Day 1: Join trip in Reykjavik
On this trip our transfers from Keflavik airport to our hotel in Reykjavik will be on the very efficient and easy to use public FlyBus shuttle bus service. On arrival at Keflavik airport please proceed to the FlyBus desk which is located just outside the arrivals hall. A representative will give you a voucher and direct you to the bus. Buses leave every 35-40 minutes and the drive to your hotel will take approximately 45 minutes. On the drive from the airport to the hotel you'll get your first glimpse of the blackened and rocky volcanic scenery found on this part of the island.
After checking-in to our conveniently-located hotel in the city, you may have time to explore a little of the world's most northerly capital. Bustling with cosmopolitan energy and surrounded by pure, unpolluted nature, Reykjavik is a city of striking contrasts. Small colourful corrugated iron houses nestle next to futuristic glass buildings; state-of-the-art facilities lie beside rugged volcanic terrain and international influences mingle with Icelandic national traditions. All this creates a unique culture where old embraces new.
On this holiday you'll be accompanied by an Explore Leader from days 2 to 8, so this evening you are free to settle in and enjoy the diverse dining and, maybe even the nightlife, of this charming city.
Day 2: Travel to Akureyri 'the capital of the north'
This morning after meeting your Explore Leader and the rest of the group, we depart Reykjavik and drive to Iceland's second city of Akureyri, where we will spend the next two nights. The journey will take between five to eight hours, depending on road conditions. However, there will be plenty of opportunities to stop along the way to stretch our legs and take photos of the stunning winter scenery.
One of the scenic stops along the way will be in the small fishing town of Akranes, just north-west of Reykjavik. This traditional town is home to two of Iceland's 104 lighthouses and from where they stand on the edge of the peninsula we will be afforded panoramic views over the fjord. If we're lucky enough to have a clear sky we will be able to see over to Reykjavik as the sun rises. Travelling further towards Akureyri, we will take a break for lunch along the way.
Standing on the shores of the country's longest fjord, Akureyri is a pretty town, with a thriving arts community. It is seen as the cultural heart of the north of the island and its galleries and Lutheran cathedral are worth a visit.
Day 3: Snow tractor or super-jeep excursion; boat to Hrisey Island
On our departure for this trip in January-March we will ride into the mountains on a snow cat vehicle, amidst the scenic snow covered peaks. The journey up the 1173 metre-high Kaldbakur Mountain takes around 45 minutes and is rewarded with spectacular views. After fulfilling the tradition of signing the Kaldbakur guest book that is kept in a cairn on the top of the mountain, we begin our descent back down the mountain. This is a true snowy adventure, so make sure you wrap up warm and get ready for a thrilling ride!
If you are travelling in October-December or there hasn't been enough snow to operate the snow cat then we visit another mountain nearby and enjoy an exciting one hour super-jeep excursion. These 10 feet high monsters can cross glacial moraine, lava flows and fast-flowing rivers with relative ease. In fact, you won't believe what the drivers can make them do, but fear not - they do this for a living!
This afternoon, a 15-minute ferry ride will take us to Hrisey Island from the small village harbour of Arskogssandur. Here, together with our local Viking guide, we will have the chance to experience the slow pace of life on the island, discover some of its rich Viking history and try a traditional fish lunch. We will then return to the mainland, where we will complete our gastronomic trip with a local beer tasting, before heading back to Akureyri for the evening.
Please note: Today's itinerary is subject to weather conditions. We may revise the order of activities for your comfort and safety, the Explore Leader will advise on the day. Make sure you dress warmly today for our excursion in the mountains and boat trip.
Day 4: Godafoss waterfall, Lake Myvatn and the Nature Baths
This morning, we leave Akureyri for Lake Myvatn, stopping en route at Godafoss. Known as 'the waterfall of the gods', it is particularly spectacular in winter when the clear blue waters partially freeze.
Lake Myvatn is an active volcanic area which was formed 3800 years ago when a lava flow blocked the valley. Here, we will be treated to the surreal sight of steam rising from ground vents through the snow-covered ground. We will also see a variety of fascinating rock formations caused by past lava eruptions.
After a day exploring, we take a soothing dip in the Nature Baths, where we wil find a man-made lagoon to swim in and natural steam baths to relax in. Your Explore Leader will endeavour to time this with sunset so you can relax below the red and pink skies and watch the sun go down over a beautifully frozen Lake Myvatn. The Nature Baths here are a great quieter alternative to the busier Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik - they offer the same wonderful experience but with less people around you.
Tonight, our hotel is superbly-positioned for viewing the Northern Lights. Should conditions allow them to make an appearance, you can choose to receive a wake-up call from the hotel staff.
Day 5: Visit Seydisfjordur en route to Egilsstadir
After some time to explore the scenic surroundings of Lake Myvatn this morning, we begin our journey around the east coast en route to our overnight stop in Egilsstadir, we will visit the charming town of Seydisfjordur. With its many well-preserved historic wooden houses, the town is renowned as a bastion of authentic Icelandic culture. During our visit, we hope to have the opportunity to participate in the local goings-on of this community, perhaps with a visit to the music school or a local concert in the church.
Please note: Due to weather conditions and snow this day's activities will be decided on the day and your Explore Leader will brief accordingly. There is only one road to Seydisfjordur that is sometimes closed due to snow conditions.
Day 6: Coastal road to Hofn; chance to see the Northern Lights
Today, we drive along the eastern coastal road to the fishing town of Hofn, admiring the wind-swept sea views along the way. We also hope to catch our first glimpses of Vatnajokull - the largest ice cap in Europe.
On the way we will stop in the small historic town of Faskrudfjordur to visit the old French Hospital Museum. This timeworn building, which now houses both a hotel and a museum, dates back to 1903 and was an active hospital for the French fisherman through to 1939. The interactive museum offers insight into how the French fishing industry played a vital role in the growth of Iceland and the conditions the fisherman had to endure. Sat on the edge of the fjord, the cafe is a great place to get a coffee and enjoy the wild views.
Tonight, we will stay on a working farm in tranquil countryside near the town. This isolated location makes it another good spot to see the Northern Lights.
Day 7: Visit Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon and travel to Vik
Continuing our circumnavigation of the island, we'll see more of the Vatnajokull Glacier before stopping at the Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon. Here, we can marvel at the newly formed icebergs as they make their way out to sea. The ice is breaking off from the Breidamerkurjokull Glacier and the icebergs then slowly float through the lagoon and out to sea under a bridge for the main number one road. You can see the bergs drifting out into the ocean whilst others sit lazily on the black beaches waiting for the current to sweep them away. On one of the bridge's pillars there is painting, supposedly by Banksy, of a headless polar bear pushing a shopping trolley. The lagoon is quite narrow, but the waters are up to 250 meters deep, which makes it the deepest lake found in Iceland.
Tonight's hotel is in the remote countryside, providing us with another chance to view the Northern Lights.
Day 8: Golden Circle tour of Geysir, Gullfoss and Thingvellir
Today, we take a tour of Iceland's 'Golden Circle', which includes many of the natural wonders which make the country so famous. Thingvellir is a rare site of both historical and geological importance. Meaning 'Parliament Plains', this was the location of Iceland's first National Assembly from 930AD until 1798 and, as such, is hugely significant in the country's cultural heritage. What's more, the impressive landscape sits on a unique spot where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge can be seen on dry land before disappearing to the ocean floor where it spends most of its existence. This provides the quirky opportunity to place one foot on the North American tectonic plate and one foot on the Eurasian plate.
We move on to the Gullfoss, known as the 'Golden Waterfall', due to the way it cascades into a deep gorge with tremendous force. Regarded by many as one of the most beautiful falls in the world, it often remains partially frozen during the winter months. Geysir is our next stop, with the claim to fame that, as the first spouting spring known to Europeans, it gave all such springs their name. However, it is the Strokkur, meaning 'The Butter Churn', which is the main attraction these days, due to its impressive 100 feet eruptions every few minutes.
We return to Reykjavik this evening, where we will have a short sightseeing tour by bus to help us orientate ourselves before going to our conveniently-located hotel will be our base for the last two nights of the tour. Your Explore Leader will also be able to arrange any of our optional excursions for you that you might wish to participate in during your free day tomorrow.
Day 9: Free day in the capital
Today will be free to spend as you wish. You may choose to continue to explore the city centre on foot, visiting its art galleries and museums or soaking up the atmosphere in one of its many cafes. Alternatively, you might prefer to go on an optional whale watching trip, horse riding expedition, super jeep ride to the Reykjanes Peninsula or to visit the Blue Lagoon for a swim.
Day 10: Trip ends in Reykjavik
Our trip ends after breakfast this morning. The transfer back to Keflavik airport will be on the public FlyBus shuttle bus service and your Explore Leader will provide you with the details of your pick up time and with your voucher for this service on day 8.
Please note: The itinerary for this tour is subject to amendment due to weather (snow) or road conditions. Winter is a beautiful time to visit Iceland, but the weather can be unpredictable. Consequently, it may be necessary to alter the order of the itinerary or to change inclusions whilst on tour.
Touring with Explore
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With Explore, you'll get to see your destination from a whole new perspective that takes you away from the typical well-trodden tourist track. You'll have the chance to meet, dine and stay with local people, rest in authentic accommodation with other like-minded explorers and travel to must-see destinations with a unique Explore twist.
From family trips to holidays for solo travellers; cycling tours to wildlife safaris; trekking on mountains or exploring miles of scenic coastline; self-guided holidays or small group trips; there is something for every kind of traveller with Explore. They will provide their expert knowledge, exciting itineraries and outstanding service as part of their sustainable travel experiences which take you under the skin of the country you're visiting for the adventure of a lifetime.