- Hike, snowshoe and take a glacier walk on this active winter exploration of Iceland
- Discover Iceland's beautiful winter landscapes, sculpted by fire and ice
- Search the night skies for multicolored displays of the Northern Lights
- Take a soothing dip in the waters of the geothermally-heated Blue Lagoon
- Set out in search of Orca and other wildlife on a whale-watching cruise
When Icelanders hear "winter is coming," hibernation is the furthest thing from their minds. The inhabitants of this dramatically-beautiful North Atlantic island have learned how to fill all seasons with outdoor activity. Our new Iceland multisport makes the most of a wintertime getaway with a week of exploration and adventure in this country sculpted by volcanism and glaciation.
A dip in the geothermally-heated Blue Lagoon helps soak away our cares shortly after our arrival. In the days that follow, discover a wide range of landscapes as we enjoy a coastal hike on the rugged Snaefellsnes Peninsula, snowshoe over lava fields in the Blue Mountains, and strap on crampons to walk on the icy-blue Solheimajokull Glacier.
In addition to our muscle-powered exploits, we'll search for orca on a whale-watching cruise, visit frozen waterfalls and bubbling hot springs, and discover always-vibrant Reykjavik. We spend our evenings in the comfort of small hotels and set out on nighttime drives into the countryside to scan the dark skies for the ethereal Northern Lights.
- Day 1 - Enjoy a soak in the Blue Lagoon. Explore the Leidarendi lava tube.
- Day 2 - Go whale-watching in search of Orca, other marine mammals, and seabirds.
- Day 3 - Discover Snaefellsnes National Park on a scenic coastal hike.
- Day 4 - Marvel at Iceland's winter landscapes and search the night skies for the Northern Lights.
- Day 5 - Strap on your crampons and take a walk on Solheimajokull glacier.
- Day 6 - Snowshoe in the Blue Mountains. Tour vibrant Reykjavik.
- Day 7 - Spend a final morning in Reykjavik before catching your flight home.
Trip Itinerary and Details
Important Notice: Day 1 is the day you should plan to arrive at the meeting point for the trip. This may require departing your hometown one or more days in advance and traveling on an overnight flight.
Day 1 - Enjoy a soak in the Blue Lagoon. Explore the Leidarendi lava tube.
Your trip begins today in Reykjavik, Iceland. Upon arrival at Keflavik airport this morning, we're met by our Icelandic guide and drive across the Reykjanes peninsula – a lunar landscape filled with hundreds of craters, bubbling mud pots and hot springs – directly to the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon spa is a giant, manmade pool fed and heated by the mineral-rich waters of the nearby geothermal plant and a stop here offers a perfect opportunity to relax and rejuvenate after our overnight flight. After a soak in the spa pool, we jump back aboard our private vehicle and refreshed, continue on to Leidarendi cave. Approximately 2000 years old, Leidarendi is a great example of lava tube geology with frozen flows of various patterns and formations easily visible within the cave in addition to an assortment of small stalagmites and stalactites. In winter, the cave is often filled with glistening icicles of all shapes and sizes creating ephemeral artworks of ice. Some crawling is required but most of Leidarendi is accessible on foot giving easy access to this cool underworld of the Icelandic lava field that surrounds Reykjavik and large parts of Iceland. We spend time exploring the cave with headlamps, taking special care to not damage any of the formations as the stalagmites and stalactites are extremely fragile and if broken, are gone forever. In mid-afternoon, we transfer to Reykjavik and check into our centrally-located hotel. Before our welcome dinner, we have some time at leisure to relax or perhaps stroll the streets of this colorful capital city and experience the first hints of its lively vibe. All meals included.
Caving: 1-2 hours
Day 2 - Go whale-watching in search of Orca, other marine mammals, and seabirds.
We set out from Reykjavik this morning en route to the Snaefellsnes peninsula and the small town of Grundafjordur from where our whale-watching cruise departs. In recent years, large schools of herring (estimated to weigh several hundred thousand tons) have gathered during winter months in the Grundarfjördur and Kolgrafarfjördur fjords on the north coast of Snaefellsnes peninsula. This has attracted Orcas, dolphins and Minke whales to the area as well as thousands of fulmars, gannets, gulls and a variety of other seabirds. It's estimated that on some days, as many as a few hundred whales gather in the fjords simultaneously to feed. The crew of our boat has extensive experience in the Snaefellsnes waters and is adept at locating any marine mammals in the area. After returning to shore, we enjoy an authentic taste of Icelandic culture when we pay a visit to Hildibrandur, a local farmer in nearby Bjarnathofn known to produce some of the best hakari (fermented shark) in the region. Icelanders like to say that hakari is an "acquired taste" but the courageous among us will have an opportunity to try some of this local delicacy along with Brennivin schnapps, Iceland's signature distilled liquor. After our tasting, Hildibrandur will show us around his place and provide some insight into the rural Icelandic lifestyle. Our destination this evening will be a small guesthouse on the Snaefellsnes peninsula from where, conditions permitting, we have our first opportunity to scan the dark winter skies for signs of the northern lights. Iceland is one of the world's premier destinations for viewing these dancing, multicolored waves of light caused by the collision of charged particles in the upper atmosphere and we take advantage of our nights here by devoting time on multiple evenings to searching for them. All meals included.
Note: Depending on weather conditions and whale activity, our guides may opt to switch Day 2 and Day 3 of the itinerary.
Day 3 - Discover Snaefellsnes National Park on a scenic coastal hike.
We hike along old fishermen's trails in Snaefellsnes National Park today with fantastic views of dramatic coves, inlets and sea cliffs; the cliffs acting as nesting sites for a host of bird species that spend their winters here. Some of Iceland's best fishing grounds are located off this coastline and hardy fishermen have plied their trade in this area for hundreds of years. Mt. Snaefellsjokull (4,744') is the dominant feature of the surrounding landscape. An 800,000-year-old stratovolcano with a small glacier covering its summit, Snaefellsjokull is one of the most famous mountains in Iceland due to its iconic shape and its starring role as the starting point for the "Journey to the Center of the Earth" as described in Jules Verne's classic novel. The geology of the peninsula is the result of cataclysmic events that occurred both pre- and post-ice age with the prevalent lava fields along the south coast created by a series of 20 volcanic eruptions. In addition to the natural highlights, our hike takes us past the ruins of old fishing villages, lighthouses, and even some shipwrecks that serve as a reminder of how the forces of nature impact the course of life on this island in so many different ways. We return to our comfortable guesthouse tonight for dinner and a good night's sleep. All meals included.
Hiking: 6.5 miles (4-5 hours). Elevation gain/loss: minimal (approx. 100'-200').
Day 4 - Marvel at Iceland's winter landscapes and search the night skies for the Northern Lights.
Today's exploration includes visits to some of southwestern Iceland's loveliest landscapes and fascinating geological phenomena. We bid farewell to the Snaefellsnes peninsula this morning and follow the main road to Gullfoss (Golden Falls), one of Iceland's most spectacular natural wonders. This magnificent double waterfall, partly frozen in wintertime, tumbles into a deep canyon and the nearby trail network allows us to get within feet of the cascading torrent. Close by is the Great Geysir (which has given its name to all other such water spouts around the world) and its more reliable companion Strokkur. Although the Great Geysir is only active a few times each week, Strokkur erupts every 10 minutes, spouting water almost 70 feet in the air. We'll explore the steaming vents, mud pots and fumaroles of this active geothermal area before continuing on to Thingvellir National Park, the site of the world's oldest democratic parliament dating back to 930 A.D. Thingvellir became Iceland's first national park in 1928, not only due to its great historical significance but also because of its haunting natural beauty. In geological terms, this area is also of great interest because nowhere else in Iceland can the divergent drift of the American and Eurasian plates be seen more clearly. A five kilometer wide strip of land in between the plates has sunk over 180 feet in the past 10.000 years and a rift valley has formed. Conditions permitting, we'll go for a short walk in the rift valley and around the site of the ancient parliament and learn more about Iceland's fascinating cultural history. We stay in a small hotel near Gullfoss tonight. All meals included.
Day 5 - Strap on your crampons and take a walk on Solheimajokull glacier.
In a country teeming with natural wonders, Iceland's high concentration of breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls always leaves an indelible impression on those who visit. Our day begins with stops at two particularly photogenic cascades, Seljalandfoss and Skogarfoss. We have time to appreciate the scale and power of the falls before returning to our waiting vehicle and continuing on to Solheimajokull, the location of today's exhilarating hike. Solheimajokull, an outlet glacier extending from the great Myrdalsjokull glacier, is a wonderland of ice sculptures, crevasses, and long, narrow ridges. After strapping on our crampons and grabbing our ice axes, we set out on a glacier walk accompanied by an experienced mountain guide, making our way up the icy ridges and witnessing firsthand some of the powerful forces that have shaped Iceland's unique geography over the millennia. Some of the crystal blue ice visible in the glacier is over 1000 years old, its remarkable color the result of hundreds of thousands of tons of compression squeezing all oxygen out of the ice. If atmospheric conditions are favorable, we head out in search of the aurora borealis again tonight! All meals included.
Hiking: 5-6 miles (4-5 hours) depending on conditions. Elevation gain/loss: 350'.
Day 6 - Snowshoe in the Blue Mountains. Tour vibrant Reykjavik.
Our adventure continues in the Blue Mountains this morning where we snowshoe over snow-covered lava fields and enjoy views of the surrounding winter landscape. During our walk, we explore ancient volcanic craters including Thrihnjukar, a dormant volcano which last erupted over 4,000 ago. All of Thrihnjukar's magma has drained away as though a plug was pulled at the bottom of the magma chamber, making it the only hollow volcano in the world. After our snowshoe hike concludes, we return to Reykjavik and take a walking tour of the city, stopping at a variety of notable sights and landmarks before heading back to our hotel to freshen up for our farewell celebration dinner. We enjoy a final Icelandic meal with our traveling companions and newfound friends before tomorrow's departure. All meals included.
Snowshoeing: 5-6 miles (4-5 hours) depending on conditions. Elevation gain/loss: 300'.
Day 7 - Spend a final morning in Reykjavik before catching your flight home.
After breakfast, we have the remainder of the morning and early afternoon on our own to explore the sights of Reykjavik and finish up our souvenir shopping (perhaps purchasing a few samples of fermented shark to bring back for that special someone) before transferring to Keflavik airport for our flights home. Most flights returning to the U.S. depart in late afternoon, and we arrive at Keflavik airport with ample time to check in. Breakfast included.
Although we do our best to adhere to the schedule listed above, this itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control.
Please check with us before purchasing your airline tickets to ensure your trip has the necessary minimum number of participants required to operate.
Hotel/guesthouse accommodations (6 nights); all meals as noted on the daily itinerary; guides; group transfer from/to Keflavik Airport; transportation within Iceland; whale-watch cruise; snowshoes; crampons and ice ax (for glacier walk); entrance to all national parks and Blue Lagoon thermal pool.
Air transportation to/from Iceland; 1 lunch; alcoholic beverages and soft drinks; guide gratuities; travel insurance; laundry expenses and items of a personal nature.
This adventure is rated Moderate .It's not necessary to be an expert hiker or snowshoer to participate, but you should enjoy hiking and feel comfortable covering distances of up to 6 miles (3-5 hours) on your walks. No prior experience is required for the glacier walk. To maximize your enjoyment of the trip and to avoid sore muscles, we suggest beginning a regular exercise regimen at least 3 months prior to departure. Recommended exercises include hiking, snowshoeing and/or jogging being sure to incorporate some uphill segments into your training routine. The better shape you're in upon arrival, the more fun you will have!
Iceland's winter climate can be extremely variable with the Gulf Stream current and north Atlantic weather patterns greatly influencing local conditions. Daytime temperatures average in the 30s with nighttime temperatures dropping below freezing (teens and 20s). In late January, the sun rises at approx. 10 a.m. and sets at 5 p.m. with daylight hours increasing as the calendar moves into February and March (by mid-March, the sun is rising at 7:45 a.m. and setting at 7:30 p.m.). Precipitation in the form of snow or rain is a possibility during any of the winter months and, although we are generally quite successful in following the itinerary as written, daily schedules may need to be rearranged and activities possibly canceled should any strong weather fronts move through the region during our visit. Participants must be prepared for weather extremes that vary greatly and follow the recommendations on the specific trip Gear List closely in order to ensure that you arrive properly equipped.
We strongly recommend the purchase of trip cancellation and travel insurance. This comprehensive travel protection provides for: trip cancellation and interruption, travel delay, loss of baggage and travel documents, baggage delay, medical expenses and emergency assistance. An insurance application is included with all trip confirmations.
If you are traveling alone and specifically request single accommodations, you will be asked to pay the single supplement fee. There is no single supplement fee for those willing to share accommodations, and we will assign you a roommate of the same gender if possible. Please be advised that there are a limited number of single accommodations available.General Information
This trip is subject to the booking information set forth in the current REI Adventures Reservation Information. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A full gear list and pre-departure information is sent upon sign-up. We highly recommend the purchase of travel insurance through REI Adventures. If coverage is purchased at the time of your initial reservation, the 'Pre-existing Conditions Exclusion' is waived (certain exclusions apply).
We look forward to having you join us for the trip of a lifetime! Why wait? Space is limited, reserve your adventure today.
Iceland Winter Adventure Gear List
The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. Try to bring only what is necessary—this will help you and the field staff.
- Helmets, crampons and ice axe (for glacier walk)
- Headlamps and helmets (for caving / lava tube exploration)
- Photo identification
- Airline tickets
- Large duffel bag or soft-sided suitcase
- Luggage tags and luggage locks
- Daypack - 2000 - 2500 cu. in. to carry your camera, water bottles, extra clothing.
- Bring a few lightweight, easily washable items for travel and evening wear
- Rain jacket/shell - waterproof, breathable
- Rain pants - waterproof, breathable
- Down or synthetic parka
- Midweight fleece or wool sweater
- Midweight thermal underwear top and bottom, synthetic or wool, two pair
- Hiking pants, synthetic
- Long-sleeve shirts (synthetic is best for daytime activity)
- T-shirts (synthetic is best for daytime activity)
- Hiking socks, wool or synthetic – bring extra pairs
- Liner socks, synthetic
- Swimsuit (for Blue Lagoon)
- Sun hat
- Wool or fleece winter hat that covers ears completely
- Waterproof winter gloves
- Knee-high gaiters
- Sturdy hiking boots, waterproof, broken-in
- Warm casual shoes/slippers for evening wear
- Two (2) one-quart water bottles or hydration system. (note: hydration pack tubes may freeze in cold weather)
- Headlamp or flashlight with spare batteries/bulb
- Watch with alarm or travel clock
- Sunglasses and retainer strap
- Sunblock and lip balm
- Toiletry kit
- Yak Traks (optional but recommended in the event that the ground is icy)
- Camera, extra memory, spare batteries
- Reading and writing materials
- Compact binoculars
- Pocket knife or multi-tool
- Spare contact lenses or glasses
- Walking staff or trekking poles with baskets
- Hand warmers/toe warmers
Things to Consider
- Please remember to always pack essential items such as your passport, money, eyewear, a change of clothing (including hiking boots), and medications in your carry-on baggage, in case your luggage is delayed.
- For snowshoeing, layering thermal underwear, hiking pants and waterproof/breathable rain pants allows one to stay comfortable in the many possible temperatures you will encounter.
- Cotton is wonderful in warm weather. However, once it becomes wet, it will drain your body heat. Bring synthetics such as Capilene®, MTS® and Thermax®.
- Always test your layers before a trip. Your outer layer should fit easily over the inside ones without binding and bunching up.
- We will be snowshoeing and possibly hiking through some snow. Warm, waterproof and broken-in hiking boots are a necessity. Lightweight hikers and trail shoes will not suffice on most days.
- Bring moleskin for foot treatment. Thin liner socks worn under regular hiking socks may minimize the risk of blisters. The liner sock should be synthetic, not cotton. Test your sock combination before you go on the trip.
- Please bring a headlamp. With short days and early nightfall this time of year, it is important to have a headlamp along while hiking or snowshoeing in case it is needed on the hike out.
Feel free to give us a call at (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out www.rei.com/learn. The Expert Advice section on our "Learn" page has great information to help you prepare for your trip.
Reviewed by 1 customer
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- Activity Level
- Exceeded Expectations
- Group Camaraderie
- Once in a Lifetime Experience
- Well Organized Itinerary
Comments about REI Adventures Iceland Winter Adventure:
Our guide Kristjan Thordarson was as good as they come. Even though we had an age span of 44 years our group was very cohesive, caring, and quite humorous. Except for our time in the Golden Circle and at the Blue Lagoon we saw new areas of Iceland so did not duplicate the summer trip. The meals were excellent. I especially enjoyed the soup lunches.
- Why Did You Choose to Travel with REI Adventures?:
- Active Adventures, All the Details Planned for Me, Destination, Travel with Like-minded Outdoor Enthusiasts
- Why did you choose this trip?:
- I liked the variety of activities that were offered and the fact that proficiency in any of the activities was not a requirement. I have done REI's Iceland's summer hiking trip and wanted to experience the country in the winter.
- What was the highlight of your trip?:
- Even though it was a gentle display we got to see and photograph the Northern Lights. I also enjoyed the coastal hiking day a great deal. Experiencing the "quiet light" at dawn and dusk was a very special thing for me. I was not bothered by the reduced amount of daylight in January.
- What would be your advice to potential travelers?:
- Be ready for severe weather which includes rain, snow, and wind. Follow the recommended gear list very closely. Layering works very well.