Arrive in Reykjavik, the world’s northernmost capital, which lies only a fraction below the Arctic Circle, This city receives just four hours of sunlight in winter and 22 in summer. Have a guided overview of the Old Town, including Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral with its 210-foot tower, and perhaps shed some light on Nordic culture at the National Museum, with its Viking treasures and artifacts, and unusual whalebone carvings on display. Embark National Geographic Explorer.
National Geographic Explorer navigates Iceland’s wild western frontier, sailing past the immense Latrabjarg cliffs, the westernmost point of Iceland and home to a huge population of razorbills. The cliffs are an area once famous for egg collecting; the men were tied to ropes and lowered like spiders down onto the ledges. Continue to Flatey Island, a trading post for many centuries, for walks around the charming little hamlet that grew here, and take a Zodiac cruise along the coast.
Located in the Western Fjords, Ísafjördur is surrounded by water on three sides, sculpted by glaciers. Renowned for its traditional eider down production, it is a picture postcard of traditional Icelandic life and a great place for hiking, kayaking and for spotting eider ducks.
Siglufjordur was the center of Iceland’s once-thriving herring industry. Stop by the Herring Museum for a talk and a tasting. Continue to picturesque Akureyri, backed by snow-capped mountains. Explore the old town, with its beautifully maintained period houses, or visit the botanical garden.
Drive to Mývatn, the most geologically active area in Iceland. This is world-class field geology! See the bizarre mud pools at Hverarönd — so hot they actually bubble. At the Krafla geothermal area see the explosion crater at Viti and continue to an unforgettable sight: Godafoss, the waterfall of the gods. Meet the ship in Húsavík, and watch for whales as you sail north to the land of the midnight sun. Take Zodiacs ashore to the tiny island of Grimsey, which lies exactly on the Arctic Circle. Here celebrate being officially in the Arctic, in the company of nesting arctic terns, fulmars, and puffins in burrows, all bathing, courting and fishing — another wonderful photo op.
With plenty of rarely-visited coastline, this day is left open to explore Iceland’s rugged east coast. Join your naturalists for a hike or a Zodiac cruise to get a better view of the beautiful stacks at the end of the peninsula. Or, conditions permitting, have your first chance to kayak today under the steep cliffs.
Today see firsthand how the country got its chilly name. From Djúpivogur, explore the vast Vatnajökull ice cap, third largest in the world. For a closer look at the ice, take a boat ride through Jökulsárlón, a lagoon strewn with large, sculpted icebergs, or you may take a snowmobile ride across the ice. Photo lovers may set off together with the National Geographic photographer.
The Westman Islands were formed by undersea volcanoes between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago and are among the youngest of the world’s archipelagos. In 1963, the world witnessed on film the birth of its newest island, Surtsey — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — which you will see while cruising past the coast. In 1973, Heimaey was threatened by lava flows that nearly closed off its harbor. Visit the crater, where the earth is still hot, and have amazing views of areas that had been engulfed by lava.
Today complete your circumnavigation of Iceland, disembarking in Reykjavík. Stop by the famous Blue Lagoon thermal baths, prior to your flight home. Whether you choose to enjoy the surreal bath and spa facilities or just stroll around the fascinating environs, the Blue Lagoon is unforgettable!
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