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Iceland Ring Road 7-Day Itinerary: Your Ultimate Guide to Exploring the Land of Fire and Ice

    Updated: 28th January 2024

    Embarking on a road trip along Iceland’s Ring Road, known as Route 1, offers an adventure through some of the country’s most breathtaking landscapes. Spanning roughly 1,332 km, this route circles the entire island and serves as your gateway to a range of natural wonders, from cascading waterfalls to geothermal hot spots. By allocating seven days for this journey, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the real Iceland, far beyond the usual stopovers in Reykjavik.

    Planning Your Journey

    Embarking on a 7-day itinerary around Iceland’s Ring Road is an unforgettable expedition. Your enjoyment and comfort depend on thorough preparation, considering the time of year, vehicle choice, and what to pack.

    Best Time to Travel

    The ideal time for traversing the Ring Road is during summer months, from June to August, when the days are longest and the weather is most favourable for driving and sightseeing. However, for a chance to see the Northern Lights, September to March provides darker nights for better visibility of this phenomenon, keeping in mind that winter travels may encounter challenging weather and driving conditions.

    Car Rental Tips

    Prioritising a reliable and suitable vehicle is crucial for your road trip. Opting for a 4WD is sensible, especially if you’re travelling outside of summer or planning on visiting more rugged terrains, such as the F-roads. Book in advance to ensure availability, and choose a rental with comprehensive insurance coverage to protect against any unexpected incidents.

    Packing Essentials

    • Warm Clothing: Even in summer, bring thermal layers, waterproofs, and a windproof jacket.
    • Comfortable Footwear: Pack sturdy boots for hiking and sightseeing.
    • Navigation Tools: A physical map and GPS are necessary for areas with limited mobile reception.
    • Photography Gear: Remember your camera with extra batteries to capture the dramatic landscapes.

    Understanding Icelandic Weather

    The weather in Iceland can be unpredictable, with conditions changing rapidly. Regularly check the Icelandic Met Office website for forecasts and be prepared for all eventualities. Expect windy scenarios and be wary of sudden rain or snow, especially when traveling outside the peak summer months. 

    The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration website https://umferdin.is/en is an invaluable resource for keeping up to date with road conditions, showing the status of routes around the island. You can even view live webcams for many of the roads!

    Day 1: The Golden Circle

    Embark on your Icelandic adventure by exploring the iconic Golden Circle, a route covering three of Iceland’s most stunning natural landmarks. Filled with geological wonders and a rich historical tapestry, your first day promises an unforgettable journey.

    Þingvellir National Park

    Begin at Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s not only a marvel of nature but also a cornerstone in Icelandic history. Stand on the site where the world’s first parliament was formed and where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates visibly diverge.

    Geysir Geothermal Area

    Next, venture to the Geysir Geothermal Area in Haukadalur Valley, home to the famous Strokkur geyser, which erupts every few minutes. Witness the earth’s power firsthand as hot water spouts skywards, and feel the ground tremble beneath your feet as geothermal activity shapes the landscape.

    Gullfoss Waterfall

    Conclude your day at Gullfoss Waterfall, one of Iceland’s most spectacular waterfalls. Experience the majesty of the Hvítá river as it cascades down into a deep crevice, creating a breathtaking spectacle and a visceral reminder of nature’s raw beauty.

    Day 2: South Coast Adventure

    Embark on a scenic journey along Iceland’s South Coast to witness some of the most breathtaking waterfalls and unique coastal landscapes. Your adventure today is filled with awe-inspiring sights and the raw beauty of nature.

    Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

    Kick-off your day with a visit to Seljalandsfoss, one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls. Standing at 60 meters tall, the waterfall boasts a unique feature – a path that allows you to walk behind the cascading water. Prepare to get a bit damp from the spray, but the view is utterly unmissable and provides an unparalleled perspective of the falls.

    Skógafoss Waterfall

    Continue along the Ring Road to discover Skógafoss. Equally as impressive, this waterfall stands at 25 meters wide and with a drop of 60 meters. Due to the amount of spray the waterfall consistently produces, you will often see a rainbow on sunny days, creating a perfect backdrop for incredible photos.

    Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

    Conclude your day’s exploration at Reynisfjara, known for its dramatic black sands, towering basalt columns, and the powerful waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Remember to keep a safe distance from the water as the beach is known for its dangerous sneaker waves. The striking black beach contrasted with the roaring white waves and the nearby Reynisdrangar sea stacks make for an epic end to a day of adventure.

    Day 3: Eastward to Vatnajökull

    Your third day is packed with natural wonders as you head east towards Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier. This route will introduce you to the sweeping vistas of canyons, the tranquillity of nature reserves, and the awe-inspiring beauty of glacier lagoons.

    Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

    As you start your day, make your way to the stunning Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, a sight not to be missed. This 100-metre-deep canyon offers a dramatic and photogenic landscape. Stroll along the walking paths and gaze upon the winding river below, surrounded by steep, palagonite rock walls that date back two million years.

    Skaftafell Nature Reserve

    Next, visit Skaftafell Nature Reserve, nestled under the Vatnajökull Glacier. It’s a hiker’s paradise with trails that lead to incredible views and the famous Svartifoss Waterfall, set against a backdrop of unique basalt columns. Ensure you have your walking boots ready to fully enjoy the splendours of this diverse ecosystem.

    Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

    Finish the day at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, a surreal vista where you’ll see icebergs calving from the glacier and drifting out to sea. Don’t miss the chance to walk along the Diamond Beach, where chunks of ice wash ashore and sparkle like jewels against the black sand. This otherworldly scene is a perfect way to end your exhilarating day.

    Day 4: East Fjords Wonders

    Embark on a journey through the East Fjords today, an area known for tranquil fishing villages, unique geological formations, and lush forestry.

    Egilsstaðir Town

    Start your day in Egilsstaðir, the largest town in Eastern Iceland. It’s your ideal hub for restocking supplies and a great starting point for exploring the region. Keep your camera ready for the legendary Lagarfljót Lake, where sightings of the mythical Lagarfljót Worm have been whispered for centuries.

    Hallormsstaður Forest

    A short drive from Egilsstaðir is Hallormsstaður Forest, the largest forested area in Iceland. Immerse yourself in the tranquillity of nature on one of the many hiking trails, or find a serene spot for a picnic amidst the birch trees. Nature’s symphony at its finest, the forest is a refreshing contrast to the island’s usual open landscapes.

    Seyðisfjörður Village

    Conclude your day in the charming Seyðisfjörður Village, a picturesque settlement famed for its rainbow street leading to a quaint blue church. Artists and creatives are drawn to this village for its vibrant arts scene. Dine at a local seafood restaurant and enjoy the freshest catch against a backdrop of stunning mountain scenery.

    Day 5: Lake Mývatn and the North

    Your fifth day on Iceland’s Ring Road is going to be packed with natural wonders as you explore the Lake Mývatn area, renowned for its geothermal activity, and end your day in the charming town of Akureyri.

    Dettifoss Waterfall

    Dettifoss is reputed to be Europe’s most powerful waterfall. Don the appropriate waterproof gear and be prepared for the mist and the roar of the waterfalls as you stand before this magnificent natural feature. The path may be rocky, so good hiking boots are essential.

    Mývatn Geothermal Area

    Next, you’ll encounter the Mývatn Geothermal Area, a place of bubbling mud pools, steaming fumaroles, and volcanic craters. Here, the Hverir geothermal field and the Grjótagjá cave are must-visits, offering you a direct view of Earth’s powerful, heat-driven forces at work.

    Akureyri Town

    Finally, make your way to Akureyri, the capital of the North. This town is perfect for a leisurely stroll where you can admire the traditional houses, visit the Akureyri Church, or simply enjoy the local cuisine. The town also serves as a hub to the surrounding natural beauties, which you may explore further if time allows.

    Day 6: Tröllaskagi Peninsula

    Your sixth day on the Ring Road introduces you to the stunning landscapes of the Tröllaskagi Peninsula, where fjords and mountains offer breathtaking views. This day promises an enriching blend of cultural towns and relaxing dips in geothermal pools.

    Siglufjörður Town

    In Siglufjörður, you’ll find a charming fishing town nestled between mountain peaks. Be sure to visit the Herring Era Museum to uncover this town’s rich maritime history. Take a stroll along the harbour and enjoy the brightly coloured houses that add a picturesque charm.

    Hofsós Pool

    One can’t-miss experience is the Hofsós Swimming Pool. With its infinity design, the pool seems to merge into the Skagafjörður fjord. It’s a perfect spot for a refreshing swim with a view that captures the vastness of the North Atlantic Ocean.

    Akureyri to Tröllaskagi Route

    Your journey from Akureyri to the Tröllaskagi Peninsula will be marked by stunning coastal drives and opportunities to spot marine wildlife. Make sure your camera is at the ready for the incredible vistas you’ll encounter en route.

    Day 7: Return to Reykjavik

    Your final day is all about soaking up the last of Iceland’s stunning scenery as you make your way back to Reykjavik. Enjoy the remarkable Grábrók Crater and the charming town of Borgarnes before your adventure concludes.

    Grábrók Crater

    Begin your day with a visit to Grábrók Crater, a fascinating remnant of Iceland’s volcanic activity. A short hike to the top provides you with panoramic views of the surrounding landscape — an otherworldly vista that feels like you’re on the surface of another planet.

    Borgarnes Town

    Finally, stop by the tranquil Borgarnes Town. Stroll through this picturesque town, perhaps grabbing a bite at a local eatery or visiting the Borgarnes Museum to learn about Icelandic history.

    Conclusion

    After a week of traversing Iceland’s Ring Road, it’s clear why this journey is a bucket-list adventure for many. From the otherworldly landscapes of waterfalls and glaciers to the welcoming warmth of local hot springs and culture, every mile unveils a new wonder. This itinerary has hopefully served as your compass, guiding you through the Land of Fire and Ice with ease. As you return home, carry with you not just memories captured in photographs, but the spirit of Iceland—a land that teaches the beauty of nature’s contrasts and the joy of exploration. Until next time, bless, or goodbye, as the Icelanders say!

    Check out some of the best things to do on the ring road!

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