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The Best Self-Drive Itineraries for Slow Travel in Iceland

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

Iceland is an incredible place, so when you visit it’s only natural that you’ll have the urge to see everything. People read about the numerous beautiful sights and try to fit them all into a week or a two-week trip, but rushing around the island too quickly does both yourself and Iceland a disservice.

So, rather than attempting to tick off a bucket list of highlights, why not opt for slow travel in Iceland? Swap the tight schedule for some much-needed breathing space. That way you’ll have the means to stay a little longer if you fall in love with a place or want to chase down a random recommendation from a fellow traveler.

Girl enjoying her slow travel in Iceland

By aiming for a slow-paced tour of Iceland, you’ll have the space and time to do all of that and more. And ironically, by traveling this way, it can even feel like you’ve covered more ground in the end. If you are one of those people who like to see everything, why not try something a little different? You never know, you might like it!

In this article, we will be exploring the many benefits of slow travel in Iceland. From how to travel in this way, to when and where specifically to go. And of course, how to plan your Icelandic itinerary, accordingly. Here’s what we’ll be covering:

  • How to enjoy slow travel in Iceland

  • What time of year to travel

  • Our top self-drive itineraries for slow travel in Iceland

How to enjoy slow travel in Iceland

In our humble opinion, the best way to enjoy a relaxed and slow-paced trip is to do so independently. Renting a campervan or a motorhome in Iceland gives you complete freedom to roam and explore autonomously. Plus, camping in the great outdoors allows you to experience The Land of Fire and Ice more intimately.

Instead of staying in a hotel that engulfs you in four blank walls, you can see and feel the elements among you. Spending time outdoors is a real balm to our modern-day lifestyles of urban living and screen fatigue. So, when you return home after a holiday where you’ve prioritized slow travel, you’ll really feel the difference.

Young man practicing slow travel in Iceland

Because you won’t be cooped up in a tour bus and can therefore decrease extensive time behind the wheel, you’ll be freer. Opt to spend days hiking and exploring a place in depth, rather than rushing on to the next destination. Linger a while to really get under the skin of a place. Meet the locals and get to know those less-traveled paths and trails.

One of the great things about renting a campervan is that you have your own cooking equipment on board. Although eating outdoors takes time and a little more effort, the rewards are many. For a start, everything just tastes better when you’re chowing down in the fresh air. Not to mention, cooking around a campfire is a fun and grounding thing to do.

In the end, slow travel is a lot about mindset. When you realize that less can often mean so much more, you gain a distinct sense of freedom. Additionally, your experiences become richer and you appreciate the little details. It’s a wholesome and inspiring way to see the world. Hopefully, you will take this attitude back with you when you return to your everyday life.

What time of year to travel to Iceland

Summer season for slow travel in Iceland

For the ultimate slow travel experience, you should choose the summer months or those just outside of the high season. The high summer season in Iceland runs from June to August. During this time, the days are longer, and the weather is milder and more settled-perfect for spending time outdoors and driving during the daylight hours.

But this is also when Iceland welcomes its highest number of visitors. For those looking to pursue slow travel, this can be a little problematic. The sights and campsites will be busier, so there are more distractions and you’ll likely need to book in advance in some cases. Not so spontaneous, but still a viable option for slowing down the pace.

Crowded touristic site in Iceland

After all, simply having the Midnight Sun shining in the sky gives you much more time each day. And the warmer conditions mean it’s easier and more pleasant to explore the outdoors at your leisure.

Shoulder season slow travel

The shoulder season months of May and September are also great for a slow-paced tour of Iceland. The weather could be a little unreliable, but then again you could also get lucky and have summer-like conditions.

The wonderful thing about traveling at this time of year is that there are far fewer visitors, which means you might have some big sights completely to yourself. They'll be fewer vehicles doing the Ring Road in Iceland, too. So, you’ll also be able to travel more spontaneously without worrying whether your next campsite will have space for you.

Winter season slow travel

Winter is the trickiest time of year to take a self-drive tour of Iceland, but it is still very much possible. In fact, the short days of winter lend themselves well to slow down. With few daylight hours, you won’t be able to travel so far in the light. Plus, you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for storms.

The way to do it would be to pick a super short itinerary and stay flexible. Choose a route that takes you into the Iceland national parks or other dark sky regions. That way you’ll be able to combine sightseeing with northern lights chasing.

Northern Lights above a church

Our top self-drive itineraries for slow travel in Iceland

The Golden Circle and the South Coast

Taking a slow-paced tour of Iceland’s Golden Circle and South Coast is the ultimate experience. There are so many sights along this route, all within a reasonably short distance. The roads are easy to navigate and in good condition and there are loads of campsites. Since it is a well-traveled route, it makes for smooth sailing.

This route can be traveled at any time of the year and there should be campsites open in winter too. For a super slow-paced tour, carve out at least ten days. However, a week would be enough if you pick up the pace a little. Likewise, you could easily spend two to three weeks or more exploring its many sights.

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is another ideal destination for slow travel in Iceland. Located just a two-hour drive northwest of Reykjavík, the peninsular itself is often referred to as Iceland in miniature because of its breadth of sights. You could easily base yourself in two different campsites to explore the peninsular over a week or so.

The Diamond Circle

The Diamond Circle is a circular route of sights in North Iceland, not far from the city of Akureyri. This less-visited region is perfect for slow travel as there are fewer tourists, so the pace is automatically more relaxed. This is a destination for summer or shoulder season travel rather than winter.

Slow travel in Iceland's Northern Region

The Westfjords

The Westfjords is a peninsular-like region in North Iceland cut in with long sea fjords. It is a mountainous area that experiences heavy snow during winter. This means that the summer months are best for a road trip. In 2021, the region completed a fully paved Ring Road, which they called Ring Road 2, right the way around, which has opened it up to smother shoulder season travel as well.

A wild region with high mountains and a few small towns on its northern coast, the presence of fjords means that driving here really does take time. But it is also stunningly beautiful, perfect if you’re focused on enjoying the ride rather than rushing to your next destination.

Freedom is everything

The pros of slow travel in Iceland are that you can get to really know a place, make new friends, dive into the culture, and visit places for a much cheaper price. Of course, the main advantage is a more meaningful experience that will certainly be hard to forget. Start planning your self-drive tour today and enjoy the freedom this type of travel can offer.



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