The Do’s and Don’ts of a Road Trip in Iceland

Due to its natural beauty, Iceland is an insanely fun place to road trip. Plus, it’s compact – you can circle the entire country in about a week.

My friend Adam and I only had four days, so we did a road trip of the southern coast. Although we would’ve enjoyed more time, we still covered a ton of ground and saw a half dozen waterfalls.

Our road trip worked perfectly because Adam drove and I navigated. I kind of hate driving (worst Detroiter ever, I know) and Adam can drive stick. Plus, I enjoy choosing all the sites and restaurants – is it normal if you’re a control freak but only when it comes to travel? Ha.

Here are my tips for planning your own Iceland road trip.

Iceland Road Trip

Do rent a car with four-wheel drive.

Iceland Road Trip

I would highly recommend renting a car with four-wheel drive. Our car limited us substantially – we were unable to see certain waterfalls like Haifoss and Granni because our car was basically a go-kart. We were also elbow-to-elbow the entire trip, so make sure to rent a car with enough space.

Do rent a portable wifi device.

Portable wifi was kind of a blessing and a curse. Pros? We could use wifi on the road. Cons? We were a little too connected. I think I refreshed my Instagram every 15 minutes.

But overall, I’m not sure what we would have done without portable wifi. We did everything from research restaurants to book hotels on it, and it provided directions and Spotify for the entire trip. 

How much it costs: We rented ours with our rental car and it was about $25 a day.

Do stop for gas station bread, cheese, hot dogs and ice cream. 

Iceland_Gas_Station

Icelandic gas station food is, surprisingly, the best. We made sandwiches with rúgbrauð, Icelandic rye bread. Texturally, it’s similar to banana bread but taste-wise it’s nutty and slightly sweet.

Icelandic hot dogs are also addictive and I still miss the brown sauce they were slathered in. Bring me some?

 Icelandic gas stations also have the world’s best, creamiest soft-serve ice cream. Make sure to have yours dipped in chocolate. So. Good.

Do be prepared to pay a lot for gas. 

I think we paid almost $8 a gallon – ouch.

Do bring a guidebook.

Iceland Road Trip

We had portable wifi but still – no one wants to be on their phone for an entire road trip. Make sure to bring a guidebook. I left the Lonely Planet Iceland a friend lent me at home and was kicking myself the entire trip for forgetting it.

Guidebooks are useful because they give you a frame of reference for which areas are worth visiting, something I don’t find blogs or websites generally cover.

Do bring towels.

Bring a few towels so you can swim in outdoor geothermal swimming pools. We didn’t bring towels so ended up missing out on Iceland’s famed outdoor pools, which was my biggest regret of the trip.

Do book your accommodation in advance if traveling in shoulder or high season.

We were shocked by how often hostels and hotels were full. So definitely book in advance if you’re traveling between May and September.

Do be prepared to pay more if you want an automatic car.

Iceland Road Trip

By renting a car with manual transmission we saved about $150 over five days. Obviously though if you can’t drive stick, no worries – you can definitely rent an automatic car in Iceland as well. 

Don’t be shy about having a road soda.

In Iceland it’s legal if the driver doesn’t drink! (Or so I read on the interwebs). So feel free to crack an Einstök or two. (It’s the beer with a Viking on the label and it’s not bad.)

Don’t be too ambitious with your itinerary.

Iceland Road Trip

I would recommend driving four or five hours a day tops. You want to have time to enjoy sites and be spontaneous – and plus, driving for more than five hours is just tiring.

Do stop for gas often.

Road Trip Iceland

There are parts of Iceland where gas stations are few and far between, so make sure you always have at least a half tank.

Additional Iceland travel tips: 

In summer, Iceland is light out basically all the time, so bring an eye mask!

Bring a raincoat – it can get drizzly! I have this Marmot one in red and love it.

The most beautiful drive in Southern Iceland was the road from Hella to Vik. The craggy, green mountains, Icelandic ponies, black sand beaches, red-roofed houses were stunning. Highly recommended.

What about you? Would you ever want to road trip Iceland?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

20 thoughts on “The Do’s and Don’ts of a Road Trip in Iceland”

  1. Great post – love it! Definitely pinning this for future reference. Iceland has been on my list ever since it started popping up on my instagram feed a couple of years ago, and I’m determined to make it there in the next couple of years. Will be using these tips! :-)

  2. I really want to visit Iceland – it really looks so amazing. Also, that bread looks SO GOOD, cannot believe you got it from a convenience store!

    • Honestly I can’t speak to vegetarian food as we ate a lot of seafood and a good amount of meat. But the car rental cost $253 for four and a half days. Also gas can only be paid with a debit card – something worth noting!

  3. I actually am road tripping Iceland next month! As it stands now, I’m planning on renting an (automatic) camper van. I’m really curious if you’ll be posting your itinerary – I’ve got a bit of a timing challenge so I’d be so curious how you maximized the southern coast in four days. :)

  4. I know when I was driving in southern Utah last year, my worst fear was always running out of gas as there was nothing around for miles. And great points about the guidebook (I’m old school and still love flipping through a book’s pages when I’m at a destination) and the maximum number of hours you should drive each day. It’s great to see a ton of stuff but it’s not so great when you’re spending more time getting to your destination.

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