seneca
At A Glance:
  • Upcoming Departures:
    August 5 - 12, 2018

    Tour begins:
    Reykjavik, Iceland

    Tour concludes:
    Keflavik, Iceland

    Price:
    $4,695/person (DO)
    $5,495/person (SO)

    Can Combine With:
    Anglo-Saxon Britain

    and
    Alternative Theatres

    or
    Shakespeare's Italy

     


  • We begin in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland and the center of scholarly study of Icelandic culture. Here, the Árni Magnússon Institute preserves the unique manuscripts of the great Sagas and other Old Norse texts, including the Codex Regius (so irreplaceable that it was escorted by warships when it was returned from Denmark to Iceland in 1971 after a three-century absence). The Saga Museum, housed inside the architecturally beautiful Pearl, reconstructs famous scenes from the Sagas. Reykjavik itself exemplifies the adaptability of Scandianavian culture, which evolves to fit its local conditions: a theme we will encounter throughout our sojourn.

    From Reykjavik was travel to Thingvellir, the “assembly plains,” site of the oldest parliament in European history and setting for so many key scenes in the Sagas. Each year the Icelanders would assemble here at the Althing to conduct business, arrange marriages and settle lawsuits. The Law Rock itself is not just culturally important, but geologically significant: when you stand there, you are precisely in the middle of the slowly opening mid-Atlantic ridge.

    Beginning our circumnavigation of the country, we then head to Borgarnes, where Egil Skallagrimsson, the murderous warrior-poet hero of Egil’s Saga made his home. From Borgarnes we go onto the Snaefell’s peninsula, visiting Stykkishólmur, where we can see Helgafell, the “Holy Mountain” that was so beloved of Thor Most-Beard, the first settler in the region. On Helgafell, it is said, is buried Gudrun Ósvifursdóttir, the fascinating heroine of Laxdæla Saga, said to be the most beautiful woman in the history of Iceland. Stykkishólmur is also the setting for the haunting Eyrbyggja Saga, a story of the conversion of Iceland to Christianity that, paradoxically, preserves knowledge of pagan belief. We conclude this part of our journey in Búðardalur, the site of the siege of Erik the Red, who went on to discover Greenland.

    On our fourth day we focus on the Laxdæla Saga, the most romantic of the Sagas, which depicts not only Gudrún, but Olaf the Peacock and the quarrelsome Snorri Goði. We then turn towards the north visiting the picturesque town of Strandabyggð or Arngerdhareyi, before reaching Borðeyri, where Grettir the Strong, the hero of Grettis Saga, survived longer as an outlaw than any man in Icelandic history. We end the day in beautiful Skagafjörður, the site of the cathedral and old monastery which was the seat of one of the two, original Roman Catholic dioceses of Iceland and where many of the sagas may have been written.

    Now our Sojourn turns east. Passing the sites of Viga-Glums Saga, Ljósvetninga Saga, and Reykdæla Saga in morning, we travel to the location of Hrafnkels Saga, which is thought by many scholars to be the most perfect of the short Sagas, before spending the night in Fljótsdalshérað. The remarkable scenery that we will experience on our sixth day includes fjords, volcanoes and glaciers. We stop at Vatnajökull National Park, where we hike and picnic, and then continue on to Hvolsvöllur in East Iceland. This is the land of Njall’s Saga, the greatest of the Sagas, whose action sprawls across time and space and encompasses everything from murder and vicious revenge to complete forgiveness and reconciliation. In the afternoon we travel north to see the stunning Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir geothermal area, before returning to the Reykjavik area, staying at Grindavik near the famous Blue Lagoon.


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