Stunning 5 Day Northern Lights Winter Self Drive Tour of North Iceland by Lake Myvatn
Avoid the crowds, hunt for the Northern Lights, and explore north Iceland with this five-day winter self-drive package. This tour includes flights from Reykjavík Domestic Airport to Akureyri, the Capital of the North. It should appeal to any seeking to explore this quieter but no less spectacular corner of Iceland.
This tour begins when you arrive at Akureyri's Domestic Airport, which can be reached by taking a half-hour flight from Reykjavik Domestic Airport, close to Reykjavik's city center. You will pick up your rental car here, then have five days to get to know this region.
North Iceland boasts beautiful towns, the incredible Lake Mývatn area, spectacular geology, countless waterfalls, and a wealth of geothermal energy. Because its population is centered in just a few places, there is little light pollution out in nature for optimal aurora hunting conditions.
As this tour is a self-drive, you have complete choice over where you go each day and how long each night you search for the Northern Lights, with your only obligations regarding reaching your hotel in the evening and being on time for any tours you have booked.
You can have plenty of adventures in North Iceland, even though fewer tourists frequent the region in winter. Examples include a super jeep trip to the area's majestic waterfalls, dog-sledding, the lava cave Lofthellir, whale-watching, and hot spring bathing in the luxurious waters of the Mývatn Nature Baths or the unique Beer Spa.
Note that, as this is a self-drive package, all your excursions, hotels, and rental car will be organized for you before your arrival, eliminating much of the stress associated with booking a holiday.
Though this tour has great appeal for families, solo travelers, and groups of friends, it particularly beckons couples due to how romantic the sights of north Iceland in winter are. There are few better places to enjoy a honeymoon or plan out a proposal.
Furthermore, it is a perfect choice for guests who have already been to Iceland and are seeking to explore an alternative part of this diverse and spectacular country.
Please note that this tour is only available to begin on Mondays, Thursdays, and Sundays due to the limited return flights on your final day.
Do not miss this opportunity to explore the beautiful region of North Iceland in winter at your own speed. Check availability by choosing a date.
Day 1 - Arrival to Akureyri
On your first day, you will arrive in the largest town of North Iceland, Akureyri, after taking a flight from Reykjavik Domestic Airport. Your rental car will be waiting for you here, allowing you to begin your adventure as soon as you have your bags.
Akureyri is a fabulous place to spend the first day of your holiday. The town is surrounded by beautiful mountains, has excellent views over the plunging fjord of Eyjafjörður, and has a wealth of attractions. Many of its buildings are magnificent feats of architecture; its shopping streets are lined with boutiques, bars, and restaurants; and the town has a wealth of museums and galleries for you to explore.
Although you will spend the next three days enjoying the surrounding landscapes and features, you, of course, have the freedom to start today. If traveling between December and April, for example, you could head to the ski slopes Hlíðarfjall, considered the best in the country. Otherwise, you could travel even further north to the small, historic towns of Húsavík or Siglufjörður.
When night falls, it is highly encouraged that you drive out into nature, far from any light pollution, to hunt for the Northern Lights. If, however, you are too tired, or the sky is too cloudy, worry not; you have three more nights of opportunity to find them.
You will spend the night in accommodation in Akureyri.
Day 2 - Drive to Myvatn
On the second day of your self-drive tour of North Iceland, you will head to the area's most famous feature, Lake Mývatn. This expanse of water is stunning in winter, often frozen and surrounded by spectacular snowscapes. The area is also known for its incredible geology; you'll see pillars of basalt towering from the ice, bizarre yet beautiful pseudocraters lining Mývatn's banks, and the magnificent lava fortress of Dimmuborgir.
Aside from its scale and formations, Dimmuborgir is a great place to visit in winter due to its cultural significance. It is said that the thirteen Yule Lads - the Icelandic interpretation of Santa Claus - live here throughout the year, and the site was also used as a shooting location in Game of Thrones.
En route to Lake Mývatn, you will pass the waterfall of the Gods, Goðafoss. This feature is spectacular, powerful, and fascinating in its history; over a millennium ago, this was the place where the Lawspeaker of Iceland threw his idols of the Old Norse Gods, symbolically converting the nation to Christianity.
Another nearby destination worth a detour is Námaskarð Pass, a lifeless mountain plateau seething with fumaroles and hot springs.
Aside from sightseeing, you can add something a little extra to your day by booking admission to the Mývatn Nature Baths. This geothermal spa is in an incredible location, with the lakes and surrounding landscapes in clear view, and the waters are naturally heated and full of healing minerals. Though great for families and solo travelers, they have particular appeal to couples due to the romantic ambiance that the site boasts.
If you plan to reach the baths later in the day, you may even see the Northern Lights as you unwind; there are few experiences more classically Icelandic than marveling over the auroras from a beautiful hot pool.
After a full day of exploring, an evening of relaxation, and hopefully a magnificent show, you'll retire in accommodation in the Mývatn Area.
Day 3 - Myvatn and its surroundings
Your third day in North Iceland is made for adventure. While you are welcome to simply continue relaxing and sightseeing around the Mývatn area on your own accord, there are several tours you can take to add something special to your trip.
The first of these is a super jeep tour that will take you into the northern reaches of Vatnajökull National Park to the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe, Dettifoss. This 131 ft (40m) tall, 328 ft (100) wide phenomenon perfectly encapsulates the raw force of Iceland's nature and the marriage of ice and fire here; the water itself comes from the country's greatest glacier, and the cliffs surrounding it are the jet black of ancient lava.
You will also see the two neighbors of Dettifoss on this tour, Selfoss and Hafragilsfoss, which sit just up and down the river, respectively.
If you'd rather take a tour more tailored to the winters in Iceland, it is also possible to book a dog-sledding excursion. This fantastic opportunity will allow you to race through beautiful snowscapes led by a pack of loyal huskies, providing both spectacular sightseeing and adrenaline-pumping adventure in one.
This tour is perfect for families, with children as young as two welcome to join in the fun. Furthermore, animal lovers need not be cautious; one look at the animals will let you know how well-loved and happy they are, and you'll be welcome to spend some time cuddling them at the end of the excursion.
The third option for today is to head to Lofthellir, a magnificent cave hidden under the lava by Lake Mývatn. While there are lava caves all around the country, Lofthellir is unique as it also counts as an ice cave because it has ice year-round, present in icicles and other stunning formations. Though not a glacier cave like those found under Vatnajökull, Lofthellir can be visited much more reliably and is a great alternative for winter travelers to the north.
After either traveling the area yourself or taking one of the excursions mentioned above, your evening will be free for more sightseeing, another dip in the Nature Baths, or Northern Lights Hunting. Once exhausted from your adventures, you will retire for the night again in the Lake Mývatn Area.
Day 4 - Return to Akureyri
On the fourth day of your self-drive up north, you will return to Akureyri. Be sure to visit any of the sites you may have missed in the Mývatn area, such as Dimmuborgir and Goðafoss Waterfall so that you know that you have made the very most of the region.
Once back in Akureyri, you can enjoy the museums, architecture, and shopping or elect to go on one more tour. You could, for example, choose to go on a whale-watching excursion from the town's harbor, setting out into Eyjafjörður Fjord. On such a journey, you'll be able to marvel over the dramatic mountains, wonderful ocean views, and, with a little luck, a wealth of animal life.
While many of the seabirds and great whales will have migrated south for the winter, there are still many dolphins and porpoises and some larger stragglers that can be found in the waters.
Alternatively, you could elect to join a unique spa experience at the Björbóðin Beer Spa. Here, you can take a warm bath in young beer full of live yeast, which is said to do wonders for the skin; if you are twenty or older, you can also enjoy a pint as you unwind. You get 25 minutes in the hot tubs, a further 25 minutes in the relaxation area. They can enjoy the beer-themed restaurant and bar and gaze over the spectacular views of the adjacent fjord.
You'll spend your final night in north Iceland in Akureyri. Why not set out on one final Northern Lights hunt if you are not totally worn out from the previous four days? If it's cloudy, then this is the perfect night to check out Akureyri's surprisingly lively nightlife.
Day 5 - Departure
On your last day, you will have to return your car to Akureyri Airport in time for your flight. If you have some time in the morning, be sure to check out any sites in the town that you missed, perhaps grabbing lunch at one of the many fine restaurants or checking out some of the unique boutiques.
What to bring
Good to know
It is strongly recommended that you book your international flight into Iceland to arrive at least a day before your tour begins. This is because you will take a domestic flight from Reykjavík to Akureyri on the first day.
You should also book your international flight out of Iceland at least a day after the tour finishes to allow for the flight back to Reykjavík.
A valid driver's license is required for this Self Drive Tour, along with a one-year-long on-road experience.
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 the weather allows. Please be aware that your itinerary may have to be rearranged to fit your arrival date and time better.
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.
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.
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 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 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.