Iceland’s Ring Road is the ultimate road-trip for nature lovers and adventure seekers. Also known as Route 1, Iceland’s Ring Road is an 828 mile drive which encircles almost the whole country. Whether you like taking in the sights, going on active adventures, or both, there will be no shortage of experiences.
The trip will take you anywhere from 2 to 14 days, depending on how much time you spend exploring. If you’re tight on time, here is our list of the 10 best things to do on Iceland’s Ring Road.
- Ride an Icelandic horse
- Explore the DC3 plane wreck
- Add the Golden Circle to your route
- Visit the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
- See the Skógafoss Waterfall
- Swim in the Mývatn Nature Baths
- See puffins on a boat cruise
- Experience Diamond Beach at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
- Whale watching in Husavik
- Walk behind Seljalandsfoss
Ride an Icelandic horse
Icelandic horses are a fascinating, sturdy breed that hold an important place in Icelandic traditions. The small horse is extremely strong for its size, very sure-footed, and bred to withstand the rough weather in Iceland.
Icelandic horses have 5 gaits compared to the 4 most breeds have. Their extra gait, the tölt, is a very smooth and quick gait. Icelandic horses are known for being one of the purest breeds in the world because they are the only breed of horse allowed on Iceland.
When driving the Ring Road, taking some time to meet or ride Icelandic horses is an absolute must.
Explore the DC3 plane wreck
In 1973, a Super DC-3 owned by the US Navy was on a routine flight over Iceland (until 2005, the US had a permanent base in the country). The cargo plane crashed into Sólheimasandur, though no one is entirely sure why. Some blame it on pilot error, others on ice damaging the plane’s body. Whatever the cause, none of the 7 crew members onboard were injured.
The plane wreck remains where it crashed, enduring Iceland’s tough weather year after year. It won’t be there forever, however. The DC-3 sits in a glacial outwash plain and will likely be washed away when there is an eruption under the glacier.
For now, it has become one of the classic tourist images of Iceland and is very worth a visit. Visitors are not allowed to drive up to the wreck themselves, but they can hike there (roughly two hours) or take a guided tour to the DC-3 plane wreck.
Add the Golden Circle to your route
When you’re looking for things to do on Iceland’s Ring Road, adding the Golden Circle to your route is an absolute must.
The Golden Circle is a 230km driving route that starts and ends in Reykjavik. It is packed with stunning scenery and covers a few of Iceland’s top attractions: Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the Geysir and Strokkur hot spring.
If you want a break from driving, take a guided tour of the Golden Circle on a comfortable bus so you can sit back and relax.
Visit the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
While white sand beaches of tropical paradises are a classic, how about going for something unique? The Reynisfjara black sand beach along the South coast is a stunningly beautiful spot full of Icelandic folklore.
The large basalt columns are thought to be trolls that were turned into solid stone while trying to pull ships from the ocean onto shore. Between interesting rock formations in the cliff and the crashing waves of the ocean is a long stretch of black sand beach created by lava.
See the Skógafoss Waterfall
The Skógafoss waterfall is one of Iceland’s biggest tourist attractions, and for good reason. At 25 meters wide and 60 meters tall, it is a massive and powerful natural wonder.
You can walk right up to the waterfall, but be prepared to get soaked from the spray. If the sun is out, you’re guaranteed to see at least one rainbow in the cascading water.
The Skógafoss waterfall is visible from the Ring Road and therefore very easy to find. Or, you can take a tour of the Skógafoss waterfall that covers other fascinating sights as well.
Swim in the Mývatn Nature Baths
Most people have heard of the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, which unfortunately isn’t located directly on the Ring Road. Thankfully, there is a less-crowded equivalent in Northern Iceland.
The Mývatn Nature Baths, near the village of Reykjahlíð, consist of steam baths and geothermal heated pools. Similar to the Blue Lagoon, the water of the Mývatn Nature Baths is packed with skin-healing minerals. If you really want to add some adventure to your trip, take a mountain bike tour to the Mývatn Nature Baths.
See puffins on a boat cruise
Iceland is the breeding ground for about 60% of all Atlantic puffins, making it a great place to see them. Colonies of the beautiful birds with their bright orange beaks can be seen by taking a puffin boat cruise tour between April and September every year.
Seeing these fascinating sea birds is a must when you’re exploring Iceland on the Ring Road.
Experience Diamond Beach at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
The magical wonder of the glacier lagoon is located right off the Ring Road.
Huge chunks of iceberg break away from the glacier and float around the lagoon. The mix of salt and freshwater attracts fish, seabirds, and seals for a wildlife-filled experience.
As if the place isn’t stunning enough, it also sports a black beach made of lava that crystal clear chunks of ice wash onto. The sparkly ice against the dark ground is how the beach got its name; Diamond Beach.
Whale watching in Husavik
Husavik, a small fishing village, has recently grown in popularity thanks to being featured in the Will Ferrell movie “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”. It also happens to be one of the best places for whale watching in Iceland.
Located a short detour from the Ring Road, head to the picturesque fishing village and take a whale watching boat cruise. An experienced guide will make sure you experience some of Iceland’s fascinating marine life.
Walk behind Seljalandsfoss
Not far from Skógafoss is another stunning waterfall, Seljalandsfoss.
During the warmer months, you can walk behind the waterfall into the cave for a completely magical experience.
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