Did you know that it’s possible to completely circle the country of Iceland in a single week?

How, you ask? National Road 1.

Nicknamed the “Ring Road,” Iceland’s main thoroughfare is known as one of the best road trip locations in the world. It’s not a complicated route, but it does require some intense planning. If you’re prepping for a seven-day trip around the Nordic island country, we’ve put together an itinerary for you.

Photo by Sonam Lakhani

DAY ONE

SOUTHERN ICELAND

First things first: pick up your car at Keflavik International Airport (KEF) when you arrive. Get comfortable, pick up some snacks, fill up your gas tank, and head to the southern stretch of the country. We suggest booking accommodations for a night in Vík.

Highlights:

  • Keep an eye out for Icelandic horses grazing in open pastures on the side of the road.
  • See Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls.
  • Take in the view from Dyrhólaey Lighthouse.

Total driving time: 3.5 hours

DAY TWO

Photo by Norris Niman

SOUTHERN ICELAND

Start your second day in Vík, a small town in South Iceland. Backtrack (only slightly) to stop at Reynisfjara Beach, where you’ll find black-sand pebbles, basalt sea stacks, and petrified trolls just off the coast. Hike to the top of the mysterious Hjörleifshöfði mountain, then continue on through the endless expanse of moss-covered lava fields — don’t worry, there are plenty of places to stop for pictures. Drive through southern Iceland and set aside time to catch the sunset at Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon. Plan to spend the night in Höfn.

Highlights:

  • Stop at Reynisfjara Beach and say hello to the trolls.
  • Hike to the viking tomb atop Hjörleifshöfði mountain.
  • Drive through miles upon miles of moss-covered lava fields.
  • Watch the sunset at Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon.

Total driving time: 4.75 hours

Photo by Connie Cao
Photo by Mario Pfahl

DAY THREE

EASTERN ICELAND

Take some time to explore Vatnajökull National Park before clocking most of your miles for the day. Head out and continue further into eastern Iceland. If you have time, make a short side-trip off National Road 1 to Borgarfjörður Eystri, the capital of elves and puffins. After you’ve had your fill of small creatures (mystical or mammal), drive into North Iceland, stop at Dettifoss waterfall, then stay in Húsavík for the night.

Highlights:

  • Explore Vatnajökull National Park.
  • Visit the capital of elves and puffins — Borgarfjörður Eystri.
  • See Dettifoss waterfall.

Total driving time: 7.5 hours

DAY FOUR

Photo by George Turner

NORTHERN ICELAND

Begin your fourth day in Iceland with a whale-watching excursion in Húsavík (and make sure to pack your zoom lens!). After that, get back on the road to check out three gorgeous waterfalls and explore Akureyri, the country’s second largest urban area. You’ll be spending the night in Hvammstangi, so make plans accordingly.

Highlights:

  • Watch the whales on a tour in Húsavík.
  • See Hrafnabjargafoss, Aldeyjarfoss, and Goðafoss waterfalls.
  • Visit colorful Akureyri.

Total driving time: 5.5 hours

Photo by Rashid Ramdan

DAY FIVE

Photo by Benny Bystrom

SNæFELLSNES PENINSULA

Though not technically part of the Ring Road, Snæfellsnes is well-worth the daylong detour. This picturesque peninsula is on the way to Reykjavík, so your day will be full of photo ops, small villages, and relaxing stops before you arrive in the capital. Book a place to stay in Reykjavík for the last two nights of your trip.

Highlights:

  • Explore Stykkisholmur.
  • Photograph Kirkjufell mountain and Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall.
  • Visit the Lóndrangar cliffs and Malarrifsviti lighthouse.
  • Stop in Arnarstapi.
  • See the black church in Buðir.
  • Take a dip in the hot-pots of Landbrotalaug.

Total driving time: 7 hours

DAY SIX

Reykjavík

Take a break from the car and explore Reykjavík by foot! The Icelandic capital offers plenty to see and do — from spotting street art to viewing the city from atop Hallgrimskirkja Church, taking in the beauty of Harpa Opera House, and grabbing a world-famous hot dog from a small side-street vendor. Alternately, plan for a half-day in Reykjavík and book a tour to do something adventurous just outside the city.

Highlights:

  • Get to know the Icelandic capital.
  • Go on an adventure!

Total driving time: Variable

Photo by Briana Moore

DAY SEVEN

Þingvellir NATIONAL PARK AND THE BLUE LAGOON

The first stop of your final day is Þingvellir National Park, the site where the Iceland’s first parliament was established in 930. The lovely drive through this national park will take you to Gullfoss, a massive and picturesque waterfall. Then, it’s on to the Blue Lagoon — just be sure to pack your swimsuit and book your tickets for a convenient time. Leave enough time to make it back to Keflavik International for your flight home!

Highlights:

  • Visit the historic Þingvellir National Park.
  • See Gullfoss waterfall.
  • Take a dip at the Blue Lagoon to relax before your flight.

Total driving time: 4.5 hours

Photo by Briana Moore

WAVE GOODBYE TO ICELAND

Note: All driving times are estimates, and the trip may take much longer. You may need to adjust your schedule slightly depending on when your flights arrive and depart. This itinerary is ideal for late spring and summer months, allowing for maximum driving time.

Header image by Mario Pfahl

Related:  Planning the Perfect National Parks Trip