With countless waterfalls, ancient ice caps, active volcanos and bubbling geothermal fields, Iceland’s nature is a spectacular experience. One of the best ways to get a glimpse of these natural wonders is to drive along its world famous Ring Road.
But how much time do you actually need? In this guide we will show you how to see Iceland’s major highlights in just 10 days.
You can rent a car and arrange accommodation along your route. But hotels and guesthouses are scarce and often fully booked, especially in summer season.
Only consider sleeping in a tent if you are a die hard camping fan. Because even in summer temperatures will plunge way below zero at night.
The most convenient option is to rent a campervan.
Renting a campervan in Iceland doesn’t come cheap. We decided to go for the smallest campervan from TripCampers and ended up paying $ 1,455 for 10 days of rental. The good news is that this is the total cost for both your transportation and most of your accommodation.
Our campervan was equipped with a fold-down bed, electric cooler, water tank, gas stove, cutleries and an inverter to charge our camera and phone while driving.
The Ring Road, or Route 1, circumnavigates Iceland in 1,332 kilometers. The road is paved and in good condition without much traffic, which makes it a fairly easy and stress-free ride. Some of the side roads are paved too.
Beware of lots of sheep as they roam free in summer season!
The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration provides very detailed and up-to-date information about current road conditions.
You are allowed to camp pretty much everywhere in Iceland. But there is some recent discussion going on about the impact of wild camping on the environment. Farmers are not always very happy to see tourists set camp nearby their property either.
There are lots of campsites with some basic amenities. We stayed at a campsite every night because it was really cheap. Want to stay in a hotel or guesthouse? Check out Booking.com or Airbnb — but make sure to book well in advance in summer season!
Gas and groceries
Gas stations are widely available along the Ring Road. Prices of gas average at about $ 1.64 per liter and you can pay by credit card.
Note that only credit cards with a 4 digit pin code will work at gas stations.
Iceland’s weather is cool and the climate is temperate. The warm North Atlantic Current ensures generally higher temperatures than in most places of similar latitude in the world.
But a sunny morning can easily change into a snow storm in the afternoon — even in summer season. Download the weather app of The Icelandic Meteorological Office in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store for the most accurate weather forecast.
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Day 1: Reykjavik
The city center of Reykjavik is nice to stroll around for a few hours. But it’s time to hit the road! We spent the first afternoon driving in the direction of Snæfellsjökull National Park.
The camp site in Arnarstapi is a perfect place to stay for the first night. And you will wake up with stunning views of Snæfellsjökull!
Day 2: Snæfellsjökull and turf houses
Snæfellsjökull National Park is located in the westernmost part of Snæfellsnes peninsula. The centerpiece of the peninsula is the 700,000-year-old stratovolcano Snæfellsjökull. The volcano is huge and can be seen from every angle from the peninsula.
Also, we visited some authentic Icelandic turf houses on our way from Snæfellsjökull National Park to Akureyri.
Day 3: Vatnajökull National Park
Can’t get enough of waterfalls? Then Vatnajökull National Park must definitely be on your itinerary! There are countless waterfalls with Dettifoss being the biggest. Dettifoss is 100 meters wide and has a drop of 44 meters.
Dettifoss is reputed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
The road in the park is mostly dirt road. But don’t be put off by that. Just take it easy and soak op the views along the way — you won’t regret it!
Day 4: Grimsey Island and Hverir
Did you know Iceland is located within the Arctic Circle? Well, that’s not entirely true. But one of Iceland’s islands is! Grimsey Island is about 40 kilometers off the north coast of Iceland and is inhabited by one hundred people — and one million seabirds. We really recommend to visit if you are a bird lover. Norlandair flies daily from Akureyri to Grimsey Island in summer season.
We visited Hverir Geothermal Area in the afternoon where you can see mud pools, steam vents and bubbling geothermal waters. There are some nice hikes around too!
Day 5: Whale watching in Husavik
Husavik is the place to be when it comes to whale watching. There are several tour operators located in the middle of the town that run daily trips to the Skjálfandi bay. We did the trip on a sail boat with North Sailing.
Although we did see a lot of dolphins, we only got a glimpse of the tail of one whale.
Day 6: Drive the eastern part of Iceland
Prepare yourself for a long drive. Getting from Husavik to Höfn is about 400 kilometers and takes up most of the day. Luckily, the views along the way are great and you will probably make an occasional stop to take some pictures.
Day 7: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
No matter how many days you are planning to visit Iceland, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon must be on your itinerary! This was absolutely one of the major highlights of our trip.
You will find plenty of hiking trails around the lagoon with stunning views of the glacier. On the other side of the Ring Road, huge chunks of ice from the Jökulsárlón Glacier float into sea and washes back shore. It almost seems unreal. We spent a few hours walking around different parts of the lagoon and the beach.
Day 8: Skógafoss and Golden Circle
After visiting the awesome Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon we headed in the direction of the Golden Circle. You will find some beautiful waterfalls along the way, including Skógafoss. This waterfall is probably the most photogenic waterfall in Iceland. The hike up the waterfall is really nice too!
“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”~ Susan Sontag
Unfortunately the weather was really bad for the rest of the day for our visit at the Golden Circle. We did pass by some highlights, including Geysir. But it rained so hard that we only took a few pictures. We definitely have to come back to do the Golden Circle again!
Day 9: Krýsuvík and Blue Lagoon
We spent the night in the small town of Selfoss before heading to the Reykjanes peninsula. Before visiting the Blue Lagoon we wandered around the geothermal area of Krýsuvík, just a half our drive from the main road.
Pre-booking is required if you want to visit the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa.
The Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa is the most popular tourist destination in Iceland. You can either go to the spa or enjoy the surroundings. We did the latter because we didn’t pre-book tickets and wanted to avoid the crowds in spa. Although you cannot go for a swim, you still will see countless of milky blue lakes!
Day 10: Back to Reykjavik
Unfortunately it is time to head back to Reykjavik. There are not many camp sites in the city and we ended up on a cramped camping spot just outside the city center. It may be wise to book a camp site in Reykjavik in advance in summer season. We got squeezed in the last camping spot that was available.
Are you planning to visit Iceland and to drive the Ring Road?
Our road trip around the Ring Road of Iceland was one of the best we ever did. We think you will enjoy this spectacular experience just like us!