Iceland Family: Reykjavik & National Parks

Guided Family Tour of Iceland: Reykjavik & National ParksGuided Family Tour of Iceland: Reykjavik & National Parks

Iceland Family

Reykjavik & National Parks


Whether you’re strolling through active lava fields, slipping behind 130-foot waterfalls, horseback riding with traditional farmers, or paddling past icebergs shaped like Dr. Seuss landscapes, the tiny island of Iceland offers up big adventures. You and your loved ones should prepare to get up close and personal with some amazing places in the land of fire and ice, from deep fjords plied by minke whales and seals to natural hot tubs warmed by underground magma. Leave the world behind and enjoy some quality time together on an epic exploration of all corners of this exotic paradise, a complete itinerary that includes the steaming volcano craters and bubbling mudpots of the north, the plunging fjords and wild reindeer of the picturesque east, the dramatic glaciers of the south, and the fashionable city of Reykjavík to the west. Take advantage of sunny days and long summer evenings provided by Iceland’s famous “midnight sun” and explore from an amphibious vehicle eerie blue lakes dotted with icebergs (where two James Bond movies were shot). Share pancake breakfasts with Icelandic farming families that will teach your nearest and dearest local folk songs on the accordion. Relax in the Scandinavian comfort of four-star hotels and savor the world-class fare of exceptional restaurants, sampling local delicacies from the sea and field. Along the way, you can see the 1,000-year-old site of Iceland’s first Viking assemblies in Þingvellir National Park, experience the black-sand beaches of Vík, and walk down switchback trails into the beautiful village of Seyðisfjörður, past numerous stunning waterfalls. Through it all, you and your family are sure to enjoy a magical time together—one you’ll remember for the rest of your lives.

Activity Level
Easy to moderate;
4-6 miles daily
Reykjavík, Iceland
Keflavikurflugvollur, Iceland
Daily Itinerary
Download printable
Reading List
pre-trip reading
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From our blog

Family Adventure 
8 days, 7 nights Trip Includes 

Trip Includes:

  • Two expert, local guides (for groups of 8 or more), with you 24/7
  • All meals except for 1 dinner; all non-alcoholic beverages included; welcome and farewell cocktails
  • All accommodations (with private bathrooms) while on tour
  • Transportation from the meeting to the departure point
  • Entrance fees and special events as noted in the itinerary
  • Basic travel insurance coverage
  • The unbeatable and cumulative experience of the CW staff


Itinerary and Accommodations

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Day 1


Meet in Reykjavík. Þingvellir National Park; 3 miles, easy to moderate. Geysir and Gullfoss; 1 mile, easy. Transfer to Hella. Optional evening river walk; 2 miles, easy

You begin with an early meeting in your centrally located Reykjavík hotel for a brief orientation before departing on the 50-minute drive northeast of the city through the countryside to Þingvellir National Park, one of the three national parks that you visit on this itinerary. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Þingvellir, literally “Parliament Plains,” is the site of Iceland’s ancient parliament first established in AD 930 and convened continuously until 1798. Not only a gathering place for chieftains establishing law, it was also an open-air meeting place for games, feasts, marriages, and trade, and the site of some of the country’s momentous decisions: from the adoption of Christianity in AD 1000 to the foundation of the Republic of Iceland in 1944. Fascinatingly, it is situated on the dramatic rift valley where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates pull apart, clearly visible at the great Almannagjá (Everyman’s Gorge), a group of gorges extending almost continuously from Lake Þingvallavatn north to Mt. Ármannsfell. As a result, you can literally walk between continents in this singular park. The trail continues to Lögberg (Law Rock), where the “Law Speaker” proclaimed memorized laws.

Moving into the park, a two-hour walk takes you to Öxarárfoss waterfall and through a lava field covered by patchy pine plantations, dwarf birch forest, and heathland plants such as bog bilberry, wooly willow, lady smock, sweet grass, and lichen. Continuing along some of the many fissures in the rift valley, you enjoy great views of the crystal-clear, deep waters of the Vallagja, Flosagja, and Nikulasargja fissures.

From Þingvellir, a short drive takes you to a local farm for a delicious lunch featuring fresh tomato and herb soup and homemade bread, followed by warm apple and rhubarb pie. After eating, the farmer and his family will take you on a tour of the stables to introduce you to the Icelandic horse and even put on a horse show to demonstrate what makes these unique animals special.

After lunch, you make your way to your first hotel with a number of stops en route. The first stop is at Geysir, a volcanically heated tower of spewing water that has given its name to this phenomenon worldwide, and Strokkur, or the “churn,” the latter spouting every five minutes. From here, a 10-minute drive takes you to Gullfoss, or Gold Falls, Iceland’s most famous and visited waterfall, a national monument. Then you continue about 90 minutes more through much of the country’s agricultural land to Hella, known for the gentle Icelandic horses.

Before gathering for a welcome cocktail and dinner in your hotel’s acclaimed riverside restaurant, you may slip into one of its geothermally heated outdoor hot tubs. On the menu, along with organic, high-quality local produce, you may choose the organic lamb pastrami, followed by fresh wild salmon from the neighboring river, chocolate and skyr (Icelandic cream cheese) cake for dessert. After dinner, with daylight lingering well into the night, you may choose to go for a peaceful evening walk along the banks of the Eystri-Rangá, soak in the natural hot tubs, or explore the game-filled lounges of the family-friendly, log-cabin-style Hotel Rangá.

Hotel Rangá

A member of the Special Hotels of the World, Hotel Rangá is beautifully situated on the banks of Iceland's premier salmon river, the Eystri-Rangá. This four-star, log-cabin-style resort features cozy and comfortable rooms, facing either the river or Iceland's famous volcano, Mt. Hekla, as well as an acclaimed riverside restaurant and several geothermally heated outdoor hot tubs.

Day 2


1¼-hour transfer to Vík with stops en route at Seljalandsfoss, the Skógar folk museum, and Skogafoss waterfall. Vík cliff/beach walk; 2 miles, easy. 2-hour transfer to Freysnes. Optional late-afternoon glacier walk; 2 miles, easy

After a bountiful buffet breakfast, you drive east along the Ring Road (the one road encircling the entire island) where you take in some of the southern coast’s most dramatic scenery—tall mountains with a succession of waterfalls cascading from the glaciers above on one side and views of the North Atlantic coastline with its black sand beaches and dramatic headlands on the other. A 20-minute drive brings you to a brief stop at Seljalandsfoss, a narrow waterfall dropping 130 feet into a shallow pool with space to walk behind it. From here another short drive brings you to the tiny village of Skógar, a summer resort and home to one of Iceland’s finest folk museums; its old turf farmhouse provides a glimpse into the fishing and farming culture of past centuries. Afterward, you stop at the town’s breathtaking Skogafoss waterfall, which drops nearly 200 feet into the river Skógaá, full of salmon and char, and, according to legend, hiding a gold treasure trove visible when the sun hits it the right way.

Continuing eastward, a 35-minute drive brings you to the town of Vík, Iceland’s most southerly village. This quaint town is tucked in between mountains, sea cliffs, and a long, beautiful, black sand beach. Following lunch, a spectacular coastal walk departs directly from the restaurant. Reaching the outskirts of the village, you skirt the vertical Reynisfjall cliffs—home to a remarkable bird colony including kittiwakes, fulmar, and puffins—as well as the Reynisdrangar, a series of black basalt columns sculpted by the sea. According to local folklore, these twisted shapes are trolls turned to stone by the sunrise while dragging their boats to shore. The walk concludes with a stroll along the beach, ending with an optional visit to Vík’s lovely woolens shop.

Another hour’s drive traverses the beautifully austere landscape of the moss-covered Eldhraun lava field, one of the largest lava fields in the world, and then another 60 minutes through a glacial floodplain called “The Sandur,” the world’s largest example of a black sand desert, the sand and sediment deposited by subglacial volcanoes.

By late afternoon you reach your hotel, situated at the base of vegetated glacial moraines in front of Iceland’s most impressive (and largest) glacier, Vatnajökull, and also adjacent to the breathtaking Skaftafell National Park (the second national park on this tour). Before dinner at your hotel, your guides will take you on an optional two-hour walk on the run-off glacier, Svínafellsjökull.

Hotel Skaftafell

Freysnes, Iceland

Ideally located three miles east of the breathtaking Skaftafell National Park, this three-star property boasts incredible glacier and mountain views, a restaurant, spacious bar, and very simple yet comfortable rooms.

Day 3


Skaftafell National Park; 4-6 miles, easy to moderate. Afternoon visit to Ingólfshöfði headland; 1-2 miles, easy

Following a buffet breakfast including a make-your-ownwaffles bar, a few minutes’ drive brings you to the morning’s walk in Skaftafell National Park. After an initial ascent up the Bæjargil gully with its multiple waterfalls, including the spectacular Svartifoss or Black Waterfall, you continue across Skaftafellsheiði heath to the viewpoint at Sjónarnipa, where you enjoy a picnic lunch.

The flora and fauna in the park are much more varied than in other parts of the country, and in midsummer you find large numbers of butterflies and considerable birdlife on the wooded slopes—the redwing, common snipe, meadow pipit, and wren are among the most common species. This is also one of the North Atlantic’s most important breeding areas for the great skua. The park’s sheltered position and rich volcanic soil encourage a profusion of lush vegetation and more than 200 species of plants have been found here, including abundant summertime wildflowers.

Following lunch, you return to the park’s visitor center. From here you drive south to Ingólfshöfði, a striking headland and the arrival point of Iceland’s first Norse settler, Ingólfur Arnarson, more than 1,000 years ago. Today these cliffs and grassy fields atop the promontory provide nesting grounds for charming, orange-beaked puffins as well as more than a dozen other bird species, including kittiwakes, snipe, guillemots, the great skua, various gulls, and graceful Arctic terns. Getting to Ingólfshöfði is truly half the fun; you ride in an open cart tractor towed by a kindly—and now famous—local farmer over hard, sea-washed volcanic sand. Once at the promontory, you climb up a sand dune to the top, where your farmer-host regales you with stories of the ancient Norse settlers, and dramatic tales of modern sailors shipwrecked along these shores.

A late-afternoon coffee at Skaftafell Visitor Center is a chance to explore the exhibition room with an interesting display showing the intertwined lives of the local people and natural history as well as to view a video showing the effects of the Skeidarár glacial outburst floods (jökulhlaup) in 1996. You return to relax at the hotel before gathering for dinner in its dining room.

Hotel Skaftafell

Freysnes, Iceland

Ideally located three miles east of the breathtaking Skaftafell National Park, this three-star property boasts incredible glacier and mountain views, a restaurant, spacious bar, and very simple yet comfortable rooms.

Day 4


1-hour transfer to Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. Jökulsárlón beach; 1 mile, easy. 4½-hour transfer to Seyðisfjörður with stops en route in Höfn and Djúpivogur. Fjarðará River; 2½ miles, moderate with some challenging downhill sections. Optional evening walk through town; 1-2 miles, easy

Today’s travels take you from Skaftafell in the south to the final destination of Seyðisfjörður in the east. With an early departure, an hour’s drive takes you to the dramatic Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, the best known and largest of a number of glacial lakes in Iceland. Here, you board an amphibious vehicle for a 40-minute boat ride that takes you up close to blue-tinted icebergs—each shaped by the elements into striking sculptural shapes. Two James Bond movies, “Die Another Day” and “A View to a Kill,” were filmed in this fantastic location, where a large pool between the nose of Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and the sea formed after the glacier began shrinking rapidly in the 1940s, and filled with icebergs calved from the glacier. Floating among the ice you may spot seals, eider ducks, and even witness the glacier calving into the crystal turquoise waters. Crossing the road, an awe-inspiring walk takes you along the iceberg-covered black-sand beach where you might spot seals as well as the great skua.

Climbing in your private coach, an 80-minute drive provides fantastic views of Vatnajökull glacier before arriving at the busy fishing port of Höfn, the epicenter of Iceland’s lobster catch. At the lobster/langoustine capital of the north, the menu for lunch at a charming local restaurant with harbor views features langoustine tails grilled with butter, parsley, and garlic, served with salad and fresh bread. You have a short stroll before the three-hour transfer to Seyðisfjörður. Breaking up the drive, you make a coffee stop in the charming east Iceland fishing village of Djúpivogur, at the tip of the lower Eastfjords.

You are able to reach your final destination of Seyðisfjörður on foot following a path along the south bank of the Fjarðará River dotted with numerous waterfalls, past Iceland’s oldest operational power plant (1913), and down the dramatic valley to your town-center hotel—truly a spectacular arrival! Iceland’s most picturesque coastal town, Seyðisfjörður is nestled in an 11-mile-long, calm, deep fjord, lined with snowcapped mountains and tumbling waterfalls. The town’s streets feature colorful Norwegian wood kit homes from the 19th and early 20th centuries, Iceland’s best-preserved old wooden buildings. With a thriving arts scene, Seyðisfjörður also serves as the port to mainland Europe as the Smyril Line car ferry Norræna transits weekly to Norway, the Shetland and Faroe Islands, and Denmark. The modern Icelandic poet Matthías Johannessen called the town a “pearl enclosed in a shell.”

Your home base for the next two nights lives up to the setting: a lovely heritage hotel, its rooms beautifully furnished with handcrafted bedspreads, embroidered rugs, and antiques. The hotel’s warmly lit gourmet restaurant, housed in one of Iceland’s oldest general stores, serves local, organic ingredients such as East Icelandic reindeer steak with caramelized onion, root vegetables, and red wine sauce. Intrigued, you may opt for a late-evening stroll through the old town with a local resident or visit the vibrant Skaftafell Cultural Center and Café, where local artists and musicians meet in a grand old house that includes an art gallery, and play one of the many board games scattered about.

Hótel Aldan

Seyðisfjörður, Iceland

This lovely in-town Heritage Hotel is comprised of three historical buildings: a former bank, post office, and one of Iceland's oldest stores, now completely restored more than a century later to their former splendor. Inviting rooms exude old-fashioned charm and are beautifully furnished with handcrafted bedspreads, embroidered rugs, wood floors, and antiques. (Please note: while rooms do not feature telephones, there are phone services available at the reception desk.)

Day 5


Skálanes country option; 6 miles, moderate, or Seyðisfjörður "town option;" 3-4 miles, easy

A scrumptious breakfast buffet starts the day with still-warm home-baked bread still warm from the oven, fresh fruit, and cereals. If participating in today’s more challenging country option, a 20-minute drive brings you to the trailhead for a four-five- hour walk to Skálanes—a nature reserve located at the mouth of Seyðisfjörður fjord. There you’ll be joined by a local guide who will highlight cultural and ecological points of interest along the hike. With snowcapped mountains and cascading waterfalls on one side and the deep blue fjord on the other, the morning route takes you across peaceful meadows, along sandy beaches, and into lush wildflower fields. The area is known for its beauty and considerable birdlife including the Arctic tern, black-tailed godwit, golden plover, and eider duck. Other wildlife includes seals and whales in the fjord and reindeer who populate the high mountain heathland. Around lunchtime, you arrive at Skálanes Farm where a picnic lunch is served. Continuing on after lunch, the trail proceeds to the edge of the fjord up along the bird cliffs with large colonies of seabirds including kittiwakes and puffins. From here you ascend lupine-covered hills before descending alongside a stream bank back towards the fjord trail. The bus is waiting to drive those back to town who wish; others may choose to walk into town.

Alternatively, today’s easier town option offers the chance to explore the history and architecture of the town of Seyðisfjörður in the company of a local guide, who will take you on a three-hour stroll through the village and surrounding areas.

Your family returns to town in the late afternoon, in time for a one-hour guided sea-kayak paddle/tour with Hlynur, a local expert, in the lagoon in front of the hotel—a wonderful way to experience the fjord. You are free to continue your explorations this evening with dinner on your own in one of Seyðisfjörður’s restaurants or cafés, or at your hotel.

Hótel Aldan

Seyðisfjörður, Iceland

This lovely in-town Heritage Hotel is comprised of three historical buildings: a former bank, post office, and one of Iceland's oldest stores, now completely restored more than a century later to their former splendor. Inviting rooms exude old-fashioned charm and are beautifully furnished with handcrafted bedspreads, embroidered rugs, wood floors, and antiques. (Please note: while rooms do not feature telephones, there are phone services available at the reception desk.)

Day 6


3-hour transfer to Lake Mývatn with stop en route at Sænautasel Farm. Jökulsárgljúfur National Park: Dettifoss; 1 mile, easy. Lake Mývatn: Leirhnjúkur and Námaskarð; 1-3-mile options, easy

Today you leave the Eastfjords to head north with a final destination of Lake Mývatn, via a three-hour drive across the fascinating interior of the island, with its stark and barren northeast highland desert plateaus. The halfway point is a coffee break at Sænautasel Farm, a reconstructed turf farm on a 37-mile-long remote heathland called Jökuldalsheiði, where you may see reindeer grazing! Halldór Kiljan Laxness, Iceland’s Nobel Prize-winning author, used the farm as the setting for his novel, Sjálfstætt folk (“Independent People”).

You first stop is Jökulsárgljúfur National Park, which translates as “Glacial River Canyon,” Iceland’s most well-known canyon, replete with extraordinary rock formations, waterfalls, and plant life. Arriving at the park’s southern boundary, an easy, one-mile loop leads to Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful waterfall (often compared to Niagara Falls).

After fueling up with lunch, you proceed to the day’s final destination—the Mývatn/Krafla region—the part of Iceland where you see that it is indeed a land in formation. Geologically active, the landscape is teeming with volcanic craters, recent lava fields, and bubbling mud flats, and is part of the greater Krafla volcanic system, a three-mile-wide and 50-mile-long strip of faults and fissures running north to south, with the Krafla caldera at its center. In the midst of the evolving geology is stunning Lake Mývatn, a unique ecosystem and Europe’s largest migratory bird sanctuary, with its many species of waterfowl feeding on the insects and algae of the lake’s warm, shallow waters. The region is also the center of the country’s geothermal energy industry.

Not far from the lake, in the active Krafla volcanic zone, you stop for an easy two-hour walk at Leirhnjúkur, an eerie expanse of still-smoldering lava resulting from the Krafla fires of 1974-1984. You explore the multicolored sulfurous slopes of Námaskarð Pass at 1,300 feet above sea level and Hverir, a large geothermal field, full of bubbling mud pots, hissing steam vents, and fumaroles.

This evening, after settling in to your room on the shores of Lake Mývatn, you gather for dinner in the hotel’s dining room. If you still have energy after dinner, you may take an evening walk along the southwest shore of the lake to observe some of the varied birdlife—merganser, widgeon, teal, and the rare Barrow’s goldeneye, to name a few. Or you can jump on one of the hotel’s bikes for an easy spin. The Northern version of Reykjavík’s Blue Lagoon, the Mývatn Nature Baths, are nearby, and your guides can arrange a visit at your own expense. Lastly, a neighboring farm provides Icelandic horse rides, also at your expense, but with the guide’s assistance.

Hótel Reynihlíð

Reykjahlíð, Iceland

The family-run Hotel Reynihlíð is ideally located on the shores of Lake Mývatn. Spacious rooms, with lake or mountain views, are well-equipped with modern amenities. This comfortable hotel also features a welcoming lobby bar, sitting rooms, and restaurant.

Day 7


Jökulsárgljúfur National Park: Dettifoss; 1 mile, easy. Hljóðaklettar; 2 miles, moderate with challenging sections. Ásbyrgi; 4-5 miles, easy with challenging sections

Today’s focus is the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park, which translates as “Glacial River Canyon,” Iceland’s most wellknown canyon, replete with extraordinary rock formations, waterfalls, and plant life. You walk in three of its main areas, starting with Dettifoss in the south, Hólmatungur and Hljóðaklettar along the Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon in the middle, and finally Ásbyrgi, the wooded horseshoe canyon at the park’s northern end. The day begins with a hearty breakfast followed by a 60-minute drive along the west bank of the Jökulsá River, Iceland’s second-longest river. Arriving at the park’s southern boundary, an easy, one-mile loop leads to Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful waterfall (often compared to Niagara Falls). A short drive north arrives at the park center and the trailhead at Hólmatungur, with its luxuriant cascades and vegetation. Hólmatungur is a soft green oasis where underground springs and cascades feed astonishingly verdant vegetation, streams, and rivers. Northernmost Hljóðaklettar (Echo Rocks) is a maze of fantastic rock formations and castle-like cliffs and caves of varying sizes along the Jökulsá River. Birdlife en route are snipes, ptarmigans, and snow bunting, with gyrfalcon, merlin, and ravens nesting on cliffs and rock pillars.

A subsequent 30-minute drive brings you to the visitor center at Ásbyrgi where there is a choice of walks based on conditions and group preference. The broad, forested Ushaped canyon contains the rock “island” of Eyjan in its center, formed by a series of floods thousands of years ago. The island’s rare woodlands of birch, willow, and rowan are framed by cliffs colonized by fulmar.

In the later afternoon, a two-hour drive via the coastal town of Húsavík returns you to the hotel in Mývatn for a celebratory farewell dinner in the hotel’s dining room. Starting with the Mývatn specialty of Hot Spring bread, baked in the local underground bakery using geothermal heat, topped with butter and smoked arctic char, the main course may be wild thyme-crusted roasted leg of lamb or pan-fried Lake Mývatn trout. After dinner, stick around for live music and a singalong with a local musician to celebrate your last night.

Hótel Reynihlíð

Reykjahlíð, Iceland

The family-run Hotel Reynihlíð is ideally located on the shores of Lake Mývatn. Spacious rooms, with lake or mountain views, are well-equipped with modern amenities. This comfortable hotel also features a welcoming lobby bar, sitting rooms, and restaurant.

Day 8


Transfer to Akureyri with stop en route at Goðafoss. Flight from Akureyri to Reykjavík. Departure

The final day of your tour begins with an early morning departure to the city of Akureyri for the flight back to Reykjavík. En route, just under an hour’s drive, you stop at the beautiful Goðafoss waterfall, meaning much as it sounds, “waterfall of the gods.” Another 50 minutes brings you to Akureyri. After your short flight, you arrive into Reykjavík’s domestic airport in the late morning. Following time for sightseeing or last-minute shopping and lunch in Reykjavík, you are driven to the bus terminal to catch the 2:00 pm Flybus to Keflavík.

Itinerary Disclaimer

Bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual activities, sites, and accommodations may vary due to season, special events, weather, or transportation schedules. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. If you are currently booked on a CW adventure, an itinerary has been sent to you for your exact departure date. Please call CW at 800.464.9255 if you have any questions about the exact itinerary or hotels selected for any of our tours.


Erling Aspelund

Erling is a native of Reykjavík. He received his Masters from the Tisch School of the Arts in New York and worked for years in the computer software industry in Seattle. Erling has traveled all over Iceland and is passionate about the outdoors. He enjoys hiking, kayaking, swimming, skiing, and photography.

Kristin Bjornsdottir

Kristin moved back to her native Iceland a few years ago after living in the US where she graduated from New York University and worked in educational media. She is a certified travel guide and loves to share her passion for the outdoors and all things Icelandic. Kristin offers her extensive knowledge of Icelandic folklore and folktales as well as history and culture.

Arngunnur Yr

Born and raised in Iceland, Arngunnur studied fine arts in San Francisco. She is an accomplished painter who exhibits at galleries and art museums around the world. Her love of nature and the outdoors led her to guiding. She is a certified guide and spends her summers in Iceland sharing her extensive knowledge of Icelandic geology, nature, and culture with visitors.

Sigurthor Heimisson

Sigurthor, also known as Sori, hails from the East Coast of Iceland. Trained as an actor, he has performed professionally in Iceland and the United States. Like most of the men in the village where he grew up, Sori worked as a fisherman in his youth. Today he applies his knowledge of the sea to competitive yacht sailing. Sori is a certified Iceland tour guide and particularly enjoys leading guests through his home territory in the East.

Rakel Jónsdóttir

Rakel has been sharing her love of Icelandic nature with English and French-speaking visitors for over a decade and is known for her great story-telling skills. She is a certified guide and when she is not attending to guests, she teaches geography in the tour guide program at the University of Iceland. Rakel grew up in Hafnarfjordur, a beautiful old town south of Reykjavik. She has also lived in France and in the US, specifically in Hollywood, where she worked as an extra in movies and television shows.

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