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In-Depth 5 Day Northern Lights Road Trip to Iceland’s Golden Circle & Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Explore the arrowhead-shaped mountain, Kirkjufell, as the Northern Lights dance above with a winter self-drive tour.
Likely to sell out soon
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Perfect travel plan
Fully customizable
Car & accommodation
Tour starts
Keflavík Airport (KEF), Reykjanesbær, Iceland
Starting time
Flexible
Duration
5 days
Ending place
Keflavík Airport (KEF), Reykjanesbær, Iceland
Difficulty
Easy
Available
Sep. - Apr.
Ending time
Flexible
Minimum age
None

Experience the stunning winter landscapes of Iceland with this five-day self-drive tour. Explore the west coast and the mystical Snaefellsnes Peninsula in-depth before setting your sights on the famed Golden Circle. Those wanting to witness the beauty of this island while the Northern Lights dance in the sky above should not miss this tour.

Over five days, you’ll travel from the city of Reykjavik, through the beautiful west coast, to the magical Snaefellsnes Peninsula. After spending two nights in the shadows of Snaefellsjokull glacier, you’ll set your course to the famed Golden Circle, where you’ll explore the torn earth of Þingvellir National Park, the erupting geysers at Geysir geothermal area, and the spectacular cascade Gullfoss.

As you are behind the wheel, you get to set your own course and pace, providing you with the opportunity to explore Iceland without stress. Upon booking, you’ll receive a personal itinerary guiding you to all the top locations, as well as information about accommodations and car rental, which have been arranged for you prior to your arrival.

You will also have 24/7 contact with a travel agent in Reykjavik who will be more than happy to help you spice up your holiday with added excursions. As you book, you can add tours such as caving, snorkeling, snowmobiling, and relaxing in geothermal spas, but if you decide you want something different, the agent will be at hand.

Spend your winter days in Iceland exploring the wonders of west Iceland and the Golden Circle, and use the long, dark nights gazing up at the dancing northern lights with this 5-day winter self-drive tour. Check availability by choosing a date.

Included

4 nights of accommodation (different levels available; breakfast included for Comfort and Quality levels; more detailed info below)
Vehicle for 5 days (Toyota Aygo or similar. Upgrades available)
CDW insurance for super budget level vehicle; other levels also include SCDW and gravel protection insurances
GPS System
Detailed itinerary
Personal travel agent
Taxes

Activities

Snorkelling
Caving
Hiking
Snowmobile
Sightseeing
Northern lights hunting
Hot Spring Bathing
Cultural Activity
Ice Caving
Self drive

Daily itinerary

Day 1
The beautiful Northern Lights dancing over a lonely house on the Reykjanes Peninsula.

Welcome!

Your plane lands at Keflavik International Airport, located on the Reykjanes peninsula. After picking up your bags and your rental vehicle, you'll start your journey to Reykjavik, passing through the lunar-like landscape of Reykjanes on the way. You'll have views of moss-covered lava fields and distant, blue mountains throughout your ride.

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.

Your destination is the city of Reykjavik, where you'll find your accommodation. If you are not too tired after your flight, you can explore the city for the rest of the day. Dotted around the downtown area are numerous cafés, restaurants, shops, and museums. Don't forget to check out the lively nightlife! No matter what day of the week it is, there is always something happening in Reykjavik.

Alternatively, if the sky is clear, you can drive away from the bright city lights searching for the beautiful northern lights.

Day 2
The beautiful Hraunfossar waterfall on the West Coast of Iceland

Spectacular Scenery & Underground Adventures

Today marks the beginning of your countryside adventure.

Otherwise, start the day by leaving the capital and make your way past the city mountain Esja. If you are not in a hurry, you can drive the Hvalfjordur fjord instead of taking the tunnel. This route takes a little longer, but you'll be rewarded with incredible views of mountains and the ocean and ruins of an old WWII army base.

On the other side of the Hvalfjordur fjord, you'll drive through the farmlands of western Iceland until you near the town of Borgarnes. Before you reach Borgarnes, it is recommended that you take a slight detour to some of West Iceland's most beautiful attractions.

You can start by heading to a couple of beautiful waterfalls, Barnafoss and Hraunfossar. The former rushes violently through a narrow, rocky gorge while the latter trickles down black lava from Hallmundarhraun lava field.

Hallmundarhraun was formed in an eruption just over a thousand years ago, just after Iceland was settled. Found inside this lava field is one of the largest caves in Iceland, Vidgelmir. If you wish, you can join a tour where you explore the depth of this lava tube and see its strange rock formations, glistening icicles, and amazing color display.

You can also have a slightly different kind of underground adventure today and take a tour of the ice cave tunnels at Langjokull glacier. These man-made tunnels were carved inside Iceland's second-largest glacier and provide a unique insight into the ever-changing nature of the ice cap.

As you head back in the direction of Borgarnes town, you'll drive by the hot spring Deildartunguhver. It is worth a stop to explore this large area and witness firsthand Mother Nature's awesome power. You can explore it even further with a stop at Krauma spa, where hot water from Deildartunguhver has been mixed with cold water from a nearby glacier, thus creating the perfect bathing temperature.

The town of Borgarnes is a great place to stop for a bite to eat before you make your way towards your accommodations on the Snaefellsnes peninsula. If you still have some energy left after the day, you can explore Snaefellsnes a little, but you will also have the whole day tomorrow to do so.

Day 3
Icelandic horses in front of the majestic Kirkjufell mountain on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

Fantastical Locations

When Icelanders think about the Snaefellsnes peninsula, their first thought is usually ‘mystical energy’. It is rumored that the great Snaefellsjokull glacier, which towers over the entire peninsula, holds strange, extraordinary powers. You’ll find out for yourself today if that is true, as you’ll explore this 56-mile (90-kilometer) stretch of land.

On the northern side of the peninsula, you’ll find the town of Grundarfjordur. This small fishing village was once an important trading port, but in recent years, people flock to it for another reason, as nearby is Iceland’s most photographed mountain, the stunning Kirkjufell. The HBO series Game of Thrones fans might recognize it as the ‘arrowhead mountain’ from seasons six and seven.

Continue west along the coastline, into the Snaefellsjokull National Park. You’ll pass small fishing villages on the way while the mystical Snaefellsjokull glacier gets bigger and bigger with every mile. The glacier covers a 700 thousand-year-old volcano. The location was used as the entryway to the underground trip in Jules Verne’s classic novel ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’.

Inside the national park, you’ll find Djupalonssandur beach, but to get there, you’ll have to walk through a maze of natural sculptures made from hardened lava. At the other side of the labyrinth is the beautiful beach made out of smooth black pebbles. Scattered around the area are the remains of a trawler that perished in the water 70 years ago.

The southern coastline of Snaefellsnes peninsula is considered exceptionally beautiful, and you can stop at Londrangar rock stacks and the ancient hamlets of Hellnar and Arnarstapi for a closer look.

After a day of exploring, return to your accommodations on the peninsula. As you are traveling in the winter, make sure to look up into the sky for a chance to see the beautiful but elusive northern lights.

Day 4
Snow-covered ground and Northern Lights at Þingvellir National Park.

Thrills and Chills

Now it is time to bid farewell to the beautiful Snaefellsnes peninsula. However, your adventures in Iceland are far from over as today begins your exploration of Thingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall, a trio of destinations known as ‘The Golden Circle’.

Before you leave the West behind, you can stop at Gerduberg cliffs, a 0.31-mile (500-meter) long cliff face comprised of hundreds of hexagonal basalt columns that stand tall like an intimidating army of pillars.

Continue your countryside journey until you reach your first stop on the Golden Circle route; Thingvellir National Park. The park is both the birthplace of Iceland’s parliament, Alþingi, and as a geological wonder because it does not sit on top of the Eurasian tectonic plate nor the North American one, but in a rift valley between.

The unusual location results in some remarkable landscapes; throughout the park lie cracks and fissures formed as the tectonic plates move apart. One of these fissures, Silfra, is filled with crystal clear meltwater from the nearby Langjokull glacier, and today, you can opt for a snorkeling tour where you’ll discover a beautiful blue underworld inside Silfra fissure.

Make your way from Thingvellir National Park to the geothermal area of Geysir. Here is where you can see bubbling mud pools, steaming hot springs, and erupting geysers. The most active geyser is Strokkur which burst out into a 49-66 ft (15-20 meter) high water column every 5-10 minutes or so.

Mother Nature combined both beauty and power when she created your next stop, the waterfall Gullfoss, where freezing glacial water that rushes forth from Langjokull plunges into a canyon created eons ago. From Gullfoss, you can take a snowmobile tour on Langjökull glacier, getting your blood pumping by racing across the ice cap.

Day 5
A bright winter day in Reykjavík City.

Farewell

You'll start the last day of your holiday in Reykjavik city. If you have a late afternoon or an evening flight, you can do a little exploring before you go. Just make sure that you arrive at Keflavik International Airport in good time to catch your departing flight.

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.

A great way to explore Reykjavik is to walk down the Laugavegur shopping street in the downtown area. There, you'll find colorful houses, delicious bakeries, designer shops, and quirky museums like the Icelandic Punk Museum and Freddi Arcade and Toy Museum.

You can also use the time to unwind in one of Reykjavik's many geothermal swimming pools.

Have a great flight, and come back soon!

What to bring

Warm and waterproof clothes
Good hiking shoes
Swimsuit and towel
Camera
Driver's 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.

Super Budget

Dormitory beds with shared bathrooms in guesthouses or hostels. Located in the region of the best attractions. Breakfast is not included.

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, of maximum 2 years of age. Super Budget levels come with standard CDW insurance, while all other levels also include 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.

Super Budget 2WD

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.

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.

Meals

Are you looking to try some of the best dishes Iceland’s top restaurants have to offer? You can now add delicious meals to your booking without having to research where to find them. Select this option to include dinner every night as an extra, and we’ll provide you with vouchers as part of your booking confirmation. We’ll choose the top-rated restaurants that fit with your vacation itinerary and make your reservations for you. Your server will offer you a set menu of two to three courses at the restaurant, from which you can choose meat, fish, or vegetarian options. If you prefer to try a different dish, the meal voucher will act as a credit that you can redeem at the restaurant against menu items that are not part of the set menu. Save time and effort during your vacation, and let us take care of your meals for you. Choose the meal option today so you’ll be guaranteed to eat well on your forthcoming trip. Please notify the restaurant on arrival about any dietary requirements. Vouchers are non-refundable.

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