Iceland, September 26 – October 2, 2019
(Departure from U.S. will be September 25, 2019)
Sorry — this tour has sold out!
Join Sky & Telescope for a one-week tour of Iceland — 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!
For more tour information, visit Spears Travel.
If you’re ready to book the trip, click here.
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 and early October are 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.
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, Sky & Telescope Senior Editor Kelly Beatty will give lectures on astronomy, including a talk on the science of aurorae.
2019 Iceland Northern Lights Astronomy Tour Itinerary
Day 1 (September 26th): Arrival in Iceland – Blue Lagoon
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 for you.*
*(For group members 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.)
Transfer to local restaurant (Vitinn) for a group, buffet breakfast.
Following breakfast, you will travel to the world-famous Blue Lagoon spa. A group admission and towel rental are included in your package. The Blue Lagoon is a man-made, unique 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.
After you’ve enjoyed a couple of hours in the restorative, healing waters you’ll be transferred to the nearby Northern Light Inn for check-in. The afternoon is free to have a rest, go for a walk in the surrounding lava fields, and freshen up for the group dinner this evening.
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 five previous trips S&T and Spears Travel have taken to Iceland.
Day 2 (September 27th): Reykjanes Peninsula
After breakfast you’ll be picked up at the Northern Light Inn for a private tour of Reykjanes Peninsula. You’ll drive to Grindavík village, then follow the west coastline of Reykjanes, visiting sites such as Gunnuhver Hot Springs, Reykjanesviti lighthouse (just passing), the Bridge Between Two Continents, and the church of Hvalneskirkja. Finally, you’ll drive to Garðsskagi lighthouse before returning to the hotel.
This evening you’ll enjoy a group dinner at the hotel followed by an astronomy lecture in the restaurant by your S&T expert. Afterwards have a look outside to see if the Northern Lights are on display.
Day 3 (September 28th): Iceland's South Shore
After breakfast you’ll check out of the Northern Light Inn and drive to Krýsuvík, a geothermal field where powerful jets of steam escape from deep below the Earth’s crust, then visit the otherworldly surroundings of Kleifarvatn lake. Enjoy a delicious group lunch at Stokkseyri or Eyrarbakki, both small towns along the southwest coast, and visit the black sandy beach of this area.
This is the land of Njal’s Saga — a region of breathtaking scenery and legendary stories. During your guided tour you’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.
Along the way you’ll experience unforgettable views of the Hekla and Eyjafjallajokull volcanoes. Continue on to Stracta Hotel for check-in.
This evening you will enjoy a group dinner at the hotel. There is an option for an astronomy lecture (and perhaps some stargazing) this evening as well.
If the Northern Lights decide to make an appearance, all you have to do is step outside and marvel at Nature’s own lightshow!
Day 4 (September 29th): Skaftafell Day Tour
We’ll make an early start today for a long drive straight to Skaftafell National Park without many stops along the way. Visit the park and take in the extraordinary natural beauty of the area. There will be a group lunch en route today.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon may be visited as a thrilling “extra” if weather and road conditions allow. Here you’ll see icebergs floating in a lagoon of icy water that is running off a huge glacier.
After this visit you’ll head back to Stracta Hotel for a group dinner and relaxing evening at the hotel — another evening in which the dazzling aurora might appear overhead.
Day 5 (September 30th): Reykjavík
Following breakfast, you’ll check out of Stracta Hotel and make the drive to the capital city of Reykjavík.
Enjoy a Reykjavík city tour (approx. 3 hours) with stops at Hallgrimskirkja, Perlan (with admission to the 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. The 1937 design was inspired by the shapes and forms created when lava cools into basalt rock. Construction took place from 1945 to 1986, with the tower being completed long before the main building. A singular feature is a gargantuan, German-built pipe organ, finished in 1992, whose powerful notes are capable of filling the huge interior space with a range of uplifting tones.
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. (about 500 years before Columbus).
Perlan or The Pearl was built in 1988 and is a remarkable building, 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. The Pearl offers the visitor great scenic views of the capital area and beyond.
The National Museum showcases objects that provide insight into Icelandic cultural history - displays that encourage visitors to dwell on the past, present, and future. Reopened after extensive refurbishment, the museum houses new, dynamic exhibitions that fulfill all the modern standards required of such an establishment housing the nation’s treasures.
After the conclusion of the guided tour of the museum you will check in at the historic Hotel Borg, your home base for the next two nights.
The rest of the afternoon is free to explore the city, with lunch and dinner on your own today. Reykjavík has a wide range of restaurants to choose from, with various types of cuisine and price points.
Here are a few suggestions for places to see on your free time:
Art & Culture. 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.
For the taste buds. Stop by at the local hot-dog stand and try the famous Icelandic hot-dogs or pylsur with all the special trimmings. This is very popular amongst the local people, and you will see the long queue, especially on weekends.
After dinner, your bus driver will collect you from your hotel to go on a Northern Lights tour. The tour heads away from the city lights to give you the best chance of witnessing this spectacular natural wonder. Duration: 2½–3 hrs
Overnight: Hotel Borg, Reykjavík
Day 6 (October 1st): Golden Circle
After breakfast at your hotel, start the day of touring by visiting Þingvellir, a remarkable geological site and the most famous historic site on the island. Þingvellir is the site of the world’s oldest democratic parliament, founded in 930. Located by Lake Þingvallavatn, the largest lake on the island, Þingvellir is now a National Park. The beautiful canyon running through the park is actually the meeting point of two of the Earth’s tectonic plates, giving you the chance to see 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.
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. Here you will see thousands of tons of icy water thunder majestically down in double falls into a deep canyon.
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 Golden Circle area. After an eventful day we head back to Reykjavík.
There will be a group farewell dinner this evening at a local restaurant.
Day 7 (October 2nd): Departure
All good things must come to an end, including your visit to Iceland. After breakfast and check-out our driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you to Keflavík airport for your departure flight. We schedule your airport transfer to be 2½ to 3 hours before the earliest flight departure of the group 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.
We wish you a great trip home and hope you will bring back many great memories of Iceland. We look forward to seeing you in the Land of Fire and Ice again!
- Private coach with driver and 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)
- 2 nights’ accommodation at Northern Lights Inn
- 2 nights’ accommodation at Stracta Hotel
- 2 nights’ accommodation at Hotel Borg
- Breakfast daily at hotels*
- VAT on accommodation and lodging fee
- Three 2-course group lunches including coffee/tea*
- Five 3-course group dinners including coffee/tea*
- Reykjanes Peninsula guided tour (approx. 6 hours)
- Reykjavík City Tour (guided, approx. 3 hours with stops at Hallgrimskirkja, Perlan with entry fee to the observation deck, and the National Museum with entrance fee and guided group tour)
- Visit to Hellisheidi Power Plant
- Golden Circle Tour (guided, approx. 8 hours)
- Unguided 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.
- International airfare
- Drinks with lunches and dinners other than coffee/tea and meals not mentioned
- Guide on day of departure
- Extra fees for porterage, grab & 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 your program in Iceland should weather or road conditions not allow operation of the scheduled itinerary. Certain outdoor activities may be cancelled. In this case no refund will be given but a reasonable alternative will be substituted where and whenever possible.
For more tour information, visit Spears Travel.
If you’re ready to book the trip, click here.
Contact for additional information:
Spears Travel/Travel Leaders
500 S. Keeler
Bartlesville, OK 74003
Toll free: 800-688-8031