10 Day Winter in Depth Self Drive | Snaefellsnes, Northern Lights and the South Coast

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. The itinerary is carefully crafted by local travel experts to take into account the winter conditions and the daylight hours, so 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.

Arranged to travel over one of the most scenic routes in the country, this self-drive is structured to give you ample time at each location, so you will have the Icelandic winter at your fingertips and have plenty of time to take in the iconic locations you will visit. The personal itinerary you'll receive upon booking will also guide you to the country's hidden gems, where you can escape the crowds and connect with the incredible nature.

The uniqueness of your holiday is elevated further by the tours that you can add onto many of the days. No matter your passion, you are likely to find an activity suited to you, be it snorkelling, caving, glacier hiking, snowmobiling, and, if you come between November and March, exploring an ice cave.

So book this incredible winter self-drive and experience Iceland with complete freedom. Check availability by choosing a date.


Quick facts

Tour information:
  • Available: Oct. - Apr.
  • Duration: 10 days
  • Activities: Glacier Hiking, Snorkelling, Caving, Hiking, Snowmobile, Sightseeing, Cultural Activity, Ice Caving, Self drive
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Minimum age: 2 years old
  • Highlights: Blue Lagoon , Golden Circle , Reykjavík , Jokulsarlon , Vatnajokull , Snæfellsjökull , Skógafoss , Seljalandsfoss , Geysir , Gullfoss , Eyjafjallajökull , Dyrhólaey , Þingvellir , Hraunfossar , Snæfellsnes , Reykjanes , Hvalfjörður , Sólheimajökull , Mýrdalsjökull , Skaftafell , Sólheimasandur , Höfn , Hellnar , Reykholt , Borgarnes , Barnafoss , Arnarstapi , Hella , Kerið , Gljufrabui , Kirkjufell , Reynisdrangar , Djúpalónssandur , Vík , Fossatún , South Coast , Diamond Beach
Pickup information:
  • Starting time : Flexible

Included:
  • 9 nights of accommodation (different levels available; breakfast included for Comfort and Quality levels; more detailed info below)

  • Vehicle for 10 days (Toyota Yaris 2WD or similar. Upgrades available)

  • CDW and SCDW insurance along gravel protection for car rental

  • GPS System

  • Blue Lagoon standard entrance (upgrades available)

  • Detailed Itinerary with fun and practical information on the nature, history and culture of Iceland

  • Hands-on travel agent to oversee your itinerary

  • Taxes

  • Fuel

  • Optional excursions

  • Lunch and dinner


What to bring:
  • Warm Clothes

  • Driver's license

  • Swimsuit and towel

  • Camera


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 need either 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 snorkelling or diving.

The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon, and therefore cannot be guaranteed, but this itinerary is designed to maximise your chances to see them if weather allows.

It can happen, in the case of extreme weather, that an activity is cancelled. If your chosen activity is cancelled, 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 November to March each year.

This self-drive is set to take place at 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.



Daily itinerary

Day 1 - Arrival


10 Day Winter in Depth Self Drive | Snaefellsnes, Northern Lights and the South Coast


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.

Highly recommended is to use the opportunity to bask in the Blue Lagoon and energise for the adventure ahead. There is no need to fear the winter cold when wrapped in the sky-blue embrace of the geothermal water, surrounded by snow-topped lava, as the steam rises high into the air above you. Afterwards, you could head straight to the capital to explore its quirky culture and soak in the Nordic atmosphere.

You will spend the first night in Reykjavík.


Preferred accommodation in Reykjavík

Reykjavík Comfort

The Fosshótel chain has four 3-4 star Hotels located in and around the city center of Reykjavík. There is a short walk from all of the hotels to attractions, cafés, restaurants, museums and the nightlife. All offer private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.

Reykjavík Quality

Alda Hotel is a 4 star hotel situated on Laugavegur, Reykjavík's main shopping street in the city centre. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free access to a fitness room with a sauna and a hot tub. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.


Day 2 - Reykjavik to Snaefellsnes


10 Day Winter in Depth Self Drive | Snaefellsnes, Northern Lights and the South Coast


On your second day, you will explore the sites of West Iceland on your way to Snæfellsnes. There are a wealth of 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 in spite of their proximity are vastly different in appearance. 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 colours formed in 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 else just relax in your accommodation; after all, you will have the next day to make the most of this incredible peninsula.


Preferred accommodation by Snæfellsnes

Snæfellsnes Budget

Hof Guesthouse is situated on the southern side of Snæfellsnes peninsula, just a few hundred metres from the beach. Private bedrooms with shared bathroom, living room and kitchen. Free access to a hot tub. Free Wi-Fi in public areas. Breakfast not included.

Snæfellsnes Comfort

Fosshotel Stykkishólmur is a 3 star hotel centrally located within the town Stykkishólmur. Spacious hotel with a view towards the bay. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.

Snæfellsnes Quality

Hotel Búðir is a 4 star hotel on the southern side of Snæfellsnes peninsula, with a view towards Snæfellsjökull glacier and to the sea. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.


Day 3 - Snaefellsnes Peninsula


10 Day Winter in Depth Self Drive | Snaefellsnes, Northern Lights and the South Coast


Your third day will be dedicated to witnessing the marvels of the Snæfellnes Peninsula. This 90 kilometre 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 notable mountain on the peninsula, however; 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


10 Day Winter in Depth Self Drive | Snaefellsnes, Northern Lights and the South Coast


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 100 metres, and it is considered one of the best places for snorkelling 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 an accommodation on the Golden Circle that evening.


Preferred accommodation by the Golden Circle

Golden Circle Budget

Héraðsskólinn Boutique Hostel is centrally located within Laugarvatn village. Private rooms with private or shared bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast not included.

Golden Circle Comfort

Hotel Litli Geysir is a 3 star hotel located right across from Geysir geothermal area. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.

Golden Circle Quality

Hotel Grímsborgir is a 4 star hotel in the countryside, south of Þingvellir National Park. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms and a terrace. Free access to outdoor hot tubs. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.


Day 5 - The South Coast, part 1


10 Day Winter in Depth Self Drive | Snaefellsnes, Northern Lights and the South Coast


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 due to the fact 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 awesome 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.


Preferred accommodation by Vík

Vík Budget

Puffin Hostel is centrally located in Vík. Private bedrooms with shared bathrooms and a common lounge area. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast not included.

Vík Comfort

Hotel Katla is a 3 star country hotel that's situated 5km to the east of Vík. Comfortable private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free access to a hot tub and a sauna. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.

Vík Quality

Icelandair Hotel Vík is a 3 star hotel centrally located in Vík. Stylish private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Ocean or cliff views from each room. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.


Day 6 - The South Coast, part 2


10 Day Winter in Depth Self Drive | Snaefellsnes, Northern Lights and the South Coast


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 materialise 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 which 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.


Preferred accommodation by Jökulsárlón and Höfn

Jökulsárlón and Höfn Budget

Gerði Guesthouse is located about 13km east of Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Private bedrooms with shared bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi in main building. Breakfast not included.

Jökulsárlón and Höfn Comfort

Hotel Höfn is a 3 star hotel centrally located within the town Höfn. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.

Jökulsárlón and Höfn Quality

Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon is a 4 star hotel located right between Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and Skaftafell Nature Reserve. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Ocean or mountain views. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.


Day 7 - Hofn and South-East Iceland


10 Day Winter in Depth Self Drive | Snaefellsnes, Northern Lights and the South Coast


Your seventh day will be spent in the south-east. If you are travelling 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 travelling 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 Hvolsvollur


10 Day Winter in Depth Self Drive | Snaefellsnes, Northern Lights and the South Coast


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 Hvolsvöllur area.


Preferred accommodation by Hvolsvöllur

Hvolsvöllur Budget

Hellishólar Guesthouse is a 2 star hotel located a few kilometres east of Hvolsvöllur, heading towards Þórsmörk. Private bedrooms with shared bathrooms. Free access to outdoor hot tubs. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast not included.

Hvolsvöllur Comfort

Hotel Hvolsvöllur is a 3 star hotel centrally located in Hvolsvöllur. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free access to outdoor hot tubs. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.

Hvolsvöllur Quality

Hotel Rangá is a 4 star hotel situated between the towns of Hella and Hvolsvöllur. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Views towards Rangá river or Hekla volcano. Free access to outdoor hot tubs. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.


Day 9 - Hvolsvollur to Reykjavik


10 Day Winter in Depth Self Drive | Snaefellsnes, Northern Lights and the South Coast


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 snorkelling trip into the rift between the continents.

Once back in the capital, you can use the time to explore its galleries, museums, historical 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.


Preferred accommodation in Reykjavík

Reykjavík Comfort

The Fosshótel chain has four 3-4 star Hotels located in and around the city center of Reykjavík. There is a short walk from all of the hotels to attractions, cafés, restaurants, museums and the nightlife. All offer private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.

Reykjavík Quality

Alda Hotel is a 4 star hotel situated on Laugavegur, Reykjavík's main shopping street in the city centre. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free access to a fitness room with a sauna and a hot tub. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.


Day 10 - Departure


10 Day Winter in Depth Self Drive | Snaefellsnes, Northern Lights and the South Coast


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.

If you have a late departure, you can use the day to shop in Reykjavík or recharge from your adventures in the Blue Lagoon. Another option is to spend the day visiting the gems of the Reykjanes peninsula and the Geopark for a last chance at hot springs and lava fields on your Icelandic holiday.


Accommodation

See our accommodation levels below and our preferred accommodation partners under each day in the daily itinerary. Single person bookings will be arranged in a single room, while bookings of 2 or more people will share twin/double room(s) or triple room(s). Guide to Iceland will provide you with the best available hotels and guesthouses 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. We always do our best to accommodate special requests, which may incur additional costs. The sooner you reserve the higher quality accommodation we can provide. Press choose a date at the top to find availability.

Budget

Rooms with shared bathrooms in farmhouses, guesthouses or hostels, with good locations near the best attractions. Breakfast is not included.

Comfort

Rooms with a private bathroom in three star hotels or quality guesthouses. Very close to the best attractions at each location. Breakfast is included.

Quality

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.


Car

Below you can see the car rental options available for this self-drive tour. All our vehicles are new or current models, maximum two years of age, and come equipped with a GPS, CDW, GP and SCDW insurances. You can also upgrade to an automatic model, free of charge. All cars have winter tyres. For all winter driving, we highly recommend a Comfort level 4x4 vehicle or Luxury 4x4 to combat possible heavy winter conditions.

Budget

A small 2WD vehicle fit for basic travelling in everyday conditions, such as VW Polo, Toyota Yaris or similar.

Comfort 4X4

A medium sized jeep or SUV with 4WD (4x4) fit for most travel, and good for snow and off-asphalt travel, such as Toyota Rav4 or similar.

Luxury 4x4

A large sized jeep with 4WD (4x4) such as Toyota Land Cruiser or similar, fit for nearly all traveling.


Cancellation Insurance

This insurance guarantees that you can cancel the booking of this package and receive a full refund, minus the insurance cost of 5,000 ISK per person. The cancellation must be made within a minimum of 48-hours before the listed starting time. To cancel your booking and claim your refund, simply contact our service desk by writing to info@guidetoiceland.is no later than 48-hours before departure and declare the cancellation. Please note that this insurance only covers the full cancellation of this entire package. It does not cover cancellations of individual activities and services within the package. The cost of the Cancellation Insurance is neither refundable nor transferable.


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