About the size of Ohio, Iceland is home to roughly 300,000 people, the vast majority of whom live in capital city of Reykjavik. While Reykjavik is certainly fun to explore, miles and miles of open road and breathtakingly beautiful scenery lie beyond the city; think black sand beaches, glacier lagoons, natural swimming holes, and stunning waterfalls (more than you’ll know what to do with!). The landscape makes Iceland a dream for photographers, nature lovers, or anyone who just needs a break from city life.
It also makes the country in the middle of the Atlantic the perfect backdrop for an epic road trip. No matter if the time you’ve got is short or endless, here are some tips to help you make the most of your adventure on the road:
1. Rent a campervan.
Even if you’ve never campervan-ed before, do it in Iceland – it’s without a doubt the best way to explore the country. The scenery grows more astonishingly beautiful the further you go from civilization; one of the most spectacular things about it is possibly the solitude. Campervans allow you to venture off to untouched corners and still be able to stop for the night to get some rest, whether in a small town or in front of a waterfall.
2. Follow the Ring Road.
Navigating your route in Iceland is easy: there’s one main road and it loops around the entire country. Although a few of the more remote (and awesome) swimming holes can only be accessed by detouring from the Ring Road, most towns and scenic points are within spitting distance. Really, no map required! The entire loop can be completed in about 10 days; if you’ve only got five days, you should plan to head to Hofn and back, or up to the fjords.
3. Know the Law of Survival.
The Law of Survival states that you can stop on any man’s land for a night and eat anything that grows on that land. That means that it’s completely acceptable – and legal – to sleep in your car, whether you’re on private property, in a national park, or at a designated rest stop. You can literally fall asleep and wake up to million-dollar views—for free.
4. Bring Snacks…
Food in Iceland is incredibly expensive and not that great, especially once you leave Reykjavik. Hit up the grocery store before your departure and stock up on lots of snacks: trail mix, almonds, jerky, wasabi peas, instant oatmeal, raisins, and Cliff and Lara Bars. Not exactly glamorous, but they will keep you satisfied – especially when you’re on the road without a town in site.
5. But Eat the Hot Dogs…!
The most iconic Icelandic road trip food has to be the hot dog! Sold in gas stations, they cost $4-5 dollars each but are well worth it. Don’t miss the bacon-wrapped hot dog in a warmed bun with mustard, raw onions and dry onions. Followed with a soft serve (they have caramel dip!), it’s one of the best meals you’ll find along the Ring Road.
6. Don’t Forget A Swimsuit.
Your first destination from the airport should be the Blue Lagoon. The Fly Bus has a package that includes transport straight there, and then from there to Reykjavik’s city center, for approximately 20 Euros. The Blue Lagoon itself can be pricey (35-60 Euros depending on service) and crowded—it’s often described as the Disneyland of the Icelandic hot springs—but it’s priceless in that it will help you achieve vacation-bliss from the moment you step off the plane. Once you’ve checked that off the list, get off the beaten path and head to Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool or Hrunalaug Natural Hot Spring.
7. Go Public.
Iceland is big on hot springs, hot tubs and saunas: if a town is big enough for a grocery store, it is likely to also have a public pool. On average, entry costs about $4 dollars and that usually includes the use of two hot tubs (one hot, the other hotter), a swimming pool, a steam room, and public showers. Some even have waterslides! Heading to a public pool is a great way to start your morning and totally beats paying for a public shower at a campground. In fact, it makes living out of a campervan feel super luxurious.
8. Chase the Midnight Sun.
The only reason to go to Iceland in winter is to see the Northern Lights—and that’s never guaranteed. But 24 hours of daylight in the middle of summer? That is guaranteed, and it allows for perfect road trip conditions. You can drive all day and into the night, then fall asleep to a never-ending sunset. Just don’t forget your eye mask!
Need more information? Here’s everything you need to know about prepping for your Icelandic road trip.