Iceland. A country where everywhere you look is a photo opportunity, where starting the day exploring a beautiful waterfall and ending it with a dip in a natural hot spring is the norm. Iceland is one of those places that will have you rapidly reorganising the 'favourite countries' list you keep in your head in case someone asks, and there's no better way of exploring this magical island than with a road trip along its ring road which circles the entire country.
Originally built to connect the most inhabited parts of Iceland, the ring road is 1,332 km long, 33 km of which is dirt road. Don't worry though, hiring a car is simple and you'll easily be able to navigate the two lane road system - just be wary of pulling over to take photos anywhere you like, there are dedicated places to stop and take in the scenery.
Driving the ring road in Iceland allows you to explore the country's most stunning landscapes at your own pace. In the South-West explore Hveragerõi, a cute little town filled with geothermal activity; Seljalandsfoss, a stunning waterfall; and Dyrhólaey where the cliffs and lighthouse overlooking the sea make for a fantastic photo opportunity.
You'll find one of Iceland's most visited tourist attractions, Jökulsárlón, a huge glacial lagoon, in the South-East of the island. And next to this is Vatnajökull National Park, where Iceland's highest mountain Hvannadalshnúkur towers over the glaciers and black sands below.
As you head East you'll be met with rugged mountains and beautiful fjords and, if you're lucky, you might even spot some wild reindeer! And you'll definitely want to pack something to go swimming in for when you drive North; Mývatn natural baths are a stunning place to take a relaxing dip before heading to Akureyri,the capital of the North, for a swim in the geothermal pool and a walk around the arctic botanical gardens, before having a drink in a cosy bar.
Back in Reykjavik, Iceland's vibrant capital, take the elevator to the top of Hallgrimskirkja church for panoramic views of the city, go whale watching, and (if you're in Reykjavik on the weekend) visit its lively flea market at the harbour.
Falling in love with Iceland doesn't take very long but if want to have time to explore (and leave your planned itinerary behind at times, of course) it's best to do your road trip over at least 7 days. That way you won't be rushing around and youâll have ample time to discover the beauty of the island.
Many people visit Iceland to have a chance at spotting the famous northern lights. However, the lights are usually only visible in winter when there are fewer daylight hours, cold weather, and a high chance of snow on the roads. Not the best conditions for a road trip.
Visiting Iceland in late August or early September means extra-long daylight hours (so you can pack in more sightseeing), better weather (so you can actually go outside without having to wear every single item of clothing you packed) and, as peak tourist season will have ended, fewer crowds.
If you're going to go on a road trip you might as well do it properly with a campervan instead of a car. Hiring a car means you'll need to find and book a hotel for each stop off point, but we all know that itineraries change; hiring a campervan means extra freedom and the chance to make your time in Iceland extra special. Wake up to the sunlight streaming through the windows, skip a dreary hotel breakfast room in favour of eating outside in Iceland's natural beauty, and feel an overwhelming sense of freedom as the road stretches out before you.
Snow-capped mountains, bubbling springs, erupting volcanoes, thundering waterfalls. Iceland's so full of visually stunning landscapes that you won't know where to look first. Add driving Iceland's ring road to your bucket list for an unforgettable travel experience.
Beverley Reinemann is a freelance writer and founder of the travel and lifestyle blog, Pack Your Passport. Originally from England, she's a self-confessed Australophile and travel lover and spends most of her time drinking way too much coffee in east London, going to gigs and planning her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter @PckYourPassport.comments powered by Disqus