The Pros and Cons of Sightseeing vs Renting a Car in Iceland

One of the first things you will need to consider when planning your Iceland itinerary is whether you want to rent a car or want to go on excursions. Some will find this decision easy to make, while for others it might be more of a dilemma. This list of “pros and cons” is designed to help the latter camp.

In looking at this riddle, I have ignored the question of cost as it depends on various factors – whether you are doing a group tour or a private tour, how many trips you plan to take, the type of car you hire, how it there are many in your party, and so on. You will be able to assess which is the most cost effective option for you, but of course cost is not everything. There are also the following factors to consider.

Make visits

Day trips and multi-day tours are a popular option when traveling to Iceland. You can choose to do tours of certain geographical areas such as the Golden Circle or the Snaefellsnes peninsula, or themed tours such as glacier tours or volcano tours. And there are a host of companies offering tours, ranging from custom private tours to larger scale coach trips.


  • You don’t have to worry about driving directions or even driving and Icelandic driving regulations. You just show up, relax and enjoy the view and the excursions.
  • With a group tour, as opposed to a private tour, it’s also an opportunity to meet like-minded travelers.
  • You can have a sneaky lunchtime drink if you feel like it, and not have to worry about alcohol limits.

The inconvenients

  • More often than not, you’ll be tied to a rigid schedule that dictates when you have to leave and where you’ll stop.
  • The days can be quite long, depending on the nature of the circuit and the distances covered.
  • If you’re part of a larger tour, you may find yourself waiting on people who are less punctual than you…or becoming unpopular if you’re the one making others wait!


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Rent a car

An alternative to an organized excursion is to hire a car. You can always follow a specific route – a so-called self-guided tour – or you can take your own pre-planned trip or just decide what you fancy for the day. Just like with an organized tour, however, there are a number of issues you may want to consider.


  • You are responsible! You can choose when to leave, where to stop, how long to spend at different locations, and more.
  • You can arrive early (or stay later) to avoid the crowds.
  • You can adapt your plans depending on the weather – have an early lunch if it’s raining, for example.

The inconvenients

  • You (or someone in your group) will have to do all the driving.
  • The roads and driving conditions can be very different from what you are used to, especially if you venture onto the Icelandic F-roads.
  • Unless you have experience driving in snow and ice, you may not want to rent a car in Iceland during the winter months. Also note that some roads in Iceland may be closed in winter due to weather conditions.

In balance

For me and my family traveling in the summer I thought car rental was the best option and we went with car rental with Ice location 4×4 to give us more flexibility and independence. For us it turned out to be a great experience and we would do the same again. If we were visiting in the winter, our conclusion might well have been different, given the reduced daylight hours and tougher driving conditions. You have to decide what is best for you and your situation, but hopefully the considerations presented above will give you food for thought and help you make the right decision for you.

Have you been to Iceland? Did you do any excursions or rent a car? Or maybe a bit of both? What was that your experience and would you do the same thing again? Please tell us in the comments!

Are you planning a trip to Iceland yourself? You can watch a video of our trip to Iceland here:

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Ice location 4×4. Our trip to Iceland was also sponsored by Helly Hansen.

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