How to Drive the Iceland Ring Road in 8 Days
If you’re heading to Iceland – and you should – you simply have to drive the Ring Road.
There’s no better way to soak in the unbelievable natural scenery of the island. Here’s how you can see it all in eight days.
How to Drive the Ring Road
First things first: You’ll need some wheels.
We decided to rent a camper van and stay at campsites along the Ring Road. This was a great way to maximize our time and save on accommodations. To see what the camper vans look like inside, how much gas costs, where to stay at night, and more, check out our guide to renting a camper van in Iceland.
The Ring Road is very well paved and an easy drive! There are few other cars on the road and it’s basically one big circle, so it’s nearly impossible to get lost. There were a few attractions around the Ring Road that required a short drive on a gravel road, but nothing our camper van couldn’t handle.
One bonus of the camper can: It had WiFi! And though there aren’t many turns on the Ring Road, we could use Google Maps to navigate.
The drive around the Ring Road isn’t really that long. We spent about 24 total hours behind the wheel driving the Ring Road over the course of eight days. What takes the most time is getting out of the van to check out waterfalls, craters, and other attractions along the way!
Eight days too long or too short for you? Be sure to create a Ring Road plan that matches your travel pace. Looking for a full map guide to the Ring Road? Check out this Iceland Ring Road Google My Maps I made for our trip. Each day’s attractions are color-coded by day and plotted on the map.
Day 1: The First Stop on the Golden Circle is … Costco?
Before setting out on our Ring Road adventure, we headed straight to Costco with our camper van. We cooked our own meals each day to save during our trip. Check out our money-saving tips for Iceland.
If you haven’t been to Iceland before or done the Golden Circle, tackle that first! The Golden Circle is a good way to dip your toes into the natural beauty of Iceland.
We started off around the Golden Circle, first stopping at Öxarárfoss waterfall. Öxarárfoss is about 45 minutes from Reykjavik. This area also has crazy rock formations and a gorgeous lake!
Next up: the Kerid Crater. You can walk all the way around it, and even down to the water.
Next, we drove to the northernmost point of the Golden Circle to see the famous Gullfoss waterfall. This waterfall and the gorge it runs through is absolutely stunning. You can often see a rainbow in the mist here!
There are definitely other sights to see around the Golden Circle, but we decided to end our big first day at the Secret Lagoon hot spring. This is a natural hot spring amongst the rolling hills. It’s cheaper than the Blue Lagoon, crystal clear and quite hot!
We decided to drive a bit further this first day and camp at Hamragarðar campsite. It is right next to Seljalandsfoss waterfall with a spectacular view.
Total driving time for Day 1: about three hours
Day 2: The Road to Vik
After checking out the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, head towards Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool. You need to drive on a pretty rough gravel road with potholes to get to the carpark, and then hike about half an hour to get to the pool. We didn’t swim here, but feel free to enter at your own (bacterial) risk!
Only a 10-minute drive from the swimming pool carpark is Skogafoss waterfall. This is one of the main tourist attractions, since everything on the way to Vik is an easy day trip from Reykjavik. Climb up the many stairs on the right side to get a view from the top.
We didn’t have Eyjafjallajökull glacier on our itinerary, but we noticed the sign as we were driving and had to pull over. We were in awe that we could simply walk right up to a glacier! Don’t be afraid to take pit-stops along your way on the Ring Road. Some of the best spots you’ll find won’t be on your itinerary.
About ten minutes further from the Skogafoss waterfall was the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck. From the carpark along the road to the plane wreck is an hour walk. To get in and out quicker, take the shuttle for about $12 USD.
Just a few minutes’ drive from the plane wreck carpark on the Ring Road are these unbeatable coastal views. Drive up to the Dyrhólaey viewpoint to get an awesome view of the Black Sand Beach and beautiful Dyrhólaey!
Our last stop for the day was Reynisfjara Beach. The black pebbles and sand are incredible, and the caves and Reynisdrangar basalt columns in the water will leave you speechless. There are quite a few visitors to this beach, but it’s worth sharing the view.
When you arrive, you’ll see these amazing rock columns as well. We visited in the evening in early May (around 6-8 p.m.) and got to see puffins coming in from the ocean!
On this night, we camped at Vik Camping in town.
Total driving time for Day 2: about 1 hour
Day 3: Mossy Lava Rocks and Glaciers, Oh My!
Day 3 was a heavy driving day for us as we worked our way up the coast to the east, but the constantly changing landscape kept us entertained!
We pulled over to walk along the mossy lava rocks,
take in the view of the enormous buttes and bluffs,
And did a short, one-hour roundtrip hike out to Skaftafell’s glacier, Vatnajökull.
Next up: Diamond Beach and Jökulsárlón. This glacial lagoon has icebergs floating peacefully from the mountains. The lake is full of fish, which means you’ll likely see dozens of seals here!
We drove another hour up the eastern coast to Vestrahorn. This stunning mountain view is only accessible by driving a gravel road off the Ring Road just past the town of Höfn. The gravel road will say “Private,” but trust Google Maps on this one. You’ll have to pay in the little office at the end of the gravel road to enter, but it’s worth the price!
You can also camp here for the night at an additional cost, but we wanted to press on and make it a bit further up the eastern coast. The views in the east are simply unbelievable.
We drove pretty late this evening: another two hours from Vestrahorn to make good time. We stopped around 10 p.m. (it was still light out!) at a campground near Breiðdalsvík for the night. That’s the beauty of camping in Iceland: you can adjust your schedule as needed.
Total driving time for Day 3: about 5 hours and 30 minutes
Day 4: Myvatn, the Desert Oasis
While we had heard amazing things about the Eastfjords in Iceland, we knew we didn’t have much time to waste for our eight-day itinerary. Instead, we visited just one town nestled in the mountains: Seydisfjordur.
Seydisfjordur was worth the visit if you have some time to spare! This quaint little town is a gorgeous oasis tucked inside the snow-capped mountains. Sit by the small lake in town and take in the view of waterfalls and colorful houses.
We drove on towards Myvatn, which took 2 1/2 hours from Seydisfjordur. This day’s drive was one of my favorites. It changed quickly from snow-capped mountains to barren red clay rolling hills.
Before rolling into town, we stopped at the Námafjall Geothermal Area. The sulfur smells like rotten eggs, but the sheer natural power will make you forget the smell. Read all of the placards to get your science lesson!
Just a few miles further and you’ll be in Mývatn, where you’ll find the famous Lake Mývatn in the center of the city. Drive around the lake for some stunning views: It only takes 30 minutes or so to circle the entire lake. Stop at the southernmost point of the lake to walk on these pseudocraters.
For a nightcap, head to the Mývatn Nature Baths. The Mývatn Nature Baths are a bit cheaper at 4500isk (about $36 USD). Plus, you get a stunning view of the surrounding landscape from the infinity pool edges. Enjoy a sunset soak and the thermal sauna to end your day.
Total driving time for Day 4: about 3 hours and 30 minutes
Day 5: The Coolest Infinity Pool Ever
Day 5 was another long driving day along the north of Iceland. Our first stop was just 40 minutes outside of Mývatn: the Goðafoss waterfall.
While you can drive out along the “fingers” of the north, we wanted to save time. So instead, we ventured out to the town of Hofsós for the coolest infinity pool I’ve ever seen. Sundlaugin á Hofsósi, or the Hofsós swimming pool, is a must. It’s cheap at around $8 per person, heated, and rarely crowded. Hang over the edge and take in the views of the ocean and mountains of the north!
We swam for a while in the Hofsós pool, then drove two hours the town of Hvammstangi where we stayed for the night. It’s a great spot to take a ride on an Icelandic horse!
We camped at the Sæberg/Farfuglaheimili HI Hostel, which had natural thermal hot tubs overlooking a lake. Who said camping can’t be glamorous?!
Total driving time for Day 5: about 3 hours and 45 minutes
Day 6: To the Witch’s Hat
On this day, we headed down the western side of Iceland toward the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. On the way, we stopped at the Gerduberg Basalt Columns. You can drive right up to them from a gravel road and climb to the top.
We took the mini Ring Road on the peninsula clockwise to check out the viewpoints in the south and west first. On our way to the western coastal view, we stopped at the famous black church, Búðakirkja. This is a great spot for a photo op and has some walking paths out to the coast.
Just 15 minutes further out on the peninsula, you need to stop at the Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge. My photos didn’t do this gorge justice. You can walk inside this massive gorge and see the stream of water flowing down the gorge. This was one of our favorite stops on the Ring Road!
Make your way out to the very edge of the peninsula to the Londrangar Viewpoint. It’s such an incredible view of these rocky cliffs.
We continued clockwise along the north coast of the peninsula for 45 minutes until we reached Kirkjufell, otherwise known as the Witch’s Hat. For the dreamy view, visit Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall across the street. This spot was busy with tourists during the day, so we returned at sunset to get this view.
Total driving time for Day 6: about 3 hours and 30 minutes
Day 7: The Road to Reykjavik
On our last full day in Iceland, we made our way back to Reykjavik with a few fun stops along the way.
An hour drive from Kirkjufellfoss was at the Landbrotalaug Hot Pot (yes, that small pile of rocks in the distance is it). Drive down the gravel road and wait your turn for this small thermal “hot tub.” There are no changing rooms so come prepared!
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Reykjavik. Walk along Laugavegur and Bankastræti streets to check out the local shops and restaurants. Visit the famous Hallgrimskirkja church, Harpa Concert Hall, Sun Voyager statue, and take in the fun street art and colorful houses in Reykjavik.
The only time we dined out on our entire trip was to get a famous hot dog from the Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur stand. They’re much cheaper than any other food options in Reykjavik. And they’re delicious.
After exploring Reykjavik for the afternoon (a few hours was enough for us to hit the city highlights), we headed to our last campsite: Mosskogar Campsite, just 20 minutes outside of downtown Reykjavik. This was one of our very favorite campsites of the entire trip!
Total driving time for Day 7: about 2 hours and 45 minutes
Day 8: Blue Lagoon Relaxation Before Takeoff
Our plane departed in the late afternoon on our eighth and final day in Iceland, so we decided to spend our last morning at the Blue Lagoon. Since the Blue Lagoon (a one-hour drive from Mosskogar Campsite) was on the way to the Happy Camper office where we returned the van, we couldn’t pass it up. And after a week of camping, we needed another soak!
While the Blue Lagoon can get crowded with tourists at times, we went right away in the morning in early May to beat the crowds. We had the place nearly to ourselves. If you’re curious if the Blue Lagoon is worth the price, read our review on the Blue Lagoon.
After relaxing for a few hours in the milky blue waters, we cleaned up and headed for the airport. What a whirlwind eight days in Iceland!
Total driving time for Day 8: about 1 hour
Driving the Ring Road in Iceland should be on every traveler’s list. The views are simply incredible and even the most fantastic photos cannot do the landscape of Iceland justice.
Give yourself at least a week to see as much as you can along the Ring Road, and I promise you it’ll be the best road trip you ever take. Use this Iceland Ring Road Google My Maps to plan your own trip around Iceland’s Ring Road.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.