A road trip along Iceland’s Ring Road, also known as Route 1, is a bucket list-worthy adventure! Many people travel to Iceland to circumnavigate the country on this road alone. With so many of the country’s best sights just off this highway, you’ll soon see why it’s world famous!

Our comprehensive Iceland Ring Road map will help you decide which stops to make along Route 1. Come with us to learn everything you need to know about driving Iceland’s Ring Road.

travelling Iceland Ring road with a rental car

What is the Ring Road in Iceland?

Iceland’s Ring Road is an 828 mile loop (1,332 km) that perfectly circles the country, avoiding only the rugged interior and remote Westfjords.

Most travelers take about a week (7 days) to drive the entire Ring Road, although you can technically drive the route in 17 hours without any stops.

The best time to make the trip is in the summer months. While you’ll certainly be sharing the road, and the sights, with lots of other tourists, there aren’t many obstacles in terms of weather. Alternatively, spring and fall can also be good times to go although you’ll have more to contend with in terms of potentially bad road conditions (think snow and ice).

You’ll likely begin the route in Reykjavik, driving through Southern Iceland, Eastern Iceland, and Northern Iceland along the way. Most people drive in a counterclockwise circle although you can choose to go either way!

the Iceland route one ring road

Choosing the Best Rental Car for Your Ring Road Adventure

Renting a car in Iceland can be a fantastic way to explore the country at your own pace, especially if you’re planning to tackle the famous Ring Road. However, Iceland’s diverse weather and road conditions mean that you need to carefully consider your vehicle choice and prepare accordingly. Here’s a detailed guide and advice on how to rent a car in Iceland, tailored to the weather and road conditions:

1. Understand Iceland’s Weather Variability

Iceland’s weather is notoriously unpredictable. You can experience sunshine, rain, and snow all within the same day, especially if you are travelling outside the summer months (June to August).

  • Summer: The roads are generally clear, making it easier to drive, and all types of cars might be suitable. However, even in summer, weather can change, so always check the forecast.
  • Winter: From October to April, expect snow, ice, and reduced visibility. Roads can be slippery and some might even be impassable due to snow.
There is usually snow in Iceland in November

2. Choose the Right Vehicle

Your choice of vehicle should depend on the season and the regions you plan to visit.

  • Summer Driving: A standard car is usually sufficient for main roads and the Ring Road. However, if you plan to explore off the beaten paths or F-roads (mountain roads), a 4×4 is essential.
  • Winter Driving: A 4×4 is highly recommended. These vehicles are not only better suited for snowy and icy conditions, but they also provide higher clearance for rough terrain.

3. Rent from a Reputable Company

Choose a reputable rental company like Firefly Car Rental that offers a range of vehicles suitable for all conditions. Ensure the following:

  • Insurance: Opt for comprehensive insurance that covers gravel protection, sand and ash protection, and collision damage waiver.
  • Emergency Services: Check if the rental includes roadside assistance in case of an emergency.
  • Winter Equipment: Ensure the car comes equipped with necessary winter gear like studded tires (in winter), a scraper for ice, and possibly a shovel.
how to get the cheapest rental car in Iceland

4. Check Road Conditions Regularly

Iceland has an excellent resource in the form of the website Vegagerðin, the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, which provides real-time updates on road conditions and closures. Always check this before and during your trip.

  • Ring Road Self-Drive: While the Ring Road is well maintained, certain sections can still be challenging during bad weather. Regularly updating yourself with the latest road conditions is crucial.

5. Understand Local Driving Laws

Familiarize yourself with Icelandic driving laws. For example, headlights must be on at all times, seatbelts are mandatory for everyone in the vehicle, and off-road driving is illegal and heavily fined.

6. Plan Your Driving Time

Consider the length of your daily drives. Days in Iceland can be very short, especially in winter, with only a few hours of daylight. Plan your route so that you are not driving in the dark, and always allow more time than you think you’ll need, as you might encounter challenging driving conditions or want to stop for photos.

June is the perfect time for self-driving Iceland

Iceland Ring Road Map: Route +Top Attractions

Top Attractions Along the Ring Road: South Iceland

South coast of Iceland is one of the most popular places in the country to visit and chock full of incredible sights.

With such a dense concentration of sights to see, you’ll want to devote a good chunk of time to this area. These are some of the best attractions along the Ring Road in South Iceland.

  • Skogafoss waterfall: Skogafoss is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland and popular for a reason! You can actually see this waterfall from the Ring Road but it’s much more impressive up close.
  •  Vik: The southernmost town in Iceland, Vik is a quaint village perched right on a black sand beach. Pit stop at Black Crust Pizza for delicious, homemade sourdough pizza.
  • Seljalandsfoss waterfall: Seljalandsfoss is a stunning, 197’ waterfall but what makes it even more special is that you can actually walk behind it!
  • Reynisfjara Beach: Iceland’s most famous black sand beach, Reynisfjara is a fickle beauty. Be warned, sneaker waves have been known to drown unsuspecting visitors here!
  • Diamond Beach: Located right next to the Jokulsarlon lagoon, Diamond Beach is a black sand beach where chunks of the nearby glacier wash up on shore.
  • Eyjafjallajokull: As one of Iceland’s most famous volcanoes gaining worldwide fame after its eruption in 2010, you’ll want to make a pit stop to see the mighty Eyjafjallajokull.
  • Jokulsarlon: Jokulsarlon is a glacial lagoon, known for its floating icebergs and turquoise water. You can also take cruises through the icy water!
  • Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon: A stunning canyon that offers breathtaking views and photo opportunities.
  • Laugarvatn Fontana: Relax in these geothermal baths and enjoy the natural setting.
  • The Golden Circle: This popular tourist route includes three stunning locations:
    • Þingvellir National Park: A UNESCO World Heritage site, this park is steeped in geological and historical significance.
    • Geysir Geothermal Area: Witness the awe-inspiring eruptions of Strokkur, which spouts water up to 30 meters into the air.
    • Gullfoss Waterfall: One of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls, known for its majestic beauty and powerful flows.
  • Kerid Crater Lake: A volcanic crater lake with strikingly vivid blue waters set against red volcanic rock.
  • Hveragerði: Often called the ‘hot spring capital of the world’, offering numerous hiking trails leading to steaming vents and bubbling pools.
  • Secret Lagoon in Fludir: Enjoy a quieter, less commercialized hot spring experience in this nature baths.
the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon located in south Iceland

Top Attractions Along the Ring Road : East Iceland

East Iceland is a remote region of the country. This far flung coast sees few visitors, especially in the rugged Eastfjords, despite being located right on Route 1. Flip the script and add these stops in East Iceland to your Ring Road itinerary!

  • Vestrahorn Mountain: A jagged mountain, perched right on the ocean in East Iceland, Vestrahorn Mountain makes for a scenic stop. This is right next to the town of Hofn. Stop by the Stokksnes beach for the best views!
  •   Hofn: This tiny fishing village of less than 2,000 residents is a fun stop to see how Eastern Icelanders live. It’s also great for seafood!
  •   Svartifoss: Tucked inside the Skaftafell Nature Preserve, Svartifoss is a striking waterfall surrounded by black basalt rock formations.
  • Seydisfjordur: Located deep in the Eastfjords, Seydisfjordur is a funky, artistic enclave, hidden off the beaten tourist path. You might recognize its iconic Blue Church and rainbow road.
  • Hengifoss: One of the tallest waterfalls in Iceland, known for its striking red clay layers between basaltic layers.
  • Hallormsstadur National Forest: Experience one of Iceland’s few forests, great for hiking and nature walks.
the most famous mountain in East Iceland

Top Attractions Along the Ring Road: North Iceland

Home to the second largest city in Iceland, Akureyri, North Iceland gets its fair share of visitors! You’ll find tons of wonderful stops for your Ring Road adventures. These are the best things to do in North Iceland.

  • Akureyri: Akureyri is Iceland’s second largest town, tucked along a fjord and surrounded by mountains. Fun fact, Akureyri is just 62 miles south of the Arctic Circle!
  •  Dettifoss: Dettifoss is reportedly the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Don’t miss the chance to see this massive waterfall that stands 144’ tall and 100 meters wide.
  •  Husavik: Husavik is Iceland’s whale watching capital and tucked along a beautiful bay. Stopping here is the perfect opportunity to stretch your legs and see some whales!
  • Myvatn Thermal Baths: Although not quite as famous as the Blue Lagoon, the Myvatn Thermal Baths are possibly even more beautiful. Soak in these natural, milky blue hot springs surrounded by mountain views.
  • Godafoss: Also known as the ‘Waterfall of the Gods’, this is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland.
  • Asbyrgi Canyon: A horseshoe-shaped canyon believed to have been formed by a hoof-print of Odin’s horse, Sleipnir.
  • Ásbyrgi Canyon: Dive deeper into the mythology and beauty of Ásbyrgi, a place of serene beauty and a great spot for hiking and wildlife viewing.
  • Hljóðaklettar: Known for its unique volcanic rock formations that create echo sounds, this area offers distinctive landscapes and fascinating walks.
  • Lake Myvatn Area: Beyond the baths, the area around Lake Myvatn is rich with attractions including the surreal lava formations at Dimmuborgir and the vibrant colors of the Námaskarð geothermal area.
  • Siglufjörður: Once the centre of Iceland’s herring industry, this charming town in a narrow fjord offers museums and cozy eateries, perfect for learning about local history.
  • Whale Museum in Husavik: Enhance your whale watching experience with a visit to this museum that offers extensive insights into the lives of whales and Iceland’s maritime history.
  • Krafla Volcano Area: Near Lake Myvatn, this active volcanic area features the striking Víti crater and the Leirhnjúkur lava fields, both offering a glimpse into the powerful geothermal activity of the region.
the Icelandic summer waterfall in the north

Top Attractions Along the Ring Road : West Iceland

While the Ring Road only briefly skims along West Iceland, it does connect these remote corners of Iceland to the rest of the island.

For an added side journey, think about extending your trip to these oft-forgotten corners of Iceland. Both the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and Westfjords offer incredible beauty and a chance to see a side of Iceland that few other visitors get to.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula

  • Kirkjufell Mountain: One of the most photographed vistas in Iceland, a stop at Kirkjufell Mountain and Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall is a must when passing through the Snæfellsness Peninsula.
  • Snæfellsjökull: Snæfellsjokull is both a national park and a glacier-topped volcano. This volcano rose to fame when it was featured in the famous book, Journey to the Center of the Earth.
  • Budir Black Church: This traditional black church is surrounded by a scenic lava field, making for striking photos.
  •  Borgarnes: Pop into the tiny town of Borgarnes, also known as the “Gateway to the West”.
  • Arnarstapi: Another village offering beautiful cliffside views and a scenic walkway that leads to stunning natural arches and rugged coastline.
  • Djúpalónssandur Beach: A hauntingly beautiful black pebble beach, featuring historical lifting stones used by fishermen to test their strength.
  • Hellnar: An ancient fishing village that offers dramatic ocean views and a lovely café to relax in after a walk along the coast.
Kirkjufell Iceland

Westfjords

  • Dynjandi: There are tons of incredible waterfalls in Iceland but Dynjandi offers something a bit different. This multi-tiered waterfall is the largest waterfall in Western Iceland and leads into a series of other waterfalls.
  • Rauðisandur: Iceland might be known for its black sand beaches, but have you heard of the red sand beach? Rauðisandur is a unique and striking sight that’s a must stop in the Westfjords.
  • Hornstrandir Nature Preserve: An extremely remote and rugged nature preserve in the Westfjords, Hornstrandir offers some of the best hiking in Iceland.
  • Isafjordur: This remote town holds a famous music festival and boasts some of the most dramatic scenery in Iceland.
  • Látrabjarg Cliffs: Home to millions of seabirds, including puffins, these are some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe, offering spectacular views.
  • Drangsnes Hot Pots: Small, rustic geothermal hot tubs located right by the sea, perfect for a relaxing soak with a view.
  • Patreksfjordur: A quiet fishing village that serves as a great base for exploring nearby attractions like Látrabjarg and the Rauðasandur Beach.
the Dynjandi waterfall in Westfjord area Iceland

Conclusion

Ready to start planning your Ring Road adventure? Book your rental car through Firefly Iceland Car Rentals for an inexpensive and reliable option. You’ll find everything from 4WD to standard vehicles that are perfect for any trip around Iceland.

Cheapest rental car options

DUSTER

Dacia Duster or similar | Manual | 4×4 | 2020-2021 (CFMX)

Group E2 Reservations are made by car category only. We cannot guarantee a specific car model. or similar

  • 5 Passengers
  • 3 Large
  • 5 Doors
  • Manual
  • Airconditioning

Suitable for the highland F-roads. Please read Terms & Conditions.
You must be 23 years of age to drive this vehicle.

Additional Features
  • 4 Wheel Drive
  • 116 C02 g/km
  • Adjustable Steering
  • Electronic Stability Control
  • ABS
  • Power Steering
  • Power Windows
  • Remote Locking
  • Airbags
VW-GOLF

VW Golf or similar | Automatic | 2020-2021 Model (CDAX)

Group: B2 Reservations are made by car category only. We cannot guarantee a specific car model. or similar

  • 5 Passengers
  • 2 Large Bags
  • 5 Doors
  • Automatic
  • Airconditioning

This vehicle is NOT allowed in the highland F-roads.

You must be 20 years of age to drive this vehicle.

Additional Features
  • 1 Small Bag
  • 2 Large, 1 Small
  • 138 cc
  • Adjustable Steering
  • Cruise Control
  • Electronic Stability Control
  • ABS
  • Bluetooth
  • USB
  • Power Steering
  • Power Windows
  • Remote Locking
  • Airbags
  • Fog Lamps
VW-GOLF

VW Golf or similar | Manual | 2020-2021 Model (CDMX)

Group: B Reservations are made by car category only. We cannot guarantee a specific car model. or similar

  • 5 Passengers
  • 2 Large Bags
  • 4 Doors
  • Manual
  • Airconditioning

This vehicle is NOT allowed in the highland F-roads.

You must be 20 years of age to drive this vehicle.

Additional Features
  • 1 Small Bag
  • 2 Large, 1 Small
  • Front Wheel Drive
  • 125 C02 g/km
  • Adjustable Steering
  • ABS
  • Bluetooth
  • USB
  • Power Steering
  • Power Windows
  • Remote Locking
  • Airbags
  • Fog Lamps
TIGUAN

VW Tiguan or similar | Automatic | 4×4 | 2020-2021 Model (IFAX)

Group: OReservations are made by car category only. We cannot guarantee a specific car model. or similar

  • 5 Passengers
  • 3 Large
  • 5 Doors
  • Automatic
  • Airconditioning

Suitable for the highland F-roads. Please read Terms & Conditions.
You must be 23 years of age to drive this vehicle.

Additional Features
  • 4 Wheel Drive
  • Adjustable Steering
  • ABS
  • Bluetooth
  • USB
  • Power Steering
  • Power Windows
  • Remote Locking
  • Airbags
  • Fog Lamps
VW-POLO

VW Polo or similar| Manual | 2020-2021 Model (EDMX)

Group A Reservations are made by car category only. We cannot guarantee a specific car model. or similar

  • 5 Passengers
  • 2 Large
  • 5 Doors
  • Manual
  • Airconditioning

This vehicle is NOT allowed in the highland F-roads.

You must be 20 years of age to drive this vehicle.

Additional Features
  • Front Wheel Drive
  • 99 C02 g/km
  • Adjustable Steering
  • ABS
  • USB
  • Power Steering
  • Power Windows
  • Remote Locking
  • Airbags
  • Fog Lamps
  • Satelite Navigation
VW_UP

VW Up or similar | Manual | 2020-2021 Model (MBMX)

Group: Z Reservations are made by car category only. ,We cannot guarantee a specific car model. or similar

  • 4 Passengers
  • 1 Large
  • 4 Doors
  • Manual
  • Airconditioning

This vehicle is NOT allowed in the highland F-roads.

You must be 20 years of age to drive this vehicle.

Additional Features
  • Petrol or Diesel
  • Front Wheel Drive
  • 95 C02 g/km
  • Adjustable Steering
  • ABS
  • USB
  • Power Steering
  • Remote Locking
  • Fog Lamps