The Best Extreme Adventure Activities in Iceland

The Best Extreme Adventure Activities in Iceland

James Taylor James Taylor
9. Feb 2024 ∼ 8 min. read

The Best Extreme Sports in Iceland: Thrilling Experiences in the Land of Fire and Ice. 

Iceland is of course a haven for adventure enthusiasts seeking thrilling experiences amid some drop-dead gorgeous natural landscapes. There are active volcanoes spewing out new lava, majestic glaciers, waterfalls charging off cliffs, and rugged mountain ranges that are just about as remote as you can get in Europe.  

Throughout the country, there’s plenty of opportunities to get your adrenaline pumping with some excellent tours. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned adrenaline junkie, below we’ve rounded up the absolute best adventure sports in Iceland.  

1. Glacier Hiking and Ice Climbing

One of the most iconic adventure sports in Iceland is glacier hiking and ice climbing. With over 10% of the country covered in glaciers, Iceland provides the perfect playground for these extreme activities. Guided tours are available year-round, but the best time to experience glacier hiking and ice climbing is during the colder months. 

During a glacier hiking tour, you will be equipped with all the necessary gear, including crampons and ice poles, and led by experienced guides who know the safe routes across the glacier. As you traverse the frozen landscape, you'll encounter crevasses, rivers, and awe-inspiring ice formations. For the more adventurous, ice climbing opportunities are also available, allowing you to scale massive ice walls with the help of ice picks and crampons. 

The best location to do these glacier hikes and ice climbing tours is on Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe, but there are also options to venture onto Langjökull and Mýrdalsjökull as well.  

2. Ice Caving

Exploring the mesmerizing ice caves of Iceland is a truly unforgettable experience. These natural wonders can only be accessed during the winter months when the ice is stable. Led by knowledgeable guides, you'll venture into the heart of a glacier, marveling at the stunning blue hues and intricate ice sculptures that surround you.  

Choosing between tours can be difficult though, as the ice caves change every year. Read the descriptions and reviews carefully and you might see that the tour simply drives you to the ice cave via a super jeep, while others might involve a 30-minute hike to a more remote ice cave.  

Into The Glacier Tour takes place on Langjökull, and ventures into a man-made ice cave. But the natural caves are far better. There’s one accessible year-round called the Katla Ice Cave underneath Mýrdalsjökull, while the caves underneath Vatnajökull are only accessible from the end of September until the end of March.  

3. Snowmobile Rides

Feel the rush of adrenaline as you zip across Iceland's snowy landscapes on a thrilling snowmobile ride. With snowmobile tours available throughout the winter season, you'll have the opportunity to explore remote areas and witness the country's stunning winter scenery. Safety briefings and all necessary equipment, including helmets and gloves, will be provided by experienced guides who will lead you on an exhilarating adventure. 

There are snowmobile tours on all the glaciers along the south coast, as well as onto Langjökull in the western Highlands.  

4. Skiing and Snowboarding

While Iceland may not be as well-known for its ski resorts as other countries, it offers excellent skiing and snowboarding opportunities for enthusiasts. The ski season typically runs from late November to May, with slopes near Reykjavik and Akureyri catering to different skill levels. Whether you're a beginner or an expert, you'll find a mix of green, blue, red, and black runs, as well as off-piste areas for more adventurous travelers. 

Near Reykjavik, most people will head to Bláfjöll, while in Akureyri, the ski resort is called Hlíðarfjall. There are also several smaller ski resorts out the back of Ísafjörður in the Westfjords and Seyðisfjörður and Eskifjörður in the East Fjords.  

For a truly extraordinary skiing experience, consider heli-skiing in the Tröllaskagi Peninsula near Akureyri. Home to some of the most spectacular mountains in the country, this epic region is perfect for experienced skiers and snowboarders looking to jump out onto some remote slopes.  

5. White Water Rafting

Iceland's glacial rivers provide thrilling white water rafting experiences for adventure enthusiasts. From May to September, when the winter snow melts and the rivers flow with increased intensity, white water rafting tours operate along the Hvíta river and other rivers across the country. Rapids range from grade two to four, catering to different skill levels. Prepare for an adrenaline-packed adventure as you navigate through exhilarating rapids and enjoy the stunning Icelandic scenery. 

The hub of white-water rafting in Iceland is centered around Varmahlíð, where a glacial river splits into two different canyons. The eastern canyon is best for adrenaline junkies, where the water churns and you’ll be thrown around and splashed inside the raft, while the western canyon is ideal for adventurers of all ages – i.e., it’s calmer. Both canyons involve plenty of mind-blowing scenery.  

You can also go white water rafting closer to Reykjavik along the Hvita River as it travels from Gullfoss to Brúarhlöð.   

6. Surfing

For the ultimate adventure in the Icelandic waters, brave surfers can ride the waves off the Reykjanes Peninsula. Surfing in Iceland is not for the faint-hearted, as the cold North Atlantic Ocean demands a good wetsuit, and the waves can be inconsistent. However, for experienced surfers seeking a unique and challenging experience, Iceland's surf breaks offer an unforgettable thrill. 

You don’t have to go it alone either – there are some companies that offer surfing tours from Reykjavik, ensuring that you’re safe in the water if you choose to ride some waves while you’re in Iceland.  

7. Diving and Snorkeling

Iceland's crystal-clear waters and unique geological features make it a fantastic destination for diving and snorkeling. The Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park is a must-visit site for underwater exploration, and something many readers likely already know about. Snorkeling and diving tours allow you to experience the unique opportunity of swimming between two tectonic plates, the Eurasian and North American plates. The visibility in Silfra's pristine waters is exceptional, allowing you to marvel at the mesmerizing colors and geological formations beneath the surface. 

But Silfra isn’t the only dive site in Iceland that’s worth checking out. Up north is another interesting spot called Strytan, where you can dive alongside a hydrothermal vent, and closer to Reykjavik is Kleifarvatn, with its vibrating floor due to the hot springs beneath. There are others as well – for a more detailed breakdown, check out this article about the best dive sites in Iceland 

8. Hiking

Iceland's diverse landscapes offer countless hiking opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. From short hikes to stunning waterfalls to multi-day treks through the rugged highlands, there is a hiking trail for every level of fitness and ability. During the summer months, when the Midnight Sun provides extended daylight hours, hikers can immerse themselves in the beauty of Iceland's nature. From volcanic landscapes to scenic national parks, each hike offers a unique experience and a chance to connect with the country's awe-inspiring outdoors. 

We’ve got loads of information about different hikes in Iceland on our page. For some of the most popular ideas, check out the following:  

9. Buggy and ATV Rides

For an off-road adventure like no other, hop on a buggy and explore Iceland's stunning landscapes. Equipped with helmets, gloves, and overalls, you'll tackle rugged trails and conquer challenging terrains while enjoying the thrill of a high-speed ride. Buggy and ATV tours provide a unique perspective on Iceland's natural wonders and are guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping. You can find several tours operating around the country, and adventuring through several different terrains, from black sand beaches to spectral lava fields.  

10. Skydiving, Paragliding, and Helicopter Rides

For the ultimate adrenaline rush and breathtaking views, consider skydiving or paragliding over Iceland's stunning landscapes. From April to September, weather permitting, you can take to the skies and experience the thrill of freefall or soar like a bird. Helicopter rides also offer a unique perspective, allowing you to witness the beauty of Iceland from above and access remote and otherwise-inaccessible areas. 

In conclusion, Iceland is a paradise for adventure sports enthusiasts seeking thrilling experiences amid awe-inspiring natural landscapes. From glacier hiking and ice climbing to white water rafting, surfing, and diving, there are endless opportunities to satisfy your adrenaline cravings.  

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