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October - self drive or guided tour? Also whole Ring Road or not?

Hi all,

I am looking to book a trip for 8 days/7 nights in Iceland this October as long as things are looking safe. I can't decide whether to do a guided tour for all the days and not get a car, or if I should risk it with the weather and do a self guided tour and make up our own itinerary for the whole trip? I am open to any and all suggestions or other ideas too. I know the weather cannot be definite on whether it'll be good or bad for driving, but my boyfriend doesn't mind driving in all weather and I told him we should just drive during the day time.

We also want to try to do the Ring Road if possible, because there is an 8 day tour that makes it around but know that'd be a lot. We aren't sure what to cut out of the Ring Road if we need.

Thank you for your help, I've been struggling with this!

Posted by
6113 posts

If you go at the start of October, you will get 3 hours of daylight more than at the end of the month. I went in late May/early June and some of the roads were still impassable due to snow- this could also be an issue in October unless you hire an expensive 4x4.

Most ring road tours take 2 weeks, so it would be rushed in your timescale. We flew from Reykjavik to Akureyri, picked up a hire car then stayed in Lake Myvatan for 4 nights before driving back to Reykjavik over 6 nights. Driving there is straight forward as there isn’t much traffic. It’s difficult to tell someone what to cut out of an itinerary, as your priorities are likely to be different to mine. We spent no time in Reykjavik.

The whale watching season ends in mid October - take many warm layers if you are taking the boat out as it’s freezing!

Posted by
7574 posts

Our trip in April a few years ago was a combination. Starting in Reykjavik, we didn’t need a car. We did a whale watching tour with Elding Tours the first afternoon. Then we did a guided tour with Icelandic Adventures for 3 days, letting the guide do the driving, and that included a glacier hike with crampons and ice axes, and covering the southern and some of the eastern part of the Ring Road. Returning to Reykjavik for the last 3 days, we rented a car and drove the Golden Circle ourselves, plus a day west of Reykjavik.

Posted by
4618 posts

I can say that the Rick Steves book is ambivalent about time required. It suggests a core five day ring road trip with what to add where for each additional day. Elsewhere it states that you really need 8 days for a fairly complete ring trip. Check TripAdvisor for sample 4, 5, or 6 day itineraries. In the summer there are even people who drive the whole ring straight through taking advantage of the 24 daylight and sightseeing all night, finishing without sleep in a day and a half or so.

Lots of the ring trips/tours include tours like glacier hikes, whale watching, and island trips that take most of a day. So if you want to do those then you will need more than a week.

I doubt that there will be ring tours that don't include these items, so I think you will need to self-drive if only allotting a week or less.

I am going myself this summer and sorting out the most complicated car insurance situation I have ever encountered, including a separate sandstorm insurance for the car's paint job. And the way I read it the windshield is covered at 100% unless cracked by a rock, in which case you need to have bought the gravel insurance to be covered. So I guess just smear some blood on the windshield pretending the damage was caused by hitting a bird, and then it's covered (I'm kidding). With Blue Cars one is spending $250 to cover a $900 deductible which doesn't seem worth it. Also credit card insurance will cover the deductible when basic insurance is a requirement for rental. But this is another topic in and of itself.

Posted by
7574 posts

Rick Steves hadn’t come out with a guidebook before our trip, and Lonely Planet was our resource. It’s good that Rick’s got a guidebook now, too.

Posted by
709 posts

There's an excellent Iceland forum on TripAdvisor with all sorts of information on weather and sites to see. Posters there include locals and people who are experienced with travel to Iceland. I'm not saying that people here don't have good input, it's just that the TA forum is busier.

We are going in early September because from what I've been reading the weather can get bad later in September. And even if your boyfriend "doesn't mind driving in all weather", the high winds in Iceland can make winter driving almost impossible.