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Iceland: The Land of Fire and Ice

“Just wanted to let you know how terrific our trip was!! The guides, the food, and the beautiful landscapes were… ”
,  Keflavik
,  Skaftafell
,  Snaefellsness
,  Vik
,  Highlands
,  Thingvellir
,  Skogar
,  Skogafoss
,  Golden Circle
,  Geysir
,  Gullfoss, Iceland, Europe

from $4,895* per person 8 Days June-August
Comfort accommodations Exertion level: 3
Operator: Boundless Journeys 16 people max
  • Reykjavik international airport, iceland
  • Active & Adventure trips
National Geographic Traveler's Tours of a Lifetime 2010
Iceland is a land of contrasts more extreme than any place we’ve visited. Vast, desolate lava fields are interrupted by lush moss-carpeted valleys. Giant cascading waterfalls give way to vibrantly colored rhyolite mountains. From the other-wordly landscapes of the south coast, to the mystical power of Snaefellsnes Peninsula in the west, our overland expedition takes in the most beautiful and inspiring areas of Iceland.

Hiking on the south coast leads us through fairytale landscapes and past dramatic waterfalls, under the powerful presence of Europe’s largest glaciers, while an amphibious boat trip brings us up close to icebergs. A visit to the site of the ancient Viking parliament, a glacier exploration, and an optional ride on the famed Icelandic horse round out our adventure. In between, we spend a day crossing the interior highlands of Landmannalaugar, soaking in hot streams and hiking colorful mountains – an experience not to be missed. Testaments to the constantly evolving earth are everywhere – lava fields, hot rivers, craters, and glaciers dominate our views daily. In the evenings, we return to comfortable accommodations and enjoy relaxing in “hot pots” (Icelandic hot tubs) or taking nighttime strolls under the midnight sun.

Locations visited/nearby

Glacier , Keflavik , Skaftafell , Snaefellsness , Vik , Highlands , Thingvellir , Skogar , Skogafoss , Golden Circle , Geysir , Gullfoss, Iceland, Europe

2 testimonials about this trip

  1. Reviewer: located in San Mateo, CA USA
    Just wanted to let you know how terrific our trip was!! The guides, the food, and the beautiful landscapes were outstanding!
  2. Reviewer: located in Springboro, OH USA
    Boundless Journeys captures the essence of culture and travel.

3 testimonials about the provider, Boundless Journeys:

  • Reviewer: located in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL USA
    "My praise for the experience I had on my Boundless Journeys adventure in the Canadian Rockies is¦well, boundless! The trip was meticulously planned and implemented with the utmost professionalism. The guides were truly superb and every facet of the trip was outstanding. I expect to be on another Boundless Journeys trip very soon!!"
  • Reviewer: located in El Paso, TX USA
    "One of the best managed and most enjoyable trips I've ever taken!"
  • Reviewer: located in Andover, MA USA
    "The trip was everything we hoped...beautifully planned and even better than your advertisements! Nicky herself is an absolute jewel! She is simply amazing in her knowledge of the natural world, as a tour leader and as a group leader. She is simply superb in every way! One of the most memorable human beings I have ever met."

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Hengill Volcano

Hike – moderate, 4-5 hours on hiking trails and rocky terrain.  There will be stream crossings.

Upon meeting our guide in Reykjavík we head for Hengill Volcano. This active volcanic ridge is filled with the hot springs, striking colors, and bizarre lava formations that define the “land of fire and ice.” We begin our first hike in a geothermal field, where sulfurous vapors rise from the ground. We eventually come to a viewpoint overlooking a lush green valley and the amazing sight of a steaming hot river. From here, we hike downhill and enjoy a picnic lunch and perhaps a dip in the naturally warm water. After lunch, we continue down the trail past bubbling steam vents, taking in views across the southern plains to the northern Atlantic.

On the way to our hotel, we stop at Seljalandsfoss, where we can hike behind the falls. This afternoon we arrive in Hvolsvöllur, and our country hotel for the next two evenings awaits.
Hotel Skógar, Hvolsvöllur

Skógafoss Waterfall and Glacier Exploration

Optional morning hike – moderate, up to 2 hours on hiking trails, with approximate elevation gain and loss of 1,500’; afternoon glacier walk – easy to moderate, 3-4 hours.

This morning you may choose to enjoy a leisurely exploration of the grounds surrounding our hotel, including the impressive Skógafoss, a 200-foot-high cascade that often produces rainbows in its mist. For those in the mood for a more substantial hike, we climb the short, steep ascent next to the falls, and continue hiking along Skogá River. We pass many beautiful waterfalls and, on a clear day, we can see glaciers in the distance, including Eyjafjallajökull and Myrdalsjökull. This is true Icelandic wilderness on the heath, with fantastic views towards the coast.

After hiking you may choose to visit the local country museum, boasting an impressive collection of historic farming and fishing tools, as well as folk crafts spanning hundreds of years. The museum’s curator is a national treasure himself, often personally offering a grand tour of his collection. This is also one of the few places in the country to explore authentic sod houses, which were the primary form of shelter for many Icelanders until the 20th century.

After lunch, we drive a short distance to the Eyjafjallajökull massif. From the eastern face, the Sólheimajökull glacier tongue extends down from its parent glacier, Mýrdalsjökull, Iceland’s fourth largest. Here we meet our Icelandic mountain guide, who equips us with the proper tools (crampons and ice axes), for an adventure onto an active glacier. After instruction on the proper and safe use of our equipment, we traverse the glacier onto an ice field where a wonderland of ice sculptures, ridges, and deep crevasses awaits our discovery.

This evening finds us back at our country hotel, perhaps enjoying the late evening sun from the outdoor hot pots.
Hotel Skógar, Hvolsvöllur

Fjadrárgljúfur and Systravatn

Hikes – easy to moderate, total of 3-4 hours on hiking trails.

Our drive this morning takes us through the south sand desert past ice caps and active volcanoes. Along the way, we hike along Fjadrárgljúfur canyon, a beautifully eroded canyon overlooking Eldhraun. This seemingly endless lava field was formed in 1783 during the most devastating volcanic eruption in the history of Iceland. Upon arriving to Kirkjubaejarklaustur, we hike to Sisters’ Bluff (named for two nuns – one good and one evil). We ascend a trail past a waterfall and through a small birch grove, before arriving at the top of the bluff. From here, expansive views of rolling prairie extend to the horizon beyond the shores of Systravatn (Sisters’ Lake).

After our hike we travel to our hotel, immersed in the spectacular scenery we have been enjoying throughout our journey.
Hotel Laki, Kirkjubaejarklaustur

Skaftafell National Park and Jökulsárlón Boat Trip

Hike – easy to moderate, about 2 hours on hiking trails.

After breakfast we drive across Skeiđarársandur, a vast river delta formed by runoff from nearby glaciers. Catastrophic flooding occurs here regularly, as geothermal activity melts the glaciers and causes a tremendous amount of water to flood the delta. Across the delta is Skaftafell National Park, home to Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, whose presence lords over the surrounding landscape. Our hike begins from the park’s visitor center, and steadily climbs up through birch forest to a plateau. Here the landscape turns to tundra, and the views are magnificent in all directions.

Depending on the pace of our group, we may continue to a point overlooking Skaftafellsjökull, a massive tongue of Vantnajökull glacier. Gaping crevasses attest to the constant movement of these seemingly still glaciers. We can also choose to follow a gentle descent through the tundra to Svartifoss, a beautiful cascade framed by basalt columns.

From Skaftafell we continue to Jökulsárlón, stopping along the way for a picnic lunch at the base of a glacier. At Jökulsárlón, we board a small amphibious boat to venture into the ice-filled lagoon, where we are dwarfed by dozens of floating icebergs.
Hotel Laki, Kirkjubaejarklaustur

Highland Expedition and Landmannalaugar

Hiking – easy to moderate, total of about 3 hours.

Today we have the special experience of venturing into the Icelandic highlands for a day of hiking and soaking in a hot river, whose soothing waters are heated by gases and magma from deep beneath the earth’s crust. The highland roads are unpaved, and we join other adventurers to ford rivers in a specialized bus, taking the Fjallabak (literally, “route behind the mountains”) to Landmannalaugar, an area of multicolored rhyolite mountains and hot springs. Along the way, there may be time to hike into the volcanic rift of Eldjá, through a landscape of moss-covered boulders. At Landmannalaugar, there are additional hiking opportunities, as well as the option to soak in a natural hot river before a picnic lunch.

This afternoon, we continue toward Thingvellir National Park and our well-located hotel.
Hotel Fludir, Fludir

Thingvellir National Park and transfer to Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Morning hike – easy to moderate, 2 hours over mostly flat but occasionally rocky hiking trails.

Optional afternoon hike – easy to moderate, 2-3 hours or optional horseback riding (at additional expense).

This morning we explore Thingvellir, a national park of great historic significance to the Icelandic people. The park is home to Iceland’s first parliament, established in 930 A.D. Each summer, representatives from communities around the country would meet here to establish laws and resolve disputes. The journey could take weeks over the rugged terrain. We spend the morning traversing the parliament plains, and also explore a natural phenomenon that makes Thingvellir an important geological site – here we are standing on the rift between the Eurasian and North American plates – which are constantly, over the millennia, drifting apart.

After lunch, we depart for the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Along the way, we have the option to ride Icelandic horses at a local farm on the coast (please note horseback riding is not included in the price). These friendly horses have been selectively bred for centuries to produce an animal that is even-tempered, strong, and has great endurance. They also have a very smooth gait – the tölt – that makes riding a wonderfully comfortable experience even for novice riders. Those who prefer to hike can take a trail to nearby Eldborg, and look into an immense crater created in an eruption more than 5,000 years ago.

Later this afternoon, we check into our hotel, located in a traditional fishing village along the coast.
Hotel Framnes, Grundarfjordur

Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Morning hike – easy to moderate, about 2 hours; Optional afternoon hike – easy to moderate, 2-4 hours.

This morning we depart our hotel for a hike on the south coast of the peninsula, from one small fishing hamlet to another – Arnarstapi to Hellnar. The coastal and glacier views are beautiful, and wildflowers dot the landscape. In early summer abundant bird colonies also populate the coast. There are, of course, numerous kittiwakes and puffins, but this is also one of the few areas of Iceland to find the White-tailed Eagle, a rare bird (once nearly extinct) with an impressive wingspan of up to eight feet. We have time to enjoy lunch on our own in one of the small fishing villages, before heading for Djúpalónsandur, a black cobblestone beach strewn with the remnants of a trawler that was shipwrecked there in 1948. A short walk here reveals poignant reminders of the challenge of a life so closely tied to a sometimes violent sea.

Later this afternoon, you can choose to have a leisurely afternoon enjoying our hotel and the small town of Grundarfjordur, or embark on a final hike through nearby Snaefellsness National Park.

Tonight we enjoy a final celebratory dinner and toast our adventure in the Land of Fire and Ice.
Hotel Framnes, Grundarfjordur

The Blue Lagoon

This morning after breakfast we depart Snaefellsnes Peninsula for the famous Blue Lagoon, a unique area of geothermally heated waters and mineral sands that offers a fitting end to our journey through the land of fire and ice. After time to enjoy the relaxing benefits of the lagoon’s warm waters and lunch on your own at the lagoon’s restaurant, our guide brings us to the airport for flights home.

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