Embark on an astonishing adventure across landscapes that have inspired epic literature and Viking lore alike — Iceland. You’ll delve into the bewitching wilderness and seascapes of this remarkably unspoiled island-nation, from rolling green pastures where horses roam to magnificent fjords hiding tiny fishing villages on their banks. More than half the population of the country resides in its capital city, Reykjavík, which you'll explore at both the beginning and end of your adventure. The rest of your time will be spent uncovering Iceland's natural marvels while you sail on a European small ship cruise, discovering the ancient vistas and roaring waterfalls of UNESCO World Heritage Site Thingvellir National Park, and experiencing the fascinating local culture of this pristine region.
We’ll complement these discoveries with opportunities to walk or hike every day on your unforgettable European vacation. And because we’ll be traveling in a small group, you’ll enjoy personalized attention and invaluable experience from a Vantage Adventure Leader and knowledgeable local guides who will share their stories and insights with each new discovery. Join us on an illuminating astonishing small-ship cruise with 12 included tours designed to highlight Iceland’s wild coastline from north to south.
Fly overnight to Reykjavík
Your Iceland adventure begins as you board an overnight flight to Reykjavík, the nation’s capital.
Settle into Reykjavík and explore its lively cultural scene
If you purchased airfare with Vantage and you'll arrive early this morning, you'll begin the transfer to the hotel and stop for breakfast along the way. After checking into your room this afternoon, you'll have some free time to discover the city of Reykjavík at your own pace. What the city lacks in size, it makes up for in culture. Surprisingly cosmopolitan, you'll find that Reykjavík is rich with culinary options, from Icelandic fare to international dishes; it also boasts an impressive spread of museums and art galleries. Tonight, join your fellow travelers for a Welcome Drink and Dinner.
From bloody Marys to hot springs, get a true taste of Iceland today
Today we venture out along the Golden Circle to discover some of Iceland's most prized natural attractions. Cultural Discovery: First, we'll pay a visit to a tomato farm and greenhouse, where you'll savor a taste of "Iceland's best bloody Mary." Unforgettable Moment: Our explorations continue in awe-inspiring Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Renowned for its extraordinary landscapes, this remarkable site has a rich history that stretches back to the first settlers in Iceland. We’ll also stop to admire the spectacular Gullfoss Waterfall and the hot springs of the Geysir Geothermal Field during our Golden Circle discoveries.
Embark on a sightseeing tour of Reykjavík, then board the ship
Explore the highlights of this fascinating city during a sightseeing tour today, from the striking architecture that peppers its streets to the various public art installations that adorn the waterfront. Then, it's off to one of the city’s top attractions: the Blue Lagoon. Take in your spectacular surroundings while basking in these famous warm, milky-blue waters, the perfect rejuvenating ritual. You'll also enjoy an included lunch while here. Early this evening, we'll transfer to the city's harbor and embark the M/V Ocean Diamond.
A thrilling Snowcat excursion up Snæfellsjökull Glacier
Our Icelandic explorations today find us in Stykkishólmur on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Unforgettable Moment: Often called “Iceland in Miniature” because of its diverse landscapes, the area is home to Snæfellsjökull Glacier, which sits atop a 700,000-year-old dormant volcano that was featured in the Jules Verne novel Journey to the Center of the Earth. Your guide will take you up to 4,600 feet (1,400 m) on a Snowcat excursion on this magnificent glacier; if the day is clear, you’ll enjoy fantastic views of the quaint village of Hellissandur and bird-rich Breiðafjörður Bay.
Please note: On the August 28 departure, your Glacier Tour will be replaced by a tour of Snaefellsness Peninsula, a beautiful area often called “Iceland in Miniature.” This excursion includes a drive through the area’s striking scenery, including lava fields, black lava beaches, and hulking and the Londrangar Rock pinnacles, which are remnants of a massive volcanic crater. You will also stop by the charming fishing village of Arnarstapi, as well as the Shark Museum in Bjarnarhöfn.
The unforgettable vistas of Ísafjörður, and a village visit to Thingeyri
Today's destination is Ísafjörður, an idyllic town in the Westfjords region. Connected to the Icelandic mainland by only a narrow strip of land, the landscape of this secluded peninsula includes jaw-dropping views of dramatic fjords carved by ancient glaciers, sheer table mountains that plunge into the sea and pristine North Atlantic vegetation. Unforgettable Moment: As we continue through the mountains, we’ll stop to explore the historic village of Thingeyri. With a population of about 260 inhabitants, Thingeyri is both the area‘s first trading post and one of the oldest settlements. We’ll also stop at the thunderous Dynjandi, the highest and most impressive waterfall in the Westfjord region, before returning to the ship this evening.
Scenic Sailing: Be on the lookout for the uninhabited Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. During northerly winter storms, ships once sought shelter below the mountains here. You’ll also pass Hornbjarg, the most magnificent bird cliff in Iceland.
Iceland’s herring era, and the birds of Grimsey Island
By morning, we reach the fjord town of Siglufjörður, once the hub of the global herring industry, which is now enjoying a rebirth in popularity. Our first stop is the award-winning Herring Era Museum, located on the town’s vibrant harborfront. Cultural Discovery: Here, you'll have time to wander the multiple exhibits illustrating the fascinating history of this important industry before watching a live herring salting demonstration! Later, we’ll head to Grimsey Island, a small island straddling the Arctic Circle. Located about 25 miles (40 km) off the mainland, the island harbors a variety of bird species, including puffins, guillemots, and gulls. After returning to the ship this evening, we set sail for Akureyri, Iceland’s second-largest city.
Scenic Sailing: Keep your eyes peeled for whales today as you sail toward Akureyri.
A day of otherworldly landscapes, and a geothermal bath
Another day of remarkable scenery awaits us as we arrive in Akureyri this morning. Ranging inland, we’ll visit the fascinating Lake Mývatn region, an otherworldly national parkland with schizophrenic landscapes that look as if “heaven and hell” have clashed. One side of the lake features rugged volcanic remnants, while the other side is blessed with lush vegetation and varied birdlife. We’ll stop to marvel at Godafoss, meaning “waterfall of the gods” in local lore, before exploring the small settlement of Skutustadagígar. Later, we’ll stop at the impressive lava formations of Dimmuborgir, said to resemble a collapsed citadel. In Icelandic folklore, Dimmuborgir is said to connect the earth to the infernal regions. We’ll also visit the Myvatn Nature Baths for a relaxing geothermal bath before heading back to the ship this evening.
Discovering Iceland’s whale-watch capital
In the early morning hours, we steam into Skjálfandi Bay and Húsavík. Often called the “whale-watching capital” of Iceland, this town’s offshore waters are home to 15 different whale species, as well as dolphins and 30 varieties of birds. Make sure your camera batteries are charged for today’s Iceland travel excursion as we set off to spot some of the world’s largest animals: whales. We’ll also pass the island of Lundey, where we’ll have the opportunity to spot thousands of northern seabirds from puffins and black guillemots to fulmars and arctic terns.
Exploring the remote nature of Skálanes Nature Reserve
Today finds us in Seyðisfjörður, a picturesque port in Iceland’s east fjords nestled between glistening sea and regal mountains. This scenic area is perfect for activities such as seal-spotting, horseback riding, kayaking, and hiking. Cultural Discovery: This morning, we’ll travel into one of Iceland’s most remote places — so remote, in fact, that few Icelanders have even visited it: Skálanes Nature Reserve.
The tour begins with a rugged, off-road bus ride to an archaeological site at Thorarinsstadir, where you’ll explore a Viking-era excavation site. You’ll then be surrounded by sprawling grasslands, fjords, and breathtaking mountain panoramas as you near the Skálanes reserve, which is comprised of 1,250 hectares of pristine nature. Skálanes mostly functions as a place of learning, often catering to students and researchers who come to interact with the Icelandic nature and cultural heritage. While we’re here, be on the lookout for 50 different bird species, and bring your camera for the stunning scenery of the fjords and mountains. We’ll take a short hike along the coastline before heading into the town of Seydisfjordur for local refreshments at the nearby lodge, Skálanes House.
After, we’ll transfer back to the ship for lunch and an afternoon at leisure. Dinner is on board as we set sail toward Djupivogur.
Board a special boat to tour the Glacier Lagoon of Jokulsarlon
Our port of call today is Djúpivogur, a fishing village in southeast Iceland and the starting point for our glacier excursion. We’ll set sail aboard a specially equipped boat to marvel at the picturesque scenery of the Glacier Lagoon of Jokulsarlon. Although not very wide, the lagoon is up to 750 feet deep which makes it the deepest lake in Iceland. We’ll maneuver between humongous glaciers, including the glistening Breiðamerkurjökull, an outlet of Vatnajökull Glacier.
The Westman Islands and the “Pompeii of the North”
Located off Iceland’s south coast, the Westman Islands were formed by submarine volcanic eruptions 10,000 years ago. Surtsey Island, which emerged from the sea in 1963, is one the youngest land masses on earth. We’ll go ashore on Heimaey, the only inhabited island, where half-buried houses remain from a violent 1973 eruption. Known as the “Pompeii of the North,” the eruption of Eldfell engulfed over 400 buildings in 200 million tons of ash and lava. After exploring this unique landscape on a guided bus tour, we’ll visit the island’s Volcanic Center, where we’ll hear the story of the Heimaey volcanic eruption in 1973, learn about the recent arrival of Surtsey Island, and study the unique geology of the Vestmannaeyjar Islands.
One last afternoon to explore electric Reykjavík
As our Iceland “saga” winds down, we find ourselves passing through the storied countryside leading back to Reykjavík, the last stop on our adventure. After checking into our hotel, your afternoon is at leisure. Tonight, share your favorite memories with fellow travelers during a Farewell Drink before seeking dinner on your own.
Following breakfast at the hotel this morning, transfer to the Reykjavík airport for your flight home, or to Nuuk, Greenland for the post-trip extension.
Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Adventure Leader or local representatives at the destination.
Please Note: The hotels listed are preliminary and subject to change. Although we contract our hotels a year in advance, unforeseen situations do occasionally occur. Should it be necessary to change a hotel, one of equal quality and value will be substituted. You will receive verified hotel information with your final itinerary. Hotel ratings are based on a leading travel industry authority on hotels throughout the world.