Magical 2 Week Northern Lights Winter Road Trip in Iceland with Waterfalls & Glaciers
Join this brilliant 15-day winter self-drive tour around Iceland's Ring Road and discover for yourself the wealth of natural attractions that make this country so special and beloved. This is a fantastic opportunity for guests to maximize their time in the country, seeing as much of Icelandic nature and culture as possible.
Traveling around Iceland during the winter allows visitors to partake in countless unique tour opportunities, including dog sledding, ice caving, and glacier hiking. Circumnavigating the Ring Road also allows plenty of opportunities to see the dazzling Northern Lights, one of Iceland's greatest draws. To top it all off, you'll visit countless Icelandic towns and villages, delving into their compelling surrounding attractions and learning more about the local culture.
Not only that, but circling clockwise on the Ring Road allows you to see the majority of Iceland's stunning natural regions, including the picturesque North, the haunting Eastfjords, and, of course, the South Coast. You will also have an opportunity to partake in Iceland's most popular sightseeing route, the Golden Circle.
You will also visit stunning sites such as Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and the Vatnajökull glacier national park in the south, the dramatic Lake Mývatn geothermal area and lava fields in the north, and the black beaches of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in the west.
To top it off, you can choose from a variety of amazing activities and excursions during your trip, from snowmobiling to snorkeling, dog sledding to whale watching. Adding tours to your Self-Drive is a perfect way to get some added thrill into your holiday and save money at the same time.
Another of this tour's many benefits is taking it slow. Self-drive tours allow a level of independence within the itinerary that leaves you in charge of your holiday experience. During this 15-day excursion, you will be spending several nights in the same location, allowing you to savor the attractions and activities of the day. As you'll have a 4x4 vehicle, you'll have peace of mind while traveling in this winter wonderland. Your road safety is paramount.
Don't just sit at home! Hurry now and make sure to secure your 15-day self-drive tour and discover everything Iceland has in store during the beautiful winter months. Check availability by choosing a date.
Day 1 - Arrival and Car Pick Up
Welcome to Iceland and the beginning of your fifteen-day adventure discovering all of the amazing sights, sounds, and experiences found here. First things first, you'll arrive at Keflavík International Airport, located on the haunting Reykjanes Peninsula, where you will start your adventure. After collecting your bags and vehicle, take off on the journey towards Iceland's capital city, Reykjavík.
Traveling through the volcanic landscapes of Reykjanes, you'll be immediately overcome with Iceland's untouched and undeveloped nature. The coastline is cragged, worn, and ever-changing, while distant mountains and rocky hillsides line the horizon.
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.
Finally, you will arrive at the planet's northernmost capital, where you will check into your accommodation, then head out for some urban exploration. Depending on the time of your flight, you may have ample opportunity to check out some of Reykjavík's most recognized cultural landmarks, including the likes of Hallgrímskirkja Lutheran Church, Harpa Concert Hall, and Perlan Museum and Observation Deck.
Alternatively, if you happen to arrive in the evening, why not unearth the city's famous nightlife, delving into its acclaimed restaurants and bars? You can also head out to scout for the northern lights, for they might be dancing above in the sky for you.
Day 2 - Saga of the West
Today, you will be heading north for a stay in the town of Borgarnes. First, however, several memorable attractions demand your attention, the first of which are the waterfalls, Hraunfossar.
Hraunfossar (translating to "Lava Falls") are a series of waterfalls seeping through rivulets originating from Hallmundarhraun lava field. The lava field initially formed after an eruption of one of the volcanoes beneath Langjökull glacier. Nearby, you'll pay a visit to another waterfall, Barnafoss, which is known for its striking blue shade.
And what's the best way to end a day of sightseeing? Relaxing in heated water, of course! Thankfully, a visit to Krauma geothermal baths is in order. Here, you'll be able to enjoy the benefits of water originating from Europe's most powerful hot spring, Deildartunguhver. This output is blended with glacial water from an ice cap known as 'Ok' to achieve a comfortable bathing temperature, creating an authentically soothing, all-natural spa experience.
There is also the possibility to try your hand at caving during the day. Depending on your choice, you could explore the glittering ice cave tunnels in Langjökull glacier or delve into the craggy, subterranean world of Víðgelmir Cave, Iceland's longest lava cave.
In the evening, you will stay in accommodation in the Borgarfjörður area. If the weather allows, you could go on a small drive away from any light pollution and see if the Auroras make an appearance.
Day 3 - Snaefellsnes - Iceland in Miniature
Your third day will see you heading northwest onto the beloved Snæfellsnes Peninsula, otherwise referred to as "Iceland in Miniature" thanks to the eclectic nature of its attractions. As this colloquialism suggests, the peninsula is positively brimming with points of interest, ranging from glaciers to waterfalls to mountains.
One of the peninsula's greatest highlights is the "mountain like an arrowhead", Kirkjufell, as showcased in HBO's fantasy epic, Game of Thrones. As Iceland's most photographed mountain, it is almost required to bag your snapshot of this magnificent feature. Nearby, by Stykkishólmur township, are well-known locations from 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty', if you feel like skateboarding.
Another of Snæfellsnes' major attractions is the 700,000-year-old glacier, Snæfellsjökull, the namesake of this region's national park. The glacier was made famous by the Jules Verne novel - Journey to the Centre of the Earth - but has since become one of the country's most alluring points of interest. In 1993, some Icelanders even believed Snæfellsjökull to be the proposed landing spot for an ancient, alien civilization.
Of course, there are plenty of other things to see and do during your time on the peninsula. For one, why not make a stop at the beach Ytri-Tunga, known as one of the prime seal-spotting stops in Iceland?
While here, a voyage into Vatnshellir Cave can be added as an extra tour activity. Descending a spiraling staircase, you will gain a firsthand impression of this dazzling lava tube, taking time out to appreciate its raw, rustic colors and goblin-like rock structures.
Once again, this evening you will be staying in accommodation in the Borgarfjörður area.
Day 4 - Heading North
Known as ‘White Shirt’ in Icelandic due to the excess of bird guano, Hvítserkur, a 49-foot (fifteen-meter) high rock, will be the first stop of the day. Known as “The Troll of the Northwest”, many point out the visual similarities of this feature to mythical creatures, be it a frozen ogre or a dragon bending over to drink. What will you see at Hvítserkur?
The Tröll peninsula, an untouched mountainous region, is next on your list of discoveries. This area has long been home to countless magical creatures, including ‘The Hidden Folk’, Elves, and, of course, Trolls. The peninsula is a beloved spot for hikers and horse riders, and during the winter, becomes the home of off-piste skiing in Iceland.
On the evening of your fourth day, you’ll be staying in Iceland’s unofficial capital of the north, Akureyri. If you are lucky, the Northern Lights will appear, but they are often very well visible in the high north.
Day 5 - Capital of the North
Today, you will have a chance to explore the picturesque town of Akureyri. With a population of approximately 18,000, Akureyri boasts a vibrant local culture complemented by truly stunning scenery. Among other things, you could choose to visit Iceland’s best ice cream shop, Brynja, explore the Kjarnaskógur forest, discover the historic buildings of Old Town or appreciate the iconic church, Akureyrarkirkja. The possibilities are endless.
An extra activity that can be added to the day is whale watching. Akureyri is well-regarded for the quality of its whale watching tours, allowing you to not only get a close-up perspective of these gentle giants but also to see the landscapes of North Iceland from the ocean. There are approximately twenty different species of cetacean that live in Icelandic coastal waters, with Minke Whales and Humpback Whales being the most common sightings.
If Wanderlust grabs you on this day, you can head out to explore the Troll peninsula and visit the many small fishing villages there, nestled in deep fjords and valleys by high mountains.
Once again, you will be staying in Akureyri overnight.
Day 6 - Lake Myvatn
On your way to the Lake Mývatn area, you will pass the Goðafoss waterfall, which translates to "Waterfall of the Gods", a name received after an important moment in history. In approximately 1000 AD, when Icelanders converted from Norse Paganism to Christianity, former religious leaders threw their pagan idols into the cascading whitewater. The falls have a total width of 98 feet (30 meters), its height measuring 39 feet (12 meters).
Lake Mývatn is one of the Diamond Circle sightseeing route attractions, though the region includes several points of interest within it. One of these is the Martian-esque landscapes of Námaskarð Pass, a geothermal area that sports hot springs, bubbling mud pools, and steaming fumaroles.
Another otherworldly location is the Dimmuborgir lava fields. Called 'The Dark Castles' in Icelandic, legends state this to be the capital of the hidden people, with towering rock formations and winding paths in between the strange, asymmetrical pillars of black lava.
A great way to end your day in the area is to visit the Mývatn Nature Baths. The nature baths are often considered to be the less known, quieter alternative to the Blue Lagoon Spa. It sits between the lake and the geothermal areas, offering a stunning vista as you relax. You could lie there in the warm, blue waters and look to the sky to see if the Northern Lights will pay you a visit.
In the evening, you will be staying in accommodation in the Lake Mývatn area.
Day 7 - Snowland & Dettifoss Waterfall
It's your seventh day of adventure, and you will continue your exploration of the Mývatn area. You could visit the pseudocraters at Skútustaðagígar, a collection of intriguing elevations formed through the interaction between volcanism and water. These unique natural features only occur in Iceland and Mars!
You have the option to undertake a super jeep tour to Dettifoss waterfall, which has the most powerful flow rate of any waterfall in Europe, making it an essential stop for anyone visiting the region. Because of the falls' incredible and otherworldly aesthetic, it even took a starring role in Ridley Scott's science fiction epic, 'Prometheus' (2012). Your seasoned guide is ready to teach you all there is to know about the waterfall and surrounding area.
Another possible extra for the day is taking a dog sledding tour. Dog sledding is one of the more exhilarating means of exploring the Icelandic countryside, as well as offering up the opportunity to meet working Husky dogs!
This evening, once again, you will be staying in the Lake Mývatn area.
Day 8 - Exploring the Eastfjords I
The east of Iceland is known to be one of the least visited regions of the country, due only to its distance from the popular capital region. The area is known for its incredible, untouched wilderness, herds of wild reindeer, and eerie isolation.
Today, you will pay a visit to the town of Seyðisfjörður, where you can experience the place's historical wooden buildings and a variety of museums. From there, you travel to the main settlement of the east: Egilsstaðir.
Today's other fun activity is to stop for a picnic at the charming Atlavík Cove, situated in the heart of Iceland's largest forest, Hallormsstaðaskógur. Because Iceland is a largely treeless landscape, spending time in Hallormsstaðaskógur feels like a privilege; it should come as no surprise that this is a favorite camping spot amongst Icelanders themselves.
This evening you will be staying overnight in Egilsstaðir.
Day 9 - Exploring the Eastfjords II
Today, you will continue your exploration of the east of Iceland, paying a visit to more of the region's most memorable natural attractions. Remember to keep an eye out for wild reindeer herds—this is, after all, the only area of the country in which they can be seen.
One such location is the lake, Lagarfljót, which aside from its serene beauty, is thought to hold a large and mysterious creature known only as 'The Lagarfljót's Wyrm'. Considered to be Iceland's version of the Loch Ness Monster, the Wyrm has even been captured on video!
As you travel south, you will pass other towns in the area worthy of a visit. A notable place is Fáskrúðsfjörður, with its captivating relationship to French history, and the village of Reyðarfjörður, which sports a fantastic WW2 Museum.
As evening nears, you can make a stop on one of the mountains you cross and step out for some thrilling views over the fjords, and hopefully some Northern Lights, for a perfect display of Icelandic nature.
In the evening, you will cross into the south of Iceland, and stay in the Jökulsárlón area or by the village of Höfn. It is highly recommended to have dinner in Höfn and give the local specialty a try: North Atlantic langoustine lobster.
Day 10 - Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
You could start your day by visiting Vestrahorn mountain, located on the Stokksnes peninsula. This dramatic feature is a favorite amongst photographers and filmmakers who will often make the journey east for the sole reason of photographing its incredible facets.
The most impressive stop of the day, though, will be at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, otherwise known as “The Crown Jewel of Iceland” due to its ethereal aesthetic. Icebergs drop off the outlet glacier, Breiðamerkurjökull, itself a part of the larger ice cap, Vatnajökull.
Only five minutes walk away. You’ll stumble across the majestic Diamond Beach. This jet-black shoreline is adorned with wayward icebergs of various shapes and sizes, making it a fantastic destination for nature lovers and photographers.
Today’s added extra is paying a visit to the Blue Ice Cave. Located in Breiðamerkurjökull glacier tongue above the Glacier Lagoon, reachable only by massive super jeeps, this truly is an opportunity of a lifetime. Stepping inside of one of these stunning natural caverns puts you directly beneath the glacier, allowing an insider perspective of just what the ice looks like at this depth.
Afterward, you could visit Höfn town for dinner and try the langoustine lobster they are famed for. You’ll then have another night in the Jökulsárlón area.
Day 11 - Discover Skaftafell Nature Reserve
Skaftafell is a nature reserve enclosed within Vatnajökull National Park. Once a national park in its own right, Skaftafell is characterized by its creeping outlet glaciers, luscious hillsides, and lively wildlife, including birds and Arctic Foxes.
One of the major highlights of the day could be partaking in a glacier hike, one of the most authentically Icelandic experiences available. Glacier hiking allows you the opportunity to get up close to these sleeping giants, as well as scope out the surrounding landscape from a high, icy plateau. It is one of the most exhilarating and educational activities in the country but requires a guide and specialist equipment.
To make your day into a highlands adventure, you can join a glacier hike to one of the glacier outlets of the great Vatnajökull glacier. Your guides will be well-versed mountaineers that will convey their knowledge as you hike and experience the ice cap to the fullest.
In the evening, you will be staying overnight near the village Vík í Mýrdal. Remember to scan the sky in the evening for the Aurora!
Day 12 - Exploring The South Coast
Reynisfjara will be the first stop of the day. This stunning black sand beach is a visual reminder of Iceland's volcanic nature, with impressive hexagonal columns imprinted into the cliff face and the mighty rock stack, Reynisdrangar, sitting just off the coast.
After your time at Reynisfjara, you'll visit two of the South Coast's most famous waterfalls - Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. Attending Skógafoss first, you'll be impressed by this 197-foot (60-meter) high curtain of water cascading over the lip of an ancient sea cliff, finally plummeting into the rocks below with a billowing, omnipresent cloud of mist.
The waterfall, Seljalandsfoss, is much narrower than Skógafoss but does boast a small cavern behind the cascade that allows for a truly unique perspective. Seljalandsfoss is illuminated during the dark winter months, allowing visitors to experience the waterfall throughout the whole year.
Today you will also pass Sólheimajökull glacier, where you can join another glacier hike, this time on a very different ice cap, offering you to experience another frozen heart of Iceland in a new and thrilling way. You could also opt to go snowmobiling and speed over the vast expanse of ice and snow in the near area.
On the evening of your twelfth day, you'll be staying at accommodation in the Selfoss region.
Day 13 - The Golden Circle Sightseeing Route
The Golden Circle comprises three well-known attractions—Þingvellir National Park, Haukadalur Geothermal Valley, and Gullfoss Waterfall—making it the most popular sightseeing route in the country - and you will visit them today.
On your way there, you can visit the Secret Lagoon, a clear hot spring located in the Flúðir area, surrounded by small bubbling geysers and relaxing countryside vistas. What a way to start the day and warm up for the adventures it may hold.
The first stop of the Golden Circle route is the beloved waterfall, Gullfoss, otherwise known as 'The Golden Falls'. This stunning feature sees frothing white water tumbling over two rocky crags, falling a total of 105 feet (32 meters) into a dark canyon below.
From Gullfoss, it is possible to add on a snowmobiling trip on the glacier, Langjökull. Snowmobiling is one of those unique tour opportunities where it is possible to balance wild adrenaline with stunning sightseeing—how often, after all, do you get to shoot, whizz, and slide across one of the world's most stunning ice caps?
Haukadalur Geothermal Valley, the second stop of the Golden Circle tour, is known as the home of the hot springs, Strokkur and Geysir. Geysir is no longer active, though it is still recognized for having lent its name to geysers worldwide, while Strokkur erupts every five to ten minutes, shooting boiling jets of water up to 66 feet (20 meters) into the air.
Your last stop is UNESCO World Heritage Site Þingvellir (translating to "Fields of Parliament"). It is one of the only places in the world where it is possible to see the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates standing exposed from the earth, an experience best examined with a snorkeling tour in the glacial spring Silfra Fissure. A snorkeling tour in this gorgeous glacial gorge can be purchased as an extra on this day.
Þingvellir is also famous as the site where the world's first democratically elected parliament, Alþingi, was formed in 930 AD.
In the evening, you will be heading to your accommodation in the capital city.
Day 14 - Free day in Reykjavik
Finally, you have a free day to explore Iceland's capital city. Thankfully, Reykjavík offers a wealth of opportunities, from exciting day tours to museums, art galleries, and live exhibitions.
Why not dip into Icelandic cuisine? The city boasts fantastic restaurants with countless vegetarian and vegan options available. If you're thirsty for some nightlife, the city's bars offer a reasonable discount for a few happy hours each day!
There are a number of possible extras that could be added today. For one, you could partake in a helicopter tour, taking off from the city's domestic airport toward some of Iceland's most geothermally active valleys and plateaus.
Another option for your 14th day could be taking a horse riding tour. The Icelandic Horse is one of this country's most iconic animals, known for its muscular body, intelligence, and five unique gaits. Horse riding in Iceland is an amazing way to see the countryside and experience how ancient Icelanders moved from location to location.
If you wish, you can take a drive out of town on this night as well, and explore the nearby countryside, and hunt the Northern Lights away from the light pollution.
Again, you will be spending the night at accommodation in Reykjavík.
Day 15 - Departure & Car Drop-Off
How two weeks fly by!
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.