Epic 7 Day Northern Lights Winter Self Drive Tour of the Golden Circle & North Iceland
See Iceland's dramatic northern coast for yourself! This car rental package offers you an easy trip to Iceland's best-known natural sights, with some hidden gems as well.
You'll start in Reykjavik and head north to the coastal city of Akureyri and on to Húsavík and Lake Mývatn. No matter where you go, you are in control. Shop where you like and leave when you want - focus only on enjoying yourself.
Akureyri, the capital of the north, is a frosty wonderland of mountains, pools, and a pretty coastline sparkling with ice. You'll cross the epic lava fields of Lake Mývatn, as well as some magical waterfalls and charming Icelandic culture on the way back to the capital. Then, you'll explore the famous attractions of the Golden Circle.
You can add more adventures during the booking process. In western Iceland, take a tour of Viðgelmir lava cave or examine the ice layers deep inside a glacier. On your day around the Golden Circle, you can go snorkeling in Silfra fissure or snowmobile across the ice cap of a glacier.
We at Guide to Iceland know why you've chosen to spend your precious vacation days in Iceland: to savor time in the great outdoors, far from the busy city and its noisy crowds. To help you find more private places, we've included some of our personal favorites. There will be very few people at some of these locations, and they are even more dazzling in their pristine state. The details are part of our exclusive itinerary when you book this tour.
Enjoy Iceland's winter beauty in just a week! Check booking availability now by choosing a date.
Day 1 - Arrival in Iceland - Reykjanes Peninsula
Collect your car at Keflavík airport, and if you're on an early flight and have time, you can explore the Reykjanes Peninsula with its magnificent cliffs and sea stacks at Reykjanestá.
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.
After settling in, the rest of the day is free to explore one of Europe's most vibrant cities. Reykjavík's abundance of museums, galleries, restaurants, and bars will be sure to entertain you, in addition to many other quirky tourist sights, is sure to give you something that thrills you!
Day 2 - Akureyri in North Iceland
Day two marks the beginning of your journey north as you take the Ring Road and head to Akureyri.
There is plenty to do in the capital of the north. Meet up with some locals, visit the Christmas House in celebration of Christmas (or, as it is called in Iceland, Jól), or explore the northernmost botanical gardens in the world, with more than 6,500 types of flora on display.
You will spend the night in the city center of Akureyri.
Day 3 - Lake Myvatn - Grjotagja Cave - Dettifoss Falls
On day three, drive east to your accommodation in Mývatn before heading out to the lava field of Dimmuborgir, or "the dark cities." Once there, you can explore the eerie black pillars and caves that dominate the area.
Also, you can take a look at one of Iceland's beautiful hidden jewels, the spring cave Grjótagjá, which is near Reykjahlíð.
The hot springs of Námaskarð are not far from Lake Mývatn, as you continue along the Ring Road and take a side road to visit Iceland's most powerful waterfall, Dettifoss, only if road conditions allow.
We recommend ending your day with a soothing soak in the geothermal waters of the Mývatn Nature Baths before spending the night in the area. Keep your eyes open for Northern Lights.
Day 4 - Husavik & Godafoss Falls
Today, after exploring a little more in the Mývatn area, you'll head to the nearby village of Húsavík, known for its quaint buildings, such as Húsavíkurkirkja church. This fishing village is also known for the wealth of marine life that dwells in the ocean around, and a trip to Húsavík's Whale Museum is highly recommended.
After that, you'll head back west for a stop at the mighty Goðafoss waterfall before reaching Akureyri again.
Continue towards Skagafjörður, the only county in Iceland where horses outnumber people, and head back the same way you drove from Reykjavík towards your accommodation.
You can take this time to linger at your favorite spots or visit any that you may have missed on your way out of the city. The choice is yours, and you can do what you feel!
Spend the night in the northwest area of Iceland and hunt again for the Northern Lights.
Day 5 - Hot Springs & Cascades of Hraunfossar
On the fifth day, make a stop at the beautiful Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls, where the water gently cascades into the river below. Nearby is Deildartunguhver, home of the largest hot spring in Europe.
History buffs may also enjoy visiting Snorrastofa, the medieval research institute in Reykholt, where the early settler Snorri Sturluson wrote the saga Heimskringla in the 13th century.
Other recommended stops on the way back to Reykjavík are the Icelandic settlement exhibition in Borgarnes and Fossatún waterfall, said to be guarded by a troll woman named Drifa.
Or you can always choose to enter man-made ice tunnels at Langjökull glacier or explore the natural, large Víðgelmir lava cave.
You'll spend the night in Reykjavík.
Day 6 - The Golden Circle
From Reykjavík, you can easily access the classic Golden Circle route. It comprises three of Iceland's greatest highlights, unmissable stops during your visit to Iceland.
First up is the National Park of Thingvellir, a historical site with great geological importance, being a valley situated between two tectonic plates. Here you have the option to go snorkeling in Silfra, Iceland's most famous diving site with crystal clear waters.
The geothermal area at Haukadalur valley will be your next stop, where the geyser Strokkur erupts every 5-8 minutes, so you'll have a few chances to try to catch it on camera.
Finally, you'll arrive at the magnificent Gullfoss Falls, which will probably take your breath away. Here, you can choose to go on an optional snowmobile tour at the nearby Langjökull glacier.
After a full day of sightseeing, return to Reykjavík, where you can have dinner in one of its fine restaurants downtown.
Day 7 - Departure: Car Drop Off at Keflavik International Airport
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.
Come again soon! There's still so much to see!
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 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.