The Best Stops on the Ring Road in Iceland
Iceland has one main highway – the Ring Road! It goes all around the country, mostly following the coast. So if you’re on a road trip around Iceland, the Ring Road offers an easy route with plenty to see! This guide will tell you some of the best stops on the Ring Road in Iceland, and everything you need to know to drive this iconic route.
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What is the Ring Road in Iceland?
The Ring Road, also called Route 1, is the main highway that goes around the country of Iceland. If you want to head inland, where Iceland’s landscape is wild and mountainous, you’ll need to take F-roads, which require a 4×4 car. But, the Ring Road travels along the outside, between the main towns and villages in Iceland. It’s mostly paved, and the few gravel spots are easily doable for any car. Of course, weather is always a consideration, so while the road is mostly accessible year round, closures can happen, and a 4×4 is definitely required for winter driving!
The Ring Road is 828 miles (1333 kilometers) long.
How long does it take to drive around the Ring Road in Iceland?
The Ring Road goes around Iceland, hugging the coast in the south, but going inland a bit in the north, and bypassing the Westfjords and the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Iceland is a small country, but not that small! You’ll definitely need at least 7 days to drive around the entire Ring Road, but this can leave you feeling rushed and like you missed a lot of the stops. Ideally, at least 10-14 days is best for driving the Ring Road in Iceland.
What time of year is best for These Stops on the Ring Road in Iceland?
Iceland is known for wild weather, so while you can drive Iceland’s Ring Road any time of year, April through October is definitely the best (though weather can be a little unpredictable, so the ends of this range can vary each year). In the winter, weather can cause road closures and unsafe driving conditions, so driving in Iceland is definitely easiest in the summer, when there isn’t any snow. Otherwise, just be prepared for a potential change of plans!
Before you go, be sure to check out this map of road conditions in Iceland, which will tell you about any current road closures and safety concerns.
Do You Need a 4×4 to Drive the Ring Road in Iceland?
A 4×4 is required to drive on the F-roads in Iceland, but not for the Ring Road. You can do it in any car – except when there’s snow. If you’re traveling to Iceland any time that isn’t the summer you should consider renting a 4×4 for the Ring Road, as snow, ice, and even heavy rain can make driving more dangerous. But in general, you don’t need a 4×4 to drive the Ring Road in Iceland!
How to Get to the Best Stops on Iceland’s Ring Road
There are two ways that you can get to the best stops on Iceland’s Ring Road. Renting a car is one, and driving in Iceland definitely gives you the most flexibility and freedom to explore the way you want to. Discover Cars is a great place to find a car for your trip!
But, if you prefer someone to show you all the best spots, and don’t want to drive yourself, there are also a lot of tours that you can take! Tours around the Ring Road are super popular, and an easy way to explore.
Here are a few ideas for tours of the Ring Road, and you can check out Get Your Guide for more!
Iceland Ring Road Map With Attractions
Here is a map of all of these best stops on the Ring Road in Iceland! I included a few of my favorite campsites, some recommendations for places to stay, and all the waterfalls, hot springs, hikes, towns, and viewpoints along the Ring Road.
The Best Stops on the Ring Road in Iceland
I recommend taking the Ring Road counterclockwise – the South Coast is the most popular, so you’ll get through this first before heading to the more remote places. These stops are in order going counterclockwise, but feel free to switch up the direction!
Since this is the only really major city in Iceland, this will likely be your first stop! Grab some groceries, stock up on anything you need, and spend some time exploring the city. This is likely where you’ll pick up your rental car, if you’re getting one, or where your tour will begin.
I skipped the Blue Lagoon, but it’s one of the most popular spots to visit, and this is the best stop on Iceland’s Ring Road for some luxury and relaxation! You can relax in the hot spring, enjoy gorgeous views, book a spa day, and stay at the resort.
Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River
This five mile hike takes you to the Reykjadalur Thermal River, where you can soak and enjoy the mountain views around you! It’s a gorgeous (but popular) trail close to Reykjavik, and a great way to get a taste for hiking in Iceland.
Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir National Park is one of the best stops on the Ring Road in Iceland, and it’s found in a valley formed by the movement of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates! There are dramatic cliffs and gorges, and you can see the one of a kind geology of the area. While you’re here, I highly (highly!) recommend snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure – or, if you’re certified, you can scuba dive, which is what I did. The visibility is incredible, and I can’t even describe the feeling of going underwater for the first time and seeing the fissure. Scuba diving Silfra was one of the most incredible experiences I had in Iceland!
Gullfoss is another stop along the Ring Road and it’s a really incredible waterfall. It plunges dramatically into a canyon, and though it’s definitely a popular place, you’ve got to see it! To see Gullfoss, you can drive, or you can take a tour from Reykjavik instead. For a really unique experience, start at Gullfoss and take a snowmobile tour of the Langjökull glacier!
Hrunalaug Hot Spring
Now it’s time to get away from the crowds! When we were scuba diving in the Silfra Fissure, our guide told us about this place. Hrunalaug is a lesser known hot spring – while you probably won’t have it all to yourself, there will likely only be a few other people around, and it’s a really nice break from the more crowded spots on the South Coast of Iceland! The adorable hot spring is privately owned, with a few pools surrounded by sheep and rolling green hills. It’s a great stop on the Ring Road to experience one of the best hot springs in Iceland.
Seljalandsfoss & Gljufrabui
Seljalandsfoss is an incredible waterfall in Iceland, and you can even walk behind it! You’ll definitely get wet, so make sure to pack some rain gear. Once you’ve seen Seljalandsfoss, I recommend taking the 10 minute walk down the path to the lesser known Gljufrabui waterfall! Getting up close requires wading through the canyon, but you can see it through the canyon walls.
The drive here is easy, or you can see this one on a tour of Iceland’s South Coast!
Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool
A short walk along the river will bring you to the Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool – a pool fed by the hot spring where you can soak amongst incredible views of the mountains around you. This place is pretty popular, but there are some quiet times throughout the day!
Skógafoss is one of the most well known waterfalls, and for good reason – it’s incredibly powerful, and you can walk up to the base of it. There is also a set of stairs that will take you to the top for a different view, and though it’s a lot of stairs, I really recommend doing this! Once you’re up there, you can keep going on the path to see some more secret waterfalls – with much fewer people around.
You can even stay right next to the waterfall! The Hotel Skógafoss is right by it, and the Fosstúnskogar Guesthouse is a short walk away.
Kvernufoss is just a few minutes away from Skógafoss, but it’s much less popular, so you’ll have a lot more privacy. This is (in my humble opinion), one of the best waterfalls in Iceland, and you can even walk behind it! The hike is short and pretty easy, so it’s a great stop after you’ve seen Skógafoss.
Reynisfjara Beach is probably the most popular black sand beach in Iceland, because of the basalt columns on its shore. These unique columns are fun to climb, and are a really unique sight! Be sure to stay away from the water when exploring the beach – sneaker waves can be deadly! You can see Reynisfjara on a tour of the South Coast.
Close to Reynisfjara is the village of Vik, which is a great little town to explore, with lots of cool places to stay! Check out the Hotel Vík í Mýrdal, which is an incredible hotel with glass walls, close to Black Sand Beach and under two miles from Reynisfjara. The Hótel Dyrhólaey is another incredible place, with views of the ocean! I recommend checking out the unique Skool Beans Cafe for some coffee.
This short hike is pretty easy, and it makes for a great place to stretch your legs – and the scenery is really amazing! You’ll walk along a path with several overlooks over the canyon, and it ends with a waterfall.
On your way to the next hike, make a pit stop at this glacier! There’s an overlook you can drive to, but unfortunately the road was closed when I was here – but even from the main road, Svínafellsjökull is an absolutely beautiful sight, and one of the best stops on the Ring Road in Iceland to just get out and enjoy the view for a little while.
This was one of the most incredible hikes I did in Iceland! You’ll hike with views of the glacier, with incredible vistas overlooking Hangandifoss on the way. But don’t stop there! Keep going, and when you reach the top of the Múlagljúfur Canyon trail, you’ll see an absolutely jaw dropping view of the canyon.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
The Glacier Lagoon is really a one of a kind sight – giant icebergs float in the lagoon, with seals swimming between them! Walk along the shore of the lagoon and up to the overlook, and make sure to go to Diamond Beach, which is right next to the lagoon, where the icebergs float out into the ocean. You can watch from the shore, but you can also take a boat out on the lagoon and see the icebergs up close!
For some more adventure, take a tour of the ice cave.
This stop on the Ring Road isn’t a place that you need to specifically go to and spend a lot of time at, but it’s a really nice beach for watching the sunset, or for taking a break from driving and having a snack. It’s really quiet, with very few, if any people around!
The hike to Fardagafoss is pretty short, but it’s really cool – you get to see the waterfall from above, but the best part is that you can walk down to the base of it, and there’s a cave behind it that you can go into!
The tiny town of Möðrudalur is a cute farm settlement, and it has a cute coffee shop, local dogs that roam around, and is just a really unique place to check out. If you need a place to sleep, stay at Fjalladyrd-Möðrudalur á Fjollum – a cute lodge with a grass roof!
And if you do decide to veer off the Ring Road and go into the Highlands, the F-roads from Möðrudalur lead to the Askja Crater, which is definitely worth the detour.
Goðafoss is located right off the Ring Road, and it’s a great place to put on your Iceland road trip itinerary! There’s a nice walking trail around the waterfall, and you can see it from above before climbing down to the base.
Close by is the Fljótsbakki Farm Hotel, where you can stay!
From the parking area, you can take a short walk to an overlook over Hvitserkur – a cool rocky formation that looks like a sea dragon! A steep path will also take you down to the water, where you can explore this relatively empty beach and even spot sea lions playing in the water.
Where to Stay Along Iceland’s Ring Road
While you’re having your adventures along Iceland’s Ring Road, you’ll need to stop for some sleep! Since the Ring Road is the main highway, there are plenty of options.
Camping Along Iceland’s Ring Road
Camping is my favorite way to travel, since it’s not only great for traveling Iceland on a budget, but it also gives you so much flexibility! Camping in Iceland is easy to find, whether you’re in a tent, car, or camper van. This guide has some of my favorite campsites, and a map of every campsite along the Ring Road.
Hotels Along Iceland’s Ring Road
You can also book hotels during your Iceland trip! Booking.com is a great resource for this, and if you need to find somewhere to stay, check out this map – make sure to zoom out and change the dates to see all of the options. You can also check out VRBO for private rentals!
What to Bring to Visit the Ring Road
When you visit Iceland and explore the Ring Road, here’s what you’ll need to bring to ensure a great trip!
Iceland is known for being wet, so shoes with good traction are a must, whether you’re hiking or just getting out at some overlooks!
My favorite hiking boots are my Danner boots – they’re cute, comfortable, and waterproof! I also love hiking in my Chacos, and I wore sandals pretty much the whole time I was in Iceland. I know most people wouldn’t advise sandals in Iceland, but I prefer them! Just be prepared for sudden changes in weather.
Rain boots are another great option for muddy or wet conditions, and are definitely the easiest to clean.
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Iceland’s weather is known for being unpredictable, and it’s always best to wear layers. It’s important to bring some rain gear, since there’s a good chance you’ll get caught in a drizzle at least a few times. It’s also helpful for waterfalls, since when you get up close you can get sprayed!
The Marmot Minimalist Jacket is a great lightweight, waterproof option. For the cold, I love my Columbia puffy jacket – it’s lightweight, but keeps me warm. It’s also water resistant! For added warmth and layering, a Patagonia fleece is always a good addition.
Rain pants are also a good idea for rain, and for waterfalls.
The Marmot Precip Full-Zip Pants are light and packable, but if you plan to spend time in the snow too, the Stoic Insulated Snow Pants will be perfect for both rain and snow. You can also get some bib pants for more coverage – the Helly Hansen Pier Bib Pants are waterproof and wind proof!
When I’m bringing my camera gear, my favorite backpack is the Alex Strohl Mountain Light. It’s definitely the best camera bag out there for hiking with photo gear. If you don’t need storage for camera stuff, I recommend an Osprey Hikelite. If you aren’t bringing very much and just want a day bag, I love my Topo Designs Y-Pack for carrying everyday essentials!
Especially when you’re hiking or exploring outdoors, it’s important to stay hydrated! Single use water bottles are, of course, terrible for the environment, so avoid that and bring a reusable one!
For hiking, the CamelBak water reservoirs are convenient and easy – they can fit in your hiking backpack for water on the go. Nalgene water bottles are great for day to day, and if you want an insulated water bottle to keep your water cold and refreshing, Hydro Flasks are the best!
Planning to Explore Iceland’s Ring Road?
If you have any questions about these stops on Iceland’s Ring Road, or you have your own recommendations, let me know in a comment below! For more adventures, I definitely recommend taking a detour off of Route 1 to see the remote Westfjords and the gorgeous Snæfellsnes peninsula.
More blog posts about Iceland:
- Iceland Road Trip Itineraries
- How to Travel Iceland on a Budget
- The Best Things to Do in Southern Iceland
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