Iceland’s Ring Road: The Ultimate Guide
You can’t plan a campervan trip in Iceland without mentioning the country’s Ring Road (also known as Route 1). Looping around the outskirts of Iceland, it’s the one and only highway in the country, taking in all the magnificent landscapes of the different regions. From glaciers to fjords, hot springs to active volcanoes, you’ll see it all on this iconic Iceland road trip.
In this article, we’re going to answer some of the most frequently asked questions we get about Route 1. So, strap in and get ready to learn everything you need to know about Iceland’s Ring Road.
The Ring Road in Iceland
Iceland’s Ring Road is the main highway in Iceland. It connects most of the towns in the countryside, and loops around the entire country, beginning and finishing in Reykjavik. The only three regions of Iceland it doesn’t travel through are the Westfjords, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, and the Highlands.
The Ring Road was only completed in 1974 when the longest bridge in Iceland was built in southeast Iceland across the Skeiðará river.
For most of the way, the Ring Road is a single lane highway (although there are currently a few patches being improved to have more lanes). It goes through two tunnels, one underneath Hvalfjörður, and another through a mountain near Akureyri.
How Long Is Iceland’s Ring Road?
Iceland’s Ring Road is 1,332 kilometres long, or 828 miles. It starts and finishes in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. In general, it traverses the low coastal plains of the country, skirting the central plateau known as the Icelandic Highlands. However, that doesn’t mean it’s all flat; there are mountain passes, deep valleys, and volcanic ridges as well. It’s an epic Iceland road trip.
How Long Does It Take to Drive Iceland’s Ring Road?
How long it takes to drive the ring road in Iceland is entirely up to you. If you were to drive it without any stops, you could complete the entire loop in just under 15 hours. Although it goes without saying, that’s not going to be a very enjoyable campervan trip.
By far the most common amount of time campers spend travelling around the Ring Road is about 7 days. While it might seem like a lot of time to cover a relatively short distance, as soon as you add in hiking times and Iceland’s must-see attractions, it’s quite a jam-packed itinerary.
Those who spend 10 to 14 days in Iceland will be able to take the Ring Road more slowly, stop more often, and get out to explore. For those with only 5 days, we recommend just taking it easy and exploring one region – however, there is a busy 5-day Ring Road itinerary linked below.
Itineraries for Iceland’s Ring Road
Here are a few sample itineraries to give you an idea of what an Iceland road trip around the Ring Road looks like, with a road map of Iceland included:
- Iceland Ring Road Itinerary 5 Days
- Iceland Ring Road Itinerary 7 Days
- Iceland Ring Road Itinerary 10 Days
- Iceland Ring Road Itinerary 14 Days
Looking for something else? If you’re renting a 4x4 Campervan in the summer, then our Iceland Highlands self-drive itinerary is for you.
What is the Speed Limit Along the Ring Road?
The general speed limit on Iceland’s Ring Road is 90 kilometres per hour, or 55 miles per hour. There are speed cameras set up along the South Coast, and police monitor the roads elsewhere. Speeding fines in Iceland are expensive, like everything else.
As we mentioned above, there are now two tunnels that make up part of the Ring Road. In the tunnels the speed limit drops to 70 kilometres per hour. The first is the tunnel that dives underneath Hvalfjörður, just to the north of Reykjavik. This tunnel is now toll-free.
The second tunnel is in North Iceland, to the east of Akureyri, called Vaðlageiðargöng. Opened in December of 2018, it cuts underneath a mountain that often gets snowed in during the winter, shortening the distance between Akureyri and Húsavík by 16km. It currently has a toll of 1,500 ISK, which can be prepaid (follow this link) or paid up to 3 hours after using the tunnel. This is the only toll drivers must pay along the Ring Road. Those who miss the 3-hour window after driving through will also have to pay a small fine on top of the toll.
If you don’t want to pay this toll, you can still take the old road over the top of the mountain. However, during winter this can be snowed in and dangerous – it’s best to only do so in summer.
Is the Ring Road Paved?
Yes, the entire Ring Road in Iceland is paved. Iceland’s Ring Road was completed in 1974, on the 1,100th anniversary of the country’s settlement. However, there were still stretches that were gravel up until 2019. The final stretch to be paved was done so in 2019, near Berufjörður in East Iceland.
Is the Ring Road Worth It?
Definitely! Some of Iceland’s best attractions are located just off the Ring Road. An Iceland road trip around Route 1 is by far the best way to experience the awesome nature on offer in the country.
Iceland is perfectly positioned in the middle of North America and Europe, but so wildly different to either. There aren’t many destinations like Iceland that you can get to in such a short flight, and the scenery on offer is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Crashing waterfalls, moss-laden lava fields, bubbling hot springs, and sweeping black sand beaches are just a small number of things you’ll get to see on an Iceland road trip.
Can You Drive the Ring Road in Iceland in the Winter?
Winter in Iceland is notoriously tough – days are short, and the weather can be miserable. Blizzards can blow in quickly, leaving roads impassable and closed. But despite all that, it is possible to drive the Ring Road in Iceland in the winter. The Icelandic Government spends a lot of their time clearing the Ring Road of snow.
Calm winter days in Iceland are some of the prettiest, when the sun hangs low in the sky and sends bright hues of orange, gold, and pink across the snow-covered landscapes. If you’re travelling around the Ring Road in winter, make sure to check the weather and the condition of the roads constantly.
To make things easy for you, we’ve created a winter Ring Road itinerary as well. It stops at campsites that stay open through the chilly season and provides alternative routes for each day in case the weather ahead turns sour.