HIKING, WALKING, TOURING AND WHALE WATCHING - 12 days/11 nights
The world is at your feet, with an average of three hours walking a day in some of the most beautiful parts of Iceland and with some longer hikes on day two, four and nine. Highlights include visiting the two National Parks of Þingvellir and Vatnajökull, the wonders of Landmannalaugar and Lake Mývatn, for its latitude the most fertile area in the world. There are waterfalls including the awesome and remote Dettifoss, the most powerful in Europe. The tour includes, weather permitting, a 3 hour whale watching cruise sailing from Húsavík and a glacial hike in South Iceland. There is a lot to see but little to carry, as the tour bus will convey your luggage.
Accommodation is provided in simple and clean hotels and guesthouses with private facilities.
HIGHLIGHTS and EXPERIENCES included:
- We only stay in four hotels in the countryside which means less packing
- Visit two National Parks
- Whale watching tour, weather permitting
- Glacier walk, weather permitting
- Soak in two nature baths
- Visit to a remote farm in the highlands of Iceland
- Boat trip on glacial lagoon among floating icebergs
- Enjoy lunch at the Sænautasel farm
- Average of three hours walking a day, with longer hikes on day 3, 5 & 10
DAY 1: WELCOME TO ICELAND (50 km/31 mls)
Private airport transfer by coach & guide from Keflavík International airport to Reykjavík where you spend the night.
DAY 2: WATERFALLS, GLACIAL WALK, LAVA BEACHES & BIRD CLIFFS, 285 km (177 miles)
The day starts with a drive over Hellisheiði mountain pass to the greenhouse village of Hveragerði. We travel through the southern farmlands and biggest agricultural area in Iceland with a stop at the narrow Seljalandsfoss, which falls 50m. We can see it from all sides as we can walk behind it – with care and with the risk of getting wet! We continue Skógafoss waterfall, falling gracefully 60m down the green mountain and often harbouring a rainbow. You experience an easy and safe glacier walk and get a glimpse of the breathtaking Sólheimajökull glacier, and its surroundings. The tour focuses on the exploration of water cauldrons, waterways and other ice features of the glacier where we will discover the different shades of the glaciers, white ice, blue ice and just plain clear ice. Before setting out on to the glacier the glacier guide will teach you how to use the basic glacier equipment, crampons and ice axes, required for this tour. Suitable for everybody (min age 8 years).
Afterwards we explore a black lava beach with bird cliffs at Reynisfjara before we pass the village of Vík and drive through the black sands of Mýrdalsjökull and through the lava fields of Eldhraun (Fire Lava) resulted from a yearlong eruption in 1783 before arriving a the small village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. We stay for the next two nights in the southern part of Vatnajökull National Park region.
DAY 3: HIKING IN EUROPE’S LARGEST NATIONAL PARK, 140 km (87 miles)
Skaftafell is today a part of the Vatnajökull National Park, the largest national park in Europe. The area nestles under the slopes of Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier and is dominated by Iceland’s highest peak Mount Hvannadalshnúkur, 2110 meters. This area used to be one of the most isolated communities in Iceland with the ice cap on its north, barren sands and wild glacial river to the east and the west and the harbourless, sandy beach of the Atlantic Ocean to the south. The landscape has been formed through thousands of years by different influences of fire, ice and water and Skaftafell enjoys a mild climate compared to the rest of southern Iceland.
There are several hiking trails and today we spend the whole day hiking in the area. We hike up to the waterfall Svartifoss (Black Fall), which is surrounded by black basalt columns, and we walk up to Sjónsker (View Cliff) from where we have a magnificent view of the area that was flooded during an eruption under the ice cap in the year 1996 and we also get a good view of Mount Hvannadalshnúkur. Depending on fitness level and hiking experience of group members and weather conditions, we continue our hike up to Kristínartindar, total hiking time about 6 hours. Kristínartindar are actually two peaks, one 979m and the other one is 1126m high and they offer magnificent views over glaciers, glacier lakes, mountains, rivers and waterfalls. Elevation is about 1.030m and the hike is about 8-9 km. Those that prefer less hiking can return individually from Sjónsker back to the service center at Skaftafell National Park and spend time with leisurely walks, taking photos and enjoy pure nature around the visitor center.
DAY 4: ICEBERGS AND FJORDS, 530 km (329 miles)
We drive eastwards along the southern coast with the Atlantic Ocean to the south and Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier to the north. This magnificent ice cap covers about 8 % of the surface of Iceland, underneath there is much volcanic activity and several times through our history there have been eruptions under the glacier resulting in devastating floods of melted ice that have created the black sands we cross today. Weather permitting we see magnificent glacial tongues descending from the main ice cap and at one place creating a large glacial lagoon, with large floating icebergs melting slowly to feed Iceland’s shortest river, Jökulsá á Breiðamerkursandi. We stop to take a boat tour to sail among the icebergs on the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. From there we continue to the Eastern Fjords, passing the towns Höfn and Djúpivogur and on to Egilsstaðir. Two nights overnight in a small guesthouse at the remote but beautiful Borgarfjörður-Eystri fjord in East Iceland.
DAY 5: HIKING THROUGH VIKING TRAILS, 40 km (25 miles)
We explore Borgarfjörður Eystri (Borgarfjörður in the East), so named because there are two fjords with this name in Iceland. Here is a village which until recently was very isolated and still today is very much out of the way. There are few places where you can find so colourful and magnificent mountains. But besides unique geological formations and numerous species of rock, that make this area so interesting and worth visiting, there are also easily accessible bird cliffs, teeming with life during the nesting area, and several tales of “Hidden People” and other supernatural beings and their interactions with humans have taken place here. One of Iceland’s best known painters Jóhannes Kjarval (1885-1972) grew up in Borgarfjörður and the landscape and the folktales of his youth very much influenced his art.
There are several hiking trails to choose from and today we spend the whole day hiking in this beautiful and magnificent area. Depending on fitness level and hiking experience of group members and weather conditions, we hike to Stórurð (Boulder Scree) that is a fabulous, wild valley towards one of the most dramatic mountains of East Iceland, Dyrfjöll (1136m) at the entrance of the wonderful Borgarfjörður region. At the heart of majestic Mt. Dyrfjöll lies Stórurð, a mysterious unearthly place. It is a labyrinth of enormous rocks through which a little river winds its way and calm turquoise ponds of icy water lie hidden among the huge boulders, lined by flat banks of short, green grass. This trail offers some wonderful view from the black sands of Héraðsflói with yellow mountains in the background over the greens of Hérað all the way to Vatnajökull glacier. This is an easy but long trail that leaves no one untouched (about 15 km long round trip and about 5 hour hike plus stops with just small elevation difference). If the weather is not ideal for this hike, there are plenty of alternatives.
DAY 6: EAST ICELAND-HIGHLAND DESERT-NORTH ICELAND, 395 km (245 miles)
Today we start with a 2 hour walk up to Hengifoss, one of the highest waterfalls in Iceland. On the way we pass Litlanesfoss waterfall with impressive basalt columns. In the very remote area in the highlands of Iceland we visit Sænautasel, an old farm that was the main model for the setting of the novel: Independent People by Nobel Prize Winner Halldór Kiljan Laxness. Here we have a typical Icelandic lunch included. We continue to Möðrudalur, a farm that has been inhabited from early settlement in Iceland and to this day, and has also served as a church site for centuries. We travel through desert landscape before reaching our accommodation for the next three nights in Northeast Iceland.
DAY 7: WHALE WATCHING, GEOLOGICAL WONDERS AND NATURE BATHS, 150 km (93 miles)
We start the day with a 3 hours whale watching cruise, weather permitting, from the picturesque village of Húsavík. A short drive brings us to Lake Mývatn, a unique area that features strange lava formations, attractive bays, pseudo craters and prolific bird life. Lake Mývatn is Iceland’s fourth biggest lake and is known for its exceptionally rich bird life and unique geological formations. Rare birds include for example the Barrow’s Golden eye which is not found elsewhere in Europe. We explore the pseudo craters at Skútustaðir, the fantastic lava formations at Dimmuborgir (Dark Castles) and walk up the explosion crater Hverfell that was created in a very short but powerful volcanic eruption some 2500 years ago. We relax in Mývatn Nature Baths before we head back to our accommodation. Have swimwear handy but the towel is included in the entrance price.
DAY 8: WALKING IN THE NATIONAL PARK, 220 km (136 miles)
We visit Hljóðaklettar with its strange formations and the magnificent and puzzling canyon Ásbyrgi, said to be a hoof print of Sleipnir the eight legged horse of the ancient god Óðinn. We walk and hike along the west bank of the mighty Jökulsá River and not far upstream we see Europe’s most powerful waterfall Dettifoss, 45 meter (150 ft) high and 100 meters (330 ft) wide, located at the northern part of the Vatnajökull National Park.
DAY 9: FROM NORTH TO SOUTH THROUGH THE INTERIOR HIGHLANDS, 470 km (291 miles)
We start our day at Goðafoss “waterfall of the gods” into which, in the year 1000, a nearby chieftain threw his statues of the pagan gods to prove his loyalty to the new Christian God. We stop in the capital of the north, Akureyri. This is a big city on Icelandic scale with 15.000 inhabitants. We travel the Kjölur route south across the highland desert with its views of the distant ice-caps and stop at the hot springs of Hveravellir. This area became shrouded in mystery and folktales of ghosts, giants and outlaws and is today one of Europe’s last wildernesses. We continue to the edge of the highlands to visit Gullfoss (the golden waterfall), one of Iceland’s favourite waterfalls. Falling 32 meters into Hvítárgljúfur (the White River canyon) after a journey of 30 km from the glacier Langjökull (the long glacier) you see why Icelanders call it the Golden Waterfall. Afterwards we visit the famous Geysir area. Geysir, the word meaning “the one who spouts/erupts” is used internationally for spouting hot springs, found only in few countries of the world, but in Icelandic it is the name of our largest geyser. In the area you will find the Geysir Strokkur that spouts every 5-10 minutes. The old Geysir has turned down its activity and does not spout that regularly any longer, but he is there to be admired. We go for a walk through the geothermal area. At the end of a very long day we come to the village of Hveragerði in South Iceland where we stay for two nights.
DAY 10: HIKING IN LANDMANNALAUGAR, 280 km (174 miles)
Today we drive to Landmannalaugar, an oasis in the bareness. There we spend the day walking in this out-of-this-world area surrounded by colourful rhyolite mountains. Depending on fitness level and hiking experience of group members and weather conditions, we hike from the hut in Landmannalaugar the trail that goes through a rough lava field to an amazing hot spring field and up the slopes of "Brennisteinsalda" with an incredible spectrum of colours. We return via Grænagil gorge that can only be described as simply spectacular and beautifully colourful. The elevation is about 300m and the hike takes about 4 hours. In Landmannalaugar there is also a natural geothermal stream where you can enjoy a refreshing bath. Have swimwear and towel handy. On the way back to Hveragerði we stop at the beautiful waterfall Hjálparfoss in Þjórsárdalur valley.
DAY 11: ÞINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK-REYKJAVÍK, 110 km (68 miles)
In the morning there is the opportunity to go for a optional horseback riding tour. On our way back to Reykjavík we stop at Þingvellir National Park. Besides being of great interest from a geological point of view Þingvellir has a very special place in our history. It was here where the Icelandic parliament was founded in 930, making it the oldest national legislative assembly in the world, and here it met for centuries in beautiful natural surroundings. At Þingvellir you are also standing on the Atlantic Rift, between the North American and the Eurasian continental plates. We enjoy the last hike of our tour before returning to Reykjavík in the late afternoon.
DAY 12: DEPARTURE HOME (50 km/31 mls)
Private transfer by bus (no guide) from your accommodation in Reykjavík to Keflavík airport.
- This is a walking tour. Reasonable fitness is required, being able to walk/hike up to 6 hours in one day.
- Average walking/hiking time is about 3 hours per day.
- Total mileage in 10 days (without airport transfers) is about 2.620 km (1.625 miles) which is an average of 262 km (162 miles) per day, about 3,5 hours per day will be spent on the bus. On some days the driving might be longer than on some other days, especially when driving in the interior highlands of Iceland.
DEPARTURE DATES: This itinerary is ideal for the period July & August, when the interior highlands are open for travelling and hiking.
DURATION: 12 days / 11 nights
ACCOMMODATION: Tourist class & country hotels – rooms with shower/wc
MEALS: 11x breakfast and 9x dinner (3-course or buffet). Dinner on Reykjavík nights not included but can be added on request.
GROUP SIZE: Ideal for groups 10-25 persons.
- Arrival airport transfer by private bus & guide
- Fully escorted 10 day coach tour with a professional guide
- Departure airport transfer by private bus (no guide)
- 11 nights accommodation in simple tourist class hotels - rooms with shower/wc
- 11x breakfast & 9x dinner
- Visit to two National Parks
- Whale watching tour in Húsavík (weather permitting)
- Guided glacial walk in South Iceland (weather permitting)
- Average of three hours walking & hiking per day
- Visit to two Nature Baths
- Boat trip on glacial lagoon
- Sænautasel farm visit
PRICE: contact our group department for an offer - email firstname.lastname@example.org