Iceland winter

Around Iceland in winter

Period from October 1st to April 30

We propose only 4wd vehicles in winter

Indicative prices at the bottom of this page

WINTER: Majestic at the end of winter and at the beginning of spring, Iceland, seldom visited at this season, keeps all its mystery. At the end of the night, when the light goes up with promises of rebirth, we like to explore the country and check that the summer will return. The immense little country is for you alone, uncertain weather, hot water, volcanoes covered with snow, the last northern lights, horses that look like “cuddly” toys, reindeers which cross our road, a stubborn 4×4 vehicle, comfortable lodgings…

Traveling to Iceland in winter is an extraordinary and wonderful experience, but on certain days it can become a serious challenge. You have to accept that a heavy snowfall or a persistent blizzard makes driving stressful, seeing you get in the way and requiring you to wait until the weather calmed down to continue or, in the worst case scenario, requiring you to completely change your plans and your itinerary. It is recommended that you inform yourself every day about the weather for the next day, either from a Weather app or from your host.

Unless you are an experienced Finnish driver, getting on the road in winter in a regular 2wd car is not at all reasonable and very risky. Anyway, we only offer 4x4 vehicles in winter!

During the darkest winter months of December and January with barely 4 hours of light, we recommend rather short trips of a maximum of 6 days, such as a return trip to the south coast, or a bypass from the Snæfellsnes peninsula, and in the north of the country, Lake Myvatn and the Troll Peninsula from the city of Akureyri which is connected to Reykjavik by daily domestic flights.

When the light rises, from the end of February then it is much more possible to embark on a longer trip and complete the full circle of the island to which you can add the bypass of one or two beautiful peninsulas.

The attached spreadsheets give indicative prices per person for self-guided trips for different durations from and to Reykjavik

Overnight stays in Reykjavik on arrival and at the end of the trip are not included here, nor airport transfers on arrival and departure. But we can include them, as it is also possible to pickup the vehicle on arrival at Keflavik International Airport and to return it at the end of the trip to Reykjavik or at Keflavik airport.

Domestic flight (eventually) is at your expense if you decide to return to Reykjavik by domestic flight or if you decide to start your self-drive from North or East Iceland
You can book domestic flight through us (at an additional cost)

The prices which appear on these tables are only indicative, but rather close (+/-) to the quotation which we will establish for you and with you, according to the duration of your stay, the type and the availability of accommodation
It is possible to mix rustic and comfortable accommodation, which we recommend for longer journeys, especially if you are going to discover the highlands in a 4x4 vehicle.

Lodging:
We proposes 3 types of accommodations for your adventure :

  1. Sleeping bag accommodation in hostels and/or huts and/or cabin - No breakfast
  2. Guesthouse and B&B standard (or cabin) made-up bed twin or single with shared facilities - breakfast included - Kitchen facilities if no restaurant around
  3. Hotel or Inn***/**** (or cabin***) in double, double-twin room and single room - breakfast included -
    In sleeping bag accommodation (hostels, refuges ) you have access to a kitchen to prepare your meal.
    Likewise for most guesthouses, B&B standart or cabins when they are not serving dinner and / or breakfast.

Before, after or during your trip, you might also need some of the following services

POSSIBLE ADDITIONAL COSTS:  Selfdrive Extra costs

The Itineraries below with different and indicative durations all go here clockwise, but can of course be reversed.

THE FULL CIRCLE   > Selfdrive Winter 10 days 4WD

Clockwise around the country from Reykjavik to Reykjavik clockwise through the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, the Vatnsnes Peninsula, Akureyri, Lake Mývatn, the Möðrudalur desert and Egilsstaðir then by the East Fjords and along the South Coast, Vatnajökull, Jökulsárlón, Eldhraun and Vík-í-Mýrdal, Geyser, Reykjavik Airport).

THE WEST AND NORTH ROUTE > Selfdrive Winter 5 days 4WD

Clockwise by the West clockwise from Reykjavik to Akureyri by Cape Snæfellsnes, Vatnsnes Peninsula, Troll Peninsula, Akureyri. Return of the vehicle to Akureyri airport and domestic flight to Reykjavik.

THE WEST AND NORTHEAST ROUTE > Selfdrive Winter 7 days 4WD

Clockwise from Reykjavik to Egilsstadir via Cape Snæfellsnes, the Vatnsnes Peninsula, Akureyri, Lake Mývatn, the Möðrudalur Desert and Egilsstadir. Return of the vehicle to Egilsstadir airport and domestic flight to Reykjavik.

THE NORTHEAST, EAST AND SOUTH ROUTE > Selfdrive Winter 7 days 4WD

Clockwise from Akureyri to Reykjavik - Domestic flight from Reykjavik to Akureyri. Pick-up of the vehicle at Akureyri airport then departure by road to Lake Mývatn, the Möðrudalur Desert, Egilsstaðir, the East Fjords, Vatnajökull and the South Coast, the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, Eldhraun , Vík-Í-Myrdal, Geysir and Reykjavik

THE EAST AND SOUTH ROUTE > Selfdrive Winter 5 days 4WD

Clockwise from Egilsstadir to Reykjavik - Domestic flight from Reykjavik to Egilsstadir. Pick-up of the vehicle at Egilsstadir airport then departure by road to the East Fjords, Vatnajökull and the South Coast, the glacial lagoon of Jökulsárlón, Eldhraun, Vík-Í-Myrdal, Geysir and Reykjavik     

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To change the indicative price in your prefered currency, choose it from the available list in the upper right-hand corner of this page.
Conversion rates are from the Icelandic National Bank

Day 1: Reykjavik to Snæfellsnes  (approx. 200 km)
Departure West. After the bypass of the Whale Fjord, the road crosses the marshy tundra of the Borgarnes region and reaches the base of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, a narrow  snowy mountain range jutting far into the ocean, pointing west as a finger with the magnificent volcano Snæfellsjökull -the glacier of Snowfell-crowning its tip.

Day 2: Snæfellsnes Peninsula (approx. 195 km)
The legendary Snæfellsjökull volcano crowned by a majestic immaculate glacier, rushes out of the ocean like a boreal Fuji-Yama. It is the entrance passage of the legendary "Journey to the Center of the Earth" by Jules Verne. Hike to the tip through desolate lava fields covered with moss and lichen contrasting with the pure white snow. Hiking (and bird watching from the end of March) on the basalt cliffs of Arnarstapi, then to the deserted black pebble beaches of Djúpalónsandur. The bay of Grundarfjördur is famous today for its beautiful solitary and lonely Kirkjufell mountain that attract photographers in any season since it became a celebrity on the net. It is true that it is beautiful!
The road finally reaches the prety fishing harbour of Stykkishólmur

Day 3: Vatnsnes Peninsula (approx. 200 km)
Drive east through a beautiful empty area along the bay of Breidafjordur dotted with innumerable islets and reefs. Then by the Swan Plateau the trail reaches the North Coast. In Hvammstangi there is the possibility in option of visiting an interesting small museum devoted to pinnipeds. The road then passes around the Vatnsnes peninsula through vast snowy coastal moors where one meets the herds of stuffed horses, so much their fur is thick in winter. At the farm of Ósar "the Estuaries"  we can observe a large colony of harbour seals and the photogenic and strange reef (a dike ) of Hvítserkur.

Day 4: Skagafjördur - Tröllaskagi - Siglufjörður - Akureyri (approx. 290 km)
Continue to the horse breeding fjord Skagafjörður, where we visit the old farm Glaumbær with its perfectly preserved and maintained traditional peat construction. Rounding the Giants Peninsula Tröllaskagi by the old village of Hofsós and its old tarred wood warehouses, facing the impressive tabular islands Drangey and Málmey. The road reach the isolated fjord Siglufjörður, former centre of the herring fisheries, village at the world’s end. Visit the museum in the old canneries devoted to the great era of herring fishing. The new tunnel, completed in 2010, allows us to reach the majestic Eyjafjörður Fjord, at the bottom of which lies the small town of Akureyri.


Possibility to end your journey at Akureyri, to stay there overnight and fly to Reykjavik the next morning


Possibility to start  your journey here by flying from Reykjavik to Akureyri, stay overnight there and the next morning drive in 6 days (or more) to Reykjavik as described below


Day 5: Akureyri - Goðafoss - Mývatn (approx. 120 km)
> Early morning flight to Akureyri for participants registered on 6-day Eastern Route. Your guide will welcome you up at Akureyri airport. On to Mývatn via the old farm of Laufás with its perfectly preserved and maintained traditional peat construction., then Goðafoss, , a magnificent cataract partly or completely frozen in this season. It is in the "Fall of the Gods" from a promontory that an early Christian leader threw the effigies of the old pagan gods of the Nordic pantheon for the chagrin of Thor and Odin. We discover the shores and volcanoes of Lake Mývatn. Strange formations of lava, pseudo craters, bubbling sulphur pots and fumaroles, and the impressive lava chaos of Dimmuborgir. At the end of winter, in very early spring, when the lake ice begins to thaw, countless flights of wild ducks converge to this shrine of birdlife, a paradise for ornithologists where both American and European species coexist. (Optional outdoor spa bath in the middle of volcanoes (Nature Baths www.jardbodin.is)

Day 6 : Möðrudalsöræfi Plateau  (approx. 80 km)
On the high desert plateau of Möðrudalsöræfi, amidst the wet tundra, is one of the most isolated farms at the highest altitude in Iceland. Naïve, charming architecture amidst a magnificent, vast and hostile landscape. White immensity where emerges alignments of small volcanic cones under a steel sky that is dyed orange red or antique rose at dawn and dusk. We can sometimes meet large herds of wild reindeer.


Possibility to end your journey at Egilsstadir, to stay there overnight and fly to Reykjavik the next morning


Possibility to start  your journey here by flying from Reykjavik to Egilsstadir, stay overnight there and the next morning drive in 4 days (or more) to Reykjavik as described below


Day 7: The East Fjords (approx. 220 km)
The road descends from the plateau, along the interminable glacial valley of Jokulsdalur. It ends up reaching the wooded area of Egilsstaðir, a small village on the shore of the long turquoise lake of Lagarfljót. The legend hides an aquatic monster, close cousin of Nessi in Scotland. From Egilsstadir, the route leads to the Eastern Fjords. Fáskrúðsfjörður, for nearly two centuries was a port of call and vital supplies for the fleets of Bretagne and French Flanders. The mountains that surround the fjords of Stöðvarfjörður and Berufjörður are particularly beautiful and impressive. Visit the pretty fishing port of Djúpivogur "deep bay", and the old trading post in one of the most beautiful scenery of mountains and sea in the region.

Day 8: Vatnajökull - Jökulsárlón (approx. 200 km)
Between the two majestic capes Austurhorn and Vesturhorn lies the lagoon Álftafjörður, "fjord swans." This is not really a fjord, but a large lagoon where thousands of immature swans arrive early in spring. We are less than 1000 km from the coast of Scotland, this beautiful country where the whooper swans winter. At Höfn in Hornafjörður, the huge Vatnajökull is offered to our gaze. We enter the south coast of Iceland. The beautiful lagoon Jökulsárlón is occupied by a large herd of blue icebergs streaked with intense black. The spectacle of the seals surfing in the current is gorgeous. The massive ice mass Öræfajökull dominates the Skaftafell glacier park. Several phenomenal sub glacial eruptions occurred in recent years, with cataclysmic water releases down the coastal desert, the latest in 1996.

Day 9: Eldhraun - Vík í Myrdal - Eyjafjöll (approx. 285 km)
Surrounding the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur: Eldhraun. This vast expanse of lava is from the phenomenal Laki eruption in 1783-4 (the world’s largest eruption in historical times), not far in the interior highlands, parallel to the fault of Eldgjá. Dependent on snow visit Fjarðárgljúfur gorges and Eldhraun pseudo-craters.
At the time of writing these lines (September 2019), the sub-glacial volcano Katla (kettle) does not stop trembling and crawling cramped under the heavy ice cover of the Myrdalsjökull ice-cap in the south of the country. If an eruption occurs it is almost certain that the glacial break-up will cut off the circular road and the bridges at Vík-i-Myrdal. In this case, after the visit of the Glacial Lagoon the Plan B will be to go up the east fjords and fly back to Reykjavik from Egilsstaðir even Akureyri or from Höfn if an air bridge is established from this locality. (In this case it will be certainly an increase of 200-300 € per person). At the worst we will go back by the road. Of course we will update this program in case this cataclysm triggers, if it triggers
Wandering along the black sand beaches and grassy headlands of Vik in Mýrdal. Following the rapid and accurate flight of Northern Fulmars, above the Arctic Tern colonies, on the basalt cliffs among exuberant Angelica, lots and lots of puffins hurry up-and-fro between the ocean and their burrows. (The puffins and terns are more observable beyond mid-August, but fulmars remain until fall.) Walk on the beautiful beach of black sand Reynisfjara between the famous reefs and the promontory of Reynisdrangar. Dyrhólaey arch with its impressive black basalt. Beautiful waterfalls Skógafoss (optional visit to the Folk Museum Skógar). We flank Mount Eyjafjallajökull, which erupted in April 2010 and disrupted air traffic worldwide. Beyond the graceful Seljalandsfoss fall, we reach the vast pampas of Rangá that stretch to the foot of Mount Hekla

Day 10:  South Coast - Reykjavik (approx. 100 km)
The majestic Hekla volcano, which rises at the end of a grassy plain and marks the entrance to the volcanic highlands, is one of Iceland's best known volcanoes; it is on the edge of the inhabited lands and the desert Highlands.. The large southern pampas-like breeding plain leads us to the famous gushing springs of Geysir and the great cataract of Gullfoss, "the Golden Fall" partly frozen by ice. Arrival in Reykjavik in the middle of the afternoon.

Book your flight as soon as possible! Either with your local travel agent or directly online:

See the Flying to Iceland page in the information section of our website

Your contact for a self-drive project is: Matthildur matta@fjallabak.is tel. 00 +354 824 3072

Your journey: when and how? When you know the exact schedules of your return flights, therefore the exact duration of your trip, then we can establish a first offer and quote for your auto-tour

But then, we will also need to know,

  • How many adults and kid(s) (age) you are
  • Which vehicle category you would like
  • What accommodation category you would consider
  • What you would like to do (approximately) as a route
  • What is absolutely a must for you (if possible)

Draft route: We can then establish a first draft route and a first indicative rating. The ideal is of course that you have a map of Iceland open in front of you if we are talking together on the phone or on Skype or on Whats App. to discuss the itinerary and the spirit of the trip

Registration / booking confirmation: If this quotation suits you then we will send you a confidential link where you can register online by paying a deposit of 30% of the advertised price

Price and program confirmation: Once your confirmation deposit has been received, we will immediately start booking accommodation. One and two weeks later, we will send you the final itinerary based on the accommodation available which has been confirmed to us as well as the exact price of your self-drive.

Note: the later we reserve the accommodation, the more the choice and availability will decrease

Recommended Travel Gear

Try to go as light as possible and take only essentials. Excess baggage can be a burden to you and to our support personel. Keep in mind that there are limits on how much your duffel bag can weigh because the weight restrictions on international and domestic flights is usually 20 kg (70lbs).

For quantities or quality for each item listed, use your own judgement, based on the expected weather conditions and overall packing/weight restrictions for your luggage.


Luggage for overland journeys 

  • Extra bags clearly marked with your name can be kept in the Reykjavik hotel or in our store local office for pick-up at the end of the trip
  • Large duffel bag (60/80 liters) sturdy and water-resistant, not exceeding 15 kg
  • Daypack (30 to 50 liters)

Clothing

You’ll need to bring comfortable and adequate clothing to protect you from cold and wet weather, such as polypropylene, capilene, or pile. Wool and wool/synthetic blends are also suitable – though wool, if wet, dries slowly compared to synthetic fabrics. We discourage the use of cotton in wet conditions it dries very slowly. 

When layering, the innermost layer should be long underwear. The middle layer can be a synthetic turtleneck or wool shirt, and pants. The outermost layer must be a breathable waterproof jacket such as a good quality Gore-Tex wind/rain parka and over-pants.


Clothing and travel Accessories all the year around

  • Regular underwear. Synthetics are easier to wash and dry
  • Short-sleeved synthetic or cotton/synthetic T-shirts
  • Synthetic thermal underwear
  • Full-length pants, quick-drying synthetic fabric
  • Long-sleeved, synthetic or wool shirt
  • Wool or synthetic socks
  • Synthetic fleece sweater or jacket
  • Gore-Tex rain/wind parka
  • Gore-Tex rain/wind pants
  • Wool hat
  • Gloves (wool or pile)
  • Down jacket from September to May (optional)

Accessories

  • Swimsuit and towel for hot spring bathing and swimming pool
  • Toiletry kit—soap, toothbrush, and so on.
  • Personal first aid kit
  • Moisturising lotion. (The air in Iceland is very dry)
  • Sunglasses
  • Swiss Army-type pocket knife (Must be kept in duffle bag, not in hand luggage, when flying !)
  • Half liter capacity unbreakable water bottle or thermos
  • Binoculars for bird watching, seals and whales (from March to September)
  • Hiking poles. Highly recommended
  • Optional but recommended
  • Repair kit with needle, thread, and safety pins
  • Reading and writing material
  • Your favorite snack food such as raisins or chocolate
  • Protein supplements for vegetarian

Specific equipment for summer (May to September)

  • Hiking boots, medium-weight, all leather, with padded ankle, good arch support, and a lug sole traction. Your hiking boots should be waterproof, well broken in, and suitable for rocky terrain or possibly snow
  • Short gaiters easy to put on Highly recommended.
  • Hiking shorts, quick-drying synthetic fabric
  • Hiking trousers, quick-drying synthetic fabric
  • Medium-weight synthetic fleece sweater or jacket
  • Sun & rain hat
  • Sunscreen and lip protection (The sun in Iceland is much more intense than you probably imagine)
  • Teva-type sandals for river crossing. Absolutely recommended!
  • Spare pair of prescription glasses, prescription sunglasses, or contact lenses (but not only lenses, as wind-blown dust can make them very uncomfortable)
  • Headlamp or small flashlight with spare batteries (from August only)
  • Netting hood, head net or bug bucket hat * (optional, can be purchased in Iceland / see explanation bellow)

Specific equipment for winter (Oct. to April)

  • Canadian winter boots or warm trekking shoes
  • Cleats for snow and ice adaptable to your shoes
  • Warm synthetic fleece sweater or jacket
  • Warm fleece trousers
  • Silk socks (optional)
  • Silk gloves (specially recommended for photographers)
  • Warm waterproofed shell gloves or mitt
  • Headlamp or small flashlight with spare batteries
  • Ski goggles

When lodging in Hotels and Inns (Comfort Discovery)

  • Casual elegant sportswear for evenings at the hotels
  • Moccasin type shoes or lightweight sports shoe or slipper

When lodging in hostels and huts (Rustic Discovery)

  • Hiking shoes are not allowed inside accommodation
  • Moccasin type shoes or lightweight sports shoe. But your Teva-type sandals for river crossing can also be used inside
  • Comfortable sleeping bag +5°C to +15°C / 32°F to 60°F which can be opened all the way to be used also as comforter
  • Cotton sheet for hut’s mattress
  • Pillow if you can’t sleep without one (optional)
  • Towel and flannel for toileting and shower (or high density synthetic-chamois
  • Eye shades. Highly recommended from April to July!
  • Pile/fleece pants, ideal for around the camp
  • Headlamp or small flashlight with spare batteries (no need from May to July included)
  • 1 or 2 good bottles of wine or a bottle of something stronger (can be bought at duty free at arrival in Iceland and in few places around the country)

Camera, tablets, smart-phones

  • Camera bag
  • Light telescopic tripod and cable release for camera (Longs exposures for Northern Lights from mid-August)
  • Replacement batteries for electrical devices
  • Additional memory card
  • Adapter for electrical plug (European standard)

*About netting hood    There are no mosquitoes in Iceland (yet), but at the beginning of summer midges swarms invade the lowlands rivers banks and lakes as Lake Mývatn “lake of midges”. With global warming midges begin to colonize now some wet areas of higher ground covered by vegetation. The outbreak periods are short but not really accurate. It is hell for the hapless hiker who found a windless day in clouds of these very angry bugs You will not regret to have brought with you, gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and above a netting hood that you put on over your head rain hat or sun hat. You probably will not have to use it, but you’ll be relieved to have it just in case … and it’s not a huge investment.

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