The Ring Road in Iceland is one of the most popular road trip routes to drive in Iceland, take across the world – and with good reason. This Iceland loop road offer breathtaking landscapes and sceneries, but that's not it. The route also passes by numerous must-visit attractions and activities on the island.
In this article, we dive into everything Ring Road. From where it is and how long it is to places to stay, a detailed itinerary, and tips on how to make it the best road trip ever. So, if you’ve been playing around with the idea of driving the Ring Road in Iceland - this one’s for you.
Iceland's Ring Road in short
The following are some of the essential facts when planning a Ring Road trip to Iceland:
The Iceland Ring Road length: The Ring Road is an astonishing 1322 km in total.
The Iceland Ring Road Drive Time: It will take you about 17 hours to drive the Ring Road in Iceland if you never stop along the way.
The Iceland Ring Road Recommended Travel Time: Technically, you can drive the entire route in just 17 hours. Still, it is highly recommended that an Iceland Route 1 road trip should be no less than 7–10 days. In this article, our focus will be on an Iceland Ring Road itinerary of 10 days. Yet, we also have a well-thought-through Iceland Ring Road itinerary of 7 days for those who are unable to stay for longer than a week.
The Iceland Ring Road & the Need for a 4x4 Vehicle. Even though you will be encountering some unpaved roads whilst driving Route 1, renting a 4x4 in Iceland is not a necessity. But please discuss the matter with your rental agency. They'll guide you based on other routes you’re also planning on taking and the season you intend to visit the island.
When the Iceland Ring Road is Open. The Ring Road stays open all year round, but is also subject to sudden road closures due to the weather. That usually happens to all the other roads in Iceland. If you are planning on a winter trip to the island, you might find driving conditions a bit more challenging in the northern part of the Ring Road, though. So be prepared and ensure that you give yourself sufficient time in your Iceland Ring Road itinerary.
The Iceland Ring Road Attractions. Some of the Iceland Ring Road attractions to look forward to are the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, and the Myvatn Nature Baths. Some others are the Geysir Geothermal Area, the black sand beaches of Vik and much, much more.
Iceland Ring Road Trip Cost. Would you like a budget roughly $900 per person sharing for a 10-day Ring Road in Iceland itinerary? You'll then need to book cheaper accommodation options such as campsites along the way and limit the number of times you eat out. If you’re taking on a solo trip, you need to budget at least $1300. For budget details, read on.
What is the Ring Road in Iceland?
If you take a look at an Iceland Ring Road map, you will see that the Ring Road aka Route 1 in Iceland is a loop road that drives in a circle over the entire island.
The reason why Iceland Ring Road self-drive tours are so popular is that it gives you a taste of all the different landscapes Iceland has to offer. The route connects most towns and cities, and the Iceland Ring Road stops include some of the must-visit places on the island.
To plan your own Ring Road itinerary, we suggest that you take a look at an Iceland Ring Road map with all attractions highlighted. This way, you'll understand our 10-day Ring Road itinerary way better!
As we already mentioned, it is recommended that you plan your Route 1 road trip for no less than 7 days. We reckon that 10 days is the best number of days to take in and experience all the exciting attractions and activities along the Ring Road. In terms of budgeting for a 10-day itinerary, you’ll be looking at the following costs:
Accommodation (only if you’re taking the affordable options of hostels and campsites): $200 per person sharing or $400 solo.
Transportation (only affordable options such as public transport and car rentals, not taxis): $350 per person sharing or $700 solo.
Food (limiting eating out): $250 per person.
Attractions. Many attractions are free to visit in Iceland, such as National Parks or waterfalls. Still, there are certain museums, hot springs, etc. that has entry fees. So, this amount is impacted by what’s on your Iceland bucket list and in your bank account: from $50+.
Souvenirs & gifts (once again, completely up to you): $50+.
Driving on the Ring Road in Iceland
As we already touched on, the Ring Road in Iceland is open all year round. Although, road conditions can become tricky in the northern parts during the winter months. Keep in mind that sudden road closures can occur due to weather conditions all throughout the year.
We recommend that you always keep a close eye on the Iceland weather forecast and the Iceland road conditions before heading out. The route can be driven clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on your planned itinerary.
Keep in mind that the speed limit on Iceland’s Ring Road is 90 km, and Icelanders take speeding offenses very seriously. So, if you don’t want to have to remortgage your house to pay the extravagant fines on the island, you better watch that speedometer.
You are also not allowed to park or drive on the side of the road or DIY your own off-road route. This is for your own safety as well as the protection of the sensitive Iceland ecosystem. Especially in places with Iceland’s moss, they can take decades to recover once damaged.
Driving the Ring Road in Winter
Here, we just have to add a special “side note” to driving the Ring Road in winter. Driving in Iceland during wintertime can be challenging anywhere on the island. This includes the Ring Road and especially in the northern parts (as we’ve already mentioned).
It is crucial for you to have a discussion with your rental agency when visiting Iceland during winter. This is so they can advise you on which car rental will be best (2-wheel, 4x4, campervan, etc.).
They will also advise you on which accessories and gadgets will be helpful, which you can rent from them and where to find those that they don’t offer. Winter insurance needs also look different from that of the summer months, and they’ll be able to give advice and recommendations. As locals, they will also be able to give you some general tips on where to go, what roads and routes to avoid during the winter, and so forth.
Certain campsites, attractions, and activities will also be closed during the winter season. So, double-check before planning your itinerary and end up driving to unavailable places and things to do.
Top Tips for a Road Trip on Iceland's Ring Road
If this will be the first time you’re taking on a Ring Road road trip, the following helpful Iceland Ring Road tips will ensure a safe and memorable trip:
Stay on the right side of the Ring Road.
This may sound obvious, but habit is a terrible thing. Many who visit the island from places such as Australia, South Africa, and the UK often catch themselves veering back into the left lane. That in Iceland translates to heading straight into oncoming traffic in Iceland.
Don’t be too restrictive.
The Ring Road is not a race, and you’ll need to give yourself sufficient time and flexibility for the unexpected. You might end up driving longer than expected because of the beautiful landscape along the way. You may also encounter unplanned sudden road, attraction, or activity closures due to the Iceland weather. Or you may end up in traffic during the busy summer months.
You will need to be prepared for all these scenarios. Do have patience and ensure that these things don’t have a serious snowball effect on the rest of your itinerary and trip.
Remember to fuel up.
It’s easy to get lost in the road trip sauce and end up running out of gas whilst gawking at the amazing sights along the road. There are also not many gas stations in the more remote areas (such as between Vik and Myvatn). So, ensure you’re all fuelled up if you don’t want to spoil your road trip by driving the Ring Road on prayers and fumes.
Gas prices also differ between gas stations on the island, so if you’re keeping an eye on that budget, you’ll need to plan where you’ll be fuelling up ahead of time. Your rental agency and the locals will be happy to share their insights regarding this.
Do it yourself.
Many third parties are offering an Iceland Ring Road tour package. However, we always recommend that visitors drive the route themselves. Not only is it a more affordable option, but it gives you complete autonomy over your time and itinerary. It’s a great way to discover Iceland on a budget!
There’s no need to wait for Bill or Bob who wants to take that final 3000th photo of the falls. And you also don’t need to feel rushed to get out of the hot spring or miss the experience altogether.
Have Offline Maps.
You will have enough mobile phone and GPS signal coverage across most parts of the island. Now, as with most places, there are always spots where you receive that dreaded error message “connection failed”. The last place you want that to happen is on a poorly marked road in a remote part of Iceland. So, come prepared and download some offline maps or buy a hard copy.
Where to Stay on the Ring Road in Iceland
You will find all sorts of accommodation options along the Ring Road in Iceland. These cater to all types of people and budgets. So, whether you consider yourself a “roughing it” person or a fine diner, there are more than enough options. You'll have campsites, hotels, hostels, guesthouses, farmhouses, and Airbnbs to pick and choose from.
Just keep in mind that it is essential to book ahead of time when you intend to visit during the busy Iceland summer months. Below you’ll find some highly recommended options for all categories:
Iceland Ring Road Hotels
Iceland Hostels on the Ring Road
Iceland Ring Road Campsites
Iceland Guesthouses on the Ring Road
Iceland Ring Road Farmstays
Iceland Self-catering/Airbnbs on the Ring Road
Ring Road 10 Days Self-Drive Itinerary
Below you will find what we consider to be the perfect 10-day Ring Road itinerary:
Day 1: Morning Arrival at Keflavik Airport, Blue Lagoon, Reykjavík
Drive Time: 1 hour, 49 km in total. Main Attractions:
Where to Stay: Near Blue Lagoon or Reykjavík
Day 2: Kirkjufell & the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Drive Time: 4 hours, 300 km in total. Main Attractions:
Photographing Kirkjufell Mountain
Walking through Londrangar Lava Field
Visiting Arnarstapi Settlement
Exploring Vatnshellir Cave
Hiking to Glymur Waterfall
Where to Stay: Snæfellsnes Peninsula (either Hellnar or Arnarstapi)
Day 3: Drive to North Iceland
Drive Time: 6.5 hours, 480 km in total. Main Attractions:
Viewing Hvitserkur Rock Formation
Visiting Glaumbaer Turf Houses
Exploring Akureyri (the capital city of the north)
Where to Stay: Akureyri
Day 4: Godafoss & Husavik
Drive Time: 2 hours, 140 km in total. Main Attractions:
Visiting Godafoss Waterfall
Taking a Whale Watching Boat Tour in Husavik
Where to Stay: Myvatn
Day 5: Myvatn & Dettifoss
Drive Time: 3.5 hours, 225 km in total. Main Attractions:
Viewing Dettifoss Waterfall
Visiting Selfoss Waterfall (just upriver from Dettifoss)
Taking a dip in the Myvatn Nature Baths
Hiking Hverfjall Crater
Visiting Grjotagja Cave (a Game of Thrones shoot location)
Walking through Dimmuborgir Lava Field
Where to Stay: Second Night in Myvatn
Day 6: East Iceland
Drive Time: 4.8 hours, 350 km in total. Main Attractions:
Visiting Studlagil Canyon
Viewing Rjukandi Waterfall
Spotting Icelandic Puffins at Borgarfjördur (only during breeding season from May to August)
Where to Stay: Höfn
Day 7: Jökulsarlon Glacier Lagoon & Other Glacier Experiences
Drive Time: 2 hours, 140 km in total. Main Attractions:
Taking a boat tour on Jökulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Taking a stroll on Diamond Beach
Visiting Fjallsarlong Glacier Lagoon
Hiking to Svartifoss Waterfall
Hiking Vatnajökull Glacier
Where to Stay: Skaftafell
Day 8: The South Coast
Drive Time: 3.5 hours, 285 km in total. Main Attractions:
Photographing Fjadrargljufur Canyon
Taking a stroll on Reynisfjara Beach
Visiting Dyrholaey Lighthouse
Viewing Skogafoss Waterfall
Viewing Kvernufoss Waterfall
Viewing Gljufrabui Waterfall aka The Hidden Waterfall
Where to Stay: Fludir
Day 9: The Golden Circle
Drive Time: 2 hours, 125 km in total. Main Attractions:
Where to Stay: Reykjavík (check this post for more tips on where to stay in Reykjavik)
Day 10: Reykjavík & Flying Back Home
Drive Time: 1 hour, 49km in total. Main Attractions:
Everything you were unable to fit in on Day 1 in Reykjavík
Where to Stay: You’ll be homeward-bound on a plane
Wrapping Up: The Iceland Ring Road 10-day Itinerary in 7 Days
If you only have 1 week on the island, it is possible to modify our 10-day itinerary into a 7-day itinerary by combining Days 7 & 8 into one day. Your Iceland Ring Road itinerary for 7 days will then look like this:
Day 1: Arrival on the island, Blue Lagoon
Day 2: Drive to North Iceland
Day 3: Godafoss, Myvatn, Dettifoss
Day 4: East Iceland & Drive to Hofn
Day 5: Jökulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and the South Coast
Day 6: The Golden Circle & Reykjavík
Day 7: Flying Back Home
Iceland Ring Road Packages
As we’ve already mentioned, we always encourage visitors to opt for a self-drive tour in Iceland. Now, if you’ve really got your heart set on those pearls of wisdom that are shared on a guided tour. And, most importantly, you have some money to burn, then these are some of the tours to consider:
Is the Ring Road Really Worth it?
The Ring Road is an absolute must for anyone who wishes to experience Iceland at its best. You may tackle it via tour or rent a car in Iceland and do it yourself. Maybe, you'll stay at the best campsites in Iceland along the Ring Road. Or perhaps you'll live in up in luxury at some of the best hotels in Iceland.
Whichever way you choose, you'll discover the incredible sceneries across the island. Just don’t try to do it in less than 7–10 days. You’ll be doing yourself a big disservice and robbing yourself of some once-in-a-lifetime views and experiences. Are you ready to tick off some of the most popular tourist spots on the Land of Fire and Ice?