Iceland is a theater for Earth’s natural drama—from the spurting geysers and bubbling mud pools that punctuate its countryside, to the massive ice sheets that shroud its volcanic mountains. Journey to the land of fire and ice to take in this jaw-dropping geology, and encounter the rich traditions and local folklore that infuse the country’s mystical landscapes. Encounter forces of nature still shaping the planet as you walk on lava in Snæfellsnes, soak in the soothing thermal waters of the famous Blue Lagoon, and discover the caves and crevasses of a sparkling glacier.
Land in Reykjavík and take a private tour of the thermal Reykjanesskagi peninsula. Straddle the meeting point of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates; see Iceland’s oldest lighthouse; and experience the hot springs, mud pools, and steam vents of Gunnuhver. Continue to Grindavík for a soak in the soothing, mineral-rich thermal waters of the famous Blue Lagoon. Visit the red-roofed presidential residence, Bessastaðir; and explore quaint Álftanes before transferring to your hotel in the heart of Reykjavík.
Learn about thermal energy on a tour of Hellisheidi Geothermal Plant, situated on an active volcanic ridge. Lunch at the Fridheimar Greenhouse, known for its thermally grown produce, and then join a private guide for a 4x4 driving tour of the Golden Circle. See the steaming Strokkur Geysir, and take in the fury of Gullfoss, or “Golden Falls,” before continuing to Hella on the country’s south shore.
Trace the coast to the village of Hvolsvöllur, at the base of the magnificent Mýrdalsjökull glacier. Learn about the behavior of glaciers and hike with professional mountain guides on the Solheimajökull glacial tongue, a wonderland of ice sculptures, water cauldrons, ridges, and deep crevasses. Soak up the majesty of Skogafoss waterfall—plunging some 200 feet—and follow the footpath behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall for 360-degree views of its stunning cascade. Spend the evening relaxing at your country hotel.
Visit the ancient open-air parliament at Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site; then continue with your private guide to Hvalfjörður. Explore Deildartunguhver, Europe’s most powerful hot spring, and watch the Barnafoss and Hraunfossar waterfalls rush through lava fields. After lunch, pile into an all-terrain vehicle for a spin on the Langjökull Glacier, Iceland’s second largest glacial cap. Step into its glacial cave to discover blue ice, crevasses, and spectacular icicles. End the day at Hótel Húsafell, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World, and unwind in the soothing geothermal waters of the onsite hot springs.
See the historical setting for Egill’s Saga of Viking fame, and continue to the Eldborg Crater, rising impressively from lava that last flowed more than 5,000 years ago. Stop at natural mineral springs en route to Búðir, surrounded by black lava and a yellow-sand beach—a rarity in Iceland. Take photos of its evocative pitch-black church, then explore unique lava formations and observe arctic terns in the fishing village of Arnarstapi. Venture along the quiet southern coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and walk along the black lava pearl beach of Djúpalónssandur.
Drive along the soaring mountains of Hvalfjörður fjord, within sight of the glistening Snaefellsjökull Glacier—perched atop a dormant volcano and made famous by author Jules Verne as the gateway to the center of the Earth. Return to Reykjavík, and spend the afternoon exploring the city on your own. Opt to join a walking tour of the capital. See towering Hallgrimskirkja church, guarded by a statue of Viking explorer Leif Eriksson; and peruse quirky street art and avant-garde architecture as you stroll the city.
Transfer to the airport for your flight home.