Iceland’s Route 1 or the Ring Road as it is famously called, provides for the ultimate road trip around the country. Here’s how we spent 9 days around the Ring Road with other amazing detours.
Clockwise Or Counter-Clockwise?
That is the question!!! Well, probably the biggest question you would have to answer before your journey. Our Iceland road trip started in Reykjavik and we decided to go counter-clockwise for the following reasons.
- The South is where you will see the most crowds. Our thought process was to get through the crowds first and then have quieter times as the journey progressed
- The South has a lot of jam packed attractions that are very close to each other. We wanted to do these first so we would not be too tired and run out of steam if we left them for last
In retrospect, I think we personally made the correct decision as it worked out really well for us. Either way, you are going to have the most amazing trip around the “Land of Fire and Ice”, so buckle up and enjoy the journey!
Day 1 – Reykjavik
People often say the Blue Lagoon is touristy. If the word “touristy” means that there are tourist there, then sure! the Blue Lagoon is touristy. However, it’s massive and there is enough space for everyone. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and it’s worth it in my honest opinion.
Tip – Buy tickets in advance!
Explore The City
The view of Reykjavik from Hallgrimskirkja is highly recommended!
Day 2 – Golden Circle to Vík
Þingvellir National Park
We took the longer but scenic route via routes 435, 360 and 36.
Þingvellir lies between the Mid-Atlantic ridge and the boundary between the European and North American tectonic plates. It’s the only place in the world where this ridge is visible above ground.
The Golden Circle is your first glimpse in to the diversity and beautify of Iceland. From mighty waterfalls to steaming geysers, the Golden Circle is almost like a mini Ring Road.
The geothermal area of Geysir and Gullfoss waterfall
Kerið Crater and Bruarfoss (foss = waterfall) are well worth your time. It takes about 2-2.5 hours to hike to Bruarfoss and back. It used to take much shorter but Bruarfoss is located on a private farm and the farmer recently closed the shorter route to the public.
If you like waterfalls, you are going to LOVE the South of Iceland! Be prepared to get soaked! Check out my Iceland packing list here for tips on how to get up, close and personal with waterfalls AND stay dry.
- Seljalandsfoss – You can walk right behind Seljalandsfoss
- Gljúfrabúi – Also called Canyon Dweller was hands down my favorite waterfall experience. This waterfall is right next to Seljalandsfoss. The trail goes through a narrow canyon and you need to step from rock to rock through a stream to get to it
- Skógafoss – You can walk right up to this one! Skógafoss has it’s moment of glory on Game of Thrones
There are many beautiful and unique sites in and around Vík. Here are my recommendations. These are all either in one place or a few minutes away from each other.
- Reynisfjara black sand beach – Beautiful basalt column formations
- Reynisdrangar sea stacks – Sea stacks out in the ocean. Be careful of sneaky, killer waves
- Reynisfjall – A cave opening made of basalt columns
- Vik i Myrdal Church – Cute little church on top of a hill overlooking the ocean in the little village of Vík
- Dyrhólaey rock arch – This was closed for puffin mating season but it a stone throw away from these other sites
Day 3 – Vík to Höfn
Driving Down the Southern Ring Road
From waterfalls to mile and miles of lava fields, you see some amazing sites along the southern Ring Road.
Fjadrargljufur Canyon and Núpsstaður Turf Houses
These two sites were both closed for preservation when we went but I am putting this out there so you can make it a part of your itinerary.
This was truly an unique adventure and I highly recommend it. We booked the hike in advance and got there a few minutes early so we could be geared up for the hike.
Tip – You need to have hard soled shoes that have ankle support. You can hire them for a cost if you don’t have any.
Hiking Around Skaftafell National Park
There are a couple of hiking trails inside Skaftafell National Park. We hiked up a gradual incline to see Svartifoss, a beautiful waterfall surrounded by basalt columns. As an added bonus, we saw this other waterfall shown below along the way.
Hofskirkja Turf Church
One of the few standing turf churches and a quick stop along the Ring Road.
Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Southern Iceland has two famous glacier lagoons, Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon (see below) where you can take boat tours.
We decided to do a zodiac boat tour at Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon. This lagoon is a little smaller and not as crowded as Jökulsárlón. You have two options for boat tours. Zodiac boats or amphibian boats. Zodiac boats are smaller, faster and can get to icebergs a little closer than amphibian boats.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
The bigger of the two lagoons, Jökulsárlón is a must see attraction along the Ring Road. You can also do a boat ride here as well.
This beach gets its name from the little piece of broken icebergs that flow downstream into this black sand lava beach before hitting the ocean.
Hoffell Hot Tubs
Tired after a long day of hiking on glaciers and climbing inclines to see waterfalls? I gotchu!
Relax at the Hoffell Hot Tubs. This is a relatively secluded place where you will be surrounded by glaciers and mountains! For ISK1000 you get a towel and changing facilities. Oh! It’s also BYOB!
Day 4 – Höfn to Seyðisfjörður
This is where you begin to see Iceland in all it’s remoteness and you will also not see day trippers from Reykjavik beyond this point.
This is a viking village they put together for a movie. It’s included in the ticket price for access to the most famous attraction in this area: Vestrahorn Mountain.
Perhaps one of the most photographed places in Iceland. So beautiful and majestic.
You have 2 options here;
- You can continue to zigzag in and out of the Fjords to Seyðisfjörður via route 1 and route 93 OR
- You can cut inland and make your way to Seyðisfjörður through the mountains via routes 939, 95 and 93
We opted for the second option, stopping at the town of Djúpivogur for lunch and Egilsstaðir for dinner.
Djúpivogur is a small but scenic coastal town on the Fjords and this is where we cut inland to the mountains. This is a great spot to stop for lunch.
Waterfalls – Sveinsstekksfoss, Folaldafoss, Litlanesfoss and Hengifoss
We got close to Folaldafoss and Hengifoss but I couldn’t take close-up pictures because the wind was so strong and it was getting dangerous to stay outside.
Day 5 – Seyðisfjörður to Mývatn
We got back on the Ring Road on day 5 after our slight detour on day 4.
A relatively unknown canyon, this was probably one of my favorite hikes on the Ring Road.
You have 2 options here;
- Hike right to the bottom of the canyon – longer route
- Hike to the edge of a cliff where to can see the bottom of the canyon – shorter route
We picked the second option in the interest of time. It probably took us less than 15 minutes from the car park but it’s very steep and you need to be extremely careful with your footing.
Möðrudalur farm is considered to be the highest inhabited land in Iceland. We stopped here for a quick bite. They also have really cute turf houses here.
Detifoss and Selfoss
Detifoss is considered Europe’s most powerful waterfall. It’s so big that you need to pick a “side” of the waterfall you want to see long before you get there. In our case, we picked the East side because we heard that it had the best views. However, it should be noted that the road to get to the East side is super rough.
Selfoss is about a 30 minute (or less) hike upstream from Detifoss and is unique because you can walk right up to the actual fall and stand right on top of it (So cool!)
Hverir and Namafjall
This place was otherworldly and fascinating beyond words. The sulfur pools, geysers, and bubbling mud pits had us wondering if we were on Mars and/or hell!
Viti (hell) is an explosion crater in the Krafla area with a blue lake inside. This area is geothermally active so don’t spend too long here. There’s a saying that the soles of your shoes can melt for the heat here.
Lake Mývatn Nature Baths
Probably one of my favorite experiences in Iceland! This thermal bath is similar to the Blue Lagoon but is smaller and feels a bit more natural. I loved this experience because it was snowing when we got to the baths and we literally had snow flakes on our nose and eye lashes as we relaxed in the baths.
The baths are open until late, so it’s a great way to relax after a long day.
Day 6 – Mývatn to Akureyri
This cave was made famous thanks to GOT and was used to film some parts of the cave scene between Jon Snow and Ygritte.
1,300 foot high volcanic crater in the Mývatn area. Steady but steep hike up for some great views over Lake Mývatn.
Dimmuborgir Lava Formations
This entire area is full of natural lava rock formations and there are a couple of easy hiking trails to choose from.
The waterfall of the Gods! This is a beautiful horse shoe shaped waterfall with super easy access to both the bottom and top of the falls.
The road leading to this waterfall is not the best but it’s totally worth it.
We drove along the Tröllaskagi Peninsula to get to the town of Siglufjörður and came across some dramatic views of snow capped mountains along the way.
You will have to go through a couple of long tunnels with some pretty unique rules so be sure to read up before you go.
This tiny but quaint village is pretty much at the edge of the Arctic Circle.
Day 7 – Akureyri to Borgarnes
Akureyri is the second most populated town in Iceland. We started our day looking for these two love birds.
Hofsós is a tiny but scenic town on the water with an outdoor thermal swimming pool overlooking the ocean! We saw whales out in the ocean when we were here.
Hvitserkur Rock Formations
Hvitserkur rock formation is a sea stack and is perhaps one of the most famous spots on Iceland. You can walk right up to it during low tide.
It’s a very steep downhill climb to the formation from the viewing platform but if you turn to your right from the car park, there’s a much more gradual decline to get to it.
Kolugljúfur Canyon and waterfall
Small detour from the Ring Road, this waterfall and canyon are located right next to each other.
Hvammstangi, a little village by the ocean is known for its seal sightings but alas! were not lucky. Hopefully you will have more luck!
Barnafoss and Hraunfossar
Barnafoss and Hraunfossar are two waterfalls right next to each other. Hraunfossar is probably my favorite out of the two. It consists of tiny waterfalls over a distance of 900 meters.
Day 8 – Borgarnes to Reykjavik
Snæfellsnes Peninsula is basically a mini Iceland! It’s a great way to re-cap everything you have seen for the last week or so. This peninsula is home to a glacier, sea stacks, beautiful rock formations, lava fields, waterfalls, craters and so much more.
Kirkjufellsfoss and Mt. Kirkjufell
Another GOT site, Mt.Kirkjufell is probably one of the most famous mountains in all of Iceland. But it’s a difficult to hike. However, getting to the waterfall is super easy and is well worth the visit.
Saxholl is a volcanic crater with lush greenery inside. There are stairs built in to the side that make for a relatively easy walk up. It was so windy when we went there and we saw a lady fall for the wind!
Djúpalónssandur is a black sand lava beach with beautiful column formations on the beach. The pebbles on this beach are so well polished and rounded that they look like black pearls.
Basalt volcanic dykes sticking out from the Ocean. You can park your car and get closer to the two tall dykes sticking out.
Hellnar Rock Formation
This arch and rock formation was seriously from another world. You have to walk through loose rocks to get close to the arch so watch your step.
Gatklettur is a beautiful rock formation by the sea near the Arnastapi village.
Ytri Tunga State Beach
Great place for seal watching. Unfortunately my phone camera didn’t pick up any seals but they were playing and having a frolic (so cute!)
Day 9 – Reykjavik
Explore street art in Reykjavik
Explore the Party Scene
Reykjavik has a great party scene that goes on until the wee hours of morning.
Watch the sunset from the Sun Voyager
If you are wondering how we were able to see and do so much, it’s because we traveled during the mid-night sun. Click here to learn more about this phenomenon and the best time to travel to Iceland.
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PC – Pictures of me in them were taken by my friend Savini.
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