Iceland. Welcome to one of the world's best-kept natural secrets, a land of delightful surprises. Contrary to its name, much of the country is a fertile, green, hospitable place. On this trip, we'll walk in lush wildflower-filled valleys, and beside sea cliffs alive with nesting birds. The sheer power of wild nature will be evident nearly everywhere - as we walk up to waterfalls of immense force, along rocky surf-pounded headlands, and beside glaciers melting in lovely iceberg-filled lagoons. We'll see active volcanoes, geysers and hot springs. Europeans have long known about this gem of a land, and Americans are beginning to discover this fascinating country.
|Seljalandsfoss - Behind the Falls|
When its first inhabitants arrived over 1100 years ago, they found a surreal land of fire and ice. While much of the land was green and wooded, there was evidence of great cataclysms — earthquakes, volcanoes, and giant floods. Yet the climate was surprisingly mild, and the rich coastal waters provided fish to sustain vast numbers of seabirds, whales, seals, and of course, the Icelanders themselves. It was a land unlike any other. The Icelandic sagas speak of the land, and the lives, trials, and accomplishments of those early settlers. Iceland has been continuously inhabited ever since.
We’ve planned this expedition to give you the opportunity to experience the beauty and strangeness of Iceland in a very special way. Our drives and walks will bring you into mountain meadows, alpine tundra, lava-fields, glaciers, scenic mountains, and coastal fjords. The scenery is stunning, and we’ll enjoy all aspects of Iceland’s unique nature. Our itinerary includes a variety of natural areas, including the national parks of Jökulsárgljúfur, and Thingvellir, as well as the stunning Snaefellesness Peninsula, recent volcanically active Myvatn region, and scenic glacier-carved valleys. We’ll enjoy the diversity in each of these places, and learn to pronounce these and the other Icelandic place names!
|Purple mountain saxifrage, a lovely alpine flower|
The rich and varied flora will capture the attention of wildflower lovers and includes many high arctic specialties, including tiny ferns and showy tundra flowers. We'll take time to appreciate them, whether to photograph the delicate Iceland poppy, inspect up close the rare spotted orchid, or investigate a small fern called moonwort. The birds are no less interesting, a mix of Eurasian and North American species. We'll see cliffs with thousands of puffins, kittiwake, and guillemot, and visit the nesting grounds of great and Arctic skuas. Lake Mývatn region boasts one of the densest concentrations of breeding waterfowl anywhere. It is also a good area to find red-necked phalarope at their nest sites, black-tailed godwit in breeding plumage, and the rare gyrfalcon. Nor will we overlook the unusual set of geologic circumstances that have created this unique landscape. The mid-Atlantic ridge cuts right through the center of Iceland, and has left its mark in many visible ways. We'll see areas of recent eruptions, and places where water, heated deep inside the earth, emerges at the surface as hot springs and geysers (and visit Geysir, namesake of the formation). And we'll learn how the Icelandic people have made their peace with this unusual situation.
Each day will bring new surprises and discoveries. The scenery will never disappoint, from the stunning coastal fjords to the strange Dimmuborgir formations. Expect the unexpected…from the display of a golden plover, seeking to lure you away from her eggs, to the subtle colors of the sky late at night, under the midnight sun. Like many of our past travelers, you will be taken with the beauty of this compelling landscape – as well as its waterfalls, glaciers, geysers and other geothermal features. Whether you are walking along a powerful glacial stream or a boulder-strewn wild coast, near hot springs and bubbling mudpots, or venturing onto a glacier itself, the experiences this trip offers will amaze you. Of course, everywhere we go we’ll meet Icelanders, and learn of their proud culture, history, and fascinating language.
|Thermal areas near Myvatn|
Your Nature Discoveries guide and leader for this expedition is Steven Daniel. A trained naturalist with an MS from Cornell University, Steven has an abiding curiosity about the world of nature, and enjoys sharing his knowledge with our groups. He has a particular interest in the flora and fauna of the high latitudes, as well as in the unusual geology of Iceland. He has led two recent trips to Iceland, and looks forward to returning. For the past decade, Steven has led vacation-learning adventures to a variety of destinations worldwide, including Alaska, Costa Rica, Yellowstone, and the Galapagos. Besides doing much of the coordination for Nature Discoveries, Steven teaches field biology at Monroe Community College, and is a former public school teacher.
Skaftafell National Park
A sense of adventure and flexibility is essential for this trip (and lots of film and a journal are recommended as well). This is an active participation trip, not a typical bus tour. One's attitude, not age, will determine if this is a good trip for you. Our travelers to Iceland have ranged from their 30's to their 80's; each has been delighted with the experience.
* All photographs are taken by Steven Daniel and are the property of Nature Discoveries, Inc.
"A wonderful trip..met my expectations and more!"
"I loved Thingvellir, and the sense of history conveyed by [Icelandic guide]."
"Snowmobile ride on Vatnajökull was spectacular!"
[Highlights were] "Thorsmörk hike, boat ride among icebergs, hikes to waterfalls, glaciers, and geyser areas."
[Highlights were] "Getting really close to the puffins... experiencing the strange geologic forms...exposure to Icelandic culture."
"Great experiences of varied nature...never got bored...loved it!"