It seems like nowadays everyone is going to Iceland or wanting to go and we are some of them.
Iceland has been on our bucket list for awhile and for many reasons. When the opportunity opened up we didn’t even think twice. We had some free time in April and the urge to go somewhere new, so why not Iceland.
Although you can mostly see us traveling to tropical and warm destination, Iceland end up being one of those places that we surprisingly fell in love and plan to go back. It’s one of the best countries for a road trip, the landscape looked like out of this world with breathtaking scenery that changes literally every single turn.
Although you all have heard and read so many times that Iceland is “so expensive”, let me tell you that it’s absolutely possible to be done cheap and on a budget. So don’t put it on you “I wish to visit” list, but instead on the “I will visit” list without stressing that will break your bank.
We booked our flights with WOW Air only a week in advance, so we had only a few days to prepare. As fun and exciting is planning a road trip, it can also be a very overwhelming thing, as there countless things to see and do. One of the biggest challenges when planning a trip to Iceland is how to see everything in the limited time you have, how many days do you need, what to bring and where you should visit.
The best way to see and explore Iceland is by driving around the country on the famous Ring Road. Let me tell you this, Iceland is worth more than just few days on a stop over and seeing the Golden Circle. Seven days is the minimum what we suggest to at least see the main highlights. Our advice is to forget the tour groups and enjoy the countryside on your own pace by renting your own wheels.
This itinerary is for driving the whole 1332 km Ring Road around Iceland the way we did it. If this doesn’t appeal to you, you can always just shorten the trip and do part of it.
For stress-free trip enjoy our 7 days itinerary that we did and put together to help you plan your first time visit.
Our Epic 7 Day Ring Road Trip Itinerary
Day 1 : Reykjavik
Highlights: Waterfront walk, Sun Voyager Sculpture, Harpa Concert Hall, Hallgrimskirkja church, Walk downtown.
Reykjavik isn’t too big and you can see the main highlights in half a day. Although it’s a beautiful city, spending one day for us was enough, there’s way more to see in the countryside.
Since we arrived in the afternoon we decided to explore Reykjavik and leave the Blue Lagoon visit for our last day, opposite of what everyone else does.
We arrived at Keflavik International Airport at 1.30pm with direct flight from Los Angeles with WOW Air. After collecting our luggage we went to pick up our rental car. Some of the company have desks at the arrival hall and for the rest you walk outside and wait for the shuttle bus that will take you to their office.
We rented our car from Fox and since we were going in April knowing that there would be still wither conditions, we didn’t want to risk and reserved a 4×4 car. Honestly we could have totally save $200 and go with a 2×2, we only need it once during the whole week for about 10 minutes of the drive but was not even necessary. The total cost for our rental car for a week was $470 for a great Suzuki Jimmy and that was our biggest expense in Iceland besides the flights.
- If you are planning to only drive on the main Ring Road ( hwy 1 ) you will be absolutely fine without 4×4 so save $$$ on that.
- The cheapest deals for renting a car we found on carrentals.com as long as you book in advance not in the last moment.
- We declined all the extra insurance at our own risk and only used our credit card CDW for the rental car. We don’t recommend not getting an insurance, that’s just what we did.
- Instead of renting GPS for the car we rented a wifi hotspot device from Iceland Camping Equipment, it’s a better deal and you have 4G wifi everywhere you go.
The first thing we did after we got our rental car was to drive straight to pick up our wifi device from Iceland Camping Equipment. It is located in the center of Reykjavik and it took us about 45-50 min easy drive. They have the easiest self pick up system, you drive to the location, use the door lock code they emailed you to get in and inside you will find your products waiting with your name. That simple and easy, we highly recommend their services.
After that we checked in at our Airbnb ( it cost us $106 ) for the night and by 4.30pm we were out exploring the city.
- Gas is expensive but as long as you know that in advance it won’t be a shock. The whole drive on the Ring Road cost us $316 with 4×4 jeep. So if you are renting smaller 2×2 car plan on around $300 more or less for gas.
- Make sure you download Google Maps Offline on your phone before you get to Iceland for your navigations. It works like magic.
- The street parking in the center of Reykjavik is free from 6pm to 9am.
What to see in Reykjavik
- Walk along the waterfront and enjoy the beautiful view and see the Sun Voyager sculpture.
- Visit the Harpa concert hall and admire the architecture. Quick tip: There’s free wifi inside.
- Visit the Hallgrimskirkja church. For the best view of the city go inside to the top.
- Stroll down the two main shopping streets, Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur and if you like healthy food with vegan options ( like we do ) have a delicious and affordable ( for Iceland $13-18 plates ) dinner at Gló Restaurant
Day 2: The Golden Circle and South Coast
This is where the unforgettable adventure begins. Be ready to explore the Land of Fire and Ice with never ending beauty and waterfalls everywhere you look.
Highlights: Pórufoss Waterfall, Pingvellir National Park, Bruarfoss Waterfall, Gullfoss Waterfall, Heifoss, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Gljúfrabúi Waterfall, Skógafoss.
Since we were planning on driving the whole day, everyday and seeing the most we can, we decided to buy grocery for the trip and not stop and eat out. That’s how we saved lots of time and money on our trip. We’ve rented Airbnb’s with kitchen so we could cook and prepare our meals for the day.
Check this out: the entire trip, 7 days we spent only $225 on food for 2 people, and no, we did not starve. That’s $113 per person, $16 a day not bad at all, who said Iceland can’t be done cheap.
- Buy your own grocery to save on cash instead of eating out.
- If you are on a budget, forget about alcohol.
- If you are planning leaving Reykjavik early in the morning for your drive and plan on buying grocery keep in mind that Bonus store opens at 10am or 11am and Krónan at 9am or 10am. We didn’t know that and delayed our start. If you plan on leaving early buy them the night before. Both stores have really good selection on food even for vegans like us.
- If you plan on cooking your meals and not eating out, bring with you to go container ( to prepare your food for the day ), silverware, wet or paper napkins and this freezable lunch box.
- Bring your own reusable water bottle as you can fill it with the cleanest tap water or even from the waterfalls on the road.
- We also brought vehicle beverage heater cigarette lighter adapter and our own cups for making hot teas and instant coffees in the car for the drive.
- To make sure you have all your electronics charged always bring one of these dual USB car charger
The most popular tour in Iceland, that can also be done as a day trip from Reykjavik is the Golden Circle. It includes a visit to Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the Geysir area. Personally we like places less crowded with tourists so here are the places that we discover and saw.
Our highlights of the Golden Circle
- Pórufoss Waterfall – it’s not well know and you can have it just to yourself. It’s a spectacular waterfall and worth a stop. It’s only a 10 min detour from the main Golden Circle road. We were there in the craziest wind blizzard and it was still amazing.
- Pingvellir National Park- We didn’t spend much time here as it was the most crowded touristy spot. The only place we had to pay for parking. There’s a machine ( pay with cards only ) where you can pay and display the ticket on your dashboard.
- Bruarfoss Waterfall- one of the most beautiful with the bluest water. It wasn’t super easy to find so make sure you don’t give up, it’s so worth it. The google map directions will lead you to a small parking lot where usually should be at least few cars and there will be a sign for private property. Park there and enter inside the area on the left, start walking until you reach a bridge maybe 10-15 min. After you cross the bridge follow a small path leading through little trees and bushes. There’s where it gets more difficult depending on the season and if there’s a lot of snow melting. In April it was all mud and the area was flooded everywhere, so you have to be careful where are you stepping and make sure you have waterproof or rain boots.
- Gullfoss Waterfall- Maybe one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland and the most crowded one we saw, but epic.
Other Highlights in the Golden Circle you might want to see that we didn’t: Kerið, Secret Lagoon, Geysir
South coast Highlights:
- Haifoss Waterfall and Þjófafoss Waterfall – After Gullfoss we decided to go see the Haifoss ( the second tallest waterfall in Iceland, 122m ), which was one hour out of our way but it is less know by the massed and very spectacular waterfall. Unfortunately after driving for 30-40 minutes the road was submerged with water and we didn’t want to risk crossing it, so we turned around disappointed. If you have a chance and time depending on the weather, go see it. You will need a 4×4 car for the last part of the drive.
Where the road got covered with water and we turned around.
- The Icelandic Horses – Throughout the whole Golden Circle drive you will see many Icelandic horses, but be respectful and careful. They were very sweet to us and some of the most beautiful horses we’ve seen with their long, shaggy coats and adorably thick manes and forelocks. You can stop on the side of the road and take some great pictures with them.
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall and Gljúfrabúi Waterfall – One of our favorites, a 65m high waterfall which cascades over ancient sea cliffs into a pool below. So majestic and powerful, you can walk behind it and it’s a must. You may get quite wet, keep that in mind. Since you are already there, don’t miss the Gljúfrabúi Waterfall right besides it.
Somewhere on the road: The best part of the road trip is that you can stop anywhere, anytime you want and discover epic sceneries off the tourist maps.
- Skógafoss Waterfall and Kvernufoss Falls – It is quite impressive. This waterfall cascades along a drop of 200 feet and creates a roar and a massive spray. By the time we got there it was almost sunset, around 8pm and it was getting dark, so that was our last sightseeing for day 2.
Helpful Tip: If you have time climb the steps to the top, the view is spectacular.
After our first day of long driving we checked into our Airbnb just right outside Vik. It was one of the best places we’ve stayed in Iceland. It was the most expensive one ($174) but this area is quite pricy. We cooked dinner and had a good night sleep before our next day on the road.
Day 3: South Coast – Vik area to Höfn
Highlights: Solheimasandur Plane Wreck, Dyrhólaey Arch, Kirkjufjara beach, Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, Vik.
Unfortunately for us we had a pouring down rain and wind the whole day, but we tried to make the best of it. We started our day with a visit to the famous Plane Wreck site.
- Solheimasandur Plane Wreck – One of Iceland’s most iconic & haunting photography locations. People from all over the world come everyday trekking four kilometers through a barren lava desert to see the plane’s decomposing husk on the desolate black-sand beach. The good thing is that everyone survived and now it’s turned to this post-apocalyptic grave for tourists to capture the new cool photo. The location is between Skogafoss waterfall and the southern outpost town of Vik. As everyone says it’s a long 45-50min walk each way, we did it in rain and wind. So make sure you are prepared.
- Bring a backpack with you with water and have a rain jacket and boots, you never know with the weather in Iceland. Depends on the season, but make sure you have good layers and warm clothes, it is windy and freezing ( we were there in Aril ). Hat, gloves, scarf etc it could be very cold.
- Plan to spend at least 2 or 2.5 hours.
- If you would like to take some great photos, wear or bring something bright for a pop (you can change inside of the plane)
The 45min walk
- Dyrhólaey Arch – This is a Must! Unique natural formations with massive arch of rock jutting out into the ocean. The views of the black sand beaches are amazing. Unfortunately for us, due to the rain, we don’t have many photos from there.
- Kirkjufjara beach- It’s a spectacular view of the Reynisfjara beach to the east. From the parking lot, there is a narrow path down to Kirkjusandur beach with two to three meter small cliffs on both sides. This is the only entrance to the beach. Do not go to the beach when the tides are high.
- Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach – is a magnificent black pebble beach under Reynisfjall mountain with an amazing basalt columns. Gives you a feeling out of this world.
- The cute town of Vik – Little charming seafront village with rugged sea cliffs and black sand beaches, a true treasure of Iceland.
Things we wanted to see but we didn’t due to the bad weather: Fjaðrárgljúfur, Kirkjubæjarklaustur, Svartifoss, Skaftafell.
On our third night we stayed at Fosshotel Vatnajokull, just right before Höfn. It was a very nice hotel for the price ( $103 ) for a one night stop on the Ring Road.
Day 4: Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon to Reyðarfjörður.
Highlights: Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon, Diamond Beach, Lækjavik.
Since we had a bad weather the day before, we had to drive back south for 40min to go visit the Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon and the Diamond beach. This place was one of our highlights, it was spectacular.
Mikey brought his wetsuit hoping to surf but since we couldn’t find any waves during our stay, he decided to least get wet. So why not jumping in the iceberg lagoon?
- Jökulsárlón Lagoon- This ice lagoon has become one of Iceland’s most visited attractions due to its immeasurable beauty.
- Diamond Beach- where unique shapes of ice are washed ashore onto the black sand beach. Honestly we could’ve spend the whole day here. It’s a magical place where the beauty is beyond words.
We spent quite some time at the Lagoon and then we hit the road up north towards Reyðarfjörður and East Fjords. The drive is breathtaking, and you would want to pul lover every minute.
- Lækjavik Coastline – Breathtaking views of rugged immense volcanic mountains with dramatic black sand beaches and green moss covered grounds.
For our 4th night we rented an Airbnb in Reyðarfjörður for $104. There’s a really good bakery/coffee shop in town for the next morning to stock up on fresh baked bread and goodies for the road if you want.
Day 5: From Reyðarfjörður to Laugar
Highlights: Dettifos and Selfoss Waterfalls, Hverir, Hverfjall, Krafla, Myvatn Nature Baths.
We got to sleep in that morning since we knew we had a shorter drive and only few highlights to see. The scenery is spectacular and you can choose to stop anywhere along the drive. We were happy to see big herds of reindeers. We highly recommend to try visiting Myvatn Nature Baths instead of the Blue Lagoon, we will tell you why later.
- Dettifos and Selfoss Waterfalls – These waterfalls are epic, one of the top stops in North Iceland. It’s a little bit of a walk 30min to get there but so worth it. When you get to a crossroad go first straight and left to Dettifoss and then back and right to Selfoss.
- Hverir – If you ever wonder what is it to be on a different planet, just go to Hverir and you will see. Large geothermal field of bubbling mud pools,steaming fumaroles and sticky red soil.
Things we didn’t see but we wish we did: Hverfjall, Krafla, Myvatn Nature Baths.
That night we stay in one amazing cabin in Laugar and it was the night we saw the Northern Lights. This place is great if you want to see them, we had an Epic night. We highly recommending staying there.
Day 6: From Laugar to Ólafsvík through Akureyri.
Highlights: Góðafoss Waterfall, Akureyri, Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
We had a long drive on this day, so the only stops we made were just along the drive. We enjoyed numerous views of snowy mountain peaks, little farms and churches, sparkling fjords, dramatic volcanic peaks, sheer sea cliffs and more.
- Góðafoss Waterfall – Roadside nature pearl halfway between Akureyri and Myvatn Lake.
Somewhere along the road before the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
- The Black church – A historic black church settled in a greatly beautiful lava field overlooking a spectacular stretch of beautiful coastline. Worth a visit.
Night 6 we stayed at this lovely Airbnb in the cute small fishing town of Ólafsvík on the northern side of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. We got up early on the next day since we had a lot to cover on our last day before we soak in the Blue Lagoon.
Day 7: From Snæfellsnes Peninsula to the Blue Lagoon
Highlights: Kirkjufell, Kirkjufellsfoss, Djúpalónssandur beach, Londrangar, Hellnar, Arnarstapi, Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge.
- Kirkjufell and the Kirkjufellsfoss – Kirkjufellsfoss is a charming waterfall situated near the impressive mount Kirkjufell, one of the most photographed mountains in Iceland.
Beautiful stops on the road.
Things we didn’t have time to see: Djúpalónssandur beach, Londrangar, Hellnar, Arnarstapi, Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge.
After driving from Snæfellsnes Peninsula back to Reykjavik we returned out wifi hotspot device to Iceland Camping Equipmend and checked into our Airbnb ( $77 ) for the last night. We picked a great spot in Keflavík right by the airport since we had an early flight in the morning.
Our last stop of the trip was a visit to the famous Blue Lagoon. We chose to do it on our last day because we figured it would be a nice and relaxing way to end our visit to Iceland. We had pre booked our tickets in advance for 6pm so we could have a nice sunset experience.
The Blue Lagoon
- You need to book your tickets online in advance.
- It is expensive. We booked the cheapest Standard Package and since the cheapest hours were sold out we payed $67 per person. That is way too expensive for the experience, we though.
- If you want less crowded and commercialized Lagoon, visit Myvatn Nature Baths at least we wish we did, $35 per person.
- Get there at least 15 minutes before as there a always a line and you might want to take some photos outside, it’s pretty cool.
- If you buy the Standard package, bring your own towel.
- There are lockers to store your things.
- Be fore you get in the lagoon, you will be required to take a shower.
- To protect your hair from the silica and mineral content use the conditioner in the shower, plus I added lots of leave in mask and lots of coconut oil. Even still, don’t let your hair touch water.
- It’s not as hot as you think, but there are some corners in the lagoon with hotter spots.
We hope you enjoyed our road trip and this itinerary was helpful for you to plan your visit to Iceland. Share this Pin and save it for later.
Let us know your thoughts, share your road trips and any questions you may have.
Michael Dunworth says
I absolutely love these photos!
This post makes me want to pack up my bags and go. Iceland is already on my bucket list and I really can’t wait to get there! Oh, and by the way, let me just say that your photos are stunning!
Hi Elena. Thank you so much for your kind words. It means a lot. We wish to go to Iceland one day soon.