5 Day Northern Lights Winter Self Drive Tour with the Golden Circle & Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Discover the very best of Iceland's snowy landscapes with this 5-day winter self-drive tour. Relax in the Blue Lagoon, see the Golden Circle and drive the South Coast all the way to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, where you can visit an authentic ice cave. This tour is perfect for those who desire the freedom to explore Iceland's winter scene at their own pace.
Upon booking, you'll receive a personal itinerary pointing you in the direction of Iceland's best attractions and some best-kept secrets you can experience away from the crowds. You are behind the wheel, so you can decide what sights you visit and how long you stay. There are no impatient tour guides rushing you from place to place or precise schedules you have to follow so that you can take your time at each location. For instance, you could spend extra time capturing the perfect photo of Gullfoss waterfall or watching the powerful ocean waves crash upon the shore at Reynisfjara black sand beach.
Your only set destinations are your accommodations each night, which have been arranged for you before the journey begins to ensure you get plenty of rest at the best locations for the next day of adventure. If you want to enhance your holiday even further with an extra experience or two, you can add tours during the booking process. These include riding around the wondrous rugged terrains on the famous Icelandic horse or snorkeling in the crystal-clear glacial water of the Silfra fissure between 2 continents. You can also add a snowmobiling tour on top of one of Iceland's mighty glaciers, visit two otherwordly ice caves, and soak in the geothermal azure waters of the Blue Lagoon amid a volcanic landscape.
Each night you can take the chance to spot the spectacular Northern Lights dance across Iceland's wintry landscapes. Be sure to avoid areas with heavy light pollution, such as downtown Reykjavik, and steer clear of overly cloudy locations to give yourself the best chance of spotting the beautiful Aurora Borealis.
Enjoy the beautiful Icelandic nature in the winter with this 5-day self-drive tour. Visit the country's most iconic attractions as the Northern Lights dance in the sky above.
Check availability by choosing a date and book your Iceland winter adventure today.
Day 1 - Welcome to Iceland
After you arrive at Keflavík International Airport, pick up your car and head towards the city of Reykjavík. On your way, you’ll drive through the black lava fields of the Reykjanes Peninsula. If your flight arrives early, you can explore the peninsula first and discover its diverse volcanic and geothermal landscapes.
The Reykjanes Peninsula runs along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. Just south from the airport is the Bridge between Continents, where you can walk along the fault line and cross a bridge that connect the two continents, allowing you to stand with one leg in Europe and the other in North America.
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.
If the sky is clear in the evening, you can drive a little way out of the city, away from the light pollution, and hunt for the elusive Northern Lights.
Day 2 - A Journey of the Golden Circle
Today is the day you'll visit Iceland's most famous tourist trail, the Golden Circle. Get a good start on the day and wake up early, or enjoy a few more minutes of snooze and sleep in. You are behind the wheel, so you get to create the day's schedule.
Today's first main stop is Þingvellir National Park, a site that is a historically significant and geological wonder. It is here that the Vikings would gather to settle disputes and create the laws of the land, and where they founded Iceland's parliament, Alþingi, in the year 930.
Þingvellir is not located on the North American nor the Eurasian tectonic plate, but in a rift valley between. As the plates move, they rip open ravines throughout the landscape. One of those fissures, Silfra, is filled with crystal clear meltwater from Langjökull glacier, and today you can opt for a snorkeling tour in this fissure where you swim between the two continents.
After leaving Thingvellir, you'll pass Fontana Spa, a geothermal set of pools immersed in a lake. If you elect to do so, you can dip in here to revitalize ahead of your further travels.
You'll continue your journey, making another stop at Geysir geothermal area. Like Gunnuhver, the region is filled with bubbling mud pools and steaming fumaroles, but the Geysir area also contains hot springs and erupting geysers.
Strokkur is the most active geyser, erupting every 5-10 minutes and reaching a height of around 49-66 ft (15-20 meters). You'll be able to walk around the area, and take photos of Strokkur and the bubbling mud pools. No impatient tour guides are rushing you so you can spend as much time in the Geysir area as you like.
The last stop on the Golden Circle route is the beautiful waterfall Gullfoss. Fed by the glacier Langjökull, the river Hvítá rushes south before plunging into an ancient canyon, creating this stunning cascade in the process.
At Gullfoss, you can opt for a tour where you race across the white expanse of Langjökull glacier on a snowmobile. Alternatively, you can book a monster truck to take you across this frozen landscape.
If you instead like to do something at a slower pace, you can opt for a tour where you ride the Icelandic horse through the countryside.
At the end of the day, make your way to the village of Selfoss on the South Coast, where you'll find your accommodation.
Day 3 - South Coast Adventures
Your journey continues eastwards today. You’ll travel under two mighty glaciers, Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull, and visit some of the country’s most beautiful attractions.
The first stop is the spectacular waterfall Seljalandsfoss. The days are dark in Iceland during the wintertime, but Seljalandsfoss is lit up with strong lights, creating an aura of magic around it.
From there, you’ll visit the majestic Skógafoss waterfall. This one is much wider and has a greater flow than Seljalandsfoss. The land underneath the cascade is very flat, so you can walk right up to the wall of water to feel the spray on your face.
Between the two waterfalls is the outlet glacier, Sólheimajökull. Today you can opt for two tours on Sólheimajökull, a snowmobile tour or a glacier hike. You can also head further north to the village of Vík for a tour of the larger Mýrdalsjökull glacier, where you can explore an authentic ice cave.
Vík is a great place to stop and refuel as it overlooks Reynisfjara, a beautiful black sand beach edged by towering cliffs of hexagonal basalt columns. Out in the ocean rise the massive rocks stacks Reynisdrangar, carved by centuries of Atlantic waters crashing against them.
You could embark on a thrilling black-sand buggy tour along this stretch of shoreline if you did not elect to go glacier hiking or snowmobiling.
Drive onwards into Vatnajökull National Park, past Skaftafell Nature Reserve and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. If you wish to stop there to explore, you can do so, but you will also have most of tomorrow to spend in the area.
Make your way to your accommodations in the town of Höfn or the surrounding area. If the sky is clear of clouds and conditions are right, look up for a chance to catch a glimpse of the dancing Northern Lights.
Day 4 - Ice Cave, Skaftafell & Jokulsarlon
Spend the day exploring the great Vatnajökull National Park. You can start by heading west from the town of Höfn, towards the beautiful Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.
Jökulsárlón is filled with the meltwater from Breiðamerkurjökull, an outlet glacier of Europe’s largest ice cap, Vatnajökull. Floating in the water are massive, blue and white icebergs that have broken off the glacier. Keep an eye out for seals that can often be seen lounging on top of the bergs.
A stone’s throw away is a black sand beach where ice chunks from the lagoon have washed up onshore. As the ice glistens in the sun, they are reminiscent of gemstones on black satin. The scene has thus earned the beach the nickname ‘The Diamond Beach’.
Today you can opt for an exciting ice cave tour from Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. The ice caves in this area are only accessible during the wintertime as they flood during the spring, and so witnessing the dazzling structure of a cave in Vatnajökull glacier is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
From the lagoon, drive to Skaftafell, a nature reserve nestled under the roots of Vatnajökull glacier. Scattered around the area are many hiking trails and tracks that lead over glacial rivers and to the iconic Svartifoss waterfall.
At Skaftafell, you can opt for a glacier hike to see firsthand the continually changing environment of glaciers. You’ll see incredible ice formations as a glacier guide leads you past deep cracks and blue crevasses on an adventure you’ll never forget.
Then it is time to head back to your accommodations in Reykjavík. As you are behind the wheel on this self-drive tour, you can stop at any of the South Coast or Golden Circle locations you want to explore further. You can even spend some time in the evening outside the city to hunt for the Northern Lights.
Day 5 - Farewell
On your last day, you can explore Reykjavík city a little if your flight leaves late. Just remember to give yourself plenty of time to drive to the airport and return the car.
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.
You can start the day like a local and visit one of the city’s many geothermal swimming pools. Even in the winter, when snow and frost cover the ground, Icelanders flock to the pools for a few laps and then a soak in the warm waters of the hot tubs, feeling the crisp winter air in their lungs.
If you are looking for a souvenir, a trip down Laugavegur shopping street is a must. You could get a traditional lopapeysa woolly sweater, some chocolate-covered licorice treats, or jewelry made with volcanic rocks. You could also visit a bookstore or a record shop get to know the local culture through Icelandic music and literature.
When it is time to leave, you will head back out to the lava fields of the Reykjanes Peninsula to Keflavík International Airport. Enjoy your flight and come back soon!
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.
Dormitory beds with shared bathrooms in guesthouses or hostels. Located in the region of the best attractions. Breakfast is not included.
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 small 2WD vehicle such as Toyota Aygo or similar, fit for basic travelling in everyday conditions. Compact and comfortable for up to 2 travellers with very little luggage. No highland capabilities. The driver must be of 20 years of age or above.
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.
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.