Hallo! Welcome to Iceland. The world's northernmost capital of Reykjavik lies just below the Arctic Circle. The city sees around four hours of sunlight a day in winter, and a sunglass-required 22 hours or more in summer! You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until a Welcome Meeting at 6pm today – see reception for more details. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand. If you arrive early then maybe explore Viking history over at the National Museum, or join locals who gossip and chatter in the Laugardalslaug Geothermal Pool.
Following the route of the 'Golden Circle' head out to Þingvellir National Park, home to the Parliament Plains. Þingvellir was the location of Iceland's first parliament, founded in 930, and is also the home to a fascinating geological formation. This is where the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia have pulled apart and have filled with fresh water. From there, drive to the Geyser geothermal area to see the spectacular show of a hot spring that shoots water 20-30 metres in the air. Continue on to the immense beauty and power of Gullfoss, the double Golden Waterfall, where on a sunny day you can see a rainbow in the spray above the waterfall. The geyser is so Icelandic that the ancient local word ‘geysa’ (meaning to gush) is now the name given to a high-pressure eruption of water from the land the world over. In the afternoon, head to the Hvita River for a rafting tour, which has a perfectly balanced mix of serene canyons, enjoyable waves, and rapids. You’ll then reach your accommodation in the Hvolsvollur area.
Start the day with a visit to the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano Visitors Centre, where you’ll learn more about the volcano that famously erupted in 2010, stopping flights all over Europe with its ash cloud. Here you can see a personal and emotive film that follows one family and their struggle to live with the lava during and after the dramatic explosion. Next, drive through the lava of the 1972 Laki eruption and black sand beaches towards Skaftafell National Park, a rugged landscape of glaciers and mountains. There are no roads in the park, but a series of hiking trails allow exploration of the area. You are following in the footsteps of James Bond in ‘Die another Day’, Lara Croft in ‘Tomb Raider’, and Bruce Wayne in ‘Batman Begins’ – all movies that were filmed in this region. From there, drive to the Glacier Lagoon (Jokulsarlon) for a boat tour between the icebergs. Moving between the huge natural ice sculptures as they float past you on their way out to sea is pretty magical. From here, it’s not far to your guesthouse, which has volcanic cliffs on one side and the sea on the other. Notes: Total driving distance approximately 270 km.
Today, after breakfast drive back through the beautiful scenery of Iceland's South Shore towards the oasis at Skaftafell National Park, close to Vatnajökull, Europe's biggest glacier. The national park is home to some of Iceland’s best scenery: breath-taking landscapes of towering mountains, beautiful glaciers, and a vast variety of plants and wild life. In the park lies half of the largest ice cap in Europe – Vatnajökull – and it is surrounded by glaciers on three sides. The views here are astonishing and vast, with the park making up 13% of Iceland. From far away it looks pristine and smooth, but up-close you’ll discover a world of deep crevasses up to 10 stories deep, along with glacial ice sculptures and wonderful shades of blue. On a 2-hour walk across the glacier’s ice-strewn expanse, you’ll get a true sense of its scale. This is a truly exciting and unique experience, and it’s sad to think that the glacier is shrinking due to rising world temperatures, and in some years it may be gone. Drink in the incredible views before today's journey ends and we spend the night i the Hvolsvollur area. Notes: Total driving distance approximately 200 km.
Head back towards Reykjavik, but before you get there you’ll first go on a ‘Hot Spring hunt’. Head towards the small town of Hveragerði, where you’ll begin a hike with a difference. Walk through the phenomenal Smokey Valley – or Reykjadalur – and find endless places to bathe in naturally heated water. In summer there’s an explosion of green in the area, and you’ll walk through grass and aromatic flowers for a total of around 2 hours, dipping into crystal clear water from the hot springs which, when mixed with that from the mountain springs, is the ideal temperature for bathing. The valley has an amazing abundance of geothermal phenomena, like mud pots, fumaroles and hot springs. You’ll then continue your exploration of Iceland’s amazing natural creations with a trip underground. There are cave systems throughout the country, underground tubes formed by magma making its way through the earth thousands of years ago. Exploring the caves, you’ll see an endless variety of colours and magical rock formations, and discover more about how Iceland was created. The caves we visit are in Reykjavik’s back yard, but still not as popular as other caves. They are named Maria’s Caves and there are three of them. Once upon a time they were used as sheep-sheds as they give shelter from the weather. Return to Reykjavik for the night. Notes: Total driving distance approximately 180 km.
Today is free for you to explore by yourself, or to join one of the numerous optional activities on offer. Iceland's capital has an eclectic arts and music scene, loads of quirky cafes and a great laid-back vibe. Perhaps browse some of the city's great art galleries. If you feel like something more active, you can take a ride on an Icelandic horse, see killer whales just off-shore on a whale watching expedition, or pull on a dry suit to snorkel between two tectonic plates in the Silfra Fissure, a unique experience that you can't find anywhere else in the world. If you can’t get enough of the nearby waterfalls and geysers then maybe take another trip out to get your fix, walk along another glacier or head to an ice cave, jump in a special jeep to navigate the steepest and rockiest of terrains, or get up close and personal with a volcano. There are so many options to get as active, or be as relaxed, as you like.
This morning you will visit one of the most famous and instantly recognisable thermal springs in the world – the Blue Lagoon. The world-renowned Blue Lagoon is filled with pleasantly warm mineral-rich geothermal water in the middle of a black lava field. The high natural levels of silica, algae and minerals give the Lagoon its rich blue colour. The silica and minerals are also given recognition for the healing powers of the Lagoon, which help cure skin diseases such as psoriasis. The modern facilities have been developed into a wellness complex including saunas, a warm flowing waterfall, and in-water treatments and massages using the all-natural Blue Lagoon skin care products. A visit here will easily soak away life’s daily stresses and you will most likely come out feeling renewed and invigorated. Temperatures in the swimming area can reach as high as 40 degrees, so if you do decide that you want to take a dip, make sure you are prepared for the heat! After the dip, you’ll head to the airport, where the trip finishes.