- Ride Icelandic horses across nighttime landscapes in search of the aurora borealis
- Get up close and personal with breaching whales as they cavort in the open sea
- Traverse snowy trails in a 4WD Jeep as you look for herds of wild reindeer
- Take a breathless 400-foot drop to the bottom of a volcanic crater via cable
|Arrive in Keflavík, Fly to Akureyri, Lake Mývatn & Northern Lights
|Diamond Circle, Húsavik Whale Watching
|Transfer to Egilsstadir, Möðrudalsöræfi & Herðubreið, Vök Baths
|The East Fjords, Wild Reindeer Experience
|Skaftafell, Hike to Svartifoss, Jokulsarlon Lagoon & Diamond Beach
|Waterfalls of the South Coast, Skaftafell Glacier Hike
|The Golden Circle, Efstidalur II Farm Bistro
|Transfer to Reykjavík, Whale Watching, Volcano Tour
|Silfra Snorkeling, Reykjavík Whales & Northern Lights
|Drive to Keflavík via Reykjanes Peninsula & Depart
Day 1: Arrive in Keflavík, Fly to Akureyri, Lake Mývatn & Northern Lights
Say hello to the winter wonderland of Iceland! Upon your arrival in Keflavík, you'll transfer to Reykjavík airport via bus, where you'll catch a flight to Akureyri in North Iceland. Pick up your rental car at Akureyri airport, and make the one-hour drive to Lake Mývatn via Iceland's famous Ring Road or Route 1. After getting settled at your accommodations, you're free to explore the lake and surrounding areas.
Lake Mývatn has some of the highest concentrations of volcanic and geothermal sights in the entire country. Start with a walk along the lake and lava fields to view some of the unusual rock formations, then head to Dimmuborgir, a group of lava rocks that look like towers of old. Be sure to stop in at nearby Grjótagjá Cave, a natural spring tucked away under layers of lava rock that is located near the lake and was a filming site for "Game of Thrones." Later, you can enjoy a relaxing soak at the Mývatn Nature Baths, where you'll find man-made waterfalls and geothermal saunas.
This evening, take a guided horseback ride to seek out one of Iceland's most amazing phenomena: the aurora borealis, or northern lights. After your guide sets you up with your equipment and introduces you to your Icelandic horse, you'll trek across snow-covered trails and into the nearby forests on the hunt for the best views of these magical veils of blue, green, and red lights. The aurora only appears in higher latitudes, and North Iceland in the winter months is one of the best places to see them.
Day 2: Diamond Circle, Húsavik Whale Watching
Begin your tour of the Diamond Circle today, a circuit of 155 miles (250 km) that includes stunning and unearthly landscapes, volcanic rock formations, and thunderous waterfalls. Start by visiting Goðafoss (Waterfall of the Gods), where you'll take in endless views and can even walk down to the water's edge if you're feeling adventurous. After a few photo ops, continue to Vatnajökull National Park to see Dettifoss, considered one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe.
Discover Ásbyrgi canyon, a horseshoe-shaped depression that is located in a corner of the national park, and stop at Hljóðaklettar valley to see the basalt rock formations before heading to the volcanic fields of Krafla and the geothermal area of Hverir. You may also want to see some of the less touristy sites, such as the crater at Hverfjall or the beautiful Tjörnes Peninsula.
This afternoon, stop in the town of Húsavík. Considered the whale capital of Iceland, there are regular whale watching tours departing from the harbor, and you're likely to see whales just a few minutes out! Join a tour of some of the newer, carbon-neutral ships that are both quieter and non-polluting. Húsavík is also Iceland's oldest settlement and has multiple museums and galleries, as well as a relaxing geothermal swimming pool. Be sure to check out the whale museum and nearby church before heading back to Lake Mývatn for the evening.
Day 3: Transfer to Egilsstaðir, Möðrudalsöræfi & Herðubreið, Vök Baths
This morning, you'll leave Lake Mývatn and head toward the town of Egilsstaðir, which is your destination for the night. The drive takes about two hours, with some noteworthy places to stop along the way. Start with a visit to Möðrudalsöræfi and Möðrudalur farm, which has an altitude of more than 1,500 feet (469 m)—a higher elevation than any other farm in Iceland. Here, you can enjoy views of Mount Herðubreið, known as the "Queen of Icelandic Mountains," and visit the farm's tiny church, which was built by the owner in 1949.
Just before you arrive in Egilsstaðir, you'll want to make a stop at Vök Baths. Located on Lake Urriðavatn, a short distance from town, this collection of geothermal floating pools is surrounded by amazing lake and mountain views. Take a refreshing dip in one of the pools, decompress in the sauna, or have a meal at the attached bistro. Vök Baths are the largest spa in East Iceland and are considered one of the region's top attractions. After your visit, head to Egilsstaðir and check in at your accommodations before heading out to explore.
Egilsstaðir is the largest city in East Iceland, often referred to as the "Capital of the East." It sits on the banks of the Lagarfljót River and is surrounded by lush landscapes that include mountains, valleys, and waterfalls. You can hike to the nearby Fardagafoss waterfall or visit one of the town's restaurants to try some local reindeer meat. For a deeper dive into the region's history, stop in at the East Iceland Heritage Museum, which is dedicated to preserving the history of the region with a collection of artifacts and exhibits that reflect the culture and everyday life of people in the area.
Day 4: The East Fjords, Wild Reindeer Experience
Drive the rugged coastlines of the East Fjords today, where you'll find dramatic and scenic valleys and numerous small villages dotted across the landscape. Stop in at the town of Fáskrúðsfjörður to learn about the history of French fishermen in the area in the 19th century, or tour the Icelandic Wartime Museum in Reyðarfjörður. You can also stop in the tiny village of Breiðdalsvík and see the Old Fish Factory car museum. Later, take a drive along the shores of Lagarfljót, where legend has it that a beast called the Lagarfljót Wyrm lives, or visit Hengifoss waterfall for more scenic views.
East Iceland is also the best place to see herds of reindeer grazing along the roadways. Introduced from Norway in the late 1700s, there were once thousands of reindeer across Iceland. They eventually died out, save for those in the east, where they still thrive. You can get a closer view with a guided Jeep tour, with a knowledgeable guide leading you on a 4WD expedition along winter trails to find these roaming herds. Overnight in the small municipality of Djupivogur before continuing your journey tomorrow.
Day 5: Skaftafell, Hike to Svartifoss, Jokulsarlon Lagoon & Diamond Beach
Your drive continues along the Ring Road to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and Diamond Beach, with an overnight in the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. Along the way, check out the otherworldly rock formations at Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, hiking from the parking lot and across the canyon ridge for the best views, then head to Skaftafell Nature Reserve, home to stunning views of the Svartifoss waterfall. A quick, 3-mile (5 km) hike will take you to the falls, with a panorama of the river and glacier along the way.
For a bit of local history, make a quick detour to the town of Hof to see the Hof Turf Church, a 700-year-old church with a turf-covered roof, before continuing to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. The lagoon is a true natural wonder, with the incredible sight of icebergs everywhere—you'll see them floating in the sea and beached along the black-sand shores of Diamond Beach. In addition to those massive floating icebergs, don't be surprised if you also catch a glimpse of seals, porpoises, or even small whales in the lagoon's waters! Afterward, drive to Kirkjubæjarklaustur and check in at your accommodations for the evening.
Day 6: Waterfalls of the South Coast, Skaftafell Glacier Hike
Tour the South Coast today, visiting some of Iceland's most iconic waterfalls and natural landmarks. Your first stop is Urriðafoss waterfall, located on the Þjórsá River. This is the most voluminous waterfall in the country, where the river drops down to the edge of the Þjórsárhraun lava field to create a breathtaking display. From there, head to Seljarlandsfoss, the only known waterfall of its kind that allows you to actually walk behind it. Stop at Gljúfrabúi falls, which tumbles down from the Gljúfurá River, as well as Skógafoss, a 200-foot high (60 m) cascade alongside towering glaciers and frozen landscapes.
Continue to Route 218 to visit the Dyrhólaey Peninsula, a nearly 400-foot (120 m) promenade with panoramic views of the southern coast. From Dyrhólaey, you'll make a visit to Reynisfjara Beach, an immense stretch of black sand that is home to Reynisdrangar, offshore rocky basalt sea stacks that are the nesting grounds of various seabirds. You'll be right next door to the city of Vík, where you'll overnight this evening.
For a true winter experience, spend part of this afternoon on a guided hike on an outlet glacier of Skaftafell, an icy giant that extends from the mighty Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe. Meet with your certified guide, and after receiving instructions on how to use the provided glacier tools and gear, you'll head across the ice fields. Walk through a frozen wonderland of natural ice sculptures, ice ridges, and deep blue crevasses with endless scenery as far as the eye can see on this memorable, three-hour adventure.
Day 7: The Golden Circle, Efstidalur II Farm Bistro
Journey to the Golden Circle today, where you'll see Þingvellir National Park, home to the Silfra fissure. Created by the separation of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates cutting through Iceland, this is one of the clearest bodies of water on earth. While you're in the area, you'll also want to see historic Law Rock, where Viking chieftains from around the country once met to discuss local law.
From there, head to the Geysir geothermal area, with its bubbling mud pits and erupting geysers, easily one of Iceland's most impressive geothermal zones. The area covers much of the Haukadalur Valley and includes the Strokkur geyser, which erupts every 5-10 minutes and reaches heights of up to 130 feet (40 m), as well as Smiður and Litli-Strokkur geysers. After watching the eruptions, take a peaceful walk through Haukadalsskógur, the largest forest in southern Iceland, and relax in the hot springs at Kúalaug. Finally, continue to Gullfoss (Golden Falls), where you can hike the falls or see the volcanic crater of Kerið.This afternoon, visit Efstidalur II Farm Bistro to learn about farm life in Iceland. This family farm is run by four siblings who took over the business from their parents, and they are the seventh generation living on the property. Originally a dairy farm, they opened their home to tourists in the early 2000s and added a restaurant and café in 2013. Today, you can not only have a meal there but also purchase a variety of home-grown goods including ice cream, skyr, feta cheese, and even locally farmed beef.
Day 8: Transfer to Reykjavík, Whale Watching, Volcano Tour
It's off to Reykjavík this morning, where you'll take a guided tour into the bay of Faxaflói. The expert crew and marine biologist guides will share their knowledge of the whales and other wildlife in the area, and in addition to whale species such as minke and humpback, you're likely to see white-beaked dolphins, porpoises, and puffins. Start the tour at the bay's visitor center, where you'll board the whale watching boat. Once onboard, you can enjoy the view from the multiple outdoor platforms or stay cozy at the heated indoor salon as the guides provide commentary on any notable sightings along the way.
If you're looking for more of an adrenaline rush, take a tour inside Þríhnúkagígur volcano, either on foot or via helicopter. Hikers will enjoy a moderate 45-minute hike to the crater, then make a breathless 400-foot (120 m) descent to the bottom of the crater in an open cable lift. If that kind of drop doesn't sound appealing, head to Reykjavík airport for a helicopter tour, which will fly you to the volcano, and you'll be able to get a full view of the crater and surrounding area.
Day 9: Silfra Snorkeling, Reykjavík Whales & Northern Lights
Head back to Þingvellir National Park today for a snorkeling excursion into the Silfra fissure. Explore the glacial waters, enjoying nearly 400 feet (120 m) of visibility as you swim the main parts of Silfra. Float through Big Crack, Silfra's narrowest section where the continental plates are so close you can almost touch them, and see Silfra Hall for a full spectrum of the fissure's colors. Go through Silfra Cathedral, where the depth reaches 75 feet (23 m), and you feel like you're flying over the boulders and glacial silt. Your snorkel tour finishes in the crystal clear waters of Silfra Lagoon.
If you didn't get a chance to take a whale watching tour yesterday, this afternoon is the perfect time to get out on the water. Depart from the harbor in Reykjavík for a three-hour tour of various whale species, dolphins, and other marine life. You'll get back just in time to grab dinner and talk a walk around Reykjavík's city center before heading back to the harbor for the added bonus of an evening northern lights cruise!
Day 10: Drive to Keflavík via Reykjanes Peninsula & Depart
Your winter adventure in Iceland comes to a close today, but if you have time before your flight, you can get in some last-minute sightseeing along the Reykjanes Peninsula as you make your way to Keflavík airport. Take a break at the Krýsuvík geothermal area for views of the steam vents and hot springs, or visit Gunnuhver Hot Springs, where you'll find steamy, bubbling mud pools. You can also stop at Reykjanesviti Lighthouse for some last views of the majestic scenery.
Walk the Bridge Between Continents (Europe Miðlína) for some historic Icelandic geology. The Reykjanes Peninsula is on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which pulls apart a few centimeters every year. You can cross the bridge between the continental plates and look down at the gap below. Just before you reach Keflavík, visit Garður Lighthouse—a nice spot for a walk before you board your flight home. Safe travels!