10 Day Winter Self Drive Tour | The Circle of Iceland

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Based on 1 traveller reviews

Drive the entire ring-road of Iceland in ten days, on this immersive winter tour. Carefully designed by local travel experts who know the land and the Icelandic winter, this itinerary takes road conditions and daylight hours into consideration to create a journey suitable for winter travel in Iceland.

This trip should appeal to anyone who seeks to make the most of this country as possible, who has a great sense of adventure, and who wants the freedom to decide where to go and when. 

On this self-drive, you will get to see some of Iceland’s most iconic sights, seeing the floating icebergs at Jökulsárlón, the serene lava fields of Lake Mývatn and the world renowned Golden Circle while enjoying the evening glow of the Northern Lights above. You'll also receive a personal itinerary guiding you to unique, lesser-known locations where you can truly immerse yourself in the untouched nature, far from the crowds.

If you'd like to experience something even more unique or get some amazing thrills, you can always add some adventure to your journey. Throughout the booking process, you can add on tours such as dogsledding, glacier hiking and snowmobiling. If you visit between November and March, you will also have the rare opportunity to take a trip into an authentic ice cave.

Travelling around all of Iceland in winter will expose you to an incredible wonderland of snowy terrain. It does, however, make driving a challenge for those without experience on icy roads. This tour, therefore, should only be booked if the group you are travelling with has a confident driver, preferably with experience under similar conditions.

Don't miss out on this Icelandic adventure. Book now to create the winter holiday of a lifetime. Check availability by choosing a date.


Quick facts

Tour information:
  • Available: Oct. - Apr.
  • Duration: 10 days
  • Activities: Glacier Hiking, Snorkelling, Caving, Snowmobile, Sightseeing, Northern lights hunting, Hot Spring Bathing, Ice Caving, Self drive
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Highlights: Golden Circle, East Iceland, Reykjavík, Akureyri, Jökulsárlón, Vatnajökull, Mývatn, Dimmuborgir, Húsavík, Goðafoss, Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Geysir, Gullfoss, Dyrhólaey, Þingvellir, Hraunfossar, Deildartunguhver, Reykjanes, Hvalfjörður, Sólheimajökull, Mýrdalsjökull, Skaftafell, Höfn, Snorrastofa, Reykholt, Borgarnes, Barnafoss, Skútustaðagígar, Grjótagjá, Vík í Mýrdal, Egilsstaðir, Kerið, Gljufrabui, Reynisdrangar, Hvítserkur, Námaskarð, Lagarfljót, Hallormsstaðaskógur, South Coast, Diamond Beach, Ring Road
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 Rav4 4x4 or similar. Upgrades available)

  • CDW and SCDW insurance 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

  • Lunch and dinner

  • Optional excursions


What to bring:
  • Warm Clothes

  • Good hiking shoes

  • Camera

  • Swimsuit and towel

  • Valid driver's license


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.

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 though the tour is available to book from September to May, the ice caves are only accessible from November to March each year.



Daily itinerary

Day 1 - Arrival in Reykjavik


10 Day Winter Self Drive Tour | The Circle of Iceland


You will arrive in Iceland via Keflavík International Airport, find your vehicle and head on out to the dark lava field of the Reykjanes Peninsula in the direction of Iceland's capital, Reykjavík.

How you chose to spend this day is up to you; you could explore the raw volcanic landscapes of Reykjanes, visiting such places like Kleifarvatn Lake or the Rock and Roll museum in Keflavík town. You could also just head straight to Reykjavík and settle into the vibrant city.

Another great way to start your trip is to bask in the healing waters of the Blue Lagoon. The azure lake is visible from far away as the clouds of steam from the hot, geothermal water rise into the sky in the winter cold. Set in the middle of a stunning lava landscape, this spa is the perfect way to relax after a long flight, surrounded by ink black lava topped with snow, surrounding the brightest blue of the lake itself.

You will spend your first night in the capital.


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 - The Golden Circle


10 Day Winter Self Drive Tour | The Circle of Iceland


Your second day will be largely spent marvelling over the three wonders of the Golden Circle. The first of these is Þingvellir National Park, a site located between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The two continents are drifting apart, creating cracks and fissures in the terrain as they tear up the landscape around. 

One of those fissures, Silfra, is filled with crystal clear glacial water and is thus a popular snorkelling and diving site. If you opted to during the booking process, you can enjoy the unparalleled visibility of Silfra's waters as you snorkel between two continents. 

Following Þingvellir, you will head to the Geysir geothermal area, which is home to, as the name suggests, geysers. The most impressive one, Strokkur, erupts every five to ten minutes, creating a water column that can reach heights of up to forty metres.

Just a short drive away is Gullfoss Waterfall, one of the most iconic falls in Iceland. Here, you can watch the Hvítá glacier river cascade into an ancient gorge in two tiers with enormous power. If you want more thrills today, you can add on an exciting snowmobile tour.

Departing from Gullfoss falls, you can hop on a bus taking you to the great Langjökull glacier where you can whizz across the white expanse both for the thrill and the feeling of ultimate freedom in Icelandic wilderness.  

Your accommodation for the night will be in Hvolsvöllur on the South Coast, so as you head towards it, you can use your itinerary to find unique locations en route, such as the crater-lake Kerið, or the eco-village Sólheimar.


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 3 - Hvolsvollur to Vik


10 Day Winter Self Drive Tour | The Circle of Iceland


On day three, you will immerse yourself in the waterfalls, glaciers and coastal wonders of the South Coast. As you start your drive, you may be able to see a notable feature immediately to your left; you will, after all, be passing the notorious Eyjafjallajökull which erupted in 2010 and caused a disastrous effect on air travel.

The first site you will reach is Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall you can fully encircle for some wonderful views; right near here is Gljúfrabúi, another beautiful waterfall most miss out on due to the fact it is hidden in a cleft in a mountain. The next destination is another waterfall, called Skógafoss, renowned for its awe-inspiring power.

You will next head towards the glacier Mýrdalsjökull and its surrounding tongues. Here, you will have an opportunity to explore the otherworldly landscape atop an ice cap in two different ways. You can take a snowmobiling tour atop this great glacier for an hour of exhilaration, or else a glacier hike on the nearby Sólheimajökull for a more extended period of excitement and a deeper insight into how these natural marvels form and change.

A little further along the South Coast, you will reach Reynisfjara black-sand beach, a stunning stretch of coastline. You can admire geological wonders here, such as the Dyrhólaey rock arch and the Reynisdrangar sea stacks. Just beware of the water, as this beach is renowned for its dangerous sneaker waves.

A short journey from here is the village of Vík, where you will spend 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 4 - Vik to Hofn


10 Day Winter Self Drive Tour | The Circle of Iceland


You will head from Vík to Höfn on your fourth day, via two incredibly spectacular areas. The first of these is Skaftafell Nature Reserve, often referred to as a hiker’s paradise. Dozens of trails, catering to most abilities, wind through the lava fields and forests to glacial tongues and unique waterfalls. If you missed the glacier hike the day before in place of a snowmobiling tour, you could partake in one here today.

Following your time in Skaftafell, you will head further east, to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. This is one of Iceland’s most famous and well-renowned sites, and for good reason; its beauty is mesmerising.

Here, icebergs break away from a glacial tongue and slowly and serenely make their way across a great pool of water towards the ocean. To add to the appeal of this location, it is the home of many seals, which you may be able to spot playing in the water or hauling out on the bergs.

Beside the lagoon is the Diamond Beach, where these chunks of ice wash up upon the shore and create a beautiful, sparkling phenomenon. After admiring this area, you can continue onto Höfn, where you will spend the night.


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 5 - Hofn to Egilsstadir


10 Day Winter Self Drive Tour | The Circle of Iceland


On day five, you will drive through the little-travelled Eastfjords. If you wish, however, you can organise a tour to the incredible ice caves of Vatnajökull to take before you go; this is only possible from November to March but promises to be an awe-inspiring opportunity if you are in the area at the time.

The Eastfjords are a remote and beautiful area, with dramatic mountains, deserted inlets, and a wealth of wildlife; keep your eye on the beaches for seals, and on the surrounding country for reindeer. This is the only part of Iceland where you can see the latter.

Using your itinerary, you will be able to find many unique locations to stop and admire the deserted nature. The two most visited sites in the area, however, you will find beside Egilsstaðir. The first is Iceland’s largest forest, Hallormsstaðaskógur, where there are many trails for avid hikers. The second is a serene lake called Lagarfljót, said to hold a terrible beast, legends of which far out-date those of the Loch Ness Monster.

You will spend the night in the largest settlement of the east, Egilsstaðir.


Preferred accommodation by Egilsstaðir

Egilsstaðir Budget

Grái Hundurinn Guesthouse is located in a forested area 25km south of Egilsstaðir, and a 15 minute walk from Atlavík bay. Private bedrooms with shared bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi available in nearby sister hotel. Breakfast not included.

Egilsstaðir Comfort

Lake Hotel Egilsstaðir is a 3 star hotel located in a short walking distance from the centre of Egilsstaðir but also right by the lake. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Spa on site for additional price. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.

Egilsstaðir Quality

Icelandair Hotel Hérað is a 3 star hotel centrally located within Egilsstaðir town. Bright, private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included, with focus on local ingredients.


Day 6 - Egilsstadir to Myvatn


10 Day Winter Self Drive Tour | The Circle of Iceland


For your sixth day, you will travel through the rest of the Eastfjords, to the Lake Mývatn region. The scenery promises to be as spectacular as the day before, as you wind between great peaks and a beautiful stretch of coast. 

You will reach Lake Mývatn, and can start to explore the many sites in the area. Because your arrival is likely to be quite late and you have the full day here tomorrow, however, it may be preferable to just bask in the Mývatn Nature Baths to recharge before retiring to your accommodation in the area.

Take your time soaking in the mineral-rich waters, surrounded by the unspoilt nature. If the night is clear you might be able to enjoy the northern lights while relaxing in this geothermal paradise. 


Preferred accommodation by Mývatn

Mývatn Budget

Eldá Guesthouse is situated in Reykjahlíð village right by Lake Mývatn. Private bedrooms with shared bathrooms and shared kitchen. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast not included.

Mývatn Comfort

Hotel Gigur is a 2 star hotel on the southern side of Lake Mývatn, right next to Skútustaðagígar pseudo craters. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.

Mývatn Quality

Hotel Laxá is a 3 star hotel on the southern side of Lake Mývatn, with great views over the lake. Modern private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.


Day 7 - Myvatn day


10 Day Winter Self Drive Tour | The Circle of Iceland


Visiting the sites around Mývatn will take up your seventh day. The lakes themselves, with the strange basalt formations that rise from their shallow waters, are fascinating enough, but barely scratch the surface of what there is to see.

You can visit the Dimmuborgir lava fields, called the ‘Dark Fortress’ due to the scale and colouration of the rocks in the area; Grjótagjá, a hot-spring cave that was used as a setting in Game of Thrones; the pseudo-craters of Skútustaðagígar; the geothermal areas of Námaskarð; and so on. Your itinerary will no doubt be packed.

If you're still looking for adventure, you could choose to go dogsledding, enjoying the day with a pack of fluffy and friendly huskies on the white planes near the lake.

You will retire again at Mývatn.


Day 8 - Myvatn to Akureyri


10 Day Winter Self Drive Tour | The Circle of Iceland


On your eighth day, you will drive over to the capital of the North, Akureyri. Before reaching it, you could detour to the coastal town of Húsavík, the surrounding seas of which are renowned for their abundance of marine life. You could also visit the magnificent waterfall Goðafoss.

In Akureyri, there is plenty to do. The town has the world’s most northerly botanical gardens, a festive Christmas House, excellent ski slopes, and a geothermally heated pool.

Retire for the night in the capital of the North.


Preferred accommodation by Akureyri

Akureyri Budget

Acco Akureyri is centrally located in Akureyri. Private bedrooms with shared bathrooms and a shared kitchen. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast not included.

Akureyri Comfort

Hotel Norðurland is a 3 star hotel centrally located in Akureyri. Spacious and bright private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.

Akureyri Quality

Icelandair Hotel Akureyri (Deluxe room) is a 3 star hotel centrally located in Akureyri, right next to the swimming pool. Private bedroom with a living room area and a private bathroom. Great views from the 5th floor. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.


Day 9 - Akureyri to Reykjavik


10 Day Winter Self Drive Tour | The Circle of Iceland


On day nine, you will journey south from Akureyri to Reykjavík. This drive is long, but it won't feel that way, as the entire route dotted with dozens of sights worth seeing.

You could make a stop at the rock formation Hvítserkur, which rises from the waters of the coast in the shape of a drinking elephant. A little further South, you could head to the historical town of Reykholt, the home of the legendary medieval historian, chieftain and writer Snorri Sturluson, and visit the museum dedicated to him, called Snorrastofa.

There are also beautiful waterfalls en route; Barnafoss rushes down a narrow, twisting gorge, while its neighbour, Hraunfossar, is much wider, shorter, and more serene, trickling out of the edge of a large lava field. Nearby, you can find Europe’s highest flowing hot-spring, Deildartunguhver, which pumps up over 180 litres of near boiling water every second.

You could opt for a guided tour into Víðgelmir lava tube. This large cave is just shy of 1600 metres long and is one of the largest lava caves in the world. If you're in the mood for some cold, rather than the warm embrace of the earth, you can visit the ice tunnels of Langjökull glacier instead. These man-made tunnels reach deep into the ice, creating halls and corridors of brilliant blue and white.

You will reach Reykjavík by late afternoon or evening and will spend your 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 Self Drive Tour | The Circle of Iceland


On your tenth day, you will have to return your vehicle to Keflavík airport and take your flight home. If you have a late flight, you can use the hours to get to know Reykjavík better, see Hallgrímskirkja church or do some last minute shopping.

If you missed it after you landed, you could head on out to the Blue Lagoon to recharge in the silica filled waters before your journey home. 


Car

The vehicles offered for our winter self drive tours are 4WD jeeps or SUVs to counter Icelandic winter conditions. They are new or current models, maximum two years of age, and come equipped with a GPS, CDW, and SCDW insurances. You can upgrade to an automatic model free of charge. All cars have winter tyres.

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.


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.


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.


Map


Reviews

This is our first ever experience with a "packaged self-drive tour". All and all this was a good choice. Guide to Iceland (GTI) paced out the days and set all Hotel accommodations. That would have been really tough to do on our own. We picked Quality hotels and were not disappointed. Almost all appeared to be less than 5 years old - everything worked and meals, where provided or available, were excellent. Our Comfort 4x4 car turned out to be just right for our needs (2 travelers). I would have thought (and expected) that the GTA itinerary was more explicit on a few of the optional "local" attractions and tours available. For example, it was silent on the Ice Cave in Reykjavik and the newly-opened Lava Tube close by. We stumbled into a party that recommended the Glacier Lagoon amphibious tour, which turned out to be a highlight of the trip. Same for Whale Watching in Akureyri. Likewise, we learned most of what we needed to know about seeing Northern Lights (narrowly, on next to last night of 10 nights) from other travelers. And, finally, GASOLINE. Turned out to be the biggest challenge of the trip. US Credit Cards DON'T WORK at unmanned, automated pumps. You have to buy a prepaid fuel card (unique to each brand) from a place where there's a real person working. Thankfully, a stranger allowed us to pay her 5,000 KR CASH to buy us some gas on a Saturday or we would have been walking (no attendants working). Best Practice: Buy a couple of gas cards of different brands at the outset (N1 is dominant) and have them on hand for emergencies. You'll go 1/2 day without seeing a station. Weather was LOUSY in October 2017 - 11 days, ALL with rain and some with gale-force winds. Be advised if your plans include October be sure the trip is long enough to find some sunshine and a clear night, hoping that coincides with Northern Lights activity.

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10 Day Winter Self Drive Tour | The Circle of Iceland

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