Experience an entirely different side of Iceland on a winter road trip to explore all the highlights. Grab your coat and head to downtown Reykjavík, which offers incredible views this time of year. Then, head to the Golden Circle to visit the white-washed version of Gullfoss, followed by an action-packed snowmobiling adventure to Langjökull Glacier. Next, discover Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls—complete with frozen fields—and embark on glacier hikes, ice cave tours, and ice climbing excursions at Skaftafell and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. On the way back to Reykjavík, enjoy a relaxing soak in the hot springs of Rekjadalur, followed by a stop at the Blue Lagoon to close out the trip.

Highlights

  • Go on a snowmobiling adventure through Langjökull Glacier in the Golden Circle
  • Take in the frozen accents of the Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, and Skógafoss waterfalls
  • Enjoy glacier hiking, ice cave tours around Skaftafell and Jökulsárlón Glacier
  • Indulge in relaxing soaks in the Reykjadalur hot springs and Blue Lagoon

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival & Discover Winter in Downtown Reykjavík Reykjavik
Day 2 Golden Circle Exploration & Snowmobile Tour Golden Circle
Day 3 Winter Waterfalls & Black-Sand Beaches  Kirkjubæjarklaustur
Day 4 Glacier Hike, Ice Cave Tour, & Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Kirkjubæjarklaustur
Day 5 Drive & Explore South Coast Back to Reykjavík Reykjavik
Day 6 Morning in Reykjavík, Blue Lagoon Soak, & Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival and discover winter in downtown Reykjavík

Enjoy a winter evening in Reykjavik
Enjoy a winter evening in Reykjavik

Welcome to Iceland! Arrive at Keflavik International Airport (KEF) in the morning and pick up your rental car. Drive about 30 minutes to Reykjavík for breakfast and a relaxing first day exploring the compact downtown area.

Breakfast recommendations include the following:

  • Bergsson Mathús (opens at 7 am)
  • Sandholt (opens at 7 am)
  • Reykjavík Roasters (for great coffee)
  • Brauð & Co. (if you like bread and pastries)

Walk through Reykjavík‘s compact downtown area and along the water, past the Sun Voyager Sculpture and to the Harpa Cultural Center, with its cool, glass architecture. Visit Hallgrímskirkja church on the hill, and take the elevator to the tower for a great view of the city below and panoramic views of the area.

Stroll around Reykjavík Harbour or join a whale-watching tour. Spend some time learning about Iceland’s history at the Settlement Exhibition or the National Museum of Iceland. Snack on a world-famous hot dog at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, or hop between cafés.

For dinner recommendations, consider the below:

  • Messinn
  • Sea Barron
  • Kol Restaurant
  • The Coocoo's Nest
  • Café Loki

If you are interested in checking out Reykjavík’s nightlife scene, visit the following bars:

  • Craft Cocktails
  • Mikkeller & Friends
  • Skúli Craft Bar
  • KEX Hostel Bar (live music on weekends)

Day 2: Golden Circle exploration and snowmobile tour

Winter at Gullfoss
Frozen falls at Gullfoss

Start the morning early with a trip to the massive Gullfoss (“Golden Falls”) waterfall—before the day visitors arrive—and carefully hike down the short path to the top of the powerful waterfall.

Then, meet at the café for your transfer to the Langjökull Glacier basecamp to begin your snowmobile activity. Head to Langjökull Glacier in a specialized Super-Jeep, an exciting experience in itself. After arriving at the glacier base camp, get outfitted in a snowmobile suit, gloves, balaclava, and helmet for your snowmobile ride. Your professional glacier snowmobiling guide will then show you how to safely operate a snowmobile before your 1-hour excursion officially starts. Langjökull Glacier is home to several enormous ice-filled volcanic craters, rimmed in by imposing volcanoes, and set in the breathtaking Icelandic interior. The views from the flanks of Langjökull are quite incredible. In the distance rests Eiríksjökull glacier, the highest mountain in West Iceland, the dome-shaped Hofsjökull glacier, and the Kerlingafjöll Mountain range.

After the trip, continue exploring more sights in the area, such as the Geysir geothermal area, Þingvellir National Park, or Kerid crater. Or, simply relax for the rest of the day and enjoy a geothermal soak in the Secret Lagoon.

Day 3: Winter waterfalls and black-sand beaches (Golden Circle to Kirkjubæjarklaustur)

Sunset at Seljalandsfoss in the winter
Sunset at Seljalandsfoss in the winter

After breakfast, hit the road and spend today enjoying the popular highlights of the south.

Your first stop is the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, which you can walk behind. The ground is uneven in a few places, but it is just a few minutes from the parking lot. Standing in a cave under the cliff, you will see the water come roaring down 20-30 feet in front of you. Pay attention to the direction of the wind or wear a rain jacket (or both). Locate two smaller waterfalls to the left, while looking at the waterfall. One is Gljúfrabúi, which is hidden in a small cave that you can enter. Wear a rain jacket for this one. 

Next, along Route 1, locate the powerful Skógafoss Waterfall. Skógafoss marks the beginning of the 16-mile Fimmvörðuháls Trail, which ends in Thórsmörk. Admire the waterfall from the bottom, just a 2-minute walk from the parking lot, or if you are up for it, find the stairs to the right and carefully climb up for a different perspective. At the top, walk along the canyon for a bit to see more waterfalls along “Waterfall Way” before turning around.
Note: Depending on snow conditions, this may not be possible.

Then, make your way to the Dyrhólaey arch and cliffs. At Dyrhólaey, there are two parking lots where you can see the famous arch. (The one high on the hill offers the better view.) Slowly take the road to your right as you enter. From the top, spot a lighthouse and great views looking further west, along a black-sand beach that reaches as far as you can see. Look for birds flying around; they nest along the cliffside.

As you near Vík, along Route 1, look for the turnoff to Reynisfjara Beach, past a pretty church, as you drive toward the water. This black-rock beach (not as fine-grain as the one in Vík) is most famous for the Reynisdrangar Columns—huge, hexagonal basalt columns rising up out of the sand. Walk 1-2 minutes around the cliffs to the left, as you face the ocean, to find a couple of large caves, as well.  

Next, reach Vík. While the town itself is fairly small, its proximity to several great sights more than makes up for it. You can even explore the area in the evening, after the large crowds dissipate, or before the crowds arrive the next day. Toward the water, look for a black-sand beach with high cliffs on the right side, often filled with soaring and nesting birds.

Continue about 50 minutes further along Route 1 to the town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, which makes a great base to explore the nearby hiking in Skaftafell and the surrounding glacier highlights on tomorrow’s agenda.

If you have more time, just a short drive away is Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, where the rock formations look like they’re from another world. There is a trail less than 1 mile from the parking lot, along the ridge of the canyon, that is home to some amazing viewpoints—where the river curves around these strange rock cliffs. Admire the views along the way, and venture as far as you like.

Day 4: Glacier hike, ice cave tour, and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Go ice climbing at Jökulsárlón Glacier
Tour the ice caves at Jökulsárlón Glacier

Leave Vik in the morning, continuing east along the Ring Road (Route 1, the only major road in this area). Along the way, encounter the impressive glaciers of the South Coast, with opportunities for glacier hikes (from easy to challenging), and to venture into a natural ice cave, ending at the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.

First, visit Skaftafell, where you could spend many days hiking the trails all around. If short on time, the most popular hike leads to Svartifoss, a thin waterfall surrounded by columns of basalt. The 3-mile hike offers great views alongside the river and toward the ocean in the distance. For further exploration, feel free to join an ice cave tour, a glacier walk, or embark on an ice climbing excursion.

Next, a quick trip off the main road will bring you into Hof, where you can check out Hofskirkja, the turf church. The act of covering the roof with turf dates back to medieval times, and was practiced throughout Europe to offer protection from harsh weather.

Just a few minutes before Jökulsárlón Glacier, you will find another glacier lagoon about 10 minutes from the parking lot—Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Here, you are much closer to the glacier than at Jökulsárlón, with better views of all the cracks and crevices.

Next, visit Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, with the chance to witness one of the most unique sights in Iceland: icebergs floating out to sea, and beached on the black sand. Climb the hill for a better view of the entire area.

Follow the river under the bridge to the ocean, and find many smaller icebergs along the black, sandy shores of "Diamond Beach," where the waves crash, creating a memorable sight. You may be fortunate to see seals, porpoises, or small whales that sometimes hang out in the lagoon or near the shore.

After a day of exploring the Icelandic glacier wonders, drive back to your accommodation in Kirkjubæjarklaustur.

Day 5: Drive and explore South Coast Back to Reykjavík

Sunrise at Reykjadalur hot spring river
Sunrise at Reykjadalur hot spring river

Drive back along the South Coast toward Reykjavík—around 2-2.5 hours—to enjoy your last evening in Iceland. Spend time at any of the destinations you may have missed on the drive out, or consider the stops below:

  • Reykjadalur hot spring river (just after Selfoss): Reykjadalur (“Smoky Valley") is home to an active, geothermal area and hot springs. Hike from the trailhead north to Reykjadalur for less than an hour before you arrive at a hot river coursing through the valley. The water temperature can vary by location, so find a spot that's right for you.
  • Seljavallalaug pool: A short distance after Skógafoss, make a detour to Seljavallalaug, one of the oldest swimming pools in the country, built in 1923. Look for the small sign to Seljavellir. A short, scenic hike will take you to the relaxing pool.
  • Urriðafoss: As you reach the end of your South Coast drive, consider one last waterfall sighting. While Urriðafoss may not be considered as stunning as Skógafoss or Seljalandsfoss, it makes up for it in other ways. Urriðafoss is the largest-volume waterfall in Iceland, both very wide and very loud. It’s only a short trip from the Ring Road and a great finale to exploring the south.
  • Kerið Crater: Just a quick detour from Route 1 on your way back to Reykjavík, hike around the top of Kerið Crater and enjoy views of its blue lake at the bottom.

For dinner, revisit the restaurant recommendations from your arrival day in Reykjavík, as well as the bar roster—if you are up for a final night out on the town.

Day 6: Morning in Reykjavík, Blue Lagoon soak, and departure

Blue Lagoon
Blue Lagoon

Spend your last day exploring more of Reykjavík. If the need arises to escape inclement weather, consider visiting a few museums in town, such as the Northern Lights CenterSaga MuseumMarine Museum, or Whales of Iceland Exhibition

Next, make a stop by the Blue Lagoon on your drive to the airport, where you can enjoy one, last geothermal soak before you fly home.

Map

Map of Iceland Winter Highlights: Snowmobiling, Glacier Hikes & Ice Caves - 6 Days
Map of Iceland Winter Highlights: Snowmobiling, Glacier Hikes & Ice Caves - 6 Days