10Best Reasons to Drive Iceland's Ring Road

  • The Ring Road, Route 1

    Landscapes of the Ring Road

    Iceland’s Ring Road, aka Route 1, slices through enormously diverse landscapes – lush farmland, stark volcanic formations, canyons, fjords, mountains studded with glaciers and powerful waterfalls – over and over again. Nowhere does the scenery change so quickly and dramatically as along this evocative route. Though the Ring Road itself is 830 miles around, most drivers find that the urge to venture off onto secondary roads for a few hours or a day is too rewarding to resist. 

    Photo courtesy of Christine Loomis

  • Skogafoss, a waterfall in southern Iceland

    Like Snowflakes...

    ...each waterfall is unique. Southeast of Reykjavik, Route 1 skirts Skogafoss, just one of countless waterfalls accessed from this road. Other must-sees: Gullfoss, Godafoss and the most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss. Leave time to walk the trails, including this one that creeps through the mist behind the falling water. 

    Photo courtesy of Christine Loomis

  • Gravel road near Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, Iceland

    At the End of a Gravel Road

    Most of the Ring Road is paved, but many Iceland roads are gravel – and worth exploring. You could be rewarded with up-close views of a glacier spilling from an ice cap or a sweet cafe in a quiet coastal town, or you may discover the less visited side of a waterfall. 

    Photo courtesy of Christine Loomis

  • Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, southeast Iceland

    Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

    As truly breathtaking in person as in any photo, Glacier Lagoon fills the senses to overload with its shocking blue ice and cloud-reflecting water. The backdrop is a wall of glacier and peaks in vast Vatnajokull National Park. Sign up for a zodiac tour, worth every penny.  

    Photo courtesy of Christine Loomis

  • Lightouse near Djupivogur, between Hofn and Egilsstadir

    Landscapes Like Paintings

    Set in the deeply creased coastline at the head of Berufjord, the fishing village of Djupivogur is known for its exquisite scenery. Here, a lighthouse across from town glows in the afternoon sun. This stretch of road between Hofn and Egilsstadir traverses an often narrow landscape between mountains and fjords.

    Photo courtesy of Christine Loomis

  • Viti crater, Myvatn, Iceland

    Crater Color

    The landscape surrounding Lake Myvatn is littered with craters. This one is a maar, the result of a powerful explosion that almost instantly creates a round hole, which later fills with water. Its surreal colors and stillness belie such violent origins. The crater is accessed by road and hiking trails.

    Photo courtesy of Christine Loomis

  • Hverir Steam Vents, Myvatn, Iceland

    The Beauty of Mud and Steam

    Geothermal activity is visible almost everywhere, but the northeast is one of the highest-temperature areas in all of Iceland. Here, just before Route 1 reaches the road circling Lake Myvatn, the Hverir boiling mud pots and steamy fumaroles create an ethereal, mystical landscape. 

    Photo courtesy of Christine Loomis

  • Dimmuborgir, Myvatn, Iceland

    Dark Castles

    East of Myvatn, imposing volcanic formations define the stark, compelling landscape of Dimmuborgir, meaning "dark castles." This is where Iceland’s 13 Christmas trolls, the Yule Lads, are said to reside and where "Game of Thrones" was filmed. For most visitors, miles of hiking trails and an excellent café are the draw. 

    Photo courtesy of Christine Loomis

  • Hrisey Island, northern Iceland

    Hresey Island

    Before following Route 1 west from Akureyri, detour north to Arskogssandi and the ferry to Hrisey Island. With its Alps-like village and hiking trails through forests, wetlands and atop coastal bluffs, Hrisey is a memorable day trip or even overnight. The tiny island is known for its healing energy field and stellar birdwatching.

    Photo courtesy of Christine Loomis

  • Laxnes Horse Farm, Mosfellsbær, Iceland

    Land of Horses

    Sturdy and friendly, Icelandic horses are part of the fabric of life here. They pose on hilltops and greet you if you walk by a pasture. Riding one through the countryside is a must. Laxnes Horse Farm, near the Ring Road northeast of Reykjavik, is one place to do so.

    Photo courtesy of Christine Loomis

  • Fall on the Ring Road, near Myvatn, Iceland

    Fall on the Ring Road

    September may be the best time of all to journey through Iceland's diverse landscapes. Leaves of tiny Arctic mosses turn vivid pinks and reds. Meadows are illuminated with gold. Birds are in flight. The highway isn’t crowded. Bring a warm jacket and revel in the scenic splendor. 

    Photo courtesy of Christine Loomis

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