The Ultimate Iceland


13 Nights of Whispering Iceland


ARR Reykjavík

On arrival transfer to hotel. Day at leisure

day 1

Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Settle behind the wheel and leave Reykjavík around 9am, stopping at the Settlement Center museum in Borgarnes for an entertaining multimedia primer on early Icelandic history (the museum opens at 10am). The remains of the day are spent touring the circumference of Snæfellsnes peninsula. From the village of Arnarstapi, on the peninsula’s south coast, enlist for a snowmobile or snow cat tour of Snæfellsjökull, then take a 2-hour walk along the sculpted lava coastline between Arnarstapi and Hellnar. Stroll through Djúpalónssandur, a picturesque beach tucked inside a rocky cove, and drive through the gnarled, surreal lava field Berserkjahraun. Spend the night in Stykkishólmur.

day 2

Stykkishólmur to Breiðavík

Witness the uncountable islands and shallow marine habitat of Breiðafjörður — chowing raw shellfish straight from the shell — on the 11am “Unique Adventure” boat tour from Stykkishólmur. Then board the 3:30pm car ferry to Brjánslækur on the Westfjords’ south coast. Forming the convoluted claw-shape in Iceland’s northwest corner, the Westfjords have been criminally overlooked by the tourist industry. Drive to Látrabjarg Peninsula and stay overnight at Breiðavík, winding down with a stroll on the white sands of the idyllic bay.

day 3

Látrabjarg to Ísafjörður

Today’s main event is a 2- to 3-hour hike along the rim of Látrabjarg, Europe’s largest sea cliff; sidle up to the ledges for mesmerizing views of the crashing surf and countless multitudes of puffins and other nesting birds. Stop at Dynjandi — an entrancing waterfall shaped like a wedding cake — en route to Ísafjörður, the Westfjords’ appealing capital, where you’ll spend the next 2 nights. Get a feel for this charmed and worldly enclave by circulating among its cafes after dinner.

day 4

Ísafjörður & Environs

Having spent the last 3 days driving quite intensely, change pace with a day excursion to Hornstrandir, Iceland’s most wild and pristine coastal nature reserve. (For the most part, day tours of Hornstrandir are practical only in July and Aug.) Walk through diversely vegetated meadows and tundra, observe native arctic foxes, and inspect the eerie remnants of abandoned settlements.

day 5

Ísafjörður to Djúpavík

Drive along the winding coastline of Ísafjarðardjúp Bay to the Heydalur Country Hotel, and chat up the resident parrot over lunch in a converted barn. Choose among Heydalur’s recreational activities — sea kayaking, horseback riding, fishing, and hiking — relaxing afterward in the natural geothermal pool. Proceed to the rugged and entrancing Strandir Coast, arriving at the characterful Hótel Djúpavík by dinnertime. Your next 2 nights are spent here.

day 6

Djúpavík & Environs

After breakfast, take the 5km (3 miles) loop hike behind the hotel to a plateau with fabulous views overlooking the fjord. Tour Djúpavík’s abandoned herring factory after lunch. After dinner, drive to the sublime Krossneslaug geothermal pool for an “only in Iceland” twilight swim overlooking a black pebble beach.

day 7

Strandir Coast to Akureyri

The lengthy drive to Akureyri — Iceland’s northern capital — consumes most of the day, but there’s time for a short detour to the Glaumbær folk museum. Glaumbær is the best of Iceland’s many museums dedicated to preserving 19th-century turf-roofed farmhouses, which are vital repositories of Icelandic cultural memory. Reach Akureyri by dinnertime.

day 8

Akureyri to Mývatn- Krafla

After breakfast, visit the Akureyri Church, with its distinctive and appealingly grandiose Art Deco twin spires. Relax at a cafe along the main pedestrian strip, then continue east on the Ring Road. Look in at Safnasafnið, a compelling and innovative art museum seeking to transcend the divide between contemporary and folk art. The next road stop is the elegantGoðafoss waterfall. Shortly farther is the region of Mývatn-Krafla, with its astonishing concentration and variety of volcanic marvels. For your first sampling, drive just east of lake Mývatn to the geothermal field Hverir, and to Leirhnjúkur, a menacingly strange and beautiful expanse of still-smoldering lava. Plan to spend 2 nights here.


day 9


Today is devoted to a circuit of Mývatn, taking in the steaming Grjótagjá fissure, the tephra explosion crater Hverfell, the Kalfarströnd lava columns, the Skútustaðagígar pseudocraters, and Europe’s most diverse waterfowl habitat. Finish off the day at Mývatn Nature Baths with a swim in a bath-temperature, mineral-rich lake fed by underground hot springs.

day 10

Húsavík & Whale-Watching

Drive to Húsavík and bone up at the Whale Museum before embarking on a 3-hour whale-watching tour (pray for humpbacks, the star performers of the whale world, to make an appearance). Afterward, choose between the Húsavík Museum, crammed with regional folk artifacts, and the Phallological Museum, crammed with mammalian members. Stock up on groceries, and, after dinner in Húsavík, drive east on Route 85 and spend the next 2 nights near the north end of Jökulsárgljúfur National Park.

day 11

Jökulsárgljúfur National Park

Today boils down to two hikes — both as easy or as strenuous as you choose to make them — amid the wondrous scenery of Iceland’s most renowned glacial river canyon. The first hike explores Ásbyrgi, a lushly forested, horseshoe-shaped gorge. The second explores the lovely honeycombed basalt formations of Hljóðaklettar, and the red-tinted Rauðhólar crater row.

day 12

Dettifoss & Selfoss

Drive down the canyon’s eastern side to Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful and awe-inspiring waterfall. From Dettifoss, take the short hike to Selfoss, a more demure but equally interesting cascade along a broad arc. Return to Akureyri for a final night on the town.

day 13

The Blue Lagoon

Drop off the car and fly to Reykjavík (or directly to Keflavík International Airport) first thing in the morning. Take a Tþingvallaleið bus from Reykjavík or Keflavík to the Blue Lagoon spa — Iceland’s number one tourist attraction — then bathe and exfoliate to your heart’s content until it’s time to catch your flight home.

day 14