It can be tricky to figure out the logistics of how to drive around Iceland. Following the ring road (the major highway that encircles Iceland) is one of the most popular routes. We often hear customers asking how many days we would recommend for driving the whole ring road. Here are some tips for planning your own great adventure around Iceland.
How long is the ring road?
The ring road is 1340 km (or 832 miles), and it would take you around 16 hours to circle back to where you started. You could drive around Iceland in one day and see some majestic landscapes along the road, but why would you want to when there are so many places you can get out of the car and explore? Plan to travel around Iceland for a full two weeks to make sure you don’t miss out on exploring all this beautiful country has to offer! We recommend having at least 10 days for the Ring Road. If your trip is shorter than 10 days, consider exploring just one or two regions. The West part with the Snæfellsnes peninsula and the South coast route is the most popular itinerary if you are visiting Iceland for the first time. If this is not your first time, you can spend a week driving in the North along the Arctic Way or exploring the remote Westfjords.
Which way should I go first?
It doesn´t matter which way you go first to drive around Iceland. Although, most travelers choose to go counter-clockwise, starting with the South Coast and coming back through the West coast. This way they can see if they have time to explore the Snæfellsnes peninsula – a great detour if you have time to drive around an extra 200 km (124 miles).
My advice would be to follow the weather. It can be quite brutal, especially if you are traveling in the off-season (October through May). At the time of writing, there is a storm and a yellow weather warning issued for the South part of the country, so I would start by heading West. So, make sure to check the weather forecast and road conditions.
Is it possibel to drive around Iceland all year round?
Ring Road is accessible all year round… mostly. It is a fully paved road and it is the most important piece of infrastructure on the island to deliver goods between towns. There is a lot of effort put to ensure the road stays open all year round. Of course, during big storms, some parts can be temporarily closed down to ensure safety. So if you are traveling in winter it is important to have some flexibility and some extra time on hand in case you need to park somewhere to wait out a storm.
Do I need a 4×4 to drive around Iceland?
If you planning to stick to Route 1, aha the ring road, you don’t need a 4×4 vehicle. In summer a regular 2-wheel drive is more than sufficient. If you are not used to driving under winter conditions, you might want to consider getting a 4-wheel-drive car for extra security. A well-equipped 2-wheel-drive car is still an option in winter.
Building flexibility into your itinerary
Even under good conditions, having flexibility is very important in Iceland. There are so many beautiful landscapes along the Ring Road, and many travelers find themselves stopping more often than initially planned. This is why traveling in a campervan makes so much sense in Iceland. We‘ve got a wide network of campsites and you don‘t need to worry about getting to a specific hotel or guesthouse at the end of the day. Simply, pull up a campsite map of Iceland and see what campsite is closest to you.
If you are planning a road trip to Iceland it is important to remember that conditions can change very fast. And I mean really fast. One minute you have a clear blue sky, the next minute you have a violent storm, snow, and zero visibility. It is always recommended to check the weather forecast before you start your journey. Another thing worth checking is safe travel website. This website will show if there are any road closures or bad weather to watch out for. Additionally, you can leave your travel plan and set submit your phone number to get weather warnings via text. It is a good idea to have an extra day of unplanned time just in case your plans get interrupted.
You are all set!
So here you are – the main things you should consider when planning to drive around Iceland.
- Have at least 10 days (ideally ~2 weeks) if you don’t want to feel rushed. More if you plan a trip in winter.
- Most importantly, enjoy your time. Remember to leave time for some exploration, and be ready to adjust your travel plans.
- Consider renting a campervan for more freedom around your itinerary as you drive around Iceland.
- Stay up to date with weather forecast and road conditions for safe trip.