14 Day Northern Lights Winter Self Drive Tour of the Complete Ring Road with Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Enjoy a fortnight traveling around Iceland in winter with this fantastic self-drive tour. This relaxed journey, set clockwise around the Ring Road, will allow you to fully enjoy this country's wealth of incredible sites, along with guiding your path so that you avoid the crowds.
By booking a Self Drive package, you can enjoy Iceland as you want, spending as much or little time at each location as you wish. It includes visits to famed locations such as Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Lake Mývatn and the Golden Circle, and many hidden gems as well.
You can also tailor the travel to your interest by controlling the sites visited and adding optional adventures, such as caving, snorkeling, and glacier hiking, without sacrificing essential sightseeing experiences. You can add these activities as you book, adding some incredible experiences to your adventure.
The relaxed pace of the itinerary, which lets you stay more than a single night in many key locations, makes it easy to both explore the area and have an adventure without feeling rushed or overwhelmed.
Your journey will show you popular sites such as the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and South Coast, as well as little-traveled regions such as the East Fjords and peninsulas of the North. Of course, as you are traveling throughout the winter season, which goes from September to April, you will have endless opportunities over the two weeks to hunt the elusive and ethereal Northern Lights.
You'll have a choice of different levels of accommodations, so you can tailor them to suit your budget and what you want from your vacation. All the vehicles will be 4x4 SUVs, fully equipped for winter driving, offering both comfort and safety as you explore Iceland in the magical winter season.
Book this once-in-a-lifetime holiday to enjoy the winter wonderland that is Iceland and all it has to offer. Check availability by choosing a date.
Day 1 - Arrival in Iceland
Welcome to Iceland! You will land at Keflavík International Airport on Day One, where your car will be waiting for you. After picking it up, you will set off along the Reykjanes Peninsula, although not necessarily to your accommodation in Reykjavík 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.
Once you reach the capital, you can feel free to unwind and rest before your twelve days on the road, or else set out and explore Reykjavík’s many cultural hot spots. You can also opt for an evening drive and start your adventure with a Northern Lights hunt.
Day 2 - Iceland in Miniature
You will start your clockwise road trip with a bang on Day Two by visiting a region often called ‘Iceland in Miniature’ due to its geological diversity: the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
There you will travel along the south side of the peninsula towards the Snæfellsjökull National Park. The sites along the way are diverse and beautiful, including the villages of Arnarstapi and Hellnar with their stunning rock formations, the great basalt stacks at Lóndrangar, and the black beach of Djúpalónssandur.
The National Park is named after the Snæfellsjökull glacier and volcano, which forms an incredible backdrop to many sites along the peninsula. This twin-peaked feature is well-known for various reasons, including being featured in many renowned pieces of literature.
On the northern side, you can make a stop at the most photographed mountain in Iceland, the arrow-shaped Kirkjufell. This feature has a cute adjacent waterfall, Kirkjufellsfoss, which often sports a cape of ice in winter.
If you wish to add an adventure to the day, an exploration of a lava cave called Vatnshellir is a great way to explore a bit further, this time below the surface of the earth.
You will reside for the night on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Day 3 - Heading North
Today, you will leave west Iceland and make your way towards the ‘Capital of the North’, Akureyri. This is a very scenic route, offering everything from wide valleys to steep and jagged mountain tops.
During your drive, you could visit the rock stack Hvítserkur. In spite of its original legend as a dragon or a troll, most visitors think it more resembles an elephant with its trunk in the water. Other interesting places to visit on this day are Borgvirki natural fortress and the strange little church at Þingeyrar.
You’ll then come up to Akureyri, where you can enjoy a meal or drink at one of the town’s fine restaurants or bars. Being so far north makes the town an ideal location for an evening stroll in the nearby Kjarnarskógur woodlands and try to spot the Aurora Borealis before retiring for the night.
Day 4 - The Capital of the North
With its wealth of architectural and cultural sites, Akureyri more than warrants a day’s exploration; after all, it is the largest settlement outside of the Greater Reykjavík Area. Those interested in Icelandic history will find museums, those who love art will discover galleries and public artworks, and those who love shopping will find many boutiques.
Even those who love nature will find a wealth of things to do in the town. Those into flowers and botany will find the world’s northernmost botanical gardens, with its array of arctic plants, lovely in winter and summer alike. The dim-lit paths offer a dark spot in the town, making it an ideal evening location for Northern Lights spotting.
Animal lovers are encouraged to opt into a whale-watching tour from the harbor for their chance of seeing humpback whales, white-beaked dolphins, and harbor porpoises. The lucky may also see blue whales, fin whales, and orcas.
Of course, as you have your car, you can use your day to explore the nature around the town. You’ll stay in Akureyri for the night.
Day 5 - Lake Myvatn
Today you will head east along the Ring Road, continuing in your clockwise direction. The first site you will come to is a beautiful waterfall called Goðafoss, often garbed in ice and snow over the high winter.
After enjoying the site, you will move into the Lake Mývatn area. A series of lakes, this place is well-known for its unique and beautiful geological features and otherworldly surroundings.
The area around Mývatn is packed with interesting destinations. These include the Víti crater, the Dimmuborgir lava fortress, and the Grjótagjá hot-spring cave. The latter two of these features was used as a setting in the Game of Thrones franchise.
As you are a few days into your travels, no doubt you will want to relax in some of Iceland’s beautiful geothermally heated waters. You can do this by adding a visit to the Mývatn Nature Baths, which are in a serene location by the lakes, as you reserve your holiday.
You will retire for the night in the Mývatn area.
Day 6 - The Land of Ice and Snow
On your sixth day, you will make more of the sites of the north, focussing on the waterfalls within the Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon, in the northern part of the Vatnajökull National Park.
The most notable of these waterfalls is the most powerful in Europe, Dettifoss, which falls from over 66 ft (20m), with a width of over 328 ft (100m). This impressive landmark was used as the backdrop in the first scene of the movie Prometheus.
Dettifoss, however, is not the only waterfall in the valley. Just a little upstream is Selfoss, while downstream is Hafragilsfoss. While not quite as awe-inspiring as their giant middle neighbor, both are more than worth a visit.
If you want a break from driving, or just an exciting and unique experience, you can elect to take a super jeep tour to these sites, as not all of them are accessible to standard vehicles. A second optional tour is a dog-sledding ride over the strange and alien landscapes.
You’ll stay another night in the Mývatn area.
Day 7 - The Eastfjords
Moving on from the strange north, you will begin your exploration of the spectacular Eastfjords today.
Due to its distance from Reykjavík, the Eastfjords are one of the least visited and thus least crowded parts of Iceland. This, however, says nothing of the unbelievable beauty that can be found here. The remote and sparsely populated area is also ideal for spotting the Northern Lights, as there is little light pollution in the area.
The Eastfjords are best defined by towering mountains, deep fjords, historic and quaint fishing villages, and a wealth of wildlife. This wildlife includes birds, seals, and, most interestingly, reindeer. These animals were brought over to be farmed, but since the industry never took off, they have roamed free for decades in large herds.
Winter is the best time to spot them, as in summer, they tend to move into the eastern highlands.
There are two settlements of great significance in the Eastfjords. Seyðisfjörður is an idyllic place, surrounded by steep peaks and defined by old wooden buildings and a distinctly Icelandic charm.
Egillstaðir, meanwhile, is the largest settlement in the region with a wealth of services and cultural attractions. This town sits on the edge of the serene lake Lagarfljót, and it is here that you will retire for the night.
Day 8 - The Deep East
On your eighth day, you will continue traveling along the Eastfjords in the same manner as the day before, stopping off for plentiful photo opportunities far from the crowds, enjoying the magnificent views, and making stops at the pleasant towns en route.
By evening, you will reach the southeast of Iceland and can spend a few hours admiring sites such as Mount Vestrahorn or visiting the charming town of Höfn. Worry not if you do not have time, however, as you will have all day to explore this area tomorrow.
You will have the evening in Höfn, locally known for its langoustine fishing and being the best place in the country for some serious lobster feasting. It's highly recommended to take the evening to enjoy this local specialty.
Day 9 - Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and the Ice Cave
The southeast of Iceland is home to two sites so incredible that many visitors make their way over to Iceland just to see them. The first is the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, which is accessible throughout the year, and the second is the blue ice cave, accessible with a tour guide from November to March.
The glacier lagoon is Iceland's deepest lake, with a vast surface area that is ever-growing. It will slowly become a fjord over the next few decades. As it is, hundreds of giant icebergs, snapping from a tongue of the great Vatnajökull glacier, fill the waters and can be admired for hours as they twist, turn and break apart. The area, as mentioned earlier, also attracts many seals, which rest on the ice and swim between the bergs.
When they eventually make it to sea, the icebergs are pushed onto the nearby coastline, and due to the way the white ice glistens on the black sands, this stretch has earned itself the name 'the Diamond Beach'.
If you are traveling between the aforementioned months, it is highly recommended to take a trip into the ice cave, which you can elect to do while booking. These are incredibly rare features around the world and will provide memories to last a lifetime. If you have the time, you can remain at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon until after dark and hope to see the Northern Lights dance above the icebergs, a truly phenomenal sight.
You will stay in the southeast for this evening, as these sites warrant a full day's admiration.
Day 10 - Skaftafell Nature Reserve
Today, you will begin to make your way back to the west on the penultimate leg of your clockwise journey. This route goes along the South Coast, although the main attraction for Day Ten is a little inland, in a nature reserve within Vatnajökull National Park.
Skaftafell was, in fact, a national park itself before it was incorporated into a much larger protected area. This is because of its diverse natural features, ranging from glacier tongues to lava fields, from lagoons to woodland. It is a favorite destination amongst photographers and hikers alike.
The best hiking trail, accessible for those with a decent level of mobility, is generally considered the route to Svartifoss waterfall. Surrounded by black, hexagonal basalt columns, its unique beauty has inspired artists and architects for generations; it was part of the inspiration behind Reykjavík’s two most notable buildings, Hallgrímskirkja Church and Harpa Concert Hall.
To make the very most of Skaftafell, you could join a glacier hike and head up into the white ice cap, seeing the cracks and crevasses that seem to breathe on their own, filling the ancient glacier with life.
After enjoying Skaftafell, you will make your way west to the village of Vík, no doubt admiring the changing landscapes of glacier tongues, black sand deserts, river systems, countryside, and coastal views, as you travel.
Day 11 - The South Coast
The South Coast of Iceland between Vík and Hella, where you will spend your eleventh evening, is littered with incredible sites, so you will want to rise early to make the most of them.
Adjacent to the village is a beach once voted one of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world, Reynisfjara. Here, haunting black sands stretch as far as the eye can see, with great Atlantic rollers crashing into them. As the many warning signs will tell you, do not be foolish with these waves, as many have been whisked out to sea by them before.
Jutting from the ocean, you will see two rock pillars called Reynisdrangar. According to legend, these are the remains of two trolls frozen into rock while trying to pull a ship to shore. Near here is the Dyrhólaey rock arch, which curves magnificently into the sea.
Next along the road, you see the spectacularly powerful Skógafoss waterfall. This waterfall throws off such a vast amount of spray that rainbows often spring from it when the sun is shining, allowing for some great photo opportunities. Even in inclement weather, it is beautiful, with an ominous air.
Your day will also take you past the massive Mýrdalsjökull glacier cap. If you wish, you can take one of two tours here; you can take a thrilling snowmobile ride across its surface or a hike on one of its tongues, Sólheimajökull, in the shadow of Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano.
Meltwater from this glacier feeds the next attraction, Seljalandsfoss waterfall. These well-photographed falls will likely be familiar to those with a vague knowledge of Iceland’s features, as it can be fully encircled, and many pictures have been taken from behind it.
This is your last evening in the countryside, so make sure to take an evening drive and enjoy the crisp winter silence and watch the sky for the Aurora Borealis.
You will stay in the Selfoss region for the night, in one of the villages scattered there.
Day 12 - The Golden Circle
By your twelfth day, you will have all but completed your tour around the Ring Road of Iceland. There is, however, a glaring omission from your journey so far: a trip around the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is the country’s most famous route, going to three classic Icelandic destinations, Gullfoss, Geysir, and Þingvellir.
Gullfoss is the country’s most renowned waterfall and perhaps its most renowned feature altogether. Falling in two tiers, it has awesome power, a strange milky color due to the fact it is composed of glacial meltwater, and like Skógafoss, throws off many rainbows in the sun. From there, you can opt for a high-speed tour and fly across the Langjökull glacier on snowmobiles.
Next, you will see Geysir. This geyser is the one that lent all others their names, although it is currently experiencing a period of inactivity. Worry not, however, as beside it is the very active Strokkur, which goes off every five to ten minutes. A similarly active geyser can be found at the Secret Lagoon, a beautiful spa that you can visit. However, the geyser here is much smaller, with the most defining aspects of the lagoon being its serenity and comfort.
The final site of the Golden Circle is Þingvellir National Park. The area is a national park due to its history, being the original site of the Icelandic parliament. However, its beauty is what captures most guests, as it is nestled in a valley between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, both of which are visible.
As these plates pull apart, they tear ravines open throughout the park, which fill with spring water. One of these ravines, Silfra, can be snorkeled in. Though it is cold, you will be provided with all necessary gear to protect you, and the views through the crystal clear water are unmatched.
After enjoying the Golden Circle, you will return to Reykjavík, having completed the Ring Road.
Day 13 - Reykjavik City and Surroundings
On your penultimate day, you can explore Iceland's capital, go shopping along Laugavegur, dine in Michelin Star restaurants, or drink in one of the many lively bars. The city also has many museums on everything from Iceland's history, its whales, its punk subculture, and, for those seeking a bit of a laugh, the anatomy of the phallus across the animal kingdom.
If your spirit for adventure has not been exhausted over the past two weeks, you can take a helicopter tour over the geothermal areas around Reykjavík for some spectacular urban and natural views. Otherwise, you can take a charming ride aback an Icelandic horse through some beautiful countryside.
The possibilities are endless on this day. You can always contact your personal travel planner if you have a specific activity in mind, and they will do all they can to assist. Regardless if you take the day off to relax in the city or head out on an adventure, your last day in Iceland is sure to be a blast.
Day 14 - Departure Day
Unfortunately, today is the day you will leave Iceland, but no doubt, your journey home will be spent reminiscing over the amazing things you saw the last fortnight. You’ll drop your car off at the airport in good time before enjoying your flight away.
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, 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.
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.