When planning a road trip in Iceland, you’ll find a lot of information about the Ring Road and have plenty of questions. What’s the speed limit? What are the road conditions like? What are some things to do in Iceland along the Ring Road? Perhaps the most frequently asked question is how long it will take you to drive around Iceland’s Ring Road. Well here’s a quick post to answer all of your questions and more.
Iceland’s Ring Road: Road Conditions Basic Information
Iceland’s Ring Road is 828 miles (1,332 km) when you drive around it in a circle. It’s a mostly paved, two-lane highway with one lane going in each direction. You may sometimes find this reduced to a single lane when there’s a bridge crossing, so use caution and be vigilant. The speed limit on Iceland’s Ring Road depends on a few factors. If you are driving through an inhabited area like a city, town, or village, you’ll have to slow down to between 30-50 km/h (18-31 mph). The maximum speed on uninhabited parts of the parts of the road is 90 km/h (56 mph) if it’s paved and 80 km/h (50 mph) on gravel.
Now just because you CAN go up to 90 km/h), doesn’t mean that you necessarily SHOULD. Iceland road conditions are frequently wet, slick, or icy, so obviously use good judgement when driving in Iceland. Also, don’t speed. I’m not saying this to nag you. I’m saying it because Iceland has speed cameras. The last thing you want is to receive a slew of extremely expensive speeding tickets a couple of weeks after returning home. It might take the authorities some time to catch up with you, but your rental company can and will charge you for speeding fines attached to the license plate number of your vehicle during your rental period. As an additional driving tip for Iceland, remember to always turn on your vehicle’s lights. It’s the law that regardless of weather or visibility, your headlights need to be turned on in Iceland. Yes, this even includes beautiful, sunny, clear days.
How Long Does it Take to Drive Around Iceland’s Ring Road?
There are so many factors here that it’s hard to give a definitive answer. According to Google Maps, it can take 15-16 hours to drive around Iceland’s Ring Road. But of course, if there’s bad weather, it can take significantly longer. Not to mention getting stuck behind slow vehicles, encountering road closures, and other unforeseen mishaps. Even the sheep are out to get you when they’re blocking the road. Add in the fact that you’ll also want to stop somewhere along the way to eat, sleep, and sightsee. I would recommend giving yourself up to 20 or 21 hours if you’re thinking purely in terms of driving around the island nonstop.
And if you’d like an itinerary suggestion, many people only have 5 days in Iceland and try to see everything. I think this is a mistake. It’s no doubt better to only explore one part in depth, like South Iceland, if your vacation is that short. The minimum suggested time for driving around the Ring Road is a 7-day itinerary. If your Iceland Ring Road itinerary can be 10 days, that’s the ideal combination of having enough time to really see most of the highlights without spending several weeks here like some travelers choose to do.
What are the Main Stops on Iceland’s Ring Road?
While most of the sites are a simple turn off the Ring Road or a small detour of about a mile or so (just over 2 kilometers), other Ring Road attractions are further off the beaten path. Going counterclockwise around the island, here are the main stops on Iceland’s Ring Road or the ones that are close to it.
- Reykjavik – Iceland’s capital.
- The Golden Circle – A 190-mile (300 km) sightseeing circuit that connects to a small part of the Ring Road. Main attractions include Thingvellir National Park, Haukadalur Geothermal Valley and its geysers Strokkur and Geysir, and Gullfoss waterfall.
- The Blue Lagoon – A geothermal spa.
- Seljalandsfoss – Considered Iceland’s most beautiful waterfall.
- Skógafoss – Another breathtaking waterfall in South Iceland.
- Sólheimasandur Plane Crash Site – Haunting remains of a military plane wreck’s fuselage set against black sand beaches.
- Vík and Reynisfjara Beach – A small fishing village and nearby volcanic black sand beach and hexagonal basalt columns. Dyrholaey is also an interesting promontory in the area with a lighthouse.
- Landmannalaugar and the Laugavegur Trail – If you plan on hiking in the summer, visit Iceland’s backcountry and the Highlands. Just make sure you have a 4×4 campervan or an SUV with 4WD.
- Vatnajökull National Park – There are several things to do in Iceland’s Vatnajökull National Park. Some of the highlights are Skaftafell glacier, Vatnajökull glacier, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, and the Diamond Beach.
- The East Fjords – The coastlines of east and northeast Iceland feature these natural wonders.
- The Diamond Circle Route – Don’t let the short name fool you, the Diamond Circle comprises about a dozen sightseeing destinations and activities. I won’t go into all of them, but the highlights are Dettifoss waterfall, Godafoss waterfall, the whale watching town of Húsavik, Grjótagja cave from Game of Thrones, Lake Myvatn, and the Hverir geothermal area with its colorful, bubbling mud.
- Akureyri and North Iceland – Iceland’s second city and the best place for skiing and snowboarding in Iceland.
- The Westfjords – Even more dramatic than the scenery and landscapes of the Westfjords.
- Snaefellsnes Peninsula – This is another zone in Iceland that warrants at least a couple of days of your time. Many people come here as a day trip from Reykjavik to see Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss, but there’s also Snaefellsjökull, the Eldborg crater, Budin church (Iceland’s church that’s painted black), the hidden Landbrotalaug geothermal hot pot, and many other things to see and do.
All About Iceland’s Ring Road
Our small island was made for road trips. One of the best ways to visit Iceland is to rent a car and check out all of the amazing things to do here. Armed with a little more knowledge about Iceland’s Ring Road, I hope I’ve made planning your trip a little easier. Check out our articles to see which attractions most interest you and which is the best vehicle for your trip. Happy travels!