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Driving in Iceland
6 January 2023

Our Top Ring Road Stops in Iceland

Giant iceberg at Diamond Beach in Iceland.
Giant iceberg at Diamond Beach in Iceland.

The Ring Road in Iceland

Did you know that there is a road that goes all the way around Iceland? Meaning you can start your trip in Reykjavik and by staying on that road you will end up right back from where you started.

This road is simply called the Ring Road in Iceland and goes, as the name suggests, around Iceland. Meaning you can drive to all parts of Iceland by following the same road and end your trip at the same place as from where you started.

The Ring Road in Iceland is marked road 1 and is the main road in Iceland. From start to finish it is about 1.300 km (807 mi).

This means that it would take approximately 15 hours to drive the entire Ring Road, if you could hold the speed of 90km/h for the whole drive. That is of course impossible and it would just be ridiculous to attempt such a drive. There are simply too many exciting stops on the way for anyone to just drive past them.

Let us take you on a trip around Iceland as we go over our favorite Ring Road stops in Iceland.

The South Coast of Iceland

Since the Ring Road goes around Iceland it doesn’t really matter in which direction you go. For our Iceland Ring Road itinerary we have decided to start the journey in Reykjavik and head south.

There is nothing like driving along the south coast of Iceland. It's like driving through a wonderful fantasy novel. There is something amazing to see in every direction. Including spectacular waterfalls, beautiful black sand beaches, volcanoes and glaciers.

But as you most likely have limited travel time, and you want to get around Iceland during your stay you need to pick out where to stop.

A beautiful view from behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall in Iceland.
It is possible to walk behind Seljalandsfoss Waterfall.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall

The first stop on our Iceland Ring Road itinerary is Seljalandsfoss waterfall. The waterfall is about 2 hours drive from Reykjavik, so it is a great first stop to stretch your legs. You can see Seljalandsfoss waterfall from the Ring Road so if you're coming from Reykjavik you simply make a left turn when you see it.

Once there you can walk up to the waterfall and behind it. There is a parking area where you can safely keep your rental car while checking out the waterfall.

This should not take much time and once you have gotten enough fresh air it's time to head back on the road. The next stop on the way is Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. Although you might want to stop at Skógarfoss waterfall if you are still in the mood for waterfalls.

Warning sign for the waves at Reynisfjara black sand beach.
Warning sign at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach.

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach is one of the most spectacular places in Iceland. It is by far the most popular black sand beach in Iceland and for a very good reason. There is amazing scenery which has made this black sand beach world famous.

Just be careful when visiting Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. It is as dangerous as it is beautiful. It is known for sneaker waves which can appear out of the blue and sweep people from their feet and into the sea. 

Our advice is to always keep a safe distance from the ocean while exploring the beach.

Green moss at Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon in Iceland.
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon in Iceland.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

As we keep driving on the Ring Road in Iceland, we come across our next destination in our rental car in Iceland, Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is among the most beautiful canyons in Iceland. Located right next to the town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur it is easy to reach from the Ring Road and there is a parking lot where drivers can safely park the rental car.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is known for its green moss-covered cliffs which can get up to 100 meters deep (330 ft.). It is truly one of the greatest sceneries found in Iceland.

Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon

Moving forward on our road trip around Iceland as we continue the Iceland Ring Road itinerary on our rental car. Next stop is Jökulsárlón, Glacier lagoon. An absolute must see in Iceland and should definitely be on every traveler's bucket list. 

Located within Vatnajökull National Park between the towns of Kirkjubæjarklaustur and Höfn, about 380 km (236 mi) from Reykjavik.

SEE ALSO: WHY YOU MUST VISIT VATNAJOKULL NATIONAL PARK

Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon sits just right by the Ring Road in Iceland. On one side of the road is the glacial lagoon where giant icebergs float in the clear blue glacier water. There you can watch from the shore or take guide tours on boats. 

On the other side is the amazing Diamond Beach, where crystal icebergs sit in the black sand beach.

It is the perfect stop for anyone traveling the Ring Road in Iceland. You can´t and should not miss it when in Iceland.

Glacier lagoon in Vatnajokull national park in Iceland.
Jökulsárlón, Glacier lagoon is a glacial lagoo in Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland.

Stuðlagil Canyon

Moving on to the east of Iceland and towards Stuðlagil Canyon. Stuðlagil Canyon is unique and looks like a magical painting. It is just unreal how beautiful it is. 

Stuðlagil Canyon is made from basalt pillar rocks which blend in with the blue and green glacier river in the bottom of the canyon. Displaying amazing natural wonder in various colors and shapes.

Stuðlagil Canyon is not visible from the Ring Road, but close enough to be on our list. From Road one you need to exit to Road 923 and drive about 20 km (12 mi) from the Ring Road.

Once there you can safely park your rental car at a parking area and head down to the canyon.

Stuðlagil Canyon might be far from Reykjavik, but it is certainly worth the trip and if you´re driving around Iceland it is a must see on that journey.

From Stuðlagil Canyon you can keep following the Ring Road and head to the town of Egilsstaðir, on the way you might see reindeers, as they live in the east part of Iceland.

Stuðlagil pillar rocks canyon in east iceland.
The magical bastal pillar rocks at Stuðlagil canyon in east Iceland.

Lake Mývatn

Once you leave the East of Iceland the next stop on our list is Lake Mývatn. Lake Mývatn is one of Iceland's largest lakes and one of the most interesting places as well. 

The Ring Road goes right by the lake and the area around it is full of fantastic sites which are easy to spot and visit.

The area is in many ways similar to Thingvellir National Park. It is a geothermal hot spot, and parts of it look like the surface of another planet. There is a hot spring called Mývatn Nature Baths. It is like a smaller and more exclusive version of the Blue Lagoon.

It is also near Dettifoss, Iceland's most powerful waterfall, and other interesting natural wonders.

Akureyri - The Capital of the North

No Ring Road trip in Iceland would be completed without visiting the town of Akureyri. Akureyri is the largest city in Iceland outside of the capital area in Reykjavik and is called the capital of the North in Iceland.

It is a culture center where visitors can enjoy a great restaurant scene as well as active nightlife and other cultural activities.

This is the only place on our list which is not a natural wonder. That however, does not mean you can´t enjoy nature there. Quite the opposite. From Akureyri you can go on some of the best whale watching tours in Iceland.

It is also home to the best skiing area in Iceland. So, whether you visit during summer or winter, you can be sure to find something interesting and to your liking in Akureyri, all year round.  

Akureyri is about 380 km (235 mi) from Reykjavik, making it a perfect place to start or end your round trip in Iceland on the Ring Road.

Hot springs at Geothermal area near Lake Myvatn.
The Nature Baths in the geothermal hot springs area near Lake Myvatn.

Road Conditions on the Ring Road in Iceland

The Ring Road is almost all paved roads with tarmac. Only a small part about 33 km (20 mi) in the East of Iceland is still gravel. It is planned to finish putting tarmac on the entire Ring Road within the next few years.

Most of the Ring Road in Iceland is therefore a two-lane road, apart from a few single lane bridges. There are 33 single lane bridges still on the Ring Road in Iceland. The Icelandic Road Administration is in the process of limiting single lane bridges on the Ring Road.

The Ring Road is open throughout the year, with a few exceptions in extreme weather conditions during winter.

So, if you´re traveling on a budget and want to enjoy the midnight sun in Iceland while driving on the Ring Road in Iceland you can easily select a rental car such as a Toyota Yaris

But if you plan on winter driving we recommend a 4x4 such as the Jeep Compass or bigger. Especially if you plan on hunting for the Northern Lights in Iceland.  

SEE ALSO: HUNT FOR THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN SNAEFELLSNES PENINSULA

The center of Akureyri, capital of the North in Iceland.
The center of Akureyri, capital of the North in Iceland.

Other Sites Worth Visiting in Iceland

Driving in Iceland is a lot of fun. Renting a car in Iceland is easy and with the rental car travelers have the freedom to explore our beautiful island. But where to go? What do I need to see in Iceland?

There is no lack of interesting places in Iceland. In fact, there are so many amazing sites all over Iceland, that it's almost impossible to see them all in one trip.

SEE ALSO: DRIVING IN ICELAND – ALL OUT SELF-DRIVE GUIDANCE

These are just our top Ring Road stops in Iceland. There are plenty of other places and wonderful sites found when driving on the Ring Road in Iceland which we did not mention.

There are also many other interesting places outside the Ring Road in Iceland. For example, the Golden Circle, Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Westfjords and more. All of them are great for a rental car road trip in Iceland. 

To get the most out of your trip in Iceland it is important to organize. Iceland is a big island and getting from one natural wonder to the next can take time. We recommend using Google Maps to map out your Iceland Ring Road itinerary for your perfect self drive tour in Iceland. 

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