Embark on a quick and eventful winter road trip through some of Iceland’s most popular destinations on this five-day itinerary. Go sightseeing in downtown Reykjavik, and enjoy the snowy views all around. Head out on glacier adventures at different destinations, from snowmobiling to hiking, and relish the frozen falls, including Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, and Skogafoss, during wintertime. Along the way, take in the Northern Lights, which are especially amazing while soaking in geothermal areas and lagoons.

Highlights

  • Take in the incredible views of snow-capped Reykjavík in the wintertime
  • Go on glacier adventures, from snowmobiling to snowy hikes
  • Visit frozen versions of Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, and Skógafoss waterfalls
  • Relax in geothermal waters and lagoons in search of the Northern Lights

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival & Discover Winter in Downtown Reykjavik Reykjavik
Day 2 Golden Circle Exploration & Snowmobile Tour Golden Circle
Day 3 Winter Waterfalls & Black-Sand Beaches (Golden Circle to Vik) Vik
Day 4 South Coast Glacier Hike & Back to Reykjavik Reykjavik
Day 5 Morning in Reykjavik, Blue Lagoon Soak, & Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival and discover winter in Downtown Reykjavik

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

Frozen falls 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 Vik)

Skogafoss Waterfall, Frozen in the Winter
Skogafoss Waterfall, Frozen 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.

Day 4: South Coast glacier hike and back to Reykjavik

Sólheimajökull glacier
Sólheimajökull glacier

Drive back along the South Coast toward Reykjavík—around 2-2.5 hours.

En route, stop in Sólheimajökull, just northwest of Vík, to do some glacier hiking. Sólheimajökull is the outlet glacier of Mýrdalsjökull, and the fourth-largest glacier in Iceland. Small-group tours are available, where safety equipment is included, so you can discover the mass over blue ice that is thousands of years old. Enjoy the incredible snowy landscapes—blue sinkholes, thrilling crevices, and rugged ridges—with an education from an experienced adventure guide. For the more advanced, ice climbing activities are available, too. Additionally, you can opt for a glacier hike combined with a horseback riding excursion along a black-sand beach (offered year-round). 

Next, visit the LAVA Centre, which is an interactive and high-tech experience featuring an educational exhibit about volcanic activity, as well as earthquakes and Iceland's creation over millions of years of history. 

Additional stops on the  way back to Reykjavík include the 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.
  • 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 5: Morning in Reykjavik, 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 a geothermal soak before you fly home.

Map

Map of Winter Highlights: Snowmobiling, Glacier Hike, & Northern Lights - 5 Days
Map of Winter Highlights: Snowmobiling, Glacier Hike, & Northern Lights - 5 Days