In Iceland, nature is at its most elemental: a mystical land of volcanoes, glaciers, and exquisite waterfalls. With Trip Leader Kristjan Bjorn, we discover the western and northern expanses of this extraordinary island-nation, including the ruggedly beautiful Snaefellsnes Peninsula, with its glacier-capped volcanoes, mysterious craters, and trails past cliffs sheltering kittiwake and puffin nests; the Trollaskagi Peninsula, with its mountainous terrain and valleys carved by glaciers during the last Ice Age; and Lake Myvatn, home to bubbling mud flats, amazing lava formations, and teeming waterfowl. Hikes on volcanoes and across rift fissures, vistas of glorious waterfalls, wonderful bird-watching opportunities, a whale watching excursion, and fascinating insights into Iceland’s early culture are all featured on this wonderful odyssey. We also offer the opportunity to cross the Arctic Circle (66º 33') on our extension to Iceland’s Grimsey Island, where vast colonies of puffins nest on its 300-foot-high cliffs.
A truly amazing trip. Iceland has spectacular landscapes that offer a range of hiking and our leader customized each day to optimize the choices consistent with the weather. We covered seafronts, mountains, area around craters, geysers, and forests awash with flowers and resplendent with birds plus a whale watching trip. Food was brilliant and the best of Iceland.
— Joan G., Portola Valley, CA
Reykjavik, Iceland / Snaefellsnes Peninsula and National Park
Arriving in Reykjavik, we head north to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, a ruggedly beautiful chain of mountains jutting into the Atlantic on Iceland’s west coast. Here we explore ancient Eldborg crater and walk across the Budarhraun lava field to Budir, for centuries the main trading center on the south coast of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. The next day we explore Snaefellsnes National Park, with its glacier-capped Snaefellsjokull volcano (4,745'). With the volcano as a backdrop, we hike along the coast past coves and inlets lined with cliffs that are often covered with kittiwakes’ nests.
Eiriksstadir / Akureyri / Mt. Stollinn
A drive across a starkly beautiful landscape brings us to Akureyri, set on the Trollaskagi Peninsula at the head of the Eyjafjordur (fjord). Along the way we visit Eiriksstadir, a reconstructed Viking house once home to Eirik the Red and his son Leif Eiriksson, the two most famous Viking explorers. The Trollaskagi Peninsula, a mountainous area with hundreds of peaks, is cut by many deep valleys carved by glaciers during the last Ice Age. From the village of Dalvik, we hike to Mt. Stollinn (4,003'), set between two valleys and offering views out to Eyjafjordur fjord and the ocean.
Lake Myvatn / Krafla volcano
After visiting Godafoss (“waterfall of the gods”), with its spectacular 100-foot-wide, 40-foot-high cascade, we head to Lake Myvatn, known as one of the best bird-watching sites in the world. We explore the lake surroundings and also visit Dimmuborgir lava field, an area of bizarre lava formations with volcanic arches, pillars, caves, and bridges. In the Krafla volcano area, our hike brings us across countless rift fissures and lava flows from the eruptions of 1975-1984. Back in Myvatn, we have the chance to soak in a geothermal pool.
Dettifoss / Husavik
Heading further east, we pass through the starkly contrasting desert scenery of the Northeast Highlands to the enormous Dettifoss in Vatnajökull National Park. Europe’s largest waterfall in terms of volume discharge, Dettifoss is bizarrely set in an arid area of sand and rock formations. Our hike brings us from Hljodaklettar, with its wild columnar basalt formations, to Asbyrgi Canyon, thought to have been carved out by an immense flood wave caused by an eruption underneath the Vatnajokull Icecap. We end our day in the lively fishing village of Husavik on the shores of Skjalfandi Bay.
Whale Watching / Akureyri
Husvik calls itself the European capital of whale watching, and today we have the fantastic experience of searching for these leviathans aboard old oak fishing boats that have been rebuilt for this purpose. The most commonly sighted cetaceans here include Minke and white beaked dolphins, but with luck we may see others such as humpbacks and even the giant blue whale. After our morning whale watching excursion we return to Akureyri for a farewell lunch and depart on homeward-bound flights in the afternoon.