With the beginning signs of a COVID-19-free future on the horizon, you’re probably starting to think about holidays again. What about that Iceland adventure you’ve always wanted to have? And when you get here, how much time should you spend in each place? What should you see? How long does it take to drive around Iceland? These questions will all be answered below.
How Many Days Do You Need in Iceland?
Before we address this question, we should consider where you’re coming from. How far is Iceland from where you are? And so, how long does it take to fly to Iceland? Well, in terms of distance, London is 1,888 km (1,173 miles) from Reykjavík; that’s about a 3-hour flight time. Reykjavík is 4,069 km (2,528 miles) from New York City; with a flight time of around 6 hours. So, when you’re thinking about how long to spend in Iceland you should factor in the flight duration. Consider that on your arrival and departure days you may be pushed for free time. When you arrive, you will land at Keflavík International Airport, which is about a 45-minute drive from the capital, Reykjavík. You could jump on a coach to the city and enjoy the views along the way. Alternatively, you can pick up your rental car at the airport and start your road trip straight away.
When planning how many days to stay in Iceland, consider how much exploring you’d like to do. Some who visit from close-by, such as the UK or France, are happy with a long weekend in the country. This is long enough to take a Golden Circle tour, visit the Blue Lagoon, and explore the capital. Or, you may want to head out of the southwest and see what other areas of Iceland have to offer. In this case, you’ll need at least a week, especially if you’re driving yourself around the country. There are companies that offer multi-day tours, taking the stress out of planning your route, and organizing accommodation. On the other hand, a self-driving tour will allow you to stop wherever and whenever you please. As you travel around the island, there are sights on every part of the ring road to dazzle you.
How Long is The Ring Road in Iceland?
Iceland’s ring road length is 1332km (828 miles). So how long does it take to drive around Iceland? Physically, you could complete the journey in a couple of days if you didn’t stop at all. But where’s the fun in that? Generally, it’s recommended to plan at least seven days for a ring road trip. This means you don’t have to do too much driving each day and can spend time hiking and exploring. When driving around Iceland you’ll come across so many features that attract your curiosity. One time some friends and I were driving through Snæfellsnes and we saw a small extinct volcano on the roadside. We decided to pull over and walk to the top, which was a fun challenge and offered a great view. Make a list of places you have to visit, but leave a little time for spontaneous side-adventures. There are places, such as tiny little-known hot springs, that you’ll only find out about by talking to locals.
One method you could use when arranging your trip is to split Iceland into segments. For example, the north, south, east and west coasts (and the Highlands if it’s summer). Then decide on the number of days you wish to spend in each area. Let’s take a look at some popular stops and their distance from each other.
The South Coast
When it comes to photographing opportunities, the south coast is probably the most popular route in the country. There are some wonderful features that aren’t too difficult to reach; some are only a short walk from the road. For example, Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall less than two hours from Reykjavík, is an easy stroll from its nearby car park. Less than an hour further along the south coast and you come to Vík, a small seaside village. Next to Vík is the famous black-sand beach, Reynisfjara. Here you’ll find the Reynisdrangar columns that sit out at sea, and the hexagonal basalt formations on the beach cliffs. Keep driving along the south coast and you’ll head into Iceland’s largest national park, Vatnajökull. It’s here, two and a half hours from Vík, that you’ll find Jökulsárlón. This is the renowned glacial lagoon that contains pieces of glacial ice (and maybe some seals) floating inside it. Many of the ice chunks deposit themselves on the nearby black sand beach, which is consequently known as Diamond Beach. The south coast is worth committing at least two days to, giving you time to properly take in each site.
This isn’t exactly driving around Iceland, it’s more driving into Iceland. The Highlands are Iceland’s interior; they are almost completely uninhabited and only accessible in summer. The weather conditions are so fierce between September and May that all roads leading to the Highlands (F-roads) are closed. When they open in June, locals and tourists alike jump in their 4x4s and head into the Highlands. They offer some of the best hiking and unspoiled, vast landscape scenery. Landmannalaugar is a popular spot to use as a base camp and explore from; there is a large campsite there. From here you can access the Laugavegur Trail, Iceland’s most famous hiking route. There are plenty of natural wonders to capture your interest, such as natural hot springs and multi-coloured rhyolite mountains. Landmannalaugar is a three-hour journey from the capital, and only 4x4 vehicles are permitted on F-roads. The gravel F-roads are only open between June and August and specific dates are dependent on weather conditions.
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is in large part made up of Snæfellsjökull National Park. With an abundance of hikes, beaches and ocean cliffs to explore, Snæfellsnes makes for a fantastic day trip. The Snæfellsjökull glacier, which sits atop a dormant volcano, can be seen from miles around on a clear day. It’s possible to hike over the glacier but this can only be done with an experienced guide and proper equipment. In this area, you’ll also find Kirkjufell (Church Mountain) which is the most-photographed mountain in Iceland. You’ll recognize it from its feature in the Game of Thrones series, in which it was known as “Arrowhead Mountain”. Snæfellsnes is a two-hour drive north of Reykjavík. It makes a great start to your ring-road journey if you’re traveling clockwise, or a great ending if counter-clockwise.
How long should you take to drive around Iceland?
How long should you take to drive around Iceland? We recommend planning at least seven days for a ring road trip. However, the longer, the better. In spite of its small size, Iceland is so full of wonders that it requires proper exploration. There is an abundance of campsites, hostels, and hotels spread throughout the country, with varying prices to suit your budget. We have you covered on your rental car in Iceland and can recommend the best excursion companies for you to book with. Make the most of your time in Iceland with whale watching, glacier hiking, snorkeling, and ice-cave diving. Don’t forget to bring warm clothes and sturdy footwear, no matter the season. Iceland has famously mild, unpredictable weather and is entirely composed of sharp lava rock.
Samuel Hogarth, Cars Iceland.