Winter Self Drive Tours

Best Winter Self Drive Tours in Iceland

Explore Iceland's largest selection of winter self drive tours. Enjoy customized itineraries with accommodation, vehicles, and tours booked in advance.
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Lauren Delgado

Lauren Delgado

Amazing!
22/01/2024, 20:58
Review of 5-Day Northern Lights Winter Self-Drive Tour with the Golden Circle & Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

This tour was absolutely worth it! Everyone at Guide to Iceland was super helpful and attentive whenever I emailed with questions. We were on a budget so we chose a 2 wheel drive vehicle and even in the winter, we had no problems, though it may have been luck of the draw weather-wise. The people at MyCar rental were awesome and wifi provided in the car was great! We opted for the budget accommodations and they were wonderful! I was nervous as I had never stayed in a hostel before but every place was great with good facilities and very friendly people. The itinerary was well planned and arranged geographically to maximize activities each day without feeling exhausted. We decided to go with the Blue Lagoon, Glacier Hike, and Ice Cave Tour. Though even on the days without added excursions there was more than enough to do and see! On our Golden Circle sightseeing day we did cut down the time spent at each place and added in a stop and Bruarfoss, which was worth it. All of the added excursions were worth it with super helpful and informative guides that were eager to advise on the best photo ops! We did get to see the northern lights while staying near Hofn. We went to the Glacier Lagoon around 9pm which was a great spot. Solar activity was low so the lights were not as vibrant but it was still very cool and we got some good photos! Overall this was a great service and made the trip so much more enjoyable as the majority of the details were taken care of! Would absolutely recommend to everyone!

Winter driving in Iceland

With all the necessary preparations made beforehand, you’ll be more than ready to take to Iceland’s roadways during the winter months. Iceland is a fantastic country in which to undertake a winter self drive tour, granted the vehicle operator is confident driving in more difficult conditions.

One of the many blessings that come with driving in the winter is the snow-blanketed scenery; this is Iceland living up to its name, with fields, mountains and rivers masked and sculpted by the frosty elements.

Aside from this staggering beauty, driving in the winter is an adventure in itself, providing the first-hand experience of just how unpredictable and captivating both Iceland’s weather and nature can be. Travelling from one natural attraction to another, you may even have the chance to see the northern lights dancing above.

As with anywhere, driving in Iceland requires a keen awareness of the road rules and potential hazards. The first, and most obvious, is the darkness. It is a legal requirement in Iceland to keep your headlamps on at all times—this goes as much for the black of winter as it does a fully illuminated day in the spring, and has been put in place as a safety regulation due to the country’s ever-changing level of light. Some rental vehicles will have the headlights fixed ‘on’ automatically.

It is advised only to use high beam in pitch darkness, switching to your normal headlight level on the opposite approach of a vehicle—this is to ensure you are not blinding the other driver.

If you are not experienced in driving in harsh winter conditions, it is highly recommended that you get a four-wheel-drive, and make sure that the vehicle is fitted with quality winter tyres.

Frequently asked questions

Is the car fitted with winter tires?

Between November and March, Icelandic law requires all cars to be fitted with winter tires. Therefore you can be sure that your car will be fitted with winter tires for your self-drive tour in Iceland.

What is the weather like in Iceland during the winter?

Winter is the coldest season, but it may not be as cold as you imagine. If you are somewhere in the south, such as Reykjavik, the average temperature is around 32 F (0 C). It can go down to 23 F (-5 C) or up to 41 F (5 C) but doesn't get any colder or warmer than that, though you should always consider the wind chill.

If you're wondering when it snows in Iceland, then winter will be the logical answer. Anywhere from October to April can experience snowfall, with the heaviest being received in December and January.

What are the daylight hours during the winter in Iceland?

The year's shortest day happens just before the Christmas holidays, on December 21st. On that day, called the winter solstice, there are only 4-5 hours of daylight. Before the winter solstice, the days get shorter and shorter as time goes by and after the winter solstice, days start getting longer.

Do I need a 4x4 to drive the ring road or to drive to North Iceland during the winter?

Yes, we recommend renting a 4x4 car in winter. For short and easy routes, we offer the option of booking a 2WD, although it is always best to use a 4WD for driving in Iceland in winter.

Will the car's winter tires be studded?

Unfortunately, this can't be guaranteed because Icelandic car rentals are not required to fit their vehicles with studded tires. Please contact us at info@guidetoiceland.is if you wish for your vehicle to be fitted with studded tires. Please note that additional charges may apply.

Can I rent tire-chains to aid me in driving through ice and snow during the winter in Iceland?

No, tire chains are illegal in Iceland.

Will I be safe during my winter self-drive tour in Iceland if I have no previous experience driving in snowy or icy conditions?

Icy roads can be tricky to navigate, and we only recommend winter self-drive tours for those with winter-driving experience. If you want to try, nonetheless, we recommend that you limit your travels to Iceland's South Coast.

During your trip in Iceland, it’s a good idea to regularly check the weather forecast and road conditions for your intended route. Please note that we also offer guided tour packages in mini-buses with English-speaking guides. Many of these guided packages take you through the most popular self-drive routes.

What happens if I arrive late to a tour or cannot make it to a meeting point due to road closures or extreme weather?

The good news is that the Ring Road in Iceland very rarely closes. If, however, other roads which are essential to your itinerary are closed, we will assist you with all the necessary arrangements and help you in any way possible. If you encounter any issues, please reach out to our team via email at info@guidetoiceland.is.

What do the winter self drive tours include?

The self-drive packages include all accommodation and car rentals, as well as the support of a dedicated travel agent at Guide to Iceland, should you encounter any issues along the way. It’s possible to also schedule tours, meals and premium airport transfers as part of your self-drive. However, please note that additional charges may apply.

What insurances are included for my winter self-drive tour in Iceland?

The car insurance package includes Collision Damage Waiver, Super Collision Damage Waiver and Gravel Protection as standard. This is the best coverage and the most limited liability payment option available. It is also possible to add Sand and Ash Protection, which is recommended if you intend to travel along the windy and sandy South Coast. Please contact your booking agent for further advice.

Should I purchase the sand and ash protection insurance in winter?

We always recommend this insurance as there is no way of predicting whether a sandstorm will occur during your winter self-drive in Iceland. This is especially important if you choose to travel along the South Coast of Iceland.

Does the car have a GPS?

Yes, all cars are fitted with a GPS as standard.

How do I find the sightseeing locations, my hotels and the meeting points for the tours during my winter self-drive tour in Iceland?

You will be given an itinerary that includes all addresses and GPS coordinates of all of the locations of accommodations and tours. Your itinerary will also include some suggestions of places to see along your winter road trip in Iceland.

Considering the shorter daylight hours during the winter in Iceland, will I be able to see and experience all the points of interest during my self-drive tour?

We always take this into account when we plan your trip. When we customise your itinerary, we make sure that you can see and experience the very best Iceland has to offer in the given weather and road conditions.

How long does it take to drive the Ring Road in Iceland in the winter?

Taking into account varying driving conditions because of weather as well as short daylight hours during the winter, it can take a bit longer to drive the Ring Road during the winter compared with the summer. Including stops along the way, we would recommend at least 7-8 days for your self-drive tour in Iceland during the winter.
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