Eight days of traveling along the Icelandic Ring Road are done. The trip was just intense. My wife and I did so many interesting experiences that I felt I should do a sum-up and share some thoughts with you. Here is my reprise posting reflecting thoughts after we have already returned back to Germany. The reprise also contains a selection of major size pictures of the whole trip. The preview posting also contains a list of postings and review which have been and will be shared with you, based on this road trip.
Doing the Iceland Ring Road by Topic
Is It Worth It?
I felt it was an amazing trip. Even though the last days of the report might feel a bit shorter and less eventful – this is also because we knew quite a lot of the places already. In addition, we did not do too many rather Northern attractions as I would love to do the Arctic Coast Way one day. You just drive along one road and learn a lot about the country. I have to say that you also don’t learn quite a lot and need to visit additional places, but the ring road is a great way to have a detailed overview of Iceland.
How many Days?
If you exclude the time in Reykjavik, we did the trip in seven days. You have to bear in mind that it has not been the first time we traveled to Iceland. On top of that, at the time I planned the trip I was expecting myself to be in Akureyri very briefly afterwards again due to the scheduled Condor inaugural service from Akureyri Airport (AEY) to Frankfurt (FRA) – which they cancelled rather short notice in late March 2023. Thus, we had a (too) brief time there and skipped all the Golden Circle (i.e. the Geysir Area, Thingvellir and Gullfoss) and a lot of Greater Reykjavik attractions.On top of that, i would definitely detour to Vestmannaeyjar. If you do these things, you should at least go for ten days. If you also detour the Ring Road and follow the Westfjords (which is absolutely gorgeous), than I would rather go for two weeks.
The information I had is that the Icelandic Ring Road still got some unpaved (i.e. gravel) road parts. However, all the road was paved in April and May 2023. Whenever you see gravel roads in our reports, they are taken from detours. None of them is really difficult driving. At least in spring to fall, a 4WD is absolutely not necessary. If you want to add highland roads like the F35 Kjölur, you may have to consider one. It might still be sensible to split travels into sections with different cars then – the highland road-allowed cars are simply way much more expansive. If you don’t have too much luggage, a small car will do fine as well – the speed limit is at most 90 km/h anyway.
The only other option I see are any kind of camper vans. A lot of companies transform minor transporters into small RV with a bed and a kitchen. However, most of them neither have a toilet nor a shower like a “proper” RV, which you can rent in Iceland as well, even in 4WD options. Hotels are quite expansive in the Nordic country – and these cars give you more flexibility. You still might have to go for camping grounds, though.
Which Hotels or Stays (if you take a car)?
Honestly, I feel that we loved the small guest houses more than the larger hotels. Also the rather large Fosshotel chain did not really lead to too much additional value. Major hotel chains, where you might profit from a status, like Marriott Hotels or Hilton Group ones, are currently only located in the capital area anyway. My favorite stay was definitely the Hrafnavellir Guest House (in the middle of nowhere) on the second night, followed by Hafdals Hotel, an eight room accommodation on the Akureyri mountains on the fifth one.
How Would We Change or Itinerary after Doing It?
As said, if you are in Iceland for the first time, our schedule is definitely too tough and you should go for a more relaxed one. Overall, I was quite happy with our trip. Nonetheless, there are some things I would likely change:
- The net distance is already about 1400 km. We spend about 2140 km in the car in about eight days. The average speed is just about 60 km/h over the whole drive. I would definitely do shorter stages, including doing less detours (or adding time for the detours in the travel plan). More than 250 km of driving becomes really stressful, if you also want to do photo stops, watch museums – and write a trip report
- I would definitely add one or two nights in Akureyri and maybe even do the Husavik part from there – it is just nice to have a “base camp” from time to time. The vibrant city in the North feels to be the perfect location.
- Especially in low season, you are more exposed to attraction closures. On top of that, there was the 1st May 2023 / Labour Day, which lead to some closures around Egilstadir.
Clockwise or Anti-Clockwise?
That’s a question I was more and more asking myself during the trip. We went for the anti-clockwise direction. You have a lot of the “classic” Icelandic attractions like the Golden Circle early on your itinerary then. That also means that you might not value the beautiful landscape North of Reykjavik on your last days that much. Thus, if you are a newbie to the country, clockwise might be a better option, you just have an easier start. However, especially if you add the Westfjords (which have rather rough conditions), you might rather safe them for the final days of your trip.
Favorite Parts of the Trip?
Maybe also as I have been to Reykjavik and Reykjanes rather often, I especially loved the East and the South. The drive from Hella to Austurland on Day 2 and the two days thereafter were the heart of the trip. Nonetheless, I am also always fascinated how many new spots you find in the comparably small capital Reykjavik (122k inhabitants) with each and every visit.
Of Course, What About the Budget?
With Icelandair and Play, you typically have rather affordable options to get into Iceland. However, once you made it, your credit card company will love you, indeed. I did not calculate our total budget for the trip, but it might be around 5000 EUR, including the flights, even though May is not Icelandic peak season. Just to give you an idea in Euro (I feel most readers are more familiar with that, in contrast to Icelandic Krona), some of the prices were:
- The Dacia Duster was per day roughly 100 EUR incl. full insurance, which is an extremely good price
- The hotel (double rooms incl. breakfast) were between 120 EUR and 250 EUR per night
- A meal in a restaurant is rarely below 25 EUR per person
- Museums are rather expansive and typically are in the range of 15 to 20 EUR per person. However, most natural sights are free, a few come with parking fees
- The geothermal spas are roughly 40 EUR per person and visit
- Gas is rather pricey and about 2 Euro… per liter.
What Did the Trip Tell Us About Iceland?
The more we were away from the Southwest of the country, the more I felt: there are two parts of Iceland: there is the Greater Reykjavik area with the Reykjanes peninsula and adjacent cities, like Selfoss. And there is the rural, somehow the real Iceland. A beautiful country, relaxed and friendly atmosphere and each and every new part seems to be a natural beauty in itself.
However, there are also downsides. I feel that the stopping of operation of Niceair, which connected Akureyri Airport (AEY) with some European cities, and the cancelled Condor connections from Frankfurt (FRA) to Egilstadir (EGS) and Akureyri (AEY) are a big hit for the development of the North. Northern Iceland is amazingly beautiful. But it is just a huge mess to get there from Keflavik Airport (KEF), somehow the maximum possible distance within the island. I would definitely travel much more to Northern Iceland if there were more connections to these two airports, which feature international facilities (AEY is even just building a new international terminal).
Issues Nobody Tells You Before
Here are some issues which lead to trouble more than we expected:
- While there is 5G mobile network almost everywhere and gas stations at least every 50 to 100km, we struggled with… public toilets. A lot of gas “stations” are just fuel pumps with credit card payments, sometimes you need to go for a detour and have a drink at a cafe. I was especially surprised about this on Day 4 between Egilstadir and Lake Myvatn, which may make you think about the good, old shovel thing.
- In a couple of places, there was still hand sanitizer, but no hand soap. This felt rather weird to us.
- Some videos tell you not to stop on the road to take pictures. Might sound happy, but – yeah, it does happen… And we sometimes had really dangerous situations.
Some Hints from Our Side?
Here are some more thoughts to make your trip successful:
- Plan ahead, especially in summer months (roughly June to September). Hotels will be very crowded, rental car prices are even higher. The staff at the Hotel 1011 Nott in Egilstadir for example told me that they do not care about the cancellation of the Condor flights – they are sold out all over summer anyway.
- Iceland has excellent online resources for travels. You should always have a look into road.is and safetravel.is before you start a stage. Same applies for vedur.is in regards of weather forecast.
- I will soon issue a posting about driving in Iceland in general. However, it is overall an easy drive. Especially on Ring Road, which is a very relaxed drive. Only crossing Greater Reykjavik was a bit of a tougher time. Again, it just feels like being in another country.
- In general, Iceland is a very expansive country to travel. However, you find an Icelandic coupon app, which is giving some really nice discounts. For example we had two cheeseburger menus at a hamburger restaurant you have in a couple of gas stations on Day 6 with it. In one hotel, you also could get the coupons as a coupon book for free. The book also features coupons to several museums, geothermal spas etc.
Iceland’s Ring Road Trip Report – The Gallery
In the travel gallery, there is a designated major size picture gallery with a selection of 621 pictures of the trip:
Iceland’s Ring Road Trip Report – Daily Episodes
Here are the episodes planned for this trip report
- Iceland’s Ring Road Trip Report – Preview
- Day 1 – 29.04.2023 – Germany to Hella
- Day 2 – 30.04.2023 – Hella to Hrafnavellir
- Day 3 – 01.05.2023 – Hrafnavellir to Egilstadir
- Day 4 – 02.05.2023 – Egilstadir to Husavik
- Day 5 – 03.05.2023 – Husavik to Akureyri
- Day 6 – 04.05.2023 – Akureyri to Reykholt
- Day 7 – 05.05.2023 – Reykholt to Reykjavik
- Day 8 – 06.05.2023 – A Day in Reykjavik & More
- Iceland’s Ring Road Trip Report – Reprise
There will be no Day 9 report, as this would only cover the flight back to Germany.
Museums in Iceland
Flyctory.com – List of all Media Reviews
Here is the list of all my Media Reviews (majorly music), sorted by artist name: