There's plenty of tour operators offering trips to all of the key places along the southern section of the Route 1 ring road and the popular Golden Circle, but it's just as easy, slightly cheaper and more flexible to do it yourself in a hire car. We did a couple of day trips in a small Hyundai around the Golden Circle and a 4x4 from Reykjavik to Hofn and back again. Such was the time of year that a 4x4 is recommended if you can justify the cost as the roads do get very icy and snow packed in the winter and need nerves of steel and good driving control when the tyres lose traction.
There's a lot to take in and having your own vehicle is a must for photographers who like to jump out on demand. In winter this becomes a challenge as the roads are so icy that it becomes unsafe to issue the order "STOP! I need to take a photo of that".
The highlights of this trip were Jokulsarlon (has its own separate page as it was so stunning), the many waterfalls (although the water volume is low in the winter so not as spectacular as can be seen in summer), the glaciers (there's one around every corner when you get to the deep south), the geysers, snowmobiling on the Myrdalsjokull glacier, the black sands and rock pinnacles at Vik, and the gorgeous scenery on view from the comfort of your car seat. The extra drive to Hofn wasn't really worth it as there's very little there.
The only aspects we found a bit limiting were the accommodation and food. I mean it's basic and to be expected I suppose, but by the end of the road trip we were sick of eating soup, arctic char, skyr (Icelandic yoghurt), petrol station sandwiches and crisps. And cheap it ain't. The evening meals worked out at about 27 GBP per person, which soon mounts up over the course of a week plus. I think we would have preferred to have camped along the way, but not really a viable option in below freezing conditions.
An enjoyable trip overall. Good to see some of the raw Icelandic beauty outside of the Reykjavik day trip comfort zone.
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