When I decided to visit Iceland in winter, the first question was what is the best one week Iceland trip itinerary for winter months.
We’ve been to Iceland in June and have been caught up in a terrible winter storm with icy roads and road closures in the Northern part of Iceland. So I figured that going on a road trip to the North of Iceland in winter is probably not the best idea and decided to look for a winter trip itinerary focusing on the South Coast of Iceland.
So this is our Iceland winter trip itinerary with suggestions of what you can see and do on a road trip in Iceland in winter months. We made this exact trip in November last year.
This trip itinerary brings you to all of Southern Iceland’s landmarks leaving you sufficient time for sightseeing and even some hiking. You can find a lot more information about Iceland on our blog, but in the meantime here are a few other posts to help you plan your winter trip to Iceland:
- What to wear and what to pack for Iceland in winter
- When is it best to visit Iceland : in winter or in summer
- How to see and photograph the Northern Lights in Iceland
- 5 experiences you must have in Iceland in winter
Our 7 – day Iceland winter trip itinerary and map
Just one thing before I start with our Iceland winter trip itinerary. The days are short in Iceland during winter months, so you cannot do as much sightseeing as in summer.
We visited Iceland mid November and we always started our day at 8.30AM, before sunrise. By the time we were back at our hotel (at the latest at 5PM), it was already dark. It was light from approximately 9AM till 4PM in November in Southern Iceland. The days are even shorter in December-January, so keep this in mind when planning your winter trip to Iceland.
DAY 1 – Arrival in Reykjavik Keflavik airport and drive to Hveragerdi
You will need to rent a car for this trip! Find the best deals for car rental here!
As our flight arrived in the afternoon, we drove straight to our hotel in Hveragerdi.
Hveragerdi is a small town that is better situated for Iceland winter trip than Reykjavik as it will save you quite some unnecessary driving in the dark. Furthermore, it has a great geothermal swimming pool. Ideal way to spend your first evening in Iceland!
If your flight arrives early and you have more time to spare, you could opt to spend several hours at the famous geothermal pool Blue Lagoon (it’s located close to the airport). However, Hveragerdi pool is a much cheaper and is a less touristy option.
There are several restaurants in this little town and I recommend eating out as there is more choice and the prices are lower than at the hotels.
Note that we didn’t stay in Reykjavik in the beginning of the trip and drove straight to Hveragerdi where we would stay for 2 nights. Hveragerdi is well located for a visit to the Golden Circle and it saves quite some driving time for the rest of your journey further down the South Coast of Iceland.
We stayed at Hotel Eldhestar for 2 nights. It was pretty basic, but we were only there to sleep, so it was ok. You can find the best deals for Hveragerdi accommodation here.
I didn’t tell you before, but the real reason I travelled to Iceland in winter was my long time dream to see Northern Lights. So on the first night already we went ‘hunting’ for auroras. They were very vague and better visible in the pictures than in reality, but it was just the first night, so it gave us hope.
DAY 2 – Golden Circle: Thingvellir NP – Geysir area – Gullfoss waterfall
Iceland’s must-do day trip is the visit to the famous Golden Circle. It’s possible to do it as a day trip from Reykjavik as well.
We started our day at Thingvellir National Park.
Then continued to Geysir area where we also had lunch.
In the afternoon we visited one of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls, the Golden waterfall – Gullfoss.
TIP: end your day in one of the nicest geothermal pools of Iceland – Secret Lagoon. It’s ideally located on the way from Gullfoss back to your hotel in Hveragerdi. Alternatively, there is also a more expensive option – Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths, that are also located in this area.
DAY 3 – Skogafoss waterfall – Glacier Hiking – Reynisfjara (Vik)
Our first stop on day 3 of our Iceland winter trip was at another iconic landmark of Iceland – Skogafoss waterfall.
We had a quick lunch on the way and continued to Solheimajokull glacier for a guided glacier hike.
TIP: book your glacier hike in advance – this will help you plan your time better and you will be certain you can do this activity. Otherwise it might be difficult to even know where to look.
- You can book a short guided glacier walk here. This tour fits this itinerary the best as it starts at Sólheimajökull Café, not too far from Skogar museum.
- Combination of glacier hiking and ice caving is another bucket list experience, and this tour lets you combine both activities on the same (half)day. This is the best price-quality ice cave tour that I was able to find. You can only do this in deep winter when the ice caves are safe enough to enter. This tour starts in Skaftafell and can be better done on day 5 of this itinerary.
- Vatnajökull Glacier Blue Ice Cave Tour is another good option for those who want to visit an ice cave. It starts from Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon and can best be done on day 4 of this itinerary.
If glacier hiking or ice caving is not your thing, you can visit Skogar museum which is divided into three parts: folk museum, turf houses, and transport museum. The turf houses are well worth seeing.
In summer you could easily do both – glacier hiking and Skogar museum, but in winter your sightseeing time in Iceland is limited and you have to choose and plan well.
After the glacier walk we drove to the beautiful black sand beach at Reynishverfi (near Vik) that is famous for the basalt columns. We stayed on the beach till sunset and drove to our hotel in the dark.
We stayed at the beautiful Hotel Laki in Kirkjubaejarklauster area. Really recommended!
DAY 4 Vatnajokull glacier – Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon – Diamond beach
Our first stop was at Svinafellsjokull where we made a short walk to one of the many tongues of Vatnajokull glacier.
In the early afternoon we reached Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. If there is one place you don’t want to miss in Iceland, it’s Jokulsarlon! We were extremely lucky with the weather and the glacial lake was simply spectacular.
TIP: Don’t miss the Diamond Beach just across the road from Jokulsarlon, and certainly when visiting Iceland in winter. Cold temperatures and the wind turn this coastline into an amazing winter wonderland.
We stayed on the Diamond beach till sunset and seeing all those icebergs lit up with the setting sun was an unforgettable experience. I found Jokulsarlon Diamond beach more impressive in winter than the famous Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon itself.
Our hotel for the night was Hotel Smyrlabjorg. If I were to go now, I would recommend staying at the recently opened Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon – it’s the nicest hotel in the area! Alternatively, you can find more information about Jokulsarlon accommodation here.
The amazing Northern Lights display we witnessed that night exceeded all our expectations. But so did all the rest! I loved Iceland in winter and would have loved it just as much even if we hadn’t seen any auroras.
DAY 5 Jokulsarlon – Fjallsarlon – Skaftafell National Park
We started our day early and made a quick stop at Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon at sunrise. We then continued to the nearby Fjallsarlon glacier lagoon. It’s smaller and (much) less visited than Jokulsarlon, but it’s not to be missed!
TIP: If you travel to Fjallsarlon before October 15, you can book a 45-min boat cruise between the icebergs. Unfortunately, boats don’t run in winter months. The same for the amphibian boat tours on Jokulsarlon lagoon – they only run in high season.
We then continued to Skaftafell National Park. Summer or winter, you should not skip Skaftafell. It’s a beautiful area with lots of hiking trails.
During this Iceland winter trip we hiked to the famous Svartifoss waterfall and continued on the Sjónarnípa trail. The views were simply amazing!
During our previous trip, years ago in summer, we did the Svartifoss – Sjónarsker – Sel walk and the walk to the glacier Skaftafellsjökull.
There are many hiking trails in Skaftafell National Park and quite some of them can be accessible in winter, but it’s best that you inform about current conditions at the visitor centre before starting any walk.
Alternative is to make an ice cave tour described above on day 3 of this itinerary.
We stayed at Hotel Laki in Kirkjubaejarklauster area. It’s the same hotel as on DAY 3.
DAY 6 Fjardrargljufur Canyon – Eldhraun lava field – Seljalandsfoss waterfall
We started our day at another iconic landmark of Iceland – Fjardrargljufur Canyon. It was so cold that I can’t even try to explain it in words, but we still made a short walk at this majestic canyon.
Afterwards we drove through Iceland’s largest lava field – Eldhraun – and made a short stop to admire this surreal landscape. Eldgjárhraun, to the east of Mýrdalssandur, is one of the largest lava flows that ever occurred, during a massive volcano eruption in 974. The dimensions of this lava field are immense – some 700km2. For comparison, the total area of Singapore is 648km2.
Continuing our journey back in the direction of Reykjavik we visited Dyrhólaeyjarviti lighthouse and made a coastal walk from there to Kirkjufjara beach below.
The last stop today was another famous waterfall – Seljalandsfoss. It had been freezing cold over the last few days and the area close to the waterfall was completely frozen. We could hardly walk or even stand here. Needless to say the path behind the waterfall was closed, but it was still unbelievably impressive. Maybe even more so because it was frozen in winter.
We ended our day and our Iceland winter trip in Reykjavik.
We stayed at the Fosshotel Reykjavik for 2 nights. Here you can find the complete guide to the best price/ quality accommodation in Reykjavik.
DAY 7 Reykjavik – Blue Lagoon
Now I’m not going to make myself popular with Icelanders I suppose, but in my honest opinion, Reykjavik is not that interesting from a touristic point of view. So we didn’t spend too much time in the city. You can read my observations about Reykjavik in one of the previous posts.
I found that a couple of hours were sufficient to see Reykjavik and went to the geothermal pool of Blue Lagoon in the afternoon. Blue Lagoon is extremely popular and touristy, but it’s kind of a must in Iceland so I decided to check it out. After all, there is no better way to end your Icelandic winter trip than sipping a drink while sitting in a hot thermal pool with a mud mask on your face. And before you ask, no, I don’t have a picture of myself with a mud mask…
I have to admit that Blue Lagoon wouldn’t be my first choice now anymore as it has become so busy and so expensive. If you are looking for alternatives, I recommend Secret Lagoon or Laugarvatn Fontana. Both can be visited by car from Reykjavik, but it’s quite a drive. It is possible to book Secret Lagoon with direct transfer from Reykjavik. Alternatively, go swimming in one of the local swimming pools in Reykjavik, at a fraction of the cost, and just as fun.
So this is our Iceland winter trip itinerary for one week in a nutshell. It brings you to the nicest places on the South Coast of Iceland while leaving plenty of time to explore and even do some winter hiking on the way. You could probably squeeze the same Iceland winter road trip itinerary in 4 or 5 days as well, but then you’d have less time left for hiking and sightseeing.
If you are not keen on driving in Iceland in winter, consider one of the organised small group multi-day tours:
- Iceland in winter – 5 day tour
- 3-day winter tour: Golden Circle, Hot Springs, Waterfalls, Lava Caving & Glacier Hiking
- Glacier Lagoon, Blue Ice Cave & Waterfalls: 2-Day Tour
There are more winter tours available for 2 days, 3 days, 5 days, 6 days, 7 days, and 8 days. Check it out! It’s often easier and cheaper to book a multi-day tour in Iceland than do it on your own, especially if you are traveling alone or as a couple and are not used to driving in extreme winter conditions. Furthermore, organised tours often have winter excursions like glacier hiking or ice cave already included in the price.
Alternatively, if you are visiting Iceland for just a few days, you can base yourself in Reykjavik and book some day trips and excursions from there. Driving up and down to all these places from Reykjavik on your own is not something I would advise in winter. Here you can find our hand-picked selection of the best winter day trips and short tours from Reykjavik.
Update: I received many questions from readers in regards to Iceland itinerary suggestions for shorter or longer trips. Here you can find suggested Iceland itineraries for anything between 1 day and 2 weeks. Check it out!
✓ Don’t forget a travel adapter! Iceland uses European plugs.
✓ What to pack for Iceland winter trip? Below are some of my hand-picked essentials for Iceland. Here you can find the complete Iceland packing list for winter.
✓ Looking for the best accommodation deals in Iceland? Check this post for the best accommodation suggestions for Reykjavik and a self-drive trip around Iceland.
Hotels Combined is also a great site to find the best deals for accommodations – it compares prices for each hotel on all major online booking sites, so you never pay too much.
✓ Planning to rent a car and do a self-drive trip in Iceland following this itinerary? Normally, you don’t need a 4WD for this trip, but I would advise not to rent the smallest car either. And the price difference with 4WD isn’t that big, so if you are in doubt just go for the latter, especially if driving in Iceland in winter. You can find the best deals for Iceland car rental here.
✓ Traveling to Iceland in winter? Don’t forget your travel insurance!
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