Looking for a short trip that is full of adrenaline? Then Icelandic adventure holidays may be the answer. This small country has everything from surfing to snowkiting and hiking to heli skiing. Don’t believe us? Then check out the 10 best outdoor activities in Iceland below.
There is a common myth that the Vikings choose the name ‘Iceland’ in order to keep their rivals from invading the beautiful land that they had discovered. The Iceland Sagas say that Norwegian visitors in the ninth century named it Snow Land (because it was snowing) and a Swede then named it “Garðar’s Isle” after himself! But it was a Viking named Flóki Vilgerðarson who from the top of a mountain saw a fjord full of icebergs and gave Iceland it’s name.
Yes, Iceland can get pretty icy during the winter, but there is much more to it than only ice. In good weather it takes about 17 hours to drive around the Island – just driving no breaks – but it would take a lifetime to really explore it. But on week long – or even four or five day – Icelandic adventure holidays you can get a good feel for what the island offers.
Iceland is located on two tectonic plates creating a significant amount of volcanoes, the peaks of which reach over 2000m. Mountains coupled with Iceland’s position in the Northern Atlantic has lead to 13 glaciers forming, Vatnajökull the largest covers over 8,000 km².
So it is with good reason that Iceland is referred to as ‘the land of ice and fire’. The glaciers feed turbulent rivers that flow into lakes and eventually reach the surrounding sea. This combination means that there are many outdoor activities in Iceland, some of which can be experienced under the Aurora Borealis.
Whether you are just starting to test your limits or if you are a extreme sport junky, you’ll find something suitable during Icelandic adventure holidays. As a taster we’ve pulled together what we feel are 10 of the best outdoor activities in Iceland:
The interior of Iceland barely has any roads or inhabitants. Instead, you will find endless trekking and hiking trails which offer breathtaking views of Iceland’s famously stunning and unspoiled nature.
Expect to see see wonderful waterfalls, marvelous mountains, rampaging rivers and glorious glaciers. You’ll also get up close to hot springs and volcanoes of all shapes and sizes.
Trekking and hiking are the best outdoor activities in Iceland and not just due to the natural beauty, but because you don’t need specialist training or equipment to hike a trail. And there are trails suitable for all levels, from short well marked beginner routes to multi-day expeditions into the wild.
If you’d like to push your hiking to the next level, then put on some crampons to explore some of the most magical glacier landscapes in the world. You will need a guide who knows the terrain because glaciers are always moving and can be dangerous – falling into a crevasse would not be fun.
Active people of all ages can do these hikes as the level of difficulty is matched to the abilities of the hikers. Please note children need to be at least 14 to go glacier hiking.
Taking the glacier hiking to the next level is to do a spot of ice climbing. It can start with making your way up steeper sections of glaciers, and then going fully vertical. Again you’ll need a guide who’ll provide all the safety gear and training.
But for the ultimate ice climbing experience you should try climbing a frozen waterfall. This is often more dangerous, so more suited to experienced climbers. The Northern Fjords are known for some of the most dramatic and difficult ice climbing in the world.
This is not the most physically demanding activity so anyone can have a go, in our view making it one of the best outdoor activities in Iceland. It is only possible during the peak of winter from November and March to ensure the caves are as solid as possible.
The water is cold, but you wouldn’t be a real surfer if that was all it took to discourage you. Feeling the brunt of both the Atlantic Ocean and Arctic Sea the surf in Iceland can be very good.
Surfing in Iceland is not for beginners. Even experienced surfers can get into trouble without the right gear and respect for the conditions. Check out our guide to surfing in Iceland for more information.
Although there are a few ski areas in Iceland that use traditional ski lifts, they are rather small. So the best way to explore the many untouched slopes is to heliski/board in Iceland. Not only can you reach virgin powder but experience the beautiful Icelandic landscape from above.
A top spot is the Troll Peninsula. Here you’ll find 4000 square kilometres of incredible scenery, and can ski or snowboard right down to the sea. With a vast range of slopes there are heliski tours suitable for beginners to experts.
Snowkiting is the latest big thing to hit the adventure sports world, and people from all over the world are turning to Iceland as the place to try it out. Combining kitesurfing with skiing or snowboarding you explore snowy terrain rather than open water.
With it’s vast glaciated landscape, high snowfall and reliable winds, Iceland has some of the best snowkiting worldwide. Langjokull Glacier is a particularly good spot read out guide to snowkiting in Iceland to find out more.
At Silfra in Iceland there is he unique opportunity to scuba dive between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. You can dive or snorkel in the fresh water that’s as clear as air, having been filtered by lava over hundreds of years.
But divers from all over the world not only come to dive between two continents. The underwater landscapes around Iceland are both dramatic and teeming with life. You can do a drysuit diving course as part of your Icelandic adventure holidays and try cave diving or (unsurprisingly) ice diving.
In case you haven’t yet realised, to enjoy the best outdoor activities in Iceland you need to be an adventurous nature lover. Although many of the activities above are quite extreme, there are options for all levels, so anyone can get involved in Icelandic adventure holidays.
Iceland is particularly special because everything is so close to each other. You can get a good feel for the place – and plenty of adrenaline – during a long weekend, and really get under its skin in a week of overlanding around the island.
But as we said at the beginning, there is a lifetime of adventures waiting in Iceland. So a great way to enjoy as much as possible would be to move there, there are a variety of ways to work in Iceland with easy long term visas for those working remotely for foreign companies! It might sound crazy but there are university exchange programs available for the adventurous.
We hope you found the best outdoor activities in Iceland inspiring. If you plan to book Icelandic adventure holidays be sure to check out our discounts in Iceland as you could save a fortune.