By Dave S. Clark
1. Iceland’s Highway 1 is a ring road that circles the entire island. While it’s good to get off the ring road and explore a bit, this highway makes the country incredibly accessible and, if you plan it right, you won’t ever need to backtrack. Many of the major sights are located very close to the highway too, so they obviously picked a good route. Every Iceland road trip starts with the ring road!
2. If you’re sticking to the marked highways, it’s nearly impossible to get lost. Arm yourself with a good map and even a rookie driver will have no problem navigating. There are so few roads, it’s pretty hard to get it wrong. All the sights are very well marked, too. If you’re renting a car, say no to the GPS – you won’t need it! However, if you’re going off-roading at all, ignore this advice!
3. If you’re going in the summer, which is high tourist season, you’re going to have nearly complete daylight, all hours of the day.That means you can drive where you want, when you want without ever having to drive in the dark. It makes getting familiar with this cool country so much easier! We even met a young Canadian family who decided not to adjust for the seven hours time difference and just see the sights at night and sleep during the day. But be careful, just because it isn’t dark, doesn’t you aren’t tired. Drive safe.
Convinced yet? Be sure to check out our Iceland Ring Road itinerary for great road trip ideas!
4. An Iceland road trip can be tiring and sitting in a car for long stretches puts strain on your back. Regardless of where you stop, there is probably a hot pot nearby to ease your pain and rejuvenate you for the days ahead. If you need a boost with some luxurious relaxation, stop in the Myvatn Nature Baths or the Blue Lagoon.
5. One of the best things about Iceland in general is all of the friendly people who are eager to share their country with you. My wife and I met up with Inga from Tiny Iceland a number of times and she showed us all the best nightlife, took us to some sights and gave us a great glimpse into the life of an Icelander. The trip wouldn’t have been the same without her! All around the island, people were friendly, helpful and excited to show off their country.
6. No matter how small the town or village is you end up in at night, there is likely a great little guesthouse that will offer you a great place to stay. We skipped hotels in favour of guesthouses and wouldn’t do it any other way. We stayed in some awesome little places, which were experiences in themselves. You can meet some interesting people and the owners are often great sources of local information that you won’t find in guidebooks.
7. Eating in Iceland can be a bit expensive but road trippers can save a few kronurs at the great network of roadside diners. We stopped in a number of gas stations to fill up the car with gas and our bellies with burgers, hot dogs and fries. No, you won’t find a McDonalds in Iceland, but that’s a good thing because these down to earth diners offer way better food. They all offer burger combos with fries and pop, but oddly none offer combos with their trademark hot dogs.
8. When you drive more than 2000 kilometers in any country, you’re bound to run into some bad drivers. Surprisingly, there were very few, if any at all. I can usually remember a time when I get cut off, nearly rear ended or smashed into, but that didn’t happen at all in Iceland. It was smooth sailing all the way around the island. That may have had something to do with the overall lack of cars. We could go 10 or 15 minutes without seeing a single vehicle on the country’s main highway!
9. Sheep! You can’t do an Iceland road trip across the countryside for very long without seeing these cute little creatures. You have to be careful not to hit them, as many do venture on the road. But they startle so easily and usually run for cover as soon as they hear your car coming. You may have to give the more stubborn ones a quick toot of your horn though, so be careful! Watching them scurry up hills and tumble down them makes for some cute, harmless entertainment.
10. Around every bend, it seems like there is something new to take your breath away – a mossy lava field, a towering mountain range, an ominous volcano, a deep blue fjord or an icy glacial tongue. There is so much diversity packed into this tiny country, it would be a shame not to see a vast portion of it by driving the ring road.