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If you’re visiting Iceland in winter, it’s possible to road trip in Iceland and drive all of Ring Road! This is a complete 10 day Itinerary for Iceland in winter. Despite what you may have read about road trips in Iceland, you can drive Iceland’s Ring Road in winter and Iceland in the winter is absolutely beautiful.
If you’re planning your Iceland road trip and you’re an experienced winter driver, we recommend doing your Iceland road trip in winter as you can expect lower prices, fewer people, and incredible nature.
Important notes about a winter road trip in Iceland
One of our biggest Iceland tips for winter in Iceland is knowing how to drive on snow and ice. You can click here for our Iceland travel tips for a winter road trip. Doing a self driving tour of Iceland in winter is rough as there’s snow and ice–and Iceland in winter is not something to scoff at. Keep reading for our complete 10 Day Ring Road winter Iceland road trip itinerary for with tips for a road trip in Iceland.
Although it’s possible to do a 7 day road trip in Iceland while completing Ring road in summer, ten days is the minimum you will need for a complete Iceland Ring road trip in winter.
The weather conditions do not make it agreeable and you will need to drive much slower due to bad weather. Similarly, some roads are closed, so you will need to take a lengthier route. We tried to pace this itinerary to minimize driving in between cities on a given day as driving in winter means driving in the dark most of the time.
The Complete 10 day Iceland Ring Road Winter Itinerary Route
Iceland Winter Road Trip Day 1:
Keflavik & Reykjavik
After landing in Iceland’s main airport, Keflavik International Airport, we encourage you to shop the duty-free alcohol section if you plan on drinking.
Buying duty-free beer in the Keflavik airport is as cheap as you’ll find it in Iceland. We recommend stocking up and you can always keep it in your trunk!
After, get your rental car and drive to Reykjavik to do some sightseeing there and spend the night. It might be worthwhile to plan to explore Reykjavik more thoroughly after you’ve ended your road trip when you’re tired and ready for the comforts of a city.
If you’re considering visiting the Blue Lagoon for a swim, you should buy your Blue Lagoon tickets ahead as there are time slots and it can be too full for walk-ins.
If you’re looking to visit Iceland on a budget, we recommend waiting until later in your Iceland trip. (The Secret Lagoon is supposed to be great!)
Iceland Winter Road Trip Days 2 and 3: Visiting the Golden Circle without a tour
Day 2: Silfra & Thingvellir Park
Before driving Ring Road in Iceland, this is a good opportunity to travel the Golden Circle as it is close to Reykjavik and brings you back to Ring Road afterwards.
One of the best attractions in Iceland is Thingvellir park. Thingvellir has the world’s oldest parliament, which amazingly took place outdoors.
In winter, you’ll want to wear your crampons/snow boots as the sidewalks through the park can be a bit icy,
If you’re looking for an adventure activity in Iceland, definitely look into scuba diving in Silfra or snorkeling in Silfra (if you’re not certified like me). In the gap between the tectonic plates is a fissure filled with glacial waters (ensuring it is a constant, albeit slightly chilly, temperature year round). The water is
The Silfra water is a constant 32 degrees F (0 degrees C), so you’ll need to wear a drysuit, which is a different
Accommodations near the Golden Circle: It’s possible to go back to Reykjavik the same day if you prefer to stay at the same hotel, however you will save money by basing yourself out of Selfoss or one of the surrounding towns on Ring Road.
Day 3: Geysir, Gullfoss, & Selfoss
The next day, see the famous Geysir and Strokkur (another geysir) erupt. A little further down the road is the mighty Gullfoss waterfall.
At Selfoss, there is another waterfall named Seljalandfoss.
After viewing these, you might want to start driving a bit further along Ring Road to make some driving progress.
Day 4: Glacier activites, waterfalls, and Vik
Today will include some driving on Ring Road towards the glaciers in the center of Iceland. Heading east, you will pass the Eyjafjallajokull and Solheimajokull glaciers.
Definitely book a glacier walking tour ahead as walking on a glacier is one of the best things to do in Iceland in winter. Glacier tours in Iceland typically include special crampons and ice axes, so you do not need to bring your own. (If you’re wondering what you should pack for Iceland in winter, click here for our Iceland Winter Packing List,
If you’re into adventure travel, I also recommend finding a tour that includes learning to ice climb although you can do ice climbing tours as well. Even if you’re a normal climber, ice climbing seems so different. If you will be ice climbing, I strongly recommend wearing hard toed boots.
Although the glaciers are right there, you cannot not go on the glaciers without a tour. A good guide will be testing the footing every step of the way and there are crevasses where the ice has melted (and snow might be covering it) that you can fall into if you’re not careful.
The Icelandic guides are constantly checking the glaciers for safe routes to ensure the safety of those on the tour, so I encourage you to look into a tour. We did a tour called Into the Blue, which included both ice climbing and glacier hiking.
The town of Vik is a great place to stop and spend the night. Try to give yourself an hour visit the famous black beaches in Vik (Reynisfjara beach). Try to spot the famous Dyrhólaey archway. You can get a nice view from the Vik
Unfortunate Reality: There are not that many towns in between Vik and the Jokulsarlon lagoon, so you will have limited accommodation options.
We recommend staying in Vik. We decided to travel all the way to Jokulsarlon lagoon after stopping off in Vik, which we would not recommend. Time is an issue due to the little daylight in winter, and we saw the beaches just after sunset when it was dark. We had a long drive through bad winter conditions to in the dark. It is a
Day 5: Jökulsárlón Lagoon & SuperJeeps to Winter Ice Caves
The next morning has a long stretch of driving before the next points of interest (about 2-3 hours). From here, you might want to head directly for the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, the place where supposedly the first Icelandic settlers landed. If you have time, you can stop to see the Svartifoss waterfall coming off the Skaftafell glacier on your way.
Photo by jannoon028 / bigstockOne of the best things to do in Iceland in winter is to see the ice caves that form. This activity can only be done in winter and the location of the ice caves change every year.
They are formed by water running through or under glaciers. You cannot visit the ice caves on your own as you must drive in a SuperJeep (which is a cool experience in itself) to a location that they bring you to.
Depending on how much sunlight there is, the ice will be a blue-ish color although if the ice receives less sunlight, it will be clear! You’ll want to look for the ice caves that form close to the Vatnajokull glacier as some are man-made and the natural thing is absolutely amazing. Dress warmly as the cave is cold.
You can choose to stay at guest houses around the Jokulsarlon or push ahead to Hofn. (Note: we wouldn’t recommend driving too long if it is dark as it involves driving high up over the fjords in possible bad weather).
Day 6: Langoustine & Egilsstaðir
In Hofn, make sure to try langoustines, a small lobster that is caught in abundance there. Although you can pay a lot more for langoustines (which are delicious if you eat seafood), you can try it on a budget at the Hafnarbuðin diner in a delicious sandwich. The locals line up for it–and I swear, it was one of my favorite foods in Iceland.
Make your way to Egilsstaðir. Be aware that in winter, the section of Ring Road leading into Egilsstaðir is closed and an alternate road must be taken. We drove the alternative road at night and it was a terrible idea. That said, you’ll be driving on the fjords, which are beautiful. This is best done in daylight. (Don’t trust your GPS and ask the locals)
Egilsstaðir is a fairly large town and there is plenty to see. There’s plenty of restaurant choices and you can buy art from local artisans.
There are a number of myths about the nearby Lagarfljót lake due to the famous Lagarfljót worm. The Lagarfljót worm is more of a …serpent than a worm. The story comes from Icelandic folklore.
Allegedly, a girl put a gold ring underneath a
People still claim to see the worm (now) although there’s some really nice hiking in the forest surrounding the lake. Try your best to spot the Lagarfljót worm!) We stayed at the most lovely guesthouse where the host welcomed us with
Day trips from Egilsstaðir (Add 1-2 days)
You can also venture out to neighboring towns, some of which are iconic in their beauty. Add one day if you want to visit the artisan town of Seyðisfjörður. This town is at the foot of a fjord, so it’s famous for its beauty.
You can also try to visit the Skrudur Island (accessible by ferry from Fáskrúðsfjörður) if you’re into birding. This island with its many caves is famous for bird nesting and puffins (in spring/summer only). Sorry!
Important note: We encourage you not to eat puffins as their populations have recently declined and they’re so cute. Although they’re not currently endangered, they’re threatened.
Day 7: Myvatn
Today, drive to Myvatn and spend the day there. It is a
I consider Myvatn, one of the best places to visit in Iceland. You can visit the Hverfjall volcano although accessing it winter requires hiking or more time. We also enjoyed the Hverarond mud pits.
You can’t enter the Grjotagja Cave, the filming location from Game of Thrones for Jon Snow’s love scene with Ygritte, as rude tourists have ruined it for the rest of us. We also visited the famous Dimmuborgir for some hiking in the spooky rocks.
A local recommended eating at the farm/restaurant/hotel Vogafjós, which goes beyond the concept of farm to table restaurants as the cows will watch you eat. The food here was worth the splurge as everything is homemade. You can read our guide to Myvatn in winter here.
You may make a trip out to the Goðafoss waterfall if you still have the light. Then head to Akureyri to spend the night to minimize driving the next day.
Day 8: Akureyri & Northwestern Iceland
If you didn’t get a chance to see Akureyri, you may choose to spend the morning there. Akureyri is one of Iceland’s largest cities although it’s still fair sized. Parking was a bit tricky, so it’s good to ask at your hotel about parking.
If you want to cut down on your driving during the trip, this is a good place to base yourself out of as many tours go out of Akureyri (although transportation is often extra with tours).
Afterwards, you will begin your journey back westward. This is another very long stretch of driving that is sparsely populated. Hvammstangi is the site of a seal sanctuary.
If you have time, stop off at Saurbaejarkirkja, one of the few remaining turf churches in Iceland.
This area is famous for raising Icelandic horses, so if you’re interested in meeting one, we recommend visiting this area as we saw many horse farms! If you decide to do the optional trip north into the Westfjords, you are well positioned here.
We would recommend staying in Hvammstangi, Blönduós, or another nearby town. Check hotel prices in Hvammstangi now!
Day trips & weekend trips in Northwestern Iceland
Following the trail of Burial Rites in Iceland
If you’ve read Burial Rites, the area is the setting for the real-life murder of Natan Ketilsson. If you’re interested in seeing retracing the places from the book, you’ll need some extra time. Illugastaðir is the site of Natan’s former workshop. The preserved turf farm of Glumbær gives you an insight into what it was really like for Agnes and for citizens living in Iceland in the 1800s.
Optional sidetrip: The Westfjords (2+ days)
Caution: MANY of the roads in the Westfjords are closed in winter, so check carefully the road conditions before you arrive before deciding to visit this part of Iceland. There’s one major road in this region that is paved regularly in winter, but depending on its condition, it may be not passable. Save this website: road.is!
If you would like, you can drive north at this point up into the western fjords. Of note is an Icelandic witchcraft and sorcery museum in Holmavik to see the infamous Nábrók magical pants.
(Nábrók were pants made from the skin of a dead man, which were supposed to make the wearer rich. It is debated if this actually happened besides in Icelandic folklore…) Plan to make a day of seeing this region and stay somewhere near Bárðardalur.
In winter, the West Fjords receive no direct sunlight, so if you’re into adventure sports (please get a guide!), this area is almost untouched with glaciers that are supposedly so clear that you can see through them.
There’s a lot of hiking and ice climbing that is possible with a guide. This area is home to native Arctic Foxes and there’s a non-profit Arctic Fox center that can advise on ecotourism in the West Fjord area.
Day 9: Snæfellsjökull peninsula
Today, drive out towards Grundarfjörður. From here, you can view the famous Icelandic mountain, Kirkjufell. It is possible to hike if you have a guide and the weather conditions are favorable. However, it is difficult and dangerous. Don’t attempt it without a guide. If you enjoy hiking, this might be a good area to spend an extra day in.
You can travel around towards Snæfellsjökull to see more black beaches, and some iconic churches. You can view the famous black wooden church at Búðakirkja. Note: roads in this section are not all passable in winter, so check ahead.
As you make your way back east, stop at the Shark museum in Bjarnarhöfn. Here the infamous rotted shark meat dish, hákarl, is made. It is your opportunity to see this process in action and try some (if you dare!).
The Greenland shark, the shark used in hákarl, is not actively hunted and it’s often caught along with other fish when deep sea trawlers are fishing. Instead of throwing the sharks, who are unwelcome fish bycatch, the family purchases the sharks and creates hákarl from them.
The ammonia smell is not encouraging, but Jacob enjoyed it and it’s not as terrible as people make it out to be (his words). That said, the family that runs this quirky museum with a friendly cat used to actively shark hunt. The museum also sells dried fish if you’re looking for a tamer thing to snack on.
Afterwards, head back towards Reykjavik. You may want to stop in Reykholt to see the house of Snorri Sturluson. This general area of Iceland is well populated and you should have no trouble finding a place to stay. You may even choose to go all the way back to Reykjavik.
Day 10: Completion of Ring Road/ Reykjavik
Photo by Boysloso / BigstockThis is your chance to see Reykjavik and/or the immediate surrounding area more thoroughly. If you are like us, you can choose to spend New Year’s Eve here, which is an epic affair. Click for more about New Year’s Eve in Reykjavik!
If you’re set on seeing the Northern Lights and you didn’t manage to see them, you can do a tour to help you hunt the Northern Lights. (We weren’t lucky enough as there was a lot of snow, which left the sky overcast the entire time.)
Last thoughts… (Scroll down for the free map of our 10
day I celand winter road trip)
We hope that you enjoyed our 10 day Iceland itinerary for winter and you’ll love Iceland as much as we did. If you’re looking for more advice on the best things to do in Iceland or Iceland road trip tips… we have plenty more.