Of all the places I have visited as an adventure sports/travel journalist, nowhere has come close to touching me in the way Iceland has. Geographically positioned in the middle of nowhere just south of the Arctic circle, it is an isolated country yet one which is literally overflowing and not just with the lava from the volcanoes and steam from the geysers. This is a land literally full of energy, yet somehow it feels serene. Its people are friendly, innovative and creative yet capability and calmness oozes from their core. Here there is a feeling that anything is possible as long as you keep your feet on the ground, optimism founded in reality if you will. Sure you might become an international rock star but youll need to make sure you can drive a boat, kill a goat and build a shelter from a whale carcass..should the need ever present itself. The best time to experience Iceland is pretty much right now as it is currently more affordable than it has ever been.
A journey to Iceland is an adventure in itself but if you really want to get a feel for the place then head to the North part of the island. A plane ride from Reykjavik to Akureyi is just a 40 minute hop and more akin to getting on a bus than going to an airport 30 minute check in time, no security and a free cup of tea. Love it. The Troll Peninsula is where all the best ski touring is in Iceland, where 2,000m of heart pumping ascent is swiftly followed by a main of freshies in steep couloirs. Icelandic hospitality can mean hot tubs, massages, and beers for afters! The terrain here really is immense, endless and undiscovered and even towards the end of the season you can be part of the first group to ski tour one of the local valleys. Rewards for our efforts were considerable, Icelands super stable snowpack allowing for lap after lap of waist deep powder under calm, sunny skies. Dreamy yet true.
If you only make it as far as Reykjavik, I wouldnt blame you. If you had to live in a city Reykjavik would be a wonderful choice with great coffee shops, top level restaurants, trendy boutiques, and lively bars on every corner, it really is a vibrant, creative and enormously fun place to hang out. If mainstream tourism is not really your thing and youd prefer to live like a local during your stay, then why not take an morning run along the waterfront with the locals, then fuel up on caffeine and cake at the bohemian Caf Babalu before heading over the road to get a Norse tattoo with the friendly and experienced artists at Kingdom Within Tattoo. Reyjkavik is special, you might as well mark the experience!
Wash down the pain with a few cocktails at your hotel bar before heading out for some good value and super tasty tapas at Tapas Barinn. Take note that whilst all the usual Spanish suspects are on the menu, you can always go for the Icelandic version and get involved with a bit of smoked puffin, a fillet of Icelandic foal, or a slice of minke whale with cranberry sauce!!
Best Day Adventures
Staying in Reykjavik is an adventure within itself but so is getting out and about. There are a plethora of outfitters offering visitors some adventurous day trips with a variety of options including rafting, glacier hiking, caving, ice climbing, whale watching, kayaking and snowmobiling the variety of operators have pretty much all adventurous bases covered. For a truly unique experience I highly recommend a snorkeling tour in the crystal clear, and impossibly blue waters of the Silfra canyon. Any concerns of the cold are kept at bay by the combination of a fab dry suit and the realization that you are swimming between the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia a pretty unique opportunity to say the least!
Best Road Trip
If youre only on the island for a short break then the Golden Circle is probably the best known tourist route on the island. Starting in Reykjavik, this is a 300km loop which takes in Thingvellir National Park, the amazing Gullfoss waterfall and the Strokkur and Geysir geysers in the geothermally active valley of Haukadalur. This gives you a taster of the best of Iceland in one day but if you prefer the more organic and authentic approach, why not take Route 1 that runs around the entire country. Only finished in 1974 this 1,339 km ring road takes you through the towns of Reykjavik, Sellfoss, Hofn, Egilsstadir, Akureyri, Blonduos, and Borgarnes and through some of Icelands most extreme landscapes. Achievable in about 9 days, this is a great journey with amazing scenery and not a lot of people!
Something a bit different
If you want to go somewhere truly off the beaten track then head to the very north west of the country to the Westfjords. With natural harbours, big mountains, fabulous cliffs and spectacular waterfalls, the Westfjords are one of Icelands most impressive hidden gems.Check out our guide on cycling in Iceland here!
This article was written by Sophie – check out her profile and other articles!