Five Incredible Road Trips in Iceland
Updated: Jul 26, 2019
With its magical landscapes Iceland is a fantastic country for a road trip. One of the many joys of driving in Iceland is that there is not too much traffic. Iceland has a famously small population so you will often have the roads nigh on to yourself. And these are interesting roads too. No boring multi-lane highways in Iceland. Instead the roads are two-lane and open to the immensity of the surrounding countryside. So as you drive you will enjoy expansive views of some incredible scenery. From volcanoes and glaciers to lava fields and waterfalls, Iceland is full to bursting with dramatic vistas.
In this post we will steer you through some of the very best road trips in Iceland. Whether you are looking for a short driving itinerary or have time for a longer road trip. If you’d like to find out more about driving in Iceland take a look at our article Top Tips for Driving in Iceland. Here come our top five favourite Iceland road trips
The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle (sometimes referred to as the Golden Triangle) consists of three spectacular sights in Southern Iceland all within easy reach of Reykjavik. These three natural wonders are the Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss Waterfall and the Geysir Geothermal Area. The Golden Circle route is the perfect Iceland road trip for those who are short on time. In fact you simply cannot visit Iceland without experiencing it.
Many people will opt to join day tours but it is also possible to rent a car for the day. Our preferred option is take a little more time and hire a camper. You could then take 2-3 days to explore the many other sights along the Golden Circle route also. There are plenty of campsites along the way too so you can park up your camper van or rental motorhome and spend the night in nature.
The South Coast
The spectacular South Coast of Iceland is a good road trip for those with a little more time. Perhaps 4-6 days would be the ideal for exploring the coast at a leisurely pace. You could do it in less time but there is just so much to see! From black sand beaches and spectacular waterfalls to a glacier lagoon and much, much more besides.
This is one of the more frequented parts of Iceland so the roads could be a little busy here. The route takes you along part of Iceland’s ring road so it is a paved road and very well kept. This is therefore a very good road trip for anyone who might be nervous about tackling the more challenging or longer routes. The South Coast Iceland road trip can be driven any time of the year too. In summer you will have more time to see the sights, but the winter landscapes will also be extra beautiful. The distances here are short so it is a good safe route to travel in winter if you are short on time. You might also choose to do just a part of it, especially if the weather turns wild.
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula lies to the west of Reykjavik and it is about a two-hour drive to the national park of the same name. This is another good route to do year round and an ideal Iceland road trip if you are short on time. A good length of time would be 3-4 days with overnight stays in the nearby camping areas. Again, you could do it in less time with just one overnight stay.
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is often referred to as Iceland in Miniature. This is because it has such a wealth of different sights. Across the peninsular you will find spectacular volcanic landscapes, a dramatic coastline, mountains, glaciers and some of the many incredible waterfalls in Iceland. This includes one of the most photographed, Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall not far from the iconic Kirkjufell Mountain. In the right season the national park is a popular place to come and see the Northern Lights.
The Ring Road
The Ring Road in Iceland stretches right around the country hugging the coast to the south and east. Up in the north and coming down the western portion of the country it lies a little more inland. Driving the ring road is a much bigger undertaking. But it is out and out spectacular if you have around ten to fourteen days for your trip to Iceland. It is best to drive the ring road in the summer months. From about April to September could work depending on the weather, but certainly from June through August. Driving in Iceland in winter can be tricky and certain parts of the more northerly ring road can be impassable in winter. It would be especially difficult to navigate by motorhome and we highly recommend that you stick to the summer months.
This northern part of Iceland is far less visited than the south so you will enjoy some nice empty roads. As you head up the west coast you will be driving between the ocean and the Vatnajökull National Park. You will notice the roads becoming noticeably emptier and the scenery will be mesmerising. There are so many highlights along the way. You’ll see glaciers and mountain ranges, volcanoes and spectacular waterfalls. You will have the chance to soak in a hot spring (or four!), see a glacial lake and hike across lava fields. All in all this will be an epic adventure.
Across the Highlands
This road trip takes you across the remote central highlands to the north of Iceland. The drive can be done in less than one day but only in summer and only with a four wheel drive vehicle. It is a lonely and spectacular road that takes you through some of the wildest landscapes in Iceland. You can begin at Gullfoss Waterfall then head directly north on the Kjölur F road. This is a road for seasoned drivers in a 4 x 4, but we wholeheartedly recommend it.
You will be driving across stark volcanic landscapes within sight of both the Langjökull and Hofsjökull glaciers. You will also pass the steaming, bubbling and churning Hveravellir geothermal area with its mud pots and fumaroles. The route can be driven in a steady 3 hours, but you are likely to be making a whole lot of stops along the way to gaze at the scenery. Be sure to have a full tank of gas and plenty of food and water to keep you going. There are no gas stations where you’re going!
Once you arrive in the north you will of course need to factor in your drive back. This will depend on which way you choose to drive back to Reykjavik. You might head back on the ring road to the east and then skirt around the south coast. Alternatively you could spend a few days in and around the northern city of Akureyri or take in the Diamond Route or even head west to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The choice is yours!