The Scenic Drives You Have to Take in Iceland

Golden Circle, Iceland
Golden Circle, Iceland | © Dennis van de Water/Shutterstock
Camille Buckley

Whether you stay on the main ring route that circumnavigates the island or venture off onto smaller unpaved routes, Iceland is the place for scenic drives. Be sure to check road and weather conditions before your adventure. One can come upon meandering sheep, sweeping fjords, waterfalls, rolling hills and majestic glaciers on a scenic drive through this landscape brimming with incredible scenery. To begin, here is a great resource for everything you need to know about renting a car in Iceland.

1. The Golden Circle

Park

1. The Golden Circle
© Flickr/David Phan

This 234km route round trip from Reykjavik is stunning in every season; in fact, seeing it in different seasons and the drastically different beauty each display is a reason to drive this scenic route a few times in different seasons. It’s also the most well-trafficked tourist route, serviced by buses from Reykjavik every day. This scenic route is also a great option to do on your own, as it allows you to stop off at other attractions along the way besides the three main ones: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall. Added to the traditional Golden Circle route is a trip south to the town of Hveragerdi and the high plateau of Hellisheiði you pass on the way to Reykjavik. This is a great drive to take if it is your first time in Iceland or you have limited time. The roads are well-maintained and open throughout the year, depending on the daily weather.

Reykjavík – Þingvellir – Geysir – Gullfoss Falls – Selfoss – Reykjavík

On the Golden Circle Road (Iceland) | © Flickr/David Phan

2. Kjölur Highland Road

This 200km route passing through the remote highlands is only passable in the summer months and requires a four-wheel drive vehicle. Be prepared for washboard roads and loose gravel. Starting at Gullfoss Falls, Kjölur route (or F35) stretches northwest through the volcanic landscape of central Iceland. Along the way, you drive between two glaciers in the distance, Langjökull and Hofsjökull. You also drive beside the geothermal area of Hveravellir, a churning landscape of steam and mud.

Gullfoss Falls – Blönduós

Highlands | © Flickr/dom fellowes

3. The Snæfellsnes Peninsula

This scenic drive is 296km, or 461km if you make the loop connecting back to the Ring Road and return to Reykjavik the same way. This jutting peninsula north of Reykjavik holds an eclectic variety of cultural lore among the geological features. As you approach the peninsula, you see the curious oval-shaped crater Eldborg rising in the distance. Later, you will see the Gerðuberg basalt column wall – easily spottable from the road. More canyons, caves and black pebble beaches can be seen as you travel this route and check into the small villages along the way.

Reykjavík – Hellnar – Hellisandur – Stykkíshólmur

Island 2013 331 Strasse 574 Hellnar – Abzweig 54 | © Flickr/Klaus Nahr

4. The South Coast

For this scenic drive, travel from Reykjavik east towards the coastal village of Vik and then onward to Jökulsárlon. The route is 372km one way. The South Coast is known for its harsh winds so be sure to check the weather as a sandstorm could cause damage to your rental car. After crossing the high plateau of Hellisheiði outside of Reykjavík, the route is relatively flat and winding. Black sand stretching out towards the ocean creates a dreamy scene, not so dissimilar from those in the American Southwest at times. From close proximity to the village of Vík, you can see the spectacular rock formations of Dyrholaey and Reynisdrangar. Continue on to Jökulsárlon, the glacier lagoon of icebergs slowly making their way to the sea.

Reykjavík – Vík – Jökulsárlon

Ring Road, Iceland, Close to Hvoll | © Flickr/kismihok

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