We strongly believe that the best way to explore a country is by making a road trip out of it. But if you hear about everything that lies in store for those taking on an Iceland road trip, you might just book your flights today!
We'll provide you with an Iceland road trip itinerary and cost breakdown, as well as things to look forward to on your trip. Ready? Let's hit the road!
There are plenty of reasons why going on an Iceland road trip is a good idea. These are just a few of them:
Many countries will claim that they have “amazing views and sceneries”, but with the Land of Fire and Ice, it really is the case. The island's volcanic activity and icy environment have produced distinct and contrasting landscapes. And it’s not just us who think our views and sceneries are of star quality.
Remember the famous skateboarding scene from the Secret Life of Walter Mitty that was shot in Iceland? Or perhaps you can spot one of your favorite Game of Thrones scenes at these Iceland locations? What about the Batman Begin scenes shot in Iceland? There are plenty more examples of how the Iceland landscape has graced our screens – and for very good reason.
Iceland is one of the countries that are incredibly road trip friendly. In fact, we actually have certain routes that are known as popular road trip routes such as:
And in typical road trip fashion, you’ll find plenty of options for renting campervans on the island. There are more than enough camping sites that make provision for campers and motorhomes.
Iceland offers many once-in-a-lifetime experiences that can’t be experienced anywhere else in the world. Where else than Iceland can you lie suspended in glacial water between the Eurasian and North American continents? The Silfra Fissure allows individuals to go snorkeling or diving in this gap filled with the clearest water you'll ever see. Here, the tectonic plates of the two continents are pushing each other away.
Or where would you go horse riding on a real Icelandic Horse? The island has its own breed of horse that’s known for its pony-like stature, friendly nature, and performing an extra gait called the tölt. And these are just the tip of the iceberg (and yes, we have those as well) of unique experiences one can have on the island.
Once again, this is not just our opinion. Iceland has actually taken this title for the 15th year in a row on the Global Peace Index. In today's world, safety is becoming more important for travelers, especially for Digital Nomads who travel alone. This gives you peace of mind, so you don't have to worry about looking behind you or the car being stolen during your road trip.
We have many visitors who come to the island just two tick off two natural phenomena experiences off their bucket list. We're talking about the Northern Lights and the Midnight Sun. Remember, these natural wonders happen at specific times of the year. You need to plan a winter trip to see the Northern Lights and a summer trip to experience the Midnight Sun.
Many people don't realize that Iceland has a lot of wildlife because it's not a country usually associated with it. However, we are actually a birder’s dream! With unique bird species that can be found in the wetlands of the Iceland national parks, the coastal cliffs, and by merely staring out your window.
And where the most birds are, you can also find our only predator here on the island. The Arctic Fox, which, to be fair, looks more like a wild Pomeranian than a big, ferocious predator. If you get the timing of your trip right, you’ll be rewarded with even more unique island wildlife such as whales and Iceland Puffins.
Even though whales can be seen all throughout the year, certain migratory species make Iceland their home from April to September. And the Puffins come to breed on the island between May and August. If you have not seen a little Puffling (what the babies are called) waddling around on the island, you don’t know what a cuteness overload feels like.
Water is a major theme on the island. You will find it everywhere in all shapes and sizes. But water in its fluid state has landed itself quite a reputation here on the island. Firstly, no one will buy bottled water.
Our water is of such high quality that it will, ironically, blow your bottled water right out of the water. Here you simply have a water bottle that you fill up as you go, straight from the tap. We also have 10,000 waterfalls you can visit here in Iceland, one of which holds the title of the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
If you want to explore as much of Iceland as possible, but don’t have a lot of time to do it, we propose that your go-to road trip route be the Ring Road. As the name suggests, this route will take you in a circle around the island. It'll give you a taste of all the different regions along with many of the must-visit places.
Below you will find an easy-to-follow Iceland road trip itinerary for 10 days, It will give you enough time to experience many of Iceland’s wonders:
The following Iceland road trip cost breakdown is with the above-mentioned itinerary in mind and is for 2 people sharing. If you’re a solo traveler, you will need to add another $350-$400 to the trip total. So, without further ado, this is what you’ll need to budget for your Iceland road trip:
If this is your first trip to the island or the first time you’ll be taking on an Iceland road trip, the following tips will come in handy:
Don’t park next to the road or anywhere else if it’s not clearly marked as a parking spot. Also, don’t DIY your own off-road experience or create your own “road less traveled”. It is illegal to do any of this, and if you are caught, you might end up with such a hefty fine that you’ll need to cut your vacation short.
This law is not just for your own safety (you can ask Ed Sheeran what happens when you wander off a path in Iceland). It also to protect the island’s fragile ecosystem – especially in places where one finds Icelandic moss. Any damage to the ecosystem can take decades to restore, if at all.
Gas prices in Iceland are not the same at all the gas stations. Not only is there a big difference between self-service and gas stations with attendants, but there is a general price difference depending on which gas station you visit. Have a chat with your rental agent as well as some locals who will be happy to point out which their go-to gas stations are.
In the same breath, beggars can’t be choosers. If you’re planning on visiting the more remote regions of the island, gas stations will be few and far between. That’s why you need to ensure that you fuel up at the last available gas station whilst still in civilization, so you don’t end up stranded next to the road after running out of gas.
Things are very seasonal in Iceland, and as we’ve already explained with the natural phenomena on the island, certain things can only be seen or experienced in specific seasons. For example, people are often surprised to learn that most of Iceland’s ice caves are closed during the summer months due to safety concerns (ice melts, remember?).
Certain roads and routes on the island are also closed during the winter season every year due to the impact of the weather conditions on the roads. This can have a massive impact on someone who planned an entire F-road road trip to explore the Highlands only to find themselves at a dead end. So, you need to make sure that you pick the right time for your trip and everything you want to do and see; otherwise you might end up very disappointed.
We have a local saying here on the island that says, “you can experience all four seasons in one day in Iceland”. Even when you’ve picked the perfect time to visit the island, you might still end up getting caught in the rain when it was perfectly clear blue sunny skies just a moment ago.
Not only do they come in handy when the “four seasons in one day” thing catches you unawares, but they also come in extremely handy all across the island. You will understand this tip better when your waterproof hiking boots keep your feet dry on muddy Iceland hot spring trails, and when you’re not getting soaked by a waterfall’s mist and spray.
This is something not many know about. Rental agencies have very close ties to local businesses and can have a myriad of discount offers and vouchers at any given time, ranging from accommodation to activities and even gas. These vouchers and discounts can make your vacation budget stretch much further.
Your Iceland road trip is just a rental vehicle away. But remember to discuss your planned routes with your rental agency, so they can give you the car that will best suit your needs and requirements.
Remember, there are certain roads and routes on the island (such as the F-roads in Iceland) that are not accessible unless you have a 4x4 vehicle. This is not just a recommendation – it is the law! But once you’ve figured out what car you need, and you’ve rented a car in Reykjavík, you can start your Iceland road trip by using our article as a guide.