Fly to Keflavik airport and transfer to city centre.
Today we drive inland to the Thingvellir World Heritage area, where the world's first 'democratic parliament' meeting took place - the area became Iceland's first National Park in 1928 and a World Heritage area in 2004. Sitting right on top of a major fault line, the area abounds with waterfalls, immense fissures and the largest lake in the country. We then carry on to see the world famous geysers. The most reliable eruption comes every 5-10 minutes from one called 'Strokkur'; the 30-metre jet of water and steam is spectacular. To round off the day we drive a short distance on to Gullfoss, a huge dramatic waterfall located in a 70m deep canyon of River Hvita (White River).
We head eastwards to the foot of the infamous Eyjafjallajokull ice cap; this area was heavily affected by ash fall during the eruption of 2010 and a great deal of ice was melted by the boiling lava. The glacier feeds many beautiful waterfalls and we visit two of them. Seljalandsfoss (60m. high) and Skogarfoss, one of Iceland's prettiest waterfalls, 60m high, falling in a 25m wide sheet. Continuing east, we cross the black flood-plain of Solheimasandur, before reaching the green valley Myrdalur and Dyrholaey, a dramatic 120-metre high promontory and the southernmost point in Iceland. It is rich in bird life, and a nesting site for thousands of Puffins and Arctic terns. If we are lucky we might see whales and seals from the promontory on calm days. We continue further east to our accommodation in Vik, Iceland's southernmost town.
We begin with an excursion into Skaftafell National Park on the edge of Europe's largest ice cap, Vatnajokull. Here we have the option to climb the low hills overlooking the ice, or for the more energetic there is an optional hike (with crampons) on the ice cap itself. Either way we will be rewarded with vistas of the contrasting landscapes of mountainous icy peaks, volcanic floodplains and the distant Atlantic shore. Leaving the area we travel east to one of Iceland's most famous highlights - the Glacier Lagoon (Jokulsarlon) where thousands of icebergs are separating from the country's largest glacier and are floating in the pale green sea-level lagoon. We take a walk beside the lagoon for excellent views. We then continue further east with the steep mountains of Vatnajokull on one side and the exposed south coast on the other.
A day of scenic driving, with a number of stops as we travel through Fjord country. We start by crossing the Almannaskard Pass and leave the flat south coast as we climb into the alpine landscape of the Eastern Fjords. This stunning mountain region has been sculpted as much by glaciers as volcanic activity. The spectacular road winds from one fjord to another, passing a few farms in each fjord where there is enough flat land for hayfields. The bird life is rich and in late summer thousands of moulting whooper swans feed in the sheltered lagoon of Alftafjordur (Swan fjord). We then continue to the small village of Egilsstadir.
Heading inland and west we pass through the starkly contrasting desert scenery of the North East Highlands and follow the track that takes us north to the enormous Dettifoss Waterfall. This is Europe's most powerful waterfall, bizarrely set in an arid area of sand and rock formations. Further north is the Asbyrgi canyon; a phenomenal dry canyon thought to have been carved out in a single day by an immense flood wave caused by an eruption underneath the Vatnajokull Icecap. We hike into Asbyrgi to have a closer look at the strange lava-cliffs and view the nesting fulmars. We continue west to our guesthouse, which stands on the north border of the inland lava field, where countless springs and crystal clear streams flow from subterranean channels to the lowland of Axarfjordur.
From Skulagardur we drive west to the steep 'fracture zone' of the eastern Tjornes peninsula. West of Tjornes is the lively fishing village Husavik at the east side of Skjalfandi Bay. Here we have the possibility to go on an optional 3-hour whale-watching tour aboard old oak fishing boats that have been rebuilt for this purpose, a fantastic experience. Most commonly sighted whales are Minke (seen on 92% of trips) and white beaked Dolphins (seen on 85% of trips) but with luck we may see others such as Humpbacks (29%)and even the giant Blue whale (0.2%). Those not whale-spotting have plenty to do around this photogenic and lively town with museums to visit, sod roof architecture to see and short walks in the surrounding hills. Husavik has a number of museums including a fascinating whale museum and museum of natural history. From Husavik we continue towards Lake Myvatn and our base for the night.
We spend the morning exploring the fascinating geology around Lake Myvatn. Sitting on the mid-Atlantic ridge it displays some interesting geology in the form of countless small crater-like islands. Furthermore its position in the rain shadow of the Vatnajokull ice cap makes it statistically the driest place in Iceland. We explore the pseudo craters of Skutustadir, the mysterious lava towers and arcs of Dimmuborgir and climb (optional) the 160 metre high crater Hverfjall which was formed in a steam explosion some 2500 years ago. After the crater traverse we head to the Godafoss waterfall en route to the town Akureyri. On arrival in Akureyri we take a sightseeing tour around this small but charming town, nicknamed the Capital of North Iceland.
A free day in Akureyri. Akureyri is a town of some 17,000 inhabitants and is the biggest town outside the capital. It is the cultural, commercial and educational centre for northern Iceland and is 60 km south of the Arctic Circle. This northerly town is remarkably green and has the northernmost botanical garden in the world. For those who want an active day there are many optional activities available that can all be booked locally through our guide.
An early start as we have a long drive (5-6 hrs) west to the Snaefellsnes peninsula, our base for the next two nights. Along the way we visit a reconstructed Viking house once home to Eirik the Red and his son Leif Eiriksson - the two most famous travelling Vikings. The 'Eirikstadir' gives an interesting insight to way of life for the early settlers and an introduction to the historic tradition of the 'Icelandic Sagas'. Snaefellsnes is perhaps best known for the volcano 'Snaefellsjokull'. Jules Verne, in his classic 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth', describes this as the start point for the characters' descent. New Age followers consider this area to be one of the earth's seven major energy centres. We head to our accommodation, located on the southern side of the peninsula, with great views over Snaefellsjokul.
The exposed coast of the west side of Snaefellsnes is the goal for today, and this area has recently been designated a National Park. We visit sea cliffs swarming with birds, sites of old shipwrecks in the black basaltic sand. We learn about the old cod-fishing methods from open boats in the bountiful seas, and towering above us is the volcano - Snaefellsjokull. The day ends in the warm mineral water of Lysuholl swimming pool.
Heading back towards Reykjavik a short journey brings us close to Eldborg crater, an interesting 1-2 hour walk from the road. Climbing to its low rim gives excellent views on a clear day. We aim to be in Reykjavik around mid-afternoon.
A tour of the volcanic Reykjanes peninsula. Here two tectonic plates meet to form the North Atlantic Ridge. In the middle of one of the 'fissure swarms' is the famous Blue Lagoon where we enjoy a soak in the thermal waters, mud, and steam. We visit the fishing village Grindavik on the south coast of Reykjanes, before continuing to the dramatic landscape of the south-westernmost tip of the peninsula where the first lighthouse in Iceland was built, and now the site of the most recent geothermal power station. We explore the hot springs, including one of the largest mud pools in the country. Travelling further along the southern coast of the peninsula we take in the Krisuvik hot spring area and lake Kleifarvatn.
A free day for further optional activities or exploring Reykjavik on your own. The town centre is within walking distance of the guesthouse, and there are plenty of cafés to sit in and relax. There are a number of activities and excursions available from Reykjavik, the guide will explain these during the tour, and we strongly suggest you book these (through your guide) before your return to Reykjavik. Possibilities include further whale watching and horse riding. And don't forget the city's reputation for a busy nightlife.