iceland: driving the ring road

Recently I embarked on a 12 day excursion through the land of fire and ice. Iceland is one of the most remarkable destinations on this planet, and should be on the top of your travel list, if not already. As weather is a big factor, I highly suggest giving yourself 7 days minimum if you plan on completing the entire ring road. This itinerary can be done in 7 days, but you can absolutely stretch it longer, if you include the West Fjords.

This article includes my full road trip with sites, photos, transportation, and drive times. You can see more photos on my Instagram.

Iceland's Ring Road

The Ring Road is designed perfectly for a road trip. According to Google Maps, you can complete the entire Ring Road in under 20 hours. However if you plan on making time for hikes and site seeing, you'll want to give yourself at least 7 days to complete it, as mentioned above. Full route below, but excludes the West Fjords.

I recommend taking this route counter-clockwise. When going this direction, it will get you acclimated to the scenery at a nice pace, while also getting used to the roads. When visiting Iceland, you absolutely need a car. I suggest renting a camper van for your road trip so you can stay flexible throughout your trip. We booked ours through GoCampers, and were extremely pleased with the rental. No, I'm not paid to say this, but their campers are extremely comfortable, clean, includes storage for your gear, and a mattress to sleep in the back. Just be sure to bring your sleeping bag. There are several companies to go through, so just do your research and book your camper sooner than later.

The roads are driven on the right side, and majority of cars are manual. Be sure you know how to drive stick shift, or book your car accordingly. Iceland's roads are open all year along the ring road, however you'll run into many "f-roads" which are inaccessible without 4WD. While driving around Iceland, you should not rely solely on GPS. There are many parts of Iceland without signal, so a physical map is very useful. Lodging is unnecessary if you plan on renting a camper van, but it goes without saying that these do not have showers. We camped in our rental for majority of our trip, but checked in to hostels along the way to charge our gear, shower, and take care of any laundry. 


Day 1: Reykjavík/Keflavík to Vík

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As soon as you hit the road heading South East to Vík, you'll be blown away by the landscape. The first day is only a few hours of driving, so it's an easy start to your trip. Along this route, be sure to explore the sites below. Gullfoss is a bit out of the way, as it's part of the Golden Circle, and can saved at the end of your trip if you have time.

  • Gullfoss
  • Seljalandsfoss
  • Gljúfrabúi
  • Seljavallalaug
  • Skógafoss
  • DC3 Plane Wreck
  • Dyrhólaey
  • Black Sand Beach






Black Sand Beach

Black Sand Beach

Day 2: Vík to Höfn

The drive to Höfn will be similar to day 1 with only a few hours behind the wheel, but be prepared to stop often. There are a lot to see along the way, so you can easily split this up into 2 days. This area will still be fairly crowded, as most people who do a short trip to Iceland will only do the southern rim of the country. We were able to book a glacier tour via Mountain Guides, and climbed Sólheimajökull. If you've seen Chasing Ice on Netflix, Sólheimajökull is one of the glaciers documented in the film.

Points of Interest for Day 2:

  • Fjaðrárgljúfur
  • Svartifoss
  • Skaftafell
  • Jökulsárlón
  • Vatnajökull Glacier
  • Sólheimajökull Glacier
Inside Sólheimajökull Glacier 

Inside Sólheimajökull Glacier 







Day 3: Höfn to Egilsstaðir

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Day 3 will be more of a scenic drive along the eastern coast of Iceland with several fishing villages. This is a great day to rest and catch up from any jet lag or fatigue from your first 2 to 3 days. If your trip is longer than 7 days, this is a good day to refuel, charge your gear, check in to a hostel, etc. You'll likely see a lot of Icelandic horses along the way. Be sure to stop and see how friendly they are!

Points of Interest for Day 3:

  • Djúpivogur
  • Eskifjörður
  • Neskaupstaður
  • Seyðisfjörður
  • Dyrfjöll
  • Egilsstaðir
Icelandic Horses

Icelandic Horses


Day 4: Egilsstaðir to Lake Mývatn

The drive to Lake Mývatn is fairly easy, with mostly paved roads along the way. Just like everywhere else in Iceland, you'll run into a lot of sheep and horses.If you're lucky you may even see some reindeer. Around Mývatn, there are a number of spots to see. Now's a good time to check your pace and schedule. If you're ahead of schedule with plenty of time left, make sure you leave 2 or 3 days for the West Fjords, which I'll get into later. If you plan on seeing Dettifoss, be prepared for an hour of driving through rough terrain. This was my favorite waterfall in Iceland, and highly recommend seeing this.

Points of Interest for Day 4:

  • Hrossaberg Crater
  • Dettifoss Waterfall
  • Krafla Power Plant
  • Viti Crater
  • Mývatn Nature Baths
  • Hverarond Geothermal
  • Lake Mývatn
  • Hverfjall Cone


Viti Crater

Viti Crater

Day 5: Mývatn to West Fjords Base

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This route doesn't have as many sites compared to prior days, but just as it goes with the rest of Iceland, you'll see beautiful scenery the entire way. Be prepared to stop several times for photos along the way. We were fortunate enough to have a clear day and gaze up at the Northern Lights.

Points of Interest for Day 5:

  • Goðafoss
  • Aldeyjarfoss
  • Akureyri
  • Hvammstangi




Day 6: Fjord Base to West Fjords

Within the West Fjords, you could spend several days throughout the area. If you plan on taking the coastal route, there are several campground along the way for you to spend the night. The West Fjords offer endless picturesque areas along the way. Know that the road conditions aren't up to par with what you've seen thus far, with tons of gravel roads. This will add some significant time to your drive, so keep that in mind throughout the West Fjords.

Points of Interest for Day 6:

  • Hornstrandir
  • Ísafjörður
  • Látrabjarg Cliffs
  • Kirkjufell
  • Snæfellsjökull National Park

Day 7: West Fjords to Þingvellir 

As you make your to Þingvellir, you'll see mossy lava rocks all around you. This is the entrance to the Golden Circle. If you have time, it's worth it to see. By this point, you'll already notice a surge in the number of tourists around. The Golden Circle is one of the popular routes within the Ring Road. Regardless, there are still things to see like geysers and more waterfalls!

Points of Interest for Day 7:

  • Golden Circle
  • Haifoss Waterfall
  • Kerið Crater
  • Gullfoss
  • Geysers


Day 8: Þingvellir to Reykjavík

Getting back to Reykjavík from Þingvellir is very quick. The city is fairly big with many places to eat and will be good to unwind from completing the Ring Road. Some people will recommend the Blue Lagoon, but what we heard from locals was that it's nothing but an overpriced tourist trap. I highly recommend going to Myvatn Nature Baths instead on Day 5 or 6.

Iceland has been my favorite country to visit thus far, and I encourage you to make a trip out here. Hopefully this was helpful, but if you have any questions feel free email me here, or reach out via Instagram