The Best Routes to drive in Iceland
Updated: Dec 15, 2020
Iceland has some breath views to enjoy and most are easy to access from some of the coolest roads in the northern hemisphere. When you ask about the best scenic drives in Iceland, you will always hear about the top three drives this Nordic country has to offer. already have your car rental in Iceland? then let's hit the road!
The Ring Road Iceland
The Ring Road so named because it rings the entire country is not something you will do in a single day like you would for some excursions. This trip is about 1,330 km long and has so many different places to see and things to do that the smart traveler will want to spend at least 5 days at a minimum. You could very easily spend 2 weeks investigating all the great stops and filling your camera with memories that will never be duplicated elsewhere.
If you head out counter-clockwise around the country, you will travel through the very picturesque Southern Coastal area. The Blue Lagoon, the rocky shoreline, and unprecedented mountain and glacier views await you.
As you turn north on the Eastern coast, the landscape changes into spike mountains that resemble the long-dead massive teeth of some ancient dragon. You will pass through a valley that has waterfalls pouring down from both sides that leave you breathless with the majesty of the landscape.
The Golden Circle Route in Iceland
Starting and ending in the capital city of Reykjavik, by far the most popular road to drive in Iceland is the Golden Circle. In a single day, you can visit some of the most iconic views in Iceland and see the raw power of Mother Nature as she releases the pent-up energies locked below the surface. No wonder why it is considered one of the best day excursions from Reykjavik.
On the Golden Circle, your first stop will be at Thingvellir National Park. Iceland is the only place on the planet that the Mid-Atlantic Rift reaches the surface and the rift cuts right through the heart of Thingvellir National Park. Driving through the park, you will descend the cliff face from the American plate, cross the Rift Valley, then ascend the steep cliff onto the Eurasian plate.
This unique geographic feature is a major calling card for people wanting to visit Iceland.
In the park, you can also snorkel or drysuit dive in Silfra ravine. The ravine was formed by the movement of the tectonic plates and what is so interesting is that the meltwater from the Langjökull glacier has spent decades seeping through the porous lava rocks and the resulting filtering makes the water absolutely pristine and crystal clear. It's rated as one of the top 5 best diving sites in the world today.
As you continue on your drive, Geysir Geothermal Field is another stop that must be seen to be believed. The area is literally a “hot bed” of geothermal activity. Geysers, fumaroles, steaming hot bubbling mud are just the beginning of what you can see and do in the area.
And if you are wondering, yes, this is the home of the world-famous Strokkur Geyser.
The last major stop is Gullfoss Waterfall. The Gullfoss Waterfall is different than many of the other accessible waterfalls around the world in that you view it only from the top and not the bottom. The raw power of the water plunging over the 2 major steps as it makes it way across the country is truly a sight to behold.
For sure this is one of the easiest waterfalls to reach as it is only about 1.5 hours drive outside of Reykjavik so be sure to put this one on your itinerary.
The Diamond Circle, the Jewel of Northern Iceland
Starting right on the Ring Road, you will be able to visit Godafoss, the waterfall of the Gods, waterfall. This waterfall got its name from the conversion to Christianity back in 1000 AD.
Next is Lake Mývatn, a protected area, known for having the largest range of duck species in the world. The lake was formed about 2300 years ago after a large eruption changed the topography of the area.
Not far away you will feel like you are on the moon when you visit Mt. Námafjall and the boiling mud pools. You’ll notice the strong smell of Sulphur in the air as the earth belches out hot steam and vents gases regularly.
The diamond circle in Iceland - Plenty to see
Your next stop on the Diamond Circle is Europe’s most powerful waterfall known as Dettifoss waterfall located in the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. It is a bit mind-blowing to see this massive 44 meters high and 100 meters wide waterfall that has a flow rate of 193 m3 per second of water plunging over the edge.
Both upstream and downstream from Dettifoss are more waterfalls. Upstream you have Selfoss and downstream you have Hafragilsfoss. If waterfalls are your thing, I can guarantee you will not be disappointed when you travel on the Diamond Circle. Each of these two are very different from Dettifoss and well worth the time to investigate for yourself.
Next is Hljóðaklettar or Echo Rocks where you can stretch your legs and see the Troll rock of Iceland. Make sure to make your way behind him as then you will encounter the most magical basalt rock formations. Truly an amazing experience to see these stacked columns locked together side by side.
Located at the northern end of the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon is Ásbyrgi, the Shelter of the Gods. This small valley is 3.5 km long and 1.1 km wide with sheer 100-meter high rock walls with lush green vegetation covering the valley floor.
If you time it right, between April to mid-August, you can visit the Tjörnes peninsula where there are colonies of puffins during their nesting season in Iceland. This is a rare opportunity to view this otherwise very shy bird.
And finally, you end up at Húsavík, the Whale Watching Capital of Iceland.
With so much to see and do on the Diamond Circle its easy to understand why this is one of the coolest drives available to you while visiting Iceland.
The Coolest drives in Iceland
Three of the coolest drives in Iceland. Each unique and well worth the time to explore as you capture memories that will last you a lifetime.
Being so far north, Iceland has a wide swing in how many hours of daylight are available to you each day. Plan accordingly.