Road Tripping in Iceland

Updated October 2023
Welcome to "The Land of Fire and Ice," where otherworldly landscapes and natural wonders await your exploration. Iceland, a country that seems like it was plucked straight from the pages of a fairy tale, offers a road trip experience like no other.

From cascading waterfalls to bubbling geothermal pools, from dramatic fjords to desolate black sand beaches, this captivating island has it all. Whether you're an adventure seeker, a nature lover, or simply looking to escape the ordinary, Iceland's winding roads and breathtaking vistas promise an unforgettable journey.

In this travel guide, I'm sharing my favorite must-see destinations, and insider advice to help you make the most of your Icelandic road trip adventure. So buckle up, fuel your wanderlust, and let's hit the road!

What to Do

1. Explore Natural Marvels: Iceland's rugged landscapes are a playground for nature enthusiasts. Begin your adventure by witnessing the raw power of geothermal activity at the iconic Geysir Geothermal Area, where Strokkur erupts with scalding water approximately every 5-10 minutes.

Make your way to the famous Golden Circle, where you can marvel at the thundering Gullfoss waterfall and walk between tectonic plates at Thingvellir National Park.

Don't forget to take a dip in the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa that's perfect for unwinding after a day of exploration.

2. Chase Waterfalls:
Iceland is a waterfall lover's dream come true. From the dramatic Skógafoss, where you can climb the 370 steps to the top for a stunning view, to the serene Seljalandsfoss, where you can walk behind the cascading water, each waterfall is a unique spectacle.
For a more off-the-beaten-path experience, venture into the Westfjòrds to discover Dynjandi, series of waterfalls cascading daown a mountainside, or seek out the hidden gem of Hraunfossar, where water emerges from a lava field.

3. Discover Otherworldly Beaches:

Iceland's coastlines are as diverse as they are beautiful. Visit Reynisfjara Beach, known for its striking black sand and basalt column formations.

Or head to Diamond Beach near Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, where icebergs from the lagoon wash ashore, creating a surreal and sparkling spectacle. Wildlife enthusiasts should not miss the opportunity to see puffins during the summer months on islands like Heimaey in the Westman Islands.

4. Adventure in the Highlands:
Venture into the heart of Iceland's untamed wilderness by exploring the Highlands, a vast volcanic plateau.

You can hike to colorful rhyolite mountains (made up of volcanic rock) at Landmannalaugar, soak in natural hot springs, and admire the imposing Askja volcano. Keep in mind that the Highlands are only accessible to visitors during the summer months.

5. Embrace the Midnight Sun and Northern Lights: Iceland's unique location near the Arctic Circle offers travelers the opportunity to experience both the Midnight Sun and the Northern Lights. In summer, you can enjoy nearly 24 hours of daylight, perfect for extended exploration.

In winter, chase the elusive Aurora Borealis by heading to remote areas with minimal light pollution, such as the Snaefellsnes Peninsula or the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. Be sure to check the aurora forecasts for the best chances of witnessing this mesmerizing natural phenomenon.

Fjadrargljufur

Húsavik

When to Go

Iceland experiences dramatic weather variations throughout the year. Depending on what your goals are for your trip, you can start to narrow down what time of year would be best to visit the island.

Summer (June to August) generally offers milder temperatures, longer daylight hours, and optimal conditions for outdoor activities like hiking and backpacking.

Winter (September to April) is colder, with shorter days, but it's the best time to witness the Northern Lights and explore the country through winter activities like ice cave tours and snowmobiling. Spring and autumn can offer a mix of weather conditions, making them less predictable but potentially less crowded times to visit.
Winter in Iceland: Visiting Iceland in the winter offers a completely different but equally enchanting experience. From late September to early April, you can witness the mesmerizing Northern Lights dancing across the dark Arctic skies.

Bundle up and explore ice caves, such as the famous Crystal Ice Cave in Vatnajökull National Park, or embark on a thrilling snowmobiling adventure across vast glaciers.

Don't miss a soak in one of the numerous geothermal hot springs. You can swim in the Secret Lagoon or the local favorite, Seljavallalaug.

Winter also brings the chance to take part in unique activities like dog sledding and ice fishing. Just be prepared for shorter daylight hours and unpredictable weather, so plan your winter trip with care and always check road conditions.

Summer in Iceland: Summer, from late June to early August, is the season when Iceland truly comes alive.

With nearly 24 hours of light starting about mid-June to the end of the month, this is the perfect time to maximize your days to explore the island's  landscapes and experience the Midnight Sun.

Hiking trails across the country, like the Laugavegur Trek and the Fimmvörðuháls Pass, become accessible and offer opportunities to traverse stunning landscapes, including colorful rhyolite mountains, lush valleys, and dramatic canyons. Summer is also ideal for birdwatching, as migratory birds flock to Iceland's shores.

Don't forget to visit puffin colonies along the coast and find the world's largest puffin colony in Europe.

Summer is the best season for whale watching, as the rich marine life around Iceland's shores comes to life during this time. Whether you're hiking, birdwatching, or exploring the coastal waters, summer in Iceland promises unforgettable adventures in the land of the midnight sun.

Where to Stay

Lodging options in Iceland offer a diverse range to suit a variety of traveler's preferences and budgets. From cozy and unique guesthouses tucked away in remote landscapes to modern hotels in vibrant cities like Reykjavik, Iceland caters to a wide spectrum of accommodations.

If you're seeking an immersive experience, traditional Icelandic farmstays provide an opportunity to have a truly unique stay.

Iceland offers an array of boutique hotels, eco-friendly lodges, and even accommodations carved into lava rock.

And for other travelers wishing to sleep under the stars, camping is a popular and affordable option, with well-equipped campsites scattered throughout the country, offering the chance to wake up to stunning natural vistas.

Guesthouses
Guesthouses in Iceland offer travelers a fantastic opportunity to have a stay like you've never had before.

Unlike traditional hotels, guesthouses often provide a more intimate and authentic experience, allowing guests to connect with locals and gain insights into Icelandic culture and daily life. These charming accommodations are often family-run, adding a personal touch to your stay.

I love talking to local people from the area and finding out their favorite spots to travel. You will find so many nuggets and adventures to explore by talking to the people that know the are the best.

As always, do thorough research before booking any accommodations to be sure the option is what you need! Read lots of reviews to help you minimize surprises and make the best decision for your trip.
When traveling in Iceland, remember that nature sets the pace. Embrace the unexpected weather changes, savor the moments of solitude, and see how easy it is to allow the views to impress you. Flexibility is your best friend here, so keep your plans loose.

Budget $

Iceland offers a diverse range of budget options to cater to both the thrifty hostel traveler and the indulgent luxury explorer. For the budget-conscious traveler, Iceland provides numerous wallet-friendly options making Iceland an affordable destination with some careful planning.
These accommodations offer affordable dormitory-style rooms, communal spaces, and communal kitchens, allowing travelers to save on lodging costs while still enjoying the country's stunning landscapes and vibrant culture.

On the other hand, for the luxury traveler seeking opulence amidst Iceland's natural wonders, there's an array of high-end resorts, boutique hotels, and exclusive experiences.

Gas prices in Iceland can be quite high, even pushing towards $9/gallon, so sharing transportation costs with fellow travelers can be a wise choice. To explore Iceland's breathtaking landscapes, consider joining group tours for activities like glacier hikes or Northern Lights excursions, which can range from $50 to $150 per tour.

Overall, budget travelers can comfortably enjoy Iceland on a daily budget of approximately $80 to $120, excluding flights.

For mid-range travelers, opting for comfortable hotels or guesthouses is a popular choice. A mid-range hotel room in Iceland typically costs between $150 to $250 per night. Dining at local restaurants offering Icelandic cuisine will set you back around $20 to $40 per meal.

Exciting day tours like the Golden Circle or Blue Lagoon experiences can range from $100 to $300 per tour. With these considerations, mid-range travelers can expect to spend approximately $200 to $350 per day, not including international airfare.

Luxury travelers in Iceland can indulge in upscale hotels with stunning views and exceptional amenities, often priced between $300 to $600 or more per night. Dining at gourmet restaurants can cost around $50 to $150 per meal.

Exclusive private tours, such as helicopter rides over volcanoes or private super jeep excursions, can be priced at $500 to $1000 or higher.

Facts

Nickname is " The Land of Fire and Ice"

Iceland is often referred to as "The Land of Fire and Ice" due to its striking contrast between active volcanoes and glaciers. It's home to the largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull, and has numerous active volcanoes, including Eyjafjallajökull, which gained international fame during its 2010 eruption.

Mid-Atlantic Ridge

Iceland straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a geological boundary where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. This unique location results in the country's constant geological activity, with frequent earthquakes and the gradual widening of the island.

Time Zone

Iceland operates on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), which is also referred to as Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+0) during standard time. However, the country observes Daylight Saving Time (DST) during the summer months, typically from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October. During DST, Iceland shifts to Greenwich Mean Time +1 (GMT+1), also known as UTC+1.

Green and Blue Energy

Iceland derives almost 100% of its electricity and heating from renewable energy sources, primarily geothermal and hydroelectric power. The country's commitment to sustainability and clean energy makes it a global leader in green technology.

Location & Population

volcanoes, glaciers, and hot springs but also its susceptibility to frequent seismic activity.

Iceland sits in the North Atlantic Ocean and lies at the juncture of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. It is a remote island nation situated roughly midway between Europe and North America. This geographically strategic location not only accounts for its breathtaking geological features, including
The country has a relatively small population, with approximately 370,000. Despite its vast landmass, much of the country's terrain is rugged and uninhabitable, resulting in a concentrated population mainly residing in coastal regions, particularly the capital, Reykjavik, and its surrounding areas. This sparsely populated yet culturally vibrant nation has fostered a close-knit society with a rich history and unique traditions, making it a truly distinct destination for travelers.

Language

Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is the official language of Iceland. It's notable for its preservation of Old Norse elements, making it one of the closest modern languages to the historic sagas and literature of the Viking Age.

The Icelandic alphabet consists of 32 letters. It includes the standard Latin letters, as well as several unique letters like Ð, Þ, and Æ. Icelandic words are quite long!

Transportation

Iceland offers a range of transportation options to explore its stunning landscapes, but renting a car provides optimal flexibility for travelers. While public buses and guided tours are available, they often follow set routes and schedules, limiting your ability to venture off the beaten path.

Renting a car, on the other hand, allows you to explore Iceland at your own pace and reach remote areas that might be otherwise inaccessible.

The well-maintained Ring Road circumnavigates the island, connecting major attractions, but having your own vehicle lets you take detours to discover hidden gems, stop for impromptu photo opportunities (I would stop at every overlook if I could!), and adapt your schedule to the ever-changing weather patterns.

With freedom to adapt your itinerary on the go, renting a car ensures you can fully embrace the spontaneity and natural wonders that make Iceland an unforgettable destination. Just be prepared for diverse road conditions, as some routes may require 4x4 vehicles, especially in the rugged interior or during the winter months.

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