Print

Day by Day Itinerary

Small Groups: Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

Travel to Iceland, a world away yet tantalizingly close. This OAT travel adventure showcases Iceland's natural beauty and Viking heritage from a truly Icelandic perspective—through its inhabitants. Meet hardy locals who carve a living from both the land and sea in farming communities and fishing villages. Discover the history of this isolated nation preserved in a series of enchanting medieval tales known as the Sagas. In the beautiful capital city of Reykjavik, witness the creativity of a city that harnessed the power of nature to provide sustainable heat and electricity to its inhabitants. Raft on the Hvita River, watch for whales, and journey to within 40 miles of the Arctic Circle at Akureyri. Icelandic culture and traditions, together with the power of nature, combine for an unforgettable adventure in an unspoiled land of stark beauty.

Reykjavik Selfoss Expand All

    Depart from the U.S.

  • Explore the ocean side city of Reykjavik

    After an overnight flight from the U.S., you'll arrive in the early morning at Keflavik Airport in Reykjavik, Iceland. You'll be met by an OAT representative, and transfer to our hotel, then enjoy breakfast. Get acquainted with the neighborhood surrounding your hotel on a walk to the city center with your Trip Leader this afternoon. Later, gather for a Welcome Dinner with your fellow travelers, including those from our Worlds of Fire: Iceland's Westman Islands trip extension.

  • We'll depart Reykjavik after breakfast and head into the rolling meadows of the verdant Borgarfjordur agricultural district, where we'll view one of Iceland's powerful hot springs. In a country known for its thermal hot springs (there are hot springs in 250 districts around the country), the Deildartunguhver thermal area is in a class by itself. Emitting nearly 50 gallons of boiling water per second, it has the highest flow of any hot spring in Europe. The water that emerges here reaches temperatures of 212 degrees F and has been used for heating since 1925, making Iceland a pioneer in sustainable energy.

    Explore Iceland's rolling green landscape

    We'll also view the "magic waterfalls" of Hraunfossar, a 2,900-foot stretch of lava where crystal-clear springs splash through rocks and birch-scrub before tumbling into a river that unexpectedly appears from beneath the lava's edge.

    As we continue through the unspoiled landscape, we enjoy views of colorful mountain cliffs, pristine fjords, and fertile valleys where wild horses graze. This is the region that inspired 13th-century poet and native son Snorri Sturluson, the most celebrated figure in Icelandic/Nordic literature. We'll discover some of Iceland's Saga-like history at the Settlement Center in Borgarnes. This award-winning center retells the Norse settlement of Iceland, giving us an insight into the country's founding.

    After lunch on our own, we drive to Helgafell ("holy mountain"), a sacred hill about 250 feet high. Those who want to hike to the top may earn a wish—if you follow tradition and climb silently to the top without looking back!

    Then we continue to Stykkisholmur, the largest town on scenic Snaefellsnes Peninsula, with important ties to trade and religion. It was once a center of devotion to the Norse god Thor. The town's location makes it an ideal jumping-off point for many of Iceland's highlights, including Snaefellsnes Peninsula National Park.

    Enjoy dinner tonight at our hotel, followed by a vicinity walk to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings.

  • Discover Snaefellsnes peninsula during a tour of Iceland

    This morning in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, we'll explore the area that marks the entry point to Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth.

    We'll continue to the abandoned fishing village of Arnarstapi, known for its constantly changing weather. The village is situated along a coastline punctuated by fascinating geologic features like arches, caves, basalt cliffs, and blowholes. We'll hike to a yellow-sand beach and along the dramatic rocky coastline followed by lunch in the Hellnar valley. Keep an eye out for the tiny elves and huldufólk ("hidden people") said to inhabit this countryside.

    Then we'll discover another side of Icelandic culture on a visit to a shark farm. Here we'll have the opportunity to meet a shark farmer and taste a national delicacy—hákarl, made from aged shark meat and served with a potato liquor called brennivín. It's not for the faint of heart, but our host will help us understand the Icelandic legacy of processing shark meat, as well as the country's maritime history.

    Dinner will be on your own this evening in Stykkisholmur.

    Or, join an optional excursion to beautiful Breidarfjordur Bay. You’ll enjoy a boat cruise around the islands to view the scenic splendor (and myriad birdlife when in season) and dine on fresh seafood for dinner before returning to the hotel. Please note: This optional tour is not available on September-October departures.

  • After breakfast this morning, we'll depart Stykkisholmur for the Eiriksstadir Museum, once the site of the home of Erik the Red, father of the legendary Viking Leif Eiriksson. Known as "Leif the Lucky," Erik's famous son visited North America around 1000 AD, well ahead of Christopher Columbus. The family occupied this farmstead until Leif was six years old, at which time they were exiled and went to Greenland. We'll learn more about their story from historic interpreters at this living museum.

    Explore Iceland on a horseback riding tour

    Then we'll visit a local horse farm to meet affable Icelandic horses first brought to the country by Viking settlers. Icelandic horses are a common sight across the countryside. A unique breed, they've adapted to the local climate with a thick, heavy coat. Though small in size, their strength is formidable, and they're known for their cheery disposition, bravery, intelligence, and smooth gait. We'll learn more about these horses, and their place in Icelandic culture, as we hear firsthand from the family that owns the horse farm. We'll also enjoy lunch at the horse farm.

    Afterwards we'll continue to Akureyri, Iceland's second largest urban area. Situated on the northern fjords just 40 miles from the Arctic Circle, Akureyri is improbably sunny and enjoys a mild climate in spite of its location.

    This evening, we'll have dinner together at our hotel.

  • View whales during a tour of Iceland

    After breakfast this morning, we head for the picturesque fishing village of Dalvik, where we'll set sail on a restored fishing vessel from the harbor for a whale-watching excursion. The onboard staff members are experts on local marine life, and with their help, we hope to spot minke whales, white-beaked dolphins, harbor porpoises and humpback whales in the waters of the Northern Atlantic. Please note: Whale watching is weather dependent and relies upon the cooperation of migratory patterns, which can be difficult to accurately predict. The boat is not exclusive to OAT travelers. If necessary, an alternative activity will be provided.

    Then, we stop at the fishing village of Olafsfjordur, followed by a visit to Siglufjordur, Iceland's northernmost town. At one time, Siglufjordur was the capital of the North Atlantic's herring industry, and after lunch at a local restaurant here, we'll visit a museum dedicated to this once thriving industry. The Herring Era Museum—the only one of its kind in the world—features a variety of cultural exhibits, art works, and personal stories relating to Siglufjordur's rich fishing heritage. There will also be free time to explore the picturesque town on our own.

    Back in Akureyri, you’ll have some free time to relax before enjoying a Home-Hosted Dinner this evening.

  • Explore Godafoss Waterfall and Lake Myvatn

    Today we begin with a visit to Godafoss ("waterfall of the gods"), where the current carries rushing water along a glacial river and over the rocks, falling 40 feet into the pool below. It is said to have gained its name when one of the leaders of the country's parliament disposed of his statues of Norse gods at this waterfall upon the adoption of Christianity as the official religion in the year 1000.

    We'll visit a handcraft workshop run by local women before discovering the Lake Myvatn area, sculpted throughout the ages by volcanic eruptions and renowned for its diverse bird population, with ducks, gyrfalcons, plovers, ptarmigans, and more. We'll explore the pseudo crater field, formed by steam explosions when lava flowed over wet earth, at Skutustadir. Afterwards, we'll visit the whimsical "black castles" lava formations of Dimmuborgir, where a lonely troll is said to have lived. According to legend, he was paid a visit by his friends, and they stayed up dancing and celebrating all night long—until the light of morning turned them to stone. After lunch at a local restaurant, we witness some of Iceland's more recent volcanic activity during a visit to the Krafla caldera and Námaskard geothermic area.

    Then we travel overland back to Akureyri. Upon arrival, we'll explore the city, visiting the harbor and then the Botanical Gardens.

    Dinner tonight is on your own.

  • Explore Godafoss Waterfall and Lake Myvatn

    We transfer to the airport for our flight to Reykjavik after breakfast this morning. Today we'll discover more of Iceland's marvels as we circumnavigate the Golden Circle, a ring of natural highlights: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir hot spring area and Gullfoss waterfall. First, we'll stop at Thingvellir National Park, the location of a major rift between two tectonic plates—the European and North American—which creates a dramatic (and growing) fissure in the land. The snowcapped mountains surrounding this forested plain, dotted with canyons, caves, streams and springs, form a striking natural amphitheater. It's not surprising that the world's oldest Parliament was formed here. Lunch is on our own after the visit at Thingvellir.

    Then we'll visit Geysir, the geyser from which all others take their name, which erupts frequently in dramatic columns of water that shoot into the air. In this area of intense geothermal activity, puddles of water on the ground literally boil.

    We end our Golden Circle tour with a visit to the stunning Gullfoss waterfall, which features three tiers of rushing white water that flow into a hundred-foot deep crevice.

    We'll continue overland to Selfoss/Hveragerdi and check into our hotel. Selfoss is the largest town in South Iceland and the gateway to all that this area of rich farmland and natural wonders has to offer. Located on the banks of the Olfusa River, it is home to around 6,300 inhabitants. We'll have dinner at our hotel this evening.

  • Explore South Iceland on a glacier walk

    After breakfast this morning, we’ll witness the breathtaking landscape of South Iceland firsthand—the river gorges, the farmland, and the waterfalls.

    We'll enjoy an included glacier walk, donning special shoes to stroll across the Solheimajokull glacier with an expert local guide. Afterwards, we’ll journey to the south coast and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. We’ll go off-road driving for an included Super Jeep Tour, introducing you to the black beaches. Our next stop is the wispy Seljalandsfoss (the word foss means “waterfall” in Icelandic). Located near the Seljalands farm, this picturesque waterfall drops about 200 feet over the rocky cliffs country’s southern coastline. We’ll also have views of the Markafljot River, a glacial river sunk into a canyon that in some spots sinks to depths of 180 meters (590 feet).

    Dinner is on your own tonight.

  • Explore Iceland on a glacial river-rafting expedition

    First, we'll enjoy meeting locals as we visit a flower farm that relies on geothermal energy to grow lilies, roses and other species. Then we'll embark upon an exhilarating river-rafting trip on the Hvita glacial river. You'll don wetsuits, helmets, waterproof shoes, and life vests to board inflatable rafts, and take up paddles that you'll use to make your way along the course of the river, passing through serene canyons and over raging rapids. Please note: River rafting may not be available on October departures, depending on weather.

    We then continue to the geothermal power plant at Hellisheidi that, together with four other plants, provides 30% of the electricity needed by the Icelandic people. It is a combined heat and power plant developed to meet increasing demand for energy in an environmentally friendly way. We'll learn more about Iceland's progressive approach to sustainable resources as we tour the plant.

    Afterwards we'll travel to Reykjavik, the world's most northerly capital, and choose from one of the city's many restaurants for dinner on our own.

  • Discover Iceland's Blue Lagoon

    Called the "biggest little city," Reykjavik and its suburbs are home to 180,000 people, more than half the country's population. Its aptly chosen name means "smoky bay," and it is the site where Iceland's first settler, Ingolfur Arnorson, built a farm in AD 874. This morning, join us for a visit to the iconic Blue Lagoon, Iceland's best-known hot spring, where locals and visitors alike enjoy the healing waters and mineral-rich mud of this man-made oasis in the midst of a lava field. You'll have the chance to relax lagoon-side and take a dip in the healing waters.

    After lunch on your own, enjoy leisure time in Reykjavik. Perhaps you'll view the ancient Saga manuscripts at the Culture House, or relax in one of the city's many coffeehouses. Other worthwhile stops include soaring, modern Hallgrimskirkja Church; the old town center, bordered by Tjorn pond; the Parliament building; the Cathedral; and the harbor, where black-and-red whaling vessels remain as relics of the whaling industry.

    Tonight we'll enjoy a Farewell Dinner at our hotel with our fellow travelers.

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, we'll visit the National Museum in Reykjavik. Then we'll transfer to the airport to board your flight home. Travelers taking the post-trip extension, Greenland: Gateway to the Arctic, will visit the National Museum on Day 11 and fly to Greenland this morning. Please note: Depending on your air itinerary, trips returning in September and October will include an extra night in the U.S. upon arrival. This will not apply to travelers whose final destination is New York or Boston.

Extensions

Traveler Reviews

There's no better way to learn what a trip is like than from the firsthand experiences of your fellow travelers, and our Traveler Reviews are the real deal—unbiased and unedited—giving you an honest appraisal of the experiences that await you on this trip.

Have you been on this trip? Share Your Thoughts, Sign In

Please note: If you have taken this trip, please log into your My Account & return to this page. You will be prompted to post your review. Reviews are limited to 10,000 characters. Due to our moderation process, please allow up to 72 hours for your review to appear.

Striving for Excellence

Read about our goals >

Our #1 commitment is delivering the best travel experience at the best value, so we take feedback from our travelers seriously as we strive to improve what we do. And one of the best ways for us to measure how travelers have rated our trips—including their experiences and the value we offer—is from our post-trip surveys, sent in by travelers.

Ratings based on percentage of travelers who rated these features "Excellent".

Overall Trip Excellence
94%
Trip Leader Excellence
95%
loading reviews

Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.  Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

Pacing

  • 4 locations in 11 days; one 1-night stay
  • One 45-minute internal flight

Physical Requirements

  • Not  appropriate for travelers using wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids
  • You must be able to walk at least 3 miles unassisted over the course of each day, participating in 6-8 hours of daily physical activities, exploring on foot, and standing for up to a half-hour at a time

Climate

  • Daytime temperatures range from 44-77° in the warmer summer months to 35-50°F in the fall.
  • Evenings can be chilly, even in summer
  • Iceland is sometimes subject to harsh weather, but the summer months are quite mild

Terrain

  • Travel over some rugged paths, as well as bumpy, gravelly, and sometimes icy roads by motorcoach and on foot
  • One short hike up a small mountain

Transportation

  • Travel by 19-passenger motorcoach, inflatable river rafts, and whale-watching boat
  • One internal flight of 45 minutes

Accommodations & Facilities

  • Hotels feature a variety of Western-style amenities and personal services
  • Rooms and services in rural Iceland may not be comparable to those found in the U.S.

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary:

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens do not need a visa for this trip.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then you may need a visa. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your adventure, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Trip Leaders and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • Hilton Nordica

    Reykjavik, Iceland

    Located in Reykjavik’s business district, this 250-room hotel offers spacious, modern accommodations and views of the surrounding mountains. Nearby are a thermal spa and park, and a free shuttle takes travelers to Laugavegur, the city’s main shopping thoroughfare. Two restaurants, a bar, a beauty salon, and fitness room are available on the grounds.

  • Hotel Stykkisholmur

    Stykkisholmur, Iceland

    This 79-room seaside hotel near Snaefellsjokull National Park in the town of Stykkisholmur offers simple accommodations in Nordic minimalist style. Enjoy views of spectacular Breidafjordur Bay. Rooms feature wireless Internet, telephone, TV, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Icelandair Hotel Akureyri

    Akureyi, Iceland

    The Icelandair Hotel Akureyri is located in the city center, with convenient access to many of the city's landmarks, including the Botanical Garden, the thermal pools, and the towering Akureyrarkirkja, or Church of Akureyri. The hotel features an outdoor swimming pool, golf course, and on-site restaurant. Each of its 63 rooms includes a telephone, flat-screen TV, Internet access, and private bathroom with hair dryer.

  • Hotel Selfoss

    Selfoss, Iceland

    Located on the banks of the Olfuss River, near the shops and restaurants in Selfoss, Hotel Selfoss is a modern hotel with 99 rooms that offer satellite TV, high-speed Internet, minibar, hair dryer, and private bath. Its grounds include a restaurant and movie theater, as well as a spa.

Extensions

  • Hotel Vestmannaeyjar

    Heimaey, Westman Islands, Iceland

    Accounting for about one-third of Heimaey Island’s 8.3 square miles, the town of Heimaey is compact and easily explored on foot. Conveniently located in the center of town, the Hotel Vestmannaeyjar was converted from the first movie theater in Iceland and today offers a sauna, hot tub, and billiards room. Rooms feature a TV, telephone, minibar, and private bath with shower.

  • Hilton Nordica

    Reykjavik, Iceland

    Located in Reykjavik’s business district, this 250-room hotel offers spacious, modern accommodations and views of the surrounding mountains. Nearby are a thermal spa and park, and a free shuttle takes travelers to Laugavegur, the city’s main shopping thoroughfare. Two restaurants, a bar, a beauty salon, and fitness room are available on the grounds.

  • Hotel Kulusuk

    Kulusuk, Greenland

    Hotel Kulusuk on Greenland’s scenic eastern shore is just a short drive from the airport and about a 20-minute walk from Kulusuk village. It offers spectacular views of an ice-filled inlet and snowcapped mountains, along with a restaurant on the premises. Its 34 rooms are equipped with a private shower, TV, and telephone.

Travel to Iceland with OAT and enjoy a whale-watching excursion, see the Godafoss waterfall, tour Reykjavik, and visit the hot springs of Akureyri.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two adventures to maximize your value. Here are more ways to create the OAT adventure that’s right for you:

  • Extend your adventure and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip extensions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
  • International airport transfers to and from your hotel, including meet and greet service, are available for purchase
  • Stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your trip
  • Request to arrive a few days early to get a fresh start on your adventure
  • Choose to “break away” before or after your trip, spending additional days or weeks on your own
  • Combine your choice of OAT adventures to maximize your value
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent traveler miles

The air options listed above will involve an additional fee of $100 per person for confirmed requests (as well as incremental airfare costs based on your specific choice).

Or, when you make your reservation, you can choose our standard air routing, for which approximate travel times are shown below.

Standard Air Routing

w/out standard air $2995
w/ standard air $3695

Private Departures

Explore Iceland in an Exclusive Group

Reserve a Private Departure of Untamed Iceland  for your exclusive group of as few as 8 travelers, and enjoy a truly special adventure for just you and your family or friends—for an additional $300 per person.

For more details—or to reserve your Private Departure—call your Group Sales Account Representative toll-free at 1-800-353-6262 and select Option #3.

Please note: Some restrictions apply. See our Private Departures page for details.

Iceland’s Huldufolk

The surprising secret lives of Iceland’s rumored elves

by Jenny Cowing

Belief in elves is widespread in Iceland, and the magical beings are thought to be ubiquitous yet elusive ...

A belief in nature spirits can be found around the world, from ancient aboriginal Australians to modern Shinto practitioners in Japan. But the affinity Icelanders have for their “hidden people,” the huldufolk, is unique enough to stop traffic—literally!—and also offers unexpected insight into the spiritual side of this secular, intellectual society.

Belief in elves is widespread in Iceland, and the magical beings are thought to be ubiquitous yet elusive, inhabiting flowers and rocks, and often dressing like humans—although their costumes, which evoke 19th-century period dress, help give them away. Some, like the Bualfar, or house elves, are human sized, while Blomalfar, or flower elves, are mere inches tall. Popular folk wisdom holds that elves can most easily be spotted on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve—when they seek new homes in rocks and streams that seem beautiful or strange enough to be enchanted by an unseen power.

Icelanders can petition their local government to divert roads and halt construction of buildings that might disrupt these inhabited “elf stones.” In 2001, Smaralind, one of Iceland’s largest shopping malls, had its electrical wiring and pipes rerouted to avoid a boulder suspected of boarding a family of elves. In the 1970s, construction workers clearing land for a highway near Reykjavik experienced a string of bad luck while trying to move a large boulder that lay in their path. The workers hired a clairvoyant who said he could communicate with the elves. He confirmed that the boulder was home to a family of elves, who agreed to leave—or at least allow the project to continue uninterrupted.

While this may seem curious at first glance, most Icelanders are quick to point out that this practice is more in the interest of inclusiveness and tolerance than in a literal belief in nature spirits. Indeed, Iceland’s population is among the most educated, and its people pride themselves on fostering a secular society that is sensitive to the beliefs of all its citizens.

Few Icelanders claim to have had personal encounters with the huldufolk, who are said to be invisible to most people, unless they choose to reveal themselves. However, The New York Times notes that more than half of those surveyed in 2007 won’t deny that the creatures exist. “It’s not like they think there are little people living in there who come and dance outside,” said Terry Gunnell, head of the Folkloristic Department at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik. “It’s more a sense that there are other powers, other forces around them.”

Anthropologists point to Iceland’s Celtic roots, which have nurtured an affinity for magic and the supernatural. But the prevalence of visitors to supposed elven hotspots demonstrates that a fascination with these enchanted creatures is not just an Icelandic phenomenon. The port town of Hafnarfjordur prides itself on its unusually high elf population, and tourists gather each year to visit so-called elf habitats. Reyjkavik, Iceland’s capital and its largest city, even boasts an Elf School, known locally as Álfaskólinn, which teaches about the country’s different kinds of elves, and offers certificate programs for particularly curious visitors.

Once you see Iceland’s volcanoes, geysers, and icebergs illuminated by Aurora Borealis’ cosmic fireworks, it’s hard not to think of a fantasy world like The Lord of the Rings’ Middle Earth. Is it any wonder that folklore fancy of elves persists in Icelandic culture? This small island’s haunting landscape, wrought by ice and fire—after all, Iceland sits atop a volcanic hotspot—has long sparked the imagination of visitors and lifelong residents alike. “We think nature is a lot stronger than man,” Björk, one of Iceland’s best-known musicians, told the New Yorker in an interview. Björk’s otherworldly voice, eclectic compositions, and avant-garde costumes lend an ethereal quality to her performances that perfectly reflects her country’s love of magic with a touch of whimsy. This sentiment may be one of Iceland’s greatest treasures. Even in such a secular society, she says, “a relationship with things spiritual has not gone away.”