Iceland Country Life
On this round-the-island tour, you get to see the ever-changing scenery of the Icelandic countryside: mountains and valleys, volcanoes, glaciers, rivers, hot springs and waterfalls. This tour is ideal for those who want to experience the variety of Icelandic landscapes, culture, and history in one go. Two of Iceland's three national parks will be visited, and there are opportunities to walk in the beautiful countryside during most days of the tour. Accommodation is in simple and clean country hotels all around Iceland, and all rooms are with private facilities.
- Available: Jun. - Sep.
- Duration: 9 days
- Activities: Whale Watching, Sightseeing, Hot Spring Bathing
- Difficulty: Easy
- Minimum age: 11 years.
- Languages: English
- Highlights: Akureyri,
Akureyri, ‘The Capital of the North’ is a town in the fjord Eyjafjordur in North Iceland. It lies just 100 km away from the Arctic Circle. It is Iceland’s second-largest urban area with a population of about 17,800.
Akureyri is an important fishing centre and port, but in the last few years tourism, industry, higher education and services have become the fastest growing sectors of the economy.
An international airport is located about 3 km from the center. A large number of cruisers also stop at Akureyri. One of Iceland's best skiing sites is found by Akureyri, at Hlidarfjall.
Traditionally Akureyri has survived on fisheries and some of Iceland’s largest fishing companies, like for example Samherji, have their headquarters there. Other large companies include Brim, Nordurmjolk, and Vifilfell hf, the largest brewery in Iceland.
FSA/Akureyri Hospital is a major employer in the area and is one of two major hospitals in Iceland.
Akureyri has excellent facilities for travelers and is located a short drive from many of Iceland’s top natural, cultural and historical attractions.
Nature & Landscape
Akureyri is surrounded by mountains, the highest one being Kerling (1538 m). The area around it has rich agriculture and a beautiful mountain ring.
The innermost part of the fjord, Pollurinn ('The Pool') further lends the town a special character. The climate in Akureyri is generally very pleasant.
The islands Hrisey in the middle of Eyfjordur and Grimsey, straddling the Artic Circle, both belong to the municipality of Akureyri. Hrisey is often called 'The Pearl of Eyjafjordur' and Grimsey 'The Pearl of the Artic' and these beautiful and peaceful islands are highly popular with travelers.
History & Culture
During World War II the town was an important site for the Allies and the town grew considerably after the war, as people increasingly moved to urban areas.
Akureyri has a strong cultural scene, with several bars and renowned restaurants. Folk culture in general is more prevalent there than in Reykjavik. During the summer there are several notable festivals in Akureyri and its surroundings.
Sites of interest in Akureyri include the brand-new Hof concert hall and Akureyri’s many museums, The Nature Museum, Nonnahus, a.k.a. Jon Sveinsson Memorial Museum, for the writer, David's house or David Stefansson Memorial Museum, for the poet, Akureyri Art Museum.
Akureyri also has several churches, Akureyrarkirkja being the most notable, as well as beautiful botanical gardens. The old town is particularly charming, ideal for a nice walk.Jökulsárlón,
Jökulsárlón is Iceland’s most famous glacier lagoon. Conveniently located in the southeast by Route 1, about halfway between the Skaftafell Nature Reserve and Höfn, it is a popular stop for those travelling along the South Coast or around the circular ring road of the country.
It stands out, however, due to the fact that it also fills with icebergs breaking from the glacier, some of which tower several stories high.
These icebergs, other than their scale, are notable for their colouration. Although they are, as expected, largely white, most are also dyed electric blue in part, with black streaks of ash from eruptions centuries past.
When the icebergs finally make it across the lagoon, they either drift out to sea or wash up on the nearby shore. Because of the way they glisten against the black sands of Breiðamerkursandur, this area has been nicknamed ‘the Diamond Beach’.
In spite of being a rather recent formation, Jökulsárlón is the deepest lake in the country, with depths reaching 248 metres. With a surface area of 18 square kilometres, it is also growing to be one of the largest.
Jökulsárlón has not been around since Iceland’s settlement; it only formed around 1935. This was due to rapidly rising temperatures in the country from the turn of the twentieth century; since 1920, Breiðamerkurjökull has been shrinking at a dramatic rate, and the lagoon has begun to fill its space.
Today, the expansion of Jökulsárlón is accelerating. As recently as 1975, it was just 8 square kilometres, and now that size has more than doubled.
In the relatively near future, it is expected that the lagoon will continue to grow until it becomes a large, deep fjord.
Though a dark omen for Iceland’s glaciers and ice caps in general, the retreat of Breiðamerkurjökull has resulted in an incredibly beautiful, if temporary, site. This has not been overlooked by Hollywood.
Jökulsárlón has been featured in the James Bond films A View to Kill in 1985 and Die Another Day in 2002, 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and 2005’s Batman Begins.
In 2017, Jökulsárlón was enveloped into the Vatnajökull National Park, thus it is now fully protected by Icelandic law.
Because of the wealth of herring and capelin that the tides bring into the lagoon, Jökulsárlón is somewhat of a hot-spot for Iceland’s wildlife.
In summer, it is a nesting site for Arctic Terns; stay well away from this area, as these birds are notorious for the fierceness with which they protect their eggs, dive-bombing the heads of any they see as a threat. Skuas also nest on the lake’s shores in this season.
Seals can be reliably spotted here throughout the year, swimming amongst or else hauling out on the icebergs. Jökulsárlón provides them with a safe haven to rest and socialise, especially considering the waters of southeast Iceland are renowned for their population of orcas.Mývatn,
Myvatn is a beautiful lake with many small islands in the north of Iceland, the fourth largest lake in the country. Along with its surrounding area, the lake is one of Iceland's most amazing natural attractions.
Some of the islands in Myvatn are pseudocraters, formed by steam explosions. The lake has rich birdlife and more species of ducks than anywhere else in the world. As for vegetation, it is one of the few places in the world that grows Marimo, also known as Cladophora ball, Lake ball, or Moss Balls in English, a species of filamentous green algae (Chlorophyta).
The Myvatn nature baths are also renowned throughout the world, a perfect place to relax, surrounded by breathtaking landscape.
Close to the lake is Dimmuborgir, a fascinating area of dramatic and chaotic lava. Norwegian symphonic metal band Dimmu Borgir takes its name from the the lava field, and it continues to inspire travellers from all over the world.
The Myvatn area is definitely one of the most beautiful places in Iceland. Don´t miss it!Dimmuborgir,
Dimmuborgir (e. ‘Black Forts') is a large area of chaotic lava, situated right east of Lake Myvatn, in North Iceland. With its dramatic view, Dimmuborgir is one of Iceland's most popular attractions.
The area is composed of various volcanic caves and rock formations, reminiscent of an ancient collapsed citadel. In folklore the Dimmuborgir lava field has been connected with hell, Satan was to have landed there after being cast from heaven and the Norwegian symphonic black metal band derives its name from the region.Goðafoss,
Goðafoss waterfall is located the river Skjálfandafljót in north Iceland, the fourth largest river in Iceland. It is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland, falling from a height of 12 metres over a width of 30 metres.
The fall's name means either waterfall of the gods or of the 'goði' (i.e. priest/ chieftain). It is said that when the lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði declared Christianity the official religion in Iceland, after his own conversion, he threw the statues of the old Norse gods into the waterfall.Dettifoss,
Dettifoss, in the glacier river Jokulsa á Fjollum, flowing from the glacier Vatnajokull, is reputed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
This thunderous fall has an average waterflow of 193 m3 per second. It is 100 meters (330 ft.) wide and plummets 45 meters (150 ft.) down to Jokulsargljufur canyon.Geysir,
Geysir is a famous hot spring in Haukadalur valley in South Iceland. Part of the ‘Golden Circle', Geysir gives its name to hot springs all over the world.
Though Geysir itself is hardly active anymore, the area features spectacular hot springs such as the powerful Strokkur, which spouts a vast amount of water every 10 minutes, around 15-20 meters into the air, Smidur and Litli-Strokkur.
North of Geysir are fumaroles, i.e. unlike the hot springs that emit hot water, only steam and gas emanate from these. You may be able to observe bright yellow stains at the fumaroles, this is native sulphur, which crystallizes from the steam. At the southern part of the geothermal area, called Thykkuhverir, you‘ll find various mud pots. Such mud pots are actually fumaroles that boil up through surface water/groundwater and may become steaming fumaroles during dry spells, rather than the usual boiling mud pots.
About 2 km from Geysir is an old preserved natural pool called Kúalaug. One can bathe in it and it has room for 3-5 people at a time, but care should be taken, as the area around the pool is very delicate. The temperature is 39-43°C, depending on how you are positioned in the pool. The water is slightly muddy, as the pool is built on soil, and the bottom is slippery due to algae, so caution is advised.
In Haukadalur there has also been tree planting in recent times and today the forest Haukadalsskógur is one of the largest in South Iceland. Aspen, various types of pine, and other plants have been tried out there and experiments and research continue. We also recommend visiting the tree museum, built in the memory of forester Gunnar Freysteinsson. There are good paths and roads in the forest and the wood is specially designed to accommodate wheelchairs.
Haukadalur has been a church site since ancient time. The current wooden church was last rebuilt in 1938 but the variety and appearance of the church dates back to 1842, making it one of the oldest of its kind in Iceland.
Haukadalur is indeed a historical place. It was settled during the age of settlement and scholar Ari “The Wise“ Thorgilsson grew up there. The first pastoral school in Iceland was also built there.
For accommodation, Hotel Gullfoss is about 7 km from the Geysir area, and closer still is the Hotel Geysir.Gullfoss,
Gullfoss (translated to ‘Golden Falls’) is one of Iceland’s most iconic and beloved waterfalls, found on the Hvítá river canyon in south Iceland. The water in Hvítá river travels from the glacier Langjökull, finally cascading 32m down Gullfoss’ two stages in a dramatic display of nature’s raw power.
Because of the waterfall’s two stages, Gullfoss should actually be thought of as two separate waterfalls. The first, shorter stage of the waterfall is 11m, whilst the second stage is 21m. The canyon walls on both sides of the waterfall reach heights of up to 70m, descending into the 2.5km long Gullfossgjúfur canyon (geologists indicate that this canyon was formed by glacial outbursts at the beginning of the last age.)
In the summer, approximately 140 cubic metres of water surges down the waterfall every second, whilst in winter that number drops to around 109 cubic metres. With such energy, visitor’s should not be surprised to find themselves drenched by the waterfall’s mighty spray-off.
In the early days of the last century, Gullfoss was at the centre of much controversy regarding foreign investors and their desire to profit off Iceland’s nature. In the year 1907, an English businessman known only as Howells sought to utilise the waterfall’s energy and harboured ambitions to use its energy to fuel a hydroelectric plant.
At the time, Gullfoss was owned by a farmer named Tómas Tómasson. Tómas declined Howell’s offer to purchase the land, stating famously “I will not sell my friend!” He would, however, go on to lease Howells the land, inadvertently beginning the first chapter of Icelandic environmentalism.
It was Tómas’ daughter, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, who would lead the charge. Having grown up on her father’s sheep farm, she sought to get the lease contract nullified, hurriedly saving her own money to hire a lawyer. The ensuing legal battle was an uphill struggle; the case continued for years, forcing Sigríður to travel many times by foot to Reykjavík if only to keep the trial moving. Circumstances became so difficult that Sigríður threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if any construction began.
Thankfully, in 1929, the waterfall fell back into the hands of the Icelandic people. Today, Sigríður is recognised for her perseverance in protecting Gullfoss and is often hailed as Iceland’s first environmentalist. Her contribution is forever marked in stone; a plaque detailing her plight sits at the top of Gullfoss.
Restaurant / Cafe
Besides Gullfoss, visitors can enjoy the views from Gullfoss Cafe, a locally run delicatessen that serves a wide variety of refreshments and meals. The menu has options to tantalise everyone’s taste buds; hot soups, sandwiches, salads and cakes. There is also a shop on site where visitors’ can browse and purchase traditional Icelandic souvenirs.Þingvellir,
Þingvellir is one of the most important sites to visit in Iceland for its landscape, history and cultural value.
The Icelandic parliament was founded in Þingvellir in 930 and remained there for centuries. Þingvellir is surrounded by a beautiful mountain range and is the site of a rift valley, marking the crest of the Mid-Atlantic range. Today it is a natural park, listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and considered a vital part of the ‘Golden triangle’ (with Geysir and Gullfoss). Of particular note is the magnificent gorge Almannagjá, which marks the eastern boundary of the North American plate and into which the beautiful waterfall Öxarárfoss falls.
Other notable attractions within the park include the beautiful lake Þingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland, the Silfra fissure, one of the world's top dives, Þingvallakirkja Church and Gjábakkahellir, one of Iceland's most interesting lava tubes.
Hraunfossar in Borgarfjordur district is a series of beautiful waterfalls formed by rivulets streaming from a short distance out of the Hallmundarhraun lava field.
The lava field flowed from an eruption of one of the volcanoes lying under the glacier Langjokull. The waterfalls pour into the Hvita river from ledges of less porous rock in the lava. These are some of the most magnificent falls found in Iceland and not to be missed.Deildartunguhver,
Deildartunguhver, by Reykholt, in Borgarfjordur district, has the highest flow rate for a hot spring in Europe.
The flow rate of Deildartunguhver is 180 liters/second and water emerges at 97 °C. The place is also unique for being the only place in the country where the hard fern grows.Skaftafell,
Skaftafell is a nature preserve in Oraefasveit. It used to be a national park of its own but joined the larger Vatnajokull National Park in 2008.
Skaftafell is notable for its rich flora, growing between sands and glaciers, and overall for its amazing and contrasting scenery. You can take short and easy trails to the waterfalls Svartifoss and Hundafoss, as well as Skaftafell glacier, with the mountain Kristinartindar and Morsardalur valley further off.
Skaftafell is also the perfect base camp for those seeking to climb Iceland’s highest peak, Hvannadalshnukur.Vík í Mýrdal,
Vik in Myrdalur valley is the southernmost village on the Icelandic mainland, located 186 km from the capital Reykjavik.
Vik is important as a service centre for the inhabitants and visitors of the marvellous Reynisfjara beach.
Reynisfjara is widely considered one of the most beautiful beaches on earth (see for example Islands Magazine). This black pebble beach boasts an amazing cliff of regular basalt columns called Gardar, which resembles a rocky step pyramid and out in the sea are the spectaculary shaped basalt sea stacks Reynisdrangar. The area has rich birdlife, including puffins, fulmars and guillemots.
At the Settlement Center in Borgarnes in West Iceland, you can learn about the age of settlement and about viking and poet and Egill Skallagrimsson of Egils saga fame.
At the settlement exhibition you‘ll learn about the discovery of Iceland, how the first sailors braved the North Atlantic Ocean to reach our island and about its subsequent settlement, eventually leading to the founding of what may be the oldest parliament in the world, Althingi, at Thingvellir in 930 AD.
At the Egils saga exhibition you‘ll learn about the legendary viking and poet Egill Skallagrimsson. His father, Skalla-Grimur sailed to Iceland early in the settlement age and settled in Borgarfjordur, where Egill was born and raised. The dramatic and fascinating saga of Egill's life is perhaps the most beloved of all the Icelandic sagas. If you haven‘t read Egils saga, we highly recommend that you do so!
The museum uses multimedia and theater techniques to offer the visitior a vivid experience. Audio guides are available in Icelandic, English, German, Polish, Spanish, Russian, Japanese and Norwegian. A complete exhibition circuit of each exhibition takes around 30 minutes.Mývatn Nature Baths,
The Mývatn Nature Baths are a set of geothermally heated pools and steam baths found in the Lake Mývatn area. They are about two kilometres east of the village of Reykjahlíð.
Opened in 2004, the Nature Baths can be considered to be somewhat of a northern equivalent of the world-famous Blue Lagoon Spa, found in Iceland's south-west.
Photo above from Goðafoss Waterfall and the Mývatn Nature Baths
Facilities and Price of the Mývatn Nature Baths
The Mývatn Nature Baths are centred around a large lagoon, which has a temperature of about 36 to 40 degrees Celsius. The water here is packed with minerals, particularly sulphur, which is said to be good for respiratory and skin problems.
There are also two steam-baths, sat directly on top of churning geothermal waters. The temperature in these is close to 50 degrees Celsius, and humidity is near 100%. The site also has a hot tub and a separate pool for young children, as well as a restaurant.
The price for adult entry is 4,200 ISK for the winter season (until the end of April) and 4,700 ISK in summer (until the end of September); 1,600 and 2000 ISK respectively for teenagers aged 13-15; 2,700 and 3,000 ISK respectively for senior citizens; and free for those 12 and younger with an adult.
Sites Around the Mývatn Nature Baths
The Mývatn region is one of the most diverse in Iceland. You will not have to drive longer than an hour from the Nature Baths to come across natural geothermal areas, such as those at Mount Námaskarð, geological wonders, such as at Dimmuborgir, or places that combine both of these phenomena, such as the Grjótagjá hot spring cave.
The lake itself is beautiful and renowned for its birdlife. Mývatn is also considered a point on the Diamond Circle, so it is close to other incredible places of the North, such as Goðafoss and Dettifoss Waterfalls.Friðheimar,
Fríðheimar is a visitor-friendly tomato farm in south Iceland, renowned for its fresh produce, horse-breeding programme, and for the horse-shows that it puts on in fourteen languages.
Due to the geothermal activity in the area, which allows for spa facilities at the nearby towns of Flúðir and Laugarvatn, the greenhouses at Fríðheimar flourish throughout the year. Visitors can tour these greenhouses and taste the produce available.
Fríðheimar breeds Icelandic horses and has six first-prize broodmares. The horses on site are used to put on shows that are fun for the whole family, where visitors can witness the five gaits used in dressage.Grábrók,
Grábrók is a volcanic crater east of Lake Hreðavatn in the fjord of Borgarfjörður in West Iceland.
Formed approximately 3,400 years ago, the crater rests by the campus of Bifröst University and is a popular hiking destination for residents of the area.
Grábrók is the largest of three craters within the same volcanic fissure. The fissure is only about 7 kilometres (4,3 miles) in length with the average thickness of 20 metres (66 feet). As the last eruption happened, the lava dammed the river Norðurá and pushed it east up the valley. The lava, known as Grábrókarhraun, also dammed the valley which is now, consequently, Lake Hreðavatn.
Both the lava field and its craters have been protected as a nature preserve since 1962. All three craters, Grábrók, Rauðbrók and Smábrók, are easily accessible from the Ring Road and boast comfortable hiking trails fit for people of all ages. The view from the top is particularly scenic, where you can see over the university campus below, where it rests within the moss-covered lava fields of Borgarfjörður. Between Bifröst University and Grábrók is the popular roadside restaurant Hreðavatnsskáli.Skogar Museum - Skógarsafn,
Skógar Museum is a cultural heritage museum in south Iceland.
Located near one of the most popular waterfalls in the country, Skógafoss, it has exhibitions on fisheries, agriculture, handicrafts, natural history and transport. It contains 15,000 artefacts, spread across six buildings.
Entrance is 2000 ISK for adults, 1500 ISK for seniors, 1000 ISK for children 12-17, and free for those younger.
Photo from the Skógar MuseumRing Road
Iceland has one main ring road: Route 1. This ring road goes all around the island and is 1332 km long (828 miles). The road connects the capital, Reykjavík, to the second biggest city in Iceland, Akureyri, in the north of the country. Other notable towns that are connected via the ring road are Borgarnes, Blönduós, Egilsstaðir, Höfn, Kirkjubæjarklaustur, Vík, Hella, Hvolsvöllur, Selfoss and Hveragerði.
A number of popular tourist attractions are also found by the ring road, such as Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, Lake Mývatn and the waterfalls Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss and Goðafoss.
The ring road consists mainly of paved two lanes road (one each direction). Some parts of the ring road are still unpaved however. In various places the road contains single lane bridges, especially in the east part of the country. The speed limit is 90km per hour on the paved section of the road (lower when it passes through towns), but 80km per hour on gravel.
The road was only completed in 1974, with the opening of Iceland's longest bridge, that crosses Skeiðará river in southeast Iceland. In 1998 a tunnel below the fjord Hvalfjörður shortened the drive around Iceland by about one hour (or 45km along a winding fjord). Hvalfjörður tunnels are the biggest tunnels in Iceland, 5,8 km and 165m below sea level. The ring road has another tunnel called Almannaskarð in the southeast by Höfn and by 2017 the Vaðlaheiðar tunnels should be open in north Iceland, shortening the distance between Akureyri and Mývatn.
Some sections of the ring road are original 1940's country roads, and a number of sharp curves, blind curves, blind summits as well as single lane bridges mean that people need to drive cautiously. In wintertime most of the ring road is kept open, with the exception of a short passage in the east part of the country that may be closed due to heavy snow (a detour is needed to travel from the north to the east during wintertime).
Guide to Iceland would advise people to drive cautiously on the ring road both in summer and wintertime, but also to explore other roads leading from it to multiple attractions.
Departure time : Flexible
Day 2: Fosshotel Reykjavik
8 nights accommodation in rooms with shower/wc
7-day fully escorted tour with an English speaking guide
Arrival & departure airport transfer by FLYBUS (no guide)
8x breakfast and 6x 3-course dinner
Visit to two national parks
Whale watching tour (weather permitting)
Boat trip on Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon
Introduction to Icelandic horse
Entrance fee & towel to the Nature Baths at Lake Mývatn
Admission to Icelandic settlement center
Entrance fee to Skógar folk museum
Average of 1-2 hours easy walking per day
Nature fees to natural sights (if applicable)
Dinner on Reykjavík nights not included
What to bring:
Wind and water proof clothes
Dress warmly according to Icelandic weather
Hiking shoes for comfortable walking
Gore-tex shoes to prevent your feet from getting wet in case of raining
Good to know:
OPTIONAL VIP SEATING: Supplement for guaranteed window seat on our fully escorted coach tours which includes a window seat and next seat remaining empty (a passenger gets actually two seats) as well as a pillow and blanket for upgraded comfort. Seats will be reserved in the front rows of the bus, first comes, first get.PICK-UP: Please be ready in front of the hotel at least fifteen minutes before your pick-up time. There is no other pick-up available than the one at the Fosshotel Reykjavik.
Day 1 - SAT: WELCOME TO ICELAND (50 km/31 mls)
Arrival to Reykjavík. The Flybus shuttle brings you from Keflavík International airport to Reykjavík where you spend the first night in Iceland. We provide you with ideas how to explore Iceland's capital on your own.
Day 2 - SUN: LAND OF SAGAS & VOLCANO CLIMB (190 km/118 mls)
After a short Reykjavík city tour, we head north from Iceland's capital to West Iceland. The settlement centre in Borgarnes introduces us to the Icelandic sagas where we learn about their impact on Iceland through the ages. The afternoon is filled with fascinating natural spots. A 40-minute round-trip hike takes us to the rim of Grábrók volcano crater, formed about 3400 years ago. For anyone interested in geology, this is a "must-see". The crater is in the middle of a vast lava field and from the top, you have superb views of the beautiful landscape. Deildartunguhver is one of the most voluminous hot springs in Europe. The water that flows here is boiling and sizzling. Soon after, we explore Hraunfossar, the unique waterfall that drains from under vast lava fields into a glacial river. A 10-minute walk takes us to Barnafoss, "children's fall", with its strange rock formations carved by the river Hvítá. Enjoy Icelandic history at the cultural site in Reykholt, which was the home of the 13th-century writer, scholar, and chieftain Snorri Sturluson, who wrote many sagas. We see Snorri's pool, one of Iceland's most important cultural and archaeological sites. Overnight is in West Iceland.
Day 3 - MON: FROM WEST TO NORTH INCLUDING WHALE WATCHING AND SEA ANGLING (460 km/286 mls)
A long drive takes us over mountain passes, through lava fields, green pastures, fertile farmlands and along fjord landscapes to North Iceland. We pass Skagafjörður, known as the "valley of horses". After a lunch break, we go whale watching and sea angling for 2-3 hours at Eyjafjörður, Iceland's longest fjord, right below the Arctic Circle. The most common species are humpback and minke whales, harbour porpoises and dolphins. The success rate to spot whales is about 98 %. The tour also includes about 30 minutes of sea angling. Expect to catch cod, haddock, pollock, catfish and if you are lucky, even a giant halibut! Next stop is Akureyri, Iceland's second-largest city before we reach the picturesque town of Húsavík in Northeast Iceland where we stay for the next two nights.
Day 4 - TUE: WHALE WATCHING, GEOLOGICAL WONDERS AND NATURE BATHS (150 km/93 mls)
The day begins with Goðafoss, "the waterfall of the Gods", one of the country's most spectacular waterfalls and a prominent spot in Iceland's history. We tour the Lake Mývatn area, considered as one of the most fertile regions in the world so close to the Arctic Circle and also known for its abundant bird life and amazing volcanic lava landscapes. The lake's unique features are shaped by nature - strange lava formations, any kind of volcanic craters, beautiful bays filled with thousands of birds and ducks. We stroll through the mysterious lava field of Dimmuborgir, look at pseudocraters and see the tephra cone Hverfjall. Our last stop is the Mývatn Nature Baths, where we soak in 36-40 degrees warm geothermal water, which contains a lot of minerals, is alkaline and well-suited for a relaxing and rejuvenating bath.
Day 5 - WED: FROM NORTH TO EAST (330 km/205 mls)
We start the day by exploring the geothermal area of Námaskarð with hot springs, fumaroles and bubbling mud pools. At Kraftla we see the impacts of volcanic activity, and you can smell the sulphur. Víti is a circular explosion crater filled with blue water which has boiled for 100 years until the early 19th century and is surrounded by volcanic landscape and colourful mountains. The name Víti signifies "Hell", and the area is quite surreal. The water, colourful mountains, and the steam hissing out of vents create an eerie atmosphere. We continue our journey to the 44-meter high Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful waterfall in the northern part of Vatnajökull National Park. The round-trip walk takes about 40-60 minutes. From there we head through the uninhabited highlands to East Iceland. Along the way, we stop at Möðrudalur, the all-year residence at the highest altitude in Iceland, 469m above sea level. In the summertime, they run a service centre there which is a perfect place to enjoy the view of Herðubreið, the queen of the Icelandic mountains. We visit the church at the farm, built by hand in 1949 by the former farmer in the memory of his late wife. We continue through a fascinating barren landscape and through a long valley called Jökuldalur. In the evening we reach the fertile region of Fljótsdalshérað with its narrow glacial lake, Lögurinn. Keep your eyes open for the giant "Lake-Worm"! Overnight in East Iceland.
Day 6 - THU: FJORDS, GLACIER AND ICE (420 km/260 mls)
The Icelandic ring road takes us toward the southeast. It's a day to admire green valleys, high mountains, dramatic fjord landscape and its tiny fishing villages at the end of twisty roads in the East Fjords. We stop at the charming village of Djúpivogur. Soon we see Vatnajökull - Europe's biggest glacier that is visible all over Southeast Iceland. Past the town of Höfn, we stop for a boat ride among the floating icebergs on the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, considered one of the highlights on tour around Iceland. Huge pieces of ice calve from the glacier and end up floating in the lake and out to sea. Many of you might recognise the glacier and ice lagoon from films such as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and James Bond: Die Another Day! The night is spent near Skaftafell in the southern part of Vatnajökull National Park.
Day 7 - FRI: VATNAJÖKULL NATIONAL PARK AND THE SOUTH (340 km/211 mls)
We explore Vatnajökull National Park which covers about 14 % of Iceland, making it Europe's second-largest national park in terms of area after Yugyd Va in Russia. The park offers amazing contrasts in landscape with glaciers, moors, mountains, birch forests, glacial rivers, brooks and sandy outwash plains. We explore the region of Skaftafell that is nestled below Iceland's highest peak and the second-biggest stratovolcano in Europe, the 2,110-meter high Hvannadalshnjúkur. We walk close to one of the many glacial tongues in the area – a Kodak moment. We cross a sandy desert and drive along the south coast, always between the sea, rugged mountains, glaciers, and waterfalls. We see Eldhraun, "fire lava", an enormous and incredibly beautiful lava field which was created by the year-long Laki eruption in 1783. This eruption was devastating for Iceland. The years that followed are referred to the "misty times", due to the volcanic ash lingering for a long time in the air. The world-famous Reynisfjara shore, near the village Vík, is widely regarded as the most impressive black sand and pebble beach in Iceland and features an amazing cliff of regular basalt columns resembling a rocky step pyramid. The area has an abundant birdlife, including puffins, fulmars, and guillemots. Iceland's past comes alive at the Skógar folk museum with its turf houses. Next stop is the 62-meter high Skógafoss waterfall, often harbouring a rainbow. We travel along the famous Eyjafjallajökull glacier and volcano and visit the narrow and 65-meter high Seljalandsfoss waterfall with a trail that leads behind the fall. You must be prepared to get wet! We continue our journey through the biggest agricultural area of Iceland to our overnight location in South Iceland.
Day 8 - SAT: RING THE GOLDEN CIRCLE TO REYKJAVIK (210 km/130 mls)
We see classics today, and we start with horses. At Friðheimar farm we meet an individual four-footed player in Iceland's history. During an educational and entertaining horse show, we are introduced with a professional but also personal display to the gaits and unique qualities of the Icelandic horse. This peculiar breed has adapted to Iceland's landscape in a way that made it a full partner in farm and city life. The Golden Circle sights follow. Gullfoss, the beautiful double "Golden Falls", tumbles 34 meters into the Hvítá river and attracts tourists and travellers all year. Next stop is the active geothermal area of Geysir, where we can see Strokkur, "the churn", spout up to 25 meters (70 feet) every five to ten minutes. We continue to the ancient Viking Parliament area of Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, and an area of exceptional geological and historical interest. See with your own eyes the rift dividing the continental plates of America and Eurasia. Overnight in Reykjavík, Iceland's capital.
Day 9 - SUN: DEPARTURE HOME (50 km/31 mls)
The Flybus airport shuttle picks you up at your hotel and takes you to Keflavik airport.