8 Day Northern Lights Winter Self Drive of the Complete Ring Road of Iceland & Golden Circle
Make the most of your time in Iceland with this 8-day winter self-drive. Circle the entire country and travel to mesmerizing places such as the famous Golden Circle sightseeing route, the spectacular South Coast, the quiet Eastfjords, and the dramatic North.
Visit stunning locations such as the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Lake Mývatn on a self-drive tour that is suited for anyone wanting to travel on their own terms during the Northern Lights season. You are behind the wheel so you can create your own adventure. There are no bus schedules or impatient tour guides to worry about, so you’ll be free to spend as much time in each spot as you like. Upon booking, you’ll receive a personal itinerary guiding you to your accommodation each night, to the most popular attractions, as well as some hidden gems.
You’ll circle the entire ring road on this tour, seeing geysers erupt, waves crashing on Reynisfjara black sand beach, and icebergs drift on the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Furthermore, you will also receive a ticket to the Blue Lagoon, where you can relax in the healing silica waters of this famous spa.
You can add on an array of different adventures during the booking process to spice up your journey. As this is a winter tour, you’ll have the rare opportunity of visiting an ice cave that is only accessible for a few months each year. You can also opt for tours to get to know glaciers better with either a hike or by racing across the ice cap on a snowmobile.
Get to know the country with this extensive 8-day winter self-drive tour. Enjoy the scenic Icelandic nature while the elusive Northern Lights dance in the Arctic sky above you. Check availability by choosing a date.
Day 1 - Welcome to Iceland
After arriving in Iceland, find your vehicle at Keflavík International Airport and drive through the moss-covered lava fields of the Reykjanes Peninsula.
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.
You will then head on out to Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík, where you will find your accommodations for the night.
Day 2 - The Golden Circle
Today your adventure on the road begins.
You'll start the day by visiting the country's most famous area and home to three of its most celebrated sites; the Golden Circle.
The first stop on this trio of attractions is the UNESCO world heritage site Þingvellir National Park. This is where Viking settlers founded the nation's parliament, Alþingi, in the year 930 AD. The park is also located in a rift valley where two tectonic plates are drifting apart, causing cracks and fissures in the terrain as they tear up the landscape around.
One of those fissures, Silfra, is located on the boundary of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. It is filled with crystal clear meltwater from Langjökull, Iceland's second-largest glacier. The fissure is a popular snorkeling site, and during the booking process, you can opt for a tour where you can enjoy the unparalleled visibility of the blue waters of Silfra.
Next up is the Geysir geothermal area, home to Iceland's most famous water feature, the erupting hot springs. The geyser Strokkur spouts boiling geothermal water 49-66 ft (15-20 meters) high in the air every 5-10 minutes, showing you the full power of Icelandic nature.
From there, you'll move on to Gullfoss waterfall, where you will witness glacial water from the river Hvítá plunge down 105 ft (32m) into a dramatic gorge. You'll be dazzled over this iconic attraction as the rumbling sounds of Gulfoss' cascading water echoes in your ears.
If you elected to do so during the booking process, you could join a super jeep excursion at Gullfoss, which will take you to Langjökull, the glacier that feeds the river Hvítá. Once there, you will mount a snowmobile and race across the whiteness of the ice cap.
After a day of sightseeing and adventures, you will head to the quiet village of Selfoss, where you will find your accommodations for the evening.
Day 3 - A Day of Glaciers
Today you'll explore the myriad of wonders on Iceland's South Coast, where you'll see picturesque waterfalls, stretches of black sand beaches, and magnificent glaciers. It is a long day full of rewarding experiences.
Start the day by driving towards Seljalandsfoss waterfall, a high and narrow cascade that plunges down 197 ft (60m) over a concaved cliff. Seljalandsfoss is easily spotted from the road long before you reach it, so you can feel the excitement grow as you get closer and closer.
You'll then make your way to another, yet equally impressive waterfall, Skógafoss. This cascade is much wider than Seljalandsfoss and has a more classic look. You can walk right up to the falling water and feel the spray on your face.
As you drive this stretch of road, towering over you will be the infamous Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano and its big brother, Mýrdalsjökull glacier. If you'd like to get up close and personal with glaciers, today is the day to do so.
You can opt for a glacier hike on one of Mýrdalsjökull outlet glaciers, Sólheimajökull, where you get to walk the millennia-old ice cap, past deep blue crevasses and high peaks which are blackened from volcanic eruptions.
Near Mýrdalsjökull lies the small village of Vík. This coastal town lies near Reynisfjara, a gorgeous black sand beach that is edged in by massive cliffs of basalt rock columns. Out in the ocean rise the 217 ft (66m) high Reynisdrangar sea stalks.
From Vík, you'll continue your journey east, in the direction of Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajökull. In the realm of the ice cap lies Skaftafell Nature Reserve. Skaftafell is renowned for its various hiking trails and tracks.
A short drive from Skaftafell is the beautiful Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, where enormous icebergs that have broken off Vatnajökull glacier drift towards the open ocean.
Spend some time at Jökulsárlón and take in the serenity of the area. Watch the icebergs move with the waves and listen to the crackling sound they make when they break. In the winter, many seals gather at the mouth of the lagoon to catch fish or laze on the bergs.
A short walk away is the Diamond Beach, where ice chunks, polished by the ocean, wash up on shore and glisten in the sunlight, resembling the precious stones that give the beach its name.
You will spend your night in the Jokulsarlon/Hofn region.
Day 4 - Ice Cave and the Eastern Fjords
If you are traveling between October and March, you will have the rare opportunity to visit an authentic ice cave in Vatnajökull glacier. These caves are only accessible in the winter as they flood during summertime. You can plan a visit during the booking process and descend into one of these caves and immerse yourself in the crystalline beauty of the glacier.
Then you head out to the eastern fjords of Iceland, a large area of vast, untouched beauty. You’ll zigzag your way through the fjords, past jagged mountains, deserted inlets, and sleeping fishing villages while the mighty Vatnajökull watches over you in the West.
The road will take you past the picturesque Vestrahorn and Eystrahorn mountains, a popular photography destination. It is possible to get a shot of the peaks mirrored in the surrounding seawater.
The largest settlement in the East, Egilsstaðir, will be your destination for the day. If the sky is clear, you might be able to enjoy the enigmatic Northern Lights.
Day 5 - The Eastfjords and Lake Myvatn
Today you’ll get to explore the vast wilderness of the Eastfjords further. The area is known for its wealth of diverse wildlife. On your travels in this part of the country, keep an eye out for herds of reindeer, as this is the only region in Iceland where you can find them wild.
Close to Egilsstaðir are the most popular attraction of the East; the forest Hallormsstaðaskógur and the great lake Lagarfljót.
The forest is Iceland’s largest wooded area. There you’ll find numerous hiking trails leading to waterfalls, streams, cliffs, moors, and coves. You could also hike to the serene lake Lagarfljót to try to catch a glimpse of its famous resident, the great wyrm-monster Lagarfljótsormurinn.
After exploring the East to your heart’s content, you’ll move on to the North. Make your way towards the diverse sites of Lake Mývatn, situated in an area of active volcanism. Freestanding lava pillars and pseudocraters dominate Lake Mývatn’s landscape. The surrounding region is no less spectacular, as the whole area was formed by an eruption some 2,000 years ago.
You can also visit Dimmuborgir, a vast lava field of cliffs and pillars which create a strange and beautiful labyrinth of oddly shaped rock formations. Close by is Hveravellir, a high-temperature geothermal area of bubbling mud pools and steaming fumaroles.
An excellent way to unwind after a day of traveling is with a soak in the mineral-rich waters of Mývatn Nature Baths. Enjoy your time there, surrounded by nothing but the unspoiled nature of the Mývatn area. If the sky is clear of clouds, the dancing Northern Lights might pay you a visit as you soothe aching muscles in the geothermal waters of the Baths.
You’ll be spending the night in this otherworldly area of Mývatn.
Day 6 - The Diversity of Northern Iceland
Today you'll travel through North Iceland, visiting divine waterfalls, quirky museums, and bustling towns.
Start your day in the town of Húsavík on Skjálfandi Bay. The ocean around the town is home to around 23 species of whales and dolphins, and so a trip to Húsavík Whale Museum is highly recommended.
Make your way west from Húsavík, in the direction of the town of Akureyri. Along the way, you can stop at the Transport Museum of Ystafell. This unusual museum is every auto enthusiast's dream as it has an extensive collection of restored classic cars and a 'graveyard' for derelict cars and trucks.
Make another detour just as you reach Akureyri and find Iceland's Christmas House. It doesn't matter if you are traveling in December or April. It is always Yuletide at the Christmas House. Learn about Icelandic traditions such as the Yule Lads and the giantess Grýla, or get some presents and decorations for the next festival.
After getting into the Christmas spirit, you can head to the town of Akureyri, the largest settlement in the North. Find your accommodation, and if you are not too tired after a day of diverse attractions, you can go sightseeing or hunt for the beautiful Aurora Borealis.
Day 7 - Heading Back to Reykjavik
Today you'll complete the circle around the country by heading back to Reykjavík city. Get ready to spend a good amount of time on the road, but don't worry, along the way are some great sights worth seeing.
Start the day in Akureyri and get to know this town a little better. When you are good and ready, hop in your car and hit the road.
When you cross over Holtavörðuheiði heights, take some time to explore the Borgarfjörður area. There you can visit two stunning but completely different waterfalls. Barnafoss waterfall cascades down a narrow, twisting ravine while the shorter and wider Hraunfossar trickles down from the edges of a dark lava field.
Europe's most powerful hot spring, Deildartunguhver, is just a short drive away. This dynamic hot spring is surrounded by bright red rocks and a copious amount of steam, as it pumps over 48 gallons (180 liters) of near-boiling water every second.
The hot spring covers an area of 50 m2, but most of it is underground. Its powers are harnessed and used to heat houses in the nearby towns of Akranes and Borgarnes. The steam coming from the ground serves as a great reminder of the energy underneath the earth's crust.
Make your way back to Reykjavík, where you will spend the night.
Day 8 - Farewell to Iceland
Today is your last day in Iceland. Depending on your flight, you can start the day and do as the locals by heading to the nearest bakery for a breakfast treat. Try ‘snúður’, a rolled-up cinnamon-filled bread bun slathered with chocolate.
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.
Head back out to the black lava fields of the Reykjanes Peninsula to Keflavík International Airport. If you have time, you can visit the gems of Reykjanes such as Kleifarvatn lake or the Viking World Museum.
Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to return your vehicle at the airport before you catch your departing flight.
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.