Classic 10 Day Northern Lights Self Drive Tour of the Complete Ring Road of Iceland
Drive the entire ring-road with this 10-day winter self-drive tour of Iceland. This tour was carefully designed by local travel experts to explore the most incredible spots of Iceland during winter. This tour is perfect for adventurous people wanting to explore Iceland's best natural attractions while taking every opportunity to hunt the beautiful Northern Lights.
On a self-drive tour, you have complete control over where you go, what you see, and how long you spend at each location. It's the perfect solution for those wanting total freedom to explore Iceland. To help guide you, we will provide you with a personal itinerary for this tour with all of the main attractions and several lesser-known locations, away from the crowds.
On this self-drive, you will get to see some of Iceland's most iconic sights. You'll stand in awe watching the magnificent floating icebergs at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, the serene lava fields of Lake Mývatn, and the world-renowned Golden Circle, to name a few. Every evening you'll venture outside at some of the most incredible locations in Iceland to get a glimpse of the spectacular Northern Lights. Wintertime provides plenty of hours of darkness to allow you the best chance to see the dancing colors of greens, pinks, purples, reds, blues, and whites from the Aurora Borealis filling the Icelandic skies.
If you'd like to make your trip extra special and full of Icelandic experiences, you can always add some more adventure to your journey. Throughout the booking process, you can add on tours such as dog sledding across a wintry tundra, taking a challenge with a glacier hike, and zooming across the top of some of Iceland's glaciers on a snowmobile. If you visit between October and March, you will also have the rare opportunity to take a trip into an authentic blue ice cave.
Traveling around 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 traveling 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 and book your Iceland adventure now.
Day 1 - Arrival in Reykjavik
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 choose to spend this day is up to you. You could explore the raw volcanic landscapes of Reykjanes, visiting places such as Kleifarvatn Lake or the Rock and Roll Museum in Keflavík town. You could also head straight to Reykjavík and settle into the vibrant city.
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 your first night in the capital.
Day 2 - The Golden Circle
Your second day will be primarily spent marveling over the three wonders of the Golden Circle. The first 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 snorkeling and diving site. If you opt 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 geysers, as the name suggests. The most impressive one, Strokkur, erupts every five to ten minutes, creating a water column that can reach heights of up to 66 ft (20m).
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 Langjokull glacier, where you can whizz across the white expanse both for the thrill and the feeling of ultimate freedom in the Icelandic wilderness.
Other options for today include a beautiful horseback ride through the landscapes of South Iceland and a thrilling monster jeep journey over Langjokull glacier. Alternatively, you can take a dip in the Fontana Spa, a geothermally heated set of pools between Thingvellir and Geysir.
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.
Day 3 - Hvolsvollur to Vik
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.
You will first reach Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall you can fully encircle for some beautiful views. Right near here is Gljúfrabúi, another beautiful waterfall most miss out on because 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 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.
Other activities you can embark on today are an exploration of the fascinating Lava Center Exhibition or of the mysterious Hella caves. The former is an excellent place to learn about Iceland's volcanic history, whereas the latter are a set of historical manmade tunnels.
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.
Day 4 - Vik to Hofn
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.
Here, you can embark on a thrilling afternoon glacier hike to witness incredible views and unique formations.
Following your time in Skaftafell, you will head further east, to the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. This is one of Iceland’s most famous and well-renowned sites, and for good reason. Its beauty is mesmerizing. 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.
If conditions allow, you can enjoy a boat tour on the lagoon. For the early birds, you can opt for the morning glacier hike and still leave ample time to zip across the calm waters of the glacier lagoon on a Jokulsarlon boat tour.
Starting from October or November, depending on the weather each year, you will be able to join a tour of the incredible ice caves of Vatnajokull in the early afternoon. It promises to be an awe-inspiring opportunity, so make sure to get up a bit early to reach the meeting point at Jokulsarlon in time.
Another choice of tour today is a black-sand beach buggy tour, which you will embark on before departing to Skaftafell.
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.
Day 5 - Hofn to Egilsstadir
On day five, you will drive through the little-traveled Eastfjords.
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 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.
There are two activities on offer today. Firstly, you can go on a four-hour super jeep tour to seek out herds of beautiful reindeer, which are only found in the east. Secondly, you can dip into the Vok Baths, a geothermal spa nestled in a spectacular lake.
You will spend the night in the largest settlement in the east, Egilsstaðir.
Day 6 - Egilsstadir to Myvatn
You will travel through the rest of the Eastfjords to the Lake Mývatn region for your sixth day. 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 entire day here tomorrow, it may be preferable to 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 unspoiled nature. If the night is clear, you might enjoy the northern lights while relaxing in this geothermal paradise and can even book a guided northern lights tour to hunt for them more thoroughly.
Day 7 - Myvatn day
Visiting the sites around Mývatn will take up your seventh day. With the strange basalt formations that rise from their shallow waters, the lakes themselves 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 coloration 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 could otherwise go on a thrilling hour-long snowmobiling adventure.
You will retire again at Mývatn.
Day 8 - Myvatn to Akureyri
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 can marvel over this marine life on a whale-watching tour. Between December and February, you'll travel on a traditional ship with a comfortable inside area, and between April and October, you'll use a RIB vessel.
Throughout the year, you're likely to see an abundance of whales and dolphins, though whales are more numerous in summer. In this season, you'll also see puffins.
Husavik is also home to the GeoSea Baths, a fanastic geothermal spa that utilizes seawater. This makes it unique amongst Icelandic pools, and its views are amongst the best.
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.
Day 9 - Akureyri to Reykjavik
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 is 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 Snorrastofa that dedicated to him.
There are also beautiful waterfalls en route; Barnafoss rushes down a narrow, twisting gorge, while its neighbor, 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 48 gallons (180 liters) of near-boiling water every second.
There is a spa beside Deildartunghver, renowned for its views and luxury feel. You can organize admission to the Krauma Spa when booking.
You could opt for a guided tour into the Víðgelmir lava tube. This large cave is just shy of 5250 ft (1600m) 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.
Day 10 - Departure
On your tenth day, you will have to return your vehicle to Keflavík airport and take your flight home. 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. 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 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.