Iceland is a country defined by it’s outdoors. Inspiring scenery at every turn, extraordinary landscapes, and astounding natural wonders; when visiting a country with nature so inspiring, it would be a waste to spend your time solely holed up in the cities without making time for exploration of the outdoors.
The following are the top 10 outdoor activities, though these are just some of the many amazing things in Iceland to do. Think adrenaline activities amid scenery so spectacular that the experience will leave you raving about your travel to this country as the trip of your lifetime for years to come.
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Nothing gets you closer to Iceland’s raw, natural landscapes than hiking across it, and with the choice of grassy meadows bursting with wildflowers, lava fields, black-sand deserts and icefields, the options of hiking terrain here are both varied and vast. Best Iceland hikes, where to hike in Iceland
Established trails throughout the country range from an hour to a week, and the most popular include those at Landmannalaugar, Jökulsárgljúfur National Park, and Skaftafell. Though the magic of Iceland is in creating your own path.
Pick up an Iceland car rental and set off on a cross country drive of the Ring Road. Opportunities for hiking are truly endless; just pull off to the side of the road and set off from where you have parked. Best hiking in Iceland
Iceland is known for having tapped into the natural wonder that is geothermal energy, and almost every Icelandic town boasts an outdoor geothermal swimming pool, always with accompanying “hot pot” tubs, and some with saunas and water slides as well. Best swimming pools in Iceland
Swimming is a popular pass-time in Iceland, with the tradition of public bathing having become deeply rooted in the local culture. With surreal blue water, steam and black lava boulders, the ultimate hot spot for bathing is the Blue Lagoon. Best swimming pools in Iceland, where to swim in Iceland
Thermal baths are an Icelandic tradition which dates back to the twelfth century, and of the thirteen baths that are known to have been used in the early days of the Icelandic society, four are still standing.
From multi day tours which will take you deep into the Icelandic highlands, to short day trips through the outback, Horse riding is a unique way to experience the incredibly scenic country. Can you horseride in Iceland
Iceland’s most specific breed of horses arrived with the Vikings. Though lacking the size and speed of Arab horses, they have a unique gliding gait, called “tolt”, used for moving softly over the rough terrain. Horse riding tours today follow the ancient riding trails which have allowed even the earliest Viking settlers to travel cross country. Can you ride horses in Iceland?
Enjoy utter solitude in the wilderness and long hours in the saddle as you develop an intimate connection with nature. Many riding schools and farms offer excursions. Where to ride horses in Iceland
“When making a trip to Iceland, it is hard not to pay special attention to the country’s namesake—namely, its 4,500 square miles of glacier. Ice climbing on the glaciers is practiced year-round and takes place mainly on the Sólheimajökull and Svínafellsjökull glaciers in the south of Iceland, to which day trips are offered from Reykjavík (and Skaftafell).”
Do note that Ice-climbing should not be undertaken without a professionally trained guide. Best adventure adrenalin outdoor activities in Iceland
Ice-climbing tours offer tourists an amazing first-hand experience of some of Iceland’s untamed nature, and this is an experience which can be undertaken at various levels of experience and difficulty. Visit Iceland advises that crampons and ice axes are generally provided, but it is recommended that you bring a waterproof jacket and trousers, a light sweater, quick dry trousers, a hat and gloves. In addition, hiking boots are often available for rent. Iceland ice cave tours are also a popular outdoor activity along the same lines.
White Water Rafting
White Water Rafting is a fairly epic adventure, and Iceland is a pretty spectacular location for it. What Iceland’s rivers lack in size they make up for in drama, tearing through narrow volcanic gorges, forming lively rapids. Two of the longest – the Þjórsá and the Hvítá – are accessible for white-water rafting, with trips during the summer. White water rafting in Iceland
We gently floated through scenic canyons, paddled furiously through exciting rapids, and put our balance to the test by standing on the side of the rocking raft, dangerously close to the edge!
Throw in some cliff jumping for glacial swimming, and a relaxing hot tub and sauna back at basecamp at the end of the day, and you’ve got yourself an incredible amount of river fun!
Home to one of the most unique scuba sites in the world, there is only one area to scuba dive in Iceland – Silfra and other spots around Pingvallavatn. Silfra is rated one of the best freshwater sites in the world, with crystal-clear, pale blue water and submerged lava formations as the main draws.
Quad biking is the ultimate Icelandic adventure, and monster quads will have you zipping through the Icelandic Outback regardless of season or terrain.
Choose a quad bike adventure to travel well off the beaten path, off-roading through rivers, lakes and ravines, through back roads and mountain trails while navigating mud and grass routes, and climbing steep hills on the side of intimidating mountain tops. Watch the countryside change into wilderness during the summer, or the northern lights dance over your head on a night tour during winter.
Skiing and Snowboarding
There are established winter skiing and snowboarding venues around Reykjavik, Akureyri, Hlíðarfjall and in the West Fjords, complete with bunkhouses, ski lifts and graded runs. The most accessible is Bláfjöll, outside Reykjavik and the summer slopes at west Snæfellsjökull, with winter cross-country opportunities around Mývatn.
Perhaps even more exotic than majestic glaciers grinding their way through cracked lava fields, and more captivating than witnessing glittering ice caps pierce the sky, is the opportunity to witness and interact with the country’s exotic variety of seabirds and wildlife.
Seabirds like the comical puffin arrive by the million for the breeding season between April and August, and nest on coastal cliffs all around the country in massive colonies. And to say that they arrive in the million is no understatement – we literally spent days shooting seabirds (photography) and have more photography than we could possibly hope to edit in a lifetime.
You may not be a bird person now, though Iceland will make you realize that perhaps this isn’t a horrible hobby after-all!
Snowmobiling or skidooing is an expensive but exhilarating way to tear across snowfields and glaciers at 40kmph.
The best place to try it is at Skalafellsjökull, an outrunner of Vatnajökull.
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