The Diamond Circle in Iceland is a popular road trip route for any visitor. This is a great option for those wishing to discover all the exciting and breathtaking things the northeastern parts of the island have to offer. It is especially renowned for connecting three of the must-visit sights in Iceland.
If you’ve been itching to take on a Diamond Circle self-drive trip, then this article is for you. Here’s everything you need to know about the Diamond Circle route in Iceland:
What is the Diamond Circle in Iceland?
The Diamond Circle is a route that allows you to discover all the majestic landscapes and popular sights of northeastern Iceland. Since the area is situated on the Northern Volcanic Rift Zone, you can only imagine the interesting and unique experiences waiting for you on this journey.
If you take a look at a Diamond Circle in Iceland map, you’ll see that you can easily start your Diamond Circle journey from either the capital city of Reykjavík, Akureyri (considered to be the capital city of the north), or Husavik.
The Diamond Circle in Iceland: The Facts
If you’re planning a Diamond Circle trip to Iceland, these are some of the basic facts you need to know:
What is the length of the Diamond Circle in Iceland?
The Diamond Circle is approximately 310 km long.
How Long Does it Take to Drive the Diamond Circle in Iceland?
If you drive the route without stopping, you can complete it in a bit more than 4 hours.
What is the Recommended Diamond Circle Travel Time?
Despite being able to travel the entire route in a little over 4 hours if you drive non-stop, it would completely defy the point of the road trip. Generally, to take in and experience everything the route has to offer, it is recommended that you take at least 3-5 days.
Do I Need a 4x4 to Drive the Diamond Circle in Iceland?
Since the Diamond Circle is a paved main road, you won’t need a 4x4 to access it, but in Iceland, renting a 4x4 camper is never a bad idea. Keep in mind that road conditions all across the island become tricky to navigate during the winter season. So, if that’s when you’re planning your trip, we highly recommend that you have a chat with your rental agency regarding which type of vehicle they’d suggest.
Is the Diamond Circle in Iceland Open All Year?
Officially, the Diamond Circle is open to the public all year round, but just like the rest of the roads on the island, it is subject to sudden road closures. These are usually due to unforeseen circumstances and the Iceland weather conditions.
As we already explained, the winter season also impacts the route, and the Diamond Circle is known to close pretty quickly. This is especially true when snow enters the picture.
What Attractions Can Be Found Along the Diamond Circle in Iceland?
The route has many breathtaking views and landscapes. Yet, it is especially known for three main attractions on the island, as well as a popular activity in one of the towns. These are Lake Myvatn, Dettifoss Waterfall, Asbyrgi Canyon, and whale watching in Husavik. The latter is known as the whale watching capital of Iceland.
Approximately How Much Does a Diamond Circle Trip in Iceland Cost?
This will depend solely on the type of accommodation you prefer. Whether you want to eat out or cook for yourself, or which places you want to visit. Although most Iceland attractions such as the waterfalls and national parks are free, other things such as museums and geothermal pools will charge an entrance fee. Generally speaking, if you travel frugally (camping, cooking, etc.), you can get away with roughly $250 per person per day.
Driving on the Diamond Circle in Iceland
As we already mentioned, driving on the Diamond Circle is possible all year round and, as a paved main road, can be driven with a 2-wheel drive. This may change during the winter season when road conditions can become tricky to navigate and sudden road closures become more prevalent.
Irrespective of the season, we recommend that you always keep a close eye on the Iceland weather forecast and the Iceland road conditions. This will avoid driving into a nasty surprise. Also, keep in mind that the speed limit on the Diamond Circle is 90 km/h and parking and driving can only be done on designated parking spots and clearly marked roads.
The Icelanders don’t take kindly to those not adhering to traffic laws. If you don’t adhere to speed limits or other rules of the road, you’ll end up with such a hefty fine that you might start considering selling a kidney.
Driving the Diamond Circle in Winter
It becomes extra important to keep an eye on the Iceland weather forecast and the Iceland road conditions before heading out on the Diamond Circle during the winter months. Not only are road conditions tricky to navigate at the best of times, but this route is prone to quick closures, especially when it starts snowing.
If you’re going to be visiting during the wintertime, we also recommend that you have a chat with your rental agent. This way, they can advise you on which type of vehicle, accessories, gadgets, or insurance options you may need to consider during this time.
Top Tips for a Diamond Circle Road Trip
Whether it’s going to be your first trip to Iceland or just your first time taking on the Diamond Circle, these tips will ensure that you have a safe and memorable trip:
The Right is Right
We’re talking about the right side of the road. If you’re coming from the UK, Australia, or South Africa, you’ll need to stay super focused whilst driving in Iceland. This way, you don't fall into the habit of driving on the left side of the road and playing chicken with oncoming traffic.
Focus on Fuel
There are two things to remember when it comes to fuel in Iceland. One, you need to ensure that you constantly fill up in the more remote regions, as gas stations become few and far between there. And two, gas stations don’t all charge the same prices for gas in Iceland. We suggest having a chat with your rental agency or some locals to get the inside scoop on where to fill up – especially if you’re on a tight budget.
Keep Offline Maps or Hard Copies Close By
As with most countries in the world, there can be more than enough connectivity. That's until you reach that one spot where it just seems to drop for no reason or gets blocked by mountains. This is why we always recommend that visitors download a few offline maps or keep a few old school hard copy maps close by. You don’t want to get lost in the more remote parts of the island.
Where to Stay on the Diamond Circle in Iceland
Whether you prefer “roughing it” or lounging in luxury, there are more than enough types of accommodation to suit your needs and budget all along the route. The following are a few options you can consider in each accommodation category:
Diamond Circle Hotels
Diamond Circle Hostels
Diamond Circle Campsites
Diamond Circle Guesthouses
Diamond Circle Farmstays
Diamond Circle Self-catering/Airbnbs
A 5-day Diamond Circle, Iceland Self-drive Itinerary
Although it is possible to start your Diamond Circle self-drive from Akureyri or Reykjavík, our itinerary leaves from Husavik:
Day 1: Husavik
Day 2: Asbyrgi Canyon – Vesturdalur Valley – Dettifoss Waterfall
Day 3: Lake Myvatn
Day 4: Krafla Volcano & Crater Lake – Hverir Geothermal Area – Dimmuborgir Lava Fields
Day 5: Godafoss Waterfall
Tours and Packages of the Diamond Circle in Iceland
We believe that the best way to explore the island via the Diamond Circle is to do the drive yourself. Not only does this make you the captain of your own time and itinerary, but it’s also the more affordable option. But some enjoy the small group guided tours more and if you have some money to burn, the following are Diamond Circle tours that come highly recommended:
Is a Diamond Circle Road Trip Really Worth It?
In our opinion, this would be like asking what the worth of a real diamond is. As a route that takes visitors to some of the most breathtaking sights on the island, some of the must-visit places in Iceland, and allows you to experience some of the most loved attractions and activities, it’s an absolute no-brainer whether the Diamond Circle should be on the to-do list of any trip to Iceland.
If you want to be more budget-conscious and camp in comfort, rent a campervan in Reykjavik and explore the Diamond Circle route that way. The famous song says “diamonds are forever”. Well, so are the memories you make on the Diamond Circle in Iceland.