The Ring Road Ultimate Guide: Iceland 2020

The Ring Road Ultimate Guide: Iceland 2020

Iceland the Land of Fire and Ice. there are not many places on earth that offered the same level of natural diversity than Iceland. impressive waterfalls, hot springs. 50 mile long heights with no civilization in sight.

Iceland has something for any type of traveler from the lush green summer months where the Sun never sets, to the dark cold winters illuminated by northern lights. Iceland offers a host of activities no matter the season.

Before you go on this road trip here are a few things you need to know before arriving in Iceland:

Although considered a part of Europe, Iceland is not a part of the EU. the country is, however, part of the Schengen Agreement which means visa-free for most EU citizens.

To check whether you need a visa before arriving in Iceland visit www.UTL.is.

https://www.utl.is/


The country's official language is Icelandic. the country's currency is called Krona, where 1000 Krona is about 8 US dollars or 7 euros.

Iceland is known to be an expensive country to travel its prices there around 60% higher compared to the European average, so if you're on a budget carefully planning out the travel expenses is a good idea.

So, what is the best season to visit Iceland?

Well, it depends. summer is the most popular season to visit Iceland it's also the best season for anyone interested in hiking or exploring the highlands as many of the activities are accessible during the warmer months. however, since its high season expects inflated prices and tons of tourists.

Alternatively, you can lower your cause and avoid the crowds by visiting during the shoulder months of spring, and autumn prices are substantially lower due to it being offseason however the Highlands and the major hiking trails will be unavailable during this time winter is the best season for Northern Lights and if you're interested in exploring ice caves as some of them are only available during the winter months.

The winter may not be ideal for a Ring Road trip due to the unpredictable weather, but it's still possible if you really must and most would argue that.

Iceland is more scenic during the warmer months but I think that's totally subjective.

The best way to see Iceland is by car and you have three options:

#1: a regular car

Is the most affordable option as long as you stay at campgrounds that means you're sleeping in the car or you're bringing your own tent. you can offer hotels but that's gonna increase your overall cost by a large margin.

#2 4WD

You can also go with a 4WD, but in my opinion, they're not really necessary unless you plan to explore the Highlands or drive on F-roads. renting a 4WD will also cause and add a premium so overall it could be the most expensive option on the list, but it is the ultimate adventure car in Iceland so if you want the added feel of security and not worry about where you can or cannot explore it and go with a 4WD.

#3 Campervan

Lastly a campervan. this is also the option I opted for it's not the most expensive, nor the most affordable it sits in the middle in terms of price but it has the advantage of being your accommodation and transportation rolled into one with included benefits such as heating gas stove etc. to make life easier at campgrounds.

Regardless of what vehicle you choose, it's important to know the driving laws in Iceland while I won't go through everything these are the things you need to know:

The general speed limit in cities is 50 kilometers an hour, it's 70 on gravel roads and while on roads outside of urban areas such as the Ring Road is 90.

There will be plenty of speed cameras set up all around Iceland so I recommend not to risk it unless you want a heavy fine at the end of your trip you, also have to be 20 years of age to rent a car and 23 for larger vehicles car headlights must be on at all times and off-roading is illegal in Iceland.

Accommodations


#1 Hotels.

If comfort is the most important thing for you, then go with hotels they're by far the most comfortable to stay you can get ask for the downsides other than a high cost you might find check-in times to be restrictive especially if arrived late at night so you may have to adapt your schedules accordingly.

#2 Hostels / Guesthouses

Hostels or guest houses are a more affordable option but sacrifices some of the comforts, you'll get from a regular hotel expect shared bathrooms, kitchens on some instances sharing rooms with other travelers depending on your accommodation choices.

You can book hotels and hostels on price comparison sites such as the listed below:

HotelsCombined → Search & compare best deals.

Hotellook → Find out cheapest deals.

TakeTours → Best deals & hot discounts.

#3 Campgrounds


Finally, campgrounds by far the most budget-friendly option, and ideal if you're going with a campervan or bringing your own tent. since while camping in Iceland is illegal it can be the least comfortable option depending on the person, but what I like most about campgrounds is that you can arrive at any time, so if you arrive late at night and you find a reception to be closed just find a free spot stay for the night and make sure to pay the fee the next morning.

The price ring is between 1,500 and 3,000 Krona's per person for a night. you can search for campgrounds on www.tjalda.is or search for one on Google Maps which I did a number of times when I was on the road.

www.tjalda.is

So how much did it all cost?

I wanted to give you an idea of the total cost for such a trip:
So, by far the most expensive thing was the campervan but in total it’s about $2300 on an Iceland trip.

Your cost might vary depending on the season you visited as well as the vehicle you plan to rent while you're in Iceland.

Iceland attraction


  •  Keflavik

Iceland's main International Airport straight away. the famous Ring Road that loops around the entire island.


keflavik airport


  • Golden Circle


Just 50 kilometers from Keflavik you find the ever-popular Golden Circle.

The Golden Circle is an unofficial recognizer but it's a popular tourist destination as includes a number of attractions along its 300-kilometer loop, it's arguably the most popular tourist destination in all of Iceland and works well as a day trip
outside of the city.

I won't cover everything but here's some noteworthy highlights:

  • Thingvellir National Park


Located between two tectonic plates the park is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
and perhaps the most important historical place in Iceland as it saw the birth of the national parliament is a nice place to take a stroll and win some of the unique natural landscapes of the area.

Thingvellir National Park


  • Kerid Crater


It's striking red cliffs and aquamarine-colored lake Kerid. is a relatively young volcanic Crater lake, its age plays a key role in its colorful appearance as these striking colors are remaining minerals and rocks as well as the minerals seeping into the water below - giving it this green town.

Kerid Crater


  • Geysers


The famous brothers' Geysers and stroker although it's been here since the Great Geyser here last erupted it, you'll find that his younger brother gladly picks up the slack erupted in between every five to 10 minutes.

Geysers


  • Gullfoss


The majestic Gullfoss. its name translates to the golden waterfall it also where the golden circle gets its name from, and its impressive waterfall and one of the main highlights of the loop.

Gullfoss


  • Hrunalaug hot spring


Although there is a more famous hot spring in this region, my personal favorite has to be the Hrunalaug hot spring. 

This small secluded hot spring is nestled away between hills and requires a little bit of searching to find it but it's well worth it, and it's a charming little place that's absolutely beautiful.

Unfortunately, I've heard from multiple sources that the hot spring has been dried up due to tourists leaving trash all around and the landowners understandably being sick of it it's a real shame if it's true, but it just goes to say that we should all show a little more respect towards these places and the people who own them otherwise more wonderful places such as this will disappear nature here is fragile and we should all make a little effort for serving it for future generations.

Hrunalaug hot spring


  • Fridheimar


Fridheimar is a geothermal tomato farm. famous for its tomato themed menu and is a beautiful place for lunch other than the food, you can also pay a visit to the greenhouses and learn more about the process of greenhouse horticulture in Iceland. for example, you learn how they're able to cultivate their tomato crops in such a cold climate by using the Earth's geothermal energy.

Fridheimar


  • Seljalandsfoss


After finishing the golden circle we continue towards the southern part of Iceland and find one of the most iconic waterfalls Seljalandsfoss.

With its 60-meter waterfall drop Seljalandsfoss is part of the Seljalands river that has its origin from a volcano glacier it's unique as you can walk behind the waterfall itself and really get a sense of its scale.

Seljalandsfoss


  • Gljufrabui


There's also a nearby cave with a hidden waterfall of its own, worth paying a visit while you're there.

Further along the route, you can find one of the many pools in Iceland, and this has a particularly difficult name to pronounce. it's quite a bumpy road to get to the parking area of this pool and from there it's a relatively short 20 minutes walk to reach the pool and to be honest, it was a rather warm pool rather than a hot pool. so, if you want to enjoy the place for yourself get there early.


Gljufrabui


  • Skogafoss


Not too far from the pool, you'll find Skogafoss which is another famous waterfall in Iceland is one of the biggest waterfalls with a width of 25 meters and a drop of 60 meters.

Skogafoss


  • Solheimasandur plane


Continue along the route you will find these Solheimasandur plane Wreck. this is where you find the abandoned US Navy plane which crashed landed here in 1973.

Solheimasandur plane


You have probably seen plenty of photos of this place so it won't talk too much 
about it as always get here early to avoid the crowd as it'll take a good and either 30 minutes walk from the parking area to reach in plain sight. if you are unable to walk there is a shuttle bus that goes from the parking area to the Wreck site for a small fee.

  •  Reynisfjara


Reynisfjara is the most famous black sand beach in Iceland. the black sand is formed by lava hitting the ocean waves and turning the lava into small volcanic rocks and stubbles giving the beach its black color.

The beach is also famous for DS basalt columns formed by lava as well these two nearby sea stacks which according to the Icelandic folklore used to be trolls that were turned into stone when they were pulling ships into Shore.



Reynisfjara

  • Dyrholaey


Not far from Reynisfjara you'll find Dyrholaey which means the door he'll island it's known for its rock art and the lighthouse of the same name once you reach the top of the lighthouse you'll have a fantastic view of the southern coastline which is well worth the short height and the best thing it's free.

Dyrholaey


  • Fjadrargljufur


As we continue east, you'll come across the beautiful Canyon, a very difficult name to pronounce, but this Canyon was believed to be formed at the end of the last ice age. And I think it's definitely worth paying a visit.

Fjadrargljufur


  • Svinafellsjokull glacier


This glacier is what's called an outlet or tong glacier of the much larger bot no you go glacier which is said to be Europe's largest ice cave. it's quite the surreal experience getting see the glacier up close and it's a place where you can really see the impact of global warming as many of the glaciers are unfortunately shrinking. at least one has completely disappeared, Highlighting the importance of us all contributing in the fight against global warming.


Svinafellsjokull glacier

  • Fjallsarlon


Nearby Svinafellsjokull you'll also find Fjallsarlon, which is another outlet glacier. the unique thing here is you can get on a boat or and really get up close to the icebergs and the glacier itself if you're interested.


Fjallsarlon

  • Diamond beach


Not too far from the two glaciers, you'll find Diamond beach, although it's not officially named that; but it's a name it's rather picked up due to the many washed-up pieces of glacial ice which creates a stark contrast between its black sandy shores. Diamond beach also marks the end of southern Iceland.



Diamond beach

As we continue along the road, we start entering the eastern part of Iceland. 

  • Vestrahorn


Vestrahorn is one of my favorite places in Iceland, is also known as stock nests which are a set of pointing mountains often the subject of many landscape photos in Iceland, it's known for its reflective Shores where you can take some really cool shots it caused a small fee to visit the place but the fee also includes a visit to a nearby Viking village film set which apparently was never used. the view of the mountains south, to be honest, is  worth the entry price.



Vestrahorn


  • Seydisfjordur


As we continue with this Iceland road trip, we head northeast following along the cliffside roads until we arrive at the small town known as Seydisfjordur.

Seydisfjordur is known for its rainbow-colored Street which leads up to the town's landmark the blue church.

The town itself is surrounded by mountains and located near a Fuhrer. I also recommend popping into the Nordic restaurant or a nice little brunch before you continue on your journey.


Seydisfjordur


  • Gufu Waterfall


You may also want to pay a short visit to a nearby small waterfall called Gufu it's located just outside of the town. on the main roads that lead to Hengifoss.


Gufu Waterfall

  • Hengifoss


Hengifoss it actually takes a good 30 to 40 minutes hike from the parking area to reach the waterfall. thanks to its red clay and black basalt patterns bring that perfect backdrop to its 128-meter fall.


Hengifoss


  • Waterfall circle hike at Laugarfell


As we, unfortunately, won't be covering the Highlands in this article a 
consolation would be the waterfall circle hike at Laugarfell.

Just getting to Laugarfell was an experience in itself and the hike was a great surprise with some wonderful waterfalls during the route I highly recommend doing this short to the four hours hike if you're in the area or at all interested in hiking.


Waterfall circle hike at Laugarfell


  • Dettifoss


As we finish up our hiking and Laugarfell we move back towards the Ring Road, and head into the Northern part of Iceland where we make a stop by the mighty Dettifoss.

Located in what's known as the diamond circle. Dettifoss is regarded as the most powerful waterfall in Europe. the waterfall is made of glacial water from several glacier outlets and it's a great display of the power in the scale of Iceland's remarkable nature.


Dettifoss


  • Myvatn


As we continue back on the Ring Road, we arrive at the Myvatn area which is known for its civil attractions.


Myvatn

  • Hverir Geothermal area

First is the Hverir Geothermal area known for its bubbling pools of mud and steaming fumaroles.

The smell there is not surprisingly pretty bad due to the sulfur but it's a unique location that is worth visiting at least once while you're in Iceland.

You can also find a quirky shower located at the side of the road towards Krafla I don't know the exact purpose of this. other than the water is quite warm and nice but I wouldn't necessarily recommend taking a shower.


Hverir Geothermal area

Krafla Viti crater

Not too far from there, you can find the Krafla Viti crater with his own colorful crater lake that is very similar to the Kari crater found in the golden circle.


Krafla Viti crater

  • Hverfjall


The Hverfjall crater is a 2000-year-old crater known as a tuff ring volcano and about one kilometer in diameter.

It's connected to the very active Krafla volcanic system and you can climb the crater and walk around its rim to get a better look at it. It's definitely one of the more impressive craters in Iceland.


Hverfjall

  • Grjotagja Cave


There are many other attractions to visit while you're in Iceland including the beautiful lava cave with its own geothermal hot spring.

The cave was famously featured in the game of Thrones and you might be tempted to take a dip into it, but that's unfortunately strictly forbidden so I recommend not doing that and following the rules as the cave is on private land.


Grjotagja Cave


  • Godafoss


As we exit the Myvatn area the next stop is Godafoss. Godafoss has long been regarded as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland, its name is literally the waterfall of gods it was giving the name from folklore when the country was converted to Christianity with a prominent person foreign all of his statue of the Norse gods into the waterfall itself. 


Godafoss


  • Grafarkirkja


The next one is yet another of the Ring Roadside attraction but definitely one of the more personal favorites.

The Grafarkirkja is a small turf church and is parently the oldest one in Iceland. with the oldest account of the church being from around the Year 1240. it sat on a picturesque backdrop of a wide-open field and a mountain range is just a beautiful location or an equally beautiful small church and having it all to ourselves with no tourists around may thing just even better.


Grafarkirkja


  • Hvitserkur


As we move towards the northwestern part of Iceland, we make a quick stop at Hvitserkur.

located on the beach. The base of the stack has been reinforced with concrete to protect its foundations from the sea.


Hvitserkur


  • Westfjords


As we head west, we enter a region known as the Westfjords. although the Westfjords aren't technically a part of the Ring Road experience and definitely consider more of a sidetrack adventure.

You rarely saw any tourists while driving around which really gave that sense of solitude that the area is known for.

The lovely hot pool was definitely one of the best things in Iceland. It's located on the side of a gravel road, the water was scorching hot, but it was nice to have the place all to ourselves after a long day of driving.


Westfjords


  • Valagil Hike


There's also a short and easy 4-kilometer hike to the waterfall ravine called Valagil.


Valagil Hike

  • Dynjandi


While exploring the Westfjords you also don't want to miss Dynjandi the biggest waterfall in Westfjords and considered the jewel of the Westfjords.


Dynjandi


  • Gardar BA 64


If you're into abandoned ships then visit the Gardar BA 64 which is a ship that was stranded there since 1981.


Gardar BA 64


  • Raudasandur Beach


If you thought that all the beaches in Iceland was black then you should go pay Raudasandur beach a visit the name Raudasandur means red sand.



Raudasandur Beach


There's a lot more to explore about the Westfjords and I hope to be able to cover this area more in a future guide.

  • Stephanus Peninsula


As we move out of the Westfjords then back on the rainbow we then start to enter the Stephanus Peninsula, you can find several attractions but the most famous one is Kirkjufell known as the church mountain. 

This 463-meter-tall mountain is one of the most photographed places in all of Iceland and you can see why as this place is absolutely stunning.


Stephanus Peninsula


  • Ingjaldsholskirkja


Not too far from Kirkjufell you also find this lovely church.


Ingjaldsholskirkja


There's also this Svortuloft lighthouse And the Gatklettur rock arch.



Svortuloft lighthouse


Gatklettur rock arch.



There's also the (Budakirkja) Buddha Church a small and beautiful minimalistic Church.



Budakirkja



As we move out of the Stephanus Peninsula, we complete the loop around Iceland.

Close to nature but rich with colorful tradition too, Iceland is a completely unique area to spend a captivating trip. Icelanders are very welcoming people and always satisfied to share their stunning country with visitors on Iceland vacations.


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