Seljlansdfoss Waterfall Iceland – Ring Road Stop

Driving the Ring Road in Iceland (2024 Guide)

Pinterest Image for guide to driving the Ring Road in Iceland with Kirkjufell and Waterfall

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Driving the Ring Road in Iceland had always been a dream for my husband and me. Yet, this dream had remained elusive, as our previous visits to this remote Nordic nation had only been fleeting stopovers en route to or from other European destinations. Taking on the Iceland Ring Road required a greater commitment.

Godafoss Waterfall, Iceland
Godafoss, Northern Iceland

We wanted to experience this grander adventure because we have always truly loved Iceland’s captivating landscapes, rich Nordic culture, and stunning scenery. (This was our 4th trip!) We also wanted to escape the crowds. Iceland is an exceptionally popular travel destination, but most tourists stay in or within a few hours’ drive of the capital city of Reykjavik.

After several false starts (exacerbated by a pandemic), we finally managed to make this trip happen! In this post, I want to share with you everything we learned on our Iceland Ring Road drive, answer common questions about the experience, and offer you some helpful tips and advice.

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Affiliate Disclosure: This driving the Ring Road Iceland guide contains affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. All opinions are entirely my own.


I don’t think anything could better demonstrate why you should drive the Iceland Ring Road than some enticing visuals. Before we delve into the finer details, just take a 60-second peek at some of the amazing sights to behold on this epic journey!


The Iceland Ring Road follows Route 1 (a.k.a. Highway 1), a motorway that circumnavigates the entire island. It typically involves stops in South Iceland, East Island (Austurland) and North Iceland. Depending on how much time a person has, an Iceland Ring Road itinerary may also include the Westfjords (Northwest), and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula (West).

Iceland Ring Road Route Map
Screenshot from

The map above roughly shows the most basic route. It diverges slightly from Route 1 in places because you need to get off the highway to see some of the most interesting attractions and Icelandic coastal towns.


The Iceland Ring Road Drive is not to be confused with the Golden Circle Drive. The Iceland Golden Circle Drive is a day trip that can easily be done from Reykjavik. Many people do the Golden Circle on the first day of an Iceland Ring Road itinerary before heading south.


How long does it take to drive the Ring Road in Iceland? Well, it depends. If you drive it quickly, sticking to Route 1, it can be accomplished in as few as 7 days. Personally, I don’t recommend a 7-day Iceland Ring Road itinerary though. It is so rushed, and you would have a series of one-night stays (hardly enough time to unpack).

In a perfect world, a 10-14 day itinerary is great. This can potentially include a night on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula to the west. To also include the remote Westfjords, 14 days or more is ideal.

Note: We completed the entire Ring Road, plus Snæfellsnes and the Westfjords in 10 nights. Although this was rushed, it was possible for us because we were able to skip some stops, having had 3 previous trips to Iceland under our belts.

Gulfoss Waterfall in Summer
Gullfoss (1st trip in 2016)


How long is the Ring Road in Iceland? The official Iceland Ring Road length is just over 1320km (820mi). The route is mostly paved, with well maintained gravel roads leading to some of the major attractions.

It is likely, however, that your Iceland Ring Road driving route will extend a bit further. This is because part of the charm of the north and the east of Iceland lies in visiting some of the small towns just off Route One. For example, Húsavik (to the north on #85 or #87) will add an extra 100km, and Seydisfjordur (to the east on #93) will add an additional 50km.

Rainbow Street in Seyðisfjörður, Iceland
Seyðisfjörður, Iceland

If you include the western Snæfellsnes Peninsula as part of your itinerary, you can expect to drive an additional 300km+. If you also include the Westfjords, this will add an extra 600-900km. (You can reduce this distance by about 250km by taking the Ferry Baldur between Snæfellsnes and the Westfjords.)

Note: In Iceland, the speed limit on gravel roads is typically 80km/hr. Due to the nature of these roads in the Westfjords (cliffs etc.), 50km/hr is much more sensible. (Even my husband, who has a lead foot, agreed.) It is important to account for this slower speed when calculating your Iceland Ring Road driving time.


To illustrate what your trip might look like if you are taking in the most basic sights along the route, the map below is roughly 1500km (20hrs driving non-stop). It diverges a little from Route 1 in the north because your overnight stay(s) will likely be in one of the cute little towns along the coast.

Iceland Ring Road Classic Itinerary Map
Screenshot from

To compare, the route below is closer to what we did in 10 nights. It included 2 nights in the Westfjords and one night on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Our route was about 2100km and 30 hours of driving.

It should be noted that we took the car ferry between the Westfjords and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula rather than driving around. (It did not save us any time, but it was a nice change of scenery.)

We also skipped the Golden Circle Drive and the Blue Lagoon (visiting the Sky Lagoon in Reykjavik instead), as we had done both of them 2x before on our previous trips.

Ring Road Map – The Better Beyond Itinerary
Screenshot from


You might be wondering if you can skip some sections of the Ring Road, saving time by driving across the middle of Iceland. For the majority of people, the answer would be a definitive “no.”

Inside Iceland’s Ring Road is an expansive region known as “The Highlands”. The unpaved roads that criss-cross the Highlands, called the “F-Roads”, are only minimally maintained (filled with giant holes, streams, and more). A 4×4 is mandatory to drive on them, and they are only open during the summer months. You can see them marked on my attached Google maps with a dotted line.

Note: Part of the reason that we rented a 4×4 for the Ring Road in Iceland was because we wanted to have the experience of driving on the F-Roads. After seeing one, I quickly changed my mind. Both the incline and the depth of the tire ruts made me think that it was not something we wanted to do in a rental vehicle (unless we wanted to own it after).


In Iceland, they drive on the right side of the road, so don’t worry, unless you’re from one of the 70 countries that drive on the left. However, even if you’re from the U.K. or Australia, Iceland would be a great place to practice driving on the other side, since you’ll rarely encounter heavy traffic.


If you have a valid driver’s license from Canada, The U.S., The E.U., the U.K. or Australia, you do not need an international driver’s license for Iceland. (Please note, Google or ChatGPT may give you a different answer to this query as there is a whole business built around selling International Driver’s Permits.)


Should you drive the Iceland Ring Road clockwise or counterclockwise? Well, it’s a loop, so in theory, it should not make that much of a difference. That said, if you start with the star-studded attractions of the Golden Circle right out of Reykjavik (or Keflavik Airport), it makes the most sense to continue south and then east (counterclockwise).

From personal experience, I will also say that it is nice to go from the crowded attractions in the south, to the less visited attractions in east, north and west. Once you’ve had a geothermal pool or waterfall all to yourself, it’s hard to go back!

Hvammsvik Geothermal Pool, Iceland
Hvammsvik Geothermal Pool, Iceland


If you are wondering if driving the Ring Road in Iceland is worth it, I can assure you that it is! I can’t imagine anyone experiencing any kind of disappointment with it. Even though I have completed this epic bucket list adventure, I would do it again in a heartbeat!

Dettifoss Waterfall, Iceland
Dettifoss, North Iceland

This scenic journey take you through diverse landscapes, including majestic waterfalls, rugged coastlines, volcanic fields, and glacier-capped mountains.


There are so many amazing attractions along the Iceland Ring Road, but here are the most popular. (This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you have more time (10+ days), you can add on much more!)

I took the liberty of creating a Pinterest Pin for them in case you want to save it for later.

Iceland Ring Road Attractions List
Pin for Later!


No, you do not. As long as you plan on staying on the main route and are driving the Ring Road in the summer, a 2WD vehicle should suffice. The road is almost entirely paved. When the road turns to gravel, it is generally for a short section off the main road to a specific attraction.

Iceland Ring Road

If, however, you plan on driving on F-Roads, Iceland’s unpaved and minimally maintained roads, then a 4WD vehicle is necessary (and mandatory).


There is a common misconception that you need a 4×4 to drive Iceland’s Westfjords. In theory, you do not, and can avoid traveling on an F-Road. In practice, however, I would highly recommend it, even in the summer. Let me show you why.

4x4 in Iceland's Westfjords

I took the following video snippet on the way to Raudasandur Beach (Red Sand Beach), a must-see attraction in the Westfjords. This road (#614) is not an F-Road and 2WD vehicles are permitted. That said…look at the terrain.

During our time on this stretch of road, we saw only one vehicle that was not a 4×4…and we had a bit of a laugh at it.

Note: Rental car companies only recommend traveling to the Westfjords during the summer season for safety reasons. This region experiences quite a punishing winter, with the snow starting early and melting late. Outside of the summer months, if someone really wants to visit, a 4WD vehicle for the Westfjords is strongly recommended.


When I would dream about driving Iceland’s epic Ring Road, we were always in a 4×4. I’ll admit, however, that I had a moment of pause when I realized how much a 4WD rental in Iceland was going to cost us.

All car rentals in Iceland are expensive, but a decent Iceland 4X4 rental (with insurance) is going to set you back roughly $200-$300 USD/day. Every tank of fuel is going to cost you an additional $100-$150 USD.

Iceland Gas Prices
Equals > $8 USD/Gallon

Note: Our complete bill for renting a mid-range 4×4, plus fuel (diesel) and insurance, for 10 days driving Iceland’s Ring Road was about $2500 USD or $250 USD/day.

For comparison’s sake, renting a 2WD car, plus insurance and fuel cost us about $160USD/day on an earlier Iceland road trip exploring the South Coast in the summer. In short, your Iceland vehicle rental is going to cost you at least 50% more if you choose to rent a 4×4.

See also: Renting a 4×4 in Iceland.

This is my shameless plug for locally owned Lava Car Rentals. I have always had great service from them and they are very transparent around the unique and sometimes confusing insurance needs for Iceland.

(Disclosure: I do receive a small affiliate commission on Lava bookings at no extra cost to you.)

Car Rental from Iceland Airport - Lava


Renting a car in Iceland? I highly recommend Lava Car Rental. (See Trustpilot reviews.) Get free 4G Hotspot WiFi (1500 ISK/day value) by using TARAWIFI at checkout. Tick the box for “4G WiFi” when selecting your additional features and the fee will be removed upon checkout.


Thinking about renting an electric vehicle for self driving the Ring Road in Iceland? Most Iceland car rental companies have them available and charging stations are offered all around the country.

I think the key to renting an EV for the Iceland Ring Road is having a little buffer in terms of time. Even with very conveniently located chargers, your stops will still be longer than a regular fuel stop.

Many car rental companies in Iceland offer EVs, including Lava Car Rentals (Teslas). The cost up front is a little more, but as fuel is expensive and power cheap in Iceland, it should come close to evening out in the end.

As much as I love the idea of renting an EV (we own one at home), I have yet to do it on a holiday because we always seem to be tight on time and I just don’t want the added stress.


Summer is the best time of year to drive the Iceland Ring Road. It is also the most popular time, but the crowds really thin out once you get a couple hours from Reykjavik. The weather is generally nice (warm is a bit of a stretch) and the wide open roads are in good condition. In the summer, you also benefit from really long hours of daylight for sightseeing. (During the time of the midnight sun you can get up to 21 hours of daylight. In the winter that can shrink to as few as 4.)

The shoulder months of June and September can also be nice. To be fair though, we finished the Ring Road on Sept. 1st. The airport shut down right after our flight took off due to crazy wind storm. It felt like an abrupt end to summer.


Technically, yes. The Ring Road in Iceland (Hwy 1) is the main transportation route for the country and it can be done. Would I personally choose to drive it in the winter months? Absolutely not – and I am from Canada where we are no strangers to bad weather and icy road conditions.

Iceland Ring Road Winter
South Iceland in Winter

I have done a road trip along the South Coast of Iceland in January, where the roads are very well maintained. While it was an exceptional adventure, it was also rather harrowing at times. The strong winds are what really makes it challenging. These winds can push small vehicles off the road and rip vehicle doors right off their hinges! Furthermore, road closures due to dangerous conditions can delay plans.

Let me show you what I mean with the little video from that trip.

To be clear, Iceland in the winter is brilliant. There are some unique experiences to be had that you will not likely have in the summer (ice cave tours, the Northern Lights etc.) I’m just saying that driving the Ring Road in the winter is not a good idea. (An alternative could be to take a guided tour with an experienced local driver. There are several companies that run them year-round.)


By world standards, Iceland is a pretty nice country to drive in. Icelandic drivers are quite considerate and the roads are generally well taken care of. That said, the geography and weather of Iceland makes the experience a bit unique. Here are some important safety tips for driving the Iceland Ring Road.

  • Check Road Conditions – Iceland has unpredictable weather, sometimes even during the summer. Always check road and weather conditions ahead of time. is where you will find daily weather updates and weather warnings. is where you will find road condition updates (including closures).
  • Charging – Keep phones charged in the unlikely event of an emergency along the road. If you take a ton of photos like I do, you may wish to have both a USB charging cable and a backup battery with you. (I had a hard time keeping my iPhone charged with the cable alone.) If you have portable hotspot wifi, remember to charge that device up in your hotel room at night.
  • Do Not Stop on Road – While it is tempting to screech to a halt when you see some of those gorgeous Icelandic horses, look for a safe place to pull over. It is illegal to stop on the shoulder as there is rarely much room and this makes it unsafe for other drivers.
Icelandic Horses
  • Watch Your Speed – The speed limits are generally 50 km/h in urban areas, 70km/h approaching towns, 80 km/h on gravel roads and 90 km/h on paved highways and rural roads. There are speed cameras around the country – primarily in the major cities and in the Hvalfjörður tunnel (just north of Reykjavik).
Police Car in Iceland
  • Single Lane Bridges – You will find these all along the Ring Road. The vehicle that arrives to the bridge first has the right of way and you must yield to them.
Single Lane Bridge in Iceland
  • Tunnels – There are some single lane tunnels in Iceland (ex. Strákagöng in the northwest). These tunnels have pullout areas within them that you can tuck your vehicle into until the oncoming traffic has passed. (If the pullouts are on your right, you are obliged to pull over.)
A tunnel in Iceland

Note: There is a fee to use the Vadlaheidargong Tunnel in northern Iceland (just east of Akureyri). Register online with your license plate and credit card information ahead of time at (there is no toll booth).

  • Respect Wildlife – Slow down around farm animals and wildlife. You will most definitely encounter sheep on the road at some point during your drive.
Sheep Beside the Road Iceland
  • Watch Your Fuel – The stretch of Highway 1 between Vík and Mývatn (East Iceland) does not have a ton of fuel stops. Avoid letting your tank run low. You may also want to check on your window washer levels.

Note: Our vehicle windows got so filthy on our trip that we ended up buying a spray bottle and a sponge so we could clean them off periodically.

Cleaning a dirty 4x4 Window in Iceland
  • For Diesel Vehicles – In Iceland, the anti-pollutant fuel additive AdBlue is mandatory for all vehicles that run on diesel. (This is similar to DEF in the U.S.). If your vehicle runs low, a warning light should appear on the dashboard. Don’t ignore it as your vehicle will eventually shut down unless you top the fluid back up. This is unlikely to be an issue for you as most vehicles run for 8K-10K between fill ups. All the same, it’s handy to know that AdBlue, like washer fluid, is available at all gas stations.
  • Where to Get Help – Keep the roadside assistance number provided by your rental car provider handy in the event of a breakdown. In the event of an actually emergency, the number 112 is the equivalent to 911 in the U.S. and Canada.


Gas Station on Iceland's Ring Road

Most gas stations along the Ring Road also include washrooms, a small store and some kind of restaurant. Some of these restaurants, like the “Food Coop” shown above in Seyðisfjörður are acuatally quite good! In some of the smallest hamlets, the gas station is the neighborhood gathering spot.

Types of Merchandise Sold in Iceland Gas Stations

In addition to snacks and basic grocery items, most gas station stores sell any essentials that you may need for your road trip (washer fluid etc.) and sometimes hiking and outdoor gear too!

Dotted all along the Ring Road you will also find scenic picnic table stops.

Rest Stop Sign on Iceland Ring Road

Traveling with kids? Almost every town in Iceland has a jumping pillow. Their respective locations can be found on the Aerslabelgir Map. It’s in Icelandic but it’s pretty straight forward.

Bouncy Pillows for Kids in Iceland


We briefly considered the idea of booking an Iceland self drive Ring Road tour. There are several companies that take the stress out of planning the Iceland Ring Road self drive with their flexible itineraries. Typically, they provide a suggested route, with optional add-on activities. There is also usually some flexibility around vehicle choice and hotel class. If you are tight on time, I think Iceland Ring Road tours can be a great option, and often at a very good price.

Personally, I am a big fan of the tour company Hidden Iceland. This company was started by several former tour guides who felt that they could offer a more immersive Iceland experience for guests.

I don’t have a discount to offer you for their Self Drive Ring Road Tours, but if you mention The Better Beyond in the “How did you hear about us?” section, you are sure to get the sharpest pricing.

Note: If you happen to book one of their Small Group Tours, I can offer you 10% off when you us BEYOND10 at checkout.


If possible, book well in advance to secure your desired rental vehicle, hotels and activities. Not only are you competing with other travelers during high season, but also with Iceland Ring Road tour companies that book up blocks of rooms and whole time slots for activities.

Note: For our hotels, I reserved 100% refundable rooms on to make sure we had something in place, and then made some changes later as our plans evolved. I was lucky enough to catch a sale on, making our rooms cheaper than booking with the hotels directly (saving us hundreds of dollars throughout our trip).


I hope these Iceland Ring Road tips help you to have the most amazing journey filled with awe-inspiring landscapes and unforgettable experiences. Should you have further questions about this self-drive tour, please feel free to reach out to me via direct message on Instagram, by email, or by leaving a comment below. I love hearing from readers.


I have been writing about Iceland since our first trip in 2016 on this site, as well as on my family travel site, I have listed my most popular guides below.

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