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.
Do rent a car with four-wheel drive.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.