- View the world's largest puffin colony on Haimaey in the Westman Islands
- Explore the Highlands on a three-day hiking adventure by "Super Jeep"
- Thrill to snowmobiling on the Myrdalsjokull Glacier
- Hike amid glacial crevasses and ice sculptures in Skaftafell Nature Reserve
|Day 1||Arrive in Keflavik, Reykjadalur Valley Hike||Hveragerði|
|Day 2||Drive to Kerlingarfjoll, Hike Hveradalir Geothermal Area||Hveragerði|
|Day 3||Landeyjahöfn to Westman Islands, Puffin and Volcano Tour||Hvolsvollur|
|Day 4||Guided "SuperjJeep" Tour to Landmannalaugar||Hvolsvollur|
|Day 5||Þórsmörk Multi-Day Hiking Adventure by "Super Jeep"||Þórsmörk|
|Day 6||Þórsmörk Multi-Day Hiking Adventure by "Super Jeep"||Þórsmörk|
|Day 7||Seljalandsfoss & Skogafoss, Mýrdalsjökull Snowmobiling, Dyrholaey & Reynisfjara||Vík í Mýrdal|
|Day 8||Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, Skaftafell Nature Reserve & Glacier Hike||Skaftafell|
|Day 9||Múlagljúfur Canyon, Fjallsárlón & Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoons||Höfn|
|Day 10||Þakgil Valley Hiking||Skogar|
|Day 11||Reykjanes Peninsula, Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Keflavik, Reykjadalur Valley Hike
Arrive at Keflavik airport and pick up your 4WD vehicle, then head east for the town of Hveragerði. Astride the Continental Divide, Hveragerði is one of Iceland's most tectonically active regions, with frequent (usually minor) earthquakes. Check into your hotel if you wish to freshen up before heading the short distance into the Reykjadalur Valley, alive with bubbling mud pools, sulfurous fumaroles, and steaming hot springs. It's an easy hour-long hike up a well-marked trail to a geothermal river, where you're allowed to bathe (don't forget your swimwear and towel).
Return to Hveragerði in the late afternoon. On May 29, 2008, a 6.3 Richter earthquake occurred, with its epicenter just 1.5 miles (2 km) from town. You can visit The Quake 2008 exhibition, where you can step onto an earthquake simulator for an unnerving shaking experience before dinner at your hotel. Other good options for dinner include the Olverk Pizza & Brewery for wood-fired pizzas; the Almar Bakery for sandwiches; and Skyrgerdin for such traditional Icelandic specialties as "skyr."
Day 2: Drive to Kerlingarfjoll, Hike Hveradalir Geothermal Area
Test your driving skills as you head inland via the unpaved F35 into the Kerlingarfjoll Mountains of the Icelandic Highlands. The range, which lies south of the Hofsjökull ice cap, is renowned for the Hveradalir geothermal area. You'll hike ridgetop trails through this scenic area of soft-contoured rhyolite hills colored as if by Crayola in yellow, orange, blue, and green. The Innri-Ásgarðsá River meanders between the steaming hillsides—a cauldron of hissing, bubbling, boiling mud pools, hot springs, and fumaroles. The hiking is relatively easy as trails have wooden boardwalks, steps, and bridges.
On your way back to Hveragerði, stop at the Gýgjarfoss waterfall, where the Jökulfall glacial river tumbles down from Hofsjökull—Iceland's third-largest glacier—and descends through a gorge that local legend says is guarded by a troll. In winter, this route is only accessible by "Super Jeep." Enjoy the balance of your day relaxing, including perhaps in your hotel hot tub or sauna.
Day 3: Landeyjahöfn to Westman Islands, Puffin and Volcano Tour
This morning, drive the Route 1 "Ring Road" to the Landeyjahöfn wharf to catch the ferry (seven times daily) to Heimaey, the largest of the "Westman Islands," comprised of 15 young and active volcanic isles. Keep your eyes open for whales and seals during the 45-minute journey: fin, minke, and humpback whales are frequently seen in summer, and orcas can be spotted year-round. Ashore, you'll take a guided minibus tour, including to Storhofdi, at the southern tip of Heimaey, to view the more than one million puffin pairs that nest in the cliffs—supposedly the biggest puffin colony in the world.
You'll also hike up and around the 660-foot-tall (200 m) dormant volcanic cone of Eldfell, created when a fissure opened up and erupted in 1973, decimating half the town. The Eldheimar Museum tells the story and is built around houses half-buried by lava. Finally, you'll visit Herjólfsdalur, the remarkably intact first Viking settlement on Heimaey, with turf houses dating back to the 9th century, set within the bowl of Herjólfsdalur Valley. Then catch the ferry back to the mainland and head to the small farming town of Hvolsvöllur for the night.
Day 4: Guided "Super Jeep" Tour to Landmannalaugar
This morning, join a small group for guided hikes of Landmannalaugar, a stunningly beautiful area in the Southern Highlands. Closely resembling Kerlingarfjoll, this region is famous for hiking and natural hot-spring bathing in summer. You'll journey by "Super Jeep" through the raven-black Laugahraun lava field—a dramatic contrast to the dazzling spectrum of colors shading the rhyolite Landmannalaugar mountains. Highlights include the Ljótipollur crater, filled by an azure lagoon, and Hekla, an active volcano offering a panoramic view from the summit. Bring a swimsuit and towel to bathe in a geothermal pool.
Returning to Hvolsvöllur, history buffs might visit the town's Saga Center in the Valhalla restaurant. It tells the story of Njall's Saga (one of Iceland's greatest literary works); you can even try your hand at ax-throwing—a traditional Viking sport. And nearby, the Lava Center has interactive displays that teach about plate tectonics, vulcanology, and earthquakes.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Þórsmörk Multi-Day Hiking Adventure by "Super Jeep"
Today, set out for a two-day adventure by specially-modified "Super Jeep" into the Þórsmörk Valley, named for mighty Thor, the Viking hammer-wielding god of thunder and lightning. The valley has a warmer and wetter microclimate than most of South Iceland, producing frequent mountain mists and lush vegetation. You'll be awe-struck as you journey through a kaleidoscope of dramatic landscapes and splash across unbridged rivers pouring from the Eyjafjallajökull, Mýrdalsjökull, and Tindfjallajökull glaciers. Higher up, the rivers scythe through majestic canyons to run onto a black volcanic floodplain.
You'll stop for several short hikes, including Gígjökull glacier, best known for the massive floodwaters that surged from the glacier's tongue during the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption (which caused an enormous ash cloud, grounding flights across Europe). You'll then head to Steinholt for another short hike before continuing to Húsadalur for a BBQ dinner and overnight in rustic but cozy accommodations.
Day 6: Þórsmörk Multi-Day Hiking Adventure by "Super Jeep"
Spend a second day exploring and hiking the Þórsmörk Valley ("Thor's wood") and the surrounding region, with its lush lower-elevation birch forests and its more rugged, often snow-laden, landscapes above. Your guides will select from a variety of hiking trails of varying difficulty, according to local conditions at the time. For example, Þórsmörk is the northerly endpoint of the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, acclaimed as Iceland's greatest day hike and which ends at the Skógafoss waterfall (10-14 hours); today, you might hike a short, northern portion past the infamous glacier-capped Eyjafjallajokull volcano.
After a day of hiking and 4WD exploration, you'll return to Húsadalur for a second night at your accommodations with shared bathrooms and sauna.
Day 7: Seljalandsfoss & Skogafoss, Mýrdalsjökull Snowmobiling, Dyrholaey & Reynisfjara
This morning you'll take the Highland bus back from Húsadalur to Hvolsvollur. Then drive east along the South Coast, visiting some of Iceland's most famous attractions. The first stop is the iconic Seljalandsfoss waterfall, which is unique in that you can walk behind the 200-foot (60-m) cascade. Another 19 miles (30 km) brings you to Skógafoss waterfall, where after admiring the rainbow from the base, you can hike uphill to the top of the falls from the Fimmvörðuháls trailhead. Then call in at the Skógar Folk Museum to peruse a heritage collection on age-old agriculture and fishing, plus a traditional turf farmhouse.
Five miles (9 km) east of Skógar, you'll meet up for a guided two-hour snowmobiling adventure on the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, setting off from base camp in a specially-equipped "glacier truck." After your thrilling exploration of the glacier, continue east to the Dyrholaey cliffs (good for spotting puffins), with a massive stone sea-arch and, beyond, the long black-sand Reynisfjara Beach. Reynisfjara is punctuated by dramatic sea stacks and, at its southern end, a cliff face of geometric basalt columns formed following a volcanic eruption during the last Ice Age. End your day in the nearby village of Vík í Mýrdal.
Day 8: Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, Skaftafell Nature Reserve & Glacier Hike
This morning, drive east across the Geirlandshraun lava field to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, a sinuous and dramatically sculpted gorge easily accessed by a ridgetop trail that offers incredible views into the chasm. Then continue to Skaftafell Nature Reserve for a three-hour guided hike of a stunning outlet glacier that extends from mighty Vatnajökull (Europe's largest glacier), which dominates the surrounding region. You'll be equipped with hiking boots, crampons, and an ice ax before stepping onto the ice field to explore surreal glacial ice sculptures, ice ridges, and deep crevasses.
You'll overnight in Skaftafell, granting time this afternoon to further explore the region. Be sure to take the short hike to the picturesque Svartifoss waterfall, with its dramatic backdrop of surreal basalt columns. You can even opt for a sightseeing flight over the Vatnajökull glacier and some of the sites you explored this morning. Later in the afternoon, you can relax at your hotel.
Day 9: Múlagljúfur Canyon, Fjallsárlón & Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoons
Continuing east along the South Coast, make Múlagljúfur (Mules Canyon) your first stop today. This often-overlooked, surreally sculpted canyon is laced by a rough trail that leads up to Hangandifoss and Múlafoss waterfalls. Further east, detour the short distance to Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon—a mini version of neighboring Jökulsárlón—with an egress clogged in summer by icebergs. Then continue to Jökulsárlón, where you'll thrill to a lagoon tour by Zodiak, providing a unique perspective of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier shedding its 1,000-year-old icebergs.
Azure-colored Jökulsárlón spills onto the red-sand "Diamond Beach," littered with icebergs glittering like diamonds. For lunch, enjoy fish 'n' chips from Jökulsárlón's Nailed It food truck or a langoustine roll from Heimahumar before heading along the coast to Höfn—the "lobster capital" of Iceland—at the tip of a peninsula at the mouth of the Hornafjörður. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to explore the "Old Shop" Folk Museum, Hornafjörður Art Museum (principally displaying works by contemporary local artist Svavar Gudnason), and the Huldusteinn Stone Museum, with a fascinating geological collection.
Day 10: Þakgil Valley Hiking
This morning, head back along the "Ring Road" and across the glacial Múlakvísl River, braiding through a vast lava field. Make a brief detour to Hjörleifshöfði, a promontory rising amid the black lava wash, to view the summit burial mound of Viking settler Hjörleifur Hróðmarsson, killed here in 875 CE. Then head inland up the Þakgil Valley via a gravel road that leads to the ruggedly beautiful and off-the-beaten-path Þakgil and Remundargil canyons. Surrounded by steep mountains, these rugged, moss-covered chasms are popular for hiking along rough trails of varying difficulty.
Then return to the "Ring Road" and continue west a short distance to Skógar to overnight at the Skógafoss waterfall's base. If you already visited the cascade, you might opt to hike further up the canyon along the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, or visit the Skógar Folk Museum today instead of on day seven.
Day 11: Reykjanes Peninsula, Depart
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