Iceland Off the Beaten Path: Into the Wild
Updated: Nov 10, 2022
Planning your Icelandic itinerary might be quite challenging. Especially if your aim is to visit places that are not among the most popular destinations. If you love remote places and undiscovered destinations, in this article we will give you some ideas for an Iceland off-road trip.
Going off the Beaten Path in Iceland
The remote and beautiful Iceland used to feel very much off the beaten path as a whole, but it has experienced a big surge of visitors over the last decade or so. Reykjavík’s streets are busy with tourists, so you’ll almost certainly have company at nearly all the main sights.
For many travelers who come to Iceland, off-road driving is a dream come true. What used to be wild and inaccessible places, such as the Stokkur geyser and Jokulsarlon lagoon, are now frequently visited.
If you are willing to venture a little further afield, then you’ll find plenty of secret places; and if you’re up for some proper Iceland hiking, then you can easily disappear into the landscape. Experiencing beautiful scenery or a place far from the crowds is many travelers’ idea of heaven.
We have rounded up a handful of the best places to visit in Iceland, considered some of the most beautiful wild or less-visited Icelandic destinations. Breathtaking views and landscapes await those willing to get out there and explore! Book your camper now and start planning your Iceland off-road expedition today!
A few basics about driving in Iceland
Exploring the Golden Circle and the Icelandic Ring Road are wonderful experiences, both being well-traveled routes. To take a road trip that’s more out of the ordinary, we recommend renting a 4x4 camper or car, which will allow you to explore the more inaccessible corners of Iceland.
If this is the first time you will be driving a 4x4 on a gravel road, here are a few safety tips:
Make sure your rental vehicle is in good condition and has a proper insurance
Drive slowly on curved and narrow paths
Always stick to the speed limit
Make sure you choose a safe route
Add some extra time to your itinerary in case of emergency
Check the weather forecast in advance
4x4 vehicles allow you to drive through the most remote areas of Iceland. However, it is important to remember that it is forbidden to drive off authorized roads.
There are many roads across the country that you can only navigate in a 4x4 vehicle. These roads are commonly known as F-Roads, wild and tough tracks that will now be within your grasp. They will be far less traveled than most of the rest, which will add a note of adventure.
Out-of-the-ordinary road trips in Iceland
It's almost impossible to point out all the off-the-beaten-path places, as Iceland is a place of endless possibilities. Here are a couple of our favorite rough and tough road trips for your Iceland itinerary.
The Icelandic Highlands
This is the classic 4x4 road trip that takes you up into the epic landscapes of the Icelandic Highlands. Set on a volcanic plateau around five hundred feet above sea level, this vast stretch of land is stunning and stark. In places, you’ll find gurgling mud pots and geothermal activity bubbling beneath the surface, in some cases erupting in steam.
Landmannalaugar or ‘Rainbow Mountains’ is the trademark of the south part of the Highlands. It is a wonderfully remote place that is only accessible in 4x4 vehicles. Swathes of rust-red earth stretch as far as the eye can see from around June to August.
If you want to see the truly wild and rough Iceland, you should go up north on an excursion to Askja. The dark landscapes of lava and fumaroles will make you appreciate the island's volcanic power.
The Westfjords are one of the most remote corners of Iceland. They used to be pretty inaccessible for much of the year, with high mountain passes and rough roads that required some serious 4x4 driving. However, things have recently changed in the region with the introduction of a new Westfjords Ring Road.
It is still an off-the-beaten-path place to explore for now, but it has been made much more accessible with the introduction of the Ring Road. Regular camper vans can now comfortably visit and enjoy this sparsely inhabited landscape of fjords and pristine wilderness.
Secret places off the beaten path in Iceland
The Eastern portion of the Ring Road is far less visited than the south and the north ones. Many road-trippers will explore the many sights of South Iceland and then turn back. There are many secret and hidden stops and detours along Highway One. Here are a few of the most recommended stops Iceland has to offer:
Studlagil Basalt Canyon
This incredible basalt canyon lies in East Iceland, within hiking distance of the town of Egilsstadir. The rock formations here are similar to those found at the famous black sand beach Reynisfjara.
These sky-high basalt columns are cut through with startling blue glacial waters. It is a truly epic place that will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a storybook landscape.
Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon
If you’ve researched a trip to Iceland, then you’ve probably come across the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. The Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon is no less impressive; it lies just a short drive away from its more famous neighbor. There will be far fewer other visitors here and you’ll be able to enjoy uninterrupted views.
The waters of the lagoon are awash with sculptural icebergs that have broken off from the main glacier. Only in this lagoon, there will be no boat trips and tour groups disturbing the tranquility.
Hofsos Infinity Pool
Up in North Iceland, the small town of Hofsos might not be super remote, but it is definitely out there. The town sits at the end of the evocatively named Tröllaskagi Peninsula or Troll Peninsula. What sets it apart is its outstandingly positioned thermal swimming pool.
The infinity pool is perched on a cliff edge, looking out across the waters of the neighboring fjord. The Troll Peninsula is a popular place for skiing in winter. Heading to the pool after a day on the slopes, with the Northern Lights dancing across the skyline, is the ultimate experience.
New attractions in Iceland
As well as wild and remote places in Iceland, many of its newest attractions are not that busy, as not everybody has heard of them and they haven't become that famous yet. Seeking out these novel additions to Iceland’s many attractions can help you avoid the crowds, especially in those places that require some off-road driving.
Below you will be able to find a few great alternatives to visit during your time in Iceland. Feel free to add them to your bucket list and use them for your next Iceland off-road adventure.
The Fagradalsfjall Volcano Eruption
Iceland is known as ‘The Land of Fire and Ice’ with its many glaciers and volcanoes, and although visiting a glacier is very popular, not everyone is lucky enough to witness an erupting volcano.
Around the time this article was written, late in 2021, there was an eruption going on. The Fagradalsfjall Volcano on the Reykjanes Peninsula was spewing molten lava and steam. Located relatively close to the capital city, you can quite easily visit the site and see how amazing the volcano's power is and how it changed the surrounding area's landscape.
Sky Lagoon Thermal Spa is new on our ‘Iceland off-road must-see places’ list. This is Iceland’s newest spa and it really is a beauty. Of course, everyone has heard of the famous Blue Lagoon in Iceland but the Sky Lagoon is no less impressive and only opened its doors in April 2021.
This means that it hasn’t yet built up a strong reputation and so far has far fewer visitors – for now! The Sky Lagoon is just a twenty-minute drive from central Reykjavík, located at Kársnes Harbor in Kópavogur.
Iceland off the beaten track
Camping among endless greenery, spending your morning with a cup of coffee in hand while gazing at beautiful mountains on the horizon, or watching the Northern Lights immersed in a hot spring are only a few of the magical things that Iceland has to offer.
Why dream about all of these things when you can experience them for real? Rent a 4x4 camper for your Icelandic adventure, giving you an unparalleled sense of freedom and endless possibilities. F-roads are no longer an obstacle when visiting the most remote corners of ‘The Land of Fire and Ice’, so get started today!