driving the ring road: the great icelandic roadtrip

theromanticOnce we started our RTW, we realized something. We had a roadtrip planned for almost every country! From Hawaii, to New Zealand, to Australia, to random countries across Europe, we repeatedly rented cars and drove off to new destinations. It felt natural to cap our adventure with the ultimate: one great Icelandic roadtrip around the country’s famous Ring Road.

The kick-off to the very last week of our five-month RTW was off to a stellar start. Our epic roadtrip began with two very fulfilling days of rotten shark-eating and black death-imbibing in Reykjavik. Although we loved our time in Iceland’s tiny capital city, it was time to move on!

One huge perk of staying at Bus Hostel is that SADcars is conveniently located in the lobby. This meant that once it was time to pick up our car, we rolled downstairs, waved, and our SADcar was ready and waiting for us to kick off our journey.

In case you’re wondering if SADcars are, in fact, sad cars? Well, yes. Yes, they are. The name of the company originally came from the three owners—Siggi, Alli and Danni—who used the first letter of each name to form SAD. Reason number two, however, is that the cars are older and a little beat up — which also explains why they’re super reasonably priced and perfect for a budget roadtrip adventure.

They may look a little rough around the edges, but the cars are fully capable of getting you where you need to go. That is, of course, unless you need to go off-roading, because then you need to do your research, mon frère. When they brought our first car, there was a slight issue — but it was one we never would have noticed under normal circumstances. The cigarette lighter was busted! Because we were also testing out Trawire’s MiFi rental service, which allows you to take WiFi with you wherever you go during your roadtrip, we needed a working portal. Luckily, we explained the sitch to SADcars, and they immediately switched out our car, no questions asked.

We were good to go!

drivingIceland, you are on a different planet.

I’d love to do each stop justice with just words, but it’s not even worth it. This, my friends, is where this post turns into a bit of a photo essay. And by a bit, I mean there is a seriously serious amount of photos about to come your way… consider this a warning.

So, shall we?

Ring Road Roadtrip Stop 1 // Eyrarbakki (Overnight)

With the exception of our Hotel Edda in Laugarvatn (more on this to come), we stayed in all AirBnb rentals around the Ring Road. Our first, in Eyrarbakki, was perfection. It was a tiny little cottage, just down the street from these guys:

viking horses

 If there’s one thing you can say about Viking horses, it’s that they really know how to rock that mane.

Ring Road Roadtrip Stop 2 // Seljalandsfoss & Skógafoss

Go ahead, try and say those babies out loud. (It’s ok, I don’t know either.) Seljalandsfoss was a massive waterfall–it was so loud and it was drizzling just enough to make my face crinkle up in complete dissatisfaction. We ran almost the entire way from the car to the waterfall, and then, like little hobbits, ran into the cave BEHIND Seljalandsfoss and looked out into Iceland. And it was magical.

behind Seljalandsfoss

As we made our way to Skógafoss, I started to think that maybe we were in a dream. I mean, there was a light mist surrounding us, with sheep grazing on the hillsides…



elves are real


By the time we got to Skógafoss, I was barely even functioning.


And it was about to get even better.

Ring Road Roadtrip Stop 3 // Dyrhólaey 

This was the moment I had been waiting for. This was the moment of the puffin.

puffin magic

I was going to say, “don’t you just want to eat ‘em?!” but that would be in poor form because some people do eat them 🙁

We did not.

This is also proof that the weather changes insanely fast in Iceland:


Ring Road Roadtrip Stop 4 // Jökulsárlón Glacier Bay

Jökulsárlón is absolutely something you need to see for yourself. Go forth!


Ring Road Roadtrip Stop 5 // Höfn

Cha, yeah, something else you need to see for yourself? The lobster food options in Höfn. Holy Mother of God.

lobster nomnomThe drive from Höfn to our next stop was unreal, and we were pretty thankful that the sun was back out to make an appearance:

iceland ring road

iceland beauty

sunny iceland…Until all of a sudden, we went around one turn and were literally IN A CLOUD:


It was touch and go for a bit, but we drove on up the mountain until we were in the sun again. When I looked back behind us, I saw this:

clouds behind us 

Seriously bizarre, seriously beautiful. It was like this for most of the ride, with some sort of smoke monster doing a dance around our car.

Ring Road Roadtrip Stop 6 // Reyðarfjörður (Overnight)

We made it to Reyðarfjörður around 10:30 PM, with the sun still shining.  This particular AirBnb experience was straight out of a Stephen King novel, and luckily, our only negative AirBnb encounter of the trip. To be honest, it wasn’t even negative so much as it was weird. The place was filthy, the couple had no social boundaries, and there were fist shaped holes in a few of the walls and doors.

Just as we had convinced our hosts we really must get some rest (after he asked the hubs for the third time if he’d like to go fishing… at 11 PM at night), we heard this terrible screeching noise. The wife was standing awkwardly in our bedroom door, and the husband was yelling “I NEED TO SHOW YOU SOMETHING!!!”

 The screeching continued until he was back in our room, with this:


This little guy was three days old and NOT happy about having been ripped from his mama to be shoved in the faces of two nervous strangers, let me tell you what. He looks calm here, but I assure you: it was between screams that I snapped this photo (and mainly because I had no idea what else to do.)

We left very, very early the next morning.

Ring Road Roadtrip Stop 7 // Hverarönd Geothermal Area, Mývatn,
and Dettifoss Waterfall

Our next day was a series of stops that just continued to convince us we were on another planet, and Hverarönd was on a planet that smelled terrible…like sulfur and burnt hair. But! It looks pretty awesome, right? Mars!

mars in icelandRing Road Roadtrip Stop 8 // Akureyri (Overnight)

Luckily, our next AirBnb totally made up for the sociopaths from the night before. We stayed on a gorgeous farm in Akureyri, saw an amazing midnight sunset (that never really fully set), and woke up to a brand new baby Viking horse, who was born while we were sleeping.

midnight sun

viking babiesThis might have been the hardest to leave, but Laugarvatn and a reunion with Inga was calling!

(Which only came together thanks to our Trawire connection, WiFi is rough in Iceland!)

 Ring Road Roadtrip Stop 9 // Laugarvatn

Though the Blue Lagoon gets all the glory, Inga recommended we meet up with her and Liz from Young Adventuress for an afternoon of relaxing at Laugarvatn Fontana, which was amazing. The biggest complaint about the Blue Lagoon is that it can be annoyingly overcrowded, but not here. We happily kicked back with room to spare and cocktails in hand. After we’d successfully wrinkled ourselves, Siggi, the owner, grabbed a shovel and told us to follow him outside into the rain.

Because I hadn’t died in Reyðarfjörður, I assumed it wasn’t my time. My gut instinct was correct—he just wanted to treat us to the traditional rúgbrauð, or Icelandic rye bread, experience.

Each night, a small container of rye dough is buried in the ground. The heat from the thermal springs naturally bakes the bread, which comes out like a super condensed, thick rye bread. Siggi topped it with smoked salmon and (I think?) tuna, and we all kind of zoned out as we snacked. Eventually, we walked back across the lawn to turn in for a night at the Hotel Edda.

You can read more about our experience here, courtesy of Inga.

We woke up early the next morning to meet the girls for breakfast before they headed off on the rest of their Iceland Challenge, which was sad for us because our own Viking adventure was coming to and end.

Ring Road Roadtrip Stop 10 // The Great Geysir & the Blue Lagoon

By this point, we were phoning it in. I’ll admit. It was raining, it was cold, and the people standing around the Geysir were not our people. They were tour group people. By the time we got to the Blue Lagoon, we decided to just head to Reykjavik and call it a night. Drinks at the Slippbarinn were climbing the list of priorities, you know.

And with that, it was the end. The end! Le fin! I’m kind of sad? I’ve loved reliving our RTW over these past few months. But knowing that this is my last official post feels right, but very final.

I’m sure a few photo essays will pop up here and there. Plus, there is a lot of video footage that could maybe turn into something… but for now? Le fin, it is. Thanks for following along. Our five months of consecutive travel were some of the very best of my life. I’m so SO happy to have a place to share my stories, photos, and tips.

BUT NOW. We need to talk Barcelona and Amsterdam and #LTFrancais and also I got finger surgery in France which was just? It’s worth talking about.


the romantic

– Thank you, once again, to Inga at Tiny Iceland for giving us some amazing tips for making the most out of our time in Iceland. Definitely use her site for all your Icelandic planning! Bus Hostel, SADCars, Trawire, Laugarvatn Fontana and Hotel Edda all invited us to experience these parts of Iceland as their guests, but the opinions expressed above are, as always, my own.














  1. carla
    December 10, 2013 / 07:16

    now i wanna go to iceland! love the photos

  2. December 10, 2013 / 08:46

    Looks gorgeous and the horses!!! They are so beautiful. Did you take a horse back ride?

  3. December 11, 2013 / 04:40

    *Sigh* This makes me want to go back to Iceland so much!! Well, apart from the weird air bnb experience. Plus I never did get to see the northern lights so perfect excuse!
    Fiona recently posted..24 Hour Challenge: LondonMy Profile

  4. December 11, 2013 / 13:39

    I have to agree with Leah about the hipster horses. Love their hair. Seriously, this looks like a great trip. I like the idea of SADcars. I think these guys are on to a good concept in car hires.
    Lance | Trips By Lance recently posted..Winter Weather Road Trip GuidelinesMy Profile

  5. December 11, 2013 / 13:59

    Awww, it’s always a bit sad when something so wonderful comes to an end. And what a way to end your RTW! Iceland has been on my bucket list for years… I need to get there soon. Amazing photos!

  6. December 11, 2013 / 22:39

    Um, could you possibly find more adorable animals for this post? I think not. I’m sorry that airBNB was a little odd but hey, you got a good story and a cute kitty picture out of it. Wins all around.

    Also, you’re killin’ me with all this Iceland content. I want to go SO.BAD.

  7. December 15, 2013 / 14:11

    My first date with my husband was cycling the Icelandic ring road. (You can see why I married him, right?) Your photos make me long to go back! 🙂
    Rachel Cotterill recently posted..Four Christmas Hampers for CooksMy Profile

  8. NG
    December 25, 2013 / 19:27

    Heading to Iceland shortly and was wondering if you would recommend the Trawire MiFi? Thanks!

    • December 26, 2013 / 06:14

      yes, 100%! we didn’t get a sim in iceland, so having a wifi connection on the road was a lifesaver. i was also working for part of the trip, so it was also great if we stayed somewhere without wifi. definitely recommended.
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..merry, merry! an #LTfrancais flashbackMy Profile

  9. Maricielo
    July 22, 2014 / 09:53

    So, I’m from Peru and I just want to go there so bad, it’s so amazing!!! Iceland must be one of the most amazing countries on earth. Luckily, I hope to be there someday, meanwhile, this photos made my day. Very good job!

    PD: Sorry If there’s any mistake on my english.

    • July 22, 2014 / 13:56

      i hope you make it to iceland soon, maricielo!! it really is amazing. and peru is totally at the top of our list, so hopefully we can get to your home country in the near future 🙂

      your english is perfect! xo
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..city escapes // exploring the french countrysideMy Profile

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