Iceland Ring Road 10-day road trip itinerary

Iceland travel has exploded in popularity over the past few years. As I discovered on a 10-day winter road trip, Iceland is a beautiful, raw and wild country that is screaming to be explored. Here's how to enjoy the best of your Iceland road trip. The best of an Iceland winter road trip Usually saturated with travellers in the summer months, winter in Iceland is a completely different story. The sun stays in the sky for all but a handful of hours per day. The hotels, hostels and B&B's are empty. The roads are empty. And it is absolutely bloody freezing. We got lost on winding mountain roads and stopped to feed Icelandic horses big, fat apples. We stayed in little wooden chalets and stood mesmerised at the Northern Lights as Arctic winds blew furiously around us. We almost froze our limbs off checking out frozen waterfalls and got up close and personal with giant icy-blue glaciers. With an area of 100,000 km² and a population of just 350,000, road tripping is by far the easiest way to get around the Iceland Ring Road. You can do it by coach tour - many people choose this option. It's safe, it's easy and you're guided by experts. For me, there are fewer things less attractive than organised fun with a bunch of strangers for an extended period of time. Plus, road trips are all about the freedom of the open road. Planning your journey along the way, stopping whenever you want to and listening to awesome music along the way. So, we chose the self-drive option. Only slightly less expensive than an Iceland group tour, we rented a car straight from Reykjavik airport, we set our first destination into the satnav and headed out onto the famous Ring Road. Iceland Ring Road
10 days, 2,000km, 8 hotels DAY 1
REYKJAVIK – SELFOSS Pick up the car on arrival to Keflavik Intl. Airport and drive to Selfoss. You’ll absolutely need a 4×4 in the winter and be prepared to spend more on car insurance than the rental itself. DAY 2
SELFOSS – VIK Depart early and head to the famous abandoned plane wreck (here’s how to find it), before wandering on Reynisfjara beach. Spend the night in Vik for a decent dinner and a sleep – there really isn’t much else to do here. DAY 3
VIK – HOFN Beautiful stop at the Hoffellsjökull glacier, where you can pay a million euros (*€150) to go ice caving and glacier walking for a couple of hours. We trekked to the glacier ourselves and flew the drone over the top. Rounded off with an awesome bowl of goulash at the mountain centre before driving to Hofn for a windy stay near the sea. DAY 5
HOFN – SEYDISFJORDUR With the guesthouse already deserted by 0800, we had an indulgent beautiful morning watching the sunrise at 10 am over the mountains and marshlands, then set off for a day of the most scenic driving on the whole trip. We had an hour to spare before the supermarket closed at 1700, and with it already pitch black, we cooked ourselves food in the – also, very empty – hostel and binge-watched Game of Thrones. (omgggg 2 months 2 months). DAY 6 + 7
SEYDISFJORDU – AKUREYRI Akureyri is the second-largest city in Iceland… and it has a population of 18,000. We stopped here for Christmas, and although yes, it was a beautiful place and we had a very white Christmas, there was nothing to do in the holidays. Everything was closed. When it’s not closed… you can go whale watching and skiing and hiking. Which all sound very fun. But, for the two main days of Christmas, it was wandering around in the snow and drinking expensive wine out of the mini-bar. DAY 7
AKUREYRI – HVAMMASTANGI Our first and only spot of the Northern Lights was camped out in the middle of nowhere in the Hvammastangi Cottages. Super basic wooden structures with little more than a bed, a sofa and a small washroom inside, it was the perfect, cosy little stop to take in the beauty of the Aurora. DAY 8
HVAMMASTANGI – GRUNDARFJORDUR First taking a little drive around the Vatsnes Peninsula, we ended the day at Kirkjufell Mountain in Grundarfjordu. As with most Icelandic towns, the town itself is very quiet and a little lacklustre in the winter months. We did at least find a great pizza place (Laki Cafe) and our hotel had a sauna, so… that was a plus. DAY 9
GRUNDARFJORDU – REYKJAVIK Pulling up at our final destination on our 10-day Ring Road adventure, we roamed shivered around Reykjavik, visiting a couple of museums, shops and restaurants. We took some nice photos and sidled on back to our hotel to look forward to basking in the warm waters of the Blue Lagoon the next morning… DAY 10
REYKJAVIK The number one tourist attraction in Iceland, which we had planned into our schedule. We happily arrived there early in the morning and queued for half an hour to be told it was full and that pre-booking is very necessary. WHAAAAT. The absolute fail. Awful. We couldn’t go in! What was supposed to be the cherry on the cake of our road trip! Curse this life. We ended up having a nice drive around the Golden Circle instead. But STILL. I am still bitterly disappointed about that one. ICELAND BUDGET - WINTER RING ROAD €340 RETURN FLIGHTS €1000 CAR RENTAL €100 P/N ACCOMMODATION €400 ACTIVITIES P/P €50 P/D EXPENSES €350 GAS* For two people, this exact 10-day trip cost around €2250 each – a low/middle-of-the-road price for Iceland. You can, of course, make your Iceland Ring Road adventure as expensive as you want – Iceland is home to some seriously luxury stays. But you can also do it a bit cheaper. When travelling in a larger group of three, four or five, you can expect to take at least a few hundred euros from the total price per person. I found Iceland totally worth the cost. And if you’re really on a budget, there’s a ton of ways to save money if you want to. We opted to stay in guesthouses and B&Bs, but you can bring costs down with hostels and – in the summer – camping. Booking flights a month earlier could have also saved us another €100 – but hey. I didn’t have this blog to read. USEFUL STUFF TO KNOW FOR YOUR RING ROAD TRIP Check out where you can expect to see the Northern Lights on this weather map from the Iceland MET office. (trust me - this reduces 95% of pointless staring at the sky.) Blue Lagoon tickets - www.bluelagoon.com

Iceland Ring Road 10-day road trip itinerary