In the summer of 2022, my family drove through the whole of Iceland along the fabled Route 1 ring road to get an unforgettable experience of the stunning landscapes. Excited to share the itinerary for our very memorable Iceland road trip, which includes what we saw, where we ate, what we packed, where we stayed, and where we shopped.
Thank you to our cousin, friends, and MOC IG Family for their helpful recommendations!
Bucket List Destination - Iceland
Iceland makes for an incredible road trip destination with its breathtaking natural beauty. There are few places in the world where we can access the legendary place of "Fire and Ice" in such close proximity. The diverse landscape includes active volcanoes, lava fields, black sand beaches, accessible glaciers, and lagoons with floating icebergs.
- Bucket List Destination - Iceland
- Packing List for Iceland Road Trip
- Day 1: Keflavik Airport - Thingvellir National Park - Great Geysir - Gullfoss Waterfall - Seljalandfoss - Dryholaey - Reynisfjara - Vik
- Day 2: Vik - Fjadrargljufur - Svinafellsjokull - Fjallsarlon - Jokulsarlon - Diamond Beach - Hofn
- Day 3: Hofn - Vestrahorn - East Fjords - Seydisfjordur - Egilsstadir - Hallormsstadur
- Day 4: Hallormsstadur - Studlagil Canyon - Dettifoss - Husavik
- Day 5: Husavik - Godafoss - Akureyri - Arnarstapi - Kirkjufellsfoss - Olafvik
- Day 6: Olafvik - Grunadarfjordur - Reykjavik - Shopping - Sky Lagoon
- Day 7: Reykjavik - Hallgrimskirkja - Shopping - Omnom
- Day 8: Reykjavik - Keflavik Airport
Packing List for Iceland Road Trip
Before we get into the details, here is a downloadable packing list that you may find useful. It includes links to all the essential gear we packed and used every day of the trip. In addition, we found the rental Wi-Fi hotspot available at the airport very useful.
Day 1: Keflavik Airport - Thingvellir National Park - Great Geysir - Gullfoss Waterfall - Seljalandfoss - Dryholaey - Reynisfjara - Vik
- Keflavik Airport: We landed in the early morning at Keflavik airport. After grabbing a quick bite, we collected a WiFi hotspot modem and a rental AWD car at the airport. With that, we were ready to kick off our exciting trip interspersed with spectacular landscapes and stops at beautiful locations.
- Thingvellir National Park: Heading out of the airport for the famous Golden Circle, we drove to start with the famous Thingvellir National Park located approximately 90 kilometers (km) from the airport. We parked at the Visitor Center and got to learn about the rich history of this area through a number of interactive exhibits. Thingvellir (Assembly Plains) is a national shrine for its role in the history of the Icelandic nation - it was established around 930 and continued to convene there until 1798. We were fascinated to know that this national park is part of the Atlantic Ocean Ridge that runs through Iceland and straddles the American and the Eurasian Plate. We did a quick hike along one of the many trails along the basalt rock formations. Fun fact: this location was showcased vividly as North of Westeros in the Game of Thrones series.
- Great Geysir: We drove further about 55 km to the Geysir geothermal area located in the Haukadalur valley to see the Great Geysir and the Strokkur. While the Great Geysir no longer erupts on a predictable schedule due to a number of earthquakes; its baby brother Strokkur entertained us with its rhythmic bursts of boiling water and steam every 4-10 minutes for great photos. We grabbed a quick lunch at the Geysir Food Hall located nearby; there are many options in its restaurants and stores.
- Gullfoss: We then drove approx. 10 km further to the spectacular Gullfoss waterfall: the first of many that we would see. This beautiful waterfall is easily accessible from the ring road and was our final stop of the three main attractions of the Golden Circle.
- Seljalandfoss: We then drove approx. 120 km further to Seljalandfoss - one of the most popular Icelandic waterfalls. We were able to walk behind the waterfall, so we got a nice, soul-drenching spray.
- Skogafoss: While we skipped it in the interest of time, this is another waterfall that you can enjoy.
- Dryholaey: This is a great spot for photos of its famous picturesque rock arch and the lighthouse perched on top.
- Reynisfjara: We then stopped over at Reynisfjara. We were amazed at this beautiful stretch of coastline which is covered in black pebbles. The sea stacks rising from the ocean and the basalt column cliff walls made for nice photos and memories. For Dinner, Black Beach Restaurant was a perfect location before heading to our last stop of the day.
- Vik: We drove a short distance to the picturesque coastal town of Vik. The Vik I Myrdal Church provided us with a great view of the cute small town as well as its beautiful coast. After an exciting first day, we spent the night at Vik soaking in the spectacular natural landscape that we had just experienced.
Day 2: Vik - Fjadrargljufur - Svinafellsjokull - Fjallsarlon - Jokulsarlon - Diamond Beach - Hofn
- Fjadrargljufur Canyon: In the morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast at the Skool Bean Cafe which is an actual school bus converted into a super cool cafe. Our first stop after driving approx. 70 km was the beautiful Fjadrarglufur canyon. We hiked an easy 3 km round trip trail along the Fjadra river that showcased the canyon's amazing natural rocky cliff formations.
- Svinafellsjokull: Next we drove approx. 80 km to the gigantic blue toned Svinafelljokull glacier. This glacier also reminded us of some of the North of the Wall scenes from the Game of Thrones series. For Lunch, we had Sandwiches and Skyr yogurt at a small restaurant that was on the way.
- Jokulsarlon: After an approx. 60 km drive, we reached Jokulsarlon. One of our favorite sights, it was amazing to see pieces of detached icebergs from the glacier floating in this clear blue water glacier lagoon lake. This location was easily accessible from the road and provided a lot of scenic photo memories.
- Diamond Beach: Across the road at a short distance from Jokulsarlon, is the unique ice-covered Diamond beach. It was mesmerizing to see the beautiful translucent ice formations; remnants from the earlier floating icebergs at Jokulsarlon washed up on this black sand beach. Dinner was at Kaffi Hornið in Hofn where we enjoyed lobster pizza, lobster pasta, chicken salad, and a vegetarian pizza.
- Hofn: We ended our day driving approx. 80 km to the nearby beautiful coastal village of Hofn.
Day 3: Hofn - Vestrahorn - East Fjords - Seydisfjordur - Egilsstadir - Hallormsstadur
- Vestrahorn: We started our day early with a 2 km drive to Vestrahorn (Stokknes) to see a beautiful sunrise highlighting the mountain. For breakfast, we picked up pastries, coffee, and yogurt at a nearby gas station store. We then took a morning hike to a Viking village created as a movie set.
- East Fjords: We then continued our drive through the mountain tunnel near Almannaskard and followed the now meandering Route 1 for approx. 200 km along the beautiful East Fjords of Iceland with its many spectacular mountain-meets-ocean views.
- Seydisfjordur: We drove through the town of Egilsstadir and the foggy Stafdalur mountain pass to reach the beautiful coastal town of Seydisfjordur. We were there in good time for a delicious lunch at Cafe Aldan and took a nice stroll through this picturesque town
- Egilsstadir: On your way back, we stopped in the town of Egilssladr (approx. 30 km) for a quick coffee and shopped at the souvenir stores.
- Hallormsstadur: We then drove approx. 30 km for a spectacular view along the banks of the river to the Hallormsstadur forest area and enjoyed a delicious Dinner at the hotel Restaurant. We rested overnight, reminiscing over the last few days' memories of the spectacular southern and eastern Iceland and looking forward to our next day's drive to Husavik in the north of Iceland.
Day 4: Hallormsstadur - Studlagil Canyon - Dettifoss - Husavik
- Studlagil Canyon: After enjoying a continental buffet breakfast at hotel Hallormsstadur, we started day 4 with an approx. 90 km drive to the Studlagil canyon. After a hike from the parking lot, we came to a mesmerizing view of basalt columns rising up from the gently flowing sky-blue river.
- Dettifoss: On the approx. 120 km drive to Dettifoss, one of Europe's most intense waterfalls, we stopped enroute at Askja Kaffi to enjoy some delicious Cabbage Soup and bread for lunch. Well before we could see the falls, we could actually hear its roar. It was very helpful to carry rain jackets to this misty and beautiful nature sight. While we skipped it, those looking for more adventure can drive to the Krafla region to see the stunning Viti crater with its vibrant blue water lake and the nearby Myvatn, a large volcanic lake that is sought out by many for its geothermal hot spring Myvatn Nature Baths.
- Husavik: From Dettifoss, we drove 90 km along the stunning mountainous road overlooking the ocean to the beautiful northern fishing town of Husavik. We had a nice dinner at Naustid restaurant which is family-owned and serve delicious seafood, my favorite was their fish soup. We ended our day with a great scenic waterfront stroll at the harbor. This is a great place for whale-watching boat rides.
Day 5: Husavik - Godafoss - Akureyri - Arnarstapi - Kirkjufellsfoss - Olafvik
- Godafoss: We started our day by driving approx. 50 km to the majestic Godafoss, the "Waterfalls of the Gods" which attracts nature lovers in summer as well as in winter. Our resident Quiz-Bowl specialist reminded us - its name is believed to be derived from a historical event in the year 1000 when Icelanders formally accepted the Christian faith and sent the statues of the earlier pagan gods over this waterfall.
- Akureyri: From there we took a short 35 km drive to Akureyri; Icelands' second-largest city. We enjoyed brunch at Bláa Kannan Cafe, a cozy café with lovely cakes and coffees where we had paninis, scones, coffee, and hot chocolate. We used the morning to stroll through this pretty town and shop at the cute stores.
- Arnarstapi: We then used the rest of the afternoon to drive approx. 430 km southwest towards the Snaefellsjokull glacier to reach the beautiful coastal town of Arnarstapi and a quick walk to Gatklettur, the impressive natural rock arch overseeing the ocean.
- Kirkjufellsfoss: Driving approx. 50 km around the base of Snaefellsjofull glacier, we continued towards Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall. While this is a small waterfall, it provided us with one of the most dramatic sunset backdrops for our Iceland trip memories and family pictures.
- Olafvik: We ended our day approx. 25 km away in the little coastal town of Olafvik with dinner at Sker restaurant where we had pizza, burgers, and soup. We all were excited and eagerly looking forward to our next day's drive to the Icelandic capital city of Reykjavik.
Day 6: Olafvik - Grunadarfjordur - Reykjavik - Shopping - Sky Lagoon
- Grunadarfjordur: We started Day 6 by heading approx. 30 km to Grundarfjordur, where we had a nice breakfast at Kaffi 59. Grundarfjordur was very close to where we stayed in Olafsvik, and it is yet another pretty Icelandic fishing town. From there, we started on our approx. 180 km drive towards Reykjavik. While the Instagram-famous Budir church was also near our route, we decided to skip it because we could not wait to arrive!
- Reykjavik: Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is also its largest and most cosmopolitan city. The urban environment filled with all kinds of restaurants and stores is a far cry from the more limited options of the countryside’s small villages.
We had lunch at Saegreifinn (the Sea Baron), known for its soup and fish skewers. While there was a large line, it moved quite quickly, and we had a great meal! From there, we walked around downtown, doing a lot of shopping along the way. There are lots of cool stores, so if you’re ever in need of something to do in Reykjavik, be sure to check them out!
- Sky Lagoon: We checked into our Airbnb before driving approx. 10 km to our appointment at the Sky Lagoon. After a very comprehensive seven-step spa experience through alternating cold and hot water pools, we all agreed that our skins had never felt so smooth. We then enjoyed drinks in the geothermally heated main pool, which has an awesome view of the ocean.
After leaving the Sky Lagoon, we got a chance to see an awesome sunset over the water. We took a lot of photos, but that meant we got to dinner late. We had dinner at the Arabian Taste restaurant, which reminded us of a little of the halal street food so common in New York. The food was delicious (the rice was very similar to biryani), and we gobbled it up before heading to bed.
Day 7: Reykjavik - Hallgrimskirkja - Shopping - Omnom
- Hallgrimskirkja: We started our day with a delicious breakfast at restaurant Sandholt. After some more shopping, we went to the Hallgrimskirkja church in the center of Reykjavik. We paid a small fee to get to the top of the church, where you get fantastic views of the whole city. Right outside the church is a famous statue of the Viking explorer Leif Erikson.
We had lunch at Rok, a fine casual restaurant that serves Tapas style foods. We enjoyed some refreshing drinks, Icelandic fish pie, mushroom risotto, fish pie, and salmon ceviche just to name a few.
- Omnom Factory: Although Omnom factory has been closed for tours since the onset of COVID-19, its ice cream shop is open and is a must-go for its creative toppings. You can also buy Omnom chocolate in the ice cream shop, but it is much cheaper at the airport duty-free store. For dinner, we went to the highly recommended Gandhi Indian Restaurant. I enjoyed hot dal with rice amongst other flavorful dishes that reminded me of the food back home.
- Auroras: Afterwards, we drove back towards the Sky Lagoon area to try and spot some auroras. While we couldn’t find any, there are lots of websites such as en.vedur.is that you can use to find the likelihood sighting the Northern Lights.
Day 8: Reykjavik - Keflavik Airport
On our last day, we had an early start and drove approx. 50 km to Keflavik Airport where we dropped off our rental car and Wi-Fi hotspot. After picking up some chocolate at the duty-free shops, we enjoyed a small meal at the food court with its many choices for healthy sandwiches, juices, and wellness shots. As the plane took off, we bid a heartfelt goodbye to Iceland.
Shortly after takeoff, our pilot pointed us to a rare sight: a spectacularly clear view of the majestic ice-covered Greenland, which is usually covered in a thick fog.
Lucky we were ... and also so very grateful to the beautiful and stunning Iceland that hosted us on this monumental road trip. Its fantastic natural and panoramic landscape has been etched in our memories for a lifetime.
I hope this post inspires you to visit and enjoy Iceland soon as well. Please comment if you need any additional information, and we will try our best to answer.