Are you planning a trip to Iceland?
Iceland is one of the best locations in the world to go on a road trip adventure, especially with the stunning landscapes at every corner and the Ring Road around the island.
But before you visit Iceland, here are some tips to help you plan a memorable trip.
7 Iceland road trip tips
1. Be reasonable with your Iceland itinerary
Everywhere is tempting and with so many things to do in Iceland you’ll want to see it all. I get it! Lonely planet even included West Iceland in the Top Ten regions for 2016.
However, unless you are very lucky, your time on the island is limited. So when preparing your Iceland road trip itinerary remember the following:
- Do not plan your Iceland road trip with the driving times indicated by Google maps. Not that they are wrong. It is just that they do not take into account that you will want to stop everywhere along the way.
- Weather can change, fog can appear, and you will have to slow down. Be diligent and safe.
- When you drive off the Ring Road, you will mostly be on gravel roads which will slow you down as well
- If you travel outside of summer in Iceland, days are short.
But don’t worry, you will still see a lot!
For manageable road trip plans for Iceland, you can check out the 5 detailed itineraries I suggested on my blog.
2. Choose the right month to visit Iceland
Iceland has something to offer every month of the year, so it really depends on what you want to see and how you want to travel.
Below is a list of special conditions and activities in Iceland and where you will encounter them.
- Crowds – most tourists come between June and August.
- Road conditions in Iceland – expect ice and snow November to March (and sometimes October and April)
- Accessibility – F roads leading to the amazing Landmannalaugar area are opened only between June and September (dates changing every year depending on conditions)
- Midnight sun in Iceland – Around 21st June.
- Northern Lights Iceland (aurora borealis) – Late September to March.
- Whales – all year around, more sightings between April and September.
- Puffins – May to Mid-August.
- Ice Caves – November to March;
- Lupin flowers – Mid June.
- Frozen waterfalls – January and February.
- Autumn colors – September.
3. Tips for Driving in Iceland
Here comes the frequent question: should you rent a 4WD or rent a normal car when you’re visiting Iceland?
Well, it depends on where you want to go and where you are able to drive. Below are some pointers for driving in Iceland to help you decide:
- All the F roads are accessible only to 4WD. Most of them are in the Central Highlands and open only between June and September (roughly as it depends on conditions). Those F roads sometimes have significant river crossings.
- There is already a lot to see not far from the Ring Road and the access gravel roads are manageable with 2WD cars.
- I rented a 4WD vehicle and I must admit it was much more comfortable for longer gravel roads.
- In winter the roads can be covered in ice and snow.
But don’t worry, the Ring Road and side gravel roads are not difficult and manageable for your Iceland road trip.
4. Include time for spontaneity
Make sure you have time to take a road when you have no idea where it leads to. This is how you can find some of the most memorable landscapes in Iceland.
During my own Iceland trip, I was touring the Snaefellsnes peninsula. Based on the recommendation from a local, I drove through the lava field of Berserkjahraun. It was not planned and yet it was one of my favorite places in Iceland.
5. In Summer, book accommodation in advance
Iceland’s tourism industry is developing quite fast, however there are still huge areas without any towns. So it is important to book your Iceland accommodation in advance.
For a local and unique experience consider booking with Airbnb. Click here to view all properties available in Iceland.
The few hotels or guesthouses in the countryside fill up quickly. Another option for summer is to camp.
It is less of a problem in winter. However, during that period, many establishments shut down, so you could face the same problem.
6. Pack Layers for your Iceland vacation
This is not a legend. This is a reality. The weather in Iceland changes quickly. So you need layers: some to keep warm, some to protect from the rain and some to stop the wind. And on top of that you should bring a hat and gloves.
One time I was on Jokulsarlon beach, a stretch of black sand where icebergs wash off. It was all foggy and wet, an incredible mood! But a little while later we had a beautiful blue sky!
7. Plan to alternate drivers
I am going to repeat myself Iceland is STUNNING. It is hard to keep your eyes on the road. And yet, you should! Sheep can appear suddenly.
Roads sometimes become one lane bridges, so my advice is to plan in advance to alternate drivers (if you are not on a solo road trip like me).
Or plan to stop every couple of kilometers so that the driver can enjoy the views. And then you are back to the first point of this article – be reasonable with your itinerary.
For more ideas about things to do on that road trip, planning information, beautiful photos, and practical maps to help you plan your travels, check out ZigZag On Earth’s eBook:
- The Road trip guide to Iceland
- The road trip guide to the Iceland Ring Road
- The road trip guide to Iceland in the winter
More tips for Iceland
- 10 places in Iceland to connect with earth and nature
- 11 tips for visiting Iceland with kids
- 5 off the beaten path destinations in Iceland
Plan Your Trip to Iceland
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Flights Car Rental Do you have any tips for an Iceland road trip? Share in the comments below!
Do you have any tips for an Iceland road trip? Share in the comments below!