The Ring Road - Iceland’s Most Popular Road Trip
Once most travelers discover the ring road, it’s hard to consider any other options. With 7 days you can zip around getting a taste of Iceland’s highlights. With more time you can explore some areas in more depth, or spend a day hiking, rafting, horseback riding, whale watching, and more. Climb up Volcanoes and through lava fields, see waterfalls both hidden and grand. Walk past geothermal areas with bubbling mud pools and steam vents and then explore pristine green landscapes over fjords just a few hours away. End with glaciers, ice caves, and icebergs as you make your way along the south coast back to Reykjavik to experience “city life” once again.
Learn more with our Ultimate Guide to the Ring Road in 8 Days
While the Route 1 is a great Overview Experience, it may not be right for all people or all seasons.
In Winter, the roads can become icy or snow-covered at times. Combined with high winds, some travelers prefer to focus on areas closer to Reykjavik where they can focus the limited daylight on exploring rather than driving.
In Summer, the weather is great, but the south coast area (Reykjavik to Jokulsarlon) can become very crowded, with long lines to park at key sites, and hotel availability can be difficult to find, especially with larger groups or last minute.
Fall and Spring can be great times for the ring road. Waterfalls will be in full force April to early June, and September and October brings a change in foliage with nice reds, oranges, and yellows covering the landscapes. If you're here on a transition season, you will notice a dramatic difference between the north and south at this time.
Best of the West: Volcanic Snaefellsnes Peninsula & Remote Westfjords
This itinerary quickly takes you away from the crowds of Reykjavik and the Golden Circle area and shows you the quiet and more-remote side of Iceland. In Summer this is the perfect escape for those looking to hike and enjoy the scenery.
The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is often referred to as “Mini Iceland” as it has a bit of everything: strange cliff formations, small fishing towns, lava fields, craters, waterfalls, and black sand beaches.
Take a ferry past Flatey island and enter a region unknown to 96% of visitors to Iceland: the remote and dramatic Westfjords.
Here you can enjoy long summer days and the midnight sun, endless hikes up and over the mountains and between the many picturesque fjords. Walk along the Cliffs of Látrabjarg at the westernmost point of Europe and look down to see Puffins nesting below.
Day trip to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, which has no permanent residents year-round, other than the arctic foxes you may pass on the trails. Or kayak through the calm fjords and experience the sea life (whales, porpoises, and birds) first hand.
Learn about the culture and history of this somewhat-isolated region, which doesn’t have direct sunlight for 2 months of the year, and try the best fish you’ve ever had at Tjöruhúsið in Isafjordur.
Best Season: Summer, when the days are endless and all roads are open.
More about these overlooked regions in our 7-Day Itinerary to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Westfjords, and Golden Circle
Highlights of the South and West: Volcanoes, Glaciers, Waterfalls, Black Sand Beaches
On this route, you will visit the highlights within close reach of Reykjavik (good for Winter when days are shorter, or for people who want limited driving).
Start with a few days exploring the West by hiking to the top of Glymur Falls (Iceland’s Tallest), and the small Towns that played a big role in the Icelandic Sagas. Spend Two days exploring the Volcanic Snaefellsnes Peninsula, often referred to as "little Iceland" because it has a little bit of everything. Then head south along the coast to quaint little Vik, taking time to marvel at waterfalls, black sand beaches, canyons, and interesting cliffs, and perhaps even an abandoned airplane along the way. Keep going east. To hike in Skaftafell to Svartifoss ("Black falls"), framed by basalt cliffs before you marvel at the icebergs floating out to sea from Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon to Diamond Beach.
End your trip with the Golden Circle. You’ll have a leg up on the day tours by staying in the countryside near Gullfoss to get your photos before the crowds arrive.
More Details to Help Plan Your Trip: Snaefellsnes Peninsula and South Coast Highlights
Volcanoes, Whales, Waterfalls (West and North)
For a unique Iceland experience, avoid the crowds of the south completely. This route is the perfect option to see the north and west of Iceland, for those who want to avoid the crowds but don’t want to get quite as remote as the Westfjords.
Akureyri, Iceland’s second city isn’t as far as you would think: just 4.5 hours of driving (with many great stops along the way), or a 45 min domestic flight featuring a unique perspective over the heart of the rugged interior.
For Volcano Aficionados, this trip has it all: volcanoes, craters, lava fields, geothermal vents and mud pools. Husavik is also the whale watching capital, and they run tours year round (with a puffin experience added in mid summer).
The Myvatn Nature Baths are a welcome alternative to the often crowded Blue Lagoon, providing a pleasant end to a day of hiking up craters, through lava fields, or seeing Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful waterfall.
A Road Trip, Tailored to You
If you like certain bits and pieces of each of these suggestions, our kimkim specialists can work with you to design a custom Iceland driving itinerary just for you. And for more ideas, see all of our Iceland 7-day tours and itineraries.