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  • 1

    Start Reykjavik.

    Our trip begins at our Reykjavik hotel where we have a welcome briefing at 1830. The leader will then suggest a venue for the first evening dinner so group members can get to know each other. You are of course free to dine where you choose.

  • 2

    Set off east, taking in Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls and the visitor centre at Thorvaldseyri farm, below Eyafjallajokull; on past Vik to the sea stacks at Reynisdrangar.

    Beyond Reykjavik lies a vast country of geological phenomena that the average visitor to Iceland does not get to see. We start however with some of the better known. Driving east we stop first at Seljalandsfoss. 'Foss' in Icelandic means waterfall, a fact that will become evident during the week. Here the water drops 60m from the former coastline and visitors can walk behind the water for a unique experience. From here we journey on to Skogafoss, an altogether different proposition, at an impressive 25m wide and 60m high. Approaching from the front the roar and spray are impressive, and steps are set into the ground leading up to a viewing platform just above the huge drop. From here the views across the plains are also worth taking in. Continueing on we stop at the Thorvaldseyri visitor centre below the Eyafjallajokull volcano. This was set up by the farmers who charted their experiences of the eruption and its aftermath on film and we watch this short documentary for a fascinating view of what life was like during that period. Our final visit of the day is Reynisfjara volcanic beach near the village of Vik, where we explore the basalt columns and see the famous sea stacks. We then jump back on the minibus and drive to our overnight hotel near Skaftafell. This is approximately a 2 hour drive, a good opportunity to review the days photos and learn more about the country from your leader. **

  • 3

    Visit Skaftafell and enjoy an easy glacier walk on Svinafellsjokull or Solheimajokull Glacier.

    We explore the visitor centre in Skaftafell and see a fascinating short film on the eruptions under the Vatnajokull glacier and the catastrophic floods which occurred in 1996 after the eruption in Grimsvotn. We take the short (approx 20mins) trip to Skaftafell, part of the Vatnajokull National Park. The highlight of the day is a walk on one of the nearby glacial tongues that run down from the ice cap. Having picked up our gear we get as close to the glacier as possible in the bus, before getting ready. Our leader instructs us on how to don the helmet, harness and crampons. Though this may sound impressive, we are not about to go ice climbing. Instead we stick to the flat terrain. Crampons are needed for grip, as we are walking on ice while the helmet and harness are only precautionary and the walk is not at all taxing. We see some magical ice formations here as we explore this world of ice. Please note it may be necessary to use Solheimjokull glacier under certain circumstances, though this is an equally enchanting experience. We end the day returning to our hotel in Skaftafell. **

  • 4

    Drive to Jokulsarlon, the glacial lagoon filled with mesmerising icebergs; walk down to the coast to enjoy the beached icebergs and ice formations. Afternoon ice cave visit (conditions permitting).

    The glacial lagoon at Jokulsarlon is about 30 minutes drive from our hotel and worth dedicating a good amount of time to. As we drive over the bridge we get our first glimpse of the floating icebergs. The lagoon itself was created when the glacier retreated from the shore, and the icebergs are chunks of this glacier that detach and float down the water. The icebergs eventually float down a small stream into the sea and are then thrown back onto the shore by the waves. We take the short walk down to the beach onto which the ice is pushed. This produces a short stretch of coast littered with all shapes and sizes of glacial ice. It's like visiting an exhibition of ice sculptures and provides a wealth of photo opportunities. If conditions allow we will visit an ice cave in the afternoon. Ice caves are only accessible in winter, when the rivers that run underneath the glaciers freeze as the temperature drops below zero. When this happens the tunnels they have carved out become accessible. At the end of the day we return to our hotel in Skaftafell. **

  • 5

    We see Gullfoss Waterfall before travelling to Geysir and the rift valley at Thingvellir.

    Today is packed full of more geological wonders as we drive back west towards Reykjavik. We visit Gullfoss Waterfall. Gullfoss means 'Golden Waterfall' in Icelandic, and it is a magnificent sight. Located on the Hvita River, the water rushes down from the Langjokull glacier and drops 32m down the 'steps' into the canyon. It is a fantastic sight that was nearly given over to hydro electricity in the early part of the 20th century when an English investor tried to acquire it from the local farmer. The struggle of his daughter to prevent this is recognised by a small plaque bearing her image near the falls. We then continue on to Geysir. This geothermal area has numerous geysers of differing sizes, from Litli up to Strokkur which hurls water high into the air. The area is awash with red mud and the smell of sulphur in an area that has been geothermically active for nearly 10,000 years. After time spent here we drive to the national park at Thingvellir. This was the site of Iceland's first parliament in 930 and today is a protected area boasting lava formations and the famous rift valley. Thingvellir is on a fissure that runs through Iceland, as the country is situated on the plate boundaries that create the Mid Atlantic Ridge. The rift is constantly, though slowly, expanding as the Eurasion and North American plates are pulling apart. At the end of the day we transfer to our hotel in the town of Hveragerdi. **

  • 6

    Tour of the Hellisheidarvirkjun geothermal heating plant nestled below the mountains; into the Blue Mountains for and easy walk past lava flows to a dormant crater.

    Iceland is synonymous with natural, sustainable energy from its abundant natural resources. The advent in Iceland of technology capable of harnessing it has transformed the economy and therefore the country. This is why we spend the morning at the Hellisheidarvirkjun geothermal heating plant at the foot of Mt Hengill, a 45 minute drive from our hotel. This is the second largest such station in the world and was built to service the increasing demand from Reykjavik. The visitor centre is a state-of-the-art look at how the natural energy available is harnessed. There are presentations and multimedia shows provided by an experienced guide to showcase the processes and technologies at work. The afternoon sees us drive into the Blue Mountains, leaving our bus for an easy snowshoe walk, about 1.5 hours at an easy pace to the dormant craters in the area. The walk itself is also interesting as we cover see some of the unique volcanic geology. We need snowshoes purely to walk easily and comfortably over the snow. It is not at all technical, as they strap on over walking boots. We do though recommend shoes with ankle support as terrain may be uneven. The day ends with a transfer of around 40 minutes to Reykjavik. **

  • 7

    Free day in Reykjavik for optional excursions such as snowmobiling or exploring the city.

    Today is free to explore Reykjavik.There are many options, both in the city and further afield. The Hallgrimmskirkja is worth visiting. This Lutheran church is the largest in Iceland and commissioned in 1937. Visitors can access the main floor, and for a fee take a lift up the bell tower for a great 360 degree view over Reykjavik. The Harpa Concert Hall is another option, and is another of the capital's main landmarks. This one was nearly not completed, after the financial crisis caused funds to dry up. Ultimately the government stepped in to ensure the completion and today it holds concerts and conferences and is very much a part of Icelandic culture. Other excursions include whale watching or the famous Blue Lagoon, a prime tourist attraction of geothermally heated pools. Regular shuttle services run out and back, making it easily accessible. Alternatively you may wish to simply stroll through the centre, enjoying the vibrant café culture. We spend our final night in Reykjavik. **

  • 8

    Morning visit to Leidarendi lava tube cave; afternoon transfer to Keflavik; fly to London.

    Though this is the final day, the excursions are not over. The Leidarendi lava tube cave is located in a lava field about 25 minutes from Reykjavik. Iceland has numerous lava tube caves, all unique with twisting formations and colours. After a morning here we transfer to the airport for those on the group flights. **

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