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Tecla in Breidafjordur

Iceland - Land of Ice and Fire

There is more to Iceland than 'Game of Thrones' and it has been winning Best Country to Visit top ten lists for travel awards for several years. So if Iceland is a 'hot' destination for outdoor enthusiasts, what makes it a great mid summer sailing ground? Firstly it is not as cold as the name suggests. You can find patches of snow and glaciers, but there are also waterfalls, wild flower meadows with gambolling arctic fox cubs. Norse vikings thought it was paradise and many settled here including Erik the Red. 

The photographs from Tecla's first few years expeditions around Iceland show you how crystal clear and summy it can be. Like Scotland the weather can be fickle but the wildlife or scenery never disappoints. Iceland is a bird watchers paradise and the NW fjords have sea cliffs, puffins and seabird colonies that make St Kilda look rather tiny.  

Offshore and in the deep fjords keep your eyes peeled for the spout of a whale, or the tail flukes as they dive their favourite feeding waters. The coasts of Iceland are rich in fish so don't miss a chance to tow a fishing line.

"Greenland has awesome mountains and is great if you want to see icebergs.....but if I had to choose between Iceland and Greenland, I would chose Iceland for the decent sailing and prolific wildlife." Debbie Purser, Classic Sailing Director


Carved by Glaciers and Volcanoes

Iceland sits on the mid Atlantic Ridge and is still an active volcanic area with occasional lava and rocky bombs spewing skywards. 'God's building site' is still being made and recent upheavals and lava flows create both stark and beautiful landscapes. Vast areas of black sand outwash plains contrast with blue ice glaciers. The snow or icecap topped mountains hide softer scenes of lush wild flower meadows and isolated farmsteads. Iceland has some of the biggest waterfalls in the world and the gorges they carve down through are epic in size and make the terrain even harder to traverse....unless you can sail around to the next fjord and valley by sailing ship of course....The population of Iceland is very small and there are few roads, so almost everywhere is off the beaten track.  There is a ring road around the Island which was only completed in 1974, but it doesn't reach the North West Fjords and you will only find the most intrepid tourists here. Tecla crew has fallen in love with the North West fjords and all her voyages feature the chance to experience the Hornstrandir National Park.

Icelandic Sailing Voyages - voyage descriptions, dates and prices

Tall Ship Tecla - The First to Pioneer 6-10 day Coastal Voyages in Iceland

Internationally well known tall ship Tecla spent her whole summer exploring Iceland in 2016. The guest crews had such an amazing time she returned again in 2017 and will spend the summer there in 2018. Tecla also now uses NW Iceland as a stepping stone for her incredible 3 week expeditions to East Greenland.  The coastline of Iceland is vast, so whilst the crew have already visited key ports along the coast, there will alway be new anchorages to try in the vast land.  Whilst Dutch owned Tecla is only a summer visitor to Iceland, she has built up a real expertise in the West and North Coast, sailing remote areas that even our Icelandic vessel owners have not opened up to tourism.  Tecla's captain's - a sister and brother duo -have avidly researched the history of this part of Iceland from the first Viking settlers to the present day. Skippers Gijs and Jet have also found some of the best walks ashore and have learned a lot from some of the wildlife guides they employed in the early days. Gijs has worked in Antarctica with wildlife specialists that work in the Arctic too, so he is really getting into the Arctic as a sailing ground.

Puffins in Iceland by Tecla sailor Maria Cerrudo

Tecla is an original sailing ship built in 1915 for fishing herring. She is a well proven charter vessel having won several tall ships races and sailed around the world with guests including Cape Horn.

Read more about Tecla the Vessel

There are two Captain's on Tecla - Jet is Gijs's sister and was Relief Captain in NW Fjords of Iceland in 2017. She gives her first impressions of this brilliant sailing ground.

Whilst cruising these amazing sailing grounds you can help setting the big gaff sails on main and foremast. There are no square sails but she has proper ratlines so you can climb the mast and enjoy the view.

  • 2 masted tall ship
  • Wildlife Guide on Board and Ashore
  • 6 day to 23 day adventures
  • Mountain Trekking 
  • All Sailing Instruction included
  • All food included
  • Full accommodation onboard

See all Iceland Voyages on Tecla

North Iceland - Best Whale Watching in Northern Europe

Classic Sailing have also worked with Icelandic whale-watching business 'North Sailing' for several years. Their headquarters is in Husavik on Skaljfandi Bay  - one of the most reliable spots in Europe for spotting big whales- and they run award winning day trips along the North coast between the great fjords of Husavik and Akureryi. North Sailing have schooners and motor fishing vessels operating daily and they have an awesome track record of many species of whales that visit this region.  We can recommend them for day trips or 2-3 day coastal sails around North Iceland, but if you really want to maximise your time sailing along this rugged coastline, then seize the chance to join Dutch tall ship Tecla or Blue Clipper on voyage legs in the heart of whale territory from Isafjordur to Akureryi or the voyage back from Akureryi to the Western Fjords .

Our tip off for best whale watching residential voyages

Tecla  Isafjordur to Akureryri 26 June - 9th July 2018

Tecla Akureryri to Isafjordur 10-23 July 2018

Blue Clipper Reykjavik to Akureryi 12-26 May 2018

We currently offer summer 8 day East Greenland expeditions with North Sailing on schooners Opal, Hildur or Gaff Ketch Donna Wood where you fly from Reykjavik to Scorseby Sound to start your expedition.

Learn more about summer Greenland voyages on icelandic owned vessels.

Humpback whales photo by Tecla customer Maria Cerrudo

Land of Myth and Viking Legend

Icelandic is Europe's oldest language, so wht you hear ashore is closer to the old Norse that Vikings spoke than modern Norwegian. The population today has a very modern, chic outlook in Reykjavik but in the rural hinterland and coast they endure pitch dark winters and enjoy the summer burst of energy created by living in the land of midnight sun. It shapes their character and links them with their past. Icelandic sagas tell the tale of Viking's arriving here and making Iceland their home. After centuries of warring the Vikings created a huge amount of early literature and written stories so you can really connect with the lives of sailors and first settlers that lived around 870 BC

Best Time to Sail in Iceland? Midnight Sun versus Northern Lights

In early summer you will be able to walk in daylight or sunset pink skies during the night.  As the sun sinks low in the sky it first creates a golden light which is magical for photographers.

In September there will be more dark skies, so you might catch the Northern lights or Aurora Borealis.

Ideal time of Year for Wildlife & Seabirds

The waters surrounding Iceland - are rich in sealife and nutrients. The chances are high that we will spot whales or dolphins and this is a great time of year for ocean seabirds as they come into the high cliffs to breed. The North Coast of Iceland has very reliable sightings of large whale species 

Iceland - A Naturalist's Paradise

As well as coastal seas rich in cetaceans and fish, Iceland is a stopping off point for a wide variety of birdlife. Even those who cannot tell a gannet from a seagull, may find themselves developing an interest in ornithology...or at least reaching for a bird guide. Around 70 bird species breed in Iceland and over 370 different species have been spotted here.  There are millions of puffins here in the summer (roughly May to August), skuas and terns that will dive bomb you if you get too close to their nests.

The Barrow's Golden Eye, Great Northern Diver and Harelquin duck are common in America but Iceland is a good place to spot them. Gyr Falcons have been in Iceland for centuries and much prized for falconery accross Europe. They love the plump Ptarmingan for their supper!

White tailed eagles are now protected in Iceland with about 65 breeding pairs and have wing spans over 3ft.

The high cliffs of the Western fjords, islands like Grimsey are best seen by boat and the sheer numbers will blow your mind - guillimots, brunnich's guillimot, fulmars, razorbills, gannets and kittiwakes all nest on precipitous ledges.

Iceland has pleny of bog and marshland so there are many waders, geese and ducks.

The Arctic fox is the largest land mammal and has protected staus in the Hornstrabdir National Park ( see Tecla 6 day voyages based from Isafjordur).

Wildlife Guide on Board

In addition to her profesional crew Tecla will have a wildlife guide on board on all the Icelandic voyages to tell you more about the landscape and the wildlife on land and sea.  It is likely to be Annouka from Finland or Joules from Switzerland. Both are tall ship sailors known to the Classic Sailing team and Tecla. Annouka has worked and lived in Iceland before as a wildlife and cetacean expert on whale watching trips. Both Annouka and Jules have worked on Europa as guides in Antarctica so they are familiar with High Latitude guiding in zodiacs and ashore in mountainous, remote terrain. 

We will create more detailed profiles of the guides when they are confirmed for each voyage.

Reykjavik - Europe's most Northerly Capital

A stylish place with great fashion shops, bookshops and cafes. There are now many cheap flight options back to many cities in Europe from nearby Keflavik Airport.

Trekking on Snow Mountain Peninsula - Snaefellsjokull.

Leaving Reykjavik Tecla will set sail towards Arnastapi at the foot of Stapafell on the South Coast. Arnastapi offers some excellent hikes up to Snaefellsjokull. This three peaked glacier rises 1446 metres above sea level and is famous for being the location for Jules Verne book Journey to the Centre of the Earth. There are plenty of caves in the lava pipes so you can see why he was inspired to tell a tale of a journey deep underground. There are crevasses in the glacier, so any walk on the ice will be subject to local conditions and advice.

Vatnsfjordur Nature Reserve

It is only a short hop by sailing ship to Vatnsfjordur Nature Reserve. Endless hiking opportunties abound along the shores of Vatndalsvatn with rich bird life to observe.

Accross Briedafjordur and Sub Arctic Islands

There are 2700 islands here and many were inhabited due to the large number of fisheries. Tecla aims to visit the island of Flatey was the site of a 12th Century monastery and was a major cultural centre until the 1800's. Today it is a perfectly preserved example of what an Icelandic village used to be like. The lsand is not inhabited by many all year around but many families spend their summer months restoring the timber houses of their ancestors here.

Erik the Red & Land of Viking Sagas

North of this you enter the land of Viking sagas with turf roofed longhouses and the home of Erik the Red and Leifur Eiriksson.

Western Fjords - Best Hiking in Iceland & Midnight Sun

Tecla has two six day voyages based in the Western Fjords of Iceland. The remoteness makes for a hard life for the locals but creates wilderness and wildlife havens of great beauty. In the summer months the tundra flora comes alive. In winter there is some great ski mountaineering routes accross the wilderness, broad ridges and steep mountain valleys.  There is plenty of opportunities to wander, whether you want to climb hills or skirt the shoreline or lower slopes in search of birds, seals, arctic foxes and flowers.  There are no polar bears here or dangerous mammals, but you are in a sub arctic landscape with all the flora and wildlife that goes with it.  Summers are intense but brief, with all of nature making the best of 24 hours of daylight in June.

Hornstrandir National Park - Golden Meadows & Arctic Foxes

This vast uninhabited nature reserve stretches from Hrafnfjordur to the end of Furufjordur and everything North of Skorarheidi.  Abandoned by a small farming community in the 1920's there is little sign on habitation or farming now and the meadows have never been fertilised with anything other than guano and have been free of grazing for decades. There are no roads and the area is off limits to motor traffic so all that link the valleys accross th mountain passes are bridle paths. Listen for the bark of Arctic foxes, protected here unlike much of Iceland.

You can wade knee deep in meadows of wild flowers and enjoy the sound of silence as the sun drops low in the sky for golden light and then a pink 'sunset' that lasts all night.

Bird Cliffs of Hornbjarg, Haelavikurbjarg & Riturinn

Another highlight of the region (if not Europe) are the majestic cliffs of the Hornbjarg - a nesting gound for tens of thousands of niosy guillamots, razorbills, puffins, kittiwakes and fulmars.

The highest point is Kalfatintur peak. If you hike to the top, rather than view it from the ship, then you can look down a sheer drop of 1760ft down to the Greenland Sea.  On a clear day some claim you can see the Greenland Ice Cap (400 miles away).

Driftwood is harvested on the shores around here as Iceland has a distinct shortage of trees, so careful with Tecla's bowsprit and topmasts here, as a replacement won't be easy.

Photo from Tecla voyages

Sail the Denmark Strait & Bathe in Hot Geothermal Springs 

As you leave the broad Isafjordur into the Denmark Strait there is no more land to the NW until your reach East Greenland. In 2016 Tecla will be turning east at Straumes lighthouse to explore the North Iceland coast and islands. The Strandir East Coast is incredibly remote and the ports and inlets are well off the tourist track. Tecla is planning to viit Reykjarfjordur and the port of Djupavik. Once a bustling herring port this settlement is virtually abandoned, apart from a wonderfully situated hotel.

Explore Northern Iceland for Outlaws and Herring. Jutting out into the Arctic Ocean is the Skagi Penisula which divides two interesting sailing areas - Hunafloi Bight and Skagafjordur but you are unlikely to see many yachts here! Skagafjordur is likely to be Tecla's next destination with another bird sanctury on the island of Drangey. Drangey was once a hangout for Viking outlaws, including saga hero Grettir the strong. Grettir swam from the mainland and was found naked on the beach by two women.  This is how a saga begins.The island is also home to puffins, Kittiwakes and Razorbills.

For the full Iceland experience you must try a natural hot spring bath, traditionally followed by an icy plunge into the North Atlantic Ocean at Drangsnes.

East of Skagafjordur

The Eastern flank of this huge peninsula is flanked by steep mountains with a the remnants of an ancient icecap posing a challenge to trekkers. The big rivers racing down to the North coast are famous for white water rafting and the fresh waters and silty seabeds of the fjords along this coast seem to attrach large whales

Siglufjordur is Iceland's most Northerly city and only 20 miles from the Arctic circle. With only 1200 inhabitants it is not really a city now but a generation ago it had 10 000 workers here for the herring industry. The award winning Herring Era Museum is worth a visit. There are amazing lava formations in the neighbourhood.

Northern Europe's Secret Spot for Whales.

Akureyri is situated deep in the stunning Eyjafjordur. This fjord and nearby Skjalfandi Bay are famous for whale watching.  Check out North Sailing website for daily whale and dolphin sighting records which have included Minke Whales, Blue Whales, Orca, Sei whale, fin whale, humpback whale, sperm whale and white side dolphin and harbour porpoise. This Icelandic family business based in Husavik works with Classic Sailing to offer voyages in Greenland but they also have a large fleet of whale watching boats in Skalfandi Bay and are definately the local experts if you are planning to stay in the area. One of their regular guides may also be on Tecla for the summer, so you can find out more.

Grimsey Island - Sail into the Arctic Circle.

If Tecla pays a visit to Grimsey you can truely claim to have sailed into the Arctic Circle. Tradition allows sailing ships to paint their bowsprit cap blue to celebrate the crossing. Home to huge colonies of seabirds and only 90 inhabitants Grimsey is a beautiful  island in summer with a whitewashed wooden church. Once home to obessive chess playing Vikings, the island has a querky past. Beware the dive bombing Arctic terns.

Akureyri - Sunny Microclimate & Flowers

Around Akureyri are sheer granite mountains that keep snow on their summits all year around.  The setting is awesome, and despite being only 60 miles from the Arctic Circle, Akureyri enjoys one of the warmest weather in the country in summer with clear skies and temperatures upto 20 degrees centigrade common.  There is even a botanical garden here.

If you have time before you travel home - just along the ring road is the mighty Godafoss waterfall - one of the easiest mighty waterfalls to visit.


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