Driving Iceland: Everything to Know About Driving Iceland’s Ring Road

driving iceland

When you visit Iceland, you won’t be able to explore without driving on the Icelandic ring road, also known as Route 1. 

The island only has one road, which stretches for 1,333Km (825 miles) and circles the majority of the country. 

Driving the ring road allows you to see a selection of the stunning landscape Iceland has to offer. From lava fields to mossy green mountains, waterfalls, and glaciers, driving Iceland is a feast for the eyes. 

When traveling in Iceland, you’ll want to check out as much of the stunning landscape as possible.

Read our travel guide to learn about the spots you shouldn’t miss out on when driving in Iceland. 

How Long Does It Take to Drive the Ring Road?

It entirely depends on how much you want to see in Iceland, but if you’re going to get a full overview of the country, then you want at least a week. 

You can drive through the country in less time, but you’ll need a more compressed itinerary. Don’t cram too much into your itinerary, though; you don’t want to be rushed! 

You can always drive parts of the ring road rather than the whole loop if you’re short of time. 

The only places you can’t reach on the ring road are the highlands and Westfjords. You’ll need a 4×4 vehicle to visit those regions of the country, as it’s the only type of transportation allowed. 

Things to Know When Driving Iceland

There are some particular traffic rules you should know about when visiting Iceland. The mountainous and volcanic terrain make Route 1 a bit more challenging to drive than many other roads. Many of the roads outside major towns are gravel, so you may want to drive slowly. 

You should always stick to the 90km speed limit; fines are expensive, so you don’t want to get stuck with one! 

Remember that in Iceland cars drive on the right-hand side of the road. 

Animals on the road in Iceland always have the right of way, and you should never turn right at a red light. 

Weather conditions in Iceland are unpredictable, so you may find that road closures or heavy snowfall in winter cause road closures. Be prepared to make last-minute changes to your trip plan! Flexibility is essential when planning your first Iceland road trip. 

What’s the Best Time of Year For an Iceland Road Trip?

Most tourists visit Iceland for a road trip in summer. The driving conditions are more accessible, and the warmer weather makes traveling more pleasant. You’ll also get long days in summer, which gives you more daylight for seeing the attractions in Iceland. 

Did you know that in summer Iceland has midnight sun? This means during the height of summer, it barely even gets dark in Iceland. You get 24 hours of light! 

If you want to see the northern lights, the best time to visit is winter. Conditions for driving are a little more tricky in winter, but it is possible. 

Renting a 4×4 will make it easier for your trip if you go in winter. You should also drive slower and keep your lights on day and night. 

Some long tunnels, such as the sub-sea Hvalfjörður Tunnel, help you avoid adverse driving conditions in winter. These tunnels are up to 6km long, so be prepared for driving long stretches of the ring road inside. 

Best Places to Visit on an Iceland Road Trip

If you want to see the best of the country, there are a few spots you can’t miss on your road trip! 

Collect your car in Reykjavik and start driving in an anti-clockwise direction towards Vik. You can then follow the road around the island, stopping at the sites which interest you most. 

1. Golden Circle

The Golden Circle includes three of the most popular attractions in Iceland. You’ll visit the southern uplands of the country and get a taste of the diversity of landscape. 

If you’re only on a short trip, visiting the Golden Circle is the perfect itinerary. 

You’ll see the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Þingvellir national park, Gullfoss waterfall, and Geysir, a geothermal area.  

2. Skógafoss Waterfall

Continue your journey south towards the beautiful beach of Vik and take a stop at the Skógafoss waterfall. It’s the largest waterfall in Iceland and worth a visit. 

You can walk right up to the 60m falls, making for a unique experience you won’t forget in a hurry! 

3. Diamond Beach

Next, you’ll want to head toward Diamond Beach as you continue exploring Iceland’s southern region. You can also take a visit to the Jökulsárlón glacier.

4. Eastern Fjords

Head across to the island’s east to see more waterfalls and lakes. You can also visit the Hverfjall crater and Skútustaðir.  

If you want to go whale watching, the village of Húsavík is the country’s whale watching capital. 

5. Goðafoss and the North

Head up to the island’s north and marvel at the Goðafoss waterfall. There are also some cute towns to explore in the country’s northern region. 

6. Skagafjörður Valley

One of the fjords, Skagafjörður is one of the highlights of the country’s western region and a perfect stop before you head back to the capital city. 

Explore unique cliffy landscapes, the three islands that make up the fjord, and the volcano remnants. There’s also a lot of wildlife to spot in this region, from Icelandic horses to seals and dolphins. 

Rent Your Roadtrip Car 

You want to rent a reliable car for your unforgettable trip driving Iceland.

Renting your car in advance will save you time when you arrive and give you the flexibility to hit the road as soon as you arrive. You’ll have less to worry about and more time to enjoy the trip of a lifetime. 

If you’re looking for car rentals in Iceland with complete protection from liability, check out our rental options here.  

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