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The Ultimate Guide to the Ring Road in Iceland


Ring Road in Iceland

In our opinion, there is no better way to explore the island than to make a road trip out of it. And the Ring Road in Iceland is one of our most popular road trip routes. In this article, we’ll not only be discussing the route in-depth. We'll also share some valuable road trip tips and provide you with the perfect Ring Road itinerary.

So, if you’re planning on visiting the island and you are considering a road trip, the Ring Road might just be the best route for you. Read on to see if the sho…ring fits.

What is the Ring Road in Iceland?

As we already mentioned, earlier, the Ring Road is one of our most popular road trip routes. And, as the name suggests, runs in a ring all around Iceland. Driving the Ring Road in Iceland will essentially allow you to experience little bits of all the regions. And, of course, many of the main attractions and activities on the island.

It is also considered extremely important in terms of logistics on the island. That's because the Ring Road connects most major cities and towns with each other. The Iceland Ring Road is 825 miles or 1328 kilometers long. If you are extremely crunched for time, it is possible to complete the Ring Road in just 17 hours.

But then, your trip will only consist of driving and waving to all the attractions and activities you pass by. That’s why it’s recommended that you plan a Ring Road trip that’s at least 7–10 days long.

driving the ring road Iceland

Where is the Ring Road in Iceland?

As we touched on earlier, the Ring Road runs in a circle around the island and connects most of the major cities and towns. Therefore, it’s possible to jump onto the Ring Road from any of these cities or towns. But most visitors to the island start off their Ring Road journey from the capital city of Reykjavík. No wonder why, since that’s usually their first stop after landing at Keflavik Airport.

When is the Best Time to Tackle the Ring Road in Iceland?

Although the Ring Road is technically open all throughout the year, it becomes quite tricky to navigate during the winter time. This is because there are certain regions such as the Westfjords and the Highlands that get hit extremely hard by the colder months. So, sudden road closures are the order of the day.

Even if you do strike it lucky and the roads are open, they are extremely challenging due to snow, ice, and other harsh winter elements. That’s why we always recommend that you plan a Ring Road trip during the summertime.

Accommodation Along the Ring Road in Iceland

There are plenty of accommodation options to fit everyone’s preferences all along the route. You can decide between hotel stays or private rentals such as Airbnb. You can also opt for road-tripping in a car or a campervan! With the latter, you can save on accommodation costs and possibly extend your island stay with Iceland Ring Road camping at the various campsites. 

Ring Road Iceland accommodation

Some of the Best Attractions to see Along the Ring Road in Iceland

There are plenty to look forward to on your Ring Road trip. Some of the attractions include:

Geysir Geothermal Area

The Geysir Geothermal Area is a well-known geothermal field that is home to various hot springs and geysers. The area includes the first one to be discovered (and the very reason for the name); Geysir. Geysers are essentially bubbling and boiling hot springs that erupt and send a massive column of water shooting up into the sky.

Iceland's ring road: Golden circle

Gullfoss Waterfall

Gullfoss means “golden waterfall” and is one of the most impressive waterfalls on the island. But this can be slightly confusing since Gullfoss actually consists of two-tiered waterfalls. One clocking in at a height of 11 meters and the second at 21 meters (32 meters in total). The reason why it is called the “golden waterfall” is that the water appears to be golden brown on sunny summer days.

Gullfoss Waterfall

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Jokulsarlon is Iceland’s most famous and deepest lagoon, clocking in at 200 meters deep. Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is situated at the bottom of Vatnajokull Glacier (Europe’s largest ice cap). At the lagoon, you can see giant floating icebergs up close with one of the boat tours, and if you’re lucky, you will spot some seals playing around them.

Jokulsarlon at the Ring Road

Diamond Beach

Diamond Beach is practically neighbors with Jokulsarlon and is one of the most remarkable black sand beaches in Iceland. This is because the black sand is littered with glistening pieces of ice that have drifted to shore. Scattered all over, they remind one of sparkling diamonds (hence the name).

Ring Road Iceland stops

Lake Myvatn

Lake Myvatn is a large, shallow lake created by volcanic activity on the island. Whilst the lake and its landscape are absolutely breathtaking, most visitors opt to go to the Myvatn Nature Baths. The Myvatn Nature Baths consist of a man-made lagoon and other hot springs that are extremely mineral-rich. These minerals have been proven to have healing properties for all sorts of bodily aches and pains, as well as for dermatological issues.

Ring road north of Iceland

Skogafoss Waterfall

Skogafoss got its name from the fact that it’s the waterfall on the Skoga River. This waterfall is 25 meters wide and a staggering 60 meters tall. This powerful waterfall plummets down the cliffs that once marked the coastline of the south of Iceland. So, if you’re a geology or history fan, this is an absolute must-see.

Skogafoss waterfall

Vatnajokull National Park

Vatnajokull National Park is one of three of Iceland’s national parks. Visiting the park means ice caves, beautiful mountains, rivers, geothermal areas and waterfalls. Of course, the park includes a visit to the Vatnajokull ice cap as well. The park also offers visitors various hiking trails to get to all of these attractions.

Ring road main stops

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

This is one of Iceland’s most famous black sand beaches and stretches for many kilometers. It’s not only popular for its endless black sand, but also its interesting rock formations. Reynisfjara (aka the “Black Beach”) is not a swimming beach. In fact, it is advised that you never enter or turn your back on this ocean, as it has claimed many tourist lives in the past. This is due to incredibly strong undercurrents and sneaker waves.

the ring Iceland

The Perfect Ring Road Itinerary

The perfect Ring Road itinerary usually starts off with the Golden Circle route. It’s 300 km long and covers less remote (and more crowded) areas. Especially in the summer, so you’ll need to plan your stops accordingly. On this route, you can look forward to attractions such as Thingvellir National Park, Geysers at Haukadalur, and Gullfoss Waterfall.

Thereafter, it’s time to take on Iceland’s South Coast which holds amazing stops. Among them are Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Skogafoss Waterfall and Vatnajokull Glacier. Let's not forget about the Solheimansandur plane wreck, and Reynisfjara. Next, you should continue on to Fjadrargljufur Canyon and Svartifoss Waterfall. Then, to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, and the Crystal Ice Cave.

From here, you can travel to Egilsstadir and the Eastern Fjords. You'll get to enjoy some breathtaking views of the Icelandic coastline there. And if you’re lucky, you might spot wild reindeer or some sheep being herded across the road. Also, remember to keep an eye out for the Northern Lights whenever darkness falls in the more remote regions of your trip.

Next, you’ll take on the beautiful mountain passes. All the stops will be marked by many waterfalls such as Dettifoss, and Godafoss ‘till you reach Myvatn. From there, you’ll head to Akureyri (the second-largest city in Iceland) and explore Northern Iceland. Once you arrived in the city, you’ll find plenty of things to do and see, such as fly over a volcano or go whale watching.

The following area to discover is the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Here you can look forward to places such as Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall and Budarkirkja Black Church. Finally, it’s time to head back to the capital city and finish up your Ring Road road trip by exploring Reykjavik.

Be sure to check out Hallgrimskirkja, Harpa Concert Hall, Tjörnin Pond as well as the Blue Lagoon. Although many choose to stop at the Blue Lagoon on their way to catch their flight home.

A Few Helpful Ring Road and Road-Tripping in Iceland Tips

Is this your first trip to the island or the first time you’re attempting a Ring Road road trip? The following trip may make life easier for you on the island and ensure a trip to remember:

Ring Road weather tips

Keep a Close Eye on the Weather

The local saying goes, “you can expect all four seasons in one day in Iceland”. You don’t want to be caught on a hike by the rain and you don’t want to get stuck somewhere due to sudden road closures. The road is pretty essential to do a road trip, after all. Always be prepared and keep a close eye on the Iceland weather forecasts as well as the Iceland road conditions.

Ensure that You’re Right

Quite literally. If you’re coming from countries such as Britain, Australia, or South Africa, you’ll need to remember to drive on the right side of the road in Iceland. If you don’t think that you’ll be comfortable driving on the right when you’re used to the left, there are other options available. From public transport, guided tours, to private drivers.

Strictly Adhere to Road Signs & Road Rules

Not adhering to the rules of the road in Iceland is not only dangerous, but it can get you in a lot of trouble. Icelanders don’t take offenses such as these lightly, and you’ll end up with pretty hefty fines as well as having to do a lot of explaining to your rental agent.

Self-service is the Way to Go

If you want to get away with slightly cheaper gas, then opt to fill up at self-service stations such as Orkan, OB, and Atlantsolia. You can also stock up on snacks and water whilst filling up.

The Ring Road in Iceland: the Best Road Trip for a Shorter Stay

For those who can only visit the island for a week or two, the Ring Road is the perfect road trip route. It will allow you to get a taste of all the different regions of the island as well as see many of the attractions despite your time limit. So, what are you waiting for? Time to rent that car in Reykjavík and begin the road trip of your life on the Ring Road in Iceland!