Tips for planning a road trip in Iceland during summer

The best way to enjoy Iceland during summer is to rent a car. It’s a fantastic way to experience Iceland in freedom and flexibility. Route 1, also called the “Ring Road”, is a national road in Iceland that runs around the island and connects the most habited parts of the country. Renting a car is convenient, but not cheap… freedom has always a price and Iceland is no exception !

In order to make this road trip memorable, here is a list of recommendations that may help you planning the road trip of a lifetime ! :

  •  Choosing the right car rental company

If like me, you like reading tons of articles before planning your trip, you may stumble upon horrible stories about how car rental companies in Iceland often ask tourists to pay thousands of euros after a little car accident. It was the thing that scared me the most when I had to chose my car rental company for our summer holiday. What if we had a problem and the car company won’t be able to help ?

After reading many reviews, we decided to chose Iceland car rental. They were very helpful and professional. We even could split our payment ! You don’t have to pay everything in one go if you contact them and ask nicely, I think it’s great ! We chose to rent a Suzuki Jimny. Renting this car allowed us to go on gravel roads without exploding our budget…. but let’s face it, it’s not the most powerful car ever ;-)

Krýsuvíkurberg Cliffs

Also, I would like to insist about the wonderful customer service we’ve experienced with this car rental company. Our windshield was broken due to a stone thrown off the road by a car driving in the opposite direction of us (obviously way too fast). Usually, windshield damages are not covered by any car insurrance in Iceland, which is quite awful. We were stressed out and thought we were going to pay hundred of euros for the damages. We phoned the company to explain the damages we got on our windshield and the company was so helpful, they didn’t even ask us to pay for it !!! I would recommend this company without  hesitation !

 

  • Drive safely, especially on gravel roads

In Iceland, you drive on the right and the general speed limit is 50 km/h in urban areas, 80 km/h on gravel roads in rural areas, and 90 km/h on asphalt, rural roads like the one below.

F26, the entrance to the Highlands

All mountain roads and roads in the interior of Iceland have a loose gravel surface, so one should drive carefully. The mountain roads are quite narrow and are not made for speeding.

Sandfell

Obviously, this road won’t be suitable for every car rental, so think twice before choosing your car model

When leaving the Ring for the F-roads to reach the Iceland highlands, you must have the correct vehicle, extra caution is needed. Some F-roads may be drivable only by larger 4×4 rental… because of the river crossing. A Jimny would not be able to cross a huge stream. When travelling in these areas, make sure you check the Road conditions ! Make a detailed itinerary and always stick to it. In case of emmergency, call “112” to reach Iceland Police, as well as ambulances and fire department.

There is a wonderful video that explains well the danger of the icelandic roads

 

  • Pack the right type of clothes

Iceland is warmed up by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle. It’s rather cool during summer (9-12°C), and mild during winter (0-4°C) around Reykjavik. In the North, the temperature can drop drastically, and in August 2014, we had 2°C around Lake Myvatn.

Iceland is a magical place but keep in mind that weather conditions can change quickly.  As you can see in the pictures below, within 3 weeks, I wore my hat, my gloves, my waterproof, my down jacket, my sunglasses.. my t shirt !

Bring the proper equipment and clothing, use waterproof bags to keep them dry. It’s difficult to provide you with an universal packing list for Iceland, as the packing will change slightly depending on your style of traveling. Some things are nonetheless essentials. You’ll definitively need a rain jacket and eventually a rainproof  pair of trousers (walking with wet pants is definitively not an good option, believe me), a sturdy pair of walking shoes or hiking boots for gravel trails or slippery paths near waterfalls…and in Iceland, there are are a lot of waterfalls :-)

A fleece can also be useful as well as a pair of gloves, a hat and a scarf for outdoors activities, even during summer.

And finally, don’t forget you swimsuit if you want to enjoy one of the numerous Iceland’s geothermal pools !!

Mývatn Nature Baths

 

  • Book your accommodation way in advance

… unless you have unlimited budget. Summer is popular, lots of people want to go there, and everyone is doing the same itinerary, yes, you are not the only one to have this brilliant idea !! :-)

Not only to mention tourism professionals who book a lot of rooms in advance for their organized trips, especially in the South. And there is not so much accommodations… . I think with a better planning, you can reduce the cost of your trip.

Arnarstapi

Here is two interesting link for accommodations:

 

  • Use online resources to plan your activities

There are three national parks in Iceland, each of them home to different natural wonders :

Þingvellir National Park : Official website of this key location in Icelandic history. Situated in the South, Thingvellir National Park is the only national park in Iceland that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is a good section about the history of the place as well as a lot of information about how to plan your visit and see for example where the The Eurasian Plate and the North American Plate on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge meet.

Þingvellir National Park

 

Snæfellsjökull National Park : Official website of the National Park located in the West of Iceland, on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. It’s home to wonderful hiking trails and interesting geological formations.

Londrangar

 

Vatnajökull National Park : Official website of the second largest national park of Europe. Good information about the walking trail, the different visitor centers and the camping areas. It is the most popular one as it is the home of the Vatnajökull glacier, which is the largest glacier in Europe. :-)

Svínafellsjökull

 

and last … but not least, my custom interactive map I put together only for you :-)

the green stars, you will see all the natural attractions (basically, the free stuff :D) we plan to visit with a little explanation for each of them

– the purple squares, you will see all the attractions that require a fee (museums for examples) as well as the organized trips we have decided to join (with a website for most of them)

– the red marks, you will see the location of the accommodations we have chosen, including a little description and an official website when available

 

 

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93 responses to “Tips for planning a road trip in Iceland during summer

  1. Great post! I really want to go there once but I’m afraid of the prices :/
    How long in advance do you recommand to book for Iceland?

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  2. ah, l’Islande – mon amour… notre fils y retourne début-septembre pour la 2e fois, après 10 jours à Taïwan… et nous irons une 3e fois asap…

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  3. What a fantastic guide for anyone planning to visit Iceland Gin so much detail! I loved the video made by the Icelandic Transport organisation such a clever idea! Hope you’ve had a good week – you must be moving soon? Have a great weekend too :)

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    • The video really helped me ! It’s funny and well made, and it gives you all the trick you need, especially for crossing bridges :-) I’ll move in 3 weeks. i’ve sold my car yesterday, so it’s already a big thing done :-)

      I’ll have busy weekend, but fun I think :-) Have a lovely weekend as well !

      Liked by 1 person

    • You can’t go wrong with taking pictures over there, everything is really beautiful ! I hope you will make it there. It’s not too far away from the UK… and from Manchester, it’s quite convenient

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  4. Thanks very much for such a comprehensive post on Iceland. I can just throw away the guidebook and refer to your blog if I am ever fortunate to make it there! Your photos of Iceland are simply gorgeous.

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  5. Hey, you rented a suzuki jimny as well!? :D A great car, right? ;)
    I remember when I was in Iceland, I booked my accommodation way in advance as well. But when I arrived they said there were no rooms, and they would give back the money and we had to find another hotel. I have never experienced anything like that anywhere in my life….

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    • Pfff I wouldn’t say that… it was cheap, convenient, but lacks power and was definitively not fuel efficient :-)

      That’s so so weird !? was it before the crisis of 2008?

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  6. Very useful information! All noted down, for when I get there. The more I see you post about Iceland, the more I want to visit. Such a beautiful location. I love your ‘clothing’ pictures haha. In the northern countries, we always go from t-shirt to winter jacket in just a few hours :)

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  7. What an invaluable post for anyone planning a trip to this wonderful country. Your post exemplifies so much of what I love and appreciate about the internet: people like you taking the time to amass and organize their valuable knowledge and personal experience and freely sharing it with others so they can have a great experience. Bravo! Great post! :))

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    • Thanks! I think we all know a friend who has been to Iceland. It has been such a popular destination for the past three, don’t you think so ? It’s featured in every travel magazines as one of the top destinations of the year :-)

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  8. Thanks for the interesting and very useful information bundled with these spectacular photos. Norway and Iceland are still on our travel list. So when we go, I know where to find details for planning. Thanks again for sharing. Reinhold

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  9. Great tips and I will be noting down your car rental company. We had an issue with ours – the car broke down at Gullfoss late in the evening and they refused to sort it out – after much arguing they reluctantly rescued us, threatening to charge a huge amount of money but in the end they didn’t!! Stressful to say the least.

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  10. What an excellent collection of tips. I hope I get to use them one day! Those geothermal pools look so inviting! Your blog has such a wealth of handy information and such beautiful pictures.Well done! :-)

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  11. Thanks for the info. Planning a road trip there next year, and was definitely wondering about the driving side of things, especially as I’ve been a ‘lefty’ driver my whole driving life. We could do with a similar video for New Zealand, as unfortunately we have a lot of issues with tourist drivers, especially stopping in inappropriate places, not stopping at appropriate places, and giving little warning before suddenly veering off the road to take in the view.

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    • I’m moving to the UK in June and I’m quite scared to drive on the left side of the road, it seems to unnatural to me :D So I understand if you are a bit puzzled about driving on the right side ;-)

      In Iceland, people stop everywhere and it’s quite dangerous and annoying as well :D

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  12. The Suzuki you hired actually looks very mean! Okay, I take your word it’s not the most powerful vehicle around…and to be honest I think it’s a bit of a short car. If you were to drive through muddy waters or rivers then you need a bigger and more meaner car :D

    That is quite a variety of clothes you packed there. But better be prepared than wearing too little or too much and then feeling uncomfortable. I like to bring waterproof bags when I travel, and usually would keep important things in them like phone and harddrives when going to wet areas or places where there is a lot of rains and floods :)

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    • of course, the puddle we had to cross was nearly too deep, it was ridiculous :-) It’s forbidden to cross rivers with a jimny ;-)

      Yes, i packed mid-season clothes instead of summer clothes, despite visiting in the middle of August, just to be sure :-)

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      • Hahaha! Forbidden only verbally…it’s no longer forbidden when you step on the jimny’s accelerator and vroommm :D Then again, you’d probably stall the car and then come the nightmares with the rental company…

        You really can’t go wrong traveling with a wind breaker. Never know when it can be handy :)

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    • It’s a country that is worth visiting both during winter and summer, for different reasons. But the experience is completely different. If I have to choose a season… hmm… I like my two trips over there. The winter trip was very special, but difficult to explore on your own.. so I may choose summer !

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  13. More than a road trip it’s like planning a great adventure. I found fantastic the green Iceland with meadows and blue skies, although it looks a lot like my home I’d love to travel there, thanks :-)

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