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Road Tripping on Iceland’s Ring Road

When visiting Iceland, a Ring Road tour is ideal for travelers with a sense of adventure. During the summer, you’ll have plenty of light to sightsee, with time to stop at small villages and natural hot springs. (In Iceland, you drive on the same side of the road as you do in the USA.) The Ring Road circles the entire country, and you’ll pass the top highlights plus hidden gems. These are a few of our favorite places along the Ring Road, starting in Reykjavik and driving clockwise. Enjoy!

Stykkisholmur,

a small town on the north shore of the Snaefellsnes, is a surprising cultural hub. Visit the Norwegian House. Built in 1828, it’s the first two-story building in Iceland. (Stop into the Volcano Museum for the country’s oldest weather station.) The town is also near natural wonders, including Mount Kirkjufell, Iceland’s most photographed mountain. A guardian spirit is said to live here—it’s considered to be a center of unusual energy.

The Trollaskagi Peninsula

is known for its dramatic mountains and Icelandic horses. There are quaint towns, due to fertile land and excellent fishing, and exceptional coastal views. The valleys and bays, carved during the ice age, have stunning waterfalls and rivers.  Horse farms are numerous—stop and go horseback riding.  Icelandic horses are a unique breed, smaller than many horses, smart, sturdy, and curious.  Dip into the town of Akureyri, Iceland’s unofficial northern capital, for local museums and galleries.

Dettifoss,

a waterfall in northern Iceland, is the most powerful in Europe. Go there and experience nature’s might. Fed by the river Jokulsa a Fjollum, it flows from the largest glacier in Europe. These magnificent falls, averaging a flow of 6,186 cubic feet per second, are 330 feet wide and they tumble 150 feet into a deep gorge. Lovely fields with abundant birdlife are nearby.

Myvatn,

a lake region, is a geologic treasure. The lake itself is huge, and the surrounding area is filled with wonders to discover.  See the Gooafoss waterfall and the Hljooaklettar rock formations—they are other-worldly. Stop into the town of Husavik, whale-watching capital of Europe.  It’s picture-postcard pretty with broad views across the bay. Nature lovers will delight in birdwatching, fishing in pristine waters, bathing in hot springs, and the overwhelming lava fortress of Dimmuborgir.

Borgarfjorour Eystri

is the place to meet puffins. About 10,000 pairs of puffins nest here every summer.  There are shelters and wooden platforms so that you can get remarkably close to them. The marina is one of Iceland’s best places for all-around birdwatching, especially for puffins, fulmars, kittiwakes, and the common eider—they soar above fishing boats to catch what’s tossed overboard. The locals have done a terrific job developing recreational facilities. Stop in!

Skaftafell

is an ideal stop to experience everything that is outdoorsy and Icelandic. Easy, short trails take you to waterfalls and glaciers.  If you want a longer hike, consider the Morsardalur Valley and the Kristinartindar Mountains. Hike on glaciers and then head south to the mossy lava fields and roaring river deltas.

Gullfoss and Geysir

are the stuff of many Icelandic myths—these are must-see places before you complete the Ring and roll back into Reykjavik.  The Geysir Hot Spring area is quite active—there are boiling mud pits, wild geysers, and Strokkur, shooting water 100 feet into the air every few minutes.  Nearby Gullfoss (the Golden Falls) is a designated nature reserve. An extraordinary golden hue often shines on these thundering, glacial waters. Take note of the jagged Continental Divide.

Summer is prime time for a Ring Road driving tour, but you can also explore the Ring (Highway 1) during winter months. You’ll need to take the standard precautions and watch for ice on the road, but it’s generally open. The mountains, when blanketed in frost, are gorgeous, and with luck, you’ll see the Aurora Borealis. Consider renting a snowmobile or dipping into a toasty mineral pool tucked in a field blanketed with snow. When you drive the Ring Road, be open to wonder, beauty, and the adventure.