One of the most unique countries in the world, home to endless expanses of unspoilt wilderness. Waterfalls, glaciers and fjords galore, it’s a nature lover’s dream. Reykjavik tops many a bucket list and is the ideal base for exploring the island’s beauty. It’s a charming mix of big city buzz and small town charm, with a quaint harbour and geothermal pools for city dwellers.
The island is divided into seven regions, each offering something different. Linking everything together is the famous Ring Road, a 1,333km circular loop around the island. It goes without saying that driving the Ring Road is a must-do, and indeed road trips are an essential activity on a trip here.
You’ll constantly be in awe as you drive around Iceland, whether it’s getting splashed by a roaring waterfall, seeing the Northern Lights dance off the sky or soaking in the hot mineral waters of the Blue Lagoon. Iceland is a land of intrigue, and everyone should experience it at least once in their lifetime. Ready to explore?
While renting a car in Iceland is pretty straightforward, there are definitely a few things you can do to ensure your rental process runs smoothly:
1. Book your car well in advance for peak season (July and August). People tend to book 61 days in advance, so popular vehicles such as camper vans tend to sell out.
2. Gravel protection insurance is a must add-on, as there’s so many unpaved roads.
3. If you don’t have a credit/debit card with a pin, then buy a prepaid gas card! You can also get discounts by doing this.
4. Fuel stops outside of Reykjavik are spread out, so set off with a full tank.
5. In Iceland, the gasoline/petrol pump handle is green and the diesel pump handle is black.
6. Drivers have to be a minimum of 21 years of age to rent a car in Iceland and 23 to rent a 4×4 vehicle, so keep this in mind when planning routes.
7. You might need a 4×4 – especially for the rough terrain F-roads (mountain roads). If you’re only sticking to the Ring Road then a regular car is fine.
8. Hold onto the door when opening it! Iceland’s strong winds have been known to blow car doors off the hinges. Your rental car will likely have stickers reminding you of this.
Probably the most famous of all road trip routes in Iceland, the Golden Circle is worthy of its legend status. It’s a 230km loop route between three of the most popular attractions in southwest Iceland: Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall. The loop in full takes about 3 hours, but allocate a full day to enjoy each stop-off.
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula (a peninsula west of Iceland) is often called ‘Iceland in miniature’, because of how it showcases so many of the country’s natural attractions in such a small area. The route is under 200km and along the way you’ll spot volcanoes, glaciers, basalt sea stacks, geothermal pools, caves, and more. The star attraction here is Snæfellsjökull glacier, which is a dormant volcano, 1446m high with a 200m deep crater.
Also known as Route F35 or Kjalvegur, this is the most famous (and the longest!) highland road. It passes through a mountain range, winding around some of the highest points in Iceland and between two glaciers: Langjökull and Hofsjökull. It will take you 5 hours to drive from start to finish, but you’ll need at least 7-8 for stops along the way. This road is only open from June-September and you will need a 4×4 to drive the gravel roads.
Iceland has one main ring road, Route 1, that goes alongside some of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, such as the Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, the Dyrhólaey cliffs and the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Break this 1,333 km route into sections during your trip.
Set off from Reykjavik to explore the South Coast of Iceland to see the two great waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, glaciers, a black sand beach, the Blue Lagoon and more. This region is also where you’ll find Sólheimasandur, which is home to a crashed DC-3 Plane Wreck. You can do this scenic drive in one day.
En route to Snæfellsnes Peninsula? Consider adding on a separate drive to explore the lesser-known western Fjords, which are untamed, remote and isolated. Here, birds outnumber people, which you’ll see from the many puffins at Latrabjard cliffs, Europe’s most western point. To reach here you board a ferry across Breidafjordur Bay, which is home to more than 3,000 tiny islands.
Yes, more fjords! Head east to discover this rural area filled with narrow fjords and fishing villages. As you drive around East Iceland, you’ll see sparkling lakes, dense forests and traditional reindeer farms. Be sure to take a dip at the breathtaking Vok Baths and stop in the colourful town of Seyðisfjörður.