Iceland has exploded in popularity over the last decade or so. I will admit it wasn’t even on my radar when my boyfriend told me about it when we first met. After much discussion on how to afford it and how to make it a reality and some advice from a friend who went the year prior, we went on this trip. It was a life-changing and amazing trip around Iceland’s Ring Road and we wanted to share it with anyone who wanted to love this county as much as we do. Here you have our exact itinerary to help you while planning your trip.

You can all about how our trip went in the Travel Journal.

Godafoss Iceland

Before We Jump into this Ring Road Adventure:

Traveling in the Shoulder

We went in September. This is considered the “shoulder” season for tourism. This was great because it’s cheaper and less crowded than at peak travel times. You do risk some more extreme weather and the days get shorter as the winter draws closer. Due to the days getting shorter we went north first, clockwise around the island so we could have the most daylight possible. 

Get Gas OFTEN when traveling Iceland’s Ring Road

Stop for gas anytime you see a station pretty much, gas stations can be quite few and far between! The last thing you want is to run out of gas on some random country road with limited cell service. 3/4 full? Top it off anyway. Better to be safe than sorry. 

Affordable Rental

On the topic of gas, you need a car to put it in. There were a lot of rental car options. We went with, don’t let the name get ya, they aren’t sad, maybe just a little old, but the price was right. So give them a look if you don’t mind a ’04 instead of a new car. 

Yes, It’s Expensive

Iceland is EXPENSIVE. No really, I am from Southern California, I know what expensive is. Well, at least I thought I did! Iceland showed me the error in my ways. $42 for a small and personal pizza from Domino’s Pizza, yes, you read that right, Domino’s. We made the mistake of thinking it would be a cheaper option, it is cheap in the states. Basically, just double the cost of what would expect in Southern California and you might be in the ballpark. Expect the grocery stores. They were not so bad. I highly recommend if you want to keep your costs down to stop at a grocery store and stock up on drinks, snacks and staples you can use for meals. Limit your restaurant visiting a few special nights. We basically lived on sandwiches and skyr the whole trip.  

Headed to Reykjavik

Learning a little Icelandic

Icelandic is not an easy language to learn by any means. One very interesting thing about Icelandic is that it is one of the most unchanged languages in the world. The Icelanders are very strict with tradition so other than adding words as new technology and other advances are made there has been little change in 100s of years. Meaning Icelanders can read books written as far back as the Vikings with ease. Fortunately for travelers, the vast majority of Icelanders also speak English and do so well. It is not a bad idea however to familiarize yourself with some of the basics. They can help when reading signs and shopping at the store. I have gone ahead and included some of the helpful words we learned throughout this post to get you started.

This is NOT an itinerary of leisure

Lastly, if you didn’t read my post about how we travel, check it out. What you are about to read is a jam-packed trip with long days and good amounts of driving. 

Let Iceland’s Ring Road adventure begin!

Day 1 – Reykjanes Peninsula and the Blue Lagoon

Assuming you took the red-eye, which I wholeheartedly recommend, spend today exploring the Reykjanes Peninsula. Follow 45 to the 44/425 long way along the coast up to the Blue Lagoon.

First, stop at Garður Old Lighthouse for some coffee and a view.

Then along the road, you can stand between two continents, well continental plates rather, the plate boundary for the North American and Eurasian plates lies here. 

Continue along the road and find Hvalsneskirkja, a colorful little church. 

Hvalsneskirkja iceland

Learn Icelandic:
Kirkja means church!

Soon after the church, we came across a compass of sorts. Not sure what it is for but interesting nonetheless. 

Next stop at Valahnúkamöl, a beach with incredible views and the Reykjanes lighthouse before heading off for a quick stop in Grindavik, depending on your appointment time for the Blue Lagoon.

Book your spot for the Blue Lagoon well in advance. Yes, it’s a little touristy, but well worth it. You can read more about the blue lagoon here.

The Blue Lagoon Iceland
Just outside of the Blue Lagoon

Head to Reykjavik from there.

We stayed in AirBNBs for the majority of this trip, hotels aren’t as easy to find and when you do find them they are pretty pricey.

Why do we love Airbnb? head to this post for the answer.

Sunset in Reykjavik

Grab a bite in town then hit up the Bonús Grocery store for some staples, snacks, and skyr. 

Day 2 – Reykjavik to Akranes

Today begins the official adventure along Iceland’s Ring Road. First stop (after gas) Laugarvatn, which is a lake with geothermal heat at its banks. 

Laugarvatn along Icelands ring road

Stop on at the neat waterfall right off the road for a quick break and head to Glymur

This is the second-highest waterfall in Iceland. It’s a strenuous hike taking about an hour and a half to get to the top, across a log bride and some very steep and narrow paths. Wear good boots. It’s well worth the journey! Be warned there are no bathrooms though, it’s roughing it if you have to go. 


Spend the Night in Akranes, maybe grab a bite in town, if it’s within the budget. 

Day 3 – The West

Check out Akranes in the morning before heading to Deildartunguhver.

akranes iceland
Akranes Harbor

Start the day with a drive to Deildartunguhver. This thermal hot spring has the largest output of any hot spring in the world and is HOT, 212 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact! So don’t touch it. Don’t worry, there is a ton of orange cones and signs to remind you if the crazy steam coming from the ground wasn’t warning enough. This is the most powerful natural hot spring in the world.

Deildartunguhver icelands ring road

Up next is Reykholt, a tiny village about an hour and a half from Reykjavik right along Iceland’s ring road. It is a very charming little village. It was once home to Snorri Sturluson, who was one of the world’s greatest medieval writers. You are probably thinking: “Who is that?!” He isn’t well known out of the Nordic countries but thanks to him we know a lot more about medieval Europe. Check out the village and follow the trail in the back for a view from above. 

Reykholt Iceland

Once you have had a look around continue on to the Hraunfossar area, stop first at Hraunfossar the head up the path that leads up to Barnafoss. 

Learn Icelandic:
Foss at the end of a word tells you it is a waterfall

Barnafoss is one of the more famous waterfalls in Iceland. It means “children waterfall”. The name is based on a saga that took place at the falls. I will let you read the story for yourself when you visit. 

Glanni waterfall is just off the road on the way to Grábrók. It’s a nice short walk to the small falls. Great place for a leg stretch.

Make your way to Grábrókarhraun, the drive follows Holtavörðuheiði which is the traditional route btw the North and South. This was the first place we stopped that gave us a peek at how diverse and unique this country is it is a lava field with craters in it. You can walk the nice wood path up the edge of one of the craters, and around the fields. The colors here are so pretty and different. We went in the fall so the greens were fading to yellow and the earth has a red tone to it, so unique.

The last stop of the day is at Kolugljúfur which is a gorge that has many falls, I think there are paths to walk around on but we ended up behind schedule so we just stopped at the bridge where you could see some of the falls. Feel free to explore the area more if you have time. It was really nice. 

This area didn’t have much in the way of accommodations, we ended up at a little farm called Hvammur 2 outside of Laugarbakki, if you want to check it out, it was a nice place to stay, very welcoming. 

Day 4 – On To The North along Iceland’s Ring Road

Get some breakfast in you and head out to Blönduós for a look around maybe stop for a picnic at the rec area on the island in the Blanda river. On the way you will pass Vatnsskarð, it’s a small statue memorial for the poet Stephen G Stephensson. 

After lunch head to Víðimýrikirkja which is a turf church. One of six left in Iceland.

For some more turf fun, drive to Glaumbær which is a turf farm museum and the Víðimýri Church. As of 2019 is 1700isk (about 13.50 USD) per person (age 18+), under 18 is free. Here you will learn all about the turf buildings and their history. 

Find a place to sleep in Akureyri so you are ready to explore the town in the morning. 

Day 5 – The North

Get up a little early and explore Akureyri. Akureyri is located on Eyjafjörður, in the north of Iceland right along Iceland’s ring road. It is considered the “Capital of the North.” It’s not a huge town but there is plenty to see. Charming nordic buildings, parks, and even some life-size trolls. Take a stroll through the Botanical garden, there are some very unique flowers and fauna. Check out more about the Akureyri Botanical Garden here.


After have made your way around the Akureyri head out to Goðafoss. This iconic waterfall is a must-see for sure. You can spend about an hour on the walking paths.

Heading downstream you will hit Geitafoss. It’s a smaller brother to Goðafoss.

Learn Icelandic:
Goða means good and Geita means Goats.

Once the awe-struckness wears off, head up to Húsavík, it’s a small town on a bay. If you have the time it’s great for whale watching, but if not just grab a coffee and take in the view of the harbor. It’s an adorable little town. 


There isn’t a lot in the way Airbnb’s in the North, in the interest of saving money, I recommend the Hostel in Arbot. They have nice private rooms and a nice shared area, you can grab some food to make in the kitchen since there isn’t a lot of places to eat about the area.

Day 6 – Mývatn Area

This day is has a lot of stops and probably has the most diverse and unique places along Iceland’s ring road.

Start the day with a quick stop at Grjótagjá. It’s a small cave with a hot spring running through it. The room isn’t always stable so I wouldn’t hang out for too long unless you check first.

A short drive up the road takes you to Dimmuborgir where there are strange lava formations. You will spend about 2 hours walking the paths. It’s really neat.  

Dimmuborgir iceland

From there you will drive another short stint to Hverfjall, which is a cool crater you can climb. It is quite the climb, very steep.

Up next is Námafjall. We affectionally referred to it as Mars. The area is full of bubbling mud pools and steam vents. There are a bunch of walking paths and a mountain you can walk up. I will warn you that the area, especially the steam vents, the stink of sulfur, which if you don’t know smells like rotten eggs. 


Once you have seen enough bubbling pools and the smell of rotten eggs has gotten enough then drive to Krafla and Víti it’s a volcanic crater with water at the bottom. There is a path that leads around the area you can take a look around. Maybe you will come across the shower that is in the middle of nowhere. 

After head-on to check out the Mývatn area, especially the west side along Route 1. There is a Hike called Vindbelgur, it’s a steep hike up mountain, nice views at the top and will take about 2 hours if you have the time. 

After a long day of exploring and walking craters, the Mývatn Nature Baths is a great way to unwind. It is similar to the Blue Lagoon but still different enough to warrant a visit. I recommend heeding the warning about your jewelry at this on and taking it off, mine turned black! 

 Mývatn Nature Baths
Mývatn Nature Baths

After a relaxing soak head back to the Hostel in Arbot for one more night. 

Day 7- The North East

Start the day in Dettifoss, as you drive you will pass through Jökuldalur which is a long narrow valley with lots of waterfalls just off the road. 


There are 3 waterfalls in the Dettifoss area, park in the parking lot and walk the walking paths. Selfoss is smaller and downriver from Dettifoss. Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. You will hear its roar even before you see it. I might recommend a poncho or waterproof jacket when you are near it too, it’s misty. The third waterfall is up the river more, you can walk the paths up there if you have the time.

From there continue along Iceland’s ring road to Jökulsá á Dal/Jökulsá á Brú there is a viewpoint at the eastern end of the bridge. This is just a brief stop for a picture and to stretch, maybe have a snack.

Then drive to Hengifoss, there is a 2-hour difficult hike to the falls if you have the time and would like to do that or you can see the falls from the parking lot so if you’re crunched for time you can walk up the path a little and get a great view of it before heading off to Hallormsstaðarskógur.

Hengifoss icelands ring road

Hallormsstaðarskógur is a lake area surrounded by forest, while driving there you will pass Lögurinn or Lagarfljót on the way which is a Brown/Grey Glacial water lake believed to contain a monster. Stop and watch the sunset or wander the walking paths around the area.

Head to Seyðisfjörður for the night, I recommend Airbnb, we got a very cute house to stay in right in town.

Day 8 – The East

The East, like the rest of the island, is stunning. It is by far the least populated all of the stops for the day are brief and in very small towns.

Your day starts where you slept, in one of the biggest towns (which is still quite small) on the East, Seyðisfjörður. Spend an hour or so walking the town, grab a picture with the iconic rainbow-painted sidewalk and see the little houses that line the shallow water inlet.


On the way out of town, you will pass Gufufoss, a little waterfall on the side of the road. 

A Little Icelandic:
“gufu” means steam. 

Gufufoss Iceland

Depending on time you can decide how long you have to stop in the cities along the east on your way south. 

The first town is Egilsstaðir, on the way you will pass Reyðarfjörður, a US Naval base in WWII. There is a grocery store in town if you need to stock up on snacks or food. 

Drive to Stöðvarfjörður, on the way you will pass Fáskrúðsfjörður, a small fishing village. There is a parking lot just before the tunnel that is a good place to stretch legs. Fáskrúðsfjörður is a small town but so charming, I have this photo hanging on my wall in fact. 

Once you finish up in Stöðvarfjörður, drive to Djúpivogur. It’s another small town. I hear it’s good for bird watching. The most notable in this town is the artwork Eggin í Gledivík. It’s big rock eggs that represent the native birds of the island. 

The next stop is Hofn, it’s a good place to stop and stretch your legs. 

The last stop of the day is Jökulsrárlón. I recommend taking a zodiac tour, it’s a great way to see all of the icebergs. After the tour you can walk the beach across the way, icebergs wash up there often.  

Glacier in Iceland

Accommodations are slim-pickins in this part of the county, we opted to stay at the hostel in Vagnsstadir. The Hostel was overall nice, I would see if they have private rooms if you are traveling as a couple but for the price, for one night sharing a room with strangers wasn’t so bad. It was a quarter of the price of the hotels around.

Day 9-  On To The South along Iceland’s Ring Road

Rise and shine and head to Skaftafell National Park. Along the way, you will pass Vatnajökull which is Iceland’s largest glacier and Skeiðarársandur, a black sand desert.

You will likely spend the majority of the day at Skaftafell National Park depending on the hikes you choose. I would hike to Svartifoss it’s about 4kms round trip that leads to a waterfall with basalt columns. You can hike to Sjónarnípa which is a 6.5km round trip you will get a viewpoint of the glacier, it can be combined with Svartifoss by taking a turn at the 3rd signpost just before Svartifoss. I should note we skipped the second hike, but if you have the time I hear good things.

Svartifoss iceland

Another stop you can make if you have the time is Núpsstaður its a farm with turf houses and a church which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it may be closed to the public depending on when you go so I would check it out beforehand. 

A quick stop at Dverghamrar and Foss a Sidu is next up. Dverghamrar is dwarf crags and basalt formation and Foss a Sidu is a waterfall, they are right across the road from each other. Get a good look at Foss A Sidu from Dverghamrar.

iceland Dverghamrar looking at Foss a Sidu
Dverghamrar looking at Foss a Sidu

An hour or so up the road is Kirkjubæjarklaustur, check out Kirkjugólf. Its Basalt formations called “Church Floor” The basalt in the ground resembles tile, I assume that’s where the name comes from. 


Grab an Airbnb in Vik, the southernmost town in Iceland. Before checking in give the area a tour. It’s really beautiful. Up by the church, you can get a view of the water and the town. 

Day 10 – The South

The first stop of the day is Reynisfjara, a black sand beach in the South. It is a long beach lined with basalt column formations. As of the day of writing this I have read an article about parts of the beach being closed. You can see the beach either way so don’t be discouraged.

vik beach

After a stroll drive to Dyrhólaey which is a cliff that overlooks the Black Sand Beach. It is good for bird watching, look for puffins if it’s the right time of year. 

Vik Beach iceland

Head to Sólheimajökull, it’s a glacier tongue you can walk to if you want! South of this is the famous Sólhiemasandur plane wreck if you have time to check it out. An iconic stop on Iceland’s ring road.

Now explore Skógafoss. You will see the waterfall from the car park but there are lots of other waterfalls along the trail, it follows the river that leads to Skógafoss. I would plan a couple of hours here. 

Once you have seen what there is to see, drive to Seljalandsfoss. This is a tall waterfall that you can walk behind, if you have your trusty poncho, I would wear it there is a good amount of mist from the falls. There is a trail near the foot of the falls that will take you to a hidden waterfall called Gljufrabui. You have to kind of sneak along a creek between to rocks, it’s very cool inside. 


Hvolsvöllur is a cool little town to grab an Airbnb and it will put you closer to the golden circle for the next day. 

Day 11 – The Golden Circle

If you like to horseback ride, Hella is a great place to do so. The owner is very nice and the prices were reasonable, especially since it was a private ride! You will get great views of the whole area. 

After the ride head on to explore the famous Golden Circle. As touristy as this has become I don’t think a trip around Iceland’s ring road is complete without checking it out.


A lesser-known stop along the path is Kerið. It’s a crater with water at the bottom. As of this year, they charge a 400isk fee to get in, a nominal fee to maintain the area. A fun fact about this crater is that Bjork had a concert in it once!


Gullfoss isn’t too far up the road. This is probably one of the most visited waterfalls in Iceland, because of this it is the busiest you will visit. Luckily it’s so big that even with the crowds it’s easy to get a great view. 

Learn Icelandic:
Gull translates to “Golden

The next stop on the circle is Geysir. There are a few geysers in the area. Geysir is the largest but it rarely erupts whereas Stokkur geyser erupts every 5-10 minutes and is the most famous because of this.

Geysir iceland golden circle

Depending on the time you have Laugarvatn Fontana is on the path of the Golden Circle and is a geothermal hot spring spa similar but small than the blue lagoon.

Drive to Þingvellir National Park next. Take some time to explore the park it was once the site of the Viking parliament. It is also another place on the island where the North American and European plates meet. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

 Þingvellir National Park Iceland

Once you have explored head to Selfoss, you can grab some food, stop at the store and explore the town a little. If you are into chess you can stop to see the grave of Bobby Fisher. I recommend grabbing an Airbnb here.

Day 12 – Back to Reykjavik

The first stop of the day is Hveragerði Geothermal Park, There are a lot of hot springs here and a lot of geothermal activity. You can even boil an egg in the hot spring. It was closed when we went so double-check the hours before you go. 

After, head up to Reykjadalur, This takes up a good part of the day it’s about a 45-minute hike 1 way it will likely be about 4 hours total if you take a dip at the top. The air was freezing but the water was warm, bring dry clothes with you!


Have dinner at Saegreifinn (the Seabarron) for some delicious fresh fish kabobs and famous lobster soup. So good! Try the wolf fish it is on the menu while you are there.

Saegreifinn (the Seabarron)
Saegreifinn (the Seabarron)

Have a wander around town before your Northern Lights Tour, grab a cup of coffee for dessert if you like.

Book in advance a Northern Lights tour if you are going at the time of year to see them. I recommend this one. Our tour was rescheduled due to weather conditions to the next day so be aware that can happen, don’t put off the tour till you’re very last day.

Grab a central Airbnb or hotel in Reykjavik for the next two nights.

Day 13 – Exploring Reykjavik

Learn Icelandic:
“Reyk” means smokey and “Vík” means harbor. So Reykjavik means “smokey harbor”

Spend all of today exploring Reykjavik. There is plenty to see here. If you stay central and don’t mind a good amount of walking you can see all of these things on foot. 

Start the day at the Reykjavik Botanical Garden

Then head to the Perlan (The Pearl) for views from the observation deck and a cup of coffee if you desire. 

From there, head over to Hallgrímskirkja and have a look at the famous church. 


Wander the streets to the water’s edge and check out the Sun Voyager statue

Sun Voyager statue

Then take a peek at the Harpa a concert hall and conference center with very unique architecture. Maybe catch a show if you have time. 

Harpa Iceland

While wandering you may come across the Icelandic Phallological Museum, why there is a museum dedicated to male genitalia I do not know but if you would like a chuckle you can check it out. 

There is a great place for ice cream in the harbor and if you like Seabarron as much as we did you can visit again. Feel free to explore other dining options if you so choose.  

A small glimpse of the Northern Lights in iceland
A small glimpse of the Northern Lights

Other notable sites in the city that you can check out if you have time would be Reykjavik City Hall and Tjornin Pond, The Kolaportid Flea Market and Parliament

Head back to your Airbnb for a decent night’s sleep for a day of traveling the next day. 

Day 14 – Homeward Bound

Sadly all good things must come to an end, as does this trip around Iceland’s Ring Road. Use this day as a travel day, maybe you will have a later flight and be able to explore more of Reykjavik or if you got in later on day one head out towards the airport early and explore the Reykjanes Peninsula. 


Here is a handy map of all of the stops and the route.

This is a little video summary of our trip set to original music


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Any questions? Planning a trip? Already went? Let’s chat in the comments!

Show 32 Comments


  1. Kat Arriaga

    Your guide is very well thought out.It will be very useful to those heading that way!

  2. Cindy

    We have been to Iceland and adored it there. I could live there really. The people are so great and the food is fantastic. It looks lovely outside of winter. We were there in February.

  3. Your boyfriend is a wise man. I want to make my way there in the worst way! Very thorough and I’ll definitely read this again when I’m planning my trip.

  4. What a fantastic guide!! Good to know it’s so expensive and to plan for that. Your photos are amazing too! Love the double rainbow.

  5. Such an amazing trip. We like traveling on “shoulder” season too.

  6. Iceland is on our bucket list and I love this post. Your itinerary is very helpful, I will be saving this for future reference.

  7. Lisa Manderino

    Wow, I love Itineraries! You got to stay for a long time and were able to see and do so much! I would love to go and hike!

  8. kmf

    This is an awesome road trip itinerary! Will definitely reference it later!

  9. What an amazing adventure! I can’t wait to make it to Iceland and see all of the beauty and nature that you talk about. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I’m really bummed it’s so expensive by Iceland has been on my bucket list for years, but your blog was SUPER informative, so thank you! I will be saving it for my future trip!

    • It is a bummer it’s so expensive. But there are ways to cut costs for sure. Groceries are really reasonable so we just made breakfast and lunch with groceries and limited eating out to dinner. Though it’s good to have a few dinners on hand there was times we were in places with no where really to eat.

  11. Your photos are amazing. The scenery you visited is awe-inspiring. Iceland is definitely on my bucket list after reading this post.

  12. This is on my list. Thank you for the detailed post. I am excited to add some of these places to our itinerary.

    • Absolutely. I think I took like 6,000 pics in 2 weeks. And it was hard to narrow it down to the couple thousand I still have!

  13. $42 for a Domino’s pizza?!! Dang. Iceland looks beautiful. I’ve seen more people travel there lately. I can see why!

  14. This looks like an amazing trip! I would like to combine a Norway and Iceland trip!

  15. What an awesome adventure! We were inIceland in February and visited many of these places. It was something I will never forget!

  16. Wow! Your photos are stunning and make me want to visit as soon as possible!

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