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Northern Iceland, Fall
Fall in North Iceland
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Vacation Style Holiday TypeDiscovery, Family, Guided Tours, Short Breaks, Trekking
Activity Level Moderate
Group Size Small Group
Iceland – the land of fire and ice, active volcanoes and glaciers! The remnants of past volcanic eruptions provide caves and unique geologic formations, while the heat of the active volcanic fields combined with the meltwater from the glaciers create geothermal phenomenon unsurpassed throughout the world. Countless geysers, hot pots and fumaroles dot the landscape. These unique features create a landscape filled with incredible waterfalls, lakes, mountains and stories of trolls and elves. This six day trip will travel by 4WD car from Reykjavik through the Skagafjordur Region on our way to the highlights of the Diamond Circle in the north, and returning to Reykjavik by plane. While we can’t guarantee seeing the Northern Lights, the time of year (close to the equinox) and the location (the northeast side of the island) both favor high magnetic activity, long nights and clear skies which will provide the highest chance of Northern Lights sightings.
- All breakfasts, lunches and dinners & dining
- All accommodation
- All transportation once in Iceland including internal
- Expert tour and trekking guides for entire journey
- Travel insurance and other emergencies
- Visa fees and entry clearing fees
- Liquors, beers and alcoholic beverages
- Flights to Iceland
Arrival in Iceland
Typically, flights into Iceland arrive early in the morning. We will arrange transportation for you to get from the airport to the hotel in Reykjavik after you land. You will be able to leave your bags at the desk while you explore Reykjavik until check-in time. Our first meet-up of the Big Chill Adventure team will be in the hotel lobby that evening, and then we head out for dinner at our favorite restaurant in Reykjavik. After dinner everyone is free to explore the town on your own or rest up in your room before we meet first thing in the morning for breakfast! If you are interested in arriving a day or two early and being on your own, resting up or exploring, we can help you find accommodations and transport into town.
We will start with an early breakfast in Reykjavik, then off to the Hallmundarhraun Lava Field. Here we will tour and photograph the largest lava tube cave in Iceland, Viðgelmir, filled with sparkling ice formations.
Troll rock and rafting
After breakfast we will spend the morning visiting trolls around Hop, the largest saltwater lagoon in Iceland. We will investigate black sand beaches covered in rare alpine and arctic plants, as birds and horses vie for our attention.
After finding a suitable spot to enjoy our packed lunches, we will be going to Varmahlid for a 3 hour private rafting trip down the West Glacial River. We wind our way through the Vesturdalur Valley’s enchanting landscape; between rapids there are promises of hot chocolate made from the natural spring water bubbling up from the riverbank, and stops aplenty at spectacular scenery calling out to photographers!
Turf houses and waterfalls
After an early breakfast we explore traditional turf farmhouses, thought to have first been built on this site in 900 A.D. during the Age of Settlements. The buildings that we will visit were constructed between 1750 and 1879 of turf, stones and timber. These 13 buildings were inhabited until 1947, and after the people had gone an English benefactor donated money for renovation and preservation!
We will lunch in Akureyri, the largest “city” in northern Iceland with 18,000 inhabitants before traveling to the Goðafoss waterfall. This particular waterfall is connected with one of the most important events in Icelandic History, the conversion to Christianity in 1000 A.D. That year, Þorgeir Þorkelsson, Lawspeaker of the Icelandic Parliament, lived a short distance from the waterfall. During this time period Parliament was deciding whether Iceland should practice Paganism or Christianity.
After a night and day meditating under a fur blanket, Mr. Þorkelsson, who was a pagan priest, decided in favor of Christianity, converted to Christianity himself, and as a symbolic act of his conversion threw his heathen god idols into the waterfall. As a result, Goðafoss (Waterfall of the Gods) was named. It is worth noting that at that time, even with Christianity now the official religion, Paganism could still be practiced privately.
A leisurely drive will bring us to Húsavik, with a picturesque harbor. We will have dinner overlooking the water. In addition to the harbor, there are many exploration and photo opportunities all around the town. There is a lovely wooden church, gardens, a lighthouse, and whale museum.
After breakfast, we will stop to pick up our lunch supplies. Day four brings us into the geologically diverse and spectacular Northeast of Iceland. A gigantic, horseshoe shaped canyon, Ásbyrgi, stands guard next to the northern entrance to Jökulsárgljúfur National Park, founded in 1973. The canyon is divided through the middle by a distinctive rock formation, called Eyjan “the Island”, for more than half of its length and contributes giving the canyon its peculiar horseshoe shape.
So, what happened here? It seems Sleipnir, the god Odin’s eight-legged gigantic flying horse, put down one of his legs in this place, stamping and leaving his hoofprint. Since then the huldufólk, the legendary hidden people, made Ásbyrgi their capital city. And they still thrive there in the cracks of the cliffs, legend has it…..In the amazing geology of Iceland it is possible to suspend one’s disbelief for moments like this.
However, science indicates that the canyon was more likely formed by a catastrophic glacial flooding caused by an eruption of the Grímsvötn volcano……
We will continue on to Vesturdalur walking trails and the strange basalt rock formations of Hljóðaklettar, which means “echoing rocks”. This mysterious stone “forest”was created by the interaction of fire and ice, when hot lava came into contact with glaciers and meltwater. There is a circular trail from the parking site which will take us past several distinctive, named formations such as Karl and Kerling, two petrified trolls, or Kastali Castle.
Mud pots and volcanoes
Today’s journey will begin with intense heat: geothermal fields and active volcanoes!
The unmistakeable odor of sulphur greets visitors as the road climbs up and over Námafjall. Temperatures in bore-holes here have been recorded as high as 608 degrees F! We are going exploring in the geothermal field of Hverir. There are walkways and paths running across the multi-colored clay, with steaming vents, hissing chimneys and bubbling hot pots of mud.
Hot Mud Pots in the Geothermal Area Hverir, Iceland
Next we head four miles north of Hverir, where the volcanic fields are known by the name of Krafla. This series of volcanoes last erupted in the 1980’s and are formed by the pulling apart of two oceanic tectonic plates beneath Iceland. It will be a glimpse of freshly formed primeval earth. Krafla is also an active geothermal power plant, whose pipes form a metal entrance-way to the magma reservoir.
After breakfast we start our last day together hiking to the top of a recent tephra cone: Hverfjall, which last erupted about 2500 years ago. The view from the top is spectacular and will provide some lasting memories of this fantastic trip.
We then will drive to Akureyri, with time to enjoy some lunch before our plane departs for Reykjavik at 4 pm.
Our trip is coming to a close now as we drive back into Reykjavik. Some of you may have night time flights back home, after 7 pm, and, if so, we will arrange transport for you to the airport in Keflavik. For those of you who fly the next day, or who simply want to stay longer, we can help you with finding accommodations in Reykjavik or closer to the airport, arrange an optional add-on trip to the Blue Lagoon, and/or help with arranging transportation to the airport when needed.
- Download full itinerary pdf available
Warm beds and hot showers at every stop along the way.
Bring a couple of options!
Waterproof, winter boots and slippers (for the hotel).
You are welcome to pick up items from duty free on your way into the country.
The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman
88 Stories Around Iceland by Armann Reynisson (not available by regular printing in the US, but you can sometimes find a used version on Amazon); this is about Icelandic as you can get and you will immediately be dropped into how Iceland is today
Any of the Inspector Erlendur Icelandic murder mysteries (by Arnaldur Inridason)