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12 Day Northern Lights Winter Self Drive Tour of Iceland’s Snaefellsnes, South Coast & Reykjavik

Gullfoss waterfall makes up one third of the famous Golden Circle tourist trail.
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Description

Details

Tour starts
Keflavík Airport
Starting time
Flexible
Duration
12 days
Ending place
Keflavík Airport (KEF), Reykjanesbær, Iceland
Difficulty
Easy
Available
Sep. - Apr.
Ending time
Flexible
Minimum age
None

Description

Secure the trip of a lifetime by booking this 12-day winter self-drive tour discovering the many attractions of West and South Iceland. This is the perfect opportunity for travelers looking to experience as much of the snow-blanketed South Coast and Snæfellsnes Peninsula as possible, with added free days to explore Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavík. 

Winter sees Iceland live up to its name, with frostbitten landscapes, cool, enduring nights, and the chance of seeing the magical yet elusive Northern Lights. It also opens up the possibility for unforgettable seasonal tours, including snowmobiling, glacier hiking, and even ice caving.

Iceland’s South Coast and Snæfellsnes Peninsula are two of the country’s most popular regions, boasting an untold wealth of mesmerizing natural attractions, including glistening ice caps, groaning volcanoes, and a countless number of unique waterfalls. For those looking to experience these majestic regions in-depth, there truly is no better tour than this!

Come along on a winter adventure. Book today, and you too can experience both Snæfellsnes and South Iceland in all their frozen glory. Check availability by choosing a date.  

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Included

11 nights of accommodation (different levels available; breakfast included for Comfort and Quality levels; more detailed information below)
A vehicle for 12 days (Toyota Yaris or similar. Upgrades available)
CDW, SCDW and gravel protection insurances
GPS System
Detailed itinerary
Personal travel agent
Taxes
Travelers who book with Guide to Iceland may have a PCR or rapid antigen COVID-19 test prearranged prior to their departure from Iceland, if needed.

Activities

Glacier Hiking
Snorkelling
Caving
Snowmobile
Horse Riding
Sightseeing
Boat Trip
Climbing
Northern lights hunting
Hot Spring Bathing
Cultural Activity
Helicopter
Ice Caving
Self drive

Daily itinerary

Day 1
The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland's most famous visitor attractions.

Day 1 - Arrival to Iceland

Welcome to the first day of your 12-day Self-Drive tour in Iceland! You'll arrive at Keflavík International Airport, where you will pick up your rental car and take off on a ride towards the capital city, Reykjavík.

During this journey, you will be traveling through the volcanic and haunting landscape of the Reykjanes Peninsula, a region best characterized by its dark, cragged coastlines and expansive lava fields. Attractions on the Reykjanes Peninsula include the steaming mud pools of Gunnuhver geothermal area, Kleifarvatn lake, and the 'Bridge Between the Continents', where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet.

As an added extra on your first day in the country, you could choose to visit one of the country's most famed attractions—the Blue Lagoon Spa! This bathing complex is instantly recognizable for its pillars of white steam, azure waters, and black, rocky surroundings. The spa's water is very mineral-rich, particularly in silica, known for its health benefits to the skin.

After your time at the lagoon, you will arrive in the northernmost capital of the world, Reykjavík. Filled with anticipation and excitement, why not check out the exciting downtown nightlife once you have checked into your accommodation? 

If you're looking for a more docile evening, there is no better city in the world for a twilight stroll than Reykjavík—make sure to get some rest in, for tomorrow you will be heading to the eclectic Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

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Day 2
Kirkjufell Mountain on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, as seen in the cold winter months.

Day 2 - Iceland in Miniature

Known as “Iceland in Miniature” for its diverse and unforgettable natural attractions, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is one of the most popular sightseeing areas for international visitors. Throughout your travels of this region, you will forever be in the shadow of the domineering ice cap, Snæfellsjökull, which sits just at the tip of the peninsula.

One of the major attractions on the peninsula is the steeple-shaped mountain, Kirkjufell. Most famously, the feature appeared in HBO’s fantasy show Game of Thrones as “the mountain like an arrowhead”. For this reason, and for its sheer aesthetic, Kirkjufell is considered the most photographed mountain in Iceland.

Another of the regions’ most epic attractions is the black sand beach, Djúpalónssandur, which sits just at the base of Snæfellsjökull. Djúpalónssandur was, historically, a dense fishing village with a busy port. Today, the bay is uninhabited, though it is regularly visited by those wishing to test their strength against the famed ‘four lifting stones’, used to measure toughness by fishermen since ancient times.

There is a wealth of sightseeing options today on this mystical peninsula, but if you are looking for an adventure, you can add a caving trip into the 8000-year-old Vatnshellir lava tube to this day. Requiring its visitors to descend 115 ft (35m) down a spiraling metallic staircase, this incredible feat of nature stretches out for 656 ft (200m) in a parade of fascinating rock formations, shadowy corners, and otherworld shades of color.

You will be spending the evening at accommodations on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Make sure to check the skies tonight for signs of the elusive Aurora Borealis.

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Day 3
The name of West Iceland's waterfall Hraunfossar translates to 'Lava Falls'.

Day 3 - West Iceland

Today, you will be visiting Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls, two of West Iceland’s most beloved features. Hraunfossar—in truth, a series of rivulets—is widely known for the striking black color of its rock face, whilst Barnafoss boasts a more fearsome cascade, complimented further by the spectacular blue shade of its water.

If you wish to spice up your time in the West, you can add one of the following three exciting activities to this day during the booking process.

For one, you could choose to visit the lava tube, Víðgelmir, located in the Hallmundarhraun lava field. Formed in around 900 AD, Víðgelmir is 1585 m long, making it the largest underground chamber of its kind in the country. Strangely enough, Víðgelmir is known to have had people using it for shelter during the Viking age; evidence of such habitation is currently displayed at the National Museum of Iceland.

Another added option today is paying a visit to Krauma Nature Baths. Here, water from Europe’s most powerful hot spring, Deildartunguhver, is blended with glacial water from Iceland’s smallest ice cap, Ok, creating the perfect temperate balance for bathing. The facility boasts such amenities as five varied geothermal pools, two saunas, and a relaxation room, perfect for calming the mind in front of the fireplace.

Your final option could be visiting the man-made ice cave tunnel at Langjökull glacier, the country’s second-largest ice cap. As one of the country’s newest attractions, the Langjökull ice tunnel presents a unique educational experience learning more about these powerful features.

You will finish the day at your new accommodation, located close to the Golden Circle route.

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Day 4
Haukadalur on the Golden Circle sightseeing route is home to the hot spring, Geysir and Strokkur.

Day 4 - Golden Circle

Comprised of three of Iceland’s most-visited attractions, the Golden Circle is the country’s most popular sightseeing route, presenting guests with a true insight into the history, culture, and nature of this incredible land.

You will first visit Þingvellir National Park. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the world’s oldest parliament, the Alþingi, formed in 930 AD. Icelanders chose to convert en masse from Norse Paganism to Christianity years later.

Aside from its history, Þingvellir is one of the only sites on the planet where visitors can see the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates standing exposed from the earth. This crack, known as the Almannagjá Gorge, has a short trail presented with information boards and the rumbling waterfall, Öxarárfoss.

Þingvellir’s final treasure is Silfra Fissure, a glacial spring and snorkeling site famed for its incredible water visibility, often exceeding 328 ft (100m). Equipped with a drysuit, thermal onesie, and a pair of fins, you can discover for yourself the dramatic underwater scenery that makes Silfra so wildly popular if you opt for a snorkeling tour during the booking process.

If you are looking at a more relaxed way to experience Icelandic waters, you should try visiting the Secret Lagoon, the oldest outdoor pool heated by its nearby geothermal springs. 

Next on the Golden Circle, you will visit the geothermal area of Geysir, where you will find the widely photographed hot spring is Strokkur. Each year, the feature draws hundreds of thousands of people to witness its water be propelled over 49-66 ft (15–20m). This occurs every five to ten minutes, meaning you’ll be sure to catch a photograph of this incredible, natural occurrence in action!

Your final stop of the Golden Circle route is at the ‘Golden Falls’, Gullfoss, a 105-foot (32-meter) high waterfall considered one of the most beloved examples of Icelandic nature. It is possible to add on a snowmobiling tour from the Gullfoss car park, taking place on Langjökull glacier. Snowmobiling is one of the best sports for winter, bestowing exhilarating thrills and chills on all those who take part.

Once again, you will be spending the evening at nearby accommodations on the Golden Circle.

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Day 5
Reynisfjara is a black sand beach on the South Coast of Iceland.

Day 5 - South Coast

The South Coast is well-regarded as one of Iceland's most popular sightseeing routes, drawing thousands of visitors a year with its unforgettable natural attraction. Among the first that you will be visiting today is Seljalandsfoss, a 197-foot (60-meter) high waterfall that falls in a narrow stream over a concave cliff.

A little further on, you will make a stop at Seljalandsfoss' cousin, Skógafoss. Reaching the same height, guests here can choose to either observe the waterfall from its base, where it creates a large plume of ever-present mist, or from its lip at the top of an ancient sea cliff, allowing visitors wide panoramas of the South Coast's scenery.

Next on the itinerary is a visit to the volcanic shoreline of Reynisfjara, the most famous of Iceland's black sand beaches. Located adjacent to the small yet well-visited fishing village of Vík í Mýrdal, this stretch of beach boasts of the hexagonal lava pillars and the enormous basalt rock stacks, Reynisdrangar.

Of course, there are a number of added extras available for your first day on the South Coast, the first of which being ice caving. Stepping inside the Katla ice cave, guests will be amazed by the glittering frozen walls, deep sinkholes, and striking shades of blue, which are streaked with black volcanic ash. Ice caves reach their true pinnacle of beauty during the winter, with the surrounding, snow-blanketed landscapes only adding to this serene yet frostbitten vista.

Those who can't get enough of these chilled panoramas could also opt for a dramatic glacier hike on Sólheimajökull ice cap. Sólheimajökull is an outlet glacier of the much larger Mýrdalsjökull, and provides incredible views over the South Coast.

On the evening of Day 5, you will be staying in or near Vík í Mýrdal, a perfect place to search for the stunning Northern Lights.

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Day 6
Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is known as 'The Crown Jewel of Iceland' thanks to its stunning, ethereal aesthetic.

Day 6 - Glacier Lagoon

Today, you will continue on your journey east, driving past glacier tongues of the mighty Vatnajökull glacier, through Skaftafell Nature Reserve, to your destination for today, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

If you opt to during the booking process, you will stop in Skaftafell for a glacier hike, taking place from morning until noon. Under the guidance of an expert glacier guide, you will ascend one of the reserve’s glaciers, taking in the glorious frozen landscapes and intricate ice sculptures with an incredible backdrop of the neighboring region. 

Jökulsárlón is often spoken of as the “Crown Jewel of Iceland” due to its fantastical aesthetic; a still and glittering body of water adorned with enormous icebergs, surrounded by stunning glaciers and mountains. These heaving chunks of ice break away from Breiðamerkurjökull, an outlet glacier of the much larger ice cap, Vatnajökull, falling into the lagoon before gently making their way out toward the Atlantic Ocean.

As an added extra, guests visiting in September and October can take one of two boat tours in the afternoon, either on an amphibious vessel or zodiac boat. Zodiac boat tours are designed for smaller groups, allowing guests to maneuver easily between the icebergs, while amphibian boat tours provide standing room for excellent views and photographs.

Guests will encounter the black-sand shoreline of Diamond Beach, only a short walk away from Jökulsárlón lagoon. Here, icebergs from the lagoon wash upon the sand, creating the picture-perfect vista for photographers and nature lovers alike.

You will be spending the next two nights in the area under Vatnajökull glacier.

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Day 7
Looking through an iceberg on Diamond Beach near the stunning Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

Day 7 - Glacier Lagoon in a Different Light

Once again, you will have the opportunity to sightsee at Jökulsárlón, taking in this beautiful glacier lagoon under different weather conditions; the perfect excuse to add some spice to your ever-growing photography collection. Naturally, you can also revisit Diamond Beach and may even want to spend some further time at Skaftafell Nature Reserve.

Another sightseeing option today could be the instantly recognizable mountain, Vestrahorn, a favorite amongst photographers with its sharp and pointed peaks and pleasant shoreline. Also in this area are the equally stunning summits, Eystrahorn and Brunnhorn.

For those looking to continue their exploration of the area, why not check out the Hoffell geothermal pools, only a short distance from the town of Höfn? These five temperate baths boast stunning views and make for the perfect remedy after a long day exploring the southeast.

As for today’s added extra, you could opt for a visit to a stunning blue ice cave nestled deep beneath the mighty Vatnajökull glacier. The ice caves in this area have been made famous by Iceland’s nature photographers. The caves emit a striking azure shade that defies the imagination of even the greatest fantasy writers.

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Day 8
The little village of Vík í Mýrdal on a winter's day.

Day 8 - Back West

Now it is time to head back west, driving the South Coast on your way towards your accommodations near the little village of Vík í Mýrdal. Along the way are many stops you may wish to visit or re-visit, such as Skaftafell or Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

Once a national park in its own right, Skaftafell is a nature reserve that now sits within the Vatnajökull National Park. Considered one of the lusher areas in the summer, Skaftafell is no less spectacular in the winter, boasting fantastic panoramic views of Iceland’s frosty southeastern landscapes.

At the end of the day, you will make your way back to the village of Vík. This charming settlement is famous for its black coastline and its knitwear made of Icelandic wool. It is the perfect souvenir to take back home.

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Day 9
The major attractions of the South Coast of Iceland include the stunning waterfall of Seljalandsfoss, pictured here in winter.

Day 9 - South Coast in Depth

On your way back to the capital, you will have a choice as to how exactly you wish to spend your day. The first option is to head straight back to the city, keeping your time on the road short and thus allowing for a longer evening in the capital.

Alternatively, it is possible to stop at the same sites as Day 6, including Reynisfjara, Skógafoss, and Seljalandsfoss, and see them in different weather conditions and light.

The latter option is particularly suited to those travelers looking to capture a wide range of photographs and those hoping to maximize their time on the South Coast.

You can also visit the DC-3 plane wreck, found on the black expanse of Sólheimasandur. This glistening, metallic relic crashed in 1972 and eroded in the harsh Icelandic weather, providing a stark contrast to the dark volcanic landscape surrounding it. Thankfully, no one was killed in the crash, and it has since gone on to become one of the most widely photographed attractions in Iceland.

Today, it is also possible to add on a snowmobiling tour on Mýrdalsjökull, the country's fourth-largest glacier. Snowmobiling is one of those rare experiences that manages to balance epic scenery with heart-thumping adrenaline, an extreme sport that is perfect for beginners and almost impossible to forget.

Whizzing across the ice towards Mýrdalsjökull's summit, you will finally demount at Katla caldera, one of Iceland's most famous volcanoes, which sits approximately 0.47 miles (750 meters) below the frozen surface.

You will end the day back in Iceland's capital city, where you check into your accommodation and rest up for the last three days of your holiday. 

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Day 10
Reykjavík is the northernmost capital city on the planet.

Day 10 - Reykjavik I

Today, you will finally have a chance to explore Iceland's quintessential capital city, Reykjavík. With a diminutive population of little more than 123,000 (with 216,940 living in the Capital Region altogether), the city offers a surprising variety of attractions and activities.

One of the best locations for getting a 360-degree panorama of the capital is at Perlan Museum and Observation Deck, located beside Öskjuhlíð pine-forest. Inside, you find a replica of an ice cave, a virtual aquarium, and an exhibition on earthquakes.  

Hallgrímskirkja church was founded in the year 1940 and designed by state architect, Guðjón Samúelsson, who was inspired by Iceland's natural aesthetic, particularly its distinctive lava columns often found in the areas closeby to historical eruptions. Standing at a domineering 240 ft (73m) high, Hallgrímskirkja's steeple is another of the city's best vantage points, offering a wide perspective over the city's colorful tin rooftops.

However, there can be no beating a geothermal helicopter tour for those looking for the ultimate perspective. One of the most luxurious and VIP sightseeing options available, helicopter tours are the perfect activity for those looking to bring their Icelandic holiday experience to the next level.

Taking off from Reykjavík Domestic Airport, you will soar above the city, stunned by the sheer dominance of the capital's surrounding wilderness. Finally, you will arrive at a geothermal area on the Reykjanes Peninsula, where you will gain firsthand insight into Iceland's bubbling underbelly.

Another possible extra that today can add is one of the most authentic Icelandic activities available—horseback riding through the countryside. The Icelandic horse species is most known for its small yet muscular stature, loyal intelligence, and five unique gaits. Sitting atop the saddle surrounded by the beauty of the Capital Region, you'll feel closer to Iceland's original settlers than ever before.

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Day 11
A day in Reykjavík allows you to explore parks like Laugardalur.

Day 11 - Reykjavik II

It's your second free day in Reykjavík, meaning it's time to absorb the city's culture. Both the National Gallery of Iceland and the Reykjavík Art Museum are necessary visits for those looking to unearth this city's creative zeal, with further options being the likes of The Einar Jónsson Museum or the Reykjavík Museum of Photography.

Travelers looking to learn more about the capital's fascinating history could opt for such places as The Reykjavík 871±2 Settlement Exhibition, the Sagas Museum, or the Árbæjarsafn Open-Air Museum, the latter of which showcases artifacts, live reenactments, and traditional Icelandic turf homes.

You can also book admission to the FlyOver Iceland Experience and Whales of Iceland Exhibit with this package!

If you visit in September or October, you will have another option for activities today: exploring inside a volcano. Þríhnúkagígur is a dormant volcano just outside of Reykjavík city where visitors can descend into its empty magma chamber via lift to explore the vibrant colors and the vast size of the caldera.

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Day 12
Northern Lights over the Reykjanes Peninsula.

Day 12 - Departure

Alas, your self-drive holiday in Iceland has come to an end. Depending on your scheduled flight time, you may still have time to explore the final hidden corners of the city or perhaps hit the Blue Lagoon. Regardless, you will head back across the Reykjanes Peninsula towards Keflavík International Airport to catch your return flight home.

Until next time, we hope that you’ve had an incredible stay in the Land of Ice and Fire!

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What to bring

Warm wind- and waterproof clothing suited for the season
Good outdoor shoes suited for the season
Swimsuit and a towel
Camera
Driving 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.

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.

Accommodation

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.

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 2 years of age, and include standard Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), Gravel Protection (GP), and Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW) insurances. Please note that off-road driving is illegal for all types of cars. All levels come equipped with a GPS and 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. In wintertime, all cars have winter tyres.

Budget 2WD

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.

Budget 4x4

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.

Comfort 4X4

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.

Luxury 4x4

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.

Van

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.

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