“The problem with driving around Iceland is that you’re basically confronted by a new soul-enriching, breath-taking, life-affirming natural sight every five goddamn minutes. It’s totally exhausting.“– Stephen Markley
This Iceland Ring Road itinerary was actually two years in the making! It includes all of the best things Iceland has to offer: waterfalls, glaciers, thermal baths, and, of course, the adorable Icelandic horses.
During the 2020 lockdown, I found myself reading travel blogs as a means of escape. Planning trips I couldn’t take yet gave me something to look forward to, and everyone seemed to have taken a road trip in Iceland.
The photos of this other-worldly country were just stunning, and everyone I talked to who had been to Iceland raved about it. I knew I had to go as soon as travel opened back up. Luckily my partner also had Iceland on his bucket list and was happy to join!
Also in 2020, Netflix released Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. It was filmed in both Iceland and Scotland…as if I needed another sign! (Does Will Ferrell decide to make movies in beautiful countries just so he can visit them? If that’s the case, good on him.)
So through lots of planning, this Iceland Ring Road itinerary was born. We were able to drive all around the Ring Road in Iceland and crossed a lot of things off our bucket list…including seeing the Northern Lights!
We learned many things on our first trip to Iceland, and though things didn’t always go smoothly, it is a trip I would absolutely repeat again!
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What is the Iceland Ring Road?
The Ring Road in Iceland, also called Route 1, is the main road that goes all around the country. It is a (mostly) two-lane road that loops around the outer edges of Iceland. The total length of Iceland’s Ring Road is about 825 miles, or 1,328 kilometers, long.
To put this in geographic perspective for my American readers, driving around Iceland is like driving around the whole state of Ohio.
Do you really need 12 days in Iceland to drive the Ring Road?
There are all sorts of Ring Road itineraries, most ranging from 1-2 weeks. It all depends on what is important to you/ what you want to see. Our 12-day Iceland Ring Road itinerary allowed us to stop and see most things we wanted to see without feeling rushed.
This Iceland itinerary also didn’t have us driving for more than 4 hours a day in total. (At least, that was the plan, but more on that later.)
No matter which country you are flying in from, you will most likely fly into Iceland’s biggest airport: Keflavík International Airport. (This can be a little confusing at first, since the capital city of Reykjavik also has an airport.)
Keflavík is about a 45-minute drive away from Reykjavik.
Depending on where you are renting a vehicle from, your rental company might pick you up from the airport (like ours did). However, there is also a public bus called Strætó, of which Bus 55 stops at Keflavík and Reykjavik.
Having a vehicle to drive on the Ring Road is definitely the best way to see Iceland! (If you are doing just a short layover in Reykjavik, then you won’t need a car.)
One of the biggest ways we saved money in Iceland was to rent a campervan. A campervan serves as both a rental car and a hotel room! It allows you the freedom of having a little home with you wherever you are on your Iceland road trip.
We used Happy Campers, and were, well, happy with them! Other vans we saw on the road were also Ku Ku Campers and Go Campers.
Note: This Iceland Ring Road itinerary does not include any “F Roads”, as we did not rent a 4×4 vehicle. If you want to adventure on Iceland’s unpaved F Roads, you will need to rent a 4×4 vehicle or campervan.
Other Things to Know
- Take a look at what Icelandic road signs mean before you head out. Most are pretty self-explanatory, but just to be safe!
- Always check Iceland’s official road site. The weather in Iceland truly is unpredictable, and you don’t want to get stuck with a road closure due to wind or ice.
- Download the Parka app before you head out. It allows you to pay for parking via your phone at most of the popular sites.
- Be on the lookout for sheep! They really are everywhere in Iceland, and they don’t care if you’re on the road while they are crossing it.
- This Ring Road itinerary goes counter-clockwise around Iceland, starting in the south and ending in the west. This was so that we would be further in the north as the winter season set in, giving us a chance to see the Northern Lights!
12-Day Iceland Ring Road Itinerary
Welcome to Iceland! Hit the ground running on your first day.
Pick Up Vehicle
Our flight from NYC arrived in Iceland early in the morning. We were able to grab some coffee at the airport before our Happy Campers shuttle arrived. (We also picked up some alcohol in the duty-free shop on our way out!)
We spent about an hour at the Happy Campers office, signing papers and learning everything we needed to know about our home-to-be.
Our van came with a handy tablet that served as both wifi hotspot and GPS, and we used the map feature often!
Stock Up on Food
The Happy Campers office was also conveniently located near several larger grocery stores, so we were able to stock up on food.
Krónan and Bónus are two of the big grocery chains in Iceland, and they have the most affordable prices. Stop at one of these stores before you get on the road, as they are only located in the more populated areas.
Our first official stop on this Iceland Ring Road Itinerary was the cliffs at Valahnúkamöl. Located on the Reykjanes Peninsula, these seaside cliffs are stunning and a perfect “welcome” to Iceland.
Here you will find the Reykjanes Lighthouse, built in 1908. You’ll also find a statue honoring the last of the Great Auks, flightless seabirds now extinct.
I was also delighted to find that they had left behind keyboards used in filming Eurovision‘s “Volcano Man” sequence!
The Blue Lagoon
The most popular thing to do on a trip to Iceland is to visit the Blue Lagoon. In my humble opinion, it’s one of those touristy things that is actually worth doing!
This geothermal spa is famous for its mineral-filled, bright blue water. The chemical compound of silica, found in the “mud” of the lagoon, is good for the skin and the warm water relaxes the muscles.
Because it is so close to the airport, it is common to visit the Blue Lagoon either the day you arrive or the day you depart. We opted to go on our very first day, since a hot shower and soak felt amazing after traveling overnight!
The most basic entrance fee comes with one silica face mask and one free drink from the swim-up bar! We had a fun, relaxing several hours there. (Don’t forget to book your time slot in advance in case they sell out!)
Book your ticket here: Blue Lagoon Entry Ticket with Drink, Towel, and Mud Mask
Pro Tip: Don’t get your hair wet in the Blue Lagoon. While the minerals are great for your skin, they will leave your hair dry and stiff. If you have long hair, I recommend putting some conditioner in it, then putting it in a bun after your initial shower, and then rinsing it out during your second shower.
Ingólfsskáli Viking Restaurant
Food in Iceland can be expensive, so to save money we mostly cooked in our van. However, after being awake for a full day, we decided to eat out for our first night. The dinner we had at Ingólfsskáli was one of the best meals we had in Iceland!
Built like a Viking longhouse, Ingólfsskáli uses local ingredients to create traditional meals with a modern twist.
Where to Stay in Selfoss
- Where we stayed: Selfoss Campsite
- Budget option: Gesthus Selfoss
- Modest option: Hotel South Coast
- Splurge option: 360 Hotel & Thermal Baths
Spend the second day of your Iceland trip chasing waterfalls.
One of the most popular waterfalls to visit in Iceland is Seljalandsfoss. Not only is it stunning (I was super excited even seeing it from a distance), but you can walk all the way behind it!
Be aware, you will get wet! The spray from the water is intense, so you will definitely want to wear waterproof clothing.
You can hit two waterfalls here by following signs for Gljufrabui. Just a short walk from Seljalandsfoss, Gljufrabui is a smaller waterfall inside a cave. We had to wade through a bit of a stream to get to it, so make sure you have waterproof shoes.
Another of the most recognizable waterfalls in Iceland is Skógafoss. You can walk right up to this waterfall, and you can also climb the stairs to the top.
Once you catch your breath from the stairs, it’s a nice hike along the Fimmvorduhals trail, with other mini waterfalls along the way. Go as far or as little as you want, and then retrace your steps back to Skógafoss.
Just a five-minute drive from Skógafoss is another waterfall, Kvernufoss. This is another waterfall you can walk behind, and it was less crowded than the previous ones.
You can reach Kvernufoss by parking at the Skogar Museum (but pay for parking via the Parka app) and then walking 15-20 minutes on an easy trail.
One of the best parts about driving the Ring Road in Iceland is that sometimes you will see something in the distance and decide you have to stop and check it out. This was what happened with Sólheimajökull. It was the first glacier we saw in Iceland, and some quick Internet searching told us we could visit!
Once you park at the Sólheimajökull parking lot, it’s a little over a mile hike to the glacier lagoon. There are tours available where you can walk on the glacier; but we were happy to admire it from a distance, since we already had a lot to see.
At this point in our Iceland trip, it was raining so hard that we chose not to drive to the Dyrhólaey viewpoint. However, if you are able to fit it into your Iceland itinerary, I hope you do! This awesome view looks over the ocean, cliffs, and a black sand beach.
Reynisfjara Beach was one of my absolute favorite stops on our Iceland Ring Road itinerary! Even in the rain, the black sand beach of Reynisfjara is absolutely epic. (Perhaps why it was used as a filming location in Season 7 of Game of Thrones.)
With its black sand, basalt columns, and cave, Reynisfjara is fun to explore. Just don’t get too near the water or turn your back on the waves. Reynisfjara is, unfortunately, known for fatal “sneaker waves”, which will drag you out to sea.
Where to Stay in Vík
- Where we stayed: Vík Campsite
- Budget option: The Barn Dormitory
- Modest option: Vík Cottages
- Splurge option: Hotel Vík í Mýrdal
Continue driving the Ring Road along the south coast and meet some four-legged friends.
Skool Beans Cafe
Right around the corner from the Vík campsite is one of the coolest cafes in Iceland! Skool Beans is a fully-functioning cafe inside a refurbished school bus.
Not only did they have a roaring fire and a resident tri-pawed cat, but the staff at Skool Beans was incredibly friendly. Plus, the drinks were delicious!
Horseback Riding in Vík
If you are planning a trip to Iceland, you’ve probably seen photos of Icelandic horses. These stocky, fuzzy horses are a huge source of pride in Iceland (and for good reasons).
Because they have been isolated on their island for so long, the Icelandic horse breed hasn’t really changed over the past several centuries. These horses are known for being both docile and hearty, as they can survive harsh Icelandic weather conditions.
It was absolutely a bucket list item to ride one of these majestic creatures, and it was everything I had hoped it would be!
We booked a tour with Vík Horse Adventure, which took us riding in a small group out onto the black sand beach behind their stable. The day we went, it was an all-female crew; and these ladies were helpful and knowledgeable.
Each person was paired with a horse, based on their size and level of experience. Both my partner, who had never been on a horse, and I, who have been riding a few times, felt safe and comfortable.
The horses know the drill and are good at staying in their single-file line. However, I was warned that my horse, Dröskull, will occasionally hold up the line, trying to grab a snack!
I highly recommend Vík Horse Adventure! They take such good care of both horses and clients.
Book your tour here: Black Sand Beach Horse Riding Tour from Vik
Moss Lava Fields
One phenomenon you will see along this part of your Iceland Ring Road itinerary will be moss lava fields. These unique fields look like another planet!
The largest field is Eldhraun, created in the 1780s, during one of Iceland’s biggest volcanic eruptions. Lava flowed down into the lowlands, where it cooled, covering vegetation in volcanic rock. It has taken decades for the green moss to grow on top of the rock.
Note: Do not walk on the lava fields! Not only is it unsafe with unseen fissures beneath the surface, but the moss is incredibly fragile and will take decades to regrow…if it regrows at all.
One of our favorite stops during our road trip in Iceland was Fjadrargljufur. This epic river canyon looks stunning from any angle!
Fjadrargljufur was formed by a glacial river cutting through the land. Its deepest sections are about two million years old!
It’s a relatively easy hike, at about 2 miles, with a gradual incline. Unfortunately, Fjadrargljufur has become increasingly popular, and barrier ropes had to be put up to protect certain spots from erosion.
Our last stop for the day was Skaftafell, within Vatnajökull National Park. It’s an area known for its fantastic hiking trails of ranging difficulty.
We chose to hike to Svartifoss, a waterfall flanked by black basalt columns. It’s considered a moderate hike, at about 2 miles roundtrip.
You can also extend this hike to visit the small farm of Sel. Here you will find Icelandic turf houses which were built in 1912. The houses are cared for by the National Museum and serve as a living exhibit, so to speak. It’s really cool to envision what life must have been like living in Skaftafell a hundred years ago (and the houses are surprisingly cozy)!
Where to Stay in Skaftafell
- Where we stayed: Skaftafell Campsite (The washer and dryer were free to use!)
- Modest option: Hotel Skaftafell
- Splurge option: Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon (A half-hour’s drive from Skaftafell)
Today is all about ice, ice baby!
Before getting back on the Ring Road, we spent the morning of Day 4 on a quick hike to Skaftafellsjökull. This glacier tongue is part of Vatnajökull, Iceland’s largest ice cap. It’s an easy 3-mile walk from the Skaftafell campsite to the glacier lagoon. Since we went first thing in the morning, we had the place all to ourselves!
Unfortunately, Mulagljufur Canyon was one place that we had on our Iceland Ring Road itinerary that we didn’t get to. It’s a real shame because it looks like something straight out of Middle Earth! The hike to the canyon and back is about 3.5 miles roundtrip.
Ice Cave Tour
Another thing that was high up on my Iceland bucket list was to go on an ice cave tour. I mean, you can actually walk inside a glacier! The naturally-made walls have a cool, ethereal blue glow.
We went with Glacier Adventure in Höfn and met our tour guide at the company’s office. Our guide then loaded us all up into a Super Jeep and drove us along some (barely there) bumpy F-roads.
We then had to hike for about half an hour to the cave mouth of Breiðarmerkurjökull. Sadly, this hike is continually getting longer as the glaciers continue to recede due to global warming. It felt like walking across the moon with its barren, grey expanse.
Our guide outfitted our tour group with helmets and headlamps and led us into the cave. We had to walk single-file and sometimes had to wait for other groups to go by, but our guide made sure everyone got the time they needed to take photos.
It was such an awesome experience, and I’d highly recommend it!
Book your tour here: Crystal Ice Cave Adventure
Jökulsárlón and Diamond Beach
Another one of our favorite spots that we stopped on our trip to Iceland was Jökulsárlón and Diamond Beach. When you think of Iceland, this area usually comes to mind!
Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon where chunks of ice have broken off from a glacier and have been carried downhill. These blue icebergs float around the lagoon before being swept out to sea.
However, the icebergs then wash back up on the shores of a black beach. It’s fittingly called Diamond Beach since these chunks of ice look like giant crystals. It’s truly a cool sight to see. (You might even spot some seals, too!)
Where to Stay in Höfn:
- Where we stayed: Höfn Campsite
- Budget option: Apotek Guesthouse
- Modest option: Seljavellir Guesthouse
- Splurge option: Höfn – Berjaya Iceland Hotels
Now begins a bit more of the driving part of this Iceland road trip, but still with some fun stops.
Vestrahorn and Stokksnes Beach
For a truly unique Icelandic experience, you will want to stop on the peninsula of Stokksnes. Not only is Mount Vestrahorn stunning, but there’s a black sand beach…and a replica Viking village.
Built on a local farmer’s land, this replica Viking village was built as a filming location for a Universal production. The production was scrapped due to budgeting; but it was used years later, most recently by Netflix for the prequel of The Witcher.
To visit both the village and the beach, you will need to pay a fee at the Viking Cafe. They will give you a small map and you can walk to the village and/or the beach from separate parking lots.
It’s about a four-hour drive along the eastern fjords to reach the town of Seydisfjordur. This small, picturesque town has become Instagram-famous thanks to the rainbow path leading to a local church.
After a long drive, it’s a great place to grab a bite to eat and stretch your legs by walking around town.
From there, it’s about half an hour’s drive to Egilsstaðir, where you can restock food and gas, and stay the night.
Where to Stay in Egilsstaðir:
- Where we stayed: Stóri-Bakki, cosy cottage near Egilsstaðir
- Campsite option: Camp Egilsstadir
- Budget option: Tehúsið Hostel
- Modest option: Ormurrin Cottages
Continue to be amazed by Iceland’s natural wonders.
You’ve probably seen photos of Stuðlagil on Instagram, as well. It’s an impressive basalt column canyon, which a river flows through, sometimes with a turquoise tinge.
The hike to Stuðlagil is relatively easy and takes about two hours roundtrip. However, the road to Stuðlagil’s East Side Parking is not so easy, unless you are in a 4×4 vehicle. It’s slow going due to it being a narrow, dirt road full of potholes.
Once you reach the canyon, if you decide to climb down closer to the water, be aware that it can be very slippery!
Once we had left Studlagil, we ran into a quick snowstorm. Like a mirage appearing out of the desert, Beitarhúsið appeared on the side of the road. We took shelter while waiting for the snow to slow down and tried our first Icelandic hot dogs! Even if it’s not a white-out, Beitarhúsið is a cozy spot to take a break.
Dettifoss (West Side)
For a truly amazing sight, you’ll want to see Dettifoss. It’s the second most powerful waterfall in Europe (after the Rhine Falls in Switzerland), and its strength really is palpable.
For the best view of the falls, put the “west side” of Dettifoss into your GPS. From the parking lot, it’s about a 15-minute walk until you reach the falls.
There are various platforms and viewing points to take in the splendor of Dettifoss. Remember that a powerful waterfall means powerful spray, so dress appropriately!
Alas, at this point in our Iceland itinerary, we were losing sunlight, so we didn’t get to really explore the area around Lake Mývatn. It’s an active geothermal area with Mývatn Nature Baths offering mineral-rich waters.
Where to Stay in Mývatn
- Where we stayed: Hlíd Campsite
- Budget option: Hlíd Hostel
- Modest option: Skútustadir Guesthouse
- Splurge option: Aska, Modern Cabin
A day for learning about whales and singing songs from Eurovision.
It was important to me to make sure the town of Húsavík was on our Iceland trip itinerary because it was featured in the Eurovision film. However, it ended up being one of our favorite places in Iceland for different reasons.
Húsavík sits on the northern coast of Iceland and is the country’s whale-watching capital. Not only is the area beautiful, but the people really were some of the nicest we found on our trip.
To spend the day in Húsavík, park in the giant lot near the harbor and explore the town on foot.
Húsavík Whale Museum
To learn about different types of whales and the roles they have played in not only Húsavík’s, but Iceland’s, history it’s worth a trip to the Whale Museum.
Their most impressive display is a walkway flanked by 11 whale skeletons (which all died from natural causes…except the Narwhal, which was a gift from Greenland).
If you have also booked a whale-watching tour, you get discounted admission to the museum!
Since you’re in the whale-watching capital of Iceland, you should go on a whale-watching tour! While there’s no guarantee you’ll see whales, the probability is high in Húsavík.
We were lucky enough to catch the last tour of the week, since a snowstorm was headed our way. (It was at this point that the nice employee checking us in informed us the roads would be closed and that we should not travel the next day.)
When going on a whale-watching tour in Northern Iceland, you want to bundle up! Even though the tour company provided us with suits (that also act as flotation devices) and raincoats, it was incredibly cold. (And that’s saying something for someone who grew up in the coldest place in the continental US!)
Braving the cold was worth it, though, because we saw not one, not two, but three humpback whales. I feel so fortunate to have seen these gentle giants in real life!
Pro tip: Make sure to take motion sickness medication before you get on a whale-watching boat! While I was fine, my partner was not, and had to keep his eye on the horizon rather than the whales.
We booked with Salka/North Sailing because they follow responsible and ethical whale-watching practices.
Book your tour here: Whale Watching Tour with Guide
After braving the weather on the whaleboat, it was a delight to visit the GeoSea Geothermal Sea Baths. With pools of varying degrees that overlook the bay, it’s a beautiful place to relax.
The geothermally heated water at GeoSea is actually seawater, and once it splashes over the edge of the infinity pool, it’s returned to the sea from which new water is pumped in.
Pro Tip: If visiting GeoSea, don’t forget to bring your own towel! If you don’t have one, make sure to ask (and pay) for one.
Book your ticket here: GeoSea Geothermal Sea Baths Entrance Ticket
Where to Stay in Húsavík
- Where we stayed: Húsavík Cape Hotel
- Campsite option: Húsavík Campground
- Budget option: Húsavík Green Hostel
- Modest option: Árból Guesthouse
- Splurge option: Gamli Skólinn Húsavík
Note: Here is where our Iceland Ring Road Itinerary didn’t go to plan. Because of the incoming storm, we chose to stay in a hotel instead of a campsite. The staff members at the Húsavík Cape Hotel were very helpful in keeping us informed of the weather and road conditions.
It was clear that we were not going to be able to leave Húsavík on Day 8 as we had planned, so we spent the day relaxing in our hotel and catching up on work. When we were able to leave, the roads were still icy in spots, so it was slow going.
Below is how we had planned to spend the next leg of our Iceland road trip:
Continue to cruise along the northern coast and maybe spot some seals!
Godafoss (East Side)
It’s a shame we didn’t get to see Godafoss, as it is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland. It’s located pretty close to the Ring Road, and the falls are a short walk from the parking area. Due to its horseshoe shape, you can park on either the east or west side.
Akureyri is the largest city in northern Iceland, which makes it a great place to get gas and restock food. In fact, Akureyri is considered the “Capital of the North” (though there was no sight of Jon Snow or any Starks).
The Christmas House
We did make one extra stop in Akureyri, and that was at the Christmas House. If you are a Christmas-lover like myself, you will love this little detour. The Christmas House has ornaments and candies of all kinds, plus the world’s largest Advent calendar, which is in a Rapunzel-like tower!
Glaumbær Farm & Museum
I find the Icelandic turf houses fascinating and would have liked to have visited the Glaumbær Farm & Museum. The farmhouse consists of 13 buildings and was last inhabited in 1947. Like Sel, it is now owned and preserved by the National Museum of Iceland.
I was bummed not to see this cool basalt stack off the shore of the Vatnsnes peninsula. At about 15 meters high, it looks like a creature and has been called a troll, a dragon, and a rhino.
Where to Stay on Vatnsnes
A longer driving day to reach the west coast of Iceland.
Note: Because of the snowstorm, we had to adjust our Iceland Ring Road itinerary. We had to combine our days 8 and 9 since we lost a day, but below is how we had planned to spend Day 9.
After 3-4 hours of driving, you will reach the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Here you will find Kirkjufellsfoss and the distinctly-shaped Mt. Kirkjufell. The falls are a popular photography spot, and the area was also featured in Game of Thrones.
We had booked two nights at a lovely cabin in Grundarfjörður, where we were happy to relax after a full day on the road. The cabin is located on a family-owned farm, where we were immediately greeted by a pair of friendly goats! (See link below.)
This was also where we got to watch the Northern Lights, with Mt. Kirkjufell in the background!
Where to Stay in Grundarfjörður
- Where we stayed: Nónsteinn Cabin
- Campsite option: Grundarfjarðarbær Campsite
- Budget option: Grundarfjördur Hostel
- Modest option: Kirkjufell Guesthouse and Apartments
- Splurge option: Kirkjufell Oceanfront Villa
A day spent exploring the beautiful Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula has sometimes been called “Iceland in Miniature” because it contains everything that comes to mind when you think of Iceland. It has epic cliffs, black sand, waterfalls, and a glacier. It was one of our other favorite places on our Iceland Ring Road itinerary!
It’s easy to just cruise around the peninsula in a loop and stop at the following spots:
This bright orange lighthouse certainly sticks out against its volcanic surroundings! Built in 1913, the Svörtuloft Lighthouse reaches 19 feet tall. The views from its perch on its seaside cliff are awesome!
The area around Djúpalónssandur Beach definitely feels other-worldly. Follow the path that leads to the beach, and you will feel like you’re on a fantasy quest.
You’ll pass the rock formation of Gatklettur, which looks like some sort of portal, and a red rock, Söngklettur, said to be protected by the elves. There’s also an eerie Black Lagoon.
Djúpalónssandur Beach itself is a mix of black sand and black pebbles. Mixed among the pebbles, though, you will also find the remains of a fishing ship that wrecked in 1948. Fourteen men lost their lives, and pieces of the ship were left on the beach in their honor.
Arnastapi and Midgja Land Bridge
The small village of Arnastapi, which sits on the edge of Snæfellsjökull National Park, is a fun place to explore. There are paths to walk along the cliffs and places to duck in for a warm beverage.
You can’t miss the statue of Bárður, the mythic half-man/half-troll protector of Snæfellsnes.
Facing Bárður, if you walk along the cliffs to the left, you’ll find the Midgja land bridge. This strip of land is a bit tricky to find, as you can’t see below it until you’re up close. (Use caution when crossing!)
Budir Black Church
The Budir Black Church is a photographer’s dream! The black paint against the clouds and misty mountains gives off very moody vibes. While the church is a reconstruction of an earlier iteration, some pieces like the door handle date back to 1703.
Where to Stay on Snæfellsnes
We chose to spend two nights at our Airbnb, but; if you didn’t want to loop back around to Grundarfjörður, there are other places to stay on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
- Campsite option: Ólafsvík Campsite
- Budget option: The Freezer Hostel & Culture Center
- Modest option: HOTEL SNAEFELLSNES
- Splurge option: Götuhús: Sea View Apartment
Time to bid Mother Nature farewell and venture into the city.
We chose to end our Iceland Ring Road itinerary in the capital city of Reykjavík. You can certainly start your Iceland road trip in the city, but we were eager to get on the road when we arrived.
I recommend parking your vehicle in a lot or garage and exploring Reykjavík on foot. It’s a very walkable city, and you can choose where to stop as you go.
You can’t miss Hallgrímskirkja, the giant church that overlooks Reykjavík! This iconic building is the largest church in Iceland, as well as one of the tallest structures in the country. Its facade was designed to represent Iceland’s basalt columns and mountains.
For a small fee you can take an elevator to the top of the bell tower, which offers views of the colorful city and beyond. Be aware, the bells do actually ring and they are loud!
It is also hard to miss Skólavörðustígur, the rainbow street that stretches from Hallgrímskirkja to its intersection with Laugavegur, another main street in Reykjavík. Skólavörðustígur is a pedestrian street full of cafes and souvenir shops.
While you are in Reykjavík, you should try Icelandic ice cream…even if it’s cold out! Icelanders are very fond of ice cream, no matter what time of year.
There are two main types of ice cream in Iceland: the “old” kind (gamli) which is more milk-based and the “new” kind (nýi) which is cream-based. Both are delicious and can be topped with a dip or crumbly treats!
Sun Voyager Sculpture
This elegant steel sculpture was built in the mid-1980s to commemorate Reykjavík’s 200-year anniversary. While many people assume it is supposed to be a Viking ship, it is meant to represent more than that. The sculpture sits on the waterfront, pointed at the horizon, representing freedom and progression.
Where to Stay in Reykjavík
- Where we stayed: Reykjavík Campsite
- Budget option: Kex Hostel
- Modest option: City Center Hotel
- Splurge option: ION City Hotel
Sadly, it’s time to leave the Land of Fire and Ice, but not before a few more stops.
The Laundromat Cafe
For an excellent brunch before you leave, stop at the Laundromat Cafe in Reykjavík. The pancakes are great, and the walls are covered in maps.
Plus, you can actually do a load of laundry if you need to! True to its name, the Laundromat Cafe has washers and dryers in the basement.
The National Museum of Iceland
Since our flight wasn’t until later, we wanted to squeeze one more thing into our Iceland itinerary. We decided to spend the morning at the National Museum of Iceland, where we learned a lot!
The museum does a great job of walking you through the geological, religious, and cultural history of Iceland. It’s truly inspiring how Icelanders have made a home on their small island, despite volcano eruptions and frigid temperatures.
Drop Off Vehicle
Before your flight you have to return your vehicle, of course. Most rental companies will require you to return your vehicle with the same amount of fuel it had when you picked it up, so make sure to stop at a gas station.
Happy Campers then provided a shuttle to take a group of us to Keflavík Airport, with plenty of time to go through security, etc.
It was sad to leave, but I am so grateful to have spent 12 days in Iceland!
I hope this Iceland Ring Road itinerary has been helpful if you are planning your own Iceland road trip! Of course, this itinerary can be customized based on what you want to see in Iceland.
All my thoughts here are honest and based on our actual experiences. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it’s an amazing country, and you should definitely take a trip to Iceland!