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Ring Road in 5 Days - Are we crazy??

Hi all,

My boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Iceland in the middle of August this year and are planning to drive the Ring Road. Our itinerary is as follows:
Day 1 - arrive in Reykjavik in AM, explore Reykjavik (stay in Reykjavik)
Day 2 - Golden Circle (stay in Hella)
Day 3 - Hella to Hof (stay in Hof)
Day 4 - Hof to Egilsstaðir (stay in Egilsstaðir)
Day 5 - Egilsstaðir to Akureyri (stay in Akureyri)
Day 6 - Akureyri to Reykjavik (stay in Reykjavik)
Day 7 - Blue lagoon in AM, return flight leaves KEF at 4:30pm

We are young, experienced travelers that usually like to keep busy and don't mind long days, I'm just worried that the above itinerary is too much driving and won't leave enough time to actually enjoy the sights. We are interested in light hiking, relaxing in hot springs, etc. I realize the sun will be out for long hours in mid-August, but again, don't want to burn out on driving and risk taking time to relax and enjoy the beauty of the country.

I was considering not doing the whole ring road, and just venturing as far east as Hofn, but then we will back track almost as long as it would take us to just continue going around the island. Any suggestions would be welcome!

Posted by
3280 posts

It does seem like you've packed a too much into your plans. I've been to Iceland, but just for three days on my own. I spent most of the time in Reykjavik. However, my son and his wife spent about 8 days last July. They had a great time. They did not do all of the ring road. I'll share a couple of their comments. In some ways you are able to accomplish more since it is still light during the night. Sometimes they had foggy weather so they either had to make do and see things in suboptimal conditions or repeat a viewpoint or hike just so they could get better viewing. My concern with your itinerary is that it is so tight that if you do experience bad weather/poor viewing you won't have time to repeat the experience. You didn't ask, but people have quite varying opinions on Blue Lagoon. I didn't have any interest and my son and his wife choose not to go. There are other less expensive hot springs you can experience during your trip that would also take less time. If you feel you need to get yourself a bit more time, I'd consider dropping Blue Lagoon.

Posted by
679 posts

We just returned from 4 days driving throughout Iceland. We were/are exhausted. The driving is fine (good roads, not too busy) but we were on the road for at least 13 hours a day. Even my genial hubby got very grumpy on the last full day. We did the Rick Steves route for west, gold circle and then going into south, spending the night at the Hotel Geirland in Skaftarhreppur, doing a glacier boat ride (Glacier Lagoon-amazing on a zodiac boat-probably our favorite adventure) and then driving back to Reykjavik. I feel like we saw a lot of amazing places but did not spend anytime in Reykjavik and missed out of going to a thermal spring. The distance is greater than you think and don't gyp yourself out of relaxing and really enjoying the experience. I am not sure what we would cut out but we needed at least one more day for the parts we dd. That is just my opinion though. Good luck and enjoy!

Posted by
187 posts

I don't think you have enough time to do the ring road properly. You mention wanting to relax in hot springs and hikes -- focus on quality over quantity. With 6.5 days, even with as much daylight as you have, I think it's too much time in the car getting from A to B and not enough time actually being and experiencing.

I would consider going straight to the south coast on day 1 and finish up with Golden Circle on day 6 (sleep in Reykjavik) and see Reykjavik on day 7 for the few hours before you fly out.

Have you seen Rick's suggested itineraries? https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/iceland/itinerary

Posted by
9 posts

It's definitely possible, but you might miss out on a lot of things because you won't have the time. That's a lot of driving each day (it always takes longer than you think, partially because there are so many great pulloffs).

I went in Late June/Early July so we had lots of daylight. You should still have plenty in August, though probably not the same eerie daylight all the time situation.

This is what we did. I hope this is helpful in planning. We just stuck to the south coast, and really maximized our sights there. Seems like you are going the exact same amount of time as us.
Day 1: Husband arrived early morning. I was coming from Europe from a conference so he had a half day to do stuff before I got there. He did the Reykjanes peninsula and loved it.
That night we drove 2.5 hours near Vik to an airbnb. We then went and did the Black Sand beach and Skogafoss from 9-11 pm (big advantage of the daylight). Stayed near Vik.
Day 2: Drove to the Glacier lagoon. From where we were staying it was about a 2.5 hour drive, but you'll want to stop much more often(lots of great pullouts with cool sights and information posts). That day we did both glacier lagoons, the diamond beach, and did two hikes in skaftafell. Left around 9 am and got back around 9 pm. Can't imagine fitting any more in that day. We got lucky and had beautiful weather. Stayed near Vik.
Day 3: Took the ferry to westman islands (highly recommend). Had bad weather but made the best of it. We climbed the volcano twice since the weather got better as the day went on. Stayed on Island.
Day 4: Ferry back to mainland. Saw Seljandsfoss, did the Hot Spring river hike (probably only thing I would have changed), and part of the golden circle. Stayed in Selfoss.
Day 5: Golden circle (did Laugartavn Fontana here instead of blue lagoon and would recommend). We did a lot of the less common stops here too. Stayed in Reykjavik
Day 6: Reykjavik
Day 7: Did Reykjanes peninsula again so I could see it, and my husband didn't mind redoing. Flight out around 4pm.

I totally understand wanting to do the full ring road, but I'd encourage you to stick to a smaller part, even though it means backtracking. You'll spend much less time driving each day and more time enjoying things. We didn't make it to the Snaefellsnes peninsula but have heard great things, so that could be an option as well. Also depends on how much hiking you want to do. If you aren't into that as much, then you can breeze through things quicker. But definitely take weather into consideration. And just enjoy things even with crummy weather!

No matter what you decide on for itinerary, you'll have a great time!

Posted by
37 posts

@jules m - I'm actually really looking forward to the Blue Lagoon, even if it's overpriced and crowded with tourists and just a pool of industrial waste! Thank you for your thoughts.

@nancy - WHEW! 13 hours of driving a day sounds like way too much. I would hope that we wouldn't end up doing that much, I was even thinking an average of 5 hours a day is too much. You didn't even do the ring road and ended up with 13 hours a day so that makes me nervous that my estimates for the ring road are WAY off. What do you think you would do differently next time? Thanks for sharing!

@roubrat - thanks for sharing those itineraries and your thoughts! Unfortunately I already booked accommodations for our ring road excursion, so I need to see if I can change them and find lodging elsewhere if we decide to stay on the south coast, otherwise we're going to stick with the original ring road plan and see how it goes.

@rmg643 - Thanks for sharing! Sounds like a great itinerary. Can I ask what it was about the Hot Spring River Trail that you didn't like? Could you also elaborate on which other less common stops you made on the Golden Circle? Thanks!

Thanks all for noting to consider weather conditions! I hadn't even considered that sights might not be visible due to fog, rain, etc.

Posted by
679 posts

Good luck. Just be flexible if you can't make changes. My husband had all these "possible stops" and the first day we did most. For the next day, we prioritized but the routes just take longer than you think. It was all worthwhile but we are still recuperating. We needed one more day at least. Have a great trip.

Posted by
3304 posts

We were in Iceland for 4 days and barely had enough time to see Reykjavik, the Golden Circle, and the southern ring road to Jokulskarlon/Diamond Beach. We were exhausted! There is no way you can do this. Driving distances that show up on map apps should be doubled...in August you will have lots of traffic - even though the main road is in excellent condition it is narrow and there are one-way bridges where you have to wait your turn to cross. There is SO much to see along the way that you will want to stop.
I highly recommend that you stick to one area that you want to see, and see everything that's there.
BTW the Blue Lagoon is great! They only let a certain number of people in, the lagoon is huge, and there is plenty of room for everyone to spread out.

Posted by
679 posts

I agree with Anita. The traffic wasn't bad when we were there but the driving time just took longer. You think the daylight is longer I can be out longer but you really do get tired!

Posted by
73 posts

I am following for the same information:)

When we went, we only had 3 days, so just stayed in town and checked everything out. We are headed back in a year, so are starting to plan.

Our young adult kids have been, and they absolutely loved the Blue Lagoon. Our daughter is headed back again in a few weeks and will do it again, she loved it so much. I can't wait to check it out for myself:)

Posted by
37 posts

Thanks everyone for the info. I have revised our trip so that we spend our time all on the South coast. We will be backtracking, but I feel good about having 2 opportunities to see some sights in case of bad weather or something on a certain day.

Day 1 - arrive in Reykjavik in AM, explore Reykjavik (stay in Reykjavik)
Day 2 - Golden Circle (stay in Hella)
Day 3 - Hella to Vik (stay in Vik)
Day 4 - Vik to Hof (stay in Hof)
Day 5 - Spend time in Hofn, and near Hof (stay in Hof)
Day 6 - Head back to Reykjavik, catch anything we missed or didn't have time for on previous days (stay in Reykjavik)
Day 7 - Blue lagoon in AM, return flight leaves KEF at 4:30pm

Posted by
9 posts

@krafty sorry I'm just responding! With the hot spring river hike, I found that the amount of time it took didn't really pay off. It's a fairly long mostly uphill hike and it takes at least an hour. There are cool hotsprings along the way, but I found the hot springs on the Reykjanes peninsula(Gunnhuver and Krýsuvík) to be just as nice and much more compact. We went in the river, which was cool, but just no they don't have changing rooms, just open changing stations with walls on 2 sides. It was also quite a cold day when we were there (Iceland had a really cold summer last year), so that might be it. I just found the scenery wasn't as impressive as I found elsewhere, but I bet on a nice day, it'd be totally worth it.

Along the golden circle we did part of the Bruarfoss waterfall hike. A note on this, it might or might not be closed. It's technically private property, and last summer they put in a parking lot (people kept trying to go into the private summer home community or park outside it which was a HUGE problem). We made it to the first of the three waterfalls (the last one is supposed to be amazing). The trail is just so poorly maintained and muddy that we felt like we shouldn't go on. That was a big bummer.

We did Laugarvatn Fontana hot springs instead of blue lagoon. Got tickets the day before and really enjoyed it. We also went to Skalholt church, which was really interesting and full of history. We also stopped at Kerid crater which would recommend for sure. Two short waterfall stops we did were Faxi (nearer to Skalholt and Kerid) and Thorufoss. We didn't really do much at Thorufoss though because it had started raining and was super windy, but I've heard it's really nice!

Posted by
73 posts

Yes you are. You can do it with relatively no stops. Figure it takes 3 hours to get from 1 guesthouse to another.