Iceland is way too awesome to only stay in Reykjavik. But to get anywhere, you need to figure out a way to move quite long distances.
The most comfortable way to travel across Iceland is to rent a car. Many people are biking or hitchhiking, but the car gives you speed and flexibility. Most of the cool places are far away, so without the car, it would be tough to see them.
There is also the possibility of being a part of a guided tour, and then they would drive you everywhere. So the decision is up to you.
Anyway, read on and see what you might fancy.
When you decide on the car, the questions though is what kind of vehicle you should rent? 🙂
Basically, it depends on what you want to do.
If you’re going to stay only a couple days in the Golden Circle and sleep in hotels or a tent, then get a regular car (Toyota Yaris or any other vehicle without special requirements).
If you are going to go for a more extended stay, it might be a good idea to rent a camper van. Hotels are quite expensive, and you lose some flexibility when you have to drive to a hotel before you’re late with your check-in. Sometimes I had to drive 100-200km extra to get to where I was supposed to sleep.
I have seen a lot of campers and cars with a special tent/box on the roof. Even though you are not allowed to pitch a tent and park anywhere for a night, there are plenty of camping grounds to do it.
If you wish to go a little off the Ring Road, getting a car with 4×4 would be a wise choice. Most of the roads outside the main road are made of gravel and sometimes having 4×4 makes your life so much easier! For example, Dacia Duster is that kind of car.
If you decide to go off-road and drive in the Highlands, get a proper 4×4. By proper one, I mean a jeep with high suspension. Even though I could do some shallow rivers with my Dacia, I had to change my driving plans when I found out that I would have to cross a waist-deep river ;(
It is possible to travel through Iceland with a public bus. Check out this website to see the map.
From roughly June to August, regularly scheduled buses run to most places on the Ring Road. Outside the primary season, services range from daily, to a few weekly, to nonexistent.
Even if you have a car, you might be interested in 4WD buses that run along some F roads that are not accessible to 2WD cars (Kjölur, Sprengisandur and Askja routes).
As I mentioned before, you can book a tour for everything. There are so many choices available online; from couple hours to couple days trips; that you would definitely find something you fancy.
They are a perfect choice if you don’t feel like planning and dealing with a car, GPS, and just want to see essential places. The downside of it is that it’s not possible to go off the beaten track. They are also quite on the costly side.
The tours also offer different activities. I did snowmobiling on a glacier as part of my trip and had a blast!! The whole event lasted 3-4h, and I loved every second of it! Surprisingly my mom loved it too!
We were also considering doing horseback-riding in highlands but unfortunately run out of time ;(
There are several airports all around Iceland, and taking a plane can make travel so much faster. My problem with that option is that for me the whole point of going to Iceland is to see the beautiful nature all around you, and you can’t do it while sitting on the plane.
Another problem is cost and luggage limitation.
I have seen a lot of people cycling through Iceland. I found this website where you can download the cycling map and location of huts and campsites, so check it out.
It might be little hard to cycle on the Ring Road due to heavy traffic. The roads are generally narrow, so I would recommend taking some minor roads. Streets outside the Ring road and main attractions are usually empty, with occasional car passing by once in a while.
Have tools with you to fix the bike. Sometimes shops can be 400km away, and you don’t want to be stranded in the middle of the nowhere with a flat tire 🙂
Remember also to take appropriate clothing, the weather changes every five minutes and it can go from sunny to snowy in a blink of an eye.
I have not much experience with biking (except trying to overtake them on the narrow road) but found this great article that summarises the good and the bad of cycling in Iceland 🙂
Iceland is a super safe country, and many people are trying to hitch a ride. We picked up a random American guy that was traveling for two months through Iceland.
The problem with hitchhiking is getting off the beaten track. It is relatively easy to find a ride in touristy place (like Golden Circle), but it is getting trickier in the middle of nowhere. There were several places where I was the only driver for hours. The good idea is to wait on the gas stations as drivers stop at most of them as you have no idea where the next one would be 😀
I have noticed one thing, though. It might take a while to find a ride. We dropped the guy at the pretty busy gas station, went for 2-hour hike to the waterfall, and when we drove next to the place where we parted, the guy was still waiting for a ride. Just be warned.
Have a tent with you, wild camping is, in fact, legal in Iceland, for a single night only. There are some rules to follow through, and if someone tells you to move, you just move 🙂