Ring Road: One-Week Itinerary
This is a one-week itinerary of the Ring Road, including the Golden Circle. Enjoy!
Arrive at Keflavik International Airport. From here you can take a Gray Line bus to Reykjavik (buy bus tickets ahead of time for about $22/ person here. The bus ride is about 45 minutes and there’s free WiFi. Once in Reykjavik, make your way to Sixt Rental Car; we rented from them and had a great experience. There are car rentals available at the airport, but the more affordable option is renting in Reykjavik. Note: Before you depart check if any of your credit cards offer car rental insurance coverage. Our Citibank American Airlines credit card did so we declined the car rental's insurance. We ended up getting a small rock chip in the windshield of the rental car. It took some paperwork and patience but we were reimbursed for the damage fees without a problem (which were around $1000!). Sixt also provided us all of the information we needed to make the reimbursement claim on the credit card.
Before you get on the road fill up on gas. A note about gas stations: many gas stations around the country are unmanned and that can only pay with a chip and pin card. At the N1 gas stations you can buy prepaid gas cards, so if you don’t have a chip and pin card get a few gas cards before you start.
Another helpful tool to have is a WiFi hotspot (rent ahead of time here). Pick up and drop off is very convenient; you can chose to pick up the hotspot at a local N1 gas station and return it by mail, but there are other options available. After all of this is done head out to drive around the Golden Circle. Here are the spots you will hit on Day 1:
Þingvellir National Park (or Thingvelling for better google searches in English): Þingvellir is beautiful and it will take about two hours to walk all of the main trail. The park is in a rift valley where you find the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Do you remember your geology class from college? *Note: It's just a couple of dollars but you have to pay for parking and bathrooms (you can use credit cards for both).
Geysir: This is a quick and fun stop. Take a short walk to the Great Geysir and wait for it to erupt. We had to wait about 6 minutes in between eruptions. Everyone huddles around the geyser and waits with their cameras ready, so of course, you should too.
Gullfoss waterfall: The pictures of this place DO NOT do it justice. The waterfall is massive, beautiful, jaw dropping, cool and all the other good adjectives in the world. Spend about 30 minutes at this stop, taking in the view and taking pictures.
Kerid Crater: just a warning: there are no bathrooms there!
After Kerid Crater go to your lodging in Reykjavik. Check in and go grab a quick bite to eat. If you are in the area go to Reykjavik Chips and have fries for dinner, because that is always a good idea. Then it is time for bed.
Get up early and head to Gunuhver (ghost geyser), which is about thirty minutes south of the airport. Honestly, we liked this area better than Geysir in the Golden Circle. First, there was barely anyone there. Second, the area is much bigger and you can hang here for a couple of hours walking around and taking in the scenery. There is a lighthouse at the top of a hill, which you should hike, and the view is fantastic. Spend about two hours here before heading out.
Next, drive about 20 minutes to the very famous Blue Lagoon! Buy tickets ahead of time. The Blue Lagoon is pricey and touristy, but fun, clean and worth it. Stay here for a couple of hours and put on white mud face masks…because Iceland.
After the Blue Lagoon, drive 35km east and stop at Seltún Geothermal area. This must be what Mars looks and smells like. It is a quick but fun stop. Right next to Seltún is Lake Kleifarvatn; make another quick stop here to take in the amazing view. Get on the Ring Road and head east. An hour and forty-five minutes later, and right before sunset (depending on the time of year and hours of daylight), reach your final stop for the day: Seljalandsfoss waterfall. What an amazing stop! The most unique part about this waterfall is that you can walk behind it. Fifteen minutes away check into your stop for the night: North Star Cottage. This is the perfect place to stay; a cozy little cottage by the mountains. You will likely have dinner at an N1 gas station since there is not much else around.
Head out early in the morning to catch the sunrise at Skogafoss waterfall. Then drive to the DC-3 plane crash site at Solheimassandur beach. It’s not a short walk from the parking lot to the beach so bring food and water with you. It ends up being a 4km walk one way, so about 45 minutes. The plane site is great and if you are lucky you will get to see it without anyone there. Then drive to Dyrholaey Arch (beautiful) and hike down to Reynisfjara black sand cliffs. You can also drive to Reynifsjara if you do not want to hike. Stay the night somewhere in Vik.
Today, get to Skaftafell National Park to do a glacier hike with Glacier Guides. If you schedule this hike in the first half of the day, you will have to skip a couple sites around Vik to arrive on time. The hike was one of our favorite things we did during the trip and we would definitely recommend it. The views were spectacular and the hike was fun and memorable.
Five hours later, the hike is complete! Tired, head to the Glacier Lagoon. Spend some time here taking in the sites. Drive to Höfn and stop for dinner at Hafnarbudin and have their famous langoustine sandwiches. YUM. Stop for the night at Höfn Hostel. If you’re here at the right time of year you may have a chance to see the northern lights. If you hear people yelling about Aurora, you get out of bed and go look. It does not matter what time it is. You will thank us later.
Get on the road by 9am. Along the way, stop to pet the Icelandic horses and stop at Hvalnes beach (a black sand beach). Head to Vallanes, drive through the jaw-dropping valley, and make a quick stop at Fossardalur waterfall. THEN… you will make it Iceland’s largest forest, Hallormsstaður National Forest. Guys, saying this is the largest forest does not mean much in a country that is otherwise treeless, ha! Honestly, there was not much to see here so make it a short hike if you must then search for your lodging. Stay the night at Stormur Cottages. This place is great; cozy and cute, and it may provide another chance for looking at the northern lights!
Wake up bright and early to see an awesome sunrise. Drive two hours to Dettifoss and Selfoss waterfalls, both within a short hike from each other. We still don’t know which waterfall was which, but they were both magnificent. Spend about an hour and a half here.
Vesturdalur valley is the next stop. Vesturdalur is only about 20 km away from Dettifoss BUT due to a gravel road, be prepared for a slow journey. The valley is nice and walk around for about 15 minutes before heading to Hljodhaklettar caves, right next to the valley. These caves are really fun and weird and definitely worth checking out if you are in the area.
After the caves, drive through Asbyrgi Canyon. The last stop before driving to Akureyri are the Myvatan Baths. These baths are much less touristy than the Blue Lagoon and less pricy. Time it at sundown and the view is great. You can also catch the northern lights from there on a good night. Next, book it to Akureyri and stop at the very local Ak-Inn for hotdogs and ice cream. Spend the night at Lonsa Guesthouse. As time allows, a few other things to see in the Akureyri area are Námafjall waterfall, Grjótagjá cave, and Dimmuborgir lava fields.
This is a long driving day! Leave Akureyri and make the first stop at Grabrok Crater. This is a short, 30-minute stop. Hike up to the crater and walk around it. Back on the road, make a quick food stop in Borgarnes (at an N1, of course) and head into the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Make sure you stop at the Gerduberg cliffs, which look very cool and are huge! Next, and one of our favorite things we did this day was hike Helgafell Hill. The instructions are to hike up the hill without looking backwards and in complete silence. Once at the top, find the ruins, look east, and make three wishes. You are free to talk after you make your wishes. Only two out of the four in our group were able to follow the rules. Stay for the night at an Airbnb close to Ólafsvik. Dinner is at Hraun in Ólafsvik; their lamb soup is DELICIOUS.
The last day around the island (sort of!)… Head to Snaefellsjokull National Park (as referenced in the 1864 Jules Verne novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth) and right before the entrance stop and hike into Raudfeldsgja gorge. The gorge is definitely worth a stop. Once inside the park go on a tour of Vatnshellir cave and then drive around the park. After the adventure is complete, drive back to Reykjavik and stay at an Airbnb downtown. Have dinner at the famous hotdog stand Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. Can you tell hot dogs are popular here?
Your trip around the Ring Road has come to an end. Sad face. Head back to Reykjavik. Return your car rental, hopefully without any windshield damage. Go to Keflavik airport and begin reminiscing of N-1 hotdogs and soaking in hot thermal baths.