In this modern age there is sometimes a tedious similarity between countries across the globe, with the same old multinationals, predictable restaurant chains and designer shops. Iceland though is such a refreshing change; a wonderfully welcoming place, like nowhere else with a friendly yet fiercely independent people, a culture steeped in Norse mythology and a landscape forged and still being moulded by the essential forces of water, ice and fire.
- Four nights, choice of centrally located three- star superior and four-star accommodation with breakfast
- Tour of Reykjavik, the world’s most northerly capital
- Experience Iceland’s inspiring and unique landscape, flora and fauna on two jaw-dropping day tours
- Visit Thingvellir National Park and UNESCO World Heritage site. At Thingvallavatn Lake, where the great Atlantic rift tears Iceland apart along tectonic plates, you can walk between the American and Eurasian continental divide
- Discover the contorted lava plateau through the Threngsli pass
- See the staggeringly immense Myrdalsjokull glacier
- See the awesome natural power of Gullfoss Waterfall, one of Europe’s most breathtaking natural wonders
- Be spellbound by the grace and harmony of some of the world’s largest and most intelligent creatures on a whale and dolphin watching cruise
- Reynisfjara’s volcanic black sandy beach – home of the iconic Puffins and twisted rock formations.
- See Eyjafjallajokull – the infamous volcano which grounded most of Europe’s aircraft in 2010
- Take a dip in the Blue Lagoon’s geothermal spa, with its surreal natural warmth amongst jet-black lava formations.
- Encounter ‘geysir’ which gave its name to similar phenomenon worldwide, every few minutes a huge burst of superheated water violently erupts, puncturing the sky
- Experience the peace and harmony of some of Europe’s, most deserted, astonishingly iconic land and seascapes
- Escorted by experienced Tour Manager
- The price of this holiday is based on 2 people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement. The price includes return flights airport taxes and transfers, 4 night’s bed and breakfast accommodation, Comprehensive guided touring programme as mentioned, Whale Watching Experience and entrance to the Blue Lagoon.
You should arrive at the airport to take your flight to Reykjavik where you will be met and transferred to your hotel, during which you are immediately struck by the realisation that Iceland is just different. Lava fields really are commonplace here and the first wisps of steam spout from the stark landscape. We use a variety of centrally located hotels depend on selected date.
Today we explore Iceland’s delightfully diverse south west shoreline firstly climbing through a remarkable lunar like landscape of multi-coloured lava plateaux, through the Threngli Pass and descending across the sparkling River Olufsa – famous for its excellent salmon - on to the historic fishing village of Eyrarbakki. Fishing has been a way of life since the first settlers arrived a thousand years ago, and traditional wooden houses here are a poignant reminder of a proud past. Some of Iceland’s prettiest landscapes now lie before you as we pass farms and charming villages set amongst pleasant pastures – keep an eye open for the exceptionally hardy Icelandic horses, a breed unique not just to the island but also in having two additional gaits compared to other breeds. To the north you can see Myrdalsjokull and Eyjfjalla glaciers, the latter famous for its volcano below which infamously halted Europe’s air traffic in 2010 as we head for two of Iceland’s most spectacular waterfalls. Seljalandsfoss tumbles ribbon-like over a great overhanging lava cliff whilst Skogafoss is one of the country’s highest, plunging some 60 metres in an impressive shower of shimmering spray. The natural wonders continue as we approach the imposing wall of ice forming the snout of the immense Solheimajokull glacier. You may notice a sulphurous hint in the air here, as the waters emanating from the glacier here are called “Stinking River” due to the sulphurous acid content absorbed from the hot geothermal rocks beneath your feet. Next we make for Iceland’s southernmost point, the beautifully situated village of Vik, seeing its famous black beach and towering cliffs home to huge Puffin colonies.
After a breakfast we experience something completely different, departing the old harbour seeking arguably the planets most graceful creatures, whales and dolphins, with statistically a 93% success rate of successful sightings. Heading seaward you catch a glimpse of the snowy volcanic peak of Snaefellsnes which inspired Jules Verne’s novel, ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’. Tension mounts though as you strain your eyes in a communal search for that first heart stopping sighting of the ocean’s greatest mammals. Depending on conditions and with luck you may see grand Humpbacks and spectacular Killer Whales, but more normally delightful Minkes. Dolphins are prevalent too and there is nothing quite like that moment when a first fin is spotted, the first ‘blow’ is seen or a giant of the ocean astonishingly breaks the surface in front of your eyes. Dependant on conditions, there is another wildlife treat in store. Countless endearing puffins nest on the many islands here and hurtling around the waters and cliffs entertain themselves as much as you in a remarkable display of colour and aquabatics. Early afternoon we have a sightseeing tour of Reykjavik situated around its natural harbour on a fjord. An intimate city its centre is devoid of soulless sky scrapers but full of tiny streets and squares lined with traditional shops and clapper-board houses where locals still have time to greet each other in the street and chat. Dominating the skyline is the impressive Hallgrimskirkja church – Iceland’s largest, its extraordinary bell tower inspired by the shapes of cooling lava columns. You will see the monument to the explorer Leif Eriksson whose discovery of America pre-dates that of Columbus by around 500 years. Plus there is the house where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev historically first met in 1986 which momentously resulted in the first steps ultimately leading to the ending of the Cold War. Nearby is the modern day home of the Althingi, the world’s oldest parliament. The fishing harbour is a fascinating quarter, redolent of timeless scenes as weatherbeaten trawlermen returned with the hard won fruits of nature. Perhaps one of Reykjavik’s most remarkable features is that the entire city like all Iceland, is heated using geothermal energy directly from the depths of the earth via a remarkable network of pipes. Even the pavements are connected keeping them ice free in the winter! To end our day we visit an Icelandic icon, the Blue Lagoon, should you wish you can take a bathing experience you will never forget. Volcanic rocks hide a wonderland of steaming, mineral-rich waters, geothermally heated to a constant 38c deg in a stunning setting. The immensely soothing softness and wonderful natural warmth of the grey blue lake are something even non swimmers will treasure. The beneficial effects of the waters are renowned, it’s an experience you’ll never forget
Today is the culmination of your Icelandic experience as we embark on a full day tour around the Golden Circle, aptly named due to its dramatic cocktail of amazing geology, geography, politics, history, culture, raw natural energy but most of all scenery which takes your breath away. Iceland has literally spilled into the sea from the “Mid Atlantic Rift” where the two great American and Eurasian tectonic plates tear apart. Firstly we drive past steam jets ominously and noisily erupting from the bare earth, seemingly from a submerged steam train. Our journey takes us past a huge lake wondrously surrounded by stark and lifeless volcanic mountains; some cone shaped and some blown apart eons ago. Their vibrant colours laden with copper, iron and manganese spewed from deep below are reflected in eerily still waters. Normally hidden from our gaze, we astonishingly experience the dramatic effects of these massive forces at Thingvellir. Here you stroll along a striking chasm left as the plates diverge leaving two great rock scars either side – stretch out and you literally touch both continents simultaneously! It was in this momentous location that around 930AD the first “Althing”, or Parliament, convened and continued until the 18th century. The Icelanders are a superstitious lot often believing in goblins, fairies and spirits of wind and rocks amongst others. During the day your guide will explain some of the origins of these legends many originating from Norse times. Continuing to the Hvita river, just upstream lies a layer of varying rock ‘pavements’ and as we approach this wild location a distant smoke-like spray column rises above the lava fields. Nearer and a roar adds to the sense of wonder as magnificent falls thunder and crash where the river cascades over the rocky layers and plunges into the seething pools below. This incredible natural wonder promotes complete awe and you will immediately understand why the locals named them Gullfoss - the Golden Waterfalls. Mother nature yet again at her best. Next a third spectacular natural phenomenon, the Haukadalur, one of the world’s most active geothermal areas. Here you experience the amazing Strokkur, a pool of slowly bubbling, gurgling, steaming water quietly simmering away until, with almost no warning, it erupts with a roar in a towering jet of superheated steam shooting 20 metres or more above your head – another of nature’s spectacular shows. Strokkur is the most impressive geyser, an unpredictable phenomenon originally named after the biggest hereabouts known locally as Geysir. By now you really feel you are in a different place, an unknown ‘other world’ where nature dominates and the planet is young, a land devoid of trees and almost of grass itself – its work in progress and a glimpse of our own country millions of years ago. The mind wanders giving a sense of proportion of how insignificant our everyday problems and concerns really are, it’s almost reconnecting with our origins. We then return to our hotel after an incredible day.
Today you will be taken to the airport at the appropriate time for your return flight.