The Ring Road and the Other Four of Iceland's Main Driving Routes



The Ring Road and the Other Four of Iceland's Main Driving Routes

10.03.2020 | Lella Erludóttir

With an area of 103.000 km2 Iceland isn‘t exactly a small country despite the minuscule population of only 364,000 people. It is a little smaller than England and about the same size as the state of Kentucky, USA. That means there is plenty of scenery with excellent driving routes with the most famous one being the so-called Ring Road.

Nr.1 - Route 1, more commonly known as the Ring Road

The Ring Road Iceland

The Ring Road takes you through all the different regions of Iceland and all the main highlights

The Ring Road is 1332 km (828 mi) long and has circumnavigated most of the island since its opening in 1974. It leaves out the Westfjords and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, but we will come to that later. At the time it was a huge step forward for the rural areas Hey Iceland specializes in. Before the opening of the Ring Road, travel between parts of the country was both very time consuming and could be quite an effort.

The Ring Road is almost the entire way only two lanes, a single lane in each direction with no barriers in between lanes. Therefore it requires a lot of attention while driving in Iceland as collisions on such country roads usually result in high-speed impacts. So please, be careful and vigilant while driving on Route 1 and do not park on road shoulders. Follow www.safetravel.is for further information on driving in Iceland.

But the Ring Road is a brilliant way for tourists to take in the scenery and culture of Iceland. It passes through all the larger towns and villages of Iceland as well as breath-taking landscapes of black beaches, lava fields, waterfalls, glaciers, mountains and heaths providing ample opportunities for stops, picnics and photos. Through Hey Iceland it is very easy to find suitable accommodation and activities along the route.

To drive Route 1 you need at the very least a minimum of three days but if you really want to enjoy what the trip offers then a week is preferable, or even more. During winters you need to take unpredictable weather into account and allow for more time.

Nr. 2 - The Arctic Coast way in North Iceland

Arctic coast way Iceland

The scenic Arctic Coast Way in North Iceland - Photo from arcticcoastway.is

Chosen by Lonely Planet as one of the top destinations in Europe in 2019 the Arctic Coast Way means leaving the more common roads for a trip of 900 km along the North coast of Iceland close to the Arctic Circle, hence its name. The Arctic Coast Way offers the option of driving the route in one go but that would be a shame as there are 21 fishing villages along the way where various activities can be undertaken. Fishing, Northern Lights hunting, whale watching, coastal hikes and more.

It is an excellent driving route that is mostly off the beaten track in Iceland. That means taking time for culture is imperative and we suggest booking accommodation and activities based on your preferred stops depending on the length of the journey, 2-4 days is ideal.

Nr. 3 - The Diamond Circle of North Iceland Extending to the Highlands

The Diamond Circle Iceland

The Diamond Circle route - Photo from northiceland.is

In North of Iceland, just as the Arctic Coast Way is another very interesting driving route that has for a long time been called the Diamond Circle. It offers a brilliantly diverse route of only about 250 km that covers five key attractions of North Iceland, “the historical and picturesque Goðafoss, the unearthly blue and green landscapes of Lake Mývatn nature paradise, the uncontrollable white energy of Dettifoss the most powerful waterfall of Europe, the crescent-shaped wonder of Ásbyrgi Canyon and Húsavík the buzzing whale watching capital of Iceland with the deep blue seas ahead” as it says on the routes website.

The Diamond Circle is, therefore, a rare gem of relatively little driving with a clear focus on the key attractions of the area which are all unbelievable different. Hey Iceland offers tours, activities and accommodation in abundance in the area.

Nr. 4 - The Famous Golden Circle

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is a perfect day drive from Reykjavík

The Golden Circle in South Iceland is already world-famous, and probably the most popular driving route in Iceland. It is probably the only route that is just as popular by bus travel. However, self-driving packages are also highly popular as you can time your trip for the off-peak hours where Þingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss are otherwise the busiest. The Golden Circle is around 300 km (190 mi) and is usually done in one day. This route is therefore quite different from the others as it only has three main stops and some reasonable one-day driving distances. There are, however, at least 12 interesting detours along the Golden Circle that maximize the experience.

There are however loads of spin-offs from the area that are quite lovely to visit such as Nesjavellir, Skálholt, and Kerið. And in many cases, the Golden Circle is taken as a detour from Route 1 when people intend to drive around Iceland.

Nr. 5 - The just Announced Vestfjarðaleið, The Westjords Way

The Westfjords way Iceland

The Westfjords Way is the most remote of all the scenic drives in Iceland - photo from bb.is

In 2020 there is a new route opening up which aims to finally involve a beautiful route in the Westfjords, the most remote part of Iceland. The Westfjords Way, or Vestfjarðaleið in Icelandic, circumnavigates the Westfjords of West Iceland, an area that has never been a part of the Ring Road. Truly off the beaten track and with a landscape and culture quite different from what you might find in the rest of Iceland the Westfjords Way is around 950 km and refers not only to the route but also to how the people of the area live their lives and the Westfjords unique culture.

The Westfjords and Dalirnir, where the route starts and ends, are the oldest part of Iceland, still bearing marks from the last Ice age. The area is sparsely populated with only about 7300 people living in an area of roughly 22,000 km2. This means of course that you are truly going beyond the beaten track. The iconic landscape is marked by mountains and deep fjords and very winding roads. It is remote, tranquil and something that needs a few days for the ultimate experience. You can explore the serenity, history and culture of the Westfjords on a unique self-drive road trip as you explore the Westfjords Way. 

Let the Hey Iceland travel experts guide you in creating the best possible Iceland road trip itinerary. Contact us today to start planning!

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