Travel Iceland

Your Ultimate Guide to Exploring Iceland’s Ring Road


The “Ring Road”, or Route 1, is the single most important road in Iceland. On this highway, you can drive hundreds of miles through dramatic, varied landscapes, visiting Iceland’s major towns and villages along the way.

For a visitor, exploring the whole route is one of the most thrilling experiences you can have in the Land of Fire and Ice. Hire a car in Iceland and you’ll discover the glaciers and volcanoes, rugged fjords and coasts, and welcoming towns that make the country so memorable.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know for a safe and enjoyable trip around Iceland’s Ring Road. Read on to find out what to see, how long it takes, and some key practical advice.

Víkurskarð on iceland ring road in north-east Iceland

The essentials to know about the Ring Road in Iceland

Aside from being one of the country’s best-known travel itineraries, the “Ring Road” is an essential piece of infrastructure. The Route 1, as it’s properly known, fully opened in 1974. And it’s no exaggeration to say that it completely changed how Icelanders moved around the country.

Without it, getting around Iceland would still be very slow. Just as one example, before the road was completed, if you wanted to get between Vík and Höfn on the south coast, you would have to travel north via Akureyri. That would turn a 250 km (150 mi) journey into a 1,000 km (600 mi) journey.

Today, the Ring Road draws a loop around the island—hence its name. As a result, it’s made the country much better connected and more accessible to travel for locals and visitors alike.

How long is the Ring Road in Iceland? Its total length is 1,322 km (821 mi). It’s a really manageable distance if you’re looking for a road trip that’s a little longer than the likes of Iceland’s Golden Circle or Diamond Circle.

Before you set off, though, it’s worth knowing that the Ring Road is not the sort of intercity highway that you would find in mainland Europe or North America. For most of its length, it just has a single lane in each direction. So, while it’s Iceland’s major road, you will need to take some precautions, as we explore below.

A map of Iceland’s Ring Road

Map of Iceland Ring Road 1

Some of the attractions to visit on Iceland’s Ring Road

As you can see from the map above, the Ring Road passes through most of Iceland’s regions. In fact, pretty much all of the main attractions to visit in Iceland can be found very close to the road.

Only Iceland’s highlands, the Westfjords, and Snæfellsnes peninsula are entirely bypassed by the road. However, these destinations are still easily reached from the main road.

So, where should you visit on a Ring Road tour? Here are some of our favourite options, following an anti-clockwise direction from Reykjavík.

1. Vík and Reynisfjara beach

Vík is a village on the south coast of Iceland, about 190 km (120 mi) east of Reykjavík. It’s often used as an overnight stop by travellers exploring the Ring Road, but it offers much more than just a place to sleep.

The village’s location is completely breathtaking. Set at a distance from the wild waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, the village overlooks cliffs and rocky spires that emerge from the sea. It’s superbly atmospheric in any season.

Spend some time exploring the black-sand beaches in the area. The most famous is Reynisfjara, with its basalt rock formations and the scenic peninsula, Dyrhólaey.

2. Vatnajökull National Park

Vatnajökull is Iceland’s largest national park and is home to the glacier of the same name, again Iceland’s largest. It’s impossible to miss its enormous shape as you travel east along the south coast on Route 1.

The national park is one of the best places to see the variety and majesty of Iceland’s natural landscapes. You can take glacier tours up onto the ice itself, or explore the trails in the Skaftafell nature reserve. Both make unforgettable active days out.

One of the top sights in this area is Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon filled with water from the melting glacier. Just off the Ring Road, here you can see icebergs floating in the lake, beneath spectacular cliffs of ice. Don’t miss the Diamond Beach, where ice melts on the black sand. It’s just across the main road.

Not surprisingly, the area around Vatnajökull was where the final piece of the Ring Road was completed in 1974. The Skeiðarárbrú bridge finally linked up the roads along the south coast, as it crossed the treacherous glacial sands of Skeiðará.

3. Egilsstaðir and the Eastfjords

Continue on the Ring Road in an anti-clockwise direction and you’ll encounter the rugged coastline known as the Eastfjords. This region stretches up from Höfn in the south to Vopnafjörður. As its name suggests, it’s known for its deep fjords and high mountains.

A great base for exploring the Eastfjords is Egilsstaðir. It sits on the Ring Road, where it crosses the vast Lagarfljót river. With its scenic location and wide range of services—including restaurants, museums, and spas—it promises a comfortable stay.

There’s much to see on the region’s complex coastline. For instance, head to Fáskrúðsfjörður, a town initially settled by French fishermen. You can still see their influence at the French hospital or in the festivities throughout the year.

4. Lake Mývatn

Lake Mývatn is one of the scenic areas of North Iceland. You’ll find it on Route 1 at the small settlement known as Reykjahlíð. The lake itself is the centrepiece of a vast volcanic landscape, with strange rock formations, hot springs and more.

One of the most interesting sights in the area is Dimmuborgir, a lava field whose name translates as something similar to “dark castles”. It’s an eerie, memorable spot, right next to the lake’s still waters.

Learn more about the region in our guide to Iceland’s Diamond Circle.

5. Akureyri and the Eyjafjörður

The town of Akureyri is commonly known as the “capital of the north”. It’s a settlement on the banks of the scenic Eyjafjörður, a fjord that cuts deep into Iceland’s northern coastline.

Akureyri is probably best known among visitors for whale watching. Pods of whales are very regularly seen in the Eyjafjörður and further into the North Atlantic Ocean. It makes for a very good reason to stop in the town.

There are plenty of other reasons too. The Akureyri Botanical Garden is one of the most tranquil spots in the whole country. Plus, the town is increasingly known for its vibrant food and culture scenes.

River in iceland

How many days should you spend driving the Ring Road in Iceland?

The beauty of a self-drive tour around the Ring Road is that you can spend as much time as you would like on your journey. Given that Route 1 winds its way around almost the entire country, it can reward long and relaxed road trips.

Bear in mind that the Ring Road is 1,322 km (821 mi) in length. That means that your total driving time is likely to be at least 17 or 18 hours. To enjoy your trip to the fullest, you’ll want to leave enough time to see the sights too.

That’s why we recommend that you spend a minimum of 6 or 7 days when touring the Ring Road. This would limit your driving time to 2 or 3 hours a day. However, you could easily spend twice as long enjoying everything that Iceland has to offer.

With this in mind, we’ve drawn up three sample itineraries for trips of different lengths.

Ring Road sample itineraries


The “quick” trip: 6 days

We wouldn’t recommend any fewer than 6 days for a trip around the Ring Road. It gives you time to see a selection of the top sights, while limiting the time you spend in the car each day.

  • Day 1: Reykjavík to Vík. 188 km (117 mi). Along the way, you can visit waterfalls such as Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss.

  • Day 2: Vík to Höfn. 270 km (168 mi). Explore the south coast including Vatnajökull National Park.

  • Day 3: Höfn to Egilsstaðir. 250 km (155 mi). Take a scenic drive through the Eastfjords, stopping at fishing villages along the way.

  • Day 4: Egilsstaðir to Akureyri. 247 km (153 mi). Head to the Capital of the North, stopping at Lake Mývatn.

  • Day 5: Akureryi to Borgarnes. 314 km (195 mi). From Akureyri, take a whale watching tour in the morning, before making the drive down to Borgarnes.

  • Day 6: Borgarnes to Reykjavík. 75 km (47 mi). From Borgarnes, you can visit the Snæfellsnes peninsula or visit Þingvellir National Park on the way back to Reykjavík.

On each day, you can expect between 2 and 4 hours of driving time. Many people prefer to take the Ring Road more slowly, on a 10-day or 2-week tour.


The “classic” Ring Road tour: 10 days

On a classic 10-day tour of the Ring Road, you have time to fit in many more of Iceland’s top sights. If you’re planning to see Reykjavík, you’ll need an additional day or more at the beginning or the end of your trip.


  • Day 1: Reykjavík to Selfoss. 60 km (37 mi). Start your road trip by touring the Golden Circle before spending the night in Selfoss.

  • Day 2: Selfoss to Vík. 130 km (80 mi). Take your time to explore the south coast. Visit Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss and see the black-sand beaches and rugged coastlines around Vík.

  • Day 3: Vík to Höfn. 270 km (168 mi). Spend some time enjoying the south coast to the full, stopping off at the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

  • Day 4: Höfn. Use the fishing town as a base to explore Vatnajökull National Park.

  • Day 5: Höfn to Egilsstaðir. 250 km (155 mi). Take a scenic drive through the Eastfjords, stopping at fishing villages along the way.

  • Day 6: Egilsstaðir to Lake Mývatn. 174 km (108 mi). Spend the day exploring the rock formations around Lake Mývatn.

  • Day 7: Akureryi and the surrounding area. Commit a day to the Diamond Circle. For instance, head up to Húsavík for an insight into Iceland’s whaling culture. Or take a sealife tour from Akureyri itself.

  • Day 8: Akureyri to Borgarnes. 314 km (195 mi). From the Capital of the North, head west. Today will be your longest day of driving.

  • Day 9: Explore the Snæfellsnes peninsula. There’s a lot to see in “Iceland in miniature”, including the mighty Kirkjufell mountain, Snæfellsjökull volcano, and much more.

  • Day 10: Borgarnes to Reykjavík. 75 km (47 mi). Return to the capital city.


The “complete” tour: 14 days

There’s still so much more that you can enjoy on the Ring Road. If you’re planning a longer trip, you can make time for the following activities:

  • Visit an Icelandic spa, such as the Blue Lagoon or Sky Lagoon.

  • Tour the Arctic Coast Way, along the north coast of Iceland.

  • Head into the Westfjords, Iceland’s wildest region.

And much, much more.


Your Ring Road journey: Preparing, staying safe, and enjoying your trip

Whether you’re planning on visiting the Ring Road for a week or much longer, it’s worth being prepared.

Here are some key planning advice, driving rules, and safety tips for your trip.

1. Hire the right vehicle for your journey

The Ring Road is a paved and well-maintained road. It’s suitable for any type of vehicle, including passenger cars, electric vehicles, motorhomes, minivans, and more.

If at any point you think you want to explore off the Ring Road, though, it might be a good idea to hire a 4x4 SUV. This will equip you for the F-roads, the unpaved highland roads that are often closed in winter.

2. Plan for the season and weather conditions

Iceland’s weather is famously changeable, in any season. To enjoy your trip and stay safe, it’s important that you take the weather into account.

Of course, packing the right clothes and gear will be a big part of this. You’ll need waterproofs (in any season), as well as sturdy walking boots.

More fundamentally, though, the weather will affect road conditions. In the winter, you may be driving in snow, which can sometimes block roads. It’s important to be wary of ice on the road too.

The best road conditions are in the summer, when mild temperatures and long daylight hours make driving easier.

In any season, you can check for up-to-date road conditions and weather alerts.

3. Understand the rules of the road in Iceland

As in any country, Iceland has its own local rules and regulations. Some of the key rules to remember are the following:

  • Stick to the speed limits. On open road, such as the Ring Road, the limit is 90 km/h. In towns and cities, it can be anywhere between 30 and 50 km/h.

  • Don’t drive off-road. Off-road driving is never permitted, no matter what vehicle you hire. Please don’t do it.

  • Pull over to take photos. However quiet the road might be, don’t stop in the middle of the road to take photos. Pull over instead.

  • Watch out for the one toll road. This is known as Vaðlaheiðargöng. It’s a tunnel just to the east of Akureyri. You can find more information in our guide to Iceland’s tolls and tunnels.

  • Only sleep in designated campsites. If you’re driving a motorhome, it doesn’t mean you can park it anywhere. Only use campsites to sleep in your vehicle.

  • Carry your driving licence and some important phone numbers. These include the number of the emergency services (112) and the phone number of your car rental operator.

icelandic medival farm

Frequently asked questions about driving Iceland’s Ring Road

Still have questions about the Ring Road in Iceland? Discover the answers below.

What is the Ring Road in Iceland?

Officially known as Route 1 or Highway 1, the Ring Road is Iceland’s major trunk road. It draws a loop around the whole island—and it’s the perfect opportunity for an Icelandic road trip.

How long is the Ring Road in Iceland?

In its entirety, the Ring Road is 1,322 km (821 mi). If you were to drive without stopping, it would take you somewhere between 17 and 19 hours.

Does Ring Road loop around?

The Ring Road in Iceland takes its nickname from the fact that it draws a ring or loop around Iceland. So, if you set off from Reykjavík, you can arrive back in the capital having completed a full circle of the country.

What is the speed limit on the Ring Road?

The speed limit on Iceland’s paved roads, including the Ring Road, is 90 km/h (55 mi/h). If you pass through a town, you may need to go more slowly, between 30 and 50 km/h (20-30 mi/h).

How far is the total distance of the Ring Road in Iceland?

The total distance of the Ring Road in Iceland is 1,322 km (821 mi).

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

The Ring Road is the perfect route for an Icelandic road trip in any season.

If you’re planning to do it in winter, be aware that there can be snow on the road. In very serious conditions, stretches of the highway may be temporarily closed.

However, whether in snow or in summer sunshine, it’s a beautiful and rewarding trip.

What are the driving conditions like on the Ring Road in winter?

While the Ring Road is the country’s major road, local road conditions can sometimes be challenging in winter. It’s important to take particular care when driving over mountain passes or areas of moorland. Some areas can also be icy.

That said, the road conditions are regularly monitored and any snow disruptions are usually quickly cleared. You can check up-to-date information on road conditions and closures at

Where can I find a detailed map of the Ring Road in Iceland?

Google Maps is the most relied upon map of the Ring Road in Iceland, by visitors and locals alike. You can find our Ring Road map here.

If you want a physical map, Michelin, Lonely Planet, and National Geographic all have reliable maps you can purchase.

What are the must-see stops along the Ring Road in Iceland?

As the Ring Road draws a loop around the whole of Iceland, it allows you to conveniently visit many of the must-see stops in all of the country.

Some of our favourites include:

  • Jökulsárlón and Diamond Beach. Here, glacial meltwater fills an enormous lagoon on which icebergs drift. At the Diamond Beach, these icebergs melt on the black sand.

  • Vík and Reynisfjara. Vík is one of the most picturesque villages on the south coast of Iceland. Don’t miss the atmospheric Reynisfjara beach.

  • Lake Mývatn. It’s one of the top sights in North Iceland: a vast lake in a lava field, surrounded by strange rock formations.

  • Akureyri and Eyjafjörður. Akureyri, the “Capital of the North”, sits on the Eyjafjörður, a deep fjord known for its whale watching.

Are there any unique attractions in East Iceland along the Ring Road?

East Iceland is one of the most sparsely inhabited—and scarcely visited—areas in Iceland. But it offers a lot to see and do nonetheless.

The region is best known as the Eastfjords, thanks to its scenic coastline. These fjords are sprinkled with tiny villages, such as Fáskrúðsfjörður, which was first settled by French fishermen.

It’s worth stopping to take photos of Búlandstindur, the iconic mountain by the side of the Ring Road. If you’re an experienced walker, you can also hike up to the summit.

Egilsstaðir is the main town in East Iceland, and it’s definitely worth a visit. Journey down the vast Lake Lagarfljot to see Hengifoss waterfall, one of the largest in Iceland.

Is the Ring Road in Iceland worth it?

Travelling the Ring Road in Iceland is definitely worth it, if you have the time. There’s no better way to see the country’s natural diversity, and it’s simply a beautiful drive.

Of course, if you’re going anywhere at all in Iceland, you’ll likely have to travel in part on the Ring Road.

Is the Ring Road paved?

The Ring Road is entirely paved for all of its 1,322 kilometres. You won’t need an off-road vehicle or 4x4 to drive it.

How much is the price of gas in Iceland?

Iceland is one of the most expensive countries in the world for petrol. However, as they do everywhere, these prices often go up and down.

According to Global Petrol Prices, Iceland’s average petrol prices are $2.28 per litre. Typically, you’ll pay somewhere between $2 and $3 per litre.

How long does it take to do the Ring Road?

The Ring Road is 1,322 kilometres (821 mi). If you were to drive it continuously without stopping, it would take you about 18 hours.

To enjoy your trip, we recommend taking 6 or 7 days as a minimum. However, most people will spend 10 days travelling the Ring Road—or even longer.

How many days should you spend driving the Ring Road in Iceland?

On the Ring Road in Iceland, you can find plenty to do, however long you want to travel. We recommend 6 or 7 days as a minimum. But you can do much more.

Can you complete the Iceland Ring Road in 7 days? What is a recommended itinerary?

6 or 7 days is the minimum length of time we would recommend to spend on Iceland’s Ring Road. If you’re planning on a shorter trip in Iceland, you could use the following itinerary:

  • Day 1: Reykjavík to Vík. 188 km (117 mi)
  • Day 2: Vík to Höfn. 270 km (168 mi).
  • Day 3: Höfn to Egilsstaðir. 250 km (155 mi).
  • Day 4: Egilsstaðir to Akureyri. 247 km (153 mi).
  • Day 5: Akureryi to Borgarnes. 314 km (195 mi).
  • Day 6: Borgarnes to Reykjavík. 75 km (47 mi).

Is a 10-day itinerary sufficient to explore the Ring Road in Iceland thoroughly?

10 days is a good length of time to see the best of Iceland’s Ring Road. It means that you don’t have to do too much driving each day. Plus, it will give you plenty of opportunities to see the best sights.

Can you drive the Ring Road in 5 days?

While you theoretically could drive the Ring Road in 5 days, you would be quite rushed and you’ll certainly miss out on some of the best things Iceland has to offer. We would recommend you spend more time enjoying the drive, such as a week or more.

Do you need a 4x4 for Iceland’s Ring Road?

No, you do not need a 4x4 if you’re driving Iceland’s Ring Road. As the roads are entirely paved, a standard passenger car will suffice.

That said, if you do plan to visit the highlands or drive on an F-road in Iceland, you will need a 4x4 SUV.

What are the tips for renting a car for the Ring Road in Iceland?

When renting a car for the Ring Road, it’s worth checking that your vehicle is prepared for what you need it to do:

  • Book ahead. You don’t want to be disappointed.

  • If you’re travelling in winter, check that it has winter tyres. You’ll just need to ask your rental operator.

  • If you’re heading into the highlands, you’ll need a four-wheel drive. If you’re sticking to the Ring Road, a standard passenger car will be sufficient, though.

  • Consider an electric vehicle for cheaper fuel costs. Just be aware that you won’t be able to drive an EV on highland F-roads.

  • Check the rental details. Before you drive off, confirm what you’re insured for, how many drivers you’re allowed, and how many miles you’re entitled to drive.

How frequently are gas stations found along the Ring Road, and what are their operating hours?

You will find plenty of gas stations on the Ring Road, in pretty much every village. These are often open 24/7, but in remote areas they’re unlikely to be staff during the night.

What safety tips should I follow when driving the Ring Road in Iceland?

The Ring Road is a beautiful drive. To enjoy it to the full, it’s important to follow some basic safety tips:

  • Stick to the speed limit. That’s 90 km/h out of town, and between 30 and 50 km/h in town.

  • Check the weather before you travel. This is the most important piece of advice we can give. In thick fog, high winds, or heavy snow, driving is not much fun. It’s best avoided.

  • Confirm your car’s condition and cover when you pick it up. Double check your hire car is fit to drive before you drive it away. You’ll want to have sufficient cover for any incidents or gravel damage too.

Are there recommended places to eat along the Ring Road?

You’ll find places to eat in all of the major towns and villages along the Ring Road. There’s plenty of choice. For example, Vík, Egilsstaðir, and Akureyri have lots of high quality options.

What are the camping facilities like along the Ring Road?

There are many camping facilities in Iceland and you’ll find many of them a short distance from the Ring Road. Typically, they’ll have dedicated spaces for tents as well as for campervans.

Most campsites come equipped with the basics you need to be comfortable, such as toilets, showers, and washing facilities.

Is it necessary to book accommodation in advance when travelling the Ring Road in Iceland?

We always recommend that you book in advance when travelling in Iceland. This is particularly true if you’re travelling in peak seasons such as summer.

If you don’t book, you may be disappointed. Plan ahead and avoid the risk.

Can you drive around Iceland in a day?

It’s physically possible to drive around the Ring Road in a day (about 18 hours of continuous driving). But it might not be much fun. It’s much more enjoyable to take it slow and enjoy everything that Iceland has to offer.

Car driving on Icelandic road in wintertime

Tour Iceland’s Ring Road with Holdur Car Rental

In this guide, we’ve covered everything you need to know about driving the Ring Road in Iceland. All you need to do now is hire a vehicle.

At Höldur, we’re Iceland’s largest vehicle rental operator. We have over 7,000 vehicles in our fleet, including passenger vehicles, minivans, motorhomes, electric vehicles, and 4x4 SUVs. With our rental outlets across the country, you have complete flexibility when you hire with Höldur.

Explore our fleet to hire a vehicle and tour the Ring Road today.