Our trip begins in Reykjavik, Iceland, this morning. Our guide will meet flights arriving into Keflavik airport between 6am and 7am. After breakfast and an orientation in Reykjavik, we drive to Thingvellir National Park. Thingvellir became Iceland's first national park in 1928, thanks to its historical significance and haunting natural beauty. Here we witness the divergent drift of the American and Eurasian plates. A five kilometer wide strip of land between the plates has sunk more than 180' in the past 10,000 years and a rift valley has formed. Afterward we transfer to the start of our hike in the ���j���fahraun lava field. During the last glacial period, there was widespread volcanic activity under the ice which formed palagonite mountains and ridges. Mount Hrafnabj���rg is one of them, and we?ll hike to the summit for amazing views (weather permitting). After our hike, we head for the small settlement of Laugarvatn to relax in the Fontana Geothermal Baths. Tonight?s hotel is located near Mt. Hekla, one of Iceland?s most active volcanoes. All meals included.
HHiking: 7.5 miles (4 hours); Terrain: Rough dirt and rock trails; Elevation gain/loss: 984?; Driving: 3 hours.
This morning we head east on backcountry dirt roads toward the volcanic region of Landmannalaugar and entering the Fjallabak Nature Reserve. Its surface is covered with pitch-black lava and pumice stone. We stop in Landmannalaugar and set out on a hike to the top of a nearby peak for a panoramic view of this remote highland oasis surrounded by vividly-colored rhyolite mountains, fissures, glacial lakes and obsidian lava. We continue by vehicle to the gorge of Eldgja (Fire Fissure). Another of Iceland?s incredible natural attractions, Eldgja is a 25-mile-long volcanic rift formed during a 10th-century volcanic eruption. It produced the greatest amount of lava ever recorded. We hike into the rift and visit Ofaerufoss waterfall. This afternoon we continue to our lodging on the outskirts of Vatnaj���kull National Park. All meals included.
Hiking: 7.5 miles (4 hours); Terrain: Rough dirt, lava and rocky trails; Elevation gain/loss: 1463'; Driving: 5 hours.
A full day of hiking today in Skaftafell region of Vatnaj���kull National Park?a jumble of rugged peaks, massive glaciers and iceberg-filled lakes spanning almost 600 square miles and offering a myriad of trails for the hiking enthusiast. The park encompasses part of the great Vatnajokul icecap?the world's largest icecap outside of the Polar Regions. We explore Skaftafellsheidi Heath, with views of the Skaftafellsj���kull Glacier on one side and the Mors���rdalur Valley, decorated with colorful rhyolite mountains, on the other. In the bottom of the valley, huge blocks of ice lie scattered after falling from cliffs. Weather permitting, we climb up Krist���nartindar (3,500'), which gives us unparalleled views of the surrounding glaciers and peaks including Hvannadalshnukur, Iceland's highest mountain (6,950'). All meals included.
Hiking: 11 miles (9 hours); Terrain: Rough trail with steep scree hill, some exposure near the summit of Krist���nartindar; Elevation gain/loss: 3,773'; Driving: 1 hour.
Our day begins with a hike up the terminal moraine of Kv������rj���kull, an outlet glacier extending from the great Vatnaj���kull ice cap. Once we reach the glacier?s edge, we strap on crampons and grab ice axes in order to explore this wonderland of ice sculptures, crevasses, and long, narrow ridges. We witness firsthand some of the powerful forces that have shaped Iceland's unique geography over the millennia and enjoy expansive views of the nearby mountains and ocean. This afternoon we visit the J���kuls���rl���n Glacial Lagoon. The lagoon is home to house-sized icebergs deposited in the water by the nearby Breidamerkurjokull Glacier. We?ll visit the nearby Diamond Beach, where large chunks of ice lay scattered on the black volcanic sand. All meals included.
Glacier walk: 4.5 miles (4 hours) depending on conditions; Terrain: Snow, ice and scree; Elevation gain/loss: 492'.
We spend the next two days hiking in the amazing Thorsmork region (named after the pagan god Thor). One of Iceland?s jewels, Thorsmork is surrounded by mountains and glaciers. It is only accessible via specially equipped four-wheel-drive vehicles that can easily cross the glacial rivers encountered en route. We?ll have one of these vehicles at our disposal for our ride along the foothills of the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano and past the outlet glacier where the flood from the recent eruption rolled down. Our destination for the night is a remote campsite named Godaland, located in a sheltered birch forest. All camping gear including comfortable tents, sleeping bags and sleeping pads are provided and our guides will prepare hearty meals for us throughout our stay in this marvelously serene spot. All meals included.
Hiking: 4 miles (3 hours); Terrain: Easy dirt paths and rocky trails; Elevation gain/loss: 300'; Driving: 3.5 hours.
The Thorsmork Valley is full of geological wonders and dramatic scenery that has been enjoyed by Icelandic nature lovers for many decades. We spend the entire day hiking directly from camp to the new volcanic craters, Magni and M������i, formed during Eyjafjallajokull?s 2010 eruption. As we gain elevation during our hike, the terrain changes dramatically. We find ourselves crossing a large, fresh lava field?an unmistakable reminder of what lies beneath the now tranquil surface of this ever-changing landscape. At day?s end, we return to our familiar campsite in Godaland and enjoy another peaceful night in the Icelandic backcountry. All meals included.
Hiking: 10 miles (8 hours); Terrain: Dirt and rock trails, lava fields, steep hills, scree, possible snow, some exposed sections; Elevation gain/loss: 2,788'.
This morning we pack up camp and depart Thorsmork for Reykjavik. En route, we stop at Gluggafoss, a 170' series of waterfalls that cascade through layers of soft palagonite, forming "windows" that partially obscure the flowing water. This afternoon, we'll climb back aboard our vehicle and proceed to our hotel in central Reykjavik. Reykjavik, the world's northernmost capital, is filled with brightly painted buildings, numerous parks, a wide variety of cultural attractions and a vibrant nightlife. A celebration dinner is planned for this evening in a downtown caf���. We?ll relax, exchange memories and enjoy the company of newfound friends. All meals included.
Driving: 3.5 hours.
Following breakfast, your REI Adventures trip in Iceland concludes. Transfer on your own from our accommodations in Reykjavik to the international airport or continue your independent exploration of Iceland. Breakfast included.