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The amazing Godafoss Waterfall

Circumnavigating Iceland: The Land of Elves, Sagas, and Volcanoes

Reykjavik - Reykjavik - Example 11 Day Cruise aboard MS Fram
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Discover remote fishing villages, spectacular bird colonies and the picturesque fjords, lakes and mountain peaks of Iceland, the land of ice and fire on this 11-day circumnavigation cruise aboard MS Fram. Depart from the vibrant city of Reykjavik, a modern city with fascinating natural and cultural histories. Each stop will provide a unique experience of Iceland: admire basalt cliffs and black sand beaches near Stykkishólmur, and enjoy scenic hiking trails to waterfalls and birdwatching sites near Patreksfjördur. Get a glimpse into the past with a visit to remote ruins near Djupavik, and marvel at the famous Goðafoss waterfall. Step across the Arctic Circle on Grimsey island, and keep your eyes peeled for whales and seabirds around Husavik. 
Whale Watching off the coast of Reykjavik in IcelandHistoric town of Husavik on the North CoastAn Arctic snack on the cliffsSceneryHallgrimskirkja Church in ReykjavikExplore the Herring Era Museum on your Iceland cruiseThe amazing Godafoss Waterfall
  • See the fantastic Snæfellsnes Peninsula National Park
  • Enjoy hikes through stunning landscapes to see waterfalls
  • Watch for whales near Husavik
  • Step across the Arctic Circle on Grimsey island
Places Visited
Activity Level: Relaxed
Involves minimal physical effort and is typically associated with leisurely activities. Activities are low-intensity or last less than a few hours each day.

Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Reykjavik | Embark

Many visitors find landing at Keflavik airport enchanting. The hub seems carved out of an arctic desert, with moss-covered lava rock and haunting mountains nearby. But just 45 minutes away is Reykjavik, a charming, vibrant and modern city, offering top restaurants, interesting museums, and quaint narrow streets. Explore the city before boarding your ship and setting off on your journey. Estimated time of departure is 8:00 PM.

At Reykjavik harbour, MS Fram awaits you. After you collect your complimentary expedition jacket and check-in, have time to settle in your cabin. There is a mandatory safety drill just before departure after which you can walk around to explore the ship. The welcome dinner in the evening ends with a toast by the Captain, wishing everyone an enjoyable expedition. After meeting your expedition team, be ready to start your grand Icelandic adventure.

Day 2: Stykkishólmur

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
First stop is Stykkisholmur, pronounced ‘Stikkish – holmur’, a small fishing town surrounded by views of innumerable islets in the picturesque Breiðafjörður Bay. With a population of roughly a thousand people, no traffic, and a laid-back, slow pace, it gives the impression of a place where time has stood still. It's most defining feature is the well-preserved houses found in its old city center. Bursting with color, they stand out in contrast to the distant mountain ranges. Ingeniously repurposed, the former library is now an art installation, the old recreation center now harbors a volcano museum, and the fish processing plant is now a restaurant that serves a delicious fish soup.

Another highlight of the town is Norwegian House, named for the Norwegian imported wood used to build it in 1832. The Regional Museum of Snæfellsnes is based here, with rotating exhibitions and handicraft on sale. For a lovely view over the town, hike to the top of the cliff with the little orange lighthouse. Most people, however, come here to see the fantastic Snæfellsnes Peninsula National Park. It’s nicknamed ‘Little Iceland’ as everything the country has to offer can be found here, including fjords, mountains, waterfalls, volcanoes, lava fields and more.

An optional excursion to Snæfellsnes will take you to some of its most iconic sights, such as the black-sand beach at Djúpalónssandur, where – if you’re feeling energetic – you can try your hand at lifting ‘strength testing’ rocks placed there by Vikings. A word of warning though: the heaviest rock weighs 154kg! Another stop is at the Lóndrangar basalt cliffs where huge stacks of jagged rock jut photogenically out of the sea. Interesting fact: the massive Snæfellsjökull volcano, which looms over the landscape, is the setting of the classic sci-fi novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth, by Jules Verne.

Day 3: Patreksfjördur

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Discover the peace and silence of a tranquil fishing village. Serving as a fishing port as far back as the 16th century, this is a town shaped by a rich maritime history. Patreksfjördur served as a base for English, French and German fishermen, merchants and naval mariners in olden times. As you explore the lively harbour, learn about the towns local fishing tradition and the different kinds of fish found in its waters. You can also choose to take a dip in the outdoor pool, a new addition to the town with wonderful views over the fjord.

The sheer beauty of this region makes hiking through it such a rewarding activity if conditions allow. Nearby is Latrabjarg, Europe’s largest bird cliff and most western point. It’s home to millions of birds including Puffins, Northern Gannets, Guillemots and Razorbills. The bird watching here is spectacular. Safe from arctic foxes, the birds bravely cling to the high cliffs, and offer excellent photo opportunities.

The dream beach of Raudsandur is also close by. In contrast to other beaches in Iceland which are black with volcanic sands, the colors of Raudsandur are rose–coloured with golden hues. The Dynjandi series of waterfalls are also one of the big draws of this area, and it’s easy to see why. Six different waterfalls combine to make the largest waterfall in the Westfjords with a cumulative height of 100m. In a country famed for its waterfalls, this is one of the most impressive.

Day 4: Northwest Iceland

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
One of the best things about Expedition cruising is the feeling that anything can happen on any given day. The elements and conditions mean nothing is ever quite set in stone. That’s why one day was carved on your expedition to fully take advantage of that novelty - an exploration day, with no pre-arranged plan for the day.

Initial plan is to be in Iceland’s Northwestern Region, but the rest will be up to the Captain and the Expedition Team to decide, depending on conditions and opportunities that may come up. Activities might include using small boats to come ashore for hiking, participating in a beach clean-up or launching our kayaks. If a pod of whales breaches the surfaces as you sail, decide to linger and enjoy the sight. Being adaptable to whatever nature presents to you is what expedition cruising is all about.

Day 5: Djupavik

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
In 1917, Elías Stefánsson settled down in Djupavik and built a herring salting factory. After many failed attempts and setbacks, the factory and the town that had formed around it were abandoned. For decades, it remained a ghost town - until the settlement was adopted by modern-day pioneers Eva and Ásbjörn in 1985. What you see in Djupavik today, is a fascinating portal to a well-preserved past.

Eva and Ásbjörn renovated the site into a hotel and have been restoring the buildings including the herring factory nearby ever since. The hotel occupies what used to be the dormitory for female workers. If you’re lucky, the manager may tell you a tale or two about the history of this cozy and laid-back hotel. Sample the fabulous home-made cakes and sit back with a hot chocolate and gaze out at the beautiful vista of the peaceful fjord. Bliss! A guided tour of the old herring factory is a must. Iceland’s biggest concrete structure when it opened in 1935, the rusting old factory now features artworks, installations and annual concerts such as one performed by Sigur Rós in 2006.

Of course, the backdrop to this hulking factory is what makes exploring it even more engrossing. All around is the stunning beauty of this remote part of northwest Iceland, with its deep blue water, crisp, clear air, and verdant green hills. Sea birds swoop in and out of darkened factory windows as white water tumbles down from the craggy mountains. Explore the magical surroundings here on foot and take a short and invigorating hike to the waterfall just above the old herring factory. There’s also a longer 5km circular route if you’re feeling energetic. From the beach, you might see seals and even small whales.

Day 6: Akureyri

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Nicknamed ‘Iceland’s Northern Capital’, Akureyri is a lively university town. With a population of almost 20,000 it’s the largest metropolitan area outside the populated southwest region, meaning there’s plenty to delve into here including some top-notch eateries and museums. Check out the Akureyri Museum, which gives you an insight into how Icelanders used to live here. The Nordurslod Museum of natural history also combines exhibitions about the local environment and the history of settlers.

Be astonished by the array of flowers and foliage at the Arctic Botanical Gardens. It's serene atmosphere is like an oasis of lush green in the most unlikely of settings. And while you’re exploring the town, check out the striking architecture of Akureyri Church, designed by the famous architect Gudjon Samuelsson.   

On an optional excursion outside town, you can explore natural treasures often considered some of the must-see sights in Iceland. At Goðafoss waterfall, nicknamed ‘waterfall of the gods,’ you’ll have the chance to see translucent turquoise water pounding against immense black rocks. Located within a highly active volcanic area, Lake Mývatn has unique and beautiful geology, including shimmering waters and otherworldly colors. It’s also a great place for birds; Eider and Harlequinn Ducks in particular. Watchers of hit series Game of Thrones may recognize it.

Day 7: Grimsey Island

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Use tender boats to reach this small, green and grassy island. With roughly 60 people, the only settlements are located on the southern and western parts - mostly around the little harbor. Grimsey is serene, beautiful, and steeped in folklore and legend. The hardiness of the local fishermen is attributed to Grimsey’s first settler Grímur. Legend has it he slew the giants and trolls who inhabited the island and took one of their daughters as his bride. It's sheer cliffs are home to vast colonies of sea birds – outnumbering humans 17,000 to 1 – and in summer, the intrepid islanders will abseil down them to collect the eggs that are considered a local delicacy. The chance to see Atlantic Puffins, the iconic seabird species of Grimsey, is a major attraction for bird lovers.

It is probably best known for its proximity to the Arctic Circle, which cuts across the island - the only part of Iceland to do so. You’ll have the chance to step across that line, North to South. You can explore the island on foot and hike to the ‘Orbis et Globus’ a nine-ton concrete sphere that marks the edge of the Arctic Circle. The walk to the monument will allow you to take in the windswept scenery and observe birds. The three-metre globe is moved a bit each year by the locals as the Arctic Circle creeps slowly northwards at a rate of about 48 feet a year.

By 2050, Grimsey Island will lie outside the Arctic – more reason to visit now. In the afternoon, sail towards Husavik, arrive in the evening and stay overnight

Day 8: Húsavík

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Welcome to Husavik! Widely considered Iceland’s whale capital, this small town on Iceland’s northern coast has gained international popularity as one of the world’s best places to see whales. This area looks out over the Skjálfandi Bay which enjoys regular visits from whale species including humpback, minke, white-beaked dolphin, harbour porpoise and the elusive blue whale. If you’re lucky, you might get the chance to see one or more of these giants of the sea. It only fits that a town so geared towards whales would have a museum to match. If you want to learn more about these gentle giants of the ocean, you have to visit Husavik’s highly informative Whale Museum.

If you’re also interested in space travel, the Exploration Museum is fascinating. The astronauts involved in the Apollo space missions trained in Husavik in 1965 and 1967. Iceland’s basalt rocks are a close approximation of lunar rocks and provided essential geology training. The museum’s main exhibition is centered around this pioneering endeavor.  Around 2km south of Husavik, Kaldbakur pond offers a swimming experience out of the ordinary if you’re looking for something a little different. Not only is it a heitur pottur heated by geothermal energy, you also swim with goldfish.

In the evening, sail past the scenic Langanes Peninsula. By looking at it on the map, you can almost guess what its unique feature is - birds. After all, it’s shaped like a goose with a colossal head.

Day 9: Bakkagerdi

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
With stunning rhyolite peaks on one side and the majestic Dyrfjöll Mountain range on the other, the coastal village of Bakkagerdi could not have a more scenic location. According to regional folklore, this tiny hamlet on the coast of Borgarfjörður Eystri inhabits a large population of elves. As a matter of fact, the hamlet derives its name from the rocky hill Alfaborg, the supposed home of the elf queen herself. A settlement of around 100 people, it is well off the typical tourist track and offers peace, quiet and lovely views. A short walk is all it takes to explore the town. You can sample freshly caught fish in one of the cafes; the tasty fish soup is a local favourite.

This area’s natural beauty, however, is the main draw and allows for fantastic hiking. Shades of pink, blue, and yellow rhyolite rocks give way to lush green valleys in multiple hiking trails. In any direction, be rewarded by a pristine wilderness and the sights and sounds of the prominent wildlife to be found here - birds. The coastal cliffs are home to a wide variety of birds, including Fulmar and Kittiwake. This is also a good place to see Eider farming, which has been done for hundreds of years in Iceland. The end product is the very exclusive eiderdown, the most prized variety of down in the world.

The stars of the show, however, are Puffins. If conditions allow, attempt to visit Hafnarhólmi, a fishing harbour home to a large Puffin colony, and some of the best bird watching in Iceland. A boardwalk and several platforms allow you to get really close to the Puffins safely. For nature and bird lovers, this region is an absolute gem.

Day 10: Heimaey

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Our next stop is Heimaey, the only inhabited island in the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago, off the south coast of Iceland.  Everything here has been touched in some way by the volcanic eruption that occurred unexpectedly one morning in January 1973. The narrow harbor, the tephra -made airport runway and the curl of cooled lava in the town center all point to the volcanic cone that casts a figure over the island. It means “Home Island,” and certainly feel welcome here. It’s near 4000 inhabitants that are friendly and the vegetated landscape is pleasing to the eye. Learn all about the town’s history at the Museum of Eldheimar. It has a fascinatingly dark past, complete with runaway slaves, murder, revenge and pirates. And that’s before you get to the volcano that almost destroyed the island. 

The Sea Life Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary is also one of the town’s highlights. Home to two resident belugas, the sanctuary also inhabits a local species aquarium and a Puffin rescue center. In keeping with the rest of the Westmann Islands, Heimaey provides a habitat for countless birds. Around 8 million Puffins nest here every summer. A hike to Stórhöfði, south of the island, provides you with excellent opportunities to observe them nesting. Claimed to be the windiest spot in Europe, be grateful for viewing facilities that allow you to quietly observe these delightful birds in their natural habitat.

A visit to Heimaey would not be complete without checking out its most prominent feature, Eldfell, or “Mt Fire.” By the end of its eruption, it stood at 220 metres. It’s worth the effort to hike to the top. Have incredible views of the town below and the winning feeling of conquering the volcano that almost wiped out the island.

Day 11: Reykjavik | Disembark

Estimated time of arrival is 6:00 AM. Say a fond farewell as you end where you started in the fabulous city of Reykjavik. You now have an opportunity to see all the places you missed out on when you arrived. If you want to conclude your expedition on a high, you’re in the right place to do it. Reykjavik's galleries, restaurants and spas are internationally recognized.

If you want to recharge your batteries, you can do so at Iceland’s most famous heitur pottur, Blue Lagoon. Situated in a vast 800-year-old lava field, the waters blend of silica, algae and minerals have helped this magical location earn its place on National Geographic’s 25 wonders of the world. As a way of signing off your Icelandic adventure, few things would top soaking yourself in relaxing volcanic water, with a beverage of your choice surrounded by beauty. We recommend you to explore the city and beyond further. Whatever’s next for you, we wish you a safe onward journey and look forward to seeing you on your next adventure!


MS Fram

Explore quiet coves by zodiac as you sail on the MS Fram

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  • 9 Breakfasts, 8 Lunches, 9 Dinners
  • 9 Nights Accommodations
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  • Photography Guide on Expedition Team
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Everything was amazing! The planning with Adventure Life went smoothly. The actual trip was fantastic! One of the best trips I have experienced. The cruise staff members were knowledgeable and attentive. I will be writing more about this on the blog!
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