Looking to collaborate? I’m your gal! Quirky Globetrotter is an award-winning, international travel blog that uncovers hidden destination gems and
Iceland has always been one of those destinations that I heard so much about in my 20s. Everyone was road-tripping around the geothermic island and returning home more enamored with nature than when they first embarked. The landscapes are stunning and Iceland felt as if it was in a universe of its own with its lava rock formation, geysers, geothermic baths, moss-covered mountains and beautiful, and scenic coastline.
When I got the chance to visit the country solo, I almost said no because I thought it would be too expensive. Thank goodness I didn’t let that stop me. Saddled with plenty of road trip snacks and my self-curated Iceland 10 day Ring Road itinerary, I started my solo road trip through the picturesque landscape.
Plan for Winter Driving
Embarking on a winter road trip in Iceland means a lot of planning. First off, winter weather is unpredictable. If you are not an experienced winter driver, I would suggest that you opt for tours that visit these destinations instead.
On my solo trip to Iceland, I visited in November when there were only six hours of daylight each day. The weather was in that transitional stage between autumn and winter, which made it highly unpredictable. There were days where there were hurricane-strength winds and hazardous blizzards.
Another slight hiccup in planning your itinerary during the winter months to Iceland is that not everything will be open. For instead, the Highland areas are all closed during the winter months. Make sure you are thorough when researching possible places to stay in Iceland. If you are hoping for a campervan, check well in advance with the company to make sure they allow winter rentals.
I actually prefer traveling to destinations during the shoulder months because the real haunts that locals visit year-round finally get their chance to shine. I got to explore local art galleries, localvore (local food) and connect with the locals I met along the way.
This itinerary isn’t rushed and is broken into small increments helping you prioritize your daylight hours for short travel distances and lots of time to explore.
My route & Getting Around
After months of research, I decided that the best way to start my trip was to drive the Ring Road clockwise. I headed north towards Reykjavík and then onward to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
The best way to see the country is by roadtripping around the perimeter. During the summer months, tourists experience 24 hours of daylight. Yet, they miss out on the spectacular Northern Lights that happen in the colder months, typically October to March.
Disclaimer: Lagoon Car Rentals provided me with a complimentary 7-day car rental during my visit, but this is not a sponsored post. All reviews, opinions and itinerary recommendations are based on my personal view and experience.
Day 1 – Get Acquainted
International flights into Iceland usually are routed through the Keflavík International Airport (KEF), which is 45 minutes from Reykjavík by bus.
When I have first landed in Iceland, the sky was indigo with no trace of sunlight. It wasn’t until I drove in my Ceed-kick (what I had cleverly nicknamed my rental) past Reykjavík that the sun started to peek over the horizon.
The further north I ventured, the more immaculate the landscape became. The Ring Road hugged the shoreline of the fjords. The water glowed in pastel hues as the sunlight reflected off the calm waters. Only a few hours into my trip, yet, I was spellbound already.
On this scenic jaunt, I didn’t have much planned other than reaching my cabin for the night and possibly going on a short hike to Iceland’s second-highest waterfall Glymur.
Hiking to the falls takes at least 5 hours round trip. I only hiked the beginning of the trail because I was in no way prepared to hike all day long after a sleepless night. Even the short little sprint offered an ethereal view of the fjords being kissed awake by the morning sun.
After my hike, I drove a little further, but weaving through the fjords was taking on a toll on me. I was constantly on the lookout for a good pullover spot to snap a photo of the beautiful sunrise and how it illuminated the Arctic cool waters. I eventually found one and took a quick cat nap to rejuvenate myself.
For the most part, I unplugged this day and simply admired the landscape that sprouted around me. I spotted my first herd of Icelandic horses, which I planned to photograph later. Also, I gawked at my first Icelandic waterfalls tucked into the rocky landscapes.
Just as the sky was starting to dim, I pulled into my cabin, which was the perfect oasis for any traveler. The first item to check off the itinerary, soak in my own personal geothermal hot tub. While relaxing, I gazed at the first of many Northern Light displays I’d see on my Iceland 10 Day Ring Road trip. It was immaculate watching the seafoam green and emerald curtains of mist dance in the cold winter night sky.
Day 2 – Snæfellesnes Peninsula
Today I explored the Snæfellesnes Peninsula. The Snæfellesnes Peninsula is a popular destination for tourism because it’s within a few hours of Reykjavik, and is home to Snæfellsjökull National Park, making it a great hiking destination.
Snæfellsjökull glacier is the shining gem in this national park. The glacier, which is also an active volcano, is considered important in many communities including the literary, environmental and even spiritual communities.
Editor’s note: Driving on the glacier is prohibited unless given permission from park rangers. Park rangers are only stationed during the summer months.Snæfellsjökull National Park
In Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, the Snæfellsjökull glacier is considered the center of the Earth. After its publication, other poets, authors and writers incorporated Snæfellsjökull glacier into its literary scenery.
There is also Old Norse folklore that considers the Snæfellsjökull glacier as one of the seven main energy sites on Earth and even explains the beginnings of the geological formations in the park.
The Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss tells the tale of Bárðar, a part-human, part-giant and part-troll, who becomes the guardian and spiritual protector of the Snaefellesnes Peninsula.
Bárðar voyages from Norway to Iceland to build a farm to provide for his wife and three children. One day, while the children were playing, Bárðar’s daughter is pushed onto an iceberg by her brothers.
Bárðar, stricken with grief, kills both of his sons and vanishes to the Snæfellsjökull glacier. While there, he becomes the protector of the peninsula. People still call on his guardian spirit during times of difficulty.
Other folklore and tales say that the rock formations in Snæfellsjökull National Park are petrified trolls or homes of the hidden people.
When I drove through Snæfellsjökull National Park, Iceland was experiencing historic, hurricane-strength winds. Hiking out to see what the locals considered petrified trolls was impossible, so I spent most of the day admiring the scenery behind the protective panes of my windshield.
If you happen to get stuck in some unpredictable weather while driving, I always had a podcast handy to keep me company. I listened to the Icelandic folklore and myths, which made the scenery even more dramatic. Each podcast reminded me that this was the land of the Vikings.
As if the scenery wasn’t grandiose itself.
I was quickly losing my daylight and incoming snow was impeding my hiking efforts. I quickly skirted the dramatic fishing villages hanging onto the black-rock cliffs, the seafoam-colored waves crashing loudly below.
Lava fields dissipated into moss-covered rock formations that erupted from the earth. With the incoming snowstorm, they all nearly blended into the foggy, gray sky.
With the wind making the hiking trails too icy, I admired the frozen waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss from the road. When you hike to the base of the waterfall, the famous Mount Kirkujell looms in the distance.
Mount Kirkjufell, which translates to “Church Mountain,” is a must-see stop on your Iceland 10 day Ring Road itinerary.
Mount Kirkjufell is considered one of the most photographed spots in Iceland. Popular because of its symmetrical beauty, and also because the mountain is also spotlighted on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
Visitors can hike to the top of Mount Kirkjufell, but the trail is only recommended for advanced hikers. The terrain is steep and unpredictable. In the winter months, hiking should be avoided unless outfitted with winter gear.
I skirted around the last of the fjords as the thick dense clouds and settled at the Gardur Fishing Cottage in Stykkisholmur.
If you are looking to sample kæstur hákarl (fermented Shark) Iceland’s national dish, the nearby Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum offers demonstrations on how it’s made and even give you a morsel to sample. Tours cost 1400 ISK ($11 USD) for adults.
Day 3 – Search for Seals
It wasn’t until I woke up this morning that I realized how November weather can impact my Iceland 10 day Ring Road itinerary. The weather is unpredictable and it isn’t clear whether you should rent a 4WD vehicle for your Icelandic road trip. I planned on visiting the West Fjords of Iceland but instead faced road closures and had to adjust my course.
Luckily, I was able to quickly piece together a new itinerary and was quickly on the road without any other delays.
In the car, I headed northeast toward the Land of Seals where only 100km of gravel separated us.
Driving these gravel roads felt like experiencing the more intimate and less cherished parts of Iceland. The grassy knolls were made of blades of burnt umber and golden ochre. Stream rapids carved their crescent edges into the grassy banks.
The gravel road meandered its way around smaller mounts and then gave way to expansive grassy areas. These remote areas are where the Icelandic sheep and horses dared to dart across the roadways.
At one point, there was a herd of Icelandic horses standing at the top of a gurgling waterfall and rushing rapids.
If you are looking to dive into Viking history, make sure you make a pit stop at Eiríksstaðir to experience an authentic Viking Longhouse. This is also the area where Eric the Red lived. I was unable to visit due to time constraints, but it’s a great interactive exhibit to learn about the Vikings reign in Iceland since the 800s.
I finally ventured back toward some paved roads and made my way to Hvammstangi in the Land of Seals. This fishing village has the biggest population of resident seals that sunbathe on the rocks in the summer months.
I spent the evening in Hvammstangi embracing the cool arctic air and slept in a rustic, cozy cabin just north of the village. It was just me and the sporadic wisps of the aurora borealis awake that night.
Day 4 – Viking Legends
Iceland is one of those countries where legend and lore still have a heavy influence on the culture. This became evident after visiting Hvítserkur, which translates to “White Shirt,” but it is better known as the Drinking Dragon. Some legends credit the rocks’ origins to trolls being petrified by the afternoon rays of sunlight.
Aside from lore, geologists have discovered that Hvítserkur was once a plug of a volcano. The rock sculpture was once surrounded by craters that have since worn away.
The drive to Hvítserkur is scenic and you’ll be able to spot a few other filming locations for the Game of Thrones series along the way.
I wanted to experience more of Iceland’s history that is rooted in Norse lore and the history of the Vikings. The Skagafjörður area in Iceland is populated with Viking history and spots of interest. There is an entire trail of Viking battle sites in this area including Örlygsstaðabardagi, the largest Viking battle and several other devastating battles.
Make sure you check the road conditions on the Road.Is website before you embark. I was unable to see all of these spots of interest due to weather and road conditions.
Driving along the countryside, you’ll catch a glimpse of dozens of waterfalls craving a crevice in the beautiful landscape. I was spoiled and the hostel I was staying at this evening was tucked among all this beauty.
Viking history and living was the theme of the day, so what better way to do that then spend the evening in a Long House modeled after Vikings times. This hostel is also an active farm with Icelandic sheep and horses. Visitors can take an in-depth tour with the owners of the guesthouse to see what authentic Icelandic living entails.
My favorite part of my stay at the Hof i Vatnsdal Guesthouse was the geothermal hot tub where I got to watch the Northern Lights tread and twist across the indigo sky.
Day 5 – Historic Tour & Geothermal Baths
My first stop of the day was at the Víðimýrarkirkja Turf Church.
Renowned as one of the best examples of old Icelandic architecture, this turf church is also among one of the earliest churches with roots in Iceland.
Glaumbaer turf houses. The oldest part of this turf houses settlement dates back to the 18th century. Yet, this site has been inhabited since 874 the Age of the Settlement in Iceland. The turf houses now operate as a museum that offers visitors a glimpse back into life in Iceland during the 18th and 19th centuries.
There are 13 buildings on the settlement. Visitors can purchase a guided walking tour for 1700 ISK ($14 USD).
Akureyri, also called the North Capital of Iceland, is a quaint city getaway. Vikings have been using this port city since the 9th century. This is where the company Vífilfell brews their nation-wide celebrated brew Viking Beer. I sipped on their Christmas stout brew when I soaked in the nearby geothermal baths later that evening.
If you are looking to sample some local Iceland cuisine, Akureyri touts some of the best restaurants in the region.
Another great way to spend an afternoon in Akureyri is to tour some of the local spots of interest such as Nordurslod – Into the Arctic (Natural History Museum), Akureyri Art Museum, and the Akureyri Botanical Gardens.
From Akureyri, you can embark on whale watching tours, snowmobile excursions and even a tour of nearby waterfalls and the natural geothermal baths.
I opted to tour the Mývatn Nature Baths myself since I was staying nearby.
Mývatn Nature Baths
The snowflakes were starting to fall and I trekked the mile up the road to soak in the Mývatn Nature Baths baths during a blizzard.
I purchased my ticket in-person at the front desk and had no wait. Yet another perk about being a solo traveler. A single adult ticket at the bath is 5700 ISK ($46 USD). Bathing suits, towels and bathrobes are also available for rental.
Soaking in geothermal baths is a centuries-old tradition. And this tradition is especially magical in the evenings. Watching the sunset while sipping on a cold glass of local Icelandic beer was magical. The air crisp around me and nipping at my nose. Resting my back on the warm walls, a heavy mist hazing my vision. The steam lulling your tired sore muscles into a state of renewal.
On a clear night, swimmers can see the aurora borealis come and leap through the night sky. But for me, the night sky was stippled with icy, cold flakes. The hair piled on to of my head iced with the intricate crystal works of art.
I basked in the geothermal pool’s warmth for hours until the employees were ushering us out to close up for the evening.
That night, my homestay would be with Oli. He had set up a quaint writing space for me so I can jot down some lines of poetry as I admired the Northern Lights that would sashay in the distance.
If you have room in your itinerary, you should jaunt northwards to The Diamond Circle. This segment is harder to explore during the winter months, but has some of stellar quality waterfalls, whale watching spots and geothermic sites.
Day 6 – Art haven exploring
During my stay with Oli, mentioned how beautiful the Grjótagjá Cave would look after a snowfall. I am all for exploring a hidden gem, so I made a quick pitstop on my way out of town.
If you are familiar with Game of Thrones, you’ll recognize Grjótagjá Cave as the place where Jon Snow and Ygritte share a passion moment. The cave is very small, so the actual scene wasn’t filmed inside, but recreated in a studio.
Still, the Hollywood effects have made spots like this so popular on Iceland Ring Road itineraries. As romantic, swimming in a hot pool in a cave may seem, it’s dangerous and is not advised.
In recent years, there have been reports of tourists leaving garbage in the cave and not respecting nature. Be a responsible tourist and make sure that you leave the cave untouched and pick up trash if you see it.
Furthermore, it is not safe to swim or bathe in the cave’s geothermal waters. Make sure you read all signage and are safe when exploring the area.
Next stop on my Iceland 10-day Ring Road itinerary was a cultural hotspot and queer-friendly stop that I was very excited about.
Poet Matthias Johanness once described Iceland’s Bohemian village of Seyðisfjörður as a “pearl enclosed in a shell.” Nestled in between Mt. Strandartindur and Mt. Bjolfur, Seyðisfjörður and the surrounding valley extending to the sea is a slice of ethereal beauty.
During the summer months, this route is scenic and boasted as one of the most beautiful stretches of road in Iceland.
Instagrammers recognize Seyðisfjörður as the city with the rainbow street (Regnbogastræti). As a queer woman, I knew this had to be a stop on my solo Iceland road trip.
What I loved most about Seyðisfjörður is that it exuded a sense of warmth in their community. The art studios and brightly colored fishing houses made even the simplest things feel magical.
In 2020, Seyðisfjörður was hit by a landslide. The largest landslide in Iceland. A total of 13 buildings were destroyed and there were thankfully no casualities. Experts stated, “The warming climate increases the danger of landslides from a permafrost area high in the slopes of Mt. Strandatindur,” which ultimately caused this disastorous landslide.
Restoration efforts started in 2021 and new seeds have been planted in the area to rejuvenate growth. Make sure to show your support by visiting the area when you can and buying locally.
I wanted to continue exploring and experiencing Iceland’s scenic countryside. I drove through the mountains to spend the night in an art cottage on a horse and cattle farm.
Day 7 – South Coast Wonders
Most Iceland 10-day Ring Road itineraries work counter clockwise from Reykjavik making the South Coast one of the first legs of the trip. This stretch of the Ring Road is packed with lots of tours, activities, easy hikes and picturesque scenery.
I started early, so the sun was rising as I was driving down the coast. It was a gorgeous way to start my morning. I also spotted a wild white reindeer (a sign of good luck!) on my way to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, which just became part of Vatnajökull National Park in 2017.
At the lagoon, visitors can spot seals and Arctic Terns, but be careful of not getting too close during nesting season because the mothers are very protective of their young.
Across the road from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is Diamond Beach. Diamond Beach got it’s name from the small ice bergs that wash ashore from the Northern Atlantic. This is one of the best spots to catch a sunrise in Iceland so don’t forget to add this spot onto your Iceland 10 Day Ring Road itinerary.
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is a beautiful picturesque canyon that cuts through black volcanic rock covered in moss. Formed in the last Ice Age over 9,000 years ago. The hike is 1.2 miles (2 km) in length, but can be nearly impossible to navigate/hike up during the winter months. The day I was visiting the sun warmed the snow which created a layer of ice on top, making it a slippery hike for those of us without ice shoes.
Once you get past your fear of sliding down the incline, the view is impeccable. The lush green canyon cuts through the volcanic rock and exposes the rushing Fjaðrá River below. This was one of my favorite hikes in Iceland, so don’t pass up this pit stop.
Time to chase waterfalls
This next section of the South Coast is part of the most popular tourist areas of Iceland. Populated with beautiful waterfalls, all unique in their own right, each of these waterfalls are busy.
The first waterfall to check off for me was Skógafoss. This is a legend that there is a treasure chest hidden behind the waterfall’s downpour. Skógafoss is 60m tall and you can water directly up to the cascading water or view the water rushing down to the earth from above. The sunlight often hits Skógafoss perfectly to form a rainbow. The hike to reach the top is over 500 stairs, and is closed during the winter, but visitors can always view the falls from below.
Also in the area is the hidden gem Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool. This swimming pool is the oldest pool in Iceland built in 1923. Tucked in the valley beneath the Volcano Glacier Eyjafjallajökull, which erupted in 2010. Tourists do need to take a twenty minute hike to reach the pool, but the experience of basking in Iceland’s beauty is unmatched.
Gljúfrafoss (also known as Gljúfrabúi, which translates to the Dweller or Inhabitant in the Gorge) is a waterfall that adventurer’s with a keen eye can spot. Nearly completely hidden by a cliff face, Gljúfrafoss is a beautiful waterfall that transports you to mystical worlds equivalent to Atlantis or Avatar. Wearing rain boots is highly recommended because you need to wade through the river partway on your hike.
You’ll probably get soaked during this hike, so pack a rain jacket and waterproof shoes with traction. Remember to use discernment on whether the hiking path is too slick or slippery during the colder months and stay safe.
Only 150m away from Gljúfrafoss is Seljalandsfoss, the only waterfall you can walk behind in Iceland. Water for this waterfall originates from Volcano Glacier Eyjafjallajökull.
Best time to visit Seljalandsfoss is at sunset. The pathway to the waterfall is closed in the winter due to the danger of falling icicles. Current weather conditions will determine whether you can complete the hike.
My final stop of the day was to watch the sunset at Vik’s Black Sand Beach. Horse back riders galloped above the beach’s surf. I cradled my camera and admired the icy cold waters that licked at my boots.
You do need to be careful of sneak waves at the beach. These are waves that are powerful and wash the sand out from underneath your feet. The strong currents then can easily pull you out. Just be cautious when strolling the beach and don’t wade to far into the surf.
A solo traveler tip for accommodations is to look into tiny home stays on Booking or Airbnb. I found an adorable Barrel Cabin that was tiny-house-size to relax at after my long day. I was spoiled and had another geothermal hot tub to soak in as I admired the Northern Lights again. I was starting to get used to that dreamy, dancing spectrum of green light dancing across the sky.
Day 8 – Golden Circle
After an action-packed day, I beat the sunrise and headed to Þingvellir National Park (Thingvellir National Park) to snorkel the Silfra Fissure. This geological phenomenon is where the tectonic plates of Eurasia and North America meet. There is a gap between these tectonic plates and this no man’s land is considered the Silfra Fissure.
I booked a Silfra Fissure snorkeling tour which lasted a good part of the morning. The ice cold waters of the Silfra Fissure were some of the most cleansing waters in the world. This natural wonder is a registered UNESCO Site. There are also diving tours available to explore the deeper parts of the Silfra Fissure.
Before leaving Þingvellir National Park, take some time to explore. Þingvellir is considered a sacred place to Icelanders and where the first democratic parliament was held in 930 AD.
With the short autumn and winter daylight, I had to rush through the rest of my stops in the Golden Circle today. But my timing couldn’t be more impeccable at Geysir. I hiked up to Geysir just as the sun was starting to turn the sky a palette of watercolor hues. The stem rolling off the geothermal wonder was an ethereal sight. Watching the geysers’ hot water erupt and reflect off the fading sun’s rays.
Nearby, make another spit top to see Gullfoss. This was my favorite waterfall to visit in Iceland. The rapids and falls cascading through the gorge. The water creating more mist and fog due to the cooling Arctic temperatures. It has the same periwinkle hues.
I rested in Eyrarbakki that evening on the coast.
Day 9 – Lazy Sunday in Reykjavik
The flea market is full of food vendors, vintage goods, handmade jewelry and textiles. It’s a beautiful way to escape the bitter cold before embarking on a whale watching tour.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary whale watching from Reykjavik Sailors for reviewing purposes. This is my honest feedback and recommendation which has not been swayed in any way due to the company’s generosity.
I embarked on a whale watching tour with Reykjavik Sailors. This tour company has a lot of options and bundles for tours including Northern Lights tours, Puffin tours, and walking tours. I only opted for the whale watching tour which costs 10.490 ISK ($82 USD).
During the colder months, the tour company offers snow suits to their passengers. The wind was whipping fiercely and I was so thankful to be bundled up in their red snow suits.
The entire tour lasted a little longer than 3.5 hours. Passengers are able to mingle inside the cabin which is heated and sip on some warm beverages or beer. The tour leaves from the harbor in downtown Reykjavik, so you’ll have scenic views of the city skyline and the surrounding mountains in the distance.
Since we didn’t spot any wildlife during my tour, the company gave out free vouchers for a complimentary whale watching tour that can be used within the next two years. This is a nice gesture, and why I recommend doing your tours before the end part of your trip.
Another point of interest at Reykjavik’s harbor is the Whales of Iceland museum. I cannot think of a better way to show your appreciation for mother nature than after a crisp afternoon on the arctic waters. Warm up and let it sink in how special it is to have these gentle giants in our waters. The exhibits at the Whales of Iceland allow you to get up close and personal to the marine life you spotted on your whale watching tour.
After learning about the marine life, take some time to take in Reykjavik’s artistic side. Hugged the harbor is the Harpa concert hall. If you are unable to attend a performance, at least take a tour of the inside of the building. It looks out onto the harbor and is an architectural gem.
There are several great art galleries, museums and street art within walking distance of the harbor. Don’t forget to take the streets and admire Reykjavik’s growing street art and mural scene.
That evening, I stayed at the backyard cottage in downtown Reykjavik.
Day 10 – Final day in Reykjavik
Before you embark back home, you need to feast your eyes on the best view of Reykjavik from above. Head over to the Hallgrimskirkja to view the city from the church’s bell tower.
My last pit stop was to feast on a famous Icelandic hot dog.
Returning to KEF (Keflavík Airport)
Reykjavik is not where the main airport is located. It’s located in Keflavík (KEF). So make sure you take into account how you’ll reach the airport.
What would I change?
The quickest lesson I learned on my solo Iceland 10 Day Ring Road trip was that you had to be flexible due to Iceland’s weather. Especially during the late fall and winter months, road conditions can be hazardous and I encountered numerous snowstorms during my 10-day jaunt.
Since Iceland is such a picturesque destination and ideal for road-tripping, take your time. Allow for days where you won’t stray far from your accommodation and so you can just explore the small yet quaint towns or enjoy an afternoon indulging in the outdoors.
I didn’t feel like I was struggling to fill my 10-day Iceland Ring Road itinerary. In fact, there are many things that I opted to skip or simply didn’t make the cut.
For your road trip, download some podcasts before your arrival to help you grasp the vastness of the landscape you’re driving through. I downloaded the Myths and Legends podcast and listened to the retelling of Norse lore and Icelandic myths.