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Iceland is one of the most incredible countries to visit – in fact, I think it’s such a cool country that I’ve been there four separate times!
On my first three trips to Iceland, I mostly based myself in the capital of Reykjavik and did day trips from there. You absolutely can have a great trip to Iceland by doing this – and it’s perhaps the most convenient (and safe) way to do it if you’re visiting Iceland in winter, when many roads close and bad storms can make driving more dangerous.
On my most recent trip, though, I finally did the thing that the vast majority of visitors to Iceland dream of doing: driving the Ring Road.
And I can confirm that it’s an epic, must-do road trip!
What you’ll find in this post
How long do you need for a Ring Road road trip?
The Ring Road (Þjóðvegur 1, or simply Route 1) circles the entire country in 821.5 miles (about 1322 kilometers). Many people complete this Iceland road trip in as little as a week, but my friend Kate and I actually allowed ourselves 15 days to do it (and we skipped Reykjavik and the Golden Circle since we’d done them before).
While 15 days is probably longer than the average person needs for the major highlights of the Ring Road, I think 7 days is too short. In my opinion, 8-9 days would be the least amount of time I’d allocate to the Ring Road, but 10-12 days would be ideal! (And even then, you’ll be driving hours each day and staying somewhere different almost every night!)
I’ve created this 10-day Ring Road itinerary based on my four trips to Iceland, including my own jam-packed Iceland road trip. There is SO MUCH to see and do in Iceland that you’ll never see it all; but I’ll tell you what I think it most worth seeing/doing as you circle the country.
This itinerary does include lots of driving and sightseeing, but that’s what an Iceland road trip is all about!
When to take an Iceland road trip
Technically speaking, you can visit Iceland any time of year. And while I do actually love traveling to Iceland in the winter, I don’t personally recommend road tripping Iceland in the winter.
Why? For starters, Iceland is located very close to the Arctic Circle, meaning it has very short days during the winter months. While the chance of seeing the Northern Lights is cool, only having a few hours of daylight each day (5-6 hours in November, 4 hours in December, 5-6 hours in January, 9 hours in February) makes it challenging to actually see all the cool features Iceland has to offer.
Secondly, while not always frigidly cold, Iceland is prone to gnarly fall and winter storms with damaging winds strong enough to rip car doors clean off. There’s an increasing risk of these storms starting each year in October, and they often cause roads – including the Ring Road – to completely close for a day or two at a time.
So, even though the summer months are the most expensive in Iceland, they do make for much better road tripping.
May-September is the best time for a road trip in Iceland. During this half of the year, you generally get better weather (though a freak storm can happen any time of year), and the long daylight hours mean lots more time for exploring.
I did my Iceland road trip in August, which is probably the busiest time to be in the country. If I were to plan it again, I would perhaps go in mid-June (when lupines usually start blooming) or early September (when there might be a slight chance to see the Northern Lights).
But July and August are good, too, as long as you plan and book everything well in advance.
Just note that the weather in Iceland will ALWAYS be unpredictable, even in the summer. You might luck out and get a string of sunny days like I did, or you could be faced with clouds and rain. The forecast changes constantly, so your best bet is to prepare for anything!
Pro tip: If you’re going to do this trip in the late fall, winter, or early spring, be sure to check the Safetravel.is site (or download the app or follow them on Instagram) for info on weather alerts, travel disruptions, closures, etc. You may need to be flexible and change your plans based on storms. You can also check Road.is for up-to-date info on road conditions.
The perfect 10-day Iceland road trip itinerary
Here’s my version of the perfect 10-day Ring Road itinerary in Iceland. I’m including everything that I think is a must-do, and also giving suggestions of extra things you might want to add if you have time/are interested.
This itinerary includes lots of time spent outdoors visiting free natural sites, so be sure to pack accordingly! It also includes some long days of driving and sightseeing, so be sure to be realistic about how busy you want your trip to be.