Iceland Ring Road self-drive is without a doubt one of the best routes to explore in Iceland. A 10 day Iceland itinerary is ideal to uncover from the capital Reykjavik, driving through some highlights on the south coast, to north and east of the island where are less explored areas and also, to enjoy the Golden Circle. Explore the best of Iceland with this detailed Ring Road 10-day self-drive itinerary and map. Even better, on a budget!
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Your one stop guide to Iceland Ring Road self-drive in 10-day
The Ring Road has this name for a reason because it is shaped like a ring around Iceland.
Considered one of the best road trips in the world, the Iceland Ring Road self-drive offers a vast variety of breathtaking nature and landscapes that will make this trip an adventure of a lifetime. This itinerary has all the details of my 10-day Self-Drive Ring Road trip in Iceland, journeying the entire country.
I can say that a well-planned 10 day Iceland itinerary is enough to see and do so much and explore Iceland at a nice relaxed pace. Even better? I have prepared a complete guide on how to drive this 10-day itinerary on a budget, check it here on how to compare prices and save money.
To start your travel plan, the first step is to decide how many days you have and plan your trip by calculating the distance and total driving hours. The Ring Road is the main road that makes a loop around Iceland, and it has 828 miles (1,332 km) long and can be driven in either direction.
Now, sit back, grab a coffee and enjoy the reading – let me know by the end how your plans go. Enjoy the journey, and safe travels!
Paula note: I visited Iceland during springtime, and I rented a 2WD as a 4WD is not necessary if you are driving this route between May and September. Driving time is based on the recommended speed limit. At the bottom of this itinerary, you will find all the information you need to help plan your Iceland 10-day Ring Road self-drive itinerary.
ICELAND RING ROAD 10-DAY SELF-DRIVE ITINERARY OVERVIEW
WHAT TO SEE
Day 1 - Town of Borgames | Grabrok Crater | Turf Farm | Hotsos
Day 2 - Sirglufjordur | Godafoss Waterfall | Dimbmuborgir Lava | Myvatn Lake
Day 3 - Whale watch Husavik | Hverarond Geothermal | Myvatn Natural Bath
Day 4 - Detifoss Waterfall | Gufufoss waterfall | Eglsstadir | Seydsfjordur
Day 5 - Jokulsarion Glacier | Diamond Beach | Fjllasarlon Glacier
Day 6 - Glacier Hike | Ice Climb | Svartifoss waterfall
Day 7 - Scenic Green Lava | Vik town | Black sand beach | Skogafoss waterfall
Day 8 - Dyholaey | Solheimajoull Glacier Lake | Gulfoss waterfall
Day 9 - Seljalandsfoss waterfall | Geyser | Kerid Crater | Pngvellir
Day 10 - Spend the day exploring Reykjavik
ICELAND RING ROAD SELF-DRIVE ITINERARY MAP
** Click the icon at the top left of the map to see day by day route details **
ICELAND RING ROAD TRIP START - ARRIVAL IN REYKJAVIK
International flights to Iceland arrive at Keflavik International Airport, which is located on the Reykjanes peninsula, and you can pick up your rental car at the airport. If you arrive in Reykjavik in the morning, it's is possible to start driving that day. If your flight arrives late afternoon or evening, I recommend spending the first night in Reykjavik before you start your self-drive.
Make sure you stock up on snacks, gas, and water before you leave the town – you may drive for hours without seeing anything. There is a Costco on the way from the airport. If you are a member, consider stopping to buy snacks and food before you continue your adventure. You can also find the local Iceland grocery stores Netto and Bonus for your grocery needs throughout Iceland. In smaller towns, you can only find local stores with limited items to sell and also convenience stores.
DETAILED DAY BY DAY ITINERARY | ICELAND RING ROAD SELF DRIVE
DAY 1 - START DRIVING FROM REYKJAVIK AND EXPLORE CRATERS, TURF FARM AND HOFSOS
This first-day driving on the Iceland Ring Road sounds like a long 5 hours, but there are great sites to visit along the way, which makes the driving distance between sites a short drive 45-60 minutes drive.
Making the short 47-mile (76 km) trip from Iceland's capital city of Reykjavik to the western waterside village of Borgarnes is easiest by self-driving. Visit this picturesque village on a rocky peninsula, as it offers great views in all directions. The visit is short, around 1 hour and you can see the whole town, take some pictures, have a coffee and stretch your legs before your next stop.
Leaving Borganes, it’s time to head to Grabrok Crater. It looks resembles a moon-like landscape of extinct crater domes, including one volcano in which you can walk around on very nicely maintained wooden walkways. Keep in mind that it is very windy – wear a windbreaker jacket.
After lunch, the next stop is a visit to the Turf Farm in Glaumbaer – it really looks like something from a fairy tale. The oldest parts of the turf house date back to the mid 18th century. It is free to walk around the grounds and take pictures, and you can also pay $14 to visit the museum inside the houses, and see how they used to live in farms before.
Hofsos is the last stop of your Iceland Ring Road road trip day 1. Hofsos is one of the oldest trading centers in Iceland. In the old village surrounding the harbor, you will see that many houses have been renovated recently, giving the town a unique colorful look. Walk around and take some great shots.
DAY 2 - DRIVE NORTH OF ICELAND & START TO EXPLORE THE RICH MYVATN AREA
Your first stop on day 2 of the Iceland 10 day itinerary is the town of Siglufjordur - If you like photography, you will be stopping along the way for some photos because the landscape is just stunning. Siglufjordur is a geographically isolated place, with colorful houses by the harbor and it is a pleasant place to walk and explore. Grab some lunch before you continue your journey.
Your next stop is at the Godafoss, also known as a “Waterfall of the Gods”, is one of the most famous Icelandic waterfalls because of it’s neat history. Park your car and walk 10 minutes to the waterfall. You also have the option to hike around the fall making it approximately 1 hour for the whole loop.
Only a 45 minutes drive from Godafoss, is the Dimmuborgir, the incredible formation of these lava cliffs and pillars stem from 2,300 years ago, consists of huge lava rock formations which make you feel like you stepped into another world. Wander the maze and wonder at the incredible formations.
The last place to explore on your day 3 of the Iceland Road trip is the amazing Myvatn Lake and Pseudocraters. From the parking lot, you can walk to the volcanic lake Myvatn, and enjoy stunning views with a mix of color and formation. Walk around many of the pseudocraters on the shore of Myvatn Lake and loop around the small lake Stakholstjorn. Outstanding views!
At the end of this long and amazing day, you will drive back to Akureyri. You’ve got to be starving, so grab the best fish & chips in town Akureyri-Fish and have a local beer on tap.
Pro Tip 1: I opted to take the alternative scenic Trollaskagi Peninsula via Route 76, just north of Hofsos. I strongly recommend this route, since it runs along the fjords on the North coast of Iceland. It is one of the Icelandic hidden gems, a bit separated from the rest of the country because of the high and dense mountains bordering the ocean. If you are short on time, you can continue on Route 1– it will take about 30 minutes less (than taking 76 without stops for pictures, admiring the view or lunch in Siglufjordur) but it is less scenic.
Pro Tip 2: From Siglufjordur I drove through Akureyri to Myvatn. There is a lot to see and explore in the Myvatn area, from lava fields, geothermal sites, to nature baths. Really, it was one of my favorite areas to explore in Iceland and I highly recommend planning ample time to explore this area. Depending on availability and if you have less time, you may want to shorten for 1 day and 1 night here, instead of 2 days and 2 nights.
DAY 3 - Whale watch at Husavik and Explore the amazing Myvartn Lake area
The first activity on day 3 of this Iceland 10 day itinerary is head to Husavik, it is considered the whale watching capital of Iceland. I recommend to book your tour in advance, especially during the high season - I used Gentle Giants as they are very professional, they provide proper warm clothes and a rubber layer so your clothes don’t get wet. The boat is open and you will need it to keep dry and warm. Also very important note, I like how ethical they manage these tours, there are only a few boats on the water and they all keep a good distance, not disturbing the whales.
The whole tour duration is approximately 3 hours and I did see a couple of humpback whales. The possibility to see whales on a boat tour is up to 90%. If you do the tour in the morning, you will be done by lunchtime.
Have lunch at Husavik and plan your afternoon to explore more of the Myvatn area. Pass the Myvatn Lake, heading East along the Ring Road, and the first detour is the Hverarond geothermal area (don’t worry, you won’t miss it as you can see all the steam from the road). Here you can walk around various bubbling mud pits and steam vents.
Since you are in this area, and especially if you have a sense of humor, visit a random Shower Head and wonder “How in the world someone built something like this?” The shower is actually functioning and warm from the steam water comes out.
The last activity of the day and the highlight is the Myvatn Nature Bath. The temperature of the water is perfect around 40C and the view of the Myvatn valley is outstanding. You can consider it a bargain at US$40 per person. compared to the Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik since it is overcrowded and overpriced (US$100 per person).
Pro Tip: Driving from Akureyri to Myvatn, besides taking 45 minutes, adds more expenses as you will have to pay US$15 each way for the toll to cross the tunnel (plus gas), and pay online within 3 hours - BE AWARE and read more about Iceland traffic tickets here!
DAY 4 - ENJOY THIS BREATHTAKING SCENIC DRIVE AND STOP IN SOME WATERFALLS
On day 4 of your 10-day Iceland Ring Road itinerary, prepare your camera for this scenic drive today. You will drive through peaceful fjords, small fishing villages and trails tucked away in the hollow of towering mountains. You will also drive uphill and start to see amazing mountains covered in ice and blue lakes formed by the melted ice (if you are driving during spring/summer). The high mountain pass leading to Sejdisfjordur is unforgettable.
Your first visit of the day is the Dettifoss Waterfall, with the greatest volume of any other waterfall in Europe, 500 cubic meters of water per second plunges over the edge, 45 meters high and 100 wide. A nice hiking trail, 34 km goes along the canyon from Dettifoss to Asbyrgi.
Egilsstadir is a small town, that makes a good stop for gas and some grocery shopping before heading to the next destination.
If you are on this route, make a quick stop at the Gufufoss Waterfall, you will see it on the right side of the road if you are on this route.
The tranquil town of Seydisfjordur has a relaxed atmosphere and offers a range of cultural and outdoor activities with unique dining experiences. The town stretches along the south side of the fjord, but along the shoreline, you can find access to the sea, rocky beaches and ruins of former activity. It makes a perfect stop to relax and enjoy the gorgeous views.
DAY 5 - EXCITING DAY VISITING GLACIER LAGOONS AND THE DIAMOND BEACH
Start your day 5 of your Iceland Ring Road with spectacular views. Keep an eye on the side of the road as you can see groups of reindeer along the way.
The first stop is at the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon lagoon borders of Vatnajokull National Park. With blue water and dotted with icebergs from the surrounding glacier, it is a fantastic spectacle. If you are lucky, you can see the seals swimming freely among the icebergs in this area – safe from the killer whales hunting offshore.
Just a short distance walk from the Glacier Lagoon is the amazing Diamond Beach. The glacier lagoon flows through a short waterway into the Atlantic Ocean, leaving chunks of icebergs on a black sand beach, making it really look like giant diamonds. It is a dynamic, ever-changing scene shaped daily/hourly by the forces of nature.
Another stunning site to visit at a very close distance driving is Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon. It is smaller than the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, but also very beautiful and less crowded. You can hike around the lake or pay for a kayak tour or inflatable boat tour among the glacier and icebergs.
Pro Tip: Be careful with your electronic equipment. I learned in a bad way and my Canon stopped working exactly at this beach. The weather in Iceland can be very harsh on electronics – mist, sand, strong winds, rain, steam…they are not electronic friendly.
DAY 6 - SOUTHWEST OF THE ISLAND - ADVENTURE DAY HIKING GLACIER AND ICE CLIMB
First Option - Glacier hike and Ice Climb
Today was the highlight of my trip to Iceland, and you can read all the details on how to go ice climb and hike the glacier here. I booked in advance and I recommend you to do the same, use this link to check options. I chose the combo hike on the glacier + ice climb for a total of 4 hours activity and this was my first-time ice climbing, and I felt safe with the knowledge and fun instructors.
If you don’t want to ice climb, there are tours for every taste and fitness level. I just think it is an amazing opportunity to be close to nature and take advantage to immerse yourself in an adventure while in Iceland. The difficulty level of each tour is adapted to the abilities of the participants.
Second Option – Hike Vatnajokull National Park
If activities on the ice are still not your thing, another option I would recommend is to explore the Vatnajokull National Park as it offers great options for hiking. You can also visit the Svartifoss waterfall, which tumbles over black basalt columns. There is a visitor center in Skaftafell that has all the information on how to get to the waterfall, since it requires a hike to get there.
SAFE NOTE: Do not venture onto the glacier without the right equipment (crampons and ice picks) and an experienced guide. The ice is incredibly slippery and you will not make it far. There are a lot of risks, including avalanches and it is advised not to go off the trail while hiking in popular destinations. You don’t want to cut your trip short slipping on the ice or falling into a crevasse.
DAY 7 - DRIVING FROM SOUTHEAST TO SOUTH COAST OF ICELAND
Begin your morning of day 7 of your 10-Day Iceland Ring Road Itinerary at the scenic Green Lava Walk and enjoy this lava field covered with delicate green moss. It feels like you've just stepped into another world. You have the option to drive and also park your car and walk on the wood platforms to admire this unique natural formation of moss. Be careful to not step at the moss, it takes 200 years to grow!
Then, stop at Vik and visit the famous Black Sand Beach which has outstanding views from the columns leaving the water. Visit the church on top of the hill and the local cemetery, they have awesome views from there. There is an interesting (small, but free) museum at the tourist information center.
Head to the Skogafoss Waterfall and walk to the top for incredible views of one of Icelandic’s most famous waterfalls. The top of the waterfall has a hiking trail that leads into the Vatnajökull National Park and is one of the most scenic and popular walking routes in Iceland guiding you between 2 glaciers.
Pro Tip 1: Be aware of the sneaker waves and very dangerous sea currents on this beach. If you are traveling with kids, hold their hands tight. If you like selfies, never turn your back to the sea. Many tourists lost their lives at this location.
Pro Tip 2: If you are looking for some shopping, they have big local items from sweaters to souvenirs. Vik is the turn-around point for day-trippers from Reykjavik. Expect many tourists in the grocery and shops. It is geared towards tourists.
DAY 8 - START OF YOUR GOLDEN CIRCLE - YOU MADE IT!
The whole Golden Circle route can easily be done in one day, as the classic journey covers around 230 kilometres (140 miles ).
Therefore, my day 8 of this 10-Day Road Trip Iceland didn't start as I planned as it was a stormy day, with hurricane-force gusts.
Pro Tip: In Iceland, you have to be prepared for different weather conditions and be flexible with your itinerary. I tried to visit some sights and after getting out of the car for a few minutes, I was soaked from the rain. The beauty of a day like this is that it will force you to find alternatives, and sometimes you can find some hidden gems. I stopped for lunch at the Fludasveppir Farmers Bistro and this is the only farm that grows mushrooms in Iceland.
Around 5 PM the rain stopped and I was able to take full advantage until 9 PM since spring days are long and the sun doesn't go down until late.
The first visit was Gullfoss Waterfall, which translates to “Golden Falls” and it is easy to get to and easy to view. There are multiple angles that you can view the falls from and each offers a stunning perspective of the powerful waterfall crashing into the river below.
Next, I visited Geyser Geothermal, a geothermal field that has a total surface area of approximately 3 km². The incredible geyser is known to shoot boiling water up to 70 meters into the air, and it erupts approximately every 10 minutes. Just 20 meters into the geyser’s feeder channel, you can find water reaching a temperature of nearly 125 ºC! Aside from the geyser, you can also see bubbling pools and smoking craters.
Just a 20 minutes driving is Kerið Crate Lake. It is possible to take a path right to the crater’s edge, to fully encircle it, and to descend down to the pristine waters of the crater lake.
The last visit of the day was the Þingvellir Site and it is also, among my favorite places in Iceland. The drive is absolutely incredible, going up and down the hills and observing geothermal landscapes along the way.
One of the greatest attractions in the park is the exposed North American and European tectonic plates. It is the only place in the world where you can see geology such as this on land. Also, while you are in this area, visit the amazing waterfall of Oxararfoss.
DAY 9 - EXPLORE THE SOUTH COAST
Start Day 9 of your 10-day Iceland Ring Road itinerary visiting Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. Seljalandsfoss waterfall originates from the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajokull and falls 200 feet. Besides being gorgeous, it allows you to walk behind the waterfall to feel the power of nature. It was one of my favorite things to do.
Gljufrabui Waterfall is just a short distance walk from Seljalandsfoss and is inside a canyon. It was my favorite waterfall in Iceland, and it offers a spectacular view of the waterfall inside a cave. You will have to wade an ankle-deep stream to enter the cave (stepping from stone to stone). Either wear high waterproof boots or go barefoot. It is worth it!
A short 40 minutes drive from there, your next stop is Dyrhólaey literally means "the hill island with the door hole". It's 120 m high and you are able to walk the arch or the bridge if you are not afraid of heights. Up there you can also find a spectacular and big "castle-shaped" lighthouse. Once you are on top in the higher area of Dyrhólaey you will have a breathtaking view in all directions – to the north you see Mýrdalsjökull glacier, to the east you will see the beautiful black lava sea stacks Reynisdrangar and to the west, you can view the endless black coastline and then in front of the peninsula there is a huge black arch of lava reaching out into the sea which the peninsula takes its name from.
Your last stop of the day is at the Sólheimajokull Glacier Lake. This lake is much smaller than Jokulsarlón or Fjallsárlón Glacier Lakes, and less crowded. You are able to walk right up to the base of the glacier and take some wonderful pictures.
Pro Tip: I decided to reserve 2 days to do the Golden Circle, just to take my time and to explore this region at my own pace. Keep in mind, based on the proximity to Reykjavik, these are the most visited sights in Iceland. Most visitors to Iceland stay within the Reykjavik to Vik (south coast) loop. Because I had planned 2 days in this area, I took the opportunity to backtrack to some of the sites along Route 1 on the South Coast that I missed due to the harsh weather conditions.
DAY 10 - SPEND THE DAY EXPLORING REYKJAVIK
For the final day of this 10-day Iceland Ring Road itinerary, head to Reykjavik. I had 6 hours before I head to the airport, and it was enough time to explore the main sites of Iceland’s capital and largest city. With a population of 122,900, it is still small and very walkable.
Explore the harbor and visit the Sun Voyager Sculpture, Halgríms church and the Art Museum that is spread across town and housed in the Hafnarhús, Kjarvalsstaðir, and Ásmundarsafn buildings, and the shopping area around Laugavegur is attractive. Don't forget to stop for a coffee at the famous Reykjavik Roaster - I literally had the best coffee of my life!
Another option is to soak for a few hours in the Blue Lagoon, as it is very convenient since it is located near the airport and can easily be included in your 10-day Iceland itinerary.
During my planing to self-drive for 10-days the Iceland Ring Road, I researched the internet and also bought some books and maps to help me with my itinerary in advance.
Every trip I like to evaluate my “lessons learned” and for Iceland, the most important was to be flexible with your itinerary and days. You never know if you will be able to visit a specific site due to weather conditions or a road may be closed. Mark your “must-see places” and if possible, try to drive back on the next day, even if it will take you off the original route.
Enjoy the journey, relax, and appreciate the nature and laidback lifestyle in Iceland!
If I forgot to cover something, or if you have any additional questions, please leave your comment below and I will be thrilled to get back to you.
That was the first question I had, since we all know that Iceland is expensive to visit.
Prices can vary a lot depending on your travel style and budget, therefore I have prepared a detailed price comparison and how to travel to Iceland on a budget to help you to self-drive the Ring Road without breaking your bank account.
Pro Tips to be on a budget: Book accommodations at Guest Houses instead of hotel, cook your meals and reduce restaurant to once a day, I bought my wine at the free shop at the airport, rent a 2WD car instead of 4WD or a van and book your tours in advance.
If you are flying internationally in Iceland, you will arrive at Reykjavik International Airport. If you live in the U.S. or in Europe, take advantage of the proximity with Iceland and the prices for flights. There are over twenty airlines flying to Iceland.
You will need to decide on the itinerary and what time of the year, before you make a decision if renting a 4WD is necessary. If you are driving this Iceland Ring Road 10-Day Itinerary you can hire a 2WD.
The driving on the Ring Road is easy, but beware of the strong winds as normally insurance doesn't cover damage. Keep an eye out for animals on the road, and make sure your car has all the basic tools to change a tire, as you will be driving in some remotes areas and you may need it.
Download my map itinerary, which has all the destinations I visited in detailed.
On my detailed 10-Day Iceland Ring Road Itinerary I have provided best options for accommodations for each place I visited.
Great accommodation option and budget-friendly is guest houses, and you can easily find and book them through Booking.com
The guest houses are pretty much everywhere around the country and very affordable (an average of $100 per day for 2 people). They are normally farmers who build guest houses in their properties, therefore you will be staying on farms and most of them have horses, sheep, cows, chickens, and dogs what gives you a feel for how the locals live. Some of them serve a delicious breakfast and have kitchen where you can cook you own meals.
I always do a lot of research for quality and budget friendly accommodations, and here are my top picks that I recommend for this 10-day itinerary:
If you decided not to drive the Iceland Ring Road, or if you are looking for additional great activities, you have plenty of great options from day trips to several days. Check out the options that are the best fit for you:
Self-drive the Iceland Ring Road you will be on Highway 1 as it goes around the whole country in the shape of a ring. You will follow this 882 miles (1,323-km) long route to be able to see a lot of the country. You also can get the venture off on other roads so you can explore areas like the Westfjords, Snaefelisnes peninsula and Reykjanes.
Due to inclement weather, roads can be closed with little warning. One of the great resources is http://road.is. This site will let you know what is open or closed. If you get wireless or wi-fi service, check this site daily. I tried going to a waterfall in the Myvatn region only to find that the road was closed. This detour cost me about 1 hour.
- Distance: 1332 kilometers (828 miles)
- Speed Limit: 90 km/h (55 mph). 50 km/h (31 mph) in populated areas.
- Condition: 98% paved.
- Lanes: Two lanes in general, but there are some single-lane bridges.
- Maintenance: Maintained year-round, but occasional road closures can occur.
- Winter: 4X4 vehicles and experience driving in winter conditions required.
- Minimum Time to Complete: At least 6 days in summer or 12 days in winter.
- Ideal Time to Complete: 10-14 days in summer or 20-25 days in winter.
Maybe you have heard or seen somewhere that the best time to visit Iceland is during summer. But actually, any time is a good time to visit Iceland, it will only depend on your expectations.
- Best Time for Sightseeing: Iceland is renowned for its numerous spectacular waterfalls, geysers, and volcanoes. In order to see as much as you can, you’ll want to have longer days, fewer crowds to interrupt the view, and weather that doesn’t make roads impassable. That means going in the weeks that frame either end of the high season, around the last week of May through mid-June, or anytime in September.
- Best Time to Avoid Crowds: If you’re hoping for a more relaxed experience without the crowds, avoid going to Iceland in the high season, from mid-June through August. By visiting in April or May, September or October, you’ll encounter fewer tourists, yet the days will be long enough to enjoy sightseeing and possibly decent weather (5 AM sunrise; 9:30 PM sunset). The fewest visitors come between November and March, but this is also when inclement weather and short, dark days can affect your plans.
- Best Time for Good Weather: The best time for optimal weather in Iceland is during the high season, particularly July and August when average highs are around 13°C, though temps can reach as high as 15°C or even 20°C. If you’re hoping to avoid the rain, the lowest amount of rainfall occurs in May and June, and temperatures are often a pleasant 11°C.
Planning a trip to Iceland? Check out my complete Iceland Travel Guide
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