Tips for Driving Iceland's Ring Road

Easily one of the most beautiful countries in the world and among the most underrated European destinations, Iceland is one of my favorite places.

The ultimate getaway for adventurers and nature lovers alike, Iceland is best experienced by road trip. I experienced Iceland’s famous Ring Road in a camper van, and it was unlike anything else I’ve ever done.

Highway 1, a.k.a. Ring Road, is the main route around the country, and there are so many stunning sights and worthwhile detours there. Are you ready to hit the road?

Here are my tips for driving Iceland’s Ring Road.

Guide to Photographing the Northern Lights

Best Time to Drive the Ring Road

As its name implies, Iceland is a cold country. Temperatures are in the twenties to thirties in the winter, while even the hottest afternoons of July rarely reach sixty degrees.

July and August are great months to visit because you’ll have more sunshine and the best weather of the year. September and October are also good because the prices are lower, and you’ll have a better shot of seeing the Northern Lights.

Personally, my Ring Road adventure was in early October and I thought it was an awesome time to go. We did have a few rainy days, but had amazing light for photography, saw the Northern Lights, and it wasn’t too, too cold!

Chart of length of light in a day in Iceland

Icelandic Traffic Signs

Weather and Road Conditions

When you’re driving in Iceland, the weather guides your day. It’s important to check the weather conditions every morning and keep a flexible schedule. You can be driving on a sunny day one minute and then be stuck in a whiteout blizzard the next.

While a week will give you flexibility to see and do the essentials in the summer, you’ll want to plan for closer to two weeks in the winter. That’ll give you enough time to get snowed in a few times and still get around to everything.

Beware of wind! It’s so strong that it can damage car doors (been there!), so always use caution.

Happy Campers Rental in Iceland

Drive it Yourself

You can drive the Ring Road yourself or go on a guided tour. Public transportation isn’t practical in Iceland, so you’ll need to make sure you make solid plans.

Consider driving yourself because it maximizes your options and gives you the most flexibility. You can stop wherever you want for as long as you want when you’re solo. Privacy is also a huge bonus, and you can camp out anywhere.

Map of the Ring Road

Get a Physical Map

Rather than relying exclusively on your phone, it’s best to have a physical map with you. We used our map a lot; it’s the most reliable method, and it gives you a good sense of where you are in the country.

Happy Campers 5 Person Van

Camper Van Kitchen Space

Rent a Good Camper Van

I rented my van from Happy Campers, and I highly recommend the company. Happy Campers staff was AWESOME with helping to plan the itinerary and will give you essential insider knowledge about getting around Iceland.

I shared a van with one other person and opted for a five-person camper van because we had a lot of luggage and photography gear, and it had plenty of space for everything.

Read More: How to Survive Iceland’s Ring Road in a Camper Van

Skyroam Mobile WiFi Hotspot

Stay Connected

When you arrive in Iceland, you’ll want to get a local SIM card or pick up a Skyroam hotspot before your trip. I used my Skyroam hotspot during my entire Icelandic adventure, and it worked perfectly.

You can connect up to five devices on Skyroam, which makes it a cheap and easy option for sharing a connection.

Read More: Why You Need to Travel with a Wi-Fi Hotspot

Campground along the Ring Road

Friends in van in iceland

Campgrounds

It’s best to make plans for your campsite since many sites are not maintained year-round. Typically, you can still camp there 365 days a year, but you might not have facilities like toilets available.

When they are open, most campsites are very well equipped. They have showers, laundry rooms, and sometimes even perks like Wi-Fi and Jacuzzis.

When you rent your camper van, you will get a campsite map. It is priceless. Hang on to it.

We found that it was easier in most cases just to call ahead and inquire if a campground was open or had spots available, rather than spending time looking online!

Iceland's oldest geothermal pool

Don’t Stick to a Hard Itinerary

Above all else, keep it flexible. The best part of Iceland for me was the laid-back pace. There are so many peaceful places that are a million miles from anything. It’s a dream destination for simply sitting back and taking in the incredible natural beauty.

You will want an open schedule so that you can see the Northern Lights; their visibility is far from a sure thing. You’ll need to watch the Northern Lights forecast for each area and adjust accordingly if you want to catch the magical moment.

However, some days require lots of driving, so I’d recommend getting an early start each morning — you’ll catch the best light and beat the crowds!

 

Shop my favorite Iceland travel essentials!


READ NEXT: What to Pack for a Week in Iceland

 

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Kiersten Rich
Kiersten Rich is the bikini-obsessed author of award-winning solo female travel and lifestyle blog, The Blonde Abroad, featuring travel tips, fashion, food, festivals and photography from around the world.