Iceland is a land sculpted by lava and ice, where geysers burst and 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 mudpools and steam vents of Námaskarð, and the legends behind Dimmuborgir’s black volcanic formations.
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)
Spend the day exploring 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. Here, a cavernous rift valley testifies to the power of continental drift. Trace the shoreline of Lake Thingvallavatn, Iceland’s largest natural lake and home to four species of Arctic char, Great Northern diver loons, and mink. Nearby, 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, for which all other geysers are named. Explore a surreal sulfurous landscape of bubbling mud pots, mineral formations, and the spouting Strokkur geyser. Cap off the day with a hike to Gullfoss, or “Golden Falls,” a powerful, 100-foot double cascade. (5 miles hiking, 4 hours; 3 hours driving)
Hótel FlÚdir (B,L,D)
This morning, explore Eyjafjallajökull, a glacier-capped volcano whose 2010 eruption sent ash into the atmosphere above the North Atlantic. We 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. We continue our drive, stopping at the Skógar hamlet for a look at the Skógafoss waterfall. Arrive at the black sand beach of Reynisfjara, then hike up the Reynisfjall mountain and cross to the picturesque village of Vík. On a clear day, the cliffs along Reynisfjall mountain make for a beautiful walk on Iceland’s southern coastline. (5–6 miles hiking, 3–4 hours; 3 hours driving)
Hótel Klaustur (B,L,D)
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. (4–5 miles hiking, 4 hours; 4 hours driving)
Hótel Klaustur (B,L,D)
Today, we'll learn about the creation of Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest national park, in a special meeting with a park director. Then, local glacier guides outfit us for a walk across the ice in Vatnajökull National Park. Atop Svínafellsjökull, the tongue of Europe’s largest glacier, discover an extraordinary range of ice textures. 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, dramatically framed by black basaltic columns. Additional hiking options are also available. (6–8 miles hiking, 6 hours; 1 hour driving)
Fosshótel Skaftafell (B,L,D)
Delve into Icelandic history with a hike on Ingólfshöfdi headland, bustling with seafowl and home to Iceland’s first Nordic settler, Ingólfur Arnarson. Continue east to the spectacular Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, approaching its glassy waters on foot. Take a boat ride between floating icebergs calved from the glacier’s edge, keeping an eye out for Eider ducks and seals. (3-4 miles hiking, 2 hours; 2 hours driving)
Hotel Höfn (B,L)
Learn more about geology and the ice around you at the Glacier Exhibition 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. (3 miles hiking, 2 hours, 4-5 hours driving)
Hótel Reynihlíð (B,L,D)
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 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 mudpools and steam vents. (6–8 miles hiking, 6 hours; 1 hour driving)
Hótel Reynihlíð (B,L,D)
Today, explore the steaming geothermal area of Namafjall. Hike across a lava desert to the awe-inspiring Hverfjall crater, over half a mile wide and created by a powerful eruption roughly 2500 years ago. Complete our excursion with a visit to Dimmuborgir, or “Dark Castles.” In Icelandic folklore, this volcanic wonderland of lava pillars and towering rock was the dwelling place of elves and trolls. Fly back to Reykjavík this afternoon for a festive farewell dinner. (6 miles hiking, 3 hours; 2 hours driving)
Hótel Óðinsvé (B,L,D)
After breakfast, head to Reykjavík’s famous Blue Lagoon for an invigorating soak in its mineral-rich thermal waters. Then transfer to Kelflavík Airport for your homebound flight.
National Geographic Adventures are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers that combine spectacular places, cultural interaction, and physical challenge. You'll explore fascinating, off-the-beaten-path places with top guides, and wherever possible, meet National Geographic experts in the field.
Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $900 in 2013 and $1,000 in 2014. Airfare is not included. Round-trip economy air between New York and Reykjavík is estimated from $750. Internal group air between Akureyri and Reykjavík is estimated at $300.
GROUP SIZE: 10–16
See special terms and conditions for this adventure.
We will be hiking 2 to 4 hours per day (3 to 8 miles) on moderate to steep grades. Most days will have options for more, or less, hiking. We will stay 9 nights in hotels that combine comfort, ideal locations, and local charm.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
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