This seven-day, self-drive winter adventure in Iceland starts with a visit to the Golden Circle, where you'll hike among waterfalls and volcanic craters. From there, take a guided, off-road ATV tour for a wild ride across tundra fields and unbridged streams, then head to the East Fjords to tour the Streiti coastline via Jeep. Relax in the nature baths at Lake Mývatn before concluding your travels with an evening cruise under the dancing lights of the aurora borealis.


  • Ride Icelandic horses to the beautiful hot springs of Hveragerði
  • Take in the sights and sounds of thunderous waterfalls along the south coast
  • Traverse the winter landscapes of Austurland via Jeep in a search for wild reindeer
  • Soak in steamy natural thermal pools at Lake Mývatn

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Keflavík, Golden Circle, Horses & Hot Springs Hella
Day 2 Waterfalls of the South Coast, Buggy Tour Kirkjubæjarklaustur
Day 3 Explore Canyons & Glaciers Around Vík, Wild Reindeer Experience Djupivogur
Day 4 East Fjords, Streiti Coastline Jeep Tour Egilsstadir
Day 5 East Iceland Heritage Museum, Möðrudalsöræfi, Lake Mývatn Lake Mývatn
Day 6 Diamond Circle, Akureyri Northern Lights Cruise Akureyri
Day 7 Transfer to Keflavik via Reykjavik & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Keflavík, Golden Circle, Horses & Hot Springs

Saddle up for a horseback tour of the Icelandic landscapes

Welcome to Iceland! Upon your arrival at Keflavík airport, pick up your rental car and head out on Ring Road, otherwise known as Route 1. This is one of Iceland's main roads, and just like the name sounds, it circles the entire country. Your final destination today is the town of Hella, a two-hour drive that takes you along Iceland's South Coast and into the Golden Circle. Along the way, there are several opportunities to stop and explore some of the natural wonders of this region.

Start with a visit to Þingvellir National Park, where you'll find the Silfra fissure. Created by the separation of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates cutting through Iceland, this is one of the clearest bodies of water on earth. You can view it from land or take a snorkel tour! See historic Law Rock, where Viking chieftains from all over the country met once a year to discuss local laws, then head to the Geysir geothermal area, with its bubbling mud pits and erupting geysers. Later, continue to Gullfoss (Golden Falls), where you can hike the falls or visit the volcanic crater of Kerið.

Once you arrive in Hella, you can relax at your accommodations for the evening, or if you're ready for more winter adventures, travel to the village of Hveragerði for a horseback tour. Hveragerði is known as the "hot spring capital of the world," a nickname you'll find quite fitting once you see the area's many geothermal wonders. You'll traverse volcanic hills above the town, passing volcanic formations and hot springs, and learn about the hardy Icelandic horses you're riding, as well as the history of the region. Enjoy views of the Varmá River before warming up with a hot drink prior to returning to the village. 

Day 2: Waterfalls of the South Coast, Buggy Tour

Kvernufoss waterfall in winter

Today, make the 2.5-hour drive to the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, traveling along the sky-high waterfalls and panoramic views of Iceland's South Coast. Plan to make several stops along the way, as you won't want to miss these stunning landscapes. Your first stop will be the waterfall of Urriðafoss—an excellent place to stretch your legs and take photos. Then, head to Seljarlandsfoss. This is the only known waterfall of its kind that allows you to walk behind it, making for a very picturesque view. Farther down the highway, you'll find the cascades of Skógafoss, situated alongside towering glaciers.

Just east of Skógafoss, you'll find the small canyon of Kvernufoss, an easy hike from the parking lot of the museum at Skógar. Check out the museum first, and learn about the history of the area and how people traversed the glacial rivers before they were bridged. Afterward, divert to Route 218 for a visit to Dyrhólaey Peninsula, a nearly 400-foot (120 m) promenade that offers panoramic views of the coast. Then it's on to the black-sand beaches of Reynisfjara, home to offshore sea stacks that are also seabird nesting grounds.

If you're looking for some off-road sightseeing, head to Brú Base by Road 249 for a buggy tour. This guided 2.5-hour ATV ride takes you to the area between Fljótshlíð and Eyjafjallajökull, where you'll visit waterfalls, drive along tundra sand fields, cross small streams, and stop at viewpoints overlooking Seljalandsfoss, and Vestmannaeyjar (the Westman Islands). Your guides will provide all the proper equipment, and you'll be thoroughly briefed before the ride, making for a fun and exciting way to get up close and personal with Iceland's natural playground. 

Day 3: Explore Canyons & Glaciers Around Vík, Wild Reindeer Experience

Wild reindeer in East Iceland

As you depart Kirkjubæjarklaustur, take some time to visit some of the glaciers, waterfalls, and canyons in this region and around the nearby town of Vík before heading to your final destination in the eastern province of Djupivogur. First, visit the canyon of Fjaðrárgljúfur to see otherworldly rock formations and hike from the nearby trailhead for views of the river. Then, continue to Skaftafell nature reserve. Located about 86 miles (139 km) from Vík, the park is home to the magnificent cascades of Svartifoss. A quick, 3-mile (5 km) hike takes you to the waterfall, with scenic views of the river and glacier.

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Make a detour to the town of Hof and visit the Hof Turf Church, a 700-year-old church that boasts a turf-covered roof, before continuing to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Here, you'll see the unusual sight of icebergs floating in the sea and beached on the black sand shores of Diamond Beach. You'll also get a chance to see seals, porpoises, or small whales in the lagoon's waters.

Continue to Iceland's eastern region of Austurland, where you're likely to see herds of reindeer along the roadway. Introduced from Norway in the late 1700s, there were once thousands of reindeer scattered all over the country. They eventually died out, save for those in the east, which has become a prime environment for the reindeer to thrive. You can get a closer view with a guided Jeep tour, which, with the help of local farmers who advise where they were last seen, takes you on an expedition across the winter landscapes to find these roaming herds.

Day 4: The East Fjords, Streiti Coastline Jeep Tour

Winter roadways along the East Fjords

Travel to Egilsstadir today, an eastern village that sits on the banks of the Lagarfljót River. Drive through the region known as the East Fjords, following the rugged coastline and passing dramatic mountain views and scenic valleys. This region is home to some of Iceland's most notable history, with a few "not-to-be-missed" stopping points. Visit the town of Fáskrúðsfjörður to learn about the history of French fishermen in the area in the 19th century, or tour the Icelandic Wartime Museum in Reyðarfjörður. You can also stop in the tiny village of Breiðdalsvík and see the Old Fish Factory car museum. 

After your arrival in Egilsstaðir and your hotel check-in, you can step out to explore the town and surrounding countryside. Considered "the hub of the east," Egilsstaðir is the largest town in the region. Across the bridge is its sister town of Fellabær, and together the population of the twin towns nudges 3,000 inhabitants. Here, you can take a walk to the nearby Fardagafoss waterfall or visit Vök Baths and experience floating geothermal pools in a spa-like atmosphere. Adventurous eaters can try reindeer meat from local restaurants, or you can enjoy vegetarian dishes from locally grown produce.

If you want to see more of the Eastfjords, take a road trip around the lake shores of Lagarfljót, where, according to local legend, a beast called the Lagarfljót Wyrm lives, or visit Hengifoss waterfall for more scenic views. And for a journey that really ups the ante of excitement, take an off-road Jeep tour along the Streiti coastline. This 4WD expedition traverses remote roads and crosses unbridged rivers as you explore the region's history and geology. You'll visit a local church in Breiðdalur (Broad) valley and stop at Beljandi waterfall for photos, all while communing with the natural beauty of the winter landscape.

Day 5: East Iceland Heritage Museum, Möðrudalsöræfi, Lake Mývatn

The Mývatn Nature Baths

Start your morning with a visit to the East Iceland Heritage Museum. Founded in 1943, the museum is dedicated to preserving the history of the region, with a collection of artifacts and exhibits that reflect the society, culture, and everyday life of people in the area, from the past to the present day. The museum has two permanent exhibitions, one about the reindeer in East Iceland and one that showcases historical rural households of the area, as well as various temporary exhibits throughout the year. 

After your museum visit, head to Möðrudalsöræfi and Möðrudalur farm. At an altitude of more than 1,500 feet (469m), this farm has a higher elevation than any other in Iceland. You'll see the tiny church, built by the farm owner in 1949, which still has regular services. Walk the nearby trails and embrace the silence while enjoying views of Mount Herðubreið, known as the "Queen of Icelandic Mountains," looming in the distance. 

Your drive concludes at Lake Mývatn. The lake, which encompasses just over 14 square miles (36.5 sq km), is Iceland's fourth-largest body of water, and it has the highest concentration of volcanic and geothermal sights in the entire country. Spend the afternoon exploring rock formations, lava fields, and volcanic craters, then take a dip in a natural thermal pool. Finish your day relaxing in the blue waters of the Mývatn Nature Baths.

Day 6: Diamond Circle, Akureyri Northern Lights Cruise 

The icy waters of Goðafoss 

Tour the Diamond Circle today, a magnificent 155-mile (250 km) driving route that takes you through some of North Iceland's most spectacular sights and unearthly landscapes. Visit Goðafoss (Waterfall of the Gods), where you'll take in the seemingly endless views and can walk down to the water's edge via a small footpath. Then, head to Vatnajökull National Park to see Dettifoss, considered one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe. 

Take in the wonders of the glacial Ásbyrgi canyon, known for its unusual horseshoe shape, before stopping in the town of Húsavík. Considered the whale capital of Iceland, there are regular whale watching tours departing from here, with opportunities to see more than 23 species in and around the bay. Húsavík is also Iceland's oldest settlement and has multiple museums and galleries, as well as a geothermal swimming pool that makes for a nice way to break up the day! 

Your final destination is the town of Akureyri. Located at the base of Eyjafjörður, this coastal town offers excellent views of the fjord, as well as museums, gardens, and a historic 1940s church. Tonight, head to Torfunefsbryggja harbor for a northern lights viewing cruise. The northern lights, or aurora borealis, only appear in higher latitudes, and the north of Iceland is one of the best places to see these awe-inspiring blue, green and red lights move across the night sky. The 2.5-hour cruise offers 360-degree views from the deck, and there are light snacks available for purchase.

Day 7: Transfer to Keflavík via Reykjavík & Depart

Goodbye, Iceland

Sadly, your Iceland winter adventure ends today. You'll drop off your car and catch a flight from Akureyri to Reykjavík, transferring via taxi to the Keflavík airport. Safe travels home or to your next destination! 

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Map of Winter Tour of Iceland: Golden Circle, East Fjords & Diamond Circle - 7 Days
Map of Winter Tour of Iceland: Golden Circle, East Fjords & Diamond Circle - 7 Days