Heritage Tour to Iceland, August 11 – 21
Jónas Þór Tours
Day 1: Tuesday, August 11: Overnight flight to Keflavik,Iceland.
Day 2: Wednesday, August 12: Arrive in Keflavik 06:20 am. – After immigration and customs tour guide will meet and greet the travellers. Drive to Reykjavik (45 min.) Breakfast at Hotel Smari in Kopavogur. Following the meal the tour around the island begins with a drive to Thingvellir, Iceland´s most historic site. Continue across Lyngdalsheidi (Lyngdalsheath) to Laugarvatn. This is another significant place in Iceland´s history, also known for its geothermal heat. On a clear day there is a splendid view to Mt.Hekla – Check-in at hotel around 14:00. Rest of the day free. (Hotel Edda ML www.hoteledda.is )
Day 3: Thursday, August 13: Departure after breakfast at 09:00 am. The tour continues eastward with stops at the famous Skogafoss and Gullfoss. The south coast ofIceland is very picturesque. The contrast in nature is simply amazing. Glacial rivers, desert sands, enormous lava fields, glaciers and mountains make this part of the island most interesting. Lunch at Vík.
Skaftafell National Park and the Glacial Lagoon. Sailing on the lagoon is optional but highly recommended. Numerous stops on the way to Hofn. Seafood buffet dinner. Overnight at Hotel Edda Nesjaskoli www.hoteledda.is
Day 4: Friday, August 14: Depart at 09:00 am. The magnificent glacier Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in Europe towers above in the distance as the tour heads north. The distance between Hofn and Egilsstadir, where the group stays for two nights is only 247 km or 154 miles yet there is much to see. Here the travellers will experience the long, deep and narrow fjords which cut into the land, one after the other. The drive through this region gives a very good idea how difficult it must have been to farm in these parts, arable land down by the sea is so little. The remains of farms are still visible, some of those where the homesteads of Icelandic immigrants to America in the late 19th Century.
The coastal route ends in Breiddalur where the motorcoach climbs up onto Fljótdalsherað where Iceland’s largest forest, Hallormsstaðarskogur is found. After exploring this area for a while the tour stops at Hotel in Egilsstaðir where the group stays for two nights.
Day 5: Saturday August 15: Relax this morning in the beautiful surroundings of Eidar.
The tour has reached the part of Iceland from where the largest majority of Icelandic immigrants toNorth America originate. So it is time to go back in history today and visit Vopnafjordur. Depart hotel around 11:00am. As the tour heads onwards along the mountain roads, numerous, abandoned farms are passed from where people moved toAmerica. Never since has anyone attempted to farm in some of these remote and uninviting places.
At least two families who lived in this sod house (Saenautasel) left Iceland for America in the early 1900s. Once the descent into Vopnafjordur begins, the scenery changes. Most of the day will be spent in this area in the company of local people whose ancestors leftIcelandforAmerica. You might find a relative!
Some excellent work has been done by the staff at the East Iceland Emigration Centre here in Vopnafjordur. Take a look at the website www.vesturfarinn.is ,you will learn a lot about this area. I met Cathy Josephson for the first time on this day. We had been corresponding for years over email and it was a delight to meet her. After an eventful day return in the late afternoon to the hotel.
Day 6: Sunday, August 16: Depart from hotel at 09:00 and head north. The distance to Akureyri is 265 km (166 miles). The tour continues through regions depopulated late in the 19th century. It is hard to believe that this part of Iceland actually was overpopulated in those times but the fact remains that arable land could only sustain a certain number of people. You will understand this better during the day. Numerous stops on the way at significant sites such as Lake Myvatn and Godafoss. Overnight at Hotel Edda Akureyri www.hoteledda.is. This day, I was picked up by Jón Brynjólfsson and his father, Brynjólfur Ingvarsson. They took me on a tour south of Akureyri to see all the sights where the Möller family had lived. They are my cousins with this connection. It was a great day with them.
Day 7: Monday, August 17: It is safe to say that Akureyri is probably one of the best sheltered towns in the country. Huge mountains on both sides of the long and narrow fjord, Eyjafjordur offer the best protection against strong winds from nearly any direction. It actually gets quite warm in the summer.
Some time will be spent here in the capital of the north. Akureyri was a major port in the 19th century from where many left for the New World. We will spend the morning exploring on our own. Grab lunch somewhere before we continue westward into Skagafjörður.
After lunch the tour continues west into Skagafjordur. The district is a large agricultural area and has quite a history. Here powerful chieftains fought and settled their disputes. A visit to Glaumbaer is a must and of course Emigration Centre at Hofsos. Overnight at Holar.
Day 8: Tuesday, August 18: Depart hotel at 09:00 and head south into Borgarfjordur.
Numerous stops this day as the area has much to offer including Glaumbær Museum and in Sauðárkrókur to ride horses. (This place is actually where my great grandpa Jónasson´s father worked on this river crossing).
Deildartunguhver is the largest hot spring in Europe and Reykholt was the home of Snorri Sturluson, the great chieftain and writer of the 13th century. Stop for lunch at Stadarskali. Change our course and head south.
The tour around the island ends in Kopavogur at Hotel Smari where the group stays the next three nights. Kopavogur appears to be a part of Reykjavik but is actually a separate town of some 30.000 inhabitants.
Day 9: Wednesday, August 19: Free Day in Reykjavik
Day 10: Thursday, August 20: Free Day in Reykjavik
Day 11: Friday, August 21: Return flight home — exhausted but very happy.