Transfer to Reykjavik
We spend two days in the spectacular Thorsmork area. Named after Thor, the God of Thunder, this area is dominated by mountains and glaciers. With the help of our rugged 4x4 minibus we ford glaciers and tackle tough terrain to access some of the best hiking here. We drive to the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano via the 60 metre high Seljalandsfoss waterfall. On our journey we also see the Falljokull outlet glacier that bore the brunt of the flood caused by the eruption. As testament to the changes caused in the area, the lagoon that once sat below the glacier was filled with ash and gravel carried down by the melting ice and is now a gravel slope. From here we continue to the sheltered birch forest in Godaland where we will camp for the next two nights.
The Thorsmork Valley has been a popular area for decades, however now also offers a fantastic chance to see the effects of a volcanic eruption firsthand. From our camp we head out through the changing landscape, which alters the closer we get to the volcano itself. The dramatic views are topped by the new craters and lavafields created by the famous eruption of 2010.
Today's drive east along the south coast has plenty to distract us as we head for our glacier-side campsite in the Skaftafell National Park. We cross the great plain of southern Iceland towards the waterfalls of Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss and across the volcanic desert to the blustery cliffs of Cape Dyrholaey, the southernmost point in Iceland. The Dyrholaey headland is renowned for its precipitious cliffs teeming with birdlife (this area is closed to the public from 1st May to 25th June, during the nesting period).
Today is a little tougher - a climb up the Kristinartindar valley brings us to the pass between the two Kristinartindar peaks. From the pass we can take quite a steep but non-technical route to the top of the higher peak. Views from the top are well worth the effort: Hvannadalshnukur - the highest mountain in Iceland; the huge ice-cap; tumbling glaciers on both sides and the North Atlantic Ocean in the distance. There will be the option to venture on the ice as part of a guided glacier walk (with crampons and ice-axe). There are two variations, a half-day glacier walk, or the ascent of Mt.Hvannadalshnukur (2119 m). The climb involves 2000 vertical metres of ascent and 2 x 10km in distance, and is for experienced trekkers only. For both options ice equipment, harnesses etc are provided. There may also be the opportunity to try ice climbing in the National Park, or take a tractor ride to Ingolfshofdi, an isolated headland where hundreds of thousands of sea birds, including Puffins, nest. Please bear in mind that due to time constraints, taking part in one of these optional activities will mean that you will not be able to take part in the walk to Kristinartindar.
From Skaftafell we set off for the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon where the water from the outlet glacier Breidamerkurjokull is carving huge icebergs that float in the cold waters of the lagoon. Our walk allows us to see the towering sheets of ice and even get close enough to touch the smaller chunks by the shore. Seals are sometime visitors to the 300 metre long river than runs from here to the sea. North of Hofn (Icelandic for 'harbour') we enter the Eastern Fjords, and once again see a significant change in landscape. The road winds from fjord to fjord, past cascading streams, farms and small fishing villages. We continue on through Alftafjordur (Swan-Fjord) where hundres of swans come to seek food and shelter on a shallow lagoon in moulting season. After a short stop in Egilsstadir village to pick up fresh supplies we drive to our camp in the small village of Bakkagerdi in the Borgarfjordur Eystri area.
The Dyrfjoll mountains are one of Iceland's most striking ranges. Dyrfjoll means 'Door Mountains' and comes from the 850 metre high pass - 'The Door' - that splits them. This area is the entrance to the remote Borgarfjordur region and our aim for the day is to walk through Storurd and to the Door itself. This area is littered with gigantic boulders that seem totally out of kilter with the local scenery. It is thought the boulders where carried here by a glacier which is now long since melted, leaving behind a unique landscape that is one of Iceland's true gems.
From Borgarfjordur we head for Lake Myvatn, stopping en route at Europe's most powerful waterfall, Dettifoss. We hike down to the edge of the waterfall to experience this immense power for ourselves. Our journey then takes us on to Myvatn for a short walk in the lava fields and craters. We hike to Dimmuborgir, a vast area of lava towers, natural arches and sand dunes. The most spectacular of them is 'the Church', a large vault resembling a church. Only a short distance from Dimmuborgir is Mt.Hverfjall, a huge circular crater with a depth of 140 metres and 1000 metres in diameter. It is one of the most beautiful steam-explosion craters in Iceland and thought to be one of the largest on the planet. We traverse Mt.Hverfjall, and a little further north is the rift crevasse Grjotagja with its crystal clear warm water
We drive into the Krafla volcano area to explore the craters and lava from the eruptive period of 1975-1984. We hike into one of the craters and look at the strange textures of cooled magma splatters and rich colours of the mineral deposits. From the colourful Leirhnjukur hill we set course down to Lake Myvatn on foot and cross countless rift fissures and the lava falls Elda (Fire River) on an unforgettable hike. Back at Myvatn we have the chance to soak our muscles in one of the geothermal pools.
A scenic drive with a stop at Skutustadagigar pseudo-craters and Godafoss waterfall. After a short stop to explore Akureyri, the largest settlement outside the capital, we cross the Trollaskagi mountain range and the old mountain route Kjolur. A stop at natural pools is a great chance to admire the view to the big icecaps both the east and west. From Hveravellir it takes about an hour to drive up to Mt.Kerlingarfjoll where we set up camp on the lower flanks of this old volcano.
A full day of hiking in Kerlingarfjoll Mountains. Kerlingarfjoll is an extinct volcano that still holds enormous heat and in Hveradalur (Hot Spring Valley) we see the result of thousands of years of geothermal activity and glacial erosion. The combination of boiling colourful mud pits, pure yellow sulphur and snow is extraordinary. Mt.Kerlingarfjoll is capped with its own small glacier. In good visibility we set out to hike up to the 1400 m. high Mt.Snaekollur.
We drive south over the Kjolur Highland and down to Gullfoss waterfall. Again we have the opportunity to go out to the very edge of the falls and witness it cascade into the Hvitargljufur Canyon. A little further west is Geysir geothermal area with the original Geysir that other similar 'eruptive springs' elsewhere are named after. The most reliable eruption comes every 5-10 minutes from one called 'Strokkur'; the 30-metre jet of water and steam is spectacular. Our next stop is Lake Laugarvatn, whose shores contain boiling springs. On top of one is a modest building housing the oldest steam bath in Iceland. Having all that cold water in the lake just outside makes it an excellent bathing stop. Our final visit is to Thingvellir National park, the old site of the first Icelandic parliament. This area became Iceland's first National Park in 1928 and World Heritage Area in 2004, it sits right on top of a major fault line. The area abounds with waterfalls, immense fissures and the largest lake in the country. Return to Reykjavik
A free day in the capital with plenty of options for activities and relaxation. Whale-watching, horse-riding and even sea kayaking are options for the active. Those wanting a little time to themselves can explore the small city centre, or relax in one of Reykjavik's many public outdoor swimming pools - geothermally heated of course! The most famous geo-thermal pool is the Blue Lagoon (30 mins drive from Reykjavik), and this can be visited as part of an organised excursion.
Early transfer to the airport for the flight to London.