Secret Iceland: Small-Group Journey with Travel Darlings

We could easily go into paroxysms of delight to describe Iceland; instead, we’ll allow the rather stirring words of the Icelandic poet Jónas Hallgrímson to do it for us. He wrote in 1835: “Charming and fair is the land, snow white the peaks of the glaciers. Cloudless and blue is the sky, the ocean shining resplendently bright.”

Iceland is a land sculpted by lava and ice, where geysers burst and glaciers gleam and emerald valleys stretch all the way to the ocean. With its rugged volcanically-active terrain, few countries showcase the activity of Mother Nature better – a perfect confluence of the surreal and the beautiful. Returning travelers’ tales suggest that, for a few wonderful days, normal life is suspended.

Highlights

  • Escape the crowds and witness staggering Icelandic landscapes rarely seen by most tourists
  • Feel the wind in your hair, see inside of caves, and get way off the beaten track on a thrilling 3 hour ATV excursion
  • Explore the astonishing mostly impenetrable Landmannalaugar with its mind-blowing multicolored mountains and soothing hot springs.
  • Soak in secret hot springs like locals and travelers “in the know”
  • Get up close and personal with the luminous-blue icebergs at the less touristy Fjallsarlon on our intimate (10 person) Zodiac boats.
  • Try for yourself how it feels to walk on ice as you explore the wonderland of ice sculptures at Sólheimakökull glacier
  • See small fishing villages, bizarre rock formations, and nesting cliff birds on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
  • Award winning expert guide who has guided National Geographic photojournalists and avid adventure groups alike
  • Tight-knit small group of like-minded travelers
Dates: August 26th – September 4th, 2017
Group Size: Max 12
Activity Level: Easy +

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Travel Program

Day 1 – Saturday – August 26: Arrival, Reykjavik

Depart on an overnight flight to Iceland. Air travel is not included but Travel Darlings would be delighted to assist with optimal flight bookings.
Overnight : in flight

Day 2 – August 27 – Sunday: Reykjavik

Upon arrival to Keflavik airport, make your own way to our hotel in Central Reykjavik.. Public buses are easy and frequent. Drop off the luggage and if the spirit moves you, go for a short stroll and find a bite to eat to acquaint yourself with your surroundings.

Later today, we meet our private guide for a panoramic walking tour of Reykjavik.
Tonight, join fellow guests and our guide for a bonding dinner at one of the legendary Reykjavik restaurants.
Overnight: CenterHotel Midgardur – Standard Room Category

Day 3 – August 28 – Monday: Landmannalaugar, Fjallabak Nature Reserve, Hella

Today you will explore the astonishing Landmannalaugar, a natural treasure hidden in the center of Iceland’s mountainous highlands.
Mind-blowing multicolored mountains, soothing hot springs, rambling lava flows and clear blue lakes make Landmannalaugar one of Iceland’s most unique destinations, and a must for explorers of the interior. It’s a favorite escape with Icelanders and travelers in the know.

We drive through Thorsardalur to Hrauneyjar and into the interior of south Iceland. You are very lucky to be able to do this as climate for this is very limited and often unreachable. One of the major highlights not to be missed! ***Have your bathing suit and towel on hand.

The route leads us through the Þjórsárdalur valley. We’ll stop at the lovely Hjálparfoss waterfall before continuing into the extraordinary landscape around the water-filled Ljótipollur crater and at last the hot springs of the Landmannalaugar oasis.

Here you get a chance to bathe in the famous natural hot springs getting in touch with this astounding piece of nature for complete relaxation.
We end our day in a town called Hella
Overnight: Stracta Hotel – Superior Room Category

Day 4 – August 29 – Tuesday: Hvolsvollur ATVs, Thorsmork, Hella

After breakfast, we head to Hvolsvollur. Begin the day with a thrilling ATV tour – without fail a chief highlight of every client. This is as off the beaten path as it gets and while the masses are standing in lines elsewhere, it’ll feel as though we have the land to ourselves.

After the ride, we devote the rest of the day to explore a truly unearthly landscape, Thorsmork, a bright pearl in the string of beautiful landscapes in Iceland.

This is where our all-wheel drive comes in handy as it’s otherwise impossible to reach except by mountain vehicles. You’ll see a multitude of small ravines and valleys, clad with low birch-trees that create seemingly endless possibilities for the photographer in all of us. More than 170 plants, moss and lichen species reside in this lush area, which was a fjord some 12,000 years ago. The outlet glaciers tumble and crawl down into the canyons, some of them ending in spectacular glacial lagoons. The glacial melt-off forms rivers that have to be crossed and our skilled driver will take you safely across any river. Hiking opportunities abound!

End our day in a town called Hella
Overnight: Stracta Hotel – Superior Room Category

Day 5 – August 30 – Wednesday: Fjallsarlon, Jökulsárlón, Vik, Skogar

Today we will be humbled by the ravishing beauty of Icelandic glaciers – one of our favorite natural treasures of this country.

After breakfast, meet our guide and start the drive east towards two glacier lagoons – Fjallsarlon and Jökulsárlón (the long awaited Jökulsárlón Lagoon is considered by some to be the most awe-inspiring sight in the entire country). Hard to say which one is more spectacular since Fjallsarlon is less touristy and much more intimate, but why not see both. It’s a long drive, but certainly worth it (3.5 hours).

Embark on the Zodiac boat tour at Fjallsarlon during which we are able to cover large areas of the lagoon and get as close to the icebergs as possible as the small boat goes almost all the way up to the glacier. Truly an astonishing experience.

Continue to the nearby Jökulsárlón. A host of spectacular, luminous-blue icebergs drift through Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, right beside the Ring Road between Höfn and Skaftafell. It’s worth spending at least an hour here, admiring the wondrous ice sculptures (some of them striped with ash layers from volcanic eruptions), snapping (and posing) for 100s of photos, or scouting for harbor seals.

At the end of the day, we’ll have a whistle stop in the village of Vík, the southernmost village in Iceland. Take a peek into the wool factory and watch the knitting machines at work or check out the famous Vik wool woolen goods at the little shop attached to the factory.

For dinner, we recommend Hotel Skogafoss Bistro Bar (with the views to die for of the colossal Skogafoss waterfall).
Overnight: Hotel Skogafoss – Standard Room Category

Day 6 – August 31 – Thursday: Skógafoss, Sólheimakökull Glacier, Reykjavik

In the morning, we take a short stroll from our hotel to see Iceland’s most beautiful (and dizzyingly high) waterfall, Skógafoss.
Check out of the hotel, back into our vehicle and on to hike the glacier! At the Sólheimakökull glacier, try for yourself how it feels to walk on ice. As we explore the wonderland of ice sculptures, ridges, and deep crevasses, you will learn a ton about these disappearing giants. Our expert guide will teach you how to use basic glacier equipment. This is a very easy hike, but in our opinion, a must do in Iceland even if you’ve done it elsewhere. And if you haven’t, there are no words to describe the feeling when walking on the glacier. You simply have to live it!
On our way back to Reykjavik we visit all the heavy hitters of the South Coast.
Vast black lava beaches as far as they eye can see, massive waterfalls, fascinating rock formations and enchanting glacier tongues, all within an arm’s reach.
The rock formations of Reynisdrangar are a signature landmark.
Overnight: CenterHotel Midgardur – Deluxe Room Category

Day 7 – September 1 – Friday: Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Reykjavik

Today we encounter the stupendous scenery of the barely explored Snaefellsnes peninsula. Sparkling fjords, dramatic volcanic peaks, sheer sea cliffs, sweeping golden beaches and crunchy lava flows make up the diverse and fascinating landscape which is sometimes called Iceland in Miniature due to its vast diversity.

We begin with a walk along the shell sand beach at the abandoned fishing village of Budir, surrounded by a vast lava field. We also explore the caves and bizarre rock formations along the rugged shore at Arnarstapi and Hellnar, site of thousands of nesting cliff birds. These charming villages are steeped in magic and folklore

Proceed to Snæfellsjökull. Often called the crown jewel of the peninsula, Snæfellsjökull is a magnificent, cone-shaped volcano adorned with ice throughout the year. You will have a chance to wander along a gorgeous black beach, Djúpalónssandur, the cliffs of which are home to many nesting seabirds.

Day 8 – September 2 – Saturday: Golden Circle, Reykjavik

Today’s iconic tour encompasses the “big three” – Thingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss. They are collectively known as the Golden Circle, the scenic wonders for which Iceland is justly renowned.

First stop is Thingvellir National Park, known both for its historic import and as the place where the fissure between the tectonic plates of North America and Europe is most evident. It’s also a gem of nature, with canyons, caves, waterfalls, and ponds surrounded by snowcapped mountains. We learn about the historic parliament founded here by the Vikings in 930 ce, and walk along a gorge into the rift valley itself. After Thingvellir National Park, we depart for famed Great Geysir and Gullfoss, Iceland’s immensely popular “golden” waterfall. The geyser erupts every few minutes, reaching heights between 20-40 metres. It is 100% guaranteed you won’t miss this spectacle of nature.
Overnight: CenterHotel Midgardur – Deluxe Room Category

Day 9 – September 3 – Sunday: Reykjavik, Keflavik

This morning enjoy time at leisure to do as you wish. Perhaps do some shopping and check out the latest fashions at Reykjavik’s shabby chic boutiques. Or consider paying a visit to the Laugardalur Park – a Reykjavik institution In addition to the serene environs, Laugardalur Park offers natural hot tubs, or “hot pots.” You can soak in one of these outdoor hot pots or relax in a geothermal pool.

After lunch, our private driver will transfer us to our hotel in Keflavik. Those who wish can join in an optional visit to the Blue Lagoon for a soothing bath in geothermal waters rich with silica, sulfur, and other minerals (admissions pre-arranged upon request).
Tonight, join us for a jolly farewell dinner as a group.

Overnight: Bergas Guesthouse – Superior Room Category

Day 10 – September 4 – Monday: Keflavik, United States

It’s time to say goodbye to this magical land. Make your own way to the airport for your flight home (7 min taxi ride from our hotel).

Price: $3,750

Based on Double Occupancy

Dates: August 26th – September 4th, 2017

Group Size:Max 12