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Iceland has become one of the world’s most coveted travel destinations, and for good reason. The scenery is out of this world, and when it comes to outdoor adventures, it’s truly hard to beat. One of the best ways to experience it is to take a tour – in this country, you’ll find many small group tours that will bring you to some of the most stunning destinations, often while enjoying some thrills along the way.
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Northern Lights Tour
Many visitors come to Iceland with hopes of viewing the northern lights, generally possible from late August through mid-April and late September through late March. If that’s on your bucket list you might want to join the evening Reykjavik Northern Lights tour which will take you to hunt for the aurora in the countryside where you’ll be far away from the city lights. Guides have access to information that reveals the very best time and place to see the dazzling display of colors against the midnight black skies, increasing your odds of checking this experience off your bucket list.
Lava Tube Tour
A lava tube tour will take you underground through the lava tunnels and the bizarre rock formations that were created during massive volcano eruptions deep underground. You’ll head out to the Leidarendi lava tube from Reykjavik with sits in a lava field near a volcanic crater southeast of Hafnafjordur, entering through a narrow entrance. It’s a half-mile long, and in some spots, you’ll have to get on your knees and crawl but viewing this incredible underground world is something you’ll never forget with surprising bursts of color and jaw-dropping scenery.
Iceland is famous for its glaciers and one of the best ways to witness one up close is to take a hike. A tour will bring you to Skaftafell National Park to witness Vatnajokull glacier and includes a lesson on how to use the climbing equipment before trekking through the glacier valley and onto the ice. You’ll view ice caves and stunning scenery with the endless landscape of white and tinges of blue while learning about how glaciers are formed along the way. Keep an eye out for reindeer and arctic fox too.
Ice Cave Tour
If you’ve ever wanted to know what it looks like beneath the ice, during the colder months of the year you can tour an ice cave. Tours can take you down into the “crystal caves,” (as they’re often referred to), found in Icelandic glaciers like Vatnajokull, Europe’s largest, which covers nearly eight percent of Iceland. Accessed through a narrow entrance, the caves are only safe to enter in the winter when cold temperatures have hardened the ice. You’ll view be able to view what looks like works of art, with the brilliant blue frozen ceilings studded with stalactites that hang over icy paths and stalagmites. You’ll even crawl into long, frozen chambers under the cathedral of breathtaking translucent blue waves.
Four-wheeling can be enjoyed year-round in Iceland and off-road quad biking is one of the most popular ways to get off the beaten path, over rough terrain and even in extreme conditions to view scenery that you probably couldn’t otherwise. They’re easy and safe to drive, with no experience necessary. With Iceland offering so much wilderness, you can be out there and enjoying it just minutes away from the city, traveling across lava fields, through canyons and mountain valleys.
Icelandic Horseback Riding
Icelandic horses are a unique breed of smaller horses that arrived with the first settlers from Norway some 1,100 years ago. Archaeological digs in Europe discovered that these gorgeous creatures were descended from an ancient breed of horses that is now extinct outside of Iceland but has been preserved here in isolation. They’ve become famous for their small size, strength, intelligence and unusual extra gaits, like the “tolt,” sort of a cross between a canter and a trot. They offer an especially smooth, comfortable ride that makes exploring the countryside on them the ultimate horse riding experience, and a variety of tours are available right from Reykjavik.
Whale Watching Tour
Iceland is Europe’s whale watching capital, and they can be seen from various destinations throughout the country. Whale watching tours are available from the capital city and the fantasy-like Snaefellsness Peninsula near the town of Grundarfjordur. The latter is known for providing some of the best opportunities for spotting the animals in the world with orca whales following the herring in the waters that surround the peninsula, particularly in the wintertime, although they can sometimes be seen through spring. Minke whale sightings are common too, and in the late spring and summer, you’ll have a good chance to see fin whales, sperm whales and even blue whales.
Witnessing Iceland’s incredible landscapes from above is sure to be a highlight of your time in this country. You’ll be able to gaze down at the rugged coastline and volcanic landscapes, towering mountains and magnificent waterfalls. There are a number of options available, including a tour that makes a summit landing, soaring over the capital city and the mountains that lie just north. You’ll get to touch down on the flat summit of Mount Esja or a nearby mountain and then walk outside to capture photos of the amazing panoramic that stretches all the way over Reykjavik, the ocean and nearby peaks. Other options include glacier landing tours where you can set foot on Iceland’s second biggest glacier, Langjokull.
Glacial Lagoon Tour
Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon is a massive glacial lagoon that was created by glacier melt a half-century ago. If you visit between May and September you can take a zodiac boat tour to hear the thundering roar of icebergs as they break off and drift through the short river and into the sea. Outside of the months, it’s still well worth a visit – you’ll see seals languishing on the ice, protected in the lagoon from the killer whales that wait nearby in the sea for an easy meal. You might recognize it from multiple movies as it’s been a filming site for “Tomb Raider,” “Batman Begins,” and “View to Kill” as well as being spotlighted in the TV series “Game of Thrones.”
Golden Circle Tour
The Golden Circle is a famous tourist route where you can stand in awe as Strokkur Geyser erupts, witness all sorts of unique geological features and marvel at powerful waterfalls with rainbows that develop in their mists. Gullfoss is Iceland’s own version of Niagara Falls and there are multiple trails for viewing, including one that allows you to stand above it and another that takes you up close. The falls spill down in two steps, one 36 feet high, and the other 72 feet in height, plunging into an over the one-mile long canyon below.
South Coast Tour
The spectacular south coast is filled with some of Iceland’s top natural attractions. A full-day tour will bring you from Reykjavik through the volcanic landscape for close encounters with stunning waterfalls like Seljalandsfoss, which you can even walk behind, and Skógafoss. You’ll visit the black sand beach near Vik where unique rock formations rise from the sea just offshore as well as the Sólheimajökull glacier and Eyjafjallajökull volcano.
Jet Speed Boat Tour
Jet boats may be synonymous with New Zealand, but this adventure can be enjoyed in Iceland too. An adrenaline-packed thrill, you’ll whiz through Gullfoss Canyon, a narrow basalt canyon, experiencing heart-pounding 360 spins on the river and even jumping the rapids. You can look forward to lots of dramatic scenery throughout the 40-minute adventure which takes place about an hour’s drive from Reykjavik. A waterproof suit, gloves and safety equipment are all included.
Sea Kayaking Tour
Sea kayaking during the warmer months of the year is yet another unforgettable outdoor adventure that can be enjoyed in Iceland. Paddling a sea kayak over the tranquil waters of a rugged glacial fjord, breathing in the fresh, crisp air is one of the most exhilarating experiences imaginable. While tours are available in many places across the country, one of the top options will bring you to discover extraordinary views of famous Mount Kirkjufel, otherwise known as Arrowhead Mountain from “Game of Thrones.” You’ll head out on the water from nearby Grundarfjörður with a small group, enjoying multiple stops to capture photos along the way.
The legendary Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s top attractions, a very unique experience as a natural spa with milky aquamarine waters that are surrounded by jet black lava rocks. No matter what the season, soaking in the soothing warm waters feels incredible, perhaps even more so on a chilly day. While you could visit on your own, packages are available that make it a lot more convenient with door-to-door pickup and drop-off from your hotel, airport, or cruise port. It includes premium admission tickets, meaning you’ll get a towel, robe and slippers, an algae or silica face mask and a free beverage.
Snaefellsnes Peninsula Classic Day Tour from Reykjavik
If you just want to experience some of Iceland’s most magnificent scenery without getting behind the wheel, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula is often called “Iceland in miniature” as it offers a sample of the best the country has to offer, with some of its most sought-out natural wonders existing side by side. A full-day tour will bring you to see all of its unique, breathtaking natural elements, from jet-black lava fields and jaw-dropping waterfalls to volcanoes, glaciers, black and white sandy beaches, and Iceland’s most photographed mountain, Kirkjufell.