10 Day Northern Lights Winter Self Drive of Iceland’s South Coast & Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Join this 10-day self-drive tour to experience the greatest sites of Iceland within a winter wonderland. This trip is perfect for those who wish to see the country on their own terms, without having to rush past unique and incredible places in a hurry to get to the next site. Local travel experts carefully craft the itinerary to take into account the winter conditions and the daylight hours so that you can embark on your journey without a care in the world.
Over ten days, you can expect to visit the Blue Lagoon, the magnificent Snæfellsnes Peninsula, the three famous sites of the Golden Circle, the largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull, and the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. This trip is leisurely paced, giving you plenty of time to give each place the appreciation it deserves, as well as hunt for the elusive Northern Lights.
This self-drive itinerary allows you to travel over one of the most scenic routes in the country and gives you ample time at each location. You will have the Icelandic winter at your fingertips and have plenty of time to take in the iconic locations you will visit. Upon booking, the personal itinerary you'll receive will also guide you to the country's hidden gems, where you can escape the crowds and connect with incredible nature.
You can add more adventures and further elevate the uniqueness of your holiday. No matter your passion, you are likely to find an activity suited to you, be it snorkeling, caving, glacier hiking, snowmobiling, and, if you come between October and March, exploring an ice cave.
Book this incredible winter self-drive and experience Iceland with complete freedom. Check availability by choosing a date.
Day 1 - Arrival
Day one is your arrival day; after you pick your car up from Keflavík airport, you are free to do with it what you wish. You could choose to explore the sites of the Reykjanes Peninsula on your way to Reykjavík, visiting the black lava fields and seemingly endless nothingness of the Reykjanes Geopark.
On your way to Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik, you could choose to make a stop at the Blue Lagoon. This world-renowned spa is known for its healing waters, vivid azure colors, and luxurious treatments. It is located in the middle of a moss-covered lava field, giving it an otherworldly atmosphere. If you add the Blue Lagoon, it will be arranged according to your flights. If there is no time to visit the lagoon today, it can be added to another day. Your travel consultant will be able to arrange this for you. There is still plenty to see and do in Reykjavik and the Reykjanes Peninsula if you have extra free time.
You will spend the first night in Reykjavík.
Day 2 - Reykjavik to Snaefellsnes
On your second day, you will explore the sites of West Iceland on your way to Snæfellsnes. There are many places to see, starting with Hvalfjörður, 'the Whale Fjord', which sits just north of Reykjavík. This is a beautiful place, with dramatic mountains, many waterfalls, and spectacular seascapes.
Once around the bay, you could head to Borgarnes, home to the Settlement Centre exhibition, where you can learn all about the earliest arrivals to Iceland. Close to here is a waterfall called Fossatún, which is steeped in troll folklore.
Nearby is Europe's highest flowing hot-spring, Deildartunguhver, and a little further east, you can find the historic village of Reykholt. This was once home to legendary medieval writer Snorri Sturluson and now houses the Snorrastofa Museum on his life and works.
A little further afield but still worth a visit are two more waterfalls, Barnafoss and Hraunfossar, which are vastly different in appearance despite their proximity. The former rages and winds down a narrow gorge while the latter streams gently from a wide stretch of twisted lava.
On this day, you can also visit the great Víðgelmir lava cave, one of Iceland's largest lava tube caves. It is easy to access, and walkways have been built so that everyone can enjoy the amazing sights and colors formed on the lava rock surface. Another option is the ice tunnels in Langjökull glacier, where man-made tunnels have been carved out of the age-old ice, creating halls and corridors in a miniature under-ice palace.
You will continue to Snæfellsnes, making any detour that draws you. Once you arrive, you can start to explore or just relax in your accommodation; after all, you will have the next day to make the most of this incredible peninsula.
Day 3 - Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Your third day will be dedicated to witnessing the marvels of the Snæfellnes Peninsula. This 56-mile (90-kilometer) stretch of land is often called ‘Iceland in Miniature’ due to the diverse scenery that can be found here.
The dominant feature of the landscape is, without a doubt, Snæfellsjökull, a giant volcano topped with a gleaming ice cap. As you visit sites such as Djúpalónssandur black sand beach, and the historic fishing villages of Arnarstapi and Hellnar, you will be in the shadow of this incredible landmark.
It is not the only famous mountain on the peninsula. You will also see the most photographed peak in the country, Kirkjufell, which stands alone on the northern shore in a beautiful setting. The mountains surrounding the fjords of Hraunsfjörður and Kolgrafafjörður are also particularly dramatic.
All day, you will head from site to site, from places as diverse as the seal colony on the shores of Ytri Tunga to the barren, haunted lava fields of Beserkjahraun. You will return to spend another night at your accommodation on the peninsula.
Day 4 - The Golden Circle
On day four, you will visit the three iconic sites of the Golden Circle, on the country's most popular tourist trail. The first of these you will come to is the original site of the world's longest-running, still-ongoing parliament, Þingvellir National Park. This historical place is nestled directly in the North Atlantic Rift and is the best place in the world to see the edges of both the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
The second site of the Golden Circle is the Geysir geothermal area, located within Haukadalur Valley. This area, dotted with bubbling mud-pools, hot-springs, and hissing fumaroles, is most famous for its geysers, as its name suggests. The most active of these is called Strokkur, which erupts every ten minutes or so.
The final point of this famed trail is Gullfoss waterfall. Fed by the most popular rafting river in Iceland, the Hvítá, this falls is mightily powerful, plunging in two steps into a dramatic canyon. There are several platforms from which you can marvel over this natural phenomenon.
On this day, you will have the option to partake in a very special tour. You'll have the chance to snorkel in Þingvellir National Park, through a freshwater spring within a ravine called Silfra; the visibility exceeds 328 ft (100m), and it is considered one of the best places for snorkeling and diving in the world.
After enjoying the sites of the Golden Circle and possibly a tour, you can use your custom itinerary to find other beautiful locations in the area, such as the Secret Lagoon and Kerið crater lake.
You will reside at your accommodation on the Golden Circle that evening.
Day 5 - The South Coast, part 1
On your fifth day, you will start to explore the sites of the South Coast up to Vík. This route is famed for its waterfalls, volcanoes, glaciers, and incredible stretches of coast.
Regarding waterfalls, the three most easily accessible and rewarding can all be found reasonably early on your journey. The first of these is Seljalandsfoss, a high and narrow waterfall that cascades over a concaved cliff.
A short walk from here is Gljúfrabúi, which is often overlooked because it is hidden within a cleft in a mountainside; the grotto it tumbles into and fills with mist is otherworldly. The third notable waterfall is Skógafoss, most known for its dramatic size and incredible power.
As you head between the first two features and the third, you will be driving beside the infamous glacier Eyjafjallajökull; the volcano beneath it erupted in 2010, causing mayhem in terms of air travel. If the weather is clear, you may be able to see the Westman Islands across the seas to your right.
As you head further along the South Coast, you will come across more glaciers, most notably Mýrdalsjökull, the fourth largest in the country. While here, you can partake in one of two tours: an adrenaline-pumping snowmobiling ride on this ice cap or a fascinating glacier hike on one of its many tongues, Sólheimajökull.
The next main destination is Reynisfjara beach, a black sand stretch of coast renowned for its fascinating geological features. Near here is the charming village of Vík, where you will retire for the night.
Day 6 - The South Coast, part 2
For your sixth day, you will drive the rest of the South Coast across diverse landscapes of dramatic coastline, farmland, and black-sand desert.
When the tongues of the vast Vatnajökull glacier start to materialize to your left, you will know you are nearing Skaftafell Nature Reserve. This region is well worth a visit. It is forested, sheltered by ice and jagged peaks, and full of hiking routes to a variety of spectacular features. If you are inclined, you can also book a glacier hike here.
Further east, you will come across one of the most popular places in Iceland, Jökulsárlón. This wide lagoon is filled with giant icebergs calving from a glacier tongue, making for a spectacular, ethereal sight. The nearby Diamond Beach is just as fascinating; it is here that the bergs that reach the ocean wash up on the shore, littering it with sparkling ice.
Admiring the beauty of this corner of Iceland will take up the majority of your day. You will reside for the night in accommodation either at the glacier lagoon or in the nearby settlement of Höfn.
Day 7 - Hofn and South-East Iceland
Your seventh day will be spent in the south-east. If you are traveling between November and March, you can use this day to partake in a once-in-a-lifetime exploration of an ice cave. These only form during the middle of the winter months, so opportunities to witness their incredible beauty are very rare.
If you are not traveling during this time, you will still find plenty to do in the area. There are beautiful features around Höfn, such as the mountains Vestrahorn and Eystrahorn, and if you are willing to travel a little further, you could see some of the Eastfjords. Jökulsárlón and Skaftafell also warrant second visits, as their beauty is unique under different lighting and weather conditions.
You will spend this night in the same accommodation. If the sky is clear of clouds, you might want to look up for a chance to see the dancing Northern Lights.
Day 8 - Hofn to Selfoss
On day eight, you will drive back the majority of the South Coast to the settlement of Hvolsvöllur. On this day, you can use your itinerary to find any unique places you missed along the way,
You could head out to the historical town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur and visit the waterfall Systrafoss, which, in cold weather, will be entirely frozen but never the less incredibly beautiful.
A short drive away is the magnificent canyon Fjaðrárgljúfur, a great photography location as it provides dramatic scenery of jagged cliffs and a shallow river. You could also visit the volcano Hekla or take a dip in Iceland's oldest swimming pool, Seljavallalaug, which is hidden in a mountain crevasse.
Take your time and explore Iceland to the fullest before heading to your accommodations in the Selfoss area.
Day 9 - Selfoss to Reykjavik
On your penultimate day, you will drive from Hvolsvöllur back to Reykjavík. Once again, you can refer to your itinerary to find any unique places you missed earlier in your journey.
This would be a grand day to add in some activities in the Golden Circle area. The snowmobiles at Langjökull are a perfect way to end your adventure with a bang. If you prefer more calming forms of amusement, Silfra fissure and its crystal clear waters offer an opportunity to take a snorkeling trip into the rift between the continents.
Once back in the capital, you can use the time to explore its galleries, museums, historic sites, bars, and restaurants. Although a reasonably small city, Reykjavík has a thriving culture, and you will no doubt find a wealth of things to do.
You will spend the night here.
Day 10 - Departure
On your final day, you will need to head to Keflavík International Airport in good time to return your vehicle and catch your departing flight.
For those who have a later flight and choose to visit the Blue Lagoon today, you will finish off your stay unwinding before you head to the airport. This is the perfect place to relax as you bathe in the warm, mineral-rich waters as you look back on the incredible adventure you have just taken in the land of fire and ice. If your flight is later, there are plenty of things to do in Reykjavik. You can, for example, book admission to the Whale of Iceland or FlyOver Iceland ride, two fascinating interactive experiences.
If you have an early flight back home, we wish you a pleasant journey.
What to bring
Good to know
Self-drive tours begin either in Reykjavík City or at Keflavik International Airport. A valid driver's license is required, along with a one-year-long on-road experience. Please be aware that your itinerary may be rearranged to better fit with your arrival date and time.
Some optional activities might require you to have a valid driver's license, or you might need to send additional information to your travel planner. Please note that you might need to present medical documents should you choose to go snorkeling or diving.
The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon, and therefore cannot be guaranteed, but this itinerary is designed to maximize your chances to see them if the weather allows.
It can happen, in the case of extreme weather, that an activity is canceled. If your chosen activity is canceled, we will assist you with rearranging or booking other activities when possible, and any potential price difference will be refunded to you. Please note that the ice caves are only accessible from October to March each year.
This self-drive is set to take place in wintertime. Conditions in Iceland can vary greatly during that season. Snow and ice are commonplace, and Iceland has limited daylight hours. Please consider your ability to drive in winter conditions before booking this tour. If you feel insecure about driving in these conditions, we recommend a package tour instead.
Note that Icelandic roads and pavements can be slippery in the wintertime. We recommend you bring shoes with slip-resistant soles or ice-grip shoe covers. The covers can be purchased in most supermarkets and gas stations around the country.
See our accommodation levels below and our preferred accommodation partners under each day in the daily itinerary.
Super budget level accommodations will be arranged in hostel dorm beds. For other levels, bookings for one person will be arranged in single rooms, and bookings for two or more people will share a twin/double or triple room(s).
Teenagers and children will be arranged in the same room with parents. If additional room(s) is needed, additional costs will incur.
Guide to Iceland will provide you with the best available accommodation at the time of your booking from our preferred partners. Please keep in mind that hotel quality in Iceland varies among locations and availability is highly limited. If our preferred partners are fully booked at the time of your booking, we will find another suitable accommodation for you of similar level.
Please note that not all locations offer quality level accommodation. Comfort level accommodation will be arranged at those particular locations, which is reflected in the quality level upgrade price.
We always do our best to accommodate special requests, which may incur additional costs. Press choose a date to find availability.
Rooms with shared bathrooms in farmhouses, guesthouses or hostels, with good locations near the best attractions. Breakfast is not included.
Rooms with a private bathroom in three star hotels or quality guesthouses. Very close to the best attractions at each location. Breakfast is included.
Rooms with a private bathroom in a four star hotel or superior rooms in a quality three star hotel at the best locations in Iceland. Breakfast is included.
Below you can see the car rental options available for this self-drive tour.
All our vehicles are new or current models, of maximum 2 years of age. Super Budget levels come with standard CDW insurance, while all other levels also include Gravel Protection (GP) insurance. Please note that off-road driving is illegal for all types of cars.
All levels come equipped with free Wi-fi. You can enjoy unlimited data with the Wi-Fi device, which can be connected to up to 10 devices at once. The car rental will provide 24-hour roadside emergency services.
Age requirement for each level can be found below. For all levels, the driver must possess a valid driving license for at least one year before the date of the rental.
We recommend Budget 4X4 level for summer driving and Comfort 4X4 for winter driving.
A small 2WD vehicle such as Toyota Aygo or similar, fit for basic travelling in everyday conditions. Compact and comfortable for up to 2 travellers with very little luggage. No highland capabilities. The driver must be of 20 years of age or above.
A basic 2WD vehicle, such as a Toyota Yaris or similar, suitable for travelling in everyday conditions. Comfortable for 3 travellers with light luggage. This vehicle does not have highland capabilities. The driver must be of 20 years of age or above.
A basic 4WD (4X4) jeep or SUV such as a Dacia Duster or similar. Comfortably fit up to 3 travellers with 2 large pieces of luggage. Fit for most travel and decent for snow and off-asphalt driving. Has basic highland capabilities. The driver must be of 20 years of age or above.
A medium-sized 4WD (4x4) jeep or SUV such as a Toyota Rav4 (automatic) and Suzuki Vitara (manual), or similar. Comfortably fit up to 4 travelers with 3 large pieces of luggage. Fit for most travel and good for snow and off-asphalt driving. Has basic highland capabilities. The driver must be of 21 years of age or above.
A large 4WD jeep such as a Toyota Land Cruiser or similar. Comfortable for up to 4 travellers with 4 large pieces of luggage. Fit for nearly all travelling. Has full highland capabilities to drive on accessible mountain roads. The driver must be of 21 years of age or above.
A large 9-seater van such as a Mercedes Benz Vito (4WD manual, has highland capabilities and better suited for winter driving), or similar. Comfortable for 5 to 7 travelers. If seated full, luggage space is limited. The driver must be of 23 years of age or above.