Roadtrip in Iceland during winter

Author: Pieter De Pauw

click on the pictures to enlarge

We had a last-minute idea for a special, unforgettable, and somehow romantic one-week travel destination in December: Iceland! Yes, indeed, first thing that comes to mind is cold and dark.

In fact, Iceland is not that cold, as the North Atlantic Current ensures generally higher annual temperatures than in most places of similar latitude in the world. But it is very true that Iceland is dark in winter: 4 hours of sunlight per day in mid-December. But, what you get in return are very long sunrises and sunsets, which is the ideal light for photography!  And… dark nights, perfect setting to see the Aurora Borealis!


Iceland road trip itinerary (© Google Maps)
Iceland road trip itinerary (© Google Maps)

For sure we will go back one day (in winter)!.

The beauty of going there in winter, is that –apart from Reykjavik- you won’t find many other tourists, so in a country with only 3 inhabitants per square km, you feel lonely, very lonely…! 


We rented a 4WD SUV, and traveled in the South West area of the country.  Most of the inward roads are closed in winter, but the Route 1 or Ringroad which runs along the island remains open all year long.  We started our trip in Reykjavik, drove west to Reykjanesbaer and then East all the way up to the Skaftafellsjökull glacier in the Skaftafell National Park.

Waterfalls like the Gullfoss waterfall were truly impressive since part of falls were frozen, creating gigantic big white ice rocks.  And the geysers in Haukadalur with steam coming out of frozen lakes are probably more dramatic in winter than in summer.


We did one Aurora Borealis or Northern Light tour around Reykjavic, and despite a rather cold night (open sky), our waiting was rewarded with magnificent green lights dancing at the horizon for more than one hour.


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Comments: 2
  • #2

    Pieter (Saturday, 28 November 2015 13:16)

    Main roads are good and well maintained. 2wd is possible. Yet, Feb is in the middle of the winter, meaning possibility for challenging and potentially unexpected road conditions. Also, in case you want to visit some places, you might have to drive a few meters or kilometers off-road
    Hence, in winter, I would definitely drive a 4wd!

    enjoy the trip - Pieter

  • #1

    murat (Wednesday, 25 November 2015 15:32)


    i am planning a trip to iceland in February.

    do i have to rent a 4wd vehicle for the same route? or an economic small car is ok for us?

    let me know thanks