The Best Iceland Winter Road Trip: Itinerary & Map

Whether you’ve always dreamed of seeing the breathtaking Northern Lights, or you wish to explore the country’s vast, snowy landscapes and take a dip in a hot spring, there are many reasons for you to plan a winter trip to Iceland. Before you start setting up your Iceland winter itinerary, it’s best to do some research so that you can get the most out of your time there. Think about what you want to see, how long you’ll spend in each location, and how you’ll travel. 

What to know before you travel

A winter trip to Iceland will undoubtedly be an unforgettable experience, but there are a few things to bear in mind when planning your stay. This far north, the weather can be unpredictable, and snow may lead to difficult driving conditions. However, with a few organisational tips and the right vehicle, you should be able to prevent most potential issues and make the most of your trip. 


Visually, Iceland is a spectacular winter wonderland in the colder months of the year. As beautiful as it is though, temperatures can drop quite drastically. In order to enjoy the experience fully, you’ll need to wrap up and stay warm. It’s an arctic island, so the ice and snow serve to highlight the wild landscapes, powerful waterfalls, and incredible sunsets. If you want to learn more about what the general climate will be like before you embark on your Iceland winter trip, we recommend that you take a look at our blog on the weather in Iceland

Road conditions

The weather can change rapidly in Iceland during the winter months, and unless you’re a regular visitor, much of your driving will be done in completely new places that might be more or less difficult to navigate. To feel more confident, it’s worth doing some research on how to stay calm when you're faced with unfamiliar roads, in dark and difficult conditions. You should expect ice and snow on the roads, so make sure that you learn about driving in Iceland in advance, and hire a larger 4x4 vehicle as it will grip the road more effectively. You’ll find that most roads are ploughed and gritted regularly, so they remain passable. Preparation is key when planning a winter trip to Iceland.

The best car for winter driving in Iceland

Safety is a top priority for anyone travelling in the snow, and the ideal cars for an Iceland winter trip are those with 4WD and studded tires that provide traction in the ice. However, depending on the exact time of year you travel and the areas you’ll be visiting, there are various rental cars you could consider. Regardless of the vehicle you choose, it’s always a good idea to arrange the right level of insurance beforehand so that you have peace of mind during your adventure. 

Equipment & clothing

To stay safe and warm while on your winter trip to Iceland, it’s highly recommended to bring clothing and equipment that’s suitable for the cold weather, along with a few extra items. Layers of clothing tend to offer more protection, so take fleece sweaters and thermals, along with a wind and waterproof jacket. You’ll appreciate a pair of warm gloves, a scarf, and waterproof footwear, even if you won’t be walking far. A smartphone is useful if you do get stuck in the snow, and Iceland has excellent network coverage, so you’ll always be able to call for help. To extend a phone’s battery life, you might want to take a power pack. If you’ll be visiting the springs, don’t forget a towel and swimwear!

7-day itinerary for a winter road trip in Iceland

For an Iceland 7-day itinerary winter trip, you’ll have the chance to explore all of the country’s most incredible sights, from its national parks to the Golden Circle, and its stunning capital city, Reykjavik.

Day 1 – Reykjavik/sightseeing

Reykjavik is the world’s most northerly capital, and in the winter months, it comes alive with festivals and events. You can stroll through the ancient harbour, or visit the National Museum of Iceland to learn more about the country’s fascinating past. Don’t forget a visit to the Hallgrímskirkja Church on your Iceland winter trip. This towering piece of architecture was inspired by Iceland’s basalt columns. Take the lift right to the top to enjoy a 360-degree view of Reykjavik and the icy landscapes beyond the city. From here, just head north through the undersea tunnel and explore a series of small fishing villages on your way to Borgarnes.

Day 2 – Borgarnes/museum 

Home to the 10th-century Viking warrior and poet, Egil Skallagrimsson, Borgarnes is a heritage town that celebrates its most famous literary hero at the Icelandic Settlement Centre. Here you can learn more about the history of his life, and then head to the Borgarnes Museum to view a range of artefacts that illustrate Icelandic history. Next on your winter iceland itinerary is a trip to Budir, a route that takes in the stunning Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

Day 3 – Budir/exploring waterfalls and lava fields

Arriving at Budir, you’ll be in the ideal location for visiting the Bjarnarfoss Waterfall, which looks magical surrounded by snow and mist. There are also nearby lava fields to explore, which present a unique, otherworldly landscape as the bright sunlight is reflected in the winter ice. Next on your Iceland winter trip, it’s back to Borgarnes, and then on to Thingvellir National Park and the rest of the beautiful Golden Circle. 

Day 4 – Golden Circle/exploring the national park and hot springs

Driving between the popular nature attractions of the vast Golden Circle involves a 186-mile route past the Gullfoss Waterfall, Kerid Crater, the hot springs at Geysir, and the wild, unspoiled national park. On winter nights, every breathtaking geological feature can be viewed against a backdrop of the Northern Lights. When you set off, your Iceland winter itinerary takes you south, through more lava fields into the picturesque village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. 

Day 5 – Kirkjubaejarklaustur/exploring basalt columns and hiking trails

Kirkjubaejarklaustur is a small village that’s steeped in myth and legend. As snow falls it brings to life the surrounding craters and mountain trails. The Fjallabak Nature Reserve is nearby, as is the Church Floor, a flat sheet of basalt columns shaped by shifting tides and melting glaciers. If you have time on your winter Iceland itinerary, a few miles down the road is the snaking Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, a dramatic, pristine landmark with steep, stone walls and a winding river below. Next is a trip north on the coastal road to the Vatnajökull National Park, nestled deep in the countryside. 

Day 6 – Vatnajokull National Park/hiking on a glacier

One of Iceland’s most magnificent sights in winter is the Skaftafellsjokull glacier in the ice-capped peaks of the Vatnajokull National Park. While you're there, be certain to fit in a trip to one of Iceland’s most popular landmarks, the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. From here, you can watch as vast icebergs break free and float over the huge lake, toward the Atlantic Ocean. There’s also time on your Iceland winter itinerary for a trip to the icey Svartifoss Waterfall before heading southeast to Vik, a remote fishing town.

Day 7 – Vik/photographing the sights

The most southerly point in an Iceland 7-day itinerary winter trip, Vik is home to the iconic Dyrhólaey stone arch, the imposing Reynisdrangar Cliffs and black sand beaches. For people with a passion for fishing, the freshwater Kleifarvatn Lake is known for its plentiful supply of trout. Vik also offers horse rides and jeep safaris to remote ice caves. Photo opportunities are around every corner. This area of natural contrasts is the ideal place to end your winter trip to Iceland. 

Iceland winter trip map

Iceland winter road trip FAQs

Ready to take a self-drive winter trip in Iceland?

A 7-day, self-drive car trip through the Icelandic landscape makes for a wonderful escape in the winter months, and a truly unique experience. Take a look at our guide to renting a car in Iceland and find out more about the 4x4 vehicles that will keep you safe and moving in the snow. Make sure to take in all the information you can when planning your winter Iceland itinerary. Ready to book your Iceland car rental?