Trip Number: 13645A
Price: $5,295 (12-15)
$5,995 (or fewer)
Staff: Pritpal Singh Kochhar
- Explore Iceland’s scenic splendor
- Enjoy a variety of moderate hikes
- Stay in hotels and country inns
- Almost all meals; all lodging, gratuities, and on-trip transportation,
including airport transfers
- Local English-speaking guide
Nature has wrought extravagant wonder upon the Icelandic landscape. Although
the whole of Iceland lies within four degrees of the Arctic Circle, the country's
weather is moderated by the Gulf Stream. In mid-summer, night lasts only a few
hours. The day's polar sunlight and its slanting clarity inspired the poet W.H.
Auden to call it "the most magical light of anywhere on earth."
Iceland is also one of the most volcanic places in the world, with steaming
crevices, cinder fields, and grotesque lava formations. Boiling water erupts
from the Earth as geysers and mud pools. Icelanders capture this geothermal
energy for heating, electricity, greenhouses, steam baths, saunas, and the hot
water outdoor swimming pools that are at the heart of every Icelandic town.
Though Iceland contains the largest glacier in Europe, most of the country is
ice-free. It is not forested, making for dramatic vistas. For a relatively small
country that has been explored and traversed for more than a millennium, Iceland
remains remarkably wild. While towns, villages, and farms are found on or near
the coast, the central interior is virtually uninhabited. Our probe of the island's
inland area will be a challenging adventure.
Our trip will concentrate on the sector of the country holding the greatest
concentration of scenic sites. The trip will begin in Keflavik, the airport
town in the south, and end in the vibrant modern city of Reykjavík, with
its fine restaurants, theaters, galleries, shops, bustling harbor, and stunning
scenery. On the last day we will enjoy a stop at the Blue Lagoon before heading
to the airport. There we will travel by bus to several different regions for
our 12 days of adventure. While walking and hiking is at the heart of our Icelandic
exploration, seabird watching is also on the agenda, as is bathing in some of
the country's many natural hot springs.
Photo: Pritpal Singh Kochhar
Day 1: Arrival Reykjanes. Arrive at Keflavik International
Airport and be greeted by the trip leader and guide. We will stop for breakfast
in the area, after which we will drive along the Reykjanes coast and visit the
bridge between the continents, the Krísuvík geothermal area and
Krísuvíkurbjarg bird cliff. We will continue our drive to south
Iceland where our accommodations will be ready for some early relaxation; most
of us may be tired after the flight. Overnight: Hotel.
Day 2: Thórsmörk Valley & horseback riding.
We will begin our day with a horseback riding tour in the area and then head
to Thorsmörk, the Valley of Thor (Norse God of Thunder), which is one of
the favorite outdoor sites of Icelanders. The lovely but rugged nature of this
valley offers a unique composition of glaciers, rocks, and wood. In addition,
we will be crossing glacial rivers. On the way to Thorsmörk we will drive
through the terrain where the best known Icelandic Sagas took place. In the
valley we will have a picnic lunch and enjoy a hike. On the way back to our
hotel we will visit the picturesque waterfall Seljalandsfoss. Overnight: Hotel.
Day 3: South coast. Today, we will drive along the diversified
south coast of Iceland, starting with the powerful Skógafoss waterfall.
From there we will drive up to Fimmvörðuháls mountain ridge,
which lies between the glaciers Mýrdalsjökull & Eyjafjallajökull.
From this ridge, we will do a hike to see the craters Magni & Móði,
which were created in a volcanic eruption in March 2010. We will then continue
to Sólheimajökull glacier where we will hike on the icefield, depending
on weather conditions. We will continue to the Reynisfjara black sand beach
and the village Vík and arrive at our accommodation in Kirkjubæjarklaustur
by the evening. Overnight: Hotel.
Day 4: Langisjór & Eldgjá. We will spend
the day in the eastern part of the southern interior. We will visit the fire
gorge Eldgjá, a volcanic fissure, 30 kilometres in length, which is believed
to have erupted in 934. The most spectacular part of the fissure is adjacent
to the Fjallabaksvegur road, where it reaches a width of 600 metres and a depth
of 150 metres. We then head to the unique area at Lake Langisjór -- a
breathtaking place in the remote highlands. Those who wish can have a hike up
to the top of Sveinstindur mountain where the view is even more spectacular.
Day 5: Landmannalaugar. Today, we will leave our hotel and
embark on the Fjallabak North mountain route. We will soon reach Landmannalaugar
in the uninhabited uplands. At the edge of a geothermal area, Landmannalaugar
is surrounded by colourful rhyolite mountains, and both hot and cold springs
emerge from the earth to provide excellent natural bathing pools. Landmannalaugar
is connected to other popular upland destinations by footpaths. There are plenty
of nice hiking routes available in the area. After a nice bath in the warm geothermal
pool we will leave Landmannalaugar and arrive at our hotel in the afternoon.
Photo: Pritpal Singh Kochhar
Day 6: Þjórsárdalur, Gullfoss & Geysir.
We will drive through the historic Þjórsárdalur valley and
visit one of Iceland’s highest waterfalls, Haifoss. We will see the excavated
farm ruins at Stong, which are from the Viking era. A full-sized replica has
been built here for visitors to conjure the lifestyle of the Vikings. We will
continue our journey to Hjálparfoss waterfall and from there to Iceland’s
most famous sights: Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir hot spring area. Gullfoss
has long been regarded as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. In
the past, there were suggestions that the falls should be harnessed to generate
hydroelectric power, but after the waterfall was declared a national monument,
all such ideas were abandoned. Nearby is Geysir in Haukadalur, the most famous
spouting hot spring in the world and the origin of the international word geyser.
Today Geysir does not erupt without human intervention, but a nearby hot spring,
Strokkur, spouts about every ten minutes. We will return to our hotel in the
late afternoon. Overnight: Hotel.
Day 7: Kerlingafjöll & Hveravellir. After breakfast
we will head to Kjölur highland track, which lies between north and south
Iceland and between the Langjökull and Hofsjökull glaciers. We will
spend the morning hiking in the beautiful geothermal area of Kerlingafjöll.
In the afternoon we will arrive at Hveravellir, which is also known for its
geothermal activity. Outlaws, most famously the 18th-century Eyvindur of the
Mountains and his companion, Halla, lived in the highlands for decades as fugitives
from justice, and signs of their presence may still be seen at Hveravellir.
Here we have the opportunity to dip into a warm natural pool before continuing
our travels. In the late afternoon we will arrive at Skagafjörður,
the valley of horse breeders in Iceland, where our accommodation is located.
Day 8: Jökulsárgljúfur National Park. We
will drive in the morning through Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest urban
area, and head to the fishing village Húsavik where we will go on a whale
watching tour in the bay of Skjálfandi. We will then drive past the Tjörnes
Fracture Zone, separating the northern volcanic zone from the rest of Iceland,
and head to National Park Jokulsargljufur. This area has Europe‘s most
powerful waterfall Dettifoss, as well as Ásbyrgi, which is an enormous,
horseshoe-shaped depression. We will hike along a part of this landscape, and
then proceed to our accommodation in the Mývatn area. Lake Mývatn
provides a beautiful contrast to the volcanic background. Overnight: Guesthouse.
Day 9: Askja Crater. We will have an early start today. It
promises to be an exciting but rather long day. From our accommodation we will
embark on the road taking us back into the highlands, but this time to the northern
highlands. We will pass Herðubreið mountain, “the queen”
of Icelandic mountains, and then to the famous Askja crater. Time permitting
we will do a few short hikes. In the late afternoon we will return to the Lake
Myvatn area to our accommodation. Overnight: Guesthouse.
Photo: Pritpal Singh Kochhar
Day 10: Mývatn. The morning will be devoted to visiting
the natural paradise of Lake Myvatn and its surroundings. We will study the
the geology of the young lava formation of the volcano Mt. Krafla, as well as
visit the steaming solfataras at Namaskarð, meaning “sulfur place,"
a natural volcanic steam vent in which sulfur gases are the dominant constituent
along with hot water vapour. We will also have an opportunity to see the resident
birds and fish of the area. After experiencing these sights and smells, we will
start a long drive to the Snæfellsnes peninsula, where we will spend two
nights. Overnight: Hotel.
Day 11: Snæfellsnes peninsula. Today we will explore
the peninsula Snæfellsnes, on the western part of the country, and sometimes
called "Iceland in a Nutshell." We will tour the Snæfellsnes
National Park, and drive around the glacier Snaefellsjokull, the mountain/volcano
where Jules Verne's novel “Journey to the Center of the Earth” started.
Later, we will visit the village Arnarstapi and hike along the dramatic coastline.
Further along, we will travel to a charming old village, Stykkishólmur,
from where we will embark on a nature & bird watching boat tour in Breiðafjörður
bay. Overnight: Hotel.
Day 12: Borgarfjörður & Thingvellir National
Park. After breakfast we will drive to the Borgarfjörður area and visit
the waterfalls Hraunfossar and Barnafoss as well as the hot springs at Deildartunguhver.
We will then head into Kaldidalur mountain pass between the glaciers Langjökull
and Ok and arrive at one of the most interesting historic and geologic places
in Iceland, Thingvellir National Park. This is where the Althing, an open-air
assembly representing the whole of Iceland, was established in 930 and continued
to meet until 1798. The Althing has deep historical and symbolic associations
for the people of Iceland and is today a UNESCO World Heritage site. At this
location we will also eyewitness the mid-ocean rift which splits the American
and European plates, causing the two continents to move apart from each other.
We will proceed to the capital city Reykjavík and have a short sightseeing
tour in the city. In the evening we will enjoy a farewell dinner at a restaurant
in Reykjavík. Overnight: Hotel.
Day 13: The Blue Lagoon & departure. On this last day
we will have a relaxed breakfast and leisurely morning. Our driver will pick
us up from the hotel and drive directly to the unique geothermal spa Blue Lagoon
situated in the middle of a lava field. We will relax in the warm water and
dwell on our Icelandic journey; this will be a perfect end of that adventure.
With plenty of memories from these 12 unforgettable days in Iceland, we'll be
driven by our guide to the airport in time for our flights back home.
Photo: Pritpal Singh Kochhar
Icelandair offers service to several U.S. airports: Baltimore-Washington,
Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York, and Orlando. Keflavik International
Airport is about a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik, the capital. The trip leader
encourages participants to arrive a day or two early in order to get over jet
lag and to explore Reykjavik. Participants arriving on the first official day
of the trip will be picked up at the airport from an early morning flight (6
to 6:30 a.m. arrival). Those arriving early will be picked up at their hotels
on day one.
Accommodations and Food
Clean, comfortable three-star lodgings will typically consist of country hotels
or guesthouses. All accommodations are double rooms with private baths. Participants
who are traveling alone will be paired with another solo participant of the
same gender. Some single rooms may be available for a single supplement. Contact
your trip leader for further information. Meals will be tasty and wholesome.
We will make every effort to accommodate special dietary needs such as vegetarian
This trip is designed for those with a sense of adventure and a desire to
visit areas of immense natural beauty and unique geological wonders. Participants
should be in good condition and capable of hiking on mixed terrain with significant
elevation gain. Self-sufficient teenagers and active seniors are welcome. Short
and long hike options will be available at some places. The longest hike planned
is four miles and the greatest elevation gain on a hike is 1,500 feet. In July
in Reykjavík, the average high temperature is 57 degrees (F), the average
low is 48, and the average monthly rainfall in July is two inches. Some of the
bus rides between stops seem long, particularly when we are on back roads, but
the scenery is always interesting as we drive along.
Equipment and Clothing
Photo: Pritpal Singh Kochhar
For U.S. citizens, a valid passport (no visa) is necessary, but no shots or
immunizations are required. Waterproof, breathable rain gear is necessary, along
with synthetic or wool pants and shirt. Only day packs will be needed for hikes,
as personal gear will be transported by bus. Good hiking boots with ankle support
are required for some hikes. You will receive a more detailed equipment list
from the trip leader well before the trip departs.
- Iceland touring map with place name index, 1:500,000 scale, Landmaelingar
- Iceland, an Insight Guide.
- Cornwallis, Graeme and Deanna Swaney, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe
Islands: A Lonely Planet Guide.
- Fergus, Charles and Peter Baldwin, Summer at Little Lava.
- Harlow, Cathy, Iceland, a Landmark Visitors Guide.
- Lacey, Terry, Ring of Seasons: Iceland, Its Culture and History.
- Roberts, David and John Krakauer, Iceland: Land of the Sagas.
- State Department information: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1138.html
Photo: Pritpal Singh Kochhar
The interaction of technology and nature is an important theme in modern Iceland.
This island country is one of the cleanest places on the planet. Its water and
air have been spared the pollution common to most of the rest of the world,
and Icelanders would like to keep it that way. The Icelandic fishing industry
is quite sophisticated and active. Conservation efforts are underway to protect
and nurture diminishing fish stocks. Whaling has been controversial, and, of
course, most of us are familiar with the home Icelanders gave to the captured
whale Keiko. Geothermal energy provides clean and efficient heat and electricity.
Recent volcanic activity was "tamed" when a lava flow was diverted
and a community spared at Heimay. As we move into the next millennium, the Icelandic
people are making their entire gene pool available for biotechnology research.
Soil erosion is a critical issue. Also, aluminum smelters make use of Iceland’s
abundant energy resources with bauxite shipped from Australia. However, the
development of these resources through new hydroelectric plants and the disposal
of the waste products have caused serious environmental concern.
This trip requires a $200 per-person deposit. An additional payment of $300 per person is due six months prior to trip departure. International trip prices are subject to change and are based on double-occupancy or group accommodations as described above. Single rooms may not be available or may cost more than the listed price. If you have any questions regarding double occupancy, please contact the trip leader.
See the How to Apply for an Outing
section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the
trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing
up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing
approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical
Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on
the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to
the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and
notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
The Sierra Club accurately and fairly budgets and prices our trips. However, unforeseen costs such as devaluation of the dollar compared to other currencies and fuel surcharges assessed by our international providers may necessitate adjustment in trip price. We will make every effort to mitigate and absorb these fees. If a price increase is necessary, however, you will have 14 days after announcement to cancel without penalty.
Pritpal ("Pepi") Singh Kochhar was born in the foothills of the Himalayas and spent the first 25 years of his life in India. In 1976 he moved to New York City and received an M.B.A. from Columbia University. Although he has made the city his home, he has traveled extensively, both solo and in groups. His main passions are the mountains and the sea. He is an avid scuba diver and has led many diving trips. He has been a member of the Sierra Club for years and has traveled to Iceland, Nepal, China, Costa Rica, Thailand, and Turkey on previous Sierra Club trips.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips