Kayaking in Iceland | The Best Travel Guide

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Iceland in one of the most beautiful countries in the world with nature in all its glory. Being a land of mountains and streams, Iceland is the perfect holiday destination for those who seek adventure and out-of-the-box fun during their travels.

The country makes the perfect ground for those who are into adventure sports like, Kayaking, Mountain Climbing, Trekking, etc. Mountain ranges are perfect to bring the adrenaline rush in those who seek it. The beautiful views and climatic conditions of Iceland serve as the cheery on top.

In this article, we are going to talk about one of the most popular and loved adventure sports in not only Iceland but the whole wide world – Kayaking. Along the way, we will tell you everything that you need to know about Kayaking and where and how to do it in the beautiful country we call Iceland.

kayak in Seyðisfjordur in east Iceland

History of Kayaking

The history of Kayaking covers the massive span of 5000 years, coming all the way from Siberia. Researches tell us that arctic people of Siberia were the one who first constructed these boats by using whale skeletons and the skin of a seal. The bones provided the structure to the Kayak and the skin made it watertight and perfect to be sailed in the ice-cold waters of Siberia.

Kayaks were initially designed for basic tribal purposes of fishing and hunting, but over the years, this boat was evolved and perfected to be used for purposes like scouting and transportation. The major advantage of Kayaks over the other designs of boats was that they were amazingly light in weight and small in size, and this made these boats perfect to sneak up on the prey without making noticeable noise or tension in the water.  

Around the years of mid-1800s, European sports enthusiasts propelled their interest towards the sporting aspects of Kayaks. German and French adventure sports enthusiasts were the first ones to discover the potential of Kayaking as sports.

In the year 1931, Adolf Anderle became the first person to Kayak down the white and tempestuous waters of Salzachöfen Gorge, a river in Austria. This event marks the birth of what we call white water rafting.

It took only five years for Kayaking to be recognized as an Olympic sport. The first Olympic Kayaking event was held during the Berlin Olympics. Over the years, Kayaking has become a major sport in the Olympics, and now as many as ten separate Kayaking events are held in the Olympics.

Starting from whale bones and sealskin, the material used for making these adventure boats has been developed greatly over the years, despite the design being almost the same. During the years of 1950s, fiberglass was being used to make Kayaks, but by 1970s it was replaced by cheaper and more reliable polyethylene plastic.

The advancements in the material also brought several changes in the sport utility of the boat. With lighter materials, the boats’ potential was pushed and freestyle Kayaking became a major part of the game. With lighter paddles, it became easy to propel this boat at great speeds with surprising balance and control.

It is amazing how something that started as a hunting boat can later turn into one of the most popular adventure sports ever. That’s Kayaking for you!!

glacier kayaking in Iceland

Recreational Kayaking

Now that you know how Kayaking started, and how it evolved over the centuries, let’s dive in to know more about what we call recreational Kayaking.

There is a common confusion between Kayaking and Canoeing as the boats used in both look very similar. But if we observe closely, there is a major difference between both. This difference can be observed both in the number of paddle blades that are used to propel these boats, as well as in the sitting position of the person paddling the boat.

In Canoeing, the paddler sits in the kneeling position on the boat base, while in case of Kayaking, the rider sits down properly on the base of the boat. The difference between the paddle blades is that in Canoeing, a single-blade paddle is used, but when it comes to Kayaking, the paddle has blades on both of its sides. Since Kayakers sail through more turbulent waters in comparison to Canoers, it becomes necessary for them to carry a paddle with blades on both of its sides to maintain better balance and propel through the water quickly and safely.

In these times, Kayaking is considered as one of the most popular and easily accessible water adventure sports in the world. Beginners are advised to start from not so turbulent waters and make their way to the white waters over time.

Why Experience Kayaking in Iceland?

As we have already mentioned, Iceland is considered one of the most beautiful countries in the world in the context of natural and scenic beauty. This country has brilliant smoky mountains, grand glaciers, ice-berg filled lagoons, black sand coastlines, and beautiful streams.

The tourism industry is one of the most important parts of the country’s economy and a large chunk of the country’s population relies on it. The answer to the question of why one should experience Kayaking in Iceland lies in the unique way of sightseeing and brilliant vantage point that Kayaking provides to appreciate the landscapes of this beautiful country.

Let’s face the fact that sightseeing from a bus window is just too old and boring. You can only see what every other person can see. But, while sailing through lagoons in a Kayak, you can actually experience what poets talk about. You can experience what being in the lap and womb of mother nature feels like.

The advantages of Kayaking in Iceland are numerous. Kayaks are also used for wildlife tours in the country. This allows you to get close to beautiful marine life and cherish a personal experience for your whole life. The wildlife of Iceland includes some of the most magnificent marine animals like Arctic tern, Eider Ducks, Razorbills, Black Guillemots, and the famous Atlantic Puffin. If by any chance you are lucky, you may also spot one of the seal species that are found in Iceland. The list includes Ringed Seals, Hooded Seals, Harp Seals, Common Seals, and sometimes the magnificent Walrus. As if this isn’t enough, there is a high chance that you may spot some majestic marine life like whales, Orcas, and Dolphins as well if you are Kayaking in the coastal region of the country.

Imagine a Dolphin diving at a short distance from your Kayak, it would be one hell of a story to tell.

Where can I go Kayaking in Iceland?

Now that you know the potential of Kayaking in Iceland, you must be wondering about places in the country where going for Kayaking would be most rewarding.

There are so many places for Kayaking in Iceland that it is almost impossible to talk about each one of them. But some are most promising and preferred by travelers from all over the world. Any place that is close to the capital city of Reykjavik is considered as the perfect location for budding Kayakers.

South Iceland

Kayaking in Iceland

An example of such places is the Stokkseyri village in the south Iceland region, some forty minutes driving away from the capital city. There are many operators in the village that can be contacted for safe and reliable Kayaking tours. These operators have years of experience in this adventure sport and take every necessary precaution to ensure that you get the best experience of Kayaking in the safest way possible. Some of these use sit-on-top Kayaks that are considered as one of the safest types.

With an experienced guide, you will be paddling across the beautiful waters of the lake Löngudæl and then through the canals of Hraunsá River leading you to the wide blue ocean. There is a high chance of spotting seals, a variety of birds, and different marine animals on this Kayaking route. Along the way, you will get brilliant photographic opportunities to capture the moments and save for them for the rest of your life. At the end of this route, you can relax in Stokkseyri swimming pool while drinking from the cups of hot chocolate that is served by the locals.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula

kayaking at Kirkjufell mountain in Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Snæfellsnes peninsula is also a very popular region for those who seek the experience of Kayaking. Tourists from all over the world visit this region to look at the Kirkjufell Mountain, which is also known as the most photographed mountain of Iceland. The reason behind this popularity is the shape of the mountain that resembles the shape of an arrowhead. Another interesting trivia about this mountain is that it was featured in the globally renowned show titled ‘The Game of Thrones’. You can contact an operator in this region as well, to take you on a Kayaking tour.

Another village in Snæfellsnes Peninsula that is ideal for kayaking is Stykkishólmur village. There are many operators in the village that offer safe Kayaking tours and take you to majestic places. You will be Kayaking through the islands of Breiðafjörður bay while looking at the beautiful mountain ranges and glaciers of the region. A very important and interesting sight on this tour is the shipwreck of Þorgeir. This ship crashed in one of the islands during a violent storm that came in the 1980s. Since then, the shipwreck became a part of the scenic beauty and an important element of the tour.

Glacier Lagoons on the South Coast

Glacier Kayaking on Sólheimajökull glacier lagoon in south Iceland

If you had a dream of Kayaking through beautiful glacier lagoons, then the south coast region can make your dream come true. On your tour, you will be sailing through glittering water pools resting on the base of glacier tongue Sólheimajökull, which is a part of a larger ice cap called Mýrdalsjökull. Kayaking between the ice bergs on the famous Jokulsarlong Glacier Lagoon is also one of the most popular summer activities in Iceland. In this route, you will be Kayaking closely to these beautiful structures of nature and will surely come back with a refreshed body and soul.

The Westfjords

The Westfjords of Iceland are somehow different than the rest of the country. Many people think that the Westfjords are the most beautiful part since it is so unique. Large fjords and mountains everywhere you look, with waterfalls flowing down the mountains. You can find variety of kayaking tours in the Westfjords. Most of them start in Isafjordur, the largest town of the Westfjords. 

These were some of the most popular regions and places in Iceland when it comes to Kayaking. There are many others, but these top the list when it comes to the scenic beauty and essence of the country.

What to take on a Kayaking tour?

Now that you are ready with all the necessary information about Kayaking Iceland. It is time to discuss the things that you need to carry before embarking on your Kayaking starting point.

The Kayaking operators provide every necessary Kayaking equipment to those who sign up for the tour including waterproof suits and life jackets. But there are some other things that you are required to carry. It is advised to carry some extra towels and some extra pair of clothes, because in case of any minor accident if you get wet then changing the clothes becomes the most important thing to avoid hypothermia.

It is also advised to carry and thick cushioned jumper to avoid any discomfort while sitting for a long time in the Kayak. When it comes to trousers, it is advised to avoid jeans as they take a lot of time to get dry. Make sure your shoes are comfortable and made for winters. For extra comfort, you can always carry some wool hats and gloves.

Kayaking will take you through some of the most beautiful landscapes of Iceland, so travelers are advised to carry a camera while going through this beautiful country.

Trust us, it will surely regret not carrying a camera on such a beautiful trip.

From flora and fauna to the majestic glaciers, Iceland has everything that an adventurous heart desires. And to enhance this experience, Kayaking takes you through some of the amazing places that allow you to adore the beauty of this landscape and live through it closely. If you are planning to visit this beautiful country, make sure that you step in a Kayak at least once.

Bon Voyage!

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