Top 10 Road Trips in Iceland
The world is a book and those who don’t travel read only a page.
Travelling nourishes both the soul and the mind. It enriches your souls and helps you create cherishable memories for a lifetime. Travelling can boost your mental and emotional health, helping you face every challenge that life throws at you head-on.
You know it’s time to take a break when the feeling of being pinned down by personal and professional commitments gets too strong. To recharge your senses, visit an isolated destination nestled in the lap of nature. If spending some quality time appreciating the gifts of nature is your idea of an ideal holiday, Iceland deserves your attention.
Iceland is a small Nordic island country. It is known for its beautiful waterfalls and cross rivers. Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, is home to almost two-thirds of the country’s total population. Iceland’s surreal beauty has always fascinated travellers.
The country is home to numerous majestic fjords, imposing glaciers, pristine waterfalls, giant lava fields, rugged F roads and sparkling icebergs that captivate travellers with their awe-inspiring beauty.
Must-see places in Iceland
Known for its unparalleled beauty, Snæfellsnes Peninsula is home to several landscapes, which justifies its nickname ‘Iceland in Miniature.’ Snæfellsjökull, a twin-peaked glacier located on the peninsula’s tip, is famous for its scenic beauty. Surrounded by lava fields and a dramatic coastline, Snæfellsjökull’s breathtaking beauty is the inspiration behind masterpieces by many contemporary artists.
Snæfellsjökull was declared a National Park in 2001. If you rent a car, you can travel to the glacier and back within the same day. There’s a lot more to Snæfellsjökull than just sightseeing.
Many tour operators conduct snowmobiling trips on the glacier’s icy surface. You can also go caving in the lava tube located within the park. Remember to visit Ytri Tunga, a beach by a farm in the peninsula.
The Blue Lagoon
Terming the Blue Lagoon a miracle of nature won’t be an exaggeration. It is believed that the water in this geothermal spa contains beneficial minerals and good bacteria with healing properties. The unique algae found in the water of the lagoon can help treat a variety of skin conditions, including psoriasis.
If you want to pamper your skin, opt for an in-water massage or a natural beauty treatment tailored for your skin type.
Hornstrandir Nature Reserve
If you love exploring remote places located away from the hustle and bustle of city life, a visit to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve should top your priority list. The reserve has several magnificent cliffs that are home to thousands of seabirds.
The reserve also has overgrown fields that are a natural habitat of the Arctic Fox, the only land mammal indigenous to Iceland. You can take a ferry from Ísafjörður to reach Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.
Svartifoss or Black Fall is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland. It is surrounded by black basalt columns. From lush green vegetation surrounding the waterfall to the pristine water that falls from a height of 20 metres, everything about the Svartifoss Waterfall is majestic.
The relaxed setting and the sweet music of water falling on the rocks is sure to soothe your senses, helping you unwind and relax. To reach the waterfall, you’ll have to hike around 45 minutes from the entrance.
Landmannalaugar is known for its scenic hiking trails that include lava fields, rock formations, colourful rhyolite mountains and natural hot springs. Landmannalaugar serves as the starting point for the hike to the Laugavegur trail. The four-day hike will take you through some of the most stunning landscapes in the region. If a four-day hike is not your cup of tea, opt for short hikes through the lava field and treks close to Mt. Blahnjukur.
Reykjavik is Iceland’s capital. Famous for its unique painted timber homes, Reykjavik is home to more than 120,000 Icelanders. Reykjavik is known for its Scandinavian vodka bars, shops, and restaurants.
The National and Saga Museums in the city house some of the oldest artefacts related to Iceland’s Viking history. Other must-visit attractions in the city include the Hafnarhus, Alpingi parliament building and the Tjornin Pool.
Vatnajokull National Park
The national park is home to the largest glacier in Europe. The park is divided into four different territories. If you are a seasoned adventurer, climb the Vatnajokull glacier or explore the row of volcanic craters locally known as Lakagigar.
Vatnajokull National Park is famous for its landscapes. From meadows covered with colourful flowers to majestic waterfalls, there’s something for everyone. The park is home to Hvannadalshnukur, Iceland’s highest point. Wetlands in the park play host to reindeer.
Akureyri is the second-most populous city in Iceland, after Reykjavik. It is an important fishing town. Akureyri has various independent cafes, boutiques and craft stores. Some tourist hotspots in Akureyri include the Botanical Garden, Motorcycle Museum of Iceland and Akureyrarkirkja.
Famous for its natural uniqueness and exclusiveness, Hofn is a small fishing town. Hofn is located close to the Hornafjörður fjord. The city is one of the most favoured gateways to East Iceland and the Vatnajokull National Park. The city is home to many eateries, some of which serve the best lobster delicacies in all of Europe.
Thingvellir National Park
The Thingvellir National Park is the most scenic and also the most important national park in Iceland. The park has geological, cultural and historical significance. When exploring the park, you will come across various cracks filled with arguably the purest and clearest glacial water.
The park is split by two continental plates that are continuously drifting apart. The park houses the remains of Althing, Iceland’s first Viking parliament.
When you’re in Iceland, don’t forget to visit Breiðamerkursandur, known for its diamond beach.
How many days should you spend in Iceland?
If you’re visiting Iceland for the first time, we recommend that you spend at least 3-4 days in the country. Though 3-4 days won’t be enough to experience the sights and sounds of Iceland and explore everything that the country has to offer, you should be able to visit the most popular tourist destinations. If you’re a fan of road trips and want to explore Iceland’s famed ring road, plan a 7-8 day trip.
The best 5-7 day itinerary for a trip to Iceland
Day 1: Arrive at Reykjavik
The capital has much to offer, which is why we recommend that you spend at least a day in the city. During your stay, explore the Blue Lagoon Spa, Walk around downtown Reykjavik and explore Laugavegur street and Skólavörðustígur street.
Visit local swimming pools and hot tubs found in almost every neighbourhood in Reykjavik. If you’re a history buff, do remember to visit the Settlement Exhibition and Reykjavik Art Museum.
For the remaining six days, rent a car to take a road trip around the country.
Day 2: The Golden Circle
Driving the Golden Circle should top your priority list. It is home to numerous breathtaking landscapes. Dedicate at least a day to checking out key places such as Gullfoss, Kerið Crater, Thingvellir National Park, and Strokkur and Geysir along the Golden Circle.
Day 3: The Southern Coast
Some cool places to explore during your drive towards the Southern Coast include the Black Sand Beach, Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach and Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. Visiting Seljalandsfoss should be a priority in your checklist. If you an adrenaline junkie, walk up above the Skógafoss Waterfall or hike to Hjörleifshöfði.
Day 4: Westman Islands
Visiting Westman Islands makes sense only if the weather is clear, as, on a cloudy day, you won’t be able to appreciate the jaw-dropping beauty bestowed upon the island. When creating your itinerary, have a back-up plan ready for this day.
You can take a ferry to the Westman Islands. After reaching the island, hike one of the many cliffs. We highly recommend doing the Rib Safari Tour, a boat tour that will introduce you to the prominent locations in the islands.
Day 5: Thórsmörk
Thórsmörk is a dream destination for hiking enthusiasts. The mountain range is known for its greenery. In Thórsmörk, you’ll be welcomed by green vegetation of birchwood, moss and fern. The amazing and unique sights and sounds are sure to sweep you off your feet.
Day 6 and/or day 7: Sakftafell and Vatnajokull National Park
Though Vatnajokull National Park is located outside the city, trust us when we say that you won’t rue your decision to take the long drive. The largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajokull is a nature’s paradise. The park features vivid colours of nature.
Hike a Vatnajokull glacier or explore ice-caves in the area. During your visit to the Vatnajokull National Park, don’t forget to explore the breathtaking Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. During your trip, remember to visit breiðamerkurjökull glacier, an outlet glacier.
Trips to take in Iceland
Many tour operators conduct day trips to tourist attractions in the country; however, the best way to explore Iceland is by taking a road tour. There are several car rental companies in the country that offer cars for hire.
Road conditions in the country are really good. The local government regularly maintains roads in Iceland. Here are some must-take self-drive tours in Iceland
The famous Golden Circle; Gullfoss, Geysir & Thingvellir National Park
Iceland’s Golden Circle sightseeing route has much to offer. The route consists of three amazing locations, Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall and the Geysir Area. Thanks to their convenient location (none of these tourist hotspots is further than a two-hour drive from Reykjavik), you can visit all of them on the same day.
Thingvellir National Park is known for its awe-inspiring beauty. The park features incredible geology.
A 50-minute drive from Thingvellir, the Geysir Geothermal is the next stop on the famed Golden Circle. Known to throw water up to a height of as much as 170 metres, the Geyser has been dormant for quite some time now.
Walking around the Geothermal area is an incredible experience. A boutique located just opposite to the glaciers sells Icelandic goods.
Gullfoss is known for its breathtaking view and the rainbows that are formed during the rainy season. The waterfall freezes during the winter. Watching it carry chunks of ice during winter is a sight to behold.
Ring Road trip
Iceland’s main ring road, known as Route 1, passes through some of the most stunning landscapes in the country. The road passes by popular attractions in North Iceland, such as Dettifoss, Ásbyrgi, Hofsós and Húsavík.
Blue Lagoon trip
Located just 50 minutes from Reykjavik, Blue Lagoon is a geothermal hot spring. End your day of sightseeing by taking a dip in the warm and mineral-rich water. The spa is home to beneficial algae that are believed to help ease symptoms of skin problems. During your visit, do remember to stop by the lava restaurant.
South Coast: Jokulsarlon, Glacier Lagoon, Vatnajokull National Park, -Skogafoss
South Coast is blessed with some of the most awe-inspiring natural wonders in Iceland, including Jokulsarlon, Glacier Lagoon, Vatnajokull National Park, -Skogafolls. Vatnajokull National Park is home to a variety of landscapes. Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon bordering the park, is famous for its pristine beauty.
The Western Coast is also home to Skogafoss, one of the most prominent waterfalls in the country. The waterfall is famous for single and double rainbows that are formed during the rainy season.
Snaefellsnes Peninsula trip
Snaefellsnes Peninsula is home to the iconic Snæfellsjökull glacier, which is said to be the inspiration behind a Jules Verne novel. The beauty of the peninsula is the inspiration behind some of the best works by contemporary artists. The peninsula is surrounded by several quaint fishing villages and towns. The peninsula is home to the Snæfellsjökull volcano, widely regarded as one of the symbols of Iceland.
The Arctic Coast Way trip
A road trip along Iceland’s Arctic Coast Way is sure to recharge your senses. The route includes six peninsulas that are home to stunning black beaches and majestic cliffs. The route is also dotted with fjords, deltas and mountain ranges.
Some places to visit along the route include Vatnsnes Peninsula, Skagafjörður (famous for its landscapes and historic remains), Tröllaskagi (famous for its majestic snow-capped mountains) and Húsavík (a paradise for whale watchers).
Landmannalaugar hiking trip
Located at the edge of Laugahraun lava field, Landmannalaugar is known for its natural geothermal springs and stunning landscape. Landmannalaugar is also famous for its hiking trails. The most popular hikes in the area include a two-hour hike through the Laugahraun lava field to the Brennisteinsalda volcano.
You can also hike up the Bláhnjúkur mountain, or try a four-hour hike to Ljótipollur crater lake. Some other activities to try in the area include Icelandic horse riding and Arctic char fishing.
Reykjanes Peninsula is home to several hot spring sites, lava fields, cliffs and lakes. The Blue Lagoon, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland, is located in this peninsula. The peninsula has an active volcanic system. Some places to visit in the peninsula include Gunnuhver Geothermal Field, The Reykjanesvíti Lighthouse, Kleifarvatn Lake and the Blue Lagoon.
North trip: Whale watching in Husavik
Husavik is popularly known as the Whale Capital of Iceland. The town is considered one of the best places to spot whales in the world. Watching friendly whales breach, slap and feed in their natural habitat is an unparalleled experience. Some whale species spotted in the area include white-beaked dolphin, humpback and minke.
Located in north-western Iceland, the Westfjords is a peninsula. Some places to visit during your Westfjords trip include Látrabjarg Bird Cliffs, Grettislaug Hot Pools, Rauðasandur red sand beach, Dynjandi Falls and Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.