Iceland Tour: In the Path of the Vikings
Tour Iceland and experience dramatic landscapes, Norse longhouses, Viking ships, and learn about the hero stories in the ancient sagas
With Dr. Elizabeth Rowe
August 5 – 14, 2022
Why travel on Far Horizons’ Iceland Tour ?
- Led by Dr. Elizabeth Rowe, a Viking and sagas specialist
- See the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Skaftafell and Thingvellir
- Learn about the unique Icelandic horse and goat
- Dine on produce at a geothermal greenhouse farm
- Travel by ferry to Westmann Islands
- Visit Erik the Red’s home
Travel & Tour Iceland – Daily Itinerary
Day 1: Depart the USA
Day 2: Arrive Reykjavik. Viking World. Afternoon walking tour
Day 3: Hofsstaðir, Seljalandsfoss, Keldur, Skógafoss
Day 4: Reynisfjara, Dyrhólaey, Skaftafell and Vatnajökull National Parks
Day 5: Ferry to Westmann Island of Heimaey
Day 6: Eiríksstaðir, Snorrastofa (Reykholt)
Day 7: Borgarfjörður day
Day 8: Gullfoss waterfall, Skálholt church, Þingvellir Park, þjóðveldisbærinn stöng
Day 9: Reykjavik’s Culture House, Settlement and National Museums
Day 10: Return to the USA
What are the ‘sagas’?
A unique contribution to Western literature, sagas are prose narratives written almost one thousand years ago. A unique form of medieval literature, these tales told of the adventures, struggles and often bloody feuds of the great families who settled on this remote island a thousand years ago. First passed down orally from generation to generation, around 1190 -1320 writers inscribed these stories into books. Among the most important are the Njáls saga, a compelling story of a fifty-year blood feud, and the Gísla saga, about a tragic hero who must kill one of his brothers-in-law to avenge another brother-in-law.
Sitting in a remote corner of the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland is a mountainous island nation celebrated for its dramatic scenery. Shining black sand beaches, stunning fjords, gushing geysers, majestic volcanoes, misty waterfalls, and massive glaciers create some of the most atmospheric landscapes on the planet.
During the Early Middle Ages Norsemen traveled, traded, and established permanent colonies in many locations throughout northern Europe. As seafaring increased, either blown off course or intentionally exploring, Norsemen ‘discovered’ Iceland. Unlike other regions colonized by the Vikings, this new land had no indigenous population (although Irish hermit monks were probably on the island earlier than the Norsemen). Ancient sagas describe Iceland as a rich land filled with game and fish, birch and willow woodland, and forests that stretched from highland slopes to the valleys below. Tales of this paradise spread, and in the 9th century Scandinavian pioneers looking to start a new life arrived on Iceland. The people who inhabit Iceland now are direct descendants of the Vikings.
Join Dr. Elizabeth Rowe and only 13 others on this archaeological tour into this remote Viking land.
Iceland Study Leader
Elizabeth Rowe received her BA magna cum laude, from Cornell University and her PhD from the same institution. Her life’s work began with her dissertation “Fables in the best of sagas: Studies in the genre of the Old Norse mythic-heroic saga”. A specialist in Medieval Icelandic and Norwegian history, Dr. Rowe is currently Lecturer in Scandinavian History of the Viking Age at the University of Cambridge in England. In addition to her post at Cambridge, she leads the medieval section of the International Manuscript Summer School (held alternately in Reykjavik and Copenhagen). She is a prolific writer who has published numerous articles and encyclopedia entries, along with several books including, The Medieval Annals of Iceland, The Development of Flateyjarbók: Iceland and the Norwegian Dynastic Crisis of 1389 and Ragnarr Loðbrók in Medieval Icelandic Historiography, a study of a Viking hero known from Viking Age Old Norse poetry and sagas. She also has been a panelist or commentator on several programs on the Vikings including on BBC Radio and The History Channel. Dr. Rowe was Historical Consultant and writer for the video game Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice that has won twenty awards, including five BAFTA Video Game awards.
Iceland Tour Itinerary
(B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner
Day 2: Arrive Reykjavik Airport in the morning. (Note: If people want to come in early, arrangements can be made for an additional hotel overnight on Day 1.) Upon leaving the airport stop by the Viking World Museum, home of the Íslendingur, the Icelander. Built in 1996, the vessel is an exact replica of the famous Gokstad, a remarkable archaeological find of an almost completely intact Viking ship, excavated in Norway in 1882. The museum also houses the Viking millennium exhibition produced by the Smithsonian Institution. Called Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga, it reveals the Norse settlement and explorations of unknown lands. In the afternoon, enjoy a walking tour of the city, including the parish Lutheran church of Hallgrímskirkja, a stunning architectural masterpiece, and The Saga Museum, where lifelike figures recreates important moments in Icelandic history. Our final stop is Perlan, or The Pearl, a prominent landmark in the Icelandic capital. Built by an award-winning architect, it perches on top of six water tanks that store 24 million liters of the city’s hot water. Our hotel for the night is the Apotek Hotel, located in the heart of downtown Reykjavik. (L/D)
Day 3: Our destination today is the town of Vik, on the southern tip of the island, and during our drive, we will view several interesting sites. A quick stop in Garðabær Town gives us time to view the remains of Hofsstaðir, a large longhouse built by the Vikings in the 9th century. Created more than a thousand years ago, Keldur is a farmstead that has over 20 still-standing turf structures. This historic settlement once belonged to Ingjaldur Höskuldsson, a character in Njál’s Saga, and has been mentioned in other medieval literature, including Sturlunga Saga and the Saga of Saint Thorlákur. Keldur Hall, believed to have been built in the 11th century (although archaeological research indicate that the estate was inhabited before the year 1000), is stave construction with decorative moldings. From the hall there is an underground tunnel thought to date from the 12th to 13th century and was probably built as an escape route during a time of conflict. We stop in Hvolsvȍllur to see the Njal´s Saga exhibit in The Saga Center. Continuing on, we will walk behind the curtain of water (we’ll wear raincoats here!) at Seljalandsfoss waterfall. And our final stop is at Skógafoss, one of Iceland’s biggest and most beautiful waterfalls. Any time the sun emerges, a rainbow is produced by the voluminous spray of the cascading water. Overnight for two nights in the new Hotel Kria in Vik. (B/L/D)
Day 4: Today’s all day excursion takes us further east. Our first stop will be at Reynisfjara where ebony basalt columns dominate a black sand beach. In 1991, National Geographic voted Reynisfjara as one of the top 10 non-tropical beaches to visit on the planet. Our ultimate goal is Vatnajökull National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which includes the national parks of Skaftafell and Jökulsárgljúfur along with the Vatnajökull ice cap. At Skaftafell there are short, easy trails leading to Svartifoss Waterfall and the Skaftafellsjökull Glacier. Bordering Vatnajökull, we will see the glacial lagoon of Jökulsárlón where still, aquamarine waters are dotted with icebergs from the surrounding glaciers. At the end of our long day, return to Vik and the Hotel Kria. (B/L/D)
Day 5: Depart the mainland by ferry to Heimaey, off Iceland’s south coast and the only occupied island in the Westman Archipelago. In Icelandic called Vestmannaeyjar, these land masses were formed by underwater volcanic eruptions. In 1973, Eldfell Volcano on Heimaey erupted. The lava flow destroyed buildings and forced a months-long evacuation of the entire population to the mainland. Eldheimar Museum was established to reveal the results of this eruption’s destruction. As we walk through the town, stop to admire the church, a replica of the Norwegian Haltdalen stave church, which was built around 1170. Return to the mainland and continue to Reykjavik and the Hotel Apotek. Lunch is on our own. (B/ /D)
Day 6: Our all day drive will take us through the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, a region in western Iceland known for its dramatic landscapes. Our first stop is at Snorrastofa, founded in memory of Snorri Sturluson, a 13th century Icelandic historian, poet, politician, and the author of the Prose Edda. He was elected twice as lawspeaker to the Icelandic parliament, the Althing. Now his former homestead at Reykholt is a research center. Then its on to Eiríksstaðir, the former homestead of Eiríkr Þorvaldsson, known as Erik the Red. After his exile from Iceland for committing a murder, Erik is remembered in medieval and Icelandic saga sources as having founded the first settlement in Greenland. Eiríksstaðir is also the birthplace of Leif the Lucky who, according to the sagas, discovered America. Overnight in the Hotel Varmaland in Borgarnes with stunning panoramic views over Borgarfjörður, a fjord in western Iceland. (B/L/D)
Day 7: A variety of cultural and natural history await us today. Located at the head of the fjord in Borgarnes, Landnámssetur Settlement Exhibition tells the Saga of The Settlement of Iceland, along with Egil´s Saga Exhibition that profiles one of the most colorful of all the saga heroes. Our next stop is Deildartunguhver to view a thermal spring that supplies most of the water used for central heating in the towns of Borgarnes and Akranes. The Icelandic goat is an old type believed to be of Norwegian origin and dating back to the settlement of Iceland over 1100 years ago. We will learn about the breeding program to maintain this unique goat stock at the Icelandic Goat Centre at Háafell. Greenhouses in Iceland use geothermal waters of hot springs to grow vegetables. We will lunch on produce grown at Kleppjárnsreykir Greenhouses. Continue to Hraunfossar where a series of waterfalls are formed by rivulets streaming out of Hallmundarhraun, a lava field formed by an eruption of one of the volcanoes lying under the Langjökull Glacier. We will also take a short walk to Barnafoss, a rapid waterfall just a short walk away from the serene Hraunfossar. The Icelandic horse derived from ponies brought to the island by Norse settlers in the 9th and 10th centuries. Archeological excavations in Europe have revealed that it is descended from an ancient breed of horses that is now extinct outside of Iceland, where it has been preserved in isolation. At Sturlureykir Horse Farm we will learn about these special animals. Return to Reykjavik and the Hotel Apotek, our home for the next three nights. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
Day 8: Our explorations take us into the mountains and river valleys around Reykjavik to view stunning landscape along with early Norse sites. Situated in the lower part of the Biskupstungur Valley, Skálholt was one of two episcopal seats in Iceland, along with Hólar in the North, and it was the center of ecclesiastic power in Iceland for almost 700 years. The first cathedral was built in Skálholt in the 12th century, and as many as ten churches have once stood in this spot. The present sanctuary dates to the 1950s. While excavating for the foundation, a sarcophagus was found containing the remains of Páll Jónsson, a bishop who died in 1211. The sarcophagus is on display in the church crypt. We continue into Haukadalur Valley to the Geysir, a famous hot spring. Though Geysir itself is rarely active these days, the area boasts a plethora of hot springs and geysers, including Strokkur which shoots jets of boiling water into the air every few minutes. Nearby, view Gullfoss waterfall’s dramatic show, produced by the melting waters from Langjökull Glacier. One thousand years ago, Viking farmers settled in Þjórsárdalur Valley unaware of a nearby volcano. When Mt. Hekla erupted in 1104, twenty-two settlement farms were destroyed. Þjóðveldisbærinn Stöng is a reconstruction of one of these Viking-era farmsteads. Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park, on the UNESCO Tentative List, is a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. A venerated spot to Icelanders, this is where the open-air gathering, called Althing, was established in 930 and continued to meet until 1798. Over two weeks a year, the assembly set laws and settled disputes. It was here that the nation abandoned the Old Norse pagan belief system and converted to Christianity in 1000. Nearly a millennium later, in 1944, it is where Icelanders declared their independence from Denmark and confirmed their first President. (B/L/D)
Day 9:This morning, we visit three museums. The National Museum of Iceland displays fascinating exhibitions illustrating the story of Iceland’s past, from the medieval days of Viking settlements to current contemporary culture. A highlight is the Valthjófsstadur Door, a medieval church gate dated to 1200. Beautifully carved with dragons and knights, it displays the legend of the lion-knight that appears in several Icelandic sagas. The Culture House has been part of the National Museum of Iceland since 2013 and has displays from thousand-year-old treasures to the latest in Icelandic art. In 2001, the remains of a 10th century Viking longhouse was found during excavations in downtown Reykjavik. To preserve this historic discovery, The Settlement Exhibition museum was built around the remains of the hall. The afternoon and evening are free for further Reykjavik explorations, or join an optional experience in the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa. (B/L)
Day 10: Transfer to the airport for our morning flight back to the USA.
CALL (per person, double occupancy) Includes round trip international airfare in economy class from Philadelphia to Reykjavik; airport transfer fees for arrival or departure of the group flight; all hotels; meals as noted in the itinerary; ground transportation; entry fees; gratuities to guides and drivers; and emergency evacuation insurance.
Single Supplement: CALL. Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement will be charged.
Cost does not include: a separate $150.00 (per person) donation check; passport or visa fees; airport or departure taxes; beverages or food not included on regular menus; laundry; excess baggage charges; personal tips; email, telephone and fax charges; or other items of a personal nature.
Fuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.
Donation Checks: As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural projects and museums we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant write a check to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person.
A deposit of $750.00 is required along with your registration form. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Upon receipt of your deposit and completed registration form, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information. Prior to the trip, we will send links to various websites of pertinent interest. Click here to download our Registration Form.
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $450.00 administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Registrants are strongly advised to buy travel insurance that includes trip cancellation.Air Ticketing
International flights from Philadelphia to Reykjavik are included in the cost of the trip. If you do not arrive or depart on the scheduled days, you are responsible for all transportation (including airport transfers) to join the group. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing. NOTE: If you would like to upgrade to business class, please be aware that seats are very limited.
Travel in Iceland
This trip is moderately strenuous. There will be several long days traveling on winding and not always paved roads into remote areas. The group will be walking into and around sites extensively, at times over uneven terrain for a mile or more. Warm, waterproof hiking boots are strongly suggested. Hotels will be simple and clean but will not be five- star. Most will not have bell staff so you may have to carry your own luggage. The weather in Iceland is very variable, with sudden and frequent changes. Layers and a rain jacket are recommended. All participants are expected to be physically active and able to walk independently throughout our very full touring days. Keeping up with the group is each participant’s responsibility. Team spirit and a good sense of humor are vital! If you have questions about your ability to handle this sort of challenge, please call us.
Private Tours of Archaeological Sites
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
This Archaeological Tour to Iceland is limited to 14 participants