Travel guide maps


Roadtrip around the Ring Road

Iceland is renowned for the natural beauty of its remote, inhospitable landscape. Tourism has been booming since the country rebounded from the financial crisis and for good reason. Breathtaking waterfalls, fjords and trails branch just off the side of the road.

Load up a rental car and embark on an unforgettable, two-week road trip across this Nordic island.

Before you arrive

Time of year to visit

Winters are unforgiving so plan your road trip for the summer when daylight span from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and ideal road conditions make driving easy. Summers are mild but temperatures fluctuate greatly throughout regions and elevations. Pack warm layers and be prepared for sporadic rain showers.

Plan your trip for the winter only if you're sticking to Reykjavík, a lively city in its own right during dark winters, but keep in mind you'd be missing out on much of Iceland's natural beauty.

Length of trip

The island is small enough to drive around the entire Ring Road in 3 days. At least a week is necessary to enjoy some of what the country has to offer. Two weeks is ideal for exploring the remote Westfjords region and savoring the idyllic towns dotted throughout. This guide assumes a two-week itinerary but add or remove stops as appropriate.


With early planning, round-trip flight from the US east coast could be booked for under $400 USD. English is commonly spoken and no visa is needed for US passport holders.

Iceland's currency is the króna (ISK). Prices for dairy products in grocery stores are reasonable. Overall costs of travel are expensive, especially for service-heavy activities like dining out. Expect to pay $12 USD for a lager in a restaurant, $55 for entrance to the Blue Lagoon hot springs and $7.50 per gallon for gas.


Instead of booking hotel rooms that could cost over $200 USD per night, book Airbnb if you're staying in the same town for at least 2-3 days or a hostel ( if you're just spending a night and driving through. Hostels in Iceland are clean, safe and comfortable. A bed can be had for $25 USD and some places offer private rooms.

Travel like a pro: Iceland's Airbnb rentals and hostels both fill up fast during the busy summer. Plan to book at least two months in advance to ensure wider availability.

Itinerary summary


Rent a car at Keflavík International Airport and drive 45 minutes east to Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland and home to half the country's population. A normal compact is fine; there's no need for four-wheel drive.

Spend the first two days getting adjusted to jet lag and explore Reykjavík at your leisure. The city is walkable with plenty of restaurants, bars and stores to stock up on supplies before hitting the road.

Travel like a pro: Gas stations in Iceland are few and far in between outside of urban centers. Stop and fill up even if the tank is half full.

Explore Reykjavík like a pro

Hike to Glymur waterfall

On your way up along the northern coast, make a slight detour east to arrive at the Glymur waterfall trailhead. There are more waterfalls per square mile in Iceland than anywhere else on earth and Glymur lays claim to the tallest in Iceland.

The hike is a moderately strenuous, gradual ascent with some sections of slippery mud after a fresh rain shower. Once you reach the top, there are no railings nor throngs of tourists to mar the raw beauty, so be careful and watch your step.

Allow at least two hours to complete the out-and-back trip.

Road beyond Borgarnes

North of Borgarnes, the Ring Road narrows and climbs up steadily towards the first mountain pass of the trip. Far beyond the perimeters of Reykjavík, you'll drive long stretches without encountering another vehicle. The wind picks up at the top of the pass and frequent, scattered rain showers soften the afternoon light, causing the scenery to glisten and rainbows to materialize, ideal conditions to stop for a photo break.


After cutting through the Snæfellsnes peninsula, you'll reach the sleepy port town of Stykkishólmur. This is a great place to stop for the night; hostel and Airbnb options are both available for booking.

Wander down the harbor to catch the sunset and then head over to Narfeyrarstofa, a cozy restaurant located in the center of town, for a traditional Icelandic dinner.

Travel like a pro: If you're feeling adventurous, order the Hákarl, or fermented shark, a traditional Icelandic delicacy with an ammonia-rich smell that Bourdain called "the most disgusting" thing he has ever eaten. Wash it down with a shot of Brennivín, "Black Death", Iceland's signature distilled beverage.

Látrabjarg cliffs

After leaving Stykkishólmur, continue heading north. Branch off the Ring Road and head west on Route 60 along the southern edge of the Westfjord region. As hard as it is to imagine, the landscape becomes even more desolate and untamed. Fill up a full tank of gas at Flókalundur, where there a single hotel stands in isolation.

Keep heading west towards the tip of the peninsula and you'll pass by BA-64, the oldest steel ship in Iceland, on the side of the road. The ship was built in Norway as a whaling vessel a hundred years ago. Instead of being sunk at sea, it was instead rammed ashore and left to rust away over time.

The road turns south towards the western most tip of Iceland, wrapping around fjords and cliffs that jut forth into the sky. The road dead ends into a parking lot and it's then a short walk up to Látrabjarg cliffs, Europe's largest bird cliff, home to millions of birds, including up to 40% of the world's population of puffins.

Dynjandi waterfall

After Látrabjarg, head back inland and then north on Route 60. As you descend from the mountain pass, you'll notice Dynjandi, also known as Fjallfoss, a series of waterfalls that cascade down the north face of the mountainside. Park at the lot and it's an easy 15 minute hike up to the base of the waterfall.

Photo like a pro: Spray from the waterfall makes it difficult to take good photos at the base. If you have a telephoto lens, max out the focal length and take photos from 100 yards out. The flattened perspective of tourists standing at the cliff edge with a backdrop of cascading water creates a dramatic scenery.

After viewing the waterfall, continue making your way north along an especially scenic segment of Route 60 that snakes along the coast line. Most of the road is paved but at times it becomes dirt. The dirt roads are well maintained during the summer and perfectly fine for two-wheel drive vehicles with normal clearance.


Nestled at the base of a fjord and anchoring the Westfjord region is Isafjordur, the largest town in the region with a population of 2,600 and home to one of the largest fisheries in Iceland.

This town is an ideal spot to linger for 2 or 3 days. Airbnb and hostel options are both available. There's a well-stocked grocery store located at the center (Samkaup), plenty of quaint cafes and all the interesting areas are connected within walking-distance.

The crown jewel of Isafjordur is Tjorhusud, located at the edge of the harbor district, housed within a wooden cabin and known by locals across Iceland as the best fish restaurant in the country. The fresh catches of each day are wonderfully seasoned and seared in an arrangement of cast-iron skillets, served buffet-style and accompanied by a host of side dishes.

This restaurant is popular with locals and tourists alike. People journey all the way from Reykjavik just to eat here. Book in advance to reserve a spot at the bench-seating tables.


Hólmavík is a quirky town with a population of just 375, located on the eastern edge of the Westfjords. The town is home to the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, which provides historical context on Iceland's era of witch hunts during the 17th century. Gaze upon the infamous "necropants".

To top it off, outside of the exhibit area, the witchcraft museum pulls double duty as a seafood restaurant. The owners will take care of your appetite with generous servings of local foods. Get a bowl of clams, you won't regret it.

Stay overnight in town at the Finna Hotel.


The so-called "Capital of the North", Akureyri is the second largest urban center in Iceland. Check out the contemporary architecture inside the visitor center.

There are many dining and lodging choices in town, but the family run Skjaldarvik Guest House, a rural and affordable option 20 minutes north of the city proper, is a fantastic choice. Saddle up an Icelandic pony and take a tour of surrounding area.

The guesthouse also features an excellent restaurant set within a cozy dining room. It's an excellent place to eat dinner and wind down for the night.


Continue heading east out of Akureyri and you'll soon come across Godafoss, the "waterfall of the Gods", one of the most spectacular waterfall formations in Iceland that forms a horseshoe, circling 270 degrees around the rim.

Photo like a pro: Dim, overcast days make for ideal conditions for taking pics of this iconic waterfall. Equip a tripod and wide angle lens, set a small aperture to slow down the shutter speed and then set up as close to the edge as it's safe to do so.

Lake Mývatn region

Soon the Ring Road branches off into Route 848, which passes around Lake Mývatn. Pull over at the south side to take in the scenery beauty of the lake. Soon after the road turns north, the ash gray Hverfjall volcanic crater juts forth along the right side. It's an easy 30 minute hike up to the top with fantastic, 360 degree views of the surroundings, including misty, snow-peaked ranges to the west.

The best option for spending two nights in the area is Vogafjos Guesthouse, a working farm with milk cows in the barn, a terrific on-site restaurant and a bountiful breakfast buffet spread featuring bread, ham, cheese and smoked trout.

During the day, check out the Hverarond hot spring area in the northeast to see some boiling mud pits and colorful geological formations, visual indicators of the turmoil churning beneath the island.

Travel like a pro: Just northeast of the lake is Mývatn Nature Baths, a geothermal spa otherwise known as "The Blue Lagoon of the North". It offers the same experience as the more famous destination down by Reykjavík but cheaper and with much smaller crowds. Go here to catch a sunset and unwind after a long day.


Keep heading east on Ring Road 1 until you see signs for Vatnajökull National Park. Take a left turn north onto Route 864 then drive 15 miles to reach the parking lot for Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. The sound and power is truly a sight to behold, especially with the torrent of water accumulated from snow melt during the winter prior.

Photo like a pro: Instead of standing next to the waterfall, walk further up the cliff side and use a tripod with a somewhat longer focal length lens and a slower shutter speed to focus your composition on the immense power of the waterfall.

Lake Sænautavatn and beyond

Backtrack from Dettifoss to get back onto the Ring Road. Shortly after, look for a small road splitting off the right side, Möðrudalsleið, and take it.

This road turns into into dirt further in but after half an hour, you'll arrive at the remote Lake Sænautavatn. Adjacent to the lake is a farmhouse. Head inside and you'll be warmly greeted and offered coffee and all-you-can-eat pancakes, a great spot for lunch.

After leaving the lake, continue onward and the road will merge back onto Ring Road 1. Here the road starts its gradual descent from the eastern side of the island, a decline that convexes with snow-capped mountains that rise further in the distance.


Drive through the town of Egilsstaðir and up the mountain pass towards Seyðisfjörður. At the top of the pass is a lake. If you're luck and the weather and light conditions are right, a fog will linger over the surface of the calm waters, creating a perfect mirror reflection of the sky.

Seyðisfjörður itself is a small seaside town, population 600, but nonetheless it has a vibrant cultural and arts scene as well as the only two cinemas in eastern Iceland.

Stay the night at Hafaldan hostel.

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon

As you swing down the southwest quadrant of Iceland, you'll catch sight of the massive Vatnajökull glacier, which covers 8% of the country. It's the largest ice cap by volume in Europe.

Further beyond is the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, where flocks of arctic terns dive bomb for shrimp as massive icebergs slowly float out towards the pacific.

Lodging is far and few in between along this stretch of Iceland. Backtrack and spend the night at Guesthouse Skálafell, located 30 minutes east of the glacier lagoon.

Skaftafell National Park

On the western side of Vatnajökull is Skaftafell National Park, accessible just off the Ring Road. Inside the park, take the easy 30 minute hike up to see Svartifoss, "The Black Falls", another iconic waterfall in Iceland due to the distinctive hexagonal basalt columns that appear to hang down in staggered layers.


Towards the southern-most edge of Iceland, you'll catch sight of Skógafoss just beyond the right side of the road. Skógafoss drops down to ground level, forming a shallow river and inviting visitors to walk right up to the base. According to Icelandic role, the first Viking settler in the Skógafoss area buried a treasure in a cave behind the waterfall.

Just beyond Skógafoss is the Drangshlíð guesthouse, a good place to stay for the night. The guesthouse restaurant offers whale meat on the menu, a traditional Icelandic food that is now caught in a fair share of controversy.

It's an easy two hour drive with numerous scenic detours from Skógafoss back to Reykjavík. Upon returning to the capital, you may find the hustle and bustle to be jarring after so many days of exploring Iceland's expansive, desolate countryside.

Relax at the Blue Lagoon, drink some beers, catch a film at Bíó Paradís, reflect upon the journey that's about the conclude and start thinking about your next trip back.

All of our map-based travel guides and itineraries are selectively curated by fellow travel enthusiasts.

Questions or suggestions? Let us know at If you like the guides, please feel free to share with your friends!