Iceland Tours | Iceland Excursions - TravelQuest International
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Iceland Tours

Iceland is a small island full of big contrasts—elves and trolls, volcanoes and waterfalls, cold glaciers and hot springs. The island’s other-worldly landscapes have made it a must-see destination for many travelers. It is also an ideal place to experience the aurora borealis, popularly called the northern lights. And there’s no better way to see them than by staying in a remote hotel or lodge, stepping out of your comfortable room, and encountering a vast, luminous curtain of green, blue, red, and purple swaying gently overhead.

TravelQuest’s tour of Iceland is unlike many of the northern lights trips offered by other companies. We venture off the beaten path, away from the overcrowded tourist sites that surround Reykjavik, the nation’s capital. We stay in country lodges, far from city lights, to improve our chances of seeing the aurora. And our expert local guide, who has lived in Iceland most of her life and has visited every part of this remarkable island, brings the country to life thanks to her encyclopedic knowledge and storytelling gifts.

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The Splendor of Iceland

Iceland’s amazing landscape is thanks to its geology. Born a mere 16 million years ago from an underwater lava plume that erupted from the North Atlantic seafloor, the island grew as molten lava drove apart the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. Even today, Iceland continues to ‘grow’ at a rate of 0.8 inches (2 centimeters) a year. The most obvious example of Icelandic expansion is in Thingvellir National Park, northeast of Reykjavik. Here you can stroll beside a towering cliff wall of solidified lava that is part of the North American plate, while gazing across the rift valley toward the Eurasian side of Iceland. Icelanders sometimes joke that millions of years from now, Iceland will be large enough to be called a continent.

There are at least 30 active and extinct volcanoes in Iceland. Perhaps the most famous is Eyjafjallajökull, which erupted in 2010 causing a major disruption in air travel for a week across parts of Europe. Hekla, an easy 90-minute drive east of Reykjavik, last erupted in 2000 and used to do so regularly every decade (so it’s well overdue). On the Snæfellsnes peninsula in West Iceland is stunning Snæfellsjökull, a 700,000-year-old glacier-capped stratovolcano that last erupted around 200 AD. A little easier to reach is Grábrók, a small volcanic cinder cone. It’s so accessible that we can walk to the crater’s top and stroll around its rim.

A visual benefit created by all these volcanoes is the fascinating fields of frozen lava that result from eruptions. One of the most amazing is the jagged Dimmuborgir ‘Dark Castles’ lava field in northern Iceland, created by eruptions 2,300 years ago. Volcanoes also contribute to numerous steaming geothermal landscapes. In the north near Lake Mývatn, the Námafjall (Hverir) Geothermal Area is full of smoking fumaroles and boiling mud pots. The landscape is a colorful blend of minerals, including sulfur, deposited by the geothermal waters. Thanks to the sulfur, the area’s rotten-egg smell is unmistakable.

Iceland may have more waterfalls, per capita, than any other country. These falls are due to numerous large glaciers, whose summer melt feeds rivers that cascade over the many lava walls and cliffs found throughout the island. In the north, Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Iceland, while in the same region is majestic Goðafoss, the ‘Waterfall of the Gods.’ In the south is Hraunfossar, an unusual waterfall where water tumbles into the Hvítá river after flowing for nearly a mile beneath a lava field.

Of course, for many the prime reason to visit Iceland is for a chance to see the aurora borealis. If the Sun and the weather cooperate, the northern lights will dance overhead for us at night. One of the great things about our Iceland northern lights trips is that no matter where we go on the island, we’re always under the aurora oval.

Spectacular Goðafoss, the ‘Waterfall of the Gods,’ has a legend connected to it that dates back to 1000 AD. (Photo by Paul Deans/TQ)
Jagged Dimmuborgir, the ‘Dark Castles’ lava field, was created by volcanic eruptions 2,300 years ago. (Photo by Paul Deans/TQ)

Why Visit Iceland with TravelQuest?

Since our first trip to Iceland in 2002, TravelQuest has brought hundreds of adventurous travelers to this rugged island in the North Atlantic, sharing its rich culture and haunting natural beauty—and, of course, finding the ideal spots to view the elusive northern lights.

When considering an Iceland tour to seek out the northern lights, keep in mind that there is no absolute guarantee that we’ll see them. The aurora borealis is almost as unpredictable as Iceland’s weather. So it’s often said: Go for the scenery; hope for the northern lights. And thanks to the island’s incredible scenery, it’s well worth the journey. TravelQuest visits numerous beautiful Icelandic sites far from Reykjavik and its immediate surroundings, sites that are often overlooked by travelers. Whether we’re driving along the beautiful south shore, exploring the island’s interior, whale watching in the far north, or traveling in the (almost) tourist-free Westfjords, each evening of our journey presents another aurora-watching opportunity. We stay in country lodges and guesthouses, where the lights are few and the skies are dark. If you’re tired and want to retire early, go ahead. Our trip astronomer will keep watch late into the night and wake you if the aurora appears.

During the day, it’s the magnificent Iceland countryside that spellbinds us as we visit sight after sight. Depending on our itinerary, we may explore numerous large, thundering waterfalls and even walk behind one, stroll various lava fields including a fairy-tale-like lava sculpture park, climb a volcanic cinder cone, visit folk museums to discover how Icelanders lived less than 100 years ago, or have a relaxing soak in a geothermal bath.

On upcoming tours of Iceland, we may start in Reykjavik before heading north to spend several days exploring the natural wonders of the Lake Mývatn region. We’ll stand beside spectacular Goðafoss, the ‘Waterfall of the Gods,’ and walk through jagged Dimmuborgir, a fairy-tale-like lava field that features bizarre rock formations and is an absolute must-see on any Iceland trip. Near Lake Mývatn is the Námafjall Geothermal Area. The landscape of smoking fumaroles and boiling mud pots is a colorful blend of minerals including sulfur, with its unmistakable rotten-egg smell. Our nights will be spent at Hotel Laxá, a dark-sky location where we hope the northern lights will grace us with their presence.

As the tour progresses, we’ll drive west across northern Iceland, where the sights are plentiful and the tourists are few. We’ll take a whale-watching cruise (weather permitting) from a village located just below the Arctic Circle, visit the Glaumbær Folk Museum to see the simple houses of turf and stone inhabited by rural Icelanders until early in the last century, and get up close and personal with some beautiful Icelandic horses at Gauksmyri, where we’ll be treated to an impressive riding demonstration. And each evening our accommodation will be away from the lights of nearby towns, giving us the best chance of seeing the aurora borealis.

A volcanic cinder cone, seen from the summit of nearby Grábrók crater. (Photo by Gary Seronik/TQ)
Icelandic horses are smaller than most, but don’t call them ponies! (Photo by Paul Deans/TQ)
After flowing under a lava field, water tumbles into the Hvítá river at Hraunfossar. (Photo by Paul Deans/TQ)

Join us on Our Next Iceland Adventure

Our favorite time to tour in Iceland is early autumn. The temperatures are pleasant, the hours of darkness are gradually increasing (but with plenty of daylight for sightseeing), and there is colorful fall scenery. As a bonus, the northern lights tend to be more active in the early autumn than during most other months. The magic of the aurora borealis and the breathtaking beauty of Iceland are ideal ingredients for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

If your bucket list includes seeing Iceland and the aurora borealis, why not combine the two into one amazing Iceland tour. Our next trip is upcoming this autumn, and we’ll again be heading north into the less-traveled regions of Iceland. So contact TravelQuest today to learn about our next Iceland northern lights tour—to this island of fire, ice, and the northern lights.

Northern lights in Iceland are often strong enough to punch through clouds, making for a spectacular three-dimensional vision. (Photo by Paul Deans/TQ)

Header image by Paul Deans/TQ