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2016 Iceland Itinerary

IcelandLongBanner

2016 Iceland: Fire, Ice & Aurora Overview

Add On
Thursday-Friday Sept. 29 & 30 Add-on Reykjavik Pre-Nights
Day 1
Saturday
October 1
Reyjavik, Iceland - Blue Lagoon
Day 2
Sunday
October 2
Exploring Reykjavik
Day 3
Monday
October 3
Thingvellir Viking Parliament - Geysir Thermal Area - Gullfoss Waterfall
Day 4
Tuesday
October 4
Landmannalaugar Volcanic Zone
Day 5
Wednesday October 5
Thjórsárdalur Valley - Icelandic Highlands
Day 6
Thursday October 6
Iceland's Scenic South Shore
Day 7
Friday October 7
Thórsmörk Nature Reserve
Day 8
Saturday
October 8
Scenic Drive, Bobby Fischer, and Flights Onward
Important: TravelQuest, working with our partners, makes every effort to follow the published itinerary. However, please keep in mind that it is subject to change depending on weather and other local conditions.

Detailed Itinerary

2016Iceland_map_sm
Day 1 - Saturday, October 1, 2016
Reykjavik, Iceland – Blue Lagoon

Arriving in the early morning at Keflavík Airport, we travel by private coach to nearby Reykjanes Peninsula to explore lava flows, volcanic fissures, sulfuric vents, and hot springs. Then, after breakfast, we’re off to the famed Blue Lagoon to relax in steaming, mineral-rich waters known for their curative powers. In the morning light, the lagoon’s aqua hue is unforgettable. In the afternoon, enjoy a private bus tour of Reykjavík, winding through narrow streets lined with timber-framed houses as you learn about the city’s history from its origins in about 871 AD. Highlights include the harbor and the main church, Hallgrímskirkja, whose tower offers panoramic views of the city, neighboring fjord, and distant mountains. The evening is yours to enjoy on your own in Reykjavík.

Overnight: Hotel Marina (2 nights)

Meals: Breakfast
BlueLagoon

Day 2 - Sunday, October 2, 2016
Exploring Reykjavik

Today you’re free to discover Iceland’s historic capital on your own. From our centrally located hotel, it’s a short walk to many of the city’s excellent museums, including the recently renovated National Museum, as well as Reykjavík 871±2, an exhibition on the area’s early settlement that earned high praise from past TravelQuest guests. In the harbor area near our hotel are the Saga and Maritime museums. For shopping, start at the east end of Austurstræti and wander west as the street changes its name to Bankastræti and then Laugavegur. We think you’ll find that Reykjavík has one of the most fascinating – and walkable – city centers you’ve ever encountered.

Meals: Breakfast
GeysirSmall

Day 3 - Monday, October 3, 2016
Thingvellir Viking Parliament - Geysir Thermal Area - Gullfoss Waterfall

After a morning checkout, we travel to Thingvellir National Park to discover Althingi, Iceland’s most sacred site and ancient home of the Viking parliament. Thingvellir – located near Iceland’s largest lake, Thingvallavatn – has a geologically spectacular setting on a vast plain flanked by large fissures. Later, we explore the otherworldly Geysir hot springs area, which is dotted with bubbling, multicolored pools of water and mud. Here the geyser Strokkur erupts to a height of about 25 m (80 ft) every seven minutes or so. After lunch, we travel on to the magnificent Gullfoss (“Golden Waterfall”), perhaps the most beautiful in the country. You can walk right to the edge where the Hvitá River tumbles 32 m (100 ft) in a double cascade – and when the Sun is shining, you may see a rainbow through the massive spray. In late afternoon we arrive at Hótel Lækur, our home base for the next two nights. Set in a stark landscape far from any settlements, the lodge offers perfect dark-sky opportunities for viewing the aurora borealis. After dinner, join us for a discussion of the northern lights and nighttime photography techniques, followed by the first of five evenings of aurora viewing and stargazing.

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Overnight: Hótel Lækur or similar (5 nights)

A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE AURORA BOREALIS

If you think it’s difficult predicting the weather a few days in advance, consider attempting to forecast the appearance of the northern lights as far ahead as October 2016! That’s a tough assignment, and it’s impossible to be completely accurate, but we can make some generalized comments about what you can expect to see.

Currently the Sun remains active, even though the solar cycle is no longer at maximum. For reasons not yet understood, the Sun is more active after solar maximum than before. Consequently, it’s still possible we’ll experience a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), a major solar outburst that often results in spectacular displays of the northern lights.

In addition, we’ll see auroral activity thanks to coronal holes – openings in the Sun’s magnetic field that let its powerful solar wind escape into space. When one of these holes is pointed toward Earth, the result is a lovely show of the northern lights at high-latitude locations such as Iceland.

Unfortunately, astronomers can’t predict the eruption of a CME or the emergence of coronal holes. But when one or the other is observed, they can estimate when the charged solar particles will strike Earth’s atmosphere and cause the aurora to dance. So as well as checking the sky each night, we’ll be monitoring solar activity websites every day.

One more thing. For reasons unknown to astronomers, aurora activity peaks following the spring and autumn equinoxes. This is why we plan to be in the dark skies of the Icelandic countryside shortly after the autumn equinox.

Day 4 - Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Landmannalaugar Volcanic Zone

Today we journey to the volcanic region of Landmannalaugar where, at this time of year, the landscape of colorful rhyolite and black obsidian is sometimes contrasted by a light dusting of snow. Our explorations take us past Mt. Hekla, one of Iceland’s most active volcano (last eruption: February 2000), and to Ljótipollur, literally “Ugly Lake,” a huge water-filled crater formed in the 15th century. Take a dip in a hot spring and stop for a picnic lunch at a mountain hut that’s heated by naturally warmed waters from a nearby brook. After dinner back at the lodge, join us for a second night of aurora viewing.

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner
LandmannalaugarSmall

Day 5: Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Thjórsárdalur Valley - Icelandic Highlands

Today we discover more of the Icelandic Highlands as we travel through the Thjórsádalur Valley, whose rugged terrain is typical of the volcanic landscapes that comprise more than half of Iceland. We stop at Hjálparfoss, a waterfall framed by twisted basalt columns, and also at a reconstructed 12th-century Viking farmhouse. Back to our hotel in the late afternoon.

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner
WaterfallSmall

Day 6: Thursday, October 6, 2016
Iceland's Scenic South Shore

We begin our day with a visit to the thundering 55 m (180 ft) Skógafoss waterfall. Close by is the village of Skógar, a living folk museum whose traditional homes are authentically preserved alongside a modern museum devoted to transportation and household items from Iceland’s past. After lunch, we continue east to view the Mýrdalsjökull and Solheimajökull glaciers, as well as the volcanic black-sand beach of Reynisfjara, with its massive basalt pillars and rock formations. After dinner back at the hotel, join us for another great evening of aurora viewing.

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Day 7 - Friday, October 7, 2016
Thórsmörk Nature Reserve


This morning we drive inland from Iceland’s southern shore, following the Markarfljót River to Thórsmörk Nature Reserve. Surrounded by three glaciers and crisscrossed by rivers, the rugged reserve is one of Iceland’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty – which we explore on foot, enjoying a picnic lunch at a mountain hut. On our drive back to the lodge, we stop at Seljalandsfoss and, conditions permitting, walk behind the thundering waterfall. In the evening, enjoy a farewell dinner followed by your fifth and final night of aurora viewing.

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Day 8 - Saturday, October 8, 2016
Scenic Drive, Bobby Fischer, and Flights Onward


After checkout this morning, we head west to Laugardælir Church Cemetery, outside the town of Selfoss, to visit the resting place of the enigmatic and controversial, Bobby Fischer, the great American chess Grandmaster and the eleventh World Chess Champion. Many consider him the greatest chess player of all time. Continuing, we make our way to the geothermal town of Hveragerði and then make several other scenic stops en route to Keflavík, enjoying lunch along the way. We reach Keflavík Airport in time to catch late-afternoon flights home or on to further adventures.

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch
Add-on: Reykjavik Pre-Nights
Thursday, September 29 & Friday, September 30, 2016

For those wishing to arrive in Reykjavík early, TravelQuest has reserved a limited number of rooms at Hotel Marina, including breakfast and tax.

Meals: Breakfast

Nightly cost: US$270 per person based on 2 people sharing one room. Add US$160 for single occupancy. Please note that your airport-hotel transfer is not included.
Make a Reservation!
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