Fly to Keflavik, visit Blue Lagoon (remember to pack your swimsuit in your hand luggage!), transfer to Reykjavik.
Today we drive the south coast to the Vatnajokull National Park, home to the vast ice cap of the same name. Along the way we take in a number of impressive sites. The first is the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, one of the most photographed in Iceland thanks to its picturesque setting. We then come to the Skogafoss Waterfall which, at 60m high and 25m wide is mightily impressive. Or next stop is in the town of Vik, famed for its black volcanic sand beach. We then continue to our accommodation just east of the Glacial Lagoon at Jokulsarlon. Our guide will be monitoring conditions with the northern lights in mind, and if the weather is favourable we will try to find a good location to see them.
Our first destination today is the Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon itself, which offers fantastic photographic opportunities as the icebergs drift silently on the water. We also go down to the beach where we often find large chunks of blue ice washed up on the black volcanic sand. The lagoon is on the edge of the Vatnajokull National Park and at the head of the massive Breidamerkurjokull Glacier, one of the largest outlets form the Vatnajoukull ice cap. Jokulsarlon evolved into a lagoon around 1950 as the glacier retreated from the coast, leaving a body of water 300m deep and covering an area of 20 square kilometres. The banks of the lagoon show where the glacier's edge used to be, just 1.5km from the ocean. Later in the day we move further east and set off to reach Jokulasel Hut at 840m, on the edge of the ice cap and offers wonderful views of the lagoon and coast. This is our start point for our first snowshoe walk, the exact route of which will depend on the conditions.
Skaftafell and Svinafellsjokull Glacier are now part of the Vatnajokull National Park, which covers 10% of the country and contains some of Iceland's most beautiful areas. Glaciers, mountains, extensive flora and fauna and beautiful waterfalls all make up this rugged landscape. Once such place is the Svartifoss Waterfall, which we walk to before visiting the glacier. Dropping from a 12m high wall of basalt columns this is a sight not to be missed. The Svinafellsjokull Glacier is without a doubt Iceland’s most impressive glacial tongue. It runs down from Oraefajokull, home to Mt Hvannadalshnjukur, the highest point in Iceland, and off the largest glacier in Europe, the Vatnajokull Ice Cap. This magical place consists of huge crevasses, long and narrow ridges and natural ice sculptures. We make our way up the ridges, entering some of the crevasses where possible. Ice axes and crampons can be used here to access certain areas and follow certain routes, however alternative routes are available for those not comfortable with this. The crystal blue ice here is actually over one thousand years old and gets its colour from the lack of oxygen in the ice, which compresses it. Occasionally rainfall can wash away the debris to leave the glacier sparkling blue.
Today we combine visit and explore some of southern Iceland’s most impressive sights including the dramatic Gullfoss Waterfall – located in a canyon 70 metres deep, and the world renowned geysers. The most reliable eruption comes every 5-10 minutes from one called 'Strokkur', creating a 30-metre jet of water and steam. In the afternoon we don our snowshoes again to explore the majestic scenery of the Nesfavellier Rift Valley on Mt Hengill.
The Reykjanes peninsula is a lunar -like landscape with hundreds of craters and hot springs. Here the Mid Atlantic Ridge runs aground and the continental plates drift apart. We start by visiting the Krisuvik hot spring area, we talk a short walk on the colourful soil, amongst the bubbling mud pools and sulphorous hot springs. From here we go into the Blue Mountains for some snowshoeing. We begin our route by walking up to the Thrihnjukar carater, a dormant volcano which erupted over 4000 ago. It is also the only hollow volcano in the world, as all the magma has drained away, as though the plug has been pulled on the volcano. Though we can only peek into the crater, professionals have abseiled the 120m into the magma chamber. We walk across lava fields and past craters before reaching the Leidarendi lava tube cave.This cave is a great example of the fascinating lava formations found in lava tubes. The direction of the lava flow is easy to spot and small stalagmites and stalactites adorn the celing and floor. The cave is easily navigated but head space is reduced in certain places and those wishing to advance further will need to crawl. In the winter months icicles of all shapes and sizes add to the eery atmosphere. At the end of the day we have a short transfer to Reykjavik.
Our final day is free in Reykjavik for optional excursions. We recommend snowmobile driving, a visit to the Blue Lagoon, or relaxing in the city's public baths - an amazing complex of geothermally heated pools.
Free morning in Reykjavik; fly from Reykjavik to Heathrow