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, located in the heart of the city. After breakfast, delve into this colorful capital on a guided tour through the Old Town. Spend the afternoon exploring the city on your own, taking in its eclectic architecture, warming up in a cozy café, or soaking in one of its many thermal baths. Tonight, gather for a welcome dinner.
Canopy by Hilton Reykjavík City Centre (B,D)
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, visit Gullfoss, or “Golden Falls,” a powerful, 100-foot double cascade. (3–4 miles hiking, 2–3 hours)
Hotel Rangá or Fosshotel Hekla (B,L,D)
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)
Icelandair Hotel Vík (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. (2–4 miles hiking, 2–3 hours; 5–6 hours driving)
Hotel Laki (B,L,D)
Learn about the creation of Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest national park, then get outfitted for a walk across the ice. Atop Svínafellsjökull, the tongue of one of Europe’s largest glaciers, 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)
Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon (B,L,D)
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)
Fosshotel Vatnajokull or Hotel Jökull (B,L)
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)
Fosshotel Mývatn or Fosshotel Húsavík (B,L,D)
Discover the Krafla volcanic area, Námaskarð hot springs and Jokulsargljufur Caynon, the northern most part Vatnajokull National Park. Explore Víti and Leirhnjukur Craters, a magnificent geothermal zone located in the middle of an enormous lava field. Visit Krafla Geothermal Power Plant and learn about this environmentally friendly way of tapping into earth’s energy. Then head further east to the enormous Dettifoss Waterfall, considered Europe's most powerful waterfall and we hike down to the edge of the falls. Cap off the day with a visit to the Sigurgeirs Bird Museum—the largest private collection of bird specimens in Iceland. (6 miles hiking, 4-5 hours)
Fosshotel Mývatn or Fosshotel Húsavík (B,L,D)
Today we explore the area of Myvatn and circumnavigate the lake. Take a short stop at Grjotagja, a rift crevasse. With its crystal clear warm water, this was once a popular place for bathing until geothermic changes made the water too hot for comfort. Hike across a lava desert to the Hverfjall crater, and then visit Dimmuborgir—a volcanic wonderland harboring elves and trolls, according to Icelandic folklore. Before heading to the airport for our return flight to Reykjavík, visit Goðafoss waterfall—one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. (5-6 miles hiking, 4 hours)
Canopy by Hilton Reykjavík City Centre (B,L,D)
Travel to the black-lava fields of Grindavík, home to the famous Blue Lagoon. Soak in its mineral-rich, turquoise waters. After a rejuvenating dip, transfer to Kelflavík Airport to catch your flight home.
National Geographic Active Expeditions 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.
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room add $2,000 in 2018. Airfare to/from Reykjavík and within Iceland is not included in the expedition cost. The group flight within Iceland is $500 in 2018 (subject to change).
GROUP SIZE: 8–16
See special terms and conditions for this expedition.
We will be hiking 2 to 6 hours per day (2 to 6 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.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
We will stay 9 nights in ideally located hotels. While Iceland hotels tend to be on the small side, all lodgings are comfortable and conveniently located to each day’s activities.
Some long transfers will be required.
Call to speak with an adventure specialist about this trip.