See the best of Iceland on this 5-day winter self drive tour as you experience the Northern Lights, Golden Circle and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon!
This tour is the perfect introduction for independent travellers wanting to explore the amazing landscapes, history and culture of Iceland in just five days. The journey will take you across the most popular part of the country, from Reykjavík to the Golden Circle, along the beautiful South Coast and into Vatnajökull National Park. Along the way, you’ll visit many of the highlights that Iceland has to offer, including stunning waterfalls, black sand beaches, sprawling lava fields, mighty volcanoes, ancient glaciers, steaming hot springs, historical landmarks, the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and more.
Winter is an enchanting time in Iceland, when snowfall blankets the landscape in a pristine layer of white. The days are filled with an ethereal, Arctic light, bathing the environment in a beautiful glow. Meanwhile, the nights are long and dark; this creates the perfect recipe to witness the Aurora Borealis, dancing over the country’s world-class attractions. If weather conditions are favourable during your trip, then you’ll be perfectly placed to witness this natural phenomenon lighting up the night sky. The extraordinary scenery of Iceland provides the perfect backdrop for the most awe-inspiring show on Earth.
For those who would like to maximise the potential for adventure in Iceland, there is the opportunity to add on extra tours during the booking process. Go snorkelling between two continents in the glacial water of Silfra fissure, ride on an Icelandic horse through the countryside, feel the cool air against your cheeks as you snowmobile over the Langjoökull glacier, visit two incredible ice caves deep within Vatnajökull National Park, go glacier hiking and explore the deep blue crevasses of Europe’s largest ice cap, or simply relax in the mineral-rich geothermal pools of the Blue Lagoon. There is a lot to choose from and the key to an exciting winter vacation in Iceland lies within your imagination.
Once you have completed the booking process, you’ll receive a personalised itinerary containing everything that you need for a seamless adventure in the Land of Fire and Ice. It will guide you to the best destinations in Iceland, as well as some more hidden gems off the beaten track. All of your accommodation will be pre-arranged before your arrival, giving you an idea of where you’ll need to be at the end of each day. The rest of your time is free for you to spend at your leisure. You can mark out as few or as many places as you like, take your time unearthing the beauty of each location and tailor your holiday to suit your style of travelling.
Enjoy the freedom of a winter self drive tour in Iceland with the ability to add on extra activities. Discover places so captivating that you’ll never want to leave! Check availability by choosing a date.
The adventure begins! You’ll arrive at Keflavík International Airport, where you will pick up your rental car at a predetermined location. Once you have loaded your luggage, you’ll begin making your way to the city of Reykjavík!
The drive will take you through the rugged landscapes of the Reykjanes peninsula. If you have some time, you can explore the volcanic scenery of this region or make a stop at the Blue Lagoon to bathe in steaming geothermal pools. It’s a lovely way to relax your muscles after a long flight.
Once you arrive in Reykjavík, you’ll check in to your accommodation. Thereafter, you’ll be free to explore the city at your leisure! Check out the many galleries and museums, take a walk by the iconic waterfront, wander through the shopping streets or settle in for a drink at a quirky café. In the evening, you can dine on local Icelandic cuisine at one of the world-class restaurants, before strolling by the famous Hallgrímskirkja church at night.
While it is possible to view the Northern Lights from Reykjavík, there is the option this evening of taking a bus or boat tour away from the city for an optimal viewing experience. Dark skies and favourable weather conditions are required to be able to see the Aurora dancing in the sky.
Day two is when you will visit Iceland’s famous Golden Circle route! This is where you will discover exactly why we call this the Land of Fire and Ice.
At Þingvellir National Park, you can immerse yourself in the history of Iceland whilst surrounded by the forces of nature. This is where Iceland’s parliament, Alþingi, was first founded in the year 930 AD, making it the oldest parliament in the world. Situated within a rift valley between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, the area bears the evidence of thousands of years of continental drift, which has torn the landscape leaving ridges and fissures in its wake. Of these, the Silfra fissure is the most well-known, with its crystal clear glacial water making it a world-class diving site. If you can brave the waters, then there is the option of taking a snorkelling tour in Silfra, which will take you deep between the two continents.
Your next stop will be at the Geysir geothermal area, where bubbling mud pots and steaming fumaroles dominate the scene. The highlight here is Strokkur, an incredible fountain geyser that erupts every 5-10 minutes, spurting boiling hot water almost 20 metres high into the air! It’s a breathtaking thing to witness and makes for wonderful photo opportunities.
From there, you’ll continue to one of Iceland’s most popular tourist destinations, the remarkable Gullfoss waterfall. Fed by meltwater from the Langjökull glacier, Iceland’s second-largest ice cap, this waterfall plunges dramatically through an ancient canyon, into the Hvítá river below. There are several vantage points from which you can observe the water, which flows over two rocky tiers.
In the afternoon, you have the option of exploring Langjökull glacier on a snowmobile tour or taking a peaceful ride on the back of an Icelandic horse through the countryside.
You’ll then continue onwards to Hvolsvöllur, where you will stay overnight. This small town is an excellent location from which to view the Northern Lights, should they make a display tonight.
Today will be spent journeying along the spectacular South Coast of Iceland. You’ll notice the scenery changing before your eyes as you head into this diverse region, with the mighty Eyjafjallajökull volcano looming in the distance.
Your first stop will be at the beautiful Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Cascading from a height of around 60 metres in front of a shallow cavern, it makes for an enchanting sight when surrounded by icicles hanging from the surrounding walls.
Nearby is Skógafoss, another spectacular waterfall in its own right. On a sunny day, rainbows drift forth from its plume of mist. Legend has it that there is treasure hidden behind this waterfall; while you can wander right up to touch the water should you so wish, you’d have to be brave to venture into its midst!
As you journey onwards, you’ll catch sight of the glistening Sólheimajökull glacier tongue, glistening upon the horizon. Here, you’ll be able to wander amongst the moraine and observe the black, white and blue striations in the glacial ice, caused by volcanic ash being frozen solid. If you’d like, there is the option to take a snowmobile tour or glacier hike upon Sólheimajökull glacier. There is also the opportunity to explore an ice cave deep within the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which will take you into the heart of one of nature’s most extraordinary creations.
Once you have finished exploring the glacier, you’ll continue onwards to the hauntingly beautiful Reynisfjara black sand beach. It is here that the tumultuous waves of the North Atlantic Ocean crash ashore, sweeping in with such force that they have shaped the surrounding landscape. Tall basalt columns line the cliff face here; remnants of hot lava flows meeting with the cold water of the sea. From the beach, you’ll have an extraordinary view of the Reynisdrangar sea stacks, standing steadfast in the waves.
Afterwards, you’ll continue driving until you reach the vicinity of the Vatnajökull National Park. If you have some time, then you may like to stop and explore the Skaftafell Nature Reserve or the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, though you will also have all of tomorrow to spend in this region.
You’ll spend the night in accommodation at the town of Höfn or somewhere nearby. Don’t forget to look towards the sky tonight for a chance to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
You’ll have the whole day at your fingertips to explore the vast and beautiful surroundings of the Vatnajökull National Park, home to Europe’s largest ice cap. Begin the morning with a visit to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, where large icebergs that have calved from the nearby Breiðamerkurjökull glacier float in the serene, tidal waters. They make for a stunning sight, surrounded by layers of pristine white snow. If you’re lucky, you may spot a seal or two, bobbing about in the depths. On a sunny day, they haul out upon the icebergs, warming themselves in the sun.
A short walk from the lagoon will take you to the nearby Diamond Beach, aptly named for the glistening icebergs that are often found on its shores. Glistening in the sun, they resemble jewels scattered about on the dusky black sand. Their shapes can take on many elaborate forms, with some even resembling castles or ice sculptures!
Today, you have the option of venturing deep into Vatnajökull glacier on an ice cave tour. These awe-inspiring natural phenomena are quite rare and Iceland is one of the only places in the world where you’ll be able to visit one. Departure is from Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon in a super jeep that will take you into the heart of this winter wonderland. Touching the solid, frozen walls of a crystal blue ice cave is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you just can’t miss.
Alternatively, head into the wild and rugged Skaftafell Nature Reserve, where ancient glacial tongues protrude from between the mountains. There are many hiking trails in this area, including one that will take you to the unique Svartifoss waterfall. Surrounded by tall, black basalt columns, this waterfall has been the inspiration for many artists over the years, including the design of the famous Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavík! From Skaftafell, there is the option of embarking upon a glacier hike that will take you atop one of the majestic outlet glaciers in the vicinity.
Afterwards, you’ll continue the long journey back to Reykjavík. The drive will take approximately six hours, so be prepared to make several rest stops along the way. You can stop off at any locations that you may have missed on the South Coast or Golden Circle to pack in some more sightseeing before arriving at your accommodation in the city. If the skies are clear tonight, then you’ll have your last chance to witness the Aurora, dancing in the starry sky.
This will be your final day in Iceland. When you are ready, you will make your way back to Keflavík International Airport. Be sure to leave enough time to drop off your rental car and to check in for your flight home or onwards to your next destination.
Depending on when your flight departs, you may have some time to take a stroll around Reykjavík and look for last-minute souvenirs in the boutiques that line the Laugavegur shopping street. There are many galleries and museums to explore, as well as cafés and restaurants where you can grab your last taste of the hearty Icelandic cuisine.
Otherwise, swing by the Blue Lagoon for a relaxing morning; it’s the perfect way to unwind before a long flight. Soak in the mineral-rich waters with a silica facial mask as the steam rises around and envelops you in a layer of warmth. This world-class day spa is located upon the Reykjanes peninsula between Reykjavík and Keflavík, making it a great place to stop before you bid farewell to Iceland.
Until next time, we hope you’ve had a wonderful winter vacation in the Land of Fire and Ice. We wish you a safe and pleasant journey home!
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.
This self-drive is set to take place at 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.
Some optional activities might need either 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 snorkelling.
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 weather allows.
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. Please note that the ice caves are only accessible from November to March each year.
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.
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), 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.
You can now add meals to your booking. Select to include dinner on every night as an optional extra, and we will provide you with vouchers as part of your booking confirmation. We will choose from top-rated restaurants that fit with your vacation itinerary and make your reservations for you. At the restaurant, you will be offered a set menu, from which you can choose from meat, fish or vegetarian options. If you would prefer something else, the voucher will act as a credit that you can redeem at the restaurant against menu items that are not part of the set menu. Please notify the restaurant on arrival about any dietary requirements. Vouchers are non-refundable.
This insurance guarantees that you can cancel tour and package bookings and receive a full refund, minus the insurance cost. The cost of your cancellation insurance depends on the duration of your tour or package. A base cost of 5,000 ISK per person is applied to all tours and packages with a duration of 5 days or less. An additional 1,000 ISK per person will be added to the insurance cost for each day after. The cancellation must be made more than 48 hours before the listed starting time on your voucher. To cancel your booking and claim your refund, simply contact firstname.lastname@example.org and declare full cancellation. Please note that this insurance covers the cancellation of the whole tour or package. Individual services cannot be cancelled and refunded separately, but are all covered and refunded in case of a full cancellation.