Driving through Iceland is the adventure of a lifetime. In this Land of Fire and Ice, you will see nature in all its contrasting glory. From stunning glaciers to geothermal hot springs and midnight black sand beaches to vibrant blue ice caves. Renting a car is the best way for you to experience all of these natural wonders. The advantages of a road trip include setting your own pace and visiting many sites efficiently. You will surely stop along the road in awe of the landscape and the peaceful serenity. Picture perfect photo opportunities will be around every bend in the road.
Advantages of a Road Trip
When you create your bucket list, think about what you want to see and how many days in Iceland you will have. Also, where you want to go will determine the kind of rental cars you should research. Summer is a great and popular time to visit Iceland. But depending on your preferences, fall might be preferable if you do not mind colder temps and enjoy smaller crowds. Fortunately, at anytime of the year, Iceland remains an unforgettable and mystical island.
There are a ton of reasons why a road trip is the best option to go across the country. So let´s get started on planning your epic road trip with Iceland’s best routes, car rental and road tips.
Renting a car in Iceland is by far the best way to see this contrasting Land of Fire and Ice. However, it is not like renting a car in other countries. Here are few tips before you pick up your car keys. Book in advance to get the best rates because during peak season quality vehicles might not be available. Cars are completely imported so what you see is what you get. Remember to adhere to all speed limits and do not drive off road. If you drive off road you can face very expensive fines and up to two years jail time. Be cautious because no one wants to have any mishaps on an otherwise great vacation.
Stop at local gas stations to keep your tank full to avoid running out of gas. You don’t want to pass a station on a half tank while driving along long stretches of road. You can drive for hours and not see another soul or gas station. Please note that gas is expensive in Iceland so budget accordingly.
Where do you plan on going?
Where you want to go will determine if you rent a regular car or a four-wheel drive. If you are driving in the Highlands you need a four-wheel drive because of F-Roads. What are F-Roads? They are rugged and unpaved roads that require you to drive over rivers, lava fields, and more. But the epic views are worth the adventure. And how many people can say they’ve driven through a river and a lava field?
If you are driving through places like the Ring Road, it is predominantly paved, therefore a regular car should be fine. But depending on weather conditions you might need a four-wheel drive due to snow levels and ice on the ground. Overall, be prepared for quick weather changes like sudden sand storms and rainfall. Also, get car insurance. You won’t regret it.
Iceland Road Trip Planner
First, establish when you want to visit Iceland because it will determine what you can see. Then based on time of year and terrain you will face, you can decide on your rental car. Peak times to visit are in the summer months of June, July, and August. The advantages of the summer season include long daylight hours, warm weather, generally clear road conditions, and green landscapes. In June through July you can see violet lupine flower fields, whale watching, and the Midnight Sun. The only disadvantages are more people, higher prices, and not seeing the famous Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).
During summer, there is simply too much light to see this natural phenomenon. In spring and fall you also have great daylight hours, but brilliant spring and fall colors and decent road conditions. Spring is in April and May while fall is in September, October and early November. During these times you can actually see the famous Northern Lights and still go whale watching. Additional advantages include cheaper prices, fewer crowds, and only slightly colder weather. So when creating your Iceland road trip planner, the time of year is an extremely important factor.
In the winter, which is mid-November to early February there are fewer crowds and the landscape looks like a fairy tale covered in snow. There are good prices and you can witness winter magic by discovering frozen waterfalls. Please note the driving conditions are very challenging because driving in Iceland requires you to be comfortable navigating in snow. It will also require the use of a four-wheel drive. Several roads are also shut down for safety purposes and there are limited hours of light.
Iceland Best Routes
After you have identified the time of year you want to visit Iceland, choose how long your trip will be. If you spend a long time in Iceland you can appreciate much more of this magnetizing country. It’s best to spend 10 to 14 days to avoid rushing any part of your experience. However, even three to seven days will work for short day trips. Either way, lasting memories from your great adventures will be created.
On shorter trips, focusing on locations close to the city capital of Reykjavik would be wise. You could take a day trip and drive through the Golden Circle then on another day visit Snaefellsnes Peninsula or the South Coast of Iceland. You can also drive 40 minutes from Reykjavik and experience the rejuvenating Blue Lagoon for a refreshing day at a geothermal spa. For longer trips, you can plan to visit all of these areas including the famous Ring Road, the Highlands, and much more.
When you land at Keflavik Airport, pick up your rental car, charge your phone, and hit the road. Visit Snaefellsnes Peninsula, it is close to the capital city of Reykjavik and can be experienced in one day. However, if you have more time, two to three days would be preferable to see everything at your leisure. It is often called “Iceland in miniature” because it encompasses so many of the beautiful features Iceland has to offer in one area. Snaefellsnes Peninsula has ancient mountains, crystal clear waterfalls, active volcanoes, many lava fields, picturesque golden sand beaches, and cute villages. Snaefellsnes Peninsula even has basalt column cliffs called Gerðuberg, which are hexagonal structures that look like perfectly made sculptures. But they are a natural result of lava cooling.
If you like visiting places that have been featured in famous movies or television shows look no further than the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Kirkjufell Mountain is one of the locations where Game of Thrones was filmed. Many people from all over the world have traveled to take a singular photo featuring this ancient mountain and two breath-taking waterfalls called Kirkjufellsfoss with Kirkjufell. Snaefellsjökull National Park is another must-see because it surrounds a famous volcano called Snaefellsjökull, which is topped by an ice cap. This volcano has been the inspiration for a novel and movie called Journey to the center of the Earth. Another site to admire in this national park is Skarðsvík. It’s a unique golden beach in Iceland because most are black sand beaches from basalt lava.
The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is one of the most popular road trip routes in Iceland. It will lead you to memorable locations that everyone should see. The three important sites are Thingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss Waterfall. Thingvellir National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its unique historical and geological significance. This national park was the place where Iceland’s first democratic parliament was founded and where you can see two continental plates separate. You can actually snorkel and dive between the tectonic plates and witness this marvel up close.
The next sight to see is the famous Geysir hot springs, which is the place of the first erupting geyser. This area is very steamy from the geothermal vents but is no longer active. The last stop is Gullfoss Waterfall aptly called the Golden Waterfall. It is a miraculous vision to behold, the water changing color and cascades down from the melting of Langjökull Glacier. While here you can visit a manmade ice cave.
The Best Way to See Iceland
Get excited, going on a road trip through Iceland is the trip of a lifetime. There are so many advantages of a road trip and you’ll create lasting memories and leave with many stories to share.
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