As an island cut-off in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland is one of the most expensive countries to visit in the world. Rental car fees tend to be relative, however if you want to enjoy the best that the country has to offer, travelling by car is your best option.
Outside of the largest cities such as Reykjavik, public transport is pretty much non-existent. And whilst bus tours that pick you up from your hotel and take you to attractions remain popular, they simply don't offer you the freedom and flexibility needed. Bus tours represent schedules, rigidity and an army of tour buddies, when in reality Iceland's beauty is best experienced with room for spontaneity and without crowds, wherever possible.
So without further ado, here is some advice on how to best experience the treasures of Iceland with a rental car.
Arrange to pick up your car from Keflavik International Airport
Iceland's capital of Reykjavik will most likely be where you plan to stay upon your arrival into the country. Therefore you will land in Keflavik International Airport, which is approximately 50km (31 miles) from Reykjavik. A taxi into the capital from Keflavik is likely to cost you in the region of 15.000 ISK ($137) and a shuttle bus less. But both are going to be more expensive than paying the small fee involved in arranging to pick up your rental car from the airport.
It is recommended that you hunt for the best car rental deals online before you arrive in Iceland. All the major car rental companies such as Hertz and Avis offer rental car pick up from Keflavik, but if you want to try a local company, SADcars.com are among the cheapest. Either way, booking ahead online will present you with significant savings over walk-in quotes and the chance to pick your car up on arrival.
Seeing the treasures of Iceland by car
Once the confines of the hotel and the city of limits of Reykjavik have revealed their spoils to you, it will be time for you to put your rental car through its paces and hit Iceland's open roads. But where should you head?
The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle encompasses a loop of approximately 300km from Reykjavík in the south to mainland Iceland and then back again. The route offers the chance to explore a number of Iceland's best treasures and, as such, is highly popular with tourists. Here are the ones you simply must see.
As a UNESCO World Heritage, the Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park promises a unique combination of astounding geological beauty and historical significance. The first part of that pledge is fulfilled by the breathtakingly beautiful vistas, the second by being the site of the world's oldest known parliament, established within the park in the year 930.
If you're looking for an advert highlighting the diversity of Iceland's landscapes, then Gullfoss waterfall (pictured) is surely it. Situated in the canyon of Hvítá, Gullfoss waterfall is an imposing sight; standing at approximately 32 meters high and 20 meters wide, the flow of water is believed to fall into a canyon that is up to 70m deep!
Almost no tourist leaves Iceland without visiting the Geysir Hot Spring Area. Within the area, The Great Geysir has earned its star billing. Its creation is believed to date back to the 13th Century when a series of major earthquakes in the area and the eruption of Mt. Hekla created a geyser 18 meters wide and a chamber 20 meters deep.
Despite the Great Geysir now being inactive, there are many smaller geysers that remain very much alive – including the spectacular Strokkur – in what is still a highly active geothermal area.
The Diamond Circle
For those wanting to see more of the northern territories, the diamond circle – that circumnavigates around Húsavík and Lake Mývatn – should present an alluring prospect.
If you want to grab an early start along the route, it is advisable to stay in the town of Húsavík the night before you set off. Incidentally, for those interested, Húsavík is regarded as an amazing place for whale watching – so you may want to factor that into the planning for your itinerary. Upon setting off from Húsavík there are three sites that you simply have to make time for.
Ásbyrgi Canyon is a U-shaped depression upon the earth's landscape that is believed to have been created by a combination of subsidence and flooding of the nearby river Jökulsá. According to Norse mythology, however, the canyon was created by the horse of Óðinn, when he stepped down and left a giant hoof print. Whichever you choose to believe, Ásbyrgi Canyon's narrative is undoubtedly matched by its splendor
Lake Mývatn (pictured) is one of the largest lakes in Iceland, standing near to an area where volcanos are active; including the Krafla Volcano which lasted erupted in 1984. As such the surrounding is as beautiful as it is varied, encompassing caves, canyons, lava fields and wonderful birdlife.
Dettifoss Waterfall is part of Vatnajökull National Park and runs from the river of Jökulsá, which springs from beneath the Vatnajökull glacier. If you want to experience the most powerful water fall – with a force capable of causing trembles in the nearby bedrock – Dettifoss Waterfall is where to do it.
The Magic Circle
The entirety of route 1 is an 832 mile ring road dubbed the 'magic circle' that runs around almost the outer edge of the whole country. For the most adventurous it is possible to embark upon a driving odyssey that encompasses the whole thing. Because of road's scale, the options presented in relation to possible excursions are plentiful. Here are a few of the best:
Reachable from route 1, The Westfjords (pictured) is home to vivid, golden sandy beaches that reinforces Iceland's reputation as one of the most diverse environments in the world. Sparsely populated and all but cut off from the rest of the island, the Westfjords' offers a haven for those craving isolation. Similarly the highlands of Askja and Kverkfjoll near the magic circle present a refuge for isolationists looking for more rarefied experiences than those offered by the more well-trodden charms found within the golden or diamond circles.
It is important to note that the more adventurous you become when setting out on an Iceland road trip, the more planning you will need to undertake in order to remain safe. For example, no mountain roads (marked by the letter F before the route number on signs) off route 1 in the featured regions have gas stations, so only the most prepared and confident should apply.
Age restrictions and necessary documentation: A valid driving license, proof of registration, vehicle registration, as well as proof of insurance are all needed. Also in Iceland, visiting tourists have to be 21 to rent a car, or 25 for an off-road vehicle.
Off-season spoils: High season for vacation in Iceland is the beginning of June to the beginning of September, which is when the majority of tourists descend upon the island; however there are reasons why you might consider bucking the trend.
- Iceland is an amazing place to see the Northern Lights; they are at their most profound during the months of fall.
- The price of rental cars (and a lot of other vacation-related expenses) can fall by as much as half.
- Seeing the amazing landscapes of Iceland is given an alternative slant when viewed through the cooler hues of the winter months.
Gas discrepancies: In Europe gas is not sold by the gallon, but by the liter instead and in Iceland it is very expensive ¬– expect to pay over $9 dollars for a gallon of petrol (around 4.5 liters)
Staying safe: Because of the weather and the challenging terrain, driving conditions can often be testing; therefore, taking preventative measure to cover yourself is essential. Seat belts are, of course, required at all times, as our headlights – even in the day.
In a rental car, basic insurance cover will be supplied as part of the policy you take out while leasing the car. However, Insuremyrentalcar.com provides Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) insurance policies for use with rental vehicles in the United States of America and abroad. LDW polices include cover for Collision (CDW), Theft (TP), Fire and Vandalism. These will help to protect you from paying high charges in the event that the car becomes damaged or stolen by providing cover of up to $100,000. Daily policies start at $5.00 per day, but for more information and to get a quote dependent on your particular circumstances, click here.
If you have been inspired by to take a trip to Iceland or have found the advice included helpful, please take the time to like or share this blog on your favored social network.