Explore the dramatic landscapes of Iceland during its most vivid season. In the winter months, this small island nation is transformed into a magical world of black lava fields blanketed in snow, waterfalls flowing amid shimmering ice, and night skies painted with the northern lights and their great cascades of color. On our new winter journey, experience the extreme contrasts of Iceland’s fire and ice as we trek across snow-covered fields shrouded in geothermal steam, weather sub-zero temperatures from the warmth of outdoor thermal baths, and take in views of a glacier-capped volcano.
See the Northern lights at their brightest, weather permitting, far from civilization's glow.
Hike the lava fields and coastal trails of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, and descend into an 8,000-year-old lava tube.
Don snowshoes and hike to the magnificent Dettifoss falls, considered Europe’s most powerful waterfall.
Experience volcanism, witnessing the otherworldly lava formations of Lake Mývatn and the geothermal wonders of the Golden Circle.
Itinerary - 8 Days
Day 1 — Reykjavík, Iceland
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,L,D)
Day 2 — North Iceland/Lake Mývatn
Begin the day with a flight to the northern city of Akureyri, situated at the head of Eyjafjörður, Iceland’s longest fjord and considered one of the best places in Iceland to see the northern lights. Upon arrival, explore the city and head to one of Iceland’s most geologically active areas at Lake Mývatn, rich with lava pillars, volcanic cones, and bubbling mud pits. Set out to explore the Skútustaða pseudo craters on the lake’s southern shore, then visit the otherworldly black volcanic formations of Dimmuborgir, home to elves and trolls, according to Icelandic folklore. Later, climb Hverfjall crater (conditions permitting) and cap off the day with time to relax at your hotel before dinner. (5 miles hiking, 2-3 hours) Hotel Laxá (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Lake Mývatn
Spend the day exploring the Mývatn area. Visit Krafla Geothermal Power Plant and learn about this environmentally friendly way of tapping into the Earth’s energy. Conditions permitting, don snowshoes for a memorable trek to Víti crater, measuring nearly 1,000 feet across. Continue trekking to Leirhnjukur crater, a spectacular geothermal area in the middle of an enormous lava field. Then head further east to the magnificent Dettifoss waterfall, considered Europe’s most powerful waterfall, where we snowshoe down to the edge of the falls. After dinner, visit the Mývatn Nature Baths and hopefully witness the northern lights. (4 miles hiking, 2-3 hours) Hotel Laxá (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Before heading to the airport for our return flight to Reykjavík, visit the Goðafoss waterfall—one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland, located on the Skjálfandafljót river. Upon arrival in Reykjavík, drive through the wild landscapes of West Iceland to our hotel, located on the southwestern shore of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The Snæfellsjökull, a magnificent stratovolcano which rises from this rugged landscape, provided inspiration for Jules Verne's novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth. After checking in to our hotel, set off on a hike through the Búðarhraun lava field, following a trail which once served as the main route between the farms and fishing outposts of Snæfellsnes. (4 miles hiking, 2-3 hours)
Hotel Búðir (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Enjoy a full day of exploration in Snæfellsjökull National Park, a remote, otherworldly landscape with the glacier-capped Snæfellsjökull at its center. From the harbor at Arnarstapi, hike the coastline to Hellnar, passing beautiful basalt pillars. Head to Djupalonssandur, a scenic stretch of coast on the western end of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Walk along dramatic cliffs and black-pebble beaches to Dritvík cove, taking in views of the craggy rock formations rising out of the surrounding ocean waters. Later, descend deep underground into Vatnshellir cave, an 8,000-year-old cavern of fascinating lava formations. (4 miles hiking/caving, 4-5 hours)
Hotel Búðir (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Golden Circle
Stop for refreshments at a local bakery en route to the celebrated Golden Circle. Start at Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site located at the meeting point of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Set out on a hike along the rift valley to Skogarkot, the ruins of an abandoned sheep farm, and continue to the site of the Althing, the world’s oldest—and still operating—parliament. Following our hike, we head to Geysir, the hot-water jet stream for which all other geysers are named. View the magnificent Gullfoss, a powerful waterfall especially picturesque in the winter, when its double cascades shimmer amid ice and snow. (5 miles hiking, 3-4 hours) Fosshótel Hekla (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Miðfell/Reykjavík
Begin the day with a scenic hike to the top of Miðfell and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Later, return to Reykjavík, where we’ll check into our hotel and enjoy dinner downtown. (2-3 miles hiking, 2 hours) Canopy by Hilton Reykjavík City Centre (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Reykjavík
Travel to the black-lava fields of Grindavík, home to the famous Blue Lagoon. Soak in its mineral-rich, turquoise waters, and experience the unique sensation of having your body submerged in warmth and your head exposed to freezing temperatures. After a rejuvenating dip, transfer to Kelflavík Airport to catch your flight home. (B,L)
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.
Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room add $1,200. International airfare to/from Reykjavík is not included in the adventure cost. The group flight within Iceland is $500 (subject to change).
We will be snowshoeing or hiking 1–3 hours per day (2–5 miles) on moderate grades at low elevations. No previous experience is necessary, although you should have good balance. Vehicle support is provided. Please note that there are some long transfers.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
What To Expect
All lodgings are comfortable and conveniently located near each day’s activities. Hotel accommodations throughout Iceland typically have small rooms.
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