Iceland geologically is a very young country, still being shaped by the forces of nature - earth, air, fire, and water. Active volcanoes, glaciers, fjords, black volcanic sand beaches, roaring rivers, and flowering valleys form the Icelandic landscape and surprisingly remain virtually untouched by human civilization. These rugged and "unearthly" landscapes are ideally suited for an active holiday and cannot fail adventurous travelers.
Rafting the glacial meltwaters can give you a new perspective on Iceland’s dramatic scenery. You can access some of Iceland’s wildest and most spectacular scenery by snowmobiles or robust jeeps - getting fun and stunning views in one.
If you love walking, stride out on volcanic deserts and black-sand beaches, beautiful lake shores, and green valleys or hike on glaciers and marvel magical ice sculptures. You can also go biking through lava fields or saddle Iceland’s horses and gallop past waterfalls and along rivers in breathtaking landscapes.
The Most Exciting Activities in Iceland
1. Dive into the Golden Circle on a super jeep tour. These vehicles are the most reliable transport across Iceland’s rugged landscape. Cross the fast-flowing rivers, drive off-road towards Þingvellir National Park and reach Lake Þingvallavatn stretching directly over the plates separating America and Eurasia. Here you can find a wonderful place for scuba diving. Plunge into the water-filled fault line at Silfra where you will be amazed by utterly surreal visibility between the Americas and Eurasia. Then you can explore the lava tunnels - Gjabakkahellir lava caves, in some places three kilometers deep and as much as a kilometer long.
2. Go on a hot-spring hike
The Reykjadalur Valley is an active geothermal field. In 2008 a powerful earthquake brought dozens of sulfurous springs to the surface. Follow a 3km trail up the grassy valley to a warm stream, and take a dip.
3. Take a flight at Mývatn
Tourists usually go to this famous lake and nature reserve in summer, but it can be visited all year round. Explore craters, fissures, lava beds, and solfataras and then opt for a four-seater plane at the local airfield and watch this awesome lunar landscape from above. Then you can relax in the Nature Baths, a geothermal spa overlooking the lake.
4. Climb a steaming crater on Heimaey
In January 1973 a volcanic fissure opened up, and the 5,000 islanders fled on trawlers. A third of their homes were buried under lava, and ash and a new crater named Eldfell formed over their island. Climb a steep haul up the crater, and you will feel the steam seeping from the rock. Walking among the ruins of houses dug from the rubble observe how lava engulfed the town. To get there take a ferry from Bakki or you can fly from Reykjavík.
5. Walk behind a waterfall
You can scramble behind a 60m high waterfall Seljalandsfoss which flows over a former sea cliff making a huge cavity behind the falls. There’s a lot of magical and romantic about the place. Gazing through the misty veil of water make a wish and walk to the next waterfall - Gljúfurárfoss.
Seljalandsfoss is just 120 km east of Reykjavík off the main road, at the foot of Eyjafjallajökull.
6. Ice-hike in Europe’s largest national park
Vatnajökull covers 8,100 sq km with ice (one-twelfth of Iceland’s surface) up to 800m thick. To explore this glacier, hire a guide, who’ll provide the gear and steer for your safe jumble of crevasses and pinnacles. Do not miss Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon packed with thousands of giant icebergs separated from a glacier. You will be amazed by the icebergs as they drift by and out to sea. Accessible glaciers are 330km from Reykjavík, at Skaftafell. Jökulsárlón is 55 km east of Skaftafell.
7. Blue Lagoon
Blue Lagoon is the one place in Iceland that draws both the adventurer and the city explorer. It is a fantastic getaway in a cold climate, a tremendous natural spa on a lunar landscape.
8. Wander around Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður, a little East Fjords town was founded by Norwegian fishermen and is worth visiting. The painted timber houses in a narrow spit of land covered from the sun by 1,000m peaks rising from the fjord for three months of the year will amaze you. Seyðisfjörður is 27 km from Egilsstaðir.
9. Experience an active volcano from the air
If your flight is canceled because of Bárðarbunga volcano eruption, you can take a helicopter ride over the spewing volcano. You can watch red lava flows and the volcano's 10 km wide caldera to (hopefully) witness unbelievable real eruptions.
10. Hike 'Iceland's Inca Trail'
'Iceland's Inca Trail' or the Laugavegur is one of the best hikes of the world. It is little known outside of Iceland and therefore not yet packed with hikers.
It takes four days to cover 53km trek starting in a lava field, crossing rainbow mountains, passing glacial ice, bubbling pools and a black-ash desert and finishing in green woodland at the foot of the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano.
Observe jagged lava trails, small valleys complete with snow bridges, volcano cones, lunar landscapes, hot springs, and the impressive Markarfljót River.
You have to to be quite fit and well equipped as there are some steep bits.
11. Bathe in Hell at Askja
The gaping craters that blast out millions of tons of volcanic debris in Icelandic are called víti, which means hell. One of the most famous víti was formed in 1875. You can find it hiking through the vast ash, sand and lava desert into the Askja caldera. The Víti appears like a giant witch’s fuming cauldron. Are you ready to swim in the hot, stinking water?
You can go there and back from Lake Mývatn by rough highland track 4WD jeeps during one long day, or you can stay overnight in a mountain hut. Don't forget boots and walking poles.
12. Stay awake for the Aurora Borealis
The Northern Lights can be spotted all over Iceland from late August to March. To witness the celestial light show you need to be away from light sources on a clear and dark night. To see this phenomenon you have to be patient, sometimes staying all night awake - the longer you wait, the better your chances.
13. Traverse the highlands on horseback
If you are an experienced horse rider, opt for the Kjölur Trail, the historic 210 km route through Iceland’s highlands. Enjoy the ride on the sure-footed Icelandic horses and the herds of free-running horses as well as the open vistas, the lava deserts, and the glaciers. Soak in a hot pool in the evenings.
14. Ride a super-jeep in the valley of Thorsmörk
The green valley of Thorsmörk– named after the early Icelanders’ favorite Norse deity, Thor is a hiker's paradise. This surprising oasis of green is wedged between glaciers and is recommended to be reached by a reliable vehicle, for more fun and thrills, by super-jeep.
However, don’t attempt to self-drive – these rivers are raging.
In Iceland, you can make your holiday of as many exciting adventures as you wish. Whichever you opt for, the wilds of Iceland will guarantee a memorable holiday.