One of the most popular road trips in the world is the Iceland ring road. Its popularity is no coincidence. In a pretty short time, you can see some of the most incredible scenery and get to know one of the most beautiful countries on the planet. We have created an Iceland Ring Road plan for you with suggestions for tours and activities. This plan should help you save money in Iceland by highlighting great deals on hotels and car rental. Please also take a look at our section on how to travel to Iceland on a budget.
Rent a car for your Iceland Ring Road road trip
Part 1 – Start out at Keflavik International Airport and head to Reykjavik
Most people pick up their rented car at Keflavik and then drive to Reykjavik. It is well worth start out exploring Reykjavik and of course, there are so many things to explore and do. So this is the first part of your Iceland ring road plan.
We recommend the following:
- Take a walk in Grotta on the western edge of Reykjavik
- Go on a helicopter trip to the top of Esja mountain
- Check out Elliðaárdalur valley
- The puffin express tour is one of the most popular things to to in Reykjavik in the summer season
- During winter it popular to combine a boat trip and northern light hunting
- Go and see the Whales of Iceland exhibition
- Check out the Thrihnjukagigur magma chamber and head into the volcano
- There are also many tours that guide you through the Reykjavik nightlife with great food and drink
Save money on Reykjavik hotels with the hotels deal finder
By using the hotel deal finder widget from Booking.com you can save significant money on hotels in Reykjavik. Distances in the Reykjavik area are not great so it is easy to save on hotels by staying at places outside of the city center. So in addition to check out hotels in Reykjavik check out accommodation in neighboring towns of Hafnarfjörður and Kópavogur to save money.
Part 2 – The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is the most popular area to visit in Iceland and for a good reason. This area has many of Iceland´s trademark attractions such as Gullfoss waterfall, the geyser field at Haukadalur and the historic and beautiful site of Thingvellir. It also has many opportunities for activities and day tours. It is up to you find whatever you think is best for your own Iceland ring road plan.
- Explore Thingvellir which is hallowed ground for us Icelanders. Use the opportunity to dive into the Silfra gorge with its icy and clear water .
- Drive to famous Geyser fields of Haukadalur . Watch Strokkur spew out massive plumes of steam and water and explore the rest of this impressive geyser field.
- We recommend an ice cream stop at Efstidalur farm .
- Drive to the impressive waterfall of Gullfoss. This two tiered waterfall never fails to impress
- Friðheimar is a lovely restaurant that serves wholesome locally made food. Almost everything on the menu, food and drink contain the tomatoes grown there.
- At Skálholt is rich history since this place was the seat of rich and often power (and money hungry) bishops in the middle ages
- Go snowmobiling on Langjökull glacier or head into the glacier itself!
Accommodation in the Golden Circle area
Since you are heading to the South Coast we recommend that you stay in the Fludir area. Check out the hotels deal finder below to get great hotel prices there.
Part 3 – Head towards the village of Vík and explore the South Coast of Iceland
Drive towards the village of Vík. This is a day for wonderful waterfalls and the famous black beach and Dyrholaey promontory . Check out the waterfalls Seljalandsfos , its hidden neighbours Gljúfrabúi , Kvernufoss and of course the well known Skogafoss.
After that it is Reynisfjara, AKA the black beach with the Reynisdrangar sea stacks. You get a lovely view of both from the Dyrholey promontory. Just remember to be careful when you are on the beach and up on the promontory.
One tour I would absolutely recommend to you is the ice cave tour in Mýrdalsjökull glacier. It is available with pick up in Reykjavik or a direct departure from the town of Vík . This tour is also available in a ´Fast Track´format. The stark ruggedness of the glacier and the beauty of the ice caves is just incredible . You should make a stop at the Icelandic Lava Show and see the only exhibition in the world that features flowing lava indoors.
Deals on hotels in the town of Vík
Part 4 – Head towards Kirkjubæjarklaustur village
When you are done exploring Vík you can head up to the fantastic canyon of Fjaðrargljufur (try to say that after couple of pints!).
It will take you an hour to drive there. This awesome canyon is probably one of the most photogenic place in all of Iceland. Just be careful on the edge as the canyon is more than hundred meters deep in some places. Fjaðrargljufur canyon is close to village of Kirkjubaejarklaustur. The scenery there is just beautiful. If you choose to stay there overnight I would suggest you check out the steep rocky hill of Systrastapi and the Systrafoss waterfall . Both of these are connected to the medieval convent which Kirkjubæjarklaustur is named after.
Deals on hotels in Kirkjubæjarklaustur village
Part 4 – Head to Höfn via the Glacier Lagoon / Diamond Beach
Since you have come this far, you need to check out the Skaftafell national park. Hike to the wonderful Svartifoss and admire the majesty of Vatnajokull glacier and its highest peak ´Hvannadalshnjukur´
Head on to the wonderful glacial lagoon called Jökulsárlón. I recommend going on a boat trip on the water so you can really can get a close look at those majestic icebergs floating on the water.
In this distance you will hear the rumble of giant icebergs breaking off the main crawling glacier. Don´t forget to cross the highway and go to the legendary ´Diamond Beach´
Visit the town of Höfn. It has a surprising number of great restaurants. Don´t leave town without tasting the L´angoustine!
Deals on hotels in Höfn
Part 4 – Head to Egilsstaðir
On this part of the trip you will see the oldest part of Iceland. The landscape is rugged, the roads are steep and there many beautiful fishing villages on the way. Stay overnight in the town of Egilsstadir.
Deals on hotels in Egilsstadir
Part 5 – Towards the biggest waterfall in Iceland and the town of Akureyri
The Beast of a waterfall awaits – this is an essential part of the Iceland Ring Road plan
You should start at my favorite place on the Diamond Circle. This is the incredible, massive, thunderous Dettifoss Waterfall. It is an absolute beast, it is 44 meters (over 144 feet) high and 100 meters (328 feet) wide. It resides in the massive Jökulsárgljúfur canyon and upriver, some 10 – 15 minute walk is its neighbouring waterfall Selfoss.
Selfoss waterfall is a lot smaller but it does have really nice basalt columns around it. Too often people go much too close to the edge of Dettifoss waterfall, probably for that perfect Instagram picture. It suffices to say that you won´t take any more pictures if you slip into the gorge.
The Beautiful Lake Mývatn
Next stop on the Diamond Circle is Lake Mývatn. The lake is teeming with birdlife. Apparently it holds the world record of number of duck species gathered in one place. This wonderful lake is a bonanza for bird watchers. The lava formations in and around the lake are also a joy to look at. By all means check out Mt. Námafjall and the bubbling pools there. This is a testament to the high volcanic activity of this area. As a little boy I grew in the town of Akureyri. I remember vividly being frightened by an orange glow in the east which came from eruptions near Lake Mývatn. My fear subsided when the adults told me that the lava flow had no chance of reaching Akureyri.
I highly recommend visiting the Mývatn Nature Baths and soak in the geothermally heated water there. You can also get supplies, food, fuel and accommodation at the small town there.
Lake Mývatn hotel deals
The Waterfall of the Gods
Godafoss derives it name from the legend of Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði. He was the chieftain who decreed that Icelanders should adopt Christianity at the Althingi parliament at Thingvellir in 1000AD. The legend is that Þorgeir threw his pagan idols into the waterfall and thus the waterfall got its name.
The role of Þorgeir in the adoption of Christianity is recorded in the Book of the Icelanders (Íslendingabók but the book says nothing about him dumping anything in the waterfall. But the waterfall is so beautiful that it deserves a divine name nevertheless. And it certainly deserves to be part of this Iceland Ring Road plan.
Don´t forget to allocate time to discover the town of Akureyri. It is my hometown and I can vouch for its niceness. I recommend that you stay at Hótel Kjarnalundur. It is run by my brother and sister, Hildur and Guðjón. Don´t forget to give my love from their brother Jón.
Part 6 – Head back to Reykjavik
This concludes your Iceland Ring Road plan.
Map: Iceland Ring Road Plan