Audley Travel launches authentic tailor-made trips to Iceland
Tailor-made travel operator Audley Travel has added Iceland to its growing portfolio of short-haul destinations (following Italy last year and Turkey this summer).
Iceland, the Audley way
Audley’s offering in Iceland is different to the mass-market tourism for which Iceland is generally known. While researching product in Iceland, Audley’s team regularly heard holidaymakers comment that they didn’t meet a single Icelander on their travels, and didn’t really have a sense of Icelandic culture and local life. Therefore, interactions with locals will be key to the Audley experience in Iceland and all Audley’s itineraries (self-drive from May to September and private tours during other parts of the year) will showcase, in addition to the country’s amazing natural attractions, memorable local experiences. The trips will be focused on specific regions of the country as well as themed as active, family and luxury trips.
Experiences available for clients will include Icelandic cooking classes in Reykjavík, a tour of a remote village in the Eastfjords (said to be home to the Icelandic Queen of the Elves) with a local guide and mountain biking through the world’s largest lava field with Icelandic locals who grew up in the area. Even in the busier tourist spots like the Golden Circle, tours will be led by Icelanders who are keen to showcase their homeland, and will include the lesser-known and stunning landscapes that are relatively untouched by tourism away from the crowds. Audley will offer outdoor picnics and barbecue lunches In Iceland’s untouched scenery to enhance this special experience for clients.
Nick Longman, CEO for Audley Travel, says “Another point of difference for Audley’s offering is our breadth and depth of knowledge; our specialists have travelled extensively throughout the country and are able to recommend lesser-known alternatives to the more well-known, busier places in Iceland. There aren’t many other operators who can truly tailor-make itineraries across the country and not just focus on the well-known tourist spots in the south west. Our specialists have literally done it all so can discuss the pros and cons in depth with clients.”
Audley’s Iceland specialists will be able to advise clients on everything from the best places to see puffins in the summer, when and where to go whale watching to where to learn more about Iceland’s Viking saga history and the best place to visit an ice cave or hike on a glacier.
Exploring away from the crowds
The Eastfjords – this is one of the least populated areas of Iceland and is typically overlooked by most visitors, but it feels like one of the most authentic areas of the country with small fishing villages clinging to the sides of steep fjords and traditional life continuing largely as it has done for centuries. Audley’s specialists say it is the place to find the real Iceland and its local characters.
Highlights include the Borgarfjörður Eystri village tour. Accessed via a scenic mountain pass, Borgarfjörður Eystri is a picturesque village nestled within Iceland’s Eastfjords. Clients join a local guide on a two-hour walking tour and gain insight into the life, culture and history of this remote coastal village, visiting the Lutheran church and turf homes where Icelanders traditionally lived for hundreds of years.
North Iceland – The Troll Peninsula in northern Iceland is the perfect place to visit for scenic coastline with traditional little villages, and it offers a great contrast to the desolate volcanic landscapes around Lake Mývatn (the more popular tourist spot in the north and part of the Diamond Circle 260 km circular road around the area’s highlights). Audley experiences will include whale watching with a local family company in a traditional Icelandic fishing boat — with the option to try sea angling during the tour.
South Iceland – The Westman Islands are a 30 minute ferry journey from the very popular south coast region but comparatively few tourists visit. Clients can either explore on their own on a self-drive trip, or take a privately guided tour. Highlights include the sizeable puffin colonies — best seen between May and August on Heimaey’s southern coastline. Several walking trails weave their way along the grassy cliffside here, offering fantastic coastal views. Audley’s specialists advise that no visit to the Westman Islands is complete without visiting the Sprangan (a form of cliff rappelling) training cliffs. This has played a significant cultural role on the islands, with islanders using a rope to swing from cliff to cliff. Once a practical means to gather bird eggs from the surrounding cliffs, Sprangan is now a local sport and children will train here and finesse their skills during the summer months.
Sample itineraries, which are used to inspire clients in building their ideal tailor-made trip based on budget, wish-list and interests include a five day ‘Northern Lights Winter Break’. En-route to the south coast region, clients visit Reykjanes Peninsula, a wild, craggy landscape dotted with mossy lava fields, bubbling mud pools, volcanic craters and lakes. Highlights of the south coast include thundering waterfalls and Reynisfjara black sand beach, as well as joining a guided hiking tour on Sólheimajökull glacier. In the Golden Circle, Audley shows clients the traditional highlights of the tectonic divide in Þingvellir National Park, erupting geysers at Geysir, Gullfoss waterfall and then takes them away from the crowds to experience some of the Golden Circle’s lesser-known sights, for example, Faxi waterfall and Brúarhlöð gorge. This trip costs from £3,995 per person (based on two sharing) and includes flights, accommodation, transfers and excursions.
For clients with more time on their hands, Audley recommends ‘Round the Island’s Ring Road’, a 13 day tour that sweeps round the island, connected the populated areas and well known sights such as the Golden Circle, as well as giving an opportunity to see lesser-visited regions including the Eastfjords and the volcanic landscape of north Iceland. Audley recommends it as a self-drive route (in a 4x4) from May to September, but it can also be planned as a private tour. This trip costs from £4,390 per person (based on two sharing) and includes flights, accommodation, transfers and excursions.
For more information on Audley Travel’s new Iceland programme, visit www.audleytravel.com/iceland or call 01993 838431.