8 Day Northern Lights Winter Self Drive Tour of West and South Iceland with Ice Caving
Get cool on this eight-day and seven-night winter adventure in Iceland. Enter Ice caves by the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, travel the Golden Circle, hike otherworldly glaciers, explore thundering waterfalls and immerse yourself in Reykjavík's vibrant city life!
This self-drive journey takes you to the western Snæfellsnes Peninsula and along the south coast, home to many of the most astounding and beloved natural attractions in Iceland. You will visit the Golden Circle, drive in the shadow of Eyjafjallajökull glacier, and if you're lucky, all in the glow of the green Northern Lights. Enormous glacier ice-caps, erupting geysers, bubbling hot springs, and roaring rivers rushing through the black desert make your journey through this land of contrast unforgettable.
This trip also has factored in a free day in the city, offering a chance to experience the coolest capital in the world and enjoy all it has to offer with its cottage-cosmopolitan vibe, making it an adventure perfect for both the people of nature and the more city slicking cool cats.
Enjoy blue ice and black beaches while green and purple northern lights dance in the arctic sky above you. Join the adventure and let Iceland be yours this winter. Check availability by choosing a date.
Day 1 - Welcome to Iceland
Welcome to your adventure! The ink-black lava fields of the Reykjanes peninsula greet you the moment you are out of the airport.
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.
Then, it is time to head to the city and enjoy the twinkling lights in the dark of winter. Take a walk downtown, get a cup of hot chocolate and remember to look up. You might just see the Northern lights!
Day 2 - Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day two marks the start of your journey here in Iceland. You’ll head north from the city to the Snæfellsnes peninsula, sometimes called ‘Iceland in Miniature’ due to its geological diversity. This beautiful place stands halfway between reality and fiction, as its remarkable landscapes are shrouded in myth, lore, and legend.
The mythological passage to the center of the earth is said to be found in the Snæfellsjökull glacier volcano, which reigns over the beautiful black sands of Djúpalónssandur and the Lóndrangar rock stacks. As your journey progresses, you will see the towering Kirkjufell mountain and quaint little fishing villages that dot the coast.
If you want to partake in an activity today, you have two options. Firstly, you can embark on a breathtaking whale watching tour from Snaefellsnes. This adventure provides you the opportunity to see dolphins, seabirds, and perhaps even some great whales such and humpbacks and sperm whales.
Alternatively, you can rejuvenate at the Krauma Spa in West Iceland. This geothermal spa overlooks Deildartunghver, the highest flowing hot spring in Europe.
You’ll spend the night on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, but be sure to step out tonight and scout for the northern lights!
Day 3 - The Golden Circle
Today you'll head south-east and explore the Golden Circle, a route that takes you to three of the most iconic locations in Iceland. You will pass through the Borgarfjörður area during your travel, known for cavernous lava caves and tunnels. You'll even have the chance to visit one of them; Víðgemir.
When you reach the Golden Circle, your first stop will be the Þingvellir National Park. Situated in a large continental rift valley at the edge of a lava field, this UNESCO world heritage site is where Icelanders founded parliament in the year 930. It has tremendous historical and geological significance and is home to fantastic locations, such as the Silfra cleft, Almannagjá canyon, and Öxarárfoss waterfall.
Here, you can take a tour into the abyss and snorkel between the continents in the clear waters of the Silfra fissure.
Next, you will visit the Haukadalur geothermal valley, where the great Geysir lies, giving its name to the smaller geysers that bubble and burst up sky-high all around. The earth is truly alive under your feet in this beautiful location.
Lastly, you will visit the Gullfoss waterfall in glacier river Hvítá, springing from the glacier Langjökull. This massive waterfall plummets in two enormous cascades into the canyon below, its roar echoing in the surrounding cliffs.
If you did not go snorkelling, you can go on a thrilling snowmobiling tour from Gullfoss on the surface of Langjokull glacier. This thrilling ride is perfect for adventure seekers.
Otherwise, you can opt for a lava caving tour in Vidgelmir, which will introduce you to the magical world under Iceland's landscapes.
You will spend the night nearby, in the Bláskógabyggð area.
Day 4 - Under Eyjafjallajökull Glacier
Continuing your journey, you will head to the lowlands and trail the south coast.
As you continue your journey, you'll pass two magnificent waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. You will drive under the Eyjafjalajökull glacial volcano and its big brother, Mýrdalsjökull glacier.
If it strikes your fancy, you can even have a glacier hike for an up-close and personal glacier experience and join a glacier hike at the roots of this ice giant. Or you can take a snowmobiling tour to the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, whizzing over the white planes for a taste of ultimate freedom.
You will then reach Vík, a village lying by Iceland's most famed black beach, Reynisfjara, guarded by two massive rock stacks that are said to be the remnants of petrified trolls. Surely, the immeasurable power of the North Atlantic will amaze you as one enormous wave after the other crashes on the shore.
You'll then spend your night in Vík.
Day 5 - To the Glacier Lagoon
On this day, you will journey through the black sands of Skeiðarársandur to reach the Skaftafell nature reserve, which, to the east, north and west, is embraced by the great Vatajökull, Europe's largest glacier. Skaftafell is famed for its many hiking trails suitable for all skill levels—and, of course, glacier hiking. If it strikes your fancy, you can join a group of seasoned glacier hikers for a trip up onto the broken, impressive glacier landscape.
Otherwise, you can take a unique ice caving tour higher up the glacier. Ice caves are rare, beautiful phenomenons you can only explore in a few places on earth.
A third choice will take you on a thrilling buggy tour along the black sands of Reynisfjara beach before you leave Vik.
Next, you will drive past Iceland's tallest peak, Hvannadalshnjúkur, and reach the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. The massive floating icebergs are impressive to behold as they slowly drift from the glacier to sea, where the waves polish them before being washed onshore, where they lie scattered like jewels on the black sands of the Diamond Beach, south of the Lagoon.
A bit further east is the town of Höfn, where you will spend the night and prepare for tomorrow's adventure.
Day 6 - Ice Caves and Other Marvels
Start the day by visiting the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, famous for its icebergs. Take your time to marvel at the blue ice and see if you can spot a seal or two playing in the water.
You can take a boat tour amongst the icebergs to get an even more intimate experience with this beautiful place.
If you are here from October to March, you also have the chance to visit the amazing Blue Ice Cave, a naturally formed cave in the Vatnajökull glacier. You can join a super jeep tour and head high onto the glacier to the cave, hidden deep within the ice cap.
The ice caves are empty underground river tunnels that freeze, so they are only accessible in winter when the rivers of summer meltwater have run their course. Your guide knows the glacier like the back of his hand, so this will surely be an experience to remember!
If you are here outside of this time, there is still plenty of sightseeing to do at the glacier lagoon. You should also check out the Diamond Beach, next to the lagoon where icebergs meet the ocean. Some of them rest on the black sand of the shoreline, giving it a jeweled appearance.
On your way back to Reykjavík, you’ll have the chance to visit all the sites you might have missed before spending an evening in the world’s coolest capital.
Day 7 - Free Day in Reykjavík
Filled with quirky cafés, funny and colorful houses of corrugated iron, wall art, and fascinating culinary culture, Reykjavík has something to offer everyone. You now have the day to get to know it better!
Stroll downtown and hunt for the best coffee (locals take their coffee very seriously), or visit the museums and learn about the country's Viking settlers. You can get discounts on many venues and even free admission to some galleries and pools with a Reykjavik City Card, which you can organize when booking.
You can also elect admission to the Whales of Iceland exhibit and FlyOver Iceland experience. The former has life-sized models of all the whales, dolphins, and porpoises found around the island and abundant information on them.
Meanwhile, the latter is a simulated ride where you will 'soar' over a screen depicting Iceland's beautiful scenery, with special effects such as wind and scents.
You can also opt for a more adrenalin-pumping option like horseback riding through stunning countryside landscapes, whale-watching from the harbor, or a geothermal helicopter trip with a landing. You can also book a northern lights hunting cruise for the evening for a final show of the aurora borealis over the ocean.
Day 8 - Departure Day
All good things come to an end, and today marks the end of your journey.
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.
When it's time to leave, you'll drop off your car at the airport and head home—a little bit cooler than when you came, with loads of new and wonderful memories of Iceland.
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 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.