If you're planning a trip to Iceland, you'll definitely want to drive the famous Ring Road. This 830-mile route takes you around the entire island, passing through some of its most beautiful and iconic landscapes. While there are countless amazing places to see along the way, here are a few of our favorites.
While the Ring Road itself winds you through incredibly beautiful landscapes, many of the stops on this list are small detours off the Ring Road. The Ring Road should serve as a guide and a basic itinerary, but allow yourself the time to get lost and explore whatever places seem most interesting to you.
Of course, you can't visit Iceland without spending at least a little time in its capital city. Reykjavik is full of great restaurants, bars, and shops, and it's also home to several interesting museums. Reykjavik is also the largest city in the country making it the perfect launching point for your Ring Road adventures! Stock up on groceries and snag any last minute things you may have forgotten at home before you hit the open road.
Thingvellir National Park
Located in southwest Iceland, Thingvellir is one of the country's most popular tourist destinations. The park is best known for being the site of the world's first democratically elected parliament, which was founded in 930 AD, as well as being the place where you can visibly see the North America and Eurasia tectonic plates. Today, Thingvellir is also a popular spot for activities like hiking, camping, and rafting and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When you visit, give yourself to walk around the trails to read about the tectonic plates as well as the history of the church and home down in the valley.
Vatnajökull National Park is the largest national park in Iceland and features Europe's largest glacier. It's right on the Ring Road and is a must visit when driving the Ring Road! There are so many activities to participate in the park including hiking, iceberg lagoon tours, glacier hikes, ice cave tours, and more. The park is home to an incredible variety of landscapes, including glaciers, waterfalls, lava fields, and hot springs and you could spend days just exploring and learning all about this park!
Iceland's second-largest city, Akureyri, is located in the north of the country. The city is surrounded by beautiful mountains and is a great place to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, and mountain biking. In town, you'll find plenty of great restaurants and shops, as well as the Hof Adventure Park, where you can try your hand at Iceland's largest climbing wall. Akureyri makes a perfect stop when driving Iceland's Ring Road sicne it has all the amenities you'd need to restock and/or rest up on a road trip including grocery stores, hotels, coffee shops, and more.
We'd recommend taking a stroll around Akureyri Botanical Gardens (they're free to visit!) and grabbing a cup of coffee at Lyst Coffee located in the middle of the botanical gardens. It's the perfect place to re-caffeinate and enjoy some of the flora and fauna found in Iceland in a peaceful setting.
Nothing beats a hot lagoon soak after a long day of driving the Ring Road or hiking through Iceland's mountains. Iceland has a seemingly infinite number of hot soaking lagoon options, some are free hot springs and some require tickets. While the most famous spot is probably Blue Lagoon, we'd highly recommend checking out Sky Lagoon just outside of Reykjavik, or Secret Lagoon on the Golden Circle. Both offer very different experiences and if time allows, we'd recommend checking out both.
Secret Lagoon is a natural geothermal hot spring that is very low key. Sky Lagoon is a bit more of an experience with a 7 step ritual process, beautiful infinity pool overlooking the ocean, swim up bar, and even a manmade waterfall. We have an entire blogpost on Sky Lagoon full of information for your own visit, so be sure to check that out if you're planning to visit Iceland!
Other noteworthy lagoons we didn't get to checkout but wanted to include Forest Lagoon in Akureyri and Myvatn Natural baths (also on the north side of the Ring Road).
Tucked away in Iceland's remote east, Seydisfjordur is a charming little town with a lot to offer. The town is surrounded by stunning mountains and is home to several great museums, including the Iceland Emigration Center and the Maritime Museum. You can also take a scenic fjord cruise or go hiking in the nearby valleys.
Technically Seydisfjordur is just off the Ring Road, but the drive to get there is part of what makes it so wonderful. When you get into town, stop by Hotel Aldan for a cup of coffee or for dinner and a glass of wine, then take a stroll down the rainbow street to see the famous Seyðisfjarðarkirkja. Enjoy the quietness of this little town and picture perfect views across the water of the colorful little homes.
This one is technically just off of the Ring Road, too, but Geysir is a hot spring located in southwestern Iceland near Haukadalur valley. It's best known for giving its name to all other geysers around the world. While Geysir itself doesn't erupt very often anymore, there are several other geysers in the area that do erupt regularly and are definitely worth seeing!
Iceland's Diamond Beach is located in the southern part of the country, right next to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon (see below). As its name suggests, the beach is covered in sparkling black diamonds (actually just pieces of ice that have been polished by the waves). It's a truly magical place and definitely worth a visit!
Before we went to Iceland we had someone warn us that we would eventually get tired of seeing waterfalls. I'm here today to tell you that said person was wrong. No matter how many waterfalls we saw (and we did lose count!), we never tired of standing beneath their incredible power and witnessing their beauty. You could make an entire trip of hunting down the best waterfalls in Iceland, but if there's more you'd like to see, we'd recommend hitting up these can't miss spots along the Ring Road:
Seljalandsfoss| Google Maps | This is one of the busiest waterfalls in Iceland, but it's busy for a reason. During a short loop walk you get 360 degree views of this incredible falls. You can even walk behind it!
Skógafoss | Google Maps | This is another one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland, but the ability to walk right up to the bottom of the falls and feel and hear the power of the falls is worth the slightly busy crowds.
Svartifoss | Google Maps | This waterfall is special because of the basalt columns that hang down next to the waterfall givingoff a really dramatic and beautiful appearance.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón is one of Iceland's most popular tourist destinations. The lagoon is filled with huge glaciers that have broken off from the nearby Vatnajökull glacier, Europe's largest glacier. It's a truly breathtaking sight and definitely worth a visit! If you want to splurge on a tour, it's well worth taking the 45 minute tour out on the water to get closer to the icebergs.
This might be a top 3 spot in Iceland for me. This canyon is well worth the stop when road tripping in Iceland for its impressive views. We didn't know until we were there that this canyon was actually made famous from a Justin Bieber music video. Don't let that put you off if you're not Bieber fan (because I'm not either). This canyon is gorgeous and deserves a visit!
This breathtaking peninsula is home to some of Iceland's most stunning scenery, from snow-capped mountains to black sand beaches. Be sure to visit Kirkjufell Mountain, one of Iceland's most iconic landmarks. And if you're feeling adventurous, you can even go glacier hiking on Snæfellsjökull, the peninsula's active volcano!
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We're Chris and Sara
A creative husband and wife duo from a small-town in Tennessee with passion for all things travel. Checkout the links below to join us on our past, present, and future adventures!