The Icelandic Ring Road Adventure Begins…

In En-Route, Europe, Iceland, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, World Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

Day One, Keflavik to Selfoss – And we’re off

All the planning and research for our 12 days Icelandic Ring Road road-trip finally came to fruition.

Gary and I encountered so many incredible highlights and wonders on this fantastic trip that it would not be doing the Ring Road justice by condensing it into a couple of posts.

Reykjanes Lighthouse, Iceland

Therefore, for your enjoyment, I will be posting a day by day breakdown of what we shoehorned into our adventure.

Some of you may be organising your own trip across a various number of days. Hopefully, these posts will give you an insight into travel distances, planning and how you can make the most of each day.

A useful guide to Iceland

If you're tempted to tour the Land of Fire and Ice and would love to discover the whole country, then take a look at this  DK Eyewitness book. This Top 10 Pocket Travel Guide is invaluable, I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into searching for more.

You can now grab the revised copy.

DK Iceland Cover

11 years ago

We first visited Iceland back in 2007 for a long weekend in May, and based ourselves in Reykjavik. We hired a car and set out to discover the Golden Circle, geothermal pools, Blue Lagoon and other ‘must sees’ close by.

I know it’s taken us 11 years to return. However, the inspiration we gained from that trip just whetted our appetite for us to discover more.

Driving Documentation

You may need an IDP; that's an International Driving Permit to you and me. The International Drivers Association can facilitate this and offer driving guides for many destinations - Why not check them out?

Fast Forward

Now it’s March of 2018, and we’re back, our flight landed early afternoon. This meant we could take our time getting to Selfoss, and stop at plenty of sights along the way.

However, before any of that, we needed to pick up our hire car. We chose to use SIXT, who are just a five-minute shuttle bus journey away from the airport (shuttle bus runs every 15 minutes).

Etta - Our chariot for our Icelandic road trip

We had a very smooth transition with SIXT. We particularly wanted a 4X4 as we knew this time of the year the weather can be very changeable, blizzard conditions at times and can also be very icy.

SIXT even gave us a vehicle upgrade for free, which included a built-in GPS system and Bluetooth, so we could enjoy our groovy tunes along the way.

Our Advice

Go for a 4×4 for the reasonable ground clearance it affords you. You can, of course, hire a 2-wheel drive vehicle, but you are not permitted to drive on ‘F’ roads and other tracks.

Our experience was that even access to certain Points of Interest along roads a regular 2-wheel drive wouldn’t get you there. Trust us.

Which Direction?

We choose to complete the Ring Road (aptly named ‘1’) in an anti-clockwise direction.

Mainly because by heading south first we could make our way to the Golden Circle on day 2 of our trip.

Also, this meant we visited the busier sections of Iceland in the south early in the road trip and gradually worked our way around to the more remote parts until we arrived back in Reykjavik.

Janis in the snow in the south-west of Iceland

So off we head in our trusty chariot, well equipped for the snow that appeared to have settled only hours before.

On a need to know basis

If you are planning a road trip around Iceland particularly over the winter months you need to be very aware of the ever-changing road and weather conditions.

During winter, parts of the Ring Road may be impassable, and you may not get to areas of the country you intended to.

Regularly check the conditions by using these useful websites and apps, believe me, they will come in handy.

Icelandic Met Office
The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration – Vegagerdin also has an app.

Stepping Between Two Continents

From the airport, we join the 44 and then the 425 towards the Reykjanes Peninsula in a south-west direction.

Our first stop for the day is at the ‘Bridge Between Continents’ Midlina, also known as ‘Leif the Lucky Bridge’. It is a 15 metre (50 ft) footbridge in that spans a rift between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.

Miðlína, Bridge America - Europe, Iceland

You can stroll across it and step between the European and North American plates, and why wouldn’t you want to do that?
We had only been in the country a short while, and the biting wind was crying out for me to wear my hat, now where did I put it?

Janis on the bridge between continents, Miðlína, Iceland

In search of

If you are Northern Light hunting, you need to be aware of the sunset & darkness times and the KP Index for the evening. It also requires dark and partly clear skies.

KP Index scale ranges from 0 to 9;
0-2: Low
2-3: Moderate
4-6: A big solar storm is coming
7-9: Highly unusual

You can monitor this via the Icelandic Met Office which is updated around 6 pm.

What’s that smell?

Continuing along the 425 and soaking up the landscape and far reaching views across the North Atlantic Ocean, we head to Gunnuhver Hot Springs.

These hot springs are certainly not for bathing in. With Reykjanes lighthouse in the distance the geo-thermal pools are spewing gases and gurgling mud all around you.

Gunnuhver Hot Springs, Iceland

There are wooden platforms to stroll along that allow you to get very up close and personal with the pools.

As you wander along you are engulfed by the steam and the overriding smell of sulphur. There’s no escaping the distinctive aroma.

Steam rising from Gunnuhver Hot Springs, Iceland

We hadn’t been off the plane too long, and we had visited a first geothermal pool, what a way to start.


Gunnuhver Hot Springs & the Bridge Between Continents are both free of charge to visit.

A few good ideas for your Icelandic trip

Here's a few things we picked up ahead of our trip to make things a little smoother for us.

From the low tech traditional foldout paper map, a cigarette USB charger, and a USB chargeable torch.  

All simple stuff that may be helpful on your travels.

  • Fold-out paper map

  • Mini Dual USB Car Adapter

  • USB rechargeable LED Flashlight

Off to Selfoss

Continuing along the 425 you now start to head in an easterly direction, and after passing through Grindavik, you join the 427.

There are some beautiful views to take in, waves crashing against the coastline and frozen lakes and pools along the way.

Grindavik Harbour, Iceland

The journey time from Keflavik Airport to Selfoss on the route that we took is around 1 hour 40 minutes and 124 km (77 miles) by Google Maps. This is obviously dependent on how many times you stop and the road conditions. We took it leisurely and arrived in Selfoss around 5 pm. So, for us it took approximately 3 hours.

Why not?

Start creating your own Icelandic adventure and discover the Northern Lights yourself, easyJet & British Airways are just a couple of options.

The choice is yours

Selfoss is a relatively small town but felt quite busy. It had a range of restaurants from fast food to gourmet, depending on your taste buds and price range.

However, if you have chosen to visit Iceland you know it is going to be expensive to eat, regardless of where you choose.

As a treat for our first night, we dined at Tryggvaskali, which was definitely at the higher end of the scale. The food was amazing and predominantly local produce.

A fine plate of food from Tryggvaskáli, Selfoss, Iceland

In most restaurants and bars, you will expect to pay ISK 1,000 (£8/$11/€9) for a ½ litre of local Viking lager. Check out the price for a small beer, it's not normally that much cheaper so it pays to go large.

Tempted to?

Discover Iceland’s enchanting Ring Road with its rugged landscape or the waterfalls and geysers around the Golden Circle for yourself.

You can do it all on a road trip, Rental Cars searches multiple well-known car hire brands and discovers the deals that suit you the best.

* This post may contain links to affiliated sites where we earn a small commission at no additional charge to you.

Highlight of the Day

Every trip Gary and I go on, whether it’s a mini-break near or far or a road trip we chose a ‘Highlight of the Day’, here they are for day 1.

Janis; Gunnuhver Hot Springs & the gurgling mud pools

Gary; Gunnuhver Hot Springs, the Sulphur smell brought back memories from our first trip.

Something from Get Your Guide?

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Inspired to visit Iceland?

If you're reading this then you probably already are, but there are so many reasons to. Oh, and don't forget to pack your thermals - and that's if it's the middle of summer!

So start planing and let's get booking on Booking.Com?

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The Icelandic Ring Road Adventure Begins

(Why not Pin It for Later?)



  1. It must have been so hard to choose a daily highlight. Iceland is very close to the top of my bucket list. Your tips are fantastic – especially noted the car requirements. It would be such a shame to miss out on any of those incredible sights due to the wrong car choice. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    1. It was difficult to choose as the scenery is incredible, we’ve split the trip out over several posts as there is so much to capture.We toured for 12 days and we were pleased we chose a 4X4, especially if you are completing the Ring Road.

  2. I’m such a nerd when it comes to seismology! I would honestly LOVE to see the spot where two plates collide! I’ve read a million posts about Iceland and no one has ever mentioned that before! Definitely pinned this for a future visit one day!! #FarawayFiles

    1. Iceland is just full of so many natural features and breath-taking landscapes, its difficult to put into words. The ‘Bridge Between Continents’ is only about 20 minutes drive south of Keflavik airport, so it’s pretty easy to get to and then not too far on from there is Gunnuhver Hot Springs.I have a similar nerdy obsession with graveyards & cemeteries – I had to limit myself to 5 when we were in Iceland.

  3. I really want to see Iceland but the stories of over tourism and throngs and masses makes me wary. Did you encounter issues with that? Love the hot springs pictures and I can conjure clear memories of what it must smell like from many passes through Yellowstone National Park in the States. Great tips – look forward to following you around the ring. Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles.

    1. Parts of the Golden Circle were busy. However, it really depends on the time of year and to a degree the time of day. We hired a car and did all the sightseeing independently, so it was our choice what time we arrived.We did encounter quite a few coach parties, but certainly not enough that made it too overcrowded. However we planned to travel the more popular section from Wednesday to Friday. Those visiting the Golden Circle as part of a mini-break may experience greater numbers.We were touring the entire Ring Road (anticlockwise) and once we had got pass Hofn, there were very few people at all.It definitely didn’t put me off, people are coming and going all the time, so there are quiet moments. When we were at some of the waterfalls and caves, we were on our own.

  4. We are heading to Iceland for a road trip in June so it was great to get a taste of what to expect from your post, I’m now very excited! I shall look forward to reading the rest of your posts. #FarawayFiles

    1. Thanks Angie, how many days are you going to Iceland for, do you have long enough to tour the Ring Road?It is a wonderful country all year around, the landscape is incredible. We went to the end of May about eleven years ago and we barely saw darkness, just appeared to get dusky. Still be prepared for the cold, it’s the biting wind that you don’t always account for.

      1. We are going for 9 days and yes are planning to tour a big chunk of the ring road. I am planning to go with layers to cover all weather eventualities!

        1. 9 Days is a good length of time to go, you’ll cover lots of the country.Layers are definitely the way to go, you’ll be jumping in and out of your car a lot visiting all the sights.

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