11 Day Northern Lights Self Drive Holiday of the Complete Ring Road & Snaefellsnes Peninsula
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, snorkeling between continents, or stepping inside a mesmerizing 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.
Day 1 - Arrival Day
You have arrived in Iceland! Grab your bags and make your way to meet your car rental representative. Once you have 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 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. Why not venture out and grab a drink or some food to satisfy any post-flight appetites?
Day 2 - 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 56-mile (90-kilometer) 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 - 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, traveling 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 - Lake Myvatn
Day four and today, you will be heading to the stunning Lake Mývatn ("Fly-Lake") and its diverse surrounding region.
Before you leave Akureyri town, a highly recommended activity 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 39 ft (12m) 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 - 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 want to visit places hard-reached by regular cars, you can opt for a tour to Dettifoss waterfall in a formidable Super Jeep equipped to handle any terrain or weather. This stunning feature is considered 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 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-rumored to be inhabited by a serpent-like creature, a story which outdates the Loch Ness legend by many years.
When you reach the southeast, you could go to the stunning Stokksnes peninsula, home to the very photogenic Vestrahorn mountain 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 - 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 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 - 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 - 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 colored 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 197 ft (60m) and make for an impressive sight, especially in their winter finery.
You will spend the night in Reykjavík.
Day 10 - 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. Here, 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.
The 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 66 ft (20m) in the air. The incredible Gullfoss waterfall is not far from here, which plummets into a vast canyon and makes for a breathtaking sight.
You have several ways to make your Golden Circle trip even more memorable. You could go snorkeling 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 - 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.
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.