It might be a nightmare to find yourself driving in a circle, but your nightmare will turn into an unimaginable dream when you do it in Iceland – you will experience the dancing Northern Lights one minute and windstorms the next, sunny skies one day and biting cold the next. What of the fragile waterfalls, completely made of icicles and beautiful drives that most likely terminate at frozen lakes? Mother Nature, in her entire glory, truly rules supreme in Iceland – a land like no other. You require nothing short of two weeks to complete a memorable road trip in this extraordinary country following the Ring Road route and Golden Circle track which are among the most famed roads the country has to offer. Read on to get the details on the best road trips you can take in this amazing country.
Leg 1 Reykjavik to Vik via the Golden Circle
You can commence your Iceland road trip in Reykjavik’s capital as you traverse via several natural wonders that will keep you wondering. Golden Circle – a famed driving route in Iceland follows a comparatively quick lane from the capital and trails out to many amazing attractions. You will explore the majority of the Golden Circle in the initial leg of your trip before you link up with Ring Road, which is larger and equally renowned. Be sure to make stops at lagoons, geysers, the fissure between two tectonic plates and the country’s largest waterfalls.
While you rent a vehicle and get ready to hit the road, first take a good look around to see whether any festivals are going on. Reykjavik is a veritable hotbed of experiences with a yearly calendar overflowing with art, music, fashion, food, and design festivals. If none of the fests is on, you can still do other things, the old ports and historic buildings are right there in the very heart of the globe’s most modern capital. You can explore the coastline of the city on a bike.
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The city gives tourists access to the National Museum where you will come face to face with history in its complete form, supported by relics that date back to the earliest settlement till the present. The Art Museum is there with a plethora of artwork split into three distinct sites. What’s more, the country is famous for salmon fishing and Reykjavik is the place. The Hallgrímskirkja church has pride of place as the most legendary structure in all of Reykjavik, offering an unreserved view over the entire city.
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The Blue Lagoon is one ofIceland’s most visited spots situated out on the peninsula to Reykjavik’s south-west, just a short diversion from the city. The setting is an arresting lagoon in blue color, created by volcanic activities over eight centuries ago. This is the very place where you can have a warm water bath, smother your body with silica mud and get in some relaxation in the wonderland that is Iceland. Also on offer are trips which teach the region’s history, lagoon products, and complete wellness packages.
The Golden Circle is simply a place of great national significance as well as global geographical acclaim which can be accessed with less than one hour from the city of Reykjavik. You can visit The Thingvellir National Park, which is one of the World Heritage Listed locations and is renowned as a place of dispute settlement among the Icelanders between 930 to 1798. Althing was the name of the then assembly and presently, the remains of roughly 50 booths and agricultural relics from the previous few centuries are still visible.
The region also offers geographic mysteries – the place sits astride the famous crevice found between the tectonic plates right in the Mid-Atlantic Range where the North American, and Eurasian plates meet. The most interesting part is that it is actually visible. The biggest of the rifts across the country is Peningagjá with its abundance astonishingly clear water, and you can clearly see the coins which people threw many years ago at the bottom of the waters. The place boasts of an additional two rifts filled with water which are noted among the globe’s most enthralling diving spots.
Other attraction spots include the little town of Laugarvatn where you are likely to catch the Northern Lights; there is Haukadalur which houses the geysers that are believed to have been active for over 1,000 years. The brilliant Gullfoss Waterfall (the biggest waterfall in Iceland) lies a bit further down the Golden Circle. It is simply a sit of raw beauty and power that displays a dazzling, vivid rainbow on a sunny day; it becomes a violent surge of water which drops 32 m over two drops in summer and in winter, it acquires an ethereal quality from the ice and snow which explanation is simply beyond words.
The Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is the only waterfall in the whole world where it is possible to walk around the tumbling waters as it falls into the pool below. The sunset here is a sight to behold, and if the Northern Light happens to put in an appearance, you will be pinching yourself, just to ensure that it is not a dream.
Before you proceed to Vik, check out Cape Dyrholaey – renowned for its beautiful stone arch carved into the cliff by the activities of the unrelenting ocean. Years of volcanic wreckages have filled the beaches with white and black sand; another thing of significance is the comical-looking birds called puffins, which populate the place from April through to summer.
Leg 2 Vik to Hofn
It is a short road that connects Vik to Hofn, and you will be faced with the temptation of making several stops on the way as you encounter sites like blue ice caves, black-sand beaches, and crystal clear glaciers. This sensual trip will bring your battery life to zero, and your spirit will sure go on an all-time high.
Vik is situated in the southernmost part of Iceland and is good for picturesque stops while on your tour. It is a peaceful break from your Iceland road trip with beautiful attractions like beaches; you can still have access to other beaches like Reynisfjara and Reynisdrangar a few miles from Vik village. These beaches are known for unbelievable sea stacks as well as cliff faces which intrude across the sky. Reynisdrangar for one means troll’s finger, a name which it got from the plethora of fingers sticking directly up from the ground.
Your Iceland road trip itinerary should include Skaftafell, which is home to the ice caves of Svinafellsjokull right in the National park. Created by the nearby Vrffajvkul volcano, the caves are out of this world with a large entrance that tapers off into smaller nooks towards the back. The mesmerizing blue hue created by the volcano as it squeezed the air from centuries-old ice on its movement down the glacier is more visible after the rains at the end of winter. During this time, the ice will be solid, making it the safest time for a visit. Vatnajokull Glacier, with its 3,300 cubic kilometers of solid ice, is the largest in all of Europe. Another stunning spot here is the Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon – a glacial lake scattered with innumerable icebergs big and small that drift around till they melt slowly.
The Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon is even more famous, lying 10 km east of the Fjallsarlon Glacier. A sail across the waters of this lagoon will allow you an up-close view of the ancient ice, and you can probably encounter one or two seals. The end of your glacier excursion will herald a trip to Hofn.
Leg 3 Hofn to Myvatn
Iceland consists of two Hofns – one lies towards Reykjavic on the west coast while the other is in Iceland’s south-east, which is the one you need to see, so ensure it is the right one. As you leave, expect to see sights like sheep passing along the road and maybe a reindeer. Tourists usually encounter the most amazing waterfall in all of Europe around the famous Ring Road. The waterfall, which is a filmmaker’s dream comes in the form of an astonishingly blue crater lake, and with an assortment of Dark Castles.
Formerly a minor fishing village situated in southern Iceland, Hofn is presently a blooming tourist attraction center because of its proximity to the Vatnajökull National Park, with the accompanying lagoons and glaciers as well as a spot on the famed Ring Road. The village setting is a little projection of land, sitting upon tranquil waters, surrounded by beautiful craggy mountains. The place can boast of multiple hiking track, a maritime museum, visitor’s centers, shops, and restaurants. The yearly lobster festival is usually on in the summer. The next stop on your Iceland road trip itinerary is Dettifoss, which is a very long drive from Hofn, so make sure to stock up with food and drinks as well as fuel for the vehicle.
The fresh waters of Dettifoss Waterfall lies 30km off the beaten Ring Road. The width is a hundred meters, and the falls ascend 45 m before crashes into roaring foam situated at the bottom. Another gorgeous diversion from Ring Road will take you to Krafla Viti Crater – a crater overflowing with cobalt blue water that came to be, in 1700, following a blast from the Krafla volcano which lasted five years.
In addition to being a good location for the movies, Dimmuborgir which means Dark Castles is a perfect description of the never-ending mesmerizing lava formations of the area. From keyholes and chimneys to cones and pillars, this 2,300-year-old famous geological location is a great one for both photography and hiking.
Leg 4 Myvatn to Stykkisholmur
His is the penultimate leg of your Iceland road trip, and it is one with cool falls, hot pools, and beautiful cities. You may decide to take your time around this Northern side of the famed Ring Road, or you can make a quick work by driving through. The towns to encounter on the way include;
- Myvatn – A little town situated close to a big lake and a place of unimaginable beauty, famed for its hot pools called Myvatn Nature Baths and water birds as well as the Vogafjos Restaurant and Farm.
- Godafoss – Means The Waterfall of the Gods in translation, though not as powerful as the Dettifoss, the falls is enmeshed in the country’s switch from paganism to Christianity which happened around the year 1000. Before continuing your trip along the Ring Road, do go for a meal at Fossholl guesthouse close by.
- Akureyri – Northern Iceland’s capital and the 2nd biggest city in Iceland. You can visit the Botanical Garden, the beautiful Lutheran church and the Hlidarfjall Ski Field on the outskirts of the city for skiing. Your next stop should be Helgafell.
- Helgafell – This is a holy mountain which grants three wishes to visitors according to local legend. However, you must ascend the 73-meter hill to make your wishes as you admire the exceptional view that lies across Breidafjordur Bay.
Leg 5Stykkisholmur to Reykjavik
This is the last leg of your Iceland road trip before you come full circle and head back to Reykjavik. The stops to make here include;
- Stykkisholmur – The Town of Thousand Islands – situated in western Iceland right at the north of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. There you will encounter The Volcano Museum, the Library of Water, and The church, Stykkisholmskirkja.
- Kirkjufell – This is one mountain that will tempt you to climb right to the very peak. A lonely location on the sea, shaped like a cone, Kirkjufell is Iceland’s most photographed mountain. You can decide to settle for a walk around the base or take a hike of 1.5 hours to the peak.
- Deildartunguhver – here you will encounter the biggest hot spring in all of Europe, pumping piping hot 100 degrees Celsius180 liters of water per second. The water functions as central heating in a couple of towns in the vicinity. In fact, you are bathing with this water if you happen to take a shower close by.
- Reykholt – This is home to Snorrastofa, another prehistoric geothermally heated pool. Other sites to see in Reykholt include; a cultural centre offering excursions as well as historical exhibitions, and Mika the local eatery. Before you come to the conclusion of your Ring Road Tour of Iceland, there are still a couple of waterfalls to visit, Hraunfossar (Lava Falls) and Barnafoss (Children’s Falls). You will first encounter Hraunfossar, but will be able to trail the path upstream to Barnafoss.
- Top 5 Road Trips in Iceland – Guide To Iceland
- The best road trips in Iceland — from three days to two weeks – Matador Network