Ultimate Guide to Driving Iceland’s Ring Road - Travel Tips

Updated: Nov 11

As one of the most scenic road trips in the world, driving Iceland’s spectacular Ring Road is up there on many people’s travel bucket lists. The two-lane Route One, or the Ring Road as it is more commonly known, loops around Iceland’s beautiful coastline. This road will take you through some of the most stunning landscapes you’ve ever seen.


Expect to be dazzled by wild Atlantic black sand beaches, glowing glacier caves and ice caps. Top it off with imposing volcanoes and powerful waterfalls! In our ultimate guide to Iceland’s Ring Road, you’ll discover the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about driving the Ring Road in Iceland. And, of course, we'll include the not-to-be-missed highlights of Iceland’s Ring Road from South to North.


Ring road Iceland

Where is the Ring Road in Iceland?


The paved highway that is Iceland’s Ring Road encircles the whole country, stretching around the entire island along the coast. You’ll be able to visit North, East, South and West Iceland by traveling along the Ring Road.


Easy to join from Reykjavík, the Ring Road can take you on a truly awe-inspiring trip around Iceland. Deriving this route will allow you to experience wonders across this magical island.


Map of the Ring Road in Iceland

How long does it take to drive Iceland’s Ring Road route?


The Ring Road in Iceland stretches 1322 kilometers right around the outer edge of Iceland. For those who would prefer a measurement of the Iceland Ring Road in miles, that’s around 822 miles. Making for a spectacular bucket list Iceland road trip, the pretty and scenic Ring Road is nothing like the busy main highways of most other countries.


You can drive right around the country in a couple of days, but this would defeat the object of soaking in the beauty of Iceland’s landscapes. We recommend that a comfortable amount of time to explore Iceland’s Ring Road would be around seven nights. However, if you want to take your time, then ten nights just for the Ring Road would be ideal.


You could easily spend four weeks exploring it, but most of us don’t have the luxury of so much time. If you’d prefer a slow travel itinerary in Iceland that allows you to relax along the way, you’ll definitely find enough to see and do by following the Ring Iceland.


How busy is the Ring Road in Iceland?


On the whole, the Ring Road isn’t overly busy. However, in the height of the tourism season (June to August) the southern roads can get very busy. That's because guided tours from Reykjavík often cover the South Coast portion of the Ring Road.


It’s quite likely that you will come across several buses a day if you’re driving the Ring in Iceland at this time of year. As you follow the route towards North Iceland, the road becomes noticeably quieter, and you may often have the road all to yourself.


Driving the ring road Iceland

When is the best time of year to drive the Iceland Ring Road?


As you’re considering when to go on your self-drive road trip in Iceland, one important factor you might want to consider is the driving conditions during different times of the year. Here are some things to consider when driving the Ring Road in Iceland during the summer and winter season.


Driving Iceland’s Ring Road in Summer


We recommend between late April to early October as the best time of year to drive Iceland’s Ring Road. Driving around the Ring Road in Iceland during the summer months, as well as late spring and early fall, offers the best chance of calmer weather and hazard-free roads.


Although Iceland’s weather is famously changeable and unpredictable, during the summer months it’s more settled. It makes driving easier and more enjoyable. The number of daylight hours is another important factor to consider. There will be plenty more hours to drive in daylight conditions, see the sights and even opportunities to enjoy the midnight sun!


Summer is the perfect time of year to drive Iceland’s Ring Road by campervan, making use of Iceland’s campsites along the way. Renting a car and bringing along a tent for camping is another brilliant option for an Iceland Ring Road camping adventure during the high season.


Driving Iceland in summer

Driving Iceland’s Ring Road in Winter


Visiting Iceland in winter offers you the opportunity to experience the country’s breathtaking landscapes differently. The country is draped in a blanket of snow underneath moody skies and a gorgeous golden twilight glow. If you travel later in the year from around mid-October, you will have the chance to hunt for the Northern Lights, too!


However, driving the Ring Road in Iceland during winter is much more tricky. There are far fewer daylight hours, both for sightseeing and enjoying the scenery as you drive. It’s important to be aware that the Ring Road can actually close at certain points if a storm blows in, which isn’t uncommon during winter.


Driving in Iceland in winter

Top Tips for Driving Iceland’s Ring Road

  • Check the weather forecast before setting out – Although summer is the best time to drive Iceland’s Ring Road due to the better weather, there may still be some disruptive weather that could hinder your plans. We recommend checking the weather forecast beforehand. Also, give yourself some extra time when planning trips.

  • Be aware of lane changes – Route One is usually two lanes, but occasionally drops to a single lane as it crosses over a bridge or two. The road gets wider in some places, too.

  • Research gas stations to save money – As gas prices in Iceland are expensive compared to most countries, we recommend researching the brand of gas station and prices ahead of time. This will help save yourself some money along the way.

  • Be patient and plan in extra time – Driving in Iceland is likely to be very different from the driving you’re used to at home. We then recommend setting out with plenty of time to spare and being patient as you traverse the Ring Road. This will also give you extra time to stop and admire any unexpected sights along the way!


Highlights of the Iceland Ring Road


From North to East to West to South, the Ring Road will take you to unbelievably beautiful places around Iceland. Let’s explore some of our top picks for Ring Road Iceland destinations not to miss!


South Iceland Ring Road Highlights


After picking up your rental vehicle in Iceland at the airport, you have the freedom to head straight out on the road, exploring the stunning South Coast of Iceland. Get ready for some jaw-dropping sights as you visit the highlights of this beautiful coastline.


Seljalandsfoss Waterfall


The first place to stop on the southbound Ring Road. Here, you can walk behind the cascading Seljalandsfoss Waterfall! Just follow the path that leads around the falling curtain of water and witness a waterfall from the inside!


highlights of the ring road, Iceland

Skogafoss Waterfall


Another must-see, Skogafoss is a beautiful and powerful single drop waterfall 25 meters wide and 60 meters high. Its location marks the former edge of Iceland’s coastline.


The ring Iceland: Skogafoss

Vik and its Black Sand Beaches


The lovely little town of Vik and its black sand beaches makes a great base to spend the night on your Iceland Ring Road camping adventure.


Near to this picturesque town, you will find the magical beach of Reynisfjara. This beach was voted one of the best beaches in the world by National Geographic. View the wild Atlantic waters, striking black sand, towering cliffs and imposing basalt rock formations for yourself.


Iceland ring road best attractions

East Iceland Ring Road Highlights


As you head southeast you will be entering the realms of the majestic Vatnajökull National Park. This is the biggest of the National Parks in Iceland, covering around 14% of the country. As you skirt the East Coast of Iceland, you will be driving between the ocean and the park.


Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon


Winding through the lush green landscape, this beautiful river canyon is the perfect place to stretch your legs along your Iceland Ring Road tour. Located just off of the road, Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is almost 2 kilometers long and 100 meters deep.


Iceland Road Trip, Ring Road

Svartifoss Waterfall and the Skaftafell Nature Reserve


Now part of Vatnajökull National Park, Skaftafell Nature Reserve is a seriously beautiful area where many travelers choose to spend a few days hiking. Within its boundaries, you’ll find glacier views and the impressive Svartifoss Waterfall, which is lined by striking black lava columns.


Ring road Iceland main stops

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon


This wide glacial lagoon forms a channel that carries ice from the Vatnajökull Glacier out into the ocean. Right across the surface of the lake, visitors can observe beautiful floating icebergs of all shapes and sizes. Take a boat trip across the lagoon during summer. You can also embark on a once-in-a-lifetime glacier hike to explore this impressive lagoon for yourself.


Iceland glacier lagoon

Diamond Beach


Just across the road, you’ll find Diamond Beach. Its black sand is dotted with pieces of ice. From tiny pebble-sized chunks to iceberg-size rocks of ice, that glint like diamonds against the dark sands. Make sure to bring your camera for this one!


Best stops Iceland's Ring Road

The Road to Höfn


As you continue to drive up the East Coast of Iceland, you’ll pass through dramatic landscapes of mountains and fjords. One of the most distinctive sights is the Vestrahorn Mountain, with its spiky pinnacles.


You’ll also pass through several pretty small towns, with one of the nicest being the fishing village of Höfn where you can enjoy fresh seafood in summer. This whole section of Iceland’s Ring Road is much quieter, as it marks the end of the busier south/southeast area where tours often visit from Reykjavík.


Ring road stops, East Iceland

North Iceland Ring Road Highlights


North Iceland is quite a mountainous area and includes many sights along what is often referred to as the Diamond Circle.


Many of these natural wonders lie a little way off of the Ring Road and often are down some trickier roads. Well worth the trip, we recommend just factoring in a little extra time to visit these sights.


Dettifoss Waterfall


Europe’s most powerful waterfall in terms of flow, Dettifoss lies a little way off of the Ring Road down a gravel road. Seeing and hearing this staggeringly powerful waterfall is an incredible experience.


Detiffoss waterfall, North Iceland

Lake Mývatn


The area around Lake Mývatn has a lot to offer with mineral-rich hot springs, fascinating lava caves and interesting rock formations. Perfect for bird watching, Lake Mývatn is also a great place to stay for the night, as the next two highlights are close by.


Ring road North Iceland

Hverir Geothermal Area


This bubbling geothermal area boasts mud pots and steam fumaroles. Certainly, something to make sure you experience during your time in Iceland!


Hverir Geothermal Area

Lake Myvatn Nature Baths


The Blue Lagoon of the North, Myvatn Nature Baths are much quieter and more peaceful. Centered around a natural hot spring in the lake, these milky blue waters offer a wonderful relaxation opportunity after a long day of driving.


Húsavík


A coastal town about a forty-minute drive from Myvatn off of the Ring Road, Húsavík is the place to be if you would like to take a whale watching boat tour.


Ring road stops, north Iceland

Goðafoss Waterfall


Translating to ‘Waterfall of the Gods’, the dramatic horseshoe-shaped Godafoss Waterfall lies just a couple of minutes off of the Ring Road in Iceland. You can soak in the amazing panoramic view of this powerful waterfall from several viewpoints.


Iceland Ring road's landscapes

Akureyri


As the biggest town in North Iceland and the second-largest settlement in Iceland, Akureyi hosts many interesting cultural activities, including museums and food tours. There is also a popular winter ski area nearby.


Akureyri, north Iceland

West Iceland Ring Road Highlights


Many of the most beautiful sights in West Iceland lie quite a drive off of the Ring Road. Depending on how much time you have, you might want to take some 3-5 day detours here.


One popular option is to head West to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Another would be to head into the remote but spectacular Westfjords. This much-less visited area of Iceland has a wild beauty that avid adventurers will love.


Deildartunguhver


The Deildartunguhver Hot Springs are hot, hot, hot! This is one of the hottest thermal pools in Iceland, so it’s not one for swimming in. Also, the most powerful hot spring in Europe, Deildartunguhver has a flow rate of 180 liters per second.


Deildartunguhver hot spring

Hraunfossar and Barnafoss


Two of the loveliest waterfalls in Iceland, Hraunfossar and Barnafoss are both within easy walking distance of each other. You’ll need to take a short 30-40 minute detour from the Ring Road to see these beautiful waterfalls, which are around 100 kilometers from Reykjavík.


West Iceland Ring Road Highlights

Time to Explore – Let’s Hit the Ring Road!


Ready to explore all the stunning sights of Iceland’s Ring Road for yourself? Let’s hit the road! All you need is your campervan rental in Iceland, a bag of essentials and this Ring Road Iceland itinerary, then you’re good to go. Don’t forget your spirit of adventure, too!

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