Road-tripping is a favorite activity here on the island. And since the island isn’t that big, it really is possible to see quite a lot in a small amount of time. But there is a difference between the time you have available and what the generally recommended time on the various road trip routes are. The actual time needed to truly experience everything the route has to offer.
So, can you drive across the island in just a couple of days? How long will it take you to drive around Iceland and see and experience all the exciting things that are waiting around every corner? We answer all these questions and more.
Well, that will depend on the route you take and your mode of transport. If you want to truly drive around Iceland, the recommended self-drive route will always be the Ring Road. As the name suggests, the Ring Road is a circular route that goes all around the island. It will allow you to get a taste of every region and terrain the Land of Fire and Ice has to offer.
The Ring Road route is a total of 828 miles (1332 km) long.
If you only take the total kilometers of the Ring Road route into account, you can actually drive the entire route in just 17 hours. But this is merely in theory and will include absolutely no stops along the way. For obvious reasons, this is not the recommended length that you should road trip the Ring Road route.
As we mentioned, trying to beat the clock and drive the Ring Road in just 17 hours will completely defy the point of going on a road trip in the first place. You clearly won’t be able to see or do anything. When it comes to road-tripping the Ring Road, it is recommended that you set aside at least 10–14 days. This way, you'll properly get to explore all the things you’ll find alongside the route.
In Iceland, you’ll essentially find three different types of roads:
You’ll find that the majority of the main roads consist of paved roads. These roads are kept in excellent condition and should be easy to drive with a standard 2-wheel drive.
Every now and again, you’ll come across a gravel road – even on some of the main roads. But, most often, these are short and mostly a way to get to one of the local attractions. These are generally in good enough condition that they can also be taken on in a normal 2-wheel drive vehicle. Still, any gravel road should be driven a bit slower and with more caution.
There are certain roads/routes that can only be accessed via 4x4 in Iceland. These roads are referred to as the F-roads in Iceland and are most commonly found in the Highlands region of the island. If you have a properly detailed roadmap of Iceland, these roads will be clearly marked on it.
We do, however, recommend that you have a chat with your rental agency beforehand regarding your planned routes. This way, you can avoid ending up on a road that your vehicle won’t be able to handle.
Technically, you can road trip all across the island all throughout the year. There will always be once-in-a-lifetime things to do and see, irrelevant of month or season. But, generally, the warmer months are preferred because of the following reasons:
In urban areas, the speed limit tends to be between 30-50 km/h. On gravel roads, you’ll be limited to 80 km/h. And on the paved roads, you’ll need to stick to no more than 90 km/h.
You will find the speed limits clearly marked on signs along the road. We cannot stress the importance of adhering to these speed limits enough. Icelanders do not take kindly to those who don’t respect the rules of the road. And, except for ending up having to do a lot of explaining, you’ll be hit with such a hefty fine that you might need to remortgage the house.
Another trend has started on the island, where some come to cycle around Iceland. This is obviously not something for the faint of heart to take on, and definitely not something we’ll recommend to beginner cyclists. You should also not even consider this as an option during the winter months. When it comes to cycling the Ring Road, it is recommended that at least 2 weeks are set aside to complete the journey.
How long it takes to drive around Iceland will all depend on how much of the island you want to experience. And, of course, on how much time you’ve set aside for exploring the island. You can opt for breaking some kind of world record and try to drive the Ring Road in less than 17 hours (just remember those speed limits!).
Or you can commit to a clearly outlined 10-day itinerary, or you might have to squeeze everything into 5 days if that’s the only time you’ll be able to have on the island. But irrespective of how long you end up renting a car in Reykjavík and driving around the island, we can guarantee you that it’ll be the ride of your life. Happy travels!