The tour will focus on the natural highlights of this spectacular country, which is often referred to as "the land of water, ice and fire". There will be the chance to see dramatic waterfalls and fast flowing rivers fed by the meltwater from ice-caps. We will spend time viewing hot springs, geysers and bubbling mudpools, together with lava flows and volcanic craters from this country which is geologically very recent. Our venture into the interior, only accessible for a few months in summer, will take us over a rugged landscape that is covered in snow and ice for most of the year. All excursions will be escorted. The visit is open to all adults. Those who have some knowledge of geology will learn more about volcanoes. Those who have never studied the subject will hopefully develop an interest. The party will be led by Alan Clewlow, an experienced geologist who will be on hand to offer advice and some explanation of the features seen and guidance around the area. It will also offer a superb opportunity for photography, and for those with an interest in bird-watching, flora and fauna, including the chance to take part in whale-watching, there will be much to see.
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Leave Heathrow on early afternoon flight to Keflavik. Transfer to the Hotel Reykjavik in the capital for overnight stay. Free time in evening to explore Reykjavik. (For those who would prefer it, an alternative flight from Glasgow or Manchester can possibly be arranged).
Pick up charter coach from hotel, then on to þingvellir National Park. Here, there are a series of deep rifts in the surface, from which basalt lava has poured. This area lies on the Mid-Atlantic ridge and forms the boundary between the Eurasian and North American Plate. We then journey to Geysir. There are many hot springs here, but the biggest attraction is the geyser called Strokkur, which sends up a spurt of boiling water up to 30m. every few minutes. We continue on to Gullfoss, a huge waterfall and gorge below which has been classed as Iceland's major tourist attraction. The coach then continues through the rugged interior north-east to Akureyri, Iceland's second largest town, for our overnight stop. On the journey, we pass the huge Langjökull ice-cap and have a short stop to see the hot springs at Hveravellir.
The day starts with a journey east to Lake Myvatn. Once there, we will spend most of the first day in the area of Krafla, scene of the famous "Krafla fires" eruptions from 1977 to 1984. We will visit the Viti ("Hell") crater, near the Krafla geothermal power station, and other sites close by, including the most recent lava flow.We then check into the hotel at Reykjahlið at the northern end of the lake, which will be our base for the next four nights.
We start with a journey north-west to Husavik, on the coast and only a few miles from the Arctic Circle. This is the main centre for "Whale Watching" trips in Iceland, which has been included in the itinerary, as an optional excursion (estimated cost £30). Those who do not wish to take part will be able to spend some time exploring the town. After lunch, we will look at sites on the Tjörnes peninsular, including a coastal section packed with Pleistocene fossils (mainly bivalves and gastropods).
The day involves a journey through the remote interior, on some difficult tracks, passing dramatic mountain scenery including Herðubreið, the highest table-mountain in Iceland, to the spectacular caldera at Askja. There will be time to see the Viti crater and the caldera lake of Oskjuvatn (both of which formed as a result of the 1875 explosive eruption). For those who wish, there is the chance to bathe in the waters of the Viti crater, kept warm by geothermal springs.
The day will be spent looking at various sites around Myvatn, with the opportunity to see, among other things, the best rootless craters in Iceland at Skutustadir, lava pillars at Dimmuborgir, and a spot at Grotagja where the Eurasian and North American plates are separating ~ the rate of separation being measured by an iron bar. There are also lava tunnels, warm springs and an optional walk to the summit of the explosion crater at Hverfjall. There will be time to visit the new Myvatn Nature Baths (similar to the "Blue Lagoon" near Keflavik).
After breakfast, we follow a route east, then turn NW after crossing the Jökulsá á Fjollum, Iceland's second longest river, and enter the area of the Jokulsárgljúfur National Park. Eventually, we reach Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful waterfall and regarded by many as the most spectacular of many in Iceland. From here, we continue to the deep gorge of Asbyrgi. We then proceed to Akureyri airport for an internal flight back to Reykjavik, staying again at the Hotel Reykjavik.
Free morning, with the chance to visit museums and other sights in Reykjavik. Afternoon bus-transfer to Keflavik airport for return journey to UK, arriving mid-evening. Those who wish to can use the free time to visit the famous "Blue Lagoon."
(Please note that this might have to be amended due to weather conditions, but hopefully all planned activities will take place. The itinerary has been planned with a certain amount of flexibility so that adverse weather on one day should not prevent a planned visit to a site being cancelled completely.)
The cost of the visit, based on half-board is £1595. This includes flights by Icelandair from Heathrow to Keflavik and return (and airport taxes), bus transfers, internal flight and coach-charter on the itinerary listed above. Included in the cost is accommodation (two nights at Hotel Reykjavik, one night at Kea Hotel Akureyri, and four nights at Hotel Reynihlið Myvatn) Accommodation is based on two-people sharing twin rooms, though alternative arrangements are possible. All evening meals and breakfasts are included in the price (except for the two evenings in Reykjavik). We will aim to stop at localities where lunch can be purchased, or packed lunches can be supplied (at a small extra cost). NB. All those taking part in the tour are expected to arrange their own holiday insurance, which can be obtained from any travel agent or insurance broker.