11 Day Northern Lights Self Drive Around Iceland | Ring Road & Snaefellsnes Peninsula

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Tour starts
Keflavík Airport, Flexible
Duration:
11 days
Available:
Sep. - Apr.

Launch yourself into the stunning landscape of Iceland on this 11-day self-drive tour around the Ring Road, with a stop at the magical Snæfellsnes peninsula. This road trip is perfect for those who would like to travel at their own pace across a winter wonderland.

Not only will you get to see well-visited sights such as the Golden Circle and the South Coast but you will also scope out the fascinating Mývatn area as well as the dramatic Eastfjords and West Iceland.

Every step of the way, you will have the opportunity to add adventurous outdoor activities to your journey such as hiking or snowmobiling across a glacier, snorkelling between continents or stepping inside a mesmerising ice cave.

You will be equipped with an exciting and detailed itinerary so you won’t miss out on any sightseeing opportunities. Additionally, your accommodation will be arranged each evening, so all you have to concern yourself with is driving and hunting for the Northern Lights.

This tour takes you around the island in a clockwise direction—opposite to how most people decide to negotiate the Ring Road— thus directing you to Iceland’s best attractions away from the crowds.

Promise yourself a trip that you won’t forget and look forward to an 11-day journey around Iceland. Check availability by choosing a date.

Included

10 nights of accommodation (different levels available; breakfast included for Comfort and Quality levels; more detailed information below)
Vehicle for 11 days (Dacia Duster 4x4 or similar. Upgrades available)
CDW, SCDW and GP insurance for car rental
GPS system
Detailed Itinerary with fun and practical information on the nature, history and culture of Iceland
Hands-on travel agent to oversee your itinerary
Taxes

Activities

Glacier Hiking
Snorkelling
Snowmobile
Super Jeep
Whale Watching
Sightseeing
Northern lights hunting
Dog sledding
Hot Spring Bathing
Cultural Activity
Ice Caving
Self drive

Attractions

Blue Lagoon
Golden Circle
North Iceland
Reykjavík
Akureyri
Jökulsárlón
Vatnajökull
Mývatn
Dimmuborgir
Goðafoss
Dettifoss
Snæfellsjökull
Skógafoss
Seljalandsfoss
Geysir
Gullfoss
Eyjafjallajökull
Dyrhólaey
Þingvellir
Strokkur
Snæfellsnes
Reykjanes
Sólheimajökull
Mýrdalsjökull
Skaftafell
Silfra
Höfn
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Langjökull
Skútustaðagígar
Vík í Mýrdal
Svartifoss
Seyðisfjörður
Egilsstaðir
Hvolsvöllur
Námafjall Geothermal Area
Keflavik International Airport
Kirkjufell
Búðir
Snæfellsjökull National Park
Reynisdrangar
Hvítserkur
Grundarfjörður
Myvatn Nature Baths
Lagarfljót
Djúpalónssandur
Stokksnes
Hallormsstaðaskógur
South Coast
Diamond Beach
Ring Road
East Fjords

Daily itinerary

Day 1
The azure waters of the Blue Lagoon, situated in the Reykjanes Peninsula, in southern Iceland.

Arrival Day

You have arrived in Iceland! Grab your bags and make your way to meet your car rental representative. Once you have got the keys to your vehicle, you will exit Keflavík International Airport to make your way across 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 colours 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. Why not venture out and grab a drink or some food to satisfy any post-flight appetites?

Day 2
Kirkjufell mountain stands defiant over the township of Grundarfjörður.

Iceland in Miniature

Today you will be heading towards the Snæfellsnes peninsula, often nicknamed ‘Iceland in Miniature’ for its variety of natural features. There is a wide array of attractions to visit on this modest 90-kilometres of coastline, including the glacier-volcano Snæfellsjökull, the beautiful black church at Búðir and the supposedly haunted beach, Djúpalónssandur.

You also have the opportunity to see the ‘most photographed mountain in Iceland', the brilliant Mount Kirkjufell which is also featured in HBO’s Game of Thrones.

While in the National Park, you can join an adventure and visit the stunning Vatnshellir cave, an impressive lava tube. Inside, you will find strange lava formations, glittering walls, and pitch darkness when your guide asks everyone to turn off their torches.

Whatever you get up to on this magical stretch of land, be sure to keep an eye out for the Northern Lights in the evening before retiring to your accommodations in the area.

Day 3
The waterfalls of north Iceland are beautiful when encased in ice in winter.

Heading North

Wake up and get behind the wheel to rejoin the Ring Road and make your way to the 'capital of the North', Akureyri.

You can marvel at the grandeur and beauty of the Skagafjörður area as you make your way into town, passing incredible sceneries, travelling over high mountain passes, and seeing horses playing in fields before you reach your destination, Akureyri.

This quirky town is filled with activities if you are not too tired after your time on the road. You could, for example, visit the many shops and boutiques, unwind in the local swimming pool, or go sightseeing to the stunning Akureyri church and Hof Culture Centre.

The benefit of being so far north is that you have even more hours of darkness to see the Northern Lights so take the opportunity to explore this charming municipality, steeped in culture and history.

Day 4
Námafell is a hot spring area in north Iceland, pictured here in the winter season.

Lake Myvatn

Day four and today you will be heading to the stunning Lake Mývatn ("Fly-Lake") and its diverse surrounding region.

A highly recommended activity before you leave Akureyri town is to start your day with an adventure, and set sails onto Eyjafjörður fjord to visit its famous residents, the whales. 

As you drive towards the rich geothermal area of Mývatn, be sure to make a stop at the beautiful waterfall Goðafoss. This stunning feature plummets down 12-metre high arch-shape cliffs, providing visitors with a few vantage points to view this majestic cascade.

There are a few stops you could make at the Mývatn area, one of those is at the lake itself where you can see a collection of pseudo-craters, a fascinating geological feature formed by the unique interaction between lava and water. These rare, natural features are only found in a handful of other places in the world.

Be sure to make a stop by Dimmuborgir lava field, also known as “Dark Castles” as the area is often likened to a formidable Medieval Fort. There are many hiking trails so you could go for a ramble and enjoy the deep serenity and silence of the area.

Also, check out the bubbling mud puddles and steaming fumaroles at the Námafell Geothermal Area, where the formative processes that shape our earth rise to the surface.

To cap off your day and fully embrace the geothermal charm of the region you can opt to take a dip in the warm waters of the Mývatn Nature Baths where you can enjoy the view of your volcanic surroundings while soaking in mineral-rich, geothermal waters.

You will then spend the evening in the Mývatn area.

Day 5
The astonishing waterfall Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe.

Travelling East

Leaving the Mývatn area, you will be making your way east today.

Before you set off, you can opt to indulge in a genuinely Arctic experience and take a dog-sledding tour around the beautiful Mývatn area. After whizzing around the snow on a sled pulled by adorable Huskies, you can reward these hard-working creatures with a good belly-rub.

If you fancy some time off from driving or if you want to visit places hard-reached by regular cars, you can opt for a tour to Dettifoss waterfall in a formidable Super Jeep which is equipped to handle any terrain or weather. This stunning feature is considered to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe and was featured in Ridley Scott's sci-fi movie Prometheus. 

Alternatively, you could head straight for the Eastfjords, pass Egilsstaðir—where you will spend the night— and drive on to Seyðisfjörður, a quaint little fishing town with beautiful houses and a charming pastel blue church.

Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for the Northern Lights before you go to bed.

Day 6
The multi-coloured Northern Lights illuminate the winter night sky,

The Eastfjords

You have a day to yourself in the Eastfjords. Just outside of Egilsstaðir stands Iceland’s largest forest, Hallormsstaðaskógur, a fantastic place for a stroll. You can check out the Lagarfljót lake which is long-rumoured to be inhabited by a serpent-like creature, a story which outdates the Loch Ness legend by many years.

When you reach the south-east, you could go to the stunning Stokksnes peninsula, home to the very photogenic Vestrahorn mountain which has been called the ‘Batman Mountain’ for its jagged pointy peaks. The Eastfjords are dramatic and magnetic, and the mountainscapes are genuinely breathtaking.

However you choose to spend the day, you will spend the night close to the charming fishing village of Höfn, renowned for its langoustine lobster. Be sure to keep an eye out for the Northern lights across the beautiful bay.

Day 7
Icebergs float across Jökulsárlón glacier lake.

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Today you will make your way to the ‘Crown Jewel of Iceland’, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon where huge icebergs break away from the glacier Breiðamerkurjökull and lazily drift out to sea. Admire the tranquil pieces of ancient ice rendered in brilliant blues and white, scarred with streaks of black ash from historical eruptions.

You can also visit the Diamond beach, adjacent to this natural wonder where the icebergs wash ashore in the surf and stand in stark contrast to the black beach they rest upon.

Today you have the opportunity to enter one of the world’s most phenomenal natural creations, a brilliant ice cave inside of Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. Stepping inside an ice cave, you will be surrounded by different shades of blue, as well as walls where millions of oxygen bubbles are trapped inside an ancient ice. Not much can prepare you for the beauty insides of this ice cap so don’t miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity.

You will spend the night once again in the area close to the glacier lagoon and Höfn.

Day 8
Svartifoss is a top attraction in Skaftafell Nature Reserve, in south-east Iceland.

Skaftafell Nature Reserve

Day eight and you will be exploring Skaftafell Nature Reserve, an area renowned for its diverse and beautiful natural features. The reserve is often nicknamed a hiker’s paradise for its abundance of trails and magnificent scenery. Be sure to visit the famous Svartifoss waterfall which cascades in front of brilliant black basalt columns.

You can opt to take a guided glacier hike and conquer the icy giants of the mountains. All equipment is provided, and there is nothing better than observing the beauty of the surrounding area from the serene glacial landscapes.

You will spend the evening in the picturesque town of Vík or a short drive away from it.

Day 9
A fresh layer of snow powders the picturesque village on Vík on the South Coast of Iceland.

South Coast

Your route for today is the impressive South Coast of Iceland. Not far from the town of Vík, is Reynisfjara beach, known for its composition of black sand, defiant sea stacks, and towering basalt columns. Look out for the impressive sea arch Dyrhólaey to the west!

Back on the Ring Road, you now have a choice to go for a hike on the beautiful Sólheimajökull glacier to get a fantastic view of the South Coast's mountain and the opaque glacier lagoon which sits in the realm of the glacier. 

You could also take a tour where you enter the intriguing Katla ice cave inside Mýrdalsjökull, Iceland's fourth largest glacier. The ice cap sits on top of the mighty volcano, Katla, and inside the cave, you'll see how the white ice of the glacier is coloured with jet-black streaks of ash from past eruptions.

The adventure does not stop there. Before heading back to Reykjavík, you should make stops at two of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls, Skógarfoss and Seljalandsfoss. Both fall from a massive 60-metres and make for an impressive sight, especially in their winter finery.

You will spend the night in Reykjavík.

Day 10
The Northern lights dance across the sky above Öxarárfoss waterfall in Þingvellir National Park.

Golden Circle

Waking up in Reykjavík, get on the road for Iceland's best-loved route, the Golden Circle. Your first stop will be Þingvellir National Park which is remarkable for many reasons. It was here where Viking settlers created the first parliament in Iceland, Alþingi, which still runs today in Reykjavík making it the world’s oldest continuous parliament.

Geologically, the park sits astride the Mid-Atlantic Rift, and both the Eurasian and North American plates are exposed on the surface. This means you can actually walk between two continents, something you'll find hard to do anywhere else in the world.

Next stop is the Geysir geothermal area which is home to the geysers, the most active of which is Strokkur which blows every 5-10-minutes up to 20-metres in the air. Not far from here is the incredible Gullfoss waterfall which plummets into a vast canyon and makes for a breathtaking sight.

You have a number of ways to make your Golden Circle trip even more memorable. You could go snorkelling in the crystal clear glacial waters of the Silfra fissure in Þingvellir and actually swim between the continents. Silfra's clear water provides excellent visibility which opens up a sky-blue underworld for you filled with beautiful rock formations and canyons.

Alternatively, you could ascend Iceland’s second largest glacier, Langjökull, and shoot across its icy-plains on a snowmobile for a thrilling experience. Nothing can beat the feeling of adrenaline surging in your veins as you breathe in the crisp mountain air on top of a glacier.

If you would rather lie back and relax, you can go to the geothermally fed Secret Lagoon next to the charming town Flúðir to soak in the warm water and admire the view before returning to Reykjavík for the night.

Day 11
The capital city, Reykjavík under a blanket of snow.

Departure Day

The time has come for you to leave Iceland. If you have a late flight you could stroll around the city of Reykjavík, perhaps picking up a souvenir or two. 

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.

Map

What to bring

Warm and waterproof clothing
Good waterproof 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.

This self-drive is set to take place at 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.

Some optional activities might need either a valid driver's license, or you might need to send additional information to your travel planner. Please note that you need to know how to swim and present medical documents should you choose to go snorkelling.

The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon, and therefore cannot be guaranteed, but this itinerary is designed to maximise your chances to see them if weather allows.

It can happen, in the case of extreme weather, that an activity is cancelled. If your chosen activity is cancelled, 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 November to March each year.

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.

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, maximum 2 years of age, and include standard Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), 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.

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, or similar. Comfortably fit up to 4 travellers 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 Renault Trafic (2WD manual), Mercedes Benz Vito (4WD automatic, has highland capabilities and better suited for winter driving), or similar. Comfortable for 5 to 7 travellers. If seated full, luggage space is limited. The driver must be of 23 years of age or above.

Meals

You can now add meals to your booking. Select to include dinner on every night as an optional extra, and we will provide you with vouchers as part of your booking confirmation. We will choose from top-rated restaurants that fit with your vacation itinerary and make your reservations for you. At the restaurant, you will be offered a set menu, from which you can choose from meat, fish or vegetarian options. If you would prefer something else, the voucher will act as a credit that you can redeem at the restaurant against menu items that are not part of the set menu. Please notify the restaurant on arrival about any dietary requirements. Vouchers are non-refundable.

Cancellation Insurance

This insurance guarantees that you can cancel tour and package bookings and receive a full refund, minus the insurance cost. The cost of your cancellation insurance depends on the duration of your tour or package. A base cost of 5,000 ISK per person is applied to all tours and packages with a duration of 5 days or less. An additional 1,000 ISK per person will be added to the insurance cost for each day after. The cancellation must be made more than 48 hours before the listed starting time on your voucher. To cancel your booking and claim your refund, simply contact info@guidetoiceland.is and declare full cancellation. Please note that this insurance covers the cancellation of the whole tour or package. Individual services cannot be cancelled and refunded separately, but are all covered and refunded in case of a full cancellation.

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