Best Attractions by the Ring Road of Iceland

Best Attractions by the Ring Road of Iceland

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You'll see beautiful nature from the Ring Road in Iceland

Read all about the best attractions on or near the Ring Road in Iceland. Discover the beautiful nature and fun activities by Iceland's famous Route 1.

Route 1 in Iceland will lead you to some truly stunning locations. It's the main road in the country and circles the island, which is why it's most often referred to as the Ring Road or the Iceland Circle Road.

Along the Ring Road, you can find some of Iceland's most iconic locations. You can explore the beautiful landscapes with different tours around Iceland or enjoy the freedom of a self-drive tour with a rental car.

Discover spectacular waterfalls, black sand beaches, reindeer spotting locations, majestic glaciers, and towering volcanoes! Stay in great Icelandic accommodations in the charming towns in the countryside, or embrace adventure by renting a campervan.

Learn all you need to know for a trip around the country and plan your journey with this guide to the Ring Road of Iceland!

Driving the Ring Road in Iceland

Parts of Iceland's Ring Road may be closed off in wintertime

Driving in Iceland offers a unique set of challenges, as the roads may not be what you are used to at home. Some roads may be narrower than you're accustomed to, and there are some blind summits, narrow passes, and even single-lane bridges! Drive cautiously, take your time, and drive at moderate speeds so you can respond to any unexpected challenges.

There are many great Ring Road stops to make, with stunning attractions like the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, lake Myvatn, and the Vatnajokull glacier just by the side of the road. During most of the year, you can also complete the journey with a small rental car, though this will limit your options for doing detours to more remote locations.

With this in mind, you might want to budget 10-14 days to enjoy a trip around Iceland's Ring Road. It's recommended that you do the trip in spring, summer, or autumn. If you're traveling around Iceland in winter (October to March), it's better to extend this time frame to allow for more flexibility.

main attractions along the ring road circle of Iceland: map, location, and photos

Driving the Ring Road in winter is slower than in summer. There's a chance you may need to drive through a snowstorm, and sometimes roads are closed because of snowfall or harsh winds. This means there's always a chance that you'll have to wait in one location for one to two days because of road conditions.

The days in Iceland are much shorter in wintertime, and you may not want to navigate the icy roads in darkness.

For these reasons, if you're visiting in winter, we strongly recommend that you pick up a four-wheel drive, jeep, or SUV rental car for your Ring Road trip. This way, you'll be better prepared to tackle difficult road conditions.

While traveling the Ring Road in winter is a bigger challenge than in summer, it can offer some amazing experiences. You can visit beautiful ice caves and go on northern light tours in the winter darkness!

Always check the road conditions before you set off (even during summer), as well as the Icelandic weather forecast. We also recommend checking the SafeTravel website regularly and downloading their mobile app for safety updates.

What is the Best Way to Travel Iceland's Ring Road?

Iceland Ring Road Map with Attractions

This is a Ring Road map from our 10-day self-drive tour of the complete Ring Road that takes you around Iceland and includes the Snaefellsnes peninsula. Colored tags mark all the attractions, and you can zoom in to look at each item closer. It gives a good idea of all the locations you can visit along the Ring Road!

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary

There are some stunning views from the Ring Road of Iceland

There are plenty of Ring Road itineraries to choose from, but the major decision to make is between driving the circle yourself or going on a guided tour. Taking a public bus from one place to another is pretty much impossible as the buses only run once or twice a day, and you'll want to be able to stop along the way to sightsee.

By driving the circle yourself, you'll have more flexibility and privacy and can choose how long you want to spend at each location. When doing a summer self-drive tour, you can enjoy the sights until the middle of the night because of the midnight sun! If you're doing a self-drive tour in winter, the days are darker so you'll have the option to go northern lights hunting whenever the sky is clear!

Northern Lights over Gunnuhver hot spring on the Reykjanes peninsula in Iceland

Only drive in Iceland in winter if you are highly confident with driving in snow and icy conditions. Iceland's road conditions change regularly, and it's crucial to stay up to date with the current conditions and put safety first.

If you don't want to drive in Iceland no matter the season, or simply want to get some local insight into the main attractions, you can opt for a guided tour or a planned self-drive Icelandic Ring Road itinerary. A 10-day summer guided tour of the Ring Road is a great mix of free time in Reykjavik and a guided tour of the Ring Road. If you're on a budget, be sure to check out all our self-drive budget tours.

Detours From the Ring Road

The Geysir geothermal area is worth the detour from the Ring RoadAlthough many attractions in Iceland are close to the Ring Road, some main attractions in Iceland are not, like the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. The same goes for most of the fjords in East Iceland, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, the Westfjords, and the impressive Highlands. Note that in order to explore the Icelandic Highlands, you'll need to rent a four-wheel drive. The area is only accessible from late June until September.

In North Iceland, we recommend doing a short detour from the Ring Road to check out some popular locations, such as the Asbyrgi canyon, Dettifoss waterfall, and the towns of Siglufjordur and Husavik, the whale-watching capital of Iceland. You'll need to add additional time to your journey to reach them, but it's worth it.

Ring Road Attractions in Southwest Iceland

You can see Seljalandsfoss waterfall from the Ring RoadThe South of Iceland has some of the most popular locations in the country, so we're splitting the region into two parts, the Southwest and the Southeast. We recommend booking ash, sand, and gravel car insurance when driving in South Iceland, as your car may get damaged on windy days.

The Southwest of Iceland is mainly composed of flat, green farmlands. As you head further east, you'll start seeing the occasional river and mountains, including the Hvita river and Hekla volcano, which can be seen from the Ring Road. Here are some of the best locations to see during your travels in the region.

10. Reykjadalur Valley by Hveragerdi

Bathing in Reykjadalur hot river is a great pleasure.Photo from Relaxing 4-Hour Hike to Reykjadalur Valley With Hot Spring Tour from Hveragerdi

Hveragerdi is a cute little town just half an hour's drive from Reykjavik. It's known for its geothermal activity, and during a visit, you'll see hot springs lining the surrounding mountainsides. There are also many greenhouses in Hveragerdi that harness the Earth's warmth to grow vegetables and flowers year-round!

One of Hveragerdi's main attractions is the nearby Reykjadalur valley, where visitors can hike and bathe in naturally heated streams amidst scenic surroundings. We recommend taking a day to enjoy a relaxing 4-hour hike to the Reykjadalur valley, where you can enjoy a dip in the warm water.

You can also skip the hike and make the trip even more magical by joining a horseback riding tour to Reykjadalur! The Icelandic horse is very gentle, and the tour is available for everyone over 8 years old.

9. The Golden Circle

The Gullfoss waterfall is an iconic attraction in IcelandOff the Ring Road, you can drive the Golden Circle and then join the Ring Road again by the town of Selfoss. This is one of the best detours to include on your itinerary, as you'll be able to see the famous Thingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, and the Geysir geothermal area!

All of them are must-see locations on any visit to Iceland and can easily be done over half a day. If you want more time to explore the area, you can also find some great accommodations in the Golden Circle, conveniently close to these major attractions. It's worth staying a night before continuing your Ring Road journey.

8. The Roadside Glaciers and Islands Views

The famous Eyjafjallajokull can be seen from the Ring Road in Iceland

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Remy Osman. The Eyjafjallajokull glacier volcano towers above this south-coast farm.

As you drive along this section of the Ring Road, you'll have spectacular views of the Eyjafjoll mountains and the Eyjafjallajokull glacier volcano, which famously erupted in 2010 and is the source of dozens of waterfalls.

On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Westman Islands from the Ring Road, just off the coast. To reach the Westman Islands, you'll need to drive to Landeyjahofn and take a ferry across. You can also take a tour to the Westman Islands from Reykjavik!

Remember that while there's usually not much traffic on the Ring Road, you should never stop on the road for pictures. Instead, stop at any of the multiple rest stops along the road to admire the view.

7. Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Seljalandsfoss waterfall has a cave behind it that you can walk through, one of the most beautiful attractions in Iceland!

Seljalandsfoss waterfall is one of Iceland's most popular attractions and for a reason! It dramatically cascades off a lush mountain cliff over a cave, and you can walk behind it during the warmer months.

You can see the beautiful Seljalandsfoss waterfall from the Ring Road. The parking lot is just off the main road, and you'll be able to walk straight up to it in just a few minutes.

The waterfall is 68.3 miles (110 kilometers) from Reykjavik, and you can also visit nearby Gljufrabui waterfall while you're there. You need to tiptoe over a few rocks in a river to get inside the canyon, but it's well worth it!

6. Seljavallalaug Outdoor Swimming Pool

The Seljavallalaug pool is surrounded by beautiful hill sidesFor a relaxing break on your south coast travels, you can go off the Ring Road towards Seljadalur for a dip in the historic Seljavallalaug swimming pool. It's one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland, built in 1927, and it's surrounded by beautiful grassy mountainsides.

The pool is free to enter and open for everyone as long as guests are respectful of the area. Keep in mind that there is no lifeguard or other staff on-site, and there is slippery algae in the pool.

You'll need to walk about 0.75 miles (1.2 kilometers) to reach the Seljavallalaug pool from the parking lot, and once you're there, you'll be able to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

5. Skogafoss Waterfall

On sunny days you can see a rainbow in front of the Skogafoss waterfallSkogafoss is one of Iceland's most iconic waterfalls, cascading from a height of 196 feet (60 meters) and spanning 82 feet (25 meters) across. It's just a 30-minute drive from the Seljalandsfoss waterfall.

It's located along the Skoga river, and it's known for the rainbow that often appears in its mist on sunny days. It also has a place in Icelandic folklore, as a legendary treasure is said to be hidden behind the waterfall, placed there by a Viking settler.

You can walk close to the waterfall along the river's edge or climb the stairs that lead to the top. The stairs are also the start (or end) of a popular hike called the Fimmvorduhals trail. It takes you past Eyjafjallajokull volcano and to the Thorsmork valley. It's best to do this trail with a guide who knows the landscape, like with this extreme 12-hour hiking tour with a super jeep!

If you don't have time for a long hike but want to extend your visit, we recommend enjoying an educational visit to the Skogar Museum, also known as Skogarsafn. It's just next to the Skogarfoss waterfall and worth checking out!

4. DC3 Plane Wreck

The DC3 Plane wreck is a striking contrast to the barren surroundingsThe DC3 Plane Wreck can be found on a black sand beach in South Iceland and is one of the most popular locations in the country for photographers. The post-apocalyptic sight of the plane wreck against the black sands is striking!

The parking lot is just by the Ring Road, where you can safely leave your car, but you then have to travel 4.3 miles (7 kilometers) to reach the wreck. If you plan to walk, don't expect this to be a quick stop. It will take just under an hour of walking through barren black sand to get to your destination.

Unless this is one of your dream locations in Iceland and you want to savor the visit, we recommend taking the shuttle to the DC3 plane wreck. It will speed up the trip, bringing you to the wreck in just 15 minutes! If you want to spice up your visit, you can also try the thrilling 2-hour ATV ride to the wreck, adding a bit of adrenaline to the trip!

It's often quite windy and cold on the beach, so be sure to wear warm clothes and good hiking shoes. If possible, get there very early or late, as there will be fewer people around. This way, you'll get better photo opportunities.

3. The Dyrholaey Peninsula

The sunset view from Dyrholaey, one of the best attractions in Iceland

The Dyrholaey peninsula is another attraction visible from the Ring Road, but it's a short drive off the road to reach it. The area is famous for its views of waves crashing on black sandy beaches and green fields leading up to glaciers in the distance.

A notable feature is a massive arch that the sea has eroded from the headland, which gives Dyrholaey its name, meaning "door-hole island." It's a fantastic place to bird-watch as the area is home to thousands of puffins and other sea birds.

2. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

Reynisfjara black sand beach on a calm day can still be dangerous! Even so, it is still one of the most popular attractions in Iceland

The beautiful Reynisfjara black sand beach is a short detour from the Ring Road and a must-stop on your journey. It's known for its strikingly dark sands, framed by basalt columns that face the powerful Atlantic waves. Offshore, jagged rock formations known as Reynisdrangar protrude from the sea, enveloped in legends of trolls turned to stone.

Though visiting this beach is on the bucket list for many travelers, Reynisfjara beach can be very dangerous. This is because it's famous for it's sneaker waves which can appear out of nowhere and catch those that are too close to the shore.

When visiting, make sure to stay 100-165 feet (30-50 meters) from the waves to admire the strong forces of nature from a safe distance. There is a lot of safety information on-site, along with a safety light system where green, yellow, and red lights indicate safety conditions. As long as you follow the rules, you're safe to enjoy this stunning area.

1. Vik

Vik is a village in South Iceland, a must visit destination on your Ring Road road trip

Vik, or Vik i Myrdal, is a quaint little village of 300 inhabitants, which sits on one of the prettiest black beaches in Iceland and has a view of the Reynisdrangar sea pillars. This village is a popular rest stop after traveling the South Coast, and while staying in accommodation in Vik, you can try different cafés, restaurants, and fun experiences!

We recommend visiting the thrilling Lava Show, where you can safely see real molten lava close up and hear about the fascinating volcanic power of Iceland! You should also try the hot chocolate at the Skool Beans café, housed in a renovated school bus, and enjoy a stroll along the picturesque coastline.

Nearby, you'll also find the Myrdalsjokull glacier, home to the great Katla, Iceland's most explosive volcano. While in Vik, you can use the opportunity to see it by taking this Katla ice cave tour, which is available all year round!

Ring Road Attractions in Southeast Iceland

You'll see magnificent landscapes from the Ring Road like the Lomagnupur mountainSoutheast Iceland is characterized by its diverse landscapes where glacial rivers intertwine with black sand beaches and stark ice caps. The region is home to Vatnajokull, Europe's largest glacier, and the Vatnajokull National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It's the biggest national park in Iceland and features some truly stunning locations.

Here are the best Ring Road stops in the Southeast of Iceland.

6. Kirkjubaejarklaustur

The Systrafoss waterfall is one of the first things you'll see in KirkjubaejarklausturKirkjubaejarklaustur is a tiny village with about 120 inhabitants, often referred to locally as "Klaustur," which is located on the banks of the Skafta glacial river. The village draws its name from a grand convent that stood there from 1186 to 1542.

You can find some great accommodations in Kirkjubaejarklaustur for exploring the surrounding nature, and the village has excellent camping sites, a nice swimming pool, and romantic hiking paths. You can take a short walk to the Kirkjugolf basalt stone slabs or try to climb the Systrastapi rock hill. There is also a beautiful hiking path up the Systrafoss waterfall, which should not be missed!

From Kirkjubaejarklaustur, you can go see the breathtaking Lakagigar craters, one of the most beautiful locations in the Icelandic Highlands. In summer, you can go with a 4x4 rental car, but as the road is challenging, it's best to take this 8-hour super jeep tour, which includes the Lakagigar craters and the Fjadrargljufur canyon.

5. Fjadrargljufur Canyon

The hiking path along the Fjadrargljufur canyon is stunningFjadrargljufur is a majestic canyon that has been carved out by the Fjadra river over millennia. It's just a 10-minute drive from Kirkjubaejarklaustur and a 5-minute drive from the Ring Road.

There is a comfortable walking path and multiple viewpoints along the edge of the canyon that offer stunning views. It's 328 feet (100 meters) deep and 1.25 miles (2 kilometers) long and features a beautiful waterfall! The hike is easy, and the whole trip will only take one or two hours.

The canyon was one of multiple filming locations featured in the Game of Thrones television series, and it also appeared in the 2015 music video for Justin Bieber's song, I'll Show You.

4. Skaftafell Nature Reserve

There are many gorgeous hiking paths in the Skaflafell nature reserveSkaftafell is a nature reserve in the Vatnajokull National Park. It's nestled at the base of the great Vatnajokull glacier and has a great campsite, but you can also find hotels in the vicinity.

The best thing to do in Skaftafell is to go glacier hiking on the Vatnajokull glacier, which can only be done safely with a professional guide. Try this glacier hiking tour in Skaftafell to see stunning ice formations, and all safety equipment is provided! If you're visiting in winter, you should try this Skaftafell ice cave tour to maximize your glacier hike.

If you don't want to take on Europe's largest glacier, there are many other areas to explore. Skaftafell is surprisingly green and lush, with multiple hiking paths! These vary in difficulty, and the most popular trail will bring you to Svartifoss waterfall, famed for its surrounding dark basalt columns.

3. Hofskirkja Church

Hof church in southeast Iceland is right by Iceland's ring road

The Hofskirkja Church is a tiny beautiful church made of turf. It's located by the Ring Road between the Skaftafell nature reserve and the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, in an area known as Oraefi.

This church was built between 1883 and 1885, and it's the last church in Iceland to be built in this turf house style. It's one of the many historic buildings around the country that are protected by the National Museum of Iceland.

Hofskirkja church is not open to the public, but it's worth seeing the outside of this lovely building, nestled among picturesque surroundings. It can make for a nice rest stop and provides good photo opportunities.

2. Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon

The Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is especially beautiful during sunset

The Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon is one of the country's most visited attractions and is sometimes referred to as "the Jewel of Iceland." The lagoon is known for its icebergs, as big blocks of ice break from the Breidamerkurjokull glacier and float around the lagoon before making their way out to sea.

You can explore the Jokulsarlon lagoon with an amphibian boat and get even closer to the icebergs with this 1-hour Zodiac boat tour. You may even spot seals resting or playing on the large chunks of ice!

If you're visiting in winter, you can also use the opportunity to go on this ice cave tour in the Vatnajokull glacier, which starts from the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon.

1. Diamond Beach

When you drive around Iceland you can't miss the Diamond BeachThe Diamond Beach is an area where the ice from the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon drifts out to the ocean. Chunks of ice wash back ashore, forming a beautiful contrast to the black sand beach.

This area is actually called Fellsfjara, which is part of the greater Breidamerkursandur, but it's often called the "Diamond Beach" among visitors to Iceland due to the appearance of the ice against the black sand, which makes it look like diamonds have washed ashore.

You can easily walk from the Jokulsarlon parking lot to Diamond Beach in just a few minutes. The amount of ice on the shore can depend on whether it's low or high tide, but it changes constantly. This makes every visit a unique experience, but it's always worth stopping by.

Ring Road Attractions in East Iceland

Seydisfjordur is one of the charming small towns in the EastfjordsEast Iceland is characterized by rugged mountains, beautiful fjords, and tranquil towns, where every local has a favorite fjord or mountain that they claim is prettier than the next. You'll find many picturesque locations, some of which are very isolated.

Be aware that the Ring Road excludes some of the best bits of the East, and most of the fjords need a little extra drive. So if you want to explore Iceland's Eastfjords in more depth, make sure you add a couple of days to your schedule.

It's best to visit East Iceland during the warmer months. Some areas are hard to access in winter as mountain passes commonly close due to heavy snowfall and difficult conditions.

8. Hofn

The town of Hofn is a good resting stop on your travelsThe small fishing town of Hofn is a popular stop for those traveling to the Eastfjords. It's an hour's drive away from the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon, and it's surrounded by beautiful mountains, such as the dramatic Vestrahorn.

As the main town in the area, you can find restaurants, cafés, and shops. Hofn is well-known for its langoustine, and in summer, you can attend the annual Lobster Festival, where you can taste delicious local dishes!

You can find some great accommodation options in Hofn, and its beautiful location makes it the perfect place to rest before continuing your Ring Road journey.

7. Vestrahorn Mountain

Vestrahorn mountain in East Iceland in the sunset

Despite the Eastfjords being filled with numerous mountains, fjords, and beaches, the Vestrahorn mountain still captivates all those who set eyes upon it. It's possibly the most photographed location in the region!

The long flat beach of the Stokksnes peninsula and its relatively calm waters help photographers capture stunning reflections of the mountain in the water. On either side of Vestrahorn mountain, you will see Mt. Eystrahorn and Mt. Brunnhorn. The latter one has sometimes been referred to as Batman Mountain because of the sharp peaks' resemblance to the character's iconic logo.

At the roots of the mountain, you can stop by an old Viking village film set. It's like stepping back in time, and it's open to visitors!

6. The Wild Reindeer

Reindeer in Iceland are common in the East.

Reindeers are not native to Iceland but were imported from Norway in the late 18th century. They have adapted well to Iceland’s unique and challenging environment, and today, they have become an integral part of the Icelandic wilderness. East Iceland is the only part of the country where you can see them!

They can be harder to spot during the summer months as they graze in the highlands. In winter, however, they descend to lower altitudes where you can often spot them from the Ring Road!

If you want to be completely sure to see wild reindeer during your visit, we recommend trying this guided 4-hour reindeer safari with a super jeep. You'll be sure to get some great photographs while seeing some harder-to-reach locations while tracking them!

5. Egilsstadir

Egilsstadir is the largest town in East Iceland

Egilsstadir is the largest town in East Iceland. It's nestled by the banks of the Lagarfljot river where the legendary wyrm, Lagarfljotsormurinn, is said to live. Its location makes it a great base for exploring the Eastfjords, especially as you can find some great accommodation in Egilsstadir.

Within minutes, you can reach locations like the Vok Baths and Hallormsstadaskogur, the largest forest in Iceland. If you drive a bit further off the main road, you'll come to Atlavik, a popular place to camp by the Lagafljot lake. Within an hour's drive, you can visit locations like the Wilderness Center and the Hengifoss waterfall.

You can also find many tours from Egilsstadir. Taking one can help you enhance your Ring Road trip with exciting experiences, like this thrilling 7-hour nature tour of Studlagil canyon, which includes a visit to the luxurious Vok Baths!

4. Vok Baths

The Vok Baths offer a relaxing retreat where you can recharge

Photo from Admission to the Serene Vok Baths of East Iceland near Egilsstadir

After long days of adventure, you may want a moment to recharge. You can do so at the Vok Baths, which you'll find along the Ring Road, just a few minutes outside Egilsstadir. This geothermal spa offers varied pools of different temperatures, where you can relax on the edge of the Urridavatn lake.

When planning your trip, book your admission to the serene Vok Baths ahead of time to ensure your spot. A special highlight is the floating infinity pools with fantastic views, and you can add to the experience by getting a message or enjoying a meal at their on-site bistro!

3. Hallormsstadaskogur Forest and Lagarfljot Lake

The Hallormsstadaskogur forest is perfect for lovely nature walksIf you want a change of scenery while traveling around Iceland, you should visit the Hallormsstadaskogur forest. It's a short detour off the Ring Road, and as forests are quite uncommon in the country, it's worth taking the time to see!

This lovely luscious forest surrounds the Lagarfljot lake and is an ideal spot for a relaxing break, nature walks, and picnics on a good day. It also happens to be the exact halfway point in your journey, as you've completed 407.6 miles (656 kilometers) on your drive from Reykjavik when you reach Hallormsstadaskogur forest!

The scenery is very tranquil, but you never know if something unexpected may occur as the Lagarflot lake is famous for harboring one of Iceland's best-known cryptids. There have been multiple sightings throughout the centuries, with the first stories of the Lagarfljotsormurinn wyrm dating back to the 14th century! The most recent supposed sighting was in 2012, and it was caught on camera!

2. Hengifoss Waterfall

There's a beautiful red color in the rocks behind Hengifoss waterfall in east IcelandPhoto by Regína Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir 

Hengifoss is a stunning waterfall on the banks of Lagarfljot lake that offers great views of the Hallormsstadaskogur Forest. It's the third-highest waterfall in Iceland and falls from a height of 420 feet (128 meters).

It requires a 2.9-mile (4.7 kilometers) hike to reach, but it's very much worth it for its majestic appearance. It's surrounded by basaltic strata rocks, layered with red clay in between them, giving the waterfall a very distinctive look.

1. Seydisfjordur

Seydisfjordur is known for its rainbow street and blue churchAnother detour that's worth doing is to Seydisfjordur, a charming town that's known for its colorful, well-preserved wooden buildings, its lively art scene, and a lovely rainbow street that leads up to a historic blue church! It's also where you'll dock if you're traveling to Iceland by ferry from Europe.

The town is only a 20-minute drive from Egilsstadir, and as there are many accommodations in Seydisfjordur, it can also make a good base for exploring the region. You can join this unique 7-hour nature and culture tour of the Eastfjords from Seydisfjordur, where you can explore some harder-to-reach locations and get a rest from the driving!

Ring Road Attractions in North Iceland

Myvatn in North Iceland has many unique features and is one of the best attractions on the Ring Road

North Iceland is quite mountainous and holds many of Iceland's most notable natural attractions. You'll drive past stunning landscapes and charming towns, but the very best of North Iceland is found along the Diamond Circle route. Those locations require a 95-mile (152-kilometer) detour off the Ring Road, but it's well worth the trip!

Here are the best Ring Road attractions in North Iceland.

11. Lake Myvatn

Lake Myvatn is one of the most beautiful locations in North IcelandMyvatn is a stunning lake in North Iceland with rich vegetation and abundant birdlife. The Ring Road lies straight past it, but it's well worth taking the time to drive around Myvatn.

Lake Myvatn is known for the Skutustadagigar pseudo-craters, which formed when hot lava flowed onto wetland 2,300 years ago. The lake is also surrounded by must-visit stops, like the Dimmuborgir lava field and the dramatic Hverfell crater. Close by, you'll also find the colorful Namaskard geothermal area that is worth a stop.

Lake Myvatn is just over a 2-hour drive from Egilsstadir and an hour from Akureyri, but while you can continue your trip further Northwest, you should not miss out on seeing the gorgeous locations in the area. It's best to book accommodation in lake Myvatn, so you'll have time to explore all the surrounding landscapes before continuing your journey.

If you don't want to stay the night, you can also explore the lake Myvatn area with this sightseeing tour from Akureyri.

10. Dimmuborgir Lava Field

The landscape at Dimmuborgir is otherworldlyDimmuborgir lava field is known for its dramatic, otherworldly lava formations. The landscape resembles a dark fortress emerging from the Earth, with towering pillars, caves, and arches formed from solidified lava.

You'll find Dimmuborgir just next to lake Myvatn. In the area, you can choose from different walking paths, depending on how much time you want to spend there. Most of the paths are paved, but you can also take on longer hiking trails through nature.

The mystical area has inspired numerous legends, including associations with trolls and elves, and it's said to be the home of the Icelandic yule lads. You may also have spotted the area in the Game of Thrones TV series as a location North of the Wall!

9. Grjotagja Hot Spring

Grjotagja cave in North Iceland

For another interesting Game of Thrones filming location in the lake Myvatn area, stop by the Grjotagja hot spring. It's inside a cave and happens to be where the famous love scene between Jon Snow and Ygritte was filmed. 

It's forbidden to bathe in the water as the temperature is too unpredictable and can be extremely high, but it's a beautiful place to visit. For safety reasons, the cave is closed off by the entrance, but you can see inside and admire its beauty.

8. Hverfell Volcano

Hiking up the Hverfell volcano offers beautiful viewsThe dramatic Hverfell volcanic crater, also known as Hverfjall, is to the east of lake Myvatn and is popular for hiking. With a diameter of 0.62 miles (one kilometer) and a depth of 460 feet (140 meters), it's one of the largest explosion craters in the world!

It towers over the surrounding landscape, and hiking to the top provides wonderful views. There's a well-defined path along the rim of the whole crater and two ways to reach the top. We recommend parking to the north of the crater, as the path starting from there is easier. To the west, you'll find a smaller parking lot that marks the start of a more challenging trail.

Both Hverfell hiking paths will bring you to the top in around 30 minutes, and walking around the top will take an additional hour and a half. Once you've returned to your rental car, we recommend heading over to the Myvatn Nature Baths for some much earned relaxation.

7. Myvatn Nature Baths

The waters of the Myvatn Nature Baths are very blueThe Myvatn Nature Baths are the North's answer to the Blue Lagoon, offering a serene and relaxing experience amidst a stunning natural landscape. You'll be able to soak in blue geothermal waters, unwind in the steam baths, and even enjoy a drink in the in-pool bar!

You can bask in the late-night midnight sun during the summer months, and if you're visiting in winter, you may be able to spot the northern lights. As this location is very popular, we recommend that you book your admission to the Myvatns Nature Baths ahead of time so you don't miss out!

6. Dettifoss Waterfall

Don't miss out on seeing Dettifoss waterfall when driving around Iceland's Ring Road

Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Iceland, and it's just a 15-30 minute drive from the Ring Road! You can either drive to a parking lot on the waterfall's east side along road no. 864, or you can drive to the west side along road no. 862, for a different view of the waterfall.

The Dettifoss waterfall is located in the Jokulsa a Fjollum, the second longest river in Iceland, which originates in the Vatnajokull glacier. The waterfall is 144 feet (44 meters) high and has carved out the dramatic Jokulsargljufur canyon throughout time.

You can visit with a small rental car as the road is well paved. If you want a rest from driving, you can also visit as part of this 8-hour 4x4 tour of the North Coast from Akureyri, which includes Dettifoss and lake Myvatn.

When in the area, we recommend heading upriver to see the beautiful Selfoss waterfall. You can also head downstream to see the smaller Hafragilsfoss waterfall, which is best seen from the east side of the river.

5. Asbyrgi Canyon

Hike along the edge of Asbyrgi in IcelandAsbyrgi canyon is a lush, crescent-shaped depression that looks like a horseshoe. It's accessible on the same roads that lead to Dettifoss waterfall and is only possible on a detour from the Ring Road.

When visiting Asbyrgi, you'll be surrounded by sharp cliffs that circle you like walls. The area has a place in Icelandic folklore as it's said to be the footprint of Sleipnir, Odin's eight-legged horse from Norse mythology. What's more likely, however, is that Asbyrgi was formed by two catastrophic glacial floods thousands of years ago.

The center is covered by a forest, and there are many beautiful hiking trails in the area. You'll also find a gorgeous lake up against the cliffs, which has thriving birdlife. We recommend taking the time to hike up the center cliff to truly appreciate the dramatic surroundings. If you're camping during your Ring Road trip, then you should definitely stay a night at the Asbyrgi campsite!

4. Husavik

Husavik is one of the best places for whale watching in IcelandHusavik is a picturesque town on the North Coast of Iceland. It's part of the Diamond Circle route and a 30-minute detour from the Ring Road. It's worth the trip because this charming little town is known as the Whale-Watching capital of Iceland, and unsurprisingly, it's one of the best locations for whale-watching!

During your visit, you can find multiple options for tours, like this popular Husavik whale-watching tour. You can also try this original 3-hour whale-watching tour in carbon-neutral oak boats! During a tour, you'll be able to admire the beautiful Skjalfandi bay and the charming Husavik harbor. We also recommend visiting the Husavik Whale Museum to get to know these gentle giants further.

If you plan to stay in accommodation in Husavik, there is another fun location you should check out. In 2020, Husavik jumped out on the global stage when it featured in the film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. Locals embraced this new fame, and you can now visit a Eurovision exhibition in Husavik and enjoy a treat at the themed Jaja Ding Dong bar. Afterward, you can enjoy a dip in the nearby GeoSea Geothermal Baths!

3. Godafoss Waterfall

Goðafoss waterfall in north Iceland is right by Route 1, the ring road

Right on the side of the Ring Road, you'll see the stunning Godafoss waterfall, a must-stop when traveling between Akureyri and Lake Myvatn! It's 39 feet high (12 meters) and 98 feet wide (30 meters), curving along beautiful cliffs.

The waterfall’s name traces back to the year 1000 AD when Icelanders transitioned to Christianity. It's said that the law speaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði threw his pagan idols into the falls, giving Godafoss its iconic name, "the waterfall of the gods."

You'll reach the waterfall within 5 minutes from the parking lot, with multiple observation points along the comfortable path. You can also take a rest from driving and take this breathtaking 2.5-hour Godafoss waterfall tour from Akureyri.

2. The Forest Lagoon

The design of the Forest Lagoon is blends with the surrounding nature

Photo from Entrance to the Forest Lagoon in North Iceland

Iceland is famous for its geothermal spas, and one of the most popular ones in the North is the Forest Lagoon. It's by the Ring Road, but it's hidden away in a forest, providing a sense of peace for visitors.

The luxurious spa is across the Eyjafjordur fjord from Akureyri, and you'll have wonderful views of the town, the ocean, and its surrounding mountains. We recommend booking your Forest Lagoon admission for the evening, so you can enjoy the midnight sun or the sunset. In winter, you may even spot the northern lights!

1. Akureyri

Akureyri is known for it's charming buildings

Akureyri is the largest town in Iceland outside the Capital Area and is often referred to as the "Capital of the North." It's located in the beautiful Eyjafjordur fjord and is known for its grand Akureyrakirkja church, the Akureyri Botanical Gardens, the Hof Cultural Center, and the best ski resort in Iceland, Hlidarfjall. You'll also find great restaurants, cafés, museums, and stores, including the charming Christmas House!

There are fantastic accommodation options in Akureyri, with many hotels, guesthouses, and cozy cottages available. It makes a great base for exploring the North, as many attractions are just a day trip away, and there are many fun tours available in town. Try this whale-watching tour from Akureyri or embark on this northern lights hunt if you're visiting during the darker months.

You can easily spend multiple days exploring what Akureyri has to offer, so don't forget to include at least a day there in your Ring Road itinerary!

Ring Road Attractions in West Iceland

The blakc Budir church is an iconic location on the Snaefellsnes peninsulaThere are some beautiful West Iceland attractions along the Ring Road, but visiting the most iconic ones requires a detour. The Ring Road also does not include two of the region's most beautiful areas: the Westfjords and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. You can, however, easily include a few extra days for exploring these areas.

Here are the best locations to visit along the Ring Road in West Iceland.

10. The Snaefellsnes Peninsula

One of Iceland's most famous locations is the Kirkjufell mountainThe Snaefellsnes peninsula is often described as "Iceland in Miniature" as it contains all of Iceland's main features in one compact location. You can explore the Snaefellsjokull glacier, rugged lava fields, waterfalls, picturesque mountains, and black sand beaches.

The peninsula is home to the iconic Kirkjufell mountain, the beautiful black cliffs of Arnarstapi, the lovely black Budakirkja church, and tranquil towns like Stykkisholmur and Olafsvik. There are also fun experiences to be had, like this unforgettable 50-minute tour of Vatnshellir cave or this whale-watching tour of the Breidafjordur bay from Olafsvik.

The Ring Road does not include the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, but it's well worth it to take an extra day or two to discover what this part of the country has to offer. This region is sure to be a highlight of your trip to Iceland.

9. The Westfjords

The Icelandic Westfjords feature incredible locations like the Dynjandi waterfallIf you can, we recommend planning a detour from the Ring Road to see the Westfjords of Iceland. They're absolutely stunning, featuring winding roads through tranquil fjords, all framed by tall mountains. It's also where you'll find the most remote place in Iceland, the Hornstrandir nature reserve, which has not been habited since the 1950s and has no roads.

Here you'll find the stunning Dynjandi waterfall, a "Jewel of the Westfjords," pictured above. You can also see the red beach of Raudasandur, countless hot springs to bathe in, rural villages, and the westernmost tip of Europe: Latrabjarg cliffs, which are a popular nesting spot for puffins! You may also spot seals along the coast on your travels.

If you want to visit the Westfjords, it's best to add another three to five days to your journey. You can find accommodation in Isafjordur, the largest town in the region, or stay in one of the many small towns. Please note that the Westfjords will likely not be accessible during winter due to heavy snow, and some mountain roads are only open during the peak of summer.

8. Deildartunguhver Hot Spring and Krauma Spa

It's best to book your Krauma Spa entry ahead of time

Photo from Krauma Spa Admission Ticket

Among the lush green of the Borgarfjordur fjord lies Deildartunguhver, Europe's most powerful hot spring. It's a 25-minute detour from the Ring Road and one of the highlights in the area. The water temperature is generally around 207 F (97 C), but you can observe its beauty from wooden walkways. There is, however, a way to experience its mineral-rich waters!

Just next to it is the Krauma Spa, which is heated by Deilartunguhver. You can choose from pools with different temperatures and along with a steam bath. You can also wind down in their relaxation room, which has a wood-burning fireplace. It's best to prebook your Krauma Spa entry so you don't miss out.

7. Reykholt

The Snorralaug pool is worth seeing, even if you can't bathe in it!Not to be missed by any history buffs, the village of Reykholt was the home of Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241), one of Iceland's most famous medieval writers and poets. The historical site is just a 10-minute drive from the Krauma Spa and a 30-minute drive from the Ring Road.

In Reykholt, you can visit the Snorrastofa cultural- and research center and learn about his life and work, including the Prose Edda and Heimskringla. You should also see the Snorralaug hot spring, which is thought to be the oldest geothermal bathing pool in Iceland. You can't bathe in it, but it's worth seeing as it was used by Snorri Sturluson He even made a tunnel from his home for easy access, which you can still see today! 

6. Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls

Hraunfossar are worth the detour when driving Iceland's ring road

Some of the most stunning waterfalls in Iceland are the Hraunfossar and Barnafoss, located in the Borgarfjordur fjord. The waterfalls flow from underneath a lava field into the Hvita glacier river, and cover around half a mile (1 kilometer) of the river edge. It's a great location for beautiful photographs, no matter which season you're visiting, and they're very easily accessible!

They're located only 78.3 miles (126 kilometers) from Reykjavik, along the same road as Deildartunguhver and Reykholt, and are a 40-minute drive from the Ring Road. You'll also easily reach the beautiful Husafell area within a few minutes. It's under the Langjokull glacier, where you can visit man-made ice tunnels during this Into the Glacier Experience!

5. Borgarnes

Borgarnes is the largest town in the area of Borgarfjordur

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Chensiyuan. No edits made.

Borgarnes is a lovely town just an hour's drive away from Reykjavik. It sits along the ocean and is surrounded by picturesque mountains. While there, you'll find multiple restaurants, cafés, stores, and cultural activities. The region also has a rich history that dates back to the time of settlement, which you can learn about at the Settlement Center!

The convinient location of Borgarnes along the Ring Road makes it the perfect resting stop. If you want to explore the surrounding area of Borgarfjordur or are planning a day trip to the Snaefellsnes peninsula, then staying in accommodation in Borganes can also be a very convinient option.

4. Hvalfjordur Fjord

The drive along the Hvalfjordur fjord is beautifulThe drive from Reykjavik to Borgarnes only takes just over an hour, but if you want to expand your trip, we recommend skipping the Hvalfjardagong tunnel and driving the beautiful Hvalfjordur fjord. It will add about an hour of driving to your trip, but you'll have a chance to see some lovely sights!

Among the beautiful coastline and lush mountains, you'll find Glymur, the second-tallest waterfall in Iceland. It's 650 feet (198 meters) tall and is hidden away in a scenic ravine. The trail to the top is around 4.3 miles (7 kilometers) long and can be done over an afternoon. You can also maximize your experience by soaking in luxury afterward with this exciting 8-hour Glymur hiking tour with entry to the Hvammsvik Hot Springs!

3. Hammsvik Hot Springs

You can bathe in nature at the Hvammsvik Hot Springs in IcelandOne of the more unique luxury bathing experiences in Iceland is the recently opened Hvammsvik Hot Springs in the Hvalfjordur fjord. These naturally heated pools let you bathe among the beautiful Icelandic nature and are just a 20-minute drive from the Ring Road!

Along with relaxation, you can also partake in activities like paddleboarding, mindfulness sessions, and ocean swimming. They also have an on-site restaurant and bar. If you're visiting Iceland in fall or winter, it can be great to book your Hvammsvik Hot Springs admission for the evening, as you may be able to spot the northern lights in the darkness!

2. Mount Esja

The Esjan mountain is an iconic sight in Reykjavik

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Martin Putz. No edits made.

Esjan is the iconic mountain that overlooks Reykjavik and is a very popular location for hiking. While the climb to the top demands a level of physicality, the tranquility and views of the Capital Region make it worth it.

The most popular paths lead up to a location known as "Steinn," which simply means Stone. It's pretty family-friendly and can take up to an hour one way, depending on how fast you hike. If you want to reach the very top, you'll have to go a bit further. This part of the trail is more challenging as you'll have to do some light rock climbing. Getting to the very top will take around two hours. You can enjoy the experience during this thrilling 8-hour hiking tour to Mt. Esja, which includes a visit to the Hvammsvik Hot Springs!

1. Reykjavik

The Tjornin pond is one of the prettier attractions in Reykjavik in IcelandThe start and end point of your Ring Road journey is the city of Reykjavik. When walking through the streets, you'll find colorful houses, and creative street art, along with great restaurants, art galleries, shops, nightlife, museums, and everything you'd expect to find in a capital city!

It will likely be where you'll spend your last night in Iceland. You'll have plenty of great options for accommodation in Reykjavik, and it's worth spending at least two days enjoying what the city has to offer, if possible.

If you're returning your rental car in Reykjavik, you can take a stress-free airport transfer when it's time to head back home. Alternatively, many car rentals offer you to return your rental car at Keflavik International Airport.

For ultimate convenience, choose accommodation by Keflavik Airport for your last night. This is a great option for an early morning flight.

FAQs About the Ring Road of Iceland

Mossy landscapes seen from Iceland's Ring Road

Here are some facts and frequently asked questions about the Ring Road. The easiest and most affordable way to travel the Ring Road is to book a self-drive tour.

What is the Ring Road in Iceland?

The Ring Road, also known as Route 1, is a road that circles around the entire country of Iceland. It is the main road that connects all major towns and cities in Iceland.

What is the length of the Ring Road in Iceland?

Iceland's Ring Road is 821 miles (1322 kilometers).

How long does it take to drive the Ring Road in Iceland?

You can complete the Ring Road in Iceland in 15-16 hours with no stops. We recommend spending at least a week so you can take in the sights and attractions along the way. 

Assuming you would make stops at all the main attractions along the way, it could take 10-12 days. However, if you want to explore all the sights and attractions, it will take longer, especially if you visit the Westjords and Snaefellsnes peninsula.

What's the speed limit on the Ring Road?

The speed limit on most of the Ring Road is 55 miles per hour (90 kilometers per hour), the highest in the country.

Is it safe to drive the Ring Road in Iceland?

Yes, the Ring Road is generally safe to drive, but it is important to follow all traffic laws and be aware of changing weather conditions. Additionally, some areas of the road may be closed during winter months due to weather conditions, so it is important to check road conditions and the weather before setting out on your journey.

Is the Ring Road paved?

98% of Iceland's Ring Road is paved. Most of it has two lanes, but there are also some single-lane bridges.

How are driving conditions on the Ring Road?

Driving conditions on the Ring Road in Iceland can vary greatly depending on the time of year and weather conditions. In the summer months, the roads are generally in good condition and easily accessible with a small rental car, although it is still important to be aware of potential hazards such as gravel roads and single-lane bridges.

In the winter months, driving conditions can be more challenging due to snow, ice, and reduced visibility. It is important to have experience driving in snowy conditions and to use caution when driving on icy roads. To complete the Ring Road in winter, it's recommended to rent a 4x4 vehicle.

It is also important to be aware of potential road closures or delays due to weather conditions, especially in more remote areas. It is recommended to check road conditions before setting out on your journey and to have a reliable vehicle equipped with appropriate tires and emergency supplies.

Icelandic roads can be very beautiful

What is the best time of year to drive the Ring Road in Iceland?

The best time to drive the Ring Road in Iceland is during the summer months (June-August) when the weather is milder and the days are longer. However, this is also the busiest time of year, so you may encounter more tourists and higher prices. The winter months (December-February) can be challenging due to snow and ice, but they offer a chance to see the northern lights and have a more unique experience.

Do I need a 4WD vehicle to drive the Ring Road in Iceland?

While a 4WD vehicle is not strictly necessary for driving the Ring Road, it is recommended if you plan to explore some of the more remote areas or drive on unpaved roads. Additionally, in the winter months, a 4WD vehicle is strongly recommended due to snowy and icy conditions.

Are there any tolls on the Ring Road in Iceland?

You can drive the Ring Road in Iceland without paying any toll, but this depends on whether you shorten your trip by using the Vadlaheidargong tunnel by Akureyri in North Iceland. It shortens the trip by 19 miles (16 kilometers).

If you want to skip the Vadlaheidargong tunnel, you can instead drive through the picturesque Vikurskard mountain route for free, but it is often closed during winter.

Are there any gas stations along the Ring Road in Iceland?

Yes, there are several gas stations along the Ring Road, typically located in or near major towns and cities. However, it is recommended to keep your gas tank full as there can be long distances between gas stations in more remote areas.

Can I camp along the Ring Road in Iceland?

Yes, camping is allowed in many areas along the Ring Road. Look for designated campsites and free camping areas. However, it is important to follow all camping regulations and respect the environment.

Summary of the Best Attractions by the Icelandic Ring Road

You'll have to cross grand bridges on the Ring Road, like the one at Jokulsarlon

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Superbass. No edits made.

However you choose to do it and whatever you decide to visit along the way, touring the Ring Road in Iceland is an unforgettable experience. There are numerous attractions along the way, but these are our hand-picked best attractions by Iceland's Ring Road.

Which one of these locations will make it onto your Iceland itinerary? Will you do any of the beautiful detours? Have you visited any of these locations before, and did we miss any on our list? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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