Iceland’s varied topography and beautiful landscapes makes it an ideal place for the outdoor and adventure enthusiast. Long daylight hours in summer mean there’s plenty of time to pack in activities and your favorite adventure in Iceland – like golfing, white-water rafting, and hiking, but even in winter you’ll find plenty of action in this small but stunning wonderland. Tour companies will take care of all the details and provide transportation and equipment, and many activities can be done nearby the main city of Reykjavik.
Riding an Icelandic horse is an unforgettable experience. Small, stocky and sturdy (they can carry about three times their weight), Icelandic horses are known for being very docile and friendly. Unlike most horses (which walk, trot, canter, and gallop), the Icelandic horse also possesses a fifth fait – the incredibly smooth and fast tolt. Farms match horses and riders according to experience and offer rides ranging from short walks around the farm to multi-day long distance rides that take in some of Iceland’s natural wonders.
Thingvellir National Park is the site where two tectonic plates meet, and are slowly moving apart. Impressive above ground, the “rift” is even more mesmerizing when viewed from underwater. With Dive Iceland, experienced divers can actually descend into the crack, while snorkelers view it from above, floating on crystal clear glacier water that takes 2000 years to filter down through volcanic ash into the lake. The water is some of the clearest, and coldest, in the world, but thanks to insulating dry-suits, the excursion can be done even in the middle of winter.
Exploring Underground Lava Caves
Among many other tours, you can do some underground cave exploration. There are over 2000 known caves in the country, with more being discovered every day. Hike over moss-covered lava fields, strap on a helmet and head lamp and descend into the darkness of a former lava flow. The lava is gone now, but the remains of animals caught in its path, mineral deposits, and icy stalagmites formed by water dripping from above still remain. Excursions range from short introductory trips that involve a minimum of stooping, to more intense explorations geared towards the serious caver that involve long stretches of crawling and wiggling through cramped tunnels.
Eskimos Tour Company offers dog sledding excursions year-round, on one of the country’s many glaciers in summer and on the black sand beaches of Vik in winter (when roads to the interior are impassible). Brace against the frigid wind rushing past your face as you are pulled along by impossibly strong, yet irresistably cute, husky sled dogs. Afterward, be sure to thank these hard-working pups who love attention and will whine and yelp for a few more grateful pats.
The Blue Lagoon
Upon finishing your adventure in Iceland with all that strenuous physical activity, sooth aching muscles with a relaxing dip in the Blue Lagoon. Contrary to popular belief, the Lagoon was not formed naturally. The steaming, mineral rich water comes from underground and is used to create electricity for nearby cities. The run-off from the geothermal plant fills the Blue Lagoon and is a popular spot for bathing with locals and tourist alike; the water is believed to cure skin ailments. On site at the Lagoon is also a restaurant, café, and spa. Large lockers can accommodate luggage, and many tour companies offer an option to visit on the way to or from Keflavik Airport, making it a great way to unwind before or after a long flight.