The Highlands of Iceland

Pre-congress tour to Iceland
Period: June 16 – June 22

*Dates and schedules are subject to change.
**Trip confirmation requires a minimum of 20 participants.

The trip starts in Reykjavík and to the Forest Research Centre at Mógilsá. From there the journey will continue to the ancient parliament site of Thingvellir, established in 930 A.D. It is an area with a unique history, geology and scenery. Visits will also be made to geothermal field at Geysir and the famous waterfall, Gullfoss. In the vicinity, we will observe some of southern Icelandʼs most mature forest plantations and forest operations at Haukadalur.

Then the tour will take us across the Icelandic Highlands to the beautiful town of Akureyri, ”the capitol” of North Iceland. From there we will drive by Mývatn and Dettifoss on our way to Egilsstaðir, where we will stay for a day along the banks of Lögurinn ”the Loch”, a glacial meltwater lake with steep, often forested hillsides. There, the tour will visit the headquarters of the Icelandic Forest Service in Egilsstadir. It will also be presented with the state and private forests, mainly of Siberian larch and various forest operations.


Powered by nature

This tour is about discovering the natural beauty and the scientific knowledge about nature in Iceland. As the leading scientific aspect, you will learn about the region’s vegetation history, land use change, and afforestation. At the same time, the main cultural topics are the Sagas (Sturlunga saga), settlement history, mythology, curiosities and other lies about the topics – a rich tour for curious minds seeking knowledge.

The adventure starts at the hotel location. You will stay at the Park Inn By Radisson Reykjavik Keflavik Airport that is located basically on top of the North Atlantic Ridge, which splits Iceland between the North-American and the Eurasian continental plates. Here, the landscape is created by eruptions that have occurred in the last 2 000 years. The surrounding areas offer many activity alternatives. You can spend a few hours at a cafe or hire a car and visit the youngest lava field in Iceland (2021–2022), which is only a 20 minutes drive from the hotel.


Mógilsá, Icelandic Forest Research

The Icelandic Forest Research centre is the research division of the Icelandic Forest Service, and it has a perfect location for its purpose at Mógilsá in the vicinity of Reykjavík.

Since 1967, the division has a focus on the applied forest research on silviculture, growth and yield, and the choice of forest reproductive material. These areas of research are still important. However, forest ecology and management have become increasingly important fields of study with a wide range of topics, including carbon and nutrient cycles, solving establishment problems in afforestation on derelict land, insect pests and pathogens and the effects of afforestation on plant and animal communities.

Forest inventory has also increased in importance, not the least due to the need for knowledge about carbon stocks and sequestration. During the visit, there are planned activities, such as an introduction to forest research in Iceland, followed by a short walk in the forest to see what will be presented in theory.


Þingvellir National Park (Thingvellir)

To bring a perspective on settlement history and geology, a visit to Þingvellir (Thingvellir) is a must. This National Park is where Iceland’s first parliament (althing) was founded in 930 A.D. and continued to convene there until 1798. A simple walk among the archaeological remains of this old historic site brings visitors historical facts that shaped Iceland.

This site also has fascinating geology and ecology, with Iceland’s largest natural lake within a rift valley where the North American and Eurasian continental plates depart. In recent decades, research has shown that Thingvellir National Park is a natural wonder of the world, where the geology and ecosystem of Thingvallavatn form a unique whole. Thingvellir National Park area is part of the Atlantic Ocean ridge that runs through Iceland. There you can see the consequences of the erosion of the earth’s crust in the gorges and cracks in the area.

Haukadalur National Forest Photo: Hreinn Óskarsson

Haukadalur national forest

Haukadalsskógur is one of the most extensive national forests in southern Iceland and the most planted of Icelandʼs national forests. Haukadalsskógur is the most highly cultivated of the national forests in Iceland. Species such as sitka spruce, lodgepole pine, poplar, and larch were introduced to this forest and helped to create a great outdoor area with walking trails for wheelchairs as well.

The Icelandic Forest Service came into possession of Haukadalur in 1940. Haukadalur is a historic place, and Haukdælir, people from Haukadalur, played an important part in the civil war during the age of Sturlunga. One of the oldest wooden churches in Iceland is located in Haukadalur.

In Haukadalur you will enjoy the Icelandic forest, have lunch in this beautiful place, and hear stories about forestry and the civil war in Iceland, among other things.



“Geyser” is one of the few Icelandic words incorporated into the English dictionary, and the word is the Icelandic name of a specific erupting hot spring that is possible to find here, and you will have the chance to visit.

The name Geysir comes from the Icelandic verb geysa (“to gush”). Geysir lies in the Haukadalur valley on the slopes of Laugarfjall hill, which is also the home to Strokkur geyser about 50 metres (160 ft) south. The Geysir eruptions can hurl boiling water up to 70 metres (230 ft) in the air. However, eruptions may be infrequent and have, in the past, stopped altogether for many years at a time. So, the opportunity to see it is a unique lifetime event in many cases.



The glacial rivers of Iceland are majestic. For example, the Hvítá (the White River) has become Iceland’s largest river and has an impressive landscape. The waterfall of Gullfoss was an object of dispute and discussions regarding the value of hydropower versus its natural beauty preservation. From the first half of the 20th century until almost the beginning of the 21st century, much speculation existed about using Gullfoss to generate electricity. During this period, the waterfall was rented indirectly by its owners, Tómas Tómasson and Halldór Halldórsson, to foreign investors. However, the investorsʼ attempts were unsuccessful, partly due to a lack of money. The waterfall was later sold to the state of Iceland, becoming a protected natural environment.


Reykholt – Friðheimar

The Friðheimar farm uses geothermal energy and lighting from fossil-free electricity to produce vegetables the year around. With short and informative talks on the subject, visitors gain an insight into the processes of greenhouse horticulture. It is remarkable how they grow vegetables in this cold climate by creating warm Mediterranean conditions – all year round through the long dark winter.

This part of the tour will drive through Kjölur, a plateau in the highlands of Iceland, between the glaciers Langjökull and Hofsjökull. It lies at an elevation of about 600–700 metres. Two scheduled stops are planned, Hveravellir and Blöndulón, but as extra, we will also make one stop in the middle of nowhere.



At the northern end of the Kjölur road, near the headwaters of the Blanda river, the hot springs of Hveravellir provide a warm oasis. We will stop there and enjoy a lunch packet and hear the story of the Icelandic outlaw Fjalla-Eyvindur, which used the Hveravellir hot springs as a settlement in the 18th century.

Blöndulón – Auðkúla

At 57 km2, Blöndulón is one of Iceland’s largest lakes. It was created in 1984-1991 as a reservoir for the Blönduvirkjun power plant, with a depth of 39 meters. The reservoir creation changed the landscape, and large vegetated areas were sunk. We will hear about revegetation in the highlands of Iceland, afforestation projects and hydropower.


Varmahlíð is a small village in North Iceland. We will visit the Reykjarhóll forest, a recreation forest on the outskirts of the Village. We will hear stories about the civil war in Iceland in the Age of the Sturlungs (Sturlungaöld), a period of violent internal strife in the mid-13th century. This period is marked by the conflicts of local chieftains, goðar, who amassed followers and fought wars, and is named for the Sturlungs, the most powerful family clan in Iceland at the time. The era led to the signing of the Old Covenant, which brought Iceland under the Norwegian crown.


On the way from Varmahlíð to Akureyri, we will pass Örlygsstaðir, where the battle of Örlygsstaðir took place in 1238. We will also pass Silfrastaðir, a forest farm in Skagafjörður.



The Goðafoss waterfall is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland. The water of the river Skjálfandafljót falls from a height of 12 meters over a width of 30 meters. In the year 1000, the Lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði made Christianity the official religion of Iceland. After his conversion, Þorgeir threw his statues of the Norse gods into the waterfall.



Mývatn is a shallow lake situated in an area of active volcanism in the north of Iceland, not far from Krafla volcano. It has a high amount of biological activity. The lake and the surrounding wetlands provide a habitat for several waterbirds, especially ducks. The lake was created by a large basaltic lava eruption 2 300 years ago, and the surrounding landscape is dominated by volcanic landforms, including lava pillars and rootless vents (pseudocraters). The effluent river Laxá is known for its rich fishing for brown trout and Atlantic salmon.

The name of the lake (Icelandic mý “midge” and vatn “lake” basically mean “the lake of midges”) comes from the large numbers of midges present in the summer. The name Mývatn is sometimes used not only for the lake but the whole surrounding inhabited area. The river Laxá, the lake Mývatn and the surrounding wetlands are protected as a nature reserve.


The farm of Sænautasel, situated up in the highland of Jökuldalsheiði, was inhabited from 1843-1943. However, in 1875-1880, it was abandoned due to the lavish ashfall emanating from volcano Askja in the 1875 eruption. There is a rumour that the farm acted as a model for Iceland’s only Nobel Prize novel, “Independent People” by Halldór Laxness.

Now rebuilt, the interior and exterior of the turf buildings are open to visitors during the summer. Guided tours help reveal the conditions of earlier Icelandic generations. Refreshments in traditional style are offered. This reconstructed farm has a restaurant in the old sheepcote, open from mid-June to mid-September and serves traditional pancakes and coffee by candlelight.



Hallormsstaður is one of Iceland’s biggest forests, originally one of the last big birchwoods in Iceland saved from eradication at the turn of the 20th century. The forest covers 740 hectares, most of which is native birch. The forest is a popular recreational area featuring camping sites, marked hiking trails and an arboretum.

We will visit Mörkin, where forestry in Hallormsstaður began in 1903, and meet the forest ranger who will tell us about the work done by Icelandic Forest Service. We will walk through the arboretum, which is unique in Iceland, comprising a collection of around 80 tree species. The trees originate from various places in the world – and besides trees, there are also various species of shrubs.

Through the years single trees and groups of various species of trees have been planted in the Mörk. This Arboretum is already the most impressive in the country and people get a good opportunity to see both common and rare species. Here it is also great for hiking or strolling. There are well-marked trails (in different colours) throughout much of the surrounding woodland.



Skriðuklaustur is a historical site with the ruins of a 16th-century monastery revealed by an archaeological excavation between 2002 and 2012. Here, you also find the mansion of the famous Icelandic writer Gunnar Gunnarsson (1889–1975), built-in 1939 when he returned home after living in Denmark for more than 30 years. The mansion is now a centre of culture & history with exhibitions, guided tours and the renowned restaurant Klausturkaffi.


Vök Baths

Vök Baths have floating geothermal pools with an infinity view, two on-shore hot pools, a sauna, a cold water spray tunnel, a tea bar, an in-water pool bar, and a restaurant.

It opened in July 2019 and boasted a serene geothermal floating pool collection on the gorgeous Lake Urriðavatn in East Iceland. Geothermal heat was discovered in the area a while back when people living around the lake noticed a particular spot that curiously did not freeze in the wintertime. Now this is one of most popular sites in Iceland.

Droplaugarstaðir – visit to a forest farm

Lárus Heiðarsson, the owner of Droplaugarstaðir farm graduated from the Forest Engineering (BSc) program from Tammisaari Metsäoppilaitos in 1998. Subsequently, the family moves to Fljótsdalshérað in east Iceland and acquires the farm Droplaugarstaðir in 2004. The owner then graduated with a master’s degree in forestry (MSc) in 2014. Along with being a forest farmer, the owner works for the Forest Service in Iceland.


Forestry at Droplaugarstaðir begins in 1989 when former owners participate in the Fljótsdalur forestry program and a contract was made to plant in 98 hectares. In 2006, the forestry area was expanded to 199 hectares, of which about 20 hectares are wetland that cannot be planted and grass fields of about 5 hectares. About 111 hectares have now been planted, of which about 90 hectares are larch. The work of recent years has mainly been pre-commercial thinning’s of the forest.