We awoke this morning still alongside the northern city of Akureyri. We scampered off National Geographic Explorer to begin various activities and explorations in the Icelandic countryside. We boarded our coaches for tours and made stops at a number of Iceland’s most popular natural attractions and features. Godafoss, the waterfall of the gods, was one of our first stops. Here we spent time watching the beautiful waterfall and the river as it rushed along the valley. Many scenic viewpoints are designed to give the best view of this waterfall. Folklore tells of a chieftain who decided that Iceland should convert to Christianity by throwing idols of the old gods into the waterfall. After a quick stop at the café at the end of the falls for coffee, we headed to Myvatn, our next stop. This beautiful volcanic lake is one of the best spots for birdwatching. The shallow lake is a great location to spot a number of duck species on their migratory paths, and the lake is home to trout and salmon. Myvatn also features a path with a number of scenic viewpoints for photography, and it has the second most popular geothermal pools in Iceland after the Blue Lagoon, particularly as it is just off the Ring Road. The next stop on our coach tour was Dimmuborgir, which is said to be the home of the Christmas vagrants, the Yule Boys. Dimmuborgir is one of Iceland’s most popular and highly visited attractions. Upon arriving, it was easy to see why, as volcanic rock juts from the valley below high into the landscape. Paths guided us from one photographic opportunity to the next. Near the entrance, we found a shop and outside café where visitors can enjoy a bite while looking over the beautiful lava fields and rock formations. After a guided tour here and a description of the hollow rock and openings, we took one last look before boarding our coaches and heading to lunch, which was prepared nearby for us. After lunch, we separated for activities. Some guests hiked up a volcano for an epic viewpoint of all the other areas we had traveled thus far. Others went to one of Iceland’s premiere spas, the GeoSea Spa, which rests on a cliff overlooking the sea. Still others visited a museum with a number of Iceland’s birds all meticulously taxidermized. At the end of the day, we arrived in the idyllic northern town of Husavik, where we reboarded the ship, which had traveled all day to meet us. After a lovely dinner, we disembarked at Grimsey Island, a small island in Northern Iceland where the Arctic Circle crosses. We spent a short period of time watching a seemingly endless number of puffins come in from the sea and land on the dramatic, steep cliffs with food for their chicks. We made our way to the Arctic Circle monument which is moved annually to realign with the circle itself. Here we observed the eider ducks that swim across the shoreline with their chicks in tow as arctic terns hovered above the small island, waiting for unsuspecting travelers to stray too close to their nests. This island is truly dramatic and wild, and our time here was unforgettable.

Photo caption and photographer: Visiting Akureyri and Husavik. Photo by Kayvon Malek