The 9 Best Things to Put on Your Iceland Road Trip Itinerary
Easily one of the most picturesque countries in the world, Iceland truly has it all with spectacular black-sand beaches, breathtaking glaciers, idyllic waterfalls and a stylish capital city – what more could you ask for?
With so many exciting geological sites to discover, a road trip is the best way to explore the country. You can hire a vehicle when you arrive in the country and then skirt along at your own pace, taking the time to investigate all points of interest.
Surrounded by nature at its finest, you will be able to truly escape in the enchanting landscapes. However, with so much to see it can be difficult to know where to start.
A popular way of touring the island is by going along the famous Ring Road also known as Route 1. This route takes you across the entire country in around a week, passing through all of the best attractions along the way.
However you choose to explore Iceland – we’ve got you covered with these suggestions for a perfect Iceland road trip itinerary. Check out this list so you can cruise through this beautiful country with the comfort of knowing that you are not missing out on any highlights.
1. Tour the Golden Circle
If you don’t have the time to do the 7-day Ring Road Iceland road trip, you can take a short 1-day detour from Reykjavik around The Golden Circle. This route is perfect for those wanting to check out some of the most amazing landmarks in the country while time is of the essence.
Be sure to keep a special eye out for some of the most famous points along the 300 km journey, such as the Gullfoss Waterfall, Geysir Geothermal Area and Þingvellir National Park. You can whizz through and complete the route in a day or go at a slower pace and enjoy some of the less well-known attractions en route – you are sure to have a ball either way!
This route is actually included in the famous Iceland Ring Road trip, so whether you choose to tick off The Golden Circle as part of your journey along Route 1 or as a stand-alone activity, you will have the most incredible time.
2. Investigate the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Just two hours from Reykjavik near the town of Grundarfjörður lies the iconic Snaefellsnes Peninsula. There are many spectacular sights to take in around this landscape, including black sand beaches, volcanoes, remote lighthouses, lava fields, street art, striking coastal cliffs and of course, the amazing Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall.
While you will have the exciting opportunity to hike to the top of Kirkjufell Mountain with a guide, most people stick to exploring the base, as the walk gets pretty hardcore. At ground level you can make your way to the famous Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall; an impressive sight of cascading water that is commonly recognised as the most photographed waterfall in Iceland.
If you fancy a short walk you can hike up the remarkable Saxholl Crater, but be sure to proceed with care as gusts of wind can get very powerful (and even dangerous) along the way.
Snaefellsnes Peninsula is essential on any Iceland road trip itinerary no matter the season; with Kirkjufell Mountain glowing green and waterfalls gushing in summer and spring while enchanting layers of white cover the landscape and delicate icicles hang from the waterfalls in winter.
3. Kayak on the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
An idyllic body of water dotted with floating icebergs, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon sits on the eastern side of the south coast of Iceland. The stunning nature of this magical site has not gone unnoticed, having been selected as a filming location for many blockbuster films including James Bond and Lara Croft.
This unique landscape has come into being as a result of the Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier slowly melting, causing large icebergs to break off and float across the Jökulsárlón lagoon. A truly unforgettable sight, the lagoon is filled with ice formations that are over 1,000 years old.
You can choose to appreciate the remarkable sights of the glacier and the icebergs from afar by chilling on the shoreline or get up close and personal by paddling across on a kayak, either way, the views are sure to not disappoint. If you are visiting during the summer months, you will have the chance to jump on a boat tour and sail around the ice formations for a closer look.
4. Go Chasing Waterfalls
Stopping off at magical waterfalls is an absolute must on any Iceland road trip, and you certainly won’t be short of gorgeous ones to see here! As well as the famous Kirkjufellsfoss, there are also lots of other incredible waterfalls to see that are sure to take your breath away, including Gullfoss, Goðafoss and Skógafoss.
Situated in the Hvítá river canyon in Southwest Iceland, Gullfoss is a spectacular waterfall that conveniently sits along Iceland’s Golden Circle, making it the perfect pitstop for those tackling this route. You will be spoilt with upper and lower viewpoints where you can take in the magnificent scenes from different angles – perfect for any budding photographer!
Goðafoss is another incredible waterfall that stands before you in a striking semi-circle of cascading water. Skógafoss is another brilliant option as this mighty waterfall stands at an impressive 197 feet and is usually blessed with at least one rainbow at all times due to the high volume of spray produced by its gushing water.
Not to be forgotten, there is also the iconic Seljalandsfoss in the south of the island which makes the most amazing stop for those on the Route 1 Iceland road trip. Visitors can even get behind the scenes of this beauty by walking behind the waterfall itself!
5. Explore Reykjavik
Reykjavik is the cool and quirky capital city of Iceland that boasts a thriving food and nightlife scene. The city is also the first stop on the Golden Circle road trip and a brilliant place to start a longer ring road Iceland trip, as it is just buzzing with things to do and see.
Why not embrace Icelandic culture by bathing in one of the local swimming pools, checking out the street art or investigating the remarkable architecture? Of course, a trip to Reykjavik could not be complete without sampling some of the local cuisine, with the city known to offer unique specialities such as fermented shark and sheep’s head.
Whilst there, make sure you check out Hallgrímskirkja Church; the tallest church in the whole of Iceland and a remarkable piece of expressionist architecture. The Harpa Concert Hall is another must-see landmark as its spectacular modernist building is sure to take your breath away, and you might even be lucky enough to catch the dulcet tones of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra.
6. Relax in the Blue Lagoon
Probably the most popular tourist attraction in the whole of Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is an iconic geothermal pool that lies just an hour away from the centre of Reykjavik. Its waters are sure to leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, as they are known to be rich in beneficial minerals such as sulfur and silica.
You can totally unwind in the warmth of these therapeutic waters while taking in the striking views of the surrounding volcanic landscape. Pro tip: remove all of your jewellery before wading into these relaxing waters as the sulfur is unlikely to be as kind to metals as it is to skin!
Although you are sure to have an amazing time at the Blue Lagoon no matter the season, the sharp contrast between the chilling air and snow-covered landscapes against the steamy waters of the lagoon makes for a particularly enchanting experience during the winter months.
7. Go on a Glacier Walk on Vatnajökull
Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Europe and an amazing place for a hike. Lying just off of the Iceland ring road, this huge ice formation is always a favourite amongst the tourists as it makes a remarkable place to explore by foot or boat.
While there are several glaciers in Iceland, this is by far the most well-known and highly regarded. If you want to hike across the glacier, make sure you book an organised expedition, this way a guide can take you around the most exciting parts while ensuring that you stay safe along the way.
Depending on the season, a few of the tours might actually include a tour of the ice caves and even offer opportunities for ice climbing. So be sure to take the time to do your research to not miss out on any of these exciting experiences!
8. Visit the Amazing Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
A beach like no other, the famous volcanic shores of Reynisfjara boast sand of a spectacular black colour. The remarkable beach is bordered by a striking cliff face that is made up of quirky hexagonal basalt columns which form mystical caves for you to explore.
Either aim to visit this beach in the morning or at dusk, as it is known to catch some of the most gorgeous sunsets and sunrises in the world. Wondrous blends of burnt orange, delicate lilac and pretty pink illuminate the sky, creating a truly breathtaking scene against the dramatic cliffscape, dark sand and mighty waves.
However, you should resist any temptation to take a dip in Reynisfjara’s stunning waters as they are known to have a particularly strong current, plummeting temperatures and heavy surf, making them very dangerous. Nevertheless, the sight of the beach is nothing short of sensational and is definitely worthy of a place on your Iceland road trip itinerary.
9. Have an Adventure in Lake Myvatn
A beautiful lake in the volcanic region of northern Iceland, Lake Myvatn and its surrounding areas are not to be missed out on any Iceland road trip. While the lake is known to be the fourth-largest lake in the whole of the country and a remarkable sight to see in itself, there is also plenty to see in the land around it.
Why not rejuvenate in the natural baths or unwind in the sparse lands of the Hverir geothermal fields? You can also explore the incredible Dimmuborgir (Dark Fortress) lava field; an enchanting area of unique rock formations.
If you fancy a touch of action, take a hike to the rim of the Hverfjall crater; a huge black ash cone with striking, steep slopes that offer incredible views over the remarkable landscape. What’s more, Lake Myvatn is also home to the iconic Grjótagjá Cave, the famous rock formation which served as John Snow and Ygritte’s cave in the legendary Game of Thrones series.
You are sure to be completely spoilt when it comes to natural sights of beauty during your road trip around Iceland. There are so many spectacular spots to squeeze into your adventure, with each offering a unique insight into the incredible and varied landscape of the country.
To avoid missing out on any Iceland road trip essentials and have the most amazing experience possible, be sure to check out this list of the 9 Best Things to Put on Your Iceland Road Trip Itinerary.