DRIVING THE ICELAND RING ROAD DAY 5-6
So you’ve made it this far! Now I’m guessing you’re really keen to know about the Iceland Ring Road – I don’t blame you.
Now let’s get into it.
Today we left out beautiful Langhalid Cottage in Seydisfjordur and drove around 30 minutes back to the ring road.
Today was the only day out of all where it rained – and it poured. Once we left the fjord and headed back up the mountain, we quickly realised it was a little bit snowy.
Our little automatic hatchback tackled it very well, with a slow speed and minimal heavy breaking, we arrived at the other side safe and sound.
TIP – If you’re unsure of the weather conditions during your stay, hire a 4X4. If you’re visiting Iceland anywhere after late September, you will be best to book a car that will tackle any conditions. The weather can be very unpredictable.
And hey, you don’t want to end up like this…
Thankfully we had no problems, but I must say, I was very happy to reach the other side.
The drive from eastern to northern Iceland is very winding; winding your way over huge mountains with very unexpected weather conditions at the top. The views are beautiful but Northern Iceland is also prone to having poorer weather compared to the south. Bring your woollies!
Our next stop was at Dettifoss. A 2+ hour drive (190km) to a huge waterfall, and now you’re officially in Northern Iceland!
This is a point in the journey that has given me the biggest tip to share.
TIP – Make sure you have insurance on your vehicle. Common sense I know, but the road to Dettifoss was 32km on the worlds worst pothole filled road imaginable It was the worst road I have ever driven on and I can imagine there would be many many vehicles that leave this place with damage. If you want to see all the sights Iceland has to offer, make sure you cover your butt!
So after arriving at this waterfall from the worst road in history, we ventured down the hill, in the pouring rain, took a few snaps and ventured back up.
This was the worst weather I have ever encountered in my life. The rain was going sideways and the open spaces gave absolutely no chance of protection. We made it back to the car to bring our bodies back to life after having mild hypothermia… Not really, but it was pretty close.
So, we drove down the potholed road for 32km and were out of the car for 5 minutes, all to turn around and go back. Was it worth it? Of course!
Weather permitting, the views of Dettifoss are amazing. A very impressive waterfall with a beautiful canyon.. just make sure you’re ready for the bumpy bumpy drive.
Once you’re back on the ring road, it’s only a 20-minute drive to Myvatn. Another ‘major’ town and tourist area. On this short drive, there are a few things to stop and visit.
Number one being Hverir geothermal field. This active thermal area is directly on the ring road. You couldn’t miss this one!
One thing I will add is that this place stinks. It takes the cake for being the stinkiest place in Iceland that’s for sure.
Another attraction you could also visit on your way into town is Krafla. This beautiful volcanic region has more geothermal fields, craters, turquoise blue lakes and more. It’s really lovely and even has beautiful views of rugged mountains.
This area is also a geothermal power station, so you will have the chance to see where all the steaming hot water comes from. The Myvatn area’s hot water is fuelled from these stations. It’s pretty neat.. and very very smelly.
TIP – There is a lot to do in Myvatn. I would suggest spending a night here to make the most of your time if possible.
We stayed at Hotel Reynihlid. One that I would highly recommend if you’re looking at bunking down in the area. It has 2 restaurants and a lovely view!
The very last day in Iceland for us. I can guarantee for anybody that decides to visit this beautiful country, the last day will be very sad.
Due to the 48 hours of travelling that we were going to enter that night, we decided to have a relaxing morning and a bit of a sleep in.
TIP – Make sure you dedicate a day to rest. Driving the ring road can be full of long days, non-stop driving and early rises. It’s great to start the day as early as possible… But you will definitely need a sleep-in at some point. If you’re driving the entire loop, maybe stay in a location for 2 nights.
We spent most of the day exploring Myvatn. Like I said earlier, this area is full of things to explore.
Our first stop was by the very popular lake and surrounding lagoons. This huge open area is a great place to get up close to some iconic Icelandic sheep. They are everywhere and are not shy of human interaction by any means. This is not an invitation to try and pat one of course, but they won’t mind your close encounter.
From here we did a loop around the lake taking in the beautiful, colourful array of scenery before heading to Hverfjall.
Hverfjall is a 2500-year-old volcanic tephra crater. This huge empty crater is around 1km in diameter and 140 metres deep… it’s preeeetty big. Although it is a short, steep hike that will take your breath away – literally – the views from the top are amazing and the sheer size of the crater won’t be sizeable any other way.
We explored the rest of the area, saw our last Icelandic ponies and headed on towards Akureyri.
TIP – If you’re short on time, ending the road trip in Akureyri is the best option. You can drop your rental car at the airport and take a short 20-minute flight back to Reykjavik for your journey home.
Myvatn to Akureyri is just over an hours trip. 91 km through more beautiful valleys, inlets and yes.. more waterfalls.
You definitely can’t leave Iceland without seeing one last waterfall, and trust me when I say.. the next one cannot be missed.
Godafoss is halfway along the trip. It’s right on the ring road once and again and it really was my favourite of them all.
This huuuuuge waterfall seems like it’s placed in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by huge rocky plains, Godafoss is one of the attractions that will show you that Iceland really has no restrictions.
You can walk right up to the edge, dangle your feet over the edge and jump in if you really please (although I would definitely not recommend it). There is nothing stopping you from doing whatever you please at this big powerful flow of water. It’s something you don’t want to leave Iceland without seeing.
From here, only a 35-minute drive and you will arrive in the city of Akureyri.
TIP – Another amazing place to stay if you’re continuing on your road trip. Akureyri has a lot of day tours that disembark from the centre of town – eg. whale watching, bird watching, fishing, horse riding, flightseeing tours etc. Not only that, the town is almost the same size and Reykjavik.. there is plenty of accommodation to go around!
Akureyri is the other major (although very small) city in Iceland, and although I didn’t have a lot of time to explore. It definitely left a good impression on my mind. You have to pass through regardless of your final destination so there’s no excuse not to take a quick look.
We caught a short flight from here to Reykjavik which was relatively cheap. The one thing I would have to mention is that this flight will drop you at the domestic airport near the city centre, not at the international airport.
TIP – If you can avoid taxis I would highly recommend it. We caught a taxi from the domestic airport to Keflavik international airport as it was our only option. This taxi journey cost $200 AUD for a 30-minute ride. Taxis should be completely avoided if at all possible.
[ READ NEXT: How Much Does it Cost to travel to Iceland? ]
If you’re continuing on your road trip or doing the entire loop, here are some places I would suggest to stop and explore in West Iceland before heading back to the capital city: Snæfellsjökull National Park, West Fjords, Borgarnes, Esjan, Hellnar and Akranes are just a few.
Or alternatively, check out Greta’s Travels for an insight into her 7-Day Iceland Itinerary along the west coast! Because it’s nice to have another option, right?
So unfortunately, my road trip came to an end in Akureyri. It was so devastating to leave such a beautiful, interesting and heartwarming country. But, I will cherish the amazing memories I made here, forever.
Would I recommend this trip to everyone I know? Heck yes!
I’m going to finish off with a few driving tips for those looking at road tripping in Iceland. Here are some things you should know:
– DRIVING TIPS –
- Cars are left-hand drive.
- Manual and automatic are both used – Manual transmission is the most common.
- Always drive with your lights on – It’s a must in Iceland.
- There are the occasional speed cameras on the ring road – even in areas that are deserted – so don’t drive too fast.
- Should you drive an RV? I personally wouldn’t due to the limited places of overnight parking. Most people drove small cars or small vans. Staying in hotels is a much easier option.
- 4WD or 2WD – If you’re sticking to the ring roads, 2WD are perfectly fine! If weather conditions are dreary, if you plan on travelling on uncommon roads or if you have no idea what to expect, you’ll be safer in a bigger vehicle!
- Minimum age of 20 to hire a rental care – 23 for 4WD or minibuses.
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I hope you enjoyed the Iceland series! Have you driven the ring road or have some other tips to share?