Iceland is one of the top travel destinations in the world with the perfect release for everyone no matter what kind of vacation the persona may have on mind. There are many mellow places with a very serene environment for the lovers of tranquillity and many adrenaline-inducing activities on some of the topmost difficult to conquer landscapes in the world for the lovers of thrill. The kind of versatility that this beautiful small island offers is a perfect place to let loose and do everything that you desire in a single streak no matter if it is hiking on an ice-cold glacier, riding a beautiful, majestic steed or diving in waters shared by two different continents. Iceland is the most legitimate mixture of thrill, calmness, relaxation, and luxury – all in a single place combined in perfect proportions.
Snowmobiling as an Activity
One of these fine thrill-inducing activities in Iceland is snowmobiling. One of the most popular activities in the country, snowmobiling is as popular as hiking, northern light tours, and Icelandic horse riding. Unlike hiking, snowmobiling can only be done on a glacier and Iceland has enough of these. The activity gets its name from the vehicle that is used in the activity, a snowmobile. The particular vehicle has a rich history of its own that is spread across all over the world with possibilities of snowfall. Come winters, almost every part of the country is covered with snow, especially the south, which means that snowmobiling is in full swing. The activity is highly subjected to weather conditions as Iceland is known to have a very unpredictable weather, but we only have few days a year that you can not go snowmobiling.
While there are many activities like hiking that can be done without professional supervision if you have the right kind of equipment but snowmobiling can only be done by booking a guided tour as you would need to hire a snowmobile for it along with a protective suit and other protective equipment. Snowmobiling tours only last for about a few hours so they can be combined with other tours and activities. Many tourists prefer to add hiking, diving, ice caving, lava caving, or horse-riding to their snowmobile tours.
Snowmobiling Safety Measures
While snowmobiling is very fun and exciting, you must take every single safety measure that is suggested by the tour guides and the operators of the vehicles. A set of rules and regulations are arranged to ensure that you do not handle the snowmobile efficiently but also stay safe on the snow in the high of winters.
- Know Your Ride: There are two kinds of snowmobiles available in the country with almost all tour agencies. The first one is a single-seater which only has the space for the driver while the other one is a 2-up snowmobile that can carry two people for a shared drive.
- The Driving Rules: People only 18 years of age or above can drive the snowmobiles. If you plan on driving then make sure that you are carrying your driving license when going snowmobiling. The driving license can be your national license but make sure that it is in English. If not, then have a valid copy made in the English language of the same.
- Drunk Driven: Drinking and driving are not allowed as it may cause accidents.
- Riding Age: The minimum age to ride a snowmobile is 6 years but it may fluctuate depending on the tour agency. Make sure that you check with them beforehand.
- Speed Limit: You can drive your snowmobile at a speed of 40 km/h.
- Pregnant women in their 2nd or 3rd trimester can not ride the snowmobile. Women in their first trimester will need a doctor’s permit to be able to join the ride. Make sure that you are carrying the permit with you on the tour. Check beforehand the policies of your tour company regarding pregnant women before you book the tour as some agencies do not allow it at all.
The tour agency will assign you with a tour guide who will accompany you throughout the journey. Every safety rule for driving and dressing up will be explained to you by your guide. Make sure that you listen intently to ensure full safety during the ride.
You will also be provided by the protective outwear for your tour along with other protective equipment. Although, it is suggested that you wear well-insulated clothing along with heavy hiking boots and a warm hat or a scarf. The staff posted at the base camp of the snowmobiling sites will help you put on your gear properly and then you will head to the glaciers. Following is the list of the items that you will be provided by your tour company:
- Overalls: These are made with polyester and are used to create a barrier against wind, snow, and water. The overalls are supposed to be worn over you’re the clothes that you are already wearing. But it remains you’re your duty to wear warm clothing as the overalls are not insulated.
- Gloves: Gloves are extremely important when it comes to snowmobiling as the winds are extremely strong and when you are riding on the snowmobile it’s your hands that get the worst of them. Many people choose to bring their gloves but it is advised to wear the ones that your tour agency provides as they are tailor-made for the job.
- Helmet: It is no surprise that you would need a good helmet when driving a snowmobile or any other kind of vehicle for that matter. Although it is highly unlikely, the pits and falls kind of scenario can happen anywhere and it is better safe than sorry.
- Glasses: The helmet will pretty much protect you from the winds but the sun shining on the top of the glacier can still be quite a hurdle when driving. The glasses will protect you from the sunrays and glare.
- Overshoes: If you are wearing your suggested sturdy boots, then you should be okay without the overshoes. The overshoes are a suggestive component of the protective suit. If your boots are not waterproof then you should consider wearing the overshoes.
Top Places to Go Snowmobiling
Snowmobiling at Vatnajokull
Vatnajokull is not only Iceland’s largest glacier but also the largest glacier in the whole of Europe. It is spread across the area of about 8100 kilometers square and covers about 8% of the country. The 1000 meters thick sheet makes it perfect for activities like snowmobiling. Vatnajokull glacier has over 30 different glacial outlets and covers many volcanoes, some of which are predicted to be very active like Bárðabunga, Öræfajökull, and Grímsvötn which just erupted recently in 2015 and is predicted to erupt again soon. Vatnajokull glacier boasts the Guinness record of having “World’s Longest Sightline”. It can be spotted from over 500 kilometers away. If you are standing atop Slættaratindur – Faroe Island’s highest peak – you will easily spot the glacier.
The weather on this particular glacier can be very unpredictable so the tours are held only in summer, spring, and fall. The winters generally render the glacier to be unsafe to travel. It is a very popular space as a shooting spot for Hollywood movies and Tv Series like Game of Thrones which works as a cherry on top of the cake when the tourists are a fan. The best part about this particular location is its overbearing size. You can simply hop on your snowmobile and start gliding through the ghost-snow glacier under the blazing midnight sun.
The snowmobiling tours on Vatnajokull glacier last for about 3 to 4 hours. They are often available in combination with the tour to Vatnajokull glacier’s ice caves and hiking tours which are very popular among the tourists. The ice cave tours are available near the winter season when the caves are created again for the season. These tours can be customized as per your preferences.
Snowmobiling at Langjökull
Also known as “the long glacier”, Langjökull glacier is the second-largest glacier in the country and the most popular spot for snowmobiling, mostly due to its shape and size. It is stretched across a 953 square kilometer area and the ice sheet is about 500 meters thick. Most of this glacier is located in the highlands and western parts of the country. The glacier covers many volcanic craters underneath the ice sheet which came into existence after the collapsing of many majestic blazing volcanoes. Although, these volcanoes that surround the glacier are quite calmer in comparison to other glaciers with a record of only 2 eruptions over the last 10,000 years.
The things that make Langjökull glacier such a popular spot for snowmobiling include its long-stretched shape that makes everyone standing atop feels like dwarfs, its very challenging location, and the thick ice sheet. Since most of the glacier is located in the highlands, this particular snowmobiling location can only be accessed by a super jeep which means that the thrill of this activity will be double fold. The pickups for the super jeep tour to the glacier often start from the capital city or the Gullfoss waterfall.
The snowmobiling tours on Langjökull glacier are mostly paired with the Golden Circle tour or the diving and snorkeling tours in the Silfra at Þingvellir National Park. The snowmobiling tour last about 2 – 3 hours so they can easily be combined longer day tour. The combination with a super jeep tour is fairly compulsory given the location of the site.
Snowmobiling at Myrdalsjokull
Myrdalsjokull glacier is the fourth largest glacier in the country and is located in the southernmost part of Iceland. This glacier is spread across an area of 232 square meters and has a peak with a height of 1493 meters. The glacier used to cover an area of 595 meters square till 1980 but has receded a great deal after that. Myrdalsjokull glacier is famous for being the homeland of Katla volcano – the most notorious and active volcano in the whole country. The volcano erupts every 13 to 95 years. The most recent eruption in the volcano occurred in the year 2011 and the next one is predicted to happen without any question of “if” attached to it. The last eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano made the question of the eruption of Katla volcano as sure as snow on the ice cap.
One may wonder why a potentially dangerous place like Myrdalsjokull glacier is so popular for snowmobiling and other activities but it the thrill of this potential danger that makes the glacier such a popular spot among the tourists. Since most tourists in Iceland are in a constant search for adventure, a snowmobiling tour on the Myrdalsjokull glacier becomes the tour offering everything they want.
Sólheimakot farm serves as the base camp for the snowmobiling activities on the glacier. A short jeep tour leads the tourists up on the glacier where the snowmobiles wait for them to start the tour. The tours on this glacier can be combined with Katla volcano black ice cave.
Snowmobiling from Akureyri
The snowmobiling tours in this area are quite different from the ones they have in the south. Akureyri is located in the northern part of the country and is also known as the capital in the north. There are no glaciers in Akureyri so the snowmobiling is done on the landscapes which are above the sea level. The snow-covered pastures of Súlumýrar are the site for snowmobiling in the north. Súlumýrar is a grazing area 500 meters above the sea level which gets covered in snow every season. Since this area is pasture, it is flatter in comparison to the site in the south which makes snowmobiling extra fun as you are free to speed up the vehicle. To top it all off, the flat grounds of Súlumýrar makes “catching air” which means jumping your snowmobile in the air.
Súlumýrar is the perfect place to try out some stunts and make the best of your snowmobiling trip and gives you a chance to experience the reason for which snowmobiling is a part of the list of extreme sports. Since hiking is not available to be combined with the tour, you can choose to visit the popular attractions of Akureyri. Or, there are several whale watching tours available for you to head to after you are done with snowmobiling.
The Troll’s Peninsula or Tröllaskagi is known for its skiing trails in the whole country. It is one of the sole places in the country which is open for and accepts whole-day, longer tours which will keep you indulged in great thrill-inducing activities. Tröllaskagi is located in the middle of Skagafjörður and Eyjafjörður fjords and is covered with many high peaks which not only possess breath-taking beauty but are also very challenging to conquer.
These mountains are covered with snow all year long which means that you will get to ride your snowmobile under the midnight sun in the summer season and get to watch the beautiful northern lights in the winter season. What makes this particular place special and different than any other snowmobiling is the not only the incredibly gorgeous vistas that can be found in every single corner of the peninsula but also the impeccable flora and fauna. The snowmobiling tours in Tröllaskagi can be enjoyed alongside birdwatching tours, trips to the unique geological monoliths, and skiing on the gorgeous white mountains.
There is no shortage of great locations in Iceland for snowmobiling tours but not all of them are open for combination packages and trips. Since snowmobiling lasts only a few hours, it is smarter to add a few more trips to your schedule so that you make the most of every single day. Many tourists like to try sledding when they go snowmobiling due to easy access and the fact that the sites for both these activities is are the same. Snowmobiling is every bit fun as it sounds and there is no limit to the thrill that you would experience. Although, ensure that you do not cross the speed limit in the process of chasing the thrill. Safety should always be taken care of even when you see an opportunity to exceed the initially anticipated level of fun. There will always be tour guides at the sites who will help you dress up, explain the safety rules, and help you understand the mechanism of the vehicles. Proceed with safety and security and there is nothing that will stop you from having the best time of your life.