Is it possible to visit Iceland without a car? Let’s discover how to get around Iceland without a car and enjoy all the popular spots.
Is it possible to visit Iceland without a car?
Iceland is a gorgeous tourist destination, and you can visit and explore it without a car. If you’re travelling alone and renting a car makes no sense financially, or if you simply don’t want to drive in Iceland (or maybe don’t have a driver’s licence), you can still enjoy Iceland.
In this guide, I will give you my best tips on how to travel to Iceland without a car. I’ll include day trips and tours you should join to reach even the most remote destinations in Iceland.
Say after me: If there’s a will, there is a way! And it doesn’t have to be expensive. Seeing Iceland without a car is possible, and I’ll prove it to you.
Why consider travelling Iceland without a car?
The best way to travel Iceland is by car, BUT travelling Iceland without a car is definitely possible. In this Iceland blog, I will show you how to do it.
Exploring Iceland no car can be a unique and eco-friendly adventure for travelers.
I’ve already shared a bunch of Iceland itineraries for road trips, and I feel this is turning into an Iceland travel blog. But the truth is that when I was planning my own trip to Iceland, I wasn’t sure if I’ll be able to afford to rent a car for so long (I stayed for 5 weeks).
And I started analysing all possible options of how to get around Iceland and what are the best ways to travel Iceland without a car.
First of all, if you’re wondering how to get around Iceland without a car, the answer is the bus. There are public buses that go in between cities and villages. There is no other means of transport in Iceland, if you want to travel over land. Unfortunately, Iceland has no trains, metro, or trams.
Just to give you a picture of what you’re about to experience, Iceland doesn’t have that many roads in the first place.
But they love their nature, and there’s no other way to show your appreciation for Icelandic nature than by visiting it in the most eco-friendly way possible to date, which is by bus.
Transportation in Iceland
Iceland’s public transport isn’t as comprehensive as you might expect. When we talk about public transport here, we mean the Straeto system. Many towns and villages in Iceland don’t have enough people to justify a regular bus service. So, if you’re used to reliable public transport, Iceland might disappoint you.
Want to see Iceland’s famous natural spots? Public transport won’t be much help. Only a few places near the Ring Road get occasional bus stops. Popular attractions like the Blue Lagoon, Gullfoss, and many others aren’t served by public buses.
That’s why in this guide on how to see Iceland without a car, I’m going to tell you exactly how to reach the most popular touristic sites without ever needing a car.
How to get around in Iceland without a car?
There’s a bus service for travellers. It’s great for those who are okay with seeing a few sights. These buses are also handy for hikers and backpackers, helping them start or end their treks in remote parts of the country.
Is there Uber in Iceland?
No, there is no Uber or any other car-sharing service available in Iceland.
However, there are normal taxis in Iceland.
Here are three taxi companies to use in Reykjavik:
Challenges of driving in Iceland
Driving is the best way to see Iceland, BUT it is not the only way.
The few roads that exist in Iceland will make a lot of first-time travellers to Iceland question if driving in Iceland is safe, doable, or even recommended.
Don’t be alarmed by the stories you’ll find online.
Different people have different experiences.
Many complain about driving in Iceland in December or March, and they conclude that travelling without a car in Iceland is the best option for them.
Others brag about the fact that they drove all the Rong Road in winter.
Basically, it all adds up to the weather you get (which is super unpredictable in Iceland – Vedur.is), the condition of the rental car, and your skills as a driver.
Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives to driving in Iceland. And going without a car in Iceland is definitely a choice a lot of people make.
This means that many tour agencies and specific bus routes have adapted to serve those tourists who wish to travel without a car in Iceland.
So don’t worry if you’re travelling on a tight budget, if you’re travelling alone or if you simply don’t want to drive in Iceland… You will be able to see all of the tourist spots and much more. Check out my top tips for a cheap holiday in Iceland.
Navigating Reykjavik without a Car
You don’t need a car to see Reykjavik.
The shuttle bus from the airport (you take it from the very front door of the airport) will drop you off at the bus terminal in Reykjavik. From there, you can actually walk to the most popular place in Reykjavik, Hallgrímskirkja.
You can also book private transport if you are in a bigger group (up to 4) or have a lot of luggage. This is also a great option if your hotel isn’t that accessible or close to the city centre in Reykjavik.
Hallgrímskirkja is only 750 m (about 8 minutes) from the bus terminal station. This is also the meeting point for many buses and tours.
So, if you want to travel to Iceland without a car, the best place to stay would be around this area. At least for a couple of days while sightseeing Reykjavik and doing the Golden Circle day tour.
Reykjavik is not a huge city and is very walkable. That’s the best way to admire the city’s architecture anyway.
There are also bike lanes, and you can rent a bike, but I don’t think it is an absolute necessity. If you’re used to walking around cities, this will be fine.
You can also use public transport in Reykjavik. You can check here the bus schedule and routes on Straeto.is.
Another popular thing to do in Reykjavik is an evening horseback tour. Icelandic horses are some of the loveliest animals I’ve ever seen. Not to be confused with poneys.
Luckily, you don’t need a car for this one either. If you book the tour, they also provide transport from the city to the farm.
Beyond Reykjavik: How to Explore Iceland’s Beauty during Summer
Let’s get into the most important part of travelling to Iceland without a car – how to get to the most popular places.
I’ve done all the searches for you, and you can start planning for your trip ASAP using these recommendations.
All these recommended activities for seeing Iceland without a car are more suitable for summer. That’s because of the daylight, which is a lot and makes it possible to see too much during the day.
If you’re travelling to Iceland in June or July, you’ll have almost no nights, so sightseeing at 12 p.m. is still possible.
When you are visiting Iceland for the first time, you will want to include the Golden Circle tour on your Iceland itinerary. Luckily, it’s so easy to visit the Golden Circle in Iceland, even if you don’t want to rent a car.
This Golden Circle day trip from Reykjavik will take you to all those places you’ve seen in all the photos promoting Iceland. You’ll be able to see the famous geysers, waterfalls, an old volcanic crater, and the must-see Þingvellir National Park.
You might know a lot about Iceland, but I’m sure you’ve heard about its magical geothermal springs.
The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most popular stop for first-time visitors.
Of course, you can mix these two tours if you’re short on time and explore the Golden Circle and then relax at the Blue Lagoon in the evening in this Golden Circle with Blue Lagoon day trip.
South Coast and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
The South Coast in Iceland is by far the most touristic itinerary for first-time travellers in Iceland. I have included this, with detailed stops, in both of my 5-day in Iceland itinerary and one week in Iceland itinerary.
The reason this coast is so popular is that it is full of amazing waterfalls and glaciers, hiking trails, and out-of-this-world landscapes.
Given the diversity of the landscape, the drive isn’t that long, and you can even do it as a day trip from Reykjavik, but that would mean you won’t have any time to stop and actually enjoy the sites. I would only recommend the day trip if you are super short on time but still want to see this place (I can’t blame you).
In fact, the absolute most popular spot in Iceland is the glacier lagoon, and yes, you can do the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon as a full-day trip from Reykjavik. But it will take at least 14 hours and might be more suitable for summertime (when the day is much longer).
If you are keen on doing the South Coast as a day trip from Reykjavik, then I would choose to combine it with a relaxing evening at the Sky Lagoon. This South Coast and Sky Lagoon Day Tour is for you.
But if you have more days, then please consider doing this as a multi-day trip. That way, you will get to see all that the South Coast has to offer. It will not disappoint.
That’s why the South Coast tour should be at least a 2-day road trip.
And one last option is to book a 3-day trip, which includes the Golden Circle, South Coast, and the Glacier Tour. So, if you’re staying in Iceland for only four days or less, this is the itinerary for you.
If you’re looking to do some hiking while travelling in Iceland without a car, then you have to check out the companies that offer pick-ups to and from the start and end of your chosen hiking trail.
Some of the most popular hiking trails in Iceland are:
- Laugavegur Trail (This trip offers the option to be picked up from Reykjavik)
- Fimmvörðuháls Trail (You can book buses from Reykjavik with Reykjavik Excursions, Trex, or SouthCoast Adventures buses from Hvolsvöllur (Gas station) or Skógar. But you still need to reach Skógarfoss to use this company.)
- Glymur Waterfall Hike (This popular trail is just 1 hour North of Reykjavik but not a lot of tours will get you here. Consider hitchhiking or booking a private tour).
- Glacier hike (This South Coast tour from Reykjavik includes hiking the Mýrdalsjökull glacier)
- Volcano hiking. Read this comprehensive Iceland volcano hiking guide on how to reach the volcanic eruption sites from the past years (including 2023).
Ice caves during summer
The tour offers a pickup option from Reykjavik, and it is a perfect day trip if you want to visit an ice cave in Iceland during summer (it’s the only option) and if you’re travelling in Iceland without a car.
Ring Road trip in summer
If you’re looking to see the East Fjords of Iceland, Lake Mytvan, Akureiry or go on a whale-watching tour in Husevik, then you’re actually looking to go on a road trip around Iceland.
All road trips around Iceland mean driving the Ring Road all around the island.
So there is a common misconception about the Ring Road in Iceland. The road itself is not that big (only about 1200 km), but given the many attractions along the way, the trip isn’t suitable if you don’t have at least seven days in Iceland.
And that week is still on a tight schedule, and only for those who decide to rent a car and drive the Ring Road themselves.
Luckily, you will find great tours to join if you’re interested in a 4-day Ring Road trip or longer.
I think this is great value for the money and the absolute best option if you’re travelling to Iceland for the first time and you plan on seeing Iceland without a car.
This 4,5,6, or 7-day trip in Iceland is available from May to October.
Winter trip: How to reach must-see attractions in Iceland without a car
Travelling to Iceland in winter is a very different experience compared to a summer trip.
The major difference is the number of daylight hours.
While June and July are considered the peak of the tourist season due to the midnight sun, winter is the opposite.
But so much nighttime (up to 20 hours) per day will limit your sightseeing options a lot. But the advantage is that you will probably get to see the Northern Lights dancing up in the sky.
There are also some activities that are only available during winter.
South Coast and Glacier trip
Remember, this is the winter option of the same locations, which is a modified version of what you would visit during summer.
The best value and option is to go on this 3-day trip, which includes the Golden Circle, South Coast with its gorgeous waterfalls and Reynisfjara black beach, and the Blue Ice Cave of the largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajokull.
The Blue Ice Cave is only available from November to April. During the summer months, it is deemed unsafe to walk under the glacier due to higher temperatures.
If this is not your first time in Iceland (but your first time during winter), then I would skip the Golden Circle during winter and just focus on this 2-day South Coast tour, which also includes the Blue Ice Cave.
Ring Road trip in winter
This is going to be much harder to do during winter.
Since the number of tourists decreases during winter, there’re not many regular tours that offer a trip around the Ring Road during winter in Iceland.
You can, of course, do the South Coast trips, which are offered all year long.
But if you want to be mesmerised by the East Fjords and Northern Iceland, then you have to plan a bit ahead.
You need to get to Akureyri, the second-largest city in Iceland. This is valid for both summer and winter travels.
How to get around Iceland: How to get to Akureyri in Iceland?
Akureyri is the gateway to Northern Iceland.
Regardless of the time of the year for your trip in Iceland, if you’re travelling without a car, you will need to get here first before looking to explore the breathtaking landscapes of the North. Let’s talk about how to get around Iceland.
To get to Akureyri without a car, you have two options:
- Book a flight from Reykjavik with IcelandAir
- Get on a bus from Reykjavik to Akureyri with Straeto (check their summer or winter schedule)
From Akureyri, you can easily go on day trips to see popular sites such as:
- Diamond Circle (Dettifoss, Myvatn, Godafoss, Husavik, and Asbyrgi Canyon)
- Whale-watching tour (Northern Iceland is the best place to do this tour)
- Grimey island (the only place in Iceland located in the Arctic Circle). To get here, you’ll need to catch a morning ferry from Dalvik, which returns the same day.
- Mytvan Nature Baths (a great budget alternative to Blue Lagoon)
Why join a tour when travelling to Iceland without a car?
I’m not gonna lie, this will be a lot of visiting, but it will be worth it.
I put a lot of effort into this Iceland travel blog, and you can use all this info as a starting point for your trip. If you’re wondering how to get around Iceland without a car, then this is the guide for you.
In the end, there is no best way to travel Iceland, and all trips and itineraries will offer you a great experience as long as you prepare for them.
Going on this multi-day tour on the South Coast (summer tour or winter tour) is the best option if you want to see Iceland without a car. Or if you’re trying to travel on a budget in Iceland and you’re travelling alone.
Another great advantage of joining an organised tour when visiting Iceland without a car is that it lifts all the heavy research you need to do when planning a trip to Iceland.
You simply book the tour, and they will tell you all there is to know about the places, drop you off right there, and provide transport and accommodation when needed.
Since Iceland is known for its few roads and many gravel roads, choosing a tour instead of driving there yourself can also give you peace of mind.
And this is how to get around Iceland
Or, now that you know how to get around Iceland without a car, you can use public transport to move between cities. Remember to have a look at my Iceland travel tips list for everything else you need to know (food, clothing and more).
You don’t have to worry about any potential issues with your rental car (scratches, flat tires, fines, parking fees, and other toad tolls). I get pretty stressed out when I’m renting a car. And driving on the many gravel roads in Iceland made my heart skip a beat from time to time.
I also had a flat tire after driving on a gravel road.
Luckily, I was in Akureyri (Iceland’s 2nd largest city) and was able to reach the service within its opening hours. It also cost me 45 Euros to fix it. So you can add that to the unpredictable expenses during your trip.
Let’s not forget the price of gas.
Iceland is expensive, and filling up your tank will feel like you have to sell a part of your soul to the gas company. I dare you to find another place where you spend 100 Euros or more faster than that.
Well, that was a lot of info. Now you tell me, are you ready to start travelling around Iceland?