Between epic sagas and cascading waterfalls, read Oksana’s 5 most memorable moments on our Iceland Circumnavigation expedition.
Iceland completely takes your breath away as soon as you step off the plane. From lunar-like craters and hot springs, we were lucky enough to travel around the spectacular island, stopping off to see its most magnificent highlights each day.
Below are five of my most cherished moments as we trekked, hiked, cruised and explored our way across this land of ice and fire.
Grimsey Island & Crossing the Arctic Circle
I think absolutely everyone unanimously agreed that Grimsey Island was a true standout in our itinerary across Iceland. It’s hard to say just what about it was so special – but as a start, it is the only place in Iceland which cuts across the Arctic Circle.
A giant stone marker stands out and proud marking the line of the Arctic Circle, and we faithfully trekked up to the point to officially say we conquered the Arctic! But it was actually the walk itself that will remain so special to me looking back – beautiful rolling hills, sheep grazing peacefully, and no exaggeration – millions of puffins nesting in the soaring bird cliffs. Bird lovers stood gazing wondrously at the puffins swirling around our heads and perching around the hills. As the locals like to say, Grimsey is home of a hundred people but a million seabirds!
Mythology & Culture
Ok, so it’s not one moment, but the fascinating mythology and sagas set up the most interesting backdrop as we travelled across this epic land. Vikings, great warriors, trolls and historical figures all come into play in the diverse series of Icelandic sagas.
In the evenings, we would be captivated by the storytelling of Suzanne, one of our exceptional e-team, who relayed the stories of Norse gods and the fascinating history of Iceland. During the days, our local guides and expert e-team entertained us with quirky facts and fascinating insights into the local culture of the quaint towns and geological marvels that we visited. From the importance of herring in Icelandic trade, to trying some special fermented shark followed very quickly by what’s known locally as a shot of “Black Death” – these truly were unique, cultural experiences that really made the voyage so special.
Did you know?
The geology of the country is incredibly unique; it’s one of the most active volcanic regions on Earth. Due to its location along atop the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the tectonic plates are drifting apart, and Iceland is in fact growing at the rate of 2cm each year!
Seyðisfjörður (aka The Waterfall Walk)
I won’t deny I’m a sucker for a waterfall – and Seydisfjordur is the destination to deliver! The town itself is flanked by a crescendo of waterfalls on every side of the fjord. We headed up a number of canyons further up the fjord, and with every step we saw more and more waterfalls. As we travelled up the 7km circuit to the uppermost reaches of the falls, we traversed beautiful green hills and our expert guides showcased the local flora. We even got to sample some wild crowberries and blueberries growing along the path! Sheep bleated their greetings and we refilled our Aurora waterbottles with the crisp fresh water from the streams.
Zodiacs across the mysterious Drangey Island
Even on the overcast or rainy days, there was an incredible atmosphere in the air – it made for moody, unique and utterly breathtaking vistas as we cruised on zodiacs through the mist and watched the towering bird-cliffs all around us. Drangey Island was a special spot – the remnant of a 700,000‑year‑old volcano and a nesting colony for thousands of seabirds. We took to our zodiacs and explored the nooks and crannies of the mammoth cliffs around us, spotting kittiwakes, puffins and guillemots as they nested all around us and soared over the water.
The Polar Plunge
A rite of passage on any polar voyage, the polar plunge is simply an experience you cannot pass by. Electrifying. Extraordinary. And of course, followed by a shot of whiskey to help you warm up. As we took it in turns to take a dip in the cold waters, the cheer squad kept morale high as we each braced ourselves for this once in a lifetime experience. Some loved it so much they jumped twice! For me, once was enough, but it will certainly be one of the biggest highlights of the trip!