8 unforgettable street journeys in Iceland: take a drive by these spectacular landscapes

Driving in Iceland is a dreamy expertise, and having your individual set of wheels presents the liberty to discover the nation at your individual tempo.

Image the scene: you’re gliding alongside a street curling round a snowy hillside. In your proper, a steep, rocky slope, the highest shrouded in fog. In your left, the surf beats towards vertical cliffs, with sea birds circling overhead. Earlier than you, the crystal blue waters of one more fjord stretches out to the horizon. 

There’s no higher feeling than heading out and seeing the place the street takes you. However, do you have to require a bit of extra construction to your overland odyssey, we’ve chosen eight unforgettable Iceland street journeys to get you began.

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Hit the street on the Blue Diamond vacationer route

Finest street journey for volcanic exercise

Begin/finish – Keflavík Worldwide Airport; approx 75115km (5070 miles); permit at the very least sooner or later

From Keflavík Worldwide Airport, the Blue Diamond vacationer route loops across the otherworldly lava landscapes of Reykjanes Peninsula, by quiet seaside villages and the wondrous Reykjanes Geopark, acknowledged as a Unesco International Geopark in 2015.

Nowhere else are the borders between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates as seen. Throughout are indicators of geothermal and volcanic exercise: the milky blue waters of the Blue Lagoon steam into the sky, whereas the continued volcanic eruption in Geldingadalir (which started once more in August 2022 and remains to be taking place; there’s even a live feed) continues to wow guests.

There are lots of extra discoveries to be made on the route, together with the windswept shore by Reykjanes lighthouse and Kleifarvatn lake (dwelling, in response to legend, to a wormlike monster the scale of a whale), and there are myriad mountain climbing trails. You are able to do a spherical journey in lower than a day, but it surely’s value staying for just a few days to totally discover the area.

Strive taking another route to succeed in Golden Circle landmark Gullfoss waterfall © Wesley Martinez Da Costa / Getty Pictures

Take Street 435 as a substitute for the Golden Circle

Finest street journey in summer season

Begin/finish – Reykjavík; approx 225km (140 miles)

For a unique tackle the Golden Circle – Iceland’s hottest day tour – strive Nesjavallaleið (Street 435) which is open in the summertime. It slings by moss-covered lava landscapes and up and down steep hills, with a panoramic view of Þingvallavatn lake within the distance. Alongside the street are fairly just a few marked mountain climbing trails, beckoning roadtrippers to quickly ditch the automotive and get up-close-and-personal with the beautiful panorama.

Puffs of steam are the telltale signal that you simply’re approaching Nesjavallavirkjum Energy Plant and the unique ION Journey Lodge. The street continues alongside placid lakes, together with Úlfljótsvatn with a lonely church on its banks. You drive by a summer season home area – the place metropolis dwellers go for weekend breaks – after which onto the principle street previous the perfectly-circular Kerið crater lake, one of many compulsory Golden Circle stops.

After gawking at Gullfoss waterfall and spying Geysir (from which all different geysers take their identify), you possibly can drive again through Þingvellir Nationwide Park with a fast go to to the curious caves homes of Laugarvatnshellar. Bookworms also needs to contemplate making a cease at Gljúfrasteinn museum in Mosfellsdalur. The museum is the previous dwelling of distinguished Icelandic author Halldór Laxness, who gained the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955.

A black and white puffin, with its distinctive orange beak, stands on a ledge at the cliffs of Latrabjarg, Iceland.
Take a break out of your drive alongside the Icelandic coast to identify puffins © NanoStockk / Getty Pictures

Drive by the distant East Fjords

Finest street journey to discover Iceland’s maritime heritage

Begin/finish – Egilsstaðir; approx 820km (510 miles)

Arrange camp in Egilsstaðir and also you’ll be in prime place to uncover the magical East Fjords. First, go to the village of Vopnafjörður, dwelling to Selárlaug, a swimming pool on the banks of a salmon-filled river, which can be in style for fishing. In summer season, you could possibly cross the spectacular mountain cross Hellisheiði eystri (Street 917) to get right here – however with its slim and steep gravel street, it’s not for the faint hearted.

Regardless, take the straightforward method again (Street 85 and Street 1) to Borgarfjörður eystri, and recharge on the village of Bakkagerði with a lodge and spa, puffin watching home and in style music competition Bræðslan, held in July. It’s additionally base for mountain climbing within the beautiful environment, with the trek to Stórurð, a turquoise lake enclaved by huge boulders, a very in style route.

You have to return to Egilsstaðir earlier than transferring on to the following fjords on the route: Eskifjörður and Neskaupstaður. Right here, the maritime heritage of this area is honored in elegantly renovated historic homes: Randulfssjóhús in Eskifjörður and Beituskúrinn in Neskaupstaður; each of which now operate as glorious, atmospheric eating places. Drive again by Fáskrúðsfjörður to Stöðvarfjörður, the place Petra’s Stone Assortment museum amazes, showcasing the sheer number of minerals that may be discovered within the mountains within the nation’s east. From right here, it’s a straight run again to Egilsstaðir for the final time – bear in mind to be careful for reindeer!

See the Westfjords by street and ferry

Finest scenic street journey

Begin/finish – Reykjavík; approx 765km (475 miles)

On the best way to the Westfjord from Reykjavík, you’ll drive by the agricultural area of Dalir. Right here, dairy farm Erpsstaðir makes for an important first pitstop on the journey, the place you possibly can find out about conventional farming life and pattern the do-it-yourself cheeses and different treats. There are additionally plenty of historic websites close by, together with Eiríksstaðir, a residing museum about life within the Viking period, and Guðrúnarlaug, the duplicate of the pool the place the attractive heroine of Laxdæla saga (one of many well-known medieval Icelandic sagas) used to wash.

Leaving Dalir within the rearview mirror, the primary Westfjordian city you’ll attain is Reykhólar, dwelling to Sjávarböðin, a spa specialising in seaweed baths (stated to have all method of therapeutic properties). From right here, the drive alongside the peninsula’s southern coast on steep gravel roads is each awe-inspiring and borderline scary, however your reward is a stroll on red-sand seaside Rauðasandur and the view from Látrabjarg, Iceland’s westernmost level. Látrabjarg can be a haven for birdlife, with hundreds of seabirds, together with puffins, razorbills and guillemots, nesting within the cliffs.

You possibly can take the ferry from Brjánslækur again, through Flatey, an idyllic island which appears to be frozen in time. It was once the bustling heart of the Breiðafjörður islands, however right now, solely seven folks dwell there year-round. From right here, the ferry takes you onwards to Stykkishólmur on Snæfellsnes, coming into through a ravishing harbor ignored by a distant lighthouse. It’s a view that may tempt you to remain some time; in the event you do, ensure you try the Library of Water, a contemporary artwork museum, and pattern the locally-sourced seafood on provide at Sjávarpakkhúsið.

Cruise around the otherworldly Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Finest street journey for various landscapes

Begin/finish – Reykjavík; approx 440km (275 miles)

In clear climate you possibly can see the alluring ice cap Snæfellsjökull from Reykjavík. The drive there’s an journey with ever-changing landscapes. You’ll discover sand and pebble seashores, volcanoes, a glacier and rhyolite mountains, lava fields and grassy terrain, caves, bird-filled cliffs and waterfalls.

The peninsula’s southern aspect is graced by white-sand seaside Löngufjörur, a scorching spot for horseback using, the otherworldly lava panorama round Búðir and the numerous wonders of Snæfellsjökull Nationwide Park.

On the northern aspect there are charming fishing villages and Kirkjufell, certainly one of Iceland’s most photographed mountains – notably in style when the northern lights are out. Though it’s attainable to do a whirlwind tour of Snæfellsnes in a day, you possibly can simply spend just a few: mountain climbing, fowl watching, crusing or just taking within the views of the immense glacier.

Two people stand on the side of the road next to their car, admiring the ocean view, in Stokksnes, south-eastern Iceland.
Think about loads of time for stop-offs throughout your Iceland street journey © Westend61 / Getty Pictures

Drive past the Ring Street on the traditional Kjölur route

Finest street journey for Iceland’s inside 

Begin/finish – Reykjavík; approx 1378km (856 miles)

Boost your Ring Street (Route 1) journey by slicing by the barren inside of the nation. Street 35, which splinters off from Route 1 previous Gullfoss waterfall, continues alongside the traditional Kjölur route between glaciers Langjökull and Hofsjökull. It’s an F-road, so it requires a 4WD automobile and is just open in the summertime, however it isn’t as troublesome as a number of the different highland routes (for instance, there are not any river crossings.)

Across the midway level is Hveravellir, an oasis of kinds within the snowy desert panorama, with a lodge, pure pool for bathing and a multicolor geothermal space with marked mountain climbing trails, together with to Kerlingarfjöll mountains. You enter the Ring Street once more about an hour’s drive from Akureyri, the “capital” of the north, which is nice for catching up on some tradition, visiting galleries or having an evening in town (with at the very least three bars to select from!).

The Ring Street will take you from fjord to fjord, previous eerie mountains and into quiet seaside villages. Fáskrúðsfjörður is understood for a museum which honors the legacy French sailors, situated contained in the fantastically renovated French hospital. In Breiðdalsvík drop by microbrewery Beljandi (named after a waterfall by the identical identify) and in Djúpivogur check out the granite egg sculptures in Gleðivík by famend artist Sigurður Guðmundsson.

Discover native legends on the Diamond Circle

Finest street journey of north Iceland

Begin/finish – Húsavík; approx 250km (155 miles)

North Iceland’s reply to the Golden Circle is the Diamond Circle. Make your base within the whale watching city of Húsavík and head east to Ásbyrgi on the northern realms of Vatnajökull Nationwide Park. The horseshoe formed canyon is characterised by vertical cliffs – stroll to the highest of Eyjan for a tremendous view of the sand seashores to the north and the North Atlantic. That is gyrfalcon territory, the biggest falcon on this planet, so preserve a watch out for the majestic raptors.

With its pretty lake, lava fields, steaming fumaroles and effervescent scorching springs, the Mývatn space is an compulsory cease on the drive again to Húsavík. Take time to marvel on the mighty Goðafoss waterfall in Skjálfandafljót. It’s referred to as “waterfall of the gods” as a result of legend has it that the lawspeaker (a job in historical Scandinavian society the place somebody is entrusted to recite the legislation) Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði threw his pagan sculptures within the falls after deciding that Icelanders ought to convert to Christianity in 1000CE. Additional upstream is Aldeyjarfoss, one other spectacular waterfall surrounded by columnar basalt.

Don’t overlook to order a while for Húsavík itself, a bustling city with attention-grabbing museums and fabulous seafood eating places. Geosea Geothermal Sea Baths are perched up on Húsavíurhöfði subsequent to a yellow lighthouse with an unobstructed view of the whale watching boats on Skjálfandi bay.

A lone white house stands on a small grassy hillside in the Westfjords, Iceland. Behind the house is the blue sea.
Wherever you go, take time to benefit from the spectacular landscapes © Alex Walker / Getty Pictures

Take a leisurely drive alongside the Arctic Coast Manner

Finest coastal street journey for taking your candy time

Begin – Hvammstangi; finish – Bakkafjörður; approx 900km (560 miles)

Designed for gradual journey, the Arctic Coast Way slings alongside Iceland’s northern shoreline, encompassing sleepy villages, six islands and wonderful pure websites few folks get to see. The route begins on the seal-watching city Hvammstangi in northwest Iceland and ends in windblown Bakkafjörður within the northeast. Alongside the best way drivers will encounter dramatic views, lonely lighthouses, and a few attention-grabbing tales.

At Þrístapar, you possibly can study concerning the grotesque destiny of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the heroine of Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites who was the final girl executed in Iceland. At Brimslóð in Blönduós, there’s the choice to go foraging on your dinner, and in Skagaströnd have your fortune instructed on the museum of Þórdís the Prophetess. In summer season, the midnight solar bounces off the ocean floor, and in winter, the northern lights dance throughout the evening sky in between blinking stars – removed from mild air pollution.

Different attention-grabbing stops embody Hvítserkur sea stack, the huge Arctic Henge in Raufarhöfn, an historical stone monument impressed by Norse mythology, and the gannet colony at Stóri Karl on Langanes. Take your time to discover on foot, or e-book whale watching, kayaking or diving excursions for a unique perspective of this wild coastal area.