Photographing Iceland. 10 Day Road Trip Guide around the Land of Fire and Ice

Iceland’s diverse landscape has made it a very popular destination for all kinds of travellers and its small size makes it perfect for people wanting to do self-drive road trips. 

As an avid photographer, I design my road trips around the most photogenic places in the country. Iceland’s volcanic nature coupled with its ferocious climate makes for some awesome photography and lifelong memories, but cramming every single attraction in a 10-day itinerary won’t do you any good. 

TIP: When planning your road trip around Iceland accept the fact that you won’t be able to see everything. Learn to prioritize and choose the best spots.

What’s the best way to road trip around Iceland?

Road trip Iceland. 10 day itinerary for photographers
Campervans are a popular way to travel around Iceland

This itinerary is designed to optimise your time in Iceland as you can’t afford to waste any. Everything in Iceland is expensive, car rentals, accommodation, petrol, you name it.

It’s down to the fact, that they have to import pretty much everything apart from fish (which is still quite expensive actually). Don’t worry though, budget travel is still doable in Iceland, you might just have to follow some of my tips.

Rent a compact car with Discover Cars

This is a self-drive road trip itinerary so naturally, you will need a car to follow it. You can compare car rental prices on Discover Cars – my go-to website for renting out compact cars around the World.

TIP: If you were wondering if you need a 4WD to do this itinerary then the answer is NO. A compact and fuel-efficient car will be just fine. 

Rent a campervan with Motorhome Republic

A very popular way to travel around Iceland is renting a campervan. There are plenty of companies that rent out self-converted motorhomes on the island. Good luck with comparing them all though!

The number of options seems to be endless, your time however is not. If you want to get it over with the quick and easy way try the Motorhome Republic. The perfect motorhome rental search engine.

TIP: When renting your car or campervan try to organise pick up at the airport and drop off in Reykjavik, or take the airport shuttle to the city first and rent a car in the city. Even though this is a 10-day itinerary you will only need the car for the first 8 days. I will explain later. Keep reading!

When is the best time to go to Iceland?

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Due to its volcanic nature, very high latitude and arctic nights, I wouldn’t recommend travelling to Iceland in the winter. Bear in mind that some of the roads may be inaccessible and not maintained in the low season. 

However, in the summer months and shoulder season (from April to September), this is your ultimate road trip plan. Expect a high volume of tourists in the peak summer months: July and August. Long gone are the days when Iceland was an undiscovered destination. 

The Perfect Iceland Road Trip Itinerary for Photographers: Day-By-Day Breakdown

The ultimate Iceland road trip plan for photographers

The Map Of The 10-Day Road Trip Around Iceland

To give you an overview for the first 8 days this itinerary will take you around the famous Ring Road in a counterclockwise direction.

Not only will you visit some of the most photogenic spots on the island, but you will also have a chance to venture off the beaten path and see some of the lesser-known spots.

On the 8th day, you will drop off your rental car in Reykjavik and jump onto the shuttle bus to Landmannalaugar, a location you absolutely can’t miss if you are into photography!

Day 1: Reykjavik – Seljalandsfoss & Gljúfrabúi

Seljalandsfoss. Iceland Road Trip Guide
Gljúfrabúi the hidden waterfall near Seljalandsfoss. Iceland Road Trip Guide

If you got to Reykjavik early in the morning you can spend the afternoon exploring Iceland’s little capital. 

After stocking up on food in one of Reykjavík’s discount supermarkets – Bonus, it’s time to hit the famous Ring Road.

The Ring Road (Highway 1) goes around the entire circumference of Iceland. The first major stop is Seljalandsfoss. Leave Reykjavik late in the afternoon to get to this waterfall before sunset. 

My tip is to take a decent lens cloth with you because the water spray will be relentless. It’s only around an hour and a half (120km) to get there and it’s impossible to miss the signs. You will see the waterfall from kilometres away when driving on the highway. 

Around 200 meters further down from Seljalandsfoss, there is another waterfall hidden in a canyon.  Not many people know about it. It’s called Gljúfrabúi, and it is located near the Hamragarðar campsite. Don’t miss it!

Before you enter the canyon make sure you’re wrapped up in waterproof clothing from head to toe. If you somehow managed to stay dry walking around Seljalandsfoss, you will certainly get wet here!  

Stay the first night at one of the nearby campsites I marked on the map or in one of the hotels located near the above-mentioned attractions.

Accommodation choices near Seljalandsfoss

If you decide to stay in Iceland’s capital Reykjavik before heading out on this road trip. Try staying in one of these accommodation choices.

Accommodation choices in Reykjavik

Day 2: Skogafoss – Vik

From your accommodation near Seljalandsfoss travel another further (30km) along Iceland’s Ring Road and you’ll get to one of the most famous photography spots on the whole island – Skogáfoss.

This huge waterfall is so iconic that it’s exactly what comes to my mind when I think of Iceland. Well, that, and my diminishing bank balance.

Seljavellir hot springs – a big no no!

You may have heard of the Seljavellir hot springs located around halfway between Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. A lot of people still choose to visit this place, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

The old swimming pool built back in 1923 hasn’t seen any maintenance for a long time. The water in the pool is very dirty and its temperature is lukewarm at most.

There will be other awesome hot springs along the Ring Road so don’t bother with this one. 

Skogafoss Waterfall. Road trip guide to Iceland
Rainbow created from the spray of Skogafoss. Road trip itinerary Iceland.

Skogafoss 

Once you get to Skogafoss there is a short but relatively steep hike up the stairs built on the right side of the waterfall. On a sunny day, you will be able to see rainbows from up above and stand in the presence of the raging waterfall.

Make sure to get to the site early. Around 9 am bus, tours from Reykjavik start to swarm the place with overzealous tourists. 

Sólheimasandur – aeroplane crash site 

After Skogafoss continue east along the south coast. After a mere 10kms comes to a halt. This time you will be visiting the famous crash site of the DC3 plane on Sólheimasandur Beach, Iceland. Blink and you will miss it.

Bear in mind that it’s private land. It used to be possible to drive the vehicle directly to the crash site, but since Iceland’s extremely fast tourism growth, the owners of the land got over the fact that hundreds of vehicles were driving through their land on a daily basis and banned it. Now the only way to visit it is by hiking the 4km. 

Puffin bird in Dyrholaey Iceland. Road Trip Itinerary

Dyrhólaey and Puffins

Closer to Vik, where you should spend the 2nd night, is a coastal viewpoint called Dyrhólaey. The roadside turn-off is very well-marked.

The cliffs that stand above Kirkjufjara’s black sand beach are home to a big colony of puffins! Take the time to walk around and spot the little cuties hanging out on the cliffs and flying out into the sea. 

Guide to Iceland
Reynisdrangar viewed from a hike in Vik

Reynisdrangar 

Your last stop before getting to Vik is the Reynisdrangar basalt sea stacks at the Reynisfjara black pebble beach. If you had enough of exploring for the day you can try and catch the sunrise here the next morning. It’s only a 10 min drive from the town of Vik, where you should spend the night. 

Accommodation options in and around Vik

Day 3: Vik to Hof

Iceland road trip itinerary. Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon on one of the very few sunny days in Iceland

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon 

The next stop on your 10-day Iceland road trip itinerary is Fjaðrárgljúfur located 70km and 50 min drive east of Vik. This incredible canyon that’s been carved by the Fjaðrá River is 2km long and at places 100m deep.

It will be a good spot to stretch your legs on the morning of your 3rd day.

Glacier hiking at Skaftafell National Park

Skaftafell National Park is home to many glacial tongues. If hiking on a glacier is on your bucket list, with a stunning mountain backdrop, this is one of the best places in Iceland to do it.

I’ve hiked on a glacier in Patagonia, Argentina and to this day it remains one of my favourite activities I’ve ever done. There is a campsite nearby where you can stop for the night. I’ve marked it on the map. 

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Svartifoss

Once you set up your camp take a hike to the beautiful basalt-column framed Svartifoss waterfall. You’ve probably realized by now, that Foss in Icelandic means Waterfall, so keep an eye out for any signs that end in Foss. 

The short walk from the campsite to the waterfall should take around half an hour. If your legs are still up for it you can extend the hike into a longer loop and continue the hike from the waterfall to the viewpoint of the Skaftafell glacier tongue.  

Scenic flight above river beds

I travelled around Iceland for three weeks in August during the peak season. Due to such a long stay, my budget didn’t allow me many splurges, but If I had to pick one thing I would like to go back to Iceland for (and there are many) it would be the scenic flight above the glacial river beds and volcanic eruption sights.

This will be your chance to see and photograph Iceland from a unique perspective. There is a small privately owned airport where the flights depart from. If there is one thing you should splurge on in Iceland this would be it.  

Accommodation choices in Hof

Day 4: Hof to Höfn

Day 4 will be another day full of exciting spots! The short drive from Hof to Höfn will take you around an hour and a half (120km) if you were to drive continuously.

However, two famous stops along the way will significantly slow you down.

Jökursálón Glacier Lagoon. Iceland Road trip

Jökursálón Glacier Lagoon

The first is called the Jökursálón Glacier Lagoon and the second is the nearby diamond beach. Try and leave Hof early and get there for sunrise!

Diamon Beach. Iceland road trip itinerary for photographers

Diamond black sand beach

The diamond beach remains my absolute number 1 favourite photography spot in the whole of Iceland. I was blessed with spectacular light on the morning I was photographing it. 

Stocksness and Vestrahorn. Iceland Road Trip Itinerary

Stokksnes and Vestrahorn

Further 120 km down the Ring Road will take you to your base for the 4th night – the town of Höfn. Stokksnes, with the famous Vestrahorn Peak, is only a short drive away from the town centre and should take only 15 minutes to reach.

Try to catch the sunset on the beach. Again this is a private area and the owner of the land charges 800ISK for visitors to the beach, but I arrived late and there was no one to collect the fee from us.  

Accommodation alternatives in Höfn

Day 5-7: Höfn to Myvatn

Now that you’ve explored the south coast sufficiently you can start heading up north. This part of the itinerary includes a lot of driving but trust me it’s worth it and I’ve designed it so you’ll be taking regular stops.

Continue northeast on the Ring Road until you get to Öxi. To cut down on travel time from Öxi you can take the shortcut on road number 939.

After around 20 minutes of a scenic mountain ride, the road rejoins the number 1 saving you quite a bit of kilometre! 

Litlanesfoss and Hengifoss

Driving north from Höfn on the Ring Road will take you close to two waterfalls: Litlanesfoss and Hengifoss. These two not very visited waterfalls in the east of the island are spectacular in every way and are what I consider to be hidden gems.

The drive from Höfn halfway up the east coast to these waterfalls should take around 3 hours (200km).

Selfoss is a must see when roadtripping around Iceland
Detifoss - the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Iceland road trip

Dettifoss and Selfoss

I hope you are not fed up with waterfalls yet, because you are about to witness some of the most impressive waterfalls in Iceland. After continuing north for another 3 hours, the next thing on the agenda is Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe.

Dettifoss can be reached by two roads, one to the east of the canyon (864) it forms, and one to the west (862). I think the east side is better.

There is also a great hiking track path from Dettifoss a few kilometres further north to Selfoss, which is just as, if not more spectacular than Dettifoss.

The whole area is very remote with no nearby hotels. Try to catch a sunset at either of the waterfalls and continue on the Ring Road to Myvatn where you can stay for the next two nights. 

The waterfall of the gods in Iceland.

Goðafoss

If you’re up early enough on the 6th day you can enjoy the sunrise at Goðafoss. This impressive waterfall got its name when the Icelandic people changed over from following Norse mythology to Christianity.

To honour their new beliefs they threw all statues of the old gods into the waterfall and named it Goðafoss, the Waterfall of the Gods. Sounds so Game of Thrones, doesn’t it?

 I think the Gods were angry with me because the weather couldn’t have been worse when I visited this spot. 

Aldeyjarfoss Iceland

Aldeyjarfoss

Aldeyjarfoss is an hour and a bit south of Lake Mývatn. A beautiful waterfall tucked away below Lake Mývatn that not too many people visit so chances are you’ll have the whole place to yourself. A rarity in Iceland.

The road to this waterfall isn’t ideal so take extra care when driving on it. 

Myvatn thermal baths

Spend the rest of the afternoon whilst taking a break from driving in the hot springs in Myvatn. A great alternative to the overpriced and super touristy blue lagoon, all at less than half of the price!

Myvatn and the surrounding area are geothermal heavens. The intense sulphur smell won’t let you forget that! 

Where to stay in Myvatn

Day 7-8: Myvatn to Snæfellsnes Peninsula

You can't miss Kirkjufell on your photography road trip around Iceland
Mount Kirkjufell

It’s time to head to the Snæfellsnes peninsula in the west. This 450km drive from Goðafoss to the peninsula will be a long one.

Once you get to Akureyri the second largest city in Iceland, and if the day is nice take the lesser-known route around the northern Fjords (marked on the map). It won’t take much longer, but it will give you plenty of photo opportunities.

Grettislaug

A must-stop on the way to Snæfellsnes are natural hot springs called Grettislaug (see the map). They cost 1000ISK and operate on an honesty box basis.

The water in the springs is pleasantly hot and the view over the Fjords is second to none. Out of all the hot springs I have visited in Iceland these were my favorite.

Kirkjufell 

After driving for most of the day you should be able to make it to the famous Kirkjufell mountain before sunset. Framed by Kirkjufellsfoss, and located right next to a lagoon that gives perfect reflections on a windless day, it’s certainly not to be missed by any photography enthusiast.

It’s a short drive (5 minutes) from the town of Grundarfjörður. Once again a ten-minute walk away from the main falls can be very rewarding. HINT: go upstream and you’ll find more falls!!

On the way back to Reykjavík from the peninsula, you will be treated to the spectacular views of the roads beautifully embedded into fjords.

The journey should take just over 2 hours. It will give you enough time to drop off your rental car and repack and restock your supplies before heading into the Icelandic highlands.   

Where to stay on Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Day 8-10: Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar. Road trip guide to Iceland
Landmannalaugar. Photography Road Trip Guide to Iceland

Landmannalaugar is going to be the cherry on top of the cake. It was my favourite spot on my road trip through Iceland. I have covered everything you need to know about this place in my guide to Landmannalaugar.

All roads that lead to Landmannalaugar are so-called F-roads accessible only by 4×4. If you are not travelling to Iceland on a budget and don’t mind spending loads of money on renting a 4WD vehicle, then, by all means, go for it and drive to Landmannalaugar yourself.

However, if you don’t want to skip this gem, but don’t have unlimited funds for your road trip, then booking a shuttle or a day trip will be more cost-effective. Now head over to my post about Landmannalaugar to see what awaits you there. 

TIP: If you didn’t bring camping equipment on your trip, but want to stay overnight in Landmannalaugar then you can rent it in Reykjavik. Just make sure to reserve it ahead of time.

Travel resources for planning your road trip in Iceland

Below are some links that will become useful in planning your road trip. Remember those are affiliate links meaning I earn a small commission each time you book something! Thanks for your support!

  • Motorhome Republic – find your perfect road trip campervan with this easy-to-use booking search engine.
  • Discover Cars – if you are after renting a smaller car, this is the best website for comparing prices. 
  • Booking.com – my go-to website for booking accommodation.
  • Road.is – A website where you can check the current road conditions. Very useful for traveling off-season. 
Marta
Marta

Hi! I am the photographer and creator of www.inafarawayland.com. I come from Poland, but I've been living, travelling and working around the globe since I turned 18. A few years ago, during one of my trips to Scotland, I bought my first DSLR and my adventure with photography began. When I am not stuck to my computer editing photos, you can find me hiking somewhere in the mountains.

13 Comments

  1. Hi Marta,

    Yes, I am going to the dolomites and to Iceland in 2024. So I am writing you in both guides with questions.

    Unfortunately, we only have three days and three nights in Iceland and we need to leave on an early morning flight after the third night. Do you have a recommendation of whether or not we should stay in the city and take day trips from there or if we should rent a camper van for those three nights and get further from the city? We really want to be in nature, so I am guessing maybe the camper van is the best option. We also have some camping hammock that we could bring with us but I am wondering if the campsites that you mention would have trees for the hammocks to hang from?

    And do you have any recommendations of which direction to head on the ring road? Would you do the first couple of days of your itinerary and then head back? Or is it possible to do the final days if it’s a loop?

    Sorry to have so many questions, but I am trying to figure out how to get some beautiful nature in in just a few days. We had to Sweden after that for my niece’s bat mitzvah. Your travel guides are amazing!!

    Warmly,

    Laura

    • Hi Laura. Mazel Tov to your niece! 🙂 I would recommend that you go with the second option and travel on the first day all the way to Hof or Höfn on the South Coast then within 3 days make your way back to the airport. That way you are not leaving the driving back part for the last day. I hope that helps!

      • Dear Marta,

        Thank you so much for your suggestion. You are a traveler after my own heart. I feel like the way that you travel and the things that you love to do resonate with me so I am very glad to find your guides!

        Peace-
        Laura

      • Just reading your reply again, and I’m trying to understand completely. Are you saying that we should travel on the first day to would recommend that you go with the second option and travel on the first day all the way to Hof or Höfn on the South Coast then within 3 days drive back the way we came from and make our way back to the airport.

        I don’t think we want to spend the time it would take to drive the whole loop road even if it is super beautiful, because we really want to get out and enjoy the land and hike and engage with nature.

        Thank you for clarifying your suggestion. I really appreciate it!

        Kindly,

        Laura

      • Hi Marta,

        To clarify, are you saying that we should drive the first day out to Hof or Hofn and then continue along the Loop Road to head back to the city or that we should turn around and drive the same section of road that we drove out to Hof, exploring slowly on the way back?

        I have had some people say that three days is enough time to see all of Iceland, but that sounds a little naïve to me. We don’t want to be driving a ton, but just want to hike in some beautiful nature spots and sink into them. Any further suggestions will be appreciated.

        Perhaps there is one nature site that you would recommend visiting that’s far enough outside of the city along the Loop Road that would merit staying for a couple of days and hiking there and then heading back?

        Sorry that I didn’t really understand your first suggestion.

        Kindly,

        Laura

        • Hi Laura. your comment was posted twice (they need to be approved first before they show up here) so I will just stick to responding to this one. If you only have three days I would stick to the Southern part of the island. If you do the whole ring road you will be sitting in a car for three days.
          If you stick to the South only you will have time to do some hikes etc. So what I would do is I would drive to Hofn on day one and then in the next 3 days make my way back to the aiport along the same route. That way on the last day you will be close to the aiport already which makes it better considering your flight the next day is early. I really enjoyed the hike to Svartifoss which extends along the plateau to a beautiful view of a glacier. I hope that clarifies it a bit.

  2. Hey man, I really appreciate this itinerary. It knocks off a lot of the goods. I’m planning on taking a holiday there and mu plan is ti stay for an entire month. Thiugh one thing I noticed is that you haven’t included any of the hikes where you can see a lot of the exceptional views from above. Do you by chance know the names of them so I can try to include them into my trip. There’s the one with the basalt columns, the one that has the cliff that holds the lake in, and the one that views the sea stacks. I probably make no sense there, but hoping I am lol

    • Hi Dale. Thanks for stopping by and sorry for the late reply. I was on the road for the past week. An entire month in Iceland sounds epic. I did include some hikes in my itinerary (in Landmannalaugar to be exact). The basalt columns are a 5-minute walk from the car park, As for the other two, I am having trouble figuring out which one do you mean. Have you tried googling the best hikes in Iceland? I would bet a lot that there probably already are a lot of blog posts on this topic and you will be able to incorporate them into this itinerary.

  3. Marta, Awesome artcle and pictures. We are going to do this trip but would like to shoot the Diamond beach area for a couple of days. Would you recommend staying in Hof an extra night or somewhere else. Thank you so much! John B

    • Hi John! Thanks a lot for your great feedback. Yes, Hof will put you in close proximity and there are other activities there you can do during day time. Let me know if you have more questions. Fingers crosssed there will be lots of ice washed up on the beach!

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