Relaxing 11 Day Northern Lights Winter Self Drive Tour of Iceland’s South Coast & Snaefellsnes
Embark on this winter self-drive tour and take in all that Iceland's best-loved attractions have to offer. This itinerary is perfect for those who would prefer to travel at a relaxed and comfortable pace with the Northern Lights dancing above on a road trip to remember.
This journey will be packed with extraordinary nature and take you to fantastic locations, from the Snæfellsnes Peninsula to the Golden Circle and the South Coast.
You can see remarkable features such as Jökulsárlón glacier and Djúpalónsandur black beach. You also have the option of adding winter adventures such as snowmobiling, glacial hiking, bathing in hot springs, lava caving, as well as visiting one of nature's most striking creations, the ice caves.
You will have plenty of time to get to know Iceland in-depth and in a non-rushed manner. Throughout your travels, you will be following an itinerary that allows you to stay more than a night at pre-arranged accommodations in the most mesmerizing locations, mixing adventure and relaxation with flexibility for a perfectly balanced holiday.
Wrap up warm and look forward to exploring Iceland in the wintertime. Check availability by choosing a date.
Day 1 - Arrival & Blue Lagoon
You have arrived at Keflavík International Airport. Welcome to Iceland! Grab your bags and pick up your rental car from the agency listed on your voucher. Get behind the wheel and go.
You will be crossing the lava fields of the Reykjanes peninsula towards Reykjavík, the northernmost capital city of the world.
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 you reach Reykjavík and settle into your hotel, why not explore the charming bars and restaurants the Downtown has to offer. As you wander the streets, be sure to keep your eyes on the sky should the weather be clear in case the Northern Lights come out to play.
Day 2 - West Iceland
Wake up and get your adventure on the road. Today you will be exploring the West of Iceland and the beautiful Snæfellsnes peninsula. Head towards the historical town Borgarnes, known to be inhabited since the early settlement years.
From here, it is highly recommended that you head to two very different but equally majestic waterfalls that so happen to be neighbors. Hraunfossar waterfall is a series of rivulets gently trickling from the lava plateau. Barnafoss, no more than a stone's throw away, it's a tempestuous torrent of frothing water carving its way through the rock. Be sure to check out the nearby Deildartunguhver, Europe's most powerful hot spring.
Decide now how to spend the rest of your day. You could pay a visit to the easily accessible Viðgelmir Lava Cave, a colorful cavern teeming with fascinating rock formations and icicles.
Alternatively, you might fancy something a little more chilled-out, in which case, lay back and relax in the geothermally heated waters at Krauma spa. You can also explore a man-made ice tunnel carved out of Iceland's second-largest glacier, Langjökull.
However you choose to spend your day, you are guaranteed to be bowled over by the wealth of natural beauty around you. Retire for the evening at your accommodation on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Don't forget to keep an eye out for the Auroras.
Day 3 - Iceland in Miniature
Today you wake up to 'Iceland in Miniature'; Snæfellsnes peninsula has been given this nickname thanks to the wealth and diversity of attractions on this modest 56 miles (90 kilometers) of coastline.
You are the designer of the day! You could plan your sightseeing around a visit to the mesmerizing Vatnshellir cave on a guided tour. In his famous novel, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Jules Verne imagines that Snæfellsjökull, the glacier volcano that dominates the peninsula, was the gateway to the deep. Awaken your imagination and delve into the depths of the earth.
You could also explore the gorgeous Snæfellsjökull National Park. On the peninsula's South Coast, you could go to Djúplaónssandur black pebble beach and admire the crashing waves and remains of a historic shipwreck. Heavy lifting stones lie on the beach. In the past, sailors used them as a show of strength.
Another option is to pay a visit to the quiet towns of Arnarstapi and Hellnar, all the while keeping your eye out for curious rock formations for which this coastline is famous. You can also stop at the Black Church at Búðir, which is very photogenic, especially when surrounded by snow and illuminated by the Northern Lights.
On the northern side of the peninsula, be sure to visit the town of Grundarfjörður and admire the 'most photographed mountain in Iceland', Mount Kirkjufell. The angular peak of this striking elevation is best enjoyed in front of a small waterfall, Kirkjufellsfoss, that bubbles close to the mountain's base and is named in honor of its mountain neighbor.
Spend another evening in the beautiful Iceland in Miniature and prepare for the rest of Iceland tomorrow!
Day 4 - The Golden Circle
Back on the road, and you have the Golden circle route to look forward to. This well-loved circuit takes you to Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the Haukadalur geothermal valley, home to the geysers.
Þingvellir National Park is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Iceland. Historically significant in the heart of every Icelander, it served as the assembly point of the first parliament, the Alþingi, 930 AD. The Alþingi is still in operation today, albeit now in Reykjavík, making it the world’s longest ongoing parliament.
It is just as geologically impressive as it is cultural. Þingvellir is defined by the ridge that runs through it, which is caused by the pulling apart of the tectonic plates. Iceland sits atop the mid-Atlantic Rift, and it is the only country in the world where you can observe this phenomenon above ground. As you walk through the park, you are walking between continents with the North American plate on one side and the Eurasian.
The nearby Haukadalur valley is home to Geysir, the hot spring from which all other similar features get their name, Geysers. Although Geysir itself is sporadically active, you can still get your fill of erupting boiling water from Strokkur, a neighboring geyser that blasts to a height of 66 ft (20m) every 5 minutes or so.
Close by is the second most powerful waterfall in Iceland, Gullfoss. It cascades in two levels and can be observed from many different angles. Whichever way you take it in, you are guaranteed to be impressed by the sheer scale of this thundering behemoth. In the depths of winter, part of the falls freezes into gnarled ice formations, which only add to its appeal.
You have a range of activities to choose from to enrich your Golden Circle experience. If you’re feeling pumped for adventure and fancy cranking up your adrenaline levels, you could hop on the back of a snowmobile and dash over the glistening Langjökull glacier in style.
Or maybe all the water you’ve seen today inspires you to get submerged? You can opt to go snorkeling in the Silfra fissure and float between the continents. This crack in the earth’s crust has filled with clear glacier water further filtered through the surrounding lava rocks producing waters with approximately 328-foot (100-meter) visibility.
If you’ve had enough adventure for one day, take a dip in the Secret Lagoon, a geothermally heated hot spring close to the charming town Flúðir.
You will spend the evening in the Golden Circle area.
Day 5 - Elements of the South
Your adventure continues, and today you will be making your way along the country's South Coast, famous for its black sand beaches and countless waterfalls plunging from the great heights of the South Highlands. A must-see is two of these waterfalls: Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, which both fall from heights of 197 ft (60m), the former in a hypnotic cascade, the latter in a thick thundering curtain.
As you drive, you will have the coast on your right and mighty glaciers covering the interior to your left such as Mýrdalsjökull, Eyjafjallajökull, and Sólheimajökull. Get to know the ice caps and opt to go for a glacial hike; feel the ice underneath your crampons and marvel at the remote beauty of the frozen landscape.
Perhaps you would rather delve inside a glacier and sign yourself up for the Katla Ice Cave tour. It's guaranteed to leave you enchanted with the electric blues the way the light shimmers on these awe-inspiring natural features.
You will spend the evening in the Vík area.
Day 6 - Glacier Lagoon
Leaving the charming town of Vík, you can choose to go for a glacial hike in Skaftafell Nature Reserve. Get up early to make the most of the sunshine and spend the morning admiring the magnificent Svínafellsjökull glacier outlet.
Now, prepare yourself for the ‘Crown Jewel of Iceland’, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. There you can watch enormous white, and blue icebergs peacefully drift out to sea, scarred in places by veins of black ash from historical volcanic eruptions.
If you are traveling in September or October, you can take a boat tour to get closer to these natural wonders. Take an Amphibian tour or the slightly faster Zodiac boat tour, you decide.
You can also pay a visit the Diamond Beach, just adjacent to the lagoon, and you will find some of these icebergs washed ashore, standing in their frozen glory against the contrasting black sand - unless it’s covered in snow!
You will spend your evening in accommodation close by, don’t forget to look out for the Northern Lights!
Day 7 - Ice Cave
Today you have the opportunity to see one of the most beautiful attractions in Iceland and a must-see on a winter tour, the fascinating blue ice cave. Located on Europe’s largest ice cap, Vatnajökull, you will feel transported to another world as ethereal blues, and striking ice formations surround you. Don’t miss out, as this will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of your trip.
You can decide how to spend the rest of the day. Perhaps you would like to venture to the Stokksnes peninsula to catch a glimpse of the ‘Batman Mountain’ Vestrahorn. The clustered jagged peaks of this elevation have inspired countless photographers, so don’t forget your camera.
You could also spend the day in the charming town of Höfn, renowned for its langoustine lobster. If you couldn’t quite believe your eyes yesterday, why not go back to the glacier lagoon at a different time and immortalize the icy giants on camera once more.
At the end of the day, you will be staying in the same accommodation as the night before, near Höfn township.
Day 8 - Skaftafell Nature Reserve
You have the whole day to familiarise yourself with Skaftafell Nature Reserve. It used to be a National Park in its own right before becoming part of Vatnajökull National Park, and it’s easy to understand why.
Skaftafell is rich in diverse attractions from forests to lava fields, glacial tongues to waterfalls; there really is a lot to take in. The area has been labeled a hiker’s paradise. Why not explore some of the shorter paths in the area. One such trail leads to Svartifoss, an impressive waterfall cascading in front of black basalt columns, so be sure to find it.
Knowing Skaftafell a bit better, you will then return to Vík for the evening. Go for an evening walk and scout for the Aurora over the black coastline. The elevated church makes for an excellent viewpoint for the Northern Lights.
Day 9 - More of the South Coast
With no end to glaciers, there is no end to glacial activities on offer in this part of the country! Today, you could ascend Mýrdalsjökull, Iceland's fourth-largest ice cap, to hop on the back of a snowmobile and race across the white wintery wilderness. This is a promise of adventure that cannot be resisted.
Whatever you decide upon, don't miss a visit to Reynisfjara beach, famed for its photogenic sea stacks and impressive basalt columns. Watching the waves crash at the shore is thoroughly hypnotizing but be careful not to get too close as the beach is famous for sneaker waves, and there have been some terrible accidents.
This evening you will say your goodbyes to the South Coast and make your way back to Reykjavík.
Day 10 - Free Day in Reykjavik
This is your last whole day in Iceland, so why not make the most of it! Watch the capital Reykjavík become even smaller as you soar above the city in a helicopter before getting an aerial view of a geothermal area close to Reykjavík.
Animal lovers will be delighted at the option to meet the Icelandic horse, a special breed famous for its fifth gait, the 'tölt', as well as its calm and friendly temperament. Suitable for experienced and beginners alike. If traveling before October 31st, you can explore the insides of a volcano and admire the magic of these geological giants from the inside!
Alternatively, you could spend your day exploring the city. You could go to the top of Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavík's most iconic landmark and largest church, to enjoy panoramic views all over the city. Be sure to look into Harpa Concert Hall, a fantastic feat of architectural design and engineering.
There are many art galleries, museums, and bars and cafes, so there's no end to things to do. In the evening, why not get a taste for the quirky Reykjavík nightlife.
Day 11 - Departure Day
The time has come for you to make your way back to Keflavík International airport. Drop off your car at Keflavík airport and go to catch your flight. 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 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 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.