For this recommended itinerary, you will drive clockwise around Iceland. The Ring Road (Route 1) encircles the island, connecting many of the most popular attractions. Paved for most of its 1,332-kilometer length, it’s the most accessible route around the country.
Keep in mind that it’s always necessary to check road conditions before you head out in your car. Because the weather can be so challenging, it’s ideal to plan a trip around the Ring Road in the summer. Despite snow removal during the winter, snowfall can close parts of the route in the east and north.
Day 1: Soak in the Blue Lagoon
After landing at Keflavík International Airport, take the Fly Bus or pick up your rental car and drive east on Route 41 to Reykjavík. If you are arriving in the morning or afternoon, head south on Route 43 and make a stop at the Blue Lagoon near Grindavík to soak in the soothing, geothermally heated water. Revived from jet lag, you’re ready to experience the capital city’s epic nightlife.
Days 2-3: Head North to Akureyri
From Reykjavík, drive north on the Ring Road to Borgarnes and visit the Settlement Center to get a taste of Iceland’s rich history. Head north again on the Ring Road and then east on Route 518 to Húsafell to check out the gorgeous waterfalls of Hraunfossar, where the water flows out of lava formations tumbling to the river below. Circle back to the Ring Road and continue driving north to Akureyri, where you will spend the next three nights. Spend Day 3 exploring the city’s botanical gardens, shops, and restaurants.
Day 4: Hike and Bird-Watch in Mývatn
From Akureyri, head east on the Ring Road to the Mývatn region with its mighty lake, vast lava fields, gigantic craters, and unique rock formations. Go hiking, watch the rich birdlife, and soak in the decadent Mývatn Nature Baths. On the way back from Mývatn to Akureyri, be sure to stop at the glorious waterfall Goðafoss. Spend the night in Akureyri.
Day 5: Whale-Watch in Húsavík
Head northeast via Route 85 to Húsavík, a placid seaside town known for its spectacular whale-watching and comprehensive Húsavík Whale Museum. From Húsavík, head south on Route 85 to Ásbyrgi, the horseshoe-shaped gorge with towering rock walls and raw nature. Then head to the tremendous waterfall Dettifoss, where you will feel the crushing force of the glacial water tumbling below. Continue south on Route 85 to link back up with the Ring Road and drive on to the eastern town Egilsstaðir, where you will spend the night.
Days 6-7: Explore the Glacial East
From Egilsstaðir, drive south on the Ring Road to Vatnajökull glacier, Europe’s largest ice cap, and Jökulsárlón, a glacier lagoon. Spend the night in Höfn. On Day 7, head to Skaftafell National Park to take in the black sands and glacial landscape. If you’re feeling adventurous and the weather is pleasant, consider a glacier walk tour. Continue west on the Ring Road to Vík, where you will spend the night.
Day 8: Tour the Golden Circle
From Vík, continue west on the Ring Road, starting with a visit to the fishing village Skógar, where you can see the waterfall Skógafoss, one of the tallest in Iceland. Then tour the Golden Circle, a trio of must-see sights. Head west on the Ring Road and north on Route 35 to visit the geothermal area of Geysir, where the hot spring Strokkur erupts every 5-7 minutes. Next visit nearby Gullfoss, Iceland’s most famous and most photographed waterfall. Head west on Routes 35, 37, 365, and 36 to Þingvellir National Park—it’s a geological wonder and also home to the birthplace of democracy in Iceland. Drive southwest on Route 36 to Reykjavík to spend the night.
Day 9: Hang Out in Reykjavík
Spend as much time in Reykjavík as possible before heading back to Keflavík for your flight. If you only have time for a quick coffee, check out Reykjavík’s oldest coffeehouse, Mokka, or pick up one of Reykjavík’s famous hot dogs at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. Drive back to Keflavík.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Iceland.