5 Best Things to do on a Road Trip in Iceland

There is so much to see and do in Iceland that it can get daunting to decide what’s best. How to budget your time is always a seminal concern for tourists and travelers alike. Take my advice when you arrive in Reykjavik. Head to the Iceland Travel Market in the center of town to make these tours memorable. They are really professional and know their stuff. I booked three days of awesome trips in ten minutes!

While I must say that most things that I have seen and done in Iceland over the three times I have been are worthwhile, but there are a few that stand out above the rest. Here are the 5 best things to do on a road trip in Iceland. Many of which I visited on a two day road trip I just took with my two buddies.

1. Gullfoss

Gullfoss is my favorite place in Iceland. It is located a few hours from the capital of Reykjavik and is one of the best waterfalls in the world. From the highway it doesn’t even look like there is anything there until you notice the loads of cars and busses parked at the visitor center.

As you walk behind the visitors center and head down the wooden path toward the river you see the mist and then you see the top tier of the falls. At that moment you are happy with what you’ve come to see. But as you walk down the long flight of stairs to the ground level you notice that there is a second tier of the waterfall itself.

I won’t go as far as to say it’s as great a site as Victoria or Iguassu Falls but it’s right there after Niagara Falls in my book of great waterfalls of the world. The power and volume of the water can be hypnotic and awesome. What a great site and you can get right next to it.

It will be a little misty as all big waterfalls are and it can be quite cold so dress the part and bring a waterproof coat too. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

2. Pingvellir National Park

Pingvellir National Park is of great significance to the Icelandic people and is their first National Park. It is also a site where the continental drift between the North American and Eurasian plates can be clearly seen in the faults that traverse the gorgeous region.

The drive through the park is spectacular and there are many different types of scenery to see. My favorite is the biggest natural lake in Iceland called, Pingvallavatn. You drive along it for a while as you cruise through the park. It is marked with some nice islands in the middle and great vistas from all around.

Pingvellir is also home to Iceland’s first Parliament. The entire park is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is well worth the time to drive through and see it. It is one of the stops of the Golden Circle.

3. Langjokull Glacier

Langjokull is a glacier in the middle of Iceland. It is visible from quite a distance away. It seems to follow you around as you curve in and out of the mountain roads before you reach it.

The best thing about Langjokull is that you can drive your jeep onto the glacier itself and go as far as the temperamental weather will allow. Our day on the glacier was particularly windy and snowy so we only made it a mile or two out but had a blast while doing so. The views went from great vistas around the valley to a complete whiteout very quickly.

You can also race dog sleds on the glacier if you like. I would have done that exact thing if I hadn’t done it on Greenland a few days earlier. The glacier is a must in Iceland and fits in nicely with driving to the Golden Circle sites and Pingvellir National Park.

4. The South Coast

The south coast may be my favorite part of Iceland. There isn’t too much to see and do per se but there is an amazing amount of nature and views to be seen. The landscapes are ever spooky and it has an other worldly feel to it. You feel like you’re driving on the moon.

The best actual site to see en route to or from the south coast is Kerid; which is an awesome volcanic crater lake. It has a colorful look and a very peaceful vibe to it. You’d barely even know it was there as you drive so get a map and pay attention.

The rest of the coast, whether you are coming from or headed toward Reykjavik, should be simply enjoyed. The views are great and the landscapes are mind blowing. There are also a lot of horses. You won’t regret going a little out of the way on the brand new road they just put in.

5. The Blue Lagoon

The world famous Blue Lagoon has become the iconic symbol of Iceland to many tourists. In fact, many tourists simply transit Iceland en route to Europe or the States and take their layover time to visit the Blue Lagoon, which is right by Keflavik Airport. This is unfortunate that they don’t see more of the country but it is cool that they can experience it.

The expensive ticket price, some $50USD, is a bit much but the experience is a lot of fun. I have been three times now and have never been disappointed. Much has changed since my first visit in 2000 including a swim up bar where people can pay with their entry bracelets. This is convenient because you don’t have to bring cash but annoying at the same time because then you have drunk people potentially peeing in the water!

The springs are gorgeous, nobody can dispute that, and it is a must see when you visit Iceland. However, do not make it your only thing that you see in the country. There is so much to see and do. The lagoon is nice but is a bit of a tourist trap and very overpriced.

Other Spots to See

The waterfalls at Hraunfossar and Barnafoss are excellent as well and would normally make any list of top attractions. However, Iceland has many good things that it was my first cut.

There is a cave at Vidgelmir; which is cool to see. If you’ve never been caving before you will definitely enjoy doing some spelunking. The only downfall is there is nothing to see or do in the cave so it’s relatively anti-climactic.

The geysers at Geysir and Strokkur are cool to see as well and are easily accessed from the main road and only 10 minutes or so from Gullfoss; which is really convenient. They erupt every 15 minutes or so and can get pretty high. We saw a few eruptions and unfortunately I messed up the actual eruption picture. However, it is really cool.

If you’re wondering how it compares to Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park in the States. It is cooler in that you can get much closer to the actual geyser but it isn’t as high or powerful.

So those are my top five, along with a few other recommendations for Iceland. Reykjavik of course is a great city and I will post separately on it soon. So get to Iceland, see the sights and enjoy one of natures greatest creations. The language is another story though…

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  1. Beautiful photos again Lee. I would love to visit Iceland and hope to next year. Thank you.

  2. Gullfoss looks sick

  3. LOL, the drunken guys peeing in the blue lagoon. They should use that as their catch phrase!

  4. Hi Lee, great story as always…did you rent your own car or did you hire a driver? Looks like a great trip!

    • Hi Milton, we hired a jeep tour for a full day onto the glacier etc as we would’ve never found our way on those back gravel roads but then had our own car the rest of the time…makes it so much more flexible and the regular highways are in great shape although the signs are touch to follow

  5. Wow, amazing pictures…I’m sure you’re tired of hearing that!

    • Haha, I love taking pictures and it’s always nice to hear that people like them. I used to never take pictures so I am making up for lost time!

  6. Schuyler says

    Looks like an amazing place…I gotta get there sometime soon. Have a safe trip to Norway.

  7. Nice Iceland breakdown of top spots and excellent photos. Have fun in Norway tomorrow.

  8. You take the coolest trips, I’d love to be able to do stuff like this. Good for you man.

  9. Very amazing. Have you spent much time in my country, India?

  10. That waterfall looks gnarly. Can you go over it in buckets like they used to at Niagara Falls? Do they still do that?

    • Haha, I doubt you can and I don’t think the buckets thing flies anymore at Niagara…if you find out otherwise, let me know!

  11. Christopher says

    That map in your last picture looks torturous. I can’t imagine speeding down the highway and trying to use that to figure out where you’re going. Funny picture.

  12. Hi Lee, I visited Iceland two years ago and did the Golden Circle tour and I agree it was excellent. I also drove the entire ring road around the island which took a few days and the last bit was on the south coast which I thought was pretty fantastic. You’ve piqued my interest about the new road. I wonder if it was new 2 years ago or just recently because I love it down there too. Either way, great pictures and thanks for bringing back some memories for me as I am stuck at work in this heat.

    • Sure Irene, I am pretty sure this new road was just completed from what I heard and also by the new tar/gravel…it was clearly just re-paved/laid or at least redone..the Ring Road is about 1100km I believe…sounds fun!

  13. I’m sold, I wanna go there…are there any black people in Iceland?

    • Haha wow…that’s a loaded question but yes there were some and also different types of minorities from all over…hope you get a chance to go

  14. Some of these pictures are unreal. The falls and the horses, amazing!

  15. Awesome pics again and looks like you’re having a blast!

  16. I just arrived from iceland 🙂 my favorites place are different :

    • The cool thing about travel is everyone sees things differently…if we were all the same it’d be boring. ALso, I saw your pictures, they are beautiful too. Thanks.

  17. Have you driven around the ring road while there? I think you hit on a lot of really great places in this post, but there are so many equally beautiful places in the north–Myvatn, Husavik, Akureyri, etc. If you haven’t done that yet, I definitely recommend it! It’s truly amazing how many different landscapes you can see in one small country, isn’t it?

  18. I’ve not done the complete Ring Road but I will the next time I’m in Iceland. Such a wonderful place to visit and yes so many varied landscapes!

  19. Sandra María says

    It is so wonderful to write such good things about my home land 😀 But when you have lived here all your life, you don´t love this nature because it gets a little boring when you have seen it too many times. At least i am bored of Gullfoss and Geysir. Hahaha and i have lived here for 22 years, and never been to the blue lagoon. Well i went in to the lobby and that, but never in the water.

    Keep up the good work and continue to take such awesome pictures man!! 😀

    Ástar þakkir fyrir fallegar myndir og endilega komdu aftur til íslands 😀 some icelandic for you 😉

    • Haha thanks for the Icelandic lesson, I’m sure I’ll remember that! It’s such an easy language to pick up! Seriously though, thanks for the comment and definitely enjoy your own country because it’s one of the best nature wise and Gullfoss is pretty awesome. I can see Geysir getting old but…take care

  20. Looks great. I’ll be there in 4 days, can’t wait for the celebrations and beautiful scenery!

  21. Lee, I had the distinct pleasure of living in Iceland for two years. You are so very correct; the country is beautiful beyond words. Did you walk behind Gulfoss?
    Given the opportunity, I would return to Iceland for the rest of my life.

  22. The scenery looks absolutely stunning! I’d love to do a slow road trip here sometime 🙂

  23. Great photos, Lee! I’ll be there with my daughters in a couple of months so I’m doing all the research I can. I think a couple of 12-year-olds would appreciate the Blue Lagoon spa.

  24. Wondering now why I never made it to Gullfoss!

  25. Lee, I thought Detifoss was better than Gulfoss, just huge, raw etc. I got a photo of a guy standing right on the edge of it. Crazy shit. The NE corner is isolated and amazing. By far the best place I’ve been to. If it was as close as NZ to AUS I’d live there.

  26. Lee, I am going to be up that end of the world in January/February 2013, do you think that would still be a good time to visit Iceland?

    • It will definitely be cold and dark but it will be a unique time to be there. I have been there 3 times and each time it was in the summer so I’d love to hear what it’s like in the winter.

  27. Great list of places to go in Iceland! If you want to add some really bizarre to your travel itinerary, consider the Phallic Museum which is exactly what you think it is – a small room full of penises of a large assortment of animals. There is even a picture of a human male who is prepared to donate his penis to the museum after he dies. It’s in a town called Husavik on the northern coast of the island. A little too weird for you? Husavik is also a nice place to go whale watching. 🙂

  28. Lee, I am heading to Iceland in July. Thanks for the punch list.

  29. robin oldham says

    I was able to visit a few places in Iceland thanks to the Navy! I loved every bit! The hot pools were awesome! The Northern Lights are something everyone should get a chance to see!!

  30. Preparing a trip to Iceland I found you article very useful. Weather seems mostly grey…

  31. Hey there,
    my friends and I took a 5 day road trip this Iceland this summer and checked out your website before we did. Great recommendations, especially for those who decide to stay a little closer to the capital. So jealous you went to see the Lanjkokull Glacier! If you want to check out how our road trip went, you can check it out here: https://mintandcopper.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/road-tripping-in-iceland/

    We had only 5 days to see the whole of Iceland, but I feel like we made the best out of it and saw nearly everything you recommended here. We were also quite on a budget, but surprised to see how you can actually manage with a little less money…

    Thanks again :)!

  32. Hi, there, Thanks for this great article! We are planning to visit Iceland especially Blue Lagoon. It’s my favorite and searching info about this world famous places.

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