Iceland is, quite literally, a country in the making: volcanoes, geysers, mud pots, and hot springs are constantly transforming the anomalous island, and glaciers and waterfalls churn the extraordinary landscape. In colder months, Iceland offers front-row seats to the ethereal aurora borealis.
Join Atlas Obscura for the trip of a lifetime in a location like no other: a wintertime adventure in Iceland. Explore the planet’s northernmost capital city, hunt for the Northern Lights, visit some of the world’s strangest museums, bask in geothermal spas, marvel at geological wonders, and experience the magical long sunrises and sunsets of the Icelandic winter.
This is a custom trip designed for Atlas Obscura. This exclusive opportunity will be limited to 40 travelers only. For this international trip, we have curated a unique itinerary highlighting some of Iceland's most extraordinary and wondrous destinations and experiences. The itinerary includes:
- Earth-shattering landscapes: See the grace and tumult epitomized by the dramatic geology of Iceland. From mud pots to geysers, magma caves to volcanoes, fjords to glaciers and beyond, the island has the scenery of legends.
- Relaxing spa retreats: Melt away stress in some of the world’s most famous hot springs, saunas, and steam rooms.
- Scandinavian history: Iceland’s history was forged by Vikings. On this trip, you’ll learn their rich history and traditions, and enjoy Iceland's famously good coffee, books, and oddities.
- Seasonal nature delights: In the winter months, Iceland offers glorious shows of the dancing aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights. Every night we’ll go on the hunt for this spectacular sight.
A $250 non-refundable deposit is required to secure your spot, as we have a very limited capacity, and we expect the trip to fill extremely quickly. The trip will cost $2,699—the $250 deposit plus the $2,449 final payment—and will cover all fixed costs including all hotel accommodations, all meals, and all the activities listed in the itinerary below. For an additional $625, you can join us for an extra day of sorcery and witchcraft in the Westfjords.
Travel Day: Venture to the Blue Land
- Depart this evening on an overnight flight to Reykjavik, the world’s most northerly capital. Travelers will be responsible for arranging and booking their own flights to and from Reykjavik.
Halló og Velkomin!
- Arrive at Reykjavik's Keflavik Airport early this morning. Meet our private guide and enjoy expedited immigration services.
- Our first stop is the beautiful, sometimes steaming, black sand beach of Sandvík and the lava-scarred Reykjanes peninsula. Cross the massive continental divide on Leif the Lucky’s Bridge and see old shipwrecks of unlucky fishing boats.
- Next we make a beeline to the famed Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa sure to soak away the jetlag. Here at one of National Geographic's 25 wonders of the world, you’ll enjoy the refreshing power of silica-rich waterfalls and luxurious sauna and steam rooms, with a welcome cocktail in hand. Take the opportunity to treat yourself to a mud mask or in-water massage, and let the stress of your journey melt away.
- After a locally sourced lunch, we’ll head south to the steaming earths at Krísuvík and see the boiling muddy hot springs and dazzling lakes. Take a peaceful hike along the Krýsuvíkurberg Cliffs, where thousands of sea birds nest in the rugged hillside beside the crashing Atlantic surf.
- Now we enter Leiðarendi, an immense tubular cave created by a rushing lava tunnel, its name translating to “The End of the Road.” No longer hot, the cave is best known for massive bulbous icicles that form stalactite and stalagmite formations. We’ll blend our caving expedition with a heavy dose of mythic folklore… Viking runes, elves, ghosts, and outlaws.
- Transfer into Reykjavik, or “Steamy Cove,” named after its geothermal location, and head to our funky, Scandinavian-designed hotel in the center of town, headquarters for our adventure in the heart of the city.
- Authentic Icelandic feasting: a raucous Viking welcome dinner with live performance. Learn more during a briefing and Q&A on the country’s history and culture over a tall cup of mead. Skál!
- Journey into Darkness: Northern lights hunt!
Journey Around the Golden Circle
- Enjoy breakfast at your hotel. You’ll be saying ‘please pass the skyr’ in no time.
- First we visit Iceland’s most important historical site, Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the heart of the land, where the Vikings established the world’s first democratic parliament. But don’t be fooled—this park has a hidden history that runs blood cold, with 72 known executions to its name. See Drekkingarhylur (“Drowning Pool”), Galgaklettar (“Scaffold Cliff”), and Hoggstokkseyri (“Execution Block Spit”) dusted with snow, sure to give you the chills.
- The park is superbly situated inside an immense, fissure-ridden rift valley created by the separating North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. See the gorgeous Silfra fissure firsthand.
- Next you’ll experience some of the best geological sites Iceland has to offer as we drive around what’s known as the Golden Circle. We’ll see the aquatic marvels of Iceland, starting with saga-filled Haukadalur geothermal area, where the one and only Geysir resides—the original geyser that all others are named for. See its more energetic cousin Strokkur, a geyser so powerful that it can reach 60 meters high. In addition, the area is filled with bubbling mudpots, steamy fumaroles, and vents into the crust of the earth, which give Iceland its distinctive primeval landscape. Enjoy lunch in the afterglow.
- Feel the spray of magnificent Gullfloss thundering in front of you, understandably Iceland’s most famous waterfall. Glacial water plummets down three heavy steps to the canyon below.
- See the eye-popping Kerið Crater Lake, a 6500-year-old explosion crater containing a spooky-looking green lake surrounded by red volcanic rock. Of course Björk has performed a concert here.
- We’ll drive out to an epic plane wreck on a black sand beach in the south. The massive hulk of US Navy DC-3 has been rusting since the crash landing in 1973. We’ll take the hour-long, otherworldly hike out to the site and see sunset amidst the picturesque remains.
- On return, we will hunt for Northern Lights in some of the loveliest locations in the countryside, led by a guide who has already scouted the best possible viewing locations.
- Head back to Reykjavik for dinner at a new Icelandic gastropub, The Sweet Pig.
- Tonight, the choice is yours—rest up or djammið (party Iceland-style)! Enjoy Reykjavik’s 100-plus bars and clubs with fellow explorers, meet locals and toast with their beloved Viking Gold beer (and hear the tales of when it was illegal), and perhaps even prove your strength by trying Iceland’s national dish, Hákarl (fermented shark) followed a shot of brennivín. If you’d prefer to relax, perhaps you’d like to visit one of the many bookshops in town—Iceland publishes more books per capita than any place on the planet!
Obscurities of “Steamy Cove”
- Enjoy breakfast at your hotel.
- Take a private guided tour today of the most interesting parts of the city this afternoon. Start with the EVE Online Monument, Tjörnin Lake and the Old Quarter, then see Reykjavik Harbor, the iconic Hallgrimskirkja church, a piece of the Berlin Wall on display, and even Alþingi, the oldest Parliament in the world.
- Enjoy a mischievous Icelandic lunch at Café Loki.
- The hot springs won’t be the only thing turning your face red on this adventure. Tour the famed Icelandic Phallological Museum, the only penile museum in the world, as featured in the award-winning documentary The Final Member and ranked the #1 weirdest museum in the world by Time magazine.
- Return to your hotel to rest and freshen up (and let the blushing subside).
- Tonight, enjoy dinner at the cutting-edge and highly controversial Harpa Music Hall, a stunning concert venue that’s become a symbol of Iceland’s national recovery.
- After dinner, behold The Volcano Show at Red Rocks Cinema, a labor of love for an eccentric magma chaser turned documentary filmmaker who presents the complete history of Iceland’s eruptions since 1947.
- Unwind from your adventure at Atlas Obscura’s final full-group breakfast.
- Finish your trip among giants during a tour of Whales of Iceland, the largest whale museum in Europe. Walk amongst the life-sized creatures and prepare to feel dwarfed (err…elfed).
- Head to Reykjavik’s Keflavik Airport, and depart to home destinations.
A $250 non-refundable deposit is required to secure your spot, as we have limited capacity and expect the trip to fill quickly. The trip will cost $2,699—the $250 deposit plus $2,449 final payment—and will cover all fixed costs including hotel accommodations, all meals, and all the activities listed in the itinerary. For an additional $625, you can join us for an extra day of sorcery and witchcraft in the Westfjords.
Optional Day: Sorcery & Witchcraft
- After breakfast at your hotel and a visit to the Whales of Iceland, we depart on an adventurous grand finale to the legendary Westfjords.
- On the ride north, we’ll stop in the township of Borgarnes after riding across the second-largest bridge in Iceland. Here, we’ll take a stroll and briefly visit Bjössaróló Park, a whimsical playground made of discarded and salvaged materials, the machination of one man who wanted to teach children the value of recycling, frugality and innovation. Reconnect with your inner child on brightly painted slides, teeter-totters, and swings.
- Our next stop north is Snorralaug, a hobbit-y little hot spring which is thought to have been used since the 12th century, making it the oldest geothermal pool used by humans in Iceland. The temperature fluctuates from cozy to scalding—should it be temperate, you’re welcome to take a dip!
- Enjoy lunch and delicious views on the ride to Holmavík in the Westfjords, where our adventure continues...
- Exclusively for Atlas Obscura, we’ll experience an evil-ridding invocation ceremony led by a traditional Icelandic sorcerer at The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft. See the collection, including a pair of macabre necropants, and learn about a time when magic and fear in Iceland turned sorcery into terror.
- We’ll take a winding road through the dramatic fjordheads, far off-the-beaten-path, to spunky Ísafjörður, the Westfjords’ surprisingly cosmopolitan capital that is hemmed in on all sides by towering peaks and the eerily dark waters of the fjord.
- Stay the evening in the Westfjords at the Hótel Ísafjörður, and enjoy a 3-course dinner at Við Pollinn with views over the fjord.
- Tonight, we will hunt for Northern Lights, with marvelous viewing opportunities as we are practically kissing the Arctic Circle.
- The next morning, enjoy breakfast at your hotel. Return to Reykjavik’s Keflavik airport via regional plane, with exquisite views of the superlative nature on the flight from Ísafjörður. Connect here on flights to home destinations.
This Atlas Obscura Iceland trip is conducted in partnership with Insider Expeditions, a travel company with extensive experience designing and leading trips to Iceland and elsewhere. Please email us at [email protected] with any questions about the itinerary, logistics, and payment.
NOTE: Itineraries and pricing are subject to change. This particular tour has been designed with specific events in mind, and schedules and availabilities may change in coming months. If any activity or person that is advertised is missed or not available, it will be replaced with an activity or person of equal interest and value. A final itinerary and briefing packet will be ready two weeks before the trip.
Payment: You will be charged a non-refundable $250 deposit to hold your space. The final payment of $2,449 (or $3,074 if taking the extension) will be due on February 13, 2017. All reservations will be final after this date, and subject to our cancellation policy. By submitting your deposit, you agree to the Terms & Conditions. For travelers wishing to have single accommodations during the trip, an additional $349 will be included in the final payment.
Travelers are responsible for:
- Transportation and flights to and from Reykjavik.
- Baggage charges.
- Additional meals and drinks outside of Atlas Obscura offerings.