Welcome to Iceland, where the rugged and natural beauty can be found in icy blue waterfalls, black beaches, massive volcanos, and sparkling northern lights. Unlike other spots around the world, Iceland’s wild (and relatively untouched) landscape demands to be conquered slowly, carefully, and on its own terms.
Road tripping across Iceland is undisputedly the best way to digest all of its natural beauty. Renting a camper van, cooking your own meals, and carving your own path as you drive from waterfall to mountain to lake to beach is an Icelandic vacation done right.
When on the road, you can see, feel and experience Iceland’s landscape for yourself. You can stay as long as you want. You can hike, explore, and fully absorb life on the open road. Ready for the road trip of a lifetime? Ranging from one day to 10, here are some of Iceland’s most rewarding drives and itineraries:
The Golden Circle | 1 Day
The Golden Circle is an easy route that can comfortably be done in a day, so it’s no wonder why this is the most popular route to take if you have a jam-packed itinerary. The whole trip is just over 300 km (190 mi) long and delights you with cascading waterfalls, exploding geysers, and breathtaking glaciers.
Day 1: Heading northeast on the Ring Road, the first stop is Thingvellir National Park, the location of Iceland’s first Parliament (all the way back in 930 AD). It’s also filled with unique, natural wonders like the giant tectonic rift where the American & Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly separating. Here, you can see the beautiful, shaggy Icelandic horses roaming free. From the park, the next stop is at the exploding geysers in Haukadalur. Watching the earth churn up boiling hot water is an unforgettable experience.
To conclude your day on the road, you’ll want to visit the majestic Gullfoss waterfall that falls 100 feet into the earth, often creating rainbows in the surrounding mist. Then,slowly make your way back to the city.
The Snæfellnes Peninsula | 2-3 Days
This epic two to three day road trip takes you around some Iceland’s hidden gems. While not as popular as the Southern Iceland trails, it’s just as easy to traverse by taking Road 54 (also known as Snaefellsnesvegur), which circumnavigates most of the major sites. Stunning glaciers, sparkling fjords, and fairy-tale-like landscapes are just a few of the sights on offer here, and the colourful fishing towns dotted around are like something lifted out of folklore. When taking this route, you can either make a full loop of the peninsula or use the north and south mountain passes, which can make the drive more manageable.
Day 1: On the northern end of this route, you’ll see the epic Kirkjufell mountain, one of the most photographed spots in Iceland. Don’t forget to drop by the picturesque town of Grundarfjordur. As you carry on, you can visit the famous Budir Black Church. It’s the only black church on the peninsula and the spotlight in many an Insta photo.
Days 2-3: Some of the unmissable scenery on this route includes the Londrangar Basalt Cliffs, a stunning sweep of dramatic landscape that’ll leave you breathless. The incredible Snaefellsjökull Glacier, which sits on top of an active volcano, can be seen up close from Snaefellsjökull National Park or from the entrance to the 800-year-old Vatnshellir Lava Cave. It’s no wonder this trip is quickly becoming one of the most popular road trips to take in Iceland, particularly if you love a mixture of small towns, incredible nature (and have limited time for driving around).
The South Iceland Route | 4-5 Days
Day 1: The South Iceland route is a great way to experience a spectrum of Iceland’s natural highlights and spend time enjoying Reykjavik. Start with the magnificent Seljalandsfoss, the 65-metre waterfall that you can walk behind and to the top of (don’t forget to wear something waterproof!). You can then carry on and stop off at Skogafoss waterfall, walking the 370 steps to the top for immense views. The final stop on your first day is the coolest thing to do in Iceland: walk on a glacier. The Solheimajokull glacier extends from the Myrdalsjokull glacier, forming a cap over the active volcano beneath. If you have extra time, you can visit the abandoned US Navy aeroplane on Solheimasandur for some awesome pictures.
Days 4-5: After exploring these immense natural wonders, you’ll end up back in the city where you can grab a hot dog, visit some of the local attractions, like The Blue Lagoon, or visit the famous Hallgrimskirkja church.
The Ring Road | 7-10 Days
The road trip to end all road trips, the Ring Road covers the entire country along Route 1 and involves 800 miles of stunning scenery. While Iceland isn’t a large country and you could definitely drive this route in less than a week, the ten days account for all the incredible stops you’re going to be itching to take along the way.
Days 1-4: You start off this epic trail with The Golden Circle route mentioned above, but with time for extras like hiking the epic Solheimajokull glacier and picture taking on Solheimasan. The route carries on along the South Coast and offers frosty ice caves, iceberg lagoons, and the Svartifoss Black Waterfall, as well as the wonders of The South Iceland Route.
Days 4-7: Once you get to the East Coast, you’ll find the roads are a lot quieter since most of the tour buses don’t reach that far. In many places, you’ll feel like you have the whole world to yourself. Some East Coast gems include Jökulsárlón Lagoon and the vast and photogenic Vestrahorn mountain. When you reach the north of Iceland, you can try the incredible reindeer safari, a favourite among many visitors; seeing reindeer in their natural habitat is truly amazing.
Days 7-10: Finish off by doing The Snæfellnes Peninsula and head back to Reykjavik. The beauty of doing the whole island is stopping at the tiny towns in between the incredible sites along the way, and this Ring Road route leaves you with an image of Iceland you’ll never forget.