When traveling around Iceland on a road trip in your campervan rental, there are several things to consider. One of the most important aspects of planning your journey is deciding upon the final itinerary. Some people spend ten days or even up to a month exploring the island. Others only have five days in Iceland, so they have to be selective about the stops they make on the Ring Road. It’s important to know where Iceland attractions are on a map to help you decide where to go and when. This list of Iceland attractions arranged counterclockwise geographically should help you better with your road trip planning. One of the great things about Iceland by campervan is that you don’t have a set schedule tied to hotel reservations. So take a look at our list of Iceland attractions, decide which ones interest you most, and see where the day takes you!
Iceland’s capital will be the port of entry for all international visitors. The Iceland airport (KEF) is about 40 minutes by car from the capital. Once you’ve settled into your accommodation, it’s time to explore downtown Reykjavik! There are lots of cultural and historical monuments including Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran Church, the Saga Museum, the Settlement Exhibition, the Whales of Iceland Exhibition, the National Museum, Harpa Concert Hall, Perlan Observatory, the Sun Voyager Statue, and all of the cafés, restaurants, shopping, bars, and nightlife on Laugavegur street. Not to mention all of the colorful, painted houses that Reykjavik is so famous for.
Iceland’s Blue Lagoon is famous the world over, and probably the country’s most visited attracted. It’s milky, turquoise-blue waters are infused with healing minerals and elements like silica. Get a massage, treat yourself to a face mask, and soak up the healing and restorative powers of the geothermally-heated water.
The Golden Circle is a 186-mile (300 km) circuit that takes you to see some awesome sights. While there are about 12 different places to stop on the Golden Circle, the three most popular are Thingvellir National Park, Strokkur and Geysir geysers in the Haukadalur geothermal valley, and Gullfoss waterfall. Thingvellir has special historical and geographical significance.
Resting atop the meeting point of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, you can actually see a crack in the Earth’s crust at Thingvellir National Park. This split, known as the Silfra Fissure, has parts where you can scuba dive. The park also has historical meaning as it was the home of Iceland’s (and the world’s) first parliament, the Althingi in 930 AD.
This spectacular cascade is known as Iceland’s most beautiful waterfall. Its colorful rocks and 197-foot (60-meter) drop can also be viewed from behind the waterfall. There’s a cave in the rear which is accessible by a footpath. Many of Seljalandsfoss’ most iconic photographs are taken from this angle.
Skógafoss is another stunning waterfall in South Iceland. Located along the Ring Road between Reykjavik and Vik, this beauty is a popular highlight for visitors traveling along the South Coast.
The black sand beaches of Sólheimasandur make the perfect setting backdrop for the haunting remains of the 1973 plane wreck. All that remains of the military aircraft is the fuselage, which juxtaposes nicely with the surrounding black beaches. It’s a bit of a trek from the parking lot (30-45 minutes) so make sure you leave enough time to get back before the sun sets.
Landmannalaugar and the Laugavegur trail are considered Iceland’s most famous destination for hikers. It’s part of the larger area considered the Highlands of Iceland. If you’re exploring this area, you’ll want to check which areas are accessible and have accommodation open outside of peak summer season. You’ll also want to look into an Iceland 4x4 camper rental if you plan on driving on the F-roads of the Highlands.
Looking at Iceland on a map, the sleepy fishing village of Vik is in the perfect location. Hugging the coastline and resting in the shadows of Mýrdalsjökull glacier, Vik makes the perfect overnight stopover for travelers. It lies halfway between Reykjavik and some of the major attractions close to Vatnajökull National Park, namely Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach. It’s no wonder this tiny municipality of 300 has become such a popular place for tourists to stay while driving around Iceland’s Ring Road.
Vatnajökull National Park is Europe’s largest national park and home to several jewels. Its namesake, Vatnajökull glacier, has a plethora of related outdoor activities available. From ice caving to glacier hikes to glacier cave exploration, so of Iceland’s coolest activities are part of Vatnajökull glacier. And of course, Skaftafell glacier, also in the park, has similar excursions. Lastly, be sure to check out another highlight of Vatnajökull National Park: Svartifoss waterfall. Known as Iceland’s black waterfall due to the hexagonal basalt columns on the cliff face, it’s a beautiful natural wonder.
This glacier lake is a relatively new addition to the Icelandic landscape. Filled with broken off icebergs that are slowly floating out to sea, the glacier lagoon at Jökulsárlón is a spectacular sight to behold.
Last but not least is the Diamond Beach. Just across the Ring Road from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, you’ll find a beach scattered with frozen pieces of ice. Some are as small as rocks and others are as large as an SUV! If you decide to walk around, don’t get too close to the water. A few weeks ago an unsuspecting grandmother was carried off by the waves as she posed for a picture on a throne of ice on Diamond Beach. She floated pretty far out to sea, but luckily was rescued.
As you can see, Reykjavik and South Iceland have plenty of attractions to keep you busy. Looking at Iceland on a map, you’ll see that this territory is only about half the story. If you’ve only got five days in Iceland, I recommended sticking to the aforementioned attractions. If your road trip to Iceland is longer, then try to see even more of the country. We’ll talk about the East, North, and West next time. That can be part two of your 7-day or 10-day Iceland itinerary. Whichever Iceland attractions you decide to visit, have a great trip.