8 Day Summer Package | Iceland in Depth with a Greenland Day Tour
Jump aboard this eight-day excursion to see the greatest sites of Iceland and to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Greenland. This tour is a must for those eager to make the absolute most of their travels around the Arctic Circle.
You will have your first day in Reykjavík, getting to know the capital city; you could even use this day to visit the world-famous Blue Lagoon spa or to explore the volcanic landscapes of the Reykjanes Peninsula. On day two, however, the adventure truly starts, as you head to one of Iceland’s three national parks: Snæfellsnes.
This 90 kilometre stretch of peninsula is often called ‘Iceland in miniature’ due to the wealth of scenery you will experience here. You'll spend a full day exploring this diverse land, with an opportunity to go lava-caving.
Then, a full day will be spent seeing the most famous sites of Iceland, around the iconic Golden Circle. You will have the opportunity on this day to take a variety of adventures to finish your action-packed holiday with.
On day four, you will fly out to Greenland early, arriving at the settlement of Kulusuk off the east coast. You will spend four hours exploring this tiny village of just three hundred people, no doubt marvelling over the beautiful surroundings of saw-toothed mountains and seascapes. You will get to experience authentic Greenlandic culture, with the opportunity to admire the local architecture, visit a museum, and perhaps even see a traditional Inuit drum dance.
You will return to Reykjavík by plane that evening, and spend the next two days touring the South Coast of Iceland. During this part of the tour, you will get to enjoy waterfalls, glaciers, beaches, and the iconic glacier lagoon. You will even have a chance to hike on Sólheimajökull glacier.
You’ll return to spend a night in the capital. The day after will be dedicated to this vibrant and lively city, where you can explore landmarks and historical sites alike, and then spend your last night in Reykjavík.
Your return journey will likely be spent reminiscing over the incredible things you have seen and experienced, from the iconic sites to the unique places very few will ever have the opportunity to witness.
Book now, and reserve your space on this once-in-a-lifetime excursion around Iceland and Greenland. Check availability by choosing a date.
- Available: Jun. - Sep.
- Duration: 8 days
- Activities: Glacier Hiking, Snorkelling, Caving, Snowmobile, Horse Riding, Sightseeing, Cultural Activity
- Difficulty: Easy
- Minimum age: 10 years old
- Languages: English
The Golden Circle is a 300 km route to the 3 most popular natural attractions in Iceland. The Golden Circle consists of Geysir, Gullfoss and Thingvellir.
See this for Golden circle tours.
Geysir is a geyser that gives its name to hot springs all over the world. But although Geysir itself is not active anymore the area features spectacular hot springs such as the powerful Strokkur (spouting a vast amount of water every 10 minutes, regularly about 15-20 meters into the air), Smidur and Litli-Strokkur.
The 'Golden Waterfall', is the second part of the Golden Circle, and one of the most beautiful and powerful waterfalls in Iceland, plummeting 32 meters into the river gorge of the popular rafting river Hvita. It is Iocated about 10 km from Geysir.
Thingvellir national park
The largest attraction of the Golden Circle is Thingvellir National Park. The Icelandic parliament was founded there in 930 and remained until the year 1798.
Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important places to visit in Iceland, not just for its historical and cultural values, but for also its magnificent landscape.
Thingvellir is surrounded by a beautiful mountain and volcano range and is the site of a rift valley, where the tectonic plates meet, marking the crest of the Mid-Atlantic ridge.
Of particular note at Thingvellir are the magnificent Almannagja gorge, and the beautiful lake Thingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland. The popular Gjabakkahellir lava cave is also in the area.
The fissure Silfra is located by Thingvallavatn, Iceland's largest lake, and is famous for its clear waters and popular for diving and snorkeling, as you can literally swim between continents.
West Iceland is home to Europe's most powerful hot spring, Iceland's most significant lava tube, fascinating glaciers, beautiful waterfalls, some of Iceland's most important historical sites and more. It has three main districts:
Borgarfjordur has rich history, with Reykholt where Snorri Sturluson, author of Snorra-Edda and Heimskringla lived and featuring a medeval and cultural museum dedicated to his memory. In Borgarnes, the main village of Borgarfjordur, the Settlement Center can be found.The landscape is magnificent and includes the magical Hraunfossar waterfalls, Surtshellir lava cave, Deildartunguhver hot spring and Eiriksjokull glacier.
Breidafjordur is a natural reserve, a wide bay with countless small islands and home of thousands of birds. The inner part of Breidafjordur is the agricultural area Dalir. In Haukadalur is the old farm site Eiriksstadir, the home of Eric the Red, the first European to land in Greenland (in the year 984 AD). His son was Leif Ericsson, the first European to land in America (in the year 1000).
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and the northernmost capital of a sovereign state in the world.
Despite a small population (120.000 and more than 200.000 in the Greater Reykjavik area), it is a vibrant city that draws an ever increasing number of visitors. It is the financial, cultural and governmental centre of Iceland. It also has a reputation of being one of the cleanest and safest cities in the world.
The city of Reykjavik is located in southwest Iceland by the creek of the same name. Throughout the ages, the landscape has been shaped by glaciers, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and the area is geothermal. Much of the current city area area was subglacial during the Ice Age, with the glacier reaching as far as the Álftanes peninsula, while other areas lay under the sea. After the end of the ice age the land rose as the glaciers drifted away, and it began to take on its present form.
The coastline of Reykjavik is set with peninsulas, coves, straights and islands, most notably the island of Videy, and seabirds and whales frequent the shores. The mountain ring as seen from the shore is particularly beautiful. Mount Esja is the highest mountain in the vicinity of Reykjavik and lends its distinct feature to the whole area. This majestic mountain is also highly popular for climbing. Other notable mountains that can be seen from the seaside are Akrafjall and Skardsheidi and on clear days one may even see as far to the legendary Snaefellsjokull glacier, at the end of the Snafellsnes peninsula.
The largest river to run through the city is Ellidaa in Ellidaardalur valley, which is also one of Iceland‘s best rivers for salmon fishing.
There are no trains or trams in Iceland, but most people travel by car. The city also operates a bus system. There are two major harbours in town, the old harbour in the centre and Sundahofn in the east. The domestic Reykjavik Airport is located at Vatnsmyrin, not far from the city centre and close to Oskjuhlid and Perlan. The international Keflavik Airport at Midnesheidi heath then lies around 50 km from the city. Cars, jeeps and bicycles can be readily rented in the city and many organized tours are also being offered.
What to See & Do in Reykjavik
The local arts scene is strong in Iceland, with both annual events and single ones, many of whom have hit the international stage. For the annual ones please check our articles Best Annual Events in Iceland and the Top Ten Festivals in Iceland. Major events taking place in Reykjavik include the Iceland Airwaves, Gay Pride, RIFF (The Reykjavik International Film Festival), The Reykjavik Literature Festival, Cultural Night, the Reykjavik Arts Festival, Food & Fun, the Reykjavik Fashion Festival and the Sónar music festival.
Among famous people from Reykjavik are artists Bjork Gudmundsdottir, Sigur Ros, writers Halldor Laxness (born in Laugavegur) and Arnaldur Indridason and mayor Jon Gnarr. For more well-known and fairly-well known Icelanders, check our article on the subject.
You might also want to check our article on some of the many things to see and do in Reykjavik, such as visiting the city‘s many museums, exhibitions and galleries, checking out live music, visiting the Harpa music hall or the theatres, visiting the lighthouse at Grotta, the main shopping street of Laugavegur, visiting the old harbour and the flea market, going on a bird- and whale watching tour or visiting Videy island. We also have a top ten list of things to do.
Make sure to visit the public square of Austurvollur, one of the city‘s most popular gathering places, where you‘ll also find the national parliament, Althingi, the state church a statue of independence hero Jon Sigurdson, as well as cafés, bars and restaurants. Austurvollur was central in the 2008 protests, along with Laekjargata, home to the House of Government. You are also not likely to miss the great church of Hallgrimskirkja that towers over the city from the hill of Skolavorduholt, wherefrom you‘ll get a great view of the city.
Try a walk by the city pond, greet the many birds that frequent the area and visit the city hall, stationed by its banks. The Hljomaskalagardur is a beautiful park that lies by the pond, it ideal for a nice walk and sometimes concerts get held there. Further off is the campus of the university of Iceland, the Nordic house and the Vatnsmyri wetland, a particularly pleasant place, but be mindful of not disturbing the wildlife there and keep to the pathways.
For a nice swim on a warm day, we particularly recommend Nautholsvik beach.
Visit the Laugardalur valley, home to one of the city‘s best swimming pools, as well as the Asmundarsafn gallery, a beautiful botanical garden and a domestic zoo. A walk by the Aegissida beach, with it‘s old fishing sheds, in the west part of Reykjavik also holds a particular charm. The aforementioned Elllidaardalur valley is also a popular resort.
Another place that offers one of the city‘s best (and free) views is Perlan, up in Oskjuhlid hill. The hill itself is a popular resort, with over 176.000 trees and great opportunities for walking and cycling.
Travel to Alftanes to see the president‘s house at Bessastadir, which is also a historical site in it‘s own right, having been the educational centre of Iceland for centuries. Nearby is a beautiful lava field, Galgahraun, well worth a visit, though there is currently an environmental struggle going on as to it‘s future state.
The city is furthermore a short drive from many of Iceland‘s major attractions, most famously the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. In close vicinity you‘ll also find the Heidmork preservation area, a favourite pastime resort of the people of Reykjavik, as well as the Blue Mountains, one of Iceland‘s most beloved skiing venues.
Check our Best of Reykjavik guide further for tips on the best cheap things to do in Reykjavik, some of the best restaurants in the city, happy hours, the top ten value places to eat and our two articles on the famous Reykjavik nightlife; Nightlife in Reykjavik and Nightlife and mating.
Finally, we‘d like to stress that these are only some suggestions of the many things you might check out in Reykjavik. Whatever you choose to do, we hope you‘ll be able to make the most of your visit and we wish you a pleasant stay in our capital.
Jökulsárlón is Iceland’s most famous glacier lagoon. Conveniently located in the southeast by Route 1, about halfway between the Skaftafell Nature Reserve and Höfn, it is a popular stop for those travelling along the South Coast or around the circular ring road of the country.
It stands out, however, due to the fact that it also fills with icebergs breaking from the glacier, some of which tower several stories high.
These icebergs, other than their scale, are notable for their colouration. Although they are, as expected, largely white, most are also dyed electric blue in part, with black streaks of ash from eruptions centuries past.
When the icebergs finally make it across the lagoon, they either drift out to sea or wash up on the nearby shore. Because of the way they glisten against the black sands of Breiðamerkursandur, this area has been nicknamed ‘the Diamond Beach’.
In spite of being a rather recent formation, Jökulsárlón is the deepest lake in the country, with depths reaching 248 metres. With a surface area of 18 square kilometres, it is also growing to be one of the largest.
Jökulsárlón has not been around since Iceland’s settlement; it only formed around 1935. This was due to rapidly rising temperatures in the country from the turn of the twentieth century; since 1920, Breiðamerkurjökull has been shrinking at a dramatic rate, and the lagoon has begun to fill its space.
Today, the expansion of Jökulsárlón is accelerating. As recently as 1975, it was just 8 square kilometres, and now that size has more than doubled.
In the relatively near future, it is expected that the lagoon will continue to grow until it becomes a large, deep fjord.
Though a dark omen for Iceland’s glaciers and ice caps in general, the retreat of Breiðamerkurjökull has resulted in an incredibly beautiful, if temporary, site. This has not been overlooked by Hollywood.
Jökulsárlón has been featured in the James Bond films A View to Kill in 1985 and Die Another Day in 2002, 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and 2005’s Batman Begins.
In 2017, Jökulsárlón was enveloped into the Vatnajökull National Park, thus it is now fully protected by Icelandic law.
Because of the wealth of herring and capelin that the tides bring into the lagoon, Jökulsárlón is somewhat of a hot-spot for Iceland’s wildlife.
In summer, it is a nesting site for Arctic Terns; stay well away from this area, as these birds are notorious for the fierceness with which they protect their eggs, dive-bombing the heads of any they see as a threat. Skuas also nest on the lake’s shores in this season.
Seals can be reliably spotted here throughout the year, swimming amongst or else hauling out on the icebergs. Jökulsárlón provides them with a safe haven to rest and socialise, especially considering the waters of southeast Iceland are renowned for their population of orcas.
Hvita is a glacier river in Arnessysla in South Iceland. It is one of the most popular rivers in Iceland for rafting, good salmon fishing can also be made there and it is home to Iceland's most famous waterfall.
The river has its source in Hvitarvatn, near Blafell, by the roots of Langjokull. A few other rivers join it on its course. Furthermore, Iceland's most famous waterfall, the beautiful Gullfoss, is in Hvita and falls down thunderously 32 meters into the Hvitargljufur river gorge. Hvita goes on to join the river Sogid near the town Selfoss and together the rivers form Olfusa which then flows to the ocean.
The base camp for tours on the river, about 10 km away, is called Drumbsoddssstadir or more commonly 'Drumbo' and from there both rafting and canoing tours are operated daily from April 15th to October 1st. This is a cozy boathouse in the countryside which along with changing rooms, showers and saunas, features an excellent camp restaurant.
Rafting through Hvita is an exhilirating experience. You'll have amazing scenery around you as you make your way through the crashing waves and surging rapids of the river.
The beautiful Bruarhlod river canyon holds a particular attraction. The canyon is covered in scrubs and made up of breccia, (a type of tuff mixed with small square basalt stones) and features various spectacular rock formations and potholes. Here it is very popular to dive from a cliff into the river and swim a bit in it.
Also of note are the two peculiar breccia rock pillars in the river, called Karl and Kerling ('Man' and 'Woman'), which, according to folklore, are petrified trolls.
Vatnajökull is the largest ice cap in Iceland and the third largest glacier in Europe, covering 8% of the island's landmass. Vatnajökull Glacier can be found in the south west of Iceland and is a popular spot for glacier hiking and ice caving tours.
Facts about Vatnajökull
- Surface: 8,100 km2
- Average thickness: 400 - 600 m
- Maximum thickness: 1,000 m
- Height: 1,400 - 1,800 m
- Highest peak: 2,200 m (Hvannadalshnjúkur)
Information about Vatnajökull
Vatnajökull Glacier belongs to the greater Vatnajökull National Park, which encompasses the former national parks Skaftafell, in the southwest, and Jökulsárgljúfur, in the north. Vatnajökull's highest summit is Hvannadalshnjúkur which rests on top of a stratovolcano known as Öræfajökull.
Underneath the glacier rests some of the most active volcanoes in the country, the most notable being Grímsvötn, Öræfajökull and Bárðabunga. Volcanic activity in the region has occurred on and off throughout the centuries, and many geologists believe that such a period is overdue for immediate future. If their calculations are correct, it would mean significant volcanic activity for Vatnajökull over the scope of the next half century.
The glacier boasts of over 30 outlet glaciers, which are channels of ice that flow out of ice caps but remain constrained on the sides of the valley. The major outlet glaciers of Vatnajökull include Dyngjujökull in the north, Breiðamerkurjökull and Skeiðarárjökull to the south. To the west, one can find the outlet glaciers Síðujökull, Skaftárjökull and Tungnaárjökull.
Glaciers are in constant motion underneath their weight; as they form over the centuries, the accession of snow exceeds its melting, creating a constant "push" on the ice cap. Each year, due to the melting ice water, new ice caves form that disappear come spring.
- Click here for a selection of Ice Cave tours
Numerous rivers run out of Vatnajökull, making up some of the greatest glacial rivers in Iceland:
- Tungnaá (west)
- Köldukvísl (west)
- Þjórsá (west)
- Jökulsá á Fjöllum (north)
- Skjálfandafljót (north)
- Jökulsá á Brú (north east)
- Jökulsá í Fljótsdal (north east)
- Jökulsá í Lóni (south)
- Hornafjarðarfljót (south)
- Jökulsá á Breiðamerkursandi (south)
- Skeiðará (south)
- Núpsvötn (south)
- Hverfisfljót (south)
- Skaftá (south)
Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull National Park, in its current state, was established in June 2008. The park now covers an area of 14.141 km2, making it the second largest national park in Europe. Vatnajökull National Park has 14% coverage over the whole island of Iceland.
Rivers divide the highland plateau to the north of the park; an area that sees massive glacial flows in the summertime. The volcanic table mountain Herðubreið towers over this particular region, along with volcanoes Askja, Snæfell and Kverkfjöll.
The canyon Jökulsárgljúfur was carved out by glacial floods centuries ago. At the upper end of the canyon, you'll find Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Further north, the horseshoe-shaped canyon Ásbyrgi is believed to have formed when Óðinn's horse, Sleipnir, stepped his foot down from the heavens.
East around Snæfell, one can find wetlands and ranges, home to roaming herds of wild reindeer and abundant birdlife. Steep mountain ridges make up the south side of Vatnajökull, where outlet glaciers crawl in between the ridges onto the lowlands. The sandy plains of Skeiðarársandur also lie to the south as they reach out to sea. The glacial river Skeiðará runs through this vast desert.
One of Iceland's most visited landmarks is the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, which sits at the head of outlet glacier Breiðamerkurjökull. There, large icebergs that have broken off the glacier gather to float in the lake before ending up in the Atlantic Ocean, or on the nearby Diamond Beach.
- Click here for a selection of Jökulsárlón tours
The Future of Vatnajökull
The volume of Vatnajökull reached its peak around 1930 but has since been in a steady process of decline. Because of rising levels of global temperature, approximately over the last 15 years, Vatnajökull has on average lost about a metre of its thickness annually.
If temperature levels continue to rise, the glacier could be all but gone nearing the end of the next century, leaving only small ice caps on top of the highest mountain summits.
Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón in Popular Culture
- HBO's Game of Thrones (season 2, 2012)
- Batman Begins (2005)
- James Bond: Die Another Day (2002)
- James Bond: A View to a Kill (1985)
Snæfellsjökull (1446 m) is an ice-capped volcano found on the tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland.
Though many consider Snæfellsjökull to simply be a particularly impressive ice cap, it is, in fact, a 700,000-year-old glacier-capped stratovolcano. The mountain is actually called "Snæfell" (Snowy Mountain), though the “jökull” (Glacier) is often added to help distinguish it from other mountains of the same name. For the first time in recorded history, Snæfellsjökull had no snow or ice at its peak in August 2012, causing concern amongst locals that climate change is threatening the nature of the mountain.
On clear days, one can see Snæfellsjökull from Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, approximately 120 kilometres away over Faxa Bay, making for an impressive sight—and a tick off the bucket list if you can’t make it to travelling across the Peninsula itself. The volcano makes up just a small part of the larger Snæfellsjökull National Park.
Nearby villages include Hellissandur, Rif and Ólafsvík, all of which were commercial and fishing hubs throughout the peninsula’s long history of human inhabitance. Fishing took off primarily in the 13th-Century, with fishing stations being built in all areas with easy access to the open ocean.
One notable example would be the settlement of Dritvík, one of the largest fishing stations in Iceland at the time, utilising around 40–60 boats and employing between 200–600 people. Fishing in the region declined during the 19th century due to a change in Iceland’s fishing practises, though it is still an important source of livelihood for those living on the Peninsula.
Snæfellsjökull has, for centuries, been considered to be one of the world’s ancient power sites, a source of mysticism, energy and mystery for the peninsula’s superstitious population. This likely has something to do with the stratovolcanoes place in the Icelandic sagas; the feature takes a prominent role in Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss, a late 14th-century saga that tells the story of Bárður, half-human-half-troll, who became the “guardian spirit of Snæfellsjökull.”
Snæfellsjökull serves as the entrance to a fantastical subterranean world in Jules Verne’s classic 1864 novel “Journey to The Centre of The Earth.” Given its central place in the novel, Snæfellsjökull has become one of the most popular spots for visitors in Iceland and has inspired a wealth of writers, poets and artists.
Since “Journey to The Centre of The Earth”, Snæfellsjökull has appeared in the Blind Birds trilogy by Czech SF writer Ludvík Souček (partially based on Jules’ work) and in Under The Glacier, a novel by Iceland’s only Nobel laureate, Halldor Laxness.
Along with the glacier, attractions include the two nearby basalt cliffs called Lóndrangar and the many fascinating lava formations at the beautiful Djúpalonssandur beach, such as the arch rock Gatklettur. At Djúpalonssandur, one can also test their strength just as the ancient sailors once did with the four "strength" stones, Amlóði ('Useless'), Hálfdrættingur ('Weakling'), Hálfsterkur ('Half Strength') and Fullsterkur ('Full Strength'). In the area, one can also explore the Saxhóll volcano crater and 'the singing cave' Sönghellir, which is named after the loud echoes inside.
Skogafoss is one of the biggest and most beautiful waterfalls of the island with an astounding width of 25 meters and a drop of 60 meters.
This is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland for travellers to visit. It is located in South Iceland, not far from Skogar, which itself features a highly interesting regional museum. Due to the amount of spray the waterfall often produces a single or double rainbow on sunny days.
Seljalandsfoss in the river Seljalandsa in South Iceland is one of the most sought waterfalls in the country.
Seljalandsfoss has a narrow cascade but is one of Iceland's highest waterfalls, at 63 meters. The waterfall is highly picturesque and has the rare distinction that one can actually walk behind it.
Geysir is a famous hot spring in Haukadalur valley in South Iceland. Part of the ‘Golden Circle', Geysir gives its name to hot springs all over the world.
Though Geysir itself is hardly active anymore, the area features spectacular hot springs such as the powerful Strokkur, which spouts a vast amount of water every 10 minutes, around 15-20 meters into the air, Smidur and Litli-Strokkur.
North of Geysir are fumaroles, i.e. unlike the hot springs that emit hot water, only steam and gas emanate from these. You may be able to observe bright yellow stains at the fumaroles, this is native sulphur, which crystallizes from the steam. At the southern part of the geothermal area, called Thykkuhverir, you‘ll find various mud pots. Such mud pots are actually fumaroles that boil up through surface water/groundwater and may become steaming fumaroles during dry spells, rather than the usual boiling mud pots.
About 2 km from Geysir is an old preserved natural pool called Kúalaug. One can bathe in it and it has room for 3-5 people at a time, but care should be taken, as the area around the pool is very delicate. The temperature is 39-43°C, depending on how you are positioned in the pool. The water is slightly muddy, as the pool is built on soil, and the bottom is slippery due to algae, so caution is advised.
In Haukadalur there has also been tree planting in recent times and today the forest Haukadalsskógur is one of the largest in South Iceland. Aspen, various types of pine, and other plants have been tried out there and experiments and research continue. We also recommend visiting the tree museum, built in the memory of forester Gunnar Freysteinsson. There are good paths and roads in the forest and the wood is specially designed to accommodate wheelchairs.
Haukadalur has been a church site since ancient time. The current wooden church was last rebuilt in 1938 but the variety and appearance of the church dates back to 1842, making it one of the oldest of its kind in Iceland.
Haukadalur is indeed a historical place. It was settled during the age of settlement and scholar Ari “The Wise“ Thorgilsson grew up there. The first pastoral school in Iceland was also built there.
For accommodation, Hotel Gullfoss is about 7 km from the Geysir area, and closer still is the Hotel Geysir.
Gullfoss (translated to ‘Golden Falls’) is one of Iceland’s most iconic and beloved waterfalls, found on the Hvítá river canyon in south Iceland. The water in Hvítá river travels from the glacier Langjökull, finally cascading 32m down Gullfoss’ two stages in a dramatic display of nature’s raw power.
Because of the waterfall’s two stages, Gullfoss should actually be thought of as two separate waterfalls. The first, shorter stage of the waterfall is 11m, whilst the second stage is 21m. The canyon walls on both sides of the waterfall reach heights of up to 70m, descending into the 2.5km long Gullfossgjúfur canyon (geologists indicate that this canyon was formed by glacial outbursts at the beginning of the last age.)
In the summer, approximately 140 cubic metres of water surges down the waterfall every second, whilst in winter that number drops to around 109 cubic metres. With such energy, visitor’s should not be surprised to find themselves drenched by the waterfall’s mighty spray-off.
In the early days of the last century, Gullfoss was at the centre of much controversy regarding foreign investors and their desire to profit off Iceland’s nature. In the year 1907, an English businessman known only as Howells sought to utilise the waterfall’s energy and harboured ambitions to use its energy to fuel a hydroelectric plant.
At the time, Gullfoss was owned by a farmer named Tómas Tómasson. Tómas declined Howell’s offer to purchase the land, stating famously “I will not sell my friend!” He would, however, go on to lease Howells the land, inadvertently beginning the first chapter of Icelandic environmentalism.
It was Tómas’ daughter, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, who would lead the charge. Having grown up on her father’s sheep farm, she sought to get the lease contract nullified, hurriedly saving her own money to hire a lawyer. The ensuing legal battle was an uphill struggle; the case continued for years, forcing Sigríður to travel many times by foot to Reykjavík if only to keep the trial moving. Circumstances became so difficult that Sigríður threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if any construction began.
Thankfully, in 1929, the waterfall fell back into the hands of the Icelandic people. Today, Sigríður is recognised for her perseverance in protecting Gullfoss and is often hailed as Iceland’s first environmentalist. Her contribution is forever marked in stone; a plaque detailing her plight sits at the top of Gullfoss.
Restaurant / Cafe
Besides Gullfoss, visitors can enjoy the views from Gullfoss Cafe, a locally run delicatessen that serves a wide variety of refreshments and meals. The menu has options to tantalise everyone’s taste buds; hot soups, sandwiches, salads and cakes. There is also a shop on site where visitors’ can browse and purchase traditional Icelandic souvenirs.
The glacier volcano of Eyjafjallajokull (1651 m) is located at the borders of the South Icelandic highlands. It featured prominently in world news in 2010 when ash from its eruption halted air traffic in Europe.
An ice cap of about 100 km with several outlet glaciers covers the caldera of Eyjafjallajökull that stands at the height of 1651 meters. The diamaeter of its highest crater is around 3-4 km2 wide and the rim has several peaks.
Eyjafjallajokull glacier volcano lies north of Skogar, and to the west of Myrdalsjokull glacier and the massive volcano there; Katla.
Eyjafjallajokull is thought to be related geologically to Katla in Myrdalsjokull and eruptions in the former have often been followed by eruptions in the latter.
The 2010 eruptions
The end of 2010 saw some small seismic activity that gradually increased and resulted in a small eruption in March of 2010, characterized by a flow of alkani-olivine basalt lava.
This first stage lasted until April 12th and created the volcanic craters Magni and Modi at the Fimmvorduhals trail. They are so far Iceland's newest vocanic craters, and still eminate steam with lava glowing under the surface.
However it was the second phase of the eruption that started on April 14th that created the huge ash cloud that rose about 9 km into the skies.
This eruption halted air traffic in Europe for days, and its estimated that as many as 107.000 flights may have been cancelled during the week it lasted.
The ejected tephra measured around 250 million cubic meters. This ash cloud lasted for six days and some more localized disruption continued into May. The eruption was officially declared to be over in October 2010, as the snow on the glacier had ceased to melt.
Future volcanic developments?
Eyjafjallajokull erupted in years 920, 1612 and again 1821-1823.
Its latest eruptions were the two that occurred in 2010.
Future volcanic developments remain unclear. The area is still highly active and can be quite unpredictable. It continues, however, to be closely monitored by The Icelandic Meterological Office.
The 120 meter high promontory Dyrholaey is the southernmost part of the mainland, only a short drive south of the Ring Road. It offers a breathtaking view and features spectacular outcrops and rock formations.
A notable attraction is the massive arch that the sea has eroded from the heartland, giving the island its name (‘dyr’=door’). One daredevil pilot even flew through it!
Dyrholaey has an abundance of birdlife, the most common being puffins and eider ducks. You can also enjoy the black beach, where the waves can provide an impressive sight. As these can be very wild, we do however advise uttermost caution.
Thingvellir is one of the most important sites to visit in Iceland for its landscape, history and cultural value.
The Icelandic parliament was founded in Thingvellir in 930 and remained there for centuries.Thingvellir is surrounded by a beautiful mountain range and is the site of a rift valley, marking the crest of the Mid-Atlantic range. Today it is a natural park, listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and considered a vital part of the ‘Golden triangle’ (with Geysir and Gullfoss). Of particular note is the magnificent gorge Almannagja, which marks the eastern boundary of the north American plate and into which the beautiful waterfall Oxararfoss falls.
Other notable attractions within the park include the beautiful lake Thingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland, the Silfra fissure, one of the world's top dives, and Gjabakkahellir, one of Iceland's most interesting lava tubes.
Hraunfossar in Borgarfjordur district is a series of beautiful waterfalls formed by rivulets streaming from a short distance out of the Hallmundarhraun lava field.
The lava field flowed from an eruption of one of the volcanoes lying under the glacier Langjokull. The waterfalls pour into the Hvita river from ledges of less porous rock in the lava. These are some of the most magnificent falls found in Iceland and not to be missed.
Deildartunguhver, by Reykholt, in Borgarfjordur district, has the highest flow rate for a hot spring in Europe.
The flow rate of Deildartunguhver is 180 liters/second and water emerges at 97 °C. The place is also unique for being the only place in the country where the hard fern grows.
Strokkur (Icelandic for "churn") is one of the most famous hot springs in Iceland and belongs to the famous Golden Circle.
Strokkur is a fountain geyser in the Geysir geothermal area in the southwest part of the country, east of Reykjavik. Strokkur is a powerful hot spring and an impressive sight. It erupts about every 4–8 minutes and spouts water to a height of 15 – 20 m, sometimes up to 40 m.
Snaefellsnes is a large peninsula extending to the west from West Iceland ending with a national park, Snaefellsjokull National Park, where the glacier towers over the scenery, as can sometimes be seen from Reykjavik, lending its beauty to the area.
The peninsula stretches over 100 km to the west as a mountain ridge that includes active volcanoes and is unique in the variety of mountains found.
A few small and beautiful villages are located on the south side and a few fishing villages are on the north side: Rif, Hellissandur, Olafsvik, Grundarfjordur and Stykkisholmur. The last one is highly popular for travelers, featuring a volcano museum and a ferry that takes you across the fascinating Breidafjordur bay to Brjanslaekur on the south border of the Westfjords.
Other museums you might want to check out are the Maritime Museum at Hellissandur, the regional museum Pakkhusid at Olafsvik, and, last but not least, the shark museum at Bjarnarhofn, indeed listed as the nr. 1 Snafellsnes attraction by Lonely Planet Travelers. Also, many of the Icelandic sagas take place at Snaefellsnes.
Snaefellsnes has an abundance of interesting sights. At the national park, you can witness the impressive lava formations of Djupalonssandur creek and test your strength on its four stones, see the two massive lava formations that compries Londrangar, explore the Saxholl volcanic crater and enjoy the echo of 'The Singing Cave', Songhellir. You may also hike on the majestic Snaefellsjokull glacier. The glacier has strong ties with folklore and was the setting for Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Other sights we can recommend at Snaefellsnes recommend include Raudfeldsgja canyon, east of the national park and the rugged and colourful Berserkjahraun lava field, near Bjarnarhofn, on the north side of the peninsula.
Last, but not least, Snaefellsnes is one of the main setting for Laxdaela saga. Chieftain Snorri godi, Gudrun Osvifursdottir, Bolli Thorlakssson all lived there as well as his namesake Bolli Bollason, the first West Norse member of the Varangian guard, an elite unit of the Byzantine army. Iceland's most famous mass murderer, Axlar-Bjorn, also lived at Snaefellsnes.
Hvalfjordur is a fjord in Southwest Iceland. The fjord is approximately 30 km long and 5 km wide.
Nature & Landscape
The landscape of Hvalfjordur is varied and beautiful, wide areas of flat land along with majestic mountains, green vegetation in summer and beaches cut with by creeks and rich in birdlife. The area has further been well planted with forests. Among natural attractions is Iceland's highest waterfall, Glymur in Botnsdalur, in the river Botnsa. There are plenty of interesting hiking trails in the area, such as Sildarmannagotur, leading north, and Leggjabrjotur, leading east towards the area of Thingvellir National Park.
Culturewise Hvalfjordur had one of the main whaling stations in Iceland and one of the most important naval stations in the North Atlantic during World War Two. The old whaling station and a war museum are found in the fjord. Iceland's main psalm poet, Hallgrimur Petursson, writer of the Passiusalmar ('Passia Hymns') lived in Saurbaer in Hvalfjordur. Hvalfjordur was also the home of the late Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson, rhymes poet and performer and head of the Icelandic pagan association.
Most inhabitants of the fjord live in rural areas, and there is some farming in the area. Until the 1990s those travelling between Borgarnes and Reykjavik had to take a long detour through the fjord, but this was solved with a tunnel under the fjord in, 1998, the Hvalfjardargong. Grundartangi spit in Hvalfjordur has one of the largest harbours in the country and two industrial plants. One is a ferrosilicon plant, operated since 1979, the other an aluminium smelter, operated since 1998.
Solheimajokull is a beautiful outlet glacier of the Myrdalsjokull icecap.
Solheimajokull is a rugged glacial tounge riddled with crevasses and spectacular ever-changing ice formations, jagged ridges and sinkholes and is popular for hiking and ice climbing.
The glacier river Jokulsa a Solheimasandur has its source at the glacier, flowing over the sand plain of Solheimasandur towards the sea.
Silfra is a fissure filled with fresh springwater within Þingvellir National Park, and one of the country’s most cherished wonders. Snorkelling and diving in its crystal-clear waters is an experience that is both thrilling and relaxing, and it is now considered to be one of the top five dive sites in the world. It takes around an hour to reach Silfra from Reykjavík.
- See this article on Diving and Snorkelling in Iceland
Geography of Silfra
Silfra fissure opened in 1789, due to the movements of the tectonic plates that frame Þingvellir National Park. The North American and Eurasian plates, which run all the way through Iceland, separate at about 2 centimetres per year, and when they do, tear open fissures in the land between them.
The ravines fill with water travelling underground through the porous lava fields in the area, originating from Langjökull glacier about 60 kilometres north. It can take the water up to a century to reach Silfra and this long filtration process results in the water being both extremely clear and drinkable.
Because the water travels underground, it maintains a constant temperature of two to three degrees Celsius and does not freeze over immediately at the source of the spring. Snorkelling and diving tours are thus open throughout the year.
The clarity of the water is what draws most visitors. The visibility can extend to over 100 metres, allowing you to see the canyon walls and bottom like you are floating over a great cathedral.
The last colour that water absorbs is blue, which means that when you look forward in Silfra, it is as if you are looking into an ethereal, vivid, azure world. The clarity also means that sun-rays refract through the surface of the water, creating rainbows on Silfra’s bed when the weather allows.
Snorkelling in Silfra
Snorkelling in Silfra fissure is a highly enjoyable activity, but you must meet some prerequisites to be able to join. These are as follows:
- You must be able to swim
- You must be over 16
- You must be in good physical health
- You must be at least 145 centimetres and 45 kilograms
- If you are over sixty, you will need a medical waiver
- If you are over forty-five with a history of heavy alcohol use and pipe smoking, you will also need a waiver
The most common option for snorkelling is to conduct it in a drysuit like is done on this tour. Drysuits work with a fluffy undersuit to keep your body free from water and insulated against the cold, making the task of swimming through the near-freezing temperature more than achievable.
While drysuit snorkelling is the most comfortable and popular option, a few tours allow you to go through Silfra wearing a wetsuit. Wetsuits, made of neoprene, allow water to surround your body in a thin layer, that your body then heats up and uses to protect you. Though they grant you more flexibility, they are not so warm, so this should be done by the daring; you will also need to be at least 50 kilograms to snorkel in a wetsuit.
In all tours, you wear neoprene on your head and hands to allow for better mobility, a mask and snorkel, and a pair of fins, all of which are provided on site. The course of Silfra takes approximately forty minutes, and there is a gentle current throughout, meaning it requires minimal energy to traverse.
Diving in Silfra
Diving through Silfra gives an extra dimension to its beauty, as you will be able to look up and see the sun glistening upon the surface as you cruise through the crystal clear waters. However, considering the risks associated with diving in cold water and cumbersome equipment, all who partake must meet all the requirements above, as well as one of the following:
- You must be a qualified diver with a certification in a drysuit speciality, OR
- You must be a qualified diver with at least 10 logged dives in a drysuit conducted over the past two years, signed by an instructor or divemaster.
Hellnar is an old fishing village on the westernmost part of the Snaefellsnes peninsula. It used to be one of the largest fishing stations of the peninsula, the oldest record of seafaring there being from 1560.
At the shore are spectacular rock formations. Among them is a protruding cliff called Valasnos. Tunneling into the cliff is a cave renowned for its changing colourful hues, according to the light and sea movement. Large colonies of birds also nest in the area.
At Gvendarbrunnar a.k.a. Mariulind you can taste excellent spring water which is said to have healing powers.
Hellnar hosts the guesthouse for Snaefellsnes National Park and has a very interesting exhibition about the economy of former times and on the geology, flora and fauna of the national park.
Reykholt in Borgarfjordur district is among the most important historical places in the country.
In Reykholt is Snorrastofa, a center for medeval studies, named after historian, poet and politician Snorri Sturluson.
As well as being a powerful chieftain in his time, Snorri is most famous as the author of Heimskringla, an account of the Norwegian kings from the 10th century to the 12th and Snorra-Edda, the most important work we have about both the ancient Nordic poetry forms and imagery as well as on Nordic mythology. Snorri is also believed to have written one of the greatest and most beloved Icelandic sagas, Egils saga.
There is a lot of geothermal activity in the area of Reykholt, one of the country's oldest structures, Snorralaug geothermal pool, named after Snorri is found here. Notable hot springs nearby are Skrifla, Dynkur and Deildartunguhver, Europe's most powerful hot spring.
If you're looking to stay more than a day in Reykholt or nearby, there are several hotels in the vicinity, among them the the beautifully built boarding school that functions as an Edda-hotel in the summer.
Barnafoss ('Children's Waterfall') is a waterfall in Hvita river in Borgarfjordur.
The waterfall runs through a narrow rocky gorge and legend has it that there once was a natural stone arc over the river, that was demolished after two children fell from it to their death. Not far away is the stunning series of waterfalls Hraunfossar, flowing out of a lava field into Hvita.
The mighty Langjokull (“The Long Glacier“), in the midwest highlands is the second-largest glacier in Iceland, at 935 km2. For jeep and snowmobile trips, Langjokull is the most popular glacier in Iceland and skiing and hiking is possible as well. We stress that under no circumstances should one travel alone on Langjokull, as there are many cracks in the glacier. Experience of the area, whether that of yourself or of those traveling with you is all important.
Two main highland tracks, connecting the north and the south, lie alongside the glacier, Kaldidalur road and Kjalvegur (a.k.a. Kjolur road). The Kaldidalur road stretches from Thingvellir northwards to Husafell (in Borgarfjordur district), between Langjokull and Ok shield volcano. Kjalvegur lies east of Langjokull and west of Hofsjokull glacier, starting near the famous Gullfoss waterfall to the south and the Svartakvisl stream by the Hveravellir geothermal area to the north.
The landscape of Langjokull
Langjokull is about 50 km long and 15-20 km wide. The volume of the glacier is 195 km3 and the ice is around 580 m thick. The glacier reaches its highest point at the northernmost part of the glacier, which is called Baldjokull, rising around 1450 m above sea level.
Counting west and southwards from there, outlets extending from the main glacier are Thristapajokull, Flosajokull, Geitalandsjokull, Flosajokull, Geitlandsjokull and West- and East Hagafellsjokull furthest south, separated by Mt. Hagafell. On the eastside from north to south are Leidarjokull, Kirkjujokull, Nordurjokull, and Sudurjokull.
The glacier lies over a massif of hyaloclastite mountains that rise highest in the south and the east. The tops of these mountains can be seen in certain places on the glaciers. To the northeast are Hyrningur (1320 m), Peturshorn (1358) m), Fjallkirkja (1248 m) and Thursaborg (1315 m), a mighty series of immense rock pillars rising high to the sky. In the southern part of Langjokull, between Lonsjokull and Vestri-Hagafellsjokulll is the 995 high Klakkur.
Into the glacier
Deep within Langjokull lies a man-made ice tunnel, a true spectacle for any visitor passing by the glacier. This daring vision began in 2010, in the minds of Baldvin Einarsson and Hallgrimur Orn Arngrímsson. Designed and constructed by geophysicist and presidential candidate, Ari Trausti Gudmundsson, dreams of an ice tunnel beneath the glacier soon became a reality. Guests traverse beneath Langjokull's thick ice sheet, experiencing the blue ice within, and gaining an insight into the glacier's beauty inside and out. The Ice Tunnel Tour is available inside the glacier all year round.
Notable nearby mountains
The main mountains that lie close to Langjokull to the north are Krakur and the Burfjoll mountain range, slightly eastwards. East of Baldjokull are Hafjall and the Thjofadalafjoll mountain range. Hrutfell with the Hrutfellsjokull glacier cap (1396 m) lies east of Fjallkirkja and is the most impressive mountain of the Kjolur area, along with Kjalfell (1008 m), further northeast.
On the south eastern side of Langjokull, between the outlets Nordurjokull and Sudurjokull lies Mt. Skridufell (1235 m) and south of Sudurjokull is the shield volcano Skalpanes. Further east, i.e. south of Hvitarvatn is the 1204 m high Blafell and south of Skalpanes is the impressive palagonitic mountain range Jarlhettur. Among the most prominent mountains south of the Langjokull glacier is Hlodufell at 1186 meters and the Skjaldbreidur shield volcano further east.
Among the most prominent mountains to the west of Langjokull are Hafrafell, south of Eiriksjokull, North- and South Hadegisfell, Ok volcano, Prestahnukur volcano, and Stora- and Litla Bjornsfell.
Glaciers located near to Langjokull are Eiriksjokull, to the west, the highest mountain of West Iceland, and Thorisjokull, further southwest. Hrutfellsjokull lies on the east side of Langjokull.
Between Thorisjokull and Geitlandsjokull is a valley called Thorisdalur. Along with stunning views it features prominently in Icelandic folk tales and the outlaw Grettir the strong of Grettis saga fame is further reported to have resided there for one winter.
Glacier-fed rivers & lakes
Two glacier rivers, both bearing the name of Hvita (‘White River’) trace their sources to Langjokull. The first is the mighty Hvita in Arnessysla county, home to Iceland‘s most famous waterfall, Gullfoss, the beautiful Bruarhlod canyon and one of Iceland‘s most popular rafting rivers. The source of this river is Hvitarvatn lake, east of Langjokull. The outlet Nordurjokull reaches the lake and lends it a distinctly glacial colour. Sudurjokull used to reach it as well but has retreated in recent times.
The other Hvita glacier river, in Borgarfjordur, also has its source in the area, by Eiriksjokull glacier. In this river are the beautiful waterfalls Hraunfossar and Barnafoss. Indeed, many of the hot springs in Borgarfjordur receive ground water from Langjokull. Sub-surface water also flows south to Lake Thingvallavatn, reappearing in springs in and around the lake. A few rivers flowing north to Hunafloi bay also have their sources there.
To the south, Eystri-Hagafellsjokull feeds a lake called Hagavatn and several smaller river flow from there to lake Sandvatn. In turn, rivers flow from this lake to two major rivers i.e. Hvita in Arnessysla & Tungufljot. Tungufljot later joins up with Hvita and Hvita itself merges with Sogid river as Olfusa and this river then flows towards the sea.
There are at least two active volcanic systems under Langjokull glacier, whose calderas are visible from the air. The best known of these is the geothermal area of Hveravellir, east of Baldjokull. Also to the east lies the Kjalhraun lava field, which flowed about 7800 years ago.
To the northwest of the glacier is another system that produced the vast Hallmundarhraun lava field, through which Hvita in Borgarfjordur runs, with its stunning falls. Also in the area is Iceland‘s longest lava cave, the fascinating Surtshellir.
Southwest of Langjokull is the Presthnukur lava field, its fissures extending under Langjokull. South of the glacier is the Lambahraun lava field and further east, i.e. south of Thorisjokull, lies the Skjaldbreidarhraun lava field and the Skjaldbreidur shield volcano.
Compared to other regions in Iceland, the area is considered relatively calm, with only 32 eruptions in the last 10.000 years.
Langjokull is shrinking fast and concerns have been raised about the glacier due to the effect of global warming. Some researchers feared that if climate change continues at its current rate the glacier may be gone in about 150 years.
Arnarstapi is a village in the southern part of the Snaefellsnes peninsula. The area has several old and charming houses with interesting stories to them and is furthermore renowned for its beautiful nature.
The beach holds a particular attraction. It has an eroded circular stone arch, called Gatklettur, and three rifts, Hundagja,Midgja and Musagja. The interplay of spectacular waves and the light of the sun creates a fascinating spectacle. Large colonies of the arctic tern also nest in the area.
An old horse trail through the lava field Hellnahraun is highly popular for hiking, due to the impressiveness of the surrounding landscape.
Gljúfrabúi ("Canyon Dweller“) is a beautiful waterfall located at Hamragarðar in South Iceland, close to its better known counterpart, Seljalandsfoss waterfall.
The 40 metre high Gljúfrabúi can be considered somewhat of a hidden gem. It is indeed partially hidden behind a huge cliff that lends much atmosphere to the scenery.
To enjoy a view of the fall you need to wade the Gljúfurá river into a narrow opening in the cliff or follow a steep path up the cliff. Both endeavours are demanding so utmost caution is advised.
As mentioned, this waterfall is less known than its neighbour but as a result may provide for all the greater serenity, in addition to excellent scenery.
Keflavík International Airport (KEF) is Iceland’s only international airport and the port of arrival for the vast majority of visitors to the country. In 2016 alone, almost seven million passengers went through its gates.
The History of Keflavík International Airport
Keflavík International Airport is a relic from the ‘invasion of Iceland’ in World War Two, when Allied troops took over the island nation following the defeat of its colonial ruler, Denmark, at the hands of the Nazis. The British laid out a landing strip in the town of Garður, but considering Iceland’s incredibly strategic position in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, one strip was not quite enough.
After taking control of the ‘occupation’, US troops constructed and opened two airfields for military purposes in 1942 and 1943. Though they returned the property after the war, the United States reclaimed it in 1951 after a controversial defence alliance with Iceland.
Though this pact, and the general joining of NATO in 1949, caused decades of national protest, the circumstances also allowed decades of development at Keflavík Airport.
The airport first started to separate civilian and military use in 1987, with the opening of the Leifur Eríksson Terminal. Named after the first European to settle the Americas, it would go on to handle all the guests coming to or leaving Iceland.
The arrangement that the US would provide Iceland’s defences continues to this day, but their permanent bases at Keflavík were left at the expiration of the treaty in 2006. The airport was thus moved into full control of Icelanders and has expanded as a civilian hub ever since.
Keflavík International Airport Today
Keflavík International is located on the tip of the Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland’s south-easternmost region. The drive to the capital city of Reykjavík is only about forty-five minutes, and there is a Flybus service that continuously runs between the locations, day and night.
This service provides guests with the option to stop at the Blue Lagoon en route in either direction, the iconic health spa renowned for its healing azure waters. The lagoon sits between the airport and capital, refreshing guests after a long flight, or revitalising them in preparation for one.
The airport itself has all the modern amenities one would expect from a port that experiences so much traffic. It has restaurants, bars and cafés, banks and money transfers, car rental options available, and of course, many options for duty-free shopping.
Considering the price of and lack of availability of alcohol in Iceland, it is the best place to stock up on any tipple desired for your trip.
The main airlines that arrive at and depart from Keflavík are the two national carriers, the prestigious Icelandair and budget airline WOW. Over thirty different carriers have chartered flights to the port, however, which head to over ninety different destinations. This is only ever increasing, with new travel routes emerging as Iceland’s popularity continues to skyrocket.
Kirkjufell (“Church Mountain”) is a distinctly shaped mountain found on the north coast of Iceland’s Snæfellsnes Peninsula, only a short distance away from the town of Grundarfjörður.
Kirkjufell takes it’s name from its resemblance to a church steeple, sharpened at the top with long curved sides. From other angles, the mountain can resemble a witch’s hat or even a freshly scooped ice cream.
Photography at Kirkjufell
Peaking at 463 m, Kirkjufell holds the honour of being Iceland’s most photographed mountain. Throughout the centuries, Kirkjufell’s striking slopes have acted as a visual landmark for seafarers and travellers.
Walking distance from Kirkjufell, one can find the photogenic waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss (“Church Mountain Falls”), an excellent subject for photographers who can easily frame the mountain in the background. Despite its relatively diminutive height, Kirkjufellsfoss’ three-pronged falls make the waterfall particularly stunning, even for Iceland.
At the base of the mountain, visitors will also be able to find a lake; on calm and clear days, this lake reflects a perfect mirror image of Kirkjufell, only adding to the fantastic photo opportunities around this area. On top of that, the colours of Kirkjufell change with the passing seasons; the summer see it a lush green, full of life, whilst the winter months scar the mountain’s face with a mask of barren brown and white.
Fans of the HBO series Game of Thrones will recognise Kirkjufell as a shooting location from Season 7 of Game of Thrones. The mountain is showcased from the scenes ‘beyond the wall’ when Jon Snow, The Hound and Jorah Mormont, among others, brave the wilderness in hopes of catching an undead wight. Having seen it in a vision, The Hound acknowledges Kirkjufell as “[...] the mountain like an arrowhead.” Even the Games of Thrones producers can’t resist capturing the mountain on celluloid!
There is a fairly steep trail to the top of Kirkjufell, from where there are magnificent panoramas of the surrounding fields, coastlines and rivers. The mountain takes roughly an hour and a half to ascend, and one and a half hours back to the bottom.
Alongside this mountain-track is a steeper route to the peak which involves two points where one needs to rope-climb. This route should never be attempted in the winter, and never without a certified guide. Given the steep elevation, it is highly recommended that you bring a sturdy pair of hiking boots, snacks and water to the trail.
Getting to Kirkjufell
Kirkjufell is extremely close to Grundarfjörður, a small town on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, approximately two hours drive from Iceland's capital city, Reykjavik. From Grundarfjörður, one travels ten minutes west down Route Snaefellsnesvegur 54 to the base of Kirkjufell. Visitors have plenty of parking space to choose from, all free of charge.
Reynisdrangar are rock formations situated near the shore of Reynisfjara beach by the coastal village Vík í Mýrdalur on the South Coast of Iceland.
The formations are large and impending sea cliffs, made up of the rock type basalt, that serve as a vital part of the area’s allure as they shoot dramatically out of the ocean under the looming cliffs of Mt. Reynisfjall.
- Visit Reynisfjara and Reynisdrangar on these South Coast Tours
The village of Vík only houses around 300 permanent inhabitants, but on a daily basis, travellers scouting the South Coast make their way there to visit what has been voted as one of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world. The beach of Reynisfjara, however, can be highly dangerous if proper caution is not taken. As is evident from how the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crash upon Reynisdrangar, the currents here are strong, and sneak waves can easily carry anyone that’s standing too close out to sea. The beach is not for wading, but for admiring, and especially the mighty surf bursting on the base of these rocky cliffs.
There is an Icelandic folk tale that explains the origin of the pillars’ eerie appearance. According to legend, a couple of trolls were busy dragging a stranded three-masted ship to shore when the sunlight hit them and turned them into pillars of rock for all eternity. In fact, numerous rock formations in Iceland carry with them tales of trolls or elves, and one has only to look at them to fathom why.
Surroundings & Wildlife
An alternative view of the bewitching cliffs and their surrounding sea can be enjoyed by venturing up Mt. Reynisfjall, by a road to the west of the village. The mountain furthermore functions as a puffin colony every summer, from April to September, meaning guests can enjoy the view in good company. Other birds can be seen gliding around the cliffs such as Arctic terns, fulmars and seagulls.
- See also: Puffin Watching Tours
Djúpalónssandur is an arched-shaped bay of dark cliffs and black sand, located on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in western Iceland.
History & Monuments
The location was once home to a prosperous fishing village, along with other abandoned hamlets and ports of the area such as Búðir and Hellnar, from back when the Snæfellsnes Peninsula functioned as one of the most active trading posts of the island.
- See a selection of exciting Snæfellsnes Tours
Fascinating remnants of this period are for instance found in the form of four ancient lifting stones that still occupy the beach. The stones range in weight from 23 kg (50 lbs) to 155 kg (342 lbs) and were used to test the strength of fishermen. Their names are Amlóði (useless), Hálfdrættingur (weakling), Hálfsterkur (half-strong) and Fullsterkur (full-strong).
In 1948, the English trawler Epine GY 7 from Grimsby shipwrecked on the shore, with fourteen dead and five survivors. The rusty iron remains of the vessel remain scattered on the beach, now protected as a monument to those who perished.
Environment & Surroundings
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula boasts countless natural wonders, where locals and travellers both flock on a daily basis to enjoy the unique landscape and stunning coastlines. Djúpalónssandur’s black pebble beach is particularly stunning amidst rocky coastal lava formations, including the elusive Gatklettur, a large lava rock with a hole in the middle through which you can directly spot the Snæfellsjökull Glacier Volcano.
Behind the rock are two freshwater lagoons called Djúpulón and Svörtulón, with the former serving as the namesake of the bay. Believed in olden times to be abysmal, the water bodies were later revealed to reach the depth of five metres. Lagoons such as these are in high regard with the Icelandic people, and Svörtulón is thought to possess healing properties, especially after having been blessed by Bishop Guðmundur góði (the good) in the late 1100s.
A natural monument of the area is Söngklettur, or “singing rock”, a large lava rock with a reddish hue that resembles an elfish church. Other rock formations of folklorish appeal rest close by, including the alleged trolls-turned-to-stone Kerling and Lóndrangur.
When visiting Djúpalónssandur, take heed that these are treacherous waters and the Atlantic Ocean’s powerful suction can easily carry you out to sea. This beach is not one for wading, but enjoying from a safe distance, especially if the weather is stormy.
The glistening pebbles that make up the beach known as Djúpalónsperlur, or “pearls of the deep lagoon”, are gorgeous to look at and might seem appealing to stone collectors, but they are protected by law and should not be removed from the area by visitors.
The Diamond Beach is the name of a strip of black sand belonging to the greater Breiðamerkursandur glacial plain, located by the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon on the South Coast of Iceland.
Breiðamerkursandur is a glacial outwash plain located in the municipality of Hornafjörður. The sand stretches approximately 18 kilometres along Iceland’s South Coast, more specifically from the foot of Kvíárjökull Glacier to the famed glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón, that nests by the foot of Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier. Both glaciers count amongst the 30 outlets of Vatnajökull, Iceland’s largest ice cap.
The outwash plain was formed when three of Vatnajökull’s outlet glaciers, Breiðamerkurjökull, Hrútárjökull and Fjallsjökull, flowed forward due to volcanic activity and ground the rocks of the underlying surface, creating and pushing forward the glacial sediments. Such sand plains are a common part of the Icelandic landscape, due to the island being volcanically active as well as boasting numerous ice caps. The terminus (the tip of a given glacier) also dug deep into the ground and left what is now the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.
The Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is one of the most famed and visited attractions in Iceland. Floating on the lagoon are enumerable ice bergs that have broken off the resident glacier, creating an ever-changing scenery of incredible allure.
The river Jökulsá connects the lagoon to the Atlantic Ocean, meaning that these icebergs eventually drift out to sea where they are polished by the waves before floating back to the black sands of Breiðamerkursandur. The name "Diamond Beach" comes from the white ice on the black sand appearing like gemstones or diamonds, as they often glisten in the sun and sharply contrast their jet black surroundings.
Starting time : Flexible
6 nights of accommodation in Reykjavik (different levels available; breakfast not included for Super Budget level; breakfast included for Comfort and Quality levels; more detailed info below)
Airport transfer on arrival/departure
Blue Lagoon standard entrance (upgrades available) and return transfer
South Coast 2-day minibus tour with glacier hiking
1 night of accommodation in a country hotel in Vatnajokull National Park during the 2-day south coast tour (breakfast included, private bathroom depending on availability)
Guided day tour with flights to Kulusuk, Greenland
Golden Circle sightseeing tour in a minibus (upgrades available with other activities)
Snæfellsnes minibus day tour
Detailed Itinerary with fun and practical information on the nature, history and culture of Iceland
Hands-on travel agent to oversee your itinerary
Flights other than the day tour to Greenland
What to bring:
Warm clothes. Windproof and rainproof clothing
Swimsuit & towel
Good to know:
Although it is summertime, the Icelandic weather can be very unpredictable. Please bring appropriate clothing. Please be aware that your itinerary may have to be rearranged to fit your arrival date and time better.
Please note that if you need a visa to travel to Iceland, an additional visa might be needed to visit Greenland.
Day 1 - Arrival to Reykjavík
On your first day, you will land at Keflavík International Airport, and make your way to Reykjavík. This day is free for you to choose how to spend it; you could head to the Blue Lagoon, or explore the volcanic landscapes of the Reykjanes Peninsula. Otherwise, you could simply spend the day seeing the sites of the capital city, experiencing its vibrant culture and lively nightlife.
You will spend this night in Reykjavík.
Preferred accommodation in Reykjavík
The Fosshótel chain has four 3-4 star Hotels located in and around the city center of Reykjavík. There is a short walk from all of the hotels to attractions, cafés, restaurants, museums and the nightlife. All offer private bedrooms with private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included.
Day 2 - Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Your second day will be spent admiring the many, diverse sites of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
The most iconic feature of the region is Snæfellsjökull, a sub-glacial volcano that has inspired artists for centuries; it is, for example, the main setting for Jules Verne’s novel ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’. You will have plenty of chance to admire this great glacier as you head from site to site.
Other features you will visit include Kirkjufell mountain, the most photographed mountain in Iceland; the black sand beaches of Djúpalónssandur, where you can test your strength against ‘lifting stones’ like fishermen in centuries past; and the Lóndrangar basalt sea stacks that many compare to a castle. You will also have the opportunity to see the charming villages of Arnarstapi and Hellnar, which are steeped in folklore and rumours of magic.
You will spend your night in Reykjavík.
Day 3 - The Golden Circle
Today will be spent seeing the famous sites of the Golden Circle.
You will start with Þingvellir National Park, the only UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Icelandic mainland. This beautiful location sits directly between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, the edges of which are clearly visible. It is also steeped in history; it was here that early Icelanders formed their first parliament, an institution that still exists today. This makes Þingvellir the original site of the world’s longest-running, ongoing parliament.
Following Þingvellir, you will head to Haukadalur valley, where you can witness the geyser Strokkur erupting every five to ten minutes, to heights of up to 40 metres. This is a beautiful geothermal area, with many hot-springs and steaming fumaroles for you to admire. If you are incredibly lucky, you may even see some activity on the great geyser that gave all others their name, Geysir itself.
The third and final stop of the Golden Circle is Gullfoss waterfall. This feature is enormously powerful, surging in two tiers into an ancient canyon. It is one of the most popular spots in Iceland to witness the incredible forces of nature at work.
While this day will be mainly sightseeing, you have the option to add on some extra adventures if you are so inclined. You can opt to snorkel in the crystal-clear Silfra ravine in Þingvellir National Park, for a chance to swim between two tectonic plates. A snowmobiling tour on Langjökull glacier leaves from Gullfoss waterfall that you could otherwise partake in. A final option is a two-hour ride on one of Iceland’s iconic and adorable horses.
You will spend your night in Reykjavík.
Day 4 - Kulusuk, Greenland
Day four is likely to be the most special; the opportunity to visit Greenland is not something many are able to experience. You will leave from Reykjavík Domestic Airport early in the morning, and land on the island of Kulusuk after a short flight. This island is small and rocky, surrounded by mountains, and the little settlement of the same name is nestled seamlessly within the nature.
Once here, you will have a guided tour of the village, which has only around three-hundred residents. You will have plenty of opportunity to learn about Greenlandic life and history, by admiring the architecture, way of life, and visiting the museum. If you are lucky, you will also get to see a traditional Inuit drum dance.
You will return to Reykjavík by the evening, and spend your night back in the capital.
Day 5 - The South Coast: Part 1
Your fifth day will consist of a journey along Iceland’s South Coast to the glacier lagoon. Just off of the main road are a wealth of beautiful sites, which you will better explore on day six.
The first stop you will make is at Dyrhólaey lighthouse, where you can attain incredible views of the entire coastline. Following this, you will have a chance to walk the black sands of Reynisfjara beach, considered one of the world’s most beautiful non-tropical coasts. Here, you can admire fascinating rock formations, such as the Dyrhólaey arch and the Reynisdrangar basalt sea-stacks, and keep an eye out for nesting puffins.
After lunch in the charming village of Vík, you will continue east, passing Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, and the verdant Skaftafell Nature Reserve. Finally, you will reach the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Icebergs calving from a melting glacier here fill the great, serene pool of water, and sail slowly out to the ocean. You will have the chance to visit the Diamond Beach, where these icebergs wash up, and hopefully to see some seals in the surrounding waters.
You will spend your evening in the south-east of Iceland.
Day 6 - The South Coast: Part 2
On day six, you will return along the South Coast, stopping at all the sites you missed en route. The first of these will be at Sólheimajökull, a tongue of the greater glacier Mýrdalsjökull. Here, you will have an opportunity to partake in a 90-minute glacier hike, a mesmerising and exciting adventure that should not be missed by any in good health.
Following this excursion, you will get to visit three waterfalls. The first of these, Skógafoss, is massive, over 60 metres tall and up to 20 metres wide. You can approach it right to where the water hits the ground, and ascend an adjacent staircase for some great views. The second falls, Seljalandsfoss, tumbles off of a concave cliff, allowing you to walk all the way around it for a unique and rare perspective. The final site is lesser-known; Gljúfrabúi is hidden within a ravine behind a cliff-face, and magical to behold once you manage to reach it.
As you head between these sites, you will be driving by the notorious Eyjafjallajökull glacier and volcano, which erupted in 2010. Out to sea, you may also be able to spot the Westman Islands.
You will reach Reykjavík by evening, and spend your night here.
Day 7 - Free day in Reykjavík
Your penultimate day will be a free day in Reykjavík. You can use this opportunity to see the sites of the city; there are many excellent museums and galleries to visit, and a wealth of bars and restaurants to enjoy. Considering you will be flying early the next day you can use the opportunity to relax and ensure you are refreshed.
You can also elect to book a variety of different tours from the capital on this day. These include whale-watching, horse-riding, city tours and a helicopter excursion.
Spend the night in Reykjavík
Day 8 - Departure
On your eighth day, you will leave the capital for Keflavík airport, for your return flight home. If you are lucky enough to have a late flight, you can use your time to catch up on anything you missed. Visit the Blue Lagoon, explore the Reykjanes Peninsula, or do some last minute souvenir shopping down the Laugavegur main street.
Accommodation in Reykjavik
See our accommodation levels below. Single person bookings will be arranged in a single room, while bookings of 2 or more people will share twin/double room(s) or triple room(s). If you are traveling in a group, but prefer a single room, please make separate bookings. For multi-day guided tours, accommodation cannot be upgraded and the levels below do not apply. We always do our best to accommodate special requests, which may incur additional costs.
Rooms with a private bathroom at three-star hotels such as Fosshótel Barón, or quality guesthouses. Located in the city center or in close vicinity. Breakfast is included.
Rooms at four-star design hotels in the city center with a private bathroom at the absolute best locations downtown such as Hotel Alda. Breakfast is included.