Reykjavik Excursions takes you to the Highlands and the Coast
Iceland is a small country but it has been blessed with far more than its fair share of sights and wonders. The variety of different landscapes is enough to keep visitors returning to see more. It’s not that they are just different, rather that each, in its own way, is so unusual that it leaves visitors awed. The tours themselves don’t just drive you there and back, they make sure you get the most out of every mile, every sight along the way and hear about all the anecdotes, folk tales and history associated with them in a fun way.
Take the tour to Jökulsárlón, for example. Whilst this spectacular lagoon is the end goal, there are waterfalls, glaciers, the country’s highest mountain and it’s most recent notorious volcano to see, not to mention the historical sites that abound along the way and the small towns and villages that contribute so much to the character of the South. There is an option with this tour to take a half-hour boat trip that wends its way, in a specially designed craft, between the massive blocks of ice in the awesome stillness of the lagoon in the afternoon sunlight. This is a film director’s dream: an actual site that possesses a fantasy-like appearance from another world. It has actually been featured in at least a couple of films already.
This trip has two completely different views, depending on which side of the coach you are sitting. On the one side are the mountains, volcanos, glaciers and waterfalls, whilst on the other side are sights like the Westman Islands, the black sand beaches and the strange rock formations stretching out into the sea at Dyrhólaey.
If you feel drawn to the mountains rather than the sea, there are several great tours that will take you to very different destinations. The Skaftafell tour takes you to a part of Europe’s largest national park, Vatnajökull National Park, which is a very diverse park encompassing raging rivers, glorious glaciers, massive mountains, lovely lakes and wild wilderness areas. Skaftafell is an unusually warm spot, with a better-than-average number of beautiful warm, sunny days. It is perhaps for this reason that flora and fauna abound along with both animal and bird life. Towering above all is Iceland’s highest mountain on a vast glacier. The tour provides an option for a 2-hour walk on the glacier, where there are cauldrons and crevasses. While you should bring your own warm clothing, hiking boots and rain clothing, glacier gear and safety equipment are supplied.
Not all the mountains are snow covered in summer or hidden under glaciers. The Landmannalaugar tour takes you high into the interior to a valley between ryolite mountains, resplendent in their many colours. You might expect it to be freezing but the lush vegetation and the sight of people bathing in the warm springs dispels that idea! The Gateway to Hell, Mt. Hekla, is clearly visible from this beautiful geothermal area, just one of several volcanos in the region.
It’s a few days hike from this mountain valley to Þórsmörk, lying in a sheltered valley between glaciers and mountains. Regular cars cannot reach it. The trip there from the main road is criss-crossed with unbridged glacial rivers that can turn into raging torrents. A regular Reykjavik Excursions coach takes you to Seljalandsfoss where they have a special vehicle to safely traverse this tricky territory where cars, jeeps and even buses have been swept away. This coach has panoramic windows all round and, with its massive wheels, you sit high off the ground, so the views are superb!
Most of this land is covered in volcanic ash from a recent eruption. A former lagoon has been reduced to a mere puddle. Where’s the beauty here? The coach rounds a rough, high cliff wall and suddenly, the oasis that is Þórsmörk appears. It has its own mild micro-climate and here bushes and birch trees grow in abundance, making it popular with bird and nature lovers. It’s a beautiful spot to enjoy all the different aspects of the landscape and nature alike.
Make sure to bring a good snack with you – or buy it at one of the stops. You’re really out in the wilderness of the interior in Þórsmörk.
The Highlands of Iceland
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