Iceland- gateway to the Arctic

Iceland – Gateway to the Arctic

                                                                                                      Reykjavik harbour – Iceland

Alex Burridge- Managing Director Arctic Travel Centre August 2022

Iceland is the start or end for many Arctic voyages, that’s in addition to voyages that circumnavigate
this amazing island nation.  Dwarfed by Greenland Iceland offers many amazing highlights (including active volcanoes).  Our flights all departed and arrived on time and all of our bags joined us.  I only had a few days and decided not to cover too much ground.


Reykjavik is a small and beautiful city with a population of around 125,000 people.  A day or two spent wandering around the city centre and port is an easy way to get over your jetlag.  There are many shops offering hand crafted Icelandic sweaters, there a several excellent restaurants with harbour views, many small cafes as well as a Fish & Chips van offering ‘Icelandic Quality, British Tradition’.  With most Icelanders speaking perfect English it’s easy to find your way around.

  1. Church of Hallgrímur , 2. Kopra Restaurant, 3. Rainbow Street Reykjavik, 4. Reykjavik street art


About an hour out of Reykjavik is the small town of Selfoss we based ourselves just outside of Selfoss for a couple of nights at the very comfortable Hotel Grimsborgir. Relaxing in one of the geothermal hot tubs at the hotel was certainly a good way to end the day, before dining in the hotel’s excellent restaurant.

From here we explored part of the Golden Circle including Gulfoss or Golden Falls. A short walk will take you to the falls, two cataracts totalling 32 metres.  It’s a busy and well-known site.

Gullfoss Falls

Hotel Grimsborgir


The Flói Bird Reserve was established in 1997 when the local district and BirdLife Iceland signed an agreement on the restoration of wetlands east of the river Ölfusá.  Approximately 70 species of birds have been recorded in the Reserve and 25 species breed regularly. Wetland bird species are characteristic and the surrounding area provides a range of bird-rich habitats such as the seashore and the river estuary. The birdlife is particularly dense and diverse in the breeding season.

I went hoping to see red-necked phalarope, red-throated diver, whooper swan and whimbrel; a short walk from the car to a lagoon and within a few minutes I’d seen all four species, plus snipe piping, redshank….


Black-tailed Godwit

Whooper swan


Returning to Reykjavik a short boat trip from the main harbour to see puffin followed by a final fish & chip dinner before boarding our ship to Greenland the next day.

It should be said that Iceland is one of the world’s most expensive travel destinations; certain items are particularly expensive such as alcohol.  Taxes are high and the country has a very high standard of living.  This hasn’t stopped Iceland becoming a tourist hotspot, so please book early.

Arctic cruises to Greenland and Spitsbergen (Svalbard) start or end in this beautiful port city.  The Sylvia Earle and Seaventure ships offer dedicated Iceland Circumnavigation voyages.

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