Arrive at Keflavik Airport in Reykjavik, Iceland by 7am today. We provide one group transfer to our hotel in downtown Reykjavik. Following an orientation and group breakfast, we drive to Leidarendi cave. Leidarendi is a great example of lava tube geology, with frozen flows of various patterns and formations, small stalagmites and stalactites, and icicles of all shapes and sizes. Most of Leidarendi is accessible on foot, but some crawling is required and we use headlamps. Our next stop is the Blue Lagoon for lunch at the café and time to enjoy the famous spa. We return to Reykjavik and check into our hotel, with free time to relax or stroll the streets of this colorful capital city until we meet for dinner. All meals included.
Lava tube exploring: 1.5 hours; Optional spa activities: 1.5 hours; Driving: 2 hours 45 minutes.
Note: Beginning with November 2019 departures, we will spend the evening of Day 1 at accommodations on the Snaefellsnes peninsula instead of in Reykjavik.
Today's hike on the Snaefellsnes peninsula takes us along local fishermen's trails. We pass old fishing villages, lighthouses and even shipwrecks, which serve as a reminder of how the forces of nature impact the course of life on this island. 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'; Driving: 3.5 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 geologically diverse Snaefellsnes area. 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.
Next, we visit the Volcano Museum Stykkishólmur to see works of art showing volcanic eruptions. The museum also houses artifacts from the unique collection of Professor Haraldur Sigurðsson, who is famous for his work on the reconstruction of major volcanic eruptions, including Vesuvius in AD 79. Tonight, we stay at a small guesthouse on the Snaefellsnes peninsula. Conditions permitting, we scan the 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 to search for them. All meals included.
Snowshoeing or Hiking: 6-8 miles, (4-5 hours); Driving: 2 hours.
The main road to Gullfoss (Golden Falls) provides access to some of Iceland's most spectacular natural wonders. We visit the magnificent double waterfall, which is partly frozen in wintertime. Close by is the 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. Mid-day we drive to Friðheimar to visit a greenhouse that uses geothermal heating to grow tomatoes. Following a tour of the greenhouse, we’ll enjoy a lunch of freshly made tomato soup, surrounded by fragrant tomato plants. This afternoon 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 over 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. All meals included.
Hiking: 3 hours; Terrain: Dirt and rock pathways; Driving: 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 our experienced mountain guide, we strap on crampons and grab ice axes before making 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 over 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. En route to our hotel we stop at Skogarfoss and Seljalandsfoss, two particularly photogenic waterfalls. 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) depending on conditions; Terrain: Snow, ice and scree; Elevation gain/loss: 350'; Driving: 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 over 4,000 years 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.
If snow levels are low, we will instead head to Reykjadalur, a beautiful valley teaming 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. Your guides will provide a one-hour walking tour of the city’s notable sights and landmarks before we enjoy a final Icelandic dinner to celebrate newfound friends. All meals included.
Snowshoeing: 5-6 miles (4 hours) depending on conditions; Terrain: Snow and possible ice; Elevation gain/loss: 300'; Or, Hiking: 5 miles; Elevation gain/loss: 1,152’; City walking: 1 hour; Driving: 1.5 hours.
The morning is free for sleeping in, sightseeing or shopping. We provide one group transfer to Keflavik Airport, for trip members departing on a late afternoon flight to the U.S. Breakfast included.