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Between strange encounters with peculiar elves and supernatural creatures, Icelanders have their fair share of mythical tales. In a land renowned worldwide for its sensational scenery and extraordinary natural wonders, beneath the surface lies a unique history waiting to be discovered. On this tour, we’ll traverse the paths of ancient legends and discover the natural secrets of this astonishing land. Our expert guides will lead us on a circumnavigation of Iceland with a focus on storytelling as they reveal the geologic, human, and mystical history of this land. This is a truly unforgettable experience for the intrepid traveler who is looking for a tour that combines ancient history with breathtaking natural beauty.
We also offer a trip to Iceland in Winter.
Welcome to the mythical lands of Iceland! You’ll arrive at Iceland’s Keflavík International Airport and make your own way to the group hotel in Reykjavik via a shared shuttle service. Depending on your arrival time, you may have time to explore the capital city. We recommend checking out the wonderful National Museum of Iceland and learning about the Viking history of the region, or discovering the architectural wonder that is Hallgrímskirkja, one of the most beautiful churches in the world and where you can find exceptional views over the city from the tower. In the late afternoon, we'll gather in the hotel lobby to meet your tour leader and the rest of the group for a tour briefing followed by a welcome dinner at a nearby restaurant.
Hotel Alda or similar, Reykjavik
This morning we’ll fuel up on a hearty breakfast before embarking on a full day of Icelandic explorations. We’ll start in Hafnarfjörður, home to Iceland’s largest colonies of elves, trolls, and mythical creatures. Collectively, these spiritual beings are called “Hidden Folk” or “Huldufólk” in Icelandic. After some storytelling about these fantastic spirits, we’ll set out on the most famous route in Iceland, the Golden Circle. Þingvellir National Park will be our first stop, an area known for its ruins of old stone shelters and the site of Iceland’s parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries. It also lies on the divergent edges of the European and North American tectonic plates. It is this active plate boundary and associated hot spot under Iceland that creates the steaming vents and chimneys of the Geysir Geothermal Area. The final stop on our excursion today will be the spectacular Gullfoss Waterfall. Venture close enough to feel the mist on your face via the pedestrian walkway to the waterfall’s edge.
Hotel Stracta, or similar, Hella
Today we'll have a full day overland journey along Iceland’s South Coast punctuated by several spectacular stops. The first visit will be at the impressive, nearly 200-foot drop of Seljalandsfoss waterfall, whose water originates at the Eyjafjallajökull glacier. At our next stop, we’ll have the option of seeing the equally tall and impressive Skógafoss waterfall or taking a dip at Seljavallalaug, Iceland’s oldest and arguably one of the world’s most stunning public swimming pools. Keep your eyes peeled as we continue our drive past Drangurinn Rock, a landscape feature that, according to local folklore, was ripped from a mountain by an outlaw and then became a home for elves. A little further on and we’ll find ourselves at Reynisfjara, a picturesque beach with enormous columns of basalt rising from its distinctive black sands. After another two and a half hours along the southern ring road, we’ll reach Jökulsárlón, a stunning glacial lagoon renowned for its icy blue waters speckled with icebergs from the surrounding Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. We'll end our day in the fishing town of Höfn at the base of the Vatnajökull ice cap.
Guesthouse Gerði or similar, Höfn
Today we'll have another long drive as we make our way off the beaten path towards the East Fjords. A short distance out of Höfn we’ll pass by a giant red chair sculpture that stands out starkly against an otherwise empty landscape punctuated by high mountains, deep fjords, and quaint fishing villages. We’ll make a stop in the town of Djúpivogur, where we’ll visit the Bones, Sticks & Stones gallery that houses a remarkable collection of zeolites, minerals, and different types of skeletons. We’ll also step inside the humble-looking Auðunn’s Stone and Mineral Collection, a truly unique display of specimens that the owner has been collecting from around the region for over three decades. In Djúpivogur we’ll also find Rakkaberg, one of several strange geologic formations known as “elf churches”. We’ll end the day in Egilsstaðir, a small town located on the banks of the Lagarfljót glacial lake. According to Icelandic folklore, a 200-foot-long serpent monster lives in the lake. Time and energy permitting, you might stretch your legs on a moderately strenuous uphill hike to Hengifoss, a waterfall distinctive because of the bright red stripes streaking across the cliff face.
Lake Hótel Egilsstaðir or similar, Egilsstaðir
By this time we may have already heard Iceland’s most popular joke: “What do you do if you get lost in an Icelandic forest?” The answer: “Stand up!” For sure we’ll have noticed a distinct lack of tall trees during our travels so far, so our destination this morning will be the refreshing Hallormsstaður National Forest, the largest forest in the country. Here we’ll walk some of the trails to appreciate the native birch species and its arboretum exotic species collection with over 80 tree varieties. We’ll visit the Wilderness Center to learn about life in the highlands and the daily lives and traditions of the Icelandic people who lived here centuries ago - what they ate, how they lived amongst the dynamic forces of nature, and their cultural beliefs. We’ll end the day at the picturesque Lake Urriðavatn, relaxing at the geothermally-heated Vök Baths, soaking in one of the facility’s floating pools that are heated by hot springs deep under the lake.
Lake Hótel Egilsstaðir or similar, Egilsstaðir
Our travels today take us into the northeast corner of Iceland. Our first stop, after about two hours of driving, is the truly wondrous Dettifoss, the largest waterfall in Iceland and the second most powerful in all of Europe. Flowing from the Vatnajökull glacier, this 330-foot wide and 150-foot tall waterfall is an impressive display of the power of nature. Continuing north to the coast we eventually arrive to the small town of Húsavík, famous for whales and fishing. After some free time to wander around the town, we’ll get back on the road and travel to Mývatn Lake. This beautiful and serene lake was created from violent vulcanism but is now home to abundant birdlife. This is still an active geothermal area, and a wonderful location to see geologic formations including calderas, volcanoes, lava fields, basalt columns, and pseudocraters formed by steam explosions as magma rises beneath the water. Our accommodations for the night are near a great example of these pseudocraters at Skútustaðir.
Fosshotel Mývatn or similar, Mývatn
We’ll take breakfast to go today as we continue our drive counterclockwise along the northern ring road. Our first stop is the crescent shape waterfall, Goðafoss, translated as “Waterfall of the Gods”. At the annual meeting of parliament in Þingvellir in the year 1000, the lawspeaker and priest Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði made the decision that the country would abandon the Old Norse religion in favor of Christianity and threw the idols of the Old Gods into this waterfall, giving it its name. We continue to Akureyri, the largest town in northern Iceland, and along the peninsula of the trolls. Tröllaskagi is known for its high mountains and its horse-farms that breed Icelandic horses. At the northern tip of the peninsula, we’ll find the small fishing village of Siglufjörður (Sigló for short). At The Herring Era Museum, we’ll get a feel for Sigló as it was during the herring boom in the mid-1900s and how it earned its nickname “the Atlantic Klondike.”
Hótel Siglo or similar, Sauðárkrókur
Today our path turns south, completing our circumnavigation of the island. We stop at Kolugljúfur Canyon where the Víðidalsá River drops into a gorge, cascading over several waterfalls named for the giantess Kola who once lived in the gorge. A little further on we’ll stop to climb the volcanic crater of Grábrók for stunning views of western Iceland. Before reaching our overnight destination we’ll raise a glass in celebration of our journey at the Stedji Brewery that serves up delicious locally-made craft beer. We finish our day in the small town of Borgarnes where we have some free time to explore on our own before dinner.
Hotel Rjukandi or similar, Borgarnes
Today we’ll make an excursion to the magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula. At the tip of the peninsula we’ll find the glacier-topped Snæfellsjökull volcano that was the inspiration for Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” We’ll make a few other stops to appreciate the dreamscape-like scenery of the peninsula including at the black church of Búðakirkja in Búðir. We’ll eventually make our way back to Reykjavik where we’ll have some time to explore the city. This evening we’ll gather for a final group dinner celebrating our journey through remarkable Iceland.
Hotel Alda, or similar, Reykjavik
After a remarkable ten days together, today you’ll catch your flight home or onward to your next adventure destination. We look forward to seeing you on your next adventure!
The listed price of the trip is per person based on double occupancy.
You’re in good company. Solo travelers typically make up about half of our small groups. With curiosity at the center of our experiences, there’s a natural camaraderie that develops over the course of a trip. We have two options for you:
Shared Room (subject to the latest Covid-19 guidelines): You'll be matched with another solo traveler of the same gender.
Private Room: Have your own room, subject to availability, for a supplemental cost of $1,525 per person . After booking your trip, please request a single room when you fill out your traveler information form and we’ll send a separate invoice for the cost.
Our trip arrives and departs from Reykjavik, which is served by Keflavík International Airport (KEF). A shared shuttle airport service is included and will transport you from the airport to your Reykjavik hotel. We recommend arriving by 1pm on Day 1.
You may depart at any time on the last day of the tour. A shared shuttle service is included and will transport you from your hotel to Keflavík Airport.
*Shared shuttle airport transfers are only provided if arriving & departing on the trip dates, or if pre/post arrangements have been made through Atlas Obscura.
Travelers should feel comfortable walking two to four miles over the course of each day, remaining on their feet for long periods of time, and sometimes walking on uneven terrain. This overland circumnavigation journey around Iceland requires some long driving days up to 5 hours, which will be broken up with sites and activities.
Exploring Iceland is special year round, but it's a little extra special during Summer Solstice where you can experience the natural wonder known as the Midnight Sun. On June 21st, the sun peaks and produces the longest day of the year with sunrise falling around 3am and sunset at around midnight. For three hours of twilight, the sun sits just below the horizon and delivers golden lingering natural light. Join us on our June 17th departure to experience this natural phenomenon for yourself!
Your participation in this trip provides significant financial contributions to the communities we visit, directly supporting small businesses and the local people who run their own small museums, collections, and activities.
Summer in Iceland lasts from June through August, a season notable for the midnight sun, birds and whales, and because everything is in bloom. The days are long with nearly 24-hours of sunlight. In June you'll experience only about 3 hours of darkness and in August up to 7 hours. Average temperatures experienced in June and August are similar, ranging from a low of about 40°F to a high of about 60°F. Variable weather conditions and rain should be expected, so be prepared with layers.
Most dietary restrictions can be accommodated, though in most cases ingredients can't be substituted or omitted from particular dishes. If you have a severe allergy, please contact us to find out if this is the right trip for you.
U.S. passport holders do not require a visa for travel to Iceland, but this may vary depending on traveler citizenship. Please check requirements for travel to Iceland and any countries passed through in transit. A passport is required for international travel. We recommend your passport expire at least six months after your return home.