Day 1-2 Reykjavik
Isolated in a northern landscape of icy tranquility, Iceland is a land of volcanoes, hot springs, mountains and glaciers. As the capital of Iceland, Reykjavík reflects this natural diversity with ancient maritime history as well as a thriving modern energy and sophistication.
Day 3 Flatey Island, Iceland
Largest of a constellation of pint-sized islands in Breidafjordur Bay, Flatey is barely a mile long and flat enough to deserve its Icelandic name. The one scruffy road from town dock to “old village” never sees a rush hour – even on foot. Few are hearty enough to winter here, but summer’s far more genial and the clutch of restored houses seems downright inviting. Island birding is topnotch, the sheep pose well for photos, and a Zodiac spin in these waters is sure to yield rewarding sights.
Day 3 Latrabjarg, Iceland
The crags of this rugged Westfjords promontory provide a perfect breeding environment for puffins, gannets, guillemots and razorbills. In fact, this towering bird cliff – Europe's largest – is vital to the continued survival of its avian residents. Don’t try counting them; there are millions here. Top photogenic honors go to the colorful, comical puffins, often seen with a short stack of sardines balanced in their beaks. It’s the puffin version of bringing home the bacon for your family.
Day 3 Patreksfjordur, Iceland
Some 600 inhabitants call this remote Icelandic village home; thousands of times that if you count seabirds. Vast throngs of gannets, guillemots, razorbills and puffins live and breed along the Látrabjarg Cliffs – an 8-mile stretch of birdwatching heaven just across the inlet – and these critters certainly aren’t camera-shy. Nearby Rauðasandur beach will tempt your lens as well; its unique red and pink sands contrast dramatically with the surrounding black cliff-blue water landscape.
Day 4 Dynjandi Water Fall, Iceland
How’s this for a visualization exercise: close your eyes and imagine standing deep inside a rugged Icelandic mountainscape watching frigid glacier-melt waters thunder down through a series of seven spectacular falls on their way to the sea. Better yet, sail with us into unspoiled Arnarfjörður fjord, Zodiac to a remote landing spot, trek up to the storied cascades at Dynjandi – and visualize the real thing. It’s an eyeopener, to be sure.
Day 4 Vigur, Iceland
This barely-populated Westfjords islet is a floating nature preserve where the locals harvest eiderdown for a living and upwards of 8,000 puffins nest in comical profusion. Enjoy a rare chance to observe these endearing creatures in their native environment, along with plenty of their avian brethren including eider ducks, black guillemots and swooping arctic terns, who don’t provide nearly as warm a welcome as your human hosts. Iceland’s tiniest post office and sole windmill are here, too.
Day 5 Siglufjordur, Iceland
Iceland’s northernmost town has a lot more going on than you might expect. A tiny shark-fishing outpost in 1900, it grew into the Atlantic’s undisputed herring capital – and something of an Icelandic folk music mecca, as well. A visit to the sprawling Herring Era Museum will fill you in on all the historic details, while the Folk Music Center showcases regional shanties, epic rhymes, and instruments. Another sign of advanced civilization here in this natural wonderland: a tasty craft brewery.
Day 5 Akureyri, Iceland
Situated on one of the most magnificent fjords in Iceland, bounded by snow-capped mountains and gently sloping pastures, the weather here is surprisingly moderate despite being just 60 miles from the Arctic Circle. Charming and historical, here you’ll find over 2,000 species of plants in the Botanical Gardens, which thrive without the benefit of a greenhouse.
Day 6 Husavik, Iceland
This bustling town was first settled some 1,200 years ago. Today it’s Iceland’s reigning whale-watching capital; some 23 species frequent sparkling Skjálfandi Bay – among them humpbacks, seis and blues. For cetacean-gazing on dry land, the superb Husavik Whale Museum is at harborside. Nearby Lake Mývatn is the local hotspot, alive with geothermal oddities and huge platoons of birdlife. Roaring, horseshoe-shaped Goðafoss Waterfall is yet another neighborhood stunner.
Day 7 Crossing Arctic Circle / Grimsey Island, Iceland
Experience Iceland’s only landmass touching Arctic territory above 66.5°N latitude. Up here, Nature is boss – and local fishermen must heed her clock and moods, which can be wild indeed. A hike across green tundra and coastal bluffs crosses terrain where vast numbers of seabirds flourish, including kittiwakes, endearing puffins and the rare dovekie, or ‘Little Auk,’ decked out in formal black & white plumage. A tiny island church gets a priest visit just a few times a year.
Day 8 Vopnafjordur, Iceland
Relaxed geothermal soaking, brisk trekking, birdwatching and epic fishing are some of the key attractions here along Iceland’s northeast coast. Regional history comes alive in a museum focused on the 1875 Askja volcanic eruption, while time stands still on a hike between abandoned highland farms or along a coastline strewn with monumental rock pillars. Hungry trout and salmon inhabit the rivers, the town watering hole is heated by the Earth, and eiderdown comforters are a local craft specialty.
Day 8 Hafnarholmi, Iceland
Even in a country known for its prime puffin-spotting locales, this spot is a special sight. They’ve even built a special boardwalk here that brings you so close to these famously clownlike red-footed birds you can practically smell their breath (it’s fishy). Loads of other seabirds also feel at home in this stark Icelandic landscape including Arctic terns, known for boisterously protecting their nests. The Zodiac spin from our anchorage to the harbor provides another vantage point on it all
Day 9 Seydisfjordur, Iceland
Tucked deep inside a mountain-walled fjord, this colorful town would look right at home in Norway. The bright wooden houses, the wandering reindeer, barking seals, snow-dusted peaks and cascading waterfalls. But its 100% Icelandic, rich with outdoor adventures and home to a vibrant arts scene. Hiking in Skalanes Nature Reserve promises sightings of diverse wildlife, on land and in the air. The floating geothermal pools at Vok Baths spa are a luxury not to be missed. Kayaking’s great here, too.
Day 10 Haimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland / Scenic Cruising Surtsey Island
Rising from Atlantic waters south of Iceland, an otherworldly 15-island archipelago boasts explosive origins. Its main island, Heimaey, endured a 1973 volcanic eruption so violent the whole population fled to the mainland – a cataclysm well-chronicled at Eldheimar Museum. A who’s who of seabirds and a beluga whale sanctuary are other highlights here, while one of Heimaey’s next-door neighbors may be the youngest place on earth: UNESCO-listed Surtsey Island, born by underwater eruption in 1963.
Day 11 Reykjavik Disembarkation