- Hike the lava fields and coastal trails of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, and discover an 8,000-year-old lava tube.
- Snowshoe or hike to the magnificent Dettifoss falls, considered Europe’s most powerful waterfall, and don crampons to traverse the crackling glacial landscape of Sólheimajökull.
- Experience volcanism, witnessing the otherworldly lava formations of Lake Mývatn and the geothermal wonders of the Golden Circle.
- Watch for the northern lights at their brightest while staying at Hotel Húsafell—a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World.
Explore the dramatic landscapes of Iceland during its most vivid season. In the winter months, this small island nation is transformed into a magical world of black lava fields blanketed in snow, waterfalls flowing amid shimmering ice, and night skies painted with the northern lights and their great cascades of color. On this unique winter journey, experience the extreme contrasts of Iceland’s fire and ice as we trek across snow-covered fields shrouded in geothermal steam, weather sub-zero temperatures from the warmth of outdoor thermal baths, and take in views of a glacier-capped volcano.
Arrive in Reykjavík and head to the city center for breakfast at a local café. Visit the Perlan Museum to learn about the geologic history and precarious future of Iceland’s glaciers, and venture into the museum’s 328-foot-long, man-made ice cave. Afterward, enjoy a short walking tour of the capital before checking in to our hotel. Spend the remainder of the afternoon relaxing or exploring the city on your own, taking in its eclectic architecture, warming up in a cozy café, or soaking in one of its many thermal baths. This evening, gather for an orientation briefing and a welcome dinner.
Begin the day with a flight to the northern city of Akureyri, situated at the head of Eyjafjörður, Iceland’s longest fjord and considered one of the best places in Iceland to see the northern lights. Visit the 19th-century Nonni’s House, where Icelandic children’s author and Jesuit priest Jón “Nonni” Sveinsson spent his childhood. Then head to one of Iceland’s most geologically active areas at Lake Mývatn, rich with lava pillars, volcanic cones, and bubbling mud pits. Set out to explore the Skútustaða pseudo craters on the lake’s southern shore, then visit the otherworldly black lava towers of Dimmuborgir, home to elves and trolls, according to Icelandic folklore. Cap off the day with time to relax at your hotel before dinner. (3–4 miles hiking or snowshoeing, 2 hours)
Spend the day exploring the Mývatn area. Discover Dettifoss waterfall, considered Europe’s most powerful waterfall. Depending on snow conditions, snowshoe or hike to the edge of the falls. Then continue to Víti crater, a water-filled caldera measuring nearly 1,000 feet across. Later, set off on a cross-country skiing excursion, crossing frozen Lake Mývatn or gliding over snow-blanketed lava fields near the Krafla volcano. Alternatively, if conditions aren’t optimal, visit the Krafla geothermal power plant and learn about this environmentally friendly way of tapping into the Earth’s energy. After dinner, visit the Myvatn Nature Baths and hopefully witness the northern lights. (6 miles hiking or snowshoeing, 3 hours; 1–2 hours cross-country skiing)
Explore the footpaths around the Goðafoss waterfall—one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland, located on the Skjálfandafljót River. Then enjoy a scenic drive through the wild landscapes of West Iceland to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, stopping for lunch and photo opportunities along the way. Weather permitting, take a short walk to the legendary basalt fortress of Borgarvirki, which towers over the stark landscape. Settle into our hotel in the picturesque town of Stykkishólmur and enjoy dinner at a restaurant in the oldest part of town.
Enjoy a full day in Snæfellsjökull National Park, exploring this remote, otherworldly landscape that includes the glacier-capped Snæfellsjökull volcano. See Kirkjufell, a lone peak that has been featured in Game of Thrones; then head to Djúpalónssandur, a scenic stretch of coast on the western end of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Walk along dramatic cliffs and black-pebble beaches to Dritvík cove, taking in views of the craggy rock formations that rise out of the ocean. Descend underground into Vatnshellir Cave, an 8,000-year-old lava tube. Weather and schedule permitting, we’ll also hike the coastline from Hellnar to the harbor at Arnarstapi, passing basalt columns and seabird-dotted cliffs. End the day at Hotel Húsafell, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World, surrounded by beech forests and undulating hills. (1–2 miles hiking or snowshoeing, 1 hour)
After breakfast, drive to Hraunfossar, where a series of waterfalls stream out of a lava field, and set out on a hike to the nearby waterfall of Barnafoss. Stop for lunch en route to the celebrated Golden Circle. Here, we embark on a hike in Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site located at the meeting point of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Trek to the magnificent Gullfoss, a powerful waterfall especially picturesque in the winter, when its double cascades shimmer amid ice and snow. Cap off the day at the geothermal area of Haukadalur, home to Geysir—the hot-water jet stream for which all other geysers are named. (2–3 miles hiking or snowshoeing, 3 hours)
This morning, drive along Iceland’s scenic southern coast, arriving at Sólheimajökull, a vast glacial tongue that extends from the mighty Mýrdalsjökull Glacier. Equipped with crampons and an ice axe, learn about glaciology from our professional mountain guide as you hike through a wonderland of blue-hued ice formations, water cauldrons, ridges, and crevasses. Later, follow a path to the spectacular Seljalandsfoss waterfall in the foothills of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, and marvel at the beauty of Skógafoss waterfall, which plunges some 200 feet. Return to our hotel this evening and gather for a farewell dinner. (1 mile hiking, 2 hours; 2 hours glacier walking)
Travel to the black-lava fields of Grindavík, home to the famous Blue Lagoon. Soak in its mineral-rich, turquoise waters, and experience the unique sensation of having your body submerged in warmth and your head exposed to freezing temperatures. After a rejuvenating dip, transfer to Kelflavík Airport to catch your flight home.