Expedition Iceland 2022

Iceland has always been on our bucket list, but the prospect of flying for 36 hours or more to get there from New Zealand was a daunting (and costly) prospect. We made a pact that when a volcano erupts in Iceland, we’d go. And when lava started spewing out of the ground, we made true on that pact and booked our flights. Turns out, Iceland was a lot easier to fly to than expected. A 13 hour flight from Auckland to Vancouver and then a 7 hour flight onto Reykjavik. Before we knew it, we had landed in the capital ready for our first expedition in Iceland. 

We wanted to keep off the tourist trail as much as possible and go explore places that tourists don’t normally go to. That involved volcanoes, abseiling into ice caves, glacier trekking and mountain climbing. We spent over a month in the country, visiting over one hundred locations. We’ve done our best to pick a few of the highlights below. Let the expedition begin!

Reykjavik was a quirky wee place, clean, well run and expensive. We even saw an incredible aurora show on our first night. But we weren’t here for a city experience, so picked up our rental vehicle and made plans to visit Fagradalsfjall Volcano – the one spewing lava. Then disaster struck. There is a syndrome that affects all volcano chasers. They tend to stop erupting when one visits. And Fagradalsfjall was no different. Just as we had arrived, the lava disappeared. We were rightfully devastated. The visit was still worth it though, with the solidified lava still very hot. The landscape was heavenly for us volcaniacs. 

Still smiling, but dying on the inside

The next day, we ventured inside the world’s only accessible magma chamber of Thríhnúkagígur Volcano. Thríhnúkagígur is a 4000 year old dormant volcano that, for reasons still unknown, drained its magma chamber leaving a void 150 meters high. The experience was next level, descending on an open elevator platform through stunning formations and colours. 

The area around Thríhnúkagígur is also rich in lava tubes, so we went exploring and found some beauties. Some were so incredibly long, we had to turn back. 

We also visited the lava caves of Raufarhólshellir and Gjabakkahellir.

Impressive lavatites


Glymur Waterfall was touristy, but you didn’t have to go far off track to find adventure. It was a great hike and the autumnal colours were magic. 

Hraunfossar Waterfall was also one of the prettiest (through not dramatic) in all of Iceland.

Gerðuberg Cliffs are a wonderful example of hexagonal basalt columns. These were created through rapid cooling (by the sea).

Kirkjufell Mountain is one of the most photographed in all of Iceland. We decided to climb it. An ominious sign near the entrance did everything to try and persuade us not to proceed. But it didn’t look like anything too challenging for us. The climb involved some steep sections where rope was required.

I may not have ticked all the boxes, but I had hiking boots.

Icelandic horses near the start of the track

One our favorite places in all of Iceland was Ásbyrgi. An epically large horseshoe-shaped depression of stunning beauty. We spent the day hiking in it and around the top. The autumnal colours were unbelievable.

Another highlight of our trip was Hljóðaklettar. It like a Geologist’s Disneyland, full of basalt formations or every description. The two main highlights included the folded Kirkjan cave and the snake like columnar jointing from contraction cooling (basalt lava)

Hverfjall is a symmetrical tephra cone, formed around 2500 years ago. Stupid tourists rated it down due to “no active lava”, but we found is immensely captivating. A walking track takes you around the entire circumference.

We’re huge fans of unique Geothermal features. Iceland offers a bounty of features right across the island. We visited Seltun, Reykjadalur, Geyser, Hverir and Gunnuhver.


Whilst nowhere near as dramatic as Dettifoss, the waterfalls of Litlanesfoss and Hengifoss (on the same track) feature the very best geology – incredible columnar basalt pillars.

Hands down, the best waterfall in Iceland is Dettifoss. So incredibly powerful.


Iceland offers a number of glacier experiences. There are popular spots like Jökulsárlón, but then there are glaciers that no one seems to go to at all. We hiked over some pretty epic terrain to get to ones well off the tourist track. No footprints or any signs of people.

And of course the touristy Diamond Beach…which is worth a visit if you want to (safely) climb an iceberg.

And on the topic of ice, the ice caves were our absolute highlight. There are some easily accessible ones and others that need rigging equipment to get to.


There were far too many places to cover in this post. Iceland was such an incredible experience. A place that deserves a good amount of time to explore. I wouldn’t mind moving there to be honest. I reckon we’d have decades of unbelievable exploration there. And perhaps another trip is warranted when lava returns?

Oh, and lastly, the auroras. We saw aurora on about twenty of the nights we had there. It was spectacular. Here are some of the highlights.


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