Imagine hitting the open road and driving past active volcanoes, powerful waterfalls, floating blue icebergs, breaching whales, turquoise volcanic lakes, or even seeing the majestic Northern Lights dancing in the distance. You will experience all of this and more if you decide to take a road trip in Iceland. The small Nordic island is a magical place, and there is a lot packed into its 103,000 square kilometers (nearly 40,000 square miles). Almost all of the country’s main attractions are a short distance from The Ring Road, the highway that goes all the way around the island. Additionally, the popularity of camping in Iceland makes it much more affordable for people who don’t necessarily have the money to stay at expensive Scandinavian hotels for ten days. If you’re looking for adventure, a road trip in Iceland is definitely a must-do.

Red rental car in Iceland driving past beautiful landscapes

Iceland’s Natural Attractions

When you’re driving in Iceland, it’s a good idea to give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your destination. While the weather is one factor, another is that you will probably stop every five minutes to take pictures. The country is known for its breathtaking landscapes. As a safe driver, of course you will want to pull over to allow ample time for photo opportunities. You will also find yourself driving from destination to destination and being wowed at everything you experience.

Iceland’s Vatnajökull National Park is one of the country’s treasures. It’s Europe’s largest national park and home to Skaftafell and Vatnajökull glaciers. You can do everything from visiting ice caves and glacier caves to glacier hiking on these colossal ice giants. Across the street from the entrance of the park, you’ll also find the extraordinary Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach.

Iceland's Diamond Beach at sunrise during a road trip

Northeast Iceland is home to the famed Diamond Circle route. This 162 mi (260 km) circuit takes you along the cerulean waters of Lake Mývatn, the bubbling mud pots and hissing fumaroles of the Hverir hot springs area, the otherworldly Krafla volcanic fields, and the seaside town of Húsavik (Iceland’s whale watching capital).

Waterfalls and Day Trips

While Iceland is known as the Land of Fire and Ice, the country should also be noted for the element of water. Waterfalls are everywhere, with some of the most notable and beautiful being Svartifoss, Dettifoss, Seljalandsfoss, Goðafoss, and Skógafoss. Visits to these sites are especially enchanting do to their sprays, which commonly produce rainbows or even double rainbows. It’s no wonder that Iceland’s Huldufólk (known as hidden people or elves) have been known to frequent these locations.

The Golden Circle is somewhere that travelers staying in Reykjavik must visit. This route is perfect for a day trip and includes three of Iceland’s most iconic attractions. Thingvellir National Park, the Strokkur and Geysir geysers, and Gullfoss waterfall form the perfect trifecta of outdoor sightseeing in Iceland.

A geyser on Iceland's Golden Circle route

Another natural attraction you won’t want to miss is the coastal town of Vik and its black sand beaches.  South Iceland is famous for the midnight black volcanic sand of its coasts. Reynisfjara peninsula features basalt columns of dried lava rich with iron. In this area, you will also find the remains of the DC-3 plane crash. The haunting sight of the aircraft’s fuselage on a remote beach is one the most iconic images of Iceland.

Driving in Iceland is Easy

In addition to all the things you can see and do in Iceland, it’s extremely easy to drive here. The country’s infrastructure is set up in a way that makes road trips easy. Route 1, or the Ring Road, circles the entire country. You’ll be able to reach almost all of the main sites easily from this circular highway. The proximity of Iceland’s natural attractions to its Ring Road also means that accommodation at campsites is quite easy to find.

Lastly, driving distances in Iceland are not too long. It’s easy to plan a 5-day or 7-day itinerary in Iceland only driving a few hours each day. Renting your own car, campervan or motorhome is the best way to travel on your own schedule. Whichever option you choose, you’ll see almost everything there is to see and still have plenty of time to explore.

Woman looking out at mountains from campervan during Iceland road trip

Why Taking a Road Trip Around Iceland is the Best Idea Ever

Taking an Iceland road trip is something that should be on your bucket list if it isn’t already. The country was practically made for self-drive holidays. With the ease of driving around the Ring Road and all there is to see and do on the island, it’s not a question of if you should go to Iceland, but when. Every season has its advantages and disadvantages. So figure out whether you’d be more into the outdoor festivals and Midnight Sun during the summer months or the Northern Lights and winter activities like hiking a glacier. Whichever you choose, we hope to see you soon.


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