Exploring Iceland’s Ring Road

Iceland’s main highway circles almost the entire country and offers spectacular scenery along the way. Stop off the road to see lighthouses, turf homes, waterfalls, and fishing villages.

Sæbraut, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
The Sun Voyager is a sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason. The Sun Voyager is a dreamboat, an ode to the sun. Intrinsically, it contains within itself the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress, and freedom. The sculpture is located by Sæbraut, by the sea in the center of Reykjavík. I had seen this sculpture in so many photos before we went to Iceland and really wanted to see it in person. When we got there we had the most amazing sunset and the sculpture itself is very beautiful. I am really happy I got to see it.
Friends and family called us crazy for taking our two small children on a two week tour of Iceland. In two weeks we drove 3500km in a station wagon. I’ve always been a supporter of the idea that outdoor life doesn’t end just cause you have kids. Taking the kids to Iceland to support that theory might be seen a bit out there but to us it was as normal as can be. Having good gear and clothes for such a trip is essential...as a friend of mine once told me, “there is no bad weather, just bad clothes”. At times it did feel a bit like a scene from the National Lampoon’s Vacation but the memories we made there will forever stay with us. We hiked volcanos, waterfalls, a glacier, went whale watching in Northern Iceland, and traveled around the very rugged West Fjord, many times with visibility zero and extremely narrow, windy roads with no rails. We experienced gale force winds while driving and almost lost my mind thinking we will be blown away from the road. It was by far the most adventurous trip we’ve ever done due to the wild terrain and having the responsibility of our children. But at the end of the day we would have not done it any other way...so take your kids and GO!, anywhere, it will be a great family adventure.
Nauthólsvegur, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Visiting Iceland, one of the things you notice most is the contrasts that run throughout the country. These geothermal pools near the Blue Lagoon outside Reykjavik are a prime example of that. There was snow covering the hills surrounding the pools and it was maybe 30 degrees, but the geothermal pools in front of the snow-covered hill were so hot that you couldn’t get too close to them. Although the sulfur smell of the geothermal pools wasn’t that pleasant, the warm steam felt really good. As I took in dramatic scenes like this one around every turn I realized why they call Iceland “The Land of Fire and Ice”!
Try something different and experience wildlife on board a traditional Icelandic schooner operated by North Sailing Húsavík.The crew is fun and very knowledgeable. They take you to Lundey, the Puffin Island, as well as the traditional whale watching areas. While on the tour we saw over 10 humpback whales, a few Minkey whales, dolphins, puffins and other arctic birds including Northern gannets which are the largest seabirds in the North Atlantic, with a wingspan of up to 2 meters. It was a gorgeous day too. It was an unforgettable experience and something I would do again and again. At the end of the trip the Captain is offering hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls.
Djúpivogur, Iceland
I expected to see many things in Iceland but had no clue there were reindeer there too. I guess I should have done my homework on the fauna better :). It was a lovely surprise to see them though close to Djúpivogur. There was an entire herd of them grazing right by the ocean which I have never seen before.
Jökulsárlón, Iceland
This lake filled with giant, translucent chunks of iceberg is one of Iceland’s most distinctive and photogenic sights. Featured in high-profile movies, including two of the James Bond series and Batman Begins (as well as many local TV commercials), the sight is reached via a scenic drive along the country’s main ring road (Route 1). The icebergs originate at the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, which looms in the distance behind the lagoon, and look especially otherworldly when they reach the nearby black-sand beach. The area is also a paradise for bird lovers, with arctic terns and skuas nesting in the area (they may dive-bomb you if you get too close to their nests), and it’s possible to spot the occasional seal. A nearby visitor center offers simple fast food and drinks as well as souvenirs.
On our way from Selfoss to Vik, we passed this gorgeous waterfall called Skógafoss cascading over towering cliffs that used to make up Iceland‘s coastline. Long ago the coastline receded towards the sea about 3.1 miles but the former sea cliffs remained, combining with the mountains around them to form a natural dividing line between the coastal lowlands below and the rural highlands above. Skógafoss Waterfall is one of Iceland‘s largest, over 80 feet wide and 200 feet tall. If you look closely, you can see from this photo how large the falls are by how tiny the people in the foreground look. Because of its size, the waterfall produces a lot of spray, and on sunny days you’re often treated to at least a single rainbow, often a double one. But that same spray can be a shocking surprise when it hits your face on a frigid winter day. If you feel like an added adventure, you can hike a trail up the eastern side of the waterfall all the way to the top for a different perspective of the falls, although that’s not recommended during the winter months when the trail is icy and slick. Although I’ve never seen Skógafoss Waterfall in the summer and imagine it’s stunning when surrounded by lush green grass, it’s absolutely amazing during the winter when snow and ice adds to its drama. I definitely recommend a trip to Skógafoss Waterfall, a convenient stop just off the road if you’re heading to Vik from Selfoss.
Þórsmerkurvegur, Iceland
The impossible-to-pronounce Seljalandsfoss Waterfall in Iceland lies on the Southern Ring Road between the towns of Selfoss and Skogafoss on the way to the coastal town of Vik. The falls plunge about 200 feet into deep pool. Much of the waterfall is frozen during the frigid winter months, adding to its beauty and drama. Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is popular with tourists, especially during the summer months when you can hike around the pool and go behind the falls for a one-of-a-kind view through the falling water. If you’re driving to Vik from Selfoss (which I definitely recommend), Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is a worthwhile stop along the way.
Eyrarbakki, Iceland
On a trip to the amazing Iceland this January, my husband and I ended our first day at the small seaside town of Eyrarbakki. I wasn’t prepared for how beautiful the Icelandic coast would be. The sun started its slow descent right around 4:45 each afternoon, but the sun didn’t fully set until around 6:00 p.m., making for the longest and most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever witnessed. I loved this quaint beach house nestled on an isolated stretch of beach in Eyrarbakki. Now that’s an ocean view! The beach house looked so warm and cozy on an otherwise frigid afternoon, and I could practically picture the family inside relaxing in front of a crackling fire, watching the sun’s slow descent. I wondered if they ever got tired of watching the sun set in Iceland but decided that would be impossible.
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