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)
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)
Hótel Flúðir (B,L,D)
Drive towards the mighty Eyjafj allajökull 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 Reynisfj ara, then hike up the Reynisfj all mountain and cross to the picturesque village of Vík. (3–5 miles hiking, 3–4 hours, 4 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. (2–4 miles hiking, 2–3 hours; 5–6 hours driving)
Hótel Klaustur (B,L,D)
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 Skaftafell (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; 2 hours driving)
Hotel Höfn (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)
Hótel Laxá (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. (7–8 miles hiking, 6 hours; 1 hour driving)
Hótel Laxá (B,L,D)
Explore the geothermal area of Námafj all. Hike across a lava desert to the Hverfj all 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)
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 $1,000 in 2014 and $1,100 in 2015. International airfare to/from Reykjavík and airfare within Iceland is not included in the adventure cost. The group flight within Iceland is $300 (subject to change).
GROUP SIZE: 8–16
See special terms and conditions for this adventure.
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. Some long transfers of up to 7 hours will be required. We will stay in hotels that combine comfort, ideal locations, and local charm.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
Call to speak with an Adventure specialist about this trip.