Iceland is a land sculpted by lava and ice, where geysers burst, glaciers gleam and emerald valleys stretch all the way to the ocean. On an exhilarating journey, encounter this wonderland of geological extremes close up. Experience the mighty forces still shaping the landscape as you explore the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in Thingvellir National Park. Hike up Reynisfjall mountain, one of the most beautiful coastal walks in southern Iceland. Trek across crackling glacial ice, float among blue icebergs in a spectacular glacial lake, and soak in turquoise thermal pools. Then discover the otherworldly bubbling mud pools and steam vents of Námaskarð, and the legends behind Dimmuborgir’s black volcanic formations.
Experience the raw power of Iceland’s ice-capped volcanoes, thundering waterfalls, dazzling glaciers and exploding geysers.
Learn about the creation of Europe’s largest national park, Vatnajökull, in a special meeting with a local park director.
Explore bubbling mud pots, steaming fumaroles, and striking lava castles around Lake Mývatn.
Hike up Reynisfjall mountain, one of the most beautiful coastal walks in southern Iceland.
Activity Level: Moderate
We will be hiking 2 to 6 hours per day (2 to 8 miles) on moderate to steep grades, in variable weather conditions. Most days will have options for more, or less, hiking. During hikes, vehicle support is provided on most days, except while in the National Parks. Participants always have the option to rest a day and ride to the next hotel.
Itinerary - 10 Days
Day 1 — Reykjavík, Iceland Arrive in Reykjavík and transfer to our hotel. Head out on a guided walk through the most northerly capital in the world. Wander the cobblestone streets and colorful tin houses of Reykjavík’s Old Town. Visit Iceland’s tallest church, guarded by a statue of Viking explorer Leif Eriksson. Later, gather for a welcome dinner at a local restaurant. Hótel Óðinsvé (B,D)
Day 2 — Thingvellir/Geysir/Gullfoss Explore the geological wonders of Iceland’s Golden Circle. Traverse the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site located at the point where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, and trace the shoreline of Lake Thingvallavatn, Iceland’s largest natural lake. Visit the site of the world’s oldest still extant parliament, the Althing, convened in A.D. 930. Further east is the geothermal area of Geysir, a sulfurous landscape of mud pots, mineral formations and the spouting Strokkur geyser. Later, hike to Gullfoss, or “Golden Falls,” a powerful, 100-foot double cascade. (3–4 miles hiking, 2–3 hours; 3 hours driving) Icelandair Hotel Flúðir (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Eyjafjallajökull/Reynisfjall/Vík Drive towards the mighty Eyjafjallajökull volcano whose 2010 eruption sent clouds of ash into the atmosphere of the North Atlantic. Stop at the Seljalandsfoss waterfall in the foothills of the volcano, and visit the Þorvaldseyri farm to learn how the locals have adapted to living next to an active volcano. Encounter the beautiful Skógafoss waterfall en route to the black sand beach of Reynisfjara, then hike up the Reynisfjall mountain and cross to the picturesque village of Vík. (3–5 miles hiking, 3–4 hours, 4 hours driving) Icelandair Hotel Klaustur (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Laki Volcano We start the day with a bus ride up into the southern highlands to explore the Laki craters. Walk across the moss-covered Elðraun lava field, created by the catastrophic eruption of Mt. Laki in 1783-4. Climb to the top of Laki volcano, taking in the incredible crater landscape surrounding it. Explore the beautiful, lake-filled Tjarnargígur crater, then drive to our hotel nestled at the edge of the great lava fields at Kirkjubæjarklaustur village. (2–4 miles hiking, 2–3 hours; 5–6 hours driving) Icelandair Hotel Klaustur (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Vatnajökull National Park Learn about the creation of Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest national park, in a special meeting with a park director, then get outfitted for a walk across the ice. Atop Svínafellsjökull, the tongue of Europe’s largest glacier, explore chasms and crevasses sculpted by meltwater and see the moraine created by the glacier’s bulldozing power. This afternoon, hike up to Svartifoss waterfall, framed by black basaltic columns. Additional hiking options are also available. (6 miles hiking, 3–4 hours; 1–2 hours driving) Fosshótel Vatnajökull (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Ingólfshöfði Headland/Jökulsárlón Embark on a hike on Ingólfshöfdi headland, home to Iceland’s first Nordic settler, Ingólfur Arnarson. Continue to the spectacular Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, approaching its glassy waters on foot, and take a boat ride between floating icebergs calved from the glacier’s edge. (2–3 miles hiking, 1 hour; 2 hours driving) Fosshótel Vatnajökull (B,L)
Day 7 — Höfn/Lake Mývatn Visit the Gamlabúð Folk Museum in Höfn. Then set out for one of Iceland’s most geologically active areas at Lake Mývatn, rich with lava pillars, volcanic cones and bubbling mud pits. A birder’s paradise, the lake hosts more duck species than anywhere else in Europe. After dinner at our lakeside hotel, set off an optional evening walk — after all, it will still be light out. (6-7 hours driving) Hótel Laxá (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Viti Crater/Námaskarð Today, visit the Krafla Power plant near Leirhnjúkur. This magnificent geothermal zone is located in the middle of an enormous lava field which resulted from the last eruption to occur in the area. Explore Víti (“hell”) Crater, an explosive crater formed in 1724 which measures almost 1,000 feet across. Take in the stunning vistas as you hike through the hills to the Námaskarð area with bubbling mud pools and steam vents. (7–8 miles hiking, 6 hours; 1 hour driving) Hótel Laxá (B,L,D)
Day 9 — Namafjall/Dimmuborgir Explore the geothermal area of Námafjall. Hike across a lava desert to the Hverfjall crater, over half a mile wide and created by a powerful eruption roughly 2,500 years ago. Complete our excursion with a visit to Dimmuborgir, or “Dark Castles.” In Icelandic folklore, this volcanic wonderland was the dwelling place of elves and trolls. Fly back to Reykjavík this afternoon for a festive farewell dinner. (3–4 miles hiking, 3–4 hours; 2 hours driving) Hótel Óðinsvé (B,L,D)
Day 10 — Reykjavík/U.S. After breakfast, head to Reykjavík’s famous Blue Lagoon for an invigorating soak in its mineral-rich thermal waters. Then transfer to Keflavík Airport for your homebound flight. (B)
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