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Landmannalaugar

The highlands of Iceland are unique area which you should not miss when visiting Iceland.  Landmannalaugar is one of the most popular places to visit in Iceland.  You will see beautiful lava areas covered with moss, colorful mountains and geothermal areas allowing you to bath in the natural pool. Short hiking tours (1-2 hours) an option or a visit to a former volcanic craters. On the way back you will visit the waterfall Haifoss and an old Viking cottage.

The name Landmannalaugar translated directly to English means “Peoples pool”.  The areas with its colorful mountains and lava fields are extremely beautiful and unique.  It is very popular hiking areas.  We will take an easy hiking circle around the area, or walk up a mountain, whichever you prefer. Geologically this area is interesting and rare mostly formed in an eruption in 1477.  You will see rhyolite mountains, and other type of stones. Shades like red, pink, green, blue and golden yellow makes this place ethereal beautiful.

Kerlingafjöll is a famous geothermal site in the center of the Icelandic highlands.  It used to be a popular skiing resort during summertime, but due to rising temperature and the retreat of the glaciers that is hardly possible today.  But if you are interested in geology and especially geothermal surface manifestations with lot of boiling hot springs and colorful rhyolite mountains you will certainly experience that up close and witness the stunning beauty of this place. The place is also characterized by lot of steam coming up from the hot fumaroles.  The mountains around still have glaciers on their top and together with colorful rhyolite, dark and bright tuff stones make this place unique and very photogenic. This is a very popular tourist destination, but it is not easy to drive the gravel roads in the highlands (called Kjalvegur) and up to the mountains unless the driver has experience and a 4X4 jeep, but that is exactly what we are offering our guests.

When we are 700 meters above sea level, we may expect all kind of weather, so be well prepared.

A drive to Hveravellir which is an hour and a half drive from Kerlingafjöll is also a geothermal hot spot, but it is totally different experience.  It is a popular oasis in the highlands where you can take a bath in a natural hot spring pool followed by a cup of hot chocolate and slice of a cake. Please be aware that in the nature there is no facility to change cloths.  What makes this hot spring so special?  Many say its beautiful surroundings being placed in the middle of the highlands in between two of the biggest glaciers in Iceland, Hofsjökull and Langjökull.  The place has interesting history which you will learn about during the tour.

We will pass both Gullfoss and Geysir the famous golden circle attractions on the way to Kerlingafjöll.  Therefore it is ideal if requested to make a short photo stop on the way to the highlands.

Please note that roads in the highlands are only accessible during summertime from July until early September

Snæfellsnes National Park is a peninsula in Western Iceland. The peninsula is a detour from the ring-road, worth visiting.   You will witness breathtaking attractions. Snæfellsjökull the glacier which is the main attraction and one of a three volcanic systems on the peninsula. It is now an active independent volcanic system away from the main Atlantic rift system. The glacier itself is a cone shaped volcano which erupted last time 1700 years ago. Snæfellsjökull and its surroundings was the first national park established in Iceland and known as the Jewel of the West.

Attractions are also the iconic black church to the towering Kirkjufell mountain which was made popular by Game of Thrones. Others are are dramatic sea cliffs/rocks with spectacular bird life , fishing villages, colorful beaches and Volcanic lava landscapes with moss.

In one day, you will experience diverse Icelandic scenery. Volcanic Craters, Arnarstapi sea cliffs, bird live and costal rocks, Black sand of Djúpalónssandur, the majestic peak of Kirkjufell which is shaped like an arrowhead, the seal colony and birds live, the black church, lava fields of Berserkjahraun etc.

We sometimes name this tour the silver circle.  We will stop in five places, first in Borgarnes (1) Viking Settlement Center which gives you a remarkable perception of the Viking saga which happened in Iceland some 1100 years ago.  We will then explore geothermal resources in the upper Borgarfjordur area in W-Iceland, the home of the most powerful hot springs in Europe.  There we have the largest low-temperature region in Iceland, which consists of five major low-temperature geothermal systems with a total natural discharge of about 450 l/s of boiling water.  First area of interest is Varmaland/Laugaland (2) which is a good example of a small village that was developed around a geothermal site.  First, they constructed a swimming pool in 1942 at the same time, a greenhouse farm was established utilizing the hot springs from heating. Gradually, a small village was developed named Varmaland, a story which is interesting to learn about.  One may say that Varmaland is a good example for geothermal development in rural areas.

The third stop represents another geothermal site named Deildartunga where we will see the biggest hot spring in Europe and at the core of the hot spring, we will experience and relax at the Krauma (3) baths and have an option of having a lunch break and enjoy the cuisine offered at the restaurant while enjoying the spectacular view of the powerful hot spring. The geothermal pipeline from Deildartunga to Akranes is the longest in the world, 64 km in total and has been used since 1980-1981.

From there we will continue to Iceland's main historic site, the cultural center of Reykholt (4). This was the home of the famous Snorri Sturluson, (1206 to 1241) who was a politician and historian. There we can see the oldest geothermal pool which dates back to the 10th century. From Reykholt we will see the beautiful Hraunfossar (5) which is a series of waterfalls. The name basically means Lava Waterfalls.  The scenery is spectacular and beautiful where you will see how the water pours out of “Hallmundarhraun” lava wall and cascades down to the river appearing in an enormous length of 900 meters.

The glacier lagoon is one of the most popular tourist destinations, and no wonder. The glacier and its surrounding are a spectacular scenery which is always changing due to huge Icebergs broken off the glacier which gradually moves around inside the lagoon on its way to the ocean.  Part of the scenery is the black beach with its melting icebergs all over which has been given the name “diamond beach” due to its melting icebergs which have been broken down into smaller pieces.

The lagoon flows through a short waterway into the Atlantic Ocean, leaving chunks of ice on the back beach.  Huge blocks of icebergs float around in the lagoon which has broken off from the glacier.  Ice chunks on the black beach look like diamonds, which give the beach its name, so take a walk on the diamond beach along the Glacier Lagoon.  

Very often the lagoon host hundreds of seals.  Exciting boat or Zodiac trips can be offered if requested.

This place is also famous for its settings in two James Bond films, one being “Die Another Day”, the other A View to Kill.  The location has also been used in other films such as Tomb Raider and Beowulf.

During the drive on the southern coast of Iceland towards the Glacier lagoon, we will make a short stop at either the Skógafoss waterfall or at the black sand beach and Reynisdrangar, close to Vik í Mýrdal.

Due to the 380 km drive from Reykjavik Capital, then this trip is the longest day tour (13 to 14 hours), but it certainly is worth the drive.

Take the tour to see the wonders of the Westman Islands. An excursion which involves a ferry trip and combines history, sightseeing and puffin watching, and when we are back to the mainland, we will see the famous Seljalandsfoss waterfall.

The Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar) are around 16 islands in the south coast of Iceland. Only one of them called Heimaey is inhabited and has a population of around 4300 people. Around those islands there are a number of rocks and skerries making the seabird life very rich and bountiful. The islands are considered to be the largest Atlantic Puffin colony in the world.

We will take a ferry from the south coast to the islands, a trip which takes only 20 minutes. If we are lucky, we will see whales and seals on the way. A volcanic eruption began without warning on the edge of the village on the main island on January 1973 eruptions. We can drive into the crater or have the option of taking a short hiking tour up to the mountain and enjoy the view of the crater and the village. Our guide will tell you his personal experience of being on the island during the clean-up the year after the eruption. Another eruption happened in 1963 in the ocean which created a new island, Surtsey. We will explore and drive around the whole island and visit other interesting sightseeing spots while reviewing the history of the island. One being a visit to Belgua Whales & Puffin Sanctuary. Other interesting spots are Stórhöfði to see the puffins up close, Herjólfsdalur farmhouse ruins, the elephant rock.

In this fishery village we recommend spending some time at a seafood restaurant to taste fresh seafood before leaving the island to the mainland.

You can read more about the Eldfell 1973 eruption here

Final destination is Skaftafell National Park is a Nature Reserve since 1967, besides we will take a short stop close by, in front of Svinafellsjökull. We will be travelling along the southern coast of Iceland.  On the way from Reykjavík, and before reaching the destination, then we will stop and experience some of Iceland most beautiful natural scenery on the south coast. Waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, the black sand beach at the seafront village Vík.  In Skaftafell we will feel the power of the glaciers.  Glacier in Iceland are among the greatest natural wonder in the world. Total of 11% of the land area are covered by ice caps.  The biggest glaciers are Vatnajökull, Langjökull, Höfsjökull and Mýrdalsjökull. Glacier forms only in places where fresh snow never fully melts, up on mountains or in the highland. It gradually compresses into ice under its own weight.  A process which takes centuries. Sliding glacier are like a frozen river which slowly moves forward towards the edges, down hills.

Skaftafell is a kind of a pearl or a natural wonder in between the biggest sliding glacier in Iceland.  In Skaftafell we will take a short and easy hiking tour. Two options, one to a waterfall and the other one toward the glacier Skaftafellsjökull.  

Svartifoss: One of two option is a 45-minute hiking tour to Svartifoss, (each way) which is one of the most famous waterfall in Iceland.  The waterfall is perhaps not the biggest in Iceland, but its surroundings are spectacular. Located in front of basalt columns, makes this place special.

Skaftafellsjökull:  the other option is a short hiking tour in Austurbrekkur to see the spectacular glacier close up.

Very close to Skaftafell we will find another sliding glacier with the name Svinafellsjökull. Having in mind its breathtaking beauty, it is no wonder it was chosen as an ideal location for film settings, such as in Batman begins, and the TV series of Games of thrones (Season 7). Others, less famous movies filmed there are Kung Fu Yoga with Jackie Chan and “Interstellar” as the Ice Planet.

Travel along the southern coast of Iceland. The first stop will be at the Seljarlandsfoss waterfall where you can walk behind the cascade.  The Seljalandsfoss waterfall is a popular destination. The waterfall is only 200 meters away from the parking lot. The visitors are when in a safe condition able to walk behind the waterfall and have a spectacular view from behind. The cascade is 60 meters high and has its origins in the famous glacier and volcano Eyjafjallajökull. The water is clean, and we recommend visitors to fill their bottle with water from the river before continuing the tour.

The next stop is Skogafoss which is much bigger waterfall, and we have an option to visit the museum in Skogar (cultural heritage collection and turf houses).  It has a drop of 60 meters and a width of 25 meters. It is a beautiful scenery where you can walk all the way up to the waterfall and feel the spray on your face.  Due to the spray the waterfalls produce, then you usually see a rainbow in a sunny day.  You can walk up a staircase which leads you to an observation deck on the top of the waterfall.  It will give you a spectacular view of the waterfall and the surrounding landscape.

We will continue to Dyrhólaey to see the birds live (for example, puffins) and a spectacular view of the black sand beach, and end in the small village of Vík where you will have a wonderful view of Reynisdrangar. Dyrhólaey used to be an island before but is now accessible by jeeps.  From the top of the mountain, you will see an old light house, and spectacular view in all directions. The black sand to the west and east and the mountains to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the south.

The most popular tourist attraction in Iceland, the Golden Circle tour with additional horseback riding.

With minor adjustments to the traditional Golden Circle tour, then we will take an hour trip on horseback, and then on the same tour experience the impressive natural attractions inside the “Golden circle”, such as Thingvellir National Park, the most beautiful waterfall in Iceland named Gullfoss, and the bubbling hot spring at Geysir area. Thingvellir was accepted on the World Heritage list for its cultural values in 2004

Icelandic horseback riding is a unique experience which many of our guest do not want to miss. Not only the ride itself but also the ability to enjoy then beautiful nature at the same time. The staff at the horse farm are experienced tour guides and will give you a clear guidance to all the abilities of the group, regardless of prior experience. The famous Icelandic horse is especially strong animal, and the only horse species in the world that can perform 5 gaits, instead of 3 gaits which is normal for all horses. Those are Walk, Trot, Canter, Tölt and Flying pace.

With minor adjustments to the classic Golden Circle tour, then we can concentrate on Geothermal Energy and learn more about this interesting energy source in Iceland.  And at the same time experiencing the impressive natural attractions inside the “Golden circle”.

Geothermal Energy has been used in areas with obvious surface manifestations of activity close to tectonic boundaries in the world. Due to the location of Iceland in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, then the country has an abundance of geothermal energy, which can be seen and witnessed during the golden circle tour.  We will visit the newest geothermal power plant in Hellisheidi and learn how it works. We will see “Direct use” of geothermal in the area means space and district heating (used to heat up our geothermal swimming pools), greenhouse heating and aquaculture. We will therefore see how the geothermal energy is used in horticultural activity, and we will bath and swim (unless not wanted) in geothermal pools.  Geothermal surface features, the famous hot spring area Geysir will be visited where we will see the bubbling geothermal hot springs and Strokkur who spouts water 30 meters (100ft) into the air every 5 to 10-minute interval.

You can choose two options and bath in geothermal water, either the Secret Lagoon at Flúdir or at the Fontana geothermal bath in Laugarvatn.  The tour ends at the historic site Thingvellir national park, where we will wrap up the understanding of the geothermal activity in Iceland.  Here you can see how the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, but they are very much visible in Thingvellir.  You will clearly see how the mid-Atlantic rift is drifting apart at the rate of 2 centimeters every year.

Even though Icelanders claim to be a pioneer in utilizing geothermal for space heating, then historically this can be dated back to the first century in the city of Pompeii in Italy.  Our historic writer, politician and poet, Snorri Sturluson used geothermal bath in the 13th century, and it is claimed that he also used the hot water to heat up his turf house.  Then the French people in the city of Chaudes-Aigues installed a district heating system in the 14th Century.  Geothermal is an enormously interesting option which you will learn a lot about on this tour.

It can be stated that Icelanders are pioneers utilizing geothermal energy for space heating and bathing in hot natural pools and swimming pools.

What is “geothermal energy”?

Geothermal energy is thermal energy which is generated and stored within the Earth.  In very basic terms, then the geothermal gradient highlights the increase in temperature per 100 m of depth – around 2-3 degrees Celsius. You might assume that the temperature will reach around 60° C (140¨F) at the depth of 2000 meters and around 90° C (194° F) at 3000-meter depth.  This temperature trend continues a few thousand meters deeper. However, this is very different depending on where you are in the world.  Iceland for example, is located in between two tectonic plates (North American and Eurasian).  Where these tectonic plates meet, the heat of the earth can be found closer to the surface, and volcanic activity is common. This means we have an abundance of high temperature areas which can be found in a few places in Iceland, meaning that the temperature gradient is many times the average value. Below you see photos of geothermal power plants. In this Golden Circle tour we will have a view (or visit) to either Hellisheidar power plant (303 MWe and 200 MWth) or Nesjavallar power plant (120 MWe and 300 MWth)

Inspired by IcelandFerðamálastofa
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