Iceland's amazing geology, towering waterfalls, and dazzling northern lights are waiting for you!

Aurora above Northern Light Inn

Join Sky & Telescope for a one-week Iceland tour — and the chance to see the Northern Lights! With our tour partner Spears Travel and a local Icelandic guide, we’ll explore this fascinating island’s unique culture and geology during the day, then each night we’ll venture into dark areas away from city lights to view Iceland's aurora borealis. The subtly colored, ever-changing aurora is a truly awe-inspiring spectacle not to be missed!

This tour will begin on Saturday, October 2, 2021 (departure from the U.S. will be the previous evening) and end on Friday, October 8th. You'll also be able to stay for an optional extra day to explore the breathtaking Snæfellsjökull National Park.

Although the Northern Lights are elusive and unpredictable, we’ve chosen the time and location to maximize our chances of seeing one or more displays. Iceland always sits right under or near the auroral oval, the band around the far north where auroras are most common. Late September to early October is a good time for aurora-watching, as the nights are full and dark, and the weather prospects are better than deep winter. We have selected a week when moonlight won’t interfere with nighttime viewing.

If you’re ready to book our Iceland tour, click here.

The friendly people of this island nation have a culture that’s a fascinating mixture of both ultramodern elements and customs that date back to the original Viking settlers more than 1,000 years ago. We’ll stay at premium hotels both in and outside the capital city of Reykjavík and sample delicious Icelandic cuisine. Iceland’s tourist infrastructure is modern, and the nation is one of the cleanest and safest in the world. Most Icelanders speak at least some English, so it’s very easy to interact with the local population.

During the trip, a Sky & Telescope expert will give lectures on astronomy, including a talk on the science of aurorae.

Itinerary for 2021 Iceland Aurora Adventure

The Bridge Between Two Continents
The Bridge Between Two Continents / Iceland Travel

Day 1 (October 2nd):  Arrival in Iceland
Welcome to Iceland! Once you’ve landed at Keflavík Airport in Iceland, head through customs to the baggage carousels where you’ll collect your luggage. There is a duty-free shop located by the baggage carousels, at which you can shop while waiting for your luggage. Many items such as candy, snacks, and drinks are less expensive here than at local shops.

When you’ve collected your luggage, proceed into the arrivals hall where your tour guide will meet you and escort you to your private coach, which will be waiting outside. We’ll head to a local restaurant (Vitinn) for a group, buffet breakfast.(For those arriving on an earlier date or on afternoon flights, you will be responsible for your own transfer on your day of arrival and for any additional hotel nights that may be required. We can arrange these for you, at an extra cost.)

Refreshed by a hearty breakfast, we’ll follow the west coastline of the Reykjanes Peninsula, visiting sites such as Gunnuhver Hot Springs, the Bridge Between Two Continents, and the quaint village of Grindavík.

Relaxing at Iceland's Blue Lagoon
A highlight of Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula is the Blue Lagoon, which offers a relaxing “soak” in warm, mineral-laden waters.
Sky & Telescope / J. Kelly Beatty

Then it’s time to relax at the world-famous Blue Lagoon spa. A group admission and towel rental are included in your package. The Blue Lagoon is a unique, man-made wonder: a lagoon with pleasantly warm, electric blue, mineral-rich geothermal water in the middle of a black lava field. The high natural levels of silica and minerals give the Lagoon its rich blue color and its purported healing power. The facilities include modern changing rooms and showers, an indoor geothermal pool, a restaurant, and other services. Don’t forget to pack your bathing suit (and water shoes, if you prefer to not go barefoot) in your carry-on luggage for easy access. Lunch is on your own.

After you’ve enjoyed a couple of hours in the lagoon's restorative, healing waters, we’ll be transferred to the nearby Northern Light Inn for check-in, followed by a group dinner this evening. Afterward have a look outside to see if the Northern Lights are on display.

Our 2019 tour group was treated to a dazzling auroral display on our first night in Iceland, steps from our comfortable rooms at the Northern light Inn.
Sky & Telescope / J. Kelly Beatty

Watching the fantastic colors of the Northern Lights dance across the arctic sky is an unforgettable experience, and Iceland is one of the best places to see them. They are mostly observed on crisp, still evenings, and your location well away from the city lights gives you the best chance of witnessing this spectacular natural phenomenon. You will simply need to step outside of the hotel and look up into the sky. We can provide no guarantee, of course, as the aurora borealis is a natural phenomenon — it can be fickle and a bit unpredictable — but we have seen it on all six Iceland tours that S&T and Spears Travel have offered.

Day 2 (October 3rd):  Iceland’s “Golden Circle”
After breakfast, we’ll check out and head northeast of Reykjavik to visit some of Iceland’s most amazing natural features — what’s known as the “Golden Circle Tour.”

Our first stop is Þingvellir, a remarkable geological site and the most famous historic site on the island. (The “Þ” consonant is pronounced very similarly to “th”.) Þingvellir is the site of the world’s oldest democratic parliament, founded in 930. Located by Lake Þingvallavatn, Iceland’s largest lake, Þingvellir is now a national park. The beautiful canyon running through the park is actually the meeting point of two of Earth’s tectonic plates, literally the dividing line between North America and Europe. Þingvellir’s combination of natural phenomena and historical significance have made it a symbol of Iceland’s national identity.

The stark lava formations at Þingvellir have been central to Icelandic culture for more than 1,000 years. At right is a group photo from our 2019 tour.
Sky & Telescope / J. Kelly Beatty

After spending time in Þingvellir, head on over to the fertile farmlands of the South Coast. Continue to Gullfoss, the Golden Waterfall, one of the most impressive waterfalls in Europe. Its broad cascades have a total drop of about 32 meters (105 feet). Here you will see thousands of tons of icy water thunder majestically down in double falls into a deep canyon.

Gullfoss waterfall

Only a few minutes’ drive from Gullfoss is the famous Geysir, which has given its name to spouting hot springs all over the world. You will see one of the most active geysers in the area, Strokkur, shooting up to 30 meters (90 feet). A group lunch will be provided in the Geysir area.

Strokkur geyser about to erupt

After an eventful day we head toward Iceland’s rugged southern coast and check in at the Hotel Ranga. Steep yourself in its rustic charm and indulge in the fine dining you’ll experience at dinner. Situated far from any artificial lighting, it’s an ideal location for watching the curtains of auroral light dance overhead.

Even better, the hotel features its own observatory, equipped with three high-quality telescopes (including a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain and an 18-inch Dobsonian reflector) in a permanent roll-off structure. If the skies are clear, you’ll be able to get in some serious stargazing.

Hotel Ranga Observatory
While staying at Hotel Ranga, you’ll have the chance to stargaze through one of the telescopes at its on-site observatory.
Hotel Ranga

Day 3 (October 4th): Iceland’s South Coast
After breakfast, we travel along the island’s rugged southern coastline. This is the land of Njal’s Saga — a region of breathtaking scenery and legendary stories. During our guided tour we’ll encounter the wonderful variety of the south, from the wide plains formed by glacial rivers, to the sheer sea cliffs of Dyrhólaey and the spectacular waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss.

Our first stop is the Skogar Folk Museum for an enriching look at Iceland’s cultural heritage. There’s plenty to see, with 15,000 artifacts exhibited in three museums and six historical structures (including a traditional turf farmstead).

Farther southeast along the coast is Reynisfjara Beach, whose black sand is framed by a towering lava cliff that cracked as it cooled to form immense, tight-packed pillars with hexagonal cross-sections. Nearby is Dyrhólaey, a stark promontory of rock that juts out into the North Atlantic Ocean.

Lava columns at Black Sand Beach
The sentry-like lava columns along Reynisfjara's black sand beach are among of the most photographed places in Iceland. The lava solidified and cracked as it cooled from the top downward.
J. Kelly Beatty / Sky & Telescope

After lunch in the village of Vik, we’ll start our return to the hotel and stop to gaze at the magificent Skógafoss. With a width of 25 m (82 feet) and a drop of 60 m (200 feet), it’s one of the largest waterfalls on the island. Along the way you’ll experience unforgettable views of the Hekla and Eyjafjallajokull volcanoes.

Tonight we’ll either return to the Hotel Ranga for a second night’s stay or transfer to the Landhotel, a sparkling new accommodation in nearby Hella with European contemporary flair. Once again, you’ll be able to watch for auroral displays from a remote location free from light pollution. If the northern lights decide to make an appearance, all you have to do is step outside and marvel at Nature’s own light show!

Day 4 (October 5th): Skaftafell, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
We’ll make an early start today for the drive to Skaftafell, part of Vatnajökull National Park in southeastern Iceland. This is an area of extraordinary natural beauty of the area, considered one of the “crown jewels” of the island’s unique landscape. There will be a group lunch en route today.

Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon, bordering Vatnajökull National Park. Its still waters are dotted with imposing blue-tinted icebergs from the surrounding glacier named Breiðamerkurjökull, which itself is part of larger Vatnajökull. We’ll take a short tour by boat to see these behemoths at close range.

Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon in Iceland
An amphibious boat threads between huge chunks of blue ice floating in Jökulsárlón, a lake at the foot of the Breiðamerkurjökull outlet glacier. In the distance is the towering Vatnajökull, one of Iceland's most magnificent glaciers.
© Gestur Gislason / dreamstime.com

Tonight we stay at the Fosshotel Núpar, a remote yet upscale hotel set in one of Iceland’s most glorious landscapes. Surrounded by lava fields, it offers a spectacular view of Vatnajökull and, after our group dinner, unparalleled viewing of any dazzling auroras that might appear overhead.

Day 5 (October 6th): Reykjavík
Following breakfast and check-out, we head west toward the capital city of Reykjavík. As we pass through Vik, we stop to do a little shopping for authentic Icelandic fashions and crafts. Lunch today is on your own. Then we’ll visit Seljalandsfoss, a delicate but towering waterfall that plunges 60 metres (200 feet) into a pretty pool. Bring some rain gear to explore the rocky ledge behind the fall’s gauzy curtain of water.

Sky & Telescope tour group at Seljalandsfoss in 2015

The still-molten volcanic magma beneath Iceland provides the island with enough heat to provide virtually all of its power and hot water. You’ll have a chance to see how all that natural energy is tamed during an afternoon visit to Hellisheiði Power Station, the third-largest geothermal power station in the world. The plant can produce up to 303 megawatts of electricity and 133 megawatts of thermal energy to provide the hot water for heating Reykjavík’s homes and businesses.

In late afternoon, we arrive at Hotel Borg, our home for the next two nights. Centrally located, a short walk from Reykjavík’s City Hall and City Library, this property offers art deco style throughout and elegantly appointed rooms with an extensive array of modern amenities. If the sky is clear, our bus driver will take us beyond the city for an optional northern lights tour.

Day 6 (October 7th): Exploring Reykjavík
After breakfast, enjoy a morning-long bus tour of Reykjavík with stops at Hallgrimskirkja, Perlan (with admission to its observation deck), and the National Museum (with admission and guided tour).

Hallgrimskirkja (Hallgrim’s Church) is Reykjavík’s signature landmark, and its tower can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. Its design will remind you — intentionally — of the lava pillars of Reynisfjara. Standing directly in front of the church is a fine statue of Leifur Eiriksson (c. 970-1020), the first European to land on the shores of the New World in what is now North America in the year 1000 A.D. (nearly 500 years before Columbus did).

The Hallgrímskirkja lords it over downtown Reykjavík.

Perlan (or The Pearl), built in 1988, is a remarkable building that’s unique in Iceland and probably the whole world. It consists of a glass dome constructed atop huge tanks in which natural hot water is stored for heating the city. Perlan’s observation deck offers great scenic views of the capital area and beyond.

The National Museum showcases the past, present, and future of Icelandic cultural history. Reopened in 2004 after extensive refurbishment, the museum houses new, dynamic exhibitions that fulfill all the modern standards required of an establishment housing the nation’s treasures.

Tjörnin lake in central Reykjavík

After the guided tour, you have the rest of the afternoon free to explore the city, with lunch on your own today. Here are a few suggestions for places to see on your free time:

The Settlement Exhibition, just steps from the hotel, showcases an excavated long house that provides a unique window on Iceland’s early inhabitants. (Tour members will receive a voucher good for free admission.)

Reykjavík Art Museum also known as Hafnarhús (translating as Harbor House) which serves as the institute of contemporary art. New developments in art are explored through diverse exhibitions of Icelandic and international artists. An exhibition of paintings by the pop artist Erró is a permanent feature.

Shopping: Reykjavík has become known for cutting-edge design, international and design jewelry, hip fashion, art galleries, and a vibrant music scene. The trendy 101 quarter in the city center around the main shopping street of Laugavegur and the nearby Skólavörðustígur offers fabulous shopping at very affordable prices.

Cheap eats: Stop at a local hot-dog stand and try the famous Icelandic hot-dogs or pylsur with all the special trimmings. This is very popular among the locals, and you will see long queues, especially on weekends.

This evening we gather at a local restaurant for a sumptuous farewell dinner. Afterward, if the sky was cloudy the previous night but clear tonight, our bus driver will take us beyond the city for an optional northern lights tour. Otherwise, enjoy a stroll on your own during the rest of the evening.

A long exposure captures the deep hues of an aurora over Iceland

Day 7 (October 8th): Departure for Home
All good things must come to an end, including your visit to Iceland. After breakfast and check-out, our bus driver will take us to Keflavík airport for our departure flight. Once there, our guide will assist with check-in. We schedule your airport transfer to be 2½ to 3 hours before the earliest flight departure of the group’s members. Should you be leaving substantially earlier or later than the main group, individual transfers can be arranged for you at a small extra fee.

Day 7 (October 8th) — Optional Tour of Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Stay an extra day and enjoy a full-day tour of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and its national park. About 90 km (60 miles) long, this region to the north of Reykjavík offers breathtaking scenery, the glistening ice cap of the volcano Snæfellsjökull, waterfalls, lava fields, and quaint fishing villages. We’ll have both lunch and dinner en route, returning to the Hotel Borg for a third night. Departure on October 9th as described in the previous paragraph.

Góða ferð!

Tour Pricing (per person)Double occupancySingle occupancy
Main Tour of Iceland & Northern Lights (6 days)$4,498$5,298
Main Tour & Full-day Tour of Snæfellsnes (7 days)$4,998$5,998

Included in S&T’s Iceland Aurora Adventure (main tour):

  • Private coach with English-speaking guide for the program as outlined
  • Breakfast buffet at Vitinn Restaurant*
  • Blue Lagoon Comfort Entrance (use of towel, one drink of your choice, silica mud mask)
  • 1 night accommodation at Northern Light Inn
  • 2 nights’ accommodation at Hotel Ranga and/or Landhotel
  • 2 nights’ accommodation at Hotel Borg
  • Breakfast daily at each hotel*
  • VAT on accommodation and lodging fee
  • Welcome dinner (3 courses with 1 wine/beer/soft drink included)
  • Four 3-course group dinners including coffee/tea*
  • Three 2-course group lunches including coffee/tea*
  • All daily tours and entrance fees as described above
  • Free admission to Settlement Exhibition at Reykjavik City Museum
  • Guided transfer Reykjavík to Keflavík Airport on day of departure
  • Free WiFi on the coach

Included in S&T’s Iceland Aurora Adventure (Snæfellsnes extension):

  • Private coach with English-speaking guide for the program as outlined
  • 1 night additional accommodation at Hotel Borg
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner including coffee/tea*
  • VAT on accommodation and lodging fee
  • All entrance fees as described above
  • Guided transfer Reykjavík to Keflavík Airport on day of departure
  • Free WiFi on the coach

*Please inform us of any special dietary requirements including food allergies.

Not included in S&T's Iceland Aurora Adventure:

  • International airfare
  • Drinks with lunches and dinners other than coffee/tea and any meals not mentioned
  • Guide on day of departure
  • Extra fees for porterage, grab-and-go lunches, room service, items of a personal nature
  • Unexpected fees introduced for access to nature sites on private land
  • Transfers for individual arrivals
  • Entrance fees not mentioned above
  • Optional tours
  • Travel insurance (highly recommended — we can send you a quote)
  • Room outside of normal check-in/check-out times
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Anything else not mentioned under “included”

Tour Note: In rare cases a change of itinerary may be necessary during our program in Iceland should weather or road conditions not allow operation of the scheduled itinerary. Certain outdoor activities may be canceled. In this case, no refund will be given but a reasonable alternative will be substituted where and whenever possible.

If you’re ready to book the trip, click here.