Current as of: July 23, 2024 - 07:54

Aurora over Jokulsarlon

Iceland Northern Lights Trip Notes

  • Ways to Travel: Guided Group, Private Group Adventures, Short Breaks
  • Destination: Iceland
  • Programmes: Winter
  • Activity Level:

    2 out of 7 - Easy & Moderate

  • 5 Days: Flight Inclusive
  • 5 Days: Land Only
  • Ages: 16+
  • Trip Code: CZT
  • Carbon Footprint: 9kg CO2e

Trip Overview

See the best sights in the Land of Fire and Ice in one weekend

The Northern Lights can be dramatic, eruptive, fleeting and enigmatic. Never guaranteed, sightings rely on minimal light pollution, solar activity and clear skies. The key to any Aurora trip is enjoying the whole experience, regardless of what happens in the night sky. This is where this Iceland Northern Lights tour comes into its own. Roaring waterfalls, icebergs littered on black volcanic sand and mighty volcanoes dotting the horizon. With a local guide keen to show you their Iceland – and alert to the likelihood of a light show – you will be well placed, both literally and metaphorically, to see all that Iceland offers.

At a Glance

  • Four nights in comfortable hotels
  • Flybus transfer to meet any flight
  • Travel by air-conditioned minibus
  • Group normally 6 to 16, plus leader. Minimum age: 16

Highlights

  • A chance to see the Northern Lights in amazing landscapes
  • Glacier walking and the amazing Glacial Lagoon
  • Complete the Golden Triangle of Gullfoss Waterfall, Geysir and Thingvellir National Park

Is This Trip for You?

This trip is rated Activity Level 2 (Easy & Moderate). For more information on our trip gradings please visit the Activity Level Guidelines page. If you have any queries about the difficulty of the trip please do not hesitate to contact us.

It includes three-and-a-half days’ sightseeing with visits to areas of natural beauty.

Northern Lights: We are pleased to say most of our groups see the Aurora in some form, but as it is a natural phenomenon, we cannot guarantee what you will see. However, according to the latest solar activity reports, it’s thought that 2024 and 2025 are going to be particularly good years for seeing the Northern Lights.

We give ourselves the best chance of seeing them by choosing locations and times based on the latest information. We will not go out every night, instead we monitor conditions and reports to see where and when excursions may be successful.

Our accommodation in the east is fairly remote, so is well placed should skies be clear. If the lights are visible here, it is likely we can simply see them from the viewing terrace of our hotel.

Other excursions: We also venture out onto a glacier equipped with a helmet, ice axe and crampons, sticking to flat sections of the ice. This experience is very accessible and designed for all abilities. To make the most of this trip you do not need previous experience, but a reasonable level of fitness is recommended.

Please note, Iceland has become hugely popular in recent years and you may find some of the main sites rather busy at certain times.

Weather and seasonality: Icelandic weather is unpredictable. Please come prepared for cold, wet and windy conditions. As this trip runs from October to March, daylight hours will vary depending on departure date, from around five hours in January to 10 hours in March. Outside of daylight there are twilight hours, particularly before sunrise, when there is enough light to see by. Naturally, the Aurora will not be visible during daylight, but March has some of the best opportunities to see the Northern Lights (close to the spring equinox).

Please note that, on occasion, severe weather can affect our ability to undertake some of the outdoor activities and we cannot rule out changes to the itinerary for these reasons. Any such decisions would always be taken with the safety of the group in mind. We always endeavour to provide suitable alternatives in this instance.

Drives: We cover a lot of ground and, as such, have a few long drives. We make frequent photo stops to admire the spectacular landscapes.

Adult min age: 16

Min group size: 6

Max group size: 16

Itinerary

Iceland Northern Lights

Land Only

  • Start City: Reykjavik
  • End City: Reykjavik

Land Only Itinerary

Day 1
Start Reyjkavik
Iceland Northern Lights

Our tour begins at our hotel in Reykjavik in the late afternoon. The compact capital city of Iceland is well worth exploring, and we strongly recommend a couple of extra days before or after your tour. Two of the most striking attractions are the Hallgrímskirkja Church, a fine example of expansionist architecture with great views from the tower, and the beautiful Harpa Concert Hall. The nearby old harbour is a great starting point to explore the narrow streets of the old town.

We have a welcome briefing this evening, usually around 6.30pm. After, our groups typically go out for dinner together.

Accommodation: Hotel Klettur or Hotel Cabin (or similar)

Day 2
Drive along the south coast stopping at Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls
Iceland Northern Lights

We leave Reykjavik, driving east along the scenic southern highway. Our first stop is Seljalandsfoss, a 195ft (60m) high waterfall. We can walk behind the cascade, providing conditions are not too icy. Suitable footwear is a must; however, the leader carries ice grips that can be put over standard walking boots to increase grip in slippery conditions. We continue on through starkly beautiful countryside to an area badly affected by the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

We journey along the coast visiting the Skógafoss waterfall, a 195ft (60m) drop that falls in an 80ft (25m) wide sheet. If there is time, we drive to the most southerly point in Iceland, the Dyrhólaey peninsula, to enjoy coastal views north to Mýrdalsjökull glacier and south to the Reynisdrangar black lava sea stacks. If time and conditions allow, we see the sea stacks at a closer proximity from Reynisfjara black beach. The final part of our journey takes us across the black expanse of the Myrdalssandur floodplains, created by the river that formed after the eruption of a volcano under the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier.

Our hotel for the night is Hotel Laki, just outside the small village of Kirkjubaejarklaustur.

Accommodation: Hotel Laki (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 3
Drive across Skeidararsandur floodplains to Skaftafell for a stop and visit; onto Falljokull for a glacier walk. Drive to Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon
Iceland Northern Lights

We set out today across the massive Skeidararsandur floodplains, created in a similar fashion to those at Mydalssandur. The last huge flood occurred in 1996 and there is still little vegetation. We head to Falljokull, then walk to an accessible part of the glacier where we strap on crampons and grab ice axes to walk on the glacier. The terrain is not challenging and even those with no similar experience should pick it up quickly. The glacier offers fantastic photo opportunities with walls of brilliant blue ice thousands of years in the making. Please note, weather and road conditions determine whether the glacier walk is possible and how long the transfer/walk to the glacier will be. In good conditions, the walk may be 15 minutes; in poorer conditions, the walk may be up to one hour. Your itinerary will be adjusted according to conditions on the day.

After the return hike, we travel to the beautiful Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, created in the 1950s as the glacier retreated from the coastline, leaving a 985ft (300m) deep, 8sqmi (20sqkm) lake studded by icebergs. On Diamond Beach, we walk among large chunks of ice washed up on the black volcanic sand, creating beautiful shapes and formations.

The drive back to the hotel is approximately 90 minutes (80mi/125km), plenty of time to reflect on the day’s adventures.

Accommodation: Hotel Laki (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 4
Drive along the south coast passing Eyjafjallajokull volcano; visit Gullfoss waterfall, spouts at Geysir and explore the rift valley at Thingvellir National Park; on to Reykjavik

We return along the south coast then head inland via Hvolsvöllur. We stop for lunch then head to the mighty Gullfoss waterfall, one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe. We also visit Geysir, home to the inimitable hot spouts. The most reliable eruption comes from Strokkur and occurs every five to 10 minutes, firing jets of hot water and steam 100ft (30m) into the air, a spectacle not to be missed.

Our final stop before returning to Reykjavik is Thingvellir National Park, where the first democratic parliament in the world sat in 930. It was not until 1798, that it moved to the capital. Thingvellir is also the site of the rift valley marking the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart, causing an area around 4mi (7km) to literally sink into the earth.

Accommodation: Hotel Klettur or Hotel Cabin (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 5
End Reykjavik

Our trip ends with a Flybus transfer to Keflavik Airport. Your leader will not accompany you on the Flybus; however, you are provided with a number to call for assistance, should it be needed.

If you have time, you may wish to explore Reykjavik, visiting one of the local thermal pools or the Blue Lagoon (see the Extra Expenses & Spending Money section of the Trip Notes for details). Alternatively, you may wish to extend your stay and learn more about this incredible country. Please ask your sales representative about pre- and post-tour nights.

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodation

Hotels Klettur or Cabin and Hotel Laki

Hotel Laki exterior

We aim to use hotels that provide good value for money (in Icelandic terms) along with a comfortable experience. In Reykjavik, we either stay at Hotel Klettur or Hotel Cabin, depending on availability.

Hotel Klettur

Iceland Northern Lights

The property is approximately 15 minutes’ walk from the main shopping street, Laugavegur, so it’s easy to enjoy the cafes, bars and restaurants of the capital. If you’d prefer to relax at the hotel, there’s a ground-floor bar serving Icelandic beers and cocktails (look out for the happy hour from 5pm to 8pm) and a games room with a pool table and Northern Lights selfie wall.

Hotel Cabin

Iceland Northern Lights

Hotel Cabin offers the same standard of accommodation and facilities, but is approximately 2,625ft (800m) further from the city centre. It also has a bar serving Icelandic beers and cocktails (with a happy hour on draft beer from 4pm to 6pm).

Hotel Laki

Hotel Laki room

Along the south coast, we stay at this 64-room hotel, which is situated in a perfect location to see the rugged landscape of Iceland, with pseudo craters dotting the view. Run by farmers-turned-hoteliers Salome and Hörður, the property has a restaurant serving locally sourced and seasonal produce and you can enjoy your meal with views of Vatnajökull glacier.

Single supplement from £ 260

Food & Drink

All breakfasts are included. There are several different lunch stops, which we believe fit well with the itinerary, such as the cafe near the Skogafoss waterfall. In the east of Iceland, we stop at local restaurants for dinner.

In Reykjavik, there are plenty of restaurants to cover all tastes and budgets. Traditional Icelandic dishes consist of salmon, cod, lamb and puffin. The old town cafes are particularly cosy, packed with comfy chairs and antique furniture, with wonderful selections of coffees, cakes and treats.

Vegetarian and vegan options are generally available, although in the east of Iceland these may be more limited than in Reykjavik. If you follow a restricted diet of any kind, please expect options to be limited.

Transport

We use a comfortable, heated minibus, well adapted to the changing terrain, for all transport on this tour. Airport transfers are on the Flybus service.

Weather & Seasonality

Iceland has a notoriously fickle climate and on any winter day you may experience sunshine alternating with short or long showers of snow, sleet or rain. Away from the coast, in most winters, there is good snow cover for much of the season. Average daytime temperatures in Reykjavik are 0C to -5C (32F to 23F). In the interior, it can be several degrees colder, and in windy weather, which is common, the windchill factor can be significant.

Joining Instructions

Key information

Recommended arrival time: You can arrive at any time today. There will be a welcome briefing in the evening, but if you miss it the leader will update you separately
Airport: Keflavik Airport (KEF)

Airport transfers

The start hotel is approximately 45 to 60 minutes’ drive from the airport. Prior to travel, all clients will receive a Flybus voucher, which must be exchanged at the Flybus counter inside the airport or on the first bus for two tickets – one to the hotel and another back to the airport.
Flybus offer bus transfers throughout the day and make stops at various city hotels including our start hotel. You will need to change bus at the Reykjavik bus terminal to continue your journey to the start hotel. You will receive further details in your Final Joining Instructions.

Why Flybus?
We use FlyBus so you have full flexibility to choose the flight times that work best for you. This also means we avoid adding to the road traffic and carbon emissions by having a private bus meet our groups. It is the most cost effective and responsible way to transfer from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik. If you prefer to be met by a taxi, this can be arranged at an additional cost. Contact your sales representative for more detail
If you would like further information on joining this trip, please speak to your sales representative.

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers will be sent to you as part of our Final Joining Instructions. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

Location start: Reykjavik
Location end: Reykjavik

What To Take

Essential Equipment

  • Walking boots: three- or three-to-four-season waterproof walking boots with semi-rigid soles and good ankle support
  • Outdoor/winter clothing as follows:
    • Good-quality waterproof jacket
    • Warm fleece, warm hat and gloves
    • Waterproof trousers (pants)
    • Thermal underwear (top and bottom)
    • Balaclava or scarf
    • Extra-thick gloves
    • Warm hat that covers your ears
    • Neck buff/snood
  • Water bottle and/or Thermos flask
  • Trainers (sneakers)/comfortable shoes for the evenings
  • Backpack
  • Towel and swimwear (for thermal pools)
  • Torch (flashlight), preferably a head torch (head lamp)
  • A tripod is highly recommended if trying to photograph the Northern Lights, as is a camera with the ability to take long exposures

Practical Information

Visa

Iceland

Travellers from the UK, US and EU normally do not need a visa to enter Iceland. Please note, visa requirements often change and it is your responsibility to obtain any required visas for this trip. Therefore, we recommend that you check with the nearest embassy or consulate of your chosen destination(s), including any countries you may be transiting or transferring through.

Some local governments provide guidance on what visas their citizens need. To help, we’ve gathered a selection of useful links below.

• Australia: www.smartraveller.gov.au/destinations/europe/iceland
• Canada: www.travel.gc.ca/destinations/iceland
• United Kingdom: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/iceland/entry-requirements
• USA:  www.travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Iceland.html

Vaccinations and Health

Iceland

There are no required vaccinations. However, you may want to consider vaccinations for tetanus and rabies. Please confirm with your doctor or travel clinic.

Local Time

Iceland's time zone: Atlantic/Reykjavik (UTC +00:00)

Electricity

Iceland's electricity: Plug types C (two round pins) and F (two round pins) – 230V, 50Hz

Iceland Northern Lights

Money

Iceland's currency: Icelandic króna (ISK)

ATM Availability

ATMs are everywhere in Iceland but check with your bank as you may be charged to use them. Icelanders tend to prefer paying by card even for the smallest of payments. Travellers cheques are not recommended.

Extra Expenses & Spending Money

Though there is not much free time on this itinerary, your leader can offer advice on optional activities.

The Blue Lagoon is a popular destination close to both Reykjavik and Keflavik Airport. Depending on your flight times, you may be able to visit on your arrival or departure day. Destination Blue Lagoon offers packages with transfers between Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon and Keflavik Airport. Book direct at www.destinationbluelagoon.is or speak to your sales representative for more information.

For the meals not included, guide prices are as follows:

  • Lunch: 3,000-4,000 Icelandic krona (US$22-US$29)
  • Evening meal in Reykjavik: 4,000-8,000 krona (US$29-US$57), not including drinks.
  • Evening meal at Hotel Laki: This is the only option in the area. There is an extensive buffet and the cost is approximately 7,000 krona (US$50), not including drinks.
  • Drinks:
    • Beer: 900-1,500 krona (US$6.40-US$10.65)
    • Soft drinks: 400 krona (US$2.85)
    • Wine: 3,500 krona a bottle (US$25) or 1,800 krona (US$12.80) a glass

Tipping

Tipping is not a big part of Icelandic culture. However, should you wish to leave a tip for your tour leader, we recommend approximately 2,630 krona per person. This is a guide and entirely at your discretion.

People, Places & Planet

We work hard to create trips that have a positive impact on the people and places we visit and look after the planet we explore. Learn more about our sustainable travel ethos and practice here and find out about the work of the Exodus Travels Foundation here.

Some sustainable travel highlights of this trip include:

People

How this trip helps improve life for local communities.

  • Local guides keep you well informed about local traditions and cultural-social sensitivities.
  • This trip brings income and opportunity to the destination community through the inclusion of locally owned hotels, restaurants, and other enterprises, and by championing locally produced food wherever possible.
  • Read more about our other initiatives here.

Places

How this trip helps protect and conserve local landscapes and nature.

  • By travelling in a small group, we ‘tread lightly’ to minimise our impact on local resources and the environment.
  • We work with our partners on the ground to proactively reduce waste; this includes eliminating all single-use plastic water bottles by providing refills for reusable bottles.
  • Our local partner is a member of Landvernd (the Icelandic Environment Association) and Fuglavernd BirdLife Iceland. Both are heavily involved in local conservation initiatives.
  • With our partners, Rewilding Apennines, we rewild 100 square meters (1,075 sqft) of land per passenger who travels with us.
  • Read about our commitment to nature protection and restoration here, including our rewilding commitment for every customer who travels with us.

Planet

How we seek to keep the carbon footprint of this trip low.

  • Accommodation and restaurants in the itinerary use locally sourced food which has not been transported long distances.
  • Read about our climate action here, including our carbon reduction and compensation commitments.

Tips for sustainable travel on this trip

  • Leave no trace: We do all we can to ensure we leave no rubbish in the wild and beautiful places we visit; we ask that you do the same. If there are no recycling facilities in-country, consider bringing recyclable materials home with you.
  • Plastic waste reduction: Please bring a reusable water bottle on this trip, also consider avoiding single-use hotel toiletries, which generate a large amount of plastic waste.

Important Information

Your safe participation 

When booking this trip, you should be confident in your ability to participate in all activities described in these Trip Notes. If you have any doubt about your suitability, please call the Exodus office and ask to speak to one of the experts on this itinerary. 

Although our leaders are well trained to deal with different capabilities, if they have any concerns about someone’s ability to safely take part in an activity, or their impact on other people’s enjoyment, we authorise them to take necessary action which, in some circumstances, may involve asking someone to miss that activity. 

By booking this trip you agree to our Booking Conditions which clearly state that our leaders have the authority to do this. In these rare instances we will ensure anyone sitting out is safely provided for and offered alternative options where possible. Refunds will not be provided for activities missed and customers may be liable for additional costs incurred. 

How to Book

  1. Check availability: Go online to check availability, or contact us by phone or email.
  2. Secure your place: You can provisionally hold a place on this trip, usually for between three and seven days.
  3. Complete your booking and payment

When you’re ready to book, go to our website for online bookings, book over the phone or you can complete a booking form (available online or on request by calling us). We accept all major credit and debit cards, or you can pay be cheque.

After booking

You will receive your booking confirmation letter and invoice, which includes extra information and guidance about your travel arrangements.

Full joining instructions, including local emergency numbers and details of how to reach the start point, will be sent to you approximately two to three weeks prior to departure. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier, please contact our office or your travel agent.

Trip Note validity

These Trip Notes are valid from the “Current as” date on page one. They will occasionally be updated after booking and before departure; if there are any updates that significantly impact the inclusions or itinerary, customers will be written to separately. They will also receive a link to the most up-to-date Trip Notes with their Final Joining Instructions before travelling.

The information in these Trip Notes is given in good faith. Where differences exist between the Trip Notes and our current brochure or website, the Trip Notes supersede the brochure and website. All holidays can be subject to unexpected changes; to enjoy them you should be prepared to be flexible where necessary. Occasionally, it may not be possible to follow the itinerary as planned. This may be for a variety of reasons – climatic, political, physical or other. In these circumstances we will make the best-possible alternative arrangements that maintain the integrity of the original itinerary.

Licensing

Exodus is fully licensed and bonded as a tour operator. We hold Air Traffic Organisers Licence (ATOL) number 2582, issued and bonded with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are also bonded to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and we are members of the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) and ABTA – The Travel Association. This means you can book your Exodus holiday with confidence, as all money paid to us for your trip is fully protected.