Circumnavigating Iceland - the Land of Elves, Sagas and Volcanoes

Hurtigruten Expedition Voyage from Reykjavik
MS Fram in Husavik, Iceland © Andrea Klaussner/Hurtigruten

Experience the best of Iceland on a Hurtigruten expedition cruise around the island nation. This extensive voyage offers a spellbinding variety of nature, wildlife and settlements.

Itinerary

Cruises departing on 01, 09, 17 June 2022 and 13, 21, 29 May, 06 June and 25 July 2023 are 9 days duration on board MS Fridtjof Nansen or MS Fram and have the below itinerary.

Cruises departing on 28 July, 07 August 2022 and 08, 18 May 2023 are 11 days duration on board MS Fram and includes stops in Husavik and Djupavik. Please ask us for details of the 11 day itinerary.

Day 1 Reykjavik Embarkation

Your expedition starts in Reykjavik, the northernmost capital in the world. Reykjavik is quaint and  cosmopolitan at the same time. This small city is the perfect size for a walking tour, packed full of art, culture and history. If time allows prior to embarkation, perhaps take a stroll along Laugavegur, the main shopping street, with its boutiques and outdoor shops. Or head towards the architecturally striking Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral. Art lovers can visit the Reykjavik Art Museum, National Gallery and the many smaller galleries and museums dotting the city. From the comprehensive National Museum to the delightful Icelandic Punk Museum, you’re bound to find one or more to engage you.

At Reykjavik harbour,  your expedition ship awaits you. After you collect your complimentary expedition jacket and check-in, you’ll have time to settle in your cabin. There is a mandatory safety drill just before departure after which you can walk around to explore the ship. The welcome dinner in the evening ends with a toast by the Captain, wishing everyone an enjoyable expedition. After meeting your expedition team, you’ll be ready to start your grand Icelandic adventure.  Estimated departure time is 08:00pm.

Day 2 Stykkisholmur

Our first stop is Stykkisholmur, pronounced ‘Stikkish – holmur’, a small fishing town surrounded by views of innumerable islets in the picturesque Breiðafjörður Bay. With a population of roughly a thousand people, no traffic, and a laid-back, slow pace, it gives the impression of a place where time has stood still. Perhaps Stykkisholmur’s most defining feature is the well-preserved houses found in its old city center. Bursting with colour, they stand out in contrast to the distant mountain ranges. Ingeniously repurposed, the former library is now an art installation, the old recreation center now harbours a volcano museum, and the fish processing plant is now a restaurant that serves a delicious fish soup.

Another highlight of the town is Norwegian House, named for the Norwegian imported wood used to build it in 1832. The Regional Museum of Snæfellsnes is based here, with rotating exhibitions and handicraft on sale. For a lovely view over the town, hike to the top of the cliff with the little orange lighthouse. Most people, however, come here to see the fantastic Snæfellsnes Peninsula National Park. It’s nicknamed ‘Little Iceland’ as everything the country has to offer can be found here, including fjords, mountains, waterfalls, volcanoes, lava fields and more.

An optional excursion to Snæfellsnes will take you to some of its most iconic sights, such as the black-sand beach at Djúpalónssandur, where – if you’re feeling energetic – you can try your hand at lifting ‘strength testing’ rocks placed there by Vikings. A word of warning though: the heaviest rock weighs 154kg!

Another stop is at the Lóndrangar basalt cliffs where huge stacks of jagged rock jut photogenically out of the sea. Interesting fact: the massive Snæfellsjökull volcano, which looms over the landscape, is the setting of the classic sci-fi novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth, by Jules Verne.

Day 3 Patreksfjordur

When Orlygur Harppsson saw today’s destination for the first time in the 9th century, he gave it a straightforward name - Patreksfjördur, or ‘the fjord of St Patrick,’ after his spiritual guide. Its appeal today is just as uncomplicated – this settlement on the west coast of Iceland is utterly gorgeous. Discover the peace and silence of a tranquil fishing village. Serving as a fishing port as far back as the 16th century, this is a town shaped by a rich maritime history. Patreksfjördur served as a base for English, French and German fishermen, merchants and naval mariners in olden times. As you explore the lively harbour, you’ll learn about the towns local fishing tradition and the different kinds of fish found in its waters. You can also choose to take a dip in the outdoor pool, a new addition to the town with wonderful views over the fjord.

The sheer beauty of this region makes hiking through it such a rewarding activity if conditions allow. Nearby is Latrabjarg, Europe’s largest bird cliff and most western point. It’s home to millions of birds including Puffins, Northern Gannets, Guillemots and Razorbills. The bird watching here is spectacular. Safe from arctic foxes, the birds bravely cling to the high cliffs, and offer excellent photo opportunities.

The dream beach of Raudsandur is also close by. In contrast to other beaches in Iceland which are black with volcanic sands, the colors of Raudsandur are rose–coloured with golden hues. 

The Dynjandi series of waterfalls are also one of the big draws of this area, and it’s easy to see why. Six different waterfalls combine to make the largest waterfall in the Westfjords with a cumulative height of 100m. In a country famed for its waterfalls, this is one of the most impressive.

Day 4 Northwest Iceland

One of the best things about Expedition cruising is the feeling that anything can happen on any given day. The elements and conditions mean nothing is ever quite set in stone. That’s why we’ve carved out one day on your expedition to fully take advantage of that novelty - an exploration day, with no pre-arranged plan for the day.

We plan to be in Iceland’s Northwestern Region, but the rest will be up to the Captain and the Expedition Team to decide. They will set the final plan for the day, depending on conditions and opportunities that may come up.

Activities might include using our small boats to come ashore for hiking, participating in a beach clean-up or launching our kayaks. If a pod of whales breaches the surfaces as we’re sailing, we may decide to linger and enjoy the sight. Being adaptable to whatever nature presents to us is what expedition cruising is all about.

Day 5 Capital of the North - Akureyri

Akureyri is located near the base of the longest fjord in Iceland, Eyjafjörður. As we cruise along the fjord, you’ll have incredible views of snow-capped peaks and a lush coastline. The fertile waters here make it one of the best places in the country to spot whales. Species including humpback, white-beaked dolphins and harbour porpoises are regular visitors, although orcas, blue and fin whales have been seen here too. 

Nicknamed ‘Iceland’s Northern Capital’, Akureyri is a lively university town. With a population of almost 20, 000 it’s the largest metropolitan area outside the populated southwest region, meaning there’s plenty to delve into here including some top-notch eateries and museums. Check out the Akureyri Museum, which gives you an insight into how Icelanders used to live here. The Nordurslod Museum of natural history also combines exhibitions about the local environment and the history of settlers

You’ll be astonished by the array of flowers and foliage at the Arctic Botanical Gardens. Its serene atmosphere is like an oasis of lush green in the most unlikely of settings. And while you’re exploring the town, check out the striking architecture of Akureyri Church, designed by the famous architect Gudjon Samuelsson.   

On an optional excursion outside town, you can explore natural treasures often considered some of the must-see sights in Iceland. At Goðafoss waterfall, nicknamed ‘waterfall of the gods,’ you’ll have the chance to see translucent turquoise water pounding against immense black rocks.

Located within a highly active volcanic area, Lake Mývatn has unique and beautiful geology, including shimmering waters and otherworldly colours. It’s also a great place for birds; Eider and Harlequinn Ducks in particular. Watchers of hit series Game of Thrones may recognise it.

Day 6 Grimsey Island

When people imagine a windswept, remote Icelandic isle, they’re probably thinking about Grimsey. We will use our tender boats to reach this small, green and grassy island. With roughly 60 people, the only settlements are located on the southern and western parts - mostly around the little harbour.

Grimsey is serene, beautiful, and steeped in folklore and legend. The hardiness of the local fishermen is attributed to Grimsey’s first settler Grímur. Legend has it he slew the giants and trolls who inhabited the island and took one of their daughters as his bride. Grimsey’s sheer cliffs are home to vast colonies of sea birds – outnumbering humans 17,000 to 1 – and in summer, the intrepid islanders will abseil down them to collect the eggs that are considered a local delicacy. The chance to see Atlantic Puffins, the iconic seabird species of Grimsey, is a major attraction for bird lovers. Grimsey is probably best known for its proximity to the Arctic Circle, which cuts across the island - the only part of Iceland to do so. You’ll have the chance to step across that line, North to South.

You can explore the island on foot and hike to the ‘Orbis et Globus’ a nine-ton concrete sphere that marks the edge of the Arctic Circle. The walk to the monument will allow you to take in the windswept scenery and observe birds. The three-metre globe is moved a bit each year by the locals as the Arctic Circle creeps slowly northwards at a rate of about 48 feet a year.

By 2050, Grimsey Island will lie outside the Arctic – more reason to visit now. In the afternoon, we sail towards Husavik, where we will arrive in the evening and stay overnight

Day 7 Bakkagerdi

With stunning rhyolite peaks on one side and the majestic Dyrfjöll Mountain range on the other, the coastal village of Bakkagerdi could not have a more scenic location. According to regional folklore, this tiny hamlet on the coast of Borgarfjörður Eystri inhabits a large population of elves. As a matter of fact, the hamlet derives its name from the rocky hill Alfaborg, the supposed home of the elf queen herself.

A settlement of around 100 people, Bakkagerdi is well off the typical tourist track and offers peace, quiet and lovely views. A short walk is all it will take to explore the town. You can sample freshly caught fish in one of the cafes; the tasty fish soup is a local favourite. This area’s natural beauty, however, is the main draw and allows for fantastic hiking. Shades of pink, blue, and yellow rhyolite rocks give way to lush green valleys in multiple hiking trails. In any direction, you’ll be rewarded by a pristine wilderness and the sights and sounds of the prominent wildlife to be found here - birds.

The coastal cliffs of Bakkagerdi are home to a wide variety of birds, including Fulmar and Kittiwake. This is also a good place to see Eider farming, which has been done for hundreds of years in Iceland. The end product is the very exclusive eiderdown, the most prized variety of down in the world.

The stars of the show, however, are Puffins. If conditions allow, we’ll attempt to visit Hafnarhólmi, a fishing harbour home to a large Puffin colony, and some of the best bird watching in Iceland. A boardwalk and several platforms will allow you to get really close to the Puffins safely. For nature and bird lovers, this region is an absolute gem.

Day 8 Heimaey Island

Our next stop is Heimaey, the only inhabited island in the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago, off the south coast of Iceland.  Everything here has been touched in some way by the volcanic eruption that occurred unexpectedly one morning in January 1973. The narrow harbour, the tephra -made airport runway and the curl of cooled lava in the town center all point to the volcanic cone that casts a figure over the island.

Heimaey means “Home Island,” and you’ll certainly feel welcome here. It’s near 4000 inhabitants are friendly and the vegetated landscape is pleasing to the eye. You can learn all about the town’s history at the Museum of Eldheimar. Heimaey has got a fascinatingly dark past, complete with runaway slaves, murder, revenge and pirates. And that’s before you get to the volcano that almost destroyed the island. 

The Sea Life Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary is also one of the town’s highlights. Home to two resident belugas, the sanctuary also inhabits a local species aquarium and a Puffin rescue center. In keeping with the rest of the Westmann Islands, Heimaey provides a habitat for countless birds. Around 8 million Puffins nest here every summer. A hike to Stórhöfði, south of the island, will provide you with excellent opportunities to observe them nesting. Claimed to be the windiest spot in Europe, you’ll be grateful for viewing facilities that’ll allow you to quietly observe these delightful birds in their natural habitat.

A visit to Heimaey would not be complete without checking out its most prominent feature, Eldfell, or “Mt Fire.” By the end of its eruption, it stood at 220 metres. It’s worth the effort to hike to the top. You’ll have incredible views of the town below and the winning feeling of conquering the volcano that almost wiped out the island.

Day 9 Reykjavik Disembarkation

Early morning arrival back into the Icelandic capital early today and disembark. End of arrangements.

You’ll now have an opportunity to see all the places you missed out on when you arrived. If you want to conclude your expedition on a high, you’re in the right place to do it. 

You can recharge your batteries at Iceland’s most famous heitur pottur, Blue Lagoon. Situated in a vast 800-year-old lava field, the waters blend of silica, algae and minerals have helped this magical location earn its place on National Geographic’s 25 wonders of the world. As a way of signing off your Icelandic adventure, few things would top soaking yourself in relaxing volcanic water, with a beverage of your choice surrounded by beauty. 

We recommend booking one of our Post-Programmes to explore the city of Reykjavik and beyond further - please enquire.


2022 departures (9 day voyage):
01, 09, 17 June

2022 departures (11 day voyage):
28 July,
07 August

2023 departures (9 day voyage):
13, 21, 29 May 
06 June
25 July

2023 departures (11 day voyage):
08, 18 May


Notes:

For additional nights and excurions in Reykjavik, please enquire. 

Maximum number of passengers MS Fridtjof Nansen: 528

Maximum number of passengers MS Fram: 250

This is an expedition where the elements rule and weather, wind and ice conditions will determine our final schedule. Safety is paramount and the captain will decide the sailing itinerary during the voyage. Therefore, this itinerary is just an indication of what you can experience, and why every expedition is unique. All planned activities are subject to weather and ice conditions. In order to experience some of Iceland's incredible scenery, a number of the shore excursions on this itinerary require overland coach travel away from the coast.

MS Fridtjof Nansen is a revolutionary new hybrid addition to the Hurtigruten fleet utilising electric propulsion, built in 2020. This state-of-the-art technology, coupled with its advanced construction is expected to cut fuel consumption and CO2-emissions by 20%. Hybrid technology will also enable periods of silent cruising, immersing passengers in their surrounds.

MS Fram is purpose built as an expedition vessel and references the heritage of the original Fram polar exploration ship, whilst using the most advanced technology. MS Fram was built in 2007 with one mission in mind – to bring her guests closer to nature, wildlife and unforgettable experiences. The spacious outside decks include access to the very front of the ship – a great place to observe marine wildlife. Refurbished in 2020.

Tour Overview

  • Summary

    Hurtigruten Expedition Voyage from Reykjavik
  • Tour Category

    Cruises, Escorted
  • Duration

    9 or 11 days

    Departures

    May - Aug

Tour Prices

  • Prices vary according to your travel date and cabin choice

    INCLUDES: 8 night Expedition Cruise in cabin grade of your choice on a full board basis (incl. house beer and wine, sodas and mineral water with dinner); tea and coffee; on board wi-fi (limited connection); voyage activity program including onshore exploration with the Expedition Team; English-speaking Expedition Team; complimentary wind and water resistant jacket; loan of boots, trekking poles and equipment needed for all optional and included activities.

    EXCLUDES: luggage handling; welcome package - platter and champagne; premium beverage package; optional shore excursions

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