Trekking across Iceland's 'Land of Fire and Ice'

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on November 13, 2006. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: activity, adventure travel, Antarctica, Costa Rica, Crete Island, destination, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Hawaii, Iceland, island, Kodiak, Molly Feltner, Sabah, vacation package, Vanuatu.

Trekking across Iceland's 'Land of Fire and Ice'

Outfitter: Explore
Price: from $1,930 per person

When NASA needed an earthly location that resembled the lunar landscape so that astronauts could prepare for a moon landing, they chose Iceland. While this Scandinavian island isn't exactly the moon, its topography is certainly other-worldly.


Iceland straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a crack in the earth's surface that divides the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. With two land masses rubbing and smacking each other and lava bubbling up in between from the earth's molten interior, the island is literally a hotbed of volcanic activity, which manifests on the surface as volcanoes, hot springs, steam vents, and geysers. But, being within the Arctic Circle, Iceland also has glaciers and permanent snowfields. Together, these two elements, fire and ice, have sculpted a land that once inspired fear but now stirs the spirit of adventure in hardy travelers.

For's Managing Editor Josh Roberts, who went on an Explore trek in Iceland this summer, Iceland's volcanic highlands were almost mystical, reminding him of Tolkien's Middle-earth: "With its obsidian lava fields and steaming hot springs, its moss-covered foothills and treeless valleys, Iceland is Mordor one minute and the Shire the next. It has a magical quality to it, as if it has been plucked from the imagination," he wrote.

On Explore's eight-day Volcano Trek, you'll get the chance to hike through this landscape, trekking 10 to 12 miles per day across trail-less valleys and mountains. You'll travel past the Mount Hekla volcano, which the ancient Norse thought to be the mouth of Hell; cross lava fields and glacier-fed steams; walk through the Thorsmork forest, the mythic realm of the Nordic god, Thor; and finally pass between the massive Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull glaciers.

The details

This tour departs regularly between late June and August, 2007. Rates quoted above include accommodations in guesthouses and camping, most meals, ground transportation and van support, and guide services. A local payment of $370 is extra. Because there are no trails for most of the journey, the exact route taken varies depending on weather conditions and the interest of the group. No technical skills are required for this trip but you must be fit enough to hike for up to 10 hours per day.

Round-trip flights to Reykjavik from New York start at $488, excluding taxes, on Icelandair in late June.

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