Iceland trip report: the full circle, clockwise

Above is a map of all locations we visited over 12 days - it may inspire someone else...... Note, we'd originally planned to do the north-west peninsula, the WestFjords, however we had an unfortunate experience with a damaged windscreen the day prior and made the decision to skip the region after learning that many/most of the roads are gravel and it takes two whole days to drive around it(!). Isolated it may be and rarely visited (less than 10% of all visitors go there by all accounts) but we preferred not spending our whole holiday just sitting in the seats of the car.


For a fuller collection of photos, see here.  For the original collection of panorama photos from the trip, see Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.


Iceland - Geography

  • Iceland is 103,000 square kilometres. For context, the Republic of Ireland is 70,273 square kilometres and France is almost six times bigger. However.....
  • Iceland's population is only 300,000 in comparison to the island of Ireland being 6 million-plus.
  • They expect 1-2 million visitors this year. Again for context, Ireland receives around 8 million annually.  
  • Iceland's biggest glacier is bigger than Luxembourg
  • They've also got Europe's more powerful waterfall by volume, Detifoss, in the north.


Driving Notes

  • If you stick to route 1, it's completely tarmac/asphalt the complete route. If you divert into any of the peninsulas, more often than not you'll come across some gravel roads. They're in good condition so it's nothing to worry about in any vehicle but only to be aware you may experience 30-50km of gravel and the slightly increased risk of something damaging windscreen, etc.  
  • The interior is relatively difficult to get to unless you have a 4x4. In fact, many of the roads are uninsured if you don't have a 4x4! The other option is to hire a super-jeep for a day with a driver - these things can go anywhere.
  • There are petrol stations all over the island now: all take card. If anything, card is better as some are isolated and automated with only card facilities. 
  • With the exception of birds, there's no animals to be concerned with on the roads.
  • Driving is on the right side of the road.
  • With near 24-hour daylight in the summer periods, the sun sits quite high all the time and it's never a problem driving at dusk or dawn in mixed lighting. That's both pros and cons as you can unintentionally end up driving longer than expected :)


Recommended Visits

  • If I only had a shorter visit, I'd most likely do the whole way along the southern rim as far as Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon (a must see), and the western peninsula out to Snaefellsjoekull National Park (Jules Verne's famous book, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, started in the mountain at the end of the peninsula). Bonuses are the trips to the north.
  • In doing the south, you'll get to:
    • Svartifoss (south) and Skógafoss (south)
    • Skaftafell National Park: lots of fantastic trails, as well as directly up to the front of numerous glaciers.
  • If you make it to the south:
    • The pretty village of Hellnar in the west. In doing so, it'll put you at the end of the peninsula where there are tons of sights to see, along with great short walks.
  • If you can make it to the north:
    • The major waterfalls of Dedifoss (north), Goðafoss (north)
    • The 'whale-watching capital' of Iceland, Húsavík. Numerous boats running trips across the fjord, with a success rate measured in the high-90%.


  • Yes, Iceland lives up to its reputation of being more expensive. For benchmark, I took it as an average of about 50% more expensive than Ireland overall. It's rare to see somewhere that makes Ireland feel cheap.....
  • Supermarkets are more expensive than Europe, however they're still cheaper than eating out if you have the ability to cook for yourself. 
  • Petrol / diesel is around 50% more expensive
  • Pints of beers in Reykjavik are around €12 - unless you hit happy hour (6-9pm) where they're half price.
  • A whale watching tour works out around €100 per person for around 2-4 hours on a boat - but it's absolutely worth it.


Image Gallery

A full collection of images can be found here.