Iceland is called the Land of Fire and Ice, which is a perfectly fitting name. This beautiful remote island is home to 45 volcanoes and the Vatnajökull Glacier, the largest icecap in Europe.
During an Iceland winter road trip you’ll constantly be amazed, there is always a volcano, waterfall or glacier in sight… Iceland definitely is one of the most impressive places you’ll ever visit!
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Iceland Winter Road Trip
Winter Road Trip Iceland Map
Iceland 1-Week Winter Itinerary
Day 1: Reykjavík to Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Total distance: 220km
Scenic route around Hvalfjörður
Pick up your campervan and carefully check the weather forecast and road conditions (read more below) before setting course to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
Instead of taking the (much faster) tunnel north, allow yourself time to take a detour around the Hvalfjörður, a beautiful 30 kilometer long fjord.
During winter the Fjord will be partially frozen which made for some cool (pun intended) photo opportunities.
At the end of the Hvalfjörður there is a small road leading to a parking lot. This is where the 7,5km round-trip hike to the famous Glymur Waterfall begins.
Glymur is 198 meters tall, making it the 2nd highest waterfall in Iceland. The hike leading to the waterfall is beautiful and leads through a cave and along the river.
Note that during winter it’s not always possible to reach the waterfall. While the river may be partially frozen, there isn’t always a safe way to get across.
While the Glymur Waterfall is worth seeing, don’t risk your life for it and respect nature.
It can be challenging to find campsites that are open year-round, but a nice place to stay is the Stykkishólmur campsite.
The campsite is closed during winter so there won’t be any facilities available, but it’s a safe place to park.
Day 2: Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Total distance: 200km
Scenic drive from Stykkishólmur to Grundarfjörður
This will probably be one of your favorites scenic drives of this Iceland one week road trip itinerary.
The views along the way are breathtaking and you’ll be tempted to pull over every 100 meters. Please only do so only in safe places and don’t stop on the road..
Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss
Kirkjufell is the most photographed mountain in Iceland because of its iconic shape. Combined with the beautifully frozen Kirkjufellsfoss it makes for an impressive stop.
Scenic route around the Snæfellsjökull
From Kirkjufell, continue your drive around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The mountain that you’ll continuously see along the way is the 1446 meters tall Snaefellsjokull volcano, which is part of the Snaefellsjokull National Park.
|Photo by Martin Brechtl on Unsplash|
|Hiking to the top of Snaefellsjokull volcano in summer.|
The last stop of the day are the Gerðuberg cliffs, a 500 meter long row of basalt columns. It’s a very impressive sight and it probably makes you wonder how these natural phenomena are formed.
We spent the night at Snorrastadir campsite. The price for one night is around 2000 ISK (Icelandic Krona), approximately €20.
Included in the price is full use of the kitchen and toilets, free hot showers, and fast WiFi. In winter you could be the only one staying there and end up having the entire place to yourself.
Day 3: Mount Eldborg
Total distance: 125km
Hiking to Mount Eldborg
Tackle this easy trail to the top of the nearby volcano Mt. Eldborg. In winter the trail can be covered in snow, so it’s not always easy to stay on the trail.
During winter, days are short and it doesn’t get light until 10am. That means you’ll probably see some amazing views along the way.
Such as mysterious morning mists slowly evaporating and revealing a herd of Icelandic horses.
|Photo by redcharlie on Unsplash|
If there is fresh snow you won’t hear any sounds except your own footsteps and when sunrise comes you will have a spectacular view of Mt. Eldborg and the surrounding mountains.
The trail is mostly flat most, apart from the last part where it’s a short but steep climb to the edge of the 60 meter high crater.
If there is snow, allow yourself about 2 hours for this 7 km round-trip hike. Without snow you can probably do it within 1.5 hours.
On your way to Reykjavík, stop at Akranes lighthouse for beautiful ocean views. Take a stroll in the cute little village and grab some lunch.
Campsite: Reykjavík eco campsite
The campsite in Reykjavík is open year-round and costs around 2590 ISK per person per night (book online to save money). There are lots of facilities, such as a laundromat, hot showers and free WiFi.
Day 4: Þingvellir
Total distance: 130 km
|Photo by Sarah Monette on Unsplash|
Þingvellir is one of the three national parks in Iceland and a place of historical importance to the Islandic people.
|Photo by Bailey Zindel on Unsplash|
This is the place where, since the year 930, decisions were made about laws, marriages, trade and more by everyone who attended.
You can easily spend an entire day here, but if time is limited, give yourself half a day to walk around the site. Parking costs are 500 ISK.
Spend the rest of the day driving the Golden Circle and visit Geysir, Strokkur and Gullfoss.
Arhus campsite is closed during winter but if you ask the people in the restaurant if you can park for the night they will usually allow it. More information about the campsite can be found here.
Day 5: Waterfalls and Black Sand Beaches
Total distance: 180 km
Scenic South Coast Route
|Black Sand Beaches in Vik, Iceland. Photo by Chris Ried on Unsplash|
Just driving in Iceland is a joy. Don’t try to get from A to B as fast as you can but plan for plenty of stops to admire the splendid views…
Park your car (700 ISK) and make a short hike into a cave behind the waterfall.
|Photo by Spencer Everett on Unsplash|
A very impressive 60 meter high waterfall! Listen to the thundering water at the bottom of the waterfall before hiking to the top for a beautiful view.
One of the best stops along the South Coast! The combination of the magical light, the black lava beaches and the pounding ocean is absolutely breathtaking.
Day 6: Svartifoss and Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon
Total distance: 140 km
|Photo by Toby Elliott on Unsplash|
Svartifoss is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Iceland with its typical basalt columns.
The 3 km return trail to Svartifoss is usually not difficult, but in winter the trail can freeze over and become very slippery.
Bring crampons if you have them or turn around if the path isn’t safe. Unfortunately, a storm was raging that day which made our hike (3km return) very difficult.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach
Next up is the famed Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon with the floating icebergs and beautiful Diamond Beach with its mesmerizing ice sculptures.
Accommodation: Hali Country Hotel
Day 7: Vik and the DC3 plane wreck
Total distance: 300 km
This iconic and photogenic mountain is easily visible from the road and definitely worth a quick stop.
Vik: Myrdal Church
|Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash|
Possibly the most famous church in Iceland besides Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavík) and a pretty picture indeed.
DC 3 Plane Wreck at Sólheimasandur
The hike is a little over 7km return and very easy to follow. The wreck isn’t very big but it’s such an alien sight on the black beach, definitely a worthwhile stop!
If possible, ask to stay at Arhus campsite again (same as day 4).
Day 8: Kerið and Reykjavík
Total distance: 140 km
If you have time before driving back to Reykjavík, consider making a detour via Laugarás to visit Kerið, a small volcanic lake.
When the lake isn’t frozen it has a vibrant blue color, but it also looked beautiful dressed in ice and snow.
A short hike leads over the rim, see those tiny specs in the picture below? Those are people on the trail. The entrance fee for Kerið is 400 ISK per person.
|Sun Voyager Statue. Photo by Roan Lavery on Unsplash|
Reykjavík isn’t very big but has a very nice atmosphere and some nice sightseeing attractions. Wander around the historic center, the Old Harbor and visit the beautiful Harpa building.
Don’t forget to make a quick stop at the most famous hot dog stand in Iceland: Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (there are several great food tours in Reykjavik in case you’re interested).
|Photo by Wesley Gibbs on Unsplash|
And of course no visit to Reykjavík is complete without seeing the iconic Sun Voyayer statue and the Hallgrimskirkja.
Accommodation: Radisson Blu Saga hotel
The Radisson Blu Saga hotel is an excellent place to stay during your time in Reykjavík, Did you know this hotel was founded (and is still owned) by Icelandic farmers back in the 1960’s.
Rooms are spacious and offer beautiful views over Reykjavík. The beds are comfortable beds and most rooms have a bath which is a luxury after spending a week in your camper van.
The breakfast buffet is extensive and delicious.
Check the latest prices at Booking and Agoda.
Camper van rental in Iceland
|Photo by Jordan Irving on Unsplash|
Having your own wheels is pretty much a must in Iceland. Yes, you can do tours as well but keep in mind these are expensive and you will have to stick to the tour itinerary.
Driving around Iceland at your own pace is wonderful and will allow you to see so much more…
The best place to rent a camper van is CampEasy Iceland. Their 4×4 vans are very new and in excellent condition. With these vans you won’t have any issues with grip, even on snowy roads.
All vans are equipped with a heating system, a must when renting a camper van in Iceland during the winter months.
There is compact kitchen in the van, with a small fridge, a sink and all necessary utensils (cutlery, pots and pans, portable stove, etc.). The convertible bed is spacious and comfortable and easy to set up.
(Cheap) grocery shopping in Iceland
Iceland is not a cheap country to travel, but there are ways to decrease your expenses. One of the easiest ways is to make your own breakfast, lunch and dinner, this will save you thousands of krona (or hundreds of euros/dollars).
The cheapest supermarket in Iceland is the Bonus, closely followed by Kronan and Netto. At these supermarkets you’ll find a wide selection of products, plenty of options to cook healthy and nutritious meals.
While groceries are affordable, they are still more expensive than in many other countries. Not surprising since Iceland is pretty remote and lots of things have to be imported.
Consider bringing some groceries in your suitcase, such as salt, pepper, olive oil, instant soup, coffee, tea or spice mixes for cooking.
Also, if you’re lucky you get some leftover groceries from previous campervan renters at the CampEasy office.
Where to find winter campsites in Iceland
Due to the huge increase in the number of tourists and the appealing behavior of some those tourists, a law against wild camping was introduced in 2015.
To protect the beautiful Icelandic nature, camping is only allowed on campsites (or on private land after you’ve gotten permission of the owner of that land).
However, during the winter season many campsites are closed so planning where to stay is a bit more complicated. Nevertheless, because of the increased tourism more and more campsites remain open year-round.
Safety tips for driving in Iceland (in winter)
Safety Tips for Driving in Iceland (in winter)
|Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash|
Iceland is a beautiful country, however, it is a country subject to the elements. Severe storms and extreme rain frequently cross over the island.
The weather can change quickly and volcanoes are always stirring below the surface. In order to maximize your safety while driving around Iceland, there are several websites you should check on a daily basis.
Road.is: on this website you’ll find the current road conditions, road closures, and even live webcam images of the larger roads.
Before you hit the road, check this site to see the condition of the roads you intend to drive. Expect to drive in varying conditions and stay put or adjust your itinerary if conditions are unsafe.
Vedur.is: this is Iceland’s weather website. You’ll find information about the wind speed (very important!), precipitation, and temperature. You can also find the Aurora forecast on this site.
Safetravel.is: a website that helps you to stay safe in Iceland. The site offers advice, alerts (about road closures, avalanches, storms, etc), equipment lists, and more.
General Iceland driving tips
Don’t drive in the dark
Avoid driving in the dark, especially if the road conditions are less than ideal.
Fill up your tank when it’s half empty. While there are many gas stations in Iceland there are stretches where they are spread more thinly.
If you want to leave your heater running the entire evening and night and not worry about being able to start your car the next morning (the heater uses a bit of fuel), fill up when you can.
Check the speed limit
The speed limit in Iceland in villages is 50 km/h, on gravel roads the limit is 80 km/h and on all other roads outside of villages the limit is 90 km/h (unless otherwise signposted).
That being said, adjust your speed to the conditions.
If a road is very slippery driving the speed limit is a bad idea. Driving itself may not be a problem but braking or sudden movements will be.
Just be careful and you should be alright! The condition of most roads is excellent and in winter traffic outside Reykjavík is light. This makes driving in Iceland very easy.
Having your own wheels is undisputedly the best way to see Iceland!
Are you excited about visiting Iceland in winter? Read more about Iceland in these posts:
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