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Iceland Intensive – Circumnavigating Iceland

Iceland Intensive - Circumnavigating Iceland - Featured Image-PP

If you’ve ever thought about visiting Iceland, imagine immersing yourself in the spectacularly diverse and dramatic landscapes by a complete circumnavigation cruise. 

This approach not only allows you to delve into the rich Viking history and vibrant local culture of Iceland but also positions you amidst the breathtaking natural wonders that the island is celebrated for.

This experience skirts the southern rim of the Arctic Circle, crossing into the realm of the midnight sun as you explore the far northern reaches of the island.

Each port tells a story of centuries past, from ancient Viking settlers to the mystic tales that blanket the land, all while keeping an eye out for the majestic humpback whales and colorful Atlantic puffins.

Enjoy interactions with the famed Icelandic horses, venture on hikes to cascading waterfalls, unwind in soothing thermal baths, and relish the local cuisine featuring unique delicacies. The journey is a melting pot of experiences, designed to satiate the desires of nature lovers, history enthusiasts, and the explorative spirit within all.


Any Icelandic saga begins in Reykjavik, the capital founded in 871 AD by Norse settlers. Known originally as ‘Smoky Bay’ for its steaming geothermal vents, today’s ‘Smokeless City’ thrives on geothermal energy. Despite its stature as the world’s smallest capital, Reykjavik packs a punch with distinct districts rich in attractions.

Reykjavik is a great walking city. Discover the historic Old Reykjavik, dive into the Viking Saga Museum, stroll past the architectural wonder of The Harpa, and learn about Iceland’s marine life at the Whales of Iceland exhibit. 

One of Reykjavik’s most iconic landmarks is Hallgrimskirkja, a towering church renowned for its distinctive architecture inspired by Iceland’s natural landscapes, particularly the basalt lava flows. As the tallest building in the city, Hallgrimskirkja offers a panoramic viewing deck at the top that provides breathtaking views of the capital and the surrounding mountains and sea. The interior of the church is equally impressive, with its lofty ceilings and stunning pipe organ, which stands at an impressive 244 feet tall and boasts over 5,000 pipes.

Reykjavik’s oldest and most vibrant shopping street, Laugavegur, is brimming with a variety of shops, boutiques, and eateries, and is a microcosm of the city’s eclectic charm. Browse through Icelandic handicrafts, fashion, and design stores offering everything from woolen sweaters to modern, quirky souvenirs. In the summer, Laugavegur transforms into a bustling pedestrian thoroughfare adorned with street art and live music, embodying the lively spirit of Reykjavik’s cultural scene.

An iconic aspect of visiting Iceland is experiencing the geothermal baths, and Reykjavik offers a number of opportunities to enjoy a thermal soak.

Heimaey Island: The Phoenix of the Atlantic

Heimaey Island, situated just off Iceland’s southern coast, presents a world almost lost in time, shaped dramatically by volcanic activity. The most notable event occurred in January 1973 when a sudden fissure eruption brought forth Eldfell volcano, necessitating an immediate island evacuation. Today, Heimaey is revered for its rugged landscapes and is a hub for nature lovers.

Visitors to the island can explore the fresh lava flows of Eldfell and enjoy birdwatching spots buzzing with puffins. A brief walk from the port leads to the heart of the island, where one can discover local cultural sites like The Aquarium & Museum of Natural History and the Sagnheimar Folk Museum. The journey isn’t complete without visiting the unique black stave church, Stafkirkjan, set against a backdrop of stark lava fields. Heimaey offers a compelling blend of natural wonder and cultural heritage, perfect for a day’s exploration.

Seydisfjordur: Where Art and History Blend

Seydisfjordur, nestled at the end of an 11-mile stretch of a spectacular fjord flanked by volcanic landscapes, is often celebrated as Iceland’s most scenic town.

Today, Seydisfjordur is a vibrant cultural hub, known for its welcoming atmosphere and thriving arts community. Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the town’s array of hiking trails offering breathtaking views and encounters with untouched natural beauty, including serene waterfalls. A leisurely ten-minute stroll from the port leads visitors into the heart of the town, where quaint, colorfully painted buildings and the iconic Blue Church along a charming rainbow street await exploration.

For those looking to venture further, Seydisfjordur serves as a perfect starting point for day trips around East Iceland. Options abound, from learning about local wildlife like Eider Ducks at Skalanes Nature Reserve to trekking to the majestic Hengifoss waterfall, providing a deep dive into the region’s natural and cultural richness.

Akureyri: The Northern Light

Nestled at the northern tip of the Eyjafjordur, Iceland’s longest fjord, Akureyri proudly bears the title of the ‘Capital of the North.’ As the second-largest urban area in Iceland, situated a mere 62 miles from the Arctic Circle, this charming city serves as the primary gateway for adventurers looking to explore the rugged mystique of Northern Iceland.

Akureyri is enveloped by stunning landscapes and offers a treasure trove of activities that invite visitors to dive deep into the region’s natural and cultural splendors. One of the most captivating experiences is whale watching, a must-do when visiting the self-proclaimed whale capital of Iceland.

For those who enjoy equestrian pursuits, engaging with the iconic Icelandic horses provides a unique way to explore the countryside, suitable for both novice riders and seasoned equestrians. Further amplifying the town’s appeal are the numerous air tours that provide a bird’s eye view of the region. Soar over dramatic landscapes and witness the breathtaking beauty of the Diamond Circle from above—a truly mesmerizing perspective on this enchanted land. 

Isafjordur: Gateway to the Westfjords

Isafjordur, the principal town in the picturesque Westfjords Peninsula, boasts around 2,600 residents and stands as a testament to Iceland’s thriving fishing history and its pivot to tourism. Dating back to the 9th century, Isafjordur became a key player in the saltfish industry by the 19th century, which catalyzed its growth and prosperity. Additionally, it played a pivotal role in initiating Iceland’s shrimp industry, marking its “Golden Days” era during the early 20th century.

Isafjordur serves as an ideal base for exploring the broader Westfjords region. Visitors can embark on diverse excursions such as discovering the remote village of Hesteyri, exploring the natural beauty of the Dynjandi Waterfall, kayaking the fjords, or engaging in wildlife watching with local ATV tours or RIB boat adventures.

Grundarfjordur: In the Shadow of Kirkjufell

Situated on the Breidafjordur Bay at the heart of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Grundarfjordur is a burgeoning town celebrated for its distinctive climate and scenic beauty. This locale serves as a strategic launchpad for visiting the mesmerizing Beserkjahraun lava field and Snaefellsjokull, the iconic mountain immortalized by Jules Verne in his literary works.

The town’s proximity to Kirkjufell, arguably Iceland’s most photographed mountain, and the nearby Kirkjufellsfoss waterfalls adds to its charm.

For those seeking adventure, Grundarfjordur offers a variety of excursions that delve into the natural wonders of the region. Explore the caverns of the Snaefellsjokull Glacier, trek across the dramatic landscapes of Beserkjahraun, or set off on a glacier walk. Additional activities include a Viking sushi boat tour, bird watching for puffins along the rugged coastline, and a comprehensive tour that showcases the “Wonders of the West,” providing a full experience of this magnificent part of Iceland.

Exploring Iceland’s Cuisine

As you visit so many Icelandic towns and marvel at the amazing scenery and natural beauty, don’t miss spending some time in these ports experiencing the gastronomy of Iceland.

Iceland’s culinary scene is profoundly influenced by its environment, characterized by an array of fresh, locally-sourced ingredients that capture the essence of this island’s pristine natural beauty. Key among these are seafood and lamb, which form the cornerstone of many traditional dishes.

The cold Atlantic waters provide an abundant supply of fish such as cod, haddock, and Arctic char, featured prominently in Icelandic menus. Lamb in Iceland is distinctly flavorful, raised free-range and grazing on a diet of wild herbs and grasses, which imparts a rich taste that’s hard to find elsewhere. Dairy also plays a crucial role, with products like skyr, a thick, yogurt-like cheese enjoyed since the Viking Age, remaining a staple in the Icelandic diet.

The use of unique elements such as volcanic salt, wild moss, and birch syrup showcases the resourcefulness of Icelandic cuisine, adding depth and regional flair to their dishes. For the adventurous foodie, there’s hákarl, fermented shark meat, which is considered a delicacy. Each of these elements reflects the rugged, unspoiled terrain of Iceland, making its cuisine a direct reflection of its landscape and history.

A Fond Farewell

Circumnavigating Iceland offers a journey where you’ll explore Iceland’s diverse landscapes from volcanic fields and majestic fjords to dramatic waterfalls and steaming geothermal springs. This variety of experiences from all regions of Iceland invites you to witness the stark natural beauty and rich Viking history that permeates the remote villages and vibrant towns along the way. Encounter iconic wildlife, from puffins to humpback whales, and immerse yourself in local culture through traditional cuisine and folklore. Each destination brings a new adventure, making this cruise a perfect blend of relaxation, exploration, and discovery in one of the world’s most spectacular settings.