Tour begins: 12:00 PM, Reykjavik. When you arrive in Iceland's capital, Reykjavik, you'll be met at Keflavik International Airport and transferred to the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica or the Grand Hotel Reykjavik, where Tauck has reserved day rooms to accommodate those guests with early flight arrivals into Reykjavik today (on day 1 of the tour). Our welcome reception and luncheon will be memorable as you meet, mingle and dine at Kolabrautin Ristorante, on the fourth floor of Reykjavik's stunning waterfront Harpa Concert Hall. Following lunch, visit Old Town as well as the Perlan Museum and its Wonders of Iceland exhibit, spotlighting the forces of nature behind the country's amazing geological wonders; see, hear and feel the power of Iceland's volcanoes, earthquakes and geothermal energy. Board in Hafnarjfördur to begin your Iceland cruise; enjoy dinner onboard this evening.
Grundarfjordur & fishing villages
Begin the day with a relaxing morning at sea, where briefings set the stage for the week ahead – during which you'll encounter daily life in fishing villages hugging the craggy coast, traditions and legends that are so much a part of Icelandic culture, pristine wilderness and natural wonders. After lunch onboard, the ship docks in Grundarfjördur midday for a choice of afternoon sightseeing. Take a scenic drive along the coast en route to Djúpalónssandur; when you see the eerie rocks rising from the ocean here, you'll understand why local folks suspect that they belong to elves. These strange formations have become the basis for many of Iceland's time-honored sagas; learn more about the traditional stories that tell tales of the country's early settlers, trials and tribulations during your visit, including how these rocks were used in strength competitions between local fishermen. A walking tour in and around the fishing hamlet of Arnarstapi reveals both village life and the abundant bird life that thrives in the area. And discover a black-lava landscape at Budir, as well as one of the very few yellow-sand beaches in Iceland. Alternatively, you can choose to embark on a "Lava & Viking Adventure" that explores both the rugged nature of the area and the literature it has inspired, visiting sites that have been immortalized in Icelandic sagas – including a walk up the slope of Mt. Helgafell for spectacular views. Return to the ship in Grundarfjördur; set sail for Grímsey late afternoon. Please join us onboard this evening for the Captain's welcome dinner.
Life on Grímsey & the Arctic Circle
Your Tauck small ship calls at the small island of Grímsey today, located
just off the northern coast of Iceland on the Arctic Circle.
Approximately 100 hardy souls make their homes on this northernmost
inhabited part of Iceland. Learn about what life is like here, the
fascination that chess holds for residents – and perhaps you'll hear the
local legend about the Arctic Circle crossing right down the middle of
the local clergyman's bed! Although there are no trees on the island,
the impressive sea cliffs and rich marshland, grass and moss are an
ideal environment for birds – many, many birds. Go ashore to observe
vast colonies of Arctic terns and comical puffins as well as other
species. Crossing the Arctic Circle in a single step will be a favorite
memory of your Iceland cruise.
Akureyri to the Godafoss
On the northern coast of Iceland cruise to the beautiful city of Akureyri, the second-largest city in the nation. Set amidst magnificent mountains, Akureyri is known as the "capital of North Iceland" and noted for its lively cultural life. First settled by Norse Vikings in the 9th century, the city was home to a Norwegian-British fighter squadron during World War II and today boasts the northernmost 18-hole golf course in the world. Your choices of activities today include: mineral bathing at the Myvatn Nature Baths in the geologically intriguing area around Lake Myvatn; visiting the historic fishing village of Siglufjördur and its significant ties to Iceland's 19th-century economy, with journeys "back in time" at the Folk Music Center and the Herring Era Museum; or leisurely exploration of Akureyri and environs – including a visit to the spectacular Godafoss waterfall to discover why it's locally known as "the falls of the gods," and hear about the Kristni Saga recounting the arrival of Christianity in Iceland and the banishment of the old pagan gods in 1000 AD. After reboarding in Akureyri, enjoy dinner onboard as you continue cruising to Ísafjördur.
Isafjordur, Vigur & island life
The allure of the Westfjords that you'll explore on your Iceland cruise today includes spectacular scenery, history and encounters with the daily lifestyles of the people who live here. Dock at the fishing town of Isafjordur, which despite its isolation from the rest of Iceland is known for its rather urban atmosphere, flourishing cultural life and rich heritage of music and art. It also boasts some of the oldest houses in Iceland, dating from the 18th century. Your choices today include: a drive through Ísafjördur for a look at the region's life and culture, including stops at the quaint church of the village of Bolungarvik, a restored Osvor fisherman's hut showcasing what life was like here for Icelandic fishermen before the 20th century, and the Maritime Museum; a hike and visit to the Arctic Fox Center in Sudavik, focusing on the biology and natural history of Iceland's only native mammal; or a short ferry trip to Vigur Island, owned by a young family, who together look after the island, including what seems like millions of birds, especially the Arctic tern and a colony of eider ducks, prized for their luxurious down. See Iceland's only windmill, along with historic buildings and important national artifacts. Experience traditional Icelandic cakes and refreshments served by the family in the restored Viktoria House, built in 1862. Return to the ship this afternoon and sail on to the Westman Islands.
Heimaey & the "Islands of the western men"
There are places on Earth that simply must be experienced and the geological children, Heimaey and Surtsey islands in the area of Iceland called Vestmannaeyjar (the Westman Islands), are among them. Named "islands of the western men" for a group of rebellious slaves whose daring exploits are the stuff of Icelandic legend, this remote part of Iceland – far off the beaten track, with its scenic beauty, huge seabird colonies and intriguing human saga – has an aura of adventure and magic. In 1973, a volcanic eruption on Heimaey, the only populated island, destroyed the small town and changed the island's landscape forever. Come ashore on Heimaey for a day of exploration that includes a visit to Sprangan cliff, where young islanders are taught the sport of rope-swinging and cliff-side egg-collecting; a stop at Storhöfdi, home to the island's largest colony of puffins and an incredible vantage point for breathtaking views of the island and the massive glaciers of the mainland (weather permitting); and a walk up the youngest mountain in the world – which was born when Mt. Eldfell spewed lava over the island, creating the new "Pompeii" of the north. You won't have to look too hard to see puffins, Arctic terns, and other birds that inhabit the cliffs and coves. Return to the ship for a special farewell dinner and another day of discovery.
Iceland's "Golden Circle", The Althing & the Blue Lagoon
After you arrive in Hafnarfjördur this morning, take in the "Big Three" – Gullfoss waterfall, the Geysir hot spring area and Thingvellir National Park – as well as many of Iceland's most famous landmarks. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Thingvellir is significant both for its dramatic scenery and as the ultimate symbol of Iceland's independence and national unity. The Althing (or Alping), the world's oldest legislative parliament, first convened in this natural amphitheater in 930 AD and was Iceland's legislature and highest court during the Old Commonwealth (930 – 1262/1264) era; discover the Law Speaker's rock, from which laws were spoken aloud and Christianity was adopted around 1000 AD, and the remains of ancient turf shelters that housed the delegates. At Gullfoss, the "Golden Waterfall," the Hvíta River drops 96 feet in two falls creating Iceland's most famous and spectacular cascade. Geothermal activity surrounds you in the geyser area of Geysir, with its colorful mud formations rich in minerals and steaming vents. This afternoon you have an opportunity, if you wish, to go to the Blue Lagoon – an aqua-blue pool of mineral-rich geothermal seawater with a temperature between 98 and 102 degrees F. Return to the ship for a final evening.
Your Iceland cruise ends this morning in the town of Hafnarfjördur as you bid farewell to the captain and crew. Tour ends: 8:00 AM with a transfer to Reykjavik's Keflavik International Airport. Please allow 3 hours for airport check-in.