The Icelandic Ring Road, or Route 1, is one of the most epic road trips in the world!
The 1332 km Ring Road is the main road in Iceland. It is a circular road that connects most of the Icelandic settlements, as well as the spectacular natural beauty of Iceland’s most famous attractions.
You would need a lifetime to uncover all the waterfalls, hot springs, volcanoes, and glaciers that line the Icelandic Ring Road. Unfortunately, most people don’t have that long to come and visit!
Not to worry, here is everything you need to know to make the most out of your Icelandic Ring Road adventure.
Picking up your Vehicle
First things first, you need to pick up your hire vehicle.
There are plenty of car hire companies available right at the airport, but make sure you book in advance to avoid disappointment. We encourage you to take out the highest level of insurance that you possibly can. Vehicles can often get damaged by sand or pebbles in the extreme Icelandic weather!
Make sure you leave plenty of time for your road trip. Most people recommend at least seven days in the summer, but we would urge you to spend more time exploring the Ring Road if possible.
Although the Ring Road is Iceland’s main road, it is nothing like the highways you might be used to. There are single-lane bridges to watch out for, and it can still get flooded or closed to snow in Winter. This is particularly true in the East. Make sure you leave plenty of time to enjoy the view, and to allow for extreme weather conditions.
You could also consider hiring a camping car. However, you can’t just pull over and park anywhere. You need to stay in registered campgrounds if you travel around Iceland with a camping vehicle.
Taking an organized tour
If you don’t feel like driving in Iceland, you can always take an organized tour!
The best thing about going on a bus tour is that you can focus on soaking up the magnificent views while your driver focuses on the road. Your expert guide will be full of knowledge about the history and culture of Iceland, and you don’t have to worry about any of the logistics.
Keep your eyes out for the famous Icelandic horses, which are grazing near the road!
Of course, organized tours aren’t for everyone. Some people much prefer the independence to travel at their own pace. If this is the case for you, why not consider taking public transport.
Iceland has a very safe and affordable public bus system. This is a good transport option to consider for independent travelers on no strict schedule. However, the low frequency of buses means it might not be a good idea if your time is limited.
What to Visit on the Icelandic Ring Road
The Icelandic Ring Road could keep you busy for a lifetime. From the black volcanic beaches of the South to the whale watching excursions of the North. You will not be bored!
We recommend that you pick a few things that you simply can’t miss, rather than trying to see everything in one week. This way, you will have time to enjoy each activity fully. You are always welcome to come back to Iceland again!
Here is a list of things to do in each region of the Ring Road, to help you plan your itinerary.
What do at the South West of the Ring Road
- Take a hike to the hot spring river of Reykjadalur. Soaking in hot water as you enjoy views of two different glaciers will make the effort worth it!
- Practice your photography skills as you explore the cave behind the incredible Seljalandsfoss waterfall.
- Go for a swim in the warm swimming pool at Seljavallalaug, surrounded by lush green mountain slopes.
- Visit the dizzying clifftops and thundering waters of the Skogafoss waterfall.
- Hike out the US Navy Plane wreck on the black beaches of Sólheimasandur.
- Watch puffins feed their young at the spectacular cliffs of Dyrhólaey.
- Feel the volcanic sand between your toes at the extraordinary black beaches of Vik.
What to do at the South East of the Ring Road
- Pay your respects at Hofskirkja Church. The turf-covered place of worship looks straight out of a fairytale!
- Walk around the mighty canyon of Fjadrargljufur, made famous by the dragons of Game of Thrones!
- Go hiking in the gorgeous Skaftafell area, part of the enormous Vatnajokull National Park.
- Take a walk up to the stunning Black Waterfall of Svartifoss.
- Ride an amphibian boat through the icy waters of Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon
- Enjoy a quiet moment on the shores of Diamond beach, watching the sun glint off the enormous chunks of ice that wash up on the shore.
What to do at the East of the Ring Road
Time to leave the more touristy South of Iceland behind and set off into the unknown!
- Sample the freshly caught Langoustines at the fishing town of Hofn.
- Listen to the beating wings of the Swan flocks at the Alftafjordur fjord.
- Search for reindeer on the tranquil slopes of Brunnhorn mountain.
- Hunt for the Lagarfljot Worm (a mythical monster) at Lagarfljot river
- Enjoy the seafood in the colorful village of Seydisfjordur.
- Inspect the fossilized trunks of ancient trees at Hengifoss waterfall.
What to do at the North of the Ring Road
- Go whale watching in the wild waters of Husavik.
- Enjoy the calls of rare birds on the shores of Myvatn Lake.
- Explore the wacky rock formations at the Dimmuborgir lava fields.
- Visit the hot spring cave of Grjotagja, where some of our favorite Game of Thrones’ characters ignited a steamy romance!
- Relax in the soothing water of Myvatn Nature Baths.
- Listen to the thundering waters of Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe!
- Soak up history at the waterfall of the Gods, where the Norse gods were forsaken, and Iceland embraced Christianity.
- Enjoy a cold beer in the friendly bars of Akureyri ski town.
What to do at the West of the Ring Road
You’ve almost made it! There’s still time to squeeze in one or two more adventures.
- Visit the volcanoes, mountains, and glaciers of the Snaefellsnes peninsula.
- Let the dramatic scenery Westfjords take your breath away.
- Pay homage to the Viking writer Snorri Sturluson at his Reykholt home.
- Eat the world-famous hotdogs at the lovely town of Borgarnes.
- Hike up the steep slopes of Mount Esja.
- Hit the clubs and restaurants of Reykjavik, exhausted but delighted with your adventure!
Which Icelandic attractions aren’t on the ring road?
The Ring Road is packed full of amazing adventures and breathtaking scenery! However, there are a couple of things that can’t be visited on Route 1.
The Golden Circle is a 300 km route in the Southern Uplands of Iceland, famous for some of the most spectacular sites that the country has to offer.
If you want to see the incredible sites of Geysir, Gullfoss waterfall, and Thingvellir national park, don’t forget to leave time for this detour.
The Blue Lagoon is also not on the Ring Road, but we think the fantastic Myvatn Nature Baths are just as good. What’s more, they’re cheaper!
Where to stay on the Icelandic Ring Road?
All that exploring is tiring! Luckily, there are so many wonderful places to stay along the ring road.
However, Iceland is a trendy destination with tourists, so you must book accommodation in advance. The cheapest options would be camping in a tent or campervan, though there are several good quality hostels to serve tourists on a low budget.
It is best to stay at a different accommodation every night. This way, you can have all the more time to explore the local area and get the most out of your epic Icelandic road trip.
Here are a few suggestions on where to stay during your Ring Road Trip.
Accommodation in South Iceland
On a Budget
Located near Vik, you can grab a dorm bed at the lovely hostel called The Barn. You can expect privacy curtains around each bunk, and a very modern, clean kitchen.
Price: Starting at USD 30 for a dorm bed.
In the Middle
Hotel Ork is a brilliantly rated mid-range option where you can expect onsite hot tubs and sauna. The convenient location is just 45 minutes from Reykjavik.
Price: Starting at USD 170 for a double room
If you are looking for real luxury, consider checking in to 360 Hotel and Thermal baths. You will enjoy an onsite geothermal pool and spa and fantastic food, which also caters to vegetarians. The views are to die for!
Price: Starting at USD 400 for a room.
Accommodation in East Iceland
On a Budget
Enjoy a cheap and cheerful night’s rest at the Vinland Camping Pods. This is a luxury camping experience, with small camping pods offering wifi. A communal bathroom and kitchen area are in a separate building.
Price: From USD 55 for two people in a pod
In the Middle
Hotel Aldan is an excellent mid-price hotel, set in 3 historic buildings. It is located near the colorful ski town of Seydisfjördur.
Price: from USD 125 for a double room.
For a luxury stay in the East, consider a night in the Langahlid Cottages. You can relax in the onsite hot tubs, with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. If you have a larger group, the price can be split between you.
Price: Starting at USD 380 per cottage per night.
Accommodation in North Iceland
On a Budget
The cheapest Northern accommodation with great reviews is the Berg hostel. Guests love the kind staff and peaceful farm location.
Price: from USD 34 for a bed in a dorm
In the Middle
Grenivik Guest House comes exceptionally rated. As does the delicious breakfast using local ingredients!
Price: from USD 125 for a double room
For another authentic guest house experience, try this luxury homestay at Skjálfandi. You can expect a free airport shuttle service, private bathroom, and great location in central Husavik.
Price: From USD 340 a room
Accommodation in West Iceland
You are almost there now, Reykjavik is just around the corner!
On a Budget
The Freezer Hostel and Culture Center offers a unique experience in the West of Iceland. Based in a former fish factory, it shares the property with a local theatre.
Price: From USD 34 per dorm bed
In the Middle
The Teigur Guesthouse is the top-rated homestay experience in Western Iceland! For an authentic local stay, it is not to be missed.
Price: Starts at USD 85 for a room.
For a gorgeous night in a peaceful area, consider staying at the Nátthagi Luxury Cottage. The highly-rated cottages can sleep up to 6 people.
Price: Starts at USD 340 per night
See you soon!
We hope you enjoyed this article about the Icelandic Ring Road. We look forward to welcoming you for the road trip of a lifetime!