12 Day Northern Lights Winter Self Drive Tour of the Complete Ring Road with Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Immerse yourself in the incredible beauty of Iceland in winter on this 12-day self-drive tour around the country's ring road. This tour is perfect for those who wish to see Iceland as much as possible and do not fear the winter roads.
As you are in the driver's seat for the entire journey, you'll get to set the pace of your adventure. You will be provided with a schedule after booking, which will instruct you on how to reach your accommodation each night, but the route you will take to get there is entirely up to you.
To help ensure that you have the holiday that you have always dreamed of, you will receive a personal itinerary when you book, informing you of all the potential places you could see. It provides you with a perfect blend of classic, famous sights such as Lake Mývatn and the Geysir Geothermal Area and unique, lesser-known gems where you can enjoy nature far from the crowds.
What's more, a visit to the Blue Lagoon is included, and there are several tours you can add to your trip during the booking process, such as ice caving and glacier hiking. You can, therefore, pack your twelve days with both sightseeing and adventure.
The Icelandic winter nights are completely dark; you will thus have plenty of chances to hunt for the magical and elusive Northern Lights. While this is a great opportunity, Iceland's dark winter roads are notoriously icy. It is therefore only advised that this tour is booked by those who have a capable, confident driver in the group they are traveling with, preferably with experience in these conditions.
If you have winter driving experiences and want to pack as much into your twelve days in Iceland as possible, then this self-drive itinerary promises to meet every one of your needs. Book now to reserve your space. Check availability by choosing a date.
Day 1 - Arrival
After landing at Keflavík International Airport, you will pick up your vehicle, and the rest of the day is yours. 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 could head straight to Iceland's charming capital, Reykjavík, to explore its galleries, boutiques, and bars.
You will spend the night in Reykjavík.
Day 2 - The Golden Circle
On day two, you will head out onto the most popular tourist trail in Iceland: the Golden Circle. The three sites along this route are world-renowned, and for a good reason.
Your Golden Circle adventure begins with Þingvellir National Park, the first of the three National Parks you will drive to, and the only one that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The reason for this is its history, being the original site of what is now the world's longest-running, ongoing Parliament. However, it is located right between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, leading to some spectacular geology.
At Þingvellir, you can opt for a snorkelling tour in Silfra fissure. The water from the spring here is incredibly pure, creating some of the clearest visibility on earth, and drysuit equipment make the experience not only possible but very enjoyable.
Next on the route is the Geysir Geothermal Area. This is home to the active geyser Strokkur, which erupts every five to ten minutes to heights of over 66 ft (20m). There are also many hot springs and mud pools to admire in this scenic valley.
The final site of the Golden Circle is Gullfoss Waterfall. This massive feature is immensely powerful, thundering down a canyon in two tiers. There are multiple viewing platforms, allowing you to admire and photograph it from several different angles.
You can elect to take a snowmobiling tour from Gullfoss; this exhilarating experience will take you up Langjökull glacier and across the otherworldly surface of an ice-cap.
While the places listed above are the main three sites of today, you can reference your itinerary to find other places of note in the area, such as Kerið Crater Lake and the Secret Lagoon at Flúðir.
You will spend the night near Hvolsvöllur.
Day 3 - South Coast to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
On day three, you will travel across the length of the South Coast. There are many places to see today, so make sure you rise early.
The first features of note are waterfalls. The two most iconic of these are Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. The former has a very classic shape and structure but is notable for its width and power. It is possible to approach it right to where the water is falling. Seljalandsfoss is famed for its unusual formation. However, it is both high and narrow and cascades over a depression eroded into the cliff.
On your way onwards to Vík, you will encounter some mighty glaciers, where you can opt for an exciting tour; an exhilarating snowmobile ride across Mýrdalsjökull.
Next along the route is Reynisfjara Beach, a beautiful stretch of black-sand coastline. It boasts of some fascinating lava formations, such as Dyrhólaey rock arch and the Reynisdrangar sea stacks.
It is highly recommended that you go a little off route to the Skaftafell Nature Reserve. Once a National Park in its own right, it is surrounded by dramatic peaks and glacial tongues and filled with forests, lava fields, and hiking trails. One trail which comes well-recommended will take you to Svartifoss waterfall, which falls amongst a series of unique, hexagonal basalt columns. You can also take a glacier hike in this area, which you can opt for during booking.
After marveling over the sights here, you will continue your journey and head to Jökulsárlón. It is a glacier lagoon, filled with enormous icebergs that have calved away from a tongue of the mighty Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest ice cap. Watching them is mesmerizing, made all the more enjoyable for the seals that call the area home. A visit to the nearby coast is also worthwhile, as it is here that these bergs wash on the shore after reaching the ocean; as such, it is called the Diamond Beach.
Finally, you will retire either near Jökulsárlón, or a little further east at Höfn.
Day 4 - Hofn to Egilsstadir
On day four, prepare to head south-east to the little-visited but wondrous Eastfjords, where you will have an awe-inspiring ride between the mountains and ocean. One of Iceland’s most remote regions, there is a wealth of untouched beauty here that is simply breathtaking.
Before taking off, however, if you are traveling between October and March, you can opt for an ice caving tour in Vatnajökull glacier. These unique natural caves are formed when the summer rivers create tunnels and cave systems under the massive glacier. In winter, the rivers retreat, leaving the caves accessible to exploration. This is a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Once you are ready to head to the Eastfjords, the road will take you past two of Iceland’s most dramatic peaks, Eystrahorn and Vestrahorn. These spots are particularly popular amongst avid photographers, so keep your cameras ready as you pass them. The settlement of Djúpivogur also makes for an interesting stop. It has a modern, outdoor art display along the edge of its coast called ‘the Eggs of Merry Bay’ that warrants a look.
Once at your destination of Egilsstaðir, you can head to the coast to witness the fjords that make this area so renowned. One such place you could go to is Borgarfjörður Eystri, where there are many available hiking trails.
You will spend the night in Egilsstaðir.
Day 5 - Egilsstadir to Myvatn
On your fifth day, prepare to head to the North. You don’t have to leave the Eastfjords right away though. While still around Egilsstaðir, you could also visit Lake Lagarfljót. Despite its serene appearance, it is said to hold a monstrous wyrm, legends of which far out-date references to its cousin in the Loch Ness. Beside the lake is Iceland’s largest forest, Hallormsstaðaskógur.
You will leave the East Fjords by traveling Route 1 through the country's interior, where you can expect to see some magnificent Highland views. When inland, look out for wild reindeer; they only live in this part of Iceland.
You will then head on to your first destination of the North and one of its most popular locations, the incredible Lake Mývatn region. Once at Mývatn, you can start to explore its many sights. As you will have all day here tomorrow, however, it may be nice to take a break from constant sightseeing and traveling to bask in the healing waters of the Mývatn Nature Baths.
You will spend your night by the lake.
Day 6 - Day at Myvatn
Today, you will explore the diverse sites of the Mývatn area. The lake itself is beautiful, particularly due to the odd geological formations that rise from its waters. However, it is but one of many local attractions.
You can also visit the lava formations at Dimmuborgir, otherwise known as the ‘Dark Fortress’, which are both fascinating and haunting. You can walk along the edges of the pseudo-craters Skútustaðir, and up the Höfði Peninsula, for some beautiful panoramic views. There are also many geothermal hot spots in the area, most notably around Mount Námafjall.
Fans of the HBO Series Game of Thrones will particularly enjoy that most of the scenes north of ‘the Wall’ are filmed around here. You can even visit the cave that contains one of the franchise’s love scenes, the hot-spring lava tunnel of Grjótagjá.
If you want to add more fun to your day, you can opt for a dog sledding tour. The kennel at Heiði welcomes visitors, and the fluffy Huskies are more than willing to take you for a ride in the beautiful countryside.
You will spend another night in Mývatn.
Day 7 - Myvatn to Akureyri
You will continue along the North today through some spectacular scenery. Your next destination is Akureyri, known to the locals as the capital of the North.
The drive over here can take less than two hours, but there are plenty of detours to be made en route. You could head to the town of Húsavík and stop at the Ystafell Transportation Museum on the way back. The waterfall Goðafoss is also well worth a stop.
Once you reach the minuscule capital, you can explore its robust cultural scene and head out to dinner at one of its numerous renowned country restaurants.
You will spend the night in Akureyri.
Day 8 - Capital of the North
On day eight, you remain based in the capital of the North, Akureyri. Feel free to explore this beautiful town of approximately seventeen thousand people, with its impressive church, a botanical garden, several museums, shopping streets, and many bars and restaurants. However, if you want to immerse yourself in nature, you could opt to go to the town's ski slopes or the nearby Kjarnaskógur woods.
You could also drive along the Tröllskagi peninsula, which is home to numerous villages and valleys. This journey will take you by the fjord Eyjafjörður, through the quaint settlements of Ólafsfjörður and Dalvík.
You will spend the night in the capital of the North.
Day 9 - Akureyri to Sauðárkrókur
On your last day of traveling the North, you will aim for your destination of the town Sauðárkrókur. You will pass through impressive valleys and see the mountains of the North in all their power.
You'll continue through the vast fjord of Skagafjörður as well, and you can even visit the tiny settlement of Hofsós, where you can overlook the magnificent cliffs and serene ocean from the village's incredible swimming pool known as the Infinity Pool.
You will then continue to the settlement of Sauðárkrókur, where you will spend the night.
Day 10 - Sauðárkrókur to Snaefellsnes
On day ten, get ready to head to the one and only Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The area is only a few hours away, but your itinerary will direct you to many fascinating places en route. For example, you could visit the Seal Centre at Hvammstangi.
The greater Snæfellsnes area has boundless marvels to behold so that you can save some of its explorings for the following day. However, the most notable feature is Snæfelljökull, the mighty glacier and volcano on the peninsula's tip.
This incredible landmark is the central point of the Snæfellsnes National Park and has inspired writers and artists for generations; most notably, it was the setting for both Halldór Laxness's novel 'Beneath the Glacier' and Jules Verne's novel 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth'.
You will have a full day of exploration before retiring for the night in a settlement on the peninsula, such as in Stykkishólmur.
Day 11 - Snaefellsnes to Reykjavik
Once at the peninsula, you will find an even greater wealth of things to see; it is often called ‘Iceland in Miniature’ due to the incredible diversity found here. Notable sites include Kirkjufell, Iceland’s most photographed mountain; the seal colony on the beach near the farm of Ytri Tunga; the haunted lava fields of Berserkjahraun lava field; and the Djúpalónssandur black pebble beach.
Your destination for the journey’s end is Reykjavík City. En route, you could detour to different sites of West Iceland, such as the historical towns of Borgarnes and Reykholt, the waterfalls Fossatún, Barnafoss, and Hraunfossar, and geothermal areas such as the Deildartunguhver hot spring.
You can also opt for several adventures; venturing inside a lava tube in Víðgelmir Cave or entering a stunning, man-made ice tunnel in Langjökull Glacier. Both options ensure geological wonders to behold.
After a day packed with sightseeing and adventure, you will return to Reykjavík for the night and enjoy its cultural downtown scene once more.
Day 12 - Departure
For your departure day, you will need to deliver your car back to Keflavík airport in time for your 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. 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.
Are you looking to try some of the best dishes Iceland’s top restaurants have to offer? You can now add delicious meals to your booking without having to research where to find them.
Select this option to include dinner every night as an extra, and we’ll provide you with vouchers as part of your booking confirmation. We’ll choose the top-rated restaurants that fit with your vacation itinerary and make your reservations for you.
Your server will offer you a set menu of two to three courses at the restaurant, from which you can choose meat, fish, or vegetarian options. If you prefer to try a different dish, the meal voucher will act as a credit that you can redeem at the restaurant against menu items that are not part of the set menu.
Save time and effort during your vacation, and let us take care of your meals for you. Choose the meal option today so you’ll be guaranteed to eat well on your forthcoming trip.
Please notify the restaurant on arrival about any dietary requirements. Vouchers are non-refundable.