12 Days Road-Trip Iceland Ring Road Itinerary
I spent 12 days with a group of photographers on a road-trip driving the entire ring road in Iceland, roaming through the untamed nature, exploring its vast green land, chasing breathtaking waterfalls, and mesmerizing over its beaches covered in matte black sand. Driving Iceland’s ring road was truly an adventure of a lifetime. If you have limited time, you can shorten this Iceland ring road itinerary to 10 days in Iceland by skipping Heimaey island. Follow along my Iceland Ring Road Itinerary and get ready to be mesmerized!
Iceland Ring Road Itinerary
DAY 1 - REYKJAVIK
Our journey began in the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik. We landed right before lunch, picked upt the car at the airport. On our way to our hotel - Fosshotel Reykjavik - we grabbed a quick bite a the Perlan. We were all very excited for what to come just from the sneak peek we got of the city at the Perlan's observatory deck. After checking in and dropping our luggage, we spent the rest of the day strolling Reykjavik. It was such a spectacular sight to be walking at 10 pm and still see sunlight. The sun finally started to set at 11 pm.
Tip: Before you embark on a road-trip of a lifetime in Iceland, off-road driving is illegal. Nature is very fragile as vegetation grows extremely slowly due to the Arctic temperatures, and it can take decades to return to its original condition.
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How to get to Reykjavik from Keflavík International Airport?
The Keflavík International Airport is about 45 minutes away from the city center. There is no train system so your only options are by car or bus. Flybus operates daily and you can purchase your ticket at the vending machine, located right after you exit customs. You can also get a Taxi, but it will be a very expensive option. You could also rent a car (you know, for the road trip.)
Car rental: You can pick up your car rental at the airport or you can rent the car from the city. If you do, make sure to ask if they offer free tranportation from the airport.
DAY 2 - GOLDEN CIRCLE
Early morning risers off to explore the Golden Circle! This was the perfect intro spot to begin our Iceland Ring road itinerary; if you are short on time, the Golden Circle is ideal to sample Iceland’s nature. But if you are planning to stay a week or more in Iceland, I would suggest making this place your first stop and then venturing out.
Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir National Park is actually Iceland’s first national park and an Unesco Heritage Site. The park most significant aspect is that it is the area where two tectonic plates meets, America and Europe. If you are up for it, you can also dive between the two continents - certainly a bucket list worthy experience.
Gullfoss is one of Iceland most iconic waterfalls and it’s easy to see why. The impressive force of the water streaming down and the sheer size will easily have you in awe. If you plan to get close, be prepared to get wet. The force of the water falling creates a thin myst that will cover everything as you get closer. Visit on a sunny day, and you will see rainbows across the waterfall.
You will find many hot springs as you explore Iceland, but not many shots out a jet of water 65-130 feet high every 5-10 minutes. When visiting the Geysir, make sure not to skip Strokkur - although hard to miss - and watch mother nature at work. Also, make sure to check out Smiður and Litli-Strokkur.
DAY 3 - MYVATN + HRAUNFOSSAR
We embarked on a six-hour drive on Route 1 from Reykjavik to Myvatn on the Northern part of the country - the most northern I’ve been yet. On the way, we stopped at Hraunfossar, an iconic area surrounded by waterfalls that stream out from a lava field created from an eruption of one of the volcanoes lying under the glacier. Although the waterfalls were not the tallest nor the most powerful, they were certainly full of character.
One great thing about embarking on am Iceland road trip with a group of photographers is that they are always pushing out of their comfort zone to attain the perfect shot. We climbed down the cliff - which I do not recommend - to get as close as possible to the waterfall. The cliff was very muddy and unstable. If it weren’t for the help of one of the photographers - who happened to be a pro climber - I wouldn’t have been able to come back up for a while. After turning my black pants into brown, I shot one of my favorite images of Iceland!
Where to stay in Myvatn?
We stayed at the Sel - Hótel Mývatn. Although dining option was not the best, the hotel was clean, and the rooms were big. For dining, I would recommend visiting the hotel in front - Hótel Gígur by Keahotels. Their food was delicious.
DAY 4 -NAMAFJALL HVERIR + DIMMURBORGIR
Like the smell of rotten eggs? Want to feel like you are on Mars? Welcome to Namafjall Hverir! The sulfuric smell emanating from the mud pods was incredibly strong, but the experience was well worth it. The sharp color contrast of grays and brown, the fuming steam, and vast field gives you the illusion of exploring on another planet. Not to mention, the incredible photography you get in this place. After breathing in the intoxicating scents, we headed towards Dimmurborgir - a uniquely shaped lava field located about an hour East of Myvtn.
DAY 5 - DETTIFOSS
Started the day with excitement yet again! One of the waterfalls I have looked forward to the most on our Iceland ring road itinerary. The destination of choice was the most powerful waterfalls in the country, Dettifoss. This is where I truly began to grasp the majestic nature of Iceland. The force of this waterfall can be felt through the vibrations of the rocks surrounding it! Dettifoss is untamed territory so you may explore as close or as far away as desired. Alas, the adventure begins - a group of guys and I ventured onto the edge of the rocks to get a close shot. The water splashed against us like furious rain. The mist covered our clothes and gear. I still can’t describe the feeling of sitting on the edge of one of the most iconic waterfalls in Iceland.
The best thing about going on a self-driving road trip in Iceland is that you can stop at any point. Chasing beauty in Iceland is hard. Not because of scarcity, but because of pure abundance of it! It’s human nature to want to see it all, so why stick to a schedule? Add some spontaneity to your repertoire! We stopped twice to admire the plethora of beauty surrounding us. First, the waterfall was up high so we climbed it. The second stop was my favorite waterfall and probably my fave spot (it’s hard to choose one in Iceland) but the location was so quiet and majestic. The waterfall was a bit nestled but once close to it, you can enjoy all of its beauty. The cherry on top? A double rainbow glistening amid the water and sky. Familiar with what I’m describing? Contact me - would love to know the names of this place!
Back on schedule…we finally arrived at a small town in the southeast region of Iceland. A few miles away from the small fisherman town Höfn.
DAY 6 - Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon + HÖFN
In the morning, we headed to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon - part of the Vatnajökull National Park - to admire the glaciers. There are two types of tour in Jokulsarlon: the Amphibian and the Zodiac. The latter takes you up close to the majestic (can’t stop using this word, so fitting though!) glaciers and the Amphibian takes you around the lake. I went on the Zodiac tour and geared up in what I can only describe as a space suit (ok it’s a dry suit), and marched in slow motion towards the speedboat like we were in a movie, ready to take over. We boarded the little speedboat and headed toward the big glacier. The glaciers are hundreds of years old. We got to pick up some of the floating ice. Our tour guide was cool enough to get us extremely up close to a big floating iceberg; we even gave it a little bump. After our adventure exploring the glaciers, we headed back to town. A few of us had lunch at Pakkhus, in little fisherman town of Höfn. The food was delicious, as I suspected since everything in Iceland has been.
Afternoon at JOKULSARLON
We returned to Jokulsarlon late in the afternoon and what was a hectic place full of people, it was now a calm and peaceful - a beautiful sight of ice washed ashore contrasting the black sand and pink sky. I highly recommend adding this to your Iceland ring road itinerary.
DAY 7 - VIK
We continued our trip to the south of Iceland, to the town of Vik. On our way, we spontaneously stopped to gaze at more glaciers. After 6 1/2 days of beautiful weather, surprising due to Iceland’s temperamental weather, we received the dreaded torrential rain and windstorm. There was no deterring us, so we continued towards Black Sand Beach Vik. I admit, it was not the best time to try to spot Puffins, but we were still graced by their presence. We took cover in the cave but were not the only ones struggling to take pictures as a sad bride and her photographer took cover in the cave as well. The sky was dark gray, the water was just as dark, and the black sand gave the illusion that we were seeing an infinity gradient of darkness. As gloomy as it may sound, it was simply spectacular.
Where to stay in Vik?
We stayed at the beautiful hotel Icelandair Hotel Vík. The decor is modern and minimalistic - like most Scandinavian hotels. The room was not too spacious but it was clean, and the big window facing the mountain was spectacular.
DAY 8 - SKOGAFOSS + SÓLHEIMASANDUR + Seljalandsfoss
We woke up early in the morning and headed to another of Iceland’s iconic waterfalls, Skogafoss. As a very popular tourist spot, I highly recommend you go as early as possible to avoid the crowd. It’s hard to pick favorites in Iceland but this was definitely in the top 3. I climbed the stairs to the top, realized how badly in shape I was and got an amazing view of the waterfall. Since it was basically empty, I got to shoot from various angles without any one in sight. We left just as the crowd started to emerge and headed to our next destination: Seljalandsfoss. The waterfall may look like just another waterfall, but this one you can actually walk behind it! It was a bit crowded but we still enjoyed it. We didn't stay long as we had a bumpy trip ahead of us.
After what seems to have been hours of driving on gravel roads, we finally arrived at Sólheimasandur - The plane crash site (an airplane ran out of gas and crashed at this site). Afterward, we headed to the port to take the ferry to Heimaey Island.
The experience of crossing the Atlantic Ocean amid furious wave and a frightening storm can only be described as a real test for the most seasoned of sailors, but a real-life nightmare for those that easily get sea-sick. What was an hour-long pleasant ride, turned into a four-hour long nightmare. Find all the gory details on my Heimaey blog post. If you want you have limited time, you can skip Heimaey and make your Iceland itinerary 10 days.
DAY 9 - HEIMAEY
The storm that almost engolfed our ferry, left no trail the next day. Heimaey was sunny and with barly any cloud insight. We spent the day exploring the small island of Heimaey and did some hiking through the lava fields.
DAY 10 - VOLCANIC MOSS FIELD
We took the ferry back to the mainland and headed back to Reykjavik to complete our Iceland ring road itinerary. On our way, we stopped at a vast volcanic moss field - which can take up to 1000 years to grow. According to the Icelandic people, trolls and elves live under the moss. One of us went in search of them...
DAY 10-12 - Reykjavik
We spent our last two days in Reykjavik. It felt very sad to say goodbye not only to this amazing nature but to the people I bonded with while on tour. I will never forget the most handsome Icelandic horses, the mouthwatering food, Iceland waterfalls, their hip capital...Iceland surely holds a special place in my heart.
When to visit Iceland?
We visited Iceland in August, yes the busiest time of the year. But once you make it out of the touristy areas, you will have Iceland and all its glory to yourself. Additionally, weather and driving conditions in the summer are much more trouble-free than in the cold and snowy winter. If you would like to visit Iceland during the off-season, I would recommend Spring or at the end of September; when you can still take advantage of sunlight and better weather condition, but without the high-season prices. If you are chasing northern lights, winter is the season to visit. Wandering what to pack for the seasons? Check out my Iceland packing list.