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Itinerary Music and landscape Tour to Reykjavik and iceland's South Coast september 3 - 10, 2021

Note: the times in this itinerary are in the local Greenwich Mean Time Zone (GMT) which is 4 hours ahead of EST. In this itinerary we use the 24-hour clock ("military time") as is most commonly used in Iceland.

DAY 1: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 3rd | WELCOME TO "NICELAND"

8:00 ~ Arrive at KEF airport and transfer to Reykjavik. Most flights from the US or Canada to Iceland arrive at around 8:00 am. We will meet at the Keflavik airport and drive into Reykjavik. People arriving at different times will also be escorted from the airport. Tip: since alcohol is so heavily taxed at 40% in Icelandic, locals always take advantage by buying their brennivín (popular Icelandic spirit) and other drinks duty free in the Icelandic Airport on their way into the country.

Breakfast at Joe and the Juice or the Sand Hotel Bakery. Depending on your flight arrival, we will buy you breakfast at the airport or at the hotel after your long flight. Our hotel has one of the best bakeries on the island. Check in isn't until 3:00 pm but we will try our best to accommodate as many early check ins as possible if available. We can leave our bags with the concierge until your room is ready.

10:00 ~ Earlier Arrivals: Introduction to Reykjavik: Morning culture walk with musician Sverrir Gudjonsson. Sverrir is a charismatic and well-known countertenor who knows Reykjavik better than anyone. He will walk with us around the historic core to show us the many sites, sounds, shops, and secrets of this enchanting city. You will be tired from the long flight and time zone change so walking around the city is the best way to battle the jet leg.

The Pond, Reykjavik

12:30 ~ Organ recital at Hallgrímskirkja Church. One of the tallest structures in the country at 244 feet high, this architectural icon has incredible acoustics. It houses a famously large pipe organ by the German organ builder Johannes Klais of Bonn. This Lutheran church is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614–1674) and designed by Guðjón Samúelsson in 1937 to resemble the trap rocks, mountains and glaciers of Iceland's landscape. The house organist Björn Steinar Solbergsson will perform a short concert if Icelandic composers for us. After the concert we’ll take a lift up to the viewing deck and view Reykjavík and the surrounding mountains from this scenic observation tower.

Organ concert in Hallgrimskirkja

13:30 ~ Lunch with Sverrir at Sæmundur í Sparifötunum. This gastro pub at the heart of KEX Hostel. Sæmundur serves food based on the Icelandic heritage with a complete focus on local ingredients coming from local producers and foragers. It comes out as honest, straightforward and a bit rough on the edges. http://www.kexhostel.is/

15:00 ~ Check In at Sand Hotel and nap. We’ll be staying at our favorite boutique hotel with contemporary Scandinavian design in Reykjavik. The Sand Hotel is well-located in the heart of Reykjavik on the high-street, Laugavegur. Take the afternoon to rest and readjust to the new time zone.

Sand Hotel, Reykjavik

19:30 ~ Dinner party at Larus and Tanya’s house with local artists and other interesting Reykjavik personalities. We are invited to a dinner party at the house of our friend Larus Johannesson, an illustrious chess champion, founder of an important record label and record store, chairman of Johann Johannsson foundation, and food and wine connoisseur. His wife Tanya is the deputy CEO of deCODE genetics, a global leader in analyzing and understanding the human genome. They have kindly offered to open their home for a buffet reception on the day we arrive. They will also invite some of their Icelandic friends with similar interests, so this will be a great introduction to Reykjavik intellectual society.

Dinner party with local intellectuals hosted by Larus and Tanya

DAY 2: SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 4th | ICELANDIC MUSIC

Breakfast at the hotel. The Sand Hotel has a breakfast buffet with a variety of hot and cold choices and is included every morning at the hotel. A typical Icelandic breakfast usually consists of skyrr (Icelandic yogurt), müsli, green apples, oranges, coffee, eggs, oatmeal, kleinur (Icelandic cardamom crullers), and their miraculous fish cod oil for the daring! The buffet is open from 7:00 to 10:00 am.

10:00 ~ Introduction to Icelandic Music at 12 Tónar and walking tour with Larus Johannesson. This legendary shop in the heart of Reykjavík has played an important role in the Icelandic music scene. Known for its carefully catered selection of Icelandic and international music, friendly atmosphere, and regular live concerts, it has frequently been listed amongst the finest record stores in the world. With nearly 80 releases on its own label, covering a wide range of genres, 12 Tónar has launched the careers of numerous musicians and released the music of artists and bands like Jóhann Jóhannsson, Víkingur Ólafsson, Ólafur Arnalds, Daníel Bjarnason, and Oscar Award winning composer Hildur Guðnadóttir. The founder Larus Johannesson will show us his legendary store and then take us on a music walking tour of Reykjavik. http://www.12tonar.is

Icelandic record stores

12:00 ~ Private tour of Harpa Concert Hall. Experience the award-winning architecture of Harpa and visit areas that are not open to the general public. Our guide will share some of Harpa’s secrets, stories of odd incidents and the struggles during the economic crisis. Learn how Icelandic nature, volcanoes, glaciers, and the Arctic light inspired the unique design by artist Olafur Eliasson and the amazing glass facade of the house – and be able to photograph it from new intriguing angles; allowing you to explore the less visible brilliance of this world-renowned hall. Our guide is named Baldvin. https://en.harpa.is

Harpa Concert Hall

13:00 ~ Lunch at Messinn. This cozy little restaurant has unique local cuisine, exquisite seafood, large portions, and a beautiful environment. We’ll have a two-course meal that includes a starter of creamy fish soup and a main course of pan fried Plokkfiskur served with potatoes and salad and pan-fried Arctic char with honey, almonds, cherry tomatoes, lemon and butter. The vegetarian option is pan fried chickpea and carrot fritters with cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, chili, ginger and cashews served with tomato hummus, salad and potatoes. http://messinn.com

15:30 ~ Short private concert at Hallgrímskirkja Church and interaction with Schola Cantorum. Choral music is the Iceland's primary musical tradition. Until relatively recently Icelandic people did not have much access to instrumental music because the weather was too harsh and there was not wood or metal to build with. A capella music has become such an important pastime that you find active choirs all over Iceland, even in the most remote small towns. Iceland’s most reknowned mixed choir, Schola Cantorum, under the direction of Hordur Askelsson, will perform a short selection of their Icelandic repertoire for us. https://www.scholacantorum.is/home

Schola Cantorum at Hallgrimskirkja

17:00 ~ Optional: Guided Tour of Fagradalsfjall Volcano Eruption. Those of you who are interested in seeing this magnificent volcano in real life will get the opportunity. Nothing quite matches the exhilaration of bearing witness to the Earth's raw power up close and personal. We'll grab box dinners from the Sand Hotel Bakery and hit the road to be home by 23:00. Expect to an easy-medium level hike of a few hours round trip with a steep ascent. The path is well cleared with gravel. We'll get there just before sunset so that you can see it in multiple kinds of light. Its colors are completely different in daylight, golden hour, and night time. Note: the volcanic activity is constantly changing and there are no ways to know or guarantee what it will be like in September.

Fagradalsfjall Volcano erupting May 6, 2021

Dinner and evening on your own. For those who don't wish to hike into the volcano, enjoy Reykjavik’s Saturday night life. Eat dinner independently and see a concert. We'll recommend places to go.

DAY 3: SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 5th | ICELANDIC ART

7:00 – 9:30 ~ Breakfast at the hotel. Meet in the lobby at 9:30 to depart for Steinunn’s studio.

10:00 ~ Private visit to studio of sculptor Steinunn Thorarinsdottir. We’ll visit the gallery of the local internationally reknowned sculptor and site-specific installation artist Steinunn Thorarinsdottir. Her sculptures are rooted in the chilly and windswept island and although they can be seen all over the world in different contexts and locations they seem to emanate from deep down in the volatile, volcanic substrata of her own country. We’ll have the chance to meet the artist and hear an inside perspective on the world of art in Iceland. http://tveirhrafnar.is

Studio visit of Steinunn Thorarinsdottir

11:00 ~ Guided tour at Reykjavik Art Museum. The old harbor warehouse, Hafnarhús, offers a progressive exhibition program with local and international contemporary artists. The works of key figures, as well as established and emerging current artists are presented in six galleries. Hafnarhús is located in the oldest part of Reykjavik, where the town’s boats and first docks lay. The building was erected in the 1930s and at the time it was one of the largest buildings in the country. Our guide is named Aldis Snorrasdóttir. Enjoy their complementary coffee. http://artmuseum.is/hafnarhus

12:00 ~ Lunch at the Coocoo's Nest. The Coocoo's Nest is a small family restaurant that cooks with an exceptionally high level food. Their home baked sourdough bread is the best in town.

13:00 ~ Visit to Steinunn Sigurd, creative director and owner of Steinunn. For an overview of what’s happening in Iceland’s art scene, we’ll visit studio of Steinunn Sigurd. She is an artist and fashion designer of a small label that designs knitted wool that is informed by the land and cultural traditions of Iceland.

14:30 ~ Visit to painter Gudrun Einarsdottir’s studio. We’ll visit the studio of a painter who is does fascinating work making abstract paintings with paint materials through a natural process that resemble the Icelandic landscapes.

Painting by Gudrun Einarsdottir

15:30 ~ Visit Olafur Eliasson's studio, the New Center for Visual Art, the Living Art Museum, and Kling & Bang. The Marshall House is an artist run contemporary art spaces established in 2003. The aim is to introduce emerging and established, national and international artists, that challenge the context and content of creative thinking. The space is also the permanent home to works by Olafur Eliasson. https://visitreykjavik.is/marshall-house-new-center-visual-art-reykjavik

Work by Olafur Eliasson in his studio

16:15 ~ Browse Grandi Harbor on your own. The "Grandi area" is the main hub of Reykjavík's fishing industry and now also where many of the capital's best restaurants, art galleries, boutiques, and delicatessens are located inside of old boat houses. It's sometimes referred to as the "Fishpacking district," sharing a similar background in the food processing business as New York´s famous Meatpacking district. Visit the home of the popular Icelandic fashion brand Farmers Market, the famous Omnom chocolate factory, Valdís ice cream shop, or Jens artisan jewelry. Experience the new multi-sensory cinematic experience FlyOver Iceland. Stroll back to town or return to the hotel by van for leisure time before dinner.

Grandi Harbor

19:00 ~ Private informal concert with Halldór Eldjárn. Halldór is one of Iceland’s most innovative musical artists. Halldór Eldjárn is a composer, drummer and computer programmer that has been active in Reykjavík’s music scene for the past decade. He is best known for building robotic instruments and taking part in projects that link music and technology in an interactive and creative way. You might say Halldór camps out between two worlds: the digital and the analogue. “Most of my tracks have live drums and some strings, but the core is definitely electronic,” he says. “I love using digital methods in the analogue world, like building a robot that plays an acoustic instrument and then trying to make a digital sound feel acoustic.” After meeting the artist and hearing them perform, we will have an opportunity to discuss music first-hand in Iceland.

Private concert with Halldor Eldjarn

20:00 ~ Tasting menu dinner at Fiskmarkadurinn. Take a moment and savor the best of Icelandic cuisine with a tasting menu that head chef Hrefna Rósa Sætran and her team have created from the freshest selections of Reykjavik’s fish market. http://www.fiskmarkadurinn.is

DAY 4: MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 6th | WESTERN ICELAND

Breakfast at the hotel.

9:00 am ~ Backroad drive to Thingvellir National Park via Nesjavellir. We'll take a scenic backroad to get to Thingvellir National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the rift valley between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates and the site of the ancient Icelandic parliament, the Althing. On the way we'll pass by the Nesjavellir Geothermal Plant.

Most of Iceland's energy is geothermal

11:00 ~ Take the scenic back road 550 between glaciers to Husafell. On the way we’ll pass by the OK glacier that is Iceland’s first glacier to melt from climate change.

13:30 ~ Lunch at Húsafell. Húsafell is a tiny village surrounded by glaciers, an ice cave, miles of lava fields, and lava waterfalls. It is a known as a great place for hiking and also the location of the famous Icelandic film Of Horses and Men. We’ll have lunch at Hotel Húsafell Bistro.

15:00 ~ Visit artist musician Páll Gudmundsson. Páll Guðmundsson is an artist and musician. He sculptures faces of people such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Arvo Pärt, Björk, and the Icelandic writer Thor Vilhjálmssonout of the rock he finds around Húsafell. Páll is also working as a musician with a unique idiophone, a large xylophone-like instrument made of stones called the “steinharpa.” He crafted the instrument himself using stones found around his home where he was born and still lives. With the instrument he has performed along with the Icelandic band Sigur Rós and will perform a short selection for us.

Musician artist Pall Gudmundsson

16:30 ~ Stop at Snorrastofa in Reykholt. This sleepy town is known for its research center on the medieval era in Iceland and the home of the legendary saga writer and politician Snorri Sturluson who lived in Reykholt until his death in 1241. Snorriʼs records of the Old Norse language and Nordic mythology are invaluable to modern scholars. The quality of his writing made him the foremost historical writer of medieval times throughout Europe. His style, bringing his characters to life, makes fascinating reading even today. Snorri was a wealthy and powerful chieftain in the age of unrest and civil war preceding Icelandʼs loss of independence. Return to the hotel around 7:00 pm. http://www.snorrastofa.is/en/

19:00 ~ Dinner and evening on your own. Take some time to explore your last night in Reykjavik on your own, go shopping, relax, and experience the nightlife. Please see our list of recommended museums, galleries, stores, and restaurants for more information.

DAY 5: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7th | SKOGAR

Please note that the various activities on our Southern Iceland excursion are subject to weather changes. We will also hope to spontaneously make space in our schedule to experience a "rettir," or roundup, where shepherds gather their wild ponies and sheep after roaming free all summer to bring them in for the cold winter. Rettirs are unpredictable and depend on the weather.

Breakfast at the hotel and check out.

9:00 ~ Depart for southern coast excursion. We will depart on our four-day journey eastbound with one of our favorite local guides who will show us the best of Iceland’s Southern coast.

Seljalandasfoss Waterfall

12:00 ~ Lunch, waterfalls, and the Skogar Folk Museum. Skogar Museum is a cultural heritage collection of 15,000 regional folk music and craft artifacts that tell the incredible survival story of Iceland's history. They are exhibited in historical churches, schools, and houses that were brought to the museum from various places in Rangárvallasýsla and West Skaftafellssýsla and reconstructed on the site. We’ll see the Skogafoss Waterfall, have a light lunch and get a guided tour of the folk museum before hitting the road at 3:00 pm.

Traditional Icelandic cottage

15:30 ~ Dyrholaey Point. We'll stop at this beautiful lighthouse on a cliff where we can see the arch into the sea, black beaches, and columnar basalt.

Dyrholaey Point

16:30 ~ Check into Hotel Kría. We’re staying two nights in a new hotel in the country village of Vik. This evening we can relax amongst the sublime nature that surrounds us and enjoy a true Icelandic experience in the countryside. If we're lucky we'll see an Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). https://www.hotelkria.is/

Hotel Kría, Vik

19:30 ~ Dinner at Strondin Pub. We’ll enjoy a locally sourced meal with a magnificent view a few meters from Vik’s famous black sand beach.

DAY 6: WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8th | JÖKULSÁRLÓN

Breakfast at the hotel.

9:30 am ~ Day trip to Jökulsárlón. Drive east and savor every moment along the way of the planet’s most stunning landscapes.

11:00 ~ Skaftafell Glacier. Skaftafell is one of East Iceland's most beautiful locations, where we will be treated to striking white fingers of the Vatnajökull Glacier against a backdrop of green fields and black sands.

Skaftafell glacial finger

12:30 ~ Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon. Visit a magical lagoon of turquoise iceburgs that float in an other-worldly body of fresh and salt water. It is the deepest lake in Iceland, located on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park, and is our farthest-east destination before turning back. This cinematic landscape is the backdrop for many films such as "Batman Begins" and "Tomb Raider," "James Bond" and music videos including "Holoscene" by Bon Iver. Begin with lunch (on your own) at the food trucks or cafeteria then we'll take a 30-minute sail among the huge icebergs on an amphibious boat, get to taste the 1000-year-old ice, and if we're lucky, see seals bobbing in the lagoon. There is a simple cafe and some food trucks where you can get lunch on your own (cost of lunch not included).

Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon

14:30 ~ Diamond Beach. Icebergs which fill Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon wash up on shore, standing dazzling and defiant in stark contrast to the black sand beach. A highlight photographers, nature-lovers, and wildlife-enthusiasts. It is the home to many seals and is one of the best places in the country to see orcas from the shore.

Diamond Beach

16:30 ~ Return to Vik. Our drive home is just as beautiful as our drive there. We'll take a scenic detour on a smaller road that cuts through the coastal countryside and make stops along the way for photography. Throughout our scenic drives we will curate a selection of some of Iceland's finest music to complement the breathtaking scenery.

19:00 ~ Arrive at the hotel. Have dinner on your own at Drangar, the Hotel Kria’s delicious restaurant, or walk to many other restaurants that are close by.

DAY 7: THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 9th | VIK

Breakfast at the hotel and check out.

10:00 ~ F-Road to Þakgil. We'll take a secret backroad that traverses through some of the most stunning volcanic valleys winding back to a remote encampment. Many scenes from Game of Thrones were shot here.

12:30 ~ Lunch at Sudur Restaurant in Vik. Have dinner at one of our favorite cottage restaurants in Iceland. This is country cuisine as good as it gets. After lunch we'll depart Vik returning west.

14:30 ~ Cake and live music at country home of Valborg Ólafsdóttir. Valborg and her husband are both musicians and moved to the countryside from the city with their children. Valborg has invited us into her idyllic home. She will make us cake and pour us coffee while she takes up the guitar and sings us her songs.

Singer-songwriter Valborg Ólafsdóttir in her living room

16:00 ~ Seljalandasfoss Waterfall. After music and cake we will visit this majestic waterfall which is most beautiful in the afternoon light.

18:00 ~ Check in at 360 Boutique Hotel. We’ll spend our last night at this family-run luxury hotel in the heart of the beautiful southern Icelandic countryside. We'll have access to a spa which includes a pool with warm geothermal water, a sauna and relaxing lounge with fire. https://360hotel.is/

360 Boutique Hotel

20:00 ~ Final Dinner at 360 Hotel. Celebrate our last night in Iceland with a traditional Icelandic three-course meal from the owner’s family culinary traditions of farm-to-table products and a panoramic view of South Iceland.

DAY 8: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 10th | REYKJANES PENINSULA

Please note: You will be brought to the Keflavik Airport to arrive at least two hours before your flight time. The day will otherwise follow the schedule below:

Breakfast at the hotel.

9:00 ~ Check Out of 360 Hotel. This morning we will continue West toward Grindavik visiting different natural and cultural sites of interest. We’ll explore the coastline and discover the stunning cliffs of Krýsuvíkurbjarg—an area renowned for the thousands of seabirds that nest in the rugged hillside beside the crashing surf of the Atlantic Ocean. Observe kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, and other birds as they dive into the sea to feed or frolic with their flock.

Photo by Brooks Walker

10:00 ~ Visit Eyrarbakki. Eyrarbakki is an interesting old fishing village on the south coast of Iceland. For centuries, its harbor was the main trading center for the southern region. The only original Icelandic architecture other than Reykjavik.

11:00 ~ Stop at the Krysuvik Geothermal Area. Walk through the remarkable solfatara fields of Krýsuvík, where we'll discover an expanse of steaming volcanic vents and boiling hot springs, framed dramatically by a range of multi-colored hills. We'll find mud pools, sulfur deposits, and wildly colorful explosion crater lakes formed by volcanic eruptions that glow with a deep green hue from the thermal algae and crystals which absorb the sun's rays.

Krysuvik Geothermal Area

11:30 ~ Continue to Grindavik. Along the way we’ll explore the coastline and discover the stunning cliffs of Krýsuvíkurbjarg—an area renowned for the thousands of seabirds that nest in the rugged hillside beside the crashing surf of the Atlantic Ocean. Observe kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, and other birds as they dive into the sea to feed or frolic with their flock.

12:30 ~ Swim in the Blue Lagoon. Our final destination will be to the famous Blue Lagoon natural hot springs where we can relax before taking a flight home. The mineral water, which ranges from a warm 98-104 degrees Fehrenheit, contains large amounts of silica and algae which soften the skin. The lagoon’s mud bar features silica masks that soften the skin even more. We have Premium passes that include entrance, silica mud mask, towel, first drink of choice, second mask of choice, slippers, bathrobe, and sparkling wine if dining. Massages and other spa treatments are optional for an additional expense. If you have a late flight we recommend getting a massage or upgrading to the Retreat Spa. It is expensive but one of the greatest relaxation experiences available anywhere. Have lunch on your own at the café (meal not included). https://www.bluelagoon.com/

Blue Lagoon geothermal pools

Keflavik Airport. We will escort you to the KEF airport depending on your flight time to catch your flights home. Most flights to North American depart at around 17:00.

Credits:

Created with images by Sage Lewis, Brooks Walker, and René Goiffon. Lachlan Gowen - "Hallgrimskirkja" • Hans - "geyser strokkur geyser strokkur" • smaus - "gullfoss waterfall river" • redcharlie - "untitled image"