Arrive at Keflavik Airport in Reykjavik, Iceland by 7am today. We provide one group transfer to our meeting point in downtown Reykjavik. Following an orientation and group breakfast, we head to the Krauma spa. Fed by the most powerful hot spring in Europe, Krauma features multiple geothermal baths, saunas and a relaxation room. Following a tranquil morning at the spa, we visit the Ullarselið wool center to learn about the traditional Icelandic methods of dyeing and spinning wool. This afternoon we continue to our lodging on the Snaefellsnes peninsula, where we have free time to relax before gathering for dinner. All meals included.
Spa activities: 2 hours; Driving: 4 hours
Our hike on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula follows local fishermen's trails. We pass old fishing villages, lighthouses and shipwrecks that serve as a reminder of how the forces of nature impact the course of life in Iceland. Panoramic views include dramatic coves, inlets and sea cliffs, which are nesting sites for a host of bird species. We also take in the views of Mt. Snaefellsjokull (4,744'), an 800,000-year-old stratovolcano with a small glacier covering its summit. The geology of the peninsula, which includes many lava fields, is the result of 20 volcanic eruptions that occurred pre- and post-ice age. We return to our guesthouse for dinner and overnight. All meals included.
Hiking: 6.5 miles (4–5 hours), Terrain: Dirt and rock pathways, Elevation gain/loss: +150'/-150'; Van transfer: 2 hours
Note: Depending on weather conditions, we may switch Day 2 and Day 3 of the itinerary.
We strap on snowshoes to walk in the otherworldly landscape of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. If snow levels are low (which is possible for November and early December departures), our guides will lead us on a beautiful hike in Snaefellsnes National Park.
This afternoon we visit the Stykkishólmur Volcano Museum to see works of art showing volcanic eruptions. Next, we visit with a group of local women artists who work in a variety of mediums, including ceramics, jewelry and woodcraft.
Conditions permitting, tonight we scan the skies for the colorful 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 to search for them. All meals included.
Snowshoeing or Hiking: 6–8 miles (4–5 hours); Van transfer: 2 hours
This morning we head to Thingvellir National Park. Thingvellir became Iceland's first national park in 1928 due 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 feet in the past 10,000 years and a rift valley has formed. Conditions permitting, we take a short walk in the rift valley. Mid-day, we drive to Friðheimar to visit a greenhouse that uses geothermal heating to grow tomatoes. Following a tour of the greenhouse, we enjoy a lunch of freshly made tomato soup, surrounded by fragrant tomato plants. This afternoon we visit Great Geysir, which is only active a few times each week, and Strokkur which erupts every 10 minutes, spouting water almost 70 feet in the air. We end our day with a stop at Gullfoss (Golden Falls), a magnificent double waterfall, which is partly frozen in wintertime. All meals included.
Hiking: 3 hours, Terrain: Dirt and rock pathways; Van transfer: 5 hours
Our day begins with a stop at Solheimajokull, an outlet glacier extending from the great Myrdalsjokull glacier. This is a wonderland of ice sculptures, crevasses, and long, narrow ridges. Accompanied by an experienced mountain guide, we strap on crampons and grab ice axes, then make our way up the icy ridges. We witness 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 more than 1,000 years old. Its remarkable color is the result of hundreds of thousands of tons of compression squeezing all oxygen out of the ice. Next, we visit Skogarfoss and Seljalandsfoss, two particularly photogenic waterfalls. En route to our hotel, we stop at the Ölvisholt Brewery to sample some of the beers crafted by head brewer Ásta Ósk Hlöðversdóttir. If atmospheric conditions are favorable, we head out in search of the aurora borealis tonight. All meals included.
Glacier walk: 5–6 miles (4–5 hours), Terrain: Snow, ice and scree, Elevation gain/loss: +350'/-350'; Van transfer: 3.5 hours
Our adventure continues in the Blue Mountains, where we snowshoe over snow-covered lava fields. During our walk, we explore ancient volcanic craters including Thrihnjukar, a dormant volcano which last erupted more than 4,000 years ago. All of Thrihnjukar's magma has drained away as though a plug were pulled at the bottom of the magma chamber, making it the only hollow volcano in the world.
If snow levels are low, we will instead head to Reykjadalur, a beautiful valley teeming with geothermal activity. Here we will hike among steamy fumaroles and boiling mud pots. For those willing to brave the cold air, there may be an opportunity to soak in the hot springs.
In the late afternoon we return to Reykjavik, where we take a short tour of the city’s notable sights and visit a women’s artist collective. Tonight we’ll enjoy a final Icelandic dinner to celebrate newfound friends. All meals included.
Snowshoeing: 5–6 miles (4 hours), Terrain: Snow and possible ice, Elevation gain/loss: +300'/-300'; Hiking (if snow levels are low): 5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,152'/-1,152'; City walking: 1 hour
After breakfast, we have a few hours for independent exploration of Reykjavik before driving to the Blue Lagoon for a final soak. The Blue Lagoon is a large, man-made pool heated by the mineral-rich waters of the nearby geothermal plant and has been endorsed by the Icelandic surgeon-general for its curative properties. Most Icelandair flights returning to the US depart in late afternoon, so we make sure to arrive at Keflavik Airport with ample time to check in for flights. Breakfast included.