Iceland has long been a travel destination beloved by tourists, due to its dramatic landscapes, waterfalls, national parks, hot springs and geysers. It’s a country that is easy to navigate on your own, making the perfect place for an independent road trip.
You might even be able to glimpse the elusive Northern Lights, if you go at the right time. Since the island nation is rather small, you can plan an itinerary that will allow you to see large swaths of the island, especially if you go in summer when the roads are clear and snow storms aren’t an issue.
However, even if you don’t go on an epic Iceland road trip, you can still see a lot from a base in Reykjavik. Learn all the details you need to know when traveling to Iceland — when to go, where to go and what to see in this one-stop, shortcut destination guide to Iceland.
Download a PDF of the guide to take with you – Iceland Country Guide (PDF).
How to Get Around in Iceland
Iceland is a small island, but it’s still rather large from a touristic standpoint. You’ll need a car to get around to all the places you’ll want to see on an Iceland itinerary. We suggest finding the best rental car deals on Northbound.is. You can look for activities and tours on their site while you’re at it.
The only time I don’t recommend renting a car is when your trip is in the winter and the road conditions don’t allow for it. You can also rent a camper van to drive around the country yourself on a road trip. This is a really convenient way to do a self-contained trip, without having to check in and out of hotels all the time.
Popular Iceland Road Trips
You can drive around the entire perimeter of the island on the ring road. See all our suggested Iceland road trips here.
Snæfellsnes Peninsula – 2 days or more
If you don’t have much time to spend, you can embark on a 2-day road trip to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, which stretches for 90 kilometres in the far west of Iceland. Its famous glacier / volcano, Snæfellsjökull, is one of many incredible things to see.
The southern edge of the peninsula is just a 2-hour drive from Reykjavik and the airport. Drive along the peninsula, stopping along the way to see all the natural wonders.
Golden Circle and the South Coast – 4 days or more
From Reykjavik, head to the Haukadalur Valley, home of the Geysir Geothermal Area and Gullfoss Waterfall. There are many sights along the way to see. After the Golden Circle, you can head south to the coast.
Seljalandsfoss waterfall is another one not to miss, followed by the Skógafoss waterfall. Next up is the Sólheimajökull glacier and the historic settlement of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, where you can stay the night. The next day, set out to explore the Skaftafell Nature Reserve and the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
What To Do in Iceland
Outdoor activities like hiking, whale watching, birding and horseback riding. If you have a few weeks to spend, drive yourself around the perimeter of the island and tag nearly all of these top things to do in Iceland.
They include things like swimming at the Blue Lagoon, exploring geysers, taking a tour of the Golden Circle and seeing the Snæfellsnes waterfall. You’ll also want to save a few days to spend in Reykjavik. There are so many tasty restaurants in the city with unique foods to try.
When you’re not eating, you can check out the Reykjavik sights, see the museums, try some craft beer, see the famous Hallgrímskirkja church, and shop along the main street, Laugavegur. Use the links below to pre-book the activities you want to do Iceland so you don’t miss out.
Tours in Iceland tend to book up quickly. It’s always best to have your tickets booked in advance.
- Golden Circle Classic Day Trip from Reykjavik
- Blue Lagoon Spa with Roundtrip Transport – read about our experience at the Blue Lagoon
- Reykjavik City Walking Tour
- Game of Thrones Filming Locations Tour From Reykjavik
- Northern Lights Night Tour from Reykjavik
Where to Stay in Iceland
Many visitors to Iceland start their trip in Reykjavik, which we highly recommend. There are many great things to do in the city, like visiting museums and trying all the fantastic restaurants. If you’re planning to spend some time in Reykjavik, check out our 4-day itinerary.Here are our favorite places to stay in Reykjavik. You can see prices or book through Expedia by using our affiliate links.
- Hotel Odinsve ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor and book your stay on Expedia
- Radisson Blu 1919 ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor and book your stay on Expedia
- Icelandic Hotel Reykjavik Marina ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor and book your stay on Expedia
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Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited 70+ countries.