Across the Arctic Circle
9 days, 8 nights: June through September
Drive north through the Icelandic Highlands along Kjolur mountain road, an area favored by outlaws in centuries past. Bathe in natural hot springs at geothermal oasis Hveravellir, as boiling mud pits and steaming fumaroles vent all around you. We’ll explore Akureyri, the capital of northern Iceland, and hike around Lake Myvatn, known for its exceptionally rich bird life. Other highlights include the Myvatn Nature Baths, Europe’s largest waterfall Dettifoss, and an excursion to Grimsey Island, which is located directly on the Arctic circle.
Day 1, Welcome to Iceland!
Our car service will pick you up at the airport and drive you to Reykjavik, where you check into your downtown hotel. Spend the day at leisure with recommendations from us.
Day 2, The Highlands
We start the day with a drive to Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thingvellir is situated in the dramatic rift valley where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates pull apart, clearly visible at the great Almannagja or Everyman’s Gorge. Our next stop is at Geysir, the place that gave its name to the phenomenon worldwide. From here, a 10-minute drive takes you to Gullfoss, or Golden Falls, Iceland’s most famous waterfall. After lunch, we head north along the Kjölur mountain route, stopping along the way at Hveravellir, a geothermal oasis in the highlands. Overnight in the Skagafjordur region.
Day 3, Akureyri and the North
This morning you have the option of going horseback riding, river rafting, or sailing out to the island of Drangey. This 180m sheer cliff island has one place to land a boat and only one narrow and steep path that leads to the top of the island. Once there, you can enjoy the varied birdlife and stunning views, and hear amazing tales of Grettir the Viking hero who lived on the island one-thousand years ago. In the afternoon, we´ll visit the town of Hofsos, where the Icelandic Emigration Center commemorates Icelandic emigrants to North America. Our route continues north around the so-called Troll Peninsula, through the fishing villages of Siglufjordur, Olafsfjordur and Dalvik, until we reach Akureyri, Iceland´s second largest city with a total population of 17,000. This surprisingly cosmopolitan town has an excellent selection of cafes, restaurants and museums, as well as Iceland´s largest botanical garden.
Day 4, Lake Myvatn
Today we head east from Akureyri to the Lake Myvatn area, a starkly beautiful but otherworldly landscape of sputtering mudpots, weird lava formations, steaming fumaroles and volcanic craters. The area is also world-famous among bird-watchers. Most species of waterfowl present in Iceland are found here in great numbers, including 13 different species of duck. Here, we´ll explore the pseudo-craters at Skutustadagigar, the lava formations at Dimmuborgir, the explosive crater Hverfjall, and the geothermal area at Namaskard. At the end of the day, you may choose to take a dip in the mineral-rich waters of the Myvatn Nature Baths. Overnight by Lake Myvatn.
Day 5, Krafla
Today we´ll go for easy hikes in the lavafields northwest of Lake Myvatn. Krafla is a volcanic caldera about 10km in diameter with a 90km long fissure zone. There have been 29 reported eruptions here in recorded history. From the rim above Leirhnjukur crater one can look out over the Krafla caldera and the lava fields that dissect it. The earth´s crust is extremely thin here and in places the ground is ferociously hot. Overnight by Lake Myvatn.
Day 6, Dettisfoss Waterfalls
Today’s focus is the Jokulsargljufur National Park, which translates as “Glacial River Canyon,” Iceland’s most well-known canyon replete with extraordinary rock formations, waterfalls, and plant life. We´ll walk in at least two of its main areas, starting with Dettifoss in the south, which is Europe’s most powerful waterfall (often compared to Niagara Falls), and Asbyrgi, the wooded horseshoe canyon at the park’s northern end. Birdlife en route are snipes, ptarmigans, and snow bunting, with gyrfalcon, merlin and ravens nesting on cliffs and rock pillars. In the later afternoon, a two-hour drive via the coastal town of Husavik (also known as the whale watching capital of Iceland) returns you to the hotel in Akureyri.
Day 7, Across the Arctic Circle
Today, you take the 25-min flight north to Grimsey, the tiny 5-sq km island 40 km off the north coast of Iceland (pop. 100). This is the only part of Iceland bissected by the Arctic Circle. Here a local guide will welcome you and take you on a 1-hour walk around the island, after which you will receive a certificate for having crossed the Arctic Circle. Your flight then returns to Reykjavik after refueling in Akureyri.
Day 8, Reykjavik
Today, explore Reykjavik on your own with recommendations from us. Consider taking a whale and puffin watching tour in the morning. You can also go on a guided bike tour, visit a nearby horse ranch, or just feed the ducks and swans by the picturesque lake in the center of town.
Day 9, Blue Lagoon and Departure
Guests leaving in the afternoon may want to consider a day at the Blue Lagoon spa before arriving at the airport for departure.