Iceland's landscape is one of the most evocative on the planet – mist shrouded cliff-sides, inky black beaches, ghostly blue glaciers. All of it creates an unrivaled sense of atmosphere, so it's only appropriate that your Iceland road trip has a soundtrack just as majestic.
Head to Iceland for some of the most scenic driving views in the world © Dennis Fischer Photography / Getty Images
Click here to listen to the perfect playlist for your drive across the Land of Fire and Ice. The grand, moody instrumentals paired with ethereal – at times haunting – vocals create the perfect songscape for the green, mossy fields of southern Iceland, the jagged coastlines of the east and west and the rocky expanses of the North.
The classic Ring Road
For such a wild, wonderful land, much of Iceland is surprisingly compact; the classic Ring Road trip loops you near the most popular sights. With extra time, you can add on myriad adventures along the way.
An Atlantic puffin rests on the Dyrholaey Peninsula coastline © Christian Schweiger / 500px
The Golden Circle and the Southwest
The beautiful Golden Circle and southwest has many of Iceland’s most legendary natural wonders, and the further you go the better it gets. Tourist faves such as Þingvellir, the former Icelandic parliament at the meeting of tectonic plates, are just beyond the capital. Churning seas lead to the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. Then, at the region's far reaches, you'll discover the powerful Hekla and Eyjafjallajökull volcanoes, the adventure bases of Skógar and Vík, and the hidden valleys of Þórsmörk and Landmannalaugar.
The 200km stretch of Ring Road from Kirkjubæjarklaustur to Höfn is mind-blowing, transporting you across stark deltas of grey glacial sand, past lost-looking farms, around the toes of craggy mountains, and alongside glacier tongues and ice-filled lagoons. The only thing you won’t pass is a town – but there are properties offering brilliant activities, accommodation and meals (book well ahead, as beds here are in hot demand).
East Iceland is home to many hidden wonders, including Mt. Dyrfjoll (Door Mountain) © Allan Watson / Shutterstock
Most travellers hit the accelerator and follow the Ring Road as it ploughs through the east, but they're missing some gems. This is a region that rewards slow travel: prepare yourself for superb vistas as the road skirts mountain peaks, steep-sided fjords, black-sand beaches and broad valleys. Stop to admire tiny fishing villages bathed in creativity and to investigate ancient geology.
The region’s top sights are variations on two themes: a grumbling, volcanically active Earth, and ice and water wending their way toward the ocean. Nature's masterpieces are everywhere you look. Take in little Akureyri, with its surprising moments of big-city living; windy pastures full of stout Viking horses; white-water rapids ready to deliver an adrenaline kick; unhyped and underpopulated ski fields; moon-like lava fields and belching mudpots; and lonely peninsulas stretching out toward the Arctic Circle.
Arnarstapi village and the snow-capped Stapafell in West Iceland © Andres Ello / Shutterstock
Geographically close to Reykjavík yet far, far away in sentiment, West Iceland (known as Vesturland) is a splendid blend of Iceland's offerings. Two of the best known sagas, Egil’s Saga and Laxdæla Saga, took place along the region’s brooding waters, marked today by haunting cairns and an exceptional museum in lively Borgarnes. The long arm of Snæfellsnes Peninsula, inland lava tubes and remote highland glaciers are added enticements.
- Northern delights: a road trip along Iceland's Arctic Coast Way
- A foodie tour of Iceland's Ring Road