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The Most Jaw-Dropping Places to Visit in Iceland: Ultimate Iceland Road Trip Itinerary

Updated: Jan 29

Discover the best things to do in Iceland, including the must-see sights along Ring Road, exploring Reykjavik, and seeing the magical Northern Lights!


The best things to do in Iceland: Iceland Itinerary

Known for its otherworldly landscapes and incredible natural wonders, including glaciers, volcanoes, geysers, and waterfalls, Iceland is a dream destination for adventure seekers, nature lovers, and landscape photographers.


I spent two weeks visiting Iceland in October, exploring Reykjavik and road-tripping along Ring Road. In this guide, I'm sharing some of the best places to visit Iceland, along with some tips and recommendations to help you plan your perfect trip!


This guide will cover:


  • The best things to do in Reykjavik.

  • Top sites along Ring Road, including waterfalls, ice caves, glaciers, and more.

  • Where to stay along Ring Road, including the names of the towns and hotels.

  • Tips on how to see the Nothern Lights. (Hint: You don't need to book a tour).

  • Best time to visit Iceland.

  • Best amount of days to spend in Iceland.


 

You can also watch the video version here:


 

BEST THINGS TO DO IN REYKJAVIK

Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is a vibrant city known for colorful street art, a fun nightlife scene, and Scandinavian-influenced architecture.


Views of Reykjavik from the top of Hallgrímskirkja
Views of Reykjavik from the top of Hallgrímskirkja

After Landing at Keflavík International Airport and picking up your rental car, you'll want to spend a few days exploring Reykjavik before (or after) your road-trip adventure along Iceland's Ring Road. Here are some of the top things to do in Reykjavik.


Rainbow Street

Rainbow Street in Reykjavik Iceland
Rainbow Street in Downtown Reykjavik

Rainbow Street in Reykjavik Iceland

Located in the heart of downtown Reykjavik, Rainbow Street is hard to miss. It even comes up on Google Maps. Framed by charming shops and restaurants, it makes for a fantastic photo op in any direction. The street runs from the famous Hallgrímskirkja church down to the main shopping street, Laugavegur.

 

Hallgrímskirkja Church

HALLGRIMSKIRKJA CHURCH in Reykjavik Iceland

Hallgrímskirkja is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Reykjavik with its distinct architectural design. It's also Iceland's largest church. A $10 ticket will buy you an elevator ride to the church tower, where you can enjoy sweeping panoramic views of Reykjavik.


 

Sky Lagoon

Waterfalls and ocean overlooks at Sky Lagoon in Iceland
Waterfalls and ocean overlooks at Sky Lagoon

Opened in 2021, Sky Lagoon is one of Iceland's newest geothermal pools. It's smaller than the famous Blue Lagoon but much less crowded and has an upscale spa-like feel. It features volcanic rock formations with caves and waterfalls and an incredible infinity edge that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. Sky Lagoon offers several packages, I went with Pure Lite (the most basic one) which includes full access to the lagoon and a glass of champagne.


 

Art Murals

Colorful mural on the exterior of Braud & Co. Bakery
Colorful mural on the exterior of Braud & Co. Bakery

Street art along Laugavegur 22 in Reykjavik, Iceland
Street art along Laugavegur 22, a main street in Reykjavik

Artwork near Lebowski Bar
Artwork near Lebowski Bar

Downtown Reykjavík is covered in colorful street art. It's super fun to stroll the streets and admire the impressive art murals and commissioned urban graffiti.


 

FAVORITE BARS, CAFES, AND RESTAURANTS IN REYKJAVIK


Lebowski Bar: Named after the movie The Big Lebowski, Lebowski Bar offers 24 tasty variations of the White Russian, and the vibe is super cute with its retro decor. They also serve a full menu.


Dillon Whiskey Bar: A dark, laid-back dive bar where you'll find an equal mix of tourists and locals. They specialize in whiskey but offer everything and feature live music.


Brauð & Co: Bakery known for its delicious bread, cinnamon buns, and colorful building exterior.


Valdís: An ice cream parlor in Reykjavík known for its wide selection of flavors including some adventurous ones like beer, lavender, and bacon ice cream (none of which I tried 🤣).



WHERE TO STAY IN REYKJAVIK

Suggested Hotel: Vintage Hotel


Alright, let's get to the next section. Driving Ring Road.....

 

BEST SITES ALONG RING ROAD (+ ROAD TRIP ITINERARY)

This Ring Road itinerary goes counterclockwise from Reykjavik, starting along the southern coast.


Ring Road in Iceland
Ring Road in Iceland
 

Ring Road Day 1: Reykjavik to Vik

117 miles, roughly 2 hr 30 min (not including stops)


Along Iceland’s south coast, between Reykjavík and the town of Vik, you will find some of Iceland's most beautiful waterfalls.


Stop 1: Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss waterfall in iceland
Views from behind Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss is a stunning waterfall located in the southern part of Iceland. It is one of the country's most famous and photographed waterfalls. What sets Seljalandsfoss apart is that you can walk behind the waterfall, providing gorgeous views, not to mention a pretty awesome photo op.


Tip: You will get wet at this waterfall. Actually, you will get wet (drenched in some cases) at most of the waterfalls on this list. The paths around the waterfalls are also pretty slippery. Wearing a rain jacket, good grippy shoes, and even waterproof wind pants will help keep you comfortable. 

 

Stop 2: Gljúfrabúi

Gljúfrabúi  Waterfall in South Iceland

Just a 10-minute walk from Seljalandsfoss along a trail, you'll find Gljúfrabúi, a lesser-known waterfall compared to Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. To reach Gljúfrabúi, you'll have to wade through a shallow stream in a narrow gorge (it's easier than it sounds). You'll get soaked, but it's worth it!

 

Stop 3: Skógafoss

Skógafoss waterfall in South Iceland
Walking up to the base of Skógafoss

Skogafoss waterfall in South Iceland

Located just a short 25-minute drive from Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss is a drop-dead gorgeous waterfall, and it was one of my favorite stops during my Iceland trip. The sheer size of the waterfall is impressive, and the double rainbows that often occur make it even more special.


Despite being one of the most popular attractions in Iceland, getting photos without crowds was surprisingly easy. Once you're done checking out the waterfall from the base, you can climb a set of stairs along the side of the waterfall that take you to a viewing platform at the top of the falls.

 

Stop 4: Kvernufoss

Kvernufoss waterfall in Iceland

Just a quick 6-minute drive from Skógafoss, Kvernufoss is easy to find when you know where to go. To get there, park at the Skogar Museum and look for a fence. Heading towards the fence, you'll spot the short trail that leads to the canyon.


Kvernufoss is a much less visited waterfall compared to Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss (maybe that's because people can't find it 😂), but we pretty much had it to ourselves, which was nice. It's also a waterfall that you can walk behind, so don't change out of your rain gear just yet!


After visiting four waterfalls, it's time to get some rest for tomorrow's adventures.


WHERE TO STAY IN VIK

Suggested Hotel: Black Beach Suites

 

Ring Road Day 2: Vik to Jökulsárlón

120 miles, roughly 2 hr 25 min (not including stops)


Stop 1: Reynisfjara Beach

Reynisfjara beach in south iceland

Basalt Columns at Reynisfjara beach in south iceland
Basalt columns at Reynisfjara Beach

Reynisfjara is a section of coastline made up of black pebbles, sea carvings, and basalt columns. The basalt columns, in particular, are very unique and make for a pretty cool photo op. Reynisfjara is also known for its sneaker waves, which are known to drag unsuspecting tourists into the freezing water (and to their deaths in some cases). Always be cautious and never turn your back on the ocean.

 

Stop 2: Fjadrargljufur Canyon

Fjadrargljufur Canyon in Iceland
Fjadrargljufur Canyon

Fjadrargljufur Canyon was another one of my favorite stops along Ring Road. The canyon is absolutely stunning. A 2-mile round-trip trail takes you along the top of the canyon and provides gorgeous views of the vibrant Fjaðrá River below.

 

Stop 3: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in Iceland
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in Iceland
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Jökulsárlón is Iceland’s most famous glacier lagoon and another must-see stop along Ring Road. Surrounded by rugged mountains, the lagoon features towering crystal blue icebergs that have broken apart from the glacier. The scenery at Jökulsárlón is nothing short of awe-inspiring.


WHERE TO STAY NEAR JÖKULSÁRLÓN

Suggested Hotel: Guesthouse Skálafell

 

Ring Road Day 3: Jökulsárlón to Seyðisfjörður

120 miles, roughly 4 hr 42 min (not including stops)


Stop 1: Crystal Ice Cave Tour

Crystal Ice Cave Tour from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Crystal Ice Cave Tour under Vatnajökull Glacier

I am not exactly a fan of tours, but if you are going to do one, I recommend touring the crystal blue ice caves under the Vatnajökul Glacier. Getting to the caves is treacherous as far as the terrain, so a guided tour is the safest way to visit them.


I did this exact tour. As far as the tour itself, as with most tours, it felt a little rushed as multiple tours were coming through the cave. We did get to take pictures, but they didn't allow tripods. They did allow DSLRs.


If you're really after stunning photos and want to be able to take your time and enjoy the ice caves a little more, you'll have to hire a private guide or book a tour that caters specifically to photography, which can get a little pricey, but here is one I recommend.

 

Stop 2: Vestrahorn

Vestrahorn in East Iceland
Vestrahorn in East Iceland

Colorful road near Vestrahorn, Iceland

Vestrahorn is a jagged mountain in southeast Iceland, located on the Stokknes Peninsula. It faces out to the sea on its southern side and is surrounded by a sandy coastline. Like Reynisfjara Beach, the sands at Vestrahorn are black due to the island’s volcanism.


After visiting Vestrahorn, we headed northeast to Seydisfjordur. We attempted to drive Route 939, also known as Öxi Pass, since it cuts off some time, but it was steep, snowy, and all-around sketchy, especially at dusk. We backtracked to Ring Road (because I almost had a heart attack) and just took the longer way.🤣



WHERE TO STAY IN SEYDISFJORDUR

Suggested Hotel: Hotel Aldan

 

Ring Road Day 4: Seydisfjordur to Húsavík

153 miles, roughly 3 hr 5 min (not including stops)


Wake up and start your day in East Iceland! And this is where things get a little snowy.


Stop 1: Seydisfjordur Village

Seydisfjordur Village
Seydisfjordur Village in East Iceland

Rainbow Road in Seydisfjordur Village, East Iceland
Rainbow Road in Seydisfjordur Village

Seydisfjordur is a small, picturesque coastal town surrounded by snow-capped mountains and waterfalls. Don't miss Rainbow Road and the Blue Chuch, a fun spot to grab a few photos before loading up on coffee and pastries and hitting the road. Rainbow Road and the Blue Chuch are just steps from Hotel Aldan, where we stayed.

 

Stop 2: Dettifoss

Detifoss in Northeast Iceland


Dettifoss in Iceland

Located in Northeast Iceland, Dettifoss is Europe's second most powerful waterfall. The mist from this massive waterfall is visible from several miles away, as are the rainbows that often occur here.


From the parking lot, you'll hike a short distance to the viewing platform, which has up-close views of the falls. We visited in October, and the road that takes you to Dettifoss was already snowy and slightly sketchy, but still drivable. If you are visiting Dettifoss in the winter, check the road conditions, as closures due to snow and ice are common.

 

Stop 3: Namafjall Geothermal Area

The Námafjall Geothermal Area in Northeast Iceland, on the east side of Lake Mývatn.

The Námafjall Geothermal Area is located in Northeast Iceland, on the east side of Lake Mývatn.
The Námafjall Geothermal Area near Lake Mývatn.

Located on the east side of Lake Mývatn in Northeast Iceland, The Námafjall Geothermal Area will make you feel like you stepped onto another planet. The site features a walking platform that takes you past bubbling mud pools, hissing fumaroles, and colorful cracked terrain. The Námafjall Geothermal Area is easy to spot – you'll see the smoke right from Ring Road, and it's a quick turn-off to the parking lot.


WHERE TO STAY IN HUSAVIK

Suggested Hotel: Saltvík Farm Guesthouse

 

Ring Road Day 5 & 6: Husavik to Snaefellsnes Peninsula

313 miles, roughly 6 hours (not including stops)


Stop 1: Icelandic Horses

Icelandic horses at Saltvík Farm Guesthouse
Icelandic horses at Saltvík Farm Guesthouse in Husavik

You will see Icelandic horses all around Ring Road. The issue is that there isn't always a spot to pull over and get an up-close encounter, and the horses are often on private land. The hotel I stayed at in Husavik had horses on the property, and they also offered horseback riding tours (which, unfortunately, I did not get to do due to time). Icelandic horses are considered friendly, however, it's not advised to pet or feed the horses.

 

Stop 2: Husavik Village

Husavik in North Iceland
Husavik in North Iceland

Husavik, a charming fishing town in North Iceland, is one of the best places in Iceland for whale watching. Horseback riding tours are also popular here. It's also a convenient place to stay while traveling along the north side of Ring Road. In town, you'll find some friendly bars and delicious seafood restaurants – two places I recommend are Gamli Baukur and Hlodufell Restaurant & Bar.

 

Stop 3: Godafoss Waterfall

Godafoss in Northern Iceland

Godafoss is a spectacular horseshoe-shaped waterfall and a must-see stop in North Iceland. This waterfall is as popular as it is beautiful, and you'll see loads of tour buses lining the parking lot. It features a path that allows you to take in the views from the east and west sides. I didn't know at the time of my visit, but you can also hike down to the base of the falls.

 

Stop 4: Budakirkja (Black Church of Budir)

Northern Lights in West Iceland

Budakirkja, also known as Budir, is a famous black church on the Snaefelsness Peninsula in West Iceland. It's also one of Iceland's most iconic photography spots. It happened to be right next to the hotel I stayed at, Hotel Budir. After checking in, I walked up to the church at night and caught the Northern Lights!



WHERE TO STAY NEAR SNAEFELLSNES

Suggested Hotel: Hotel Búdir


Hotel Búdir on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, West Iceland
Hotel Búdir on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, West Iceland
 

Ring Road Day 7: Snaefellsnes Peninsula back to Reykjavik

120 miles, roughly 2 hours and 27 minutes (not including stops)

Today you'll wake up in West Iceland and this is the last leg of your Ring Road adventure.


Stop 1: Arnarstapi Coastline

Arnarstapi Coastline in West Iceland


Gatklettur Stone Arch in West Iceland
Gatklettur Stone Arch in Arnarstapi

The cliffs of Arnastapi are located on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland. Designated as a Natural Reserve, the area features miles of stunning coastline with views of jagged cliffs and sea arches. A popular attraction is Gatklettur, an impressive sea arch that juts out of the cliff into the sea. Some bold people even dare to walk across it.

 

Stop 2: Kirkjufellsfoss

Kirkjufellsfoss in West Iceland


Kirkjufellsfoss in West Iceland

Kirkjufellsfoss might be the most photographed spot in Iceland, at least on the day I went. When we arrived, there was a line of photographers with their tripods wrapped around the entire waterfall. I did find Kirkjufellsfoss and the surrounding scenery to be beautiful, but I found it much less impressive than some of the other waterfalls on this list.


 

Return to Reykjavik

You've returned to Reykjavik after a thrilling 7 days on Ring Road! Here are a few more things to do in Reykjavik before catching your flight home.


Stop 1: Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon in Iceland

I'll be honest, the Blue Lagoon was my least favorite thing that I did in Iceland. And that's because I felt it was way too touristy. It felt like Disneyland and not in a good way- long lines, tons of tour buses, and the lagoon was so crowded. I would choose Sky Lagoon over Blue Lagoon any day. That being said, it is a famous attraction in Iceland which might be reason enough to visit.  Just expect the crowds.


 

Stop 2: Volcano Eruption Site

If you happen to be in Iceland when a volcano is erupting, it's probably quite a sight. Unfortunately, when I visited, the Fagradalsfjall Volcano near Reykjavik was no longer active. Otherwise, seeing a volcano in action would've been at the top of my bucket list.


 

BEST TIME TO VISIT ICELAND


I visited Iceland in mid-October, and I felt it was a great time to go. Despite October being the rainy season, we lucked out with minimal rain, although there was quite a bit of fog. The temperatures were mild, and we could drive the entire Ring Road, although we did hit some snow on the north side. If you plan a winter visit (November to March), driving the full Ring Road might be challenging due to possible closures from harsh weather conditions.


HOW MANY DAYS SHOULD YOU SPEND IN ICELAND


I'd recommend spending at least 10 days in Iceland. Going for any less might feel rushed, especially if you plan to drive all of Ring Road and spend a few days exploring Reykjavik.


SEEING THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN ICELAND

Northern lights in North Iceland


Northern Lights in West Iceland
The Northern Lights in West Iceland

Witnessing the magic of the northern lights at least once is a bucket-list experience for most people. I was lucky to catch them twice on my trip – once near Husvik in North Iceland and again in West Iceland.


Things to note:

  • The northern lights aren't as vivid in person as they look in photos. The camera picks up the colors better than the naked eye. Even though they aren't as obvious to the naked eye, you will know when you see them. They look like greyish swirls.

  • Along with looking at the sky every single night I was there, I would check this website daily to see the nightly aurora report: https://auroraforecast.is/

  • You are more likely to see the Northern Lights in remote areas with less light pollution versus just outside of Reykjavik.

  • You can book a Northern Lights Tour, most of them depart from Reykjavik, but the tour companies can't guarantee strong aurora activity on the night of your tour. The good news is that they will cancel your tour if the conditions aren't looking favorable and issue a refund or allow you to reschedule.

  • The best months to visit Iceland for the Northern Lights are October-April.


I honestly think the best way to see the northern lights is to look up at the sky every single night you are on Ring Road. The first time I saw them I was in North Iceland. I was in the car driving back to the hotel from dinner, I happened to look out the car window and there they were.


WHAT TO PACK FOR ICELAND

Here's a list of packing essentials for your trip to Iceland:

✔️ Raincoat

✔️ Rain pants

✔️ Gloves

✔️ Packable down jacket

✔️ Leggings

✔️ Wool socks


Things to consider buying in Iceland:

  • Icelandic sweater

  • Icelandic hat and mittens

 

I hope you enjoyed my guide on the best places to visit in Iceland.


If you haven't already, check out the video version of my Iceland Guide here:


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