Iceland: How much things cost & how to visit on a low budget

Iceland FarmhouseSince its currency crash in 2008, Iceland had gone from absurdly expensive to somewhat reasonable in cost, and that has prompted thousands of new tourists to stream in to see what all the fuss is about. It's hard to find a visitor to Iceland who didn't absolutely love the place, but you won't find anyone who tells you it's cheap, so planning ahead is essential. Prices have continued to creep up in 2015 and 2016, so it's again among the most expensive European destinations.

Many visitors arrive on an Iceland stopover going between North America and Europe, but with very cheap flights to and from Europe it's becoming popular for adventurous types from all over the continent. In 2013 I spent 9 days in the country, always checking for prices and the cheapest ways of doing things, so below I can lay out how to budget and what to do to keep costs down.

Note: This article was first written in late 2013, but all prices have been updated as of December 2016 to be current through 2017.

Reykjavik vs. the rest of Iceland: Where to go

Iceland GeysirMany people stop over in Iceland for as few as 6 or 8 hours between flights, and you can actually see a surprising amount in that short of time. The capital city is about an hour away by bus, but it's not nearly as interesting as the natural sights in the area, so only plan on staying in Reykjavik if you have multiple days and you are curious about cities in general.

If you have one night or a few nights you are better off taking a bus or renting a car directly from the airport and heading east along the southern coast for some of the country's best sights. If you have at least a week you'll want to rent a car and do a lap around Iceland's famous Ring Road, allowing you to see nearly everything the country has to offer in a neat and organized way.

Iceland accommodation: Hostels, guesthouses, and hotels

IcelandHousesOne of the truly unusual things about sleeping in Iceland is that real hotels (with lobby, front desk, parking lot, restaurant, 24-hour service and check-in) are quite rare and very expensive. In Reykjavik itself there are a couple dozen of these, but in smaller towns (and all the other Iceland towns are smaller) there might only one or two.

The most common form of accommodation in Iceland is a guesthouse and hostel combination which will have a mix of private rooms and dorm rooms, with shared bathrooms in down the hall. Most of them have fully equipped shared kitchens, so self-catering is at least as popular as eating out while exploring Iceland outside of Reykjavik.

High season (June through August) typical accommodation prices

All prices quoted in US dollars at a rate of about 110 Krona to US$1 in December, 2016.

  • Hostel dorm bed: US$34 to US$58
  • Single private with shared bathroom: US$85 to US$135
  • Double private with shared bathroom: US$118 to US$140
  • Double private with en-suite: US$130 to US$320 (and up)

Prices in Reykjavik are a bit higher than elsewhere in the country, but not by much. Prices in the off season are about 30% lower than in high season, but in the slowest months many places close so rates never go much lower than this.

Most Iceland guesthouses are NOT on the normal hotel-booking sites

IcelandGuesthouseAmong the tricky things about estimating costs for your Iceland trip is that outside of Reykjavik, there are very few proper hotels. In most of the rest of the country the bulk of the available rooms are in guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, and even informal room rentals. So if you research hotel prices in, say, Vik or Höfn (two of the larger tourist towns on the south coast), it might look like you only have a few hotel options, and they are insanely expensive.

The good news is that when you get to Iceland, the tourism office will give you a directory of almost every guesthouse on the island, and there are other ways of finding these guesthouses and other informal accommodations. Even as of late 2016 you should be able to book a double room (with shared bathroom) for about US$120 per night in most towns in Iceland. If you do a hotel search you might see prices that are double that, but those are in the few formal hotels with 24-hour lobbies and such.

Increasingly, Airbnb and other online rental sites are the best place to find guesthouse accommodation in Iceland. As of only a few years ago, most places would be booked by phone or in person on arrival day, but now more and more places can be pre-booked, at reasonable prices.

Sleeping bag accommodation in Iceland

Iceland Fjord townAmong the more unique things about guesthouses in Iceland is that most of them will give you a discount of about US$10 per day if you bring a sleeping bag instead of using their sheets and comforter. Since most guests stay only one night in most places, it adds a lot of labor to change and launder sheets for every bed every day, so this system encourages people to bring their own.

In a ‘sleeping bag accommodation' (as it's known in Iceland) you'll get a bed with a mattress and often a pillow. So with even a cheap indoor sleeping bag, you'll be comfortable and warm while saving quite a bit of money. For those renting cars, this is a highly recommended strategy.

You can rent sleeping bags in Reykjavik starting at around €12 per week.

Most Iceland attractions are free (the good news)

Iceland WaterfallThe best news about visiting Iceland is that most of the stuff you are coming to see and do is totally free. Exceptions are the Blue Lagoon and other spa pools as well as a few private museums and such, but otherwise it's like the island is a national park with everything included.

So to see all the glaciers and waterfalls and volcanic beds and other scenic attractions, it's all free of charge with no admission cost or even parking fees. The larger attractions also have visitor centers where you can get local advice for free as well.

Iceland transportation: Rental cars and buses

Even as a lifetime public transportation fan, I'm very glad I gave in and rented a car to tour Iceland, even as a solo traveler. For the most part the roads are in perfect condition and virtually empty even in high season, so driving couldn't be easier. Also, the country has stunning vistas every time you turn a corner, so being able to stop in the middle of the road even if there is no room to pullover, is critical.

The buses are modern but also expensive and running on very limited schedules. If you only have enough time to cover the main sights along the southern coast you might buy one of the bus passports that allows you to hop on and hop off, though a rental car is still much better and easier.

Rental cars in Iceland: What you need to know

Iceland Rental PetrolRenting a 2-wheel compact car in Iceland is enough to see most of the main sights in the country, except a few areas in the interior that require a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get there. All rental cars come with a Collision Damage Waiver in the price, so even if you smash it up with no insurance, you'll only have to pay a relatively small deductible.

For an extra fee you can pay to reduce that deductible to almost nothing, but the more popular add-on is the Gravel and Glass insurance. For around €10 per day with this coverage you have a zero deductible if the vehicle gets damaged by gravel or if any glass gets broken by flying rocks (or anything else). Unfortunately, many of Iceland's side roads and even a few of the main roads are covered in gravel, and if you drive at anything above a crawl, there will be some gravel flying around.

Personally, I normally decline add-ons like this but in this case I bought the Gravel coverage after reading a few horror stories in online reviews. I didn't get any damage that I'm aware of, but the peace of mind was worth a LOT when driving on isolated gravel roads so I wasn't petrified that I was chewing up the paint job just trying to stay safe on the roads.

Rental cars in Iceland

  • 2-wheel drive compact (manual): US$230 per week and up plus add-ons
  • 2-wheel drive compact (automatic): US$270 per week and up plus add-ons
  • 2-wheel drive mid-size: US$450 per week and up plus add-ons
  • 4-wheel drive van or SUV (automatic): US$650 per week and up plus add-ons

Daily rates are about 20% as much as weekly rates, so 5, 6, or 7 days cost the same.


Gravel coverage: US$10/day
GPS (highly recommended): US$10/day
Additional collision waiver: US$10/day

Fuel prices in Iceland

Every gas station in the country has the same prices, which don't seem to change much. As of December 2016, a liter of petrol is 194 Krona, which is about US$1.75 or €1.63, or about US$7.50 per gallon.

Bus pass prices in Iceland

For a quick day trip from the airport to some local sights you can spend as little as US$90 per person, but for the longer distance buses you'll spend at least US$130 to US$250 depending on length of time in order to hop on and hop off.

A Ring Road passport will cost around US$400 per person, so for two people it's no cheaper than renting a car, even after fuel is taken into account, and for 3 or 4 people it's definitely cheaper renting a car.

Food prices in Iceland

Here's the thing: sit-down restaurants in Iceland are very expensive by international standards, so there aren't very many of them. Obviously Reykjavik has many restaurant choices but most smaller towns might have only a few at most. The good news for budget travelers is that fast-food options are more plentiful, and self-catering is even cheaper and easier.

Restaurant prices in Iceland

Iceland CafeIf you go to a proper restaurant anywhere in the country, the cheapest thing on the menu will be at least US$12 to US$15. Sandwiches, burgers, and individual pizzas will usually cost between US$15 to US$22 each, and traditional meals like lamb or chicken plus potato and salad will be US$25 to US$40 at even the cheaper places.

A soft drink, coffee, tea, or even bottled water will generally be between US$3 and US$5 in a restaurant. A pint of beer will typically start at around US$7 at even the cheapest places, while wine and spirits cost even more.

Fast food prices in Iceland

In Reykjavik and larger towns (which might only have 2,000 residents) you'll have many fast food options including Subway, Quiznos, and usually a few local burger or hot dog places. Prices for a sandwich at Subway are about US$6 for a 6-inch and US$10 for a foot-long, so they aren't too much higher than elsewhere in Europe, and are sure cheaper than proper restaurants.

More good news for drivers is that many gas stations around the country have fast food restaurants built in, so it's fast and easy to pick up a sandwich or hot dog by the side of the road.

Hotel breakfast prices in Iceland

Many hotels and guesthouses in Iceland serve breakfast, but it's almost always at an extra fee, and many don't serve anything at all. If a breakfast is offered it will typically cost between US$12 and US$15 for a buffet of cereals, bread, cold cuts, cheeses, hard boiled eggs, juices, coffee and tea, and perhaps some pastries.

Making your own self-catering breakfast will be cheaper, but since you can stuff yourself for a flat fee at the breakfast buffets it might be worth it to save yourself the hassle of shopping the day before and making breakfast in the morning.

Self-catering in Iceland

The best budget tip for Iceland is to buy and prepare your own food, and you can literally do it for all three meals per day if you prefer. Since Iceland has almost no national “must-try” dishes, you can buy and prepare your own food without worry about missing anything meaningful.

Nearly every guesthouse in Iceland has a shared kitchen where at least half the guests will be storing and preparing breakfasts and even dinners. They have refrigerators, coffee makers, electric kettles, pots, pans, dishes, and silverware, as well as salt and other spices, so you can buy just the food and you'll be able to prepare it all.

Supermarket prices in Iceland

Bonus InteriorIn spite of the fact that most things in Iceland's supermarkets are imported from far away, common food prices are typical of what you'd find in most supermarkets in the US or Europe. However, certain things can be many times more expensive, so you have to be careful when shopping and doing currency conversions in order to save money.

For example, you can buy a 400 gram (1 pound) block of Havarti cheese for around US$5, but a similar looking cheese right next to it on the shelf might be US$15 for the same amount. The same is true for lunch meats. Sliced ham can be US$3 for enough to make 2 sandwiches, but sliced roast beef might be US$10 for the same amount.

Some sample prices in the cheaper Iceland supermarkets

  • Sliced white bread: US$1.70 per large loaf
  • Fresh baguette: US$1.50 to US$2 each
  • Hot dog buns: US$2.50 for 5
  • Pork hot dogs: US$3.50 for 5 large hot dogs
  • Cheap Havarti or other local cheese: US$5 for 400 grams (1 pound)
  • Imported cheese: US$10 to 15 for 400 grams (1 pound)
  • Sliced ham for sandwiches: US$5 for 400 grams (1 pound)
  • Sliced roast beef for sandwiches: US$12 for 400 grams (1 pound)
  • Pasta: US$1.50 for .5 kilogram (1.1 pounds)
  • Pasta sauce: US$3 for a .5 liter jar
  • Ground beef: US$5 for .25 kilos (half pound)
  • Bake-at-home pizza: US$5 to US$7 for one person
  • Bag of tortilla chips for 2 or 3 people: US$2
  • Jar of salsa for those chips: US$3
  • Breakfast cereal: US$3 to US$5 per box

The prices above are for many of the cheaper and more common things that budget tourists buy in Iceland. As mentioned above, if you want something exotic and imported, it might cost double or triple what you pay at home, if you can find it at all.

Alcohol prices in Iceland

Vin BudinIn restaurants and bars throughout the country you'll pay at least US$8 for a pint of beer, and at least US$10 for a glass of wine or a simple cocktail. If it's a fancy place you'll pay even more, of course.

Retail alcohol is a far better deal, even though the government keeps a monopoly on sales through the country. Most towns of any size at all will have a Vin Budin (state-run alcohol shop) with the exact same prices all over the country. They are all closed on Sundays and most smaller outlets are only open a few hours on most days, so planning ahead is essential if alcohol is a priority for you.

Here are some typical prices for alcohol:

  • 330ml can of local beer: US$2 to US$3
  • 500ml can of local beer: US$2.50 to US$4
  • Cheapest bottle of wine: US$10 to US$12
  • .7L bottle of off-brand vodka: US$30
  • .7L bottle of mid-level brand vodka: US$50

Bottom line on doing Iceland as cheaply as possible

Iceland Road ViewIceland is an amazing place to visit, and it's friendly and easy as well. If you try to book all of your accommodation in advance and you insist on en-suite bathrooms, you'll pay a fortune. It's best to get used to the idea of shared bathrooms and then try to book private rooms that will fit your exact group for the best value.

Whether you are going to get dorm beds or private rooms, as long as you will have your own wheels it's worth renting a sleeping bag. You get the same bed and same services for about US$10 less per night, which will pay for a week's rental of an indoor sleeping bag.

Unless you are a terrible driver or afraid to drive, it's highly recommended to rent a car instead of trying to get around using buses. Once you get there you'll see that having 100% flexibility with a car compared to almost no flexibility with a bus, is worth a LOT.

Instead of trying to be cheap with transportation, be cheap with self catering food and drinks for yourself. If you have at least a small group of people you'll be able to have a party each evening in or near the shared kitchen of your guesthouse, and it will be more lively than any restaurant in town.

289 Responses to “Iceland: How much things cost & how to visit on a low budget”

Izabela says:

I am going to Iceland in three weeks and I find your tips very helpful. Thank you 🙂

    Stacey Burdak says:

    Hi Izabela!

    I hope you really enjoyed your travel around Iceland.
    In early April myself, and two other women will also be travelling there together for about a week.

    If you have any reccomendations or special highlights from your trip about accomodation, must see places, etc that you’d like to share with me, I’d love to hear about it!! 🙂

    Kind regards,


karen says:

Thank you so much for this informative article! We are travelling in September, so I was glad to see this is when prices might be a bit lower!

Tessa says:

How much money for a week would be minimum and realistic

    Roger Wade says:


    That’s a very difficult question to answer without knowing more. For one thing, you’d never want to just stay in Reykjavik for a whole week, so you have to figure in transportation. Renting a car is expensive, but for 2 to 4 people, it’s probably worth it and also a better option than buses.

    I’d say that WITHOUT transportation costs, you could get by on as little as US$70 per day if you sleep in hostel dorms, make some of your own meals or eat from fast food joints, and don’t drink alcohol. All the hostels and many hotels have community kitchens, and cooking for yourself is very popular in Iceland because there are so few affordable restaurants (and the local food doesn’t have a great reputation).

    The best part is that pretty much all the sightseeing is totally free once you have transportation. All the waterfalls and hiking trails and hot springs and such are free to enter, not including the Blue Lagoon itself. If you have more specific questions I’ll try to answer them if I can. -Roger

Kura says:

Hi. First of all I must say this is the most useful website on Iceland I’ve come across! But I have a question. I’m booking my rental through Avis. And they’re offering CDW as an option. Are they just trying to make more money off of me? Cos a 10 day rental is already over 1k! Thanks!

    Roger Wade says:


    Thank you for the kind words and I’m glad this information is helpful.

    As for the Iceland car rental, my understanding is that a general Collision Damage Waiver is mandatory for all rentals in Iceland, but that one has a deductible of €1,500 (I believe). When I rented from Sixt Car Rental (and had a great experience with them) they offered me a zero deductible add-on for around €9 extra per day. Yours is probably the same.

    Personally, I did NOT get the extra zero-deductible coverage, and I’m glad I did. The chance of a major accident or theft are extremely low on such empty roads. But I did get the extra gravel-damage waiver for about the same amount, and even though I normally avoid those, I’m glad I got it that time even though I didn’t need it in the end. If you are going around the Ring Road in Iceland, many of the most interesting sights are only accessible by gravel road, and at one point I drove about 40 kilometers on one to avoid having to backtrack 200 kilometers to reach the paved road again. When you are driving on those gravel roads, the little rocks are flying around under the front of the car, and for me it was a nice feeling to know that I didn’t have to worry about potential damage. -Roger

Kura says:

Thanks again Roger. I emailed Avis and they responded that all the coverages (from them) are optional/extra. When I did my rental search, only Thrifty included CDW and Theft coverage.

Alex says:

Hi Rodger,

I am going to be going to Iceland in May. I was considering renting a car and doing one of those self-drive 8 day Ring Road prepackaged deals. I am a very good driver, but I have had second thoughts because I would be traveling alone. I have looked into a guided group trip that is 8 days in a tour bus that travels the Ring Road. A number of meals are included, breakfast and most dinners. It is slightly cheaper than if I purchased the self-drive package. Wondering your opinions on traveling to Iceland alone. I am a fairly seasoned traveler, but have never been to Iceland. Cost is an issue for sure but also the unknowns of traveling alone in a country you know nothing about.


    Roger Wade says:


    I’m actually not aware of the pre-packaged self-drive Ring Road deals, but I did research the bus options before my own trip to Iceland. As I might have said in the article, I decided to rent a car and do it all on my own, and I’m VERY glad I did. Most aspects of it were quite easy, and the extra freedom of being able to go at my own pace was amazing.

    One important detail that I only learned once there is that the area around Reykjavik is a little bit crowded, and the roads between Reykjavik and Hofn in the southeast corner have quite a few vehicles going back and forth, but the rest of the island (and Ring Road) is almost empty. I was there toward the end of the season, but it was still in season, and I sometimes went 30 minutes without seeing another car in either direction as I’d drive. That was one of the most amazing parts of it, to go along with the jaw-dropping scenery. Literally dozens of times I would be driving and would round a corner and see some waterfalls or peaks or some other postcard view, and I’d just stop my car in the middle of the road to take a few photos. On a bus you’d obviously be traveling with a couple dozen people, and only stopping at the main landmarks and predetermined vista points.

    One downside of driving a car on my own is that there are very few road signs in Iceland, and they are all in Icelandic, which feels quite unfamiliar to most of us. On the other hand, getting around the Ring Road is usually a matter of “Turn left and then go 80 kilometers to the next tiny town, or pull over after 49 kilometers to see a scenic waterfall just at the side of the road.” In other words, it’s hard to get lost, even without many signs. I got the GPS option in my rental car (for free because my car was late for pickup) and I’m very glad I did because it made everything very easy. I was going to use my iPhone as a GPS, and that would have done a decent job, especially if I had some sort of dash mount for it.

    And the Ring Road itself is in perfect condition around most of the island, although there are still a few spots where it becomes a gravel road, and a few main sites that are only accessible by gravel roads. I never felt any danger, and even if my car had broken down or blown a tire, there would be someone by to help within an hour or so, even on most side roads (as long as you travel during normal hours).

    As far as costs are concerned, I don’t know what the package deal includes, but I have a feeling you could spend less on food and drinks on your own. All over Iceland, a sit-down meal is going to cost US$12 to US$20 for even something basic, and twice that much for a traditional evening meal (as opposed to a sandwich or pasta etc). But, you can get sandwiches and pizza and other casual items at fast food places, which are often inside petrol stations (every 30km or so). I did that for lunch most of the time, and for most breakfasts and many dinners I’d buy groceries and prepare something at the common kitchen that almost every guest house or hotel has. The Icelandic food doesn’t win many prizes, so it’s not a country where you’ll drool as each next meal draws near.

    So I definitely recommend going on your own as opposed to a bus, and it should be quite easy and stress-free. Everyone you meet speaks fluent English, and pretty much all tourists to Iceland speak English, so it’s easy. If the package including a car and hotels and meals seems like a good deal, it might be a good choice. But if it seems pricey for what you get, you can probably do better on your own, especially in May since it’s early in the season. By the way, all the sights (except the Blue Lagoon) are totally free, and there is free parking everywhere as well.

    In case you can’t tell, I loved my Iceland trip and can’t wait to go back. Feel free to ask anything else and I’ll be happy to chime right back in. -Roger

Brian says:

Hi Rodger,

I am considering visiting Iceland in May of Next year and am hoping to spend 3-4 weeks there. I plan to spend as much time hiking and camping as possible, but I know there will be inevitable hostel stays (especially over a 3-4 week period). I am a solo traveler, so splitting costs with friends is not going to work for me.

My first question to you would be this: Do you think 3-4 weeks is too much time for a budget traveler like myself, or should I look to shorten my stay to 2 weeks? I have a post airfare budget of about $2,000 USD. I’m thinking if I only rent a car for a week to 10 days and spend the rest of my time staying in or near Reykjavík or taking buses to a hiking trail terminus or town, that could save me a bit of money.

My second question would be about the sleeping bag stays. Are those offered just about anywhere in Iceland or just in the major towns? I would like to spend as much time as I can enjoying the countryside which I assume would take me to more remote villages than towns. Also, is this a well advertised option, or will I need to know where to look for those sort of accommodations?

Thank you for all of your very helpful information on this page. It’s made me realize that visiting Iceland may not be as financially difficult as I thought it may be.

Thanks again,

    Roger Wade says:


    Iceland is one of my favorite places anywhere, and I’m happy to try to help other people visit with more information on what things really cost there, partly because so much of it was a mystery until I got there myself.

    First off, 3 or 4 weeks actually does sound like a long visit, but if you are going to be hiking and camping most of the time, I really doubt you’d get bored. The scenery is amazing and so varied from one area to the next that there’s always something wonderful around the next corner.

    Based on what you have in mind for a stay of that length, I honestly think you might consider hitchhiking around the Ring Road. From what I read, it’s extremely safe and normal there. Having read that, I was actually ready to pick up any hitchhikers I saw in my own rental car, but I didn’t see one until I was close to Reykjavik again at the end, and not going where they wanted. I went in late August, which is the end of the travel season, and your plan to go in May is the beginning, so it would be similar. Except for the Reykjavik area, the whole rest of the island feels like a huge national park, and there are so few roads that pretty much everyone is going your way, or the opposite direction. Read up on it and if it’s something you are comfortable doing, there’s probably no better place in the world for it.

    Also, if/when I go back to Iceland for a longer trip like you have in mind, I’ll want to spend even more time going around the Ring Road. The city of Reykjavik itself is nothing special and you can see the main sights in one day or so. The famous attractions close to Reykjavik (except for the Blue Lagoon) are among the more disappointing compared to those around the rest of the island. You could spend 3 weeks going around the Ring Road (hitchhiking or on buses) and it would still feel like it was going by pretty fast. The best thing about renting a car is that you can obviously go at your own pace, and do the whole ring in a week or less. But there were a few days where I was driving for maybe 8 hours, and even skipping some waterfalls or other sights just to stay on schedule.

    The “sleeping bag accommodation” is popular all over Iceland, although not necessarily in every town. In other words, if you wanted to try to find a cheap room like that every night, you could probably do it, but you might have to choose one town over another to achieve it. Finding guesthouses in Iceland can be a challenge in general. When you get there you’ll get a free catalog that lists pretty much every hotel and guesthouse in the country, but you still have to call or email them to get the rates and details. I booked a few places online (through and a few other places I just drove there late in the afternoon to see what was available. Again, it was after the peak season, so I was never too worried about having to sleep in my car.

    In the end, I think I found sleeping bag accommodation for 2 or 3 nights, and regular hotels for the other 4 or 5 nights on the Ring Road. They are often the same places, it’s just that some guesthouses will charge less if they don’t have to change the sheets and all that. If you are on more of a relaxed schedule, I’d think that you could call a few places in the town you are headed to, and find something fairly cheap, and it will often be a sleeping bag place.

    Lastly (for now), it’s quite easy to eat on a very low budget if you buy supplies at the little supermarkets all over the island, and prepare your meals in the community kitchen that pretty much every guesthouse and hotel has. And of course all the sights are free, so once you figure out sleeping and transport, Iceland can be a cheap place to visit.

    Feel free to ask any other questions. They make me want to visit Iceland again sooner. -Roger

Ky says:

Hi there – One thing that was not mentioned is that Tax and Tip are included when dining out. Once i calculated what i would have added for those things, I found many casual restaurants were quite the same as here in Canada at least. My family and I had fish and chips one night and it ended up being that same as what we would have spent at home.

    Roger Wade says:


    That’s an interesting point. Tax is included in the quoted price almost everywhere in the world except the US and Canada, and tipping is usually smaller as well. So the prices I list are basically the final price in a place like Iceland, which makes them a bit more affordable than they might seem to some of us. -Roger

LT says:

Hi Roger!

Thanks for posting such useful information about Iceland!!

I am visiting in May for 6 days, and would like to try to do the ring road, or at least part of it… I have been trying to decide if I want to rent a car or just hitch-hike. It sounds like you think it’s pretty safe?

Also, do you know if it’s common for hostels to allow you to do a bag check? I wouldn’t want to take much of value with me while hitching…

Thanks so much!!


    Roger Wade says:


    As I mentioned just above this, I was planning a solo trip to Iceland and I was trying to decide between renting a car on my own, and taking the public buses. I’m extremely glad I chose to rent a car as it became obvious that it allowed so much more freedom to explore where and when I wanted.

    My sense is that hitchhiking in Iceland is about as safe as it is anywhere in the world. It’s a very safe and quite wealthy country with a small population. Even the tourists are fairly well off because it’s not cheap to get there from anywhere else, nor is it cheap to stay there. And as far as I could tell, everyone speaks English, from the locals to the other tourists.

    My one concern about hitchhiking in May would be that it’s before the main tourist season and you might have to wait for some rides. I visited in late August, which is also after the main season, and there were very few cars going anywhere except for along the southern coast. With 6 days you might only have time to explore the southern coast so it could work out okay. In other words, if you wanted a ride from the northwest corner to the northeast corner one day, it might take a few hours before someone who is going that whole way and has room for you would come by. Or if you stayed at a larger hostel or guesthouse, you might be able to ask enough people there to find another guest going that exact direction, so it could be easy. One nice thing about Iceland, and especially the Ring Road, is that there are very few options, so most of the traffic is going to the same place, or just coming from that place.

    So bottom line, I think it’s safe, and it should be easy, but not necessarily for every ride at the exact moment you are ready to go.

    And as for stowing your bag at a hostel, that shouldn’t be a problem at all. As long as you book yourself into a place that gets decent reviews and is oriented towards budget travelers (and these are common), then probably many guests do that every day. The hostels and guesthouses in Iceland tend to be pretty big, at least compared to hostels in cities like London or Paris, so they should all be able to have a secure room for left luggage for paying guests. Have fun. -Roger

Stimey4444 says:

Thank you for this information – very helpful!
We are going to Iceland soon – will be driving a rental car for a day in Keflavik & Reyjavik; then driving an RV (giving flexibility) for a week around the Ring Road. The food prices you listed are similar to where we live (Hawaii)….mahalo!

Mackenzie says:

Hi there, im just wondering approximately how much it would be for a round trip ticket to Iceland for seven days coach. By the way, this was really informative and Im so glad i found this information.

    Roger Wade says:


    I’m happy to hear that the article was helpful, and I highly recommend an Iceland visit if you can do it. In order to help you figure out the airfare, I’d have to at least know where you are starting from, and the departure date could make a difference as well. -Roger

Donna says:

My husband and I are taking a 2-day stop in Iceland in June in route to Copenhagen. We were thinking of taking a bus tour of the Golden Circle. In your opinion would we be better off to rent a car for this, or was your case for a car being built around the Ring Road drive? We are weighing the advantages of being able to stop as much as we like against the value of what we would hear from the tour leader on the bus tour. Your article has been helpful to us. Thank You.

    Roger Wade says:


    My car-rental recommendation was really more for the whole Ring Road. But still, for a couple with 2 days, I would also recommend a rental car as long as it doesn’t feel too expensive. I actually did the 3 main things included on the “Golden Circle” on my final day with my rental car, and they honestly weren’t nearly as impressive as most of the things I’d seen elsewhere in Iceland. I believe the primary appeal of the Golden Circle is that it can be done in about 8 hours from the airport and back. So it’s an excellent introduction to Iceland on a half-day layover, but a bit disappointing compared to a proper visit of 2 days where you can drive to the things that sound the most interesting.

    In my opinion, the Þingvellir national park isn’t really much to see, and the Gullfoss waterfalls are maybe the 10th most impressive of the 20 or so falls that I saw on the Ring Road. Even the valley of Haukadalur, which contains the geysers Geysir and Strokkur, isn’t nearly as scenic as many of the volcanic areas elsewhere along the southern coast.

    If you rented a car, you’d be able to drive all the way to the town of Vik (along the southern coast) in a few hours, and then you could spend your two days stopping at all the various falls and national parks and volcanic fields and such along the way back to the airport. It’s very easy and low stress because there is basically one well-maintained road, and very little traffic on it. By the way, with only 2 days, I’d skip Reykjavik altogether unless there is something specific you want to see. It’s pleasant enough, but not nearly as interesting as you might think for such a remote capital.

    Best of luck, and feel free to ask any other questions if you have them. I enjoyed Iceland so much that I love answering questions about it and also thinking about my own next visit there. -Roger

Farah says:

Roger, thanks for the helpful advice! I’m traveling to Iceland with a friend in late August for a week. What kind of weather should we expect? Which items of clothing are essential? It sounds like we should pack light.

    Roger Wade says:


    As I may have written, I also went in late August, and it was quite mild/chilly every day. The average high around then is about 52F/11C, with average lows of about 44F/7C, and that’s about how it felt for me. The climate seemed about the same all the way around the island, though that’s not always the case. The point is, you’ll want a jacket even during the day, and you might also bring a sweater for another layer. If you rent a car, packing light isn’t much of an issue, but if you are camping and hiking a lot it could be. Bon voyage. -Roger

Eli says:

Thank you for all info!
I want to asked. I know that icelandish people have special internet page. They can write that one persone go to from Reikjavyk (exampe) and can take more people. Maybe you know this page name?

    Roger Wade says:


    I’m glad this article was helpful, but unfortunately I don’t know anything about the website you are looking for. Here’s one that does seem to facilitate car pooling: Good luck. -Roger

Jane says:

Am so thankful to come across this site! We are going at the end of March for a few days with a package tour. Added a day and are renting a car for 2-3 days. Since our hotel in Rek is already paid for, I am trying to figure out if a trip to Vik & back in one day is feasible.

If not, may leave hotel room empty for one night and stay somewhere near Vik so we can take more time driving back and forth. My son is a photographer and if this trip is like others, we will be stopping A LOT.

Based on your experience, would you advise to stay over near Vik and drive back to Rek the next day?


    Roger Wade says:


    I’m always happy to hear that this information is helpful to some. I’m assuming that by “Rek” you are referring to Reykjavik. Those cities are only 180 km (110 miles) apart and the road between them is in good shape, but it’s also the busiest section of the Ring Road, so if you get unlucky there could be a few slow-downs. But still, it should take less than 3 hours in each direction if you didn’t stop many times.

    So yes, you could go to Vik and back in one day, especially if you get an early start. But you’ll be tempted to pull off to the side of the road every 10 or 15 kilometers to take photos, so that could slow you down. It’s also worth noting that the scenery gets less dramatic the closer you get to Reykjavik, so you’d probably be stopping far more often in the area closer to Vik. Hopefully this helps you make a decision. I think you’d really enjoy that part of your trip, whether you stayed in Vik or just did a long day trip. -Roger

Jocelyn says:

Hi Roger,
I’m going to iceland on nov with my sister and cousin. How’s the weather in November? Would you recommend going on a tour to do the golden circle and northern lights? We are renting a car but I’m not sure what to do or what the golden circle comprises.

Thank you,

    Roger Wade says:


    Iceland in November is typically a bit over freezing during the day, and a bit under freezing at night, but people seem to agree that it doesn’t feel all that harsh and big storms are rare. The days are also quite short that time of year, as Iceland is just below the Arctic Circle.

    As mentioned in the article, I rented a car and drove around the Ring Road in 7 days. During my final day I visited the 3 main components of the “Golden Circle Tour”, which are the original Geyser, a large waterfall, and a national park where you can kind of see the Continental Divide. I was surprised at how underwhelmed I was at those things, although the geyser field is quite interesting. The waterfall wouldn’t be in the Top 10 waterfalls I saw while on the Ring Road, and the national park didn’t really feel special at all, at least compared to the unbelievable scenery everywhere else.

    So my impression of the Golden Circle tour is that those are the best sights that you can reach on a short trip from the airport and back again on the same day. In other words, it’s not that they are so great, it’s just that they are conveniently close enough to the airport. The Blue Lagoon (very close to the airport) is also very interesting, even if you don’t pay to go in and swim.

    With your own rental car, you can do better sightseeing than the Golden Circle, and those attractions are also by far the most crowded so it will be nice to get away from the masses. If the Geyser interests you, it’s worth a visit and it’s free. Otherwise, I think you could see more interesting things on your way to Vik and back on your own. There are lava fields and stunning waterfalls all over the place, and it’s all free to visit if you have your own vehicle. It depends on how long you’ll have the car for, but I’d recommend researching other sights along the southern coast going east from the airport area. Let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

Danny says:

Hi Roger,

heading to Reykjavic for Champions League qualifier and want to know how long the bars are open, if they have happy hours and what is the price of a pint.


    Roger Wade says:


    I didn’t stay out late, but it appears that bars in Reykjavik typically stay open until 01:00 on Sundays through Wednesday nights, and until 03:00 on Friday through Saturday nights. It’s a very party-oriented city center so I’d imagine that they’ll stay open even later if an event is still going on.

    The pint prices were starting at around 900 krona (US$8) at just about every place I looked at, and the real trendy places might charge even more. One place I really liked was a sports bar on the main shopping street (you’ll find it if you look), which had pints at 1000 krona (US$9) but they were 2-for-1 on happy hour, which was 18:00 to 20:00 or maybe an hour later. There were other happy hours in that early evening, but they were just a discount of 100 or 200 krona instead of the 2-for-1 at the sports bar. Those prices are all pretty high for the Icelandic people as well, so it’s common to buy retail and get started at home (or in a hotel). You have to plan early for that because they only sell alcohol at the state-run stores, which have pretty short hours. Good luck with it. -Roger

Ritchie says:

We are thinking of coming to see the Northern Lights in Feb next year, is that a good time of year?

    Roger Wade says:


    I’m no expert on the Northern Lights, except that I know people go to Iceland during the colder months to see them. I think January and February are two of the better months so you should be good. -Roger

Linda says:

Hi Roger, some really helpful information. Thanks, am benefitting from it. We are going to be in Iceland from 4 – 11 August. The only thing I have booked is the flights. At present, thanks to your help, we are going to hire a car and take sleeping bags. Do we need to book accommodation in advance, bearing in mind we don’t know where we will get to each day? Should we also book a car in advance?

Thanks again for all your sound advice, Linda

    Roger Wade says:


    Always happy to hear this stuff helps. As you may have read (although I’m not sure how specific I was in the article), my trip was the last week in August, which is the tail end of the tourist season. Going early in August, there will be more tourists there, but still I think most of it will be quite easy.

    Accommodation in Iceland can feel quite mysterious until you get there, so I was a bit stressed out by it as well. You can find hotels and some guesthouses online, although they tend to be the most expensive options in each town. So you can kind of use those as a back-up plan if all else fails. Otherwise, you’ll want to get your free copy of the sort of catalog that lists most of the smaller guesthouses and inns in each town. I picked up a copy at the tourist information office in the heart of Reykjavik, but I think you can get it other places as well.

    Once you have that thing, you’ll have many choices for sleeping in each town, and you can narrow your decision as you figure out where you want to end up that night. That will include many of the sleeping bag accommodation places. There’s also Airbnb. If you buy a Iceland SIM card when you arrive, you’ll have phone and data service pretty much everywhere around the Ring Road. So once you pick a target for the night, you can make a few calls or send a few emails to lock in a place. When I was there, I don’t think I came across a place that was sold out for the night, but earlier in the month it probably happens.

    In other words, it’s actually pretty easy to find accommodation each day as you go, and you’ll also probably be amazed at just how empty Iceland is once you get away from the capital.

    As for the rental cars, I doubt they could be sold out, but I think you can probably get a better rate if you book earlier. I used Sixt and was quite happy with everything. Have a great trip, and let me know if you have more questions. -Roger

      Linda Burnard says:

      That’s really interesting. If we set out from the airport in a south eastern direction is it possible to pick up a sleeping bag and catalog of guest houses at the first town we come to? It sounds a good idea to avoid the capital and am thinking of stopping there once we have gone the other way around the ring road. What are your thoughts about that? Thanks once again, Linda.

        Roger Wade says:


        When I researched renting a sleeping bag, the place I ended up using was in central Reykjavik, although I do believe there were others that are elsewhere in the area. If you can find one of those other places, then I think your plan sounds good. As I probably mentioned above, Reykjavik isn’t nearly as interesting as the scenery is beautiful, but it’s probably worth spending a day there if you are in Iceland for a week or more.

        I also think you might be able to get that guesthouse catalog at the airport or from your car rental company. My rental company (Sixt) gave me something similar to that, even though I already had the one from the tourism board. That thing might also be available online. I’m sure you could find a copy somewhere without much difficulty. Good luck. -Roger

Stewart says:

Excellent information. Which is the best direction to drive the ring road? I would prefer the sights to improve as as I go along.If I were to choose 3 stops along the way (Reykjavic, Hofn, Akureyri) spending 4 days at each destination, would this be too much driving on the moving dayd?

    Roger Wade says:


    As always, I’m happy to hear that this information has been helpful. As for which direction to do the Ring Road in, I went counter-clockwise and was very happy with it, but it’s hard to say if the sights are better in one direction or the other.

    Here are a couple of notes that might help: The highway between Reykjavik and Vik (along the southern coast) is by far the most crowded stretch of highway in the country. And personally, I thought the 3 main attractions of the “Golden Circle” near Reykjavik were a bit disappointing in addition to being crowded, but the sights closer to Vik were some of the best in the country. So if you go the way I did, it would mean spending your last two days or so in the most crowded area, and your last day driving behind tour buses full of people on a 8-hour stopover just seeing a few nearby things. On the other hand, nothing in Iceland is really crowded in the normal sense of the word, it’s more that you’d see 10 cars per minute driving near the capital, and maybe 1 car per minute (or less) driving in the northern part of the island.

    And if you are considering driving from Reykjavik to Akureyri in one shot and then spending 4 days there, then driving to Hofn in one go and spending 4 days there before driving all the way back to Reykjavik, I don’t think it would be a wise use of time and distance on the Ring Road. For one thing, I’d guess those driving days would be at least 10 hours each, and that’s if you don’t stop along the way, which is kind of the whole point.

    My own plan was to divide the island up into 7 driving days for my one-week car rental, and I’m very glad I did it that way. There are waterfalls and hot springs and volcano fields and gorgeous bits of scenery in every part of the island, so I tried to cover 3 to 5 hours of actual driving each day, with plenty of time to stop at the sights along the way. In most of the island, there are so few other cars that I often literally stopped my car in the middle of the road for a minute or two while I took some photos out the window. In some places I could have stopped for 20 minutes and not seen another car, which was honestly one of the most wonderful experiences of the whole thing. And I’m talking about the main highway, not some side road. A few of the better sights (waterfalls, national parks) are maybe 30 minutes driving off the Ring Road, so you have to factor in a bit of extra time on those days.

    If you prefer to base yourself in one place for longer than just one night, those cities are your list are probably the best choices, but still I’d try to ration out the driving more so you don’t have to race on your longer days. There are little towns with a few guesthouses every hour or so as you drive around, so you don’t have to go too far on any given day. I hope this helps, and feel free to follow up if I might help more. As you can tell, Iceland has been one of my favorite destinations ever so I’m excited just chatting about it like this. -Roger

Stewart says:

Thanks, Roger. I very much appreciate your time and assistance in helping me and others have the “perfect” vacation.
My wife and I are nearing 60 years old and we prefer not to sleep in a different place every night, so that is why I was thinking of staying for a few days in each location. I will attempt to shorten each stay and add in a few more stops along the way which may be at the expense of missing a few of the sights.

    Roger Wade says:


    I understand what you mean about not wanting to change hotels every day. In Iceland, it seems that most people only spend one night in most of these guesthouses, and it’s easier than it is in most other places. There is literally no traffic to worry about once you get outside the Reykjavik area, so you can check out of your room and be back on the highway only a few minutes later. I do think if you make at least one or two more stops that it will be easier to enjoy the scenery, though I’m sure you’ll have an incredible time no matter how you do it. Have a great trip. -Roger

Sally Wilford says:

I’m considering a holiday to Iceland and found your review really helpful, thank you for sharing this information.

Prateek says:

i am planning an holiday of 1 week in Iceland and your reviews are very help full. i just wanted to know that approxmately how much it cost to spend 1 week with shared kitchen and private room ??
if possible then please give me your answer in terms of US$

    Roger Wade says:


    Always happy to hear that this information is helpful. This is a tough question to answer but I’ll try anyway. I went by myself and I was looking for affordable guesthouses, and I averaged about US$60 to US$80 per night for a room. These were all fairly basic, and a couple of them were “sleeping bag accommodation” so they didn’t come with fresh sheets, and I was fine with those because I rented a sleeping bag in Reykjavik.

    In most cases I was given a room with 2 small beds or one large bed, and I believe two people would only pay a bit more for the same room. In one place I rented a small cabin with its own kitchen, but all the rest had communal kitchens. Those shared kitchens are pretty much standard at guesthouses, and they were always somewhat busy because actual restaurants in Iceland are not common and they are very expensive. Most places also had a shared living area and a dining room, so it was all very friendly and social for anyone who cared to partake.

    In one case I decided to splurge on a proper chain hotel room, which cost me about US$120 per night including a breakfast buffet. As I mention in the article, pretty much all of the attractions and sights are actually free, so you really only need to sort out accommodation, food, and transport. Hopefully this helps, and let me know if you had something else in mind with this question. -Roger

stav says:

Thanks for sharing very useful and practical information.
I have a few questions I hope you don’t mind answering.
During which month did you travel and what was the weather like (temperature and rain) ?
Is camping a reasonable option, or does it rain so much that it makes camping uncomfortable ?
Which car rental companies do you recommend ? Most of the car rental companies I found online have very very high prices, much higher than the prices you mentioned, so I would appreciate some recommendations on some reasonably priced car rental companies ones which are also reliable.
Which chain hotels was it that offers rooms for $120 ?
Regarding the sleeping bag accomodation, is it mentioned on the accomodation listing, or does one have to request it specially ?

    Roger Wade says:


    I’m glad the main article helped, and I’ll try to answer your questions below.

    I went the last week of August in 2013 and the weather was cool but not really cold. The highs were about 62F/17C and the lows were around 46F/8C. I had very little rain during that week, which appears to be normal for that time of year. There was one rain storm while I was still in Reykjavik, which was also very windy, but it only lasted an hour or two.

    Camping was something I didn’t research much, but I do know that it’s very popular in the summer, and even fairly popular during the cold months for the Northern Lights. In spite of its northern latitude, Iceland doesn’t have particularly cold winters, and it only gets a bit below freezing at sea level.

    I rented from Sixt (a very large agency based in Germany) and was happy with them. They were only a bit more expensive than the smaller local agencies, so I thought it was worth going with a big company that has a worldwide reputation to consider. It’s true that most other agencies showed higher prices for that week, so I was a bit worried that I’d discover that “you get what you pay for.” But my experience was actually great. I upgraded to an automatic instead of a manual transmission, and when that car was an hour late getting back to the office, they gave me a free GPS system for the week for the trouble, which was invaluable. I paid for the gravel insurance, which I was also happy with because it gave me tremendous peace of mind on the trip, even though there turned out to be no damage needed to be covered. I took mostly main routes, but still there was one 20-kilometer stretch that was unpaved and covered in gravel. It felt like the front of the car was being pummeled by small rocks as I drove that section, and I probably would have turned around and drove WAY out of my way without the gravel coverage. When I returned the car to the airport location, I was a bit worried that they’d find some other small damage that I hadn’t noticed, but the guy barely looked at the car before driving me to the terminal in the thing. Overall it was great.

    The chain hotel I stayed in for about US$120 for a single room was a Hotel Edda in Vik. I’m pretty sure it was a last-minute deal because they must have had quite a few empty rooms. I booked it that same morning and it was quite nice.

    The sleeping bag accommodation is available at many guesthouses (not hotels though), and I don’t know if it’s always listed. When you get to Iceland you’ll be able to get a large booklet that lists nearly every guesthouse and hotel in the country. It’s very helpful for the great many people who only want to book a hotel on the same day, and I seem to remember that it showed sleeping bag options for many places. Those guesthouses tend to be small and best booked by phone or email, and when you call or write you can ask about sleeping bag options.

    I hope this helps and best of luck. -Roger

Stav says:

Wow, thanks so much for taking the time to write such detailed answers.
I very much appreciate it.

Dave Bateman says:

Great blog Roger, very informative and interesting to find out about the prices as I have been told, by people who have never been,that a beer is about £20. I am going with my son (as a 21st birthday present) for 3 days in November and am booked into a hotel with breakfast. Have booked a Northern lights trip and a half day trip to Gullfoss,Geysir & Thingvellir. As we dont drive this seemed like the best way to sample Iceland in a short time. Once again thanks for the read.

    Roger Wade says:


    Thanks for taking the time to write, as this is exactly why I thought it would be worthwhile to collect and share this information. Some places have a reputation as being insanely expensive, and they don’t always deserve it. In fact, I’m headed to Norway in a few weeks to do the same thing there. Cheers. -Roger

    Darren says:


    Was this Via Wowcher? I am going in November too. Very much looking forward to it.

Michelle says:

Hi Roger,
I will be going to Iceland in November for 5nights, I will be going with my niece, we don’t drive and are hoping to stay in Reykjavik, (Self-catering) apartment what would be the best way of seeing what Iceland has to offer on a medium budget. Will we miss out if we just stay in Reykjavik, how easy it to get around and see sights without a vehicle.

    Roger Wade says:


    I travel all over the world and only in New Zealand and Iceland have I decided to rent a car. In the case of Iceland, I really do think it’s the best way to see a lot in a short amount of time, but if you can’t do it, there are buses and even hitchhiking.

    There are several companies that have bus deals where you can keep going in one direction in a little loop for a reasonable price. That is probably your best bet. They stop at the main scenic attractions (waterfalls, national parks etc.), but I don’t think you can stay for long without having to wait for the bus the next day. After reading a lot about the buses myself, I decided to splurge a bit on the rental car, and after doing it I’m extremely happy I did.

    Honestly, Reykjavik itself is only entertaining for a day or maybe two. The “historic” city center is basically one small street lined with shops and restaurants, and the only real sight is the cathedral tower, which takes 10 minutes to enjoy.

    At the very least you’ll want to take a tour of the Golden Circle attractions that are all near Reykjavik. You’ll be better off if you could take a bus along the southern coast to the town of Vik and back, seeing all the excellent sights along the way. Also, Reykjavik is the most expensive city (by at least a little) so if you traveled elsewhere it would be cheaper. Best of luck with whatever you decide, and feel free to follow up with other questions if you have them. -Roger

Laura says:

Thank you for providing this information. A friend and I are doing the 5 night thing in Iceland and are staying in Reykjavik. I know we are getting a car for one day, but it might be better to do a 2 day rental. We are looking forward to hot pools and Northern Lights.

One question that has come up in our planning is the price of coffee. My friend drinks a lot of coffee and is concerned about what she will be spending.

I’m very excited for this trip and to see what we can see in a short period of time.

    Roger Wade says:


    Yes, I think a 2-day car rental would be much better than one day. As I’ve mentioned before, the main sights near Reykjavik are quite mediocre compared to the sights a bit farther away, and the crowds near the capital are much larger as well. If you can take a day to drive to Vik, and another day driving back, seeing various sights along the way on both days, I think you’ll be glad you did.

    As for coffee prices I don’t remember exactly, which means that it was pretty typical and not outrageous. Coffee should be free with breakfast at your hotel. After that, your best bet will be to pop into fast-food restaurants in Reykjavik or into the snack bars connected to all the petrol stations while driving around. I think you’ll pay maybe US$2 to US$3 for a large take-away cup of coffee. Have a great trip. -Roger

Ben Anderson says:

Great information on Iceland here, I have read every comment and learnt loads. I was thinking of going to Iceland late November for 5 days or even a week. This is the first I have heard about the Ring Road. I was planning on getting a hotel somewhere and doing excursions ever day. No i think I will get a car and do the ring road.

I would like to know how long did it take you to get round the whole Road.

Is there a shorter route that you can do as I would like to go quad biking and horse back riding while i was there. So i was thinking of staying a few days in Reykjavik or similar then getting excursions from there then doing the Ring Road to see the sights.


    Roger Wade says:


    I’m happy this has helped. I went clockwise on the Ring Road leaving from Reykjavik, and I spent an entire week doing it. Actually, I did about 85% of the distance in the first 5 days, and then took my time along the southern coast because there are many sights in that area. As I’m sure I mentioned above, my Ring Road experience is one of my fondest travel experiences of my life, and the whole thing is spectacular and varied the whole way around. You could probably do the whole Ring in about 5 days, but trying to go any faster and you wouldn’t really enjoy it because you’d be driving nearly every daylight hour (actually in November you might have to drive in the dark as well).

    Unfortunately, there’s no real short version of the Ring Road because it’s really the one proper paved road around the island, and the interior is mostly dirt roads that require a 4-wheel-drive vehicle to even go on them.

    The one shorter alternative that could work would be to drive from Reykjavik along the southern coast to the town of Vik, and then drive back, mostly on the same roads. In my opinion, the scenery closer to Vik is more interesting than that closer to Reykjavik, and the sights are much less crowded as well. You could easily do 3 or 4 nights back and forth, seeing pretty much everything in between. On the other hand, a 7-day car rental might only be a bit more expensive, so the whole ring could be tempting.

    And again, the city of Reykjavik itself is kind of a dud that can be appreciated in a day or so. You can take all sorts of trips to the nearby sights from the capital, but I’m among those who thinks going outside that bubble was extremely worthwhile.

    Have a great trip, and let me know if I can help further. -Roger

      Allen says:

      Roger, I have been reading your comments with great interest as you appear to have a good pulse on what not to see in Iceland and which scenery is worth a visit. Thanks for all you do. With that said, I am researching for a trip to Iceland late February 2015. I have multiple questions if you don’t mind taking the time to answer? Pardon the lengthy post, but you appear well-knowledgeable of Iceland.

      1) In late February, would I be able to comfortably drive a rental car (2WD) from Reykjavik to Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon? I understand that some parts of Ring Road (Rt 1) is composed of gravel but a 2Wd should be okay. Wanted to confirm that with you.

      2) I am more concerned with looking for sleeping bag accommodations along the way that will enable us to cook our own food. What budget friendly websites would you use to book these accommodations in advance? From Reykjavik to Jokulsarlon, I would like to make 1 overnight stop (perhaps in Vik) since we will be doing a lot of photography at waterfalls on the way.

      3) Below is a rough draft of my itinerary from Reykjavik to Jokulsarlon (noticeably skipping the Golden Circle per your suggestion). Can you run through this and vouch for the accuracy – mainly to check to see if this plan is doable in 3 days time:

      a) Depart Reykjavik in rental car the morning of Feb 23rd – possibly using Sixt Rental agency, with CDW included plus gravel damage coverage. Are you aware of other reputable rental agencies that provide great service and reasonable rates?
      b) Our first stop on Rt. 1 may be Mount Hengill, a central volcano with magma chamber. Wondering if this is worth a stop.
      c) Hveragerdi – I read that this town has interesting hot springs. Do you know if they are free? I’m not much interested in paying for the Blue Lagoon, as it seems to be overrated based on local opinions.
      d) Continue on Rt. 1 to Seljalandsfoss waterfall, consistently rated high by travelers.
      e) Stop in town of Skogar to see the Skogafoss waterfall, another top-rated location.
      f) Make a stop at Myrdalur to see glaciers? (if scenery is not worth it, will skip this)
      g) Next stop would be the village of Vik for the black sand beach. I read that there are shops here for souvenirs/jewelry.

      At this point, I may decide to stay overnight in Vik, since it is about 3 hours drive from Reykjavik to Vik (no doubt it would take much longer with all of our stops!) Do you have any recommended sleeping bag accommodations or budget guesthouses near Vik? Next morning continue the journey:

      h) Continue down Rt. 1 to Vatnajokull National Park for their ice caves. Would we be able to enter the caves with no guides? I understand that if the water/streams are not frozen, it’s more difficult to enter the caves for photography.
      i) Skaftafell Nature reserve – worth a look? I’m hopeful that a 2WD car can reach these places.
      j) At last, Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. We may spend our 2nd day here exploring the area. Then stay overnight in hopes of catching the Northern Lights at the lagoon. Based on research, cloud cover in February is extensive, so it would be hit or miss on seeing the Aurora Borealis. We’re hoping to do as much as we can ourselves, without paying for tour guides.

      After the glacier lagoon, we’ll drive back to Reykjavik, making stops along the way. Perhaps head down to the town that charters a boat from Heimaey Island to see the loneliest house in the world (on Elliðaey island). Although that may be a bad idea in February (biting cold from wind).

      Thanks for any input that you can give!

        Roger Wade says:


        Always happy to hear that this is helpful, and I’ll try to answer as many of these as I can.

        1) Yes, the entire Ring Road and many of the smaller roads leading from it are rated okay for 2WD vehicles. The Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is actually right off one of the busier parts of the highway, and it’s all perfectly paved though the whole south part of the island, which is also the busiest area.

        2) Vik would be a good stop on your way toward Hofn. The one problem you might have is that February is obviously the off season in Iceland, and I believe many of the larger hotels are closed for the season. When I went I used to check the public hotel listings, but there are also plenty of guesthouses that only seem to book by phone and email, which you’ll find out about in the directory you can get free once you arrive in Iceland. Many of these smaller places offer the sleeping bag accommodation, and my best guess is that you’d be able to find something in every town you went to, or at least in the next town over.

        You can get a voice and data SIM card once you get to Iceland, which will work everywhere you’ll be traveling. I’m pretty sure you’ll just need to call or email one or two places in the directory, and you’ll have a room sorted out. It all seems very mysterious until you get there (it sure did for me), but once you arrive I found it pretty easy and relatively stress free to book rooms.

        3) It’s hard for me to confidently comment on your itinerary because I think I only went to about half of the places on your list, and I don’t remember them all by name. So I think it’s wise to trust the other online reviews and general opinions that you’ve read. You might also check Lonely Planet’s online content for Iceland, which I used and found to be very reliable.

        Most of the main sights are very close to the Ring Road, so it’s easy enough to pull off for a quick look and decide whether it’s worth spending more time there. If a place requires a 4WD vehicle to get there, I’m pretty sure it would be mentioned in the description or the reviews, and most sights are suited to a 2WD vehicle for sure.

        As I mentioned, I was quite happy with the service from Sixt Rent a Car, and they were one of the cheapest for the dates I was there. My guess is that as long as you go with a larger agency and factor in the price of the gravel protection for peace of mind, you should do fine with any of them so look for the cheaper ones. Renting cars for Ring Road trips is a big industry in Iceland and if one company built a reputation for ripping people off, I think they would struggle to survive. I was a bit worried by this because it’s easy to find reviews from people who had a bad experience with any of the agencies. But the tens of thousands of happy customers rarely write reviews, so I think it looks much scarier than it really is.

        And actually, if you are only going as far as Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, you’ll be on well-maintained main roads the whole time. The only unpaved parts of the Ring Road are along the east coast, although some of the access roads leading to the waterfalls are also unpaved, so the gravel thing is probably worth getting.

        Oh, and the food situation in Iceland is quite unusual because there are very few restaurants outside of the bigger cities. BUT, there are snack bars and fast-food franchises connected to most petrol stations, and those are found in nearly every town along the way. And every guesthouse I stayed in had a shared kitchen for self-catering, which was used by most guests. In other words, the communal kitchen with nearby supermarkets thing seems to be the normal way of eating for most tourists, so you should have no trouble finding places like that.

        If you have other questions I can help with, please ask and I’ll give it a shot. -Roger

        Renata says:

        Dear Allen,

        I will be going to Iceland in February 2016 and my initial idea was to do pretty much the same tour as you were suggesting! Could you please forward me your contact (or send an e-mail to [email protected]), I am really curious if you were able to do everything you planned and if so, if you have any tips!


        PS. Roger, thank you for the time you took to write down all your experiences and so many useful ideas, I found it one of the best recommendations out there!

Ben Anderson says:

I have been reading up on a few things and as there is only a few hours of day light in November I was thinking of staying in Reykjavik and doing a few nights there with Blue lagoon etc then travelling down to Vik staying there and then maybe a bit further on to another town and staying there. I dont want to be travelling in the night as i will miss all the sights. I could do a few things from Reykjavik Snow mobile, snorkling etc then travel the south coast and back again then stay last night in Reykjavik before flight home.

lizie hagenstein says:

Hi Roger – I am impressed with you diligence in replying to peoples’ questions! I am planning a trip with my daughter in May 2015. Unfortunately, we will be there for only 6 full traveling days. I like the idea of traveling the ring road, but am concerned that we will not have enough time and will spend the entire time in the car trying to stay on schedule. Any suggestions on planning an itinerary would be greatly appriciated! Best, Lizie

    Roger Wade says:


    With 6 full traveling days I’m quite sure you can do the whole Ring Road comfortably, and also that it would be far more fulfilling than any smaller alternative. One unfortunate thing about the Ring Road is that it’s really all or nothing in that there isn’t a version where you can cut one-third of it off and drive through the center of the country in a straight line.

    Here’s what I did. I rented a car in Reykjavik, and didn’t actually leave the city until around 2pm. I drove north for a few hours and stopped for the night. Over the next 3 full days I made it all the way around to Höfn, which is in the southeast of Iceland, and I had 3 more full days to get the last 500 kilometers back to the airport. I could have driven that section in just 6 hours if I went straight through, but (especially in the southeast) there are many of the top sights through that section, so I gave myself more than enough time to go slow through them.

    Now, those first 3 full days on the road were pretty long each day in the car, but I had time to stop and see everything I wanted to and still make it to a hotel by around sunset. In May, you’ll have even longer days than I had, so it will be even easier.

    One wonderful thing is that most of the famous waterfalls and other sights are literally at the edge of the Ring Road, so you just drive into a parking lot and there is a huge waterfall. A few sights require a drive of maybe 10 to 30 minutes each way on a dirt/gravel road, but you’d even have time to do most of those.

    The next time I do it, I think I’ll take an extra day to get to Höfn, to balance out the driving days a bit better. In other words, I drove about 80% of the Ring Road in the first 3.5 days on the road, and I loved every second of it.

    The one slightly tricky part for you would be finding towns and hotels that are spaced out to fit your schedule. Except along the southern coast, the little towns with little guesthouses can be 100 kilometers (60 miles) apart, so you have to plan and pace yourself right. It should be easy to do as long as you plan in advance though.

    As always, please let me know if you have other questions that I might help with. I continue to daydream about my next Iceland trip, so it’s fun to try to help other people plan their own journey. -Roger

      lizie hagenstein says:

      Hi Roger – How wonderful of you to respond so promptly – You are a breath of fresh air.

      This was the answer I was hoping for!

      We arrive EARLY in the morning and so will be able to get our rental car as soon as they open and get right on the road. I will research cell phone/ sim card options so we can plan our days and make reservations while we are on the road.

      I’m sure I will have many questions between now and May and so will be back in touch 🙂

      Thank you for this site and your generous responses!


Joe says:

Hi Roger,
My 21 year old daughter wants to stop and travel in Iceland newt spring for a week (or so) on her way back from London (studying abroad). My wife and I are nervous about her traveling alone. She wants to stay in a hostel and take day tours. Any thoughts on the safety of a 21 year old girl traveling alone for the first time in Iceland (or elsewhere)? Recommendations?
Thanks, Joe

    Roger Wade says:


    Aside from perhaps Japan, I can’t think of a safer place for a young female independent traveler than Iceland. The island is so isolated that it’s literally a place where many locals don’t bother locking their doors. And while there are better, more predictable ways of getting around, the hitchhiking scene in Iceland seems to be quite strong and safe because it’s such a friendly place and everyone speaks English.

    In Europe, it’s common to see 18 to 20-year-olds traveling on their own, and it seems to be very safe as long as the traveler is aware of their surroundings. In Iceland, the whole island feels like a national park, so everyone is there to appreciate the nature.

    As for what she might do in Iceland, I think staying in at least two different places would be wise. There are plenty of things to see near Reykjavik, but the city itself is not very interesting, and there are more dramatic sights closer to Hofn or Vik, along the southern coast. So I think a couple days in or near Reykjavik (where the airport is), and a couple days in Hofn or Vik or both would be ideal. There is a bus package that lets you do a loop between those cities, and there will be plenty of other solo backpackers on those buses.

    I hope this helps, and let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

Jeremy says:

Hi Roger,
Really insightful article! I’m considering going there with my girlfriend in the week of christmas for probably 7 nights.

We’re somewhat on a budget but are unfamiliar with the transportation. We’d like to see as much places as possible in the cheapest possible way. Is it really cheaper to rent a car for 7 days in comparison to using the available transportation services to visit the other attractions? At the mean time, what’re the things we should take note of especially travelling in this period? Are there any difference in the attractions?

We won’t have much issues cooking so we know that’s where we’ll be able to save.

Thank you for this wonderful article again! Hoping to hear from you soon!


    Roger Wade says:


    I’m always happy to hear that this sort of thing helps. But first off, are you aware that Iceland is just south of the Arctic Circle, and therefore will have almost no sunlight in late December? Actually, from maybe 11am until 2pm it will be light enough to appreciate the scenery, but the rest of the day it will pretty much be dark. Iceland is all about the outdoors and the landscapes and such, so I’m not sure it would be worthwhile in December.

    It’s a popular time for those wanting to come see the Northern Lights. But you’d probably be the only ones on the Ring Road in the north. And I’m not sure that the tourist buses even operate during winter. I believe there are normal buses for residents to get from town to town, though I doubt they stop at the waterfalls and national parks along the way.

    If you do decide to try it, you could certainly do it cheaply. As mentioned in the article, the “attractions” are all the waterfalls and parks and other scenery, and they are all free.

    My recommendation would be to wait at least until March, when you’ll have at least 10 or 11 hours of sunlight, and you’ll still be among the very few tourists there that time of year. Whenever you decide to go, I hope you do go, because it’s an incredible place. -Roger

Sydney says:

A few college friends and I are trying to take a two week trip to Iceland in August. I’ve been trying to figure out the cheapest way to enjoy what Iceland has to offer, and how to properly budget.

I did find out about camping cards for $121 that are good for two adults, which really equates to about $60 each for enough camp sites for two weeks. Is that actually a viable option?

It seems that renting a car will be the biggest expense. Do you suggest getting a 4×4 or can you get by without? That does make a significant difference in price. I’ve also read to book your car in advance.

Also, how much would you expect us to spend in gas for 13 days, as well as food if we only shop at the local supermarkets for our food?

Do you have advance in terms of different key things to hit while on the road or possible excursions you simply can’t miss?

I’ve been told also purchase groceries from the supermarket in order to save money.

I’m trying to figure if I could spend $1000 for two weeks there. It seems plausible with everything I’ve found so far and dividing costs between 4 people. Thoughts? We will ideally be backpacking and camping out our whole time.


    Roger Wade says:


    I didn’t camp when I visited Iceland, but I know it’s very popular, especially in the warmest months. The camping card sounds like a great deal. Hopefully you can research that more fully elsewhere because I don’t know much about it.

    Here’s the thing about rental cars in Iceland. You can drive the entire Ring Road and most of the little offshoot roads from it with a 2WD vehicle. The only place you need a 4WD is to reach the smaller roads nearer the center of the island. For most visitors, the 2WD is just fine, but I believe many of the campsites are on those 4WD roads. In other words, I’m sure you could have a great 2-week trip with a 2WD vehicle, but you might discover that there are some roads that you aren’t allowed on with the thing. I guess it depends on how much more the 4WD costs, and how much you guys can afford. As I mention above, I got a 2WD with the gravel coverage, and I was glad I did. When you find yourself on a gravel road, which could happen a lot, your choices will be to drive at a snail’s pace and pray that you aren’t shredding the front of the car, or drive at a moderate pace knowing you aren’t liable for damage.

    I do think that booking a rental car in advance is wise, especially in the high season of August. There’s some chance that you could get a better deal in person, but most likely you’d probably find higher rates from all the legit companies, and maybe a “bargain” from a rent-a-wreck type of place.

    I used a Lonely Planet guide on my iPad while touring Iceland, and I was extremely happy with its information and recommendations. I did a full lap of the Ring Road and hit nearly all the famous waterfalls and parks, although I was hurrying through much of it. I think their info is about as good as you can get for a general guide, and certainly far better than I can recommend. One thing though, the famous Blue Lagoon (near the airport) is very expensive and maybe not worth it. I went there for a free look-around rather than a swim, which was interesting, but there are similar places elsewhere on the island that are cheaper.

    Your fuel costs probably won’t be too crazy. The gas certainly isn’t cheap there, but it’s a relatively small island and as long as you plan an efficient route, you probably won’t do much more than one lap around the Ring Road, which is 1300KM or 800 miles. You won’t be driving very fast at any point, so you should get decent fuel economy.

    Yes, you’ll save a ton of money on food if you focus on groceries rather than restaurants. Pretty much every guesthouse has a community kitchen, and I’m sure most campgrounds have them as well. As mentioned in the article above, the whole Iceland tourism scene seems based on self-catering. There are actually very few restaurants except in larger towns, and all of them are expensive. Most petrol stations have fast-food places built in, which aren’t too expensive. But groceries (as discussed above) are much cheaper and the main way people do it.

    If you are camping most of the time, I’d think that US$1,000 should be plenty, assuming there aren’t camping expenses that we don’t know about. Eating can be relatively affordable if you shop and cook, and yes, pretty much all of the “attractions” are waterfalls, vistas, and parks, which are all free for visitors. Best of luck, and let me know if you have more questions. -Roger

Ray says:

Roger, great informative article! I am planning to go to London, England for a friend’s wedding on July 25. I have been reading online that I should expect to spend about $300 US/day on average for mid-range hotels, etc. So with flights included, I am estimating around $3000 just to stay in London on a mid-range budget.

For Iceland, what did you roughly find that mid-range budget/day to be? My interests lies in covering the Ring Road in 5 – 6 days and less about nightclubbing, etc.

    Roger Wade says:


    Thanks. First off, US$300 per day in London should get you quite a decent hotel plus nice meals and a few drinks. It’s pretty easy to enjoy yourself in London on closer to US$200 per day, although the hotel wouldn’t be as nice or as central.

    So to use a US$300/day benchmark, you can expect to spend under US$200 per day in Iceland, although it’s a totally different thing. For one thing, you’ll need to rent a car or buy a bus pass to do the Ring Road, which I agree is the best thing about Iceland. You should be able to find hotels for US$150 per night or less, but you can also find very comfortable guesthouses for US$70 to US$100 per night. The guesthouses don’t have en suites, but they all have a community kitchen for cooking. Honestly, when I was there it felt like the majority of fellow visitors were staying in guesthouses and doing some of their own cooking. There aren’t many proper hotels in some of the smaller towns, though they all have these guesthouses.

    Really, it’s the way to go in Iceland because it feels like the whole island (except for the airport and Reykjavik) is one big national park. So people camp or stay in guesthouses and it really has a community feeling that way. Also, there aren’t many real restaurants in the smaller towns, but there is always a little grocery store and usually a fast food place or two at the nearest gas station. I highly recommend that travel style, rather than trying to book into chain-style hotels and looking for sit-down restaurants everywhere you go. It’ll also be much cheaper doing in the guesthouse way.

    So as an example, not including your rental car or fuel, you can find a nice room at a guesthouse for US$80 per night. If you buy groceries the night before you can make a breakfast for US$5 or so. If you are driving during the day you might be best off getting lunch at a snack bar or fast food place along the way, which would be around US$10. For dinner, you can buy something at a store for maybe US$10 or even less. Since so many visitors are doing this, the grocery stores have loads of easy-to-prepare items like frozen pizzas and dinners and pasta and sauces and even prepared dinners.

    Another part of the equation to be aware of is that Iceland is NOT a foodie destination so there aren’t any local dishes that you need to try. The restaurants are mostly sea-food and Italian or maybe northern European (roast chicken and veggies etc), and a typical dinner will be US$20 to US$30.

    Hopefully this helps, and feel free to follow up if you have other questions. You’ll love the place. -Roger

Ray says:

I also had a second part to my question above since I will be travelling with my Girlfriend, as well. When you drove along the Northern part of Iceland, what were your top 3 places to stop at? I hear a lot about driving the Golden Ring Road, but hear that the bulk of “tourist attractions” are on the Southern part of Iceland. I am really interested in quirky, off-the-beaten path attractions when I travel, so just wondering what your thoughts about Northern Iceland were?

    Roger Wade says:


    I just noticed this part. It’s very easy to confuse the “Golden Circle” which is 3 main attractions close to Reykjavik, with the “Ring Road” which encircles the island.

    The Golden Circle consists of a waterfall, the Geysir hot springs field, and a national park that includes the Continental Divide. In my opinion, the waterfall isn’t too special compared to many others you’ll see on the Ring Road. The Geysir field is interesting, although also crowded. And the national park didn’t seem very special to me at all.

    On the Ring Road, on the other hand, you come across volcano fields and random waterfalls and national parks and geothermal pools all the way around. Better still, the sights on the Ring Road will be almost empty, while on the Golden Circle they are packed with day-trippers on bus excursions.

    All of that said, probably the most interesting part of the Ring Road is the part along the southern coast between Hofn and the Reykjavik area, although once you get close to the capital it gets crowded and more suburban. In other words, do the Ring Road and save plenty of time for the southern coast, but don’t worry about saving a full day for the Golden Circle attractions because they would be a disappointment after all the rest. -Roger

Gillybilly says:

Hi Rodger
Thank you for answering all our questions with such detail. I am travelling to Iceland later this month with my husband and boys, we are just spending three days around Reykjavik heading to the blue lagoon / northern lights tour which I have booked. I was wondering if my husband and boys could get away with wearing wool jackets as opposed to buying ski jackets. I have all the other warm gear but didn’t want to be left with jackets that wouldn’t be worn again. What are your thoughts on that idea.?
They will have base layers and warm jumpers under these jackets.

    Roger Wade says:


    I’ve only been to Iceland in late August so I can only confirm that it’s chilly even in late summer. However, I see that the temperatures in late February will typically be a bit above freezing, so I think you can get by with a wool layer as long as you also have another layer or two underneath. The wind might be a problem though. You can probably get better advice elsewhere about winter weather. Sorry. -Roger

dorrie says:

We are 2 women traveling to Iceland in May and will be going for 10 to 14 days. Will we have trouble finding economy sleeping arrangements? Do we need to book in advance our room. We are comfortable with shared bath and use of sleeping bags.

    Roger Wade says:


    I know exactly what you mean. One weird thing about Iceland is that much, if not most, of the accommodation is not found or bookable online. I was in the same position before my trip and I was a bit nervous about it. The good news is that there are many guesthouses in each town that are only bookable by phone or sometimes email. As I think I mentioned in the article above, when you arrive in Iceland you’ll have a few chances (like at the tourist desk at the airport or in Reykjavik) to get a free copy of a catalog that lists all of the smaller places in each town. If you have phone service while you are there, or a way of sending email, you should be able to find and book places as you go pretty easily.

    Also, since so many people travel around the Ring Road or do other one-way trips like that, it appears that most visitors only stay in each guesthouse for one night. In other words, most places empty out each morning and prepare for a whole new set of visitors each afternoon. And since so little of it is booked way in advance, it seems to be quite easy to find a place in the afternoon as you go.

    Lastly, it’s worth noting that the high season for Iceland is basically June through August, and those are the only months where guesthouses often seem to fill up at all. So going in May you should have no problem finding an affordable place in almost any town you approach. And as mentioned, many of these guesthouses offer “sleeping bag accommodation” where you can save US$10 or US$15 per night by bringing your own bedding. From what I can tell, shared bathrooms are the norm all over Iceland, with the only exceptions being larger chain hotels and really high-end places. Pretty much all of these guesthouses also offer community kitchens too, partly because there are so few actual restaurants.

    Have a great trip and I think you’ll find that accommodation is quite easy to find once you arrive. -Roger

Kayla says:

Roger, thanks for this awesome site! I have a few questions of my own.. My fiancé and I were looking into Iceland for our honeymoon for a week. We would love to stay in one centralized location to sleep (instead of somewhere new every night), and was wondering if this is possible? We will be going in mid-November, so I know the amount of sunlight will decrease during the day, but we are willing to drive anywhere to see the beautiful scenery!
Also, I have Celiac Disease (no gluten), and was wondering if this will be a huge problem traveling to Iceland.
Lastly, I know this might be a pretty broad answer in response, but if you had to guesstimate a cost for hotel stay, food and rental car for 5 days what would you come up with? Thanks!

    Roger Wade says:


    It’s obviously possible to just base yourself in one hotel in Iceland and try to do day trips, but think of Iceland this way: The island takes maybe 30 hours to drive around (on the Ring Road), and the amazing scenery is spread almost evenly all the way around. So those who do the highly recommended Ring Road will see mind-blowing things every hour they spend on the trip. If you were to limit yourself to one area and things that are within, say, a 3-hour drive of that place, you’d be seeing only a fraction of what there is to see, and you’ll be doing lots of backtracking and seeing the same things over and over again.

    The tricky part is that there is really just that one main road so there is no central location that is close to more than just a little bit of the island.

    So again, I highly recommend doing the Ring Road and am confident that you’ll be blown away by the experience just like everyone else is. All of that said, you could do what you have in mind. You’d do much better if you could at least use two bases over the week rather than just one. The area around Reykjavik has plenty to see but really the magic of Iceland is elsewhere. If you wanted to focus on just one area, I’d recommend the southern coast, specifically the area around Vik. Going east from Vik, you could go all the way to a town called Höfn and there are great sights all the way. Vik is only about 2.5 hours from Reykjavik, and Höfn is about 3 more hours, so you could actually see a lot if you base yourself in Vik.

    As far as the food is concerned, I believe that the gluten-free craze has hit Europe so I’m sure there are many people looking for it in Iceland, although obviously only a small number have Celiac Disease so you might have to be more careful than most. If you are like most visitors to Iceland, you’ll do some of your own cooking because there aren’t many restaurants. There are decent supermarkets in every town you’d stop in, so it should be pretty easy to buy gluten-free food.

    In November you should be able to rent a car for US$30 to US$50 per day. Renting for 7 days is only a bit more expensive than renting for 5 days. Also, pretty much all of the cheapest car rental deals are for manual transmissions. A hotel will cost around US$100 per night when you are outside of Reykjavik, although all cheaper places will have a shared bathroom down the hall.

    As mentioned in the article above, restaurants in Iceland are generally quite expensive, with simple dishes starting at close to US$20 each. Some hotels offer a breakfast buffet, but if not then it’s most common to buy and make your own breakfast, which can be done cheaply. The other main alternative would be fast-food places, which are often attached to gas stations. Fast food meals start at around US$10, so not too much more expensive than elsewhere.

    Congrats and have a great trip. Feel free to ask other questions if you have them. -Roger

Yeeleen says:

Hi thanks for taking time to provide useful information. My friends and I will be staying in Sandgerdi, west of Keflavik airport, and have booked accommodation for 5 nights in early March. How much of the ring road can we realistically expect to travel to and back to base the same day. Could we travel to Vik and back to base, or even as far as Hofn and back the same day, allowing time to explore, take photos etc along the route? Is it worth spending extra money and looking for accommodation along the route to allow time to explore more areas? Thanks.

    Roger Wade says:


    I’m happy to try to help. You are in kind of a tricky situation, as it would take you about 6 hours to drive from Sandgerdi to Höfn without stopping. It would only take about 3 hours to drive straight to Vik, so that is within day-trip distance. Most of it is a really nice drive, but the first hour or so is sort of a weird moonscape and then you’ll get into the Reykjavik suburbs for the next hour or so. After that, it gets far more interesting all the way to Vik and then to Höfn.

    In other words, the areas within two hours or so of where you are staying are light on big sights, while the areas farther away are loaded with them. So if it were me I think it would be worth spending at least one or two nights in the Vik area, or even one night in Höfn. Specifically, the amazing iceberg lagoon called Jökulsárlón is about two hours past Vik on the road, and the Skaftafell National Park is more or less next to it. Those two things are easily among the biggest highlights of the whole Ring Road, so skipping them would be a shame.

    Have a great trip and let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

Joyce says:

Hi. Loads of great info..thanks. My daughter and I are going for 14 days in late April. We are travelling the Ring road in its entirety. Is it safe enough for us to go hiking ourselves or should we do some of the tours that are offered. Also, I’ve read about the whale watching tours etc. Is it worth the money and if so, where in Iceland would be the best tours for this. From what I’ve read on your site it seems the best way to go is northward from Reykjavik for the first part and then spend the majority of our time along the south and southwest. I’m not sure how many days we should stay in Reykjavik, there doesn’t seem to be a lot to see. Any feedback would be appreciated. Thank you! Joyce

    Roger Wade says:


    If you are talking about safety in terms of people who might want to steal from you or harm you, I think Iceland might be among the safest countries on earth. The population is tiny and it’s a long way from everywhere, so there just aren’t many “bad apples” out there. I don’t think the police even have guns. But if you are talking about safety in terms of dangerous hiking conditions, I can’t really say. The tourist infrastructure in Iceland is very good, and I’d assume that most hiking trails are well signed and maintained, but if you went into the remote parts of the interior of the island, there might be some dangerous places.

    I’ve heard that whale watching is offered out of Reykjavik, but it didn’t interest me much because I grew up in a place (Los Angeles area) where whale watching trips were part of everyone’s upbringing. If whales interest you, I’d guess that the trips are pretty good there.

    Yes, I went north from Reykjavik and clockwise around the Ring Road, and I think it’s the best strategy because there is so much packed along the southern coast. In my case I pretty much went as quickly as I could most of the way around, but still stopping and seeing all the main highlights. Then I had the last 3 full days to explore the southern coast heading back to the airport, and that worked out really well.

    I think if you have the time that spending one or two days in Reykjavik is worthwhile, but I still contend that 99% of the magic of Iceland is outside of the capital. The main city center is pretty modest and not very distinctive, and the outer areas are even more generic.

    Have a great trip and feel free to ask other questions if you have them. -Roger

Rosemary says:

Thank you for your many tips,,, My son and i are planning a 4day 3 night stop over in iceland in June. I have been trying to book most things ahead so it can all be paid for by the time we go. You are so right about the cost of the higher end hotels. I have a time share which i book through RCI and was able to utillize some of my points from it to save on the hotel cost, but even so it was still over 500. US for the three nights . I realize this may be a little expensive, but it does include buffet breakfast daily. We figure it may be the only time we get to see Iceland. My son and I have decided to center in Rekjavik, so any tips on the must see /and eatery places in the city center would be appreciated. Again Thanks for all your tips.

    Roger Wade says:


    You’ll have a wonderful time in Iceland, although again I’ll recommend to try to schedule as much time outside of Reykjavik as possible. It’s a fine small town, but Iceland is all about the nature and views.

    The top attraction in Reykjavik is to go to the tall church just off the main downtown street, and ride the elevator up to the top for the city views. I took the City Sightseeing bus around the area and didn’t find it too interesting, to be honest. You can walk around the “historic” downtown area in only a few hours, and after that I’d focus on getting out and seeing the natural sights. As for restaurants and such, I think you’d find good information on Yelp or the internet in general. I was mostly experimenting with the budget food options, which are the smaller and fast-food oriented places. Iceland isn’t really known for its cuisine, so most of your choices will be the typical Italian places and that sort of thing. Food in proper sit-down restaurants is quite expensive.

    Have a great trip and let me know if there is anything else I might help with. -Roger

      Rosemary says:

      Thanks Roger, We will make sure we take in some of the other sites, I love taking pictures so many different aspects of the island ‘s nature appeal to me, and i am looking forward to my trip.

Cuong says:

Hi Roger,

Thanks for all your helpful tips. I will be traveling to Iceland this mid to late August, so around the same time frame that you traveled. How far in advance did you book your car rental? I’ve been looking at several websites, but the prices are still astronomical. I know you’ve said you were happy you go the 2WD, but was there any part of you that regretted not getting a 4WD for places like Landmannalaugar or the “Green Mountain”?

    Roger Wade says:


    I believe I booked my rental car only about a week before I arrived. When I was shopping around it appeared that there was no shortage of companies with cars available for my dates, since I was arriving for the last week of August, which is the last week of the high season. That was a year and a half ago, and Iceland seems to have much more buzz at the moment (along with lower prices due to the exchange rate), so things might be more expensive and booked sooner this summer. Still, the car rental industry is big in Iceland, and prices might come down as the date approaches when some agencies they realize they still have many cars.

    As for the 2WD vs 4WD question, my goal was to do the Ring Road and also see the famous waterfalls and other attractions just off of the Ring Road. There was never a case where I wanted to go see something that required a 4WD, but that was partly because you don’t have time to see everything in a week on the Ring Road. So there was more than enough to see with a 2WD. I think if I’d planned 10 days or more then I would have had time to explore more of the interior of the island, and some of that is only accessible by 4WD. Good luck with whatever you decide. -Roger

Natalia says:

Iceland has been my ultimate travel destination for ages but I’m still working on filling the budget bucket for now. Your article is so well written that it gives me the thrill just by reading it. I’m definitely going to be back for more info once the said bucket is filled, hopefully soon enough.
thanks for sharing

Dean says:

Hi, we are going to Iceland late July, beginning of August with our 2 teenage children. We are going to hire a car and do the ring road over a couple of weeks. One of the questions asked, is there any where to get clothes washed as we are staying in hotels for the 2 weeks?

    Roger Wade says:


    Most of the accommodation in Iceland consists of guesthouses with common kitchens and often common entertainment rooms. I didn’t have to do laundry while I was there for 9 days, but based on the sorts of places I stayed in and noticed all along the way, I’m sure that many of them have a laundry room and perhaps even laundry service. There are also camp grounds and those will definitely have public laundry facilities.

    So it’s probably wise to specifically ask about laundry when you are booking a place to stay on the day you’d like to get it done, but I’m quite sure that many if not most places will have machines you can use, probably for a small fee. There are some chain hotels in the larger towns as well, and those will also have guest laundry facilities of some kind, but those tend to charge MUCH more for it. I envy your long stay, and I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful trip. Feel free to ask any other questions if you have them. -Roger

Vineet says:

Hi Roger,
Thanks for so much information. You are doing a great job.
I am traveling to Iceland with my wife. Arrival 19:00 2-Jun and Departure 01:15 7-Jun ( 4 full days). Will you please suggest me an itinerary so that we can utilize maximum time of our stay. We are fond of natural beauty like mountains, waterfall.

    Roger Wade says:


    I’m happy to hear that people find this useful, and I enjoy helping people plan trips when I can. In your case you definitely won’t have enough time to do a lap around the Ring Road, but you’ll still have plenty of time to see all of the highlights along the southern coast, which is really the most impressive stretch anyway.

    Hopefully you are prepared to rent a car because without one you’ll have to take the public buses, which go a limited number of places and also mean that you’ll always be in crowds. I almost never rent cars when I travel because I prefer public transport, but in Iceland I highly recommend doing it. You can get by well with a 2-wheel-drive vehicle. It will be most efficient to rent from the airport, even if you drive straight to Reykjavik for your first night. It’s about an hour away by road, with almost nothing interesting in between.

    Reykjavik is honestly kind of a dud of a city for Europe, but still I think it’s worth going straight there for your first night once you arrive. In early June the sun doesn’t set until almost midnight, so even if you don’t get to Reykjavik until 9pm or 10pm, you’ll still be able to look around the city center and get dinner. You might want to spend part of the following morning there as well, and after that you’ll get on Highway 1 heading east.

    What I’d recommend is driving on that day all the way to the town of Höfn, which would be about 5.5 hours away if you drove nonstop. Between Reykjavik and Höfn you’ll find literally dozens of excellent sights, including waterfalls, national parks, lagoons, volcanic fields, and things you just won’t believe until you see them. If you leave around 10am you’ll have time to stop at a few vista points and for lunch along the way, and then stay that night in Höfn. Since it’s light so late, you don’t need to rush.

    After you wake up in Höfn, get back in the car and start slowly making your way west again, this time stopping everywhere that seems interesting. The best place to stop the next night is in the town of Vik, which is only about 3 hours from Höfn if you drove straight through. In other words, you’ll have 10 or 12 good hours to linger wherever you want, and only about 3 additional hours of driving that day. That will be a day that you’ll never forget. There’s no point in getting to these sleeping towns early because there is almost nothing to see or do in them. If you have a guesthouse or hotel reserved, you can just get there before dinner and then make it an early night.

    After Vik, you’ll keep heading back toward Reykjavik, unless you want to see something else in the Vik area. It’s only about 3 hours of driving back to the airport, and you’ll have all of that day and the following day to do it. There are plenty of interesting things to see along the way, and when you get back in the greater Reykjavik area you’ll want to visit the 3 main things included in the “Golden Circle” tour, which includes the original Giyser, a huge set of waterfalls, and a lovely park that includes the Continental Divide. You could even stay in Vik that 4th night and still have plenty of time to see the Golden Circle attractions before returning your rental car to the airport around 9pm or so. Or you could stay in the outskirts of Reykjavik at a cheaper hotel with larger rooms and easier parking.

    On your way to the airport, about 30 minutes before you get there, you’ll pass by a small road that leads to the world famous Blue Lagoon spa complex. It’s relatively expensive (about US$40 per person) to take a soak, but you can actually just take a look at it for free, and there are restaurants there as well. It’s by far the most popular thing in Iceland and it’s worth at least seeing it on your way to the airport.

    So I highly recommend that first night in Reykjavik for a little look around. After that you could even stop the next night in Vik and in Höfn the following night and back in Vik the next night. That time of the year I’d highly recommend making hotel reservations, although even a few days in advance should be enough. Hopefully this helps, and let me know if you have more questions. You’ll see when you get there that pretty much every interesting sight is right off Highway 1, so it’s very easy. -Roger

J Yan says:

Hello Roger,

My partner and I are planning a trip to Iceland for 2 weeks starting September 21, 2015. We would like to see the Western Fjords and do the Ring Road. We were thinking of 12 days of sightseeing on the road followed by 2 days in Reykjavik. As part of our cost efficiency planning, we are thinking of a camper van rental for the 12 days. I have several questions:

1) Will a camper van be okay travelling through the Western Fjords? I know it isn’t a 4X4.

2) Will 12 days be enough to do Western Fjords and Ring Road?

3) How are the petrol stations like around the Ring Road? Are they unmanned? And if so, will all credit/debit cards work (we are from Canada and use PIN cards).

4) At that time of year, would there be issues finding public washrooms or shower facilities?

    Roger Wade says:

    J Yan,

    I didn’t make it all the way to the western fjords, so I can’t offer much help with that part of Iceland. But I did the whole Ring Road so I’ll help where I can.

    1) Before I rented my 2WD vehicle I had read the most of the roads that require 4WD are in the foothills of the volcano on the interior of the Ring Road. So my best guess is that most or all of it will be available to you. But I’d also guess that you’d need to travel on many unpaved roads in that corner of the island. Hopefully you can get a definitely answer somewhere else on that.

    2) I think 12 days for the western fjords and Ring Road will be plenty. As I think I wrote in the article above, I did about 80% of the Ring Road in 4 days. It was a lot of driving time each day, but it was spectacular and I still had plenty of chances to pull over to see waterfalls and other sights, most of which are right off the Ring Road. So 7 or maybe 8 days on the Ring Road will allow you to move slowly, and I’d think that the remaining 4 or 5 days in the fjords would also be plenty.

    3) All of the petrol stations I saw on the Ring Road were not only manned, but most had mini-markets and/or fast-food restaurants inside (which is very convenient because there are almost no other options in most areas). I paid with a debit card, and was able to use my normal password to do it myself, but in some cases I went inside to pay because I was buying something else. My rental car company gave me a little fob that gave a very small discount on petrol at two of the chain stations in Iceland, and I think I had to go inside to use it to get the discount. But it was a small discount (like US$0.02 per liter) and sometimes I went to other stations. As far as I could tell, all stations in Iceland have the same price for fuel, which is nice because nearly all of them are very remote.

    4) The main tourism season is from June through August, but I believe that almost everything stays open through October or so, and they also get plenty of Northern Lights visitors in the winter months, so some facilities are open year round. In other words, I don’t think you’ll have trouble at all finding washrooms and showers in September. Many people are camping so I am confident that they have really good services available for that group, all year round.

    Have a great trip. -Roger

Jacques Golden says:

Hello Mr. Wade;

I’m planning a trip to Iceland in July. I do plan to staying in the sleeping bag accommodations. I do plan to rent a car as well. I was just wondering what a rough estimate of a week in Iceland would run me, not including food.

    Roger Wade says:


    I’m happy to try to help, although I put most of the useful numbers in the article above, and I know prices have barely changed since then. July is a busy month and you might have to book those sleeping-bag accommodations at least a few days in advance, or run the risk of having to pay a higher price for a normal guest-house room. And rental cars are in high demand during July, so you might have to pay a higher price than people who rent in May or September.

    The food can be a big variable depending on how willing you are to cook a bit for yourself and eat fast food the rest of the time, but it sounds like you’ve got that figured out. So really, the main costs will be accommodation (probably US$60 to US$80 per night for cheaper private rooms) and the rental car. Aside from that, most everything you’ll do (not counting food and drinks) will be free. In other words, all of the waterfalls and view points and national parks and hiking spots are free, except for the Blue Lagoon. Hopefully this helps, and feel free to ask a more specific question if you like. -Roger

Sue says:

Roger your website is brilliant! Am going for a three night trip early June. How easy is it to use Visa Debit and MasterCard Credit cards? I don’t want to take too much Icelandic cash.
Thanks in anticipation.

    Roger Wade says:


    Thanks. And you’ll be in luck with this because Iceland (like all other northern European countries) is nearly cashless. In other words, the locals use cards for pretty much everything, and so can you (assuming your cards work internationally like they should). Have a great trip. -Roger

Sue says:

Thanks for that Roger. Enjoy your next trip too!

Mirela says:


can someone help me with the gas price, now, july, 2015?


    Roger Wade says:


    According to a website that tracks petrol prices in Europe on a weekly basis, in July 2015 it’s now 2.28 Krona per liter, which is €1.54 or US$1.72, or about US$7.30 per gallon. -Roger

Adrienne says:

Hi there! I’m planning a first time solo visit to Iceland in September (20-27). It’s a photo trip and solo venture. I’m comfortable doing these but have a question about accommodations. At that time of year, can I expect to find accommodations without reservations? I would prefer to just explore rather than booking ahead unless I need to do that. I’m expecting to drive along the southern coast toward and maybe past Vik. For accommodations, I prefer a room with bath to a hostel. I’m not planning on highlands this trip. TIA!

    Roger Wade says:


    You should have no problem finding accommodation without advance reservations that time of year, although I’d recommend booking a room early in the day or the day before when you can. The “hotel” scene in Iceland is quite different from most places. Once you get outside of Reykjavik, most towns have maybe a couple of proper hotels for business travelers and such, and also a long list of smaller guesthouse-type places.

    The hotels are usually quite expensive (maybe US$120 per night and up) while the guesthouse places can be half that for private rooms. The guesthouses are usually run by families or small staffs to keep prices down, and they nearly all have shared bathrooms as well as shared public kitchens. I mean, they are private bathrooms, but they are down the hall from your room. My budget-priced hotel in Reykjavik was this way as well.

    So it’s best if you can get phone and/or internet service when in Iceland, and then call or email to book a room once you know where you want to stay. I did this in late August, which is much busier, and it was never a problem. I think in July and early August some places might get booked up in advance, but otherwise the guesthouses seem to be booked on the same day because most people are moving around a lot, just as you’ll be doing. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Patricia Siqueira says:

Hi Roger! Thanks for your comments, there have been ver helpful.
We are planning a trip for early February and we have few concerns as
1) will be dangerous to drive during winter time? As we are brazilians, not used to drive with snow and ice, is it OK to rent a car?
2) Are there hotels along the Ring Road, with private bathrooms? We are midle aged couples. Are there restaurants also?
Will iit very expensive to stay in the hotels and eat in restaurants? As we do not eat in fast foods…
3) Seven nights will be OK to see the most interesting places along the Ring?
Thanks again

    Roger Wade says:


    I’ve only been to Iceland in late August so I don’t have experience in February, but I can try to answer.

    1) The main roads in Iceland, including the entire Ring Road, are more or less at sea level and I don’t think they get much snow or even standing ice. The main roads are pretty well traveled and well maintained, so if you stick to those you should be fine. The roads in the interior are often unpaved though, and some of them are at elevation, so you may not want to go there in winter. If you stay on the main roads you should be okay with a 2-wheel drive car, but they also rent 4-wheel drive vehicles for anyone wanting to go on the unpaved roads.

    2) There are hotels every 30 to 60 minutes of driving on the Ring Road, but in February some of them may be closed. As long as you aim for the larger towns you should be fine. And there are many guesthouses all over, although those mostly have shared bathrooms. The “shared bathrooms” are generally private bathrooms that multiple rooms have use of, so you do get to go in and lock the door for as long as you are in there. I wouldn’t write them off because you can save a lot of money and also mingle with other guests in those guesthouses.

    3) I think 7 nights is ideal on the Ring Road. I did the first two-thirds of it in 4 days, so I had plenty of time to see the last third in 3 full days.

    Have a great trip and let me know if you have more questions. -Roger

Danielle Andrews says:

Hiya –

I’m travelling to Iceland in December with my partner, we are going to rent a car because we will need to be on a tight budget. We already have a ‘northern lights’ trip planned, but we will just drive around for the rest of it. How much money would you suggest we take for 3 days food etc? It’s hard to tell with exchange rates – I also heard that they don’t like you paying in cash?


    Roger Wade says:


    The main challenge to visiting Iceland in December is that it’s just below the Arctic Circle so you’ll only get a few hours of daylight each day, and it will always feel like morning or evening because the sun only comes up in the corner of the sky. Still, the Northern Lights are best viewed in winter like that, so it should be a fun few days. The easiest to reach sights are all along the southern coast between Reykjavik and Hofn, and particularly around the town of Vik in between the other two. So I’d focus your stay in that area, plus wherever you are going to see the Northern Lights.

    As I mention in the article above, pretty much all of the sights in Iceland are free (except for the Blue Lagoon), so you really only need to worry about the car, accommodation, and food. I assume you’ll have a car reserved before you get there. As for accommodation and food, there are some pretty affordable options in Iceland. You should be able to find rooms in guesthouses for two people for around US$80 per night. Many guesthouses close for the winter, but I’ve been told that enough stay open to accommodate those who travel off season, and rates tend to be affordable. There aren’t actually many traditional hotels in Iceland outside of Reykjavik, but there are a few in Hofn and a few in Vik, and for those you’d probably pay maybe US$120 per night or a bit higher.

    The food thing is kind of interesting compared to most other destinations, as I mention in the article above. Iceland is NOT a food destination and they don’t actually have very many restaurants, so there is no pressure for you to try the local cuisine. Traditional restaurants also tend to be very expensive (US$20 for a simple main course), so most people cook quite a bit for themselves and/or rely on fast food. Every guesthouse will have a shared kitchen (and shared bathrooms, by the way), so most people buy food and prepare it themselves for breakfast and also dinner. There are also little supermarkets in every town, and they stock all sorts of simple meals like pasta and frozen pizzas and sandwiches, in addition to cereals and all sorts of breakfast foods. So breakfast and dinner will cost whatever the groceries you buy cost, and the prices mentioned in the article above should still be a good guideline. In other words, you can eat cereal for breakfast and pasta with sauce for dinner and spend way less than US$10 per person on those two meals.

    For lunch you’ll probably be out and about, so you can make sandwiches and bring them with you in the car, spending around US$5 each. Or you can stop at one of the many fast-food places (often attached to petrol stations) and spend maybe US$10 per person on lunch, or a bit more.

    I had no problem using cash in Iceland on the times I tried. However, I did notice that 100% of the locals just used their bank cards for everything, so many businesses aren’t actually used to dealing with cash. Still, I’m sure that most guesthouses will happily take cash, even if a few of them might struggle to make exact change. And as far as I know, restaurants and supermarkets will all take cash, and should be able to make change.

    Hopefully this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Sheila Wane says:

Dear Roger,
Thank you so much for your thoroughly detailed and interesting responses. It has certainly added some options to the visit next month with my friends.

Rebecca says:

My friends and I (3 people in total) are planning to visit Reykjavik for a week in June after graduating. Since we can’t drive, can anyone tell us about the accessibility of sights in and around Reykjavik by foot or bus? We aren’t planning to go all out with our expenses, so we are very grateful for all the information on here helping us plan our trip.

    Roger Wade says:


    You’ll find Reykjavik to be interesting for a day or two, but the non-generic part is pretty small and there isn’t really much to see. So if you and your friends are planning a week in Iceland then I’d recommend staying in the capital for no more than two days. You can see the town center on foot, but after that you’ll need to go by car or bus.

    There are tourist buses that do routes around the island, and do more extensive routes along the southern coast because that’s where many of the main sights are located. From memory, those buses seem kind of expensive for the routes that they do, but at least they do go to most of the most interesting sights. You mentioned that you can’t drive and that’s a real shame because for 3 people the cost of a rental car and fuel would probably be similar to 3 bus passes, AND you’d have much more freedom, obviously.

    As mentioned in the article above, Iceland is all about the scenery, and you won’t be disappointed as long as you get out of the (relatively) busy area around the capital and airport. If you only have 7 days then I don’t think you have enough time to spend a couple days in Reykjavik AND do the full Ring Road by bus. You could do that if you had maybe 9 days. But if you only have 7 days then I’d spend one or two nights in Reykjavik and then the rest of the time along the southern coast. Close to half of the best waterfalls, views, glaciers, and national parks are along the southern coast between Reykjavik and Hofn.

    My recommendation (if you can’t drive) would be to book one of the bus passes for the tourist buses to go from Reykjavik to Hofn and back. I believe there are also public buses, which would be cheaper, but they wouldn’t stop at the natural sights that the tourist buses do. There is a small town in the middle called Vik, and that could be a good base for some of your visit. Guesthouses in Hofn and Vik (and all other smaller towns) are cheaper than those in Reykjavik, and they are close to the best natural sights as well.

    By the way, you’ll see people talking about the “Golden Circle”, which is a one-day tour of 3 sights that are relatively close to the airport. Those sights are okay, if a bit crowded, but the real magic is once you get farther east of that area. So it’s worth seeing the Golden Circle sights during one of your days. Just don’t focus your trip on those because they are maybe 5% of what is interesting along the southern coast.

    As always, please feel free to ask other questions if you have them. Iceland is one of my favorite places on earth and I love trying to help people explore it as I plan my own next trip. -Roger

Laurie says:

My fiance and I plan to go to Iceland next September for our honeymoon. Unfortunately, a private hotel room is essential throughout our whole trip.

First, I’d love our recommendation on romantic and adventurous places to go?

Second, what hotels do you recommend?

    Roger Wade says:


    I don’t hear about many honeymoons in Iceland, but assuming you love nature and scenery, I think it will be amazing. Just to be clear, most of the accommodation on Iceland consists of “guesthouses” where you always get a private room and you almost always share a bathroom with other guests. And to be clear, they are small bathrooms that you lock once you are inside, so it’s not like a shared bathroom in a public gym or something. These guesthouses mostly also feature shared kitchens where guests socialize with one another, partly because there are very few traditional sit-down restaurants in Iceland.

    That said, there are proper hotels with en-suites in all of the larger towns in Iceland, and the rates aren’t outrageous. There are also sit-down restaurants in all of these towns, though far fewer than you might expect considering the number of guests.

    My top recommendation for anyone going to Iceland is to spend a day or two in Reykjavik and then rent a car for a trip around the Ring Road in 6 to 8 more days. Most people only see the sights near Reykjavik or along the southern coast, but there are amazing things to see all the way around the island, and the ones in the more remote areas feel more special because there are almost no other people around. You’ll be able to find proper hotels and restaurants all the way around the Ring Road, but you’ll have to plan at least one day in advance because there are some pretty long sections where you can drive maybe 3 hours between towns large enough to even have one hotel. That may sound a bit scary, but the road is in great condition and it’s an awesome experience as long as you plan a bit in advance.

    If you have enough time to do the Ring Road then you’ll discover gorgeous waterfalls and hot springs and scenery that is so beautiful that you can barely believe it. There are a few activities along the way, but it’s mostly about the scenery and stopping to have a look and do some hiking. And there are other hot springs around the Ring Road, and all of them are only a tiny fraction as busy as the Blue Lagoon near the airport. Speaking of that, definitely check out the Blue Lagoon because it’s very cool, but save it for on your way to or from the airport. I’ll be happy to offer more advice if you like, as long as I’m sure what sort of trip you are hoping to plan. -Roger

Laurie says:

Wow! Thank you for such a helpful response. First off, we are interested in seeing a soccer match. Do you have any idea about how much these tickets cost there? Are there any brewery tours in Iceland? Any cool castle tours or other historic tours? We are hoping to have a trip that starts out semi-relaxed for the first couple of days in Reykjavik – checking out the city, Blue Lagoon, etc. Then we hope to become more adventurous, checking out all the national parks, waterfalls, hot springs, etc. We are hoping to do a 8 night-ish stay. Any other recommendations on things to do would be greatly appreciated. 🙂

    Roger Wade says:


    There are some talented soccer players from Iceland, but it’s not really known as a soccer mecca. There are only 300,000 people in the whole country, so I can’t imagine the games drawing large enthusiastic crowds. In other words, I’d probably save the soccer match for a visit to mainland Europe. And Iceland also isn’t really known for castles, and I don’t believe there are any notable ones there. According to Google, there is at least one brewery tour in Iceland, but I can’t imagine that it’s a great one.

    In other words, Iceland is a very different destination than the populated and historic areas of mainland Europe. Reykjavik has about 250,000 people (including the town near the airport) and the whole rest of the island has about 50,000 people. So Reykjavik is a small city and most of the island is unpopulated except for some very small towns. The reason to go to Iceland is to see the amazing scenery, which is very different from just about anything you’ve ever seen due to the volcanic activity.

    That said, Reykjavik is known for nightlife in some circles. The main city center is quite small, consisting of only a few streets that take maybe 15 minutes to walk from one end to the other, but there are some good nightclubs and bars that some Europeans fly in for a weekend to visit. Drinks are very expensive though, so the locals tend to pre-game at home before going out. You can have a couple of fun days in Reykjavik doing a city tour and going to some nice restaurants and bars, but after that you’ll want to get out to see the wonders of the rest of the island.

    Also, the Blue Lagoon is definitely worth a visit, but it’s close to the airport and far from the city. As a result, most people find it most efficient to visit on their way to or from the airport. There are private rooms to change clothes and lockers for your stuff there.

    As I’ve mentioned in the article above and elsewhere in the comments, I highly recommend a drive around the Ring Road, but you need about a week for that. It’s honestly in the top few travel experiences of my life, and I’ve been almost everywhere.

    But if you prefer not to do the Ring Road then I’d recommend renting a car and driving along the southern coast to the town of Hofn and back, basing yourselves for at least a night or two in the town of Vik along the way. Many of the islands most dramatic sights are along the southern coast, so it’s still pretty incredible. Let me know if you have any other questions as the trip approaches. -Roger

Jennifer Edwards says:

Hi Roger
In an earlier post you mentioned that Iceland closes down for a few weeks in the year. I’m visiting Iceland for 5 days from 7th January 2016 and have a horrible feeling this might be the time of year you may have been referring to.
Could you tell me what I might expect in January in terms of museums, art galleries, tours etc. that may be closed. Thank you

    Roger Wade says:


    I don’t think Reykjavik really closes down for a few weeks, though I’m not really sure. I was probably referring to the fact that Iceland’s tourist scene is very seasonal, with a huge majority of visitors coming from June to August. As a result, there are many guesthouses and restaurants that close down during the slow months in winter. However, my understanding is that they only close down because there is overcapacity during those times of year. In other words, if there are 10 guesthouses in a town, they might only need 3 during the winter months, so the other 7 close down. That still means that there are available guesthouses all year round, and restaurants as well.

    I seem to mention this in many comments, but I think it’s worth mentioning again that Reykjavik is a pleasant small city, but 99% of what people go to Iceland to see is outside of the city. There are a few galleries on the main street, and I’m sure there are a few small museums as well. And there are city tours with various themes, but if you have 5 days in Iceland then I wouldn’t spend more than two of them in Reykjavik.

    Many of the visitors that time of year are in search of the Northern Lights, so you might consider that as well. Otherwise, the challenge is that Iceland is just below the Arctic Circle, so the sun doesn’t really come up in early January. It will feel like dawn for a few hours and then it will be dark again. I’ve only been there in August and September, so I’m no expert on this. If I were you I’d probably Google something like ‘things to do in Iceland in winter’. Best of luck. -Roger

Layne says:

Hi Roger I have wanted to visit Iceland for a few years now. what was the cost for the SIM card there and do I need to do anything else regarding my phone for usage there. It seems like phone flexibility is essential. Also For the sleeping bag rooms that is just a term… correct? if I packed sheets and a blanket instead of renting that would be fine wouldn’t it. Hoping to go with my family (4 of us) would we be able to book double rooms anywhere? Also my oldest son is vegan so would gas station restaurants have food that he could eat? thanks for you help!

    Roger Wade says:


    I don’t remember how much the SIM card cost for my phone, but it was something around US$20 or maybe a bit more. I took a bus to a shopping mall just a bit outside of the city center to go to a phone store, though I assume there are places I could have gone closer to the main street in Reykjavik. I think I just had to show my passport and pay for the card, and the person at the store did everything needed to establish service before I even left. And yes, I’d definitely get a SIM card again if I was doing the Ring Road or spending much time outside of Reykjavik. The data worked pretty much everywhere I tried it all around the island (I stuck fairly close to the Ring Road – I doubt there is much service in the center of the island), and the phone service worked every time I tried it as well. Having a phone is a key if you want to book guesthouses as you go.

    Weird as it may sound, those places are officially called “Sleeping Bag Accommodation,” when they offer rooms with no linen or blankets. Most places seem to give you a discount of about US$10/night per person with no linen, but actually in 3 or 4 places that I stayed they didn’t offer that as an option. So I think I used my sleeping bag 3 or maybe 4 of the 7 nights I was on the road. I was happy to have a sleeping bag because nights are always cold in Iceland and I wasn’t sure how much heat those guesthouses would have. But it turned out that all of them were pretty well heated, so I probably would have been fine with a sheet and a thin comforter. I assume that you’d be okay bringing your own sheets and blankets instead of an actual sleeping bag. The whole idea there is that the guesthouses can save quite a bit on labor and washing if they just provide a mattress instead of the whole set-up. So as long as you have a bottom sheet and a medium blanket, you should be fine.

    I don’t remember the menus vividly at those gas station restaurants, but my guess is that your oldest son would have at least one or two decent choices at most places. Still, it’s probably worth Googling for vegan options in Iceland just to be sure. I’m pretty sure that every place had veggie sandwiches or something very similar. And as I mention, each town of any size will also have a small supermarket, and you can find loads of vegan self-catering options in those. As discussed, Iceland is very much set up for the self-catering style of travel, especially for breakfast and dinner. You could also buy items from a store in the evening and then store them in the guesthouse fridge overnight, so you can make vegan salads or sandwiches or whatever to take with you for lunch.

    I explored Iceland solo so I didn’t ask about quad rooms and that sort of thing. But I did meet many families in the guesthouses where I stayed, so I’d imagine that quad rooms are pretty common there. It’s a whole social scene using the community kitchens in the mornings and evenings, so I was able to see who else was staying in those places. Have a great trip and feel free to ask more questions if you have them. -Roger

RamP! says:

Hi Roger,

Merry Christmas and wishes for a great 2016 from India!

Fantastic post and really appreciate your taking time to answer queries. I plan to do Iceland in early April in 2016, for 10days solo and after reading your post, it’d be on a rental car. Have a few questions:
1. Recommended itinerary for 10days. I’m not a big fan of museums or architectures. More natural sceneries, merrier it’d be.
2. Would love 2-3 easy-intermediate level hikes. Any suggestions on trails that’d be open in early April would be awesome.
3.I’m a strict vegetarian. Would there be atleast one veggie option in the fast-food places?
4. How about the prices of fruits and vegetables?
5. What mileage can we expect for small cars on ringroad?

Thank you so much.



    Roger Wade says:


    I’ll try to help with this…

    1. I’d recommend 2 nights in Reykjavik and then 7 nights to do the Ring Road, just exactly as I did. The capital is worth a look and it will be helpful to get oriented and fresh for the drive. There aren’t many notable museums there, so you can just look around and then take in the view from the top of the cathedral.

    2. On the Ring Road you’ll come to many waterfalls and other natural sights that will require an easy hike of 5 minutes to an hour or more. Many sights are right off the Ring Road, but not all of them. So you’ll have many opportunities to hike when the weather looks good and you are in the mood. One famous hike is in the large national park along the southern coast. I forget the name, but it takes you to one of the most scenic and memorable waterfalls. You won’t miss it.

    3. I’m not a vegetarian so I didn’t have a close look, however there are so many vegetarian travelers out there that I’m quite confident that there are veggie options pretty much everywhere you’ll go. There are many sandwich shops among the choices at the petrol stations, and they always have a veggie sandwich or two on the menu.

    4. My memory is that prices of fruits and veg at the supermarkets were pretty reasonable. Throughout Europe they tend to be quite cheap, which I think in part is due to government subsidies. The governments don’t want healthy food to be a luxury, so I think you’ll find plenty of good options at affordable prices.

    5. My car was a midsize and I think I got about 15KM to the liter. There are smaller cars that get even better fuel economy. The Ring Road is mostly flat and you’ll drive at around 60 KPH most of the time, so the fuel goes a long way. Have a great trip. -Roger

      RamP! says:

      Thanks a ton Roger.One last question:

      Do you recommend getting a car in Reykjavik too or can I manage that part with public transport? It appears most stay options in Reykjavik do charge a parking fee and I find it cumbersome to drive in cities, even with GPS, hence checking.


Lauren Jean says:

Thank you so much for posting this, it was extremely helpful!!

Sam says:

Hi Roger,
Planning a 5 day holiday in mid March with my wife, I am a ok driver but never driven on the other side of the road (I am from the UK) so worried about this? Planning on staying in Reykjavik in a hotel or apartment (prices seem similar so will go with whats best value).
In March whats the weather like?
If we dont rent a car is it easy to book excursions/trips when there and any advice on where is best to book please?
Is whale watching worth the cost & time?
We want to do snow snowmobiling (1 snow mobile is fine) but seems very expensive, approx £150?

    Roger Wade says:


    I’m from the US and I was quite anxious before driving in Australia and New Zealand, so I know what you mean. However, I think you’ll find that driving in Iceland will be incredibly easy, at least once you get outside of Reykjavik. It will be a bit confusing getting onto the highway leading out of town, but after that it’s a breeze. And if you rent a car at the airport it will be even easier because there is almost nothing near the airport.

    The wonderful thing about Iceland, especially for a driver, is that the roads are all well marked and generally in quite good condition, and yet there is almost no one driving on them. I did the Ring Road in late August, which is the end of high season, and I would sometimes go half an hour before seeing another car. In March the roads should be even emptier. All of the road signs will be on the right side of the road, so they will be a constant reminder which side of the line to be on. When I drove in Australia I left from the center of Melbourne and it was quite stressful, but after about 30 minutes on the main highway going up to Sydney it was becoming natural. Driving on the other side in Iceland might be the easiest place on earth to practice, and once you do it for an hour or two you’ll be surprised how natural it becomes.

    Iceland is also one of the few places on earth where I think a rental car is a huge benefit compared to public transport. Because there are so few visitors (especially in low season like March), there are maybe 1 or 2 buses per day going between the attractions, and they are surprisingly expensive as well. As a result it would be like being on an organized tour where you are with the same 30 or 40 people all day. With a rental car you can obviously come and go as you please, and the solitude of Iceland is perhaps its most wonderful feature. So you can visit a waterfall on your own schedule and in March you might literally be the only people there.

    If you do decide to book excursions then you’ll find that all of them are bookable online and there are only a few companies with similar prices. That time of year there might be limited departures as well.

    I didn’t do the whale watching in Iceland partly because I grew up in an area (Los Angeles) where we went whale watching all the time. I’m sure it’s expensive in Iceland, and you can probably get a good idea of value by reading the TripAdvisor reviews.

    An Apartment in Reykjavik might be a good idea because most of the more affordable hotels there (and in all of Iceland) are with a shared bathroom. However, the interesting part of the Reykjavik city center is quite small so location is important. I’d highly recommend only booking a place that is within walking distance of the small tourist area and spending only one or two nights there. There isn’t much to see in town, while the rest of the island is packed with amazing things you can’t see elsewhere.

    I’ve also never gone snowmobiling so I can’t comment on that, but I would check the TripAdvisor reviews to see what other people thought.

    In 5 days you won’t have time to do the Ring Road, so I will advise once again to plan on driving from Reykjavik to Hofn along the southern coast, with perhaps a stop in Vik on the way or way back. The southern coast is loaded with excellent sights that are much more interesting than the ones that are within an hour or two of the capital. Have a great trip and let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

Brix says:

Hi Roger,

Great blog entry! Very informative and on-point. I’m not sure if you have replied to this question before but there are a lot of comments so I can’t read it all through.

I am going to Iceland on Feb 7-12. I am thinking of taking a bus tour but you mentioned it’s not worth it. I don’t have an international driver’s license so self-drive is out of the equation. What can you suggest so I can go to the scenic places like the Glaciers, hot springs, volcanoes, etc?

Thank you very much!

    Roger Wade says:


    Thank you. I don’t believe I’ve ever said that the bus tours are not worth it, mainly just that a rental car is a better and worthwhile option if you can do it. If someone asked me if they should go to Iceland even though they couldn’t rent a car I would say absolutely yes. The place is amazing and I am sure there will be some social benefits to being on a bus tour as well.

    Since I didn’t do one of those I didn’t research them fully, but before I decided to rent a car I did look into them and I saw many buses pass by while I was there. I think in 5 days you are best off spending a day or maybe two in and near Reykjavik and the rest of the time going along the southern coast to Hofn and back. I believe they offer a passport sort of thing that is a fixed price for one full loop of their south shore service. My understanding is that those buses stop at all of the main highlights, including the big national park and a few of the waterfalls and such.

    As long as it’s the tourist-oriented bus instead of the long-distance commuter bus, I think it will take you to all of the best places. Have a great trip. -Roger

Marie McNamara says:

Hi Roger,
Not sure if you have any more up to date info on iceland, but I’m planning to go this year in September.
I’m very lucky to have won a travel prize which will cover my flights and hotel accommodation in Reykjavic; this means I actually have to stay in a hotel covered by the travel company, which are expensive, but as I’m not paying..happy days..! This does mean though that I’m tied to Reykjavic accommodation-wise for my entire stay.
I’ll only have a week to 10 days due to work commitments.
I’m a keen horse rider and dying to ride the unique Icelandic horses. I’ve researched some establishments and it seems they’ll come and collect you from your hotel and bring you out to the riding venues for day rides around the beautiful countryside, or on the yearly round up that takes place in September.. I’l be taking at least two or three days for that, which will be my biggest expense, but I also want to get out to the Golden Circle and hang out in Reykjavic a bit.I’ve read that the Blue Lgoon isn’t all it’s cracked up to be; expensive, not really a natural lagoon ..heated by the nearby power station..Ugh..!!So an alternative thermal pool? getting there?
I’m a bit averse to bus tours, prefering to do my own thing, but I’m also concerned about the cost of car hire for one person – me – for what maybe only one or two days hire. Your info re car hire is great, but I’m gonna be on a budget after all that riding expense (approx €100 ++ per day)
I’d also like to do some trail walking/half day hikes if that’s possible at a doable distance from Reykjavic..??
I’ve been thinking about iceland for years, so want to make the best of my time there.
Thanks a million..

    Roger Wade says:


    Congratulations and that sounds like it’s going to be an incredible trip. Those Icelandic horses look really amazing and it’s great to hear that you can actually experience that yourself.

    The Blue Lagoon is actually quite amazing and worth a look for sure, but it costs something like €40 to actually swim in it so you may want to skip that part and save the money for elsewhere. There are actually a few other similar (smaller) thermal pools in Iceland that are also heated by power plants. It’s nothing to worry about and the Iceland people seem to love them as much as the tourists do.

    Since so many visitors to Iceland only ever stay in Reykjavik, they have a large industry for tours and activities that leave the city in the morning and come back in the evening. You can do a lot of sightseeing based there, but I’d still hope you can afford maybe 2 nights on the road. The city of Reykjavik is nice but the tourist area can be seen in one or two days, and the nightlife there is very expensive.

    My recommendation for those not able to do the full Ring Road is to try to make it to Hofn and then back to Vik along the southern coast. The buses go to those places and stop at the various sights along the way. If you can afford even 2 or 3 days of a rental car I think you’ll find it’s one of the favorite travel experiences you’ve ever had (I rented a car on my own as well), but if you don’t do that then I’d try one of the bus things. I didn’t research it fully after I decided to rent a car, but I know there are a couple companies that cater to visitors wanting to see the famous sights along the southern coast. Do one or the other, but I wouldn’t recommend ONLY stay in or near the capital the whole time. Have a great trip and let me know if you have other questions I might help with. -Roger

Ekta says:

Dear Roger,
I am alone female traveller to Iceland. Planning to travel end of March 2016 i.e from 21st March to 31st Marc. As I am a lone traveler, what is the best way for me to travel around the country. I want to see black beach, Jokarsalun, ice caves, Myvatn, golden circle and blue lagoon.
What can be the most budgeted and safe way to travel?

    Roger Wade says:


    As I probably mentioned above, I did Iceland solo for 9 days myself on my trip. I looked into the bus tours and spoke to some people who had been there, and ultimately decided that it was worth a splurge of a 7-day car rental for my trip around the Ring Road. I’m extremely happy that I did it, but I understand that not everyone can afford it. If that is the case then I think I’d recommend the bus pass that allows you to do your own lap around the Ring Road, stopping at all of the most popular sights along the way.

    Since you have 10 days there you’ll have plenty of time to do the whole Ring Road AND stay a couple days in Reykjavik. My understanding is that those buses go only once or twice per day, so you have to go on their exact schedule. On the other hand, those tourist buses will be filled with other independent travelers doing exactly what you are doing, so they should be enjoyable for social people. The scenery along the Ring Road is so amazing that I think it would be a shame to skip it.

    By the way, the Blue Lagoon is really lovely but it’s somewhat expensive and there are other thermal spas elsewhere in the country that are sort of similar and WAY cheaper. It’s also very close to the airport, so I’d save it for your way home if you still want to see it. I went there and looked around for free, which was nice. If you want to swim and get a locker and all that it’s like US$50 or more. Almost all of the other sights in the country are free.

    Hopefully this helps and let me know if I can assist you more. I loved Iceland and am happy to help other people plan visits when I can. -Roger

Shona says:

Fantastic information. We’re going to Iceland in June and now decided to hire a car after reading your info. . We arrive in Keflavik at night so thinking of an overnight stay there. Next day picking up hire car and driving to Hohn, staying overnight then heading to Reykjavik. Next day back to Keflavik via Blue Lagoon. Does that sound feasible and what would we see?

    Roger Wade says:


    I’m always happy to hear that this information is helpful. I didn’t spend much time in Keflavik itself, and there doesn’t seem to be much to see. As far as I can tell, it’s a town built around the airport, which used to be a military base. There is almost nothing between Keflavik and Reykjavik, by the way, except for lava fields.

    So if you can save on a day of car rental then your plan might be ideal, but if it’s the same number of rental days then it’s a tough call. The city of Reykjavik is interesting for a couple days, although the central hotels are quite expensive, so staying near the airport might save money.

    I’m not aware of a town in Iceland called Hohn, so I think you mean Höfn? If so, it’s an amazing drive through the best scenery on the island. You’ll have no shortage of places you’ll want to stop and see on the way and the way back. By the way, I rented a car (from Sixt) in Reykjavik and returned it to the airport for basically the same price as if I’d returned it to the same place. So you can probably do the same if that makes it easier.

    If you have any specific questions that I missed, let me know, and have a great trip. -Roger

Paul says:

Thanks for the great info! I’m planning on travelling to Iceland for our summer hols 6 weeks in July thru August. Accommodation and flights all booked. Our big conundrum is transportation. There’s my wife and I and 2 kids 7 and 5. We were thinking of public transport as we’re staying for a long time and didn’t like the idea of costly car rental. AS the kids are so young, I understand public transport is free and we may even rent a car for occasional day/overnight trips. The bus pass seems like a good option for us. Anyone have other recommendations for transportation for a long trip?
Thanks in advance.

    Roger Wade says:


    On any trip of 10 days or fewer I’d highly recommend a rental car because it’s SO worth it even though it can be expensive. However on your trip I get that you don’t want to rent a vehicle for the entire time.

    I researched the various bus passes and they seemed expensive, yet at least they go to all of the interesting places, so it seems like a good option if you’ll be moving slowly. The only challenge I think you might face is that the buses only go once or twice a day on some routes, so you might have to really bend your schedule to work around their schedule. And also, Reykjavik is really the only walkable place in Iceland, and even then it’s only the main center. In every other town you’ll find that things are really spread apart like in the rural US or Canada. Best of luck. -Roger

Helen says:

This is so useful, thank you! And thank you for generously answering all of our questions, years later! 🙂

Just wondering if it is suggested to book a dorm bed in a hostel in advance, or if it is okay to just do it as we arrive, or as we travel since we are driving and don’t know yet where we will be? We will be going end of May to early June.


    Roger Wade says:


    I love doing this sort of thing so I’m happy to help.

    One of the many interesting things about Iceland is that it is somewhat filled with guesthouses where nearly everyone seems to stay exactly one night. Especially on places around the Ring Road (except for the southern coast between Reykjavik and Hofn), they seem set up for new guests each night. In other words, most people will be doing what you are doing, so you should be fine making arrangements as you go.

    That said, I got a local SIM card there and found it extremely helpful to have a phone and the ability for text messages as I drove, and coverage is great all around the Ring Road. If you can do the same then you can call ahead to book a bed or room once you are sure how far you’ll get each day. When you get there you’ll be offered a sort of catalog that lists virtually every guest house and hotel in the country. Many of them are also listed online, but not all of them. So once you know, at, say, 2pm, that you are going as far as the next town 100km away, you can call ahead and book a place before you get there. I think in July and August many of them fill up, but when you are going you should be able to book at the first or second place you try each day. Have a great trip (I’m sure you will). -Roger

Lerato says:

Hi Roger, this site is so helpful. I am from south Africa and my friend and I want to travel to Iceland for a week, in September.

my first question is, do we have to pay in Euro’s or can we pay with the Icelandic krona for everything?

And my second question, since we will be there for only a week, would it be a good idea to get accommodation in Reykjavik for the entire stay and drive in and out?


    Roger Wade says:


    Always happy to hear that this stuff helps. Once you get to Iceland your choices of paying for things will be in Icelandic Krona or with plastic. I’m sure at least some places take Euros (probably not at a great exchange rate), but you’ll be best off for cash in krona. Actually, if you use cash you’ll be one of the very few people doing that in Iceland. I’ve never seen such a credit or debit card society as there. All the locals pay for literally everything with a card, and you should try to do the same if possible.

    When you get there you should pull out some krona from a machine to cover small purchases at gas stations and such, but it’ll be best if you pay with plastic.

    If you are only staying for 7 nights then it might be a rush to do the whole Ring Road, although you could do it and you’d absolutely love it. I actually got almost back to Reykjavik in about 5.5 days on the Ring Road and it was honestly my favorite travel experience ever. I spent the last 1.5 days in the Reykjavik area doing the Golden Circle and a few other things, and it was a bit of a let down.

    Honestly, Reykjavik is interesting for maybe one day and one night, although it’s not like you’d be bored if you stayed longer. It’s just that Iceland is about the spectacular waterfalls and volcanic sights, and the best ones are all away from Reykjavik. Also, Reykjavik is fairly expensive and parking won’t be easy in the center, so I wouldn’t base myself there once I had a car, at least not for more than a day or two.

    So your options are to spend maybe 24 hours in Reykjavik and then hop right on the Ring Road for the other 6 days. That’s what I’d do if it were me. You have to wake up fairly early and put in some pretty long driving days, but especially in September (I went in late August) the roads will be totally empty and it’ll be easy to find guesthouses.

    If you’ve ruled out the Ring Road then the other great option is to drive along the southern coast to at least the town of Hofn. Going beyond Hofn it’s some craggly beach roads that may not be worth the trouble, but between Reykjavik and Hofn the scenery is excellent and the roads are in great shape. Spend a night or two in Hofn and also a night or two in Vik on the way back. They are both small towns with quite a few accommodation options, and lots of great sights nearby.

    You could even go a bit north of the capital to see some different scenery on your way back. Either way, I wouldn’t recommend more than 2 nights in Reykjavik unless you are really keen to see its unusual nightlife scene, where all the locals get drunk at home and go out at midnight because drinks are so expensive in the clubs.

    As always, feel free to ask any other questions if you have them. -Roger

Lek says:

Hi Roger ..
Thanks for ur tips .. I’ll be there in 2 weeks only 7days (let’s say full 6days) and plan to drive around ring road .. Is that possible to do it? On early May do I need the winter tyre? Please advise .. Thanks

    Roger Wade says:


    I did the Ring Road clockwise and I covered the first 90% of the distance in 4.5 days, leaving the final 2.5 days for the sight-heavy final leg between Vik and Reykjavik. In other words, you can definitely do it in 6 days if that is your goal. Some days will require a lot of driving, of course, but honestly that’s a big part of the draw and you’ll have plenty of daylight to do it in. Especially in May, you’ll be almost alone on the roads until you get to the southern coast again, and that is awesome. Many of my favorite memories (and I did this alone, by the way), were rounding a corner in my rental car and seeing a wall of waterfalls or something like that, and just stopping in the middle of the road to look at it and take photos. Often, I could have sat there for 10 or 20 minutes without a car coming behind me or in the other direction.

    In a way that might sound so remote that it’s dangerous, but it didn’t feel that way. I had a SIM card and I had phone service almost the whole Ring Road, and there are tiny towns every 50 kilometers or so with petrol stations.

    As for winter tyres, I’m not sure. My understanding is that you can choose a normal car or a 4WD vehicle. If you mainly want to do the Ring Road, then a normal car is fine (and much cheaper), but if you want to travel a lot on the interior unpaved roads, you’ll want a 4WD vehicle. Whichever you choose, it should have the appropriate tyres already on it. Have an excellent trip and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

      Lek says:

      Hi Roger
      Thank you for your helpful information. I definitely do it around the ring road 🙂 to surway
      for my next time trip .. I will let you know when I’m back .. (^_^)v

Allan says:

Hi…we are 60+ couple planning to be in Iceland for 6 days starting end of August …I’ll be renting a car ( thanks to all the good advice on this site) . Originally I was planning to rent an apartment in Reykjavik for the 6 days and doing day trips out of there, but now I’m thinking that may not be the best plan. Which towns would you rent in and for how long doing perhaps the ring road tour..
( or any other suggestions would be great) Thanks for this great site!

    Roger Wade says:


    On my own trip to Iceland I spent 2 nights in Reykjavik and then 7 nights doing the Ring Road with my rented car. As mentioned in previous comments, I could have done the Ring Road in 6 days pretty comfortably if I wanted or needed to. It’s a lot of time on the road doing that, but honestly that’s 75% of the appeal of the Ring Road. It’s just glorious and gorgeous all the way around, and stopping every couple hours for a waterfall or hot spring is just a bonus.

    So if you could do 7 or 8 days, I’d recommend doing something very similar to what I did. But if you only have 6 days I’d say your choices are to pretty much skip Reykjavik and just hit the Ring Road right away, or base yourself primarily along the southern coast. Honestly, I’ve been to pretty much every capital city and large city in Europe, and Reykjavik is kind of a dud compared to nearly all of them. Not to say that there is really anything wrong with the city, it’s just that the rest of the country is so amazing that it’s a shame to spend a lot of time in its only somewhat crowded and charmless place.

    The Ring Road really is wonderful, however I’d say at least 50% of the major sights are along the southern coast, stretching from the Reykjavik area all the way to Hofn. So if you are locked into the 6 days then I’d spend 2 in or near Reykjavik (as there are some interesting things nearby, namely the sights that are part of the so-called Golden Circle. And I’d spend at least 2 nights based in the town of Vik, which is a small town that has good tourist infrastructure in the middle of the south, and then 1 or 2 nights based in Hofn. Some combination like that will give you an excellent look at some of the natural sights on Iceland, without spending those long (but very enjoyable) days on the road.

    As always, let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Camilla says:

Hey Roger – I just want to thank you for your super insightful website.
You are clearly extremely passionate about your travels and, especially, about sharing and supporting others! with their travels which is so nice to read 🙂
We a will be heading to Iceland next week and are really looking forward to it. Your website has been a great source of inspiration and information and for this we thank you 🙂

(I appreciate you taking the time to say this. I’m sure you’ll love Iceland. -Roger)

paige says:

Loved this!! thanks for all the info, really helped when trying to figure out how to budget for this trip

Eduardo says:

Hello Roger,

Thanks for all your insights! I’m planning a trip to Iceland with my girlfriend during this December. We are looking at some self-drive tours like this one: Would you recommend taking these kind of tours or should we do it by ourselves? If we should do it by ourselves, where can we get the information of all the places to visit, maps, places to stay, etc.?

Thanks in advanced!!


    Roger Wade says:


    I never looked into one of these self-drive holidays, but now that I’ve seen this it actually looks fantastic. If you were going during the summer and you didn’t care about the Northern Lights, I’d say that you could easily do it all yourself and save quite a bit of money. During the summer months there is such an infrastructure in place that paying a lot for the help is a waste of money for most people. However, most guesthouses are closed outside of the summer months, and some of the restaurants as well. As such, I think it could be quite tricky to figure out your route and find a room on your own, at least without dozens of hours of serious research.

    And also, the main summer tourist route along the Ring Road includes many places that might not be ideal for Northern Light sightings, while this trip seems specifically geared for that. It’s not cheap, of course, but nothing in Iceland is cheap. If you can afford a package like this, I think it’s a great idea. Now, if you were to be asking about a bus trip where 44 people ride around together trying to see the lights, I’d suggest something else. But this self-drive thing looks like the best of both worlds. One of the most magical things about Iceland is the isolation and solitude that you can get when you explore on your own. It’s a nearly completely empty country, except for the gorgeous landscapes. So being able to see it on your own time, and not have to worry about where to sleep and where to go, sounds ideal. Have a great trip. -Roger

Denise says:

Hi Roger
I am going to Reykjavik 28th October 2016 and the main reason is to see the Northern Lights but would like to know your advise on the best place to see the lights. I will be there for 4 days, flying home on the 5th day. So wanting to make the most of this short trip, I am thinking hot springs, geysirs, waterfalls and potentially whalewatching plus the Norther Lights of course. We are looking to hire a small car. Can you make any suggestions of an itinerary that would fit my needs?

    Roger Wade says:


    It seems that Iceland has two main tourism seasons, the main one in the summer where people come to see the natural beauty, and the smaller one in and near winter when people come to see the Northern Lights. Unfortunately, I have no first-hand experience of the Northern Lights scene. I’ve read about it and seen a few travel shows on them, but not nearly enough to confidently help out on this. Hopefully I can learn more about this on my next Iceland trip next year. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help. -Roger

Eva says:

Hi Roger,
Thank you for the informative blog, it will help a lot for my visit to Iceland in Ovtober. I am struggling to find the location for a night stay over for Golden Circle Tour. I will leave on Monday and get back to town on Tuesday. Which area would be more logical to stay on Monday night?

    Roger Wade says:


    I think most of the Golden Circle tours leave from either the airport or from Reykjavik. And I think most of them are around 8 hours, so they pick you up in the morning and drop you off in the late afternoon.

    There are a few reasonably priced hotels by the airport. Reykjavik is fairly expensive for hotels, but at least it’s interesting to see for one day or even an evening. Outside of those places, there aren’t many hotels in that area. There are a few towns with a few hotels each, and those would be cheaper than staying in Reykjavik. I guess I’m not sure what your question is. Give me more information and I’ll be glad to help you find something. -Roger

Sheri says:

We are planning a trip in the beginning of March 2017 main purpose to see the northern lights. Icelandair is offering around trip airfare, 7 nights at the cabin includes breakfast, around trip transfers from airport to hotel and northern lights with glacier hike for about $1100 per person. To me this does not seem to expensive. We usually backpack and stay in inexpensive places. Drive ourselves. But in March we were not sure what our best options are. Any opinions?

    Roger Wade says:


    Unfortunately I don’t know much about those Northern Lights packages. But I agree that US$1,100 per person seems pretty reasonable for airfare and a hotel, although I guess that depends on your starting airport. As long as the operator looks reputable, I’d jump on that. Iceland is fairly expensive so doing it on your own would almost certainly cost more.

    And more importantly, figuring out exactly where to go on your own to see the Northern Lights, and then getting there in a rented car or bus, would be challenging and also expensive. Tourism to Iceland is booming lately, but still the island is mostly empty with a tiny population, so there just aren’t many resources to shepherd tourists around once you get outside Reykjavik. So as long as you think the company offering the deal is legit, I think it’s a great deal. -Roger

Jane says:

Hi Roger,

Very useful information in this page and thank you for that!
My boyfriend and me are visiting iceland at the end of October to early November, for a week. We are planning to rent a car, with budget of course. He’s suggesting a 4-wheel drive car due to the potential of us ending up in snow. I’m not sure about the snow though.. is there snow in Iceland during this period? I’m thinking that a 2-wheel drive is enough for us.

Also, our main purpose is northern lights! Is it a better idea to drive to the sites or to get a tour for it? I heard that if you fail to catch northern light for the tour, they either refund you or re-tour you at no cost.

The neighbourhood we chose to stay will be at Hallgrimskirkja area. Is it a good area for tourist?

Thank you in advance!

    Roger Wade says:


    The Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral is only about 4 short blocks from the main downtown street in Reykjavik, and that is the best area for tourists as that is where most of the restaurants and bars and shops are located. However, parking in that area will be limited, and you’ll be able to see the few sights in that area in a day or maybe two at the most. It’s also the most expensive area for hotels. If I were you I’d think about staying maybe one night in Reykjavik, and spending the other 3 nights in a smaller town, hopefully nearer the potential Northern Lights sights.

    I don’t know much about the best way to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, but a few people have mentioned those tours that include hotels and transportation to the best viewing spots. They sound like a good deal to me, especially since there seems to be an art to finding the best places to view the lights. But if you do choose to do it on your own, you can save money by finding a hotel in a smaller town. Honestly, Reykjavik is kind of a dud of a capital city. It’s pleasant enough, but also expensive and kind of plain. As I’ve said so many times before, the real magic in Iceland is the nature sights.

    There is at least some snow in Iceland all the time, but I don’t know when it begins to fall closer to sea level. I’d guess that it would be later than October. Still, a 4WD vehicle might be necessary. The thing is, Iceland has a normal network of highways, and you can go on all of those with just a 2WD vehicle. But if you want to visit the interior of the island, as in going up into the foothills of the volcano, you’ll need a 4WD. The rental companies forbid you from driving on those roads with a 2WD vehicle, so it all depends on your route. All of that said, I rented a 2WD for a week and did the whole Ring Road and many other little roads going off of it, and I was fine. The 4WDs cost quite a bit more, and they let you drive on pretty much any road on the island. I just don’t know if you’ll NEED to drive on those kinds of roads to see the Northern Lights. I wouldn’t think so, but I’m just not sure.

    Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

      Jane says:

      Very useful for me Roger!
      We are aiming to stay at in airbnb though, it’s relatively cheap compared to hotels. just didn’t know which area would be the best.
      i’m guessing it’s good to shift around since we are renting a car. Some days in city, some at the smaller town.
      I’ll search on the tours on northern light, hopefully it brings me something good.
      Thanks alot Roger!

Mike says:


I am a frequent contributor to TripAdvisor forums and often give specific advice to other trip planners after I post photo trip reports for others to use in their own planning. So I know well the time commitment it can take to answer all of the questions from people who post questions. You are to be commended for your extremely patient and lengthy answers to all of the questions that have followed your original post. You have a big heart.

I will be traveling solo this upcoming July for about three weeks, with two days in Reykjavik and then 18-19 days to drive clockwise around the island. I will be spending about four days in the West Fjords and then slowly making my way around the Ring Road with quite a few spur roads side trips. I hope to do quite a lot of 2-3 hour day hikes. I am en enthusiastic amateur photographer, so the Iceland landscapes certainly beckon!

I was originally going to spend fewer days on the island because of how so much on the island is expensive, but reading your post and answers to queries has given me confidence that I can come within my proposed budget even though I will be there for quite a while. So … thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for your extremely detailed budget advice on how to work your way around the island using guest houses and small groceries (and shared kitchens) – that all fits my travel style quite well. Before I read your post, I was not finding any such advice in the three guidebooks I am using.

I do have one question for you …
1. Since I will be staying in quite a few very small towns along the way, I am not sure that my guidebooks will list all the shared guesthouses you mention. Are you aware of any online listing that includes most of them with the email addresses to contact the hosts? I understand why they can’t have a website like a hotel would have, but I am not willing to wing it once I get there since I will be traveling in the height of the busiest time of the year. I would like to book all of my guesthouse reservations before the winter is done so I am not scrambling later. In the absence of a convenient online listing, is there a catalogue that I could have sent to me by some type of Iceland tourism board that would have all or most of these smaller guesthouses listed? It all seems like a fantastic way to not just save significant money, but also a way to easily meet other travelers as you share kitchen or dining room space – which sounds appealing given that I’ll be on the road for three weeks solo.

Thanks once again for your efforts to so patiently answer so many travelers’ questions!

    Roger Wade says:


    I appreciate that you took the time to write those nice things. It’s that sort of thing that helps running this site and answering questions like this very worthwhile.

    I totally understand your preference to pre-book guesthouses and such, and I am usually the same way. But in Iceland, as you’ve already discovered, it’s really only the most expensive places that are bookable online in advance. One day that will change, though for now during high season the country runs kind of an Airbnb-style system where many residents offer a few bedrooms or open up a nearby house to guests, and almost all of it is on short notice.

    The typical way it works is that when you rent a car or visit one of the official tourism offices they will give you a current catalogue/magazine sort of thing that lists nearly every guesthouse on the island. As far as I’m aware and what I was told, most of these places empty out each morning because most people only stay one night unless they are in a larger town, and then a new batch of people call or email them throughout the day for that night. It sounds like it would be easy to get shut out, but evidently that happens very rarely. So as long as you know which city you are heading to that night, you can almost always call in the morning and book a room, usually just on word of mouth.

    There must be a way of getting one of those catalogues in advance, and I’d think they would produce a PDF version of it at this point, partly for environmental reasons. So that will be the key. You might also check Airbnb if you haven’t already, as I’d think they’d have a lot of listings. It’s an amazing place and you’ll have the time of your life. I am also sure that finding rooms on short notice will be far easier than you might expect, but some people just feel better when things are all booked, so hopefully you can get at least some of that done. Have a great trip and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Mike Neenan says:

Thank you once again, Roger for your detailed answer … much appreciated. I don’t think I can quite wing it each day with accommodations – I need the certainty, I’m afraid, especially in the busiest part of the season. I am starting to search for websites that list guesthouses and have found a few here and there. If I find a few particularly useful ones, I will come back to this page and share them so that others may benefit.

Mark Williams says:

I am a nature photographer. While planning my trip to Iceland will be worth the scenery alone, I have seen little to no discussion regarding wildlife, probably because there isn’t a lot, but I am curious if you know if there are places (or recommendations) for those seeking to include wildlife photography into there picturesque landscape photos. Whales, seals seabirds, fox, caribou or any other such creatures? As an aside, does this famous Ring Road circumvent the island close to the shores or is it further in? Thank you.

    Roger Wade says:


    Iceland has its famous (non-wild) horses, and it’s also famous for Puffins, but aside from that I don’t know much about its wildlife. There are obviously many birds and sea creatures, though I’d assume that there are almost no native mammals or other land creatures. I’m sure there are many good sources for that information elsewhere.

    The nature scenery is the best I’ve seen anywhere, and I’ve been almost everywhere. I’m sure you’ll love it if you go.

    The Ring Road is a nice mix of coastal, near coastal (where the coast in in sight), and some inland portions. Most of it is inland where you can’t see the ocean, but almost every kilometer of it is gorgeous and interesting. You should be able to see it on any online map, including Google. There is exactly one main highway that goes around near the edges of the island, and that is the Ring Road. In the south and in the northwest there are also many roads that cross and go way off the Ring Road, and in the southwest around Reykjavik there are a few other highways and main roads. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Luka Hendra says:

Hi Roger, a group of us are heading to Iceland in February for a week for the first leg of our travels around Canada and America. We have sorted our accommodation, blue lagoon other small activities we want to do over the week, and an international driving permit. Now we’re having trouble with car hire at the moment, as we’re not too sure what the price includes except what is written in black and white. We have gone through Avis, and a standard 5 door has come to £187. Do you know if Insurance is included in the price of car hire companies, or is that something we have to sort out ourselves? We can’t find anything in the small print that covers this. We’ve also read there will be a safely deposit taken, and other bits they need to cover themselves on. We’ve also heard about paying excess as well? Haven’t read it in the t’s&c’s though, so I don’t know how much that is true.
We just don’t want to get out there on the first day of our 3 month adventure and be landed with lots of extra charges, and a possible decline of car hire because we didn’t sort the right information out. Your article, even a few years old has helped a group of young travellers immensely.
Thankyou in advance.

    Roger Wade says:


    I’m happy this article has been helpful. My understanding of the car hire laws in Iceland is that basic liability coverage is included in the price by law. That isn’t true in the United States, by the way. So the price you were quoted should include the most important insurance.

    However, when you get there they will try to sell you at least two additional policies. One will cover any damage to the vehicle itself, with a zero deductible. If you have your own car insurance it might cover this part, although there might be a deductible of US$500 or more, so this policy is more about peace of mind.

    The other policy they will pitch is one that covers damage to the vehicle by driving on gravel. I ended up getting this coverage, also for peace of mind, and I think it cost me around US$8 per day. If you are driving around the capital and southern coast, you could probably skip this coverage and be fine. But if, like me, you are driving around the Ring Road all the way, you will encounter several sections of gravel roads that might last 50 or even 100 kilometers. There are also some attractions such as water falls that are 10 KM down a gravel road. What happens is you start driving down those roads and the faster you drive, the more gravel is flying around under the car. If I didn’t have the coverage I would have been terrified to drive more than 10 KPH. But since I had it I could drive 30 KPH on the gravel roads without worry. In the end I didn’t see any noticeable gravel damage on my car, but still I felt it was worthwhile and I’d do it again.

    Once again, the above is what I experienced and I believe is still correct, but I can’t be 100% sure.

    Good luck. I’m sure you’ll love it, and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Christopher Laughton says:

This is an extremely useful source of information – thank you!

Ellen says:

Hi there, I found this very useful. Just wondering about how experienced of a driver you have to be in order to rent a car in Iceland? I am newly licensed.

    Roger Wade says:


    It’s possible that some car rental companies in Iceland won’t rent to those under 25, as that is a policy that some agencies have elsewhere. But I’ve never heard of any agency requiring proficiency other than just a valid driver’s license.

    The better news is that driving in Iceland is extremely easy, once you get outside central Reykjavik. If you rent a car at the big airport, which is an hour’s drive from Reykjavik, it’s even easier. The rental agencies in Reykjavik are actually in an office-park area near the small airport, so getting out of town from there is quite easy as well. Most cars and pretty much all cheaper cars will be manual transmission, but automatics are available. If you can deal with that, you’ll find Iceland to be about as easy as driving gets. The signs are all very clear, the roads are in good condition, and traffic is extremely light. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Ina Fuhlbohm says:

My husband and I are traveling to Iceland for 2 weeks in July/August this year. We are thinking of hiring a camper van hoping that it will be cheaper than hiring a car and also paying to stay in hostels etc. Do you think this is a good idea and do you know the cost of a camper van site in a caravan park or can you just park your van anywhere off the road to sleep.

    Roger Wade says:


    I’m not too familiar with the camper van scene in Iceland, and it doesn’t seem to be nearly as popular as in New Zealand, Australia, or the US. I’ve read the camper van rentals in Iceland are quite expensive, just like almost everything else, so you’d really have to check the rates to see how much money it might save.

    I don’t remember seeing an abundance of camper van parks or campsites, although I’m sure there are quite a few there. My guess is that you would not be able to just park anywhere and sleep, but there are many national parks and such that are probably suited to camper vans. Sorry I can’t be of more help. If you can find an affordable camper van I think it would be an excellent way to travel and experience Iceland. It’s a very wide-open island and it would be easy to drive one on most of the main roads. Good luck with this. -Roger

royal says:

i will love to come to iceland but am in nigeria how much does it cost from nigeria down to iceland

    Roger Wade says:


    You’ll want to check an airfare search engine such as skyscanner or Momondo for that kind of information. Best of luck. -Roger

Jovan says:

I’ve never been in Iceland and now i have an offer to work at the Keflavik airport.The think is i don’t know the costs for living there.They offer me 12-13 euros per hour and 200 hours or more per month.I know that Iceland is an expensive country so i’m afraid.It will be enough that salary? I will need a place to live 5-6 months so what price a can expect for rent a room ? Thanks:)

    Roger Wade says:


    Iceland is expensive and getting more so each year lately. But I don’t know much about housing costs or other costs for residents, as my research and data is all for tourists. I suggest using a site like for that. Best of luck. -Roger

Mervyn says:

Hey Roger,
Really great information you’ve got here!
We are a couple heading to iceland for a short honeymoon trip for first 2 weeks of March and intend to selfdrive. Would really appreciate your advice and your experience on travelling within iceland here~

1)For the period which we will be travelling, will a 2WD is safe for rental? Intending to hire for 2 weeks so a 4WD will really be costly.. and we wouldnt be going off road as we are planning a route via an online guide..

2)I noticed you mentioned for tour grps they will head to better sights for northern lights viewing.. so we are quite divided between should we take a tour or simply selfdrive

3)As we will be doing self drive, for experiences like ice caving and glacier hiking, these two would need to be guided right? Is there any whuich you highly recommend?

Thank you once again and hope to hear from you soon 🙂

    Roger Wade says:


    I’m always happy to hear that this information helps.

    1) I’m not 100% sure on this. It will be below freezing at night that time of year, so it might snow a bit. I don’t believe Iceland gets too much snow at sea level, and most of the Ring Road is very near sea level, but I suppose it could happen. I’d think that the roads near Reykjavik would be cleared pretty quickly, but most of the Ring Road is quite remote so it could take days. In other words, you’d probably be fine, but you could get unlucky and have to deal with snow. Hopefully you can get a more definite answer somewhere else.

    2) I haven’t done a Northern Lights tour, but from what I’ve read about them they are really well organized and pretty good value. If I was going that time of year and really wanted to see the lights, I’d probably do a tour rather than drive myself.

    3) My own trip there was in August so I focused on the summer sights and activities. I might go again this year, but probably in summer again. I really wish I knew more about the winters there. Again, I’d be tempted to do a tour because most of the island is empty and finding your own way could be challenging if the weather gets bad. Best of luck. -Roger

      Mervyn says:

      Hey Roger,
      Apologies for late response but thats great info once again! Really appreciate and we look forward to our first visit to iceland in march 🙂

christina says:

Roger, I will be traveling to Iceland for three days only and can’t afford to rent a car but will do a bus tour. Which one would you chose? Have you ever thought of writing travel guidebooks, you certainly would do very well. Thank you

    Roger Wade says:


    First off, thank you. Actually, this website is the way I make my living and it’s basically a living guidebook that I update all the time.

    I looked at the bus tour options before I went a few years ago and the only one operating at the time was Reykjavik Excursions. They look very solid, but I do notice there a few other competitors. If you can get a better price with one of the newcomers it might be worth it. I’ve just had a look at the websites and they all look really good. One thing about Iceland and all of Scandinavia is that everything is tightly regulated and they don’t generally cut corners. In other words, I’d feel safe on any of the main bus tours. There are plenty of countries where I’d worry about taking a newer bus-tour company, but not in Iceland. I’d check TripAdvisor reviews before you book. I wish I could be more help. I’m sure you’ll have a great time. -Roger

Saad says:

Hi Roger, this is hands down the best, most clear and up to date article ive found on Iceland. I reside and work in Dubai and i’m planning a 10-day trip to Iceland this May.
I just wanted to know if I can drive around Iceland on my Dubai Driving License or if i required an International Driving Permit? Also, there are no direct flights to Reykjavic from Dubai. Would you recommend Denmark as the closest stopover to transit through to Iceland? My questions may sound VERY amateur’ish but hey im a newbie.
Looking forward to hear from you.


    Roger Wade says:


    Thank you for the kind words. I am quite a fan of Dubai myself. And your questions are not amateurish at all.

    On the driver’s license thing, it is a policy for each company. I used my US license at Sixt and that was fine. Iceland gets a very international crowd, but I’m not sure if a UAE license will be accepted at all companies. Check for the best rate and then check the policy at that company.

    As far as which place to stop on the way, I’d just check for the whole flight from Dubai to Reykjavik and then see what the fares are like with the different airports. The shortest flights would probably include a stop in London or maybe Manchester. Norwegian Air has very good fares and they are good for flights like this. If you were going to stay one or more nights in the stopover city then that’s a different question. London would be great, although you have to factor airport transportation into the plan because it can be expensive or time consuming depending on the airports.

    Copenhagen is also right on the way if you get a good fare through there. Copenhagen is also a wonderful city to explore for a day. You might also get a good fare though Oslo, which is fine for a change of planes but the city itself isn’t very interesting so it may not be worth a day. I hope this helps a bit. Let me know if you have any other questions I can help with. -Roger

Chandi says:

Hi Roger,

Thanks for writing this! I’ve been researching online and this was by far the most detailed and easy to read review. I’m hoping you could help me with some quick questions though…

I’m actually traveling from Canada to Iceland with 2 friends at the end of April, we are going for about 10 days.

1. WE are going to be renting a car, so going to be staying at different hotels along the way, my question is, should be pre-book hotels or book when we get there as we go along?

2. The whole rent a sleeping bag thing i saw you mentioned previously, is there a specific place i should look into renting this? and are these clean to use?

3. How much would you say it would cost to rent the car for the week and is there a specific company you think we should look at?

4. The Ring Road, does it have places on the side of the road (shoulder) to stop and take in the sites or is this a risky move because we might end up holding up whatever traffic comes on this road?

5. IS the Ring road a local road, or is this something that only tourist use really to get around?

6. I want to check out the Hot Springs, as this is something to do there, would you recommend this?

7. Would you recommend eating at a restaurant at least once? or just stick to fast food throughout the whole trip to save money.I see what you’re saying about the supermarket but If i can avoid having to worry about cooking that would be great lol

8. Is this famous Ice Hotel along my way on the Ring Road? or do i have to go somewhere else to see this?

I think those are all my questions for now. Again i’m sorry for the list but i’m trying to plan and budget accordingly.


    Roger Wade says:


    I’m glad I can help. I’ll go through your questions in order…

    1. Most of the people driving rented cars around the Ring Road are only staying one night in each place, so the whole system is well set up to find hotels on the day you’ll be staying. And in April, it’ll still be very early in the season so you’ll have no problem finding rooms. The cheaper places tend to NOT be listed for online booking.

    2. There is a link in the article above to a place in downtown Reykjavik that rents sleeping bags exactly for this purpose. They are reputable and I’m sure they clean the bags between each rental. Iceland in general is very well organized for things like this.

    3. I ran some rental price tests and they are in the article above. But in April you could get an even better deal. The base price comes with regular insurance (by law), but they will try to sell you a policy that covers even the deductible when you get there. Consider the gravel coverage if you are doing the Ring Road because you’ll be driving off pavement at times and the rocks really do fly around if you are going more than a crawl. Just go to or another site like that to check rental rates for your dates.

    4. I did the Ring Road in late August, which is far busier than April, and the most amazing thing to me was that once I got out of the Reykjavik area, I was almost alone. There were MANY times where I literally stopped my car in the lane of traffic to look around and take photos, and then drove on. Sometimes it was 10 or 20 minutes before I’d see another car. So don’t worry about that at all. There are shoulders in places and other pull-outs in scenic spots. But the traffic is so light that it’s not dangerous at all during daylight hours.

    5. The Ring Road is more or less a state highway and it’s in very good condition almost all the way around. It’s also used for local traffic for people to get from one village to the other. But as mentioned, there are so few people in Iceland that you’ll barely see any cars once outside of the southwest corner of the island.

    6. There are quite a few hot springs in Iceland and you should check a couple out. The namesake of the word “geyser” is called Geysir and it’s part of the “Golden Circle” of sights near Reykjavik. It’s far more crowded than the others, but it’s still worth a look. You’ll come across several others as you do the Ring Road, as long as you have a guidebook or something like that with you.

    7. I ate at a couple restaurants in my 9 days there and none of them was special. Iceland is NOT a foodie destination and the local specialties are barely palatable to outsiders. So really you’d be missing almost nothing if you just did supermarkets and fast food.

    8. I’m not aware of an ice hotel in Iceland, and Googling just now didn’t show one. The famous ones I’m aware of are in Sweden and Finland. If Iceland DOES have an ice hotel, I’d bet that it’s near Reykjavik or at least near the Ring Road.

    No problem with the questions and I enjoy this topic a lot. Let me know if anything else comes up. -Roger

Veronica says:

Hi Roger,

I am a student on a pretty slim budget ideally going this December so I am trying to save money for thinks like ice cave hiking and swimming in Silfra. I have been trying to read up on renting a car but being young and not a super experienced driver I have heard that it is incredibly expensive and also I am wondering if it is even recommended for someone who hasn’t been driving long? But I have also looked at the bus tours for both of those activities and know that they are more expensive than just meeting at the location. What do you recommend? By the way thank you for the tips on food and housing, glad to know I won’t be missing out on food if I buy cheap and do a hostel! Also, how long do you think is a good amount of time to stay in Iceland if I am just interested in those two things plus a chance at the Northern Lights while doing all the other touring in my free time? I was looking at going for 9-10 days but I am just not sure! Help!


    Roger Wade says:


    My own Iceland experience was in late summer so I’m not sure what it’s like in December. However, I know that it’s become far more popular lately, especially with the Northern Lights tours. So I’m not sure how long you should stay, although I think you should stay as long as you can afford comfortably because Iceland is so amazing and everyone seems to love it.

    As for renting a car, it’s something I rarely do myself if there are public transport options such as buses, but in Iceland I’m SO glad I rented a car. For one thing, everything is so spread out that there is no way a bus can take you to most of the little things you might want to see. In other words, I’m sure you’d have a very good time if you did it by bus, but if you can rent a car you’ll have a better time. Also, as you mention, the buses aren’t exactly cheap either. As for being an inexperienced driver, Iceland may be the easiest place to drive that I’ve ever been. If you rent a car at the airport then you can avoid Reykjavik completely and almost all roads on the island are empty. Even if you drive into Reykjavik or rent a car there, it’s a pretty easy drive of maybe 15 minutes and then you are out on the open road. The roads are mostly in very good condition, though there are some gravel roads that you will encounter.

    Just keep in mind how little sunlight you’ll be getting each day, and assuming your plan works with that I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time. I hope this helped and let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

Dominique says:

Hello Roger, you seem to be the true Iceland connaisseur and I enjoyed reading your posts. We are a family of 4 planning a trip around Iceland towards the end of June for 9 days. Would you recommend we book as we go if we want to stay in guesthouses or is it better to reserve in advance. Also, what are the overnight stops that you recommend along the way. I am thinking about spending the first night around Hella, then Hofn,Egilsstaoir,Akureyri,Vatnsdalur,Borgarnes and back to Reykjavik

    Roger Wade says:


    Thanks. When I was in Iceland I did a ton of research and have researched many things since then, for the main purpose of being able to write about it and help others.

    Before I went I was told that booking as you go each day is the norm, and in my experience that turned out to be by far the best way. I pretty much freestyled it around the Ring Road, starting clockwise and trying to get the longer driving days in first so I’d have more time to slow down on the more populated southern coast. Still, it’s really only the Reykjavik area that is “populated” as the towns of Vik and Hofn have just a few hundred and a couple thousand residents, respectively. In other words, the whole island is pretty much empty except for around Reykjavik.

    On one hand, you could pre-plan all of your Ring Road stops and I’m sure you’d have a very good trip. But I was happy to decide where to stay part of the way into each day. The scenery is so amazing and varied, and some parts of the road are slower than others, that it was nice to be able to decide at noon and then call for a reservation in the town that I was sure I could reach at a reasonable hour. And as I’ve mentioned here before, most Iceland accommodation, particularly around the Ring Road seems to be set up this way with nearly all guests staying exactly one night and making a reservation on the day. Normally I really prefer to read all the reviews and book hotels in advance, but in Iceland many of the guesthouses aren’t offered online at all, and it’s the more expensive ones that can be booked online.

    The online booking thing could be changing these days, however, as more guesthouses are using Airbnb and such. So it’s really hard to say for sure.

    Your itinerary looks pretty good, although I think I’d devote more time to the south coast, as it’s the most dense with national parks and big sights. And Borgarnes to Reykjavik is only 70km and takes one hour. The views are nice, but I don’t believe there are any good stops along that road.

    Since the south coast is the single most interesting area, you might also consider the plan I did by going clockwise and getting your long driving days in for the first few days, giving you more time to linger on the south coast. The views just from the car on the Ring Road are amazing those first few days, and there are plenty of little waterfalls and such to pull over to see, but they are quick to see, while the south coast has bigger parks and such.

    As someone like myself who really enjoys pre-planning hotels and itineraries, going to Iceland to sort of “wing it” could seem stressful. But really it’ll work out great as long as you have a smart phone with a working SIM card. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

      Dominique says:

      This is great information, thank you! Where do you suggest I get a list of the guesthouses in Iceland? is there a tourist office at the airport?

        Roger Wade says:


        Actually, there is a tourist office at the Reykjavik Airport, and they produce a booklet that they hand out to anyone who asks that is basically a catalogue of all guesthouses in Iceland. So visit that office and get your copy while still at the airport. There might also be an online version of it now. Have a great trip. -Roger

Rachel says:

Thank you so much for all this info Roger. We are heading to Iceland end of April. I read that April is not a good time of year to go because scenery is not as nice. We are Canadians and here we see grass in April (not the greenest but we see it). Is it about the same in Iceland. I am imagining there would still be a lot of snow in higher land but still a good sign of ‘spring’ on lower ground. What is it like? Thank you.

p.s. we will be renting a car and going around the Ring Road for sure. As you suggested we plan on going clockwise. We will be staying 7 to 9 days, not sure yet.

    Roger Wade says:


    I haven’t been to Iceland in April, but I still think I can answer the question. Interestingly, most of the scenery is volcanic output in one form or another and there are almost no trees at all. There are many natural grass fields and those might be brown in April (although I’m not sure), but most of the scenery should be the same. In other words, there just isn’t much there that can change in winter.

    The interior of the island will be more snowy and icy in April, but the sea-level areas around the edges are warm enough that they should be dry in April. It’s a very popular time for Northern Lights tours, so I believe most of the scenery is accessible. You’d need to be even more careful driving on unpaved roads and especially at altitude, but really I think it’ll be very nice along the Ring Road and such. Have a great trip. -Roger

Harris says:

I admit to say that i have learned so much about this country just from this side and mostly from the comments people post below. I am sure many have made the same comment before me but it’s worth mentioning it again.

So here’s the thing. My wife and I are first time travellers in Iceland this upcoming August. We are travelling there for a week exactly the same time of the year as you did. We will rent a car but still haven’t figured out where from. We will drive the entire ring road and mainly stop at the following: Blue lagoon, Dettifoss, Dimmuborgir,Dyrholaey Arch, Geysir, Gullfoss Falls, Jokulsarlon, Krafla, Myvatn, Namafjall, Reynisdrangar, Reynisfjara black sand beach, Seljalandfos, Skogafoss, Vik and Akureyri. Please fill me up if there is anything I am missing. What type of car you think will do for the ring road? Should we choose a normal one or go for a 4×4 instead?

The other thing I was thinking is how to split my days there. First of all let me say that we are choosing to stay in hotels and guesthouses but it is likely to choose to stay more than one night at the same place due to the side attractions near by. I have written in one of the comments made by you that you chose to devide your trip to seven driving days each spending 3-5 hours on the road. Do you think this will be also convenient in our case?

The other thing is that we were wondering on how easy is to find a gas station in Iceland and how much should we spend for gas in total for the week.

What’more what are the chances in observing the northern lights in late August? What’the temperature like at this time of the year? I think I read somewhere that it can reach up to 20 degrees during day. What about at nights?

Thanks again for your time!

    Roger Wade says:


    Thank you for the kind words. It’s that sort of thing that makes running a website like this worthwhile. I’ll try to answer your questions in the order they came up…

    The main options for where to rent a vehicle are from the main airport near Keflavík or from the agencies that operate out of an industrial park near central Reykjavik. I rented from Sixt from Reykjavik and returned my car to the airport for no extra fee. If you are going to spend a day or two in Reykjavik before the Ring Road then I recommend trying to do the same thing.

    If you are going to mainly do the Ring Road and the key waterfalls and other top sights off the Ring Road, then a normal vehicle will be fine. You need a 4X4 if you want to take the dirt and gravel roads in the interior of the island, but almost the entire Ring Road is nicely paved and pretty much flat. I was also happy I got the gravel insurance that I mentioned, even though my car didn’t get damaged. The thing is, there are a few unpaved roads that you’ll be taking, and if you drive on them more than 10 MPH (16 KPH) or so, the gravel starts flying around and hitting the bottom of the car quite a bit. So with the insurance you can drive quicker and not worry, but without the insurance you’d have to crawl or be constantly worried about shredding the front of the car.

    Of course, if you want to see some sights well off the Ring Road and up at elevation, you’ll need to rent a 4X4 or you won’t be covered at all.

    The Blue Lagoon is really cool to see. It’s very close to the Keflavík Airport so it’s most efficient to see it on your way there or back. As far as the other attractions, I had a Lonely Planet guide with me and I checked it for the best sights on or near the Ring Road for each day I was there. So I saw all of the top sights, but I didn’t memorize all of the names, partly because most are hard to pronounce. It sounds like you are already much better prepared than most Iceland visitors, and I’m sure you’ll hit the best sights. The roads are so empty that you’ll have plenty of time to slow down and consider stopping any time you see a parking lot or sign for an attraction.

    As far as dividing your time on the Ring Road, I was happy with my decision to do part of the road on each of my 7 days, and stay in a different guesthouse each night. I think that’s the way that most people do it, except for those who are taking 8 or more days for the Ring Road and are planning on focusing on a longer stop or two. In my case I did it clockwise and I made it two-thirds of the way around the Ring after 3 days of driving. I was still able to stop at every waterfall or other sight that I wanted. Most of them are literally right off the Ring Road, so a stop at a great waterfall might be just pulling into a parking lot for 15 minutes to look, and then on your way again. Then with my last 4 days I was able to focus in the more densely packed area along the southern coast. I could have stayed in Hofn or Vik for 2 nights if I wanted, and still been on track. It’s just that there are many more big sights along the southern coast than the rest of the Ring, so I was glad to go slower along there.

    Also, the drive itself is perhaps the best part. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, there were many times that I rounded a corner and saw something so stunning that I literally just stopped the car in the middle of the road for a few minutes to look and take photos. The traffic was so light in late August that I usually wouldn’t see another car. But if another car came, they could just go around me easily enough. I believe it’s become more popular in the last few years, but still you’ll be mostly alone.

    Finding gas stations is easier than you might think. There are a few chains that cover the whole island, and they all have the exact same price, which is mentioned in the article above and updated recently. Obviously you have to pay attention and fill the tank when you get down to maybe a quarter of a tank, but it’s not like there are 100 kilometer stretches with no gas stations. The gas currently runs about US$7.50 a gallon, and most rental cars are quite fuel efficient. The Ring Road is 828 miles (1332 km) long, and you’ll add another 100 to 300 miles (150 to 450 km) for a few attractions that are off the road a bit. So figure maybe 1,000 miles or 1600 km. If you get a car that averages 30 MPG on the highway (it’s all highway), that’s 33 gallons or about US$250 for gas.

    I’ve never heard of anyone seeing the Northern Lights in August, although I suppose it’s possible. The Iceland climate is warmer than most people would assume, and it stays above freezing at sea level all summer. It does get chilly at night, but August average lows are 46F/8C in Reykjavik, and most of the rest of the island is similar.

    Let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

      Harris says:


      Thank you for your detailed comments. Very descriptive as always! We will definitely get the gravel insurance for the car as it is something it will keep us calm throughout the journey. We are not sure though if heading to spots like Krafla and Detifoss on the north part will be fine using a normal car. I will look this further I am sure I will come up with an answer.

      As for which direction to take maybe it’s wiser to go clockwise as the main spots are on the southern coast and we can save these for the end.

      As for the weather it is clear that we need to bring some light jackets as well for the night. Thanks again for the valuable info! Very much appreciated!

        Roger Wade says:


        Yes, I did it clockwise for that reason and I’m very glad I did. Many of the blockbuster sights are along the southern coast, and if you save that until the end you’ll know how much time you have to spend there. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Tyrowe John Alarcon says:

Dear Harris,

I came across in this feeds and article from you and i find it very straightforward and informative thanks very much indeed. I am a Filipino living and working here in Abu Dabi (2 hours away from dubai) and i will be traveling to Iceland next week from March 24- 30 to celebrate my birthday with my German friend. I will be flying from Frankfurt airport and he will be flying a day earlier via Dusseldorf.

We have drafted itineraries and booked hotels but my only concern is we dont have any activities yet in Akureyri on March 28. Is there any tour companies you can suggest that offers excursions at very reasonable price? I checked via however, it is a bit pricey i guess the snowmobiling.

And also, are the winter gears cheaper in iceland than the rest of europe? Like Winter shoes, waterproof jacket or raincoat etc.? Just like to know. I hope my questions are relevant to your article.

Appreciate to hear your valuable comments soon.

Have a great day



    Roger Wade says:


    I mainly focused on seeing the natural sights all over Iceland and I didn’t do any paid activities like snowmobiling, so I’m not going to be much help on this. You are right that is a bit expensive, and you should get lower prices if you book once you get there. The service that offers is the ability to lock in an activity at a certain time before you go, which is often impossible from local operators any other way. And they do charge a bit of a premium for that.

    As for prices of winter gear and clothes, I remember seeing many stores stocking those things on the main street in Reykjavik, but I didn’t check the prices. It’s an interesting question because most things in Iceland are quite expensive compared to elsewhere in Europe. But Iceland is also one of Europe’s top winter activity destinations, and they obviously sell a lot of gear there. My guess is that prices in Iceland are going to be competitive with elsewhere in Europe, and the selection seems to be good. I wish I had a more certain answer because that’s the exact sort of question that I enjoy researching and started this site to answer. Have a great trip. -Roger

Jugal says:

Hi Roger,Im planning to go in the last week of June and Im planning a 8 day trip to Iceland. I have a few questions,
1)The prices of food,alcohol and fuel that are mentioned in the article above,are they the latest rates?
2)I plan to cover only the southern part of Iceland within a span of 4 days in a rented car. A 2WD,should I opt for gravel insurance even then? Considering the roads in that area may not be that bad.
3)What would be more suitable while traveling on the ring road,camping or staying in guesthouses? which option would be cheaper and which one would be better?
4)How is the weather in June? is it worth going in this season flying half way across the world? Thanks. Your article has been of great help.

    Roger Wade says:


    1) Yes, I just updated those food, alcohol, and fuel prices in late 2016 based on information I received from people who had just visited. Fortunately, there isn’t much inflation in those things lately, although hotel prices have definitely gone up lately.

    2) Along the southern coast you should be on paved roads about 99% of the time, so the gravel coverage is less critical. You’ll encounter some gravel roads, but they will mostly be driveways and short paths to parking lots, and you can drive very slowly over those without it being a problem. As I mentioned, on the Ring Road there are patches of 5 to 20 kilometers here and there of gravel roads, and your choices are driving at a crawl or driving at a normal speed and praying that you aren’t destroying the front of the rented car.

    3) Camping would obviously require much more gear, and if you were able to bring all of that with you to Iceland then it would be cheaper to pay for camp sites or camp rough. But if you have to rent a tent and stove and all of that, it may not be cheaper and it would be quite a bit of work. I’d recommend guesthouses and perhaps the sleeping bag option where you can find it. The guesthouses in Iceland seem to be very social and enjoyable places with shared kitchens and all of that. They are sort of like small hostels where everyone has a basic, private room, and a shared bathroom, kitchen, and social space.

    4) It’s somewhat chilly all year round in Iceland, but June is obviously one of the warmer months, and the sun barely sets as well. It’s absolutely worth going in June, and it might be the best month of the year because the weather is decent and the crowds are a bit lighter than July and August. Have a great trip. -Roger

David A says:

Hi Roger
Great article. Best I have read as we research our trip. I also appreciate that you have kept this thread alive for 2 years. Really impressive and fun to share your love of travel and Iceland. Thank you!

We are considering a trip this summer (2017) for my wife and me and 2 early-teenage boys. We prefer using our feet instead of wheels and have done a lot of guided overnight hiking in the American west. We are researching a few trips and have heard from a KimKim agent about multi-day treks across Hornstrandir Nature Reserve and/or a multi day hike across Thorsmork area where you stay in huts each night.

A couple of questions. Do you know anything about these “hut to hut” hikes in the south? Are there similar hikes in Hornstrandor (e.g. huts?) or do you use tents or is it guest house to guest house. I read that Hornstrandor is very sparsly populated so I am guessing its tough to find guesthouses on the treking routes.

Finally, I have read a lot about the ring road but are more excited to get out and explore a few areas rather than try to see it all. With that in mind, if our trip will be 9 or 10 days, do you think there are areas – other than the 2 areas mentioned above, that we have to see along the ring road.

Thanks again. I look forward to your response

    Roger Wade says:


    I’m glad you found the article interesting. Unfortunately I know pretty much nothing about hut to hut hikes in Iceland and that sort of thing. My own trip and most of my research has revolved around trying to see as many different types of sights in a short time, which can be best done by car or bus. That said, when I was there I did see people hiking long distances and cycling as well. I’m sure there is a much better source for advice on that aspect of your trip out there.

    I didn’t get as far north as Hornstrandir, but I’m sure you are right about it being sparsely populated. In fact, the entire island outside the capital area is sparsely populated. You might drive through a village with 50 houses and then drive an hour to the next village with 50 houses. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it’s really nice partly for that reason.

    If you have 9 or 10 days and don’t want to do the entire Ring Road, I think your idea of going to the northwest peninsula is a good one. But really, the best cluster of major sights is along the southern coast between Reykjavik and Hofn. The road there is also in good shape and it’s all paved. The Ring Road north of Hofn has some unpaved sections and there aren’t many major sights along the east coast. I wish I could be more help. Have a great trip. -Roger

Marnie says:

Hi Roger-

We will be visiting Iceland the last week of June for 7 nights. We have rented a cottage in Kjosarhreppur which will be home base. Our car for the week is a 4×4. We plan to do day trips, and may possibly stay overnight elsewhere if we venture to Jokulsarlon. I am wondering what your opinion is of the tour of the man-made ice tunnel in Langjokull versus the zodiac boat tour in Jokulsarlon. This time of year we can’t do an ice cave tour in Jokulsarlon, which is what I really wanted to do. Also, what would you highlight as the top 5 or so “must do” things while we are there? Any hikes,etc., would have to be fairly easy.

Thank you!


    Roger Wade says:


    The focus of my own trip and also of the research I’ve done was on seeing a wide variety of sights all over the island. The ice cave tour looks amazing from the photos and reviews, but I wasn’t even aware of it when I was there. I did drive to the Ice Lagoon where they do those Zodiac tours, but I just observed it all from the banks of the lagoon. The Ice Lagoon is absolutely one of the top highlights in all of Iceland and I was happy enough to see it from the shore. If I’d had a companion and maybe a bit more time, the Zodiac boats are probably even more enjoyable.

    As for my Top 5, the Ice Lagoon is one. Mostly I drove the Ring Road and pulled off at every water fall and hot spring that had its own parking lot. Honestly, my favorite thing was just the ever-changing scenery as I drove around, with virtually no other cars on the road. It’s a volcanic island and there are many different types of ash fields and other natural phenomena that are different based on when the last eruption to reach that area was. And there are thousands of waterfalls that you’ll see as you just drive along. For me, the main sights that make up the “Golden Circle” were kind of disappointing, partly because they were all crowded while the attractions elsewhere were nearly empty. You’ll encounter many places to hike, most of which are mainly flat, although some require some climbing. It’s all very well organized and virtually all the main natural sights are free, with a little parking lot and well maintained paths at each one. I hope this helps. -Roger

Chris says:

Hello Roger,

I am planning a trip in late August this year to Iceland, and there was a lot of information on the basics. (I.E. Airfare, Jeep rental with tent topper to cut down on price and see Highlands, as well as Fuel.) But the overwhelming questions are about “food” from rough estimates of a single day “basic self catering”? To whether or not you can bring backpackers dried food from the States? Or should I wait and go to Kasco Netto or even Costco? “Which I guess is opening this summer’17.” Any kind of information would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you for your time.


    Roger Wade says:


    The news of Costco opening is new to me, and that is very cool. Still, I’m not sure whether it’ll be worth going out of your way to drive to that suburban location to stock up on large quantities of things. There are decent-size supermarkets in every town of any size, so there will be at least one in each town you sleep in, or at least on your way to that town. I do list the price of groceries in the article above.

    I was actually surprised that so many things were reasonably priced there, and I’m sure that is still true. As I mention in the article, there are very few actual sit-down restaurants in Iceland and those that are there are very expensive. So it seems that most people staying at guesthouses shop for groceries and prepare food in the common kitchen at each place. That’s what I did on most nights, and the kitchens are quite busy, and a good place to be social as well. Specialty items and imported items CAN be double the price that you are used to, but things like dried pasta and bottled sauce are almost the same price you’d find in the US or Europe. And weirdly enough, every supermarket in Iceland has a little section of Mexican items such as tortillas and taco mix etc, and many Icelandic families enjoy Mexican food on a certain day each week.

    I’m a pretty cheap guy and I was worried that even making my own dinners might cost US$10 each or something, but I was able to make pasta and meat sauce with bread for maybe US$5 for a large portion. In other words, it really doesn’t have to add up to too much, so it may not be worth going hours out of your way to try to save US$20 for a whole week. Have a great trip. -Roger

Raj Ranat says:

Hi Roger,
I found this web site and its very informative. Planning to visit Iceland mid april with my wife and the two yr old.

I read trip advisor and also your blog and came up with the itenary below.

Day 1 – arive at Reykjavik early morning, rent a car and look around the city. Stay the night.

Day 2 – Do the gloden circle and stay the night in Selfoss area.

Day 3 – Drive to Skaftafell visiting attractions and stay the night.

Day 4 – Drive to Höfn visiting attractions and stay the night.

Day 5 – Drive back to Vik and stay the night.

Day 6 – Drive back to Reykjavik stay the night and take the early morning flight.

Still need to which attractions to see on route. By the way do you thing we should drive further up north? I really wanted to do the entire ring road but was not sure about the road conditions and time it will take. Apreciate any advice.

Many Thanks,



    You’d really need at least 6 days to do the full Ring Road, mostly because there are so many amazing things that you’ll want to stop often so you can only drive so many hours each day. If you tried to do it in 5 days you’d find yourself driving by things you’d like to see, just to stay on schedule. So I think your idea of focus on the southern coast is wise.

    You might consider renting your car on Day 2. You could take a shuttle bus from the airport to Reykjavik and then do your sightseeing on foot or by bus. Honestly, Reykjavik is not a very interesting city and the main tourist area is only about 3 blocks by about 10 blocks. I actually did the hop-on, hop-off bus tour in order to see what else was around, and I wasn’t too impressed. It’s a pleasant enough city, but it is expensive and the natural attractions elsewhere in Iceland are really what you want to focus more on. You might even rent a car on Day 1 and drive east and just save that last afternoon and evening in Reykjavik.

    Speaking of that, I did the Ring Road clockwise and I visited the Golden Circle attractions on my last full day. Interestingly, I actually found them to be a bit dull compared to the things I’d seen for the whole week before, and also FAR more crowded. The waterfall that is part of it is one of the better ones, but the Geysir field and continental divide are just okay. In other words, you might also want to save those for the end, and you might end up skipping one or more of them. The reason that the Golden Circle is a big deal is that those 3 things are easy to see on an 8-hour trip starting and finishing at the airport. But because of those airport tour buses, they are all way more crowded than anything else in Iceland.

    As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, really the best and most interesting sights on the Ring Road are most concentrated on the southern coast. So I don’t think driving north is worth the time. They are beautiful roads north of Reykjavik, but there aren’t many actual sights until you get close to the north coast. So you might just rent a car on Day 1 from the airport and plan on reaching Höfn by the end of Day 2. That would allow you the rest of your trip to slowly make it back to the airport area, seeing everything you want with plenty of time to spend.

    One last thing to mention is that the airport is about 50km from Reykjavik and there is virtually nothing between them except for lava fields. I do think spending one day and evening in Reykjavik is worthwhile if it interests you, but if you do that on your first day then you might be better off staying that last night close to the airport. You could visit the Blue Lagoon on your way, as it’s much closer to the airport than it is to Reykjavik. And it’s very interesting to see, even if you aren’t going to pay to swim. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Rana says:

HEllo Roger,

Your posts are really enriched with important informations. So I want to know that I am planning to visit Iceland in the month of June’17. So if i opt for renting a campervan, I think that will somehow curtail my accommodation cost. I have planned to wrap up my trip in 7-8 days. My questions are..

1. What will it cost for renting a campervan and is it a right idea to stay in a campervan ?
2. Can you suggest the places we must visit during our stay ?



    I rented a normal car when I was there and I didn’t actually see too many campervans. But I do know they have them there, and you’ll have better look checking the prices online. I’m sure they are quite expensive, but they still might be a good deal to save the cost of guesthouses. Since you have at least a week I’d highly recommend doing the full Ring Road. I’d assume that there are holiday parks along the way, but I’m not actually sure. There are definitely places to stay in a campervan along the southern coast, which also has the most interesting sights.

    When I was there and did the Ring Road I used the Lonely Planet guidebook on my iPad. There are waterfalls and interesting sights all over the island, mostly along the Ring Road. I can’t give you a list of them, partly because the spellings of the names are all so unusual. Have a great trip and I’m sure you’ll love it. -Roger

Diana Sittler says:

Hi Roger,
My daughter is thinking of going to Iceland after she graduates this summer. She has plenty of time, but how much time do you thinkshe will need to tour, hike and take advantage of everything? Also, she would be travelling alone – do you think that would be a problem? Would it be better for her to plan on staying in campsites or in hostels? Thanks.



    Iceland can actually be a bit challenging for solo travelers without a rental car. There are some bus companies that connect the main tourist sights, especially along the southern coast, but their schedules are fixed so you have to be ready to catch the bus when it comes each day. On the other hand, it’s extremely safe, so I wouldn’t worry about that part. And Iceland is the most amazing place I’ve ever been, and I’ve been almost everywhere, so I do think it’s a great idea.

    Assuming she doesn’t want to rent a car, I’d say the best plan would be to look into the bus passes, which allow you to do a certain route or loop in as short or long of a time as you want. There are hostels in pretty much all of the sightseeing areas where the bus stops, and those would be easier than camping. If you’ve looked at the weather in Iceland, you’ve noticed that days in summer are fairly cold, and nights are obviously colder. Unless you have all of the equipment for those temperatures, I’d think that just doing hostels will be much easier and also more social.

    Have a look at those Iceland tour bus routes that allow you to hop on and hop off at various stops around the country. I’d say 4 days would be the minimum time to see the highlights, and in 2 weeks she could see almost everything. If she wants to do the Ring Road then 7 or 8 days is usually ideal, although it might be a bit complicated depending on when the bus leaves each day from each stop. Sorry I couldn’t be more specific. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Diana says:

Hi Roger,

Thanks for the response. She would be renting a car. So you think 2 weeks is all you need to travel throughout Iceland and do all the hiking, etc. She is very outdoorsy.

Thanks for your help.




    That’s great that she is renting a car. She can do the whole Ring Road in one week, but if she has more time she’ll enjoy it more by taking her time. I’d say 10 days would be fantastic, and 14 days would be enough to see almost everything in the country, aside from the sights in the center of the island that require a 4X4 to reach. -Roger

Harris says:

Dear Roger,
I am reading all conversations in the block and slowly building up my itinerary towards my 7-day trip in Iceland on late August. As I go through the small details now I need a piece of advice from you on the following issue. We are doing the ring road clockwise so the third day we will be staying at Akureyri. On the following morning I am thinking to go through Godafoss, Myvath, Namafjall, Krafla caldera and then Detifoss before ending in Elgisstadir to spend the night. Doing the math that will be a distance of approximately 300Km from Akureyri to Elgisstadir including these stops. I am wondering if I will make it by 7PM say to be on my next stop. I know this is a bit challenging question to discuss but I will appreciate any comments on your behalf. Maybe I should skip some stops? Thank you



    Interestingly enough, on my late-August Ring Road trip, I stayed in Akureyri the second night and Elgisstadir the third night. I don’t remember the specific stops I made that day, but I’m sure it was most or all of the same ones. I think I skipped one that required something like a 10km drive each way on a gravel road to reach because I was worried about the time and also you have to drive quite slow on those gravel roads. The Ring Road itself in that area is all paved, so you can move quickly.

    It seems that tourism has increased by some degree since my trip a few years ago, but still I’m sure you’ll be amazed at how empty northern Iceland is, in a wonderful way. That third day on the road was a long one and I think it was dark by the time I got to the guesthouse where I stayed, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. You’ll just have to get an early start and play it by ear, and I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to do all or almost all of it. I stayed in Hofn on my fourth night, and there are a few gravel patches of the Ring Road along the coast, so that one can be a bit slow. There aren’t many notable attractions in that stretch, so it’s another pretty easy drive as long as you start early. Have a great trip and let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

jane says:

Hi Roger, thank you for all the useful information on here. We are going to Iceland for 2 weeks in August and will be staying on a farm in the middle of nowhere in the North for some hiking. We are planning on hiring a 4×4 after your helpful comments.



    I’m glad I was able to help. You definitely need a 4X4 to go into Iceland’s interior, and it sounds like you’ve got quite an adventure in mind. Bon voyage. -Roger

Bethany says:

Is fruit there expensive? I practically live off fruit. Where ever I travel I bring a mini blender with me so I can make smoothies every day. And what about fresh green and other veggies, are those easy to find/buy ? And are they expensive compared to US super market prices? Thanks!



    Oooh, interesting question. I’m not much of a fruit eater so I didn’t really notice, but I did notice that veggie prices were pretty reasonable. My guess is that apples and other fruit like that that doesn’t spoil quickly will be fairly cheap. Weirdly enough, fruit is often cheaper in Europe than in the US. Most things in Iceland are at least a bit more expensive than in mainland Europe, but I’d guess it’s maybe 20% or so. Sorry I don’t have a better answer, but long story short, I’d expect that fruit would be pretty affordable because the governments in Europe help make that possible. I don’t think you’d be paying, say, US$2 for one apple, if that is what you are worried about.

    Actually, this site is pretty reliable for supermarket prices and things like that. It looks like fruit isn’t too expensive to afford. Have a great trip. -Roger

Chris says:

I know that camping space is widely available(outside of city limits and after checking with land owners) however, I have been trying to find out if there are more formal campgrounds that will be open (with running water) between mid September and mid October. While I know this a colder time of year I would like to understand if there are any options available.)

Also, thanks for the wonderful article! I have been on the fence about making a solo trip to Iceland and am 99% sure that I am headed there for 5 day trip this fall.



    Ruth (or Chris)

    I’m glad you enjoyed the article and I’m sure you’ll love Iceland. Camping isn’t something I know a lot about, although it’s obviously big in Iceland, especially during the summer. I was curious about this as well and discovered a good page dedicated to Iceland campgrounds open all year. They filtered the results from the master list put together by It looks like most campgrounds are only open in summer, but about 20 are open year round and they are spread over most of the island. Have a wonderful trip. -Roger

martin says:

Great information. Thank you!

Sache says:

Hello Roger,

Firstly, your blog is fabulous, detailed and helpful!
I am going to iceland from Sept 2 to Sept 9 with my husband. I land in Iceland on Sept 2 at about 3pm and leave on Sept 9 at 6pm.

Given that i have 8 nights – here is how i plan to break-up my trip.

1. Sept 2 night we stay in Reykjavik
2. Sept 3 morning we leave and drive clock-wise on the ring road and we plan to be back in Reykjavik by night on Sept 8th.

Could you suggest a suitable itinerary with specific must visit sights for me?

We plan to do Blue lagoon on 9th morning, on our way to the airport.

Look forward to hearing from you. Thanks.



    Thank you. I really don’t like to build itineraries from scratch, although I will comment on one that someone posts here if they ask. When I did my clockwise Ring Road trip I used the Lonely Planet iPad version (any version will do) and I noted the interesting waterfalls, springs, and other sights that were on or near the Ring Road each day. Unfortunately, the Icelandic names are mostly unpronouncable and very hard to remember for English speakers, so very few of them stuck with me.

    One wonderful thing about the Ring Road is that most of the best sights are literally next to the Ring Road, or down a short road that is well marked. In other words, even without a guidebook you’d end up seeing most of the best options. Still, I recommend a guidebook as it’s the best US$10 or US$20 you’ll spend on a trip that will cost you a couple thousand dollars.

    A last thing I’ll mention is that you may not want to spend that last night in Reykjavik. It’s a pretty dull town and you might be too tired to do any sightseeing when you get back there. What I did was found a spacious hotel in a suburb, which was maybe 30 kilometers from Reykjavik. Hotels outside of town are much cheaper and more spacious, and parking is obviously easier as well. The road from the capital area to the airport is an easy one that is empty most of the time, so if you stay anywhere in southwestern Iceland it will be easy to drive to the Blue Lagoon on your way to the airport. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Hawk says:

Hi Roger

We are a family of four adults planning to visit Iceland March 2018. I was told as well as read articles driving in Iceland during winter can be hazardous and dangerous and decided not to hire car instead and inquired with local Travel agents. We were quoted Euro2984.00 for a 4 nights package which includes :
Transfer from Keflavík Airport to Reykjavik via Airport Shuttle on arrival
Greater Reykjavik area sightseeing bus tour (2.5 hours)
Golden Circle Guided bus tour (8 hours)
Northern Lights guided bus tour
(3 – 5 hours), Kleina (Icelandic Pastry) and a Hot chocolate
Blue Lagoon & Keflavík Airport transfer via Airport Shuttle on departure (entrance fee included)

We are not comfortable driving especially in icy conditions – do you think the price of the package is fairly reasonable or a little too much ?
Also requested for apartment type accommodation with cooking facilities after reading how expensive it can be eating out especially with 4 adults. Would this be a good choice or stick with breakfast included but no cooking facility ?

Many thanks for your advice in advance Roger 🙂 So good to learn so much just by reading your posts.



    That price does seem a bit high, but Iceland isn’t a cheap place to visit so it’s hard to tell what a more reasonable price might be. You could find prices on each individual item pretty easily, and if you really wanted to you could book most of these same things online. I’d think that probably at least half of that total will go toward accommodation. At this point even a simple hotel room with shared bathroom (most hotels in Iceland operate this way) is going for around €200 a night in the better locations. So if you are getting an apartment with a proper kitchen, that would go for at least €300 per night, I’d think. With that in mind, and it could be up to €400 per night really, it’s not such a bad deal. Again, you could book all of these things individually, so that is the best way to compare the price.

    If the total is much less than this price you might even want to just do it yourself. Iceland is a VERY easy country to visit in that everyone speaks fluent English and almost everything is available online. Also, it should be pretty quiet in March, so I don’t think any of these things will be sold out in advance.

    As for the cooking thing, I think it’s a good idea. As amazing as Iceland is as a destination, there are no local specialty dishes that anyone really needs to try. There are many fast-food restaurants where a meal is around €10, and any sit-down place will start more like €20 and go way up from there. It’s just not good value, which is one reason why most guesthouses in Iceland have public kitchens that get used a lot. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Neo says:

Hi Roger

Hope this finds you well. Thanks for helping me out with your suggestions for Germany, Czech Republic and the British Isles in the recent past. I could not have done these trips without your inputs.

I am planning to visit the Nordic countries starting with Iceland from mid-July onwards. I don’t have an international driving license so will be relying on public transport. For Iceland can you please recommend the top sites and towns where I should be staying overnight (shared accommodation like hostels or the next available cheapest option) and approximate number of days that I should budget for each place. I haven’t done proper research but the towns I have in mind are Hofn, Vik, Akureyri, Myvatn, and Reykjavik (happy to add or remove as per your suggestions). Time is not really a constraint but I want to be selective about the places I visit (instead of trying to see everything) and with a moderate pace I hope to spend about 7-10 days in Iceland. For the Ring Road bus option, how many days do I need? And does it involve making day trips and then coming back to a particular starting point, or can I keep moving along and stay at different towns on the way? My entry and exit point will be Keflavik Airport (I will be flying in from Portugal and then heading to Denmark or Norway).

Sorry for bombarding you with all these questions in a very abrupt manner. Look forward to your reply.




    I’m very happy to hear that my advice has helped you in the past. As for Iceland, these are some challenging questions. On my own trip I spent two nights in Reykjavik and then did the Ring Road in 7 days. I used the ebook version of Lonely Planet Iceland, which I highly recommend. Basically what I did was check the areas I would cover each day of driving and note the most recommended sights that I should plan to stop at. As you’ve seen, the names of everything in Iceland are almost all long and difficult to pronounce for non-Icelandic speakers. So it’s very hard for me to remember ANY of them, much less my favorites of them.

    I thought about taking the Ring Road bus, but everything I read said that renting my own car would be a worthwhile splurge, even as a solo traveler. I had an amazing time and I plan on going back soon with my girlfriend. But it’s hard to give the sort of advice you are after. My top suggestion would be to buy Lonely Planet Iceland, or any other proper guidebook, whether by ebook or paper book. It will be the best US$20 or US$30 you’ll spend on such an expensive trip.

    My understanding was the the Ring Road tourist buses would stop at the major waterfalls and other sights as it went, and then also stop in the towns with guesthouses and hotels. But I’m honestly not sure. Along the southern coast between Hofn and Reykjavik there are more sights worth stopping at than the northern part of the Ring Road. On my next trip I will explore more about how the buses work and I’ll update this post. Sorry I can’t help more and let me know if you have any other questions you think I might know. -Roger

Lisa Reid says:

My daughterand I will be traveling to Iceland this August for one week. We love adventures and also saving a buck or two in the process. Is it possible for us to sleep in our vehicle most of the trip and hit a hostel one or two nights so we can shower?



    Yes, you could do that if you only need that many showers. However, the even better news is that there are campgrounds in all of the popular areas of Iceland, and most of them have spots where you can park a vehicle and get electricity and such. And of course if you pay the modest overnight fee you can also use their bathrooms and showers. Check for Iceland campgrounds in a search and you’ll get all the details. Best of luck with this. -Roger

Orlee says:

Hi Roger

Motorhome or no Motorhome??

Thank you for the amazing and helpful information.

I have tried to read through as much as possible to gain the information Im after, but got side tracked by all the info.

Just a few questions if possible and I do apologize if they have been asked and answered:

We looking to head to Iceland 17-30 Sept, and debating to rent a Motorhome or regular vehicle?

The camp card is great but many of the sites close by 15 Sept, which leaves vast distances to the next place. struggling to find info on which campsites remain open all year round?

And with new camping rules I am skeptical?

Cost wise we have established that the diff between car rental and motorhome for the time isn’t that much?

Any insight would be highly appreciated.

Thank you



    I haven’t taken a motorhome in Iceland myself, although I did that in New Zealand and absolutely loved it. Recently I got a similar question about year-round campgrounds and I found that a Google search came up with a very helpful map. The good news is that those year-round campgrounds seem to be nicely spread over the popular parts of the island. So while you may not have many choices in any given town, you will probably have at least one choice within a very short drive of where you’d want to stop. And I seem to remember that some others stay open through the end of September, so your choices will probably be greater. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Laima Z says:

Hi Roger,
I’m like all of these people above got fascinated with your helpful, down to the earth article and the fact, that you’re still helping to answer their questions, even though you posted your article in 2013 for the first time!
We are going to be in Iceland in August for two nights only, as we having two days layover before next flight. Could you give us some ideas/advice where and what we could see not far away from Keflavik airport. Nature would be definitely a point of destination rather than Reykjavik. And you said that booking hostel online not necessary reflect the real situation. Do you think looking for the hostel once we arrive to the airport is good idea?
My sincere thank you in advance!



    That is very nice of you to say. I guess it may not be obvious that this is actually my full-time job (writing for and running this travel website) so I try to stay up to date. I’m also planning on going back to Iceland myself again next year if possible.

    As for your question, I’d rent a car if possible, even for two days. You can pick up a car at the airport and never have to even go into Reykjavik. There are loads of great natural sights in the southwest corner of the island, and you could even drive as far as Vik in about 3 hours from the airport. The scenery is stunning and there are some very good sights along that road. You could stay both nights in Vik, or maybe just the first night and then somewhere closer to the airport on the second night, depending on when you flight is.

    The most popular thing to do on a shorter layover is what they call the Golden Circle (not to be confused with the Ring Road), which connects a very impressive waterfall, the Geysir that gave us the word “geyser”, and the site of the continental divide (not as interesting as it sounds). You can do that on a bus trip and be back at the airport in 8 hours or so. So that is an option, but you will get big crowds on a bus group, while if you drive yourself you will probably be nearly alone. Also, there are better waterfalls and other sights on the way to Vik and back. Any combination of those things will be really fun.

    As for booking a hostel or guesthouse, I’d say it’s worth booking in advance in your situation. When doing the Ring Road it can be unpredictable as to how far you get each day. But in your case you can’t really mess around much so if I were you I’d feel better about locking in a good place that you know you can get to. I’m happy to help with other questions if you have them. I’d also recommend getting Lonely Planet Iceland or at least using the info on their website. They do a great job of telling you which are the better sights in each area and it’s very helpful to have solid advice on a tight schedule like yours. Also, the Blue Lagoon is close to the airport and it’s actually very cool to at least see. You can go in and look around for free, but if you want to get a locker and swim it is kind of pricey (although worth it). Have a fantastic trip. -Roger

Laima Z says:

Thank you, Roger, for your time, for putting your heart into giving detailed and valuable answers (to me and all other people). You are phenomenal, really. May God/Universe/Higher Power bless and protect you and your loved ones! And all the best on your next trip to Iceland. (By the way do icelanders know having such a strong country advocate in you?:)) Piece, Laima



    Thank you for the kind words. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to make a decent living by doing travel research and advice, and I enjoy trying to help people plan trips. -Roger

Josefina says:

Hi Roger,

This is very helpful to a female solo traveler like me. but would like to ask if any chance you’ve seen the Northern Lights? I am planning to do a week trip this october. And one of the reasons i am going is to see it.

Thank You




    Interestingly, I once saw the Northern Lights on a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to New York City, but not yet in Iceland. It seems like the organized Northern Lights tours in Iceland tend to run between November and February, so it appears that those are the most reliable months. But people say that starting in September it is possible, so fingers crossed that you’ll get that chance. I wish I had more information for you. -Roger

Lise says:

Hi- What months are considered low season and which hi season? I would like to take my adult kids there in December (about the 9th for a week).
Thanks- Lise



    Since Iceland is obviously so far north of the equator, the summers are short and a bit chilly. So the main high season is June through September, with July and August being the peak months. The rest of the year is fairly quiet and many guesthouses and some restaurants even close until the next summer. However, from November through February there is a new boom in Northern Lights tours and visits. If you go in mid December it will be dark most of the day, with the sun coming up at about 11am and then going down by 3pm or so without ever being overhead. If you want to see the Northern Lights it’s the perfect time of year. But if you want to see the other amazing scenery such as the waterfalls and hot springs, then December is not ideal. Best of luck with whatever you decide. -Roger

Anand Iyer says:

Hie Roger,
Very useful link.
I’m planning a self drive tour of Iceland full circle in December last week for 12 days, need some tips for it.
I know that full circle is not possible considering the road conditions which may be closed for some parts of north.

My biggest concern is how much daylight I’m going to get( I’m assuming max 5 hrs) for sightseeings.
Secondly, we’re vegans so food would be difficult so we have to manage in advance.
And lastly, we need to get a 4×4 for December conditions.
Do you have any info that I can use?




    I’m not sure how much help I will be because I’m an omnivore who has visited in summer. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few parts of the Ring Road were closed at times in winter. There are still a few short sections that aren’t yet paved, and if they get a lot of rain they could easily be unpassable in a 2WD vehicle. I’m sure you can find better information on December road conditions elsewhere. A 4WD vehicle does open up the road under more conditions, but they aren’t cheap.

    As for the daylight I’ve spent a couple of periods in winter at latitudes not far from that, and it is weird. In my experience it’s more like dawn or dusk for many hours, rather than being dark and getting light and then getting dark again. However, I’m sure you’ll find better information on that elsewhere.

    I don’t think being vegan will be a problem though. There are so many vegetarians on the road that I think any restaurant or fast food joint will have to have at least one or two main options. Nordic people enjoy their meat, but they have a tourism boom and I’m sure they take care of guests. Also, there are little supermarkets in many towns you’ll drive through each day, and most guesthouses have community kitchens. That’s really your best bet anyway because the sit-down restaurants in Iceland are very expensive, and there aren’t many of them in general. Best of luck on all of this. -Roger

Jack says:

Hi Roger,
Will be coming to Iceland Aug 29, staying until Sept 04. Little intimidated by the dress code. How cold will it get, how many layers do I actually need? Basically how can I blend in without spending too much money for only a few days? Then my problem is I’m going to Prague so packing is an issue.
Will most likely be staying in a hotel. Do you recommend driving seeing sights then heading back at night or should I keep moving around, find a hotel room in whatever town I come across?
What’s the night life like? Tourists blending in with locals? What places to do you recommend? What do people wear when going out?
Thank you



    I was there in late August myself and it’s not nearly as cold as you might think. It should stay above zero all night and be around 53F/11C during the days. It can be very windy, however. Having a sweater and a thin jacket should be enough, and you probably won’t be out much at night because there isn’t much to do outside.

    My top recommendation is to do the whole Ring Road, which takes 5 to 7 days depending on how many sightseeing stops you want to take each day. That’s what I did and it was one of the best experiences of my life, even though I did it alone. One great thing about that is that there are wonderful sights spread around the entire edge of the island, so you can just keep moving and stay in a different town each night. Since that is what most people are doing, it is pretty easy to find places (because each room empties each day). I got a local SIM card and I called to reserve places around noon each day, once I was sure of how far I’d go. I never had a problem getting a room in a guesthouse, and I really enjoyed each place I stayed. Many or most people cook their own dinners in the community kitchen, so it’s easy to meet people if you want to.

    If you don’t think you have enough time for the Ring Road it’s probably best to focus most of your attention to the southern coast, going as far as Hofn in the east. I’d say around 50% of the best Iceland sights are along the southern coast, so it’s the best choice for trips not long enough for the Ring Road. In that case you could stay at a hotel in Hofn for 2 nights and another hotel in Vik for 2 nights and then another couple nights closer to Reykjavik. It might be worth spending one night in Reykjavik, but the hotels there are more expensive than anywhere else on the island. Reykjavik is known a bit as a party town, but alcohol is extremely expensive so the locals are known for pre-gaming at home and only going out at midnight for the last couple drinks in a bar or club. Outside of Reykjavik the “nightlife” consists of a small and expensive pub in a few small towns. Outside of Reykjavik, they are ALL small towns, including Vik and Hofn. You can buy alcohol more cheaply during the days at the licensed liquor store in each town, and at the larger guesthouses you’ll definitely see people sharing a few drinks over dinner in the evening. Still, most people seem to get up and out early because the scenery is the reason you are there in the first place.

    The dress code is pretty casual, except perhaps at the poshest place in Reykjavik. Otherwise any collared shirt and jeans would be fine. The Icelandic people are pretty casual and sweaters are popular. Most of them speak English, especially the younger ones, so you’ll be able to speak to people easily and there are many other tourists, of course. That said, my guess is that a local can probably spot a tourist from the other side of the room, just like everywhere else that gets so many tourists. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Desiree Miller says:

Thank u so much for all of this fabulous information! My 20 year old daughter and I plan on visiting Iceland
In November. Being two females I want to be sure we feel safe during our visit. We are open to any suggestions
U may have as far as accommodations. I probably would prefer a hotel of some sort. Do u know if there will be bus
Tours to the main attractions during this time of year? Do u think two woman would be able to handle a 4×4? I am
willing to rent a 4×4 but I am getting nervous thinking about driving in the snow/ice. Also , do u think we should stay in
one locatorn or change locations? We are there for 5 nights.
Thank u so much for ur input!



    As a man it isn’t easy for me to comment on safety for two women, and you should be able to get more useful information on any number of travel blogs where one or more females visited Iceland themselves recently. That said, it literally seems like the last place in the world you’d have to worry. There seems to be close to zero petty crime in Iceland, and actually zero violent crime. It’s also quite a rich country where there are basically no “poor” people, and no poor visitors because it’s so remote and expensive. If you stayed in hostels with large dorm rooms you might have to worry about locking up your stuff during the day, which is true everywhere in the world. But that is probably the worst that could happen.

    Anyway, I’d recommend staying in guesthouses rather than hostels. Most places have lockable bathrooms down the hall, usually about one bathroom for every 4 rooms or so. And most guesthouses have public kitchens where many guests cook their own dinners and breakfasts each day. There aren’t many restaurants in Iceland outside of Reykjavik, and all of the sit-down places are very expensive. So it’s a real community feeling in the guest kitchens in the evenings and mornings. You can find traditional hotels in most cities and towns, but they will be quite a bit more expensive, and not nearly as interesting or memorable.

    There usually isn’t much snow that sticks on the Ring Road or the main highways as far as I know, even in winter, but you could get some. Normally the 4X4 rentals are for people who want to explore places on the interior of the island, which has few paved roads. If you stick to the famous waterfalls and sights closer to the coast, you probably won’t need a 4X4. That is where most of the best sights are anyway, and the interior is more for camping and adventure travelers rather than sightseeing. However, you should probably research that a bit more and read the account of someone who visited in November.

    With 5 nights you won’t have enough time to do the Ring Road, and the northern parts of that would be kind of dark and mostly empty in November. I’d recommend spending your time along the southern coast. From Reykjavik you can rent a car (in the city or at the airport) and go as far as Hofn in the east. Stay there at least one night and maybe two. Then drive back to Vik, which is in between and stay there for 1 or 2 nights. Most of the best sights along the southern coast are fairly close to those two towns, and they have many guesthouses and a couple supermarkets so they are good bases. You might also spend a night or two in the Reykjavik area, although maybe not in the city center because it’s very expensive and parking won’t be easy. As always, let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Leo Kapler says:

Roger – we are going to be in Iceland for 7 days in late September and plan on doing the Ring Road. Understand that that is hard to recommend towns to stay at each night along the way. Should we make all room reservations ahead of time before we leave or should we make some reservations when we are in Iceland to give us some flexibility on where we want to stay?
Thank you!



    This topic is very confusing until you get there, and I was wondering the same thing before I arrived. Things are probably changing a bit in the last year or two, with more places being listed on Airbnb and such. But a few years ago only a small portion of the guesthouses in these smaller towns were listed on hotel-booking sights. So when I’d do a search before I got there I would see 2 expensive hotels in a town that I know is popular with Ring Road people. But when you get to Iceland you can get a free catalogue of every guesthouse in the country at the Tourist Info offices, including one at the main airport. With that you’d see that there are maybe 20 guesthouses in that same town with only 2 hotels.

    It seems that most people who do the Ring Road just stay one night in each town and then find another place the next night. As a result, since most beds are vacated every day, it turns out to be easy to find a bed on the day you arrive. What I did was get a local SIM card, which gave me coverage almost 100% of the time around the Ring Road, and I would call the place I wanted to stay around noon each day, when I’d know about how far I wanted to go. I think in almost every case they had a room available for me, which they held with just my name and a promise to show up. But again, I believe more of those places are listed on Airbnb now, so at least you could reserve them online in the morning if you like. You might get cheaper rates by just calling though, since they don’t have to pay the commission though.

    I think I mention this in the article above, but in case I didn’t, most of these “guesthouses” are large homes with many bedrooms and a few bathrooms, plus a community kitchen and living area. Those are quite a bit cheaper than standard hotels with ensuite and such. And since the local restaurants are so expensive and rare, most people buy food at a supermarket and prepare something themselves at the guesthouse. It’s really fun and a great way to meet people if you are interested in that. The same is true for breakfast, although most people get a very early start, partly because there isn’t much to do at night and the scenery is so amazing.

    Long story short, the country is very well set up for people who aren’t sure where they are going to sleep that night. And by late September I’d guess that you could probably just show up at most places and get a room. I think the more popular places are booked out in advance in July and early August, but the season really slows down by early September. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

David says:

Today is Sept 3, 2017 and I shall be staying in Iceland Nov 1 – 8 for 8 days and, of course, am renting a car from Sixt also. I booked the Iceland Airwaves music festival, package w a Hilton Hotel Nordica as a base camp, great hotel rate, and will be mostly out of the hotel in the rental car hotel on wheels car camping, sleeping bag, showers will be swimming holes and food at the local grocery store as you have thoroughly documented as affordable. I’m also an elite hang glider pilot, para glider pilot 2nd,from the States and this travel to Iceland is to find and discover new launch sites. I have only read about half of the posts in this site today and decided to quickly scroll to leave you a very complimentary, THANK YOU ROGER for your kind detailed posted experiences, attached note expressing my appreciation to you for your thorough Iceland written helpful posts to everyone who has a chance to find this including myself. In June and July 2018 I will be returning to Iceland shipping my hang glider via ASL Cargo to then fly these soon to be discovered awesome mountains and hopefully enjoy a few cross country flights to land near the ring road. I have searched and about to make contact with the sole two hang glider para glider pilots in Iceland to hook up with them briefly this trip to see their local flying site in advance of next summers extended 6 to 8 week stay in Iceland flying my wings there. I have the Sectionals already, airspace restrictions, for Iceland and from your initial article, many replies, using Google Earth Maps I see more than a few potential easy access from the ring road flying sites. Hikes with flying equipment weed out the men from the boys in our sport and the country of Iceland, w IcelandAir celebrating 50 years of aviation this Nov, 1937-2017, is well overdue for cross country hang gliding distance records and tandem distance records to be set in 2018 when I return with my custom VW roof rack to place on top of the VW rental to carry my hang gliders next season. Your article here,from nearly three years ago, is the most informative Iceland travelers post I have discovered on the internet, as others have previously commented, along with the interactive questions concerns responses and your assistance oriented replies for everyone. I shall check if my Garmin GPS has the Iceland Maps to forego the $10 per day GPS rental car fee. If not I will certainly include w my car rental. The Gravel and Rock Insurance is obviously a must for anyone thinking about driving the ring road and it is comforting to read your confirmation of that. I decided, due to time of the year being a early Nov trip of 8 days, w music festival attendance, possibility of severe inclement weather changes I can view on radar loops as they occur w forecasts, using the Hilton comfort base camp approach I can have flexibility deciding when to split town and head out to the Southern Iceland ring road and have multiple options of car camping and all the local on site advantages of trying to squeeze in as much as I can in this travel discovery of Iceland hidden flying sites no one has ever explored or pioneered.
I shall find out how cross country experienced the local flyers are once I meetup in Iceland. Have yet to hear back since writing their website Roger, YOU ROCK ! Trillion Thank you’s again ! Looking forward to eating a nice Subway foot long sandwiches, near mainland USA prices, just as I discovered in SPB.RU when I was there in 2011. There is a Subway located just down the block from the Hilton Nordica easy walking distance, or if inclement weather persists I will hop in the VW rental car and zip over to grab a good meal avoiding sit down expensive restaurants. You didn’t mention your Subway experience in your posts so I can only gather you made your own up during your travels at an even greater savings. Take care, and please keep writing articles from your travels you are one of the best assistance helping travelers I have ever had the pleasure of reading about
following your experiences. Best to You ! David



    Thank you for the long comment and especially for the kind words. I’m sure you’ll love Iceland like the rest of us. I did get some price updates from some recent visitors to Iceland, but I also hear that prices are going up in general, partly because it’s gaining in popularity each year. My guess is that Subway sandwiches will be more like 50% more than you are used to at this point, but at least it shouldn’t be much worse.

    And I’m confident you’ll agree that avoiding the sit-down restaurants is a great way to stay on budget. It’s much easier to do this in a country with so few temptations in the local cuisine. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Neha says:

Hey Roger,

What a wonderful blog I have come across today!

So, my friends are very keen to see the Northern lights. Hence, we have booked for Iceland around end November fro 7 days. I am a bit skeptical about the possibilities of making much out of this trip. As the daylight will be for short hours and Northern Lights are always unpredictable. I don’t know how to make the best out of it.

If you can just suggest me with a convincing itinerary PLEASE.





    Sorry that I won’t be of much help. I went in late August and I have been studying more or less the “summer” sights and strategies. The Northern Lights tours have suddenly become quite popular in the last few years, and I haven’t done one myself. Hopefully you can find a good source for information on how to see the Northern Lights on your own. I think tours are probably a better choice for most people, since they include late-night transportation to the best viewing spots.

    Still, I’m quite sure you’ll enjoy your trip. I’ve been very far north in November and it’s not quite as bad as most people imagine. Even though the sun technically “rises” at 10am or so and sets before 4pm, it’s not very dark before and after that. So you can still do most of the same sightseeing, but it will be like sunrise or sunset for more of the day than you are used to. Sorry I am not of more help. -Roger

Darleen says:

I am planning a trip in Early April 2018.I first thought that I would drive while there but then I read several blogs from people who say DO NOT drive because of the unpredictable weather that included strong wind gusting. I live in a warm climate and we get ice on the roads one or two days a year. With my inexperience should I avoid driving?




    I haven’t been to Iceland in April, but I’ve been following travel advice and tips for the country for a few years ago and this is the first I’ve heard of that. It was windy at times while I was there in late August, but that was never a problem for me. As I have discussed in the article above, I did the whole Ring Road and mostly stuck to main roads in general, and on those I really don’t think high winds would be a problem, and I don’t think you’d get ice on the roads in April on or near the Ring Road because it’s nearly as sea level.

    There are basically two types of self-drive visits to Iceland. The most popular one is the one like I did where you stay on the main highways for the most part, which are very well maintained, and stay mostly at sea level. The other type is those who want to go up the mountains and into the interior of the island, and for that you need to rent a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. I would think that that kind of visit would be much more susceptible to inclement weather because you are off road much of the time and sometimes at altitude.

    So you may want to seek another opinion, but I actually found driving in Iceland to be incredibly easy because the roads are in good condition and there is almost zero traffic to deal with. Another thing to consider is what would your alternative be? The only real option would be to take the public buses or the tour buses, and with either of those your movements are severely limited by the fixed schedules. For me, driving around Iceland was one of the most glorious driving experiences I’ve ever had because it’s so beautiful and I could go where I wanted whenever I wanted. I hope this helps. If there is a condition in April that I’m not aware of, which is possible, you might want to do more research. On the other hand, if you look around the internet long enough, you can find people who say that literally everything is a bad idea. Best of luck. -Roger

Rafi says:


Excellent blog and very informative so thanks.

I’m planning on going for a last-minute trip for one week in the middle of this November.

First time visiting and will be there for six days, which includes the departure date.

I’m considering spending the first day(arrival) in Reykjavik and then renting a car and drive east in the Ring Road, staying At guesthouses along the way.

I don’t intend on going up any mountains so I’ll stick with a regular car.

Do you think it might be too much to do a complete circle of the Ring Road at this time of year, without rushing?

Also, are there working dairy farms open to visitors that you know of? I’d also like to visit a “farm” that makes Eider down products, but I’d assume that’s in the springtime.

Thank you.



    As I’ve mentioned before, I did the whole Ring Road in 7 days, but I could have pretty easily done it in 6 days because I spent the whole last day fairly close to Reykjavik, and those sights are the least impressive when you’ve done the whole island. When you look at the total distance of the Ring Road it seems that it should be pretty easy to do it in 4 or 5 days, but even if you could I don’t think it would be too enjoyable, especially in November when days are shorter. You’d be driving a lot in the dark, which kind of ruins the scenery aspect of it. There are some areas where you can go maybe 80 KPH, but much of it is very windy and also very scenic, so there are long stretches where you can’t drive or wouldn’t want to drive faster than 40 or 50 KPH.

    With six days and especially if you want to spend one of those in Reykjavik, I would focus on the southern coast. The stretch between the airport or Reykjavik and Hofn contains at least half of the major scenery thrills of the Ring Road. In those 5 days you could see it all pretty easily without having to drive (much) in the dark. And you could base yourself in Vik for a couple nights so you don’t have to find a new guesthouse every day. Doing the whole Ring Road is amazing, but it IS a lot of driving and with the shorter November days I think it would be a rush to do it in less than 7 driving days.

    I’m not sure about any dairy farms open to the public. I passed some working farms, but I don’t remember seeing any that had a visitor center. Hopefully you can find that info elsewhere. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Christy says:

Hi Roger,

We are planning a visit to Iceland. We are thinking somewhere between end of Aug to end of October. We would be staying 6 days. What time would you think would be the best?

I’ve looked into tours, but they are pricey. We don’t want to waste time trying to find attractions. We want to try and see as much as wee can. What do you suggest doing? In reading your column I’m thinking renting a car is probably the best for sightseeing and cost, thoughts?

Any other suggestions you can give would be great. It’s our honeymoon and we would like to see the Northern Lights if possible.

Thank you!! I love your blog, it has given me a lot of information.



    Thank you for the kind words. The peak tourist season in Iceland runs from June through late August, and it starts thinning out a bit after that. If you can go in early September you will get lower hotel and rental car prices, and much smaller crowds. I would go as early as you can since the days start getting shorter and it gets cooler pretty quickly. Iceland is all about the dramatic scenery, so having longer days and warmer temperatures is a big help. As long as you can afford it, I would definitely rent a car. Having that freedom to go anywhere you like when you want is a huge benefit in Iceland, since the tours and public buses are on very fixed schedules.

    If you could stay even 7 days then you would have time to drive the entire Ring Road, but 6 days would be a bit of a rush. If you could stay 7 days or if you wanted to rush a bit and do it in 6 days, I would rent a car at the airport and skip visiting Reykjavik altogether or perhaps just on your last day. It’s a nice city, but it’s not very distinctive and kind of boring, as well as very expensive. The thrills in Iceland are the scenery, and the area around Reykjavik is the least scenic part of the island. If you didn’t want to do the Ring Road then I would focus your stay on the south coast, going as far east as Hofn and spending most of your time between Hofn and Vik and then head back towards Reykjavik for some of the more famous sights there.

    The Northern Lights is mostly a winter phenomenon, so generally visible between November and February. In other words, it’s unlikely you’ll see any of it when you go. On the other hand, I would definitely recommend a summer trip to Iceland for your first time because the scenery and sightseeing isn’t nearly as nice in winter. Let me know if you have any other questions and I’ll try to help. -Roger

Sunie says:

Hi Roger!

Thank you for the information in the article! I am going to Iceland with my two children in June for theee days on a stopover. What things do you recommend seeing on that short of a visit and where do you recommend staying for the nights?

Thanks for any advice!



    If you have only 3 days I highly recommend renting a car at the airport and spending your time along the southern coast. Reykjavik itself is quite boring compared to the amazing scenery of the island, and the best sights are all packed in along the southern coast. There is a town near the eastern coast called Hofn and one along the center of the southern coast called Vik. Those are both lovely small towns that are near some of the best sights. I would drive from the airport in the direction of Hofn and after a night there head back towards Vik and then the airport. Buy a guidebook or do more online research for the locations of all the best sights along that coast. There is an ice bay, a few national parks, waterfalls, lava fields, spring geysers and much more. Those other towns are also a bit cheaper than Reykjavik, and the parking is all free, unlike the capital. There is also a group of attractions called the Golden Circle (not to be confused with the Ring Road) that are all fairly close to the capital and the airport. Those are good if you only have one day, but there are many better sights since you have three, so I would save those for your last day. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Rick says:

What a great resource this is! We are going in April and are glad we found this site.

Alice says:

Hi Roger, great information and advice. I will be going in mid April and wanted your feedback if you think my itinerary is too ambitious. We arrive morning April 19 and depart afternoon of April 26. The first night will be in Reykjavik to get over some jet lag. On April 20, we head out on the road. In addition to the Ring Road, I wanted to squeeze in the Snaefellsnes peninsula. We plan to spend one night in each of the following locations: Stykkisholmur; Akureyri; Egilssatoir; Hofn; Vik (Hella); Reykjavik (last night). Do you think it’s doable in the time I have in Iceland? Thank you, Alice



    On my 7-day Ring Road trip I went a little out onto the peninsula for my first night, and then I was able to see it more the following morning as I drove away. I think your itinerary is otherwise exactly what I did, except I had one more night between Vik and Reykjavik, but that was mostly because I drove so much those first few days that I was ahead of schedule. In other words, I think your plan looks great and is doable, and the only tricky part will be getting a very early start on that first day so you have time to cover that ground. I’m sure you’ve researched the distances and they aren’t too much, but still driving in Iceland can be slow at times. In some cases you’ll go through a gravel road, and you have to drive slow on those or you’ll destroy the front of your rented car, and in other cases you are driving along a coast with a lot of switchback so you can only average maybe 30 MPH (50 KPH) because you have to slow down every 30 seconds. Another thing to consider is that the scenery there is so amazing that you’ll want to pull over or just stop the car quite a bit along the way, and that’s really the whole point of driving the Ring Road. If you just bear down and drive straight through you can make better time, while missing many little waterfalls and other lovely sights just off the road.

    And again, I did go quite slow those last few days. You can drive from Hofn to Reykjavik in about 6 hours, and those are the best highways on the island, but the south coast is also packed with the most worthwhile sights. So your only real issue will be that you probably won’t have time to stop at as many places as you’d like on those last two days, but you’ll still have an amazing time.

    Lastly, you might even consider staying somewhere else on your last night. Reykjavik is nice, but I think it’s a real dud compared to most other major European capitals. More importantly, the scenery everywhere else is just amazing, so it’s kind of a shame to spend a lot of time in the most expensive and least charming part of the island. I rented my vehicle in Reykjavik and returned it to the agency at the airport for no additional fee. The airport is about an hour’s drive from the city and there is nothing in between them but lava fields. Another advantage of returning your car at the airport is that you can easily stop at the Blue Lagoon, which is close to the airport. You can park and walk into the Blue Lagoon for free to look around, or if you have time, the desire, and the money, you can pay to go in and swim and all of that. It’s a very cool place. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Eneida Freeburn says:

This site is AWESOME! I feel so lucky to have found it, Thank You! My husband and I are going for 9 days late September. Since alcohol seems to be scarce, if I buy at the airport, is it OK to bring it for picnics and viewing stops? OK to have a glass of wine walking around the city?



    I’m honestly not sure about the “open container” laws in Iceland, but I suspect they would be pretty mellow about it. At the picnic areas and viewing stops you’ll usually have no official supervision, and in late September you’ll probably literally be the only people there at any given time except along the south coast. But I would bring a flask or plastic bottle and pour my drink into that if I was going to literally drink in public. You don’t want to be having an open bottle of Johnnie Walker at a picnic area when there might be kids at the next table.

    As for wine walking around the city, I think if you poured it into a plastic cup you’d be fine, and except for Reykjavik there aren’t really any “cities” to walk around in. You’ll be amazed at how few people you encounter in general once you leave the capital district. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Julia says:

Hi Roger,
This is a really lovely resource, thank you so much for all of your thoughtful responses! My husband and I are going to be in Iceland for the first time on a brief stopover in April, between Seattle and Barcelona. We really have only one full “non travel day”, so I had to be a little regimented in planning, but I was hoping for a bit of advice. We arrive early morning and I have made arrangements for a rental car at the airport, as well as booking an 11am entry slot at the Blue Lagoon to decompress. Our lodging for the night is in Grindavik, and we have the next day free before we have to return the rental car at 9:30pm, with a 9am flight the next day. Obviously, we wanted to see as much of the unique landscape and scenery as possible in the short time we have, so that said, do you have any “must-see” stops for a single driving day around the vicinity of Grindavik/Keflavik? Thank you!



    You are going to love Iceland. The best and most interesting scenery is along the south coast, between Reykjavik and Hofn. One of the most dramatic sights is Jökulsárlón, which is an iceberg lagoon. Unfortunately that is over 5 hours from the area where you’ll be staying so getting there and back in one day might be pushing it. There is an amazing national park called Skaftafell, but that’s also over 4 hours from where you’ll be staying. That area around the big airport has some interesting lava fields around it, but otherwise it’s quite plain compared to the rest of the island. If you could I would cancel that hotel reservation and drive to Vik or perhaps even to Hofn on that day, which would put you in the best area the next morning for sightseeing and heading back to the airport. You could go to the Blue Lagoon on your way back, or go when you get there and drive from there to Vik or Hofn.

    In my opinion the best sights are on the south coast between Hofn and Vik. There are always the “Golden Circle” sights around Reykjavik, but I found those quite disappointing (and crowded) compared to the others. Those Golden Circle attractions are good for someone with only 10 hours to spend on a layover, but with a couple days like that I would go east. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Joe says:

Hi Roger,
My wife and two children are heading over first week of August for a first time trip. You have great info. on this site which makes me ask, are you available to assist as a travel agent or is there one you would recommend?



    That is nice of you to say, but I currently just focus on answering questions in comments on this website. I don’t have a travel agent I recommend and I haven’t used one myself in ages. I’ll be happy to answer questions if you have them though. -Roger

Jerry says:

Great article.
Though, as I surfed around the guidetoiceland site, I haven’t found prices for renting cars at such a good value as you said. Is there any other car rental that you would recommend?

Thank you!



    I think car rentals in Iceland are at peak prices from June through mid August. I went in late August and found a pretty good deal through Sixt. There are a few local companies that seem to offer pretty good rates that aren’t on the meta-search sites, but it also seems a bit risky to rent from a small, local company. Sorry I don’t have better information for you and I will update those car rental prices in the article soon. -Roger

Anj says:

Hey Roger,
Great article and advice . I am traveling to Iceland from Aug 25th (early morning ) -Aug 29th, 2018.( Returning to Canada in the afternoon), have total of 4.5 days and 4 nights ..was hoping to self drive the Ring Road. Is this Doable and what advice would you provide as to the recommendation for lodging ?
Thank you



    Thank you. The shortest time frame I would recommend doing the Ring Road in is 6 nights, although it could be done in 5 nights if you choose to almost never stop along the way. It’s only 1,300 kilometers but you have to drive slow on probably half of it because it’s winding roads or gravel or other challenges. And the scenery is so amazing that you’d want to stop often.

    With only 4 nights I would recommend driving as far as Hofn along the southern coast and then slowly driving back over the next few days. The southern coast has the most dramatic sights that are the closest together. For accommodation you can check hotel-booking sites and hostel sites as well as airbnb. It really shouldn’t be a problem. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Phajo says:

Thank you so much for all your good language informations regarding travel to Iceland. I am all inspired by your knowledge now I am very much clear to d9 it all by myself for a great adventure.
Thank you once a again.


Nicky Stroud says:

Hi, I am thinking of going to Iceland in Feb 2019 and was thinking of hiring a car, how will the roads be with all the snow, are they all accessible?



    This might be a better question for something like the Lonely Planet forums because I haven’t been there in February. My understanding, for what it’s worth, is that the Ring Road is usually clear all year round and doesn’t get much snow at sea level and when there is snow it gets cleared pretty quickly. At the same time, the roads in the interior and especially those that go into elevations are mostly unpaved and you definitely need a 4-wheel-drive vehicle at any time of year. Sorry I can’t help more and I think you can find the information elsewhere. I hope this works out because hiring a car is definitely the way to see Iceland as long as it’s safe. -Roger

Lorena PG says:

Hi Roger,
You article is great. My bf and I are going to Iceland for 3 days at the end of December. My hotel is closer to the airport than Reykjavik. Based on your article we are going to rent a car. I was thinking taking some of those day tours but with hotel pick up it is way more expensive and I do not even know if they come to my hotel. What do you recommend to visit if we are going to be driving? If weather is bad, what king of tours should we take? Also, any advice when you rent a car, dos and donts?
Thanks in advance.



    Sorry for the slow reply as I just got off a cruise and the ship had dreadful wifi. If you can afford a rental car I’d highly recommend it. Iceland is really amazing if you have your own wheels, and the public transportation is expensive and doesn’t go to many key places. In three days I’d focus on the southern coast between the airport and Hofn, as it’s dense with great things to see and do.

    As you know, the days at the end of December will be very short so the sun will come up maybe around 10am and it’ll be dark again by 3pm, so you’ll have to plan your limited sightseeing well. I’d get a Lonely Planet Iceland and read about the sights along the Ring Road in the south. If the weather is bad you might just spend time in Reykjavik. It’s not nearly as interesting as the amazing scenery, but at least it’ll be filled with people and it has some decent indoor sights.

    There are some local car rental companies that offer good deals, but I tend to go with the major companies because so much can go wrong. You should be able to get a relatively good deal that time of year, and Iceland makes car rentals come with some insurance, so that is one reason the prices seem high. You might be able to see the Northern Lights this time of year, but aside from that it’s not a really popular time to visit because of the limited daylight. I wish I had more advice, but I’m sure you’ll really enjoy it. -Roger

Francois says:

Hey Roger !
What a great site! You are THE source of info for us “Non Icelander”

I am planning a stay in this beautiful place, don’t know what year, but in September or October
I am looking for a 5 to 7 days stay, w/ rented SUV, probably a 1500 Km 5 day road trip
We will be 2 adults in the early 50’s

Now, I have read that the south is quite the best to tour, what do suggest as must see places?
Also, the place with a private room, suggestions?
And I really enjoy photography.

Should be get special gear as clothing and shoes – boots?
We’re from Montreal, Canada we know about winter conditions 😉




    I’m very happy that you found this site and I wish I had more Iceland content, but so far I’ve only done one trip there and I’ve used contributions from other helpful visitors who have sent me new information. It’s true that the southern coast of Iceland has the most sights, but it’s also got the most visitors. For that reason I’d highly recommend doing the whole Ring Road and trying to visit for 7 or even 8 days. On my own trip I spent two nights in Reykjavik (which I actually found fairly disappointing) and then headed north to do the Ring Road in a clock-wise fashion. There is excellent scenery ALL around the island, and in many ways those first 4 days I spent until I reached the southern coast were even more magical because there was almost no one out on the road. I went at the end of August and beginning of September, by the way, and by the beginning of September the crowds are getting much smaller.

    As far as actual sights I’d recommend getting the Lonely Planet Iceland a month or two before you go. That’s what I used (on my iPad) and it is great at pointing out all of the best sights around the Ring Road or anywhere else on the island. Normally I’m pretty good at remembering the names of the most dramatic sights, but the Icelandic names are so long and hard to remember that I remember almost none of the names.

    If you get a 4WD vehicle you’ll be able to go on more of the gravel roads and into the interior of the island. It’s recommended for normal rental cars (which are much cheaper) that you mostly stick to the highways and drive at low speeds on some of the gravel roads, but with 4WD you can go just about anywhere.

    As far as clothing and shoes you’ll want good hiking boots because there are lots of dirt and gravel trails that go to some of the waterfalls and other sights. And if you bring warm layers you should be fine. Iceland actually isn’t insanely cold because you’ll spend most of your time near sea level. I hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Kritika says:

Hi Roger, Amazing website and extremely comprehensive. My mother and I are planning to visit Iceland from September 29 to October 7, 2019 i.e. we will be staying for 8 nights/9 days in Reykjavik. We would like to be based in Reykjavik and join day tours from there to explore the countryside and sights around the capital. I understand there will be a lot of driving but let us know if the sites we’ve planned are doable according to our current accommodation plans:

1. We want to take the Northern Lights Tour
2. Golden Circle
3. Southern Iceland Tour
4. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Day Tour
5. The Snæfellsnes Peninsula
6. Landmannalaugar Hike/Trail Tour
7. Whale Watching Tours/ Puffin Watching Boat Tour
8. Myrdalsjokull Glacier Ice Cave Tour

One reason we don’t want to keep moving from hotel to hotel or guesthouse to guesthouse is that we’ll have luggage; and my mother will find that to be very exhausting. Let us know your feedback/comments. If you feel we’ve missed something as part of our current itinerary, do let us know.

Also, how easy is it to book day tours etc. after reaching Iceland? Do the hotels normally help with this?

Thank you so much, Kritika



    I’m very happy to hear that people find this information to be useful. You might have expected this initial response, but I highly recommend spending as much time as possible NOT staying in Reykjavik. In almost any other European country you can stay in the largest city to make day trips and you get the best of both worlds (big city services and nature sightseeing). But Iceland is very different in that Reykjavik really isn’t very interesting or charming at all, it’s very expensive, and it will be a big hassle getting in and out of the city each day. Whether you rent a car (highly recommended) or do bus tours, you’ll spend the first and last driving hour of each day in the city and in the suburbs. In Iceland, the scenery and nature of the entire rest of the island is the main reason to go.

    Packing from a car into a big hotel for a night and then back into a car again can be a hassle as well, but in Iceland you’ll be staying in small guesthouses where you can park 30 steps from the front door most of the time, and then walk 10 or 20 more steps to your room. They are mostly in quiet neighborhoods with plenty of nearby parking. At the very least I’d recommend staying in Vik and Hofn along the south coast in order to do your own southern tour and visit the Myrdalsjokull Glacier Ice Cave.

    The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is really lovely and it’s almost uninhabited, which adds to the charm. But it’s about 2.5 hours each way from Reykjavik, so 5 hours of that day would just be going back and forth on the same road.

    Another option if you are driving would be to spend many of those Reykjavik days at a hotel more in the suburbs so you don’t spend so much time going in and out of the city center and you’d find free parking and cheaper hotels as well. Honestly, if you flew into Reykjavik and spent two days there and then flew out, you’d have a good time and you’d find it a nice enough place. But if you spent two days in Reykjavik and then two more days touring the southern coast of the island, you’d regret not spending 3.5 days touring the southern coast. The Golden Circle is a nice set of things to see if you are only in Iceland for 12 hours on a layover, but they are also crowded attractions that were probably the most disappointing of my 7-day trip around the Ring Road.

    If you still prefer to focus on Reykjavik I’m sure you’ll have a good time and you have chosen a great sampling of places to see that are more or less reachable in a day. I’m not sure if I’ve been helpful or just come off as nagging you, so I hope it seems helpful. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Kritika says:

Thank you Roger for the feedback. Will let you know if I have any other questions.

Lori says:

Hi Roger,
I am excited to see Iceland in few weeks from now. I will be going with hubby for the first time. I’ve booked our trip thru a Canadian travel agency. My question is how the Northern lights hunt is usually being done. Based on most info regarding this particular tour, it has been clearly stated that toilets won’t be available in the area, bring your own drinks & snacks, warm and extra clothing is required to keep warm & so forth but there was no mention if there will be chairs or able to sit anywhere while in wait of the NL. Also how long will this northern lights tour last, an hour, 2 hrs or depends on how long the NL remain visible?
I appreciate your kind reply. Thank you!



    I really wish I could help you with this, but I can’t. I’ve only been to Iceland during the summer. I’ve heard good things about these Northern Lights tours, but I’ve yet to do one myself so I can’t offer and insight. Best of luck elsewhere. -Roger

Alexander says:

I am super happy I found this before I made any permanent decisions. You have me second guessing my original plans. I would like to ask a few questions and get your guidance.

I am going to Iceland in September for 11 days. My original plan (still viable) is to stay at a cheap hostel in Reyk. I can stay there virtually for free. Does it makes sense for me to do the sleeping bag accommodations if that is the case? Or can I have my ‘base of operations’ be in Reyk and just drive to the places I want to go?

I would also love to get your recommendations on where to go and what to see. I want to do some of the more touristy attractions, but I would love to hear some off the beaten path places you absolutely loved.

Thank you for your time!




    This is a tricky situation because Iceland can be quite expensive and it must be very tempting to stay for almost free in Reykjavik. From Reykjavik you are able to visit maybe 20% of Iceland on day trips, but because it’s the most densely populated area those places are all the most crowded as well. Since you’ve got 11 days I would highly recommend trying to do the Ring Road for 7 or 8 of those days. I did it solo starting in late August a few years ago and it is probably my favorite travel experience ever (and I’ve been almost everywhere). The other 80% or so of Iceland that ISN’T within reach of Reykjavik feels even more magical because there are so few visitors.

    The peak travel season is June through late August, so by September you should be able to find plenty of availability at the more affordable guesthouses in the small towns around the Ring Road. It’s not cheap, but it’s definitely worth it. Also, as mentioned in the article, once you have your vehicle and fuel and your places to sleep, the rest can be pretty cheap. Almost all of the attractions are free to enter and even free to park. And since the Icelandic food isn’t very good or very special you can buy groceries at supermarkets and have picnic lunches and prepare meals in the guesthouses for breakfast and dinner.

    I rented a sleeping bag in Reykjavik but I think I only used it 2 times on the Ring Road as many of the guesthouses provided linens at no extra charge. It’s worth looking into that to see whether it might be worth it.

    Reykjavik is a pretty cool city, but I wouldn’t want to spend more than a few days there. Imagine a huge and amazing national park (like Yellowstone) with a big town just outside the gates. Reykjavik is like that big town and when you get there you’ll want to spend most of your time in the park itself.

    As for specific things to see, it’s also a bit tricky because Icelandic names are long and almost impossible to remember. I downloaded the Iceland Travel Guide from Lonely Planet onto my iPad and I followed their suggestions as I drove around the island. I found it extremely accurate and helpful, and I mostly made my plan as I went because I was never too sure how far I’d be able to drive in a given day. Especially outside of Reykjavik, there are no crowds so it’s super easy to just pull into any waterfall viewing area along the way and stay as long as you like. I hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Alexander says:

Thank you for your response. I am downloading the app as I am writing to you.

Would you happen to have some figures as to the cost of the places around Ring Road?

I want to mention my trip will be from a Wednesday to the following Saturday. I’d like to stay around the city on the weekend and take advantage of the night life and meeting people. Do you think starting on the upcoming Monday for Ring Road and being back in Reyk on Friday would be sufficient? Or should I change that plan? I would like to meet locals and travelers alike.

Where you ever concerned about not reaching a gas station around Ring Road?

Hornstrandir National Park look nice in the pictures I am seeing, but that is very far north. Do you know anything about this place?

Thanks again and I look forward to hearing from you.



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