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10-DAY ICELAND ROAD TRIP ITINERARY

RING ROAD, GOLDEN CIRCLE & SNÆFELLSNES PENINSULA


Known for breathtaking landscapes and dramatic natural wonders, Iceland is a country worthy of the top spot on your bucket list. The best way to explore the land of fire and ice is by driving the extraordinarily scenic roads. Having completed this trip in May 2023, we can truly say Iceland is one of the best road trip destinations in the world. Our itinerary takes you to many of Iceland's iconic attractions and a few lesser-known gems.

Iceland Itinerary - Road Trip Tips - Kirkjufell

 

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DAY ONE

ARRIVE IN REYKJAVÍK


This itinerary starts and ends in Reykjavík. What to do on day one depends on when you arrive in the country. If your flight lands in the morning, you could spend the first day seeing the capital city. However, if you arrive later, it's best to save your Reykjavík adventures until the end so you can thoroughly explore everything the city offers.


We arrived at night, picked up our rental car and checked into our accommodation. Due to this timing, we didn’t see Reykjavík properly until the end and have reflected that in this itinerary.

WHERE WE STAYED


We wanted somewhere affordable and just outside the city for night one. Vidines Guesthouse was basic, but it did the job. Our first impression was rough; the building was isolated, near a dump site, looked abandoned and felt like an old retirement home. However, it only got better from here. The rooms were clean, and the beds were comfortable. The shared bathrooms were average but fine. The shared kitchen was great, with lots of space and good amenities. The communication before arrival was good, and the area was peaceful at night.



DAY TWO

REYKJAVÍK – SELFOSS


Start the day in Þingvellir National Park, the first stop on The Golden Circle route.


For more information on The Golden Circle, check out our Golden Circle Know Before You Go guide.

Mid-Atlantic Ridge in Iceland

Þingvellir is packed with natural beauty and historical significance. One of the most popular activities is snorkelling the Silfra fissure, where you swim between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. This unique location, known as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, can also be seen on the walking trail through Almannagjá Gorge, which will bring you to the beautiful waterfall, Öxarárfoss.


It takes just under 1 hour to drive to the park from Reykjavík. There is no entry fee, but there are parking fees at some of the sites. It costs 750 ISK for a standard 5-seater car, which can be paid at a meter or online.



After the National Park, head east to the Haukadalur Valley. High in geothermal activity, this area is a great spot to see the hot pools up close and watch the Strokkur geyser erupt.


Then the final stop along the Golden Circle, only 10 minutes from the geyser, is Gullfoss Waterfall. This spectacular waterfall flows powerfully over several drops into the deep valley below. There are multiple viewing spots only a short walk from the car park.


As you head out of the Golden Circle, stop by the very popular restaurant Friðheimar for a late lunch or early dinner. Learn about the growing process before enjoying their delicious tomato-themed meals. Make sure you also explore the greenhouse, look through the shop and say hi to the horses on the way out.


You need to book in advance for the dining experience at Friðheimar. We booked one of the last slots nine days in advance. Although it was pricey, we enjoyed it and think it's worth the splurge.

At the end of the day, head south on Route 30 to Selfoss.


WHERE WE STAYED


This accommodation is well-priced and in a great location, perfect for the Ring Road and close to supermarkets and restaurants. The cottage was small but cosy and clean, with a private bathroom, a balcony, a well-equipped kitchenette and plenty of parking. They also had a free washer and dryer, a restaurant and hot tubs.



DAY THREE

SELFOSS – SKÓGAR


The first stop, just under 1 hour from Selfoss along the Ring Road, is Seljalandsfoss. You will see the impressive waterfall in the distance as you approach the turnoff and pull into the car park.


From Seljalandsfoss, cross the small footbridge and walk along the gravel path towards the next waterfall, Gljufrabui. This waterfall is inside a cavern at the end of the path. W


There is a parking fee at this site of 900 ISK, payable at the meter. There are also toilets and a small coffee shop that opens at 9 am.


Hop back on the Ring Road for around 20 minutes until you see a small pullover for Rutshellir. Here, you can enter what is understood to be the largest man-made cave in Iceland. Inside the cave, the landowners have set up a fun and quirky display for visitors.


Best Waterfall in Iceland - Skógafoss

Only 5 minutes down the road is the famous waterfall, Skógafoss. The best place to admire Skógafoss is at the base of the thundering falls. The long staircase to the right of the waterfall leads to a lookout and a trail along the river into the mountain ranges.


The parking on site is free, but the toilets ask for a small donation.


Another 10 minutes along Ring Road will bring you to the car park for Solheimasandur. After a lengthy walk across a barren landscape you will reach the wreckage of a plane. This is a US Navy plane that crashed in 1973. Thankfully, all the passengers survived. It is a popular photography spot due to its unique setting; the white shell of the plane surrounded by black sand with nothing else around.


The walk to the site takes around 45 minutes along a mostly flat terrain of sand and gravel. It can get very windy, wet, and cold, so be prepared with clothing and footwear. A shuttle bus is available if you require or prefer, which you can pay for on-site.


After you've returned from the plane, drive back along the Ring Road to Skógar.


WHERE WE STAYED


This guesthouse is located in an amazing location right by the popular Skógafoss. We stayed in a twin room with a shared bathroom. All were clean and comfortable. The staff at reception were friendly and helpful. The area was very quiet at night, although the walls of the rooms were quite thin, and we could hear our neighbours occasionally. We also booked a stay with breakfast included, which was a small buffet.



DAY FOUR

SKÓGAR – HÖFN


We packed a lot into day four. There is a lot of driving and a lot of sights to see. We recommend starting early to fit it all in and avoid the crowds at the first few stops.

First thing in the morning, drive down to the famous black sand beach, Reynisfjara. There are plenty of beaches with black sand that will be less busy, but the Hálsanefshellir Cave on Reynisfjara beach is quite impressive and worth visiting, even amongst a crowd of fellow travellers.


Parking at Reynisfjara is free. There are toilets available for a small fee and a restaurant which opens later at 10:30 am.


After a morning at the beach, continue along Ring Road to the seaside town, Vík. Explore the quiet streets and the view from the wonderful location of Vík i Myrdal Church. At 9 am, head to Skool Beans. This is a micro-roaster, tea lab and coffee shop inside an old school bus. They have a range of hot drinks, snacks and handicrafts.


Skool Beans is very popular. We were the second customers in the door, arriving at 9:02 am. By the time we received our coffees, the bus was packed with a line waiting out the door.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon - Iceland Destinations

Fresh, hot coffee in hand, jump back on the road to Fjaðrárgljúfur. This canyon is truly stunning, with a great walking trail along the cliffside.

There are times in the year when this canyon is closed to visitors in order to preserve the environment. Parking is free but limited.


From the canyon, drive along the Ring Road to Skaftafell. This area is within the Vatnajökull National Park and offers many hikes, waterfalls and activities. One of the most popular is Svartifoss; a beautiful waterfall framed by tall, dark basalt columns.


Skaftafell has an entry fee of 1,000 ISK for a 5-seater car. You can pay at the meters or online via an app accessed from their website or the QR codes in the park.


After the national park comes the glaciers. The first glacier is Kvíárjökull. The turn-off sneaks up on you around a bend on the highway, which is probably why it's such a hidden gem. The second is Fjallsjökull andthe final glacier is Jökulsárlón. It is the biggest and the most visited of the three.


Across the road from Jökulsárlón is the famous Diamond Beach. This is where pieces of ice, ranging in size, wash up on the black sand. As the ice is hit by the sunlight, it really does look like the beach is littered with diamonds.


There are big, free parking lots at both Jökulsárlón and Diamond Beach. On the glacier side, there are also toilets, food trucks and tour operators.


After a jam-packed day, jump back in the car once more and complete the final hour of driving to Höfn.


WHERE WE STAYED


This guesthouse is located on a peaceful farm and has 7 rooms with a shared kitchen, dining area, 2 toilets and 2 showers. The house was clean and cosy, offering great amenities. The check-in process was simple, and the price was reasonable. The rooms are small, and most are upstairs, so you may want to consider this with luggage. It’s also worth noting that in such a small house, the experience with other travellers will depend on who else is staying the night. We had no issues with the accommodation, but we unfortunately shared thin walls with a screaming toddler.



DAY FIVE

HÖFN – EGILSSTAÐIR


The first stop of day five is Skútafoss. This is a small waterfall set within a picturesque valley. As you drive out of the parking area of Skútafoss, keep an eye out on the right side of the road for a red chair. There is no location for this on Google Maps, but it’s easy enough to spot. It’s simply an oversized red wooden chair, screwed into a rock, overlooking the highway and surrounding landscape. It’s a quirky installation worth a quick stop.


The next section of the drive is around 3 hours. This is a very scenic section of the Ring Road, with many opportunities to pull over and admire the landscape, including waterfalls, valleys, mountains.


Heavier Mountain Art Installation Iceland

When you reach Egilsstaðir, turn off the Ring Road onto Route 93. You will be treated to incredible views as you snake up into the mountains. At the top, stop by Heavier Mountain; an art installations of rainbow concrete boxes.


When you descend to the other side, you will be in Seyðisfjörður. This quaint town is known for the rainbow street and pastel blue church, Seyðisfjarðarkirkja, but don’t just stop here. Drive 10 minutes around the bay to Vestdalsfosser; a short uphill walk to the waterfall provides great views of the area. The parkland beside the lake is also a lovely place for lunch.



From Seyðisfjörður, drive back over the mountain to the town of Egilsstaðir. Close to town, are the Vök Baths. These geothermal pools are built on the Urriðavatn Lake. You can enjoy the warm pools, dip into the chilly lake and grab a drink from the swim-up bar. It’s a perfect way to unwind after a long day of driving.


We visited at 6 pm on a weekday and the baths didn’t feel crowded, which we enjoyed considering how busy many hot springs in Iceland can be. We booked via their website the day before, but you may need to book further in advance during peak season.

WHERE WE STAYED


These guesthouses are located on a farm a short drive from the town. The area was beautiful and quiet, and the check-in process was very smooth. The room had a well-equipped kitchenette, a decent-sized bathroom and a spacious bedroom area with a small dining table. Everything was comfortable and clean, and we enjoyed our one night here.



DAY SIX

EGILSSTAÐIR – AKUREYRI


Day six is a long day of driving. We recommend setting off early and pre-preparing food to eat along the way.
Where to see puffins in Iceland

The first destination of the day is another detour off the Ring Road to Borgarfjörður. This is one of the best places to see puffins in the summer when they come to nest on the hills of Hafnarhólmi. They can be safely viewed from the walkway and the bird-watching hut in their natural habitat.


After puffin spotting, re-join the Ring Road and drive west, heading into the north section of Iceland. You’ll spot many waterfalls and lookouts worth a quick stop on your way to Stuðlagil. Depending on which side you drive down, there are a few ways to enjoy this canyon. On one side, there is a walking trail along the rim and a spot to climb down into the canyon to see the basalt columns up close. The other side has a beautiful lookout where you can admire the raging river below.


If you are short on time, we recommend the Stuðlagil Viewpoint. The road to the viewpoint is gravel but well-maintained. There are also paid toilets, vending machines, picnic tables and lots of parking.

After the canyon, continue driving around to Mývatn. As you approach this next location, you will notice the landscape changing from the greener coast to a more vast, open and volcanic desert. Mývatn is a big, beautiful lake in an area rich in geothermal activity, with hot pools, caves and lava fields to explore. It’s also worth stopping at the Lake Mývatn Viewpoint on the corner where Route 1 turns left. Here, you can admire the lake with the Hverfjall crater looming in the background.


By this point, you’re probably thinking, really, another waterfall? We said the same, but when it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip, you might as well try to see it all!

End your day in Akureyri and explore the town before you call it a night. Start at the church, Akureyrarkirkja, then wander the main streets lined with shops, restaurants and bars.



WHERE WE STAYED


This accommodation is in a great location in the city and reasonably priced. The check-in process was easy, the street was peaceful, and the room was very comfortable. There is a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom, small but not cramped. Parking is easy in the driveway or on the street.



DAY SEVEN

AKUREYI – BORGARNES


Continue around the Ring Road for 1 hour to the small village, Varmahlíð. There is a beautiful and unique Lutheran church here called Víðimýrarkirkja.


We stopped to get petrol in this village and also bought a hot dog from the store. It was our first Icelandic hot dog, and it was delicious.

Continue west, keeping an eye out for scenic lookouts along the highway. There are two quick stops we recommend taking. The first is Minnisvarði um Stephan G Stephansson. This is a monument to the poet, which also acts as a seat with a great view. The second stop is Þrístapar. This historical site is the location of the last execution in Iceland. It is very well designed, including a short walk lined with plaques that explain the story.


If you like books, we recommend reading Burial Rites by Hannah Kent before visiting Þrístapar.

Not far from this site is Kolugljúfur. This picturesque canyon is much quieter than similar sites in South Iceland and has great viewpoints on both cliffsides. Then, continue on to Grábrók, one of three volcanic craters in the area. At Grábrók, you can climb up to the crater’s rim via the boardwalk. The view of the valley and the surrounding mountain ranges is also beautiful. As you leave the boardwalk, turn left before returning to the car park to see the ruins of a corral built in 1872. This structure was used to round up sheep and sort them into their owner’s pens.


From Grábrók, it’s only a 20-minute drive to the accommodation in Borgarnes.


WHERE WE STAYED


We stayed here for two nights. Continue reading below for more information.



DAY EIGHT

SNÆFELLSNES PENINSULA


The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is located off the main Ring Road but is another popular tourist drive. It is packed with beautiful places to see, which is why there is an entire day dedicated to this part of Iceland.

Gerðuberg Cliffs - Snaefellsnes Peninsula Iceland

We explored the peninsula in an anti-clockwise direction. This is the order we have detailed below, but it can also be done in reverse.

The first stop is the Gerðuberg Cliffs. This long row of basalt columns is incredible to see in the distance as you approach.


The next destination is one of the most iconic landmarks of Snæfellsnes – Kirkjufell. This distinctly shaped mountain is quite the site. Across the road from the mountain is the popular viewing spot where you can capture the iconic image with the waterfall in front.


The car park at the Kirkjufell viewpoint has a fee of 700 ISK. It has plenty of space but we parked a little further away and walked to the viewpoint instead.

The next stop is the village of Hellissandur. The sign that says “street art capital of Iceland” draws you in to hunt for colourful art installations.


After the town, take a detour off the main road onto the dirt track towards Svörtuloft lighthouse. When you reach the T-intersection, turn right first to visit Öndverðarnesviti. This lighthouse, painted bright orange and red, is smaller than its companion but usually quieter. Then, return back up the road to the bigger orange lighthouse, Svörtuloft.


Next are two volcanic craters. The first is called Saxhóll, where you can walk up to the crater's rim. The second, only 10 minutes up the road, is Hólahólar. This ancient crater is open from the side, and you can drive right into the centre.


Continue around to the Lóndrangar viewpoint, where you can admire the spectacular basalt cliffs. Then stop by the village of Arnarstapi and check out the chimney-shaped monument, walk over the stone bridge and grab lunch from one of the cafes.


Near Arnarstapi, there is a turn-off to the F570. This incredibly scenic road passes from one side of the peninsula to the other over Snæfellsjökull. However, this side trip should only be taken if you are equipped and the conditions are in your favour. F roads are gravel routes that are legally only accessible by 4wds. This particular F road is closed at certain times of the year due to weather and, even when open, may still be impassable due to remaining snow and ice.


If you take this detour, follow all signage and do not attempt if you have any doubts. We could drive a small section up to Sönghellir but could not go much further due to snow.

Instead of this detour, or after you have returned, head over to Raudfeldsgja. This is a beautiful site where you can climb inside a gorge, hopping across rocks in the stream to explore the cavern.


The final stop of the day is the famous black church, Budakirkja. This dark church is very picturesque and interesting to learn about. Explore around the walls and admire the view before leaving the peninsula.


WHERE WE STAYED


We stayed in a twin room at this accommodation. It was a basic room with a bed, desk, kitchenette and bathroom. The space was simple but had everything needed for a short stay. The check-in process was easy, and the site was peaceful. It is close to the town, which has many restaurants and supermarkets, and it’s only 35 minutes from the first stop on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.



DAY NINE

BORGARNES – REYKJAVÍK


On day nine, drive south and spend the day exploring the capital city, Reykjavík.


Skólavörðustígur is a popular thoroughfare, painted rainbow and leading up the hill to the iconic church, Hallgrímskirkja. After admiring the church's unique architecture, pop over to Brauð & Co to get a warm drink and tasty pastry. Walk down to the waterfront, stroll along the bay, and check out The Sun Voyager


When you need to escape the chilly wind blowing in off the water, head back into the centre of town and hop between clothing stores, souvenir shops and galleries. You must also try a famous Icelandic hot dog from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, which translates to “the town’s best hot dog”.


The final location for the day, just under 1 hour from Reykjavík, is the famous hot spring, The Blue Lagoon. This luxury hot spring experience is one of the most recognisable attractions in Iceland. What better way to end 10 days of adventure than relaxing in the geothermal pools and treating yourself to a drink or therapeutic spa treatment?


For more information on The Blue Lagoon, check out our Know Before You Go guide.

WHERE WE STAYED


We chose this accommodation because it was only a 10-minute drive to the airport and we had a very early morning flight. The room was simple but cosy, and the shared bathroom and kitchenette were clean and well-equipped. However, this place would not be ideal if you want to be close to attractions, restaurants or bars. The biggest benefit of this place was the proximity to the airport, and if we had not been on an early flight, we probably would have chosen somewhere in the city.



DAY TEN

DEPART REYKJAVÍK


Unfortunately, the time has come to say goodbye to Iceland.


If your flight departs later in the day, spend one final morning in the city. You could enjoy breakfast at one of the many cafes or pop into a few museums like the Perlan Museum, the City Museum or the National Museum of Iceland. It may even be nice to save The Blue Lagoon experience for this day, to hop on the flight feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.



WHERE WE RENTED OUR CAR


We had an easy and smooth experience renting through Avis. We hired a manual 4wd, which suited our road trip perfectly. Like a lot of Europe, manual cars are more affordable and while car rental can be pricey, we found the cost of this car in early May was quite reasonable. We also highly recommend getting a 4wd. While the Ring Road is a paved highway, many popular sites are along gravel roads, some maintained better than others. You will also need a 4wd if you plan to drive on F roads.



OUR GOOGLE MAPS


When planning our travel destinations, we pin our bucket list of sites to see and recommended places to eat and drink on Google Maps. We are then never lost for ideas when travelling, and can easily share these lists for our friends and family to use as well.


Click here to see our Google Maps for the 10-Day Iceland Itinerary.


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