A road trip on the Ring Road is one of Iceland’s best experiences. Not only do you get to visit Reykjavík, the Golden Circle, and highlights along the south coast, but you also get to travel to north and east Iceland, where the landscapes are no less beautiful but much less crowded. Learn how to plan your adventure with this Iceland Ring Road Itinerary.
About this Ring Road Itinerary
The Ring Road the main road that makes a loop around the entire island. It is 1,332 km (828 miles) long and can be driven in just a few days. However, you will need more time for scenic stops and detours.
On this itinerary, you will drive clockwise around Iceland.
The Ring Road can be driven in either direction, but we recommend visiting north Iceland early in the trip and ending on the south coast. By driving the Ring Road in this direction, each day just keeps getting better than the one before it. North Iceland is beautiful, but the south coast, with its amazing collection of waterfalls and glaciers, is a wonderful place to save until the end of your trip.
Highlights of this Ring Road itinerary include:
- Blue Lagoon
- Glymur Waterfall
- Whale Watching
- Dettifoss & Selfoss
- A Glacier Walk
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
- Skógafoss & Seljalandsfoss
- Golden Circle
A 4×4 is not necessary for this itinerary (if you do this between May and September), but if you have one, you will be able to get to a few off-the-beaten-path destinations that we mention in this itinerary.
The first part of this article is a 10 day Ring Road itinerary. At the end of this article, learn how to turn this into a 7 day itinerary, if you don’t have a full 10 days to spare. And if you have extra time, we also give suggestions on two great adventures to add on to your road trip.
How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (daily things to do and the driving route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
Best Time to Drive the Ring Road
The Ring Road can be driven year-round. However, during the winter months (October through April), snowstorms can temporarily close the road, so you will need to keep a close eye on weather and road conditions. Plus, you will also have limited daylight (or almost no daylight at the peak of winter), giving you a smaller window of time for sightseeing. During the winter months, having a 4×4 vehicle is recommended.
The best time of year for this Ring Road itinerary is from May through September. The days are long and the weather is relatively warm. In June and July, the midnight sun makes it possible to go hiking and sightseeing almost around the clock.
10 Day Ring Road Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive in Iceland, Visit the Blue Lagoon
Driving Distance and Time: 22 km, 20 minutes
Flights to Iceland arrive at Keflavík International Airport, which is located on the Reykjanes peninsula. Pick up your rental car at the airport. Lines can be very, very long, especially midday in the summer months. I’m talking an hour wait or longer. If you have gold member or fast pass status with a rental car company, this can save you lots of valuable time.
Instead of going right to Reykjavík, we recommend visiting the Blue Lagoon. From the airport, it takes 45 minutes to drive to Reykjavík but only 20 minutes to drive to the Blue Lagoon. By visiting the Blue Lagoon first, you save a lot of extra time driving and backtracking to and from Reykjavík. Plus, relaxing in the thermal waters of the Blue Lagoon is a great, low-key activity, especially if you just arrived on an overnight flight to Iceland.
The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most popular experiences, so expect big crowds between 10 am and 6 pm. Book your tickets in advance to get your desired time slot and to avoid waiting in line. A visit here typically lasts three hours or longer.
Click here to visit the official Blue Lagoon website, where you can book your tickets in advance and learn about what to expect during your visit.
Options on How to Plan Your Time Today
If you arrive in Iceland in the morning, you can do one of two things today. You can brave the midday crowds at the Blue Lagoon, and then spend the night on the Reykjanes peninsula or in Reykjavík. Or, spend several hours touring the Reykjanes peninsula and visit the Blue Lagoon after 6 pm, once the crowds thin out. Sleep near or at the Blue Lagoon.
Overlooking the Reykjanes Peninsula from the Seltún Geothermal Area.
If you arrive in Iceland in the afternoon, check into your hotel (stay at or near the Blue Lagoon) and visit the Blue Lagoon after 6 pm.
There is no need to rush to Reykjavík today. At the end of this itinerary, you will have one full day in the city.
Where to Stay Near the Blue Lagoon:
The Retreat at the Blue Lagoon. Selected by Conde Nast as one of Europe’s top resorts, this is the ultimate in luxury. Rooms are stylish, modern suites and offer views of the lava fields and lagoon. Prices start at $1281 USD so this is big splurge.
Northern Light Inn. This property is located very close to the Blue Lagoon and the prices are much more affordable than the Retreat. This property has an onsite restaurant and free shuttle buses that run to and from the Blue Lagoon.
Motel Arctic Wind. This hotel gets great reviews and offers rooms that can accommodate up to four people at economical prices.
CAMPSITE & RV PARKING: Grindavík Campsite
Day 2: Kirkjufell and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Driving Distance and Time, Blue Lagoon to Kirkjufell: 220 km, 3 hours. Additional sights on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula will add more time and distance.
The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is not located on the Ring Road, but with its iconic Kirkjufell mountain and beautiful coastal sights, it’s well worth the detour.
Optional Detours on the Drive to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
On the drive to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, you will drive right past Glymur waterfall. This is one of Iceland’s tallest waterfalls and this fun hike can be easily added on to the day. It is 7 km (4.4 miles) round trip and takes 3 to 4 hours of your time. Get all of the details here.
Glanni, Hraunfoss and Barnafoss waterfalls also make a nice detour on the way to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
Once on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, you will visit black sand beaches, waterfalls, volcanoes, remote lighthouses, lava fields, street art, iconic Kirkjufell, and some of the most dramatic coastal cliffs in Iceland.
South coast of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
If photographing Kirkjufell is important to you, I recommend spending the night in the town of Grundarfjördur. From town, it’s just a five-minute drive to Kirkjufell, so you can see it at sunset and sunrise.
If photographing Kirkjufell at sunset and sunset is not important to you, spending the night on the south coast of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, in Hellnar or Arnarstapi, puts you closer to the main highlights, minimizing how much driving you will do.
Where to Stay on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
GRUNDARFJORDUR: H5 Apartments. This is where we stayed. All units have at least two bedrooms and come with a kitchen, private bathroom, and a washing machine. The apartments are nothing fancy but they are clean, spacious, and the Wi-Fi works well. Plus, it’s just a 5-minute drive to Kirkjufell, perfect if you want to snap a sunset or sunrise photo of this iconic spot.
HELLNAR: Fosshotel Hellnar. This eco-friendly hotel offers rooms with private bathrooms that can accommodate up to three people. There is an onsite restaurant.
ARNARSTAPI: Arnarstapi Hotel. Located right in Arnarstapi, you will be able to walk right out to some of the most scenic coastal cliffs on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Rooms can accommodate up to four people and all rooms have a private bathroom.
CAMPSITE & RV PARKING: Grundarfjordur Camping Ground
Day 3: Drive to North Iceland
Driving Time and Distance: 375 km, 5 hours
This is a big driving day, with it taking about 5 hours to get from the Snaefellsnes Peninsula to Akureyri.
In the morning, you can visit any remaining sights on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula that you did not get to yesterday, but just be mindful of the time.
On the way to Akureyri, make the quick detour to Hvitserkur, a wild, unique chunk of black rock on the beach that makes an interesting photo spot.
In Glumbaer, you can visit the historic turf houses.
Spend the remainder of the day exploring Akureyri. Sleep in Akureyri.
Where to Stay in Akureyri
K16 Apartments. Stay in a one bedroom apartment that comes with a fully equipped dining area and living room and accommodates up to four people.
Saeluhus Apartments & House. This property gets rave reviews. Some rooms come with a hot tub and there is a three-bedroom house that accommodates up to 7 people.
Geldingsá Apartment. Located outside of Akureyri, the rooms offer great views across the Eyjafjordur Fjord to Akureyri. These are two-bedroom apartments that come with a terrace and a washer and dryer.
CAMPSITE & RV PARKING: Camping Site Hamrar
Day 4: Godafoss and Whale Watching
Distance and Driving Time: 135 km, 1.75 hours (not including the detour to Aldeyjarfoss)
Spend the morning at Godafoss, one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls. A visit here typically lasts about an hour and you can see the waterfall from both sides of the river.
If you want to go off-the-beaten-path and have a 4×4, consider adding on a visit to Aldeyjarfoss and Hrafnabjargafoss. These two waterfalls are located in an ancient lava field and they feel like they are in the middle of nowhere. This detour adds on 3 hours and 90 km to this day.
In the afternoon, go whale watching from Húsavík, the best place in Iceland to go whale watching.
Sleep in Mývatn.
Where to Stay in Mývatn
Fosshotel Mývatn. We stayed here and loved it. Rooms are modern, comfortable, and some rooms offer views of Lake Mývatn. The onsite restaurant is a bit pricey but the food is fantastic.
Birkilauf. People who stay here, love it. I read numerous reviews where people liked this property so much that they extended their stay. There is a minimum 2-night stay here, which is fine for this itinerary, since you will be spending two nights in Mývatn.
Hotel Laxá. This property gets rave reviews and has an onsite restaurant and bar.
CAMPSITE & RV PARKING: Hlíð camping
Day 5: Mývatn & Dettifoss
Distance and Driving Time: 224 km, 3.3 hours (this includes visiting Dettifoss from both sides of the river); 175 km, 3 hours (if you only visit the east side of Dettifoss)
In the morning, I recommend visiting Dettifoss and Selfoss, before they get overly crowded.
Dettifoss is Europe’s most powerful waterfall. Selfoss is a smaller but more elegant waterfall located just upriver.
Dettifoss (from the east side)
Selfoss (from the east side)
It is possible to visit these waterfalls from both sides of the river, but to do so, you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time here…like 5 hours of your day. Worth the time? We thought so, but this amount of driving is not for everyone.
If you only have the desire to visit Dettifoss and Selfoss from one side of the river, which one is better? Get the answer in our article about how to visit Dettifoss and Selfoss.
Spend the rest of the day touring the sights in Mývatn. Visit the Mývatn Nature Baths, the geothermal area of Hverir, walk through the Dimmuborgir lava field, hike to the top of Hverfjall crater, visit the Grjótagjá Cave (a Game of Thrones filming site), or walk among the pseudocraters of Mývatn.
Hverir geothermal area
Sleep in Mývatn.
Day 6: East Iceland
Total Driving Distance and Time: 350 km, 4.75 hours (not including detours)
This is one of the longest driving days on this Ring Road itinerary. Essentially, you drive from north Iceland to southeast Iceland, with the option for several detours along the way.
This is a very pretty drive, especially once you hit the coast between Djupivogur and Höfn. Here are three detours you can add to the day.
Stuðlagil Canyon. This amazing looking canyon is just a short detour off of the Ring Road. Stuðlagil Canyon is located on Route 1 before you get to Egilsstaðir.
Rjúkandi Waterfall. This waterfall is located right on the Ring Road, near the turn off for Stuðlagil Canyon.
Puffins at Borgarfjörður eystri. Puffins nest in Iceland between mid-April and mid-August. There are many places in Iceland where you can see puffins, but Borgarfjörður eystri is one of the best places to go, since it is so safe, for both you and the puffins. You will walk on boardwalk trails and viewing platforms, allowing you to get up close with the puffins without damaging their burrows.
This is a big detour. A visit here takes 3 hours from Egilsstaðir and adds on 150 km to the day. However, this experience is really more than just seeing a colony of puffins. It’s also a fun detour through a beautiful part of Iceland.
Just before arriving in Höfn, you will pass the small but incredibly scenic Stokksnes peninsula. If you are doing good on time, this is a great little detour.
Your day ends once you reach Höfn. Check into your hotel and have dinner. We had an amazing dinner at Pakkhus Restaurant but Otto Restaurant and the Ishusid Pizzeria are also great options.
Sleep in Höfn.
Where to Stay in Höfn
Apotek Guesthouse. Located in a former pharmacy, this property offers a wide range of rooms. Take your pick from single rooms, double rooms with a private bath, or quadruple rooms with a shared bathroom.
Milk Factory. This property gets rave reviews and has rooms that can accommodate 2 to 4 people. It gets its name since it is located in a former milk factory.
Seljavellir Guesthouse. This guesthouse is located outside of town on the Ring Road. What you get is a highly reviewed property for a great price. Rooms can accommodate up to two people.
CAMPSITE & RV PARKING: Höfn Camping Ground
Day 7: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Glacier Walk
Total Driving Distance and Time: 140 km, 2 hours
Today you will spend the day at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Skaftafell. While here, you can go kayaking or take a boat tour of Jökulsárlón, walk on a glacier, visit Diamond Beach and Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon, and hike to Svartifoss waterfall. If you do everything on this list, it will be a big day, but with some advance planning, it is possible.
Arctic Adventures offers a combination tour where you do a short, easy hike on Vatnajökull Glacier and kayak in Jökulsárlón. This tour is 6 hours long and still leaves plenty of time in the day for Svartifoss and Diamond Beach.
If you want to go on a longer glacier walk, you might have to skip the boat tour of Jökulsárlón. Longer glacier walks take at least 5 to 6 hours of your time and overlap with most boat tours of the glacier lagoon. The glacier walk is incredible, and in my opinion, it is a more thrilling way to spend the day.
We did the Glacier Explorer tour with Arctic Adventures and had an awesome experience. For three hours, we walked through crevasses and climbed up and over huge chunks of ice. This was one of our favorite experiences in Iceland.
Tonight, sleep near Skaftafell.
Where to Stay in Skaftafell
Hotel Skaftafell. This hotel is conveniently located in Skaftafell. Rooms can accommodate up to three people. There is an onsite restaurant and a 2nd floor bar with great views of the glacier.
The Potato Storage. This new property, with its interesting name and industrial, modern décor, gets exceptional reviews. It tends to get reserved months in advance so make your reservation as soon as possible. It is located just a short drive from Skaftafell.
Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon. This property is located between the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Skaftafell. This is a 4-star property and offers stunning views of the mountains or the ocean.
CAMPSITE & RV PARKING: Skaftafell Camping
Day 8: South Coast Highlights
Total Driving Distance and Time: 285 km, 3.5 hours
Today, road trip down the south coast, visiting the highlights: Fjaðrárgljúfur, Reynisfjara black sand beach, Dyrholaey Arch, Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss, and Gljufrabui.
Skógafoss is one of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls. What most people don’t know is that you can hike past Skógafoss and visit 25 more waterfalls. Called the Waterfall Way, this hiking trail, which is also the start of the amazing Fimmvörðuháls hike, follows along the Skógá River, passing 25 smaller waterfalls along the way. The views of the lush, green canyons are gorgeous and just might be one of the best, unexpected highlights of the day.
To see all 25 waterfalls, you have to walk 5 miles upriver (10 miles round trip). Of course, you don’t have to walk the entire distance. Just turn around when you are ready.
Waterfall on the Skógá River
Kvernufoss is another beautiful waterfall that you can walk behind. It is a smaller, less visited version of Seljalandsfoss. Park at the Skógar Museum and it is a 10-minute walk to get to the waterfall.
Note: This waterfall is located on private property. Stay on the trail and do not litter or leave behind any trash. Even if you do not have plans to visit the Skógar Museum, you will have to pay a small fee to park here.
The Solheimasandur Plane Wreck makes it onto a lot of Ring Road itineraries. However, we think that it is Iceland’s most overrated attraction. To get here, it is a long, boring walk (4 miles round trip, about 1.5 hours) and once here, you’ll most likely see people climbing all over the plane, despite warning signs forbidding this. Skip the plane wreck, and instead, visit Kvernufoss or walk part of the Skógafoss trail.
Tonight, sleep on the Golden Circle.
Where to Stay on the Golden Circle
Arbakki Farmhouse Lodge. This lodge offers rooms that can accommodate up to four people. It has an excellent location, near Reykholt and just a short drive from the Golden Circle sights.
Heradsskolinn Historic Guesthouse. This boutique hostel is located in a former school building. Stay in a private room or a dorm. There is an onsite bistro that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Mosas Cottages. Stay in your own “vacation home,” small, detached houses that can accommodate up to six people in two-bedroom cottages. This property is located in Fludir.
Where we stayed: We stayed at Guesthouse Fludir and did not have a good experience. We had two standard double rooms with a private bathroom. What they don’t tell you is that there are two levels of these rooms. If you are on the bottom level, as we were, your view is of a gravel parking lot and all night long you will hear the people above you walking around. The upper rooms are wonderful. For the same exact price, they have a gorgeous view and a balcony, but there is no guarantee that you will get this, as we learned on our visit. It’s not worth the risk of getting stuck on the bottom level. I recommend looking elsewhere.
CAMPSITE & RV PARKING: Laugarvatn Camping
Day 9: The Golden Circle
Total Driving Distance and Time: 150 km, 2.25 hours
The Golden Circle is a 300 km (186 mile) loop that connects three of Iceland’s most popular spots: Gullfoss, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Thingvellir National Park.
Thingvellir National Park
To visit all three of these places, it takes about 5 to 7 hours, depending on how quickly you move. The Golden Circle doesn’t fill an entire day. You can either use the remaining time to relax or add on one or more of these destinations:
Bruarfoss is waterfall that is famous for its sky blue color. You can only get here by hiking and it takes about 3 hours to visit Bruarfoss.
The Kerid Crater is a 3,000-year old volcanic crater that is filled with water. This is a quick and easy add on to your Golden Circle tour.
The Secret Lagoon is a hot spring that has become so popular that it’s no longer a secret. But if you like hot springs, this is a good one to visit.
Haifoss Waterfall is a spectacular waterfall that is located east of the Golden Circle. This is the biggest detour of the day. From Fludir, it takes 1 hour to drive here and you will need a 4×4 for final drive to the parking lot. It takes about 3 hours of your time, round trip, to visit Haifoss from the Golden Circle.
Tonight, sleep in Reykjavík.
Where to Stay in Reykjavík
Reykjavík Residence Apartment Hotel. Rooms can accommodate up to 6 people in suites, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments. This hotel has an excellent location within walking distance of Reykjavík’s top spots.
House of the Snowbird. This is a historic house located in downtown Reykjavík. Stay in a one-bedroom apartment with a dining area and small kitchen. From here, it’s a bit of a walk to Hallgrímskirkja, but you are close to the waterfront.
Loft – HI Hostel. This highly-rate hostel features a rooftop terrace, private rooms and dormitory-style rooms, and is located in the heart of Reykjavík.
Day 10: Reykjavík
Total Driving Distance and Time: 0
Spend the day exploring Reykjavík. Places to visit include Hallsgrimkirkja church, Harpa concert hall, go shopping on Laugavegur Street, see the Sun Voyager sculpture, visit Perlan Museum, and check out the colorful graffiti.
We had some great meals in Reykjavik. 101 Reykjavík Street Food was one of our favorite spots. Eat stews and fish and chips that are delicious at one of Reykjavík’s most affordable restaurants. Ostabudin and Messinn are also very good but they are more expensive.
Sleep in Reykjavík and fly home (or continue your travels) tomorrow.
How to Modify This Ring Road Itinerary
With Less Time
If you don’t have 10 days to spare but still want to drive the Ring Road, what should you eliminate?
Removing the Snaefellsnes Peninsula saves one day. On day 2, drive north to Akureyri, with the option to hike Glymur waterfall or quickly visit Kirkjufell on the way.
If you only have 8 days in Iceland, I recommend combining the north Iceland sights (Godafoss, Mývatn, and whale watching) into one day. You won’t be able to do all of this with only one day, so you will have to pick your favorite activities. On the day you drive from Mývatn to Höfn, you can visit Dettifoss and Selfoss along the way.
If you only have 7 days in Iceland, skip the glacier walk and combine days 7 and 8 into one day, visiting the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and the south coast sights in one day.
Sample 7 Day Ring Road Itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive in Iceland, Blue Lagoon
Day 2: Drive to North Iceland, Glymur waterfall & Kirkjufell are optional
Day 3: North Iceland: Godafoss, Mývatn, Whale Watching
Day 4: Dettifoss & Selfoss, Drive to Höfn
Day 5: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and the South Coast Highlights
Day 6: Golden Circle
Day 7: Reykjavík
With More Time
If you have one or more days to add to this Ring Road itinerary, lucky you! Here are two unique Iceland adventures to add to your trip.
Landmannalaugar is famous for its colorful rhyolite mountains and epic day hikes. Geothermal hot springs, lava fields, and unique hiking trails attract adventurous travelers all summer long.
To get here, you will need a 4×4. The roads to Landmannalaugar are F-roads which are rough, gravel roads that are only suitable for 4×4’s. If you do not have a 4×4, you can either join a tour or take a bus to Landmannalaugar.
Click here to read our Landmannalaugar Guide and learn how to get here and which hikes to do. Hikes range from short, easy strolls to strenuous mountain climbs, so there is something here for everyone.
Visit Landmannalaugar as a day trip from the Golden Circle. This adds one day onto this Ring Road itinerary.
This was our favorite day in Iceland and one of the best day hikes we have done in the world. 26 waterfalls, 1 volcano, 2 glaciers, and 3 unique landscapes all combine for one of the most extraordinary hiking experiences on the planet.
The Fimmvörðuháls hike is a massive hike. It’s 25 km (15.5 miles) in length and done as a point-to-point hike from Skógafoss to Thórsmörk. It will take up the entire day, but what a memorable day it will be!
On day 8 of this Ring Road Itinerary, sleep near Skógafoss, rather than driving to the Golden Circle. Hike Fimmvörðuháls on day 9. Spend a second night in Skógafoss. On day 10, drive to the Golden Circle and resume this itinerary as it is written. This adds one day to this Ring Road itinerary.
Planning Your Trip
Rental Car and Hotel Reservations
For this Ring Road itinerary, you will need to reserve:
A rental car or campervan. A 2WD car is sufficient for this itinerary. A 4×4 allows you to visit all of the detours we have listed and makes driving the unpaved roads a bit easier. There are many places in Iceland where you will drive unpaved roads that are suitable for a 2WD vehicle. However, these can be rough, with potholes in some spots, and a 4×4 will make this easier.
Note: A 4×4 is a vehicle that is authorized by the rental car companies to be driven on F-roads. Many of these vehicles are SUV’s with AWD or 4×4 capabilities. For example, we rented a Kia Sorrento through Hertz and this was authorized as a 4×4 that could be driven on F-roads.
- Blue Lagoon – 1 night
- Snaefellsnes Peninsula – 1 night
- Akureyri – 1 night
- Mývatn – 2 nights
- Höfn – 1 night
- Skaftafell – 1 night
- Golden Circle – 1 night
- Reykjavík – 2 nights
We have not camped in Iceland, but from what I have read and learned from talking to other travelers is that you do not need to reserve your campsites in advance.
Average Trip Costs
Here are some estimated costs (all prices are in USD for the summer months):
2WD vehicle: $50 – $100 per day
4WD vehicle: $125 – $200 per day; larger SUV’s, such as Land Rovers and Toyota Land Cruisers, cost up to $300 – $400 per day (and are unnecessary unless you plan to do river crossings)
Fuel: $2 per liter ($7.6 per gallon)
Campervan: $100 – $300 per day
Campsite: $10 – $15
Midrange Hotel, double room with two people: $150 – $300
High end hotel, double room with two people: $300 – $500
Meals can cost $20 to $40 per dish, depending on the restaurant. We typically saw prices averaging around $28 per dish, so for our family of four, we spent $100 to $150 per meal. To save money, we only dined in restaurants once per day and bought groceries at the Kronan or Bonus grocery stores. You will find these grocery stores throughout Iceland.
If you have any questions about this Ring Road itinerary, let us know in the comment section below!
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