If you’ve done any research on Iceland, you would have read that it’s impossible to do Ring Road in under 10 days. And while I agree that you’d want a lot of time here to see everything, unfortunately not everyone has that time. We sure didn’t! We found that that it was entirely possible to drive around the entire country (except for the Westfjords) and see a lot of main sights in 9 days or less. And that was with losing a day because of the worst rain in Iceland in 15 years! The most important thing for us though was planning! There is so much to see and do so we’ve written up the best itinerary to help get you the most of your time if you also have 9 days (or less) on Ring Road.
Note: You’ll notice that the entire Westfjords is left out. Due to weather, we lost a full day on the road which cut out the Westfjords completely for us. We also don’t think it’s realistic to fit it in and enjoy yourself entirely given it requires at least 2 days (and even then, you’re spending a lot of time driving). If you’re going in summer or have a good run with weather, you would travel to your Westfjords base on Day 7 and spend Day 8 exploring the Westfjords before continuing on to Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This will mean that you don’t have a buffer day and may have to cut out some other places.
Day 1: Reykjavik and Prep Day
Depending on what time your flight arrives, you will start your trip with checking out some sights in Reykjavik.We also don’t like starting road trips on the very first day in case of flight delays (which did happen to us). If you’re planning on going to Blue Lagoon, we recommend saving this for the last day.
Food in Iceland is also expensive so you should stock up for the road trip at Bonus (a discount supermarket). The markets around the country are more expensive and you won’t find Bonus everywhere so prepare accordingly. You could also pick up a SIM from Síminn if you need one. Note that shops in Iceland usually open around 10am and close at 5 or 6pm (including the supermarkets).
Day 2: The Golden Circle
You’ll pick up your car in the morning and then head to the Golden Circle. Any tourist with less than 2 days in Iceland will visit the Golden Circle so it really is a must do but beware that it’s going to be crowded.
Stop 1: Þingvellir National Park
The location of Iceland’s first Parliament which started back in 930 AD. This is also also where the North American & Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly splitting apart from each other, creating deep fissures in the ground. You can snorkel or dive here, though it’s pretty pricey and you won’t see any wildlife.
Stop 2: Geysers at Haukadalur
This area is filled with various geysers including Strokkur, an active geyser which spouts water every 5-10 minutes, and Geysir – Iceland’s most famous geyser which is now less active. Fun fact – the English word ‘geyser’ is derived from Geysir.
Stop 3: Gullfoss Waterfall
Stop 4: Kerið Crater Lake
Unfortunately due to the really the horrible weather, we didn’t end up making it to this top. Hopefully you get the chance to stop by here!
Overnight: Seljalandsfoss – this way you can wake up there for sunrise and will be ahead of the busloads of tourists.
Day 3: The South towards Vik
You’ll wake up today at Seljalandsfoss and get some beautiful photos without the crowd of tourists. From here, you’ll head along the South to see some of the most beautiful sights in Iceland. If the weather is really terrible, we recommend you move on and come back at the end of the trip since it’s not too far from Reykjavik.
Stop 1: Seljalandsfoss & Gljúfrafoss
This is a beautiful waterfall that has a path to go behind the falls. Make sure you check out Gljúfrafoss, a hidden waterfall about 700m to the left of Seljalandsfoss. You can actually walk in to see the falls from the inside but beware that you will get drenched (totally worth it)!
Stop 2: Seljavallalaug (Iceland’s oldest pool)
This little gem is around 20 minutes from Seljalandsfoss and is Iceland’s first swimming pool. Water is fed from a hot spring nearby, is warm, entry is free (although there is a donation tin) and you’re surrounded by some beautiful sights. So why not?
To get here, continue along Route 1 and make a left at Route 242. From there, it’s a 10 minute walk to the pool. There aren’t any facilities, just a couple of change areas.
Stop 3: Skógafoss
This waterfall is truly breathtaking but you will want to beat the crowds here, especially if you’re visiting in summer. Tourist buses start arriving at around 10am.
Stop 4: Sólheimajökull (optional)
This is an easy to access glacier that is slowly shrinking. If you are doing any kind of glacier tour, we recommend you save it for Svínafellsjökul on Day 4 to avoid massive tourist groups. If you won’t be doing a tour, then stop by here.
Stop 5: Sólheimasandur (Abandoned DC Plane)
In 1973, a US Navy DC plane crashed on Sólheimasandur black sand beach. There are different stories about what happened but the more common story is that the pilot ran out of fuel. The good thing is everyone survived. You’ll notice that the plane’s tail is missing – rumour has it that a farmer took it and sold it in Vik!
Note: You can no longer drive to the site. You must park your car and walk 45 minutes along a gravel road to get to the plane.
Stop 6: Black Beach & Vik Beach
You’ll find basalt columns, cliffs and caves at these beautiful beaches with black pebbles. According to local folklore, the formations were once trolls attempting to reach shore in the cover of night but were turned to stone when the sun came out.
Stop 7: Dyrhólaey Arch (great for sunset or sunrise)
Depending on how much time you have left, this stop can be left for the following morning and is beautiful to see at sunset, at sunrise or early morning.
Overnight: Vik. If you’re after a ‘cheap’ meal (by Iceland standards), the restaurant connected to the N1 petrol station is pretty decent!
Day 4: Glacier Tour
If you skipped Dyrhólaey the day before, see it in the morning before heading from Vik to Skaftafell for your Glacier Tour. This drive is only 1 hour but there are so many beautiful sights along the way that we spent an entire day driving this! If you can resist and control the amount of stops, we recommend doing this drive in the morning and arriving at 11:45am in Skaftafell in time for a Glacier Tour.
We collaborated with Icelandic Mountain Guides and went on a Glacier Walk and Ice Climbing tour and highly recommend it. It’s an unreal experience to walk out on the glaciers and look out to see the different mountains around. Ice climbing is both scary and exhilarating but completely safe and the challenge is enjoyable. The tour starts at 12pm and lasts around 5 hours.
Overnight: Hof. Also a really delicious truckstop café here.
Day 5: South to Eastfjords
This is going to be one of your longer days of driving so enjoy the scenes and get your horse photos in!
Stop 1: Svartifoss
This waterfall is amongst basalt columns and is a moderate uphill hike from the carpark near Skaftafell.
Stop 2: Jökulsárlón (Glacier Lagoon)
You’ll be tempted to stop at the first couple of car parks when you start seeing the lagoon. Don’t. Wait until you get to the car park just before the bridge so that you can see the lagoon on the left and then visit the beach on the right where you will hopefully find washed up icebergs.
Stop 3: Höfn
Höfn is known for its lobster so stop in here if you have the money for it. Overall, food is Iceland was amazing so I don’t doubt that the lobster would be too. Unfortunately for us, our budget didn’t allow for it!
Stop 4: Seyðisfjörður
You can also make stops along any of the Eastfjords depending on how much time you have. We chose Seyðisfjörður because it’s a beautiful little town surrounded by mountains and wooden houses. Also meant that we spotted some great waterfalls along the drive here.
Day 6: Heading North
This drive is relatively short at only 2 hours, which gives you ample time at the stops along the way.
Stop 1: Dettifoss & Selfoss
Dettifoss is the most powerfall in Europe and is also where the opening scene of Prometheus was filmed. From the carpark, it’s a 20 minute walk to Dettifoss. From here, you can then follow the signs and walk to Selfoss before heading back to the carpark.
Stop 2: Krafla Power Station
85% of Iceland’s energy is renewable (geothermal, hydro and wind). Geothermal power facilities currently generate 25% of the country’s total electricity production! You can drive through this geothermal plant and learn more.
Stop 3: Viti Crater
Viti crater is located within Krafla so just drive through and stop by to check it out. You can also hike around the rim if you like!
Stop 4: Námafjall Hverir (Geysers)
Stop 5: Goðafoss
When Icelanders converted to Christianity, a historical event took place at Goðafoss. Apparently a law speaker named Þorkell disposed of the pagan gods by throwing them into the waterfall which is why the waterfall was named Goðafoss, meaniing the “waterfall of the gods”.
Overnight: Akureyri or Dalvik
Day 7: Snæfellsnes Peninsula
We recommend taking the scenic route along the North of Iceland. This will add around 2.5 hours to your trip but the drive is spectacular and there are many photo opps. This take this route, travel from Akureyri to Dalvik, take route 82 to Siglufjörður, route 76 through Hofsós to Sauðárkrókur then route 75 to get you back on to Ring Road towards Blönduós. From there, continue on through to Snæfellsnes Peninsula where you can visit Port Arnarstapi and Kirkjufellsfoss.
Overnight: Anywhere around Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Day 8: Hraunfossar & buffer day
Hraunfossar (Lava Falls) is just under 2 hours away from Snæfellsnes Peninsula and is a great waterfall that a lot of people tend to skip. From there, there is also a trail to Barnafoss. This is also going to be your buffer day in case of bad weather.
Day 9: Blue Lagoon and flight out
If you are planning on going to Blue Lagoon, make sure you book your tickets well in advance because they book out! Aim to go first thing in the morning to avoid the influx of tourists. Personally, I felt that it was pretty overrated and expensive and there are many cheaper or free springs through Iceland you can enjoy.
There are definitely many more sights to see in Iceland. The list is endless and although our suggested route doesn’t cover everything, we feel that it’s a great introduction to Iceland and its very dynamic landscapes. We’ve also answered 9 common questions about Iceland to help make planning easier for you. We’d love to hear about your time in Iceland so tell us all about it in the comments.
Check out our aerial video of Iceland to see what’s in store.