This tour is now fully booked. Please contact us if you are interested in joining future food tours.
22 – 29 August 2016
Tour Code: FT0816
Discover Iceland’s Modern Kitchen – its dinners, desserts and drinks – in this exclusive, food-focused tour of and South Iceland, expertly led by professional tour guide Bryndís Kristjánsdóttir and in the company of award-winning food writer Diana Henry.
Iceland is home to a culinary melting pot of passionate purveyors of high-quality produce, offering everything from the finest fish and seafood and succulent grass and herb-fed lamb to refreshing local brews and hand-made rhubarb brittle.
On this exciting journey, the awe-inspiring Icelandic landscape will be matched with the best of local artisan cuisine to provide the most relaxing and fun holiday you can imagine. The tour offers a combination of fine dining, foraging, cooking with local experts, on-the-go tastings and sightseeing in the company of our superb Icelandic guide, and celebrated food author and journalist Diana Henry, who has a keen interest in Nordic cuisine.
Contrast the sophistication of the world’s most northerly capital with the simple authenticity of a fjord-side farm and the charm of a small country hotel hidden in a narrow river valley. Immerse yourself in the intriguing story of the settlement of Iceland, and the characters of the Sagas that shaped it. Connect Iceland’s culture with its fascinating history of food production and discover how the ingredients used by the early settlers have both endured and developed over the last 1000 years.
With a varied selection of food and drink to pick, prepare and sample, and an intriguingly diverse landscape to explore, your itinerary has been planned carefully to allow you time to enjoy Iceland. The wide range of optional excursions and activities available, enable you to use your free time throughout the tour to relax, explore or venture further afield if you wish. They include whale and bird-watching, a tour of Iceland’s south coast with a glacier walk, relaxing at the Blue Lagoon, sea angling, hiking, snorkelling, horse-riding or a city walking tour. Please see our Pick & Mix pages for more information.
- Private distillery visit and tasting
- Foraging, culture and cooking day
- Icelandic cookery school with lunch
- Cheese workshop with Eirný Sigurðardóttir, a leading player on the Icelandic food scene, at her delicatessen
- Travel in the company of cook, author and food writer Diana Henry – a judge on this year’s BBC Food & Farming Awards – plus an experienced, professional Icelandic tour guide
- Country hotel with private hot tubs and geothermally-heated pool
Monday 22 August: Iceland’s dairy heritage – from past to present
- Arrive, transfer to and check in at the Hotel Natura
- Welcome to Iceland with your tour guide at Cinema No 2 by the harbourside
- Cheese workshop and tasting with Eirný Sigurðardóttir
Tuesday 23 August: the importance of pure water
- Private visit to the micro-distillery
- Farm tour and tasting in Borgarfjorður
- Thingvellir National Park, Mid Atlantic ridge and historic parliament site
- Hot spring bread tasting
- Riverside Hotel and Restaurant, Hveragerði
Wednesday 24 August: the pure power of water
- Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir geothermal areas
- Geothermal greenhouse tour with lunch
- Rhubarb farm visit
- Earth cooking
- Optional guided hike or bike tour
- Riverside Hotel, Hveragerði
Thursday 25 August: geothermal energy
- Geothermal garden
- Local bakery and patisserie visit
- Geothermal power station tour
- Salt fish exhibition
- Northern Light Inn at Grindavík
- Optional Blue Lagoon visit
- Choice of dinner arrangement
Friday 26 August: foraging
- Foraging Icelandic style with a local culinary specialist
- Al fresco lunch in the forest
- Share in the evening meal cooking experience
- Learn some Icelandic
- Local beer tasting
- Foss Hotel
Saturday August 27: Icelandic cookery skills
- Prepare lunch at the Icelandic cookery school
- Artisan Food Festival at Harpa conference centre
- Free time
- Range of options including sea angling, Egil’s Brewery tour
- Own choice of dinner venue – we can offer suggestions and make reservations
- Foss Hotel
Sunday 28 August: Food Festival and free time
- Artisan Food Festival
- Free day
- Range of options including day tours to see more of Iceland. Please ask us for more information and ideas
- Own choice of dinner, we can suggest, and will make reservations
- Foss Hotel Reykjavik
Monday 29 August: Complete the circle
- Visit to Vikingaheimar exhibition
- Farewell seafood lunch at Vitinn restaurant
- Check in at Keflavík airport for your flight home, or extend your stay
(N.B. this is subject to slight change if necessary. Further details available on booking.)
Day 1: Monday 22 August
Touch down in Iceland by mid afternoon and join our direct transfer toand your hotel, the Icelandair Natura.
The holiday begins with a trip to the charming Old Harbour for a warm welcome and introduction from your guide, Bryndís, followed by an early evening visit to quirkydelicatessen Burið, for a cheese-making workshop with dedicated curd nerd Eirný Sigurðardóttir. Iceland has a fascinating dairy history that Eirný brings to life with passion, tastings and discussion.
The dairy theme continues with a visit to a popular nearby ice cream parlour (we recommend the liquorice flavour) after which you may choose to remain in town to enjoy’s nightlife. This is a city that stays up late. There will be a transfer back to the hotel from the ice cream parlour for those that would like one.
Day 2: Tuesday 23 August
After breakfast, check out and begin the day with a visit that we are delighted to have secured for you. Although a distillery might not feel like the best way to start the day, please bear with us!
The 64°Distillery, Iceland’s first micro-distillery, makes unique, hand-crafted liqueurs from wild berries and botanicals whose slow growth in the fresh arctic summer intensifies their flavour. The use of renewable energy and crystal clear glacial water, combined with the purifying distilling process and lack of preservatives, gives a unique – and delicious – result. Flavours available to taste include juniper schnapps, blueberry, crowberry and rhubarb liqueurs as well as the traditional organic aquavit and local speciality Brennivín, known as “Black Death”!
The journey continues to the unspoilt Borgarfjorður area to meet inspired food producers Adda and Gummi at their family farm in West Iceland, which specialises in home-produced, organic food. Adda will introduce you to her Icelandic sheep, horses and free running hens, pigs and goats after which you’ll be treated to a tasting of their delicious meats, jams and traditional dishes. Be sure to sample their unique double-smoked mutton, soaked in homemade syrup with wild blueberries. The café also houses a tempting stock of local handicrafts made from Icelandic wool, wood, glass and clay.
South from Hvalfjörður is the Thingvellir National Park, a place of great beauty and historical significance for Icelanders. The events that have taken place here will be brought to life as you walk with Bryndís across the narrow rift between the Eurasian and American Continental plates. If you prefer, simply stand and admire the beautiful views of the volcanic landscape and the crystal clear waters of the lake below.
We stay tonight at the secluded Frost and Fire hotel, with its hot tubs and private pool, where you will have time to relax, to walk or to take to the water. Dinner is at the hotel’s celebrated Varma restaurant. For an authentic evening meal, consider warm smoked arctic char followed hot spring cooked chocolate cake.
Day 3: Wednesday 24 August
Today and tomorrow are a celebration of water. Iceland has an abundance of naturally-filtered, clean water that is also a vital and continuously-available, sustainable power source. The day starts with a visit to Gullfoss, a favourite amongst Iceland’s many waterfalls, and one that features a tremendous gorge and stunning natural cascades. At the nearby Geysir area, the raw power of the hot water spouting explosively from the ground is driven by the natural heat from below. The geyser Strokkur “performs” every few minutes, providing an ideal subject for a holiday photo!
The setting for today’s lunch is a cluster of geothermally-heated glasshouses whose cleverly themed restaurant provides a perfect opportunity to see innovative utilisation of this power in action. The little tomato shop is a must-see before you leave. Our next stop is with Kjartan, who goes all-out for farm diversification by both keeping sheep and growing rhubarb to earn his living. Icelandic rhubarb is a monster – a deep ruby and green affair, exactly as the colours on the Rabarbía candy bars he produces. He also makes delicious jams and syrups, which will be available to taste.
In your free time before supper you may like to take a walk (or short bus ride) to the Kjöt og Kúnst restaurant to experience the unique Icelandic earth cooking method. Here, steam from hot springs deep down in the earth is piped directly to the indoor and outdoor kitchens. Olí, the delightful chef and owner, suggests that, “on a good summer day, it is very nice to sit outside near the small earth cooking kitchen, have a nice meal and maybe watch the chef cooking for you”. This could be the perfect opportunity to sample traditional Icelandic lamb soup with earth-baked rye bread.
Day 4: Thursday 25 August
Before leaving Hveragerði, there’s time to stroll around the little-known and charming geothermal garden, filled with bubbling and steaming pots and streams, in which you could choose to take a highly unusual foot bath. With a suitable gap since breakfast, the next stop is at the excellent local bakery that boasts an astonishing array of treats and specialities for a town of just 2500 people. Bryndís will also take you into the supermarket to peruse some Icelandic foodstuffs, together with other, more surprising, points of interest.
Heading up from Hveragerði, Route No 1 crosses a high heath to the futuristically-designed glass building that is Iceland’s newest geothermal power station. A short, interactive guided tour of the power plant explains the ingenuity behind the capture and utilisation of this natural resource for home, greenhouse and even pavement heating.
From there, attention turns to the south coast and the early importance of fishing in the lives of Icelanders. At the harbour town of Thorlákshöfn, fish is imported, processed and exported but it’s true to say that it’s unlikely to be high on the list of tourist attractions for many visitors. However, in what has been described as the ugliest and most unlikely building in town, there is a gem, and so it’s on your list. Here, fresh, local farm produce is cooked on the premises – and there’s gluten free food too. The café is part of a studio complex where inspirational craftwork is made and sold, and where, if you plan to choose something beautiful to take home, you could find just what you’re looking for.
Dramatic changes to the landscape become apparent heading west on to the Reykjanes peninsula. The location for a number of well-known films (Bryndís will fill you in), this area also boasts some amazing geology and we make a short stop to see the colourful, bubbling and gurgling mud and streams of the Krýsuvík area. Boardwalks thread their way amongst the network of rivulets and steamy holes in the hillside, a reminder of the source of the earth cooking last night.
At Grindavík it’s all about salt fish. Iceland’s trade with Spain in salt cod is well documented and, at the museum, the culture and tradition of fish drying and salting is authentically presented in a self guided tour, with a tasting to follow. We then make the short journey to the Northern Light Inn to check in.
From the hotel, you can choose to visit the Blue Lagoon for a relaxing bathe or simply to look round. You can take dinner either at Max’s Restaurant in your hotel or at the Lava restaurant at the Blue Lagoon. Max’s Restaurant offers healthy Nordic cuisine with arctic passion, serving the best foods from the fjords and fields of Iceland, while at Lava there is a stunning range of dishes including a 4-course tasting menu which may feature soup with garlic-marinated langoustines, white chocolate and seaweed.
Day 5: Friday 26 August 26
Get picking! The arrival of late summer brings with it a multitude of berries and mushrooms and today is your opportunity for a day’s foraging in the countryside under the guidance of an inspirational teacher and food specialist. We return tofor an introduction to the day’s activities and then leave for the beautiful Heidmörk area on the outskirts of the city. When the picking is over, and after a rustic lunch, you’ll return to and join in with cooking and eating traditional Icelandic treats, perhaps learning a little Icelandic into the bargain. Dinner will include a dish of Blue Ling. Gigja, your host for the day, has chosen this fish because she wants to make sure that you won’t be repeating anything you’ve eaten over the last few days! She’s amazingly knowledgeable about Iceland’s culinary traditions, and an accomplished cook. The first time we met her she was making flour from angelica and her cooking bench was a sea of herbs and dried plants.
Over the next three nights, you’ll have the chance to visit the rather special bar at your hotel to familiarise yourself with a very comprehensive selection of Icelandic beers, right on your doorstep. Micro brewing in Iceland is fast-growing and buzzing, and the hotel is rightly proud of its collection.
Day 6: Saturday 27 August 27
With a busy culinary weekend taking place in, you have plenty of choice over how you spend your time. Your day begins with a very different cooking experience from yesterday’s, working together in a cookery school kitchen with some great views of the city. After a morning’s work, sit round a large country style table and enjoy a delicious lunch – made by you! This could be a starter of quick cured and smoked salmon, rye blini, pickled beets, chives and sour milk sauce, then loin of Icelandic lamb with the bone in, sautéed red cabbage, shallot mousse, green pea purée, fondant potatoes and wild thyme jus, followed by skyr pudding in a crispy grandma pancake with rhubarb-vanilla syrup and rhubarb caramel crunch. Wine is included too.
This afternoon, resist the temptation to sleep and take time to visit the fabulousArtisan Food Festival (you can do this tomorrow instead or in addition), go on a fishing trip, explore the city on foot or join a brewery tour. Your evening meal choice is also yours and we will of course make a reservation for you.
Day 7: Sunday 28 August
It’s a free day! Your entry pass to the food festival (open 11:00-17:00) is valid again today so there’s a chance to buy before your departure from Iceland. Taste and then choose from cheese, fish, lamb, chocolate, jams, pickles, chutneys and juices. The venue, the Harpa conference centre, is a stunning building, and also houses a highly-rated restaurant overlooking the harbour.
Sunday lunches and buffets are worth considering if you want to stay in town. Hunt out a bók kaffihús (book café) and browse the impressive array of Icelandic books available in English, accompanied by coffee and cake, take a guided walking tour – food related or not – or simply explore by yourself.
You might want to explore further afield – perhaps the south coast beaches, glaciers and waterfalls – or go horse riding. Simply let us know your ideas and interests and we’ll make the arrangements for you.
Today is your last in Iceland – although if you’d like to stay on we’d be delighted to make the arrangements for you. This morning includes a visit to the stunning replica of an original Viking longboat that sailed from Iceland to America in 2000. It’s part of a delightful exhibition summarising the story of the settlement and survival of Icelanders in this inhospitable landscape. However, as this has been a culinary journey, the grand finale is a seafood and crab feast before the short journey to the airport. Specialities include rock crab, horse mussels, shrimp, whelk, lobster and Icelandic cyprine. For those who came to Iceland wishing to try everything, there may well be some outstanding items of interest on this menu.
With flights departing during the afternoon, you will be dropped at the international terminal at Keflavík Airport at 14:00.
- 4 nights in hotels in , 3 in the countryside, all with breakfast
- 5 lunches, 1 evening tasting and workshop
- 4 full day and 1half day food adventures, plus food tastings and anytime entry to the Artisan Food Festival
- private local guide and transport (Benz Sprinter), including airport transfers.
Price: from £1395 for a shared standard twin/double room
Optional extras include the Blue Lagoon, sea angling, whale watching, brewery tour, glacier hiking, and Jökulsárlón lagoon trip. Please make use of our expertise and tell us about your Icelandic wish list, so that we can add something special to your
itinerary. Extension packages are available either before or after the dates of the tour. Icelandair offers stopover breaks, so visitors from North America could include this tour in a holiday to Europe. For UK holidays with a tour guide, please contact our partner, Jolly Good Tours at www.jollygoodtours.co.uk
Flights to Iceland:
Please ask us about flights which are not included in the price. We can book them for you or you can do this yourself if you prefer.
Arrival at Keflavík should be no later than 15:30 on Monday 22 August. Departures are from 16:00 on Monday 29 August. Customers flying from the USA may have early morning arrivals so please let us know so that we can arrange your transfer and extra accommodation.