Self drive itinerary road trip around Iceland in 7 days and staying at the HI Hostels
Iceland Ring Road in 7 days
3. June 2019
If you are looking at driving the ring road of Iceland but don't know where to start with sights to see, accommodation and local delicacies then this is the blog post for you!
We recently set off on a 7 day self-drive tour of the iconic Iceland Ring Road, booking the HI Iceland Hostel & Car combo, to get out of the capital and see what Iceland is really about. So here is a breakdown of what to get up to on each day.
HI Iceland Hostel & Car Combo
When your are planning to drive around Iceland and staying at different accommodation each night, the best option (in our opinion!) is to book with HI Iceland and do the Hostel & Car Combo. It gives you the flexibility of exploring at your own pace, off the beaten track and yet staying in wonderful friendly run locations around the country.
You also get a 10% membership discount off all of your HI Hostel stays in Iceland, complimentary breakfast at the HI Hostels in Reykjavík, (of which there are 3) and a free HI membership card, which can be used at any HI Hostel worldwide.
Day 1 - Iceland's West Coast
Iceland’s West Coast is an escape to the country straight from Reykjavik the capital city. Off Route 1 and along Route 54 you arrive at the incredible Snæfellsness Peninsula and National Park. With colorful fishing villages and coastal walks at every turn, this is the perfect way to start off a ring road self-drive tour.
Be sure to stop at Arnastapi, Ólafsvík, Grundarfjörður and Stykkishólmur for breathtaking natural harbours, quaint churches, famous mountain landscapes and brightly coloured lighthouses!
Sights to see - Arnastapi sea cliffs, Snæfellsjökull, Saxhóll, Ólafsvíkurkirkja church, Kirkjufell, Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall & Grundarfjörður beach.
Places to eat - Hraun in Ólafsvík for locally caught fish & chips and Bjargarsteinn in Grundarfjörður for award-winning lamb.
Where to stay - The perfect base for exploring Iceland's West Coast is Grundarfjörður HI Hostel. With multiple buildings to stay in and free parking just up the road, the hostel is in a great location for exploring Grundarfjörður. It is also just a short walk into the centre of the town, where there are a variety of cafes and restaurants as well as a supermarket and petrol station.
If you want to see a completely different side to Iceland then this is the place to visit!
Day 2 - North West Iceland
North West Iceland is the place to go if you want to experience the true wild nature of Iceland. Be prepared to travel on gravel roads, even on Route 1, but reap the rewards when you find the seal covered Vatnsnes Peninsula. Be sure to stop in Hvammstangi on the Vatnsnes Peninsula. Even if you miss seeing the seals in the wild, Hvammstangi has a seal centre in the village where you can learn all about them.
Sights to see - Hrútafjörður & the seals at Illugastaðir farm.
Places to eat - Cafe Nú in Stykkishólmur for coffee and cake (be sure to try the carrot cake with rhubarb jam!) and Sjávarborg in Hvammstangi for fresh fish dishes with a view.
Where to stay - If you are after a hostel with a view and its own geothermal hot tub then Sæberg HI Hostel is the one for you! Situated just off Route 1 and with parking on site, this hostel is a perfect base for exploring the nearby peninsulas.
Day 3 - North Iceland
The North of Iceland is like no other part of the country. With icy peaks, snowfall nearly year round and frozen seas, it is mind-blowing how life even exists in some of these harsh conditions. You can drive for hours on end, passing through colourful fishing villages and mountain passes but each corner brings a view that is just incredible.
Be sure to stop at Siglufjörður, Ólafsfjörður and Dalvík along the longest fjord in Iceland, Eyjafjörður.
Sights to see - Siglufjörður Herring Era Museum and harbour and Dalvík port.
Places to eat - Hannes Boy in Siglufjörður for the catch of the day and Gisli Eirikur Helgi Kaffihús Bakkabrædra in Dalvík for fish soup and a beer.
Where to stay - Dalvík HI Hostel is the one and only place you must stay in North Iceland. The owners are the friendliest people you could meet and are full of stories to tell. They also run a cafe in Dalvík where you can try the local beer and the areas famous fish soup.
Day 4 - North East Iceland
North East Iceland is home to bubbling hot pots, geothermal hot springs and immense waterfalls. You cant drive a few meters without spotting another waterfall or steam rising out of the lava-filled landscape! If you want a true experience of Iceland make your way to one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland, Goðafoss, then visit the geothermal mud pots at Hverir before jumping into the warming waters at Mýtavn Nature Baths.
Be sure to stop at Akureyri, the unofficial capital of the North, Mývatn and Seyðisfjörður.
Sights to see - Goðafoss, Mývatn, Hverir, Gufufoss and Seyðisfjörður town.
Places to eat - Berlin Cafe in Akureyri for breakfast and Skaftfell Bistro in Seyðisfjörður for pizza.
Where to stay - There are 2 places to stay at in Seyðisfjörður, however, we opted for Seyðisfjörður Hafaldan Old Hospital HI Hostel. This hostel is situated in an old hospital so is full of little quirks and has ample free parking. It is also very close to all the main attractions in the area so a great place to stay. The other one is Seyðisfjörður - Hafaldan Harbour HI Hostel.
Day 5 - Iceland's East Fjords
The fjords in Iceland are breathtaking anywhere you go, but the East Fjords are something else. Driving in and around the fjords gets more incredible, more scenic and more coastal. Through Fáskrúðsjörður, Stöðvarfjörður and Breiðdalsvík every turn of the road leaves you wanting more. You get the urge to park up at every pull over and stare in awe at the landscape, especially when you see your first glimpse of wild reindeer!
Be sure to visit Egilsstaðir, Reyðarfjörður, Djúpivogur and the Hvalnes Nature Reserve.
Sights to see - The Eggs of Merry Bay, (Eggin í Gleðivík), Hvalnes Nature Reserve and all the fjords!
Places to eat - Sesam Braudhus in Reyðarfjörður for bagels and Vid Voginn in Djúpivogur for fish and chips.
Where to stay - To sleep within the Vatnajökull National Park stay at Vagnsstaðir HI Hostel. With incredible views over the surrounding national park, and situated on a working farm, the hostel is a piece of tranquillity just off Route 1. It is also open year round and has lots of free parking.
Day 6 - South East Iceland
With more black sand beaches and ice than you could ever imagine, this area of Iceland is a paradise for those wanting to experience glaciers and rugged mountains. You can walk around Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon listening for the cracking ice, before heading to Diamond Beach and finding tiny icebergs sitting on the shoreline. The south east is often a day trip on tours too, so don't be surprised if you start seeing a few more faces on the roads!
Be sure to stop at Jökulsárlón, Skaftafellsjökull glacier, Svínafellsjökull glacier and Svartifoss waterfall.
Sights to see - Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, Diamond Beach & Svartifoss.
Places to eat - Sudur in Vík for local Arctic Char.
Where to stay - With free parking, discounts with local activities and a variety of room options Vík HI Hostel is the perfect place to stay and explore South Iceland. Be sure to get the breakfast at this hostel as it is made with local ingredients of moss, herbs and eggs from the chickens that live at the hostel!
Day 7 - South West Iceland
From here on the crowds start getting bigger and the roads more busy as you hit the Golden Circle Route and tourists doing trips from Reykjavík, but with plenty of waterfalls and glaciers to visit its no surprise! Start off at the crashing waters of Reynisfjara beach and Dyrhólaey, before heading to crashing waters of a different kind at Skógafoss, Seljalandfoss and Gljúfrafoss. If you're feeling particularly adventurous you can even walk up to the Sólheimajökull glacier tongue, part of Mýrdalsjökull, the fourth largest glacier in Iceland.
Be sure to visit Vík, Reynisfjara, Selfoss and all the waterfalls in between!
Sights to see - Reynisfjara beach, Dyrhólaey, Sólheimajökull glacier and all the waterfalls!
Places to eat - Gudni Bakari in Selfoss for baked goods, The Hot Dog Stand in Reykjavík for an Icelandic hotdog with all the trimmings & Sky Restaurant in Reykjavík for the catch of the day.
Where to stay - In Reykjavík, there are 3 Reykjavik HI Hostels to chose from. We opted to stay in Reykjavík Loft Hostel for one night and Reykjavík Downtown Hostel for another. Both hostels are in great locations with just short walks to all the nearby attractions. Loft, however, won us over with its rooftop bar and amazing top floor seating areas.
It may seem like a short amount of time to drive the entire ring road, but the 7 days we spent exploring Iceland with HI Iceland was the perfect amount of time. So what are you waiting for, use the HI Iceland Hostel & Car Combo and get out exploring the parts of Iceland you never thought you would!
Some helpful tips
The weather in Iceland can change dramatically from one minute to the next, so to keep on top of all the weather, road conditions and any travel alerts around Iceland, we checked the following websites every morning to make sure our plans for the day were still possible!
Written by Gemma & Matt from The Travelling Tedaldi in collaboration with HI Iceland.