The Nordic nation of Iceland is well known for its vast, natural beauty. Traveling around Iceland, you can definitely feel that lack of human presence, which is why I’m covering where to stay in Iceland around the Ring Road.
There’s a ton of stark landscapes that will literally leave you breathless. Although it may seem like a scary place to explore, what with all those glaciers and snow-capped mountains (and the Games of Thrones credentials, too), it’s actually pretty simple to get out into Iceland’s natural world.
Thanks to Route 1 (aka the Iceland Ring Road), planning a route around Iceland to hit up the most beautiful spots the country has to offer is super convenient. You’ll get to see the famous Blue Lagoon, the black sand beaches, and all with a ton of Iceland accommodation options to choose from as you drive around.
All you have to do is rent yourself a set of wheels and get going!
Pssst, heading to Iceland? Don’t miss these travel guides to help you plan your trip!
But with literally dozens of spots to see and explore, figuring out a killer itinerary for an Iceland road trip can be tricky, trust me—I know the pain! So I’ve gone ahead and selected a few of my favorite spots to get you started on planning the trip of a lifetime.
Where to Stay in Iceland Along the Ring Road
Reykjavik is an excellent place to start your Iceland adventure. It’s the capital city and the largest in the country, so it makes sense.
Not only can you sleep off your jetlag for a day or two here (you’ll want to do that if you’re flying from North America or Asia!), but it’s also a good place to get to grips with Icelandic culture for a few days before you head off. There is a range of hotels and Airbnbs to stay at however staying at the Hilton Reykjavik city center is a plus due to its convenience near the airport.
A couple of fun facts about Reykjavik: around 64% of Iceland’s population live here—and it’s the only European capital city without a Starbucks or McDonald’s around!
Most people will be arriving at this hub of culture via the Keflavik International Airport. Once you’re there, it’s pretty easy to navigate the compact capital. It’s also here that you’ll find the biggest (and best) selection of Iceland Hotels, such as Ion Adventure Hotel—a good place to rest up after a long journey.
While you’re in the city, hit up the Flea Market, where you can pick up artisanal products and antiques. Stroll along the Old Harbor and check out the awesome Hallgrimskirkja—one of the tallest structures in Iceland—with its striking design. Spending some time in Laugavegur Shopping Street is also a must when exploring Reykjavik! Insta at the ready!
One of the coolest things you can do here is going on a Northern Lights boat tour. Definitely a bucket-list experience!
A lot of people do just take day trips from Reykjavik to many of the nearby hotspots, including the famous Blue Lagoon, but if you’re heading out on the Ring Road around the island nation, you can leave a relaxing soak in the hot spring until the end of your adventure.
Get ready to head out on your epic journey around Iceland and start your trip on the well known Golden Circle. This encompasses a load of cool hotspots that should be on your itinerary and is one of the most popular sightseeing spots in the whole country!
There are three major attractions here: Thingvellir National Park, Gulfoss Waterfall, and Haukadalur Geothermal Valley. As you can tell, these places are all about their natural beauty credentials.
And, trust me—it’s worth exploring them!
The best way to do that is to rent a car from Reykjavik and leave the city behind as you head out on the 386-mile journey that’ll take you around the Golden Circle.
It can be done in a day, but there are lots to see and do. So, after you’ve had a busy day of exploring what this road has to offer, you can end up at Hella. The Ring Road runs through the town, and it’s an excellent place to spend the night before continuing on your journey.
Situated between Selfoss and Hvolsvollur, Hella is the ideal location to get an early start around Route 1 (the Ring Road) as you make your way east.
When it comes to accommodation in Hella there’s not nearly as much choice as in Reykjavik, but there are a couple of great options to get a comfy, good night’s sleep. Hotel Ranga is a four-star offering with outdoor hot tubs; think rustic cabins. A more budget option is the Stracta Hotel, close to Volcanoes, Waterfalls, Geysers, Glaciers, Lava Beaches, the Glacier lagoon, and the Northern Lights.
Want to skip out the Golden Circle? Head straight to Hella from Reykjavik (it takes about an hour and 20 minutes).
The town of Vik will be your next stop on your Iceland trip if you’re traveling east around the island on Route 1.
A popular stop along the Ring Road, Vik is a seafront village on the south coast of the island. Expect dramatic coastal views and having pretty much everything you need within walking distance.
Nearby, you can visit some black sand beaches, too, which is cool!
There’s also the iconic rock stack overlooking the coastline nearby. It’s called Reynisdrangar, and it makes for a pretty stark photo opportunity.
The village itself, in the shadow of the Myrdalsjokull Glacier, is home to a charming wooden church that dates back to 1929—just one of the many structures that make this a super charming place to be in!
Vik feels remote—because, well, it is! It’s the only town for miles. With the pretty epic scenery going on here, you’ll feel as though you’re staying somewhere even more remote. It’s a peaceful place to spend the night.
Funny story from our trip to Iceland—Omied and I got into Vik around 9pm and went to eat at a restaurant. We had checked their website and it said they were open until 9:30pm, but when we got there they said they weren’t seating anyone else and they were closing. There were literally no other restaurants or stores open at that time because Vik is so small. That night we had crackers, peanut butter, and Riceroni for dinner because that’s what happened to be in the cabinets of our Airbnb! ?
Vik has a beautiful black sand beach, and there’s also the chance to spot Icelandic puffins and seals and—if you’re lucky—dolphins and whales, too!
There are a few hotels to stay in, but my advice to you would be to make sure you reserve well in advance; they tend to get booked up quickly, especially in peak season.
One great option is the family-run Hotel Dyrholaey, a quiet place to sleep that offers free breakfast in a relaxed setting. Another great option is Hotel Vik i Myrdal, a gorgeous hotel nestled under sandstone hills with views of the beach.
It may not be much further along the Ring Road from Vik, but honestly, you really should make an effort to stay in Skaftafell. It’s awesome!
This is where you can spend some time exploring the famous Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. It’s a favorite stop-off point for a lot of people who do the Ring Road, thanks mainly to the insane natural landscape they’ve got here.
You could just stop off for one night, opting for a short hike in the mountains, or spend multiple days here exploring the wonder of the glacier lagoon and the mountains from the convenient trails lacing through the area.
Feel like a challenge? You’ve come to the right place! Here is where you can tackle the highest peak in Iceland—Hvannadalshnjukur. If you want to try your hand at summiting this 2,110-meter-tall giant of a mountain, staying in Skaftafell is definitely the ideal choice. Make sure to do your research for the climbing season (and preferably find guides and tours that you can do this with).
If you want to stay here (highly recommended!), then you’re in luck: Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon is a beautiful option. Designed so that it lies in harmony with the landscape, this hotel sits just off Route 1 and is a cozy place to stay surrounded by majestic nature. And yes, there’s free wifi, so you can upload all your crazy pics of the awesomeness that is Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon!
Höfn takes any image you may have associated with the word “picturesque” and really, really ups the stakes. Like, really—this place is stunning!!
A small village in the southeastern part of the country, Höfn sits on a peninsula that juts out into mirror-like waters. It’s the capital of Southeast Iceland, has a population of around 2,000, and is (naturally) an important stop for people making their way around the Ring Road.
Aside from simply staring out the window at the beauty of it all, there are also some amazing natural sights in the area that will not fail to totally captivate you.
Diamond Beach is one of them. It’s a volcanic beach where the chunks of the Breidamerkurjokull Glacier drift ashore and wash up on the black sand. You’ll see why they call it Diamond Beach: the chunks of ice against the dark beach look like huge precious stones.
There’s also a nearby bird reserve where you can catch a glimpse of wildlife doing its thing. Great for birdwatchers!
The town of Höfn itself, though dominated by the nature of the glassy sea and towering mountains, is also quaint and charming with its colorful houses and boats bobbing in the harbor.
Being the capital of this region, there are a few cool things to do in Höfn. There’s an art museum, a stone museum, and a folk museum—basically, a lot of museums!
If you want to stop just before Höfn, Hali Country Hotel is a nice option. It’s a family-run affair right on the Atlantic Ocean. In Höfn itself, there are a few hotels to choose from, such as Milk Factory—a super cool guesthouse set in an actual former dairy factory, complete with glacier views and free breakfast.
In Iceland’s Austurlandi (Eastern Region), on the banks of Lake Urriðavatn, you’ll find the town of Egilsstaðir. It’s a pretty remote area, but still, this is the largest town in the Eastern Region, so it’s a good idea to make a stop here.
There are a number of services and businesses in town—even an airport—and the Ring Road literally runs through it. But Egilsstaðir is about more than just convenience.
One of my favorite parts of staying in Egilsstaðir is getting to soak in the hot spring waters of newly opened Vök Baths. Geothermal water under the lakebed itself has been directed into beautifully designed floating pools on the lake surrounded by decks (think cool, Scandi aesthetic).
While you’re relaxing, you could try to spot Lagarfljotsormurinn. What’s that? It’s none other than Lake Urriðavatn’s answer to the Loch Ness Monster!
If you’re looking for less mythical creatures, don’t worry; Egilsstaðir is deep in Iceland’s reindeer country. A hike in the surrounding wilderness could very well be rewarded with the sight of reindeer roaming free. Pretty cool!
Being such a remote region of Iceland, it’s an awesome place to spot the Northern Lights, too! Winter is a great time to see this natural phenomenon.
For accommodation in the area, as with most small towns in Iceland, it’s slim pickings, but Icelandair Hotel Herad is a casual option with spacious rooms.
If you think you’ve seen all that is beautiful to be seen in Iceland already, think again. We’re heading north now to the stunning Mývatn.
The drive here is unreal. The scenery is like something from a fantasy novel; you can begin to see why they shot a few Game of Thrones scenes here!
Mývatn itself is a shallow volcanic lake. On its northeastern shore is the village of Reykjahlid, where most base themselves to see this amazing attraction.
Mývatn is the fourth-largest body of water in Iceland, spanning 36.5 square kilometers. It’s also known for its super pretty turquoise water and jagged, irregular shoreline.
Make room on your camera storage card to photograph this spot—and the one I’m about to tell you about!
That would be Dimmuborgir. Translating to “The Dark Fortress,” you can see why it’s called that; talk about evil lair! It’s an otherworldly landscape that looks like it was built by some crazy ancient civilization (except it’s 100% natural).
Iceland’s largest waterfall, Dettifoss, can also be found to the east of here located in North Iceland. Set in Vatnajökull National Park, it’s said to be the second most powerful waterfall in the whole of Europe, after the Rhine Falls in Switzerland. With water crashing over a drop 44 meters tall, you can feel the power!
Also located in Vatnajökull National Park, you’ll find Skaftafell National Park that is a beautiful nature preserve.
The accommodation comes in the form of guesthouses and hotels, such as the contemporary Fosshotel Mývatn.
Your road trip around Iceland’s epic Route 1 will eventually lead you to the unofficial capital of the island’s northern region: Akureyri, the fifth-largest city in the country.
And, for its size, this place is surprisingly lively! There’s an energetic vibe going on here, which is definitely a welcome thing after all the remote towns that you probably have stopped at before.
Nature is nice and all, but sometimes you just gotta get back to civilization and soak up some human energy!
With the Ring Road running straight through Akureyri, stopping off here is a no-brainer. It’s a great spot to enjoy some of the city’s best dining spots, sample its nightlife, and even (at the right time of year) see the Northern Lights.
The culture in Akureyri is amazing! Originally settled in the 9th century AD, you can learn all about the town’s history at its museums. It has a university, too, which may explain the vibe here!
One of the coolest sights in the city is the Akureyrarkirkja—a crazy-looking church that rivals Reykjavik’s Hallgrimskirkja! Architecture fans will be losing their minds over this one.
Hot tip: Go at night when the church is illuminated. Stunning stuff, people.
Being the relatively large settlement it is, there’s a good selection of accommodation located in Akureyri for different budgets (and tastes, of course).
You’ll find that some of the best places to stay in Akureyri are located right near the fjord…I’m talking places like Hotel Kea by Keahotels, which is a modern place with a pool and complimentary breakfast overlooking the water. Then there’s the stylish Hotel Akureyri Dynheimar; I definitely approve of this one’s aesthetics—seriously, how cool?
Another great option is the Skjaldarvik Guesthouse, a super cozy place to stay with a hot tub to soak in after a long day of sightseeing.
Want to go whale watching? Totally doable here. Many tours can take you onto the water to spot these amazing marine mammals. It’s a great way to tie up your time in Akureyri.
Another town in the northern part of Iceland, Hvammstangi is located on the Vatnsnes Peninsula. I personally like this place because it’s a little bit of a detour from the Ring Road itself.
Settling in a lesser-visited place such as this after having just spent some time in a popular Route 1 stop-off like Akureyri is like a breath of fresh air!
Set back from the Ring Road by about six kilometers, Hvammstangi is a tiny, simple-looking town. Only about 600 people live here. You can almost count the number of buildings on your fingers!
You won’t be here for the cuisine, or the nightlife or the cultural spots—acting as a gateway to the Vatnsens Peninsula, staying in Hvammstangi is about exploring the dramatic, pristine wilderness.
Looks like it’s back to the remote nature that Iceland is famous for!
The peninsula itself is home to a huge seal colony; it’s also famous for the rock formation known as Hvitserkur—a 50-foot tall stack of basalt rock that sits out to sea like the remnants of a lost city. Then again, some people think it looks like a dragon that’s drinking up the water. Another legend says that the Hvitserkur is a troll that was caught at sunrise and, therefore, petrified (obviously).
Whatever you want to believe—it’s awesome.
For more troll-based rock formations, there’s the nearby Trollaborn. That one translates as “Troll Children” and, well, the same sunrise petrification seems to have happened here, too!
This northern town is also a good stop if you want to see the Kolugljufur Canyon. Another marvel of nature, this place boasts a small waterfall and, you guessed it, legends of trolls and treasure. A hidden gem just a few minutes from the Ring Road.
If all this sounds good enough to base yourself here for a night or two, then you’ll want to know what Hvammstangi has in the lodgings department. First off, there’s the Hotel Hvammstangi, a low-key (but pleasant) and basic accommodation set in an old residential building. It has a pool! There’s also Hvammstangi Cottages, cute cottages that has nice views of the scenery surrounding the town.
Do you want remote Iceland? Then here, have some remote Iceland!
Breiðavík is about as remote as you can get on this island nation. It’s a tiny town if you can call it that, way out in the remotest part of Iceland’s remotest region – Westfjords.
So if you want to explore the Westfjords region, Breiðavík is a real good option.
And if you’re looking to lose the tourist crowds, Westfjords is the place to go. A lot of people who visit Iceland tend to stick to the Golden Circle, the Diamond Circuit, and the Ring Road… or they hang around the south coast staying in luxury hotels.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that! But if you don’t want that vibe to be part of your Iceland trip, then I seriously recommend you hit up the Westfjords area. And nowhere defines the beauty of this region than Breiðavík.
This place is famous for its beach (Breiðavík Beach, which has golden sand instead of black, for a change) and for not having much of anything here. There’s a church, one hotel, and… nothing. Pure nothing. Remote with a big, fat capital “R.”
Sound like you? Definitely make a beeline here. It’s perfect for birdwatching: a whole load of puffins gather here in the summer months, which is cool to see.
Hotel Breiðavík Guesthouse is your accommodation option here. It’s pretty basic, but it’s comfy enough. There’s “sleeping bag accommodation” (rooms with bunk beds) and a campground for all you adventurers out there—I see you!
Make sure you snap a pic of the utterly charming Breiðavíkurkirkja with nothing but the wild coastline as your backdrop. Gorgeous.
From Breiðavík, the easiest way to continue your journey on the Ring Road to Grundarfjörður is by hopping on the Ferjan Baldur ferry to Stykkisholmur. A convenient shortcut, and a very scenic one at that!
Grundarfjörður is in the west of Iceland, located on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, and works as a base for exploring it. It is, in a word, beautiful.
Home to the Snæfellsjokull National Park, the peninsula is dubbed “Iceland in Miniature” because there’s such a wide diversity of what makes Iceland awesome in a relatively small area. There are volcanoes, rock formations—like the insane hexagonal columns of Gerduberg Basalt Cliffs—as well as the Raudfeldsgja Gorge and its arguably most famous attraction, Kirkjufell.
At 1,500 feet in height, it’s not exactly winning awards for being the tallest mountain in Iceland, but it gets pretty much everyone’s vote for being the coolest mountain in Iceland.
Kirkjufell is another Game of Thrones location… but y’all GoT fans probably already knew that. It’s shaped like an arrowhead, but the name translates to “Church Mountain.” There are also waterfalls, views across the water to Reykjavik, and generally epic scenery here for endless photo ops.
If you want to spend the night in Grundarfjörður (um, you definitely should!), you’ll be happy to know there are few choices for staying here.
Kirkjufell Guesthouse is a simple accommodation option here (you can see the Northern Lights from here when the time is right). There’s also the Old Post Office Guesthouse, which is set in an old post office and overlooks the fjord; the best thing about this place is the fact that it has a fantastic view of Kirkjufell mountain.
For something cozy and modern, you may want to opt for the very remote Dis Cottage. It’s modern, the views are incredible, and the design is actually pretty cool.
If by now you haven’t had enough of traveling around Iceland’s Route 1, and you’re not quite ready for normality back in Reykjavik, then Reykjanes Peninsula is the perfect pit-stop before your journey’s end.
This is, of course, where you will find the uber-famous Blue Lagoon. Though you can get here on a day trip from Reykjavik, staying close by enables you to get first dibs on your spot in the lagoon hot springs.
Reykjanes Peninsula is a UNESCO Global Geopark, which basically means there are all sorts of incredible volcanic and geothermal activity going on here. It’s a great way to end your trip before heading back to the city.
Besides the Blue Lagoon—clearly a must-see (or do)—there are a ton of other things to do on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Krysuvik and Seltun are both geothermal fields that you can explore on foot, spotting the bubbling mud pools and bright yellow sulfur and other minerals going on; it’s pretty crazy here!
One of the coolest things to do on the Reykjanes Peninsula is walking between continents. Literally. Here is where you can find an actual bridge between continents, namely the Eurasian and North American Tectonic Plates.
The largest lake on the peninsula, a pretty breathtaking sight surrounded by volcanic rock, is Kliefarvatn. You can drive alongside it, with plenty of places to stop off and take in the beauty of it all, or for selfies, or both!
There’s a range of hotels in the capital city to choose from, of course, but you could finish up in the peninsula since Keflavik International Airport is actually located here.
Book a room at Hotel Berg, and you’ll be pretty close to the airport (convenient). It’s pretty chic as well and has its very own swimming pool. Or you could opt to finish your trip in style in the relative luxury of Hotel Keflavik.
For something more remote (to keep with the whole natural vibe of Iceland) there’s Sandgerdi Cottages; these are cottages close to the airport, without hearing the planes, right near the beach and complete with hot tubs, too. What a dream.
Wow. Wow. WOW. Iceland really is incredible!
A visit to the capital along with a few days trips here and there is cool enough, but hauling yourself around the island on an epic road trip is just next level awesome.
There are so many beautiful places to see along the way—mountains, geysers, rock formations, fjords, waterfalls, glaciers, canyons, dreamy landscapes, and charming towns. You name it, Iceland’s got it.
And if you visit Iceland in winter, you’ll have a chance to spot the Northern Lights—how cool! With all the remote pitstops along the Ring Road, there are tons of vantage points to see this natural wonder.
There’s a selection of cozy hotels and guesthouses, as well as affordable campsites and hostels along the way, too—plus the handy fact that Route 1 is literally just ONE ROAD the whole way. It couldn’t be easier to explore this epic country. Just make sure you’re not planning on road tripping during the winter when most roads get closed due to weather!
Are you planning your trip to Iceland already? I hope so! Make sure you take a million photos and, if you’re on Insta, go ahead and tag me (I’m @wtfab BTW) in a Story or two. Let me know what stunning spots you’re hitting up!
Planning a trip to Iceland? Be sure to check out my other Iceland travel guides.
Driving in Iceland is not difficult, however, be prepared with GPS and gas to get around more easily.
If the skies are clear you can see the Northern Lights in Reykjavík! You can also see the Northern Lights almost anywhere in Iceland!
The Northern Lights are very unpredictable so it is not guaranteed that they will happen every night. You do need clear skies and very dark skies to see the Northern Lights.