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13 Day Northern Lights Winter Self Drive Tour of the Complete Ring Road & Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Svartifoss in winter is a stunning attraction in Skaftafell Nature Reserve, part of a National Park in south Iceland.
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Description

Details

Tour starts
Keflavík Airport
Starting time
Flexible
Duration
13 days
Ending place
Keflavík Airport (KEF), Reykjanesbær, Iceland
Difficulty
Easy
Available
Sep. - Apr.
Ending time
Flexible
Minimum age
None

Description

Set off on a winter journey around Iceland, visiting breathtaking attractions while hunting for the Northern Lights at night. As well as sightseeing, there are countless options to add exhilarating activities to your itinerary, making this self-drive holiday appealing for all.

You will travel in a clockwise direction around the Ring Road of Iceland but not before making a stop at the captivating Snæfellsnes peninsula. Many choose to visit the Ring Road in an anti-clockwise direction, so this itinerary promises fewer people at the attractions you will visit.

Not only will you get to see the well-traveled Golden Circle and South Coast, but you will also get to visit lesser-known sites in the North and East of the island, such as Lake Mývatn and Mt. Vestrahorn, as well as on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to the west. You will see the geysers, cross mountain valleys and visit other famous locations, such as the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and the Goðafoss waterfall, which are all a part of this great Self Drive.

You can add a range of outdoor adventures such as horse riding, snowmobiling, or hiking on a glacier every step of the way. 

Whatever you decide to do, this self-drive journey allows you to take in Iceland at your own pace, and the luxury of driving yourself presents plenty of opportunities to chase the Northern Lights at night. All of your accommodation is also arranged, making the travel free of all fuss and stress; all you have to do is decide how you want to spend your time in Iceland.

Wrap up warm and prepare for a road trip to remember in the winter wonderland of Iceland. Check availability by choosing a date.

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Included

12 nights of accommodation (different levels available; breakfast included for Comfort and Quality levels; more detailed information below)
Vehicle for 13 days (Ducia Duster 4x4 SUV/Jeep or similar. Upgrades available)
CDW, SCDW and GP insurance for car rental
GPS system
Detailed itinerary
Personal travel agent
Taxes
Travelers who book with Guide to Iceland may have a PCR or rapid antigen COVID-19 test prearranged prior to their departure from Iceland, if needed.

Activities

Glacier Hiking
Snorkelling
Snowmobile
Horse Riding
Whale Watching
Sightseeing
Northern lights hunting
Hot Spring Bathing
Cultural Activity
Ice Caving
Self drive

Daily itinerary

Day 1
Welcome to Iceland and the world-famous water of the luxurious Blue Lagoon.

Day 1 - Arrival

A very wintery welcome to Iceland! You'll pick up your vehicle at the airport, and it will be your faithful steed for the next thirteen days. Get behind the wheel and begin your exploration of this captivating island.

As you head towards Reykjavík, you will be crossing the mystical Reykjanes peninsula, famous for its volcanic activity and characterized by endless lava fields covered in thick woolly moss.

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.

Once you arrive in Reykjavík, you will drive to your accommodation for the evening and get some rest. Alternatively, if you're not quite ready to turn in for the evening, take a stroll around the downtown area and grab a snack or a drink at one of the many bars and restaurants.

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Day 2
The glowing auroras dancing above the dramatic black church at Búðir on the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

Day 2 - Iceland in Miniature

Now begins the real adventure. Today you will be heading west to the enticing Snæfellsnes peninsula, often heralded "Iceland in Miniature" for its wealth of diverse geological features.

You can take a small diversion from the Ring Road to visit two very different but delightful waterfalls, Hraunfossar and Barnafoss; one is a collection of trickling rivulets, the other a tempestuous swirling torrent. As you return to Route 1, you could stop off at Deildartunguhver, Europe's most powerful hot spring.

Onwards to Snæfellsnes Peninsula! A black church at Búðir village has a certain dramatic pull, especially if the ground is snow-covered. You can also visit the quaint villages Hellnar and Arnarstapi, both famous for peculiar rock formations.

As you make your way to Snæfellsjökull National Park, admire the stratovolcano and ice cap, which gives the name to the area and dominates the landscape. There, you have the exciting opportunity to visit an ancient lava tube, Vatnshellir Cave. 

If there is still light, you can visit pebble beach Djúpalónssandur and see the shipwreck there and heavy lifting stones, once used by sailors as a show of bravado.

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Day 3
Mount Kirkjufell stands proudly in front of the stunning auroras.

Day 3 - Head North

Today, you will be heading for the ‘Capital of the North’, Akureyri.

If you didn’t make it to the north of the peninsula yesterday, be sure to visit the photogenic Mount Kirkjufell, casting its angular shadow over the township Grundarfjörður. As you travel the rest of Snæfellsnes, take in the rolling frosty hills and dramatic coastline. 

Crossing the mountains of the Tröllaskagi peninsula, you will arrive in Akureyri, where you will be spending the night. The benefit of being this far north is you stand a better chance of spotting the Northern Lights so keep your eyes peeled! If you have any energy, explore downtown Akureyri and its plethora of restaurants and bars.

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Day 4
The Northern Lights illuminate the sky as well as Lake Mývatn, the 'Fly Lake'.

Day 4 - Lake Myvatn Area

Grab a hot drink from one of Akureyri’s many bakeries and cafés and hit the road for another day of adventure. Not long after you’ve said goodbye to Akureyri, you will encounter Goðafoss, a charming waterfall. In winter, it freezes in places to create a gnarled icicle-ridden creature, guaranteed to be unique every year.

You’ll be heading to Lake Mývatn and its surrounding area, which boasts many features of interest. You can climb the pseudo-craters Skútustaðagígar and get a panoramic view of the lake which will most likely be frozen over in places.

Continue to Dimmuborgir, a captivating lava field home to many strange rock formations that resemble a gloomy medieval fort. Some say the Icelandic Yule Lads when they are not out and about entertaining children with fruits and sweets.

You can opt to spend the end of your day at the Mývatn Nature Baths. There you can actively engage with the geothermal nature of the region and relax in this popular spa with breathtaking views. If it’s already dark, cast your eyes to the sky, you don’t want to miss the auroras in such an idyllic location.

You will spend the night in the Mývatn area.

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Day 5
It's no wonder why Dettifoss waterfall has been used as a filming location in a number of productions.

Day 5 - Snowland

Today you are spoiled for choice, as Mývatn sports a plethora of locations to visit. A wonderful way to start the day is to head to the Námafell geothermal area. Here, you will be able to see steaming fumaroles and bubbling mud puddles amidst the otherwise frozen winter landscape.

You can also opt to visit the most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss, but you can take a super jeep tour to see this imposing giant. Give yourself the day off driving and let a local guide show you to this incredible attraction in a vehicle ready for all terrain and weather.

Alternatively, you could opt for a genuinely Arctic experience and join a dogsledding tour. Let a team of adorable Siberian Huskies pull you across the frozen countryside as you admire the surrounding beauty of the Mývatn area.

You will spend another evening in the Mývatn region and relish another opportunity to spot the Northern Lights.

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Day 6
The many colours of the Northern Lights never cease to amaze.

Day 6 - Eastfjords

Heading East now, follow the Ring-Road once more. Don't forget to stop at Námafell geothermal area if you haven't already.

You will be heading to Egilsstaðir, the largest town in East Iceland. As you make your way there, take in the vast snow-blanketed plains and looming mountains of the Möðrudalsöræfi mountain pass. This is officially a part of the highlands, giving you an amazing view of Europe's largest desert: Sprengisandur.

You could drive into Egilsstaðir and explore the town, or you could push through it and onto the picturesque fishing town, Seyðisfjörður. Both municipalities are beautiful to behold and rich in historical and cultural attractions.

If you would prefer to check out Iceland's largest forest, drive the short distance from Egilsstaðir to Hallormsstaðaskógur woods. Close by is the lake Lagarfljót, rumored to be inhabited by a monster, tales of which far out-date those of the Loch Ness Monster.

Retire for the evening to your accommodation in Egilsstaðir.

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Day 7
The Northern Lights reflect back to the sky on the still waters of Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

Day 7 - Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

If you didn’t get to see some of the sights in the area yesterday, you could explore the features of the region today.

Return to the Ring-Road and continue your circumnavigation of the island. Take in the wild and natural beauty of the remote Eastfjords; the region is particularly well-known for its wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled for reindeer.

As you drive through the winding mountain roads, admire beautiful coastlines and winter wonderland views as you make your way to your accommodation for the evening.

If you find yourself with time, there could be no better way to experience the Northern Lights than at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. This stunning natural feature is often heralded as the “Crown Jewel of Iceland” for its mesmerizing and serene beauty. Large icebergs break away from Breiðamerkurjökull and slowly drift out to sea, making for a truly hypnotic sight.

You will spend the evening in the Jökurlsárlón area.

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Day 8
The dramatic peaks of Mountain Vestrahorn loom over the Stokksnes peninsula.

Day 8 - Vestrahorn Mountain & Ice Caving

Day eight arrives, and you could use it to see the mountain Vestrahorn on the Stokknes peninsula, referred to as the ‘Batman Mountain’ for its angular features said to resemble a bat. This spot is a favorite amongst photographers, so have your camera (and gloves!) at the ready.

Continue along the Ring Road to experience the majesty of Jökulsárlón by day. Be sure to visit the adjacent Diamond Beach; here, icebergs wash onto the black sandy shores presenting you the opportunity to admire these icy giants up close.

You now have the option to visit one of the mystical ice caves within Vatnajökull glacier. As you are led by an expert guide, behold the mesmerizing electric blues and enjoy a genuinely awe-inspiring experience.

You will once again be staying in the Jökulsárlón area. When you are familiar with the sights here, take your pick of where to spend your evening to hunt for the Northern Lights.

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Day 9
The idyllic town of Vík peppered in a fresh layer of snow.

Day 9 - Skaftafell

Today, you will be exploring the diverse and dazzling Skaftafell Nature Reserve, often referred to as a hiker's paradise. The views around Skaftafell are impressive and feature everything from woodland to rivers, lava fields, to mountainscapes.

There are many trails to follow. Each offers diverse views and caters to varied physical abilities. Pick out a path and make sure you plan for enough daylight hours to avoid getting lost in the dark!

You also have the option to join a guided glacier hike so that you can survey up-close the shocking icy blues of one of the many glacial tongues in the area and experience the great, ancient ice cap up close.

You will then make your way to the charming town of Vík for the night.

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Day 10
Waterfalls are abundant on the South Coast; one of the most visited is the stunning Seljalandsfoss.

Day 10 - South Coast

You will discover the South Coast of Iceland, a well-traveled route, but you will have the advantage of traveling it in the opposite direction to most coaches.

Take the short drive from Vík to the famed Reynisfjara black beach and admire the fascinating geology of the area, such as the impressive hexagonal basalt columns and defiant sea stacks, Reynisdrangar, that stand like trolls in the North Atlantic ocean. 

Keeping the sea on one side and the heady heights of the interior to the other, glaciers such as Eyjafjallajökull, Mýrdalsjökull, and Sólheimajökull dominate the landscape. You have the opportunity to experience these frozen landscapes up close by opting for a glacier hike!

The South Coast is well known for its plethora of waterfalls of glacial water plummeting down from the Southern Highlands. Make stops at two of the most impressive and beautiful; Skógarfoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls, both of which measure in at a whopping 197 ft (60m).

If you're in the mood for some adrenaline-fueled adventure, you can opt to take a snowmobile tour of one of the South's many glaciers. Dash across the ice and take in the serene magnetism of the area.

Retire to your accommodation in the Selfoss region for the evening and don't forget to look out for the Northern Lights.

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Day 11
Snow and ice transform Gullfoss waterfall in the wintertime.

Day 11 - The Golden Circle

Your day will be spent exploring the famous Golden Circle. This route includes three main attractions; Gullfoss, Geysir, and Þingvellir National Park, Iceland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Gullfoss is Europe’s second most powerful waterfall, and it is exceptionally alluring in the winter with its icy tendrils stretching out as water plummets into the canyon below. At Geysir geothermal area, you can see a hot spring called Strokkur blow boiling water up into the air every 5-10 minutes.

Þingvellir is characterized by the ridge that runs through it, representing the meeting place of the Eurasian and North-American tectonic plates. They’re pulling apart at the same rate your fingernails grow and create the unique opportunity to walk in-between continents. Iceland is the only place on earth where this is possible.

Silfra is the name for a fissure formed by the aforementioned tectonic activity and filled with incredibly pure glacier water. This water is then further filtered by the lava rock surrounding it, rendering it some of the clearest water in the world. You can opt to snorkel in Silfra to enjoy the up to 328 ft (100m) visibility this passage offers.

If you prefer to get into some warmer water, why not spend an hour or two soaking in the hot spring at the Secret Lagoon. Although it may not be so secret anymore, it is one of the oldest pools in Iceland, and its setting is quite picturesque.

For those looking for something a bit bolder, a high-speed ride along Iceland’s second-largest glacier on a snowmobile is the perfect thrill for the day. Whatever you get up to, you are guaranteed to return to Reykjavík in the evening with even more unforgettable memories.

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Day 12
Tjörnin pond in Reykjavík regularly freezes over in the winter providing locals with a scenic spot to ice skate.

Day 12 - Free Day in Reykjavik

Welcome back to Reykjavík. You have several options for how you can spend your day today. If you're feeling a little tired after your trip, you can simply choose to loll around the city. Be sure to check out Hallgrímskirkja Church and Harpa Concert Hall, both of which are architecturally fascinating buildings, or go for a swim in one of the city's many geothermally heated public pools.

If you feel like something a little more exhilarating, you can opt for a geothermal helicopter tour! Watch Reykjavík grow even smaller as you fly a bit further inland to observe the earth's formative processes bubbling to the surface.

If you prefer to stay closer to the ground, you can spend the day on a horse riding tour. The Icelandic Horse is famed for its intelligent and friendly demeanor, making this tour perfect for amateurs and more experienced equestrians.

Regardless of what you choose, the day is sure to be exciting.

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Day 13
The lights of cosy capital Reykjavík brighten the cold dark winter night.

Day 13 - Departure

Today marks the end of your stay in Iceland. 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.

Once you get to Keflavík, follow the signs for ‘Car Rental Returns’, return the keys to the appropriate sales agent, and board your flight. As you fly away, digest your journey and contemplate visiting Iceland again in the summertime.

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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.

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.

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.

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 (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.

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 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.

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