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The Iceland Ring Road


Driving the Iceland ring road and the East Iceland landscape
Driving in the east of Iceland

Iceland, the Land of fire and ice. From geysers to icebergs and dramatic scenery that you can't help fall in love with. Iceland is the vision of myths and legends. When you see the scenery here you can understand why the Icelandic folk tales invoke such fantasy, with a landscape so wild and dramatic. My first trip to this country allowed me to take the ring road on a self driven tour with a friend. I have visited Iceland twice. The first time I did this self drive of the ring road during late March with a friend, the second was a shorter four night stay in the south east during January (Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission should you chose to purchase via a link from this article at no extra cost to you. I only recommend experiences, companies or products I trust and have used).


Driving Route

The above is just a rough guide to show the main route and some of the places we visited along the way. The towns we stayed over night are listed below and we had 8 days on this trip. I would really recommend ten days to two weeks if you are doing this trip. This will allow you the freedown to account for unpredictable weather, stay at some places for a few nights maybe more spread out and add in some additional sights and activities mentioned in this article.

  • Reykjavik - Stay in Blonduos

  • Blonduos - Stay at Myvatn

  • Myvatn - Stay at Stafafell

  • Stafafell - Stay at Horgsland

  • Horgsland - Stora Mork

  • Stora Mork - Stay at Reykjavik


General Tips


  • You are not guaranteed to see the northern lights (two trips and I've still not seen them) and when they come they may be fleeting.

  • If you are going with a golden circle tour, then I would recommend making sure you have a spare day unplanned to allow for an additional place, sight or experience you may want to add onto this trip.

  • If you are staying in Reykjavik for a short city break Click Here to check out some of the experiences and tours available.

  • Give yourself time, there is so much to see in such a small country, you will want to stop and pull over so much. Expect to see some fascinating and beautiful landscapes as soon as you head out away from the airport, from the lava fields south of Reykjavic to the mountains, waterfalls and glaciers all over the country.

  • Check the road access as they often close some of the through roads and highlands when the weather is perceived as a potential danger to driving. Some roads and parts of the north are also closed in the winter and early spring as a general.

  • From Reykjavik, it is quite easy to navigate your way out of the city with the wide roads and clear signs, however I would still recommend having a sat-nav with you.

  • Don't be surprised that the majority of vehicles are four wheel drive or monster truck style. You will be grateful if you have a four wheel when driving here. The change in weather left us stuck and spending hours digging ourselves out.

  • Don't worry if they are getting close or try to overtake, just let them and maintain safe driving.

In Iceland they take speeding very seriously, with fines being the highest in Europe.

Staying on Budget


Iceland is on most travellers bucket list, however it is no secret that Iceland is not the most budget friendly of places. Here are a couple of simple tips to save your wallet.

  • If you can get self catering accommodation - buying food from the supermarket and cooking will work out much cheaper than eating out in restaurants or even at cheaper take away type venues. If nothing else maybe buy some or bring some dried snacks, tea bags (or coffee sachets), possibly noodles or porridge with you. If you do this and you're normally a grazer this may just help save some of your daily expense money that can soon add up.

  • Book ahead, whilst some trips will allow you to turn up on Reykjavik and book from the hostel they are often not any cheaper than if you booked them beforehand, in a couple of cases we heard others discussing their price (which was more than what we paid booking before our trip, so we kept quiet) and in many circumstances sold out.

  • Self drive, I'm not saying the coach trips to the golden circle aren't brilliant, however you may save the expense. Seeing nature is free. If there is two of you, your are undoubtedly going to save the cost, plus you can stop when you want.

  • Stay outside the city for the majority of your stay, the prices are generally cheaper the further away from Reykjavik you are.

  • Accommodation is between £60 - £100 per night for two people sharing a room or cabin. This isn't overly expensive but you aren't going to find many cheaper than this range for private rooms.

 

Sight Seeing and Activities


Myvatn

Myvatn is in the north of Iceland, it is one of the best places to see the northern lights (though we didn't) and it is known for its unique landscape. The lake of Myvatn looks somewhat peculiar and although we couldn't view clearly due to heavy snow it has small islands of miniature peaks and craters. Nearby there is also another natural hot spring to chose from and even a hidden hot spring in a cave (as seen on Game of Thrones). We tried to find this but instead got the car stuck in snow, so spent most of our day planned for this trying to get out of that and making snow angels.

 

Vatnajökull National Park

Here we reached the Jökulsárlón which is a lagoon that is easily accessible from the road. We could see the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier leading into the lagoon and large icebergs floating in the water and even witnessed a break and fall off the glaciers. We drove here from the east so got to see some other views of the glaciers that also fed into this lake. If you follow the river down to the beach you will be able to see icebergs that have washed onto the black sand.

For some reason this is something that I didn't expect, when researching the country I just focused on the lagoon and glacier. I knew I wanted to see the black sand beach as it always fascinated me. On our way to the lagoon we stopped at a car park just to see what was there. There was only one other car in there but, it was in the middle of nowhere. We scrambled up a dense embankment of native plants growing in the black sand and when we looked down at the beach we could see these giant blue icebergs. They looked like something out of a CGI film scene, and they were towering over the people walking around them. So we headed down and took pictures.

Our original plans of ice climbing had unfortunately been cancelled due to the climate effecting the ability of this and but we had opted to do either the blue ice caves or hiking on the glacier. Hiking it was