The Northern Lights Self Drive Holiday

A self-drive tour that focuses on the beautiful South Iceland of Iceland in Scandinavia

Self drive 8 day holiday to see The Northern Lights

Highlights

  • Explore the famous Golden Circle area and it’s must-see attractions
    Witness the shimmering icebergs resting on black sand at Diamond Beach
    See the magnificent waterfall Skogafoss
    Visit the impressive volcanic and glacial natural wonders of Borgarfjordur
    Overnight in glacial locations which make a fabulous backdrop for the northern lights
Self driving tour to see The Northern Lights Lirkjufellsfoss Nordurljos
Outline
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The self drive itinerary to see The Northern Lights

This popular road trip (self-drive tour in Scandinavia) is to chase the Northern Lights in a winter road trip that explores the west and south of Iceland including overnight stays in areas that provide a fabulous backdrop for viewing the Northern Lights. 

Discover the much loved natural attractions of the Golden Circle – Geysir geothermal area, Gullfoss waterfall and Thingvellir National Park. Experience majestic glaciers including Vatnajokull’s ever-changing angles, Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and Skaftafell and discover the impressive volcanic and glacial natural wonders of Borgarfjordur and Snæfellsjokull National Park. 

Find time to relax in the thermal waters of the hot springs en route.

DAY 1 REYKJAVIK AIRPORT – REYKJAVIK

Driving distance: approx. 50-95km/30-55 miles

Velkominn to Iceland! Pick up your car at the airport and start your Iceland experience! If time permits, from Keflavik International Airport we recommend driving the southern coast of the Reykjanes peninsula, a great introduction to Iceland’s unique geology and volcanoes. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge dividing the European and North American tectonic plates cuts through the area. 

You’ll see unusual and stunning features around the peninsula, including craters, lava cliffs, fissures, and the Mid-Atlantic ridge itself. You can even walk on a bridge that divides Europe and North America. We also recommend a stroll in the surreal Gunnuhver area where you can view quirky colorful mud pools and steam vents bubbling away.

Reykjanes is also home to the renowned Blue Lagoon, and you might enjoy the chance to relax in the soothing azure waters. Another great option is the Sky Lagoon which is a firm favourite with the locals. (important: admission to the Blue Lagoon needs to be booked in advance).

Overnight: Reykjavik
Meals included: –

DAY 2 REYKJAVIK – BORGARFJORDUR

Driving distance: approx. 155km/96 miles

Today, head to the scenic Borgarfjordur region via the Hvalfjordur tunnel (or you can take the scenic coastal road instead (adds additional 17km/10miles to the trip). Borgarfjordur is a popular area among locals from Reykjavik, who enjoy coming here for holidays. It’s also been gaining popularity with international visitors for its exotic landscapes and Viking history. 

We suggest a stop in Borgarnes town where you can learn about the first Viking settlers in the area at the popular Settlement Museum. Visit Deildartunguhver, Europe’s most powerful hot springs, the beautiful Hraunfossar (the Lava Falls), where melted water from a glacier flows through interesting lava formations. Near Deildartunguhver you can indulge in hot spring relaxation at the Krauma natural geothermal baths. Krauma is known for its “fire and ice” experience since it combines Deildartunguhver’s hot spring waters with cool spring water that originates from the mountains. 

If you wish to try something new, the Hvammsvik nature area is now open with its seven seaside pools evoking the traditional hot springs of olden times. Tonight, you are well situated to catch a glimpse of the famous northern lights, if Mother Nature decides to cooperate.

Overnight: Borgarfjordur area
Meals Included: Breakfast

DAY 3 BORGARFJORDUR / LANGJOKULL GLACIER OR SNAEFELLSNES

Driving distance: Varies

Today you can choose to continue to explore the marvelous Borgarfjordur region, or you can visit the scenic Snaefellnes Peninsula. Each area has something to offer.
Borgarfjordur: Here’s a hidden gem filled with enchanting volcanic scenery, glacial views, and Viking age history. Langjokull glacier offers exciting adventures such as exploring an ice cave and tunnel built into the icy blue heart of the glacier. Start with an adventurous ride up the glacier in a monstrous 18-wheeled vehicle. Once in the tunnel, you’ll view a glacier from the inside and learn how these icy wonders are formed. 

Another interesting area activity is a guided visit to the colorful Vidgelmir lava cave. Another beautiful place to visit is the scenic Husafell nature area. An exotic experience is a guided winter hike to the Husafell Canyon Baths, stone-lined hot pools in the secluded highlands.
Snaefellsnes: This peninsula is known as “Iceland in a Nutshell” because it contains so many different types of Icelandic landscape in one location. Give yourself an early start since there is so much you can see in this beautiful area. We recommend you stop at the wind tangled Arnarstapi sea cliffs and the rocky beach of Djupalonssandur. 

The beautiful Snaefellsjokull glacier-volcano is the crown jewel of the peninsula. Legends say that the mountain is home to a benevolent half-troll guardian. Drive along the north coast through bustling fishing villages, stopping to look at Kirkjufell, the most photographed mountain in the country.

Overnight: Borgarfjordur area
Meals Included: Breakfast

DAY 4 BORGARFJORDUR – GOLDEN CIRCLE – HELLA OR HVOLLSVOLLUR

Driving distance: approx. 200km/125 miles

Today you’ll be visiting some of Iceland’s best-known national wonders! Head for the UNESCO-listed Thingvellir National Park, where the world’s oldest parliament met for centuries on the shores of Iceland’s largest lake. This is also the meeting point of the tectonic plates that divide the North American and European continents, giving you the rare chance to take a walk between two continents.


This area, the Golden Circle area is full of hot springs, and there are two great local favorite bathing pools. Laugarvatn Fontana is built on top of a hot spring, and its steam baths are good for your skin and joints. The Secret Lagoon is a lovely historical stone lined natural geothermal pool with its own tiny geyser nearby.

Visit the quirky geothermal fields of Geysir. Stroll along a footpath around colorful bubbling mud pools and spouting geysers. The most famous of these is Strokkur, which erupts about every ten minutes. Then visit the dramatic, two-tiered Gullfoss waterfall, a spectacular sight in winter when frozen mid-cascade. Afterwards drive along winter country roads to your overnight in South Iceland. If nature co-operates, you might glimpse some northern lights!

Stay at: Hella or Hvollsvollur area
Meals Included: Breakfast

DAY 5 HVOLLSVOLLUR OR HELLA – VIK – KIRKJUBAEJARKLAUSTUR

Driving distance: approx. 180km/112 miles

Travel along the south coast, one of Iceland’s main farming areas. You’ll see many farms and shaggy haired herds of Icelandic horses as you head along the Ring Road. See the magnificent waterfall, Skogafoss, site of hidden treasure. (Make sure you have your camera ready, Skogafoss makes a fantastic backdrop for a selfie). 

Nearby is Skogar Folk Museum, well known throughout Iceland for being the best of its kind with a collection of mementos from this region’s past housed in beautifully preserved old turf roofed buildings. Make a stop in pretty Vik village. Nearby you can admire stunning views of a black sand beach and the black basalt columns of Reynisdrangar.


You’ll also see glaciers from the road, including Myrdalsjokull and Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajokull. The road leads alongside Vatnajokull as you head to your overnight stay.

Overnight: Kirkjubaejarklaustur area
Meals Included: Breakfast

DAY 6 KIRKJUBAEJARKLAUSTUR – VATNAJOKULL NATIONAL PARK – KIRKJUBAEJARKLAUSTUR

Driving distance: approx. 209km/130 miles

Today is perfect for exploring glacial wonders in Vatnajokull National Park, Western Europe’s largest national park. Start with a visit to Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon, where blue, white, turquoise, and black-streaked icebergs shift and dance. The mystical lagoon is enormous and has been the backdrop for many major feature films and programs. It is a special place for photographers who enjoy the challenge of catching the icebergs in just the right light conditions. If you want a different glacial lagoon photography experience, the Fjallsarlon Iceberg Lagoon is beautiful and often has fewer visitors. 

Nearby is the Diamond Beach, an area where icebergs rest on black sand. It has become a famous site for Instagrammers. Visit Vatnajokull National Park’s majestic Skaftafell area, which is located between two glaciers and offers several winter hiking possibilities. Depending on your schedule, Skaftafell is an excellent place to try a guided hike on a glacier. There are few better ways to really get close to a glacier and learn about their formation.

Overnight: Kirkjubaejarklaustur area
Meals Included: Breakfast

DAY 7 KIRKJUBAEJARKLAUSTUR – REYKJAVIK

Driving distance: approx. 265 km/165 miles

Drive along the scenic south coast back to the west. Visit Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall that you can walk behind (subject to trail conditions). You’ll also be passing through landscapes impacted by Eyjafjallajokull volcano, famous for its 2010 eruption. If the skies are clear, you might even get a glimpse of the glacier-crowned volcano.

Visit Selfoss, a town that makes a great break during your day. The innovative new Selfoss Center reconstructs the original buildings from the town’s 19th and early 20th century. Visitors find this colorful Icelandic style of corrugated iron facades and chalet architecture very charming. The buildings contain artisanal restaurants, pubs, local shops and art galleries. 

If you love learning fun facts, we suggest visiting the Skyrland exhibition in the Sellfoss Center’s Old Dairy building. Along from Selfoss, the town of Hveragerdi is great place to take a break and enjoy the peaceful village atmosphere. Hveragerdi is famous for its geothermal greenhouses where flowers and vegetables are grown year-round. The town has several charming restaurants featuring local cuisine, as well as a small geothermal park. Return to Reykjavik in the late afternoon/early evening.

Overnight: Reykjavik
Meals Included: Breakfast

DAY 8 REYKJAVIK

Return the car back to Keflavik International Airport today. If you have time and didn’t previously, you may wish to visit one of the local thermal baths, or visit some of the museums in Reykjavik. 

We hope you have enjoyed your Northern Lights Road Trip Self-Drive holiday!

Meals Included: Breakfast

Self driving tour to see Strokkur

Tour inclusions

  • 2 nights in 3 star (comfort class) or 4 star (quality class) accommodation in Reykjavik
  • 5 nights standard or quality class hotels, guesthouse accommodation or farmhouse accommodation outside Reykjavik
  • 7 day car hire
  • Unlimited kilometers
  • Collision Damage Waiver and Theft Protection
  • Additional authorised driver
  • Airport Service Charge for car pick up and drop off at Keflavik International Airport
  • Complimentary unlimited in-car wi-fi
  • Service fee and taxes
  • Emergency phone line open 24 hours
  • Customer care service during office hours; Services of local representatives.
  • Access to Travel Companion App. The app includes:
    • Your hotel bookings with check-in and check-out dates
    • Interactive road maps
    • Thousands of points of interest with descriptions clearly displayed on your map. The points of interest can be customised to suit your interests and individual route
    • Road Guide in several different languages

What meals do you get?

7 x Icelandic-style Breakfasts

What sightseeing & excursions are included

This self drive route enables sightseeing at;

  • Hveragerdi village
  • Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss
  • Gullfoss waterfall
  • The hot springs at Geysir
  • Vik
  • Vatnajokull National Park
  • Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
  • Selfoss
  • Thingvellir National Park
  • Borgarfjordur region
  • Snaefellsnes peninsula or Langjokull Glacier
  • Reykjanes peninsula

Additional information

Car Hire: The driver must present a valid driving license held for a minimum of one year at the time of rental. A valid automobile driver’s license from the US, Canada or the European Economic Area is required to drive in Iceland. A license from other countries can be used if it: a) has a valid license number, b) has the license holder’s photograph, c) is printed in Latin alphabet characters and d) is valid at the time of travel. Otherwise, an international driver’s license is required.

Quality Class: Our quality self-drive holidays allow you to spend your days exploring rural Iceland, knowing your nights will be spent in the most comfortable accommodation each area has to offer. Throughout the tour you‘ll stay in quality guesthouses and hotels where all rooms have a private facilities. Your final night will be in a 4 star hotel in Reykjavik.

Comfort Class: Our comfort self-drives offer you the chance to travel around Iceland in a carefree spirit, staying in accommodation with private facilities without stretching your budget. During your stay you‘ll be located in a combination of standard hotels, farmhouses and guesthouses. Your final night will be in a 3 star hotel in Reykjavik.

Please note: The northern lights are a natural phenomenon and therefore sightings cannot be guaranteed.

Frequently asked questions

The Northern Lights, also known as the aurora borealis, are a natural light display in the sky predominantly seen in high-latitude regions (around the Arctic). They appear as shimmering ribbons or curtains of light that dance and flow across the night sky in a variety of colors, most commonly green, red, blue, and purple. 

The Northern Lights are caused by the collision of charged particles from the sun with atoms and molecules in Earth’s upper atmosphere. These collisions excite the atoms and molecules, causing them to release energy in the form of light. The color of the aurora depends on the type of atom or molecule that is excited.

The Northern Lights are a truly awe-inspiring sight, and they have been the subject of myths and legends for centuries. Some cultures believed that the Northern Lights were spirits dancing in the sky, while others believed that they were a sign of good or bad luck.

 

Yes, you can drive a car to try and see the Northern Lights, but there are some important things to consider:

  • Accessibility: The Northern Lights are best viewed in areas with little light pollution, often in remote regions of Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Greenland. While some spots might be accessible by car, others may require joining a guided tour with specialised transportation suitable for winter conditions.

  • Weather Conditions: The Northern Lights are most visible during clear skies, but winter weather conditions in these regions can be harsh. Snow, ice, and freezing temperatures can make driving dangerous. Be sure to check the weather forecast carefully before heading out and ensure your car is equipped for winter driving (snow tires, wiper fluid, etc.).

  • Darkness: The Northern Lights are best seen at night, and in some areas during winter, this means very limited daylight hours. Driving in darkness, especially on unfamiliar roads, can be challenging.

  • Finding the Lights: The Northern Lights are unpredictable and can appear anywhere within the auroral zone. While some knowledge and tools can help predict activity, there’s no guarantee you’ll see them on any given night. Driving around extensively at night can be tiring and increase the risk of encountering bad weather.

While driving a car is certainly an option for seeing the Northern Lights, it’s important to consider some factors to consider when choosing a destination to see the Northern Lights by car:

  • Accessibility: Look for locations that are relatively close to a town or city where you can find accommodation and have some amenities. Ideally, the area should be reachable by well-maintained roads suitable for winter driving.
 
  • Light Pollution: Pick a place with minimal light pollution for optimal viewing. National Parks and remote areas generally offer darker skies.
 
  • Weather Conditions: Choose a region with a good chance of clear skies during the aurora season (generally September to April). Consider factors like average snowfall and extreme cold temperatures that might make driving difficult.
 
The best locations to see The Northern Lights by car include;
  • Iceland:While not as ideal for extensive car travel due to unpredictable weather conditions, Iceland offers incredible scenery and good infrastructure. The ring road, which encircles the entire island nation, could allow you to reach spots with minimal light pollution. Several towns and villages along the way offer good bases for aurora chasing, such as Akureyri in the north or þingvellir National Park in the southwest.
 
  • Northern Norway:Several regions in northern Norway are accessible by car and offer good chances of seeing the Northern Lights. The Lofoten Islands are a popular destination, known for their dramatic scenery and charming fishing villages. The city of Tromsø, nicknamed “The Gateway to the Arctic,” is another option with good infrastructure and plenty of tours available.
 
  • Lapland, Finland:Finnish Lapland offers a winter wonderland experience with good potential for seeing the Northern Lights. The town of Saariselkä is a popular tourist destination with good infrastructure and plenty of winter activities. You might even be lucky enough to spot them while trying out dog sledding or snowmobiling. 

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