10 minute read

Summary: This blog outlines essential tips and logistics for driving around Iceland, focusing on the Ring Road and beyond. It emphasizes the importance of allocating more than the minimum time needed to truly experience Iceland’s natural beauty, considering factors like weather conditions, vehicle choice, and road types.

Main Points:

  • Driving the Ring Road (Route 1) around Iceland is about 1,332 km and theoretically takes 17-20 hours without stops.
  • We advise spending several days on a Ring Road trip to explore attractions like the Golden Circle, Westfjords, and more.
  • Factors affecting your trip can include seasonal road accessibility, driving conditions, vehicle requirements, weather, speed limits, daylight hours, and available amenities.
  • It suggests a two-week itinerary for a comprehensive experience but also offers suggestions for shorter trips.
  • Cozy Campers provides equipped camper vans suitable for Iceland’s diverse terrain, including the necessary gear for a comfortable journey.

Embarking on an Icelandic adventure promises a journey through landscapes so ethereal, they seem plucked right from the pages of a fantasy novel. 

That’s why, at Cozy Campers, we believe the spirit of Iceland is best experienced out on the open road. Enjoy the freedom to explore majestic waterfalls, towering volcanoes, and sprawling glaciers at a pace that works for you. 

Chart your own course with a little help from this blog post. We detail the logistics of how long it takes to travel all across and around Iceland on popular roads like Route 1 / Ring Road, F225, and F208 North.

Whether you’re pondering how long it would take to drive around Iceland, or if the rugged trails leading to the heart of the Highlands call your name, we’re here to guide you through every twist and turn.

How Long Does It Take to Drive All the Way Around Iceland?

Iceland is majestic and intriguing, full of things to see and places to explore. However, it’s not particularly large. As a point of reference, our island nation is just slightly larger than Kentucky.

Driving around the entirety of Iceland’s perimeter is possible by taking Route 1, also known as the Ring Road. One of the most popular roads to take, the Ring Road is about 1,332 kilometers, or 828 miles long. 

Traveling nonstop at the speed limit (which varies across different portions of the road), it would take you about 17-20 hours to drive it in its entirety in ideal weather conditions.

But half the fun in visiting Iceland is enjoying our country’s unique beauty, from the always-popular Golden Circle and Southwest to the more remote and rugged Westfjords. That’s one key reason why it’s so important to set aside more than the minimum amount of time needed to travel the Ring Road.

How Weather Affects Driving in Iceland

The weather is a major factor in Iceland, especially when you’re on the road. 

Your trip might be full of mild weather and long, sunny days. Or, you could encounter storms, extreme weather, and (depending on the season and severity of the weather) closed roads. Please keep the weather in mind as you plan your trip — you might have to find a new route or build in extra time to reach your destination.

Even when the weather in Iceland is otherwise mild, it’s common to encounter strong headwinds on the road. These winds will slow you down, and there’s not really a way around it.

While you can still drive in a headwind if you feel you can control your vehicle, make safety a priority. Pull over if the wind feels too strong or moves your car across the road.

Remember that, if you plan to travel across the Icelandic Highlands, those roads (the F roads) are only open on a seasonal basis. Also, it’s strictly required that everyone using the F roads travel them in a 4×4 vehicle, like our own 4×4 camper vans.

However, you don’t need a 4×4 vehicle if you’re driving the Ring Road and other non-highland roads.

How Long Does It Take to Drive Around Iceland and Enjoy it?

It’s your vacation, and you deserve time to enjoy the breathtaking natural beauty of our country. Of course, you should account for potential delays and opportunities to spend more time on the road and enjoying the sights, too. 

There’s an awful lot that can influence your trip to Iceland, especially when if plan to drive around a lot or all of our island. Keep these key factors in mind as you plan your driving journey in Iceland:

  • The Ring Road (Route 1) is open all year, weather permitting, but the F-roads aren’t. The Ring Road will only close due to hazardous weather, Visit Iceland explains. However, the F-roads that bring you into the Icelandic Highlands are only open in summer, usually from mid-June through August.
  • Driving conditions. Snow and ice are major risks for the Ring Road in winter, but strong winds (and believe us, they’re sometimes stronger than most of our customers have ever experienced) and rain can influence a summertime trip, too. There’s not much you can do if you run into strong headwinds on the Ring Road except drive slower and more cautiously.
  • Suitable vehicles for driving in Iceland. The Ring Road does not require 4×4 vehicles, although the added control can help during hazardous weather. All of our campers can safely travel the Ring Road in normal weather conditions. Remember, the F-roads do require 4×4 vehicles, like our premium campers.
  • Weather conditions in Iceland. Iceland has a colder climate than much of the United States and Europe (except for the other Nordic countries). The cold influences driving conditions and your personal comfort, so it’s a good idea to keep track of the weather before your trip and pack appropriately.
  • Speed limits in Iceland. The last thing you want is a speeding ticket or worse on your vacation. Speed limits vary depending on the road. Some examples include:
    • 90 kilometers per hour (about 55 mph) on paved roads in less-populated areas.
    • 80 kmh (about 50 mph) on gravel roads in less-populated areas.
    • 50 kmh (about 30 mph) in more developed and urban areas.
    • 30 kmh (a little under 20 mph) in some more populated suburbs.
  • The midnight sun in the summertime. The 24 hours of sunlight Iceland experiences in the summer gives you more time to enjoy the natural beauty of our country. However, that can also make it difficult to keep track of time — be mindful of driving all night!
  • Amenities are available on the Ring Road. There are plenty of gas stations on the Ring Road. Major brands include Orkan, Olis, Atrandsolia, and N1. N1 by itself has more than 160 locations across the country, with plenty on or near the Ring Road.

These are all factors to keep in mind as you plan a trip that doesn’t only bring you around Iceland, but lets you enjoy it as well. So, how many days should you set aside for your trip?

Visit Iceland has written a helpful blog post “Around Iceland in 14 Days.” It recommends an itinerary of a trip all around Iceland, with 2-3 days spent in most locations and a day in others.

We agree with that guidance. If you truly want to experience as much of Iceland as possible along the Ring Road and beyond it, this two-week itinerary is an excellent way to structure your trip.

Don’t have two weeks’ vacation to spare? Our FAQs page has some route suggestions for 3-5 day trips, 6-9 day trips, and 10+ day trips.

What we won’t recommend is only setting aside a day or two for driving around Iceland. Who wants to spend most of their time behind the wheel on a vacation? Give yourself at least 3-5 days so you can relax and enjoy everything Iceland has to offer.

Aerial Footage of a Cozy Camper as it travels the roads of Iceland

How Long Does It Take To Drive Across Iceland?

The time required to drive across Iceland varies greatly depending on exactly where you’re going and which route you decide to take. 

The estimates below include drive time only. They’re great for building a schedule but don’t include time spent outside your vehicle.

In other words, use them as a foundation, then add on some additional time — time to eat, time to rest, time to see the sights. That way, you can make sure your trip is truly enjoyable.

  • Ring Road, north to south: Approximately 8 hours (Akureyri to Vík í Mýrdal). This is the fastest option but lacks the scenic beauty of some detours.
  • Ring Road with detours, north to south: 12-16 hours. This allows time for stops at notable attractions like Myvatn and glacier lagoons.
  • Across the Westfjords (northwest to southwest): 8-12 hours. This scenic route involves slower speeds and potential ferry crossings.
  • F-roads: Much slower and dependent on specific routes. Expect anything from 4-8 hours for shorter stretches to multiple days for longer journeys. Also, they are much more rugged and require a 4×4, like our premium campers. (Note that we prohibit the use of certain F roads with our standard and budget camper vans for this reason, and for your safety).

What Other Routes Should I Take vs. Avoid in Iceland?

Despite its popularity, traveling Ring Road in its entirety isn’t for everyone. Road closures are more common than you might think in certain sections and during inclement weather.

So, if you decide against traveling all the way across Iceland or around Iceland, where should you go? 

Many tourists choose to stick to a couple of regions, spending more time in each. Others stick to popular destinations.

Personally? We recommend researching the various regions of Iceland to see if you’d rather home in on certain areas or spread your time out more evenly. There’s so much to explore all throughout Iceland, ensuring that whatever your preferences, you’ll be able to enjoy yourself. 

Depending on where you want to go, one route or another may be preferable. Here are some routes to take (and some to avoid):

  • F208 North: This route winds through the Central Highlands, through volcanic peaks and natural wonders like the Laugarvatn hot springs and rhyolite-riddled Landmannalaugar. Note: F208 South requires a 4×4 and is best avoided.
  • F225: This route spans the Sprengisandur desert, Dettifoss (Europe’s most powerful waterfall in the North), and Geysir in the southern “Golden Circle.”
  • Mörðudalsleið: Otherwise known as the “Killer Road.” this route is best avoided.
  • Road 249: Scenic beauty abounds on this road, which hugs the Westfjords’ coastline and takes you to remote fishing villages, geothermal pools, and more. Just don’t cross the Krossá River! Not only is doing so dangerous, it’s illegal.

Find the Perfect Camper Van for Your Next Icelandic Adventure

Whether you’re planning a long two-week trip around various Icelandic roads, including Ring Road leading to remote areas, or will be taking mostly paved roads to popular spots, Cozy Campers can equip you with the perfect vehicle for your needs.

Our campers include bedding, cookware, a gas stove with fuel, a cleaning kit, charging ports, and so much more. They’re your home away from home as you journey across Iceland.

Check out our collection of campers now to find the perfect choice for your trip!

Back to blog