Iceland is just the right size for a road trip adventure with beautiful scenery and interesting historical sites. When asked the question “how long does it take to drive around Iceland?”, it’s hard to give a definitive answer. In general, it will take between 5-8 days if you want to keep moving, yet not be in too big of a rush. A good benchmark is 7 days for a relaxed, but active road trip.
Whether you opt for a full 7 days of road tripping Iceland or go for a shorter stint, you could rent a motorhome or campervan for your trip around the island. But we suggest sticking to the summer or late spring.
Before you head out, you need to keep two things in mind though: speed and road condition. Icelandic roads are easy to navigate with the right know-how, and you can get a great trip if you plan ahead and keep an eye on the weather forecast. This includes not trying to drive the entire circumference Iceland has, but mostly stick to the Ring Road.
How Long is Iceland?
The circumference Iceland has is approximately 6,000km long, if you count all the fjords and bays, however, the Ring Road is “only” 1332km. “How long is Iceland” might be better answered if we say that the land is 500km from east to west and 300km from north to south. However, since you are not a bird, it is going to be longer.
If you want to take some time and make Iceland a little “longer”, we suggest you take some scenic routes in the Westfjords and bays on the west coast. These serpent roads are perfect for adoring the sights that are so special for this type of landscape, but they require patience and some tasty snacks to be enjoyed.
How Long Does it Take to Drive Around the Ring Road?
How long a Ring Road trip takes you is completely up to you. If push really comes to shove, you can drive the entire route in just 17 hours. But that defies the point of a proper road trip where you can take in all the sights and experiences this route has to offer along the way. We suggest planning for a 2-week trip in summertime. But you’ll need to adapt that to between 20-25 days in winter due to the season’s limitations and challenges.
Driving Conditions on the Ring Road
This is one of the things that might affect your travel time the most. Driving Iceland's Ring Road is not limited to trip length and gas prices. Both driving conditions and weather can vary wildly, so it's a good idea to take that into account when planning your trip. The Ring Road is paved throughout and is mostly two lanes, (except for some bridges), so it’s the best road to stick to when your biggest concern and question is “how long does it take to drive around Iceland?”
In some places, there will be sharp turns that require you to slow down a lot. If you take a detour to a landmark, chances are that you will be hitting similar corners on gravel roads, so it pays to be safe rather than slide around on the gravel. In addition, some roads require 4WD vehicles. That is why it is important, depending on the route to be taken, to plan whether to hire a 4x4 campervan in Iceland. But don't worry, the Ring Road will not require these vehicles.
Make sure to keep an eye on the weather forecast and check this website for the latest when it comes to the state of the roads. This is an untamed country and driving around Iceland is meant to be a good kind of adventure. You don’t want to get stuck or have to backtrack because you didn’t know the road ahead is in bad shape.
The weather has a big impact on the road condition and since we want you to have the best possible trip, we suggest you to get a feel for the Icelandic weather in advance.
Can You Drive Around Iceland in a Day?
Technically yes. If you drive for 24 hours straight without any significant breaks, you could drive the Ring Road in a day. We highly advise you not to attempt that, though. Regarding “how long does it take to drive around Iceland”, you shouldn’t attempt to make a race of it. It should be more of a tranquil marathon than a sprint.
Carefully plan which attractions you want to visit and spend 7-8 days on the Ring Road. This number of days will demand 4-5 hours of driving every day, which makes the Iceland driving distance feel a bit shorter and give plenty of time to see the sites and eat exotic Icelandic food.
What is the Speed Limit in Iceland?
As with most countries, there isn’t one speed limit for the entire island. Depending on where you drive, you will be subjected to different limits. The most common ones are:
- 90km per hour (56 mph) on paved roads in rural areas and the countryside
- 80km per hour (50 mph) on unpaved gravel roads in rural areas
- 50km per hour (31 mph) in urban areas like cities or towns
- 30km per hour (19 mph) in certain suburbs
As you probably guessed, the Ring Road is mostly restricted to 90km/h, which makes the Iceland driving distance seem a little shorter than it is.
Speed adaptation is an important factor when we discuss the question “how long does it take to drive around Iceland”. Due to the weather, you might end up driving into bad road conditions, which are manageable but require some adaptation. Adapting to the road and weather conditions might end up extending the time of your trip by a couple of hours, but it’s simply a part of the adventure.
How Many Hours Does it Take to Drive Around Iceland?
As we stated earlier, we suggest staying for around a week to properly see the different sites that the country has to offer. This will result in up to 35 hours on the road and more than double the time in leisure, so when your travel company asks, “how long is Iceland?”, you can use this as an approximate answer.
However, this is where things get a little tricky. As we discussed earlier, the hours it takes to drive around Iceland is heavily dependent on a few factors:
- What you plan to do
- Which places you want to go to
- The season
- The weather
- The state of the roads you’re taking
In the late fall, winter, and early spring, you will be likely to drive on roads with loads of snow and/or ice. This requires you to slow down and concentrate on your driving to not get into an accident. In the northern parts of the land, there is a chance this might also happen at some point since the weather in the north is less forgiving and can easily surprise you.
Regardless of the season, you will very likely end up driving in strong wind at some point. If you find yourself in a strong headwind, there is nothing you can do to get out of it. The sheer strength of the winds in Iceland is a force of nature that most have never experienced, and when it grabs your car, you must simply accept that the Iceland driving distance is going to feel a little bit longer.
If the winds are coming from the side, you’ll have to slow down to counter them, but if you get a strong tailwind, you can let the gas go a little and enjoy a fuel-efficient ride. A tailwind is an Icelandic blessing if you need to make up for any lost time since it will give you a much-needed push!
Time Between Attractions
The question “how long does it take to drive around Iceland?” can be broken down into pieces like this.
You usually won't spend more than two to three hours driving from one big destination to another. Some, like Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, and Vik are really close together or along the by-road. There are also must-see destinations and one-day excursions, like the Golden Circle route and Iceland's national parks, which are separate from the Ring Road.
Let's look at some stops going counterclockwise on the Ring Road.
- Reykjavik to Vik takes two and a half hours and there are several spectacular sightseeing detours along the way.
- Vik to the eastern entrance of Vatnajökull National Park is also two and a half hours drive
- Vatnajökull to Egilsstaðir in the East fjords, it's a little over three and a half hours
- Egilsstaðir to Akureyri is another three hours
- Akureyri to the turnoff point for the Westfjords is another three hours
- Borðeyri (near the Westfjords4 to either Búðardalur or Borgarnes respectively takes a half to one hour
- Búðardalur/Borgarnes to Reykjavik is roughly two and a half hours
This list doesn’t include day excursions, time spent on sites etc. It’s simply the time spent on the Ring Road.
Iceland's most famous road trip
A road trip in Iceland might not be as long as in some other countries such as the infamous Route 66 in America; but we still urge you to take your time since there are so many sights to see and activities to take part in – all of which are just a quick turn-off from the Ring Road. Don’t forget to book your campervan here.