A (Pretty Much Perfect) 10 Day Ring Road Itinerary + Guide to Travel in Iceland

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Over the past few years, Iceland has absolutely exploded – and I’m not talking about their (many) volcanoes!

In the blink of an eye, Iceland has gone from an off the beaten track travel destination to one of the most coveted tourist hotspots on the planet. For this reason, many intrepid adventurers may be discouraged from visiting the country, however, if you are prepared to rent a car and drive around the country via Road 1 – AKA The Ring Road – you can avoid much of the tourist congestion and have a truly magical adventure.

This post is all about planning your perfect Icelandic Ring Road journey.

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Okay, so what do you need to know before embarking on an Icelandic adventure?

Sim Cards + Internet Access

To be perfectly honest, we never bothered with obtaining an Icelandic sim. The fact of the matter is, as long as you have some offline maps downloaded, you’ll be totally fine without one! Internet access and free wifi are available just about everywhere, and are generally of pretty decent quality.

Currency

The official currency of Iceland is the Icelandic Krona. It can be worthwhile to get out a little bit of cash, but there is also the very real possibility that you never actually need it. Iceland is one of the countries in the world with the highest use of card as a primary payment method.

Pretty much everywhere accepts cards, so don’t try and withdraw a huge sum of Icelandic cash, you likely won’t need it.

Camping

There are campsites all over Iceland, and camping is a very safe way to see the country. We didn’t want to splurge on a van and/or all the camping equipment for us, so it worked out more cost effective for us to use hostels and AirBnBs, but if you travel with camping equipment, then this may prove a cheaper way to see the country.

Booking

When it comes to booking and planning in advance, it is worth noting that this drastically changes between seasons. In low season (October to to April) you could definitely afford to have more of a ‘winging it’ approach to booking, but during the high season (May to September) booking in advance isn’t just advisable, it is usually very necessary – especially in regards to accommodation outside of Reykjavik.

Electricity

Iceland uses the same two pronged plugs that are used in the majority of Europe.

Car Hire

Firstly, if you visit in peak season, book a vehicle at least one month in advance. If visiting in off season you could afford to wait until closer to your travel date, but it would be advisable to book a 4×4 vehicle if you do choose to travel in this period.

We rented a small 2wd through Blue Car Rentals. We chose Blue Car as they have a good reputation and rent out cars for some of the most competitive prices in Iceland. Our small car served us well, and during the warmer months would prove more than adequate, however, if you plan to drive on any ‘f-roads’ (on maps these numbered roads will have an ‘f’ in front of them – eg F246) a 4×4 vehicle is necessary. If you choose to ignore this advice and drive a 2×2 on these roads, any vehicle insurance will automatically become null and void.

Renting a medium sized vehicle starts at around $110/day, although that works out to be far more reasonable with three or more people in the car.

Safety

Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world, and really, that’s kind of all I need to say.

We camped, drove, hiked and explored without any issues – the biggest threat we had was on the 4wd track towards Haifoss, but that was our own mistake!

Food

We cooked the vast majority of our own meals whilst on the road, with the occasional treat meal in Reykjavik. Groceries are surprisingly affordable, just as long as you buy them from a Bonus supermarket. Eating out in restaurants is incredibly expensive in Iceland, so cooking your own meals is an easy way to cut costs.

Weather

There is never a bad time to visit Iceland, however those who want to visit in the winter months should be prepared for road closures and to fork out a little extra moolah for a 4×4 vehicle.

The most popular time to visit is between May and September, so if you plan to visit during this time frame, be aware that tourist numbers will be high and that a little extra forward planning may be required.

Trip Itinerary: The Ultimate Icelandic Ring Road Adventure

Day One: Explore Reykjavik

Reykjavik is one of my favourite cities in Europe, and though it definitely warrants at least two days of exploring, if you only have ten days to drive the Ring Road, you’ll really only have the time for one full day. However, the city is small and easily walkable, so you can accomplish a great deal with just one day.

You should start by taking a stroll up the rainbow road, heading towards the most famous landmark in the city – Hallgrímskirkja church.

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Hallgrímskirkja is utterly unique from the outside…

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…but it is the views that the tower provide that are most magnificent. For 1000ISK (approx $12 AUD) you can ride the elevator to the top of the church, and get the absolute best views of the city.

By this point you’ll probably be starting to get a bit peckish, so it is extremely convenient that Cafe Loki is located directly across from Hallgrímskirkja! Loki is an ideal place to try some traditional Icelandic cuisine, especially for the more adventurous eaters out there.

From there, head down towards the waterfront and stroll back towards the centre of the city. On the way, stop at the Sun Voyager, one of the most photographed art installations in all of Iceland.

Next up, get ready to giggle like the immature quasi-adult you really are at the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which yep, is a penis museum!

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Next up, walk to the Harpa Concert Hall and take the time to appreciate the stunning architecture before heading onwards in search of more food.

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Sægreifinn (Sea Griffin) serves some of the best lobster soup in all of Reykjavik, and as an added bonus, it is one of the few meals available in the city which remains reasonably priced. It is a fantastic place to retreat from the blustery weather and warm up. I always like to get mine with a Gull on the side!

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If you are still peckish (and even if you aren’t) you should head just down the road to Bæjarins Beztu Psylur (or BBP) to get yourself the best hotdog in Europe – seriously, that’s an actual thing!

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That evening, splurge on a fancy schmancy and oh so delicious meal at The Fishmarket…

…before heading to the Lebowski Bar for a pint (or twenty).

Recommended Reykjavik Accommodation:

Loft Hostel

Loft Hostel is my favourite backpackers in Reykjavik. They have their own bar (and happy hour), the bunks are comfy and the location is unbeatable.

A dorm bed starts at around $50 AUD per night in low season.

To learn more or to book, click here.

Day Two: Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is the most touristy route in all of Iceland, but in spite of the crowds, it definitely still begs to be explored! Recommended stops include Haifoss, Gulfoss, Þingevellir, Strokkur Geysir and Kerið Crater.

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Haifoss
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Gulfoss
Strokkur Geysir
Strokkur Geysir
Þingevellir

Recommended Reykjavik Accommodation:

Loft Hostel

Loft Hostel is my favourite backpackers in Reykjavik. They have their own bar (and happy hour), the bunks are comfy and the location is unbeatable.

A dorm bed starts at around $50 AUD per night in low season.

To learn more or to book, click here.

Day Three: Reykjavik to Skógar

Due to its close proximity to Reykjavik, the southern coast is one of the most frequented parts of Iceland, but despite the (still) high tourist numbers, it is completely, undeniably and wildly beautiful.

Recommended stops include Seljalandsfoss, the black beaches and basalt columns of Reynisfara and of course, the most famous waterfall in Iceland – Skógafoss.

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Seljalandsfoss
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Reynisfara
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Reynisfara
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Skógafoss
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Skógafoss

Recommended Skógar Accommodation:

Hostel Skogar

This backpackers is literally located right next to Skógafoss – meaning that you have many more chances to experience it without hordes of tour buses cramping your style.

A dorm bed starts at around $51 AUD per night in shoulder season.

To learn more or to book, click here.

Day Four: Skógar to Kálfafellstaður

Once you leave Skógar, the tourist numbers finally start to decrease. This day continues your travels through even more of Southern Iceland and you’ll finally see some of the ice that Iceland is so famous for.

Recommended stops include Sólheimajökull glacier, Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, Svartifoss, Diamond Beach and the Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon.

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Sólheimajökull Glacier
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Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
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Svartifoss
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Diamond Beach
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Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon

Recommended Kálfafellstaður Accommodation:

Kálfafellsaður Bed and Breakfast

This bed and breakfast is comfortable and warm but has very little in the way of self cooking facilities – plan to eat dinner in a restaurant this night.

A twin room starts at $201 per night.

To learn more or to book, click here.

Day Five: Kálfafellstaður to Egilsstaðir

There isn’t actually a whole lot to see and do in this stretch of the ring road, so we used this day to chill out and relax, which was much needed after a few big days of exploring.

Day Six: Egilsstaðir to Akureyri

After your day of rest, it’s time to get back on the Icelandic adventure train!

Today you drive to Akureyri, seeing some of the most beautiful spots in northern Iceland along the way. Make sure not to miss Dettifoss, Ásbyrgi Canyon, Hljóðaklettar and the whale watching in Húsavík.

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Dettifoss
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Dettifoss
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Ásbyrgi Canyon
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Hljóðaklettar
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Húsavík
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Húsavík

Recommended Akureyri Accommodation:

Akureyri Backpackers

This hostel has a bit of a party vibe but they offer a free beer on arrival and exceptionally comfy beds.

A dorm bunk starts at $55 AUD per night.

To learn more or to book, click here.

Day Seven: Akureyri and Surrounds

You won’t be leaving Akureyri just yet!

Start your morning with a visit to one of my favourite waterfalls in Iceland – Goðafoss – before heading to Bjórböðin Spa for a truly unique Icelandic experience – indulging in a beer bath!

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Goðafoss
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Goðafoss
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Bjórböðin Spa
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Bjórböðin Spa
north-iceland-travel-blog-ring-road-self-drive-solo-female-travelling-the-world
Bjórböðin Spa

Recommended Akureyri Accommodation:

Akureyri Backpackers

This hostel has a bit of a party vibe but they offer a free beer on arrival and exceptionally comfy beds.

A dorm bunk starts at $55 AUD per night.

To learn more or to book, click here.

Day Eight: Akureyri to Blönduós

Today is another chilled out day on the road! It is a day to stop at pretty little seaside towns, gorge on fish and chips and soak in hot tubs.

Noteworthy stops include Ólafsfjörður and Seyðisfjörður.

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west-iceland-travel-blog-ring-road-self-drive-solo-female-travelling-the-world

Recommended Blönduós Accommodation:

Gladheimar Cottages

These rustic cottages come with a hot tub on the outer deck, making them the perfect place to indulge in a few wines and have a soak next to some scenic surroundings.

A two bedroom cottage with a hot tub starts at around $302 AUD per night.

To learn more or to book, click here.

Day Nine: Blönduós to Hellnar

Driving between Blönduós and Hellnar might not have a lot of “stops” but it is some of the most pretty and scenic driving you’ll find in all of Iceland.

Make sure to stretch your legs at Grábrók Crater and the Arnastapi sea arch.

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west-iceland-travel-blog-ring-road-self-drive-solo-female-travelling-the-world

Day Ten: Hellnar to Keflavik

On your last day in Iceland it is time to make the journey back towards Keflavik to catch your departing flight. Try to book a flight in the evening to make the most of the day!

Firstly, don your bathers and make your way to Landbrotalaug – a teeny tiny natural hot pot – before shelling out some serious dosh for one of the most touristic but most quintessential experiences in all of Iceland – the Blue Lagoon.

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west-iceland-travel-blog-ring-road-self-drive-solo-female-travelling-the-world

Budget

So how much moolah will this trip set you back?

This is a fairly accurate estimation of how much money going on this 10 day adventure will cost a group of three, although it is worth noting that all these quoted prices are subject to fluctuation and should be used as an approximation only.

Please also note that all these prices are quoted in AUD.

Car rental

9 days = $979

Total Cost pp: $327

Accommodation

x2 nights Loft Hostel: $104 x 2 = $208pp
x1 night Hostel Skogar: $297 ÷ 3 persons = $99pp
x1 night Kalfafellsstadur B&B : $360 ÷ 3 persons = $120pp
x1 night Egilsstadir AirBnB: $300 ÷ 3 persons = $100pp
x2 nights Akureyri Backpackers: $55 x 2 nights = $110pp
x1 night Gladheimar Cottages: $393 ÷ 3 persons = $131pp
x1 night Hellnar AirBnB: $300 ÷ 3 persons = $100pp

Total Cost pp: $868

Fuel

I actually know exactly how much we spent on fuel in Iceland thanks to the Splitwise app, which the girls and I used during our trip to ensure that our spending was split equally.

Our entire fuel costs came to $453 AUD. Considering the sheer amount of driving we did and also how expensive Iceland is, I actually was quite happy with this amount.

Total Cost pp: $151

Food

Once again, thanks to Splitwise, I know exactly how much we spent on food in Iceland

All of our groceries, meals out and petrol station snacks came to just $120 each – not bad at all!

Based on that, we each spent an average of $12 per day on food.

Total Cost pp: $120

Extras

Parking fees and tolls: $37 = $13pp
Blue Lagoon: $130pp
Washing: $23 = $8pp
Beer Bath and Spa: $120pp

Total Cost pp: $271

Final Trip Cost Per Person: $1731 AUD

Final Note

Over the past six years I have ventured to over 60 countries across all seven continents, and out of all those many places, Iceland is one of the few that I’ve returned to time and again.

This country may have had a tourism boom of epic proportions, but it’s so fricking beautiful that I can’t blame anybody for wanting to visit.

Iceland is amazing.

If you haven’t been, what are you waiting for?

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20-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

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