Are you trying to find out how to plan a road trip to Iceland? For me, it was quite tricky, until I got the hang of it and planned our Iceland Ring Road Road trip. Lucky for you I created this Iceland itinerary that includes Iceland’s main attractions and sites but also some places that are more off the beaten path. Furthermore, you will find some helpful tips for packing and restaurant and hotel recommendations. Sounds like a lot? Oh yes, it is! But spending time in Iceland is worth every single second. This country with its vast, endless landscapes, its clash of ice and fire, and blooming liveliness swept me off my feet.
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When to come to Iceland?
It certainly depends! If you want to see the northern lights, you will have to come during the dark months. But this was not what I went for, as I wanted to experience Icelandic summer! You have to know that summers in Iceland come with up to 20 hours of sunlight per day! If you are interested in photography this means you get so many hours to take pictures per day, it is insane!
Each season has its perks in Iceland, make sure to do some research beforehand! In summer, you will have more sunlight. Therefore you will see the Lupine’s blossom and you might see puffins when returning to the nest. During winter you might be able to see the Northern lights and have snow. So it is just sorting out what you want to see!
How much time to spend in Iceland?
Iceland is a huge country with countless places and things to explore! So of course, the more time you spend there, the more time you have to see and explore things. The minimum you should plan for Iceland I think is a whole week. This way you get to see the Golden Circle, drive the Ring Road, and have a little extra time on your hands to do some activities!
However, this week was still a bit hectic and we had to drive for long periods to make it. So the more time you have on your hands to explore Iceland, the better!
How to pack for Iceland?
How you pack for Iceland depends heavily on when you are in Iceland. Of course, for winter you have to pack warmer clothing and shoes than for summer. But even if you travel to Iceland during the summer months, keep in mind that you can’t expect a warm summer vacation. I found myself quite warm during the day wearing a shirt, a sweater, and a raincoat. Before my departure, I invested in some heavier boots. These are a MUST for Iceland. Sneakers certainly won’t do the trick all the time and might just get ruined.
How do I best plan my Iceland itinerary?
How you want to spend your time in Iceland, depends on what you want to see. If you prefer to hike, there are plenty of hikes to do in Iceland for all levels of fitness. If you are more on the photography side of life, there are countless lovely spots in Iceland to see and capture.
This blog post will cover a drive on the Ring Road. The Ring Road is the road that will take you around Iceland. However, you don’t have to embark on this journey on your first day, as you can also fill in more activities around Reykjavík first!
Day 1 – The Golden Circle, Some Breathtaking Waterfalls and an Iconic Planewreck
As we arrived from Germany to Iceland late at night the day before, we booked a stay in a hotel, close to the airport where we just fell asleep straight away. That meant we could start fresh into our Iceland itinerary, having the whole day before us. We started with an activity that has to be on every single Iceland itinerary and then embarked on the Iceland road trip of our dreams!
The Golden Circle is a conglomerate of famous sights in Iceland. They are all located close next to each other, making it perfect for first-time visitors to get a first impression of Iceland’s beauty. The Golden Circle consists of Thingvellir National Park, The Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss Waterfall, and Kerid. The whole Golden Circle can be seen within a day but if you want, you can spend much more time there.
I don’t think that there is a waterfall in Iceland that I saw more often on Social Media than the Skógafoss! And it deserves to be number one! It is simply breathtaking, especially during Lupine season. If you want to take pictures here, make sure to come later in the day to avoid the crowds.
Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
The South of Iceland is crowded with some of the most Instagrammable places in the country! One place where all the photographers flock is the iconic Solheimasandur Plane Wreck. Going there is an adventure on its own. I heavily recommend reading more about going on your own in advance, as reaching it can be tricky! But once you get there, the journey will be worth it!
Your Stay for the Night: Hótel Dyrhólaey
After a full day of Icelandic adventures, it is time to snuggle up! At Hótel Dyrhólaey you will find cozy and spacious rooms, as well as a nice restaurant to have dinner at.
Day 2 – Black Sand Beach Reynisfjara, Vík í Mýrdal, Fjaðrárgljúfur, Jökulsárlón, Diamond Beach
Having slept at Hótel Dyrhólaey, we had a breakfast buffet included, and anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE breakfast buffets. We started the day with coffee, orange juice, and herring and it was so amazing! Then it was time to explore Iceland!
Black Sand Beach Reynisfjara | 10-minute drive from the Hotel
The first stop on our list for the day is Reynisfjara Beach! Before I gush about the wild beauty of this beach and its wild stone formations, I first want to warn you about it. When visiting Reynisfjara beach, you should keep in mind that it is one of the most dangerous beaches in Iceland, if not the most dangerous. The problem with it is that the waves have a very strong current so that once they get a grip on you, there is no getting back to safe land again. That’s why you need to stay away from the waterline as far as possible to stay safe there.
However danger aside, Reynisfjara Beach is one of the most impressive places you come across ever. The black sand is breathtaking, especially with the basalt pillars on the side. If you watch closely you will see puffins nesting and flying around when it is their season. It is also especially beautiful during sunset time!
Vík í Mýrdal | 10-minute drive
If you need to fuel up and stock on up food, have a little stop in Vík! It does not only come with a picturesque chapel but also with all the important stores that you need to prep for the next few days. I am talking snacks and Icelandic souvenirs! Here you can get the Icelandic sweaters, mittens, and hats of your dreams, all made from wool from Icelandic sheep. But also you get lava salt and Viking accessories. I took home a book filled with Icelandic fairytales and I loved reading them during the trip!
After leaving the town, you follow the main road for a while. During summer time this road is lined with Lupines that are turning the fields next to the road into a blooming dream. It is perfect to stop for a few pictures there because of how incredible it is.
Fjaðrárgljúfur | 50-minute drive
The next stop on the list for the day is a viewpoint. And what a viewpoint it is! Fjaðrárgljúfur is a canyon where a small stream of water carved its way through the mountain for quite a long while. Now we can admire this place nowadays. Furthermore, I liked it because after driving for so long it was super nice to walk for a bit until you reach the best viewpoints.
Also, I might sound annoying but please be aware here. There is one particular shot where people like to sit to take pictures for Instagram. However, this place is not safe and also now blocked by a fence. Yet people still climb the fence to get the shot. In all honesty, risking your safety is not worth any shot even if it is in your opinion the perfect shot. Please stay safe!
Jökulsárlón | 1 hour and 45-minute drive
After Fjaðrárgljúfur, we now embark on our two last stops of the day and they are two really impressive ones! Jökulsárlón is a bay, in which chunks of glaciers fall. The glaciers then get swept out of the bay into the ocean by the current that is in there. For those who would like to take a closer look, there are boat tours available for you to check up on the glaciers’ chunks upfront. We just stayed on safe ground, admiring the view of these light blue wonders. And while sitting there we were able to spot a group of seals just casually hanging out! That’s what I love about places like Iceland. You can spot wildlife from afar and see these beautiful animals in their conditions!
Diamond Beach | 10-minute walk
Almost directly next to Jökulsárlón you will also find the one spot that you saw before on Instagram. Diamond Beach is a black beach where parts of the chunks that come from Jökulsárlón get swept on. These pieces look like diamonds and when you search on social networks, the beach simply looks amazing. However, I felt a little bit underwhelmed. Maybe my expectations were set too high because of the previous exposure I had on the beach but I just didn’t feel it. The ice was so small and didn’t look that nice to me.
Time to rest: Dining & Sleeping in Höfn | 1 hour drive
After a long day of road-tripping, we were looking forward to a warm dinner and a cozy place to sleep. Both of them are in Höfn! Höfn is a small town by the sea in the South of Iceland and makes for a pretty great place to stay at this point of your road trip. It has amazing restaurants and a few nice places to stay in. We opted for something simple, yet charming. Our cabin at Höfn Cottages was small and cozy and perfect for hosting us two road-trippers for a night. After settling in we went for a lovely dinner at the Pakkhus, where we had Icelandic lamb, which was simply delicious!
Day 3 – Sea Viewpoint, Skútafoss, Nykurhylsfoss, Klifbrekku Waterfall, Haifoss, Seydisfjordur
On day number 3 of this epic you will wake up in Höfn and chase the most epic waterfalls. After that, you will have an early dinner in a charming seaside village! Then you go to bed after a session in a hot tub with your only neighbors being a few horses!
Sea Viewpoint | 12-minute drive
One of the things I love the most is to have a coffee with a view! This morning we had ours with the most fabulous one. Only an 8-minute drive away from Höfn you will find a sea viewpoint, which is the ideal spot for having your breakfast and coffee to go!
Skútafoss | 12-minute drive
On trips you spend driving around I am always grateful for an opportunity to walk a few steps. We seized it by taking a little walk to Skútafoss, which is a small waterfall close to the Sea Viewpoint. While Skútafoss itself is not the most impressive waterfall you will find on this itinerary, it still serves as a reminder right here. The reminder here is that especially in Iceland, you should always take some time to wander off the beaten tracks. Take your time to appreciate the little wonders of Iceland as much as the huge ones!
Nykurhylsfoss | 1 hour and 20-minute drive
I tell you, day 3 of this Iceland itinerary is the day of the waterfall! After driving through the most breathtaking fjords you can imagine, the next waterfall is right there waiting for you! Make sure to bring a little bit of courage when driving to the parking lot, because the hill you have to drive up is quite steep. The waterfall itself though is super impressive because of how powerful it is. You actually can’t really talk when being near it, because it is just so loud. Also bring your best raincoat, because the water here is not only going down!
Klifbrekku Waterfall | 2-hour drive
Driving from Nykurhylsfoss to the next waterfall will be one of the most scenic drives in your entire life. It feels almost bad not to include it as one of the highlights of this Iceland Itinerary. However for now it will only be the drive in between two very breathtaking waterfalls. Klifbrekku is another underrated waterfall and probably my favorite one in Iceland! Driving there is quite the adventure when you choose the cheapest car available, however, we did make it without any problems, only a bit of concern.
Haífoss & Gufufoss | 55-minute drive
The next two waterfalls not to miss when traveling Iceland are already on the way to your lunch place. And perfectly accessible, even when you don’t bring a lot of courage behind the stirring wheel!
Seydisfjordur | 5-minute drive
The cute little fishermen’s village isn’t only a great place to have lunch/early dinner but also comes with a few hotels and a supermarket, which makes it a great spot for staying the night. We only stopped for a short while, strolling the few streets and enjoying the rainbow road! Finally, we had our lunch in the El Grillo Bar before getting the groceries for a small dinner at our accommodation which made our next and final stop.
Cosy Cottage-Álfabakki-with hot tub | 50-minute drive
As we wanted to start the next day’s drive already being closer to all the sights of the day, we decided to drive a bit further still and book the Cosy Cottage-Álfabakki-with hot tub; it was the best decision! Our only company was a bunch of friendly horses which even had a newborn with them. We snuggled up and spent the rest of the evening watching Netflix before going to bed happy, while still having the sound of waterfalls in our ears and hearts.
Day 4 – Hochebene, Dettifoss, Myvatn, Goðafoss, Dinner in Húsavík im Naustið
Get ready for one of the most impressive days of this itinerary! You will start driving up to one of the most surreal places ever, which reminded me of how the moon or Mars is portrayed in movies, see the mightiest waterfall in Europe, experience volcanic activity firsthand, and have dinner at the coziest place you can imagine!
Driving Route 1 | 1 hour 45-minute drive
The first stop of the day is once again a waterfall (that’s just what you get in Iceland) but what a drive it is to get there! You will start driving up and with every meter upwards, the landscape will shift more and more. It will become almost otherworldly and even more breathtaking. Plants cease to grow there and when we got up, we were inside of a cloud. It was so surreal and almost ethereal.
The landscape doesn’t change much until then, but sooner or later you will arrive to your next stop, which is the mighty Dettifoss. This one is the most powerful waterfall in Europe and incredibly breathtaking. For those who are worried about it: right here you will also find a nice public toilet, as the waterfall is quite a popular spot for tourist buses. It gave me a relieving moment. We took our time and wandered around the Dettifoss for a little while. There are a few nice paths to follow, so just make sure to stay on them.
Hverir & Myvatn | 35-minute drive
The next place is as much other-worldly as the route you took to get there. Hverir is a geothermal spot, which is famous for its bubbly springs of hot water. And by hot I mean boiling, so make sure to not come too close to it when visiting this place. The entire area puts into perspective that Iceland is every day made and shaped by volcanic activity. And in Hverir and Myvatn, you will feel this first hand. Well and in Hverir you will also smell it when you come too close to the steam of the pools.
Myvatn is only a very short drive from Hverir but worth spending a while here. The landscape is so lush and green, it was wonderful to see how broad the variety of the impact of volcanic activity can be. In Hverir you have boiling water in an area that seems so sparse of life and just a few kilometers away, you have a paradise like Myvatn. Right here we went for another long walk, which was very delightful and not to be missed!
Goðafoss | 35-minute drive
I will never not be amazed by waterfalls but this one, I enjoyed a lot! You can see Goðafoss from above and below and I love this change of perspective and the waterfall in general. Also if you didn’t get Icelandic gifts for your loved ones yet, the gift shop that is directly next to the waterfall has an amazing collection! My highlight is the black lava salt, which I love to use for all of my pasta dishes!
Accommodation & and dinner in Húsavík at the Naustið | 40-minute drive
Now that was a long day, wasn’t it? After all the driving, we snuggled in and had something warm to eat. The place to stay for the night was the Guesthouse Hagi; it was undoubtedly one of my favorites during that stay! The tiny house is located directly next to a small river, making it incredibly serene and peaceful to stay in! The small porch was inviting me to do a little yoga exercise and I couldn’t wait to have my coffee right here the next morning. But before falling asleep, we still had some hungry bellies to fill. We had our dinner in the Naustið, which is a lovely fish restaurant in the town of Húsavík. Everything we had and tried there was simply delicious and made us long for more ocean experiences (small hint for tomorrow’s activity here!)
Day 5 – Puffin & Whale Watching Tour, Scenic Drive
Let’s get ready for an epic day! For this day we packed our warmest clothes and medicine for motion sickness because we finally went for an experience we couldn’t wait for: Whale watching in Húsavík! Apart from this, you will also have one of the most scenic drives in your life ahead of you before!
Puffin & Whale Watching Tour
Although Icelands’ history with whales is not the brightest, it remains an amazing place to observe these magnificent creatures up close. During summer months, it is almost guaranteed that you will see a whale or two in Iceland if not from a boat then from the shore (we did see more of them later in the day!), and going on a whale-watching tour can be the highlight of your trip!
We decided to go on one split into two phases: you start with a short drive towards a small islet that harbors an enormous colony of Puffins during the summer months! As we are both totally in love with these cute chunky fellas, this was non-negotiable for us and we are super excited to see them in their natural habitat.
After observing the Puffins for a while, you will turn around and venture more into the fjord of Húsavík. With the crew, you will observe the waters for a whale to appear! You will even see them hunting and jumping out of the water when they are playful on good days. We were a tiny bit unlucky, as there was a storm the day before we had our tour, so most of the whales left the fjord. Anyway, seeing even only one whale that close made more than up for it!
Scenic Drive | 4h 10 minutes
After getting back on solid ground, we jumped into our car and returned to the road! Our next apartment is in Blönduós, which isn’t that long of a drive when you check it on the Maps. However, we decided to take the longer more scenic route and I recommend you do the same. Driving along the beautiful landscapes and cliffs is an underrated highlight of Iceland. My best advice here would be to buy some cinnamon rolls at the bakery in Húsavík and plan a stop at Héðinsfjörður for your little afternoon snack. I don’t think I ever had a cinnamon roll with a better view!
Blönduós & Harbour Restaurant & Bar
Once we arrived in the town called Blönduós, we settled into our apartment for the night. The Kiljan Apartment is a clean and comfortable place to stay the night for a good price, so it was exactly what we were looking for! For dinner, we drove a little bit to the Harbour Restaurant and enjoyed it a lot! Afterward, we went to bed, as we were both quite tired from the anti-motion sickness medicine.
Day 6: Hvitserkur, Koluglju, Gerdberg Cliffs, Kirkjufellsfoss & the best sushi in Iceland
The next is also filled with breathtaking landscapes, ocean views, and one or two beautiful waterfalls. At the end of this day, you will be on the Eastern side of Iceland and fall asleep in a cozy room, your belly filled with the best food, I found in Iceland!
Hvitserkur | 1 hour drive
The first stop of the day is one very famous rock! People argue here whether this rock resembles a dinosaur, a rhinoceros, or an elephant, so that is something you have to decide for yourself. I would go with a dinosaur though. And while I think this place is worth a visit to see because of the rock, I fell much more in love with that breathtaking ocean and beach view.
Kolugljúfur Canyon | 40-minute drive
One wonderful canyon with a stunning waterfall to see! Kolugljúfur Canyon is an amazing stop for snacks and a little sightseeing and climbing action on your way to the East side of Iceland.
Gerðuberg Cliffs | 2-hour drive
Basalt pillars never fail to amaze me! There is just something about them and if you want to see some really impressive ones, make sure to plan a stop at the Gerðuberg Cliffs. We went for a walk right there and were amazed by them!
Kirkjufellsfoss | 50-minute
Are you ready for the last waterfall on this itinerary? Don’t get sad, you still have a lot to discover in Iceland, but this is the last waterfall. It isn’t as huge as other ones on this Iceland itinerary but I loved it anyway because of the scenery and surrounding landscape.
Gamla Riff & Viðvík Restaurant
After Kirkjufellsfoss it is already time to check into the hotel of the night. Gamla Rif is an amazing lovely guest house with rooms that invite you to snuggle up and get cozy. It comes with a shared bathroom which we didn’t mind at all because it was very clean and neat. As the days before we just had a quick pit stop here before looking for a place to have dinner for the evening and let me tell you: we found an amazing place! The Viðvík is a wonderful and stylish place that comes with an extraordinary menu. As starters, we shared a grilled salad, which swept me off my feet! Our main dish was what I like to call „the best sushi in Iceland“ and sometimes, I still dream about it.
Day 7: Drive to Reykjavík & Snorkeling in Silfra
On this last full day of our itinerary, we still had a lot of driving to do but if you want to, you can fill this drive by stopping at some less traveled roads. However, if you are tired of endless waterfall chasing and hiking, you can also use the first half of the day to explore the city of Reykjavík! We opted for the first thing, although it meant missing out on Iceland’s capital. The afternoon of Day 7 will be filled with the most epic adventure in any case.
Snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure | 1-hour drive
When you think of clear water, the first thing that comes to mind is probably some remote tropical destination and small colorful fishes surrounding you. However, did you know that some of the clearest water in the world is in Iceland? The Silfra Fissure is crystal clear because it gets filtered by dozens of layers of sediments before it gets into the fissure. And you can experience it first hand!
The day when we went we simply had to arrive in warm and dry clothing, with a spare set of clothing at our disposal. The snorkel session starts with you getting into a dry suit which is already a workout in itself. This suit is meant to be airtight so theoretically, it doesn’t let any water touch your body. That is quite comfortable since the water is quite cold. In the end, most of the suits do leak a bit, but I thought it was tolerable. Once you are in the suit, you get to try out your best penguin-like walk before getting into the water.
The clarity of the water is incredibly breathtaking and you can see so far and deep, it is wonderful to see. Due to a gentle stream, you get carried through the water and have nothing to do but just gently float your way through the fissure until it is time to exit it again. You also don’t have to swim or anything because the suit carries you and you just float like a cork.
Your place for the night will be a lovely little hotel called the Motel Arctic Wind, which is already close to your next and final destination on this trip, so the drive at the end of the day will be worth it.
Day 8: Unwinding in the Blue Lagoon & Heading Home
The last thing on this itinerary is the Blue Lagoon. As one of the fanciest spa experiences I ever experienced, it belongs to my favorite memories of my road trip to Iceland. There you bathe in light blue water which gets drawn through geothermal extraction wells. The water is getting its light blue color from algae which also comes with great benefits for your health. When booking you can choose between 3 packages of experiences and all of them come with these great face masks made of the mud of the lagoon and drinks. It was perfect, to put the Blue Lagoon at the end of our itinerary to wind down after driving for 7 days. We stayed there for 4 hours before heading to the airport and it was amazing!
After visiting the Blue Lagoon, it is time to say goodbye to Iceland! Of course, we couldn’t see and experience everything that Iceland has to offer in only one week but I did my best to fill this Iceland itinerary with as many things as possible! I would love you to let me know in the comments what place in Iceland you find the most interesting!