How to Get Around in Iceland

Biker crossing a busy road in Reykjavík.

Although Iceland is a small country with small towns and cities, the ground to cover can sometimes be enormous. In Iceland, there is no one best way to travel everywhere, as walkability, road conditions, and public transport options vary significantly between areas. Deciding on the best option to get from one place to another entirely depends on where you are and the destination you want to reach. From Keflavík airport to the capital area, rural villages and the Highland, here is our guide to getting around Iceland.

Transportation to and from Keflavík International Airport

If you‘re flying to Iceland, odds are you‘ll land at Keflavík Airport, as most international air traffic goes through there. From Keflavík to Reykjavík, Garðabær, or Hafnarfjörður, we recommend taking the bus, which has services 24/7. It departs directly from the airport and offers one stop each in Hafnafjörður and Garðabær, as well as most hotels in Reykjavík. Tickets can be bought in advance or at the airport.

If you‘re not one for the bus, a private transfer can also be arranged with or without a chauffeur. 

If you‘re skipping Reykjavík entirely, a rental car you can pick up at the airport is the most convenient option. Make sure to consider where you‘re going, what types of roads you‘ll be travelling on and whether snow and ice are possible. 

Getting around Reykjavík

Reykjavík city bus.
Photo: Golli. Reykjavík city bus.

Are you only here to see Reykjavík? Then stick to public transport and walking, as driving and parking in the city is usually expensive and not the hassle-free experience you want for your vacation. Downtown Reykjavík is not large and can easily be covered on foot. 

Alternatively, electric scooters are available for short-term rental from Hopp and Zolo, and bikes can be rented for a few hours up to a week or more. This is an excellent option for slightly longer distances, allowing you to experience your surroundings while travelling.

For colder days or trips outside your nearest surroundings, Strætó, the primary bus system in Iceland, is there to take you across the city, to the suburbs or nearlying towns. While Icelanders are less than happy with Strætó, it does the job. Just be mindful that it doesn‘t arrive as frequently as you might be used to at home, so plan ahead to avoid excessive waiting times! Kids 11 and younger travel for free, and a single adult fair valid for 75 minutes costs ISK 630 [$5, €4]. 24 and 72-hour passes can be purchased with a discount at the 10-11 convenience stores on Austurstæti street and Laugavegur street. Each pass is valid for one person. 

There is also the option of taxis, but if you‘re trying to save money, we advise you to use them sparingly. A 5 km trip within the city during the daytime will likely cost at least ISK 2,666 [$19, €18]. 

Seeing the countryside by car

Empty Icelandic road
Empty Icelandic road.

If you want to see everything Iceland has to offer, the best way to do so is by car. While buses run between towns, trips are not frequent, and the timing might only sometimes suit your needs. Additionally, unless your goal is to walk and hike a lot, you‘ll probably miss out on some fabulous places, as public transport is geared towards the day-to-day needs of locals. If you decide to go with public transport, Public Transport offers a handy map with a comprehensive look at what sort of ground transportation is available in Iceland and where it can take you.

Alternatively, there are heaps of preplanned trips where the itinerary, driving and accommodations – for the trips exceeding a single day – are taken care of for you. You might also choose to go by bike, but be aware that outside the capital area, you‘ll be biking on the main road along with cars. 

If you‘re in a time crunch but want to see the island’s west, north or east side, perhaps flying is the best option. From Reykjavík, you can fly directly with Icelandair to Akureyri, Ísafjörður, Egilsstaðir, and Vestmannaeyjar islands. Flights are available several times daily, with time in the air usually less than an hour. This is not cheap, but it might help you make the most of your trip.

Hop on a boat: seeing Iceland by sea

While in Iceland, you might want to visit one of our smaller islands or remote places that can only be reached by boat or on foot. Ferry rides to popular places, such as Viðey island, Flatey island, Drangey island, and Hornstrandir nature reserve, can be purchased online. Of course, they depend on seasons and weather, so we advise you to look into that beforehand. 

As mentioned above, Vestmannaeyjar islands can be reached by flight, but you can also get there by a ferry called Herjólfur. It offers trips multiple times a day, all year round.

Helicopter and plane tours: seeing Iceland from above

If you’re not one for hiking, maybe a helicopter tour or a plane ride is the ideal way for you to explore the island. See the continental rift, where the North-American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, Vatnajökull glacier, the biggest glacier in Iceland, or the Reykjanes volcano area, where frequent eruptions have been reshaping the landscape since early 2021.

The Icelandic highland: how to get there

Landmannalaugar hiking trail in the Icelandic highland.
Photo: Berglind. Landmannalaugar hiking trail in the Icelandic highland.

The Highland is one of the most breathtaking places in Iceland, and for those with adventurous spirits, this is an ideal place to visit. However, getting there can take some careful planning. The roads‘ opening times depend on seasons and weather, they are very rough and neither suitable for small cars nor inexperienced drivers. Along the way, you might also encounter some big and unpredictable glacier rivers that must be crossed. It might, therefore, be prudent to opt for one of the Highland buses or even a planned trip. If you‘d prefer to go at it alone, plenty of suitable car options are available

How long does it take to walk around Iceland?

Ring Road South Iceland

The first thing we have to say: don’t plan on doing this! Iceland has plenty of beautiful hiking areas, and you should stick to those for your adventure. Many do choose to bike-pack around Iceland, but walking the ring road would be dangerous, with cars blasting past you on narrow mountain passes – not so much fun!

Route 1, the road that runs along Iceland’s coast and connects most major towns, is approximately 1,300 km, or about 800 miles long. Of course, many visitors to Iceland choose to do the ring road in a car. If you’re in a real rush, you could do it in two days (but that wouldn’t be much fun). Realistically, most people doing the ring road will want to spend anywhere from three days up to a week on the trip.

For walkers, assuming an optimistic pace of 20 miles per day (2 miles per hour, over the course of 10 hours. Not easy, but doable on a paved road), you could potentially complete this journey in a bit more than a month.

An interesting side note is the story of one Reynir Pétur Ingvarsson, sometimes referred to as Iceland’s Forrest Gump. In 1985, he walked around the entire island to raise money for Sólheimar eco village. For the record, he completed his walk in 32 days. So, it is possible, but we would not recommend it for your next vacation!