Planning Tips for your Iceland Road Trip

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Overlooking the town of Vik with Reynisdrangar (sea stacks) and Reynisfjall (mountain) in background
Overlooking the town of Vik with Reynisdrangar (sea stacks) and Reynisfjall (mountain) in background

Iceland has long been famed for its raw and dramatic landscape, a dream destination for any avid landscape photographer. Located between Greenland and Norway, the island nation is at the juncture of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

Due to its remoteness, Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe. However, in spite of its geographical location and demographics, it was ranked as the 13th most-developed country in the world in 2013.

Geographically, Iceland is nothing less than a wonderland. Formed around 20-25 million years ago by volcanic eruptions and shaped by massive glaciers, it is aptly known as “The Land of Fire and Ice”. Iceland’s breathtaking beauty can be in part attributed to it being one of the youngest landmasses on the planet. Consequently, Iceland has the most active volcano area in the world while hosting the largest waterfall and glacier in Europe.

 

 

The Ring Road (Route 1)

 

 

Route planning for an Icelandic road trip is surprisingly simple. The entire island is connected via a Ring Road (Route 1; 1332km total), which circles the island and connects most of the larger towns including its capital Reykjavik.

More importantly, many of the most popular tourist attractions are near or on the Ring Road. This is the only major highway outside the capital and you wouldn’t get lost even if you tried very hard to! Simply complete the Ring Road and you would have covered many of the major tourist spots in Iceland.

 

Tips for Iceland Road Trip:

  • Plan at least 2 weeks for round-island road trips.
  • During summer visits, detour from the Ring Road into the interior (highland areas) of the island. The most breathtaking landscapes are found in the highlands. Most (if not all) of the highland roads are marked “F” roads and only accessible by 4×4 vehicles during summer months. (online updates on “F” roads status found here)
  • Certain “F” roads are notoriously difficult to drive (especially for tourist in rented 4x4s), seek local advise (or google) before attempting.
  • Accommodation outside Reykjavik is especially limited and expensive. Accommodation plans must be made well in advance.
A 4x4 is especially useful in Iceland's highlands and numerous unpaved roads
A 4×4 is especially useful in Iceland’s highlands and numerous unpaved roads

 

This post is part of our comprehensive blogs on how to plan for an Icelandic Road Trip. To know what are the top attractions in the various regions of Iceland, refer to our relevant blog post/s on these regions below:

 


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Map View of the Top Attractions in Iceland (by region)

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Top Attractions in Iceland

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#1: Sun Voyager: 64.147610, -21.922288
#2: Harpa: 64.150730, -21.932805
#3: Hallgrímskirkja : 64.141715, -21.926637
#4: Blue Lagoon: 63.879122, -22.445563
#5: Krýsuvík -Seltun: 63.895801, -22.053059
#6: Thingvellir National Park (Golden Circle): 64.255856, -21.130357
#7: Geysir (Golden Circle): 64.310105, -20.299708
#8: Gullfoss (Golden Circle): 64.327373, -20.121353
South Iceland #1: Seljalandsfoss: 63.615495, -19.990053
South Iceland #2: Skógafoss: 63.532095, -19.511636
South Iceland #3: Mýrdalsjökull Glacier: 63.532643, -19.369240
South Iceland #4: Crashed DC-3 Plane: 63.459082, -19.364691
South Iceland #5: Reynisfjara, Halsanefshellir, Reynisdrangar and Reynisfjall: 63.405740, -19.071619
South Iceland #6: Dyrholaey: 63.399594, -19.126339
South Iceland #7: Landmannalaugar: 63.983000, -19.067000
Southeast Iceland #1: Svartifoss, Skaftafell National Park : 64.016472, -16.966512
Southeast Iceland #2: Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon : 64.014326, -16.372590
Southeast Iceland #3: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon : 64.073963, -16.219683
Northeast Iceland #1: Dettifoss, Hafragilsfoss and Selfoss: 65.814666, -16.384576
Northeast Iceland #2: Mývatn Nature Baths: 65.635886, -16.847355
Northeast Iceland #3: Hverarondor Hverir: 65.640914, -16.809311
Northeast Iceland #4: Askja: 65.011054, -16.748528
Northeast Iceland #5: Godafoss: 65.682995, -17.550823
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#1: Sun Voyager
Top 8 Attractions in and around Reykjavik: Sun Voyager

Sun Voyager, Reykjavik, Iceland
Sun Voyager, Reykjavik, Iceland
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#2: Harpa
Top 8 Attractions in and around Reykjavik : Harpa

Harpa, Reykjavik, Iceland
Harpa, Reykjavik, Iceland

Harpa, Reykjavík, Iceland
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#3: Hallgrímskirkja
Top 8 Attractions in and around Reykjavik : Hallgrímskirkja

Hallgrímskirkja (Reykjavik, Iceland)
Hallgrímskirkja (Reykjavik, Iceland)

Hallgrimskirkja
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#4: Blue Lagoon
Top 8 Attractions in and around Reykjavik : Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Blue Lagoon, Iceland
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#5: Krýsuvík -Seltun
Top 8 Attractions in and around Reykjavik : Krýsuvík -Seltun

Krysuvik-Seltun, Iceland
Krysuvik-Seltun, Iceland

Seltún Geothermal Area, Iceland
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#6: Thingvellir National Park (Golden Circle)
Top 8 Attractions in and around Reykjavik : Thingvellir National Park (Golden Circle)

Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

Thingvellir, Iceland
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#7: Geysir (Golden Circle)
Top 8 Attractions in and around Reykjavik : Geysir (Golden Circle)

The Great Geysir, Geysir Geothermal Field, Iceland
The Great Geysir, Geysir Geothermal Field, Iceland

Hótel Geysir, Iceland
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#8: Gullfoss (Golden Circle)
Top 8 Attractions in and around Reykjavik : Gullfoss (Golden Circle)

Gullfoss, Iceland
Gullfoss, Iceland

Gullfoss, Iceland
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Northeast Iceland #1: Dettifoss, Hafragilsfoss and Selfoss

5 Greatest Attractions in Northeast Iceland




Dettifoss: Europe’s most powerful waterfall.
Dettifoss: Europe’s most powerful waterfall.

Dettifoss, Iceland
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Northeast Iceland #2: Mývatn Nature Baths

5 Greatest Attractions in Northeast Iceland




Mývatn Nature Baths; warm yourself in the hot nature pool while the ambient temperature is plunging as evening approaches.
Mývatn Nature Baths; warm yourself in the hot nature pool while the ambient temperature is plunging as evening approaches.

Myvatn Nature Baths, Reykjahlíð, Iceland
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Northeast Iceland #3: Hverarondor Hverir
5 Greatest Attractions in Northeast Iceland

Boiling mudpools at Hverarondor Hverir
Boiling mudpools at Hverarondor Hverir

Hverarond, Iceland
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Northeast Iceland #4: Askja
5 Greatest Attractions in Northeast Iceland

Askja: Viti crater (foreground) and Öskjuvatn lake (background) (Jun-2014)
Askja: Viti crater (foreground) and Öskjuvatn lake (background) (Jun-2014)

Askja, Iceland
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Northeast Iceland #5: Godafoss
5 Greatest Attractions in Northeast Iceland

Godafoss. Impressive waterfall that is visible from the Ring Road.
Godafoss. Impressive waterfall that is visible from the Ring Road.

Godafoss Waterfall, Iceland
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South Iceland #1: Seljalandsfoss
Iceland Road Trip: Top 7 Attractions in Southern Iceland

Seljalandsfoss, Iceland.
Seljalandsfoss, Iceland.

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Iceland
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South Iceland #2: Skógafoss
Iceland Road Trip: Top 7 Attractions in Southern Iceland

Skógafoss. One of the biggest and most beautiful waterfall in Iceland.
Skógafoss. One of the biggest and most beautiful waterfall in Iceland.

Skógafoss, Iceland
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South Iceland #3: Mýrdalsjökull Glacier
Iceland Road Trip: Top 7 Attractions in Southern Iceland

Mýrdalsjökull is the southernmost and fourth largest glacier in Iceland
Mýrdalsjökull is the southernmost and fourth largest glacier in Iceland

Mýrdalsjökull, Iceland
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South Iceland #4: Crashed DC-3 Plane
Crashed DC-3 Plane, Southern Iceland
Crashed DC-3 Plane, Southern Iceland

Skógafoss, Iceland
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South Iceland #5: Reynisfjara, Halsanefshellir, Reynisdrangar and Reynisfjall
Iceland Road Trip: Top 7 Attractions in Southern Iceland

Reynisfjara (black sand beach). The most renowned black sand beach in Iceland.
Reynisfjara (black sand beach). The most renowned black sand beach in Iceland.

Reynisfjara
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South Iceland #6: Dyrholaey
Iceland Road Trip: Top 7 Attractions in Southern Iceland

Dyrholaey. Overlooking Reynisfjara (black sand beach), Reynisfjall (Mountain) and Reynisdrangar (sea stacks) in the distance.
Dyrholaey. Overlooking Reynisfjara (black sand beach), Reynisfjall (Mountain) and Reynisdrangar (sea stacks) in the distance.

Dyrhólaey, Iceland
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South Iceland #7: Landmannalaugar
Iceland Road Trip: Top 7 Attractions in Southern Iceland

Campsite at Landmannalaugar.
Campsite at Landmannalaugar.

Landmannalaugar, Iceland
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Southeast Iceland #1: Svartifoss, Skaftafell National Park
3 Must-See Places in Southeast Iceland

Svartifoss (aka “Black Waterfall”) is easily the most popular attraction in Skaftafell National Park.
Svartifoss (aka “Black Waterfall”) is easily the most popular attraction in Skaftafell National Park.

Skaftafell Visitor Centre, Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland
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Southeast Iceland #2: Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon
3 Must-See Places in Southeast Iceland

The beautiful Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon.
The beautiful Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon.

Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Iceland
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Southeast Iceland #3: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
3 Must-See Places in Southeast Iceland

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Panoramic lagoon with out-of-this-world views.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Panoramic lagoon with out-of-this-world views.

Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon, Iceland

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