Budget Ring Road Trip

Wonderguide by

Alex Shly

Budget Ring Road Trip

6 days and 1822 km

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Driving anti-clockwise, filled up 6 times costing 21400 ISK

Image - SADcars Reykjavik office
SADcars Reykjavik office
Alex:I hired a 5-door, manual Hyundai. For SIX days, the total cost was 157 euros. This is with a discount if you book it online. If you can't drive a manual you can request an automatic car. Also check out their very useful Q&A, including stuff about driving in Iceland: http://sadcars.com/en/qanda
Image - Kirkjubaer II
Kirkjubaer II
Alex:I stayed the first night at this camping site, sleeping in my car. The cost is 1300 ISK, there's a kitchen, showers, electricity and a few tables and chairs to chill out with other travellers. For more info check out: http://kirkjubaer.com
Image - Camp Egilsstadir and Egilsstadastofa Visitor Center
Camp Egilsstadir and Egilsstadastofa Visitor Center
Alex:Stayed here the second night, sleeping in my car. The showers here are free (included in camping cost) but there's no kitchen. https://campegilsstadir.is What blew me away is that the owners were away and had left a note saying "Feel free to camp :) Please put your fee in the mailbox..." That's the kind of trust and good will the world needs more of!
Image - Akureyri Backpackers
Akureyri Backpackers
Alex:Stayed here the fourth night. There's a nice sauna for hostel guests!
Image - The Freezer Hostel & Culture Centre
The Freezer Hostel & Culture Centre
Alex:Stayed here the fifth night. Great, artistic place with a stage/theatre, concerts etc. But it depends on when you visit because it's pretty quiet in autumn/winter.
Image - Ásbyrgi Camp Site
Ásbyrgi Camp Site
Alex:Stayed here the third night, sleeping in my car. There are showers here but no proper kitchen.
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Memorable places I visited along the way

Image - Eyjafjallajökull
Alex:Yep, this is the infamous volcano that erupted in 2010, blanketed most of Europe in ash and caused 20 countries to close their airspace. If only the wind had been blowing the other way! There used to be a family-owned little museum on the main road all about the volcano but I think it closed. The most fun you can have now with this is learning how to pronounce the name properly - it's quite a challenge but Icelanders will be happy to help you!
Image - Dyrhólaey Viewpoint
Dyrhólaey Viewpoint
Alex:To get here, turn right off the main road onto road 218 to Dyrhólaey. The turn-off right onto road 215 (later) gets you to the other side of the peninsula.
Image - Vik
Alex:Pretty quiet town, easy to miss! I had a decent meal at Halldorskaffi, there's a Tourist Info Centre, a Wool Gallery and a museum about a 100-year-old ship named Skaftfellingur.
Image - Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon
Alex:This is on the ring road so you can't miss it. Stop off for a wander and you might even see some seals popping out of the water. If you have money to spend, you can go on one of the boat tours around the lagoon.
Image - Höfn
Alex:A little town where you can stop off for a fresh lobster sandwich at Hafnarbuðin diner and climb up the old grounded ship across from it.
Image - Fáskrúðsfjarðargöng
Alex:Just before you get to Fáskrúðsfjörður, route 1 turns left and then heads into a loooooong tunnel through the mountains. It's a very trippy drive after all that Icelandic scenery and quite mesmerising.
Image - Egilsstaðir
Alex:Not a very exciting town. I just spent the night here at the local campsite (see logistics above).
Image - Dettifoss (West Side)
Dettifoss (West Side)
Alex:This is a highlight for your whole trip in Iceland - a phenomenal waterfall!! To get here, you need to skip road 864 and keep going until the turn-off right onto road 862. Even though this is where all the tourbuses come, it's still an amazing view from several vantage points. Watch the Prometheus opening scene before you come here ;)
Image - Hverir
Alex:Just before Lake Myvatn, there's a turn-off left to these insane sulphur springs. It STINKS of rotten eggs (H2S) here but is worth it for the otherworldly scenery and smoke vents.
Image - Mývatn Nature Baths
Mývatn Nature Baths
Alex:After Hverir, you go over a crest and there'll be a turn-off left to the Myvatn baths (http://www.myvatnnaturebaths.is). After freezing in the car a few nights, I immensely enjoyed soaking here in a variety of temperatures: pools, spa, sauna. I highly recommend this for a recharge, the views are insane and it costs 3500 in the off-season. I didn't go to the Blue Lagoon and have a feeling that this place is much cheaper and better.
Image - Skútustaðahreppur
Alex:After Lake Myvatn baths, you can turn left and go clockwise around the lake. There's a nice stop-off at Skútustaðir where you can walk amongst sheep along a chain of craters that have emerged from the lake.
Image - Ásbyrgi
Alex:Asbyrgi is a pretty isolated place but the horseshoe lagoon is one of the most beautiful places in Iceland (and also according to some Icelanders!). I went here early in the morning from the campsite and was the only person there.. such a magical and serene experience.. if you ever played Quest for Glory, Erana's Peace oases are EXACTLY how this place feels))) Another highlight of my trip! There is a short-cut to get here from Detifoss but both roads (862 and 864) are rough gravel roads so check out My personal travel tips below!
Image - Húsavík
Alex:Pleasant little town, apparently the whaling capital of Iceland!
Image - Akureyri
Alex:Nice town to rest after all the driving! There's plenty to see and do - an art museum, a botanical garden or just strolling along the harbour.
Image - Stykkishólmur
Alex:Stykkishólmur is where ferries depart for the Westfjords and (apparently) even Denmark! You can go to the harbour and climb up to the lighthouse, it's a great view.
Image - Ólafsvík
Alex:Before you get to Rif, you might wanna stock up on some food/drinks or eat at Olafsvik.
Image - Rif
Alex:Rif is tiny and all you can buy here is (apparently) paint and fishing gear. However, there's the fantastic Freezer Hostel & Culture Centre!
Image - Snæfellsjökull National Park
Snæfellsjökull National Park
Alex:From Rif, go right and keep going along the coast. Here you get to Snaefellsjokull national park, which is quite small so don't drive through it too quickly!
Image - Borgarnes
Alex:Before you drive right through it, check out the Insight below called "What to do in Borgarnes".
Image - Esjurætur - Hiking Center
Esjurætur - Hiking Center
Alex:Before you get back to Reykjavik, you could finish your trip with a hike up Mt Esja, which is clearly visible from the capital. There's some hiking info in the Insights below.
Image - Skógafoss
Alex:Awesome waterfall, especially since you can walk right up to its base. Also don't miss trekking up to look at it from the top, along with great views of the countryside. If you're lucky, you'll get some fantastic rainbows at the base for some memorable pics.
Image - Dettifoss
Alex:The famous waterfall - Detifoss - can be accessed either from the West (road 862) or the East (road 864) sides. Road 864 is rough and is much easier done in a 4WD, but there are advantages: you can get much closer to the waterfall, there are less tourists and the views are arguably better. Road 862 is paved until Detifoss but, as a result, there are more tourists, plus you can’t get as close to the waterfall. From Detifoss there is a short-cut North to the amazing Asbyrgi canyon. However, both roads 862 and 864 are gravel and quite rough. It’s still possible to drive there with a 2WD but it’ll be slow and unpleasant. I suggest taking the 862 to Asbyrgi instead of the 864 or, if you wanna be comfortable, you can take the much longer (scenic) detour through Husavik.


Stuff to do that you have to pay for

Image - Geothermal Exhibition
Geothermal Exhibition
Alex:Quite a detailed exhibition where you can see the plant's inner workings, read lots of interesting info about how it all works and watch a film about it too. It's a very modern exhibition and enjoyable to learn about this important energy source. There are different tour options and if you book online you get a 10% discount.. or you can see it as part of the Golden Circle + Geothermal tour.
Image - Glacier Hiking Adventure From Skaftafell | 5-Hour Expedition_82249
$ 142
Glacier Hiking Adventure From Skaftafell | 5-Hour Expedition
Alex:Skaftafell isn't really worth it unless you're gonna go on a hike. If you have the ca$h, I reckon it would be very memorable!


A bunch of things other people wrote that you may find useful for your trip

My personal travel tips

2WD or 4WD in Iceland

I rented the cheapest, crappiest 2WD and survived driving around Iceland in October. You obviously can't go on the F-roads (highlands) but you CAN go on gravel roads. I just drove slower 40-60km/hr and more carefully and was ok. The biggest difference for me was visiting Detifoss and Asbyrgi because I went the looooong coastal way instead of the much shorter road up from Dettifoss (but Detifoss to Asbyrgi via gravel road 862 is still doable with a 2WD).

Driving from Akureyri to Stykkishólmur

Driving counter-clockwise from Akureyri, after you pass Laugarbakki on route 1 you’ll have Hrútafjörður on your right. Soon you’ll have to turn off route 1 and go right onto route 68. Afterwards, turn left on road 59. This is a gravel road but was manageable with my crappy car. Then you get to road 60 and turn right onto 54 (also pretty crappy gravel road). The drive along the crappy 54 feels very lonely, in fact, the whole of Sniffles feels much more desolate than even the East. But you'll be rewarded if you turn off right towards Stykkishólmur.


Most of the times the speed limit is 90km/hr. Now I read people complaining of crazy drivers tailgating them. Yes, I experienced quite a few cars going faster (120-130km/hr) but my advice to you would be this: it's their problem if they are so impatient. Don't keep looking in the mirror and freaking out, just focus on the road in front because the worst you can do is get distracted and have an accident. When you get to a straight part of the road, indicate right and move a little so that they can overtake you. I never had problems, the speeders would always overtake me just fine. Around the more populated towns I noticed some speed cameras (including in the tunnels) so be careful here but usually they're clearly marked in advance. I never saw cops measuring speed. At the end of the day, unless you're gonna miss your plane, why would you want to speed? You don't get to enjoy the scenery as much and unless you're a rally-car driver you're risking a lot of money, trouble or even your life, really.


Sadcars have some video/info about driving safely in Iceland: https://sadcars.com/driving-in-iceland/blog. The most dangerous, I think, is getting distracted by the awesome scenery! A few times I was staring at something and had to suddenly slow down and correct my steering... so if you see something great, find a safe place to pull over. This I cannot stress enough!! Once I had to pass some idiots in a 4WD who LITERALLY just stopped in the middle of the road (on a two-lane road) and ran to take pictures of some cute sheep herd. There actually ARE regularly places where you can turn off, either info points or campsites (with signs in advance) or little gravel heaps on the side of the road.


There are a lot of these but don't be scared! Just slow down and see if a car is already on its way towards you. If not, then drive and any cars ahead will wait for you to pass. I wonder if anyone ever drove onto these bridges at the same time... but even then, you would have to be blind to have an accident.


You may encounter sheep on the road (but only in the season when they're released to graze, not in winter). So several times I drove past them herding their sheep literally on the road. Here, just use your common sense - slow down and wait until it's safe to pass. Once I encountered a sheep herd on a gravel road. I drove slowly and honked the horn, which dispersed them and I passed ok.

Wonderguide map

  1. SADcars Reykjavik office
  2. Kirkjubaer II
  3. Camp Egilsstadir and Egilsstadastofa Visitor Center
  4. Akureyri Backpackers
  5. The Freezer Hostel & Culture Centre
  6. Ásbyrgi Camp Site
  7. Eyjafjallajökull
  8. Dyrhólaey Viewpoint
  9. Vik
  10. Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon
  11. Höfn
  12. Egilsstaðir
  13. Dettifoss (West Side)
  14. Hverir
  15. Mývatn Nature Baths
  16. Skútustaðahreppur
  17. Ásbyrgi
  18. Húsavík
  19. Akureyri
  20. Stykkishólmur
  21. Ólafsvík
  22. Rif
  23. Snæfellsjökull National Park
  24. Borgarnes
  25. Esjurætur - Hiking Center
  26. Skógafoss
  27. Dettifoss

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