Delve into the mysteries of Iceland on this fast, 2-day self-drive adventure along Iceland’s gorgeous south coast, from Reykjavik all the way to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. You’ll be able to see the beauty of Iceland wearing its winter dress for you, all swaths of white snow and lacy icicles hanging from windowsills.
You’ll make the journey in a 4x4 car that can handle the tough winter conditions and get you to your destination in comfort so that you can enjoy the fresh air and take in the natural environment.
This tour offers a chance to view two of the loveliest waterfalls in Iceland, Skógafoss, and Seljalandsfoss, along with the black beach of Reynisfjara. You’ll also visit an ice cave under Vatnajökull glacier, close to the famous Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.
Ice caves are quite rare in Iceland. Each year, specialists investigate the area around Vatnajökull glacier for caves which form naturally after meltwater has run under the ice cap. Each cave is chosen for its safe passage and unique beauty, so each tour is a one-of-a-kind experience possible for only a few months each year, where you'll get to see and touch the wonderful, crystal-blue ice in the glacier's depth.
You also have an opportunity to search the night skies for the Northern Lights - if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see them dancing over the glacier lagoon, reflected on the water and ice.
Because your tour is short, we want you to see the most popular sites while still leaving time to take care of yourself. We've included the best of Iceland in your tour, and hand-picked some of its best-kept secrets to give you time away from the crowds so that you can enjoy the beauty all around you without interruption.
Our custom itinerary provides a balance of places you've seen on postcards and those only locals know so you can revel in the natural world for as long as you like.
Don’t miss this exclusive chance to see some of the most beautiful landscapes in Iceland! Check availability by choosing a date.
Jokulsarlon is a glacier lagoon in the south of Vatnajokull national park that is easily reached by the Ring Road.
Covered in thick glacial ice until the 1930’s when the glacier started retreating, the lagoon today measures 7 square miles (20 km2). More than 300 feet of ice still breaks away each year, reshaping the lagoon and filling it with icebergs - causing an alarmingly beautiful sight.
The water is freezing cold and contains a mixture of salt and freshwater giving it a blue-green color. There is plenty of fish and birdlife by the lagoon and the vast sand area of Breiðamerkursandur, and hundreds of seals stay there in winter.
Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Europe covering 8% of the island of Iceland. Vatnajökull National Park - which encompasses the earlier national parks of Skaftafell and Jökulsárgljúfur - is the largest protected area in Europe and believed by many to be the most beautiful place on earth.
In this area you'll find some of the most stunning and diverse sights in Iceland. Among those are Iceland's highest peak, Hvannadalshnjúkur, its most active volcano, Grímsvötn, beautiful waterfalls such as Svartifoss by Skaftafell and Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful waterfall, stunning canyons such as Jökulsargljúfur and Ásbyrgi, and the breathtaking Jökulsárlon, an ice-riddled glacier lagoon that is one of the most beautiful attractions in Iceland.
The glacier itself covers a surface area of about 100 km2. The thickness of the ice is generally around 400-600 meters, at its thickest around 950 meters. Under the glacier are valleys, mountains and plateuas as well as active volcanoes, most notably Grimsvotn and Bardarbunga, both the largest and most active of these. Then there are Esjufjoll, a glorious volcanic mountain island, surrounded by the glacier on all sides.
Vatnajokull has over 30 outlets, some of the major ones being Dyngjujokull and Bruarjokull to the north and Breidamerkurjokull, Oraefajokull, Skeidararjokull and Sidujokull towards the south. On the west side from the north are smaller glaciers Eyjabakkajokull, Hofsjokull, Flaajokull Heinabergsjokull and Skalafellsjokull.
The highest peak of Iceland then lies to the south, Hvannadalshnjukur in the Oraefajokull outlet, reaching 2109 m, according to latest measurements.
Many rivers have their sources at Vatnajokull, including some of the greatest glacier rivers in the country. To the North are Jokulsa a Fjollum and Skjalfandafljot, to the Northeast are Jokulsa a Bru, and Jokulsa i Fljotsdal and to the south are Jokulsa i Loni, Hornafjardarfljot, Jokulsa a Breidamerkursandi, Skeidara, Nupsvotn, Hverfisfljot and Skafta.
The area around the glacier is highly varied. The highland plateu to the north is divided by glacier rivers which see massive floods in the summer. This is a highly volcanic region, where the volcanoes Askja, Herdubreid, Kverkfjoll and Snaefell tower over the scene. In this area is also the Jokulsargljufur preservation area with its magnificent canyon and the mighty glacier ricer Jokulsa a Fjollum where you'll find stunning waterfalls such as Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful waterfall. Further north are the Hljodaklettar echoing caves and the horse shoe-shaped Asbyrgi canyon, among other incredible sights.
Broad wetlands lie near the glacier and in the vicinity of Snaefell, further east. Particularly notable is the Eyjabakkar oasis, one of the largest nesting places for pink feeted geese in the world and located north of the Eyjabakkajokull outlet. To the east is also the stunning Jokulsarlon.
South of Vatnajokull, majestic mountain ridges characterise the scene, with outlet glaciers lying between them and reaching onto the lowlands. The Skaftafell preservation area is located there, with its rich flora and home to the beautiful waterfalls Hundafoss and Skogafoss, the latter famed for its with its magnificent columnar basalt formations.
To the south lies the vast sand desert Skeidararsandur, reaching all the way to the sea. The glacier river Skeidara runs through it and the sand was indeed created by great glacier bursts from Skeidara, with its origins in volcanic activity at Grimsvotn.
To the west of Vatnajokull there is strong volcanic activity as well. Some of the world's greatest fissure and lava eruptions happened there, at the Eldgja volcanic chasm and the Lakagigar craters in the 18th century. Vonarskard pass, to the northwest is also worth checking out, a highly colourful geothermal area that connects the North and South of Iceland.
Fans of the James Bond films might recognize the glacier from A View to a Kill and the stunning Jokulsarlon from Die Another Day, though the events of the former were supposed to take place in Siberia.
Scenes by the Wall in the HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones were also shot by Vatnajokull and further scenes were shot at lake Myvatn, another Iceland's major attractions.
Skogafoss is one of the biggest and most beautiful waterfalls of the island with an astounding width of 25 meters and a drop of 60 meters.
This is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland for travellers to visit. It is located in South Iceland, not far from Skogar, which itself features a highly interesting regional museum. Due to the amount of spray the waterfall often produces a single or double rainbow on sunny days.
The 120 meter high promontory Dyrholaey is the southernmost part of the mainland, only a short drive south of the Ring Road. It offers a breathtaking view and features spectacular outcrops and rock formations.
A notable attraction is the massive arch that the sea has eroded from the heartland, giving the island its name (‘dyr’=door’). One daredevil pilot even flew through it!
Dyrholaey has an abundance of birdlife, the most common being puffins and eider ducks. You can also enjoy the black beach, where the waves can provide an impressive sight. As these can be very wild, we do however advise uttermost caution.
The world-famous Reynisfjara shore, near the village Vik in Myrdalur on Iceland's South Coast, is widely regarded as the most impressive black-sand beach in Iceland.
To reach Reynisfjara you can either drive there yourself. Here you will find the largest and cheapest car rentals in Iceland. Or you can join this summer tour to the South coast, or this winter tour to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.
Reynisfjara is a black pebble beach and features an amazing cliff of regular basalt columns resembling a rocky step pyramid, which is called Hálsanef. Out in the sea are the spectacularly shaped basalt sea stacks Reynisdrangar. The area has a rich birdlife, including puffins, fulmars and guillemots.
The waves at Reynisfjara are especially strong and unpredictable, and fatal accidents have occurred at this beach, so people are advised to take extra care when visiting the area.
According to folklore, two trolls attempted to drag a ship to land but were turned to stone as daylight broke, turning them into the Reynisdrangar stacks, clearly visible from the beach.
Departure time : Flexible
Accommodation for one night by Jökulsárlón, with breakfast
Toyota Rav4 4x4 or similar rental car for two days
Ice cave tour from Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon
CDW and SCDW insurance along gravel protection for car rental
Detailed Itinerary with fun and practical information on the nature, history and culture of Iceland
Hands-on travel agent to oversee your itinerary
Warm clothing and outerwear suited for rainy and chilly weather (Waterproof recommended)
Sturdy shoes for walking/hiking
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.
The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon, and therefore cannot be guaranteed, but this itinerary is designed to maximise your chances to see them if weather allows. Please be aware that your itinerary may have to be rearranged to fit your arrival date and time better.
It can happen, in the case of extreme weather, that an activity is cancelled. If your chosen activity is cancelled, we will assist you with rearranging or booking other activities when possible, and any potential price difference will be refunded to you.
Pick up your 4x4 car in Reykjavík and start your exciting winter journey of the south coast. After a couple of hours drive through some cute towns and past the lowland fields of the south, you'll come to Seljalandsfoss waterfall. You're able to walk around this waterfall, and there's no way you'll miss it as you can spot it from the Ring Road easily.
A little while later, you'll come to another stunning waterfall, Skógafoss, the last waterfall in a series of dozens of smaller ones coming down from the glacier of Mýrdalsjökull, that's right next to Eyjafjallajökull volcano.
Further along the south coast, you can visit Dyrhólaey, where you can take in breathtaking views of the glacier, the black sands and the Atlantic Ocean from its picturesque lighthouse. You'll also be able to go to the black sands of Reynisfjara beach.
Make sure that you have enough time to reach Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon at the end of the day, where you will spend the night. This is possibly the best location in the country to see the Northern Lights, as they can be reflected in the still water if they are strong enough!
Gerði Guesthouse is located about 13km east of Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Private bedrooms with shared bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi in main building. Breakfast not included.
Hotel Höfn is a 3 star hotel centrally located within the town Höfn. Private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.
Your ice caving tour starts in the morning from Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. You'll meet up with your guide at the parking lot by the glacier lagoon and will then be driven on a specially modified car towards the ice cave.
You need to go with a guide because the ice caves can be dangerous and it's up to your guide to decide if it's safe to enter the cave, depending on weather and conditions. We put safety first.
If the conditions are right, you'll be able to enter a winter world like you've never seen it before, admiring stunning blue ice from inside the glacier, 1,000 years old!
After your ice cave tour, you can spend some time admiring the beauty of Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon in the daylight, before your drive back to Reykjavik.
If you leave around 14:00, you should be back in Reykjavik by 20:00, though it depends on how long you will want to enjoy the Lagoon and the driving conditions on the way back to the capital.
Capital Inn is a 2 star hotel 3 km out of the city centre, with a short walk to Kringlan shopping mall and Nauthólsvík geothermal beach. Private bedrooms with a washbasin but shared bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is not included.
The Centerhotel chain has six 3-4 star centrally located hotels in Reykjavík, with a short walk to attractions, cafés, restaurants, museums and the nightlife. All offer private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.
Guide to Iceland has a wide selection of vehicles and seeks to provide you with the best available car from our preferred rental operators, who offer the highest quality vehicles and service to our guests. Our self-drive packages include a newer model, usually a maximum of 2 years old and equipped with a GPS and basic CDW insurance. See the categories of available vehicles below. We recommend a comfortable 4X4 as a minimal standard for winter traveling due to icy and challenging road conditions. In the booking process, you can also upgrade to an automatic model for free.
Due to increased demand for travel services in Iceland and low availability, travel companies in Iceland can not guarantee specific accommodations. However, given Guide to Iceland's wide influence within the travel industry, we can always provide you with the best available accommodation at the time of your booking. Below, see our first choice of available accommodations. Otherwise, we will find you alternatives of the same standard. The earlier you book, the higher quality we can provide. Our first choice is a standard room at Hótel Höfn and, during the holiday season (Christmas time), it is a standard room at Smyrlabjörg.
The glacier hike/ice cave exoierience was incredible. Össy our guide was hilarious and excellent. The drive out was a bit hectic trying to see all the sites (and it gets a bit tricky out east in the dark) but the views were completely amazing and we enjoyed having the flexibility of our own car rather than a bus tour. Hotel Hofn is about an hour beyond the lagoon, which is not fun in bad weather, but we were kindly rebooked to Smyrlabjorg when we requested. It is a long drive back but we enjoyed the ability to go on our own Northern Lights hunt.