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What to do on the ring road in Iceland

For many, circumnavigating Iceland’s Route 1 is the ultimate road trip. This well maintained road serves up Iceland’s incredible scenery without the need for long detours and is easily doable on a two week trip. If you’re keen to rent a car and see what Iceland is like beyond its charming capital, then here’s what to do on the ring road in Iceland.


Hike to a waterfall

Iceland’s blessed with a large number of waterfalls. Two of the most scenic are right near the ring road, just a couple of hours’ drive from Reykjavik. Pretty Seljalandsfoss overhangs the rock face so significantly that it’s possible to walk behind the curtain of water. At dusk, when the sun slips below the horizon to the west, it’s a beautiful sight. Moving east, not far along the ring road is the equally dramatic Skógafoss. Steps lead up the side of the waterfall and the trailhead for a super hike – as well as breathtaking views out to sea. Continue on to Vatnajökull National Park and you’ll encounter impressive Svartifoss. This waterfall cascades in front of a cliff face of hexagonal basalt columns which are the reason it gets its name, Black Falls. Closer to the road lies Goðafoss, located in the north east of the country. This 12 metre high, 30 metre wide waterfall on the River Skjálfandafljót is worth pulling over for.


Stop off at one of the country’s many beaches

Diamond Beach, an iceberg’s glide from Jökulsárlón lagoon, is a magnet for international visitors. Chunks of ice carve from the nearby glacier and are washed up onto the black sand beach where they glitter like gemstones in the sunshine. But Iceland’s beaches don’t begin and end here. In the south, make a stop for Reynisfjara. This is another black sand beach hammered by fierce North Atlantic swells. Don’t miss the chance to snap a picture of its sea stacks, formed by centuries of coastal erosion. On the opposite side of the country, Hvitserkur is another sea stack, nicknamed the Troll of north west Iceland. This basalt column, a popular nesting ground for birds, is the focal point of Húnaflói Bay.


Experience the benefits of Iceland’s geothermal energy

You’ll encounter plenty of hot springs close to Lake Mývatn, in the north of the country. Mývatn Nature Baths are north Iceland’s answer to the Blue Lagoon. Just as you can on the Reykjanes peninsula, here you can wallow in the luxurious alkaline waters and experience a steam bath created the natural way, with steam rising straight from the ground through vents in the floor. Not far away is Grjótagjá, which featured in the popular TV series Game of Thrones. You can’t bathe in this hot pool, but its setting inside a cave is spectacular nevertheless. A handy stop that’s convenient for the capital is Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach, where you can split your time between the geothermal hot tub and the sea.


Explore some of Iceland’s most charming settlements

Circumnavigating Iceland’s ring road gives visitors the chance to see some of the towns and villages away from the capital. Iceland’s second biggest city is Akureyri, in the north of the country. Don’t miss the colourful scenes depicted in the stained glass windows of its 20th century church and a museum with a fabulous collection of contemporary art. Fishing and tourism are the mainstays for Húsavík, the undisputed capital for whale watching in the country. It also has a beautiful wooden church dating from 1907. Egilsstaðir’s East Iceland Heritage Museum has an interesting exhibition on the role reindeer play in this part of the country as well as displays about traditional rural life.