Best one week Iceland winter trip itinerary

The Best Iceland Winter Trip Itinerary for One Week

In Europe, Iceland, Trip itineraries by Jurga144 Comments

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 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:

Hiking in Iceland in winter

I never thought Iceland would be so beautiful 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 mid November and we always started our day at 8.30AM, before sunrise. And we were back at our hotel at the latest at 5PM and it was already dark. It was light from approximately 9AM till 4PM in November. The days are even shorter in December-January, so keep this in mind when planning your trip.

Suggested Iceland winter trip itinerary map

Our Iceland winter trip itinerary map. Click on the image to enlarge!

 

DAY 1 – Arrival in Reykjavik Keflavik airport and drive to Hveragerdi

As our flight arrived in the afternoon, we drove straight to our hotel in Hveragerdi.

You will need to rent a car for this trip! Find the best deals for car rental here!

Hveragerdi is a small town with a 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). Hveragerdi pool is a much cheaper and 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 better located for a visit to the Golden Triangle than Reykjavik 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.

Level 2 aurora display in Iceland.jpg

Aurora display (level 2) on our first night in Iceland

 

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.

OXARARFOSS WATERFALL IN THINGVELLIR Iceland

OXARARFOSS WATERFALL IN THINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK

 

Then continued to Geysir area where we also had lunch.

Strokkur geyser. Golden Circle Iceland

Strokkur geyser

In the afternoon we visited one of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls, the Golden waterfall – Gullfoss.

Gulfoss waterfall Golden Circle Iceland

GULLFOSS GOLDEN WATERFALL

 

DAY 3 – Skogafoss waterfall – Glacier Hiking – Reynisfjara (Vik)

Our first stop was at another iconic landmark of Iceland – Skogafoss waterfall.

Skógafoss waterfall

Skógafoss 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 90 minute 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.
Glacier hiking in Iceland

Glacier hiking was more fun than I had expected

 

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.

Where to stay in Reykjavik and on a self-drive road trip in Iceland

Turf houses at the Skogar Folk Museum (picture from our summer trip)

 

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.

Basalt columns at Reynishverfi black sand beach near Vik in Southern Iceland

Basalt columns at Reynishverfi black sand beach near Vik

Vik most beautiful beach in iceland

Vik beach at sunset

 

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.

Svinafellsjokull glacier - one of the many tongues of Vatnajokull glacier in Southern Iceland

Svinafellsjokull 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.

Hiking at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon on a sunny winter day

 

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.

Icebergs on Jokulsarlon beach in winter

icebergs on Jokulsarlon beach

 

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.

Iceland winter wonderland - Jokulsarlon beach

Winter wonderland at Jokulsarlon beach

 

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.

Star shape Aurora Borealis display in Iceland

WE COULD NOT HAVE WISHED FOR A MORE SPECTACULAR AURORA DISPLAY

 

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!

Fjallsarlon glacier lagoon is one of the must see places in Iceland

Fjallsarlon glacier lagoon

 

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!

Svartifoss waterfall in Skaftafell National Park in winter

Svartifoss waterfall in winter

Hiker at SKAFTAFELL GLACIER AT SUNSET in winter

SKAFTAFELL GLACIER AT SUNSET

 

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.

Beautiful sunlit mountain landscape at Skaftafell in Iceland

Hiking in Skaftafell National Park in November

 

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.

Fjadrargljufur Canyon in Iceland

Fjadrargljufur 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.

Lava field in Iceland

Iceland’s largest lava field

 

Continuing our journey back in the direction of Reykjavik we visited Dyrhólaeyjarviti lighthouse and made a coastal walk from there to Kirkjufjara beach below.

Rock formations at Kirkjufjara beach Iceland

Rock formations at Kirkjufjara beach

 

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.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall in winter

Seljalandsfoss waterfall 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.

Harpa Music Hall in Reykjavik Iceland

Harpa Music Hall in Reykjavik

 

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…

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:

Alternatively, 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. 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.

✓ 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.

✓ 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!

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, we get a small commission if you book a hotel, a tour, or car rental using these links. Thank you!

If you found this post useful, please share it. Are you on Pinterest? Pin this image for future reference!

Best Iceland winter trip itinerary

Most complete Iceland trip itinerary for winter months

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The Best Iceland Winter Trip Itinerary for One Week was last modified: November 16th, 2017 by Jurga

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Comments

      1. I love your blog!! I am following your itinerary to Iceland on our trip this Oct. I have 8 days instead of 7 days. Where would you spend an extra day? Thank you in advance!

        1. Author

          Hi Paula, thanks a lot for your kind words. Glad you found this itinerary useful. If I had one extra day, I would maybe try to visit Snaefellsjokull NP (2-3hrs North of Reykjavik). There are organised day trips or you can go there by car. Or stay an extra day in Reykjavik and take one of the many day trips like horse riding, snowmobile, Northern Lights, etc.

  1. Iceland is somewhere we really want to visit but have yet to get to. Love this itinerary which will be so helpful when we do get there. Your photographs are stunning!

    1. Author

      Thank you for a compliment, Tracy. You should definitely put Iceland on the list – amazing destination and so close by.

  2. You do take some amazing pictures of places. I loved Iceland when I went nearly 10years ago. I have been wanting to go back and explore longer and your post made me want to do that.

    1. Author

      I can totally relate, Mel. I’ve been to Iceland twice and would go back again if I get a chance. It’s just so very different from any other place in the world; and even more so in winter.

  3. Wow – you really packed it in! I’m keeping hold of this itinerary though as it’s always been on my bucket list too. I have a ‘northern lights’ story, maybe I’ll share it with you one day 😉

  4. Holy moly…Your pictures are so beautiful!
    I’ll be sharing and pinning this post as its so informative! Thank you for writing it, we are keen to visit Iceland soon and will return to your blog for more tips.
    I think our two kids would love it, too- especially the ‘unusual’ beach!

    1. Author

      Thank you, Nina. You made my day! And thanks for sharing this post. I’m sure you and your kids would love Iceland.

  5. Your photos are incredible! This itinerary is actually really, really helpful. I’ve been looking into Iceland for a while now, thanks for sharing your experience to help the rest of us!

  6. Geysers, glaciers and Northern Lights, Iceland is definitely on my list of places to go – together with way more places than I can afford! Super photos.

  7. I visited Reykjavik a couple of years ago and took a couple of day trips from the city (Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon) as well as a night trip out in search of the Aurora, but you’ve definitely inspired me to see more of this incredible country! ?

    1. Author

      Iceland has definitely more to offer than Reykjavik or Blue Lagoon and I’m glad to hear that my post inspired you to visit it the second time, Kiara! I always find it such a pity that they advertise it as a stopover destination – it’s so much more than that!

  8. Super gorgeous photos! I love Iceland in winter – I think it’s even more magical with the cold and the snow, and of course there are so much fewer people around than in summer!

    1. Author

      That’s true, Kathi – there are indeed fewer people around in winter, but I was actually surprised to see that there were quite many more than I had expected. June 10 years ago was much less busy than last year in November. Iceland is becoming more and more popular, but it’s so worth it!

  9. This is a great itinerary. I visited Iceland in January, and did the Golden Circle and a few other bits. But didn’t have time to go to the Skogar Museum or the glacier. I’m going to have to go back one day!

  10. Your photos look gorgeous! We visited Rovaniemi last year for 3 days in the hope of seeing the Northern Lights and failed miserably 🙁
    The husband says Iceland next. Hopefully we’ll see them there.

    1. Author

      Northern Lights is a bit of a lottery, Delaine. Basically you need three things: darkness, clear sky and high aurora activity. Darkness is not a problem in winter in the Nordics, aurora is usually pretty active and even activity 2-3 can be quite impressive. Clear skies is not something you can influence of course, but if you have a car and are willing to make an effort, you can always follow the weather radar information and drive to the places that have most chance of clear skies that night. Or – like we did – keep an eye on the aurora forecast website (we used this one for Iceland: http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/) and spend many sleepless hours outdoors…

  11. I’ve considered visiting Iceland in the winter — more opportunity to see the Northern Lights and all that — but I’m not sure how I’d handle such short daylight hours. But this actually looks really doable. This itinerary seems like the perfect balance (seeing a great deal without running yourself ragged). Definitely bookmarking for later!

    1. Author

      I was also worried about daylight. Somehow I imagined that it was only light for 3 or 4 hours in Iceland in winter. But indeed, it’s really doable and if you plan your days well, you can see and do quite a lot (and have plenty of time to relax in the evening).

  12. Going there in December and am so looking forward to it, especially after reading your descriptions! Stunning photos by the way!

    1. Author

      I don’t know why, but it always makes my day when people say that my blog and pictures inspire them to travel to one or the other destination. Really appreciate your comment, Desiree!

  13. I’m totally in awe of your photos. We did an almost two week road trip around, but the lighting made it hard to consistently photograph, so super impressed. You got to a few places that I didn’t get to although I’d love to visit. Saved for when I finally go back! Love!

  14. Great itinerary, but we only have 5 days in Iceland in December. Which of these places would you skip if you had 2 days less?

    1. Author

      Hi Lionel, in principle you can squeeze this same itinerary in 5 days as well. Leave early in the morning before it’s light and plan to do sightseeing till sunset. Depending on your flights, you could stay in Reykjavik on the first night and do some sightseeing there already and skip day 7 of this itinerary altogether. You could skip Kirkjufjara beach (day 6 here), plan to visit Seljalandsfoss waterfall on the same day as Skogafoss and visit Fjardrargljufur Canyon on day 4, before going to the glacier and Jokulsarlon lagoon. If you are really short on time, do a shorter hike in Skaftafell instead of a long one – there are many hiking trails, but not all of them might be open in December. Hope this helps you a bit. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have more questions.

  15. Beautiful, I wish I had a whole week to stay in Iceland but I will only be there for 2 1/2 days. Glad you got to see the northern lights, living in the subarctic I saw them hundreds of times but they still amaze me every time. If you had to chose between the Golden Circle and the South Coast of Iceland which would you choose?

    1. Author

      That’s not easy, Jasmine. 2-3 days is what most people do, they call it an Icelandic stopover and promote it a lot. The most popular things to do in such a short time are Reykjavik, Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle because of its proximity to Reykjavik. Depending on how the roads are, this might be the safest option in winter anyway. Also, you get to see a beautiful waterfall and a geyser that goes off every 5-10 minutes, so it’s really worth it.
      In principle, you can do a part of Southern Iceland ring road in one day too, but you will be spending much more time in the car than sightseeing. I saw an organised day tour that brings you all the way to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and back to Reykjavik, but it’s many many hours in the car. Only you can decide if it’s worth it for you. Whatever you decide, just pick one or two places that you really want to see and concentrate on those rather than try to see everything and only have 5 minutes for each stop. Hope this helps a bit.

  16. How did you find the driving in Iceland during winter? Were there some roads that were very slipper/hard turns? Looks great otherwise and glad you had such a good time

    1. Author

      Hi Raf, indeed we had a very nice trip and I loved Iceland in winter. We were lucky with the weather in November and the roads were generally very good. The ring road was always ok. A small section of the road at the Golden Circle was like a skating rink on the day we were there, and that day I was super happy I didn’t have to drive. I went to Iceland with a (girl)friend and we chose for a small-group tour in order not to have to drive ourselves. The reason? Ten years ago I was in Iceland with my husband and we had a terrible snow storm (in June) and some really bad road conditions, and so my husband only agreed to let me go if I went with a group. 🙂 You can read more about our previous experience in this post: Best time to visit Iceland: summer or winter).
      But don’t let this discourage you. In general, the roads in Southern Iceland are ok, even in winter and they do their best to keep the ring road in good driving condition at all times. Of course, you can never predict the weather, but I wouldn’t let this be the reason not to travel to Iceland in winter.

  17. Wow, I just love your pictures so much. I went to Iceland nearly 10years only for a long weekend. I have always wanted to go back for a week and spend more time there. I love your post and it has given me so many tips and ideas for when I return. Thanks, Jurga

  18. Hi jurga,

    I recently visited Iceland this past May for 1.5 weeks and now I want to visit north Iceland in the Winter since we only explored the south coast. Is this a bad idea since even in the Summer snow storms can be a problem?

    If you you advise against it, would you say that winter is that much different than Summer to justify go in again this November? Thank you!

    1. Author

      Hi David, this is really hard to say. I haven’t been to North Iceland in winter, but I heard about regular road closures on the ring road on that side of the island. I think most people traveling to the North in winter choose to fly to Akureyri and stay there or close to Myvatn doing short day trips instead of going on a road trip. That way you have more flexibility in case the roads would be closed for a while. I actually know someone who’s doing exactly this in a few weeks. I suggest you rent a small size SUV if you’re driving there in winter. One more thing to consider for the Northern part of Iceland. Most of the activities we did there involved hiking, so you might not be able to do a lot if there is snow. If you go there, the beginning of the winter season is probably better than the end.
      As for how different it is in summer compared to winter, I have a post about it: Best time to visit Iceland: summer or winter. Would I go to Iceland in winter after I’ve seen it in summer? I would and I did (but in my case there were almost 10 years in between the two trips)! I found Iceland in winter so magical that I’d go back again without hesitation, just maybe adjust the trip itinerary in such a way that you do different activities and see some new places. You could consider a tour to see the ice caves or riding a snowmobile, and don’t forget Northern Lights – seeing auroras makes the whole trip worthwhile. Hope this helps!

      1. The photos are amazing and I’m curious to know what type camera equipment you used. I am going to Iceland in November and hoping to buy a camera for the trip before hand. Great information and tips in the article also.

        1. Author

          Thank you, OBean. I don’t remember exactly which camera I had in Iceland, but I’ve been using full-frame Canon DSLR cameras for years, so it’s either the older one – Canon EOS 5D MarkII or my current Canon EOS 5Ds. These are rather expensive cameras though and if you are not (semi) professional photographer I don’t think you need one of these. Probably one of the best Canon cameras price/quality wise are Canon EOS 6d series.
          What’s really important is good lenses; they last for years, outlive any camera, and are well worth the money. My most used lens for over 12 years now is 24-70 f2,8 from Canon.
          That being said, why don’t you check this post I wrote about the best camera equipment for travel pictures. It’s geared more towards safari photography, but actually applies to any travel photography, except that for landscapes you will need wider lenses.
          If you are not keen to having to change lenses I hear really good things about Canon Powershot G7.
          Hope this helps a bit. There are just too many choices out there, so it’s really about your preferences and the budget.

  19. Hi Jurga!

    Amazing pictures and you were indeed very lucky with the weather. I am planning to go to Iceland in early December this year with my husband. May I ask if you planned the day trips before going there or whilst you were there? I would love to do all the things suggested here so please let me know.

    Many thanks.

    Prejal.
    x

    1. Author

      Hi Prejal, I think I would plan most excursions in advance, especially the ones you really don’t want to miss, or if you are not flexible with the timing at a certain place.
      Glacier hiking or ice caving is just difficult otherwise – some companies are located somewhere else and only come there if they have a booking, some others only leave at certain times or only if they have a certain number of people, so it’s better to arrange this beforehand if you want to be sure.
      If you want to do the Northern Lights tour, you may want to wait and see what the aurora forecast looks like before you book. On the other hand, if the aurora forecast looks good, it can happen that most tours get fully booked quickly. But this is something you can also easily do without a tour if you have a car.
      Blue Lagoon is very popular, so it’s probably also best to book in advance.
      We had most things pre-booked and it was easy not to have to think about anything, just follow the itinerary. My friend wanted to go on a whale watching/Northern Lights tour from Reykjavik on the last night of the trip and they were all fully booked.
      As for the rest, you don’t need to book much if you have your own car. If, however, you are staying in Reykjavik and planning to do lots of day trips, then yes, I would book them in advance. It has several advantages: 1. You can research and plan everything from home rather than having to do all of this in the evening when you’re tired after the previous day. 2. It’s often cheaper if you book in advance, also you have a better overview on what’s on offer and how much it costs. 3. You are certain that you can do the activities you really want to do. The only disadvantage I see is that indeed you don’t know how the weather will be like, but in Iceland you never know. It might be cold and rainy in the morning and then beautiful in the afternoon, so it’s just something you have to deal with. Dress warm and have fun!

      1. You’re an absolute star Jurga! Thanks a ton for answering in such detail! I think weather-wise I am fine as here in London we’re already bracing for the short days. I will try and send you some pictures when I get back and if they’re any good. Have a lovely day ahead! xx

        1. Author

          Now you make me blush 🙂 Glad I could help and yes, please let me know how your trip was! Hope you have a great time in Iceland.

  20. Hi Jurga,

    Beautiful post and very helpful. I’m planning a trip for January with my daughter. Its such a spectacular but totally unknown country for me.

    I wonder whether you rented a car and drove between the different night stays and then paid for day tours in the area? Or did you book a tour for the whole time? I’m worried that the 6 days tours are too rushed.

    And… any tips on how to find the right tour?

    Thank you so much for your kindness in sharing all that information.

    1. Author

      Hi Nava, I’m not sure how many of my Iceland posts you read, so in a nutshell: we visited Iceland twice: once on a 10-day self drive trip in June and once on a week organized trip in November. On the first trip we prebooked the hotels only. The second trip was completely organised with tours and excursions all booked in advance. I liked both, but in winter I was there with my (girl) friend and we didn’t want to drive, so we booked an organised trip. It was great and I would do it again! I loved how relaxed it was not having to plan or worry about anything.
      You can do it by car, but I’d definitely stick to the Southern part of the island if you decide to do that. As for the roads, nobody can tell you in advance how the driving conditions will be in January.
      How to find a good tour? I have a suggestion for you, but first some things to consider. Small group tours are always better. ALWAYS. You really don’t want to be traveling around on a bus with 40 other people all with different interests. Second, don’t worry about it being ‘too rushed’ – just pick a tour that fits your travel plans and doesn’t try to cover the whole country in 6 days. Better see less but have more time to explore, rather than try to see everything and end up sitting in a car/bus all the time.
      I found a nice winter trip in Iceland with Intrepid – Northern Lights Escape for 6 days. The itinerary looks pretty good to me (covering all ‘musts’ and leaving some free time in Reykjavik), max group size is 12, but there is a minimum age requirement of 15 (wouldn’t know why, but anyway). I see that many of their trips for January are already fully booked though, so depending on how flexible you are this might not fit you.
      For the rest I don’t really have much experience with group travel. I know that Icelandair has some organised tour packages, but I found them to be a bit unpersonal when I was researching for my trip. But it is definitely an option.
      Another option is to just stay in Reykjavik and book day trips from there. You’ll be spending more time in a car, but you can see quite a lot that way. Here are some winter day trip ideas from Reykjavik. If you plan well, this may not be more expensive than an organised tour, and it gives you complete flexibility to pick the day trips and activities that appeal to you the most.
      Hope this helps a bit!
      PS These are affiliate links and if you book a tour using these links, I get a small commission. While small, it helps to run this blog. Thanks.

  21. Jurga, what a treat. I’m very thankful for this great information.
    I’ll check Intrepid for February or March (thru your post, of course).
    Have a happy holiday season!

  22. I am going to Iceland for spring break and the Blue Lagoon is on my list, but what did you do with your belongings? Are there lockers? I am traveling alone and I do not want to leave my backpack in the open.

    1. Author

      No worries, Malia. There are lockers where you can leave everything. If you’ve ever been to a big water park, it’s a bit like that. In fact, you get a bracelet/key and it can also be used to pay for drinks for example, so you don’t have to take anything with you into the pool. Many people take their towels though because it’s so cold outside and then leave them next to the pool while they bathe. You can rent a towel there if you don’t have one, or bring one from your hotel to save some money ;).

  23. Hi Jurga,

    Thank you so much for sharing your itinerary and amazing photos, it is very inspiring! My partner and I will be going to Iceland in late January for 1 week and we are planning to hire a 4×4 SUV and explore. Your itinerary looks perfect and I was wandering how easy it is to find these sites/attractions without being on a tour? It looks so remote – are the waterfalls and national parks well signed and is there parking nearby? We will probably book day tours for the glacier hike and to explore an ice cave but otherwise we will just be following GPS/maps.

    Thank you.

    1. Author

      Hi Tim, everything listed in this itinerary is pretty easy to find and it’s well signposted. Most waterfalls and other landmarks are pretty close to the Ring Road, usually just literally off the road and parking is ample, certainly in winter. The only things that might be a bit more difficult to find is Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon and the lava field, since it’s a bit off the main road. My best advice is to look it all up on Google maps in advance, take a regular paper map with you and you’ll be ok. GPS should also work just fine, so if you have one with maps for Iceland, take it with you.
      As for the glacier hiking and ice caving, check my post about winter activities in Iceland for more info (if you haven’t done so yet). Book both as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
      Hope this helps. Enjoy your trip!

      1. Thank you so much Jurga – this is very helpful! We will definitely book the glacier hike and ice cave tour from your link. I can’t wait to explore Iceland and hopefully snap a few photos as good as yours!

          1. Hi Jurga,

            We followed your itinerary almost exactly and we had the holiday of a lifetime! We stayed at some different accommodation and we missed the canyon and lava field on the final day ( instead we saw the DC plane wreck and stopped by the Secret Lagoon), however your itinerary was great and we were amazed at how much we saw in 1 week (and how much more there is to see!). It was an amazing experience and I couldn’t recommend it enough everyone. I’ve already started sending your link to our friends. Thank you so much for your suggestions and for creating such a useful itinerary.

            Tim

          2. Author

            Thank you so much for your feedback, Tim. Glad to hear you had such a nice trip and that you used this guide to make the most of it. That’s what this blog is about – to help others make the most of every trip!

  24. Thank you for sharing. Will visit Iceland from 12/22 to 12/30 with my son. Debating whether I should rent a car or just stay in Reykjavik do day trip or driving. if I chose driving for 2 days, which part you recommend driving (I’m think about 2 day 1 night to south coast or golden circle. Also for car rental is that has to be 4W drive? Any car rental place to recommend?

    1. Author

      Hi Mindy, in 7-8 days you can do quite a lot (day trips or driving). If you choose to do a road trip, then use this itinerary, it’s the best I can advise you for a winter trip.
      If you only drive for 2 days, consider what you will be doing on the other days. Day tours are probably the best option in that case, since Reykjavik itself is not a place that you need 7-8 days for (read also my post about Reykjavik if you hadn’t seen it yet).
      What to see in 2 days if driving? I’d head all the way to Jokulsarlon lagoon since that’s a place not to be missed. You can see some waterfalls (Skogafoss, Selfalandsfoss) along the way. Depending on how much time you have, pick any other place from this itinerary here that interests you the most and try to combine it with Jokulsarlon: Vik beach, the canyon, Skaftafell NP… The days will be very short though, so consider that.
      Read also our post about the amazing winter activities in Iceland – most can be done as day trips from Reykjavik.
      As for the car rental, I don’t have any specific recommendation for Iceland. We use this search engine for most of our trips and it’s usually the best deals we can find: Momondo. And yes, I would recommend at least an SUV for Iceland in any season. 4×4 is not a must for the Ring Road though, so you have to consider whether it’s worth the extra cost for you.
      Hope this helps! Enjoy your trip!

  25. Did you find that you were in the car a lot for this itinerary? I am thinking of using this itinerary but maybe adding another overnight in Jokulsarlon. If you had to add an extra overnight somewhere in your trip, where would it have been?

    Thanks!

    1. Author

      Hi Justine, no, it wasn’t too much time in the car. Maximum an hour or two in one go if I remember well. Get a guidebook and see what other nice places you can visit on the road in between the landmarks (there aren’t many, but there are a few less-known waterfalls, small churches or nice short walks you can make), and make some short stops here and there to stretch the legs. This itinerary is good for winter, depending on the time of the year you visit, you might not even need that much time to see all these places. When we were in Iceland in summer, we constantly had the feeling that we had too much time since the days were endless… 🙂
      Anyway, for winter trip I wouldn’t change much. If you have one extra day see if you can book an ice caving tour (read more about Iceland winter experiences) or you could do a bit more hiking in Skaftafell. You can find a few suggestions in this post: My Top-10 Must-see Places in Iceland
      If you go in summer, I would definitely add the tour to see puffins.

  26. Great article. We will be travelling at the end of September/ early October in 2017. Would we be able to do this itinerary as well?

    1. Author

      I don’t see why not, Kim. The days will be longer in September/October, so you’ll have more time to explore the places I mentioned in this itinerary, or at least you won’t have to drive in the dark every morning and every evening. The places mentioned here are all must-visit places along the South Coast of Iceland, and can be visited year-round.

  27. What kind of a vehicle would you recommend. Do we need to splurge for the 4 wheel drive SUV or would a compact be ok. We will be there mid-September. Thanks!

    1. Author

      It all depends on your itinerary, Kate. If you follow the itinerary I described here, then you’ll be ok in any vehicle in September I think. If you want to travel inland, then you definitely need a 4WD. A small size SUV might be a good option in between. If it snows, I would definitely advice to take an SUV, but – normally – there shouldn’t be any snow/ice in September on the South Coast. Hope this helps.

  28. hello, thanks a lot for your blog
    quick question, do I have to pay a tour to visit sko’gafoss or can I do it on my own? Thanks

    1. Author

      Hi Carlos, all the waterfalls in Iceland are free to visit. But you do need a car in order to get there, or you can book one of the many day trips depending on your interests.

  29. Hello Jurga
    Thanks alot for the great tips, its was a great help to us, we are really passionated about Iceland.

  30. Hi, Jurga! Thank you very much for sharing your experience. It looks really awesome!! If you can, could you answer me a couple of questions? Since you’ve visited Iceland in several occasions, what would you recommend me to do in case you have one more day? I am thinking about doing the west fjords and then head south and only leave Reykyavik for the last day. Is it a little bit too much? Is it dangerous to drive in the dark in Iceland? As well, I am very interested in doing the ice caving tour in Vatnajokull. Is it possible to do it in your tour and what would you take out from the tour to make this dream of mine of walking inside an ice cave possible?
    Thank you very much Jurga for your help and your more than kind collaboration in one of my dream trips.
    Ruth

    1. Author

      Hi Ruth, I’m not sure I can tell you what to do. A lot depends on the time of the year you travel and how many hours of daylight you have. Driving after the dark in itself is not a problem, but if you’re not familiar with the area and if the roads are bad in winter, then you probably don’t want to do it too much…
      You can definitely leave Reykjavik for the last day, it’s really not such a big place and you can see all the highlights in half a day.
      As for the ice caving tour, inform where they start and at what time they leave, see if you can book one for the day you want and then plan the rest of the itinerary around it (I hear that those tours are very popular, so better check that first).
      If you have to skip one day of this itinerary, I really don’t know which one, that would depend on your interests I suppose. If hiking is not your thing, then skip Skaftafell. Otherwise maybe the Dyrhólaeyjarviti lighthouse andtheo Kirkjufjara beach (although that’s just a few hours). Some of the places on this itinerary are close to each other, so you can skip one from one day and one from another day and save a day this way…
      Sorry I can’t help you more. It’s really about making choices and your own preferences. I think that sometimes you enjoy the trip more if you do less, but take your time to really see the place. So first make a selection of your ‘musts’ and then start from there. Have a nice trip!

  31. Hi Jurga,

    Thank you for the amazing blog post. I especially loved your pictures! My girlfriend and I are taking my parents with us to Iceland in late Feb. I noticed that there was a lot of hiking in your itinerary. Which hikes do you think would be doable/worth attempting for my parents, who are more elderly? Are there any short 10-15 minute hikes which are worth a look? Do you think my parents will be able to enjoy Iceland even if they cannot do too much hiking? Thank you in advance 🙂

    1. Author

      Hi Tony, don’t worry too much, your parents will definitely be able to enjoy Iceland (just dress warm and waterproof).
      Most of the highlights from this itinerary do not require much hiking at all as they are very close to the car park. For example, all the waterfalls are just a few steps away from the car, but if you want to you can hike a bit more. At Skogafoss or Gullfoss you can climb up for different views, but the nicest view is at the bottom anyway. The geyser is just a short flat walk of 2-3 minutes. The Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon – you can see a lot from the car park, or you can walk around a bit, but it’s not difficult either, same with the beach across the road. Vik beach – it’s a stroll on the beach, you can choose how far you walk, the basalt columns are just 2-3 minutes from the car park, if you go all the way to the back it will maybe be another 10min max. The Canyon – you can walk along it, but you can see the canyon without doing the walk just as well. Most other stops along the way are just short walks of 100-200m, sometimes even less. At Thingvellir NP you can walk to the Oxararfoss waterfall, that would be 10-15min from the car and then back. You can also leave your parents at the bottom and let them cross the bridge to the other car park and then go get your car and pick them up there (you’ll figure it out once you get there). Svinafellsjokull which I described here was also 5 min from the car, and so was the Fjallsarlon glacier lagoon.
      The only place where you really have to hike is Skaftafell NP. Not sure how much hiking you can do in February anyway, but you can always stop at the visitor centre and see what the possibilities are.
      When we did the glacier hike in Iceland, there were people of over 70 in the group and they were also a bit worried, but they managed just fine.

      1. Perfect Jurga! Thank you so much for spending time to do this. Our vacation booking is well underway.

  32. Thank you so much for posting this itinerary! My husband and I are scheduled to go to Iceland next month and we are getting very excited! We have 2 hotels booked and they are both on the south coast. After reading your post, I’m kind of wishing they were a little further apart, but I’m sure we will be able to see a lot of the landmarks on your list. FIngers crossed for the Northern Lights! That was the first thing that had us looking at Iceland, but now I know there is so much more there to see!

    1. Author

      The distances are not impossibly big on the South Coast, Laura. So with two hotels and some good planning, I’m sure you will manage to create an itinerary for yourself that allows you to see a lot without having to spend too much time in the car. Have a great trip!

  33. Hi Jurga,

    I will be visiting Iceland at the end of Feb for a week by myself. I am considering renting a car and driving the southern route along N1. I read the weather conditions can be unpredictable. How were they for you? In your experience, would you have driven solo?

    Thank you so much for this post. It is very helpful!

    1. Author

      Hi Jenny, glad you found this information useful for preparing your trip. I have more posts on the blog talking about driving and the weather conditions, here is one: https://fullsuitcase.com/iceland-summer-vs-winter/ If you read through the comments you’ll find this question addressed once or twice already. Please check there for more advice.
      In general, the Ring Road in the South should be ok to drive even in winter, but of course nobody can predict the weather. Try to keep your itinerary somewhat flexible (by not booking a different hotel for every night of your trip) and see how it is when you get there.
      As for traveling solo, I think Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world for solo travellers, whether you are driving or not. Just consider the cost, because renting a car in Iceland can be quite expensive, and in winter you really should get a bigger car. On your own you might be better off just booking organised day tours and not having to worry about the road conditions. You can find some ideas in this post: https://fullsuitcase.com/winter-experiences-iceland/
      Hope this helps.

  34. We went to Iceland last spring, it was really amazing! Thank so much for your work and info! It was my second time i have visited Iceland but after reading your inspiration and want to jump on the plane again.

    1. Author

      Thanks, appreciate your comment, Wouter. Iceland is one of those places I don’t mind to go back to again and again either.

  35. Thank you for this post! 4 friends and I are planning a trip during our Spring Break in March and found this immensely helpful as we really had no idea what to look for. I do have two questions though if you wouldn’t mind taking a minute to answer. Were all of these places you visited (beaches, water falls, glaciers) packed with tourists or did you find them to be relatively peaceful? Also, was there somewhere specific you went to see the Northern Lights or did you just go outside and away from light sources. Again, thank you so much!! This has been really helpful in giving us an idea of where to plan to visit.

    1. Author

      Hi Kaitlyn, when we visited in November none of the places were busy with tourists. We were not the only ones anywhere, but it wasn’t busy. I don’t expect it will be any different in March, maybe a bit more due to it being Spring Break, but it won’t be packed. I hear that in summer it’s getting really busy though..
      As for the Northern Lights, no we didn’t go anywhere specifically. We watched the aurora forecast almost hourly every evening when the sky was clear, and on the days/times when the aurora forecast was showing higher activity (3 and more), we just went outside and waited. Sometimes the auroras lasted just a few short seconds, the other times the spectacle continued for a long time. Sometimes it would stop and begin again in half an hour or so, so there was a lot of waiting involved. 🙂
      You can find some tips in regards to Northern Lights here: https://fullsuitcase.com/photograph-northern-lights-beginners/ And here are some tips on what to wear and what to pack: https://fullsuitcase.com/iceland-packing-essentials-winter/

    1. Author

      No, not in winter. We were there in June once and were caught in a terrible snow storm with road closures, so it didn’t seem like such a good idea. 🙂 If you want to visit that part of Iceland in winter, I think flying to and back from Akureyri and keeping your schedule very flexible would be my best suggestions. Myvatn area is the nicest to see up North, but it’s mainly hiking, so again – not really ideal in winter.

  36. Thank you for this very inspiring post. If you don’t mind me asking, how much do I need to budget for a trip like this? Also, how long was the drive between each place as only one of us drives? Many thanks 🙂

    1. Author

      Carla, the budget is really difficult to estimate for me. It depends on how many people travel (=share car rental/hotel cost) and what type of accommodation you choose, also on the season. Take a look at this post for accommodation options in Iceland, you can quickly check what the hotels cost on Booking.com and that will give you an idea of the cost. Check here for the best car rental deals. Then add the two and you’ll know in big lines what the trip costs. Add another 400-500EUR/pp/week for 2-3 excursions (Blue Lagoon, glacier hiking, or similar) and food.
      As for driving, the distances are not big on the South Coast, usually it’s 1-2-3 hours drive between the places I described here. People even do Reykjavik – Jokulsarlon trip in one day, in that case it’s a really long drive. But if you follow this itinerary it’s really relaxing – more exploring rather than driving.
      Hope this helps.

  37. Thanks for the blog and with this, it made my plan easier. But i have a question. Can I do ice caving on the 4 day base on your itinerary?

    Thanks.

    1. Author

      Hi Joe, glad you found this useful. I think you can, it all depends on when you travel, i.e. is ice caving available in that period (check this post for more info) + how long the days are, also on where you’re staying. Try to book a hotel close to Jokulsarlon – see this post for suggestions. Also, check from where ice caving trips leave and how much time you need to get there.

  38. HI Jurga,

    I was wondering if you were able to use credit/debit cards for most of your trip, doing something similar next week.

    1. Author

      James, you can pay for a toilet using credit card in Iceland. Not joking – there’s one toilet you have to pay for (at Gulfoss or Thingvellir if I remember well) and they take credit cards. Credit cards are used everywhere, in principle you don’t even need any cash.

  39. Hi Jurga!
    What fantastic shots. Especially those from Jökulsárlón & the Diamond beach (some call it Crystal beach)
    We all know that the lagoon is getting bigger every year but it is also getting to be deeper. It wasn’t until 2010 that the lagoon officially became the deepest lake in Iceland. Last year (2016) I heard of a scientific trip there. They were going to measure the depths now but I haven’t found the new numbers.
    Safe travels and congrats again to astounding shots! 🙂

    1. Author

      Thanks a lot for stopping by. Didn’t know this about the lagoon getting bigger every year, but I guess it makes sense with the climate change and the ice melting…

  40. Hi Jurga,

    I came across your blog and I’m glad that I did. It’s very well written and very detailed. My daughter and I are going to be in Iceland from July 20-27 and we plan to use your itinerary.

    I knew that accommodations were very expensive, but I didn’t realize how booked up they would be. I am having problems finding some around Skaftafell, so I booked something in Hofn. I hope that isn’t too far away.

    Thanks,
    Celina
    Toronto, Canada

    1. Author

      Hi Celina, thanks for your feedback. Great to hear that you found this itinerary useful! Just keep in mind that the days are really looooong in summer and you can do a lot. So it’s not really a problem if you stay a bit further, as driving is very relaxing in Iceland, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Finding accommodation outside Reykjavik is really tricky in busy season, there is not that much choice to start with.
      Have a wonderful trip!

  41. Jurga,

    We are not planning to stay in Reykjavik, so we have another night to spend along the south coast. Where would you suggest we stay and what should we see?

    Thanks.

    1. Author

      Hi Celina, as I don’t know what your itinerary looks like, it’s difficult for me to suggest something. Do you have all the places from this itinerary covered? If you still have more time, I suggest a day trip to see puffins. We loved that!

  42. Wow, Jurga you are amazing! Not only putting together such a comprehensive itinerary, actually a whole fantastic blog, but also replying to all comments. Well done! We are going for 7 nights end September / beginning of October with two kids 12 and 9. First we were contemplating the Ring road, but it probably would be too much hassle and then I found your itinerary and suddenly all makes more sense. Would we be missing something unmissable east and ‘close’ of Reykjavik? Shall we add Mælifell, Vatnajökull, Landmannalaugar, Jökulsárlón? What do we need a tour for? And what can be done by ourselves? Thank you soooo much. Greetings from Slovakia.

    1. Author

      Hi Katarina, thank you for your kind words. The blog takes a lot of time, so good to hear that you find it useful for planning your trip.
      First, for 7 nights I wouldn’t advice to drive the whole ring road, definitely not in September/October. This itinerary here brings you to all the nicest places and gives you time to actually explore them, which is – in my view – is nicer than spending more time in the car and seeing less.
      I don’t think you would actually be missing anything close to Reykjavik if you stick to this itinerary. If you want to add something more, I would maybe consider Snæfellsjökull NP, North of Reykjavik. But that would probably require one full day as it’s pretty far. You can also book a tour like this one, but if you have a car, you can just visit on your own. It will be much cheaper.
      I don’t know what Mælifell is, so can’t advice you on it. Landmannalaugar is actually a hike that is – if I remember well – is not very easy to reach. So for this one you could consider a tour if they still run in the period when you travel. Not sure though if it’s something you can do so late in the season, also not sure if it’s something for the kids. Vatnajökull is actually a huge glacier, you will be driving next to it during this trip. The glacier hiking I describe on Day3 is on one of the tongues of Vatnajökull. Svinafellsjokull I describe on Day 4 is another part of Vatnajökull. Jökulsárlón is definitely not to be missed, you can read about it on Day 4 of this itinerary. For me, it’s one of the nicest places in Iceland.
      As for what you need a tour for. This itinerary can be done on your own with a rental car, so no tours needed. If you want to visit the Blue Lagoon, you best book it in advance as it’s extremely popular and often gets sold out. Only glacier hiking cannot be done on your own and booking a tour in advance is a must. I found a family-friendly glacier hike, but they say kids’ age limit is minimum 10, but you could definitely try to contact them if you want to do it. Or this one – they say the same about the age though.

      Make sure to also read other posts about Iceland on the blog: accommodation guide for your road trip, winter activities in Iceland, what to wear in Iceland in winter, how to see and photograph Northern Lights, etc.

      Hope this helps. Enjoy the trip! Iceland is amazing!

  43. Hi, thank you for the itinerary. My husband and I are going for a week in November and are thinking about hiring a car to give us the freedom but I keep reading so many stories and the dangers of doing it yourself at this time of year. Did you ever have any worries or problems and would you hire a car again if you went back in winter? Thank you again so much. 🙂

    1. Author

      Sorry for a late reply. We’re on vacation, so trying to work less… Anyway, you never know how the weather will be in Iceland, so it’s really hard to say. In general I think it’s safe to rent a car in winter, but if the roads are really bad, you have to be very careful. I would advise to rent SUV or so. If you’re really not comfortable with driving, you can join a group trip or make organised day trips from Reykjavik… Hope this helps a bit. The decision will still have to be yours 😉

  44. I saw your itinerary and booked up our tickets to Iceland. We got a better flight deal for 10 days to spend in iceland. We are travelling mid December where the day light will be about 4 hours. Do you think we can still follow your itinerary or where would you tweak it? We do plan on adding Vestrahorn to our list.

    1. Author

      Hi Shirish, sorry for a late reply. We were on vacation in Norway.
      I think you could do still see all these places in 10 days even with less daylight. Maybe try to spend more nights at less places (so more centrally located with a bit more driving maybe), so that it gives you more flexibility as to what to explore depending on the weather. Make sure you start your day before it gets light and keep exploring till sunset, if the roads are ok and you are confident to drive in the dark.
      Not sure if this helps you much, but I really have no time to suggest day-by-day itinerary. Have a nice trip!

  45. Hi Jurga,
    Thank you so much for sharing your Iceland adventures! My husband and I will be there the first week of October, and your itinerary will be very helpful! 🙂

    Do you have any food recommendations for us to bring with us? From reading your blog, it sounds like we should bring lunch with us so we have more time to hike and enjoy. 🙂

    1. Author

      Hi Samantha, yes, packing a picnic lunch is extremely useful. It saves you time and money, and you don’t have to worry where to find a cafe along the way.
      As for what to bring, I would first check the customs regulations before importing any food into Iceland. No idea how strict they are. If you have a car, you could just stock up at the local supermarket in the beginning of the trip. Buy food that can stay in the car for a few days. It will be cold enough, so your car is a bit like a fridge ;). Alternatively, pack a sandwich or two at breakfast in your hotel. Buy some bread, sausage, cheese, apples, chocolate, cookies, and you are good.
      I would advice to pack a thermos as well and fill it with warm drinks at your hotel in the morning. Here you can find more Iceland packing tips for autumn and winter.
      Enjoy Iceland!

      1. Hi Jurga,
        My husband likes to fish. Can you recommend any places/ tours for fishing? Thank you very much for all of your help!

  46. Hi Jurga
    I am so happy that I found your blog as you provide very comprehension information about Iceland. We are a family of 5 adults planning a 8 days Iceland trip around end Jan next year. I will join the guide glacier hike and guided ice caving tour in 2 days as one of our family member is over 60 and I think it will be better to do two activities separately.

    I have some questions about my itinerary and hope you can give me some advice.
    I notice that you join the guided glacier hike in Solheimjokull glacier on your Day 3, but I know there is another guide glacier hike in Vatnajokull which it seems many tourists joined the glacier hike in Vatnajokull. As I wondering which one is better,

    Moreover, we plan to go to Fjardrargljufur Canyon and Eldhraun (lava field), can you tell me how much time we need to visit these two places, half day or one day is sufficient. Is it difficult to climb up Fjardrargljufur Canyon in winter time?

    Thank you so much.

    1. Author

      Hi Rebecca, glad you found this info useful.
      – Glacier hike. Most glacier hikes are on Vatnajokull glacier. It’s a huge glacier with many different tongues, thus different names. Some companies will just say Vatnajokull while some others will specify which part. There are 3h tours, 5h tours, or e.g. the whole day tours that do South Coast excursion in combination with a glacier hike. Lots of different options, pretty much the same area.
      – Fjardrargljufur Canyon. There is no climbing involved. You basically walk on top of the canyon, following the rim. You can choose how far you go depending on the weather conditions. Count 0,5-1hr here. There are two car parkings, some 15-20min walking from each other. So one person could e.g. drop the rest off at the higher part (second parking) and you walk (slightly) down towards the first car parking. You’ll see when you get there – it’s not a huge area.
      – Lava Fields are big, but then again, you can stop for a short photo stop for 10 minutes or walk around for an hour. It’s really up to you and I guess depends on the weather too.
      Hope this helps. If something isn’t clear still, let me know.
      Enjoy your trip!

  47. Hi Jurga!
    Thanks for all of the info you’ve contributed, it’s a great deal of help to many of us. Okay, so I’ll be traveling solo in Reykjavik from October 8-17. What kind of weather is typical this time of year? I planned on staying in a hostel in Reykjavik as I thought it would be a great way to meet other people, but will I be able to do most of your 7 day itinerary from there with day trips or do I just need to rent a car? I have heard so many conflicting reports regarding renting a car. Is it really anymore dangerous than driving in the northeast of the U.S. during winter? What do you recommend, doing tours or renting a car?

    1. Author

      Hi Michael, it’s really your choice to do day trips or rent a car. If you are on your own, the cost might be similar (car rental + expensive hotels in the countryside = day trip costs). For two or more people, renting a car will usually be much cheaper. So it’s really about what you prefer. Road conditions in October should be fine I think, but of course you never know. Just note that some day trips from Reykjavik (e.g. Jokulsarlon in one day) are REALLY long – 12-14hrs with lots of driving and not much sightseeing.
      We would normally go for a car, but we travel with 5 people and love to have the freedom and less costs. But I think that when traveling solo, group tours might have many advantages too (nothing to organise, no worries about driving, you meet other people, etc.).
      Feel free to share your experience here after the trip – it might help others in similar situation decide what to do. Thanks!

  48. Great blog. Thanks for all the info and photos. How did you finding driving in Iceland in Winter?

    1. Author

      Hi Catherine, it’s really difficult to day. We had fantastic dry weather in November so driving was ok. But as I said in one of my blog posts, we slid off the road in June once, when the rods were covered in ice after a snow storm. I think it really depends on the weather you get, but in general October – November should be ok in the South Coast. I suggest you keep your itinerary a bit flexible and adapt if need be.

  49. Such a great itinerary!! Thanks we are going in a couple weeks- Question…
    We arrive at 430am- would you go ahead and hit the golden circle or would you maybe do the blue lagoon and hang in Hveragerai until the next day?? (we will be there 8 days 7nts)

    1. Author

      That’s an early start of the day for any activity, Anna. 🙂 Blue Lagoon doesn’t even open till 8 AM in winter. If you are fit enough, you can certainly visit the Golden Circle. It might even be magical early in the morning before the crowds arrive. Just keep in mind that it will probably not get light till 9AM or so. In the afternoon you could go to Hveragerði swimming pool if you stay there the first night. Hope this helps.

  50. Hi Jurga,

    This post is just brilliant. I’ve basically copied your whole itinerary for our trip in two weeks time! Cant wait. One thing I wanted to check. Is the Glacier walk you have linked in the blog the one you did and would you recommend it? Also did you see any options for cheaper snowmobiling once you got to Iceland. I was hoping to this also but it is extremely expensive. Love your tips for taking pictures of the lights too. Fingers crossed we get clear skies.Thanks so much. Maureen

    1. Author

      Hi Maureen, thank you for the feedback. Great to hear that you found this info useful and that it helped you planning the trip. As for the tours, the one I link to is actually one of the best price/quality tour that I found. I haven’t done snowmobile, so can’t say about that. The best in my opinion is to read the reviews. As for the prices, I’m afraid that Iceland is extremely expensive and so it’s not going to be easier to find anything cheaper. It’s not that you get there and it’s half price. On the contrary- if you book in advance you can find the best deals easier and read the reviews of other travelers. If you just book a tour upon arrival at the hotel you have no idea what you are actually booking or how good they are. Just my opinion of course. Hope this helps a bit. Enjoy your trip!

  51. This is such a wonderful resource. I can’t tell you how helpful this info has been. I keep referring to it. Thank you! We will arrive the last day of October for 10 days into early November 2017. I’m basing my trip largely around your recommendations, along with seeing the the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.

    1. Author

      Good to hear that, Sidney! Snaefellsnes Peninsula should be amazing, fingers crossed for good road conditions. Enjoy your trip!

  52. This is such a good resource! I am definitely planning my trip using your plan as I’m going in November too.
    Can you advise for this one-week south Iceland road trip, what sort of car should I rent? Will there be any off-road driving? Will I be able to rent a GPS device? Is Google map useful?

    Thanks a zillion!

    1. Author

      Hi Carol, you don’t really need a 4WD, but maybe don’t take the smallest car either. You do need winter tyres, but that should come standard, and be prepared to drive on the snow and/or ice. It might not happen, or it might only happen once or twice, but it’s winter. There isn’t really any off-road driving on this trip, but there are some smaller roads (sometimes gravel) to get to one or the other glacier tongue or a smaller glacier lagoon. They are just a kilometre or two away from the main road usually, so it’s not something any car couldn’t handle.
      As for GPS, you don’t really need it, especially if you have Internet access and can use Google maps. Most attractions are on the main Ring Road, and the rest is usually quite well sign-posted. But if you feel more comfortable with a GPS, also in Reykjavik, consider buying one with world maps – we have one for years already and use it for every trip, it’s much cheaper than renting one every time.

      1. hi Jurga, thanks for the valuable information. There are so many car rental company in Iceland, do you have any recommendations? Or could you share your experience with some of these companies. Thanks!

        1. Author

          Hi Carol, I cannot really recommend one specific company. We usually use RentalCars.com to find the best deals so that we can compare and get the best price/quality car for the trip. We never had really bad experience with any companies actually.
          You will see on their website that there is a rating for each of the rental companies and you can read other travellers reviews. Just keep in mind that most of the time only people who had bad experience take the time to leave a review. 😉 I see that some local company Orange has excellent reviews, also Herz. We rented ours with Europcar if I recall well, and the service was excellent.
          P.S. Take a look also at the answer I just gave Peter – the comment just above yours.

  53. What kind of a vehicle would you recommend? I’m traveling late February. I only have 4 1/2 days.

    1. Author

      Hi Peter, I just checked at what kind of cars are available in Iceland in that period. Take a look at RentalCars.com for the best deals and choose ‘Premium cars’. The smallest ones in that category should do for winter travel I think, e.g. Chevrolet Trax , Suzuki Jimny, or Dacia Duster. They cost about 180-220 EUR/ 4 days.
      The reason I suggest these cars is because that was the type of car our rental company upgraded us to when we booked just a regular sedan and arrived to find winter storm and snow on the roads in June. 🙂 At that time the car rental people told us we needed a higher car for those weather conditions. You will need winter tyres, but I think that’s standard in February.
      You don’t really need 4WD for this itinerary, but if you feel safer there are a couple options starting at 235EUR/4 days in that period as well.
      Hope this helps

  54. I’ve used your website and blog to help plan our trip to Iceland this January 2018. This is our tentative schedule and I would some feedback if this looks doable: Fly in on Monday early (pick up rental car, blue lagoon, reykjavik city stuff, stay in reykjavik), Tuesday (Golden circle, stay in Selfoss), Wednesday (drive through Vik, see the sites, stay at Hotel Laki), Thursday (drive to Jokulsaron, blue ice cave tour, stay at fosshotel glacier lagoon), Friday (drive to Reykjavik, night music scene, stay downtown), Saturday (any sites left to see in Reykjavik, fly home in evening). Thanks! Krista

    1. Author

      Hi Krista, this itinerary looks perfectly doable to me if the roads are ok (fingers crossed ;)). Just remember that you will have to leave in the morning when it’s still dark and come back to your hotel in the dark as well – that way you can maximise sightseeing time during the daylight hours. Have a nice trip!

  55. Hi Jurga , Thank You for this Wonderful resource. I am traveling to Iceland the 3rd week of February with my wife and two kids (15+13 ) We are renting a 4×4 and u sing your itinerary, with a few different hotels but in the same areas. We are going to try the 6lacier walk and ice cave tour at skaftafell on day 5. I was wondering if the glacier walk that you did in Solkeimjokul on day 3 would be worthwhile if we will be doing the same thing in Skaftafell on day 5. Otherwise we might visit Skogar instead and save some time to spend on the beach in ViK. Any thoughts? And thank you again for all your insight !

    1. Hi Vincent, I think that one glacier walk is more than enough. It’s not a cheap experience either, definitely with a family. It’s just a different place, but experience is the same – walking on the glacier is just as impressive anywhere really. Ice cave combination is nice because you get to see something unique.
      As for what to do with the extra time, both options you mention are good. Maybe see how the weather turns out and then decide.

  56. Hi,
    I loved your post but am super confused on whether to drive myself or to book a tour. I am travelling with my girlfriend and both of us can manage driving unless the weather conditions are terrible. We are planning to go in December mid. The only itinerary I have liked so far is https://www.extremeiceland.is/en/packages/winter-packages/4-day-south-coast-snaefellsnes-auroras#book in terms of tours but am not sure if they are trying to cover too much in too less time and wanted your opinion on the same.

    1. Author

      Hi Sumit, if you are not comfortable driving on ice, then the tour is a much more relaxing option. I myself went with a tour in winter.
      In December most of the tours will be ‘packed’ as the days are really short. You just have to count that the organising companies know how to make the best of the daylight hours.
      I have found a tour that I would advice better. It’s a 5-day tour and also includes the Golden Circle. Also, the way the itinerary is made, driving distances will be a bit shorter = a bit more time for sightseeing. Take a look here: 5-day Iceland winter trip or here – I think it’s a very similar tour, but the second option has more departure dates. It goes to all the places as the other tour that you mentioned + Golden Circle, costs just a bit more (for one extra day). It also goes inside an ice cave and even has a whale watching tour included. Hope this helps

  57. Hi Jurga, thanks for your prompt response. This tour does not really have options for glacier hike and the diamond beach which you mentioned was a must see. Vatnajökull Glacier, Diamond Beach
    Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is not included in this tour right?
    My next question to you is about Ice caving and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, you mentioned something about this being a super long drive? Is this the case for both the tours we are comparing?
    My last question is about the authenticity of this company? I could not really find much information on them and I have had a terrible experience before this with a travel company before so just wanted to know your thoughts before I book.

    1. Author

      The waterfalls of Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss are included in all these trips. Vatnajökull Glacier – that’s where they go into an ice cave. It’s a huge glacier, has many tongues with different names, but all the same thing – ice :). Getting to the ice cave usually requires hiking on the glacier, so it’s much better than just a glacier hike. Excursion like that separately usually costs at least 150 EUR, often much more if taking it from Reykjavik.
      Diamond Beach is across the road from Jukulsarlon glacier lagoon – so you visit it at the same time.
      I know how confusing it can be, as not all the tours describe it into very much detail.
      Yes, Jokulsarlon is very far from Reykjavik. That’s why I think a 5-day tour is better as they also go to the Golden Circle and sleep more along the way on the South Coast.
      As for companies where to book. Reviews of other customers are useful. I also like booking through companies like GetYourGuide or Viator – it’s an extra guarantee because they have excellent customer service and usually help to solve any problems if there would be any.

  58. Perfect. I will go ahead and book this tour then if you know about them and if they cover the diamond beach and the glacier hike as those two things are really important to us. Thanks a bunch!. Do you know how many people are there in one tour for them?

    1. Author

      Hi Sumit, if you mean this tour, I only know the same as you do – what I read. It seems to be a small group tour that brings you to all the main highlights that can be done in winter. You can see more detailed itinerary if you click on ‘Full description’. It does indeed visit all the places that you mentioned you wanted to see. There are only a few departure days though, so you have to make sure it fits with your flights.
      If you do this tour, please submit the review wherever you book it – it will help other people. And if you think of it, please come back here and share your experience. First-hand experiences are always extremely useful to the other readers.

      On a side note, if you are mostly interested in Jokulsarlon and Diamond Beach plus glacier hike, you don’t need a 5-day tour neither. You can do a 3 day tour or a 2 day tour – much cheaper of course. And then add some winter day trips from Reykjavik to best suit your exact preferences. It will involve much more driving up and down of course.

  59. Thank you Jurga. I will for sure put a detailed review of my experience especially considering the effort and time you have put into this. And yes driving back and forth is something I want to avoid. We wil actually be in Iceland for 8 days. My girlfriend pointed out the 5 day tour does not mention anything about what exactly the 5th day is about so we are looking into it and also on other possible options for remaining 3 days. Any suggestions?

    1. Author

      Hi Sumit, the days 4-5 are for Snæfellsnes Peninsula from what I see. As for how to fill 8 days, you could also look for a longer tour that travels slower and gives you more time to explore. Or stay the rest of the time in Reykjavik and do day trips from there: Blue Lagoon, horseback riding, northern lights (if by then you haven’t seen them on the tour yet)… Check this post for more ideas: Selection of best Reykjavik day trips, tours and excursions in winter
      Good luck with the planning and enjoy it. You will love Iceland, no matter which way you choose to visit it.

  60. Hi Jurga,
    We found another couple and have decided to do a roadtrip. We have 9 days in Iceland but want to be in Reykjavik. How can we follow your itinerary exactly like it and do this. Also, since ice caves have to be done through a tour, and we would have our own car. Where do we start the ice cave tour and with whom? Please I really need your advice on doing ice caves tour when we have our own car and what itinerary to follow which gets us to the city on Christmas

    1. Author

      Great, glad you figured out the best way to see Iceland for you. Driving will give you more flexibility and will probably be cheaper than taking an organised tour, definitely if traveling with 4 people.
      As for the itinerary, I really have no time to create custom itineraries that’s why I am sharing all this information on the blog – to help people do it themselves. You can follow this itinerary – it’s already made and is perfect for your trip duration. You cannot see all these places from Reykjavik on your own – much too much driving and it’s also dark for the biggest part of the day in December.
      As for the ice cave tour, the one I listed on day 3 starts in Skaftafell NP. So you can either go there on that day or on day 5 of this itinerary. Or you can do an ice cave tour starting from Jokulsarlon Just book and plan in advance as this tour will probably take the biggest part of your short day.
      And make sure to book your car rental, accommodations, and tours asap as Iceland is extremely popular and everything gets fully booked.

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