Arctic 2023

July-August 2023

Map of OAT Arctic Expedition
© Overseas Adventure Travel

Where can we go mid-summer where it's not going to beastly hot? Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) had an answer: their "Arctic Expedition: Untamed Norway and Svalbard" tour. The main part of the tour would be nine nights on a small ship that would take us up around the north end of Svalbard, a largely uninhabited landmass north of and controlled by Norway. We added the pre-trip extension of a week in Iceland, and there were a few days in Oslo before the cruise. (We were not doing the post-trip extension.)

OAT warned that this was more physically demanding than their normal tours, and that we would be in inflatable Zodiac boats most days of the cruise, so we figured that if we were going to do this, we had better do so while we still could. They had shipped us bright blue parkas to wear during the Svalbard excursions; they were rather bulky to pack - instructions suggested rolling them up into their hood, but we found it was better to lay them flat in large vacuum bags. The ship would provide insulated rubber boots for the many "wet landings", but we were to supply our own waterproof pants.

This travelogue features a selection of the photos I took during the trip. Click on any one to view it larger, or see the entire album collection on Flickr.

July 16-17, Reykjavik, N64°9' W21°56'

Heavy rain, thunderstorms and tornadoes were in the news, with some East-coast airports shutting down. When we arrived at Boston Logan, the info board showed numerous delayed flights. Fortunately, our 11:35PM (!) Icelandair flight actually took off early and arrived at the Keflavik airport, outside of Reykjavik, about ten minutes early. Despite the late departure hour, they served us a full dinner meal, which oddly was cold, but apparently deliberately so. As we had eaten dinner at home before leaving, we ate some of the meal and left the rest.

As we approached Keflavik, I spotted the Litli-Hrutur volcano which had been erupting for a few days. Unlike some earlier eruptions that spewed tons of ash into the air, wreaking havoc on flights, Litli-Hrutur was mostly venting steam.

Litli-Hrutur Volcano

We entered the passport control hall, which was empty of passengers. Row upon row of self-service kiosks were set up, all shrouded in plastic as they were not yet operational. We walked up to the agent, he stamped our passports and we were done. Our luggage arrived within a couple of minutes of our reaching the carousel, and a driver from OAT was waiting for us outside the door.

Arriving at the hotel about 45 minutes later, we met our trip leader Þórarinn (Thorarinn, but he said to call hin Thor), along with some of the 19 other travelers who had booked this pre-trip extension. Our rooms became available shortly after, but we had just a few minutes to drop our bags before rejoining Thor for a "vicinity walk", where he pointed out various attractions, grocery and drug stores, and restaurants.


There wasn't really time for a regular lunch, but the hotel had made up "breakfasts in a bag" for our group, which we had earlier declined, but Leslie snagged two of them that made an adequate and quick lunch. We then rejoined Thor, along with the rest of the group, some of whom had just arrived, and we set out on a walking tour of the downtown. Thor led us into the City Hall which had an enormous topographic map of Iceland on display; he then continued farther into town.

Contour map of Iceland

The Black Cone, Monument to Civil Disobedience

I wish I could tell you a lot about this, but I was so tired I was about to drop, and Thor covered a lot of the same area we had seen during our 2017 visit. However, it was interesting to see how much the harbor area had been built up since we were last there.

Old fishing boat in front of a delightful bistro we had dinner at later

View from our hotel room in Reykjavik
View from our hotel room

The hotel had a couple of amusing wooden guests.