Visiting Iceland has been a dream of Jazmin since she can remember. So we decided to visit Iceland in May and we embarked on a 9-day Iceland Road Trip around the “Ring Road” and the “Golden Circle”. We created the perfect itinerary to help you plan your stay in Iceland.
Driving around Iceland, the Land of Fire and Ice, has been one of the most exciting adventures we have ever done. You will be amazed by the amazing waterfalls, geothermal springs, wild horses, glaciers and of course the northern lights. We split our visit to Iceland in two main segments, the Ring Road and the Golden Circle. The Ring Road covers over 800 miles around the circumference of Iceland along Route 1.
We visited Iceland in May, and we were super happy with our decision. The attractions were less full, we had more sunlight so we were able to visit more places in a day and stay longer at some of our favorite spots. May is also during the shoulder season making it cheaper to visit.
For our trip around Iceland we decided to rent a car and to rent camping equipment for more flexibility to explore this beautiful country. Because of Iceland’s weather we recommend to rent the right equipment, as even during summer Iceland can be cold. We decided to rent our equipment from Iceland Camping Equipment.
We rented an automatic Hyundai Tucson 4×4 from Lagoon Car Rentals for the duration of our trip. It is the perfect all around car with its comfort, style and gravel road handling. This car does cost more than a smaller one, but with 4×4 you will not be limited at any point on your adventure.
Driving around Iceland in 9 days Travel Video:
We recommend at least to stay Iceland for nine days to do the Ring Road and the Golden Circle at a comfortable pace. Iceland has so many natural features that believe us when we say you will be stopping every 10 minutes to snap a photo.
For your drive around the Ring Road plan ahead and create a flexible schedule. We did a lot of research of the main spots to visit in Iceland and then having that in mind we went with the flow. Sometimes we were behind schedule and other times we were ahead of our daily itinerary. The cool thing about Iceland is that it will surprise you each step of the way. So, no matter what be FLEXIBLE!
Below you will find our itinerary with the best places to see in Iceland along the Ring Road as well as some activities that are highly recommended. Read all our extra tips and tricks for Iceland in our complete guide on TraveLibro.
Driving Map of the Ring Road:
Day 1: Reykjavik to Vik
It is important to wake up early in Iceland to avoid crowds, no matter when you go to Iceland, it will always have a high amount of tourism. The only way to avoid as many people as possible is waking up early and start the day ahead of everyone else.
➳ Tip: Wake up early to avoid crowed photos.
Where to camp: Vik Camping Ground
We were constantly mesmerized the whole drive along the southern coast of Iceland. You will find most of the iconic sights are conveniently just off the Ring Road.
What to do in Iceland Ring Road day 1:
- Urridafoss Waterfall: The Urridafoss waterfall is Iceland’s most voluminous waterfall. It is a unique shape waterfall. It is not the biggest or the most beautiful one that we have seen in Iceland but it is definitely worth the visit.
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall: It is a spectacular 200 feet (60 meters) tall waterfall. You can even walk behind it to take even cooler photos and appreciate the power of nature. Bring your waterproof jacket and pants as you will get wet. There is also a small hill where you can get an amazing view of the waterfall.
- Gljufurarfoss Waterfall: It is a stunning waterfall inside a small cave like canyon. It is located just a 600 meter walk from the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. After you cross the bridge in front of Seljalandsfoss or behind the waterfall you will see a sign with directions towards Gljufurarfoss.
- Skogafoss Waterfall: One of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. If you are lucky you can see a rainbow across the waterfall. The Skogafoss waterfall is also about 200 feet tall but it is much wider. There is a wooden staircase you can follow for a view above the waterfall.
- Solheimasandur Plane Crash: We liked it but not sure if it is worth the walk. It is located a 4km walk from the parking lot. It is one of the most photographed places in Iceland for tourists. We were lucky as there were not many tourists so it was easier to take a photo of the plane alone.
- Dyrholaey Arch: The arch is located in the small Dyrholaey peninsula. It was foggy during our visit, but it was still spectacular. The view is priceless no matter the weather. It is one of the most beautiful places in Iceland due to its black sand beach contrasting the green mountain range.
- Black Sand Beach and Reynishverfi Basalt Column: One of our favorite spots in Iceland. It is so unique due to the basalt formation that look like symmetrical hexagon columns are next to the beach. Be careful as you walk along the Black Sand Beach as the powerful waves can be dangerous! This is the most famous black sand beach in Iceland and is one of the ten most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world.
Day 2: Vik to Laekjavik Coast
Where to sleep: Camping along the coast.
It was a full day of sightseeing and walking. There are so many things to see along the way and amazing places to stop for a complete photoshoot. We were so excited to get out and explore for our second day in Iceland and let me tell you it was one of our favorite days.
Vík is one of the most idyllic little towns in Iceland with its church and houses situated on a hillside.
What to do in Iceland Ring Road day 2:
- Mossy Lava Rocks: Driving through the lumping mossy lava rock fields, we felt like we were in another world. There is a large lava mound where you need to leave a rock on the top of the mountain when you pass for good luck. It is a great spot for a photo that looks like you are on an alien planet.
- Fjaorargljufur Canyon: It is a spectacular canyon with a beautiful waterfall at the end of a short hiking trail. Make sure to go all the way to the end and not stop at the first viewpoint. From the first viewpoint you can just see the canyon. From the second viewpoint you get a complete view of the canyon and two waterfalls. The walk is about 1.3 miles round trip.
- Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon: It is one of the most impressive lagoons we have ever seen. The lagoon is full of giant blue icebergs floating around the lagoon as the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier is slowly melting. You will get amazing photos for sure. If you have time you can even take a boat tour through the lake to get up close and personal with the icebergs. The lagoon is next to the Vatnajökull National Park.
- Diamond Beach: The Diamond beach is in front of the Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon where it empties into the ocean. Along the shore is covered with small melting icebergs that shine like diamonds. It is super exciting to see how many icebergs there were along the shore and in the ocean. If you walk around to the left side you can even see some of the icebergs coming straight from the lagoon all the way to the ocean.
- Vatnajokul and Svínafellsjökull Glacier: There are two tongues you can visit one is in the main entrance of Skaftafell National Park. Here you can hike to the beautiful Svartifoss waterfall, or even take a easy 2 mile hike to the base of the glacier. The other tongue is next to the park entrance and you can drive almost to the base and then hike a little bit to see it. You cannot get as close to the glacier here but it is worth the view over it. You can do many hikes ranging from easy to difficult. Depending on how much hiking you plan on doing will determine. To visit some of the glaciers in Vatnajokul you will need a 4×4 car. You can even hike into the caves under the glacier. We did not have enough budget to do this activity but it is definitely on our bucket list. We read it is an unforgettable experience. Please keep in mind that you will need to hire a guide or a tour to do this activity or glacier hiking.
- Laekjavik Coast: We finished our day with stunning views of the Lakejavik coastline view. We decided to sleep along the coast. It was a great place to go camping while enjoying the beautiful black sand coastline views.
Day 3 – 4: Laekjavik Coast to Lake Myvath
Where to sleep: Along the Lake Myvath
It is one of the most beautiful areas in Iceland due to the geothermal activity and of course the Fjords. You will be driving for hours and not see many towns. It is perfect to enjoy the beautiful fjords views and what Iceland has to offer. Near the Dettifoss waterfall to the Krafla can be really snow winter so some of the roads might be closed. Also, some of the hikes in Kafla might be dangerous if it is rainy.
What to do in Iceland Ring Road day 3 & 4:
- Random Pull Off: Be prepared for many beautiful pull offs that Iceland has to offer. Do not get stuck on only doing what is on your list!
- Seyðisfjörður Village: It is a beautiful lakeside town in Eastfjords full of colorful wooden homes. It is a 27km detour from the Ring Road. It is famous for colorful buildings, puffin colonies, and old ruins.
- Hengifoss and Fardagafoss Waterfalls: It can be windy hike to the top, so wear appropriate windproof clothing. You will also need to walk across some wet rocks along a small stream, be prepared for your shoes to get wet.
- Djupivogur: The small town of Djupivogur is a nice stop for lunch or just a bathroom break. It is home to The Eggs of Merry Bay artwork which consists of enlarged stone versions of 34 local nesting birds.
- Hafragilsfoss, Dettifoss and Selfoss Waterfalls: When we visited the east road was closed for the winter still, but you can get to them through the west road. Make sure to check the roads before heading there. Dettifoss is the largest waterfall in Iceland and Europe by water volume.
- Krafla: Krafla is a high hyloclastite palagonite mountain. It is a 30-40 minute hike to reach Krafla. The mountain is accessible via the route south of Viti, along the ridge of the mountain to the northeast. We could not visit it because it was covered in fog and we could not see anything.
- Viti Crater: It is a large explosive fissure. There is a hiking trail to it but it is only safe to do it in dry weather. We could not hike to Viti Crater as it was pouring rain all day!
- Namafjall Geothermal Area: It is located on the east side of the Namafjall Mountain, it is one of the richest sulphur geothermal areas in the country. It is possible to walk along the edge of the mountain downward toward the national road and back into the geothermal area. The route is easily followed in dry weather but can be dangerous and slippery in wet conditions. The geothermal area must be approached with caution as any route can give way under weight.
- Myvatn Nature Baths: Some amazing hot springs for a relaxing and rejuvenating dip. It is open from 9AM to 12AM from May 14th through September. It is open from 12PM to 10PM from October through May 14th.
- Hverfjall Cone: The volcano exploded nearly 5000 years ago. You can now hike to the rim for amazing views.
- Lake Myvath: It is a beautiful lake that you drive around. You have big chances to see the northern lights here in the darker months. However in the summer, the sky never really gets dark enough to see them.
Day 5: Lake Myvath- Kolugljufur Canyon
Where to sleep: Camping spot near Kolugljufur Canyon.
What to do in Iceland Ring Road day 5:
- Goðafoss Waterfall: The “Waterfall of the Gods” tells the local legend that when Christianity became the official religion of Iceland they threw all the pagan figures into this waterfall. In contrast with the other waterfalls in Iceland, Godafoss has a width of 30m and height of 12m.
- Husavik: A cute little coastal town where you can take a boat tour to see the whales.
- Akureyri: With 19,000 citizens, Akureyri is one of the most populated cities in Iceland. It is worth stopping to get some food and supplies at the budget grocery store Bonus, get gas or use the wifi/bathrooms.
- Glaumbaer: At Glaumbaer you can see the beautiful traditional Icelandic houses built right into the sod. One is even set up like a home 1000 years ago.
- Hvitserkur: A natural rhino shaped rock formation. It has a beautiful view of the surrounding beaches and mountains on the distance. If this is your last stop of the day make sure to arrive before sunset as it falls into the shadow of the cliffs as the sun goes down.
- Kolugljufur: Beautiful Canyon with an stunning waterfall. You might be surprised that these photos were taken around 10PM, but that is the fun of the midnight sun in Iceland.
Day 6: Kolugljufur Canyon – Bogarness
Where to sleep: Camping near Bogarness.
When we woke up we were deciding if it was worth visiting Western Fjords or not. We decided not to go due to the weather. As the main thing to visit is the fjords themselves, there would only be so much we can see in the foggy rain. Skipping the fjords we headed south along the western coast to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
What to do in Iceland Ring Road day 6:
- Kirkjufellfoss Waterfall: It is one of the most famous and iconic waterfalls of Iceland. Walk on bridge over the waterfall to the further side to get the classic view!
- Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfall: It is impressive display of nature where the water seeps out the lava from underground springs.
Day 7: Bogarness – Reykjavik
Our last day of the Ring Road we spent exploring the capital city of Reykjavik. With a population of only 120,000, the city remains laid back with a small town feel. To see all of Reykjavik you can spend a full day at a relaxed pace.
What to do in Iceland Ring Road day 7:
Now you are back in the capital and Iceland’s largest city. Woohoo! You did it! You know what that means?? Time to tour the city in search of great food and Icelandic beer!
- Hallgrímskirkja: The unique design of the Hallgrims church makes Iceland’s tallest church one of the most popular attractions in Reykjavik. Take the elevator up the 73 meter high tower for panoramic views of the entire city.
- The Sun Voyager: Right along the waterfront is an artistic statue of boat from the 200th anniversary of the city of Reykjavik.
- Laugavegur Street: Laugavegur is the main pedestrian street in Reykjavik. Along several blocks you will find an eclectic collection of colorful bars, delicious restaurants and of course gift shops!
Day 8: Explore the Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is a popular tourist route in Southern Iceland. This 300 kilometer (190 mi) loop starts in Reykjavík and offers unique landscapes that are easily accessible. Expect it to be crowded at all times. Below are the most popular sites to see as you travel along this road.
What to do in Iceland in the Golden Circle day 8:
We started driving the Golden Circle going NE on Route 36 towards our first stop, Þingvellir National Park.
➳ Read More: Drive the Golden Circle in Iceland
- Thingvellir National Park: It is only 40 km northeast of Reykjavík, this moss covered national park is impossible to miss. You actually drive through it! The most impressive part of this park is that it is home to the Silfa Fissure, which is a divergent tectonic boundary between the North American and the Eurasian Tectonic Plates. If you book a scuba or snorkel tour, you can swim between these two tectonic plates! Unfortunately, we learned about these tours too late and were unable to go, but that just gives me an excuse to come back.
- Glymur Waterfall: The hike to the second highest waterfall in Iceland takes 2 hours. You have to walk through glacier cold river water for a few meters so prepare yourself. It is a solid medium level hike that anyone can do if you are able to put a few of your fears of height behind you.
- Þingvellir National Park: The Þingvellir National Park is along the divide between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates were they are slowly separating creating a deep fissures where you can walk or even swim through. If you would like to snorkel or scuba dive on one of the fissures, Silfra is the place for it.
- Oxagarfoss Waterfall: It is within the Þingvellir National Park and it is a beautiful waterfall.
- Geysir At Haukadalur: Our next stop on the Golden Circle road trip was Haukadalur, which is about 60km from Þingvellir National Park. There are two famous geysers here called Geysir, the original namesake for all geysers, and Strokkur. Geysir no longer erupts after an earthquake shut it down, but a second one called Strokkur still erupts with scalding water shooting 100 feet into the air approximately every 10 minutes.
- Icelandic Horse Petting: You cannot leave Iceland without petting the beautiful fuzzy friendly Icelandic horses. You will see them all across the island, just make sure to pull safely off the road for a photograph.
- Gullfoss Waterfall: It is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Iceland and a major highlight of the Golden Circle. Gullfoss Waterfall is a powerful 100 feet waterfall. The mist that the waterfall produces gives a high chance to spot a rainbow on sunny day. There are many viewpoints to see different perspectives of the waterfall. We recommend you to go down the stairs and do the whole pathway to get even closer to the waterfall. Be careful as the area near the waterfall gets windy and you might get soaking wet.
- Faxi waterfall: It is a beautiful little waterfall on the ride back to Reykjavik when completing the Golden Circle. It is less touristy option so you can get much closer to the falls and more easy to get photos free of other people.
- Kerið Crater: The last stop along the Golden Circle is Kerið Crater Lake. The beautiful red volcano is covered in bright green vegetation. You can walk around the entire cone of the volcano to get the best photo of the contrasting colors. A short 5 minute hike down to the water gives you an up close view of the deep blue waters. Entry to the crater costs 400ISK. It was a typical cone-shaped volcano until the tip collapsed into an empty magma chamber and not it is filled with water. In the summer, this volcanic crater lake is filled with turquoise water and surrounded by red volcanic rock and green moss. However, in the winter and spring, the lake is often frozen over and to be honest, not much to look at. But you can go down to the crater and walk (or slide) on the frozen lake!
Day 9: Reykjavík to Keflavík Airport
- Blue Lagoon: Going to the Blue Lagoon can be a perfect way to end our Iceland Road trip, especially due to its proximity to the airport. We did not go to the Blue Lagoon as we found it to be over touristed and over-priced, with many other geothermal spa options across Iceland.
- Keflavík Airport: Time to say goodbye to Iceland, until next time.