The Ultimate Guide to an Iceland Road Trip
Updated: 2 days ago
We believe that the best way to explore the island is by making a road trip out of it. Luckily, there are plenty of popular routes here on the island that guarantee you the Iceland road trip of a lifetime.
So, if you’ve always dreamt about hitting the road and discovering the island, this article is for you. We give you the low-down on each of the famous routes. We'll include easy-to-follow itineraries for each, helpful tips, and which types of vehicles to use.
The 5 Favorite Road Trip Routes in Iceland
There are five routes here on the island that are ideal and extremely popular for road trips. They are the Golden Circle, the Ring Road, the Westfjords Way, the South Coast Way, and the Arctic Coast Way. Below we will discuss each in detail, and provide you with an itinerary and costs, so you can decide which is the right road trip route for you:
The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is, as the name suggests, a circular loop road in the southern part of Iceland. It is 300 kilometers long and begins and ends in the capital city of Reykjavík.
One can actually drive the entire route in just 3 hours without stopping. Nevertheless, this is not advisable, since there are many must-see and must-do attractions and activities all along the way. We suggest road-tripping the Golden Circle at least for a couple of days to experience everything this route has to offer.
A 2-day Iceland Road Trip Itinerary of the Golden Circle
Below, you will find how to road trip the Golden Circle in two days:
Day 1: Reykjavík, Thingvellir National Park & the Reykjadalur Valley
Start your journey from the capital city of Reykjavík. Thereafter, you will explore the national park. Enjoy all the interesting activities inside before heading out to Reykjadalur Valley. There, you can relax in some natural hot springs after a short hike. Sleep over in Hveragerdi.
Day 2: Nesjavellir, Kerid, Bruarfoss, Gullfoss, and Geysir
Take a hike around Nesjavellir Geothermal Area and then drive to Kerid Crater to marvel at the blue-green water of the lake. From here you will continue with the water theme and visit Bruarfoss Waterfall and Gullfoss Waterfall. Afterward, before ending the day, you'll watch bubbling mud pits and erupting geysers in the Geysir Geothermal Area. Head back to Reykjavík.
The Cost of a Golden Circle in Iceland Road Trip
Below is a detailed cost breakdown of a Golden Circle road trip that you can use as a reference to create your budget:
Rental Vehicle x 2 days = +/- $128 @ $64 per day (depending on which type of vehicle you rent)
Gas x 300 km = +/- $60 (depending on which type of vehicle you rent)
Accommodation per person x 1 night = $20 - $400 (depending on the type of accommodation)
Attractions & Activities per person = dependent on what you decide along the way. All attractions/activities on our itinerary are free except for Kerid Crater which is roughly $3.10.
The Ring Road
The Ring Road is considered to be Iceland’s highway (although it might not be the type of highway you’re used to). This is because the Ring Road, or Route 1 as it’s also known, connects the majority of the major towns and cities in the country. But this also makes it a great route for a road trip if you want to explore the island.
The Ring Road goes in a circle all around the country. As you can imagine, is accessible via most of the towns/cities in Iceland. Still, most visitors tend to begin and end their Ring Road road trip in Reykjavík. The route is a total of 1328 kilometers, and it can technically be driven in just 17 hours in the height of summer without stopping. However, it is generally recommended that you take at least a week for a Ring Road road trip.
A 7-day Iceland Road Trip Itinerary of the Ring Road
Below, you will find how to road trip the Ring Road in seven days:
Day 1: Arrive in Reykjavík & Drive to Saeberg
The time you arrive in Iceland will dictate how much time you have to explore Reykjavík. Know that you’ll still need to drive north to Saeberg where you will be spending the night. If you have enough time, you can even make a quick stop at the Grabrok Volcano along the way.
Day 2: Saeberg – Akureyri
Make your first stop at Glaumbaer Museum. You can also visit the Hvitserkur Rock Formation. Thereafter, you can take a short detour via Route 76 to explore the Trollaskagi Peninsula. Then go and gawk at the views the Eyjafjordr Fjord has to offer. Once you arrive at Akureyri, you can spend time discovering the city ‘till you call it a night and head for your accommodation.
Day 3: Akureyri – Mödrudalur
Head towards Myvatn via the Vadlaheidargöng Tunnel (and remember to pay the toll online). Along the way, you can stop at Godafoss Waterfall and take a hike to Hverfjall Crater. Then explore the bubbling pots at Hverir Geothermal Area and visit the Viti Crater Lake.
Thereafter, you can head out to Dettifoss Waterfall and then grab an authentic Iceland dinner at Mödrudalur Farm. That's where you will also be spending the night.
Day 4: Mödrudalur – East Fjords
Start the day off by hiking Studlagil. Make a quick stop at Rjukandi Waterfall, and then you can take a dip at the Vök Thermal Pools. Drive to Egilsstadir before taking another quick detour via the Fjardarheidi Mountain Pass (Route 93). This will take you to Seydisfjördur. Visit Faskrudsfjördur before opting to overnight by camping or staying at the guesthouse at Fossardalur. Alternatively, you can book a room in Hotel Framtid.
Day 5: East Fjords – Glacial Lakes
The journey today will start by driving the coastline via the Ring Road. Here you will hit popular attractions such as Lækjavik and Hvalnes Nature Reserve, Vestrahorn Mountain, and black sand beaches. Visit the city of Höfn and then head out to Vatnajökull National Park. Here you will stop at Jökulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, Diamond Beach, and the Fjallsarlon Lagoon. Sleep over at the Hof Adventure Hotel or Fosshotel.
Day 6: Glacial Lakes – Vik
Start your day off by hiking to Svinafellsjökull Glacier. Then take a quick detour to Fjadrargljufur Canyon. Thereafter, head to Vik and explore the city and surrounds, including the popular black sand beaches of Vik. This is also where you will spend the night.
Day 7: Return to Reykjavík
Get an early start and head out to Reynisfjara black sand beach and take a hike up to Dyrholaey. If you’re visiting between May and August, you might even spot a few Iceland Puffins. Then take a drive to Skogafoss Waterfall, and, if you’re still making good time, you can also take a quick hike to the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck. Try to stop at Seljalandsfoss Waterfall as well before returning to Reykjavík and sleep in the city for the night.
The Cost of a Ring Road in Iceland Road Trip
Below is a detailed cost breakdown of a Ring Road road trip that you can use as a reference to create your budget:
Rental Vehicle x 7 days = +/- $448 @ $64 per day (depending on which type of vehicle you rent)
Gas x 1328 km = +/- $300 (depending on which type of vehicle you rent)
Accommodation per person x 7 nights = $140 - $2800 (depending on the type of accommodation)
Attractions & Activities per person = dependent on what you decide along the way, but most attractions/activities on our itinerary are free. Exceptions are things such as Glaumbaer Museum, the Vadlaheidargöng Tunnel, and the Vök Thermal Pools. We recommend that you budget at least an extra $20 per person per day to cover these costs.
The Westfjords Way
As the name suggests, the Westfjords Way is a loop route in Iceland that allows one to explore the Westfjords region. The route is approximately 1100 kilometers long and takes you to some of the most remote regions in the country.
We also recommend using a 4x4 vehicle for this route with its mixed tarmac and gravel roads. Once again, it is possible to drive the entire route in just 9 hours without stopping, but that defies the entire point of a road trip. We’d recommend that you set aside at least 3–5 days for a proper Westfjords Way road trip.
A 3-day Iceland Road Trip Itinerary of the Westfjords Way
Below you will find how to road trip the Westfjords Way in three days:
Day 1: Reykjavík – Patreksfjördur
This is a beautiful route all along the fjords. Along the way you can explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula where a visit to the Snæfellsjokull National Park is a must. Thereafter, you can head out to the Latrabjarg Cliffs and if it’s Puffins season you’ll be able to spot a few of them.
Then it’s time to head to Raudasandur Red Sand Beach. From there you go to visit the Svuntufoss Waterfall before taking a dip in the Patreksfjördur Swimming Pool and spending the night in town.
Day 2: Patreksfjördur – Isafjördur
Today is not a very long drive, but there is plenty to do and see along the way. Your first stop will be exploring Bildudalur and all its museums, such as the Icelandic Sea Monster Museum and the Old Blacksmith Shop.
From there you go to Fossfjördur which is the westernmost point of the Southern Fjords and where you will find Foss Waterfall and the A-house. After that, you head to Hrafnseyri to visit the Jon Sigurdsson Museum, and then it’s off to Reykjafjardarlaug Swimming Pool for a quick dip. We recommend spending the night back in Bildudalur.
Day 3: Isafjördur – Reykjavík
Start the day by visiting the Westfjords Heritage Museum, but please check operating hours as it changes according to seasons. Then visit Hornstrandir and hike the most remote tip of the Westfjords.
Thereafter, it’s a pretty impressive entrance to Isafjördur via the 5.4-kilometer tunnel. Then marvel at the Naustahvilft Mountains, whilst exploring the town. Then it’s off to Holmavik where one of the must-visit places is the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft. After that, you head back to Reykjavík where you will spend the night.
The Cost of a Westfjords Way in Iceland Road Trip
Below is a detailed cost breakdown of a Westfjords Way road trip that you can use as a reference to create your budget:
Rental Vehicle x 3 days = +/- $192 @ $64 per day (depending on which type of vehicle you rent)
Gas x 1100 km = +/- $200 (depending on which type of vehicle you rent)
Accommodation per person x 3 nights = $60 - $1200 (depending on the type of accommodation)
Attractions & Activities per person = dependent on what you decide along the way. Still, most attractions/activities on our itinerary are free. Exceptions are things such as Patreksfjördur Swimming Pool and the Jon Sigurdsson Museum. Same with the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft. We recommend that you budget at least an extra $20 per person per day to cover these costs.
The South Coast Way
The South Coast Way is a stretch of road that runs all along the South Coast of Iceland. The 320 kilometers is actually a part of the Ring Road. Once again, it can be tempting to cram in the entire route in just one day. Yet, it’s guaranteed that you will be missing some amazing attractions and activities along the way. We recommend spending at least a couple of days road-tripping the South Coast route.
A 2-day Iceland Road Trip Itinerary of the South Coast Way
Below, you will find how to road trip the South Coast Way in two days:
Day 1: Reykjavik – Vik
Get an early morning start and head out to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. After that, you visit another waterfall: Skogafoss Waterfall. Then move on to the Skogar Museum before making your way to Vik for the night. Depending on how much time you have left, you can explore the town before you retire for the evening.
Day 2: Vik – Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon – Reykjavík
Today is going to be a long drive. Leaving Vik, you head to your first stop, the Skaftafell Blue Ice Cave. Thereafter, make a stop at the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and take a boat tour if your budget allows.
Then you’ll be going “next door” to Diamond Beach. After that, you head to Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, from where you’ll also spot the Dyrholaey Rock Formation. From here you’ll be heading back to Reykjavík and as you’ll be arriving pretty late, this is also where you’ll be sleeping.
The Cost of a South Coast Way in Iceland Road Trip
Below is a detailed cost breakdown of a South Coast Way road trip that you can use as a reference to create your budget:
Rental Vehicle x 2 days = +/- $128 @ $64 per day (depending on which type of vehicle you rent)
Gas x 320 km = +/- $65 (depending on which type of vehicle you rent)
Accommodation per person x 2 nights = $40 - $800 (depending on the type of accommodation)
Attractions & Activities per person = dependent on what you decide along the way. Still, most attractions/activities on our itinerary are free. Exceptions are things such as Skogar Museum and the Skaftafell Blue Ice Cave. The latter can only be done via guided tour. Same for a boat tour at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. We recommend that you budget at least an extra $170 per person per day to cover these costs.
The Arctic Coast Way
The Arctic Coast Way is the baby of the Iceland road trip routes, as it only officially opened in 2019. It is a 900-kilometer stretch of road all along the North-Icelandic coastline. This is such an impressive route that it has been named one of Europe’s Top Destinations by Lonely Planet.
If forced to, one can drive the entire route in about 8 hours without stopping. But if you really want to experience everything this route has to offer, you need to set aside at least ten days.
A 10-day Iceland Road Trip Itinerary of the Arctic Coast Way
Below, you will find how to road trip the Arctic Coast Way in four days:
Day 1: Keflavik Airport – Husafell
Depending on what time you land, you can explore Reykjavík and Mt. Esja, or even take the scenic route around Hvalfjordur. Spend the night in Husafell.
Day 2: Husafell – Laugarbakki
Head north. You’ll be driving through farmlands and over a mountain pass before reaching the northern shores of Hunafloi. It is the official start of the Arctic Coast Way. Spend the night in Laugarbakki.
Day 3: Laugarbakki & Surrounds
The day will be spent exploring Laugarbakki and surrounds. You can take a seal watching boat tour along the Hvammstangi Coast and visit the Icelandic Seal Center. You can also stop at Kolugljufur Waterfall, and visit the Hvitserkur Rock Formation.
Day 4: Laugarbakki – Siglufjordur
Continue your drive along the coast, traveling through Blonduos, Saudarkrokur, and Hofsos. Stop to visit the Battle of Iceland Museum and the Icelandic Emigration Museum. Then head to Siglufjordur.
Day 5: Siglufjordur & Surrounds
There is plenty to do in and around Siglufjordur. You can take a boat ride on the fjord, take a walk along the harbor, visit the Herring Museum, and grab a treat at one of the local cafes. Spend your second night in Siglufjordur.
Day 6: Siglufjordur – Husavik
Continue your drive along the coast and enjoy the views of the Eyjafjordur shores. Stop at The Beer Spa to take a dip in their famous beer baths. Then move on to explore the “capital city of the north”, Akureyri. Be sure to visit the Folk and Outsider Museum and the Akureyri Art Museum.
Then make your way to Husavik. Depending on how much time you have left, we recommend squeezing in a whale watching tour (Husavik is the whale capital of Iceland, after all). Husavik is also where you’ll spend the night.
Day 7: Husavik – Myvatn & Surrounds
Head straight in the direction of Myvatn with plenty of things to see and do along the way. Things such as walking around Lake Myvatn and visiting the Skutustadir Pseudocraters. Check the boiling mud pools of Namaskard, Krafla Volcano, and Viti Crater too. Take a hike among the Dimmuborgir Lava Formations or up Hverfjall Volcano. Then have a long relaxing soak in the Myvatn Nature Baths before heading back to Husavik for the second night.
Day 8: Husavik – Raufarhofn
Spend some time exploring Husavik in the morning and visit the Husavik Whale Museum. Then make a quick visit to Dettifoss Waterfall before moving on to Asbyrgi Canyon. Continue further along the Arctic Coast Way to Kopasker to stop by the Earthquake Center. From there move even further north to Melrakkasletta and take a stroll on its impressive beaches and go bird-watching. After that, head to Raufarhofn where you’ll spend the night.
Day 9: Raufarhofn – Langanes Peninsula – Egilsstadir
Spend the morning exploring Raufarhofn a bit and be sure to visit the Arctic Henge Project. After that, head to Langanes Peninsula and check out the Storkarl Sea Stacks. Continue on and take a quick dip in the Sela River Swimming Pool. From there, just enjoy the views as you drive on, over the Hellisheidi Mountain Pass ‘till you reach Egilsstadir. Depending on how much time you have left, you can explore the city before retiring for the night.
Day 10: Back to Reykjavík or to Husavík
Essentially, this will be the end of your Arctic Coast Way adventure, but its end leaves you with a few options. You can either journey back to Reykjavík (a roughly 8-hour drive), or return to Husavik and catch a domestic flight back to the capital city.