If you’re planning to go to Iceland, consider renting a car and driving. You can go at your own pace, see sights that interest you, and even save some money. If you see a furry Icelandic pony and find a safe place to pull over, you go pet that pony! If you wanna pull over and snap some pictures of the little white churches or cairns, or moss beds, knock yourself out!
My husband and I took a day trip along the ring road on the Southern Coast of Iceland starting in Reykjavik ending in Jokulsarlon, the glacier lagoon, and driving back. It’s possible to do it all in one day if you go during summer when there’s more daylight, but if you have more time, consider splitting up the driving into two days.
Our Recommended Sights
Start early and plan your daylight accordingly if you’re like me and don’t like driving in the dark. If you’re starting in Reykjavik, this will be your first stop, about an hour and a half drive from the city. As I mentioned in my previous post, wear all your waterproof gear so you can walk behind this gorgeous fall. There’s a little cafe here in case you’re feeling hungry or are in need of coffee.
Your next stop is a short 27 min drive away. This fall is quite grand and you can take a wooden staircase to the top of it. I was highly skeptical of this as I’m lazy and hate stairs, but the view up here of sweeping green hills was worth it. Hint: wait for the cycles of your buses to leave and you could have the falls almost to yourself. Look for the cute little sheep who hang out on the right side of the falls.
Vik and Reynisfsjara Beach
Next is a 30 min drive to Reynifsjara Beach near Vik. The black sand beaches, ominous-looking caves, and basalt columns are a sight to see. There’s a little cafe here where we got some lamb stew to fuel up.
Your next stop is a bit further away, a 2.5 hour drive to Fjallsarlson. But the drive is absolutely spectacular, with the landscape changing every 5 minutes.
We drove by the next couple sights but didn’t have time to stop with the sunlight quickly fading. On the drive to Fjallsarlon, you’ll pass through expansive fields of the fluffiest moss I’ve ever seen in my life. Find space spaces to park and explore respectfully, taking care not to tread on the delicate moss.
Also along the way there’s a huge area with a ton of cairns, rock formations that the first people in Iceland used to navigate the barren land many years ago. Take pictures and enough but you’re asked to not contribute your own cairn. Some of them have been around for a very long time.
I didn’t get to visit this spot but it’s another gorgeous glacier lagoon and very close by Jokulsarlon.
Absolutely worth the trip. We weren’t sure we would be able to make it here before the sun set at 6:00 pm, but we made it (while obeying the strict speed limits).
There’s almost this reverent hush over this whole area. So quiet that you can literally hear the ice bergs jostling up against each other as they floated around the lagoon. Look closely and you might be able to see seals swimming around the lagoon. We saw at least three or four.
Notice all the different colors of the glaciers from blue to white to translucent to black to marbled. It’s truly an amazing sight. Walk along the water to the beach and look for pieces of glacier that have washed up on the shore. Then walk up the hill and get an expansive view of the whole lagoon.
I didn’t get a chance to see but I think there’s a beach on the other side of the bridge as well where you can see the waves crashing on the back beach, moving the icebergs to shore.
General driving tips
- Fill up gas when you can. Iceland is pretty desolate in some areas and you can sometimes drive for long stretches with nothing but moss and piles of rocks around. So when you are in areas that have gas stations, top off. Even if you’re not at the bottom of your tank yet.
- Pack snacks and water (see above note on desolation).
- Plan your daylight carefully. I can’t stress this enough. Before you book, look at how much daylight you will have on each day. Since almost all of the sights in Iceland are natural wonders and require daylight to be enjoyed, this becomes extremely important. Get an early start.
- Make sure you have insurance. On more than several occasions we would be driving along and hear huge rocks hit our car.
- Don’t speed. There are many areas along the ring road that are photo enforced where a camera will take a photo of your car and automatically generate a ticket that will be sent to your rental company and then on to you.
- See my other post on useful safety apps to download as well as other helpful tips.