Route 1, also known as the Ring Road, is the major highway in Iceland connecting most of the towns, including Reykjavík, the capital and only city. It is 830 miles long (1330 km) and goes through the fjords, mountains, plateaus and flat land. Because Route 1 is the only road connecting east to west in Iceland, travelers should take precautions when crossing the country.
Ring Road in Iceland
Marketers in Reykjanes, Snæfellsnes, the Westfjords and the far northeast of Iceland often complain that sticking to the ring road means you miss some of the country’s greatest pearls – and that is undeniably true. On the other hand, you also drive right through some of the country’s greatest pearls and it is an excellent first-time introduction to Iceland before you return to the country again, and again (hopefully).
The many amazing highlights of the ring road experience include some of the biggest towns in the country, some of the most sought-after waterfalls in Europe, the Eyjafjallajökull and Vatnajökull glaciers, the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon…and that’s just on the south coast alone!
There are already articles about the major attractions in South Iceland, East Iceland, North Iceland and West Iceland on this site, so we won’t dwell on them too much here. Suffice is to say simply that you won’t run short of things to see and do.
The Route 1 ring road around Iceland is 1,339 kilometres long, which makes it ideal for exploring slowly over the course of a week – or even longer. But the relaxed driving schedule also makes it easy to add in one or all of the missing areas mentioned above (like the Westfjords or Snæfellsnes) to increase the length of your journey and see more, erm, sights along the way.
The same is very much true if you want to roam off Route 1 and explore the East Fjords, and if you want to save a thousand krónur by taking the beautiful old Hvalfjörður road instead of the much shorter tunnel.
Route 1 is considered the national highway and it is used by lorries carrying freight almost every day of the year. This means snow ploughing is top priority in the winter and the road will be open when others may be closed. Of course extreme weather can shut even Route 1 for short periods, so it is always best to check the road conditions before you set off. There are no such concerns in the summer though (stated with at least 90% certainty).
The road was finally completed in 1976 and these days most, although not all, of it is paved. The small remaining sections in the East are gravel. The speed limit is 90 km/h (80 on gravel) and the police are extremely hot on dishing out speeding tickets. Apparently about half of tickets issued are to foreign tourists, and they even chase speeders by helicopter, believe it or not…
Example: 8/9/10 Days Round Trip in Iceland
Day 1: Reykjavík – Hvalfjördur – Borgarnes – Hraunfossar – Bifröst – Hvammstangi (sleep around this city)
(+1/2/3/4 days Westfjords)
Day 2: Blönduós – Glaumbaer – Hófsos – Öxnadalur – Akureyri – Godafoss – Mývatn (sleep around the lake)
Day 3: Mývatn – Detifoss – Egilsstadir (sleep at Egilsstadir)
(+1/2 days Mývatn + Askja)
Day 4: Egilsstadir – Hengifoss – East fiords – Fáskrúdsfjördur – Hvalnes – Stafafell – Stokksnes – Höfn (sleep at Höfn)
Day 5: Höfn – Jökursárlon – Skaftafell (Sjónarnipa, Svartifoss) – Vík – Reynisfjara – Dyrhólaey – (sleep around Vík)
Day 6: Vík – Skogafoss – Seljalansfoss – Golden Circle (sleep around Fluðir)
(+1/2/3 days at Landmannalaugar)
Day 7: Fluðir – Krýsuvík – Blue Lagoon – Reykjavík (sleep at Reykjavík)
Day 8: at Reykjavík, shopping etc…
This classic 10 days round trip brings you along the Ring Road as well as other roads looping out from the Ring Road. You will see the City of Reykjavik, do the Golden Circle, see hot springs, the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, Skaftafell nature resort in Vatnajokull National Park, Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, the East Fjords, impressive Dettifoss Waterfall, the towns of Husavik and Akureyri, and much more.
Berglind Rós, Iceland24