When planning a road trip to Iceland, you might find yourself looking at the Ring Road or Iceland’s attractions on a map and wondering exactly how long it will take to get to each place. Whether planning your itinerary for five days, seven days or more, it’s smart to ask yourself this, despite the fact that Google Maps already tells you approximate times and distances. The reason is that depending on the weather and season, the drive from Reykjavik to Vatnajökull can take as little as four hours or as many as seven. Crazy, right? But with the constantly changing weather, road conditions in Iceland are completely unpredictable, so it’s best to have a general idea. Don’t worry, your favorite Iceland travel blog is here to help. We’re going to tell you how long it takes to drive around Iceland as well as the times and distances between Iceland’s must-sees.
So let’s get right to it! What are Iceland’s most famous place to visit and how long does it take to drive to them? We’re going to assume that you’re coming from Reykjavik since that is where the majority of our visitors fly into.
Driving Around Iceland’s Ring Road
First and foremost, let’s talk about Iceland’s Ring Road. The circular route measures 1,332 km (828 mi) and if you drive around it without making any stops, it will take you at least 12-13 hours (assuming a speed of around 100km per hour). You didn’t come to Iceland to spend the whole time driving in a circle though, so of course, you’re not just going to see how quickly you can complete the Ring Road. It’s not a race! There will be stops along the way to visit national parks, snap photos of waterfalls, and take a dip in roadside hot pots and hot springs. You also have to plan for inclement weather and other unexpected surprises such as sheep blocking your way, so we think 16-18 hours is a much more realistic estimate for driving around Iceland’s Ring Road.
Driving to the Blue Lagoon
This turquoise blue wonder, with its healing, silica-infused waters lies 50km (31mi) southeast of Reykjavik. It takes about 40 minutes to drive there but in the winter or in unpredictable weather, allow yourself 50 minutes.
Driving to Golden Circle
The Golden Circle isn’t actually a destination but rather a collection of three different places of interest. If you look at the Golden Circle on a map, you’ll see it’s not a circle at all! If you drive the route in a straight line, you come to Thingvellir National Park after about an hour. Continue and you’ll reach Geysir after another 40 minutes. 10-15 minutes further up the road from Geysir is Gullfoss waterfall. The total distance is 109km (68mi). But driving back the way you came would be boring, right?
What gives the Golden Circle its “circular” name is that most people swing by Hveragerdi and Reykjadalur hot spring area on their way back to Reykjavik. The geothermal zone is located about 40 minutes from Iceland’s capital city. In total, it takes about 3.5 to four hours to complete the Golden Circle in the summer and around 5 in the winter. This obviously doesn’t include the time you stop in each location.
Driving Times to Iceland’s Major Attractions on Iceland’s South Coast
While not everyone has time to drive around the entire island, most visitors to Iceland do take time to explore the country’s south coast. This route takes you from Reykjavik all the way to Vatnajökull National Park. The park is also home to the breathtaking Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. The southern coast of Iceland is home to some of the country’s most iconic attractions, including Seljalandsfoss waterfall and the black sand, volcanic beaches of Vík.
Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss
It takes about 1.5 – 2 hours to drive to the beautiful Seljalandsfoss waterfall from Reykjavik. You may also want to go further along the route to take in Skógafoss waterfall which is about an extra half hour away. Seljalandsfoss is 121km (75mi) from the capital and visiting Skógafoss adds another 29 km (18 mi) to your trip. It’s possible to do both on a day trip from Reykjavik.
Driving from Reykjavik to Vík
The 179km (111 mi) journey from Reykjavik to Vik takes about 2.5 to 3 hours. During the winter give yourself an extra hour. You may want to take even longer, as both Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls are on the way from Reykjavík to Vík. They definitely warrant a stop on your Icelandic itinerary and if you’ve got the time, why not?
Driving from Reykjavik to Vatnajökull
Vatnajökull National Park is huge, so the driving times we state are to get to the edges of the park. Should you decide to drive directly to Vatnajökull from Reykjavik without stopping at Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss or Vík it will take 4-6 hours to make the 322km (200mi) drive. In the winter when conditions are worse, give yourself 5-7 hours. We realize two hours is quite a margin of difference, but because of how long the road is and factors like how often you prefer to stop and for how long. We don’t want to tell you 4-5 hours when really it will take 6-7 depending on the circumstances. It’s up to you, the weather, and the sheep.
Other trips from Reykjavik
North of Iceland’s capital lies Snaefellsnes Peninsula, which makes for a great Reykjavik day trip. At 150km (93 mi), it takes about three hours in the summer but in the winter give yourself three and a half. This little corner of the country has been described as the best of Iceland. You’ve got a volcano, a glacier, lava fields, and even a black pebble beach. It’s a veritable microcosm of everything the small Nordic nation has to offer.
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