5 Must-Do Iceland Tours

What to See & do in Iceland - An Activity Guide For Real Adventurers!

Fully licensed travel agency & tour operator
October 2, 2018
author Viktória Komjáti

By Viktória Komjáti

Viktoria is a restless adventurer with personal experience in all of the outdoor activities that Iceland has to offer. She loves to inspire others to get to know Iceland and to make a deep connection with the country during their travels.

Iceland’s landscapes are undoubtedly astonishing, but you should try to avoid getting trapped in your car for endless hours, so here are five must-do Iceland tours. Your memories of the spectacular Icelandic landscapes will fade away very quickly if you do not go and experience Iceland with all of your senses. Sitting in a car and taking pictures may satisfy some people, but not those true travelers with adventurer souls! How can you make your Iceland trip unforgettable? Check this out!

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Glacier Hiking

Getting in actual contact with an Icelandic glacier will give you so much more than simply taking a picture of it! Glaciers are ever-changing wonders. Their surfaces are formed by incredibly powerful forces. They are affected by gravity, daily and seasonal weather changes, temperatures, and even the many earthquakes as well as geothermal activity.

Most Icelandic glaciers hide active volcanoes under their surface. This allows the layers of ash from the previous volcanic eruptions to be clearly visible inside the body of the ice, giving Icelandic glaciers an especially unique look!

Discover this unearthly terrain with a wild and jagged surface of ice that is thousands of years old and hundreds of meters thick! Step over bottomless blue crevasses, admire enthralling ice sculptures and extreme ice formations, and test your courage by climbing an ice wall!

Why: 11% of Iceland is covered by glacial ice. Glaciers are the soul of the country. Their ash stripes make them unique in the world. Glaciers offer thrilling views and brilliant opportunities for endless adventures! Hiking a glacier is not a bit more difficult than hiking on a regular trail. You will get crampons to secure your steps on the ice. If you are obsessed with trying new things and seeing landscapes that no one has seen before, going on a glacier hike is something that you must try!

When: Glaciers are stable and safe to visit all year round! Regardless if you do it in winter or in summer, it will be equally fun!

How: There are plenty of safe guided tour opportunities on Iceland’s many glaciers. You can either choose a simple tour that includes transportation from Reykjavík or an adventure-packed sightseeing day-tour that takes you to many more places during your tour. If you prefer a longer glacier hike, you can do a self-drive tour and meet the glacier guides on location. Never attempt to walk on a glacier without a trained local guide!

Where: The best glacier hikes are on Myrdalsjökull and Vatnajökull glaciers. If staying in Reykjavík, a glacier hike on Sólheimajökull, a Myrdalsjökull outlet glacier, is doable as a day tour. For hiking on Vatnajökull’s outlet glaciers, Falljökull or Svínafellsjökull, you must take a multi-day tour. Or, if you are doing a self-drive tour along the South Coast, you can stop in Skaftafell and join a glacier hike there. Do not forget to book your tour in advance!

Hiking on a glacier is easy and incredibly fun!

Hiking on a glacier is easy and incredibly fun!

Ice Caving

The Land of Ice features a few unique wonders that are beyond imagination. Glacial ice caves are rare and unparalleled natural phenomena that, thanks to Iceland’s many glaciers, can be witnessed in Iceland every winter.

These breathtaking and unbelievably blue ice caves are found deep inside Iceland’s glaciers. They are formed by the meltwater as it travels through the glacier, cutting new paths and carving out tunnels and holes along the way. When the cold season comes, the caves freeze completely so that they become stable and safe to visit.

Experience the matchless feeling of exploring a glacier from the inside. Stare deep into the crystal clear ice walls and discover the hidden world of the unknown! If you are looking for something uniquely “ice-land”-ic, visiting a glacial ice cave should certainly be on your bucket list!

Why: Entering an ice cave feels like leaving reality behind and entering a fairy tale. Sparkling like a diamond, cyan blue, and crystal clear, ice caves have a surreal atmosphere that cannot be experienced anywhere else in the world - only deep inside the body of a glacier!

When: Ice caves are ever-changing and short-lived wonders. They are formed at the beginning of winter and either melt or collapse in spring. Ice caving tours operate from November to the end of March. There are, however, a few ice caves that are accessible all year round, so it is worth checking even if you come in summer.

How: There are plenty of tours available with multiple departures daily. You can either go on a day tour that departs from Reykjavík or on a multi-day day tour that will take you to the most beautiful natural wonders of Iceland, including an ice cave. If you plan to rent a car, you can go on a self-drive tour and meet the guides on location. For your own safety, never attempt to approach an ice cave without a licensed local glacier guide!

Where: From Reykjavík, you can go on an ice caving day tour to either Myrdalsjökull or Langjökull, the closest glaciers to the capital. If you want to visit one of the ice caves on Vatnajökull, it would be too far from the capital to complete in just one day. Therefore, you can either go on a multi-day tour that includes an ice cave visit or rent a car and drive to the location yourself and stay overnight in the area.

The spectacular ice cave in Vatnajökull glacier

The spectacular ice cave in Vatnajökull glacier

Glacier Snowmobiling

Yes, we are still talking about glaciers. As we told you, glaciers are the soul of this amazing country and offer limitless adventures! Snowmobiling is one of the best ways to connect with Iceland's innermost arctic soul. Gliding through the endless snowfields with a roaring engine between your legs could easily be one of the most amazing adventures you have ever had!

Why: Iceland is among the very few places in the world where you can experience the thrill of snowmobiling on the surface of a glacier. Moreover, you can do this on top of active volcanoes, as most of them are covered by glacial ice. Imagine the feeling of speeding over a glacial ice sheet that is hundreds of meters thick and which is hiding a rumbling volcano beneath its surface! This is something you can only experience in Iceland!

When: Thanks to the abundance of glaciers, snowmobiling is available year-round in Iceland. It is equally awesome during summer and winter. What adds even more to the fun is that the most popular snowmobiling area on Iceland’s second largest glacier, Langjökull, is a mere two-hour drive from the capital.

How: Glacier snowmobiling is a popular activity in Iceland. Snowmobile tours are offered with various durations and at many locations around Iceland. You can either go on a glacier snowmobile tour that departs from Reykjavík or you can drive to the location yourself and join a guided tour.

Where: The most popular snowmobiling location is Iceland’s second largest glacier, Langjökull. This is the glacier that is closest to Reykjavík and is within a 2-hour drive of the capital. Thanks to its exceptionally fortunate location, going on a snowmobile tour here can easily be combined with an ice cave visit or a sightseeing tour to Iceland's most amazing natural attractions. All of this within a single day!

Glacier snowmobiling is is one if the must-do's in Iceland!

Glacier snowmobiling is is one if the must-do's in Iceland!

Snorkeling Between the Continental Plates

Snorkeling may be not the first activity that pops in your mind when you think of Iceland but you probably have not heard about this totally unique location where you can actually swim inside a rift between the tectonic plates!

This location in Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park has extraordinary historical, cultural, and geological value of which Silfra Fissure is the most outstanding treasure, for sure. It is filled with crystal clear glacial water and is the only place in the world where you can dive or snorkel between two continental plates!

Why: The Silfra Fissure holds the clearest natural freshwater on Earth and features the longest underwater visibility as well. Silfra offers two to three times longer underwater visibility than the next best diving sites in the world! Incredibly, the distance that you can see underwater at Silfra exceeds 100 meters (328 feet), which is totally mind-blowing! Snorkeling here will give you the chance to feel as if you are flying! In addition, you will be doing this exactly between the North-American and the Eurasian continental plates, which you cannot do anywhere else in the world - only and exclusively in Iceland!

When: Diving and snorkeling are possible at Silfra year-round! Due to the constant flow of fresh water coming from under the ground and flowing into Silfra, the water temperature is a stable 2 to 4°C (35 to 39°F). The water is in constant motion and, therefore, is unable to freeze.

How: You can access snorkeling in Silfra by joining a guided tour. Tours are available with multiple departures every day. You can either be picked up in Reykjavík or drive to the location yourself and join the tour there. Silfra is located in a protected nature reserve and its water is very cold, therefore it is both dangerous and forbidden to snorkel there yourself without proper gear.

Where: Silfra is located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) inside the iconic Thingvellir National Park which is deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated on the famous Golden Circle tour route, there are plenty of thrilling natural wonders nearby. Gullfoss waterfall, one of the most famous one in Iceland, and the Geysir Geothermal Area, with its countless hot springs and some amazing open-air hot pools, are all located within a few hours’ drive from here. Silfra and the Golden Circle are some of the ultimate must-see locations in Iceland!

Snorkeling between the tectonic plates at Silfra

Snorkeling between the tectonic plates at Silfra

Admiring the Ethereal Northern lights

The Northern Lights are something that everyone has dreamt of. Many visitors come to Iceland to see them. This is truly something that will create a lifelong memory of your travel if you are able to catch them!

The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis only appear near the poles, usually above the 60th parallel north and below the 60th parallel south. Iceland, which sits between the 63rd and 66th parallels north, is perfectly positioned. It offers the chance to see the Northern Lights 7-8 months per year!

Why: From all of those inhabited places where you can see the auroras, Iceland is probably the least cold, thanks to the warm Gulf Stream that flows around the island. The temperatures in Reykjavík rarely fall below -5°C (23°F) in wintertime, unlike in northern Canada, Norway, Finland, or Greenland where it can fall to -20 to -30°C (-4 to -22°F). Do you need any more reasons?

When: Winter is the best time of the year to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. The longer the dark nights are, the more chance you will have to see the aurora. We do not experience any darkness between mid-April and mid-August, making it impossible to see the lights during the summer, but you can see the midnight sun instead! Guided tours are offered from September 1 to April 15.

How: You can either go on a self-driven aurora hunt or book a tour with a local company. Northern Lights tours operate with daily departures according to the forecast. The tour operators pick the destination based on the actual cloud cover and the Aurora forecast. They know all the best viewpoints, the safest parking places, they can offer help in photographing the lights and can even take pictures of you with a professional camera. Northern Lights Tours vary in duration and allow you to choose between different vehicles such as Superjeeps, minibuses, or boats or you can go on a private Northern Lights tour

If you are planning to go on a self-driven aurora hunt, you might want to do a bit of research before heading out. While it is true that you can see the lights from almost anywhere outside of the city, it is important to think about where you will park your car and where you will spend long hours waiting in the darkness.

Where: There is no specific place in Iceland that is the best for seeing the Northern Lights. Anywhere that is far from light pollution is good. The Northern Lights can sometimes be seen from the middle of a city, but in these cases, the same aurora would be many times stronger and more impressive from a darker place. If you plan to go on a self-driven aurora hunt, be careful when choosing the place to stop. Pulling over on the side of the road can be very dangerous, not to mention illegal.

Northern Lights over the glacier lagoon in Iceland

Northern Lights over the glacier lagoon in Iceland

The list of the best things to do and must-see locations in Iceland is, of course, endless. But if your time is limited, you will need to sort them somehow. There are activities and attractions that are uniquely characteristic to Iceland. When you are trying to decide what to choose, you should always pick an experience over a sight. Getting in touch with nature will deepen your impression and give you the feel of awe. True amazement and inspiration are something that will stay with you much longer than a picture of a pretty landscape.

Must Do in Iceland