, you get to see one of the most spectacular views of the south coast of Iceland. From here, you not only have an incredible view over Dyrhólaey Arch, but the view along the cliffs, looking west, is unexpectedly amazing. During the summer months, it is possible to see puffins nesting along these cliffs.

Then, hop back into your car, drive the short distance to the “Dyrhólaey View Parking Lot.” There are very short walking trails here that take you to several viewpoints of Reynisfjara Beach.

South coast of Iceland cliffs

South Coast cliffs | Ring Road Itinerary

Skógafoss & Waterfall Way

Skógafoss is one of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls. This waterfall is massive and you can stand right in front of it to truly appreciate its size.

What most people don’t know is that you can hike past Skógafoss and visit 25 more waterfalls. Called the Waterfall Way, this hiking trail, which is also the start of the amazing Fimmvörðuháls hike, follows along the Skógá River, passing 25 smaller waterfalls along the way. The views of the lush, green canyons are gorgeous and just might be one of the best, unexpected highlights of the day.

To see all 25 waterfalls, you have to walk 5 miles upriver (10 miles round trip). Of course, you don’t have to walk the entire distance. Just turn around when you are ready.

10 Day Ring Road Itinerary Skogafoss

Skógafoss | Ring Road Itinerary

 

Ring Road Itinerary Waterfall

Waterfall on the Skógá River | Ring Road Itinerary

Kvernufoss

Kvernufoss is another beautiful waterfall that you can walk behind. It is a smaller, less visited version of Seljalandsfoss. Park at the Skógar Museum and it is a 10-minute walk to get to the waterfall.

Kvernufoss Iceland

Kvernufoss | Ring Road Itinerary

Note: This waterfall is located on private property. Stay on the trail and do not litter or leave behind any trash. Even if you do not have plans to visit the Skógar Museum, you will have to pay a small fee to park here.

Seljalandsfoss & Gljúfrabúi

Seljalandsfoss is another unique waterfall in Iceland that you can walk behind. It is more impressive than Kvernufoss but it is also more crowded.

On a sunny day, you can capture a rainbow in the water spray. This also makes a breathtaking sunset destination in Iceland.

Gljúfrabúi, the hidden waterfall, is a small waterfall that is tucked away in a canyon. To see this waterfall up close, you will have to walk along stepping stones in a stream, but it’s a fun experience, just as long as you don’t mind the risk of getting your feet wet.

How to Visit Seljalandsfoss & Gljúfrabúi: Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi are free to visit but you will have to pay for parking (700 ISK). Park in the large parking lot and pay your fee at the booth. It’s a very short walk to Seljalandsfoss, and then it takes about 5 minutes to walk to Gljúfrabúi. To visit Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi together, it takes 30 to 60 minutes.

Gljufrabui

Gljufrabui | Ring Road Itinerary

 

Seljalandsfoss in Summer

Seljalandsfoss | Ring Road Itinerary

Solheimasandur Plane Wreck

The Solheimasandur Plane Wreck makes it onto a lot of Ring Road itineraries. However, we think that it is Iceland’s most overrated attraction. To get here, it is a long, boring walk (4 miles round trip, about 1.5 hours) and once here, you’ll most likely see people climbing all over the plane, despite warning signs forbidding this. Skip the plane wreck, and instead, visit Kvernufoss or walk part of the Skógafoss trail.

Solheimasandur Plane Wreck

Tonight, sleep on the Golden Circle.

Where to Stay on the Golden Circle

Arbakki Farmhouse Lodge. This lodge offers rooms that can accommodate up to four people. It has an excellent location, near Reykholt and just a short drive from the Golden Circle sights.

Heradsskolinn Historic Guesthouse. This boutique hostel is located in a former school building. Stay in a private room or a dorm. There is an onsite bistro that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Mosas Cottages. Stay in your own “vacation home,” small, detached houses that can accommodate up to six people in two-bedroom cottages. This property is located in Fludir.

Where we stayed: We stayed at Guesthouse Fludir and did not have a good experience. We had two standard double rooms with a private bathroom. What they don’t tell you is that there are two levels of these rooms. If you are on the bottom level, as we were, your view is of a gravel parking lot and all night long you will hear the people above you walking around. The upper rooms are wonderful. For the same exact price, they have a gorgeous view and a balcony, but there is no guarantee that you will get this, as we learned on our visit. It’s not worth the risk of getting stuck on the bottom level. I recommend looking elsewhere.


Day 9

The Golden Circle

Total Driving Distance and Time: 125 km, 2 hours

The Golden Circle is a loop that starts and ends in Reykjavík. But the three primary stops on the Golden Circle (Gullfoss, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Thingvellir National Park) are located along the top portion of the loop. So you can see these three sights as you drive to Reykjavík, without having to complete the full circle.

To visit all three of these places and get to Reykjavik, it takes about 5 to 7 hours, depending on how quickly you move. You can either use the remaining time to add on more sights along the way or explore Reykjavík.

I recommend starting at Gullfoss and working your way west, since tonight you will sleep in Reykjavík.

Gullfoss

Gullfoss, which is also called “Golden Falls,” is the most popular waterfall to visit in Iceland. A visit here lasts 30 to 60 minutes. Park in the large parking lot and there are short trails that take you to several overlooks of the waterfall.

Gullfoss Iceland

Gullfoss | Ring Road Itinerary

Geysir Geothermal Area

Geysir Geothermal Area is a small area where you can see bubbling hot springs, steaming sulphur vents, and Strokkur, a geyser that erupts every few minutes. A visit here is free and typically lasts 30 to 60 minutes.

Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park is both a historical and natural wonder in Iceland. This park lies atop the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It is here that a giant fissure marks the spot where the Eurasian and North Atlantic tectonic plates are pulling apart. This is also the place where the annual parliament of Iceland met from 930 to 1798 AD.

On your visit, walk through the rift, see Oxararfoss waterfall, take in panoramic views over the park, and visit Law Rock. It is free to visit Thingvellir National Park but you will pay 750 ISK to park your car.

Thingvellir

Thingvellir National Park | Ring Road Itinerary

 

Beyond the Golden Circle

Add-on’s to this day trip include Bruarfoss (a 7 km round-trip hike to a blue waterfall), the Secret Lagoon (a hot spring in Fludir), and the Kerid Crater. Unless you can add another day to this itinerary, we recommend skipping these add-ons so you have time to see Reykjavík.

Evening in Reykjavík

Spend the evening exploring Reykjavík. Stroll the streets between Hallsgrimkirkja Church and the Harpa Concert Hall. Along the way, take detours to shop on Laugavegur Street, to see the Sun Voyager Sculpture, to eat dinner, and to look for colorful street art.

We had some great meals in Reykjavík. 101 Reykjavík Street Food was one of our favorite spots. Eat stews and fish and chips that are delicious at one of Reykjavík’s most affordable restaurants. Ostabudin and Messinn are also very good but they are more expensive.

Tonight, sleep in Reykjavík.

Ring Road Itinerary Reykjavik

Where to Stay in Reykjavík

Reykjavík Residence Apartment Hotel. Rooms can accommodate up to 6 people in suites, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments. This hotel has an excellent location within walking distance of Reykjavík’s top spots.

House of the Snowbird. This is a historic house located in downtown Reykjavík. Stay in a one-bedroom apartment with a dining area and small kitchen. From here, it’s a bit of a walk to Hallgrímskirkja, but you are close to the waterfront.

Loft – HI Hostel. This highly-rate hostel features a rooftop terrace, private rooms and dormitory-style rooms, and is located in the heart of Reykjavík.


Day 10

Fly Home

Total Driving Distance and Time: 50 km, 45 minutes

Today you will fly home. If you can catch an afternoon or evening flight, then you will have some time in the morning to explore more of Reykjavík. Or, add an extra day to your itinerary to have more time in Reykjavík.


How to Modify This Ring Road Itinerary

With Less Time

If you don’t have 10 days to spare but still want to drive the Ring Road, what should you eliminate?

Removing the Snaefellsnes Peninsula saves one day. On day 2, drive north to Akureyri, with the option to hike Glymur waterfall or quickly visit Kirkjufell on the way.

If you only have 8 days in Iceland, then I recommend combining days 4 and 5 into one day. From day 4, see Godafoss and then drive out to Dettifoss and Selfoss, seeing them from either the west side or the east side. End your day in Mývatn, seeing the sights there if you still have time.

If you only have 7 days in Iceland, then I also recommend combining days 7 and 8 into one day. On day 7, skip the tours and the hikes. Stop and see Jökulsárlón and Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoons and Diamond Beach. Then make all of the stops from day 8. You most likely will not have time to hike the Waterfall Way hike.

Sample 7 Day Ring Road Itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive in Iceland, Blue Lagoon
Day 2: Drive to North Iceland, Glymur waterfall & Kirkjufell are optional
Day 3: North Iceland: Godafoss, Mývatn, Dettifoss & Selfoss
Day 4: East Iceland, Drive to Höfn
Day 5: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and the South Coast Highlights
Day 6: Golden Circle & Reykjavík
Day 7: Fly Home

With More Time

If you have one or more days to add to this Ring Road itinerary, lucky you! Here are two unique Iceland adventures to add to your trip.

Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar is famous for its colorful rhyolite mountains and epic day hikes. Geothermal hot springs, lava fields, and unique hiking trails attract adventurous travelers all summer long.

Ring Road Itinerary Landmannalaugar

To get here, you will need a 4×4. The roads to Landmannalaugar are F-roads which are rough, gravel roads that are only suitable for 4×4’s. If you do not have a 4×4, you can either join a tour or take a bus to Landmannalaugar.

Click here to read our Landmannalaugar Guide and learn how to get here and which hikes to do. Hikes range from short, easy strolls to strenuous mountain climbs, so there is something here for everyone.

Visit Landmannalaugar as a day trip from the Golden Circle. This adds one day onto this Ring Road itinerary.

Fimmvörðuháls Hike

This was our favorite day in Iceland and one of the best day hikes we have done in the world. 26 waterfalls, 1 volcano, 2 glaciers, and 3 unique landscapes all combine for one of the most extraordinary hiking experiences on the planet.

Ring Road Itinerary Fimmvorduhals

The Fimmvörðuháls hike is a massive hike. It’s 25 km (15.5 miles) in length and done as a point-to-point hike from Skógafoss to Thórsmörk. It will take up the entire day, but what a memorable day it will be!

On day 8 of this Ring Road Itinerary, sleep near Skógafoss, rather than driving to the Golden Circle. Hike Fimmvörðuháls on day 9. Spend a second night in Skógafoss. On day 10, drive to the Golden Circle and resume this itinerary as it is written. This adds one day to this Ring Road itinerary.

If you have a full two weeks to spend in Iceland, take a look at our 14 Day Iceland Itinerary, which is a slightly longer version of this Ring Road itinerary. 

Planning Your Trip

Rental Car and Hotel Reservations

For this Ring Road itinerary, you will need to reserve:

A rental car or campervan. A 2WD car is sufficient for this itinerary. A 4×4 allows you to visit all of the detours we have listed and makes driving the unpaved roads a bit easier. There are many places in Iceland where you will drive unpaved roads that are suitable for a 2WD vehicle. However, these can be rough, with potholes in some spots, and a 4×4 will make this easier.

Note: A 4×4 is a vehicle that is authorized by the rental car companies to be driven on F-roads. Many of these vehicles are SUV’s with AWD or 4×4 capabilities. For example, we rented a Kia Sorrento through Hertz and this was authorized as a 4×4 that could be driven on F-roads.

Hotels:

  • Blue Lagoon – 1 night
  • Snaefellsnes Peninsula – 1 night
  • Akureyri – 1 night
  • Mývatn – 2 nights
  • Höfn – 1 night
  • Skaftafell – 1 night
  • Golden Circle – 1 night
  • Reykjavík – 1 nights

We have not camped in Iceland, but from what I have read and learned from talking to other travelers is that you do not need to reserve your campsites in advance.

Average Trip Costs

Here are some estimated costs (all prices are in USD for the summer months):

2WD vehicle: $50 – $100 per day
4WD vehicle: $125 – $200 per day; larger SUV’s, such as Land Rovers and Toyota Land Cruisers, cost up to $300 – $400 per day (and are unnecessary unless you plan to do river crossings)

Fuel: $2 per liter ($7.6 per gallon)

Campervan: $100 – $300 per day
Campsite: $10 – $15

Midrange Hotel, double room with two people: $150 – $300
High end hotel, double room with two people: $300 – $500

Meals can cost $20 to $40 per dish, depending on the restaurant. We typically saw prices averaging around $28 per dish, so for our family of four, we spent $100 to $150 per meal. To save money, we only dined in restaurants once per day and bought groceries at the Kronan or Bonus grocery stores. You will find these grocery stores throughout Iceland.

For more valuable tips about visiting Iceland, including trip costs and driving tips, make sure you read our article Iceland Travel Tips: Things to Know Before You Go


Get a Digital Download of this ItineraryRing Road Itinerary

Do you want a printer friendly version of this itinerary? How about an eBook version of this itinerary that can be downloaded onto your computer or mobile device?

Our Ring Road itinerary eBook includes this full itinerary, with detailed daily schedules, insider tips, and travel planning resources. It is a 26-page version of this post that you can download to take with you or print at home.

Click here to purchase the eBook on Etsy.com.


More Information about Iceland


If you have any questions about this Ring Road itinerary, let us know in the comment section below!

Read all of our articles about Iceland in our Iceland Travel Guide.

You Might Also Like:

 

Ring Road Itinerary Iceland Travel Guide

 

Iceland Ultimate Ring Road Itinerary

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Comments 32

  1. Avatar for Karen Kahl
    Karen Kahl

    We love your website and trip suggestions. We used it last year for Yellowstone and are planning to use it this year for Iceland. We have 8-10 days for the trip and plan to travel this summer with our 13 and 11 year olds. Would you recommend the ring road itinerary or the itinerary in the southern part of the country and why? I have had friends do both, so wondering which you would recommend.
    Thanks!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Hello Karen. The answer to that really depends on how much time you have and what you want to see. If you will only have 8 days, I recommend not doing the Ring Road itinerary, because then you skip over a lot of places and will feel rushed. I think it’s better to visit one or two areas and see them well. So, if you have 8 days, stick to southern Iceland. If you have 10 days, those 2 extra days really make a difference and the Ring Road itinerary is a great option.
       
      The Ring Road itinerary takes you to the highlights around the whole island. This itinerary is a good pick if you want to the highlights of Iceland. However, on this itinerary, you miss Landmannalaugar. If you like hiking and want to venture “deeper” into Iceland, I recommend following our Iceland Itinerary for first-timer’s. This itinerary hits the south coast highlights, Landmannalaugar, and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. If you only have 8 days, take out the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
       
      To decide what is right for you, I recommend looking at our photos of the sights along the northern part of the ring road (Godafoss, Myvatn, Dettifoss, etc) and photos of Landmannalaugar, and pick which is more interesting. The other thing to note is that if you choose Landmannalaugar, you will either need to rent a 4×4 vehicle or take a tour. A 4×4 will increase your overall trip cost. A 4×4 is not necessary for our Ring Road itinerary.
       
      We loved Landmannalaugar and for us it was one of the highlights of Iceland, but for some people, the need to rent a 4×4 and drive the F-roads to get there is a bit outside of their comfort zone. But if it looks like something you would like to do, go for it, because it is a wonderful experience. The waterfalls and sights in northern Iceland are very nice too, and a little less crowded, so it’s just as great up there, but for different reasons.
       
      Hope this helps! Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Travis
        Travis

        I am planning Iceland now. IMHO, I can see cutting out a few stops of things I’m less interested in. I’m mostly concerned about the driving thought. Quite a lot of that.

  2. Avatar for Julie Mast
    Julie Mast

    Hi Julie! I just downloaded this guide on Etsy and it’s so wonderful. I’m planning a trip for my husband and I in August 2022. My biggest debate is whether or not to travel via campervan & save some money or rent a car and do Airbnb/hotels around the ring road. Car rentals are just so expensive, but I also really would like having a shower/bathroom/kitchen at the end of a long day.

    Which option do you recommend? Or even a mix of both?

    Thank you!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Hello Julie. We have not yet traveled by campervan yet…and the main reasons for that are WiFi (we need WiFi or some kind of internet access every day to answer comments like this when we travel, and hotels in Iceland generally offer free wifi), and the comfort of having our own bathroom everyday. So, we lean towards having a hotel at the end of the day. It will be more expensive to rent a car and stay in hotels/B&Bs. Also, having a standard vehicle makes it easier to park at some sites and to get around the island. And having an SUV in Iceland lets you visit some great off the beaten path destinations, but that also can be pricey. I think you will have to price both out and then decide if a rental car + hotel option is worth the additional fee. Either way, it will be a great trip to Iceland! Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Julie Mast
        Julie Mast

        Hi Julie, thanks for your reply! Your guide is so helpful. I think we’ve decided on the hotel/rental car option. Do you have any recommendations for rental car companies? Thank you!!

        1. Avatar for Julie Post
          Author
          Julie

          The prices change a lot month to month, year to year. Tim prices out the major rental car companies and then chooses the one with the cheapest price. We have rented from the main rental car companies multiple times, in different places around the world, and there isn’t much difference between them. In Iceland, we rented from Hertz, and Tim called the office to confirm that we could take our vehicle on the F-roads. Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for AHMED ALHAMAD
    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      It will still be winter in Iceland, so it will be cold, snowy/icy, with short days. It can be a challenging time to visit, with road closures due to winter conditions, closed hiking trails, and short days. The advantages are low crowds, cheaper prices, and a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights. But if it were me, I’d wait until at least May although June through early September is the best time to visit Iceland if you want to road trip on the Ring Road. Cheers, Julie

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