Iceland is a beautiful, fascinating, awe-inspiring country. From glaciers, waterfalls, and volcanos, there’s no end to the natural beauty the country has to offer.
Another fascinating fact about Iceland is that it only has one main road. It may seem crazy to think about, but the country is, in fact, tiny, with less than half a million people living there.
The main road (Route 1) circles around the whole country and stretches for 1,333 kilometers.
When visiting Iceland, the easiest, most comfortable method to get around is by car. The country’s public transport isn’t the most convenient so renting a car means planning your trip on your own terms.
Read on to learn all about all the incredible places to visit on a car trip in Iceland.
Reasons To Rent a Car in Iceland
When you visit Iceland, you’ll want to get straight into adventuring and exploring. There is just so much to explore!
Waiting for a bus that never shows up won’t be the most fun start to your trip!
Here are the top reasons for renting a car on your trip to Iceland.
It Gives You Total Freedom
Want to be the master of your own schedule? Renting a car gives you total freedom. You can plan your itinerary but then change it up at the last minute, depending on your mood or the weather.
You don’t get this freedom and flexibility when taking an organized tour or using public transport. You can also discover hidden gems and off-the-beaten-track destinations when you have a car.
It’s More Comfortable and Safe
Traveling in your own private vehicle is by far the most comfortable way to get around.
You don’t have to wait for other group members to be ready to leave; you can just leave whenever suits you. It also means you don’t have to share your space.
The roads in Iceland are very modern and safe, which makes it very easy for you to drive your hire car around the country.
It’s the Easiest Way to Get Around
Many of the best things to see in Iceland are only accessible by road. If you don’t have a car or mode of transport, it will be pretty tricky for you to venture outside the main towns to see the incredible nature the country has to offer. And that’s the whole reason for your trip.
There’s also only one major road! How easy is that? A road trip made simple; it’s pretty impossible to get lost!
If you want to venture off the main Route 1 and travel inland and in the highlands, you’ll need to go on some F roads. For these roads, you’ll need to rent a 4×4. What an exciting way to see the country!
It’s a Cost-Effective Way to Travel
Hiring a car is a much more wallet-friendly way to travel in Iceland. Private taxis are expensive, and group tours can also set you back a lot of money too.
When you rent a car for your Iceland trip, you can choose the right vehicle for your trip itinerary, group size, and budget. This makes it much easier to manage your holiday budget.
Driving Tips For Road Travel in Iceland
The Icelandic terrain is mountainous and volcanic, making the driving conditions very different from what you’re used to. More than 80% of the country is uninhabited, which means many roads you may need to drive on are remote and far away from civilization.
There are some special rules for driving in Iceland. Here are some of the things to keep in mind when hiring a car for your Iceland trip:
- The highland F roads only allow 4×4 vehicles on them; regular cars aren’t allowed
- Not wearing a seatbelt is illegal
- Animals on the road have the right of way
- 90km an hour is the speed limit
- You can’t turn right on a red light
You should also be aware that outside the urban areas, the roads are gravel, so you need to drive slower. Due to this terrain, there’s also a higher risk of a flat tire, so you’ll need to make sure you know how to change a tire.
There are also high winds in many of the remote locations in Iceland you may want to visit. Keep this in mind with your driving speed and when you want to open the doors and get out of the car.
The seasons also bring a lot of change regarding the conditions for driving in Iceland. In the winter months, many of the roads remain permanently closed due to the levels of snowfall.
Here are some more tips about keeping safe when renting a car in Iceland.
Best Places To See When Visiting Iceland On A Road Trip
So, now we have covered the safety part; it’s time to talk about fun in Iceland! Just driving through the country, you would be in awe without even knowing where you were. The landscape is like no other place on earth. Iceland is also home to over 60 volcanoes.
Where are the best spots to stop off on your driving tour around the country? Here are some recommendations:
A trip to Iceland wouldn’t be complete without visiting the capital city. This is where you will start your journey if you fly in on an international flight. From here, you can decide whether you start driving north or south of the city to explore the whole country.
The Hraufossar and Barnafoss falls are some of the most beautiful waterfalls you’ll see in your life! The water tumbles over the lava stones into beautiful azure pools.
The falls are west of the country and around a 30-minute drive off Route 1.
This 60-meter fall is one of the biggest in Iceland. The falls are two hours south of Reykjavik, and one of the cooled things about them is that you can walk close to them to take some snaps. But be warned, you will get wet!
This beach is pretty close to Route 1 road and is a stunning spot to take some photos and watch the waves. The waves can be up to 50 meters high, so stay safe and don’t try to swim!
This beach also happens to be one of the best spots to view the northern lights in Iceland.
One of Iceland’s oldest swimming pools, this spectacular spot is a must on your road trip around Iceland.
Built in 1923, the pool has a mountain for a wall and a glacier right above it. Relax as you spend time in the healing, geothermal water. You can also watch the northern lights from here and are likely to have a spectacular view of the aurora.
This cannon is another must-see on your drive through the south of Iceland. It’s around a 20-minute drive off the ring road.
The Fjaora river flows through the canyon and is 2 kilometers long. The special thing about it is the way the water flows in a serpent shape which makes it beautiful for photographs from above.
Vatnajokull National Park
A protected wilderness area, this park has no end to the sights to be explored here. The park is a UNESCO world heritage site and is home to giant glaciers, mountains, and ice caves. If you want to explore the frozen world, this is where to do it.
The park is one of the reasons Iceland is known as the land of fire and ice. As well as the glaciers and ice caves, there are ten volcanoes in the park. Two of those volcanoes are the most active volcanoes in the country.
There are multiple hiking trails in the park and camping grounds that you can camp at during the summer months.
You can also visit several waterfalls dotted around the park. You can even visit a lush green area called Skaftafell, at the bottom of the park.
Want to see a glacier lake? Then Jokulsarlon needs to be on your itinerary. It’s one of the most unique things to do in Iceland. The lake is on the border of the Vatnajökull National Park.
The water is a beautiful blue color and full of icebergs detached from the glacier. The glaciers then flow into the Atlantic ocean and leave big ice blocks on the black sand beach. This beach is called Breidamerkursander and is known as diamond beach.
Seeing the icebergs dotted along the black, volcanic sand is an unforgettable sight to behold.
The lake is filled with fish, making it the perfect home for seals. Expect to see hundreds of them in winter. It’s possible to take a boat trip across the lake.
It also so happens that Jökulsárlón is one of the best places in the country to see the northern lights.
This is the largest town in the East of Iceland on the banks of the Largafijot river. The river is said to be home to the Icelandic Loch Ness called the Largafijot Worm.
When you are in Eglisstadir, there are plenty of places nearby to explore. Another national park is the Hallormsstadaskogur park, a beautifully preserved birch tree forest.
You can see the Fardagafoss waterfall, which is an excellent place also to take a hike. You’ll have views over the whole valley on this hike. There’s a cave behind the waterfall where a troll is said to live.
If you want to see more waterfalls, you can also visit the waterfall circle, which takes you through 5 different waterfalls. This hiking trail is approximately six hours long and ends at a hostel with warm pools for you to take a well-earned dip.
Surrounded by volcanoes, this crater lake was formed at the end of the ice age. The lake’s water temperature is 30 degrees, and it’s perfectly safe to swim there. To visit this natural beauty spot, you will definitely need a 4×4.
Iceland’s giant boulders are also in this eastern region of the country and one of the many incredible natural wonders in the country. The way the rocks have formed has left a gap in the mountain.
Here you can check out some floating geothermal pools in the middles of the Urriðavatn lake. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to float in these pools for sure! The water is so pure here that you can even drink it.
Another spectacular waterfall, this shouldn’t be missed if you head up to the north of the country to do some whale watching. The whales can best be seen in towns like Husavik.
Another volcanic lake on the north of the island, Mývatn, has a naturally heated lagoon with mineral waters.
When in this area, you can also visit Hvereir, a hot spring with boiling mud.
This region is also great for catching glimpses of the northern lights. Your best chance for seeing the northern lights is between September and April.
Plan Your Roadtrip
Now you know some of the best spots to see when visiting Iceland; it’s time to get planning.
The best way to plan your itinerary is to decide which spots you most want to visit. Then you map out your route.
Make your life easy by renting a car in advance; it won’t only save you time and hassle once you arrive, you’ll be safe in the knowledge you can have the trip of a lifetime on your own terms!
Check out car rental rates here.