Planning tours across beautiful attractions of Iceland has become challenging due to the rising number of options. Fortunately, the country offers twelve exquisite tours, especially for travelers planning to pack their bags during the pandemic. Thus, they ensure a joyful and adventurous time while maintaining the precautions.
12. Whale Watching
One of the most cost-effective tours in Iceland is whale watching. You can spend hours watching these beautiful water creatures swim and jump around the sea just a short distance from land. You can go whale watching from Reykjavik, Snæfellsnes Peninsula, the Westfjords or North Iceland. The experience is merely unforgettable, especially for whale lovers. The tours usually have no age limit and doesn’t require managing your fitness level. Also, it usually takes three hours to cover. However, tourists that take an RHIB boat can cover it in merely 1.5 hours.
While whale tours happen throughout the year at the Reykjavík’s harbor, there are seasonal tours in north and west Iceland. Some of the tours are available during the summer while others are only available during the winter. The types of whales found in Iceland include minke, humpback, orca, white-beaked dolphins, pilot, harbor porpoises, and beaked.
White-beaked dolphins, harbor porpoises, and minkes are mostly found at Faxaflói Bay. It is the most common spot for ending whale tours.
Whale Watching Tours in Iceland
One of the most renowned activities in Iceland is snowmobiling. These happen at the glaciers of the country. Tourists do this using a snowmobile. The vehicle allows people to glide across glaciers and even explore the snow-covered volcanoes. The duration of snowmobiling tours is entirely dependent on your package. You can often find snowmobiling tours as complimentary with sightseeing, glacier walking, hiking, ice cave visitations, etc.
Before going on a snowmobiling tour, you should gear up with overalls, gloves, glasses, helmets, and overshoes. Some of the best places in Iceland for such tours include places like Vatnajökull glacier, Langjökull glacier, Myrdalsjokull volcano, Eyjafjallajokull volcano, Akureyri, and Tröllaskagi. The snowmobiling tours come with specific rules and regulations. For example, pregnant women in their second trimester would require a doctor’s permit. It is also unavailable for children below eight years of age. It doesn’t require prior experience, but a driver’s license is mandatory along with the chosen vehicle.
Snowmobiling Tours in Iceland
10. Horse Riding
The horse riding tradition began in Iceland in the mid-9th century. Presently, there are five gaits of horses in the country. The Tolt is famous for its smooth riding experience, and the Skeið can deliver a speed exceeding 49 km/hr. Iceland currently has horses in 40 colors and 100 patterns. Also, some of the horses change colors and patterns. For example, the litföróttur is an Icelandic horse renowned for switching colors.
The best time for horse riding tours in Iceland is between April and September. The spring-summer season opens new routes for you—the perfect month for a horse riding expedition in June. The world-famous midnight sun happens between the 16th and 29th of this month. It is referred to as midnight sun because sunsets happen after twelve during these dates. In addition, you can also find many great horse riding tours all year. You can even undergo the northern light experience during September to April.
Some of the best sites for horse riding tours include Reykjavik, Snaefellsnes Peninsula, the Golden Circle, the Central Highlands, Landmannalaugar, Skagafjörður, Eyjafjörður, Black Sand Beach, and the South Coast. Tourists should wear comfortable pants, insulated jackets, warm layers, closed shoes, helmets, and other essential accessories.
Horse Riding Tours in Iceland
9. Sightseeing Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Snæfellsnes is renowned for volcanoes, hot springs, waterfalls, lava fields, rivers, mountains, valleys, beaches, bird sighting, natural reserves, lakes, and rock formations. At times, the Snæfellsnes becomes visible from Reykjavík. The south side of the peninsula is known for the Eldborg crater and Gerðuberg basalt cliffs. The latter has more than a hundred geometric precision-based basalt columns. After that, you would become close to the animal lover hotspot, the Ytri-Tunga beach.
The beach is home to many seals visible throughout the year. You would next proceed towards the Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge and the Búðir village. Across the national park, you would also see two more villages – Hellnar and Arnarstapi. Hellnar is mostly abandoned, but Arnarstapi is renowned for fishing and coastal geology. Inside the park, you would also see Vatnshellir lava cave, Djúpalónssandur sand beach, and Lóndrangar basalt plug, i.e., renowned for birdlife.
The Snæfellsnes tour would also include Kirkjufell and Stykkishólmur. You can take a bus or minibus tour to explore the peninsula in one or two day excursions. Activities like kayaking and whale watching are also available under Mt. Kirkjufell. Optionally, a tour from Stykkisholmur can unravel boating, birdwatching, and a ferry that will take you over to the Westfjords and Breiðafjörður Bay islands.
Sightseeing Tours in Snæfellsnes Peninsula
8. Hiking in the Highlands of Iceland
The highlands of Iceland tour takes you through lava fields, black sand plains, rivers, volcanoes, mountains, glaciers, and different colored highlands. It is one of the most attractive tours for photographers and hikers. The highlands are commonly accessible from Þórsmörk and Landmannalaugar. The country’s renowned Laugavegur trail connects these two places. It is an excellent exploratory and hiking region. The four to five day tour through this route is also possible by bike. Meanwhile, three-day tours include passing by the Laugavegur trail and hiking on the Fimmvörðuháls Pass. The 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption created lava and crates at this place.
Hikers can board a bus at Reykjavik that will take them to Landmannalaugar, Skógar, or Þórsmörk. From there you can start the Fimmvörðuháls and Laugavegur routes. Landmannalaugar has steaming geothermal areas and rhyolite mountains. Visit of these sites is also possible through one-day tours from Reykjavík. This excursion consists of a jeep tour and allows you to visit the hot springs. You can also go on a one day super jeep or hiking tours that will take you to Þórsmörk.
Highland Tours in Iceland
7. Snorkeling Between the Two Continents
The Þingvellir National Park’s Silfra fissure is renowned as a diving and snorkeling destination in Iceland. Water clarify goes up to 100 meters, allowing explore to explore depths. The place is also home to Lake Þingvallavatn. Water clarity is because it begins from the Langjökull glacier and travels for more than 30 meters. It goes through porous rock lava that eliminates particles. The water becomes drinkable when it reaches the springs after years of traveling.
The water is two degrees in temperature. So, it is freezing to do snorkeling in this region. Drysuits with insulated suits help to avoid the chill during the activity. Wet suits also offer a free diving experience and higher mobility. The snorkeling activity with wet suits is meant for physically fit people, as it lasts for more than 40 minutes. Trained scuba divers can even explore Silfra diving tours. However, the cold complications require PADI Openwater Diver or similar certifications. Moreover, the diver must have ten dry suit dive in the past two years or specialty in wearing a dry suit. Besides water clarity, the second most attractive feature is the location. It lies between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates caused by a ravine pulling during an earthquake. Therefore, snorkeling at Silfra fissure covers two continents.
Snorkeling Tours in Iceland
6. Sightseeing the Golden Circle
The Golden Circle tour offers scenic stops as you travel along the most popular route in Iceland. The Golden Circle tour is one of the most demanded tours as it takes through Þingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall. Many people say that you can’t say that you have been to Iceland unless you have traveled the Golden Circle.
Þingvellir stands for parliament fields and has been the birthplace of it for 930 years. The place also has a coin lake, waterfall and popular for the meeting of tectonic plates. Þingvellir National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Geysir is probably the best known geyser in the world. All other geysers get their name from this particular Geysir in Iceland.
Gullfoss is one of the most breathtaking waterfalls in Iceland. It looks beautiful on photos, but it is nothing like when you see it in real life.
Tourists can avail the best value of the Golden Circle tour by including hot springs such as the Secret Lagoon or Laugavatn Fontana. The Secret Lagoon will end the tour with a 100% natural and geothermal swimming pool. The smokey area and hot springs would make this combination even more enticing.
A few Golden Circle tours might include taking you through the Friðheimar tomato farm and Kerið Crater Lake. Some of the bus tours are even available in ten languages. Private tours are high priced and remain limited to seven people, but might be ideal if you are traveling in a small group. Although covering the Golden Circle takes no longer than a day, the activities enlarge the duration. Some of the most common activities combined by visitors include Icelandic horse riding, snorkeling, snowmobiling, and visiting the lava caves. You can even include a Blue Lagoon trip and Reykjavík Harbor whale watching.
Golden Circle Sightseeing Tours
5. Glacier Hiking
Iceland is a land of glaciers, lava fields, and waterfalls. When in Iceland, you can hike through Iceland’s untouched wilderness on an active glacier adventure that feels like you’re exploring a hidden world.
You can find all kind of glacier hiking tours in Iceland. Some of them will take you to natural crystal ice caves, while others are shorter and will take you to explore the different textures of the glaciers. The ice caves are pretty and their look will depend on the season and weather conditions. It is also possible to add an ice climbing adventure to your glacier hiking tour.
Most glacier hiking tours are available as a self drive experience. However, they can also be a part of day tours from Reykjavik or even multi day tours where you travel around the country to explore the highlights and participate in the most popular activities.
The fitness level for visiting the glaciers varies on the tour inclusions, but most glacier hiking tours are suitable for beginners. However, you will have to be able to walk on uneven surface for some time to be able to participate in the tours.
Most glacier hiking tours are operated on Sólheimajökull Glacier, Mýrdalsjokull, from Skaftafell Nature Reserve or on Vatnajokull Glacier. Sólheimajökull is located closest to Reykjavík and is therefor often hiked on day tours from Reykjavik. The glaciers in Skaftafell and Vatnajokull are usually hiked in the multi day tours, but you can choose any of the glaciers if you are on a self driving tour around Iceland.
Glacier Hiking Tours in Iceland
4. Seeing the Northern Lights
Northern Lights tours are seasonal in Iceland and happen during the winter. To be specific, the northern lights are visible from the beginning of September to mid April. You can choose all kind of northern lights tours when visiting Iceland. Everything from boat tours, bus tours, yacht tours, minibus tours, super jeep tours and private tours. Even though most norhtern lights tours start in the evening and only last for a couple of hours, you can also combine them with other activities. For example, you can go exploring the south coast or the golden circle during the day, and watch the northern lights dance above the skies during the evening. It is also possible to join a multi day tour to get further out of the capital region and possibly see the norhtern lights every night.
Like mentioned above, winter is the time to see the norhtern lights in Iceland. Because of the limited darkness during the summer in Iceland, it is not possible to see the northern lights from mid April to September. Like with many other natural wonders, it is not possible to guarantee a sighting of the northern lights on your tour. However, on each tour you will travel with a northern lights expert that will do everything he can to make your dream of seeing the northern lights come true. Usually the guides will take a good look at the forecast during the day to make sure that you will be traveling to the best location possible to see the northern lights.
Northern Lights Tours in Iceland
3. Sightseeing the South Coast
The sightseeing tours along the South Coast will take you through black volcanic beaches, waterfalls, glaciers, and glacier lagoons. Covering the highlights of the south coast usually takes a day with short stops. However, we always recommend that you explore it more by going all the way to southeastern Iceland to explore Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and the Diamond Beach. It is possible to go on one day tours to Jokulsarlon, but it is recommended to book at least a 2 day tour to explore al the locations that will be on your way.
Booking multi day tours to the south coast of Iceland might be a good idea. The South Coast is supposed to be the most beautiful part of Iceland and you should want to explore the area in details. The tours begin and end in Reykjavík. The tours usually include visiting the natural ice cave, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, the Diamond Beach and glacier hiking. Visitors can also choose between Midnight Sun or Northern Lights, depending on the season they are traveling in. The Westman Island’s volcanic archipelago is visible in clear weather.
On the left side, you can view the Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull glaciers. The south coast tours usually all include a vsiti to a sixty-meter tall waterfall named Seljalandsfoss. Seljalandsfoss is the waterfall that you can walk behind to get stunning views of the south coast from behind a waterfall. You will also be visiting the magnificent Skógafoss waterfall. The ground thundering and cloud spray of this waterfall are much more powerful than Seljalandsfoss. However, both have the same height.
Visitors can even explore different angles of the Skógafoss waterfall from a staircase behind it. Many tours include a visit to Dyrhólaey, a rock arch curving into the ocean. It is best to visit here during May and September. Puffins also reside in the rocks and don’t fear people. So, visitors should stay beware of them. The spectacular geology of the tour expands to Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. It is famous for thundering waves, jet black sand, and the Reynisdrangar sea stacks.
South Coast Sightseeing Tours
2. Seeing an Active Volcano
The Geldingadalur volcanic eruption tour has become the most popular tour in Iceland since the eruption began in March 2021. The tour is available throughout the year and takes five to seven hours to complete. The day tour happens in small groups and begins in Reykjavik. The lava eruption from this active volcano began on March 19th. It lightened the entire Reykjanes Peninsula. The lava fissure went up to 700 meters and initially expanded through one square kilometer.
The active volcano tour takes you through gleaming lava and molten rivers at the Geldingadalur valley. It will expand with a hiking expedition towards the valley. Covering the lava landscape requires at least two hours. Travelers can watch the lava through different views. After that, the tour will head back with a bus ride to Reykjavík. It is possible to join this tour as a private tour as well.
The last eruption at Geldingadalur happened over 6,000 years ago, but it always had magma chambers. Iceland is home to many such dormant volcanoes. The 2021 eruption has altered life around the region after centuries. It has open doors to tourists at Reykjavík for lava tunnel adventures, black sand beach biking, and sightseeing tours. The average cost of a five-hour volcanic tour is $74. The Fagradalsfjall is spurting lava within the Geldingadalur valley. Reykjavik was shaken by one of the 53,000 tremors created by the volcano during its first eruption. The tremors caused no injuries, even though they reached a maximum of 5.7 on the Richter Scale.