We had wanted to visit Iceland for a long time. The island seemed foreign and mysterious given its isolated location and population of only 330,000. We weren't sure exactly what to expect other than its rugged landscape. Our initial planning resulted in us discovering there is a ring road that circles the entire country so we decided this would make the ultimate road trip. Not wanting to miss out on the Snæfellsnes peninsula and Westfjords, we extended the trip and included them in our eleven–day itinerary:
When To Go
The summer months of June through August is a popular time to visit because of the weather and the midnight sun. The winter months are appealing because of the shorter days and cold nights which are great conditions to see the northern lights. We decided September was the best month to go because it is after the busy summer months but also before some roads are closed for winter. The other good thing about September is it is the start of the northern lights season.
The autumn equinox is a time where solar activity is high and this year it was on September 22. However, we knew this was no guarantee for seeing the lights. You still need clear skies and a very dark place away from any light pollution. We were lucky enough to see the northern lights on one of the nights.
The Ring Road (or Route 1) is mostly paved. However, many of the other roads are made of gravel. We did not go on any F-roads, which are mountain roads in the highlands, as they are only open during the summer and a 4x4 is required to drive on them.
Driving in such a remote place can come with its challenges so we took certain precautions. There are stretches where you may not see another vehicle for hours. We made sure to keep the gas tank at the very least half full. We also stocked up on water and snacks for the road in the off chance we were stranded.
The weather in Iceland can be unpredictable. It is advisable to check the road conditions (road.is) every day before driving. A few days after we left there was a flood that closed down a section of the ring road in East Iceland. There are also many road closures in the winter due to snow and ice.
We do not think a GPS is required in Iceland as long as you have Google Maps and download an offline version before your trip begins. A paper map is also helpful as a backup but not absolutely necessary unless you get into trouble. We found the International Photographer map useful as both a road map and a summary of attractions to visit.
In total, we drove approximately 2800 km around Iceland. The ultimate road-trip.
More detailed posts on each of the regions to come!