Iceland’s epic road trips

If ever there was a country made for road trips, Iceland is it. Hit the road, and you’ll discover some of the world’s most astounding natural spectacles. From behind the windshield, you’ll admire glaciers and volcanoes, waterfalls and hot springs, silent fjords and spectral black-sand beaches. Even landing at the airport is a spectacle, surrounded by barren lava fields and dormant volcanoes.

Iceland black sand beach

Photo by Francesco Esposto on Instagram

Sitting at the edge of all this epic nature, Reykjavik is a cosmopolitan and charming capital city. Packed with galleries, museums, and wonderful restaurants, there’s a lot to love about a stay here – even if it can be eye-wateringly expensive. But as you wander down Laugavegur, explore the buzzing food scene, and admire the towering Hallgrímskirkja church, there’s one constant: the pull of the nature that sits on the city’s doorstep. Glance down to the water, and across the fjord rise epic mountains, as much part of Reykjavik’s skyline as anything else. The feelings of sitting at the edge of a vast wilderness will coax you outside the city limits, where Iceland’s fantasy-like landscapes await to be discovered.

Iceland blue lagoon

Photo on Unsplash

And the best thing about Reykjavik is how easy it is to jump in a car and hit the asphalt for a road trip. Driving in Iceland is easy, and trips from Reykjavik offer everything that makes for a fantastic road trip. Expect fantastic scenery, plenty of interesting stops to make, and lots of good food and snacks along the way.

Iceland road trip

Photo on Unsplash


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The top three road trips from Reykjavik

The Golden Circle

The golde circle Iceland road trip -Gullfoss waterfall

Photo on Unsplash

For those with just a short amount of time in Reykjavik, the Golden Circle is the most popular road trip. Easily completed within a day, it offers an enticing introduction to the natural wonders of Iceland. The three main natural sights that make up this road trip are Thingvellir National Park, where you can walk (or even snorkel!) between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates; a bubbling geothermal area with the erupting Geysir; and the thundering Gullfoss waterfall. You can also stop at the Secret Lagoon hot spring and book a table to eat at the wonderful restaurant inside the Friðheimar geothermal tomato farm. Not bad for a day’s work.

The Golden circle Iceland road trip - Kerid crater

Photo by Nadine Weiss on Instagram


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The South Coast

The South Coast is the most popular region of Iceland and primed for a road trip. Route 1 whisks you away from Reykjavik towards the icy glaciers, black-sand beaches, and rushing waterfalls. It’s an adventure like no other.

The South coast Iceland road trip - Seljalandsfoss waterfall

Photo by Francesco Esposto on Instagram

Road trips along the south coast are also flexible. You can dart down to Vik and back in a day, or you can choose to spend anywhere between two and five days driving all the way to the southeast corner of the island, where Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, looms large outside your windshield, beckoning you onto the ice for a glacier hike or on a boat ride between the icebergs in the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

The South coast Iceland road trip - Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon

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Iceland’s Ring Road

Iceland ring road trip - Studlagil Canyon
Photo by James on Instagram

For the ultimate road trip from Reykjavik, looping around the entire Ring Road is hard to beat. Iceland’s main highway (also known as Route 1) traces the coast of Iceland and leads past the absolute best the country has to offer. The full route can be completed in around five days, but if you have the time, seven days or longer is the ideal length for this road trip around the island.

Iceland ring road trip - Hvalnes
Photo by Francesco Esposto on Instagram

The lush southern coast turns into the silent fjords of the east, with a smattering of quaint fishing villages dwarfed by towering mountains. Northern Iceland offers some of the country’s most explosive and volcanic scenery, before the rolling green countryside of western Iceland leads you back into Reykjavik. It’s the perfect loop and one of the best road trips you can do not only in Iceland, but in all of Europe.

Iceland ring road trip - Svartifoss

Photo by Alex Waltner on Instagram


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Read more about authentic travel experiences in Baltic Outlook.

Text by James Taylor

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