Why I Decided To Do The Ring Road
All the gorgeous pictures that I had seen of Iceland! I’m a nature lover and Iceland is home to some of the most rugged landscapes; it would be a crime to not explore a country that is so untouched and beautiful in every corner, despite the rising popularity for tourists.
How I Planned The Trip
I started extensive research almost 2 months in advance and since we decided to rent a campervan, we didn’t need to book any hotels at all. I always use Skyscanner for my flights; it helps me find the most suitable flight in terms of timing and price. For car rental, I usually use rentacar.com but specifically for campervan rentals, I did a bit of research and found some good options such as Happy Campers, Kuku Campers & Go Campers. I have written an informative post about ‘What you need to know to plan a campervan trip in Iceland’ on my blog.
If you’re travelling during the peak season, it’s best to book your trip at least 3 months in advance. Iceland is an expensive country in general, and the prices tend to rise with the increasing demand during summer. A campervan is a great option not only because it is cheaper to sleep in at night as compared to a hotel but also because Iceland has no dearth of well-equipped camping sites, located in some of the most off-beat places, with beautiful surroundings and unparalleled views.
Don’t forget to get insurance if you rent a car in Iceland. The road, the weather, etc can lead to some unexpected mishaps and it's best to be insured or you’ll end up paying hefty sums of money.
What I Packed
As we travelled during autumn, it was already beginning to get cold so thermals are a must! Also, since we were going to be staying in the campervan overnight, we carried some ready-to-cook meals that could be easily made on the portable gas stove that came with the campervan. Eating out in Iceland is really expensive, so this was a cost-effective way of travelling around.
Also, this is a great time to see the Northern Lights, so we made sure to carry our camera and tripod for some lovely pictures. I wish I was better at photography than I am as I was not very happy with the pictures I landed up with. Oh, and just make sure to take some waterproof clothes, as you will be visiting a lot of waterfalls on this trip and you don’t want to get drenched in the mist! Also, it can get really rainy and windy in Iceland, so wind-proof jackets are a lifesaver!
Do not forget, however, to carry swimwear too. The hot river in Reykjadalur Valley, Blue Lagoon or any of the several thermal springs in Iceland deserves a visit!
Itinerary For The Ring Road
The Ring Road in Iceland can be covered clockwise or anti-clockwise. Depending on the weather forecast & Northern Lights predictions, we planned to cover it anti-clockwise, starting from the obvious – the capital Reykjavik.
There’s just so much to see and do in Iceland that to plan an itinerary for a limited period of time is really tough. You will end up having to forego a lot of gorgeous spots, and unless you are in a 4WD vehicle, you will be restricted to visiting the places on the Ring Road only. However, that’s actually more than enough!
A detailed itinerary can be found on my blog: https://hoppingfeet.com/the-perfect-10-day-itinerary-for-iceland/
Here’s how we covered it:
Day 1: Reykjavik
Day 2: Blue Lagoon, Hveragerði Geothermal Park & Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River
Day 3: Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss & Reynisfjara Beach
Day 4: Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, Svartifoss, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Day 5: Diamond Beach & Stuðlagil Canyon
Day 6: Dettifoss, Hverir geothermal sites, Myvatn Nature Baths, Goðafoss Waterfall
Day 7: Akureyri, Hvítserkur & Kirkjufellsfoss
Day 8: Ólafsvík & Snæfellsjökull National Park
Day 9: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss & Kerið Crater Lake
Day 10: Return to Reykjavik /
It was undoubtedly a very action-packed, heavy itinerary.
We, unfortunately, did not have a lot of time in hand, thanks to our corporate jobs that do not allow us long periods of leave. In a span of 10 days, which went by like a whirlwind, we managed to cover a lot, but it certainly wasn’t enough time. Given a choice, I would have spent somewhere between 2-3 weeks, keeping the itinerary a little more relaxed, allowing for more time at some of the breathtaking areas, attempting more hikes, and catering to cancelled plans due to bad weather.
The Locals Were Great
There were many travelers from the United States, I assume due to the geographical proximity. However, this wasn’t exactly ‘tourist season’ because it was autumn and most tourists visit Iceland during the summer months, to make the most of the warm weather and long days. Meeting the locals, however, is always a pleasure, the information you can get from them is priceless! One evening, we were taken by surprise when the torrential rains hit, and we could not make it to the camping site we had originally planned to spend the night at. However, while dining at a local eatery, we spoke to some locals who helped us find a camping site nearby, which was not mapped anywhere (neither google nor the camping sites map we had received from our campervan renting company). Such a lifesaver!
One Food Item You Can’t Miss Out On
Personally, I was not a fan of the food in Iceland. However, there are some delicacies you might want to try if you’re an adventurous foodie, one of which is a fermented shark (Hákarl in Icelandic). Other traditional delicacies which are rarely found elsewhere include the whale and horse, usually served as steaks. If you’re not experimental, just stick to the fresh seafood available, which is quite good too.
Favourite Memory From The Trip
Camping in the middle of nowhere, far from any crowds, in the wilderness, cuddled up in warm blankets, sipping on wine & eating hot noodles freshly made on our stove, while watching the Northern Lights dance above us in the starry winter skies.
How We Were Able To Save Money
Thankfully, since we already knew this, we were prepared! Renting a campervan instead of staying in hotels overnight reduced our costs to a great extent, as did stocking up on alcohol from the duty-free stores and carrying ready-to-be-cooked on the stove meals with us. As for the money we spent on experiences such as visiting Blue Lagoon, we had already budgeted for it beforehand, however, one can avoid those expenses too by choosing cheaper yet equally good alternatives such as the Myvatn Nature Baths. Fuel is expensive no doubt, but some car rental companies give out discount cards and vouchers for specific fuel stations, which can help save a small amount if you plan properly. Waterfalls, hikes and the national parks are mostly free to explore so it is very much possible to do an Iceland trip with a low budget.
Hikes And Sights Not To Be Missed
My favourite sight in Iceland was the Kirkjufell mountain and I would recommend not to miss this. Apart from that, the hike to Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River and taking a dip in its hot waters was quite an intriguing experience. The black sand beach (Reynisfjara Beach) was fascinating as well and last, but definitely not the least, Jökulsarlon Glacier was absolutely enthralling!
How We’d Do Ring Road Differently Next Time
Yes, but this time, I’d rent a 4x4 and go deeper into the wilderness, to explore the most untouched, rugged landscapes. Going off-the-beaten-path would be my plan.
Advice For First Timers On The Ring Road
One can’t NOT fall in love with Iceland! Plan your trip in advance, don’t be afraid to go offbeat, be adventurous, let the dramatic landscapes take your breath away. Take a lot of pictures, make videos, and even if you have never done it before, rent a campervan and explore! Iceland will speak to your soul, if you let it, so disconnect from the digital world and just live in the moment.