A culture steeped in Norse mythology and a landscape forged by the elements and volcanic forces. Be humbled by the earth’s overwhelming power, delightful puffins and magical whales.
Selected departures May to September 2017
You should arrive at the airport to take your flight to Reykjavik, lava fields really are commonplace here and the first wisps of steam spout from the stark landscape as you are transferred to your hotel. We use a variety of centrally located hotels depend on selected date.
The three-star superior Centerhotel Arnarhvoll, located on Reykjavik’s promenade offers spectacular views over the fjord to the mountains beyond. The comfortable and modern rooms offer flat screen TV, tea and coffee making facilities, mini bar, safe and free wifi whilst the 8th floor Sky Lounge is perfect spot to enjoy probably the best views in the city.
The characteristic four-star Hotel Centrum is on one of the Reykjavik’s oldest streets. A superb property originally one of the city’s oldest houses built in 1764 now spread over three buildings. Newly renovated, it is beautifully designed in the style found in Reykjavik around 1900 and underneath the remains of a Viking Longhouse plus Iceland’s oldest human remains dating from approx 870AD have been found. The modern rooms feature satellite TV, mini bar, radio, iron and ironing board, safe, tea and coffee making facilities. In the hotels oldest part is a cosy bar and the Fjalakothur Restaurant specialising in traditional Icelandic dishes prepared to a very high standard.
The brand new four-star FossHotel Reykjavik provides Scandinavian style and class with edgy yet sophisticated décor. It is in fact the largest hotel in Reykjavik professionally managed by the same group as its sister hotel the Hotel Centrum. Located approximately 300 metres from Laugavegur, Reykjavik’s main shopping street offering a superb choice of stylish restaurants and bars. The hotel offers magnificent views over Reykjavik’s skyline and facilities include the Haust restaurant, a beer garden, gym and spa, wellness centre (at an additional cost).
Today we explore Iceland’s delightfully diverse south west shoreline firstly climbing through a remarkable lunar like landscape of multi-coloured lava plateaux, through the Threngli Pass and descending across the sparkling River Olufsa – famous for its excellent salmon. Some of Iceland’s prettiest landscapes now lie before you as we pass farms and charming villages set amongst pleasant pastures – keep an eye open for the exceptionally hardy Icelandic horses. To the north you can see Myrdalsjokull and Eyjfjalla Glaciers - the latter famous for its volcano below, which infamously halted Europe’s air traffic in 2010. We head for two of Iceland’s most spectacular waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss tumbles ribbon-like over a great overhanging lava cliff whilst Skogafoss is one of the country’s highest, plunging some 60 metres in an impressive shower of shimmering spray. The natural wonders continue as we approach the imposing wall of ice forming the snout of the immense Solheimajokull Glacier. You may notice a sulphurous hint in the air here, as the waters emanating from the glacier here are called “Stinking River” due to the sulphurous acid content absorbed from the hot geothermal rocks beneath your feet. Next we make for Iceland’s southernmost point, the beautifully situated village of Vik, seeing its famous black beach and towering cliffs home to huge Puffin colonies.
After a breakfast we experience something completely different, departing the old harbour seeking arguably the planets most graceful creatures, whales and dolphins. Depending on conditions and with luck you may see grand Humpbacks and spectacular Killer Whales, but more normally delightful Minkes. Dolphins are prevalent too and there is nothing quite like that moment when a first fin is spotted or a giant of the ocean astonishingly breaks the surface in front of your eyes. Countless endearing puffins nest here and depending on conditions can be seen hurtling around the waters and cliffs entertain themselves as much as you in a remarkable display of colour and aquabatics. Early afternoon we have a sightseeing tour of Reykjavik situated around its natural harbour on a fjord. Dominating the skyline is the impressive Hallgrimskirkja church – Iceland’s largest, its extraordinary bell tower inspired by the shapes of cooling lava columns. You will see the monument to the explorer Leif Eriksson whose discovery of America pre-dates that of Columbus by around 500 years. Plus there is the house where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev historically first met in 1986. Nearby is the modern day home of the Althingi, the world’s oldest parliament. The fishing harbour is a fascinating quarter, redolent of timeless scenes as weather-beaten trawlermen returned with the hard won fruits of nature.
To end our day we visit an Icelandic icon, the Blue Lagoon, should you wish you can take a bathing experience you will never forget. Volcanic rocks hide a wonderland of steaming, mineral-rich waters, geothermally heated to a constant 38c deg in a stunning setting.
Today we embark on a full day tour around the Golden Circle, aptly named due to its dramatic cocktail of amazing geology, geography, politics, history, culture, raw natural energy but most of all scenery which takes your breath away. Iceland has literally spilled into the sea from the “Mid Atlantic Rift” where the two great American and Eurasian tectonic plates tear apart. Firstly we drive past steam jets ominously and noisily erupting from the bare earth, seemingly from a submerged steam train. Normally hidden from our gaze, we astonishingly experience the dramatic effects of these massive forces at Thingvellir. Here you stroll along a striking chasm left as the plates diverge leaving two great rock scars either side – stretch out and you literally touch both continents simultaneously! Continuing to the Hvita river, just upstream lies a layer of varying rock ‘pavements’ and as we approach this wild location a distant smoke-like spray column rises above the lava fields. This incredible natural wonder promotes complete awe and you will immediately understand why the locals named them Gullfoss – the Golden Waterfalls.
Next a third spectacular natural phenomenon, the Haukadalur, one of the world’s most active geothermal areas. Here you experience the amazing Strokkur, a pool of slowly bubbling, gurgling, steaming water quietly simmering away until, with almost no warning, it erupts with a roar in a towering jet of steam shooting 20 metres or more above your head. Strokkur is the most impressive geyser, an unpredictable phenomenon named after the biggest hereabouts known locally as Geysir. By now you really feel you are in an unknown ‘other world’ where nature dominates and the planet is young, a land devoid of trees and almost of grass itself – its work in progress and a glimpse of our own country millions of years ago. We then return to our hotel after an incredible day.
Today you will be taken to the airport at the appropriate time for your return flight.
There is a misconception that Iceland has an expensive cost of living, however since the reduction in the value of the Kroner some years ago, in our experience Reykjavik prices are no different than most other European capital cities.
In this modern age there is sometimes a tedious similarity between countries across the globe, with the same old multinationals, predictable restaurant chains and designer shops. Iceland though is such a refreshing change; a wonderfully welcoming place, like nowhere else with friendly yet fiercely independent people, a culture steeped in Norse mythology and a landscape forged and still being moulded by the essential forces of water, ice and fire.
The price of this holiday is per person based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement. The price includes return flights airport taxes and transfers, four nights accommodation with breakfast, Comprehensive guided touring programme as mentioned, Whale Watching Experience, entrance to the Blue Lagoon and the services of a Riviera tour manager.