Sally Dowling discovers Iceland on a Saga Cruise

Norway led the way for cruises that explored magnificent fjords, massive glaciers, snow covered mountains and majestic waterfalls. Iceland is now following suit and a cruise that circumnavigates the island is an ideal way to experience all this amazing country has to offer.

My husband Clive and I chose to explore with Saga and to sample their new boutique ship, Spirit of Discovery. Like all Saga ships, past and present, Spirit of Discovery is mid-size and carries around 900 passengers. The ship is designed along the lines of a boutique hotel with smart public areas and attractive spacious cabins, all with a balcony. The Saga model of all-inclusive makes the experience very easy; transfers from door to door and travel insurance included. Food is always exceptional on any Saga cruise and ours was no exception. Open dining is also very popular with guests, you can dine alone or join others at any time that suits. The speciality restaurants are amazing, we particularly enjoyed Coast to Coast for amazing seafood and all are bookable at no extra cost. 

At first glance, the itinerary that circumnavigates Iceland visits places we had never heard of and couldn’t pronounce. All soon became familiar as we set off from Portsmouth with a first port of call at the small town of Heimaey in the Westman Islands. Situated just off the mainland on the southern coast of Iceland and home to approximately 8 million puffins, who visit every year, and just over 4,000 people.  I was fascinated by the miles of dense wild lupins, a gorgeous deep blue carpet that covered the volcanic soil. We joined a tour to climb to the top of the volcano, Eldfell, that towers above Heimaey and did so much damage in the eruption of 1973. A steep climb but the views were worth it. After our walk a stop at the very informative museum in the town showed in graphic detail the devastation that the volcano caused. 

Westman Islands

Our next stop was Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik. We had chosen a whale watching tour which although enjoyable, was disappointing as we didn’t find any whales. Probably due to unseasonably high winds and a sharp plummet in temperatures. Suddenly we were back into winter with locals gleefully telling us it was the coldest June for 30 years! 

Reykjavik is a vibrant city, and it would have been good to have spent a little longer exploring. A cruise is ideal to give you the flavour of a country and to discover where you would want to return, I found that true of Reykjavik. 

Grundarfjordur is a small fishing community on the north coast and with the sun shining we could appreciate the beautiful sight of Kirkjufell mountain dominating the town. Nearby is Kirkjufellsfoss , an unusual three-pronged waterfall, cascading down the mountains. We called into the very small tourist office and were given clear instructions and an easy walking route to view both sights.

Grundarfjordur

A full day in Isafjordur and we opted for Saga’s included excursion of the West Fjords. Our superb guide, a young American from Alaska who is studying at the university, was a mine of information and pointed out the many different bird species. 

We sailed to Akureyri in the remote north of Iceland on the edge of the arctic circle.

Having spurned the Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik we set off by coach to Lake Myvatn and the thermal baths. After some hesitation I did manage to get from the changing rooms into the milky blue waters and once immersed it was blissful with temperatures of 35-40C. We emerged relaxed and rejuvenated!

The same tour stopped at the famous Godafoss waterfall, one of the most spectacular in Iceland. The majestic falls are over 12 metres high and 30 metres wide and are easily accessible with a well-marked footpath alongside. 

After a day at sea, we made our way to the eastern side of Iceland and the picturesque town of Seydisfjordur. As with all the places we had visited the main industry was fishing with tourism quickly making its mark. Waterfalls abound tumbling down the mountains that surround the town. There is a pretty church, a rainbow path, and several craft shops to explore. The locals knit profusely and the handknitted garments they produce are of the highest quality and hard to resist. 

Seydisfjordur

Time to set sail for home with our route taking us along the east coast of the UK.  A last stop at Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands and a chance to explore an historic town with a Viking history. The imposing medieval cathedral of St Magnus is well worth a visit.

After two marvellous weeks our cruise arrived back at Dover. Iceland did not disappoint; it deserves its reputation for being the Island of fire and ice. Saga cruises deliver everything and more. Maybe Greenland next?

Next Steps:

You can talk with our Silver Travel Advisors to book a Saga cruise like Sally’s, call 0800 412 5678 and take a look at Saga Cruises.

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Sally Dowling

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