My self-drive ring road Iceland tour

7th November 2019

iceland helicopter tour with nordugflug

An extended layover in Iceland en route from America to Europe is a brilliant idea, as it is pretty much smack in the middle and it is honestly one of the most fascinating countries I have ever been too. Icelandair understood that and is now offering up to a seven-day layover at no additional cost on many trans-Atlantic routes. Once you’re in Iceland, because of the poor public transport system outside of Reykjavik, there are two ways to explore all the things to do in Iceland: either by A – joining a group tour (and you may have read that it isn’t exactly my thing…) or B – by renting a car and doing your Iceland road trip like a big adult.

When I partnered with TripCreator for my Iceland itinerary, I was informed that the latter was the plan, and I did have a brief moment of panic because… I do not know how to drive! Thankfully, the funny and wild woman that is my mother volunteered herself to be driving in Iceland, so we were all set to go! Yay!

Iceland helicopter tour with nordugflug

self drive road trip iceland

We had four days to explore as much of Iceland as possible, and so driving the whole Ring Road (which runs the circumference of the country) was a bit too ambitious – for that, I would plan a whole week, minimum. What we opted for was a few days of driving up and down through the South West of the country, and that alone was plenty to make me fall head over heels for this totally outlandish place. And according to my mom – who’d never driven outside of Canada – driving in Iceland was super easy. So Iceland self drive FTW! The roads are in great condition and we had them all to ourselves most of the time.

Planning a trip to iceland? Here is what our Iceland ring road itinerary looked like, which accounted for about 200 to 300 km of driving per day.
road trip in iceland

Iceland road trip DAY 1: 30 KM

Iceland Blue Lagoon

Opinions are mixed, but the Blue Lagoon remains in my view a not to be missed experience for anyone doing an Iceland self drive tour. Take it for what it is: a man-made, extremely popular, little over-the-top and overpriced, but still drop-dead-gorgeous and very relaxing touristic activity. It is the best possible way to cure your jet lag and the perfect way to kick off your self-drive ring road Iceland tour (or the best way to get ready to leave Iceland, as it is so close to the airport and a lot of people choose to have one last dip before leaving the country). It was quite otherworldly, after a night spent in commute, to look through the mist hanging over the milky blue water cradled by black lava rocks, and the silica mud face mask was lovely. I felt like I had just landed on another planet and I believe my mother felt like she was on some hallucinogenic drugs, by the look of her on these photos!

Iceland Blue Lagoon

Iceland Blue Lagoon

Self drive iceland DAY 2: 240 km

norðurflug helicopter tour Reykjavik

We started the first full day of our Iceland self drive tour with a bang by taking a helicopter tour with Norðurflug. I had never been in a helicopter before so that alone was a treat, but gliding smoothly above the snowy peaks and landing in an otherwise inaccessible geothermal zone for a photo stop where hot springs and boiling mud pits abound was pure magic. It was honestly one of the most incredible things I have done in my whole life! We then followed the road north to see the Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls with photo stops at both the Deildartunguhver Geothermal Area and the cute Brautarholtskirkja Church. All of these were lovely, but the highlight of our Iceland road trip remained to simply drive across the quiet countryside.

norðurflug helicopter tour Reykjavik

norðurflug helicopter tour Reykjavik

norðurflug helicopter tour Reykjavik

Deildartunguhver Geothermal Area

Deildartunguhver Geothermal Area

Brautarholtskirkja Church

Brautarholtskirkja Church

Iceland Road Trip DAY 3: 300 km

Þingvellir National Park

Day three of our Iceland itinerary was devoted to what is possibly the most popular day-trip out of Reykjavik: The Golden Circle, which consists of a look through the most attraction-packed road in South Iceland. We visited Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss Waterfall, THE Geysir (the one that gave its name to all the other ones, how cool is that!?) and if that wasn’t enough, ended the day floating on our back in a 38 degree secret lagoon with underwater speakers playing Sigur Ros while receiving a massage. This was supposed to be an Aurora Borealis observation, but unfortunately, there was no activity. It really didn’t matter though, it was just lovely to soak in the oldest swimming pool of Iceland in the middle of the night with a futuristic floating helmet!

Þingvellir National Park

Gullfoss waterfall iceland

Geysir Geyser Iceland Golden Circle

ring road Iceland DAY 4: 350KM

Black sand Iceland

From Fludir, we made our way back to Reykjavik with a stopover at Seljalandsfoss Waterfall and a cheeky last visit to the Blue Lagoon. Relaxed and floppy, we came back to the city – not without a quick stop to pet the majestic Icelandic horses! – and traded our rental car for a City Card to explore the many outdoor thermal pools and the excellent vegan food scene.

icelandic horses

snow iceland

northern light fail

reykjavik harbor

reykjavik harbor

reyklavik ancient houses

Have you been to Iceland? I still can’t wrap my head around everything that I saw! Top tip is to pack for all seasons because you never know what you’ll get, so check out these handy Iceland packing tips!

For more Iceland South Coast daytrip ideas, check out my friend Danielle’s guide!

Heartfelt thanks to TripCreator, Icelandair and Visit Reykjavik. As always, you receive my honest opinion no matter who is footing the bill.

28 thoughts on “My self-drive ring road Iceland tour

  1. Kerri

    Well, I would love to go to Iceland. And despite it being man made, the Blue lagoon is still something that I would love to do. Great photos. One day I will get there.

  2. LeAnna

    We rented a campervan and did the ring road. Seriously, I think this is the only and best (self-driving) way to see Iceland! You get to go where YOU want to go and at your own pace. What an absolutely beautiful and amazing country!

  3. MariaAbroad

    I want to include a layover in Iceland next time I go to Europe and your trip report is such a great resource. Looking forward to reading your other updates 🙂

  4. Jenna

    I agree with you–the Blue Lagoon may be a bit overhyped and overpriced, but it really is something worth seeing at least once! It’s just such a strange and gorgeous spot! Looks like you had a fantastic trip! Love the photos of the helicopter ride–looks like it was so much fun! We head back to Iceland next week and this just made me really excited to visit again!

  5. Chris

    Great post! I’m heading there later this year. This post has made me feel like I am making a great choice. How much was the Helicopter ride in USD??

  6. Laura

    Driving in iceland is definitely the way to go in the nice – weather do love that Iceland Air has given the stopover option.

  7. Mar Pages

    I’ve been many photos with yoga poses, but yours is definitely one to remember! What a fantastically unique trip to take with your mum, she looks ecstatic in the blue lagoon. I usually see writers quietly admiring Iceland’s landscape, but yours is full of fun- love it!

  8. katja

    I LOVE your photos!! Ah, I’m so ready to go to Iceland. It really looks like nowhere else on earth. Love that Iceland Air are offering 7-day layovers, I think more airlines should do this! And how fun that you got to experience this with your mum; definitely a trip to remember!

  9. Caitlin

    We’re going in September and can’t wait!! I think we’ll be doing the campervan route and driving the ring road. Planning is a bit overwhelming with all of the gorgeous sites Iceland has to see.

  10. LT

    1. Your blog is wonderful, I really enjoy it!
    2. the vegan guide to Reykjavik is so helpful! I am vegan, and live in Iceland, and had no idea about all these options! Thank you!
    3. As a resident of Iceland, I do want to caution travelers here about driving. It is great that you had good conditions for your trip, but driving is often dangerous in ways people don’t associate with European countries. The weather is formidable, the roads can be impassable, and help is not near. Please be careful. Iceland has a very small population so when a someone gets in stranded in nature it puts a real strain on the local search and rescue which is completley volunteer based. Also, from an environmental standpoint, I’d like to ask that visitors to Iceland really consider their footprint on this island. I know driving around and seeing as much as possible has become the normal way to see Iceland, but consider coming here and going a little more slow. Perhaps pick one spot and get to know it, get to know the people, eat local food and drive less—it will be less expensive and hopefully a more intimate experience with Iceland!

  11. Pingback: Think You Can't Afford To Travel? Now You Can With These Tips! - Mostly Amélie Mostly Amélie

  12. Wouter

    We went to Iceland last spring, it was really amazing! Thank so much for your work and info! It was my second time i have visited Iceland but after reading your inspiration and want to jump on the plane again.


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