How Long Does it Take to Drive Around Iceland?

Sometimes I have the feeling people underestimate the size of Iceland and a common question I often hear is: “How long does it take to drive around Iceland?”. Therefore I collected a few details about the so-called „ring road“ that goes (almost) all around the country, its length and the time you need to drive around Iceland.

Some facts about the Ring Road in Iceland

Iceland is one of the world’s most sparsely populated countries. Almost the whole interior of the island is uninhabited. You can reach this area only during summer and only with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The inhabited parts of Iceland are along the coastline. The ring road is the main road that connects the inhabited parts and runs around Iceland. It is 1,332 km (828 miles) long, mostly with one lane each direction. The ring road was completed in 1974 and today all parts are paved.

How many kilometers can I drive per day?

The general speed limit for cars in Iceland is 50 km/h in urban areas and 90 km/h on paved rural roads. That means theoretically it would be possible to go all around the island in less than 2 days. However, this is something I highly recommend NOT to do.

Driving in Iceland is often quite different from other countries. For example, there are many single-lane bridges on the ring road. There, you have to go slower and see what the driver on the other side is planning to do. You can also expect sheep on or alongside the road. There are more Icelandic sheep in Iceland than people. During summer they wander around freely. Also, the weather can force you to drive much slower than the allowed speed.

Therefore I highly recommend adding some extra time when planning your trip around Iceland e.g. with the help of google maps. I experienced that the calculated time on google maps is often inaccurate.

I recommend all visitors in Iceland to include enough time for sightseeing activities each day. Depending on the region, the time of the year and the planned activities I would plan to drive between 200 to 300 km per day. There are so many natural highlights to explore along the ring road that you should plan enough time for your self-drive tour around Iceland.

How long does it take to drive around Iceland?

For a self-drive tour around Iceland, I recommend at least an 8-day itinerary. This gives you 6 days on the road plus one arrival and one departure day with some time to explore Reykjavik. For people with limited time, this 8 days Express Tour would perfectly fit. This tour is suitable for guests who want to see the main highlights of Iceland. If you are interested to go on some hikes or add some nice day tours I recommend to add a few more days if possible.

Adding some extra areas to your Iceland self-drive tour

The ring road does not cover all areas of Iceland. Popular extras are the remote Westfjords in the North East or the beautiful Snæfellsnes peninsula in the West of Iceland. For the visit of Snæfellsnes I would add at least 1 additional day. Very popular among our guests is our 10 days round trip with Snæfellsnes included. Snæfellsnes is often called “Iceland in Miniature” because many of the sights Iceland is famous for can be found there. On Snæfellsnes you can visit impressive cliffs, hike trough amazing lava fields, explore black and also white sand beaches and much more.

If you want to see the Westfjords with its breathtaking Dynjandi waterfall, amazing red sand beach and more, I recommend our 14 days full circle tour with the Westfjords and also Snæfellsnes included. Adding extra days is always possible and gives you the chance to visit also some lesser known places of Iceland.

Can I go around Iceland in winter?

I highly recommend not to plan a round trip between November and April. At this time of the year the weather is unpredictable. Roads might be closed for some days especially in the North East. The risk is high to get stuck somewhere in the middle of nowhere and therefore Iceland Unlimited does not offer any self-drive round trips during winter time.

On our website you can find some winter self-drive tours options. If you are not used to drive in winter conditions with ice on the roads and snow I highly recommend to consider joining one of our guided winter tours.

Iceland is a wonderful destination for a road trip and it does not matter if you plan a tour all around the island or decide to explore only specific areas. There are endless highlights Iceland has to offer and I wish you a trip of a lifetime.

Christina Degener
Posted in February 2018

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