Experience the best of Iceland's Winter! This tour takes you into the countryside of West and Southeast Iceland, to discover the regions from Snæfellsnes Peninsula to Vatnajökull Glacier, as you explore amazing sights during the day and search for the Aurora Borealis at night. Here you are far away from any light pollution, so you can maximise your chances of seeing the fabled Northern Lights, especially with the help of a special Northern Lights programme of five evenings of presentations, lectures and guided searches.
Day 1 Reykjavík Arrival
Coach transfer from Keflavík Airport to your hotel or nearest bus stop in Reykjavik. Time at leisure to explore Iceland's capital at your own pace. The small city area is characterised by eclectic and colourful houses, and offers many cultural experiences, good shopping and great dining. There are interesting museums including the National Museum displaying artefacts from the first settlement to the modern age, giving an excellent overview of Iceland's history and culture, the Reykjavík 871+2 Settlement Museum, an archaeological museum based around a 10th century Viking longhouse unearthed in 2001, the Reykjavík Art Museum and the National Gallery. The city is also a haven for food lovers - there are numerous cafes, bars and restaurants taking advantage of the abundance of local seafood, meat and game. Overnight in Reykjavík at Hotel Klettur or similar.
Day 2 City Tour, Borgarfjörður Saga Valley and Hraunfossar & Barnafoss Waterfalls
Meet your tour guide and fellow travellers at 09:00hrs and start with a city tour, to see and learn about the capital's highlights. Then depart the city and head west. The Borgarfjörður Valley is known as the Saga Valley of West Iceland, because of the many important historical events that took place here and were recorded in the Saga narratives. You'll have the chance to climb Grábrók Volcano Crater, then take the chill off at Deildartunguhver, Europe's most powerful hot spring, which produces 180 litres per second of nearly-boiling water, at 97°C. Nearby is Hraunfossar, a series of waterfalls pouring from beneath a one kilometre wide lava field, forming countless creeks and cascades, small and big, streaming out of the lava. From here, a track leads upstream to Barnafoss (the 'Children's Falls'), with a footbridge you can cross for great views of the water, churning violently as it channels through the ravine below. In the afternoon your guide will present a Northern Lights lecture, and after dinner, step out into the hotel's gardens in search of the Aurora Borealis, and sip hot drinks. Two nights in Borgarnes, West Iceland, at Hotel Hamar or similar.
Day 3 Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Lava Cave
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula (the 'Peninsula of the Snowy Mountain') juts out from Iceland's west coast like a long arm with a clenched fist, and a rugged mountain chain runs its length; it is in many ways a microcosm of the whole island. Depending on weather conditions, we hope to visit Grundarfjordur fishing village, a place with an impressive coastline and mountains, lakes and waterfalls behind the village. Jutting out into the bay rises one of the most photographed mountains in Iceland, Mt Kirkjufell. Visit Arnarstapi and Hellnar before experiencing the area from below, inside Vatnshellir cave. We take you 35 metres underground and about 200 metres into the lava tube under the glacier Snæfellsjökull! On the way back to Borgarnes, your guide will give you helpful hints about how to best photograph the Aurora. Once darkness falls, perhaps enjoy soaking in the hotel's outdoor hot tubs, while you gaze up at the arctic night skies. 2nd night in Borgarnes at Hotel Hamar or similar.
Day 4 Golden Circle, Geothermal Taste and Icelandic Horses
Travel along the scenic shores of Hvalfjörður fjord, then inland to Thingvellir National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is where the Althing, the oldest legislative assembly in the world, was first convened, and a place of great significance and national importance. The National Park also lies in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates - this is one of Iceland's most fascinating and visually stunning geological places. As we continue along the Golden Circle route, start to see steam rising from the Geysir geothermal field, with its various hot springs and bubbling mud pools. The area includes the original geyser, now dormant, but replaced by Strokkur (The 'Churn'), which erupts regularly and spectacularly at 5-10 minute intervals. Here we have a gourmet treat - the chef of Restaurant Geysir will take us into the garden to taste freshly made hot spring bread, baked in the ground using geothermal heat, and served with Icelandic butter, geothermally-boiled eggs and herring. Continue to Gullfoss (the 'Golden Falls'), a stunning and enormous double waterfall that tumbles 34 metres into the Hvítá River. In the afternoon, we visit nearby stables to learn about the history and special qualities of the Icelandic horse and meet the charming horses. Next we stop at a greenhouse powered by geothermal energy - in Iceland, a huge amount of food is grown in large, heated greenhouses - before reaching our accommodation in South Iceland. Tonight, step into the darkness and search for the elusive Northern Lights, amidst the peace and stillness of rural Iceland. Overnight at overnight at Landhotel or similar.
Day 5 Volcano Centre, Skógafoss Waterfall and Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Today we travel further along the south coast and stop at the Lava Exhibition in Hvolsvollur, where we learn about geology and active volcanoes. Further east, we visit Skogar, one of Iceland's finest folk musuems, with an outstanding collection of farm and domestic artefacts typical of Iceland's past, along with several turf-roofed houses. Nearby is Skógafoss Waterfall, at 60 metres high one of the country's most impressive waterfalls. In the afternoon, we take a stroll along the black sand at Reynisfjara, where the powerful Atlantic surf comes crashing in. If the Aurora is visible, it will be picture perfect! Spend two nights near Kirkjubæjarklaustur in the Vatnajökull National Park region, located in darkness and ideal for Northern Lights search. Overnight at Fosshotel Nupar or similar.
Day 6 Vatnajökull National Park and Glacier, Diamond Beach and Optional Ice Cave Tour
Today's itinerary is all about glaciers, ice and icebergs. We travel to Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, where you can enjoy the breathtaking sight of floating icebergs on the vibrant blue waters of the fantastic, 180 metres deep lagoon. You may even see seals swimming in the arctic waters, and you can walk on the black sandy beach, Diamond Beach, where large icebergs often get stranded. In the afternoon, we visit the tiny turf church at Hof and pass through Europe's largest National Park, Vatnajökull; with Iceland's highest mountains and Europe's largest glacier, it has an area of 12,000 square kilometres.
Or, this afternoon, if you are travelling between October-April (weather permitting), you can instead take an optional Ice Cave tour. Experience a spectacular crystal ice cave in the Vatnajökull Glacier - like standing under a frozen blue ocean, or in a frozen cathedral surrounded by millions of shades of blue. Deep under the massive glacier, beautiful caves of ice are formed by rivers of melt water. Too dangerous to visit in the spring and summer due to threat of collapse, cold winter temperatures strengthen the ice and make exploration possible and safe. The tour takes about 2.5 hours in total - about a 30 minute drive by 4WD vehicle from the Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, then a 5-15 minute hike, each way, with about one hour inside the ice cave. This excursion can only be booked via your tour guide, who will tell you all the details on Day 2; the cost is around ISK 23,000 payable to the local operator on Day 6 in Icelandic Krona cash, Visa or Mastercard. The ice cave explorers meet the local guide at the glacier lagoon at 14:00 for the ice cave tour, and then return to the hotel afterwards, whilst the remainder of the group continue the itinerary above. The ice cave explorers will miss out on some of the official tour program, but the stop and visit at Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon are included for all group members. Tonight, enjoy a Northern Lights film presentation, before your last chance to seek the Northern Lights shimmering and dancing across the night sky. 2nd night at Fosshotel Nupar or similar.
Day 7 South Shore, Lava Beaches, Coastal Villages and Blue Lagoon
Today we cross the huge Eldhraun lava fields to stop at Vik's impressive black lava beaches, high bird cliffs and pounding waves. Further west, we reach high and narrow Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, plunging from the mountain. There is a trail that goes behind the falling water that offers some interesting views - provided you don't mind getting a bit wet! In the afternoon, soak in the warm, aquamarine waters of the Blue Lagoon. Arrive back in Reykjavik around dinner time for one last night. Overnight at Hotel Klettur or similar.
Day 8 Reykjavík Departure
Coach transfer from your hotel or nearest bus stop to Keflavik Airport where your tour arrangements end.
2023 departures - Regular Group Size - maximum 40 persons
08, 22 September
06, 20, 27 October
03, 10, 17 November
01, 08, 15 December
2023 departures - Small Group Size - maximum 16 persons
12, 19, 26 (on request) September
10 (on request), 24, 31 October
07, 14, 21, 28 November
05, 12 December
2024 departures - Regular Group Size - maximum 40 persons
05, 12, 19, 26 January
02, 09, 16, 23 February
01, 08, 15, 22, 29 March
06, 13, 20, 27 September
04, 11, 18, 25 October
01, 08, 15, 22, 29 November
06, 13 December
2024 departures - Small Group Size - maximum 16 persons
02, 09, 16, 23, 30 January
06, 13, 20, 27 February
05, 12, 19, 26 March
03, 10, 17, 24 September
01, 08, 15, 22, 29 October
05, 12, 19, 26 November
03, 10 December
Accommodation at the following hotels (or similar): Hotel Klettur Reykjavík (first and last nights); West Iceland Hotel Hamar (2 nights); South Iceland LandHotel near Hella (1 night); Fosshotel Nupar, near Kirkjubaejarklaustur (2 nights).
Pre and post nights can be added in Reykjavík - please enquire