8-Day Road Trip Itinerary around Iceland's Ring Road
Road Trip Travel
Snorkeling between tectonic plates, hiking behind powerful waterfalls and relaxing in a natural hot spring. These are just a few of the abundant activities you'll find while exploring Europe's youngest island: Iceland. If you're looking for an adventure that is otherworldly, look no further than a 8-day road trip around the country's Ring Road.
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Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon
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As remote and luxurious as it gets in northern Iceland’s Troll Peninsula, this wellness- and nature-focused stay offers everything from heli-skiing to astro-touring.
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Day 1: Arrival day
Soaking at the Blue Lagoon
Arrive in Reykjavik and go straight to the Blue Lagoon after picking up your rental car from the airport — remember to pack your bathing suit in your carry-on for ease of access! Located about 25 minutes from the airport, the Blue Lagoon sits amidst a dramatic setting of black lava boulders. The creamy-blue pool area is a striking and surreal sight. After soaking in this famous lagoon, head into the city center to check into your hotel and then explore the capital of Iceland.
The town is mostly walkable, so put on your good sneakers, grab a delicious coffee from Kaktus Espressobar and then visit the austere Hallgrimskirkja Church, with its distinctive stepped-slope facade, before you venture down Laugavegur Road to snag a wool sweater — the first of many local souvenirs. For dinner, dine at the delectable Dill Restaurant, the first venue in Iceland to win a coveted Michelin star, featuring new Nordic cuisine with an outstanding selection of champagnes and wines. Jet lag is likely creeping in by this point, but should you muster the energy, venture to Tides in the EDITION hotel for an expertly made nightcap.
Day 2: Snorkeling between tectonic plates
Depart Reykjavik and drive an hour to the Silfra Fissure. In this section of the river in Þingvellir National Park, you can snorkel — and scuba dive, should you be so inclined —down into this crack in the Earth. You have to go with a tour operator, such as Iceland Adventure Tours or Adventure Vikings, as entry into the fissure is tracked and can be dangerous. The water is a cold 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but the dry suit we had on during our snorkeling adventure kept us surprisingly warm!
From here, it’s another 50 minutes to lunch at Friðheimar, a tomato farm that doubles as a restaurant. You’ll only find tomato-themed items on the menu, like the wonderfully simple tomato soup to tomato beer, but dining in this greenhouse is an experience. Make sure you book well in advance on their website.
Chasing Waterfalls in Iceland (Part 1)
After stuffing yourselves on all-things-tomatoes, drive another 30 minutes to the iconic Gullfoss Falls. This dramatic two-tier waterfall, whose name translates to "Golden Falls," a reference to the shimmering mist that sometimes appears around the falls, is one of Iceland’s most famous — which is saying something in a country abundant with waterfalls.
As you continue East to Vik, your resting place for tonight, stop at Skogafoss and Kvernufoss. The former has a hiking trail past the waterfall called “Waterfall Way” because it goes up past additional waterfalls upstream that feed into Skogafoss. The latter is a lesser known waterfall right near Skogafoss with fewer people and you can walk underneath the water on the backside. Be sure to bring your rain pants and rain jacket for this one!
For dinner that evening, dine at Sudur Vik, a cozy bistro serving up salads, sandwiches, and daily specials, like a vegetarian yellow curry.
Day 3: Scouting Game of Thrones Filming Locations
Spend some time in the morning exploring nearby sites, including Black Sand beach, Reynisfjara, which offers striking basalt columns and lava formations to admire, and Dyrholaey, a beautiful park with hiking trails up to an old lighthouse on the cliffs where you can see puffins nesting below you and a view out to a dramatic sea arch.
Before you continue East on the Ring Road, be sure to get coffee at Skool Beans, Iceland's first micro roaster & tea lab coffee bus. About an hour into the drive, visit Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. A two-mile, loop trail allows visitors to take in gorgeous vistas of the Canyon. If you go to the right at the bottom of the path, you’ll get the best views of the craggy landscape.
Touring Iceland's Glaciers Up Close
Next up is a visit to Jökulsárlón Glacier, a highlight for many Ring Road travelers. Take a 1-hour Zodiac Boat Tour with Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Zodiac Boat Tour, then venture across the highway to Diamond Beach, where there are smaller glacier pieces you can walk up to and touch — just be careful of the incoming waves. Catching the sunrise or sunset at either of these locales cannot be beat.
Backtrack slightly to stay at the Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon and enjoy dinner at their restaurant before calling it a night.
Day 4: Road Tripping the Rugged Eastern Coast
Today is an adventure with a scenic ride, and perhaps some hairpin mountain turns, to Egilsstaðir. Stop in Hofn first to refuel, then continue North to Hvalnes, a beautiful nature reserve with vast black sand beaches, rocky coves, beautiful mountains and ocean views.
From there, it's a choose your own adventure day. If you want to reenact Walter Mitty's epic longboard scene from the movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, then head to Seyðisfjörður, one of Iceland’s most picturesque villages. Grab lunch here at Kaffi Lara El Grillo, Hótel Aldan or Skaftfell Bistro.
If you prefer to stretch your legs, visit the Hallormsstaður National Forest and do a 4-mile hike with vistas of Lake Lagarfljót.
If you're in the mood for relaxation, soak at the Vök Baths, home to floating infinity pools just outside Egilsstaðir. If you're game, try jumping into the natural lake for a crisp polar plunge!
Stay in the town of Egilsstaðir for the night (Hotel 1001 Nott is a wonderful option) and rest up for a big day tomorrow.
Day 5: Chasing Waterfalls and Snowmobiling on a Glacier
Chasing Waterfalls in Iceland (Part 2)
Wake up this morning and drive two hours West to Dettifoss. This is Europe’s most powerful waterfall. It's loud and it’s unlikely that you'll see the bottom, as mist is constantly thrown up in the air from the force of the fall. This is a place to reflect on the uncontrollable power of nature and when you’re ready for something a little less intense, walk along the rocks away from the falls to Selfoss. Pro tip: Don’t follow Google Maps to get here as it’ll take you down a closed road most likely. Instead, continue down the Ring Road to the other turn in with signs pointing to “Dettifoss”. It’s about another 15 minutes down this road before the turn into the parking lot.
Snowmobiling on a Glacier in Iceland
Partake in a snowmobile tour with Myvatn Snowmobile and take in the most epic views you'll see likely during your entire trip! This is an adventure that is one to remember. After working up an appetite, pivot right to lunch nearby at Vogafjos Farm Resort, where almost everything you taste on-site is truly farm-to-table.
Close out this leg of the Ring Road, also known as Diamond Circle, in the Tröllaskagi Peninsula. One of the most mountainous places in the country, a single road traces the rugged coastline, connecting several fishing towns, each with their own micro-climate and distinct architecture. Inland, the fog-kissed mountains are cut with several valleys, one of which is home to Deplar Farm, your home for the evening (or two).
Day 6: Explore in and around Akureyri
We take a break from all the driving today and get to explore in and around Akureyri. Opportunities are endless and include:
Bjórböðin Beer Spa: A spa in Iceland that offers visitors the chance to take a bath in a tub filled up completely with beer, and apparently it's really good for your skin. The beer used at the Bjórböðin Beer Spa is what's known as 'young beer' which means that it's not fully ready yet, and contains no alcohol. The on-site restaurant is delightful as well.
Gisli Eirikur Helgi Kaffihûs Bakkabrædra: A rustic, Nordic cafe home to a top-rated bakery with delicious baked goods and the best fish soup
Explore more of Tröllaskági peninsula
Siglufjörður: Explore this small fishing town and indulge in some delicious gastro experiences. Frida (40a, 76, Siglufjörður) is a local artist that fuses art with local chocolate and coffee. Don't miss the cranberry-sea-salt chocolate! For some Icelandic craft beer, head to the local microbrewery, Seagull 67 (Vetrarbraut 8-10), and meet the master brewer. Grab lunch at Fish and Chips (Aðalgata 27) and before heading out, grab a drink at the picturesque Siglo Hotel.
Forestlagoon: The newest geothermal baths completed in July 2022 by the same architects as the Blue Lagoon. Soak in large leisure pools filled with the natural hot waters from the Vaðlaheiði mountain above. Take in the stunning atmosphere of the Vaðlaskógur forest's birch and pine trees, along with views of the Eyja Fjord and city of Akureyri.
Day 7: Drive to Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Make a long-haul drive today to Snæfellsnes Peninsula, a region in western Iceland known for its dramatic landscapes. Once there, explore the following sites:
Stykkishólmur: Stop in this quaint town to stretch your legs and then grab lunch at the iconic and delicious Hafnarvaginn Fish & Chips, open everyday from 12 PM - 10 PM. Before getting back on the road, don’t forget to grab the best oat milk latte at Sjavarborg.
Kirkjufell: The most photographed mountain in the country.
Snæfellsjökull National Park: The first ever national park created in Iceland. This park is famous for its Snæfellsjökull volcano, whose peak is sometimes visible from Reykjavík. The volcano remains one of the main draws of the park, thanks to its opportunities for climbing, sledding and skiing, but the rugged coastline of the peninsula is also dotted with beautiful fishing villages and lava fields such as Búðahraun, a designated nature reserve, ripe for exploration
Dritvik Djúpalónssandur: A black lava beach.
Hellnar: An ancient fishing village.
Arnarstapi and Gatklettur: A 1.5 mile hike to a famous, naturally formed stone arch.
Your resting place tonight is Hotel Búðir, a picturesque hotel that sits atop a remote beach on the southern shores of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The soothing interiors match the mood of the landscapes outside perfectly, capturing a distinct cozy and sophisticated vibe. Grab a drink in the plush lounge while watching the seals flop away in the harbor directly across from you, then grab dinner at the infamous restaurant. You'll swoon over the wine list and the Icelandic butter you receive with your complimentary bread basket.
A note from Kelsey
Tip: If you’re in this town Thursday - Sunday for dinner, eat at the highly recommended Bjargarsteinn mathus or at Sjávarpakkhúsið for expertly made, locally sourced and seasonal food.
Day 8: Head back to Reykjavík
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Head back to Reykjavík for your final day before departing the next morning. Soak in the beautiful views of nature along your coastal drive back to the capital.
Need to Know
For more adventure travel inspo, check out my guide to Maine: 7-Day Scenic Road Trip Across Coastal Maine and my guide to Norway: Outdoor Exploration in Norway: Lofoten, Bergen, Flam & Oslo.
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