How Long Does It Take To Drive Around Iceland?

There is plenty to see and do in Iceland. Unlike larger countries, Iceland has several tourist spots that can be reached by car.

It is a relatively small country, so it’s possible to drive around the entire country within a day.

Driving around Iceland takes approximately 17 hours, although this can change due to traffic or weather conditions.

This 17-hour drive can be done on the famous Ring Road in Iceland, which circles the entire country.

The rest of this article will discuss the general driving experience in Iceland and what to expect from a trip. It will also discuss how to plan effectively for a trip to Iceland.

Also, see When Was Iceland Settled? to learn more.

Is It Possible To Drive Around Iceland in a Day?

With a 17-hour drive on Ring Road, it is possible to drive around Iceland in one day, but it isn’t realistic. [1]

Weather conditions, traffic, or other unforeseen complications could lengthen the trip.

Is It a Good Idea To Drive Around Iceland in a Day?

While it is possible to drive around Iceland in a day, it isn’t recommended.

Covering Iceland in a single day would require 17 hours of non-stop driving.

There are many reasons why that schedule doesn’t work for a vacation, but here are the main reasons.

  • Driving for 17 hours straight is not safe. The consensus for safe driving is to only be behind the wheel for about 8–10 hours daily. [2]
  • Trying to drive around Iceland in a day leaves no time to appreciate the attractions along the way. Not only is 17 hours a day too much for most people, but the hurried pace leaves no time to enjoy what the country offers.

Iceland boasts stunning landscapes and natural marvels. From the fantastic geysers to the northern lights in winter, it features some amazing scenery and beautiful history.

Visitors will need more than one day to see everything Iceland offers.

The article What Is There to Do in Iceland offers insight into possible activities and sights around the country.

How Long Should a Trip to Iceland Last?

A trip to see Iceland and everything it offers should last at least a week. A week-long trip provides enough time to sightsee, participate in activities, and enjoy the scenery.

Another reason why a longer trip is essential is that not all of Iceland’s attractions are near the Ring Road, so those may require extra time.

Some attractions may only be accessed through other roads, so driving on the Ring Road isn’t enough to take in all the sights.

It is also important to plan carefully before heading to Iceland.

Planning for all possible issues will help ensure a smooth trip without unforeseen complications.

Iceland has unpredictable weather and a disaster-prone landscape that could easily disrupt the journey.

Here are some of the most common causes of disruptions on a trip.

  • Bad weather like snow or storms
  • Treacherous mountain roads or landslides
  • Traffic or crowds
  • Inaccessible roads or tourist destinations

While these are just a few reasons, they can change plans drastically.

A week-long trip is the minimum amount of time needed to explore Iceland properly, but a 10-day or 2-week trip is ideal.

What Visitors Should Know Before Planning a Trip to Iceland

Since it takes about a week to see everything Iceland offers, visitors should know a few things before arriving.

Proper planning and research will make the trip more enjoyable and stress-free.

Make Allowances for Sudden Changes to the Plan

The biggest rule for traveling to Iceland is to prepare for changing plans.

Iceland’s weather can be unpredictable, and it isn’t always possible to know in advance whether places or roads will be open to the public.

Some items on the agenda will have to be shifted around on short notice.

When making plans for the trip, ensure that they are somewhat flexible.

Keeping backup options or rest days could help to accommodate sudden changes to the itinerary.

A rigid timetable leaves no room for error, which isn’t helpful in a country with unpredictable weather.

Use Alternate Routes if the Ring Road Is Inaccessible

The Ring Road is the main road in Iceland, but it isn’t the only one. Several less-traveled roads lead to Iceland’s most popular destinations.

Sometimes, the government may cut off entire areas because of bad weather or other natural conditions.

In that case, the only option is to choose another destination and leave this place for another day.

Iceland also has F-Roads or mountain roads. Some of these roads are completely shut during the winter because of snow and ice.

Even in the summer, 4WD vehicles are required on most F-roads.

Make Plans According to the Season

The differences between Icelandic seasons are literally day and night. Icelandic winters are much darker, with some days spent in almost complete darkness.

They can also get quite cold, with temperatures dropping below 0 °F (-17 °C). [3]

While Icelandic winters are dark, there is still daylight for a short amount of time each day.

Unlike other Scandinavian countries, Iceland does not experience total darkness during the winter.

However, it does experience 24-hour sunlight during some summer months.

Due to the sub-zero temperatures, winter in Iceland is very prone to snow and ice.

Snowfall may cause the roads to close, impeding the trip. While snow looks beautiful, it can be dangerous to navigate.

One major benefit of traveling to Iceland in winter is seeing the northern lights.

They’re also visible during summer, but they don’t stand out against the light summer skies. [4]

The best view of the Northern Lights is during the winter’s dark nights.

Rent a Car or RV To Save Money

Visitors who want to save money on their trip to Iceland should consider renting a car or RV.

Hotels and taxis in Iceland are expensive, leaving less money to spend on activities or souvenirs.

Renting a car is more cost-effective than taking regular taxis, and RVs allow for greater mobility than hotels.

This option is best for those on a budget or who want more mobility than a hotel can offer.

Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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